Ephesians 5:22, Wifely Submission

I have engaged with a commenter at a different blog on wifely submission in Eph 5:22. The author of the post sparking my first comment said,

Men, treat and love  your wife just as Jesus did the church.  (tall order!) and wives, let a man lead out of respect for the Lord.  When you let a man be what God calls him to be and you line up with that who are you submitting to?? THE LORD!

I responded as a matter of conversation that ὑποτάσσω does not mean “lead” or “let lead.” This verb means to submit to, to subject to, to fall in line. A soldier does not let the superior officer lead him or her. No, the soldier finds the place where he or she belongs and takes that position. I do see the point that to submit is in practice to let someone else lead. The issue here is about emphasis. Paul did not say, “Wives let your husbands lead.” The emphasis of what Paul is saying is active submission, actively placing oneself under someone else. To say, “let him lead,” is rather weak, as if to say, “You could lead, but let him do it instead.”

I have already commented on this verse elsewhere. The point here, however, is the force of ὑποτάσσω in Eph 5:22. To understand ὑποτάσσω to mean “let him lead” is incorrect, as it bears a different nuance than what is intended. If Paul intended “let him lead,” he would have used a different word, such as ἐξάγω. Paul, being a male, probably did not share the nuance of the female commenter when he used ὑποτάσσω. Furthermore, the word itself refers to one’s own action and not to the action of the other person. The command is to the wives, not to the husbands. Paul is instructing wives to submit, i.e., to actively place themselves under their husbands. The emphasis is on their own activity. It should not be downplayed or lessened.

Not only here and at the aforementioned blog post, debate on the use of ὑποτάσσω in Eph 5:21-33 continues even among scholars. However, none of the scholars, not even female scholars such as Margaret MacDonald, argue that ὑποτάσσω means “let him lead.” Indeed, she translates it as “be subject to” (Colossians and Ephesians [SP 17; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2008], 326).