Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Submission or Lording it Over - Greek Word Studies

Comparative Study
between Church/Elders and Wives/Husbands
from Greek New Testament

  1. The most common word for how women are to treat their husbands is the word hypotasso (“submit”).  The word is found in Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, and 1 Peter 3:1, 5.  Women are also commanded to be submissive at church gatherings, in 1 Corinthians 14:34. 
There are several instances where hypotasso is used of the Church or applied to all Christians.  They are told to submit to each other, to submit to secular authorities, to God, and to Christ.  Find these references in Ephesians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:13, James 4:7, and Ephesians 5:24.  In one instance, 1 Corinthians 16:15-16, Paul encourages the believers in Corinth to submit to those who labor in ministry to the saints (like the household of Stephanas does).  And younger Christians are told in 1 Peter 5:5 to submit to elder Christians, followed by an admonition for all Christians to submit to each other. 

  1. Another word used of how wives should relate to their husbands is kephale (“head”).  The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23 that the man or husband is the head of his wife.  The first passage goes into detail about the significance of and reason for this hierarchy.
Kephale is used frequently for the Church as well.  In all instances, we are taught that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church.  Look at Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, and 5:23.  Also see Colossians 1:18. 

  1. Women and men are each told to aresko (“please”) each other in marriage.  Paul contrasts this to the devotion available to single people for service to God in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. 
All Christians are told to seek how they may aresko one another, in Romans 15:1-3. 

  1. To spin this in the other direction, husbands are actually told in 1 Peter 3:7 to timé (“give honor to”) their wives [as to the weaker vessel]. 
The Church is instructed to count elders who rule well worthy of double timé.  1 Timothy 5:17 is part of an entire section on the treatment of elders. 

  1. Other words for wives’ reverence and obedience to husbands are: hypakouo (“hearken to command”) 1 Peter 3:6; phobeo (“reverence”) Ephesians 5:33; hypotage (“subjecting”) 2 Timothy 2:11.  Women are to philandros (“love”) their own husbands Titus 2:4  They are not to authenteo (“exercise dominion over”) at church 1 Timothy 2:12; nor do they [or husbands] have exousiazo (“power”) over their own bodies.  Paul says that he does not epitrepo (“permit”) women to speak or have authority over men at church in both 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12. 
None of these words are used of elders in the church with the possible exception of exousiazo in Luke 22:25, where the disciples are told not to behave that way towards other disciples. 

  1. Other words for how husbands are to treat their wives: synoikeo (“dwell with”); 1 Peter 3:7, sygkleronoimos (“heirs together”); 1 Peter 3:7, agapao (“love”); Ephesians 5:25 and Colossians 3:19.  They are not to pikraino (“embitter”) their wives; Colossians 3:19.  None of these instructions are given to elders or Church leaders. 

  1. On the other hand there are many words used for how believers should treat elders and pastors.  I’m giving single-word translations for clarification that are likely to be biased simplifications.  I encourage everyone to look up the words and passages for themselves.  We are to mimeomai (“imitate”) our elders; 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9 and Hebrews 13:7.  We should peitho (“be persuaded”) by them; Hebrews 13:17.  They deserve our hypeiko (“yielding”); also Hebrews 13:17.  We should doubly timé (“honor”) those that do their job well; 1 Timothy 5:17.  Also the church is told to agape (“love”) their elders; 1 Thessalonians 5:13.  These terms are never used of wives towards husbands. 

  1. And let us observe two classes of instructions to Church leaders.  The first is how they are told to treat the congregation or “flock.”  Elders are described as hegeomai (“leaders”); Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24.  There is a spiritual gift of proistemi (“presiding, protecting”); Romans 12:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, and 1 Timothy 5:17.  Closely related is the requirement that elders be able to epimeleomai (“care for”) the Church; 1 Timothy 3:5.  The Church should recognize their elders when they kopiao (“labor to weariness”) for them; Acts 20:35, 1 Corinthians 16:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1 Timothy 5:17.  Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to noutheteo (“warn”) against false teachers; Acts 20:31 – and the Thessalonian elders were described as those who noutheteo the church. 

  1. Our second class is that which Church leaders are NOT to do.  The first is interesting because in Hebrews, leaders are described as hegeomai (“commanding”) the Church, but Luke 22:26 tells the disciples not to behave like the Gentiles who lead in such ways.  In passages corresponding to that in Luke 22, the authors use a few other words for the methods of authority, used by the Gentiles, the disciples were to shun: kataexousiazo (“wield power”); Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42 and katakyrieno (“subdue”); Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42, and also 1 Peter 5:3.  Luke also employs the word exousiazo (“power”) in the same passage; Luke 22:25, as discussed in point 5 above. 

  1. Other interesting studies are the “appointing” of elders and ministers and messengers; “one another” verses; spiritual gifts and the body of Christ; Church unity; qualifications for bishops/elders and deacons; church discipline; the authority of parents; suits and judgment; and binding and loosing. 

Personal conclusion: Whoever translated these words in the New Testament did not do a very good job communicating the full idea into English, leading to confusion and perhaps reinforcing a misinterpretation of Church government.  Who did do the original translating into English?  Were they serving under the very hierarchical Church of England?  Or believers in the Papal system?  Whatever our understanding of the government of local congregations, isn’t it clear that the Bible does not teach such super-church hierarchies as involving bishops and archbishops, etc. as understood in both Anglican and Catholic traditions?  Can we not argue that those religions denied the priesthood and sainthood of all believers, excluding them in varying degrees from participation in speaking God’s word and in building up or restoring fellow believers and in worshiping God, which activities were biblically entrusted to the whole Body of Christ?  Was not Tyndale hated for translating Greek terms into words more literal than those employed by the reigning religions of the day, undermining their religious system?  (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/biographies/always-singing-one-notea-vernacular-bible)

To God be all glory.

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