Ephesians 5:22-33 and Paul

We stated that hierarchy was normal for Paul. His culture was such that wives were expected to be ruled by their husbands. It was normal for Paul to command wives to submit to their husbands, then, in Eph 5:22-33. We also stated that it was not meant to be normative. As cultures change, the commands change too, but the commands were based on theological principles that do apply to all cultures. But let’s rethink this conclusion by asking some questions.

Was Paul actually attempting to intentionally fulfill an evangelistic purpose by commanding wives to submit? If so, why does he not explicitly mention this intention?

Was Paul aware of the worldview impressed upon him by his surrounding culture, i.e. that wives should be submissive? If so, why does he accept it without questioning it? If so, how does that correlate with his appeal to Scripture, which, even in Gen 2:24, demonstrates hierarchy (albeit implied)?

It seems to me that Paul may have been attempting to fulfill an evangelistic purpose, but not necessarily. Furthermore, why does he give wives a standard role but a rather counter-cultural role for husbands (love, don’t rule)? We simply cannot demonstrate whether Paul was aware of the cultural values that were impressed upon him. However, he did make an appeal to Scripture. The question is, was Paul allowing his worldview to interpret Gen 2:24? I think not. It is pretty clear, even though it is implicit, that Gen 2:24 upholds the passivity of the wife, to an extent. But now the question is, was the author of Genesis merely reflecting the patriarchal culture that he (or she) was living in when writing its text, or was it God’s intentional design from creation for all people universally? This question is difficult.

What are we arriving at? It’s simple: Eph 5:22-33 is a complex matrix of hierarchy and equality. It’s a mixed bag. The evidence bears weight for both sides.

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