5 Myths of Male Headship

Kate Wallace Nunneley

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5 Myths of Male Headship

 

5 Myths of Male Headship

I sat down across the table from her. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was excited to catch up. She was a youth pastor, one of those with an obvious call on her life for ministry.

But as I looked into her eyes, I could see she was worn out. She explained to me that she had been having some problems with her boss. She told me that every time she had a disagreement with him, he would tell her that she had a problem with “male headship in the Church”.

I sat there, shocked that a pastor would know so little about headship in the Church, that he would use it to get his way with his employees. I think I blurted out my response before she had finished her sentence:

“Yes! You should have a problem with male headship in the Church!” We took the rest of our lunch to talk through the theological error this man had fallen into.

I have to admit, since that conversation I have been on high alert for every mention of “male headship” in Evangelical churches. I have heard it in many different contexts, and every single time it was used to elevate men over women – in the family, in marriage, in the Church.

It occurred to me that although Evangelicals are known for diving into scripture and analyzing it word for word, we have failed to do this with “headship” in scripture. Someone tells us it is synonymous with “authority” and we leave it at that – no word study, no look at context, no observing original language.

This has led to 5 myths about “male headship” that have weeded their way into our theology. Although I am far from being the first to write about this, my hope is that this post will help bring false thinking to light and challenge us to dig a little deeper.

Myth #1 – Male Headship in the Church

The Bible never teaches that there is “male headship” in the Church. Yup, you heard me right. Now, the Bible does talk about the head of the Church. But do you know who takes that position? That’s right – Christ.

According to the Bible, Christ and Christ alone is the head of the Church. Men are never given that spot. In fact, to insist on male headship in the Church would be to place men in the spot of Christ, and that verges on heresy.

Sometimes people use the language of “headship” when they are actually talking about leadership in the Church. This usually stems from a specific interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 (a verse that never mentions “head”) & Ephesians 5. 21-33, which speaks of husbands in marriage, but not men in the Church. The confusion of the two topics can lead to significant false teaching.

Myth #2 – Man as the Head of the Household

Did you know that the Bible never says that the man is the head of the household? That phrase is so common in our culture, and even though some of us assume it is taken out of scripture, it’s just not in there. So what does the Bible say?

There are two places in scripture that refer to a husband as “head”: Ephesians 5.23 & 1 Corinthians 11.3. When you read them, you see that these verses are specifically speaking to the marriage relationship between a husband and a wife. They do not say that all men are the heads of all women. They also do not say that men are the heads of Christian communities.

You will also notice that neither one says that the husband is the “head of the house”. In fact, the only thing the husband is called the “head of” is the wife.

So what does it mean for a husband to be the head of the wife? Some believe it has to do with leadership, but…

Myth #3 Headship as Leadership

Did you know that the Bible never says that the husband is to “lead” the wife? People who teach this are actually giving their own interpretation of scriptures that talk about the husband as “head”. They are assuming that the Greek word for “head” means “leader”. This is a common assumption because in the English language, “head” can be synonymous with “leader”. But not all languages equate “head” with “leadership”.

French, for example, is one language in which their word for “head” has no connotation whatsoever with “leadership”. Interestingly, Greek is another language that does not commonly equate leadership with headship. In Greek, “head” can mean “source”, as in the “headwaters of a river” (1 Corinthians 11.3 seems to be an example of this, considering verses 11 & 12 of that chapter). The meaning of “head” in Greek is usually a literal one, but when it is metaphorical, it should be understood through context of the specific passage.

If we read these passages without bringing our Western, English understanding of the word “head” into them, they look pretty different. But then how can we figure out what husband as “head” means in scripture? The second part of that verse holds a huge clue.

“The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church…”

If we want to understand husband as “head,” then we must understand Christ as “head of the Church’. So, how is Christ the head of the Church?

Christ as “head” of the Church is mentioned 5 times in the New Testament:

  1. Colossians 1.18 – Christ is metaphorical head of the Church, source of life after death
  2. Colossians 2.18-19 – Christ as metaphorical head of the Church, to help her flourish
  3. Ephesians 5.23 & 25 – Christ as metaphorical head of the Church, saving her, loving her, giving himself up for her
  4. Ephesians 1.20-23 – Church is metaphorical body of Christ, Christ provides for Church’s growth
  5. Ephesians 4.15-16 – Church is metaphorical body of Christ, Christ equips the Church for growth through love

How is Christ described as Head of the Church?

  • Giving abundant life
  • Helping her flourish
  • Saving her
  • Loving her
  • Giving himself for her/dying for her

What don’t we see in these passages?

  • authority over
  • leadership
  • decision making
  • rulership

Many other times when Christ is called the “head” of something, Scripture adds language to explain that he is also in authority over that thing. This “authority over” language is missing in every single instance of Christ being the head of the Church. 

Christ as head of the Church has nothing to do with leadership or authority, but with love, sacrifice, death, and giving of life. Likewise, a husband as “head” of his wife would refer only to giving himself up for her, sacrificing for her, to give her a flourishing life.

For clarity’s sake…
Was Christ a leader? – Yes.
Does Christ have authority over humans? – Yes.
Are those the traits of Christ that husbands are called to mimic as “heads” of their wives? – No.

This is a servant role, not a leadership one.

Myth #4 Headship as Decision Making

Fun fact: scripture does not give husbands any sort of decision-making authority over their wives. In fact, the only scripture that addresses decision making in the husband-wife relationship instructs them to make that decision together equally (1 Corinthians 7.1-6).

Let me say this one more time, because I think it’s important – The only spot in scripture that explicitly addresses decision making in a marriage calls the husband and wife to make that decision together equally.

Scripture doesn’t give the husband a “trump card” in decision making. He doesn’t get the final say, according to the Bible. If we follow the example scripture sets, husbands and wives would make decisions together, through prayer.

Myth #5 Headship as Being in the Driver’s Seat

Too many times have I heard people equate a husband as “head” o his wife to having authority over here, because “someone has to drive the car”. Guess what? Marriage is not a car. Marriage is a covenant relationship. Plus, you can always pull over and switch drivers.

While there were no cars at the time the Bible was written, interestingly there is a vehicular example in the Bible of what two people coming together in this covenant relationship should look like – two oxen, equally yoked, pulling a cart or a plow. They must be equal, or the cart will be pulled off course.

In the scriptural example, we are not the drivers of the marriage at all. We are the oxen. The oxen do not decide where the cart goes – the farmer does. We put in the effort to make it work, and God decides where He will take it, and what He will use it for.

Men don’t belong in the drivers seat. Neither do women. God does. Remember, we are called to live differently.

Busted

The Evangelical myths of “male headship” teach that men have some sort of authority over women in the Church, community, and home. I believe the prominence of these myths stems from a failure to study the topic thoroughly. The Bible itself does not give men an over arching authority over women. In fact, it tells us that a husband is to show his wife the life-giving sacrifice Christ showed to the Church.

The world favors men. The Bible tells Christ followers to favor others – husbands to their wives, wives to their husbands, believers to one another. In this way, everyone is sacrificially loving and being loved. Egalitarians speak to this in their theology of mutual submission.

My youth pastor friend made a great observation during our lunch together. “If Christ followers are generally called to self-sacrifice, servanthood, and humility, this grasping for male authority doesn’t seem to fit.”

As Christians, we are not called to exert authority over people. We are instructed to love, serve, and lay down our authority as Christ did.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Phil.2:5-8

——————————–

Resources

I Believe in Male Headship by Gilbert Bilezikian
Kephale and Male Headship in Paul’s Letters by Margaret Mowczko
Co-Leadership in Marriage by Tim and Anne Evans
Jesus and a Woman’s “Place” by Kate Wallace

Note:

It has been argued that Numbers 30 addresses husband-wife decision making. Our response reflects personal correspondence dated 3/14/2016 from Karen Winslow, Ph.D. Professor and Chair of Biblical Studies, Azusa Pacific Seminary:

It is important to point out that the context of Numbers 30 isn’t marital decision making, but guidelines for Israelites surrounding offerings & oaths to God. God says that he will not hold a woman to an oath that her husband thinks she should not or could not fulfill. Num 30:3-8 seems to be protecting women from breaking such an oath.

Numbers 30 is clearly speaking to a specific culture, and a very specific context of sacrifice & oath taking. It should not be used as a model for marital decisions today. Consider the rest of Numbers. Do we reference its many chapters on animal sacrifice as a model for our worship today? Do we throw out all who are sick among us? Do we offer a grain offering when we are jealous? Do husbands put their wives through an ordeal of drinking water, dirt, and ink when the husbands are jealous? Surely not. Why then would we pick only the portion about women’s oaths to apply to marital decision making today and dismiss the rest as culturally irrelevant?

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92 Comments

  • I would say you need to read Ephesians, 1 & 2nd Timothy closely using the Greek text for such words as pastor, bishop and elder. Christ may be the head of the church but just like Moses He placed people in charge of His church, the home, and the government. Everything has a head to it, to guide it and to instruct it. What if your children told you Christ was the head of the home and not you, how would that work for you?

    • Hmmm…the problem with this is that women are not children and shouldn’t be treated as such in a marriage. Everything may have a head but having studied the texts and researching the original language my understanding is that the meaning of head should not be understood to be as “to guide and instruct”. Our English usage is much different and misleading – it is just as likely to mean “source” or the starting point, like “headwaters”.

  • I have my concerns about this before I can accept this notion. For starters, this is a valid way to interpret scripture given the words and translations used. However, there are a few things that don’t fit:

    1. The Bible often refers to God as “the Father” and shows masculine authority over his people in addition to mercy. When God created the earth, he said “let us make man in our image” (which I believe is referring to the trinity). He made man then woman, rather than both at the same time or in the same method (Adam came from dust. Eve came from Adam). After they sinned, He ordained their roles: By the sweat of his brow, man shall live; and women would have great pain for childbearing. Throughout the Bible, these roles were upheld one way or another.

    2. Throughout history and the Bible itself, supreme rulers were often men while women tended the children. Yes there were queens and mistresses who had authority over their servants, but the ultimate authority was held with the king. Even many men in the Bible who obeyed God often had authority through some type of leadership (people followed Jesus, Moses, Prophets, etc.) Blessings were given from fathers to sons for many generations.

    3. Just as mankind was given a system of male authority, so was the animal kingdom where you can often see male leadership. I find this as no coincidence given that a) males are bigger/more muscular and b) females tended their offspring. Yes different species have some dominant females, but the presence of male leadership is no question.

    4. It simply comes natural to people to see men as leaders and women as caretakers because this is how they were made (physically, emotionally, spiritually).

    5. One last thing I am concerned about is how you used the Greek translation of “head” rather than the Hebrew translation. In the Hebrew translation, it does actually mean “leader” or “chief.” Putting this with the context of Christ, I can say that part of the role of leadership is to serve humbly as He did. We know that much of our language developed from ancient language, so it would make sense that “head” does have a context of leadership, direction, and authority. (ex: crowns placed on a head).

    A final concern I have involves 1 Timothy 2:12 which basically says women should not have authority over a man (perhaps addressing early feminism?). I asked a few well-respected women I know about what they thought about this verse and one really made sense to me. It’s not that women are somehow less than men, it’s a re-establishment of the role men were supposed to have because men weren’t doing their job, and women were filling in for them. Men were supposed to be spiritual leaders, builders of their homes, fighters, protectors, etc. Even to this day, we see a much weakening of masculinity in men and even some stay-at-home fathers who are often not well received. Men were becoming submissive, afraid, and passive which are not traits of God whom we are supposed to be reflecting.
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+timothy+2&version=NIV

    Anyways, I am not trying to change your opinion or be negative in any way. I merely wanted to point out that given the context of the entire Bible, History, and Animals, it makes no logical sense how men could not be considered “head of the household” or even a leader. Rather, it would be better to redefine what leadership means and what it means to be led by someone in a committed relationship. It is far more natural to accept the inner workings God has written into my DNA than force myself to change for a new perspective on one passage. I fully support women and want to strengthen them as sisters in Christ, but I don’t think it’s right to neglect supporting men in the process. I think the best approach is to say that a committed marriage is supposed to share responsibility and build each other up. I didn’t want to “be a leader” for many years and hated feeling like I had to submit to that role, but then I learned what a leader actually is and now I can handle it, but not alone. 🙂 As God said in Genesis before he made Eve: “it is not good for man to be alone.” I honestly would have not had it any other way, because God knew what I needed before I was born! 🙂

    • Armchair93,
      1. “let us make man in our image”. Adahm = human. Thus more correctly read = “let us make the human (or humanity) in our image.” The fact that God did not make them both at the same time does not make the woman of inferior status. Rather God had special plans for humanity as male and female. Because of the special attributes of humans God needed to give us lessons and tests before we started on our long journey of life. The first human came from dust, yes, which makes all humans made from dust. Genesis 3 is not about roles, but about how life would be after sin. There are no commands but rather revelation and understanding given. Sweating is not a role but a result of having to work hard to survive unlike living in Eden. Pain in childbearing is also not a role, but the result of living in a fallen world and having difficult childbirths.
      2. The facts that most rulers both harsh and godly were men, means little. Some leaders were women.
      3. We do not follow the lead of the animal kingdom. There are many systems of life styles in the animal kingdom. Harems, group sex, mating for life (they do it better than humans), changing mates after every child, fish morph from females to males if needed, males only needed to procreate and defend (lions), matriarchy (elephants), and so forth.
      4. Foolishness. Leadership does not evolve from body shapes.
      5. In Hebrew one of the primary meanings of head (rosh) besides the head that sits on one’s shoulders, is “beginning”. Genesis, b.rashith, (meaning in beginning) is a form of rosh. Ask any Hebrew who teaches Hebrew. This is why “source” is one of several good metaphorical uses of head.

      1 Timothy 2 says that a woman learning should not authentein a man. Authentein at that time in history is believed to have meant something about forcefully taking something from another. This is not about exercising authority which would be exousia, a different word. The 1611 KJV settled on “usurp authority” which is closer to the original Greek. Rheims 1582 had “have dominion over”. Cranmer 1539 had “usurp authority”. Wiclif 1380 has “have lordship”.

      As for “Men were supposed to be spiritual leaders”, not Scriptural. Our spiritual leader is the Holy Spirit. Maleness does not equal gifting for leadership. Leadership is a learned and/or an anointed ability that is not gender related. Spiritual leadership is confined to spiritual things. Spiritual anointings in Christ are given by the Holy Spirit at His discretion, not ours.

      • Wow! Thanks for this very thorough and helpful response. Love learning more about the meaning of the Hebrew in the original manuscripts, and agree with you in your assessment of the arguments. Thanks for taking the time to teach us all – always learn from your posts!

        • thank you Gail. 🙂 I love the Word of God. Hoping to find more time to do my own writing. I think all voices are needed.

          • Gail would like to consider that. Can you email me. I believe my email is in your web system.

      • ammcnair93 and tiro3, l notice you’re both reading something in to 1 Timothy 2:12 — I got hung up on this verse for many years because I was reading into it, too. I thought Paul was saying what women shouldn’t do. However, Paul doesn’t say that in v12. He says “I do not permit a woman to authentein over a man.” He is describing the church he was creating in Ephesus. It’s as if he’s reassuring skeptics. “Look, just because I let women lead doesn’t mean I let them boss men around.” Authentein is incompatible with Christlike leadership for both men and women, in the church and the home.

        • I love so many things about this response! Great food for thought.

        • Alan R, if I am reading you correctly, I agree with you. Paul is kinda doing both. First he is telling Timothy to LET A WOMAN LEARN! Then he is clarifying that by saying that while she is learning she ( a specific woman or a specific group of women, not all women) shouldn’t be trying to dominate the teacher, which might have been Timothy. I suppose he could be saying that to describe the way he wanted the church to operate. But specifically I believe Paul is responding to a letter he received from Timothy describing some specific problems with some specific individuals who were debating and trying to be teachers but were not schooled or instructed in the law, both men and women. And yes “authentein” is incompatible with Christlike behavior.

          I think what you say has merit.

        • Alan, it should also be noted that “Let a woman learn” is in the imperative. This statement is actually the main statement. Everything that follows is subject to that statement. These new converts must learn before they start debating. And they must learn in quietness, not silence. As well, learn in full submission to possibly a teacher. We infer this from the fact of who Paul is talking about, the women and men in chapter one. Not dominating, is reasonable for one who is to be a learner. Everything after that many scholars believe refers to agnostic beliefs that perhaps were part of the debated discussion in chapter one, which Paul was correcting. At least that is one take on 13-15.

        • In Ephesus the culture was one of exhausting women and subjugating men. Their goddess was a women, their priest were female, and their whole city and culture was built around exalting the female and putting down the male. Read up on history!
          So yes, Paul is saying “I don’t permit THAT (worldly) kind of behavior. Just because women have positions of “authority” in the church, I don’t permit them to demean or mistreat a man.”
          THAT kind of behavior shouldn’t be permitted from man to woman or woman to man. Because that is not how God created the church and marriage to function.

          So taking a passage from Ephisians and trying to paint it as some type of proclamation for the entire church on the subject of roles is fine… As long as you understand the culture. But when you don’t, it goes down hill fast into some “women can’t ever give information to a man because that would technically be “teaching” type of theology. Or it can go all the way to “if a woman even sings in congregational singing, and the song contains edification (which all church songs should), then that would be “proclaiming truth” which is “teaching”, so therefore women can’t even sing in the church service! And before you laugh and say that’s ridiculous, DON’T. Cause I was raised in a church that believed that exact thing. This IS where the headship issue goes if we don’t have the right framework through CONTEXT for reading the scripture.
          Somehow we have the self-centered notion that every word of the Bible was written specifically FOR US, and that meaning and theological ideologies can be pulled from every verse without any knowledge other than the English text. I don’t know how we’ve become so arrogant. It’s very sad. Yes, the Bible is for everyone, but it was not written TO every time and place. If we want to know the truth, we have to dig for it. We have to understand the language, the cultures, the euphemisms of those times and places. If we don’t, we end up building preposterous theories on rediculous parts of scripture, and we are so far from the true meaning we can’t even see it. And then we argue, disown, speak ill of, and judge others who don’t agree with our preposterously obtained theories we like to hold as “doctrine”.
          The more I learn about Jewish culture and biblical times, the more convinced I am that MOST of the doctrines and theology of the church today are completely built on nothing but what we think the bible is saying to US. WE are what’s important. All the stuff back then is just dusty history. But God was actually speaking to REAL people, with REAL problems. Not all of which will transfer perfectly into every culture. That’s why background is important. VERY important.

          Love the article! And agree with you too Alan!

    • Hmmm, I don’t see anything in Kate’s post about neglecting men as a requirement for developing women, so not sure why you mention that. But I agree with you that in a committed marriage the husband and wife should share responsibility and build each other up. Having been married for 40 years I can give testimony that it works best when that leadership is shared and fluid – at times one person’s leadership gifts are most needed, at other times the gifts of the other are necessary. Most of the time it is more like the oxen analogy Kate shared.

      I have done extensive research on “authentein”, the word translated as “authority” in 1 Tim 2:12. Most scholars today agree it did not refer to the normal exercise of authority. I recommend reading these posts for more on the sources for that interpretation: https://juniaproject.com/?s=authentein

  • Thank you for writing the article Kate, it provides a lot of insight and I am sure it has helped a lot of men and women to gain clarity on the topic. I am recently married to a wonderful man who also shares the same views with regards to this issue. Sometimes when I read some verses in the bible about male “headship” and they do not make sense to me or they hurt me, God instantly reminds me of a vivid dream I had, where I was being attacked by demons and I called out to Jesus and Jesus told me that I have the same authority as him and that I can send the demons away by ordering them to leave in His name. This dream reminds me that God gives authority to me (a woman) and to ALL his followers so we can fight against evil in the world and that God agrees with equality in his kingdom. Second to that, God reminds me that I have a wonderful loving husband who does not see me as less to him and he treats me as his equal, holds me up in honour and gives me respect, he listens to what I have to say and when we need to make a decision we will pray about it and then listen to what God is telling US to do. I have no doubt my husband would die for me as Jesus did, this unconditional love and respect from my husband and knowing that he sees me as equal to him and not as my head or leader then allows me to fully grasp that God does not mean in any way to belittle women or that he sees us as being less than men. More men can learn from men who love their wives as equals, who really listen to their wives and do not seek to be the head of them. If we just look at God’s first commandments, we need to seek God first and his kingdom and we need to love others as we love ourselves. I am sure no man would like to be treated ‘loved’ as someone who’s opinion does not count or cannot make a decision, who is less than another human being or as someone who is less important in the church/marriage/world. I believe that many miss this truth because they are not following God’s first commandment for it is by doing this that we receive the insight and eyes to see this truth. Also, Jesus never forced his authority on anyone and he never demanded it, he showed us the way we should live by his example, loving others, serving others and by being humble..

  • I am grappling with these issues. I am trying to decide what is the right way to conduct marriage and how to teach my sons and daughters.

    So, you can delete this post as needed, but I find the whole thing so difficult to follow. Why didn’t the church fathers understand their own scriptures? Why didn’t Peter and the Apostles? Why did it take feminism for us to “finally” understand what Ephesians meant? What you argue is that all churches misunderstood the male role of leadership in a divine religion until feminism or that there was no divine role in religion and its just a social institution in need of reform. Its easier for me to believe Christianity is not divine, than to believe the people nearest to Christ did not understand Christ or the Apostles did not understand church organization. And if there was an apostasy as you propose, then don’t we need a revelation to fix it – new Spiritual knowledge not hermeneutics.

    • Hi Kyle,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you’re grappling with these issues – they aren’t to be taken lightly.

      I do want to clarify something from your comment. It was not feminism that brought egalitarian theology into the Church. It was actually the other way around. Feminism finds its roots in Christianity. If you want to learn more, here is a blog I wrote on that: https://juniaproject.com/feminist-friday-the-first-wave/

      And it wasn’t ALL churches that misunderstood the role of men and women. Many Christian church traditions have long histories of being egalitarian, especially dating back to the protestant reformation. But yes, just as the Church was wrong about defending slavery, I believe many in the Church are wrong about defending patriarchy and male authority. The Church has gotten important things wrong before, and this is no different.

      And there were actually many times in scripture where Jesus said that His disciples didn’t truly understand the fullness of his message, even though they had been traveling with Him for so long. But many of them lived out Jesus’ egalitarian teaching. Women served in the New Testament Church and in the Gospels as Apostles (Junia), Preachers (Mary Magdalene), Evangelists (Woman at the Well), Deacons (Phoebe), Teachers (Priscilla), and Prophets (Daughters of Philip). Women were very involved in the leadership of the Church according to scripture. The Church just lost its way for a little bit, and then started finding it again after the protestant reformation. I pray it continues to find its way to freedom for women.

  • I just wanted to thank you for this article, as it sums up my own personal beliefs after much research and studying, in a very precise, succinct way. Excellent! I already believed this is how marriage should look before I found my husband. God delighted me by the gift of a husband who believes the same, and our marriage is WONDERFUL. We both respect and look up to each other so much, and we both allow God to lead rather than either one of us. It’s a beautiful thing and leads to an incredibly fulfilling marriage. I am so thankful more people are finally delving into the actual, literal meaning of the Bible rather than just simply what they were spoon fed to believe. I personally believe that these passages have been misunderstood for so long largely as part of the curse that was put on Eve, and am excited that when we get to Heaven things will be as they should be… “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Thanks for this well written article! 🙂

  • Let’s look at the example of oxen yoked together “without bringing our Western, English understanding” into it.

    It is true that a yoke is made for two oxen to work together. However, one ox is always designated as the lead ox. The other follows but never sets the direction. If the second ox tries to fight for the lead, it makes it more difficult to get the work done.

    In other words, ignorance of the reality of how ox teams work allows one to presume that the oxen are completely equal, when, actually, they are expected to equally contribute to the team effort, but they are not equal because one is the leader and the other is to follow that lead.

    I posit that the husband is the lead ox (guided by God, the “driver”), and the wife is to work together with him.

    Looking at scripture, here is Ephesians 5:23-25 [NASB]:

    23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
    24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

    I notice that the author, Kate, did not include verse 24 in her article. This verse states that wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything. So, at least in Christian marriage, the husband is the head of the wife, the wife is to be subject to her husband in everything, and the husband is to love the wife like Christ loved the church.

    • That’s an interesting take on the oxen analogy, but I don’t see that in a pair of oxen only one has the ability to lead than the other. You didn’t give a source, but I was very interested to know more, so glanced over a half dozen articles and saw that any ox can be trained to take up the “lead” position – though apparently the positions are not defined in this way at all. I think the current literature actually supports Kate’s position very well. Here is one example from an article out of the University of New Hampshire:

      Placement in the Team

      The temperament, size or behavior of an ox often dictates to which side of the yoke they should be assigned. A fast moving, hard to control ox may be placed on the nigh side for better control, or a slower animal may be placed on the nigh side to allow the teamster to keep after him. Some teamsters feel the larger, more powerful ox should be on the off side so the team is always being pushed toward the teamster. Also, this places the larger ox in the furrow when plowing and levels the yoke. And by having the smaller less powerful steer on the nigh side where he can be given more coaxing, the teamster can more easily see the larger animal to the right. With experience a teamster soon figures out where to place differing animals. It is easiest to train each steer to one side of the yoke and leave them there. But should problems arise, bad habits develop, or a teammate die, it is not too difficult to retrain an animal to the opposite side. In training, work the steers together for a few weeks and if a change is warranted, do it early rather than late in the training. It becomes much more difficult to switch sides as the steers become older and more handy. Experienced teamsters occasionally train a team to work on either side of the yoke, that is, both nigh or off ox. This training will take more time and patience, but in the long run may be beneficial. If one steer has to be given a different teammate, its being trained for either side makes it much more versatile. Occasionally, when older teams have developed bad habits, the habits can be broken by switching the animals side to side.” http://tillersinternational.org/oxen/resources_techguides/AdvancedTrainingTechniquesforOxenTechGuide.pdf

      Fascinating! I find it interesting that you critique the author for not citing v. 24 yet you fail to cite v. 22 (submit to one another out of reverence for Christ) which sets the tone for what follows. I imagine v. 24 was not discussed because the focus of the post was on male headship, not submission. I’m not a Greek scholar, but I once read that the word submit (be subject in your version) here is in the passive voice and refers to a state of being. In that time in Ephesus wives WERE subject to their husbands, so Paul might have been just stating the fact. Our church uses the CEB, which translates v. 24 this way: So wives submit to their husbands in everything like the church submits to Christ. The kicker for me is to remember that in this same passage and others like it, Paul also tells slaves to be subject to their masters. Obviously, we now recognize the cultural limitations of that mandate to slaves. I don’t see why the issue would be any different for women.

      Finally, I would hope that we can have these conversations without resorting to demeaning those we disagree with by suggesting they are ignorant. You write “ignorance of the reality of how ox teams work allows one to presume…”, suggesting that Kate is ignorant and presuming. This does not help make your case, in my mind.

      • Gail, I’m not a Greek scholar either. However, I’ve done some extensive reading from those who claim to be, and have many research tools on the Greek as well. You can go online at scripture4all.org and see that the verb hupotassomenoi is in the present-passive. Thus, should not be confused with someone demanding another submit to them. Rather Paul is telling first everyone in vs. 21 and then wives to submit themselves. Instead of “you submit to me”, it is everyone submit yourselves to one another. Then carrying that attitude over into marriage, Paul addresses wives and says “women to their own husbands”. Note that in the Greek, there is no verb there, which means it is a carry over of the same thought. So, the thought of everyone respecting, submitting, attaching themselves to, becoming arranged together with humility – submitting to, is carried into the husband and wife relationship. Those are some of the usages of the verb “hupotassomenoi”.

        Another thing to notice is that in the era that epistle was written, the “household codes” of the day did not say submit, but rather said obey. But Paul did not use “obey”, but submit. So, in effect he subtly downgraded the expectation from wives from one way obedience, to an attitude of respect, honor, holding ones life close to, yielding to, etc. And submit, when self applied rather than demanded, means that one does so at ones own discretion. This makes perfect sense when we are all to yield to one another and arrange our lives around one another. We must use our good sense.

  • Thank you for your article. Whilst I think there are some valuable insights there and think it missed some opportunities. It didn’t really explain how men should model themselves, or even how women should model themselves. There are multiple different ideas in the church about what ‘headship’ really is, and it’s something that both men and women have to strive to get right before they can enjoy it to it’s fulness.

    Headship is not subservience. It isn’t about giving men permission to dominate. God created men and women beautifully, but differently, to complement one another. Genesis in it’s early chapters explains that both male and female were created by God (or in my translation, it’s pluralistic – an insight into the Trinity’s involvement in all aspects of creation) and I believe treats both genders with equal importance.

    I fully agree with the sentiment of your article, many faithful Christian women have not had a fair deal in the church or in their marriages and we need to be robust in challenging that where it appears.

    As I read through, I kept detecting a subtle tone of protest. You spend a lot of time pointing out what isn’t correct, and I find myself in agreement with you much of the time. However, I think readers would have been better served if the article was able to explain point by point with clear scriptural backup what headship should look like, rather than what it shouldn’t look like.

    We need to lovingly challenge Christian men who do not live according to God’s design for men. The same is also true for women.

    I hope to have come across humbly, so please forgive me if my words do not come across how I intended. God Bless.

    • “It didn’t really explain how men should model themselves, or even how women should model themselves.”

      Yes, Tim her article didn’t, because that wasn’t the point or purpose. Nor, as she points out, does the passages in Scripture commonly used by people who stress “headship”.

      I think you’re looking for specific responsiblities and behaviours that men and women are supposed to adhere to.
      But both men and women try to clutch for power because of the Fall.

      I think the author is showing that abusing the passages in the Bible sins against women. Responibility and real leadership is based on servanthood, not pushing an idea of positional authority.

  • Thank you so much for your courage to take on this topic which God is highlighting, because I believe this is one of the things that is hindering the move of God in the Body of Christ. He wants us to be a complete and mature Bride, with both genders walking side by side in total unity and honoring each other as He intended. The Church is ultimately a family and all families need both Mom and Dad to be healthy, living out their faith in fullness. If one is opposing or suppressing the leadership of the other this leads to dysfunction. Mutual submission in leadership and team work is what is required. There are some churches that have received this revelation, but it takes time for the ship to turn. I appreciate the clarity and corrections to Biblical interpretation. May this message be championed and women be given their rightful places along side the men in our congregations.

  • This article has been a breath of fresh air. I’ve recently joined an Evangelical church where it is just given as fact that eldership is a role that only men can do. I’ve never really understood why God would give so many women a clear gifting in leading the church if this was not biblical. Your writing has encouraged me to ask more questions, and explore things deeply. We can so easily confuse church tradition with biblical truth. Your thoughts on biblical headship make more sense to me than all the teaching I’ve heard so far on the subject. Thankyou for writing this!

  • Kate, I really feel like you are standing up for those of us whom have been pushed down or swept under the rug by poor biblical interpretation!! Thank you!

  • You are taking so much out of context and ignoring so much scripture. Scripture is clear men are to lead in the church and the home.

    Holding to a strict interpretation of scripture is being faithful to what God has written, not being snarky or argumentative. Neither is disagreeing. I have actually written on the subjects of marriage and of leadership.

    https://wbmoore.wordpress.com/index-by-topic/leadership-and-ministry/
    https://wbmoore.wordpress.com/index-by-topic/marriage-and-relationships/

    • Hi wbmoore, thanks for commenting. Sounds like we simply disagree on the translation of head in scripture. I actually strongly disagree with the idea that scripture is “clear” that husbands should lead. Your blog seems to espouse a patriarchal view of scripture. We probably won’t come to an agreement here, but if you’re interested in egalitarian theology, check out http://www.cbeinternational.org/ and http://newlife.id.au/. They are helpful. Blessings.

        • The blog you link to seems to only account for the english definition of “head”. You assume that the 21st century english definition is the meaning of the word in scripture. I address that assumption in the blog above. It can lead to many misleading interpretations of scripture.

    • wbmoore – I think you make an interesting point. However much we study scripture for this and other areas of life where guidance in life is required – and can twist/interpret it in the way in which we want, we ignore other swathes of scripture that are clear; whole load in Leviticus and other areas – what to eat, what not to eat, the very nature of Old Testament figures having multiple wives, slaves etc etc. And of course scripture was used to defend slavery until not so long ago.

  • so according to your point 4, Christ has no authority over the church? Is that really what you meant? We just throw out saving faith, the sermon on the mount, etc.?

    • Hi Aaron. Thanks for commenting. Point #4 doesn’t mention Christ… not sure where you’re coming from. If you’re claiming that because Christ has authority, husbands have authority, I think that argument is lacking. The point of the post is that husbands aren’t called to mimic every aspect of Christ in their relationships with their wives. According to scripture, they are only called to service, sacrifice, and blessing.

      • I think Aaron is referring to point three where this is said,

        “How is Christ’s headship of the Church described?

        Giving abundant life
        Helping her flourish
        Saving her
        Loving her
        Giving himself for her/dying for her

        What don’t we see in these passages?

        authority over
        leadership
        decision making
        rulership”

        I think he is asking directly what it says and that is “so according to your point 4(ok, so it’s 3), Christ has no authority over the church? Is that really what you meant?” He was in no way making a claim of men having authority over women. You told him you think his argument is lacking…I’d like to point out, he never made an argument. He asked a question. As a woman, I also read your point in #3 the same way. It seems as though you are making the statement that Christ doesn’t have authority over church. It reads as though he has the right to serve and “do” for her, but not the right to lead or rule. I think that there is scriptural foundation for Christ as the Head/leader/authority of the church. Please clarify so we can better understand the point you are trying to make. As it stands your argument for egalitarianism within the church and within the home is lost in a blurred idea of Christ, his authority and leadership. Thanks in advance for helping us better understand what you are trying to say.

        • I don’t think she is saying that Christ doesn’t have authority, just that in that use of the word headship doesn’t encompass the idea of authority so it is likewise not saying that husbands should have authority over wives.

          Jesus has authority over the church, because other passages say that. But *this* passage isn’t saying that husbands should have authority over wives. Headship doesn’t mean that.

          I think she is summarising this idea in the sction “For clarity’s sake…”

  • Thanks for writing this so clearly and thoughtfully it is hugely helpful. One comment and one ‘wonder’.
    I think you overplay the possible ‘source’ interpretation of ‘head’ in a way that diminishes the power of what you say. Source is certainly one interpretation of head – and as decisions etc.. are made in the heart in Paul I agree that the head has been misunderstood – but it is a multivalent metaphor in Paul and in insisting it has one ‘meaning’ it feels as though you risk playing into the view that Paul meant one thing by the word ‘head’ which was about leadership and decision making.
    My wonder is whether you need to do some equal reflection work on upotasso – I have long felt that this has equally been misunderstood and it feels as though this would be a helpful companion to what you have said here.
    But thanks again – hugely enjoyed it and as female Pauline expert was hugely cheered to read such a positive view, that I almost entirely agreed with!

  • Hi Kate…..I am not sure what to say without writing too much. In short, I am also saddened by how abusive men can be toward woman. I lead domestic violence groups…..I see and hear a lot. The Scriptures certainly do NOT teach that men are the heads of women……but it does teach that a husband is the head of his wife……which in turn means the head of the family – this truth….properly applied….is a beautiful truth that protects the whole family. We could discuss all day what it means….but, you are right…it does mean a husband is willing to nurture, serve, DIE FOR his spouse and family! It also means he leads them well…..for certainly Christ leads his church too! My biggest concern is actually this: the “rules” for comments says this is not a forum for debate……..nothing that is argumentative or “snarky.” Yet this I must say, I feel your comments were a bit argumentative…..and snarky! What is someone to do who does not agree with your comments? Have people disagreed and you have removed the posts? If so, how many have you removed? My point: this is not honest dialogue……the church deserves better than this….not just a one sided conversation. I hope you post my comments. Many blessings as we all continue on this journey to live out Scripture faithfully. Philip Meher

    • Hi Philip, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry you feel this is not a honest dialogue. We do indeed get comments such as yours that disagree with our posts, and we post them as we have posted yours.
      It’s interesting that you believe the husband is to “lead” the wife. As I argue in the post, I don’t believe scripture ever says that the husband is to “lead” the wife. To come to that conclusion, one must interpret “head” to mean leader, and I go into why this is a poor assumption in the post above.
      The Bible also never calls the husband the head of the “family”. Just wanted to point that out. If you are referring to a specific verse, please do let me know. Let’s be sure not to read anything into scripture that isn’t there.
      Blessings on you.

      • Hi Kate, following on from this comment, how would you interpret 1 Tim 3:4-5?

        Which would seem to put clear emphasis upon male responsibility, of leadership, of his family? My wife and I recently studied to challenge the norms we had grown up with, one of them being husband being identified as responsible for household ultimately or ‘head’ as you discuss. Initially were quite challenged about no direct scripture, until we read this one, that would seem to be explicit or strongly implicit.

        • Hi Rich, thanks for your comment. Your question is a great one! I have found that it is quite common for English translations of scripture to add things to the text to help bring clarity where the Greek falls short. The downside is that some of the time, the additions bring more confusion than clarity. 1 Timothy 3 is a prime example of this.

          In English, this passage seems to be limiting leadership positions to men, because it is filled with male pronouns. In the original Greek, however, those pronouns aren’t there. It simply lists the qualifications for elders without speaking to one gender. The Common English Bible has a more correct translation of this passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Tim+3%3A1-7&version=CEB

          I hope this is good news for you and your wife! Here are a few more resources for you: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/
          http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/masculine-pronouns-english-bible/

          • Hi Kate,

            Thank you so much for your gracious reply and wider information to read.

            Having read this through, I totally see your point about how the pronouns aren’t there, however need help to see how in the CEB there is the jump to gyne (1 Tim 3:2) being rendered as spouse, as opposed to woman or wife?

            This seems strange seeing how in Ephesians 5:23 amongst other verses gyne is there rendered as wife in the CEB? Consistently with many other translations.

            My Greek dictionary doesn’t seem to give space for Spouse to be a valid rendering.

            If you could please direct me as to how this hangs together that would be really helpful. Especially in this specific verse in 1 Timothy. Is there something that I am missing that causes that rendering to then be different.

            Thanks in advance for your time and response.

            Every blessing,

            Rich

          • Hi Kate. Great article. This topic has troubled me greatly for many years now. in response to your comment above about 1tim3 and the use of pronouns…what is the direct translation of verse 2 where in many translations we have the words “husband of one wife”? Because it’s quite a leap from / to “be faithful to one’s spouse” offered by your alternative translation in the link above. Thanks. Appreciate your time.

          • Lorraine, Kate is getting married this week, and so I would just like to provide you with links to articles by two biblical scholars that support the interpretation of “husband of one wife” as essentially “monogamous”. The first is by Phil Payne, author of Man and Woman: One in Christ: http://www.pbpayne.com/?p=426

            The second is by Margaret Mowczko. http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/

            Both posts are well-referenced. Here is a very brief excerpt from Marg’s work: “The use of a one-woman man in the 1 Timothy passage about ministers (diakonoi – “deacons”) shows that it may be applied generically to both men and women. 1 Timothy 3:8-10 is about men ministers; 1 Timothy 3:11 is about women ministers; and 1 Timothy 3:12-13 is about both men and women ministers (diakonoi). Chrysostom wrote that the phrase a one-woman man in 1 Timothy 3:12 “. . . must be understood therefore to relate to Deaconesses [women ministers]. For that order is necessary and useful and honourable in the Church”. (Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Timothy, Homily XI) http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/

        • It is interesting that when folk take 1 Tim 3:4-5 which does speak of the husband managing the household, and assume that provides clear evidence of male leadership they almost never also quote 1 Tim 5:14 which speaks of the remarried widow, managing the household. In fact the word used there is a stronger word (‘oikodespoteos’ ie house despot) than that translated manage in 1 Tim 3:4. Unless you want to assume that this relates only to remarried widows then we have to say that 1 Timothy speaks of a leadership role for both spouses.

          • Mary, just for clarity, you should know that 1 Tim. 3:4-5 does not speak about a man or husband guiding his own children. The Greek word idios, means “one’s own”. It is a non gendered word. Verse 5 is similar. It uses tis, which means anyone. This is exactly like 3:1 which also uses tis and IMO should more properly be translated as “if anyone desires the work of an overseer, he desires a good work”

    • Philip,

      What you are doing (I assume inadvertently) is teleporting the 21st century meaning of head back into a 1st century text. This is what I did also before I learned how to read the text better. What one needs to do is a study of what Jesus as “head of the church” does and one will see that they are all serving functions and there are no leading functions included. Paul explains this metaphor in several letters. It is true that Jesus is leader of the church, no question about that, but that is not how Paul is using the metaphor of head. Check it out if you do not believe me, it is well worth doing this study for yourself.

  • I just loved this post. The “leaders” are still worse in Latin América and our churches. I’m also in my 80’s and I’ve learned that most of our christian culture was built on the this false idea of men’s superiority. We were trained to think authority as “having dominium” over others. Many of our leaders think authority as synonimous to power – force- because they are trained to make war in the army . The Bible itself is a book of authority due to the power of the Word. I think that Christian Education programs should apply to these questions as necessary to open hearts and minds in our churches in order to make young people’s aware of our commitment as men and women created to praise and serve the Lord.I am na Anglican priest in Rio de Janeiro

  • Thank you for posting this. As someone who was quite damaged by teachings like this I have struggled with the meaning of words like “headship” in the Bible, among other things. Your post shows me an alternative I can explore that both holds Scripture in high esteem and also puts these verses in sync with the Bible as a whole.

  • I enjoyed each point of explanation, Kate. Well done. The breakdown of the driver’s seat analogy was especially good, in how you showed that no one is to drive at all since we are yoked side by side as we leave the driving to God.

  • This post is so well done Kate! Thanks so much for dedicated your time to this cause. Your voice and “smarts” have blessed my life so much! XoXo

  • Kate, excellent again, as usual.

    I really love that you have compared the ‘equally yoked’ context with ‘someone has to drive the car’. We are so bound/driven by 20/21st century Western context, yet as you say, there is no correlation in so many other languages between head and boss. Westerners are so arrogant, we think it’s all about us, blinkered against any other perspectives.

    Great job.

  • Kate — thanks so much for your excellent work: doing original and biblically faithful thought, bringing the wisdom of others into play, encouraging solid and thorough scholarship, and bringing a pastoral presence — you are engaging each of the comments so wonderfully. I’m thrilled at the number of people who have shared your post on Facebook. Outstanding.

    As I’m sure you know, I completely agree with your article as you have addressed the misinterpretation of headship. There is one puzzling passage in I Peter 3:6 that seems to reinforce the conception of authority although it doesn’t speak of headship, specifically where Sarah is commended for having “obeyed her husband and called him lord”. I’m not saying that gives husbands the freedom to look down on their wives and dominate. Are you aware of scholarship that helps blend this passage into the whole?

    • Greetings Mr. Brian. One researched articles on that passage in 1 Peter 3 is on the website newlife.id.au Seems I’m unable to post the links in the comments but google will bring it up

    • Hi Brian, thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed the blog.

      1 Peter 3.6 is indeed a strange verse. You’re correct in saying that it doesn’t mention husband headship, but it does seem to point to submission.

      Looking at the story of Abraham and Sarah is interesting because no where in Genesis does it say that Sarah “obeyed” her husband. It does, however, say that Abraham “obeyed” Sarah in Gen. 16:2 (although the original word is usually translated “listened” when it pertains to women…go figure) and on another instance, God commanded Abraham to listen to Sarah “in whatever she says” (Gen 21:12).

      Michelle Sanyu points to http://newlife.id.au and that is a GREAT place to find good resources. Marg’s article on this specific topic is absolutely great! http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/submission-respect-1-peter-3_1-6/
      I hope this helps!

      • Could it be in that passage in Peter that what the wives were being asked to do is “do what is right without fear”? It makes me think of Abraham’s request of Sarah. That she would say he was her brother. He asked her to do this and she did even though it put her in a perilous position twice. Perhaps this is what Peter was referring to? Her obedience in that and how God rescued her both times. The wives should do what was right and trust God would watch over them as He did Sarah. During that time, I imagine, it could have been very dangerous to be a wife who would not follow the false gods of her unsaved husband.

      • Kate — thanks for your comments and for the resource from down under. A new website to explore, but more importantly, a good approach and conclusions on a tough question. I look forward to seeing how God will continue to use you and the Junia Project.

  • Kate, God is literally healing my soul! I always knew that something was not right about my patriarchal upbringing, and it took years to figure out what it was. By the time I got a grasp of egalitarian theology and had gained an understanding of God’s heart for His daughters, I still felt alone, even though the healing process had begun. You see I needed a community of Bible Believers who were willing to stand with me in proclaiming the Truth. I needed to know that God was revealing the message of equality to others. Through this blog and others, God is absolutely blowing my mind. Thank you for this teaching. It has deepened my understanding. I am so excited to start writing this upcoming year and joining you on the front lines. The Truth is healing & setting people free. Praise be to God!

  • Great article! Thanks for exposing these myths.

    Here is one quote I had difficulty reconciling with the biblical data: “This ‘authority over’ language is missing in every single instance of Christ being the head of the Church. Christ’s headship of the Church has nothing to do with leadership or authority, but with love, sacrifice, death, and giving of life.”

    I can see how the themes of love, sacrifice, death and giving of life are involved in Christ’s headship of the church (We could also add some other descriptions). And I can see how “authority over” language is missing from Ephesians 4. But that theme seems to be very significant to Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 & 2. I can also see how “authority over” language is in Ephesians 5. So, it seems to me, that a common sense reading of passages that speak of Christ being the “head” of the church at least include the idea of “authority.”

    • Thanks for reading Brad! To your points:
      Ephesians 1 indeed has added language to emphasize the authority of Christ over everything. The interesting thing about Ephesians 1 is that Christ is put in authority over everything, and then we get to the Church, and it says “for the Church” not “over the Church” as it does with everything else. This is a very interesting language shift. “Authority over” language? Yes. In relation to the Church as his “headship”? It doesn’t seem to be.

      In regard to Colossians 1, “head” seems overwhelmingly to be speaking to “source”. As Dr. B has said, “In a passage that celebrates Christ’s supremacy over all creation, this text describes Christ as the source of the life of the church through his resurrection from the dead and because of the reconciliation obtained through his self-sacrificing servant ministry at the cross. Headship is not defined in terms of authority but as servant provider of life.”
      I’m not sure where you’re seeing authority language in chapter 2…but I hope these help! If you’re curious, check out http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/i-believe-male-headship?page=show.

      • Thanks for a great article. Just want to start by saying I fully support Egalitarianism and found this article really helpful in many many ways – Just struggled with the suggestion that ‘head’ is not suggesting some kind of high status/superior rank. I am not a Greek scholar and just have a basic grasp of Greek and had a quick look in my Greek Lexicon BDAG. κεφαλή (head) It seems to be used as a ranking system in many clear examples in Antiquity. Probably the most helpful examples from the Septuagint in Judges 11:11 and 2 Sam 22:44 where the word is clearly used for authority, leadership
        decision making, and rulership.

        • I’ve been working my way through the literature about what the Greek word for “head” means. From what I can tell, Dr. Bilezikian is overstating his case that it simply means “servant provider of life.” And Dr. Grudem is overstating his case to declare that “head” pretty much only means “authority over.” The scholarship seems to be moving to a consensus that the word means something like “preeminence” – which actually makes a lot of sense when you read the context in which the word appears. It seems to me that “preeminence” could include both of the ideas of “source” and “authority.” Of course, this doesn’t help the egalitarian case, but I think it is probably more accurate.

          • It took me several passes to see what Kate was saying about Ephesians 1 in Myth #3. I always took it for granted that this passage was saying that kephale was authority OVER the church.

            This metaphor between husband & wife and Christ & the church was a metaphor, not an equation. Husbands are not like Christ in every way. Paul only takes the metaphor so far. It helps me to see Kate’s list in Myth #3 that delineates how he uses the metaphor and how he doesn’t.

            I’m not sure how you get to preeminent as a prescription for husbands. I think Paul would agree that husbands and masters were preeminent, but he didn’t prescribe it. He prescribed servanthood and love.

  • My wife and I had a discussion related to this just yesterday. I know far too many christian guys who are absolute knuckleheads who want their own ways and expect their wives to dutifully follow. The result is marriages with emotional stress and spiritual stagnancy. In our relationship we submit to each other, as Paul actually stated in Ephesians, and work together. I’m an introvert and an engineer (no, the terms are not synonymous) which means I can be very indecisive and/or oblivious. My wife has a strong, decisive personality. We balance each other out. We were friends in college and dated after we both had established our careers (she was a teacher). I would feel uncomfortable placing myself “above” her as we are friends who are married.

    Great article.

    • Thanks for sharing a bit of your story Rich. It sounds like you and your wife are well suited! It’s encouraging to hear from you!

  • “Interestingly there is a vehicular example in the Bible of what two people coming together in this covenant relationship should look like – two oxen, equally yoked, pulling a cart or a plow. They must be equal, or the cart will be pulled off course.” Perfect. Once again, Junia makes my day. Bless you.

  • Thanks you for this post…yet., we can say these things over and over…the problem is that many men don’t BELIEVE this…they have already made up their minds and have no REASON to change their views…after all they are ‘the drivers’ and if we don’t like it they will gladly make us suffer for our views…

    By the way, I just got a neat insight into why women make up 60-75% of churches and men lag behind…

    1. Most of the men remaining are in charge…so they are happy. The rest leave because they have no interest in “dying to self” and can’t get the top places…or have trouble with the spiritual deadness and apathy of other men.

    2. The Biblical teaching of ‘dying to self’ only fits women in our culture, not men,…and it comes to us by ‘society’ because of our culture…so we are COMFORTABLE in this role…unfortunately we are so dead we often don’t even know who we are and so settle for being nobodies and ineffectual! In other words we have NO SELF TO DIE TO!

    Therefore my conclusion is that the real reason many men don’t go to church is that they will not die to self and those who do attend are often ignoring the teaching as well and are content because they believe they are in charge where they think they belong and have no interest in ‘dying to self’….It is easy for them to have just a bunch of ‘dead’ women to lead.

    It might even be said that they just have no use for Christianity, in the end, except in what it can give them in ‘honorariums and praise’ and certainly not in self denial…

    Yet the Bible teaches “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die , it abideth alone: but if it die , it bringeth forth much fruit. John 12:24

    1 Cor 15:36 ” 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened , except it die : ”

    Romans 6:4 “therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. ”

    The men who have absorbed this teaching are gems…diamonds in the rough…and often they are not treated well by the other men…because they are straight shooters…that is my view anyway…WOMEN NEED TO TREAT THESE MEN VERY WELL…WE CAN LIVE THE CHRIST LIFE WITH THEM AND SERVE GOD FULLY…in partnership with them..Thank goodness for them ☺

    Women need to get in touch with who they are and refuse to be treated like dead meat (now that would be a good message1☺) ..and leave churches unless they are accepted as Christ accepted women, totally, fully and with respect.

    • Thanks for your comment Judy. I’m so gad this post helped you!
      I have found that it isn’t the people who are to blame, but the mindset. I have also found that just as many women seem to buy into this mindset as men. I do agree with you that there probably are some who are in leadership because they like having power, but I truly believe everyone is trying to find and live out the truth. Thank you for your reminders about how all of us need to die to self. Very true. I think all of us struggle with that.

    • Judy
      I’m saddened to see your post, so I offer some encouragement from a man who believes in equality and the fullness of each individual when filled with the Spirit. There is a time, which has already begun, when men of God will show what it means to be a man – flexible but strong, adaptable but steadfast. I know of a number of men who have left/are leaving existing organised ‘church’, and are instead turning their ears towards Heaven, and the message is coming back clear – “Give yourself for others and share your resources to show what it means to love each other”. Groups of ‘ministries to men’ are starting to show men (churched or not) how to behave towards their wives, daughters and mothers, and this in turn will change the next generations view.

  • Thank you for this clear, concise summary! I am thankful for the different things my husband and I bring to our marriage as man and woman, and so thankful for the mutual love, decision making, respect and leadership we have, I know I am fortunate in that.

  • This is so clear and helpful, Kate. I found myself smiling as I read it. Thank you.

  • I’ve made these exact points from time to time: that since fallible husbands are not God, they cannot emulate God fully to their wives, so we have to study the Bible to find out just what qualities and functions of God husbands are supposed to emulate. Pro tip: It’s never God’s authoritative functions.

    Also the point that there are a number of verses and passages addressed specifically to husbands in the Bible, and NOT ONE commands or even allows husbands to “be the boss” over their wives. These verses go out of their way to point husbands in the exact other direction. It would be fascinating, if it weren’t so destructive, to see that people have built an entire theology of husbandly headship around commands that don’t appear anywhere in the Bible. A theology that says the exact opposite of what the Bible commands husbands.

    You said it so much better, though — more detail, more reasoning it through. Thank you so much for writing this post. What an encouragement. I’m not the only one who sees this/thinks this, I’m not nuts out on a limb by myself.

    • “an entire theology of husbandly headship around commands that don’t appear anywhere in the Bible” – Powerful words Terri! Thank you.

  • Perhaps I am binge-watching too much Phineas and Ferb with my college-age daughter, but as I read this post, I was thinking to myself, “SO busted!” And then, after #5, Kate did, indeed, put “Busted” as a sub-head.

    Seriously, this post expresses exactly the lines of logic and trains of thought I have been attempting to formalize. I was having a bit of this discussion at breakfast today with a fellow graduate from the Bible Institute we both attended some years ago. He (being a man) had never been particularly troubled with the headship heresy until it was stuck under his nose a few years ago, by a particularly horrible independent bible church here in the Chicago area. I am forwarding this article to him, pronto.

    • Haha! We are on the same wave length I guess 😉

  • This has challenged me to look at this from a different perspective. I was brought up with all these myths and never thought about them in the ways you presented. It was very insightful and challenged me to take a look at how I view even myself in the church. Thanks for this!

  • Thank you SO much for this post!!! This has been a really difficult problem for me for a long time—I could never reconcile how Jesus could in some ways treat women as equal, and yet the Bible seemed to stand for husbands being the leaders of their wives… I’ve even thought that if the Biblical idea is that I have to be UNDER my husband when I get married, then I’d rather not get married at all! But this has really cleared that up for me. Thank you again, so, so much.

    • Stephanie – I am SO glad this post helped you! I have been in that mindset before, and honestly I think it’s a good one. Don’t settle for anything less than an equal marriage 🙂

      • Great article because you use Scripture!! And is so sensible. I’ve seen this, as I’m in my 80’s..
        Seems men are slow learners! …sometimes…. 🙂 BUT we DO have ones that understand and work beautifully together !

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