Women for the Nations
She Shall Be CAlled Woman
Part Three Session Three
God has told us that in these last days knowledge would increase, (Daniel 12:9) and it has. Today He is moving against mistranslation of His Word. Up until the 1970s, the exact meanings for many New Testament words were unknown. But since then additional documents from New Testament times, called “papyri,” have been uncovered. Papyri are letters, orders for goods, words on tombs, wills—everyday writing for a great variety of reasons. Translation of these documents, has given us the meaning of many previously unknown words. Today only a few New Testament word meanings are still in question. Unfortunately, our Bible translations have not been yet updated their work to reflect this new information.
The papyri have given us a new understanding of hupotasso which is the Greek word translated submit or subject as a verb or submission or subjection as a noun. The translation of this word needs to be updated so that the Biblical meaning of the word becomes the standard (normal, usual).
In this lesson we will explore:
1. The English meanings of subject, subjection, submit or submission
2. The problems in translating the Greek word hupotasso
3. The meaning of hupotasso when speaking of Christian relationships
3. The use of hupotasso in Ephesians 5:17-21 & Col. 3:18.
4. This lesson will include extensive footnotes for those who seek a more detailed explanation and sources.
Subject, Submit, Subjection and Submission
The Encarta® World English Dictionary gives the following definitions for the words subject, subjection, submit or submission : (v = verb, n = noun)
• Submit: v. to accept somebody else's authority or will, especially reluctantly or under pressure or to yield, to defer to another's knowledge, judgment, or experience
• Submission: n. a willingness to yield or surrender to somebody, or the act of doing so
• Subject: v. To submit to the authority of, subjugate, subdue
• Subject: n. somebody who is ruled by a king, queen, or other authority
• Subjection: n. the bringing of a person or people under the control of another, usually by force
There is a word in Greek for “submit or subject” but it is not hupotasso. It is hupeiko as found in Hebrews 13:17 “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you…” This passage fits well with the definition for submit that reads, “to defer to another's knowledge, judgment, or experience.”
It is easy to understand why hupotasso was mistranslated when we separate the word into its parts. It is a compound word made up of hupo and tasso. Hupo means “under” and tasso means “to put or place.” To put or place under fits with the traditional understanding of how women are to relate to men.
The problem is with a grammatical idea called “voice." Which voice a verb is in changes its meaning. Hupotasso when speaking of Christian relationship, is in the middle voice in the Greek which is very hard to translate into English. Voice in Greek is determined by the ending of the word. Most concordances do not show endings so their usefulness on this issue is limited. Hupotasso in the middle voice is spelled hupotassomai but the ending changes if it is used in something other than present tense.
In the middle voice the person (subject of the sentence) voluntarily chooses to do something to themselves. Middle voice expresses a voluntary action by the subject of the verb.
One may teach – that’s in the active voice.
One may be taught – that’s passive voice
One may teach oneself –that’s middle voice
Teaching oneself is not possible with the English words submit, subject, submission or subjection because they mean someone else (not the person themselves) is taking action or being allowed to take action on a person.
Thousands of examples in the papari show that hupotasso in the middle as well as the passive voice means means “give allegiance to, identify with, tend to the needs of, be supportive of, or be responsive to. The word was commonly used for documents in the postal system that were attached to and supported the information found in the document to which they were attached.
Before we look at the use of hupotasso in Eph 5.18-23. It is important to be aware of the type of marriage Paul was dealing with in Ephesus and most of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar tried to correct a serious problem of wife abuse by ordering a form of marriage called “marriage without hand,” meaning without commitment. The wife and her dowry (inheritance) remained under the control of her father or the oldest male in her birth family as long as she came home for at least three days each year. This worked to protect the woman against an abusive husband. If there were marriage problems, the wife could go home. The family would welcome her because they did not want to lose her dowry.
Husbands in Ephesian culture did not expect to have a close relationship with their wives. A wife was for the purpose of having and raising legitimate children, preferably sons, to carry on the family line.
A typical Ephesian marriage without commitment to each other is not what God intended. In this passage Paul is calling Christian couples to follow the pattern in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves. This was a revolutionary teaching in their culture where there was no thought of a close personal relationship between husband and wife.
With this information in mind, let’s look at the passage in Ephesians 5:18-33. The passage is talking about Christian relationships. Remember, any time Paul is speaking of Christian relationships he uses middle voice which should be translated, give allegiance to, identify with, tend to the needs of, be supportive of, or be responsive to.
Let’s break down the verses. Eph 5: 18 be filled with the Spirit. . . Be filled is the verb for this whole passage.
You show that you have been filled with the Spirit by:
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
21 (not submitting to one another, but) supporting one another out of respect for Christ
However, in most Bibles there is a period or full stop after the word “Christ” in verse 21, and verse 22 begins a new paragraph with a sentence that gives a command.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
In Greek verse 22 does not have a verb!! The verb submit is not there. It is a continuation of verse 21 and should be translated, “…support one another out of respect for Christ, wives, your own husbands as the Lord.
Eph. 5:21-22 is very similar to Colossians 3:18 where Paul says, "Wives, submit to (be supportive of) your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. This verse was encouraging even when translated “submit” because it clearly states “as is fitting in the Lord,” meaning that Christians do not have to submit to--be supportive of--something that is not “fitting” (appropriate) for someone who belongs to Christ. Glory!!! Jesus Christ alone is LORD. Paul probably has the same meaning in mind in Ephesians 5:22 where he says, “as to the Lord.”
Christian wives can not always support their husbands because they must put the Lord first. Bible translation has made Paul’s writing conform to traditional beliefs that God has given men authority over women. However, when properly translated, Paul never gives men the right to command women, nor husbands the right to “have dominion” and control over their wives. We are to love and support each other in the Lord.
In our next lesson we will look further at the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5:23-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7.
1. The Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P)2009 Microsoft Corporation.
2. The KJV and many others say "Obey" rather than "have confidence in." The Greek word is peitho and means, listen to, pay attention to, but not obey. It is just another time when we need to question any obedience that is not directly to God.
3. In active voice hupotasso means to put under the power of someone else. But when hupotasso is used of Christians, male or female, relating to each other or Christ it is not in the active voice, so the meaning is not to force someone to do the will of another.
In the passive voice hupotasso would mean to accept someone else’s power over you. But when speaking of Christians to each other, hupotasso is not in the passive voice either, it is in the middle voice.
Active Voice: If the subject of the sentence is executing the action, then the verb is referred to as being in the active
voice. For example: "Jesus was baptizing the people" (paraphrase of John 3:22; 4:1,2). "Jesus" is the subject of the sentence and is the one that is performing the action of the verb; therefore the verb is said to be in the "Active Voice".
Passive Voice: If the subject of the sentence is being acted upon, then the verb is referred to as being in the passive voice. For example: "Jesus ... was baptized by John in the Jordan" (Mark 1:9). "Jesus" is the subject of the sentence, but in this case He is being acted upon (i.e. He is the recipient of the action), therefore the verb is said to be in the "Passive Voice".
Middle Voice: The Greek middle voice shows the subject acting in his own interest or on his own behalf, or participating in the results of the verbal action. In overly simplistic terms, sometimes the middle form of the verb could be translated as "the performer of the action actually acting upon himself" (reflexive action). For example: "I am washing myself." "I" is the subject of the sentence (performing the action of the verb) and yet "I" am also receiving the action of the verb. This is said to be in the "Middle Voice". Many instances in the Greek are not this obvious and cannot be translated this literally.
4. Tense changes the spelling of the ending of a word in Greek as it does in English. For example the verb "live" in
Present tense = "live," past tense = "lived." There is also the form "living" when the verb "live" is used as a participle or a gerund.
5. Many translations say "in the fear of God." instead of "out of respect for Christ."
6. There are no separate prepositions in the Greek, they are understood.
Questions for thought and/or discussion
1. How should hupotasso be defined when it is used of Christian relationships?
2. Use Eph 5:19-22 to say how Christians should relate to each other when they are "filled with the Spirt?"
3. What were some problems with the typcial Ephesian marriage that Paul was trying to change?