A Review of Dawes’ “The Body in Question”

Gregory Dawes’ book, The Body in Question: Metaphor and Meaning in the Interpretation of Ephesians 5:21-33, seeks to study Eph 5:21-33 in light of theories concerning metaphors. This study is very technical concerning metaphor theory. The book does excel in three ways: first, it explains the theory of metaphor and explains the metaphors in the Ephesians text in light of the theory, which aids the interpreter in better understanding the argument of the ancient author; second, it explains how κεφαλή should be translated as “head” and not “authority” or “source,” because it is being used as a metaphor; and third, it understands that the ancient readers and listeners do not share the same presuppositions and values as modern readers, and, therefore, we must consider how they would have read and understood this passage. However, in this book Dawes does make the following non-critical error: he seeks to consider the context of the letter as a whole, but, instead, he only considers selected parts of the rest of the letter for understanding Eph 5:21-33. We will review the book by starting with a summary of its contents, then we will highlight the three ways it excels, and then we will finish with a brief critique of the book. What we will see is that this book is somewhat of a helpful aid for understanding the argument of Eph 5:21-33.

Dawes introduces his book by summarily describing several different positions for understanding Eph 5:21-33. First, there is the conservative group, the right wing, which interprets Eph 5:21-33 at face value, and it argues that all Christian marriages universally throughout all time and space require wives to subordinate to their husbands and for husbands to love their wives, and it posits that the husband bears authority over the wife (2-4). Second, there is the liberal group, the left wing, which interprets Eph 5:21-33 as an archaic and outmoded set of instructions that do not apply for Christian marriages today, and even that pervert the original Christian ideal, in Christ there is neither male nor female (4-6). Third, there is intermediate group, the middle position, that reinterprets this passage in Ephesians so that the hierarchy of the Christian marriage is minimized (6-8). Fourth, there are those who are undecided and conflicted with this passage but do not take one of the three previous positions. Ben Witherington is listed as an example. According to Dawes, Witherington argues in Women in the Earliest Churches that the author of Ephesians used Christ’s relationship with the church to reform the patriarchal construction for Christian marriage. Furthermore, we should consider the intention for reform and the limitations of this argument (8-9). According to Dawes, Marlis Gielen points out that while the text does support such a patriarchal construction, the text met a different situation, for today’s households are very different from the First Century C.E. (9-10).

Dawes then transitions and looks at Eph 5:21-33 in its context, both the immediate context and the context of the entire letter. He notes rightly that this passage constructs an analogy between the husband and wife and Christ and the church using several key terms, κεφαλή, σῶμα, and μυστήριον, and the language of unity (10-11). He gives a brief amount of space to discuss other interpretive methods for understanding Eph 5:21-33. One method would be the historical-comparative approach. This approach, such as of David Balch’s Let Wives Be Submissive, for example, looks at how women functioned in marriage in the Greco-Roman world and compares that information to the selected passage of the NT. This method is complicated in relation to Ephesians for several reasons. Pauline authorship of Ephesians is disputed. Ephesus as the recipient of the letter is contested. The debate continues as to when Ephesians was written. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to try to reconstruct the situation prompting the letter, who wrote it, why, and to whom, so it cannot be properly compared to the wives of the Greco-Roman world. Yet, the passage in question can be studied in its literary context, and generally speaking the broad context of the Greco-Roman world can be compared, which is what Dawes states that he will be doing in this book (13-16). Another method for studying Eph 5:21-33 is to compare it with what are to be considered the genuine Pauline letters. Dawes indicates that he will occasionally make remarks from this method through the use of footnotes (17).

Dawes gives us a map for his book, an outline, showing that he will break it up into several parts. First, he will survey metaphor theories. Second, he will explicate Eph 5:21-33. And three, he will interpret Eph 5:21-33 for the contemporary reader (17-18). In addition to this map, he explains why he is studying Eph 5:21-33 and not, for example, Eph 5:22-24 or Eph 5:22-33. In sum, Dawes states that Eph 5:21-33 is a complete argument, and to support this statement he shows that v. 21 and v. 33 form an inclusio with the use of the word “fear,” and, furthermore, v. 22 does not have a verb of its own, meaning that it relies on v. 21 for a verb, which indicates that v. 21 and v. 22 are connected (18-21). Thus concludes the introduction.

In chapter one, Dawes explains how metaphors function. He looked at several key theorists, all of which are from the modern era. He highlights one theorist’s understanding of meaning first, that of I. A. Richards’ The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Richards understood meaning in this way: context determines meaning (26-27). Also from Richards, he simplified the function of metaphor as the interaction of thoughts within context. Furthermore, according to Dawes, Richards said that a metaphor has two parts, the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject that will be compared. The vehicle is the subject that sheds light on the first subject (27). But Richards was not the only philologist to speak about metaphors.

Max Black used different language to describe the parts of a metaphor. Unlike Richards’ tenor-vehicle language, Black spoke of a metaphor as the combination of the focus and the frame. The focus is the part of the metaphor that is not used literally, whereas the frame is the rest of the sentence, which is used literally. What this description means is this: simply put, the frame is the context, and the context determines if the word or phrase is to be understood as a metaphor (28-29). Black also spoke of a primary and secondary subject. As reported by Dawes, the primary subject is the principal subject, while the secondary is the subsidiary. Black held that one should understand the secondary subject to be a system–system of associated commonplaces, system of relationships, or implicative complex (29-30). Dawes notes the complexities and problems with Black’s theories (30-32). However, he highlights some of Black’s later points on the function of metaphor. In a metaphor, the two subjects are constructed in such a way as to invite the reader or listener to draw parallel properties and interpret the words. Specifically, the secondary subject is drawn upon to create an implication complex from which to compare with the primary subject (32-34). In addition to his focus-frame and primary-secondary language for describing metaphors, Black also speaks of models. According to Dawes, Black argues that every metaphor has either a scale or an analogue model behind it. Scale models rely on identify for imitating the original though it is not a reproduction. Analogue models rely on identity for reproducing the structure of the original. In other words, the analogue model minimizes the role of the imagination. According to Dawes, what Black calls “model” he is really speaking of the aforementioned “implication complex” (34-35). Additionally, Black argued that metaphors actually structure our view of reality subconsciously (36).

From here, Dawes goes on to speak of living metaphors. But first, he speaks of models in two ways. There can be implicit, underlying models, and there can be explicit, surface level models. Dawes clarifies that when he speaks of a metaphor’s model, he will be using the first sense, that of implicit models. He defines such models as a consistent pattern of thought through which two subjects may be related. this definition implies three things according to Dawes. First, any similarity between the subject and the model will be partial, for the primary and secondary subjects by definition cannot be perfectly similar otherwise they would be identical. What this implication means is that metaphors have the ability to deceive, because there is room for misidentification in the similarities. Second, when we use a metaphor, we may not be fully aware of all of its similarities between the subjects and the model. Therefore, a metaphor can be a tool for discovery. Finally, a metaphor highlights the primary subject’s relationships to the secondary subject. In other words, through the model, the two subjects can be held together in the mind (37-40).

Moving on from Black’s theories, Dawes examines Monroe Beardsley’s work on metaphor. According to Dawes, Beardsley labeled metaphors as self-contradictory attributions, where an attribution is any expression that contains no less than two words, and one of those words must denote and characterize a class. He claims that an attribution has both a subject and a modifier. In his theory, the modifier in “large dogs” is “large,” and the subject is “dogs,” for example. There are attributions are logically empty in one of two ways, either they are self-implicative or self-contradictory. By self-implicative we mean that the modifier’s sense is already contained in the subject (Dawes lists “two-legged biped” as one of Beardsley’s example), and by self-contradictory we mean an incompatibility between the sense of the modifier and the subject (the example given is “four-legged biped”). According to Dawes, metaphors belong to this second kind of logically empty attributions. In his definition, metaphors invite the reader or listener to skip the indirect self-contradiction and interpret the attribution (40-42).

Beardsley adds that metaphors can also be attributions that are clearly false. When a modifier is attributed to a subject in which they can have no part, then there is an obvious falsity in the attribution, and such would be another kind of metaphor. In either case, a metaphor is considered to be “a miniature poem” by Beardsley. When interpreting a metaphor, there are two key principles involved, that of congruence and that of plenitude. The principle of congruence limits the possible connotations to those that fit the context. The principle of plenitude allows for as many possible connections to be made or found as is permissible (42-43).

Dawes notes that Beardsley’s work is not without its own problems. Is it possible to distinguish between an obvious falsity and a self-contradictory attribution? What is the difference between a direct and indirect self-contradiction? What distinguishes the denotation from the connotation of a word (44).

Beardsley does have some things to offer in response to those questions. He claims that metaphors create meaning through verbal-opposition (as opposed to object-comparison). He does not accept that the modifier of a metaphor denotes the same objects that in other contexts it would denote literally (this explanation concerns object-comparison). However, he does accept that the predicate of a metaphor does not retain its ordinary sense as it is given a new one created by tension or opposition within the metaphor itself. Although not all metaphors will create meaning, those that do will transform a property into a sense, thus creating a new sense (45-47). Dawes concludes that models and metaphors do not furnish proofs, because they are creative in meaning and have the capacity to deceive. As a result, he urges great care for using metaphors in argumentation (48).

After having considered the various ways of speaking about metaphors based on three key philologists, Dawes turns to a consideration of the qualifications of a metaphor. How can a person determine if something is a metaphor? According to Beardsley, there are four qualifications. First, a metaphor will contain an implicit contradiction when the predicate is taken in a literal sense. Second, a metaphor will contain some sort of absurdity. Third, a metaphor will present an obvious truth of its statement when it is interpreted literally. Finally, a metaphor is created when there is a semantic tension between the expression and its surrounding context (49-50). Dawes discusses the complexities of these qualifications and the problems they have. In the end, he concludes that one criterion for determining if one is dealing with a metaphor is semantic impertinence, meaning that the words indicate that they simply cannot be taken literally. He offers a second criterion, that a metaphor uses language that is dependent on another use of language (50-55).

In chapter two, after having determined the two basic criteria for determining if one is dealing with a metaphor, he sets out to discuss metaphor and meaning in more detail. He discusses whether there is any such thing as metaphorical meaning with words. The words themselves, as thought by Donald Davidson, do not have meaning. Metaphor pertains only to use (55-60). Dawes offers three noteworthy comments about Davidson’s theory. First, Davidson is helpful because he pays attention to certain aspects of metaphor functions. Metaphors function through literal meaning; it is a secondary use of language, meaning that it is dependent. Metaphor requires an interpreter to produce a creative interpretation. Second, Davidson’s claim that metaphors do not have meaning does not in any way derail Dawes’ study, because it has already been established that metaphor has meaning not in the words themselves but in a particular context, which includes how a metaphor is being used. Third, Davidson’s theory is not without its own difficulties, and, in the end, it simply is not persuasive for Dawes. Davidson contradicts himself when he first says that there is no hidden message in a metaphor, only to say later that there can be a paraphrase of a metaphor to help the reader see what the author wanted him or her to see. Dawes’ highlights this tension: on the one hand, there is the paraphrase of the metaphor; on the other, the paraphrase cannot be described as the message of the metaphor. Clearly there is a conflict in Davidson’s argument. Dawes also points out that Davidson does not account for the fact that a metaphor may be lead by an entire group of people into the same understanding. Furthermore, with dead metaphors, which are metaphors that have lost their ability to encourage critical thinking, the meaning of a metaphor is preserved (60-64).

Dawes determines that metaphors do have meaning. Then he sets out to define his terms, albeit somewhat late into the book. Dawes defines a metaphor as a figure of speech in which we speak about one thing in terms that are seen to be suggestive of another. He defines a dead metaphor as a metaphor that has become commonplace, thus void of metaphoric force, the ability to encourage thinking; it is language that is no longer dependent or speaking of one thing in terms of another (65). He goes on to describe not two categories but four categories of metaphors: active, hidden, dormant, and extinct. One can speak of metaphors as either living or dead, or as active, hidden, dormant, or extinct, or also as novel, familiar, standard, hidden, or retired. Dawes favors the second option, that of active, hidden, dormant, or extinct. In this understanding, the former two, active and hidden, are living metaphors. They are dependent. The latter two, dormant and extinct, are dead metaphors, and they are independent. Dawes concludes that one must be able to distinguish living metaphors from dead ones in order to properly ascertain its meaning (65-76). As a result, he determines that his markers for determining if one is dealing with a metaphor are also the markers for determining if one is dealing with living metaphors. But a word on context must be said. Dawes states that a metaphor is made up of the frame and the focus, and the meaning of a metaphor exists in the interaction between the frame and the focus. The focus is the word or phrase that is being used metaphorically, and the frame is the immediate setting in the text containing the focus. Therefore, the context is key. But which context? The immediate literary context, the general social and historical context, or the specific context of utterance? In our case, a study of Eph 5:21-33 must consider at least the literary context, but also, if at all possible, the general social and historical context as well (76-78).

Now that he has defined his terms and set the stage for studying Eph 5:21-33 in terms of metaphor theory, Dawes turns in part two of the book to an analysis of this text of Ephesians. In chapter three, he looks specifically at the argument of Eph 5:21-33. He looks first to an analysis of the argument in vv 22-24. Dawes notes that there are two equally valid understandings of these verses. The first understanding describes these verses as an A-B-a pattern, in which the introductory verse exhorts the wives (A), the next verse gives a reason for the exhortation (B), and the final verse reiterates the exhortation (a). This A-B-a pattern is referred to as the paraenetic understanding of Eph 5:22-24. But there is different understanding, being equally valid, called the mimetic structure, and it follows an A-B-b-a pattern. This structure depends on the use of comparative particles (καθώς, ὡς, and οὕτως). The wives are addressed in relation to the husbands in vv 22-23a (A), then Christ is addressed in relation to the church in v 23b (B), then the church is addressed in relation to Christ in v 24a (b), and wives to their husbands in v 24b (a). Dawes understands Eph 5:22-24 in light of the mimetic structure (82-84).

However, v 23c is a problem for either the paraenetic or mimetic structure. Dawes discusses how Stephen F. Miletic argues that v 23c is the central theological point of Eph 5:22-24, but he rejects Miletic’s argument in favor of one that treats v 23c as an aside, which is supported by the use of the conjunction ἀλλά in the next verse. This conjunction indicates that the author is returning to his main point after having given way to an aside. The author’s main point in this case is the subordination of wives. This understanding, that v 23c is an aside and is not the central point of vv 22-24, according to Dawes is even further supported by the mimetic structure. Indeed, v 24 is concerned not with Christ as the savior of the body; the thought process is discontinued from v 23c going into v 24. Dawes determines that v 23c has two roles. First, by mentioning Christ as the “savior,” the author prepares the audience for the exhortation to the husband in v 25. Second, it is branching off from the use of κεφαλή earlier in the verse and is tying it together with σῶμα (84-89).

Miletic also draws attention to v 22b with the significance of the words “as to the Lord.” According to Miletic, as Dawes interprets, there are two relationships that the wife has. One is with her husband, and the other is with Christ. Miletic is arguing that these words “as to the Lord” qualify the exhortation: wives, submit to your husbands as though it is part of your service to the Lord. Dawes does not dispute Miletic on this point. He does say that Miletic overstates his case, but in the end he agrees with Miletic. He shows that the analogy, the wife is to the husband as the church is to Christ, when coupled with “as to the Lord” contains a second analogy, so that the wife is linked to Christ. The second analogy is that the wife is to the husband as the wife is to Christ. Her subordination to her husband is to be modeled on her subordinate relationship to Christ according to Dawes (90-91).

In speaking of Eph 5:25-33, Dawes notes that it also follows a mimetic structure. He describes this passage as a two part structure. Ephesians 5:25-28a, the first part, explains how the husband is to love his wife, while Eph 5:28b-32, the second part, explains why (91). He notes that the exhortation for the husband, to love his wife, is compared with Christ’s love for the church. It explains how, not why, they are to love their wives. The structure of Eph 5:25-28a is as follows: exhortation for husbands to love their wives in v 25a (A); how husbands are to love is explained by comparison with Christ’s love for the church in vv 25b-27 (B); and the return to the husband’s love for their wives in v28a (a). The point of comparison is only love. None of the other features described relate to the husband (91-94). In fact, the description of Christ’s love is two fold. First, he sanctifies the church through cleansing her with the washing of water in the word. Second, he presents the church in splendor to himself. This presentation has both a positive and negative aspect. Negatively, he presents her not with spot or blemish. Positively, he presents her as holy and blameless. But these actions are not attributed to the husband. The husband is instructed only to love (94-95).

But after v 28a, the A-B-a structure ends. The comparative particles continue the exhortation to the husbands after making a comparison with Christ’s love for the church. Husbands are instructed to love their wives as their own bodies. Dawes takes this use of ὡς to mark identity, which makes the comparison ambiguous. Is the husband to love his wife as though she is his own body? Or is the husband to love his wife in the same way that he loves his own body? There is no indication in the text that one is preferred over the other. But this comparison is tied together with the reflexive pronoun. The husband’s wife is linked to this reflexive pronoun in v 28a, body in v 28b, husbands themselves in v 28c, and flesh in v 29. In fact, as a result, the σῶμα of v 28b is linked to the σάρξ of v 29 by way of the reflexive pronoun. These two terms are interchangeable in this context (95-99). Dawes takes γάρ in v 29 to explain what immediately precedes the conjunction, but this explanation is grounded in the mystery of Christ and the church, and, therefore, it has a double-referent both to redemption (one flesh between Christ and the church) and creation (one flesh between husband and wife). It is in v 30 that the argument returns to the comparison to husbands and wives relative to Christ and the church. Wives and the church are associated together by use of the term σῶμα. Instead of ending the argument for the exhortation to the husbands at v 30, the author of Ephesians continues on (99-101).

Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation from Gen 2:24, and it further extends the exhortation of the husband to love his wife. But is Gen 2:24 functioning in Eph 5:31 to bolster an already accepted argument? He argues against Sampley who claims that Eph 5:21-33 follows a basic New Testament pattern in which women are instructed to be submissive and this instruction is supported by the Torah in a reference that explicitly concerns submission. Dawes follows Lincoln to refute such a claim, concluding that Gen 2:24 does not have an explicit reference to submission. Instead, Dawes argues for a dual function of Gen 2:24 in Eph 5:31. First, it provides the proof that the husband, when he loves his wife, is indeed loving his “self.” Second, it provides the proof that the relationship between Christ and the church is such that the church can be called Christ’s “body.” In both instances, the two have become one. But the union between the husband and the wife is a great mystery. In Eph 5:32, the author applies the statement of Gen 2:24 to the relationship between Christ and the church as well. With v 32, the argument of Eph 5:25-32 comes to a close. Ephesians 5:33 recapitulates the whole of Eph 5:21-32 (102-106).

Within Eph 5:21-33, which relationship has precedence? Is it Christ and the church? Or is it the husband and the wife? Dawes points out scholars who support the former and others who support the latter, while others suggest that it is impossible to determine. He concludes, based on Lincoln’s position, in the end that the primary aim of the author is to provide instructions for the wives and the husbands, since Eph 5:21-33 is part of the haustafeln (Eph 5:21-6:9). He claims that the relationship between Christ and the church serves the relationship between husbands and wives in this passage. The two relationships are so intertwined that the reader and listener could easily forget the paraenesis, which is why the author uses πλήν in v 33, to help bring the audience back to the main purpose of the argument (107).

In chapter four, Dawes distinguishes between argument, analogy, and metaphor. He claims that Eph 5:21-33 is making an argument in which an analogy is being made, and, specifically, it is being done through the use of metaphor. In the argument, an analogy is made between the husband and wife, and Christ and the church. The use of σῶμα and κεφαλή are instances of metaphor functioning in the analogy. The issue as Dawes sees it rests in whether the metaphors are isolated or if they are dependent on a model (110).

In order to determine if the metaphors are dependent or isolated, Dawes sets out first to highlight the difference between analogy and metaphor. He appeals to Aristotle’s Poetics (chapter 21 according to Dawes), which speaks of metaphor as the application of one thing to another, whether genus to species, species to genus, or species to species, or else it will be an analogy. He takes issue with Aristotle’s definition, because it looks to the word as the focus of the metaphor and neglects the frame. He emphasizes that metaphor exists with the interaction of a word within its context. He goes on to show that Aristotle’s classification and definition is really where metaphor is a condensed analogy. As Dawes puts it, in an analogy form where A is to B as C is to D, a condensed analogy in the form of a metaphor would say B is D (110-111).

Dawes argues from here that some people might speak of Eph 5:21-33 as an analogy expressed through simile, not metaphor, because of the comparative particles. But Dawes rightly notes that the analogy is being made by use of comparative particles, so there is no condensed metaphor. Despite having just made the case for speaking of similes, Dawes continues speaking of metaphor in Epheisnas. The metaphors are being attributed similarly to different parties. The husbands are not being identified as the Christ or Savior of the wives. Christ is not identified as the husband of the church. The two parties are seen to be similar only by way of another term, κεφαλή (111-113). Not only is Christ not called the husband of the church, but the church is not called the bride of Christ (113).

Dawes returns to his discussion of similes, saying that they are either closed or open. When they are open, they are not spelled out. When they are closed, it is identified how they are similar. In Eph 5:21-33, we have closed similes. What is going on according to Dawes is a drawing of metaphors from a model. He argues that the metaphors are not isolated, but, rather, they are dependent on the model of the human body. He makes this case based on the fact that κεφαλή and σῶμα occur so often together, they both occur alongside of other anatomical language, such as ἁφή (“joint,” see Eph 4:15-16), and they both link their referents with one another (115-118).

Dawes argues in the end that when these terms appear together they interact. They are dependent. They are not isolated. Dawes acknowledges that other scholars do not agree with his position, such as Herman Ridderbos and J. K. McVay as well as others who argue that the metaphors are isolated. In his defense, he appeals to the fact that whenever κεφαλή occurs it is in close proximity to σῶμα, and such scholars have not given careful consideration to this use of the terms. Additionally, these scholars have neglected the fact that these metaphors link their referents to each other, which would not happen if they were isolated (118-120).

Chapter five is all about the use of κεφαλή in Ephesians. He looks first to how it is used in Eph 5:21-33. Is κεφαλή metaphorical or literal? If it is metaphorical, then, if it were taken literally, it could not possibly make sense. He concludes that it is metaphorical because it simply does not make sense if taken literally. Furthermore, he argues that κεφαλή conveys the idea of authority through its use as a living metaphor. This word is also used in connection with σῶμα, so it clearly is dependent, which further demonstrates that it is functioning as a metaphor (122-124).

But does κεφαλή convey authority? Might it be “source” instead? Dawes shows how some scholars are divided as to whether κεφαλή should be understood to convey authority or to convey source. Some scholars appeal to the context of Eph 4:15 to argue for κεφαλή as source. Dawes responds by arguing that one context may be different from another. He looks at how κεφαλή was used in ancient medical documents. He demonstrates that κεφαλή is seen in an instance of conveying source. But in several instances it is used to convey the idea of authority, since it bears the controlling function of the body. Dawes concludes that one could legitimately take κεφαλή to bear the idea of authority if the context demands it. He argues further that the context of Eph 5:21-33 demands such an understanding. However, while it might convey the idea of authority, it still ought to be translated as “head,” otherwise the translation would lose the metaphor (124-134).

Dawes argues that κεφαλή is a live metaphor and as a metaphor it is being used to convey the idea of authority. It is the use of this word that links the husband with Christ in Eph 5:22-24. In this use, some attributes or aspects are highlighted, others downplayed, and caused a third group of attributes to disappear. The highlighted aspect is authority. In no way does this lead the husband to compare himself to his wife in the way that Christ is related to the church as the κεφαλή. Instead, Eph 5:25-33 leads the husband to treat his wife in the way that Christ treats the church with respect to love. As Dawes rightly points it, this comparison avoids encouraging a tyrannical husband (137-138).

After having looked at κεφαλή in Eph 5:21-33, Dawes moves to look at this word in the rest of Ephesians. He looks at κεφαλή in Eph 1:22, Eph 1:10, and Eph 4:15, respectively. With regards to Eph 1:22, Dawes concludes that κεφαλή here also conveys the sense of authority, which is especially clear with the use of Ps 8:7 (“he has placed all things under his feet”). Furthermore, κεφαλή is here seen with σῶμα, which demonstrates that it is dependent. However, the referents of κεφαλή and σῶμα are kept separate. Christ is head over all things and not only over the church. However, the church is the body of Christ and it is not all things that is the body of Christ (139-142).

The word κεφαλή is not in Eph 1:10, but its cognate, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, is used instead. This word is the verb ἀνακεφαλαιόω, which is a cognate to κεφάλαιον, which means “the main point, the summary.” It should not be thought to include the idea of headship according to Dawes. While it might be possible that this word was chosen to echo κεφαλή, it is best not to understand it as anything more (142-144).

In Eph 4:15, κεφαλή is demonstrated to be dependent not only on interaction with σῶμα, but also with ἁφή (“joint”) and αὔξησις (“growth”). The author of Ephesians is drawing upon the same underlying model, that of the human body. Once established, this metaphor can lead to others. Christ is exclusively the referent of this metaphor. In this instance, κεφαλή conveys the idea of source while still conveying the idea of authority according to Dawes (144-147).

Dawes concludes chapter five by claiming that κεφαλή, while having two separate uses, one as authority and one as source, is still consistently used throughout Ephesians. Christ is both the one in authority over and the source of life for the church. The only inconsistency is in Eph 1:22 where the church is distinguished from all things. Finally, while everywhere else in Ephesians κεφαλή only has one referent, Christ, in Eph 5:21-33 it has two, Christ and the husbands, and it bears the same metaphorical sense with reference to both (147-149).

Chapter six is all about the use of σῶμα in Ephesians. Dawes looks first to Eph 5:21-33 and the use of σῶμα in this text. He treats the use of σῶμα in Eph 5:23c, Eph 5:28, and Eph 5:30, respectively. With regards to Eph 5:23c, he concludes that there is little doubt that σῶμα is being used metaphorically. He argues that it is dependent as it occurs with κεφαλή in context, and it simply will not fit if understood literally. It is a metaphorical reference to the church. In Eph 5:23c, σῶμα links together the arguments of Eph 5:21-24 and 5:25-33. While σῶμα is used metaphorically in Eph 5:23c, it is not used similarly in Eph 5:28. The author of Ephesians uses σῶμα in Eph 5:28 to refer to the husband’s own body according to Dawes, which calls for the husband to love his wife as though she is his own body. Dawes appeals to the fact that the author later says that every one who loves is loving “his own flesh”, where σάρξ (“flesh”) is interchangeable with σῶμα. The argument is appealing to the husband’s physical body. Therefore, σῶμα fits literally, and it cannot be understood metaphorically . In Eph 5:30, σῶμα is used metaphorically. Another word, μέλη (“members”), appears along with σῶμα, which seems to be from the same underlying model, indicating that σῶμα is functioning metaphorically. Both husbands and wives are included in the μέλη, so that husbands are reminded that their wives are also members of the body of Christ (150-156).

After addressing the use of σῶμα in Eph 5:21-33, Dawes considers the use of this word elsewhere in Ephesians, namely Eph 1:23, Eph 2:16, Eph 3:6, Eph 4:4, and Eph 4: 12, 16, respectively. In Eph 1:23, σῶμα is found along with κεφαλή, indicating that it is dependent and it is being used metaphorically. What does σῶμα reference? Is it the cosmos? One might think it is, but the author of Ephesians says that the σῶμα is the church. While Christ is the head over all things, it is only the church that is Christ’s body. Eph 2:16 has σῶμα independent of κεφαλή. However, the use of σῶμα in this verse points to the church in connection with Christ. In Eph 3:6, σῶμα is not used, but a cognate, an adjectival form, σύσσωμος, and it is used to underline the fact that the Gentiles have been made members of the body of Christ along with Jewish believers. Therefore, it is similar to the use of σῶμα in Eph 2:16, especially because it is also independent from κεφαλή. As in Eph 2:16; 3:6, σῶμα is present without κεφαλή in Eph 4:4. It is being used here to underline the unity of the believers. Finally, Dawes addresses the use of σῶμα in Eph 4:12, 16. In Eph 4:12, σῶμα is used without the presence of κεφαλή, but it is used in reference to Christ as “the body of Christ.” It is dependent. In context, it is speaking of the building up of the church. In Eph 4:16, σῶμα occurs twice. It does occur alongside of κεφαλή in this instance. Together, these words show the complete dependence of the church on Christ, for, as Dawes writes, if the church lost its head, it would die, since the head is the source of life and growth. Dawes concludes that the author of Ephesians simply is not consistent in the use of σῶμα. He says that σῶμα is used in one of two ways throughout the letter. Either it is used as a body in relationship to its head, or it is used as a body without reference to its head. The first use is a more narrow sense, or what Dawes calls “partitive,” where the body is a part of the whole. The second use is much more broad, which Dawes calls “unitive.” The unitive use of σῶμα references the entire body, which includes the head. But in Eph 4:16, Dawes says, these two uses clash, for they are both used (156-165).

Dawes concludes by stating that the use of σῶμα in Eph 5:28 is central to Eph 5:21-33. He states also that both the unitive and partitive uses of σῶμα are present in Eph 5:28-33. The church is identified with Christ as members, but it is not identical to Christ (166-167).

Chapter seven deals with the use of “one flesh” and mystery language in Ephesians, and he does so in two parts. First, Dawes treats the use of “one” (169-178). In Eph 5:21-33, “one” appears in Eph 5:31. The two have become μία σάρξ. This use of “one” refers to both of the relationships, so that it is not simply between husband and wife but also between Christ and the church. It is a double referent. With reference to the husband and wife, it could be understood literally (physical, sexual union). But in reference to Christ and the church, it can only be metaphorical. In this sense, according to Dawes, it is not consistent (169-170). Dawes considers the use of “one” not only in Eph 5:31 but also in the rest of the letter. In Eph 2:11-22, “one” is in reference to the Jews and the Gentiles, two formerly estranged groups, being made together into a new person as a result of the work of Christ, and this new person is reconciled to God in one body  in one Spirit. This use of “one” language shows how two become one. It is a horizontal unity between people, and is not vertical between God and humans (170-175). In Eph 4:1-16, the same horizontal use of “one” is applied, noting how the believers are unified in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and they are to keep, maintain, and build up this unity (175-177). The use of “one” outside of Eph 5:31 can be understood in one of two ways, either doctrinally (the joining of the two, the Jews and the Gentiles) or paraenetically (to keep, maintain, and build unity). But neither of these two options fit Eph 5:31. The doctrinal option is closer, in that there is a joining of two, but it is between two different individuals, the husband and the wife, and it is between Christ and the church (177-178).

Second, Dawes treats the use of μυστήριον (178-191). He discusses the use of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32 first, and then looks at the use of this term elsewhere in Ephesians. In Eph 5:32, he seeks to determine the referent of this term. Some scholars, according to Dawes, argue that it is an exegetical mystery, so that it is referring to some Hebrew text. He notes the importance of the two ways in which the author of Ephesians uses μυστήριον. He used it in a genitive construction (Eph 1:9; 3:4; 6:19) or with an explanatory proposition (Eph 3:3, 9). Dawes states that the use of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32 falls into the latter category. The opening words of Eph 5:32, ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω, emphasize the μυστήριον as Christ and the church, and Dawes suggests that the mystery is the union of Christ and the church in that they have become μία σάρξ (178-185). In Eph 1:3-14, specifically in v 10, μυστήριον means the summing up of all things in Christ, which is God’s will. But this process is not yet complete. In Eph 3:1-13, especially in v 4 and v 9, μυστήριον means the joining of Gentiles and Jews as heirs in the promise in Christ. This term is broad in scope in Eph 1 and narrow in Eph 3. This μυστήριον is no longer hidden. It has been revealed. In Eph 6:10-20, specifically v 20, the μυστήριον is associated with the gospel. In general, μυστήριον is God’s summing things up in Christ, which is what Eph 1:10 references, but specifically it also deals with the work of Christ, the gospel, and the joining of the Gentiles and Jews (185-189).

Dawes concludes chapter seven by stating that the use of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32 is a vertical union between Christ and the church, which is different than the rest of the letter in which a horizontal union is mentioned throughout. Therefore, the use of μυστήριον in Eph 5:32 cannot be equated to the uses elsewhere in the letter.

In part three of his book, The Body in Question, Dawes offers a new interpretation of Eph 5:21-33. Chapter eight is a soft introduction, a lead-in or segue, to his new interpretation. In this chapter, he will discuss the use of the metaphor of the body in Ephesians, especially as it pertains to Eph 5:21-33, and he will consider the ethical instruction to the wives in relationship to Eph 5:21, which calls all believers to subordinate themselves to each other (195).

Dawes sets out first of all to discuss the aims of interpretation. He notes that some people today find the body metaphor in Eph 5:21-33 highly offensive, but why? He suggests that they are offended not by the analogy itself but the use of the body metaphor and how the author of Ephesians spells it out, especially because it lacks reciprocity (195-197). The ethical commands in Eph 5:21-33 contain two elements. First, there is a new ethic: in your marriage, imitate the relationship of Christ and the church. Second, the body metaphor describes the relationship of Christ and the church. This description assumes male authority. It is this aspect that some find offensive (197). But is it possible to remove the assumption of male authority? Dawes determines that if the interpreter’s task is simply to uncover the original author’s view, then male authority must be retained. However, if the interpreter’s task also is to determine how successful was the original author’s argument and what implications of the argument was the author unawares, and, finally, what other implications of the text itself might the author have not explicitly intended alter our interpretation, then much more can be said about the text in addition to a plain reading. The best interpretation will consider not only what the original author explicitly intended but also the complexities of the text in relationship to the plain reading (198-199).

Dawes then sets out from here to discuss love and the body metaphor. He notes that in Eph 5:22-24, the body metaphor is partitive, so that the κεφαλή and σῶμα are seen separately. In this part of Eph 5:21-33, the husband is described as κεφαλή, which allows for the wife to be told to be subordinate. However, in Eph 5:25-32, the body metaphor is unitive, so that the use of σῶμα expresses the idea that the husband and wife are together μία σάρξ. It is for this reason that the husband should love his wife. But the σῶμα also refers to the church, so that the husband and wife come together not only as one flesh physically but also within the membership of the church. In both senses they are seen as equals. Therefore, the idea that the wife equals the church, which equals subordination, simply does not stand, for both the wife and the husband belong in the church with reference to Christ (201-203).

Dawes notes also the conflict of metaphors with respect to the model, the human body. As noted earlier in the book, σῶμα is not used consistently, which causes conflicting metaphors. This conflict leads the audience away from creating a single image. When σῶμα is used independently, it refers to the unitive body. When used dependently, it is partitive. However, as seen in Aristotle’s Politics, the whole takes precedence over the part, because without the notion of the whole, the part could not exist. Dawes admits that there is no way of knowing if the original author shared Aristotle’s understanding, so he concedes to leave this fact as a secondary influence in the new interpretation that will follow in the next chapter (203-204).

Dawes considers also the command for husbands to love. The commands to the husbands and wives are not symmetrical, meaning that they lack reciprocity. However, when addressing husbands in Eph 5:25-32, the author of Ephesians, according to Dawes, seems to have overlooked the inclusiveness of σῶμα, for it implies reciprocity. If husbands are to love their wives because they are both part of the same body, then the same may be said of wives. This term, σῶμα, does not divide, but, rather, it unites the wife and the husband (205-206).

Dawes notes also the command for husbands to love in the context of Ephesians. Earlier in the letter, namely Eph 5:1-2, Christ is said to have given himself up in love for the church, and believers are instructed to love each other in the way that Christ loved the church. Therefore, as Dawes rightly notes, this call to love is not for husbands alone, but in the context of Ephesians as a whole, all believers are called to love in this way (206).

Dawes then sets out from here to discuss mutual subordination. What he is setting out to do is to understand with greater accuracy the ethical instruction to the wives. Ephesians 5:21, itself not part of the ethical instruction to the wives, supplies the verb for the instruction to the wives in v 22. The verb, ὑποτάσσω (ὑποτάσσομαι, if middle), is found earlier in Ephesians, where it is said that all things have been placed under (ὑποτάσσειν, active) Christ’s feet (Eph 1:22). In Eph 5:21, it is either a middle or passive participle. Dawes takes it to be passive. If it is middle, it would be reflexive. But, according to Dawes, as passive, which is evident in the usage of this word throughout the New Testament when it is not in the active, one is to be subordinate to one who is in authority. This subordination concerns losing or surrendering one’s will to another (206-212). The use of ἀλλήλοις is to be understood with respect to its context. Ephesians 5:21 exists in relationship to the call for the audience to be filled by the Spirit (Eph 5:18), which is in itself connected with the call to live wisely (Eph 5:15). This section concerning wise living is directed to all believers, not simply some of them. It seems that in marital terms the author of Ephesians is attempting to restrict this call for all believers to be subordinate to each other to the wives (213-216).

Dawes makes an aside to address the concept of mutual subordination in connection with human rights. Why speak of mutual submission and not use the language of human rights? He notes first that human rights and the New Testament simply do not fit. Human rights, for the purposes of New Testament studies, are an anachronism. Furthermore, human rights are focused on the individual, a point of view that is not shared by New Testament authors from the First Century C.E. Second, he notes the idea of “natural rights.” Natural rights are tied to natural law, and natural law has come under general disfavor, because it simply is politically charged and does not possess a significant moral function. Third, Dawes notes that the language of human rights falls short of the Christian ideal of self-sacrificial love. Actions performed based on the rights of individuals but absent of love are found wanting in interpersonal relationships. Fourth, using the language of mutual subordination avoids one partner claiming equal rights, which can lead to marital conflict. Because of these reasons, the language of human rights is avoided, and the use of mutual submission is preferred (216-221).

Chapter nine is where Dawes brings his argument to a close. It is here that his new interpretation of Eph 5:21-33 is found. He starts this chapter by discussing the ethical instructions of Eph 5:21-33. He states first that the instruction in Eph 5:21  to the believers to be subordinate to each other is paradoxical. Yet, this instruction is restricted in Eph 5:22-24 to the wives in the marital relationship. This restriction is done by use of the body metaphor. His instruction is assimilated in the patriarchal worldview, and it is unclear why according to Dawes (222-223).

Second, the husband is instructed to love his wife just as Christ loved the church. The unitive use of σῶμα implies that this instruction may also be said of the wife. Even still, this command to love is a narrowing in scope from Eph 5:1-2, just as the command for wives to be subordinate is a narrowing in scope of Eph 5:21. The author of Ephesians is attempting to restrict these general instructions for all believers to gender-specific roles within marriage (223-224).

Third, Dawes looks at both of the commands and their relationship. An asymmetrical ethic is created by the author of Ephesians, but these commands bear similarity. Dawes states that the use of ὑποτάσσομενοι ἀλλήλοις concerns a surrendering of one’s own will to another bears similarity to the call to love sacrificially. Furthermore, whatever authority the husband has over the wife is bound to the instruction to love. Most certainly the husband is not instructed to be domineering or tyrannical. But there is a different in the two instructions, and it ought not be forgot. The husband does have authority over the wives in the view of the author of Ephesians according to Dawes (224-225).

Fourth, Dawes discusses the role of μυστήριον. The use of this word does not provide the grounds for restoring the relationship between the marriage partners, nor does it apply to the unity of the two individuals. Both of these ideas are based on an understanding of μυστήριον outside of its use in Eph 5:21-33. According to Dawes, μυστήριον is used rather differently in Eph 5:21-33 in comparison to the rest of the letter. Elsewhere, μυστήριον refers to the horizontal union of Jew and Gentile or all things in Christ. In Eph 5:21-33, it is a vertical union between Christ and the church (225-227).

Finally, the intention of the author in using the commands to be subordinate and to love is discussed. It is important to recall that these same instructions are given to all believers earlier in the letter, whether in Eph 5:1-2 or Eph 5:21. The letter itself contains tensions despite the author’s intentions that prevent a patriarchal reading. While the author attempts to retain the patriarchal ordering, the general Christian ethic holds it in tension (227-228).

At this point, the new interpretation has finally arrived. The intention of the author cannot be ignored. The author of Ephesians was indeed attempting to establish a patriarchal order in marriage. Yet, the imagery that the author uses immediately re-interprets his intention. The marriage relationship is established to be one body, which is a unified body. The immediate literary context must be considered in addition to the letter as a whole. Arguing that the preferred interpretation of a text is the one that explains the most characteristics of a text, which means it must be able to explain the surface level as well as those complexities, tensions, and ambiguities that may be under the surface, and it must strive for the highest level of consistency, Dawes argues that the best interpretation of Eph 5:21-33 does not stop at the surface level, the patriarchal ordering of marriage, but rather allows the context to redirect the exhortations to both partners in this case. There is more reciprocity than initially thought from the surface level. Ephesians is actually calling both marital partners to mutual subordination and self-sacrificial love following the example of Christ. Furthermore, these instructions are not based solely on their status of being one flesh, but also on the fact that they are both equal members within the church. In the end, Dawes notes that this hierarchical ordering is inevitable when speaking of women and men, as seen throughout history, because thought functions through hierarchical opposition (a few examples of which are superior/inferior, sun/moon, day/night, man/woman, etc.). But one of these hierarchical sets, husband/wife, has been called into question by Dawes. In Eph 5:21-33, it is more complex than a hierarchical opposition. Instead, they are one body, so that, as seen in Paul’s words from 1 Cor 11:11, the wife is not separate from the husband and the husband is not separate from the wife in the Lord (232-235).

To summarize Dawes’ new interpretation, we may highlight his argument in five points, and then we can offer a conclusion. First, Eph 5:21-33 does acknowledge and resort to patriarchy. Second, this use of patriarchy is not consistent, as is evident in the use of σῶμα, which implies a certain reciprocity. Third, the immediate context reinterprets the wifely subordination (Eph 5:21). Fourth, the letter as a whole reinterprets the patriarchal ordering (Eph 4:10-16, 5:1-2). Fifth, with the reinterpretation from the context, the result is that both wives and husbands are called to love and subordinate to each other. In sum, it is not appropriate to hold a purely hierarchical or egalitarian position as the text itself has a mixture of both.

In his appendix, Dawes takes the body metaphor in relation to Christ and the church and explores the distinction between the two. He summarizes his discussion of the two uses of σῶμα in Ephesians, either as unitive or partitive, and comments that the relationship of Christ to the church is also inconsistent in its use of σῶμα in the same as as the relationship between the husband and the wife is described. This tension, the inconsistent use of σῶμα, had specific implications for the marital relationship. Could it be, Dawes asks, that it has implications for the relationship between Christ and the church? His appendix attempts to address this question (236-237).

Dawes admits that he cannot fully answer this question, so his sole purpose in the appendix is merely to articulate more clearly the heart of the question and to proffer some observations. He looks first to Eph 1:23 where the church is called the fullness of Christ. Dawes is attempting to show through Ephesians how exactly the church is the body of Christ. But this phrase, the fullness of Christ, is ambiguous, and this ambiguity reflects the ambiguity of the relationship of Christ and the church. He spends much time on trying to understand the phrase, but, in the end, he concludes that we cannot understand it and that it remains ambiguous (237-248). He concludes his appendix by speaking briefly of the body metaphor in relation to Christ and the church. Again, Christ can be the κεφαλή and the church the σῶμα, so that σῶμα is partitive, but when κεφαλή is not present σῶμα is unitive, so that Christ and the church are inseparable. Therefore, the church in relationship to Christ is that which is filled and that which fills, and it can even complete Christ (248-250).

As stated before, Dawes excels in three areas. He explains metaphor theory and applies it to Eph 5:21-33, which helps the interpreter to understand the argument therein. He also explains how κεφαλή should be translated literally as “head” and should not be interpreted in the translation as “authority” or “source.” Finally, he also emphasizes that we must make the best effort to read and understand the selected text in the same way that the original audience would have read it.

Dawes spends a sufficient amount of time explaining the theory of metaphor. After laying the foundation, he then demonstrates that Eph 5:21-33 contains several metaphors, that of head and body, based on an underlying model, the human body. The metaphors can be misunderstood and misapplied if they are not considered in relation to the same model. Dawes shows that these metaphors are used to speak of two relationships: first, between husband and wife; and second, between Christ and the church. The husband is compared to Christ with respect to κεφαλή, and the wife is compared to the church with respect to σῶμα. Concerning κεφαλή, Dawes rightly notes that the particular meaning emphasized is “authority” in Eph 5:22-24, but it is not “authority” that is the main comparison between Christ and the husband in Eph 5:25-33. Instead, it is “love.” Here is an important distinction, for the husband is not instructed to rule or to bear authority, but, rather, he is instructed to love as the “head” of his wife. The metaphor’s meaning is determined by context, a point that Dawes recognizes and emphasizes. Without the context, it could be stated that the husband is to bear authority. Dawes’ excellent use of metaphor theory, which highlights the importance of context for interpretation, prevents such an erroneous interpretation.

Dawes explains how κεφαλή should be translated as “head” and not “authority” or “source,” because it is being used as a metaphor. As we have seen, he gave the details of the debate and how there are two main positions: either κεφαλή means “authority” or it means “source.” Clearly, as Dawes explains, this word is used as a metaphor, so it should not be translated as either of these two options. Instead, it should be translated literally, for κεφαλή is a figure of speech that calls the reader to consider, think, and interpret it. And this metaphorical use could permit either option to be interpreted by the reader, though in context it indicates authority. Dawes’ explanation is excellent.

Finally, Dawes understands that the ancient readers and listeners do not share the same presuppositions and values as modern readers, and, therefore, we must consider how they would have read and understood this passage. If we read Eph 5:21-33 through the lens of contemporary feminist concerns, then we will likely miss the way the text re-interprets itself, and we will dismiss the instructions of text, perhaps even going so far as claiming the instructions found in the haustafeln is outmoded and archaic. If we read Eph 5:21-33 through the lens of contemporary hierarchical concerns, then we will likely emphasize the face value of the text over and against its re-interpretation. We need to read the text as the original audience read it. The original audience was part of a patriarchal society. And, yet, there are aspects in Ephesians as well as Eph 5:21-33 that are counter cultural, that go against patriarchy. We have to consider both of these aspects before we can understand it and apply it in our contemporary setting. Dawes’ discussion highlights this importance if we want to better understand and correctly apply Eph 5:21-33.

There are a few notable quibbles. Dawes understands ὑποτασσόμενοι being passive and not middle in Eph 5:21 (208). He fails to discuss Quintialian’s views of metaphor, found in Institutio Oratoria (VIII.vi.4-18), which is contemporary with Ephesians. Actually, it is a big deal that he did not consider the primary resources concerning ancient theories on metaphor in connection with Ephesians, and, therefore, his study is lacking. And the appendix Dawes includes has nothing to do with the fundamental argument of the book. Of course, the book has the typical Brill typographical-editorial errors. But these are minor issues. What is next is a notable failure, but, still, it is not a critical error.

We have stated that Dawes sets out to consider the context of the letter as a whole, but, instead, he only considers selected parts of the rest of the letter for understanding Eph 5:21-33. What he does consider is helpful indeed. But he does not, for example, consider the rhetorical composition. Had he looked at the composition, he might have been able to acknowledge the location of Eph 5:21-33 within the letter’s structure, which, in itself, would add further support for his argument in the end. Ephesians 5:21-33 is within the last main section of the exhortatio. Indeed, Eph 5:21-33 is within the section concerning wise living and being filled with the Spirit. He did acknowledge this connection. But the initial concern of the exhortatio is about walking worthily according to the believers’ calling, which is also connected. Furthermore, the exhortatio is the aim of the narratio. The theological points provided in Eph 2-3 find their end in Eph 4:1-6:9. Therefore, the instructions found in Eph 4:1-6:9, which includes the selected text for The Body in Question, is predicated on what is found in Eph 2-3. Dawes mentions such a connection by looking at κεφαλή and σῶμα earlier in the letter, but the only real connection he maintains is a semantic connection. The argument of those sections is followed slightly, but not wholly. Had he considered the arguments over and above the semantic connections, he could have furthered his own argument by appealing to the fact that the metaphors found in Eph 5:21-33 are dependent, not only with the underlying model, but also on the whole of the narratio: just as Gentiles and Jews, wives and husbands have been brought together in Christ as believers, and both have a common goal, to do the good works God has prepared in advance for them to do, and together they are to proclaim the good news of God’s grace to the rulers, powers, and authorities. To further his end argument, Dawes could have appealed to this connection with the narratio and drawn the conclusion that the narratio re-interprets the patriarchical instructions of Eph 5:22-24, for example, so that, not only does Eph 5:21 re-interpret it along with Eph 5:1-2, but so does Eph 2-3.

Even though there are minor quibbles throughout the book, The Body in Question is a somewhat helpful monograph. It highlights the importance of understanding metaphors in order to understand the use of κεφαλή and σῶμα in Eph 5:21-33 more properly, the importance of understanding the metaphorical use of κεφαλή in the text, and the importance of reading the text in the way that the original audience would have read it. It also highlights the importance of the literary context, though it had a few drawbacks in its approach. Overall, the book is not worth the cost, for his discussion does not offer anything that one could not arrive at through a careful and close study from the literary context, but it would be worth a series of library visits, because metaphors can be daunting, and this book helps one work through the metaphors in Eph 5:21-33.