Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Steelers Playoff Chances

Going into this weekend, I thought if the Steelers lost to the Raiders, their chances of going to the playoffs would be over. I looked over the conference standings yesterday, however, and realized that might not be the case.

Let's just assume the four division leaders: Indianapolis, San Diego, Cincinnati, and New England will make the playoffs.

Denver is now 8-4 and in the last four weeks, they will play Indianapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Kansas City. Jacksonville is 7-5 and they will play Miami, Indianapolis, New England, and Cleveland.

There are then four 6-6 teams: Baltimore, Miami, NY Jets, and Pittsburgh. The Steelers will play both Baltimore at home and Miami away. The Steelers will also play the Packers and they play the Browns on Thursday. If the Steelers can win out, they could pick up the six spot in the division.

The biggest concern will be the Steelers conference record if there's a tie break with another 10-6 team. Right now the Steelers conference record is only 4-5, but if they win out it will go up to 7-5. Denver's current conference record is 6-3, Jacksonville is at 6-2, and the Jets at 5-5 (I'm only mentioning those three because they're the only teams that could bump the Steelers from the playoffs if they win out). So, even if Denver only wins 2 of 4 down the stretch (lets say they lose against Indianapolis and Philadelphia), they would still beat out the Steelers in a tie break. Jacksonville plays four conference teams down the stretch, so the Steelers woul need them to lost at least two of those games in order to jump them, but with games against Miami, who beat New England on Sunday, Indianapolis, and New England, they could very well go 2-2 and finish 9-7. The Jets play 2 AFC teams, the Colts and Bengals, as well as two NFC teams, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. All the Steelers need is for them to lose 1 of those 4 games.

So, the Steelers need not only to win out, but also get some help. It seems unlikely, but if you remember when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, they had to win their last 4 games and get some help to just make the playoffs.

The pain is it looks like not only will Polamalu not play on Thursday against the Browns, Hines Ward will likely not play either. But, if the Steelers can pull out the win against the Browns on Thursday, they will have a week and a half to prepare for a tough game at home against the Packers.

I really need a Steelers win on Thursday just to keep my sanity after the Steelers lost 4 straight and Pitt lost their last two games against WVU and Cincinnati (especially after they way they lost this one).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pirate Latitudes: A Review

I have been a fan of Michael Crichton's work since I read Jurassic Park in the fifth grade. He is my favorite novelist and I have read all of his fiction (and I hope to read his nonfiction works as well). So, it was for slightly selfish reasons that I was greatly saddened by his death last November--I didn't want to never read a new Crichton novel again. So, when I heard that they had "discovered" a completed manuscript and an unfinished work after his death, I was thrilled. I recently picked up a copy of Pirate Latitudes and over the last few days, devoured it.

For those of you who are a fan of Crichton's science-fiction works, like Sphere or Jurassic Park, be forewarned that, as the title suggests, it is more of a historical novel, so it is more like The Great Train Robbery. As expected, Crichton must have spent a ton of time in research about seventeenth century colonial life in the Caribbean, especially conflicts between the Spanish and English over land, wealth, etc., and the use of piracy . . . um, sorry, I mean "privateering" by the British.

The novel follows the exploits of Captain Charles Hunter and his ragtag crew as they go on a sea voyage to attack the Spanish outpost of Mantanceros, commanded by the feared Spanish commander Cazalla. While the novel has some of the usual elements of a pirate story, like a hurricane and a giant squid, it is not written in a cheesy fashion. While it is true that pirates are in fashion now (due to the Pirates of the Caribbean films and even a pirate exhibit at the Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg a few years back), the novel is not a "trendy copycat." Like many of Crichton's novels, it is an exciting pageturner. I could barely put it down; especially the second-half. It's not my favorite Crichton novel, but Pirate Latitudes didn't disappoint. I gave it four stars out of five on the weRead scale on Facebook.

The Pirate Latitudes wikipedia page says that Steven Spielberg is going to adapt the novel to a film, with David Koepp writing the screenplay. IMDB has it listed as a 2011 release. I'm looking forward to it.

*** Note: just as a side comment, the book is probably the most violent of Crichton's books, so if you get queasy, you might not like it.

Ephesians 5:21–33 Part 3: Contemporary Application

Contemporary readers must not uncritically apply the domestic codes to our context because they live in such a different context. As Thompson points out, “No one seriously attempts to transfer the instructions to slaves to our own time.”[1] Hull also says, “How is it that most modern Christians seem to be able to ignore the dress code as culturally determined and not binding, even while many insist that the house code is transcultural and permanently binding?”[2] So, these domestic codes should not be used by contemporary readers to support male domination or to encourage women to stay in abusive relationships.

Mark Heim notes that feminist and womanist theologians have critiqued certain traditional atonement theologies by charging that they “glorify innocent suffering and encourage people to passively accept roles as surrogate suffers for others.”[3] These theologians argue that atonement theologians can thus be abused to justify women and children enduring abuse. Heim shares a story from Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker’s Proverbs of Ashes about a woman who went to her priest to ask advice about what she should do about her abusive husband. The priest to her to “rejoice in my sufferings because they bring me closer to Jesus. . . . He said, ‘If you love Jesus, accept the beatings and bear them gladly, as Jesus bore the cross.’”[4] Heim agrees with these feminist and womanist criticisms arguing, “Victims of domestic abuse don’t need advice to persevere in their suffering as a way of sharing in Christ’s redemptive work.”[5] The same must be said for these household codes. For as Thurston points out, these texts have been “misused to justify the subjugation of women, slaves, and those whose identities would parallel slaves.”[6]

At the same time, these texts should not be ignored by contemporary Christians. While some scholars might say these texts are not authoritative to them because “they’re not from the real Paul,” these texts are in the canon that the church has authorized. As Thompson also argues in his discussion of the domestic code in 1 Peter, “One can neither dismiss the ancient instructions as relics of cultural values of the past nor uncritically adopt them as commandments for our own time. While submission is not rooted in the order of nature, it is far more than an ancient cultural norm to be cast aside. As the instructions to slaves indicate, submission is rooted in the cross.[7]

If the Christian concept of submission is rooted in the cross, then husbands and wives, all family members, and all Christians should “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:3–5). Sampley also notes, “Eph. 5:21–33 is one of the contributing factors in the Christian tradition’s high regard for marriage.”[8]

So, as Neller points out, “The ideal relationship between a husband and wife is defined by the concept of a mutual submission patterned after and in deference to the example modeled by Christ.”[9] This connects with Mark Hamilton’s idea that verses 21–33 does not give a “comprehensive view of marriage,” but instead, “uses marriage as a metaphor for the Christian life in general. Such a life should be characterized by loyalty between Christ and the church, with a sacrificial attitude on the part of each.”[10] If all Christians would grow in their love for neighbor as themselves, learn to look out for the needs of others above themselves, and practice mutual submission that is rooted in the cross, then issues of authority and subordination in all Christian relationships, including marriage, will take care of themselves. That means that, as Hull says, wives should “love their husbands with the self-sacrificing love of Jesus” and husbands should “submit to their wives, even though the New Testament text supports a generally patriarchal model.”[11]

[1] Thompson, 391.

[2] Hull, 28.

[3] S. Mark Heim, Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 25.

[4] Ibid., 28.

[5] Ibid., 26.

[6] Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians & 2 Thessalonians, 144.

[7] Thompson, 391.

[8] Sampley, 157.

[9] Neller, 259.

[10] Mark W. Hamilton, “Ephesians & Christian Moral Instruction,” in The Transforming Word: One Volume Commentary on the Bible, ed. Mark W. Hamilton (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2009), 961.

[11] Hull, 28.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ephesians 5:21–33 Part 2: Exegesis of Text

Verse 21 functions as a bridge from a discussion of worship to the household.[1] The text reads, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,” which Thurston calls, “the principle that governs the whole code.”[2] For, as Boring and Craddock point out, “in the Christian community there is a mutual serving of one another that takes precedence over all social structures.”[3] All Christians are called to this mutual submission “out of reverence for Christ” or “in the fear of Christ,” which implies “worshipful awareness that one is dealing with the Creator.”[4]

Many English translations, such as the NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, The NET Bible, GOD’S WORD Translation, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible leave verse 21 in the above heading.[5] That decision can lead to some misunderstandings of the domestic code in 5:22–6:9, for it can make it seem as though the author of Ephesians only expects the “inferior” to submit to the “superior.” Verse 21, however, calls all Christians to “be subject to one another.” Neller also argues that while 5:21 belongs grammatically with 5:19–20, “Thematically, and grammatically, however, 5:21 is linked even more closely with 5:22–6:9, where the concept of mutual submission is elaborated.”[6] Throughout the instructions to wives and husbands, the text weaves back and forth between images of Christ and the church and earthly family life, “which has the effect of lifting the marriage relationship to sacred level.”[7] As Witherington points out, it is important to remember “we have a comparison, not an identification, of two different kinds of relationships – husband and wife, and Christ and Church.”[8]

As the “subordinate” party, wives are addressed first.[9] The verb translated “be subject” in verse 21, Ὑποτασσόμενοι (from ὑποτάσσω), is not present in verse 22, which the NRSV translates, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.”[10] The use of ἰδίοις is important, for it shows that the author is not saying all women should be subject to all men or all women should submit to male church leaders, but that the text is discussing the relationship of husbands and wives and does endorse monogamy.[11]

Bratcher and Nida note, “In Greek this verse does not have a verb. In translation the verb must be supplied from the participle of ‘to submit’ in the preceding verse.”[12] Neller seeks to soften the verse by arguing that submission and obedience are not synonymous concepts. So, while children are told to obey their parents and slaves to obey their masters, wives are only told to submit themselves. He argues wives are never commanded to obey their husbands in the New Testament.[13] While Neller makes an attractive argument, “submission” and “obedience” are used in parallel in New Testament domestic codes and have overlap in meaning. As Bratcher and Nida argue, ὑποτάσσω means “to be subject to, obey, be ruled by.”[14] They also note, “This verb is used in military contexts of a subordinate’s relationship to his superior in the army hierarchy.”[15] ὑποτάσσω, however, does not necessarily refer to “degrading servility,” since, as Ralph Martin points out, “1 Cor. 15:18 shows how submission characterizes the relationship between Christ and the Father, and elements of voluntary consent and agreement are found in places where the term is employed (1 Cor. 14:32; 16:16) as well as Eph. 5:24.”[16] Bratcher and Nida continue to argue, “as to the Lord . . . is to be understood to mean that the Christian wife’s attitude toward her husband reflects her (and his) relationship to Christ.”[17]

As a theological rational for a wife submitting to her husband, the text says in verses 23, “For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Here, like in some other New Testament passages, the image of the church as the bride of Christ is adapted from the Old Testament image of Israel as the bride of God (Hos 1–3; Ezek 16:8–14; Mark 2:18–22; Matt 22:1–4; 25:1 – 13; Luke 12:35–38; John 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Rev 19:7, 9; 22:2, 9, 17).[18]

Scholars disagree on the meaning of κεφαλὴ or “head” in verse 23. There are two major camps who argue the κεφαλὴ implies “source” or “ruler/leader.” Figures like Gilbert Bilezikian, Catherine Kroeger, and Gordon Fee argue that “‘head’ in the Greek NT rarely or never designates a leader or anyone with some type of authority,” and instead arguing that κεφαλὴ in Paul’s writing means “source” or “beginning.” So they argue the emphasis in this passage is on the oneness of Christ and the church.[19]

Other scholars, like Wayne Grudem and Joseph Fitzmyer argue that “‘head,’ when used metaphorically by Greek writers (including Paul), may signify some type of leadership role with varying degrees of authority. According to them, ‘head’ rarely or never means ‘source.’”[20] They thus argue that κεφαλὴ implies the leadership of the husband over the wife.

Neller notes that evidence exists for understanding κεφαλὴ as both “leader” and “source,” but even less evidence exists for “source.”[21] Neller argues that “previous usage of a word does not alone determine its meaning.”[22] Neller defends this by noting that New Testament writers often redefine words out of their Christian experience. Also, the head/body metaphor used in the Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 1:22–23, 4:15–16, and 5:23 is unique in biblical writings. Neller also notes that the “head” metaphor in Ephesians 5:23 differs from the one in 1 Corinthians 11:3, so readers should not read 1 Corinthians into Ephesians. Neller says, “The headship of the husband derives not so much from who he is (male), but by what he does (serve), i.e., his leadership in loving self-denial and sacrificial service.”[23] Witherington similarly argues that head here refers to the “head servant,” for “we are reminded of the discussion of ‘the one who would be greatest’ in the Gospel tradition (Luke 22.25ff.).”[24]

The rational continues in verse 24, which says, “Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.” Witherington argues, especially in light of the analogy used between husband/wife and Christ/church, that Paul assumes a Christian marriage in making this command.[25] Talbert notes, “The point is not, ‘Be subject because you are subject to Christ,’ but rather, ‘Be subject in a way that is analogous to your subjection to Christ.’”[26]

After the instruction to wives comes the instruction to husbands, which takes up nine of the twenty-two verses within the Ephesian Haustafel.[27] In verse 25, husbands are instructed, “love your wives.” This demonstrates the primacy of love with the Ephesian code.[28] Much of the rest of the instruction to husbands provides a theological rational for that love. First, husbands are told to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (25). So, husbands are instructed to love (ἀγαπάω) their wives with “active and unceasing and self-sacrificing concern for her well-being.”[29]

Husbands are told to love their wives sacrificially “in order to (ἵνα) make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word” (26). This passage includes, in the phrase “cleansing her with the washing of water,” a reference to baptism, which was “accompanied by the interpreting word.”[30] Boring and Craddock postulate that this accompanying word may be a confession of faith, the words of the baptizer, or “the purifying word of the Christian message.”[31] The text continues in verse 27 arguing this cleansing is needed “so as to (ἵνα) present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that (ἵνα) she may be holy and without blemish.” Purity within verses 26–27 is stressed in both positive and negative ways and includes, as can be seen above, three ἵνα clauses, two of which, 26a and 27 c, “open with a similar concern for holiness and sanctification of the church.”[32]

Verses 28–29a say, “In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it.” So, as Boring and Craddock point out, “even this ‘self-centered’ love becomes a model for the love of husband for wife.”[33]

Again, a connection is made between the love of a husband for his wife and the love of Christ for the church, as 29b–30 say, “just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.” As a rational for Christ’s love for the church, verse 31 says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh,” which is a quotation of Genesis 2:24. Boring and Craddock note, “The author sees in the unity of man and wife in Gen 2:24 a prototype of the unity of Christ and the church” and “the love of Christ for he church as the prototype of human marriage, in which two separate persons are merged into one.”[34] Martin sees verse 31 as the central phrase in 5:22–33 because of its connections with Genesis 2:24 and Mark 10:7–8 and its point that men and women “so yearn for each other that they are ready to leave their earthly parents.”[35]

Verse 32 says, “This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church,” meaning the author applies Genesis 2:24 to the unity between Christ and the church, which he calls “a great mystery.” Martin notes, “The ‘great mystery’ is a typical idiom in this letter for God’s saving plan, once concealed but now made known through Paul’s Gentile mission and ministry.”[36] The connection of the unity of Christ and the church with the unity of a husband and wife or a household powerfully implies, as Thurston points out, “The process of unifying the church still begins in the home,” which is where the churches met for worship.[37]

Verse 33 then serves as a summary of 22–32, saying first to husbands, “Each of you, however, should love (ἀγαπάτω) his wife as himself.” Sampley argues that the instruction to husbands bears a close relationship to the LXX translation of Leviticus 19:18b, which says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Sampley notes, however, that there is a difficulty with this connection since Ephesians 5:33 does not use πλησίον or neighbor as the object of love, but instead uses γυνή or wife. Sampley notes, however, that πλησίον μου is used nine times by the lover to refer to his beloved in the LXX of Song of Songs. Due to the interchangeability of πλησίον and γυνή, Sampley concludes Ephesians 5:33a is indeed patterned after Leviticus 19:18b.[38] Then the text says, “and a wife should respect (φοβῆται) her husband.” φοβῆται, which comes from φοβέω, means “literally, ‘to fear,’ although the connotation here is to reverence or show respect.”[39]

In the domestic codes, like the one in Ephesians, more of the tension that exists between Galatians 3:28 and the “leveling out” of distinctions and the fact that the New Testament authors lived in a patriarchal society with certain expectations for men and women can be seen. Witherington sees the Ephesian Haustafel as Paul’s attempt to “reform the patriarchal structure of his day, a structure he inherited, adopted, and adapted,” by rooting it in the relationship between Christ and church.[40] The Ephesian domestic code thus advocates a “qualified patriarchy.” Husbands, parents, and masters are not told to lord their authority over their wives, children, and servants, but given instruction to “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). As Ira Jolivet notes, “While Ephesians assumes the basic hierarchies of the ancient world, it also corrects their worst abuses and points beyond them to an ethical life in which traditional patters of subordination and superiority break down in a context of responsibility and love.”[41]

[1] Ralph P. Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, ed. James Luther Mays (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1991), 67.

[2] Thurston, Women in the New Testament, 138.

[3] M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 609.

[4] Ibid., 609.

[5] The GNT, NCV, CEV, and NLT place verse 21 under the same heading as the instructions to husbands and wives. The KJV, ASV, and RSV do not have headings, but place verse 21 in the same paragraph as the instructions to husbands and wives.

[6] Neller, 245.

[7] Boring and Craddock, 610. Martin asks the question, “Is the writer chiefly interested in the model of husband and wife together, drawing on Christ and the church as illustration? Or is the basic patter a christological-ecclesiological one, which he uses to enforce teaching on the marital relationship?” (68). Martin concludes, “Yet domination by either sex is not the way our author views the relationship. His primary appeal . . . is to the example set by the heavenly Lord and his spouse, the church” (69).

[8] Witherington, 54.

[9] Thurston, Women in the New Testament, 138.

[10] “According to the best manuscript evidence (e.g., P46, Vaticanus) the verse has no verb. A verb has to be provided—and was by some manuscripts (e.g., Sinaiticus, D, K).” Talbert, 140.

[11] Witherington, 57.

[12] Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1982), 139.

[13] Neller, 248–249.

[14] Bratcher and Nida, 139.

[15] Ibid., 139.

[16] Martin, 70.

[17] Ibid., 139.

[18] Boring and Craddock, 610

[19] Neller, 252.

[20] Ibid., 253.

[21] Ibid., 253–255.

[22] Ibid., 255.

[23] Neller, 255, 257.

[24] Witherington, 59.

[25] Witherington, 57–58.

[26] Talbert, 140.

[27] Thurston, Women in the New Testament, 139.

[28] Martin, 71.

[29] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1961), 115.

[30] Boring and Craddock, 610.

[31] Ibid., 610.

[32] J. Paul Sampley, ‘And the Two Shall Become One Flesh’: A Study of Traditions in Ephesians 5:21–33 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 66.

[33] Boring and Craddock, 610.

[34] Ibid., 610.

[35] Martin, 69.

[36] Martin, 71.

[37] Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians & 2 Thessalonians, 139.

[38] Sampley, 30–31.

[39] Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians & 2 Thessalonians, 142.

[40] Witherington, 55.

[41] Jolivet, 962.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ephesians 5:21-33 Part 1: The Cultural Context of the Household Code

This blog will begin a three part series on the New Testament domestic/household code in Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:22–33 is an often read passage at weddings, premarital counseling sessions, and Christian marriage seminars. It is an example of a domestic or household code, often called a Haustafel or “house-table,” which comes from Martin Luther’s heading in his Shorter Catechism.[1] The text has been used and abused in various ways. While until recently, most readers of the text in church history have assumed the text implied male headship, some contemporary scholars have argued, based on the call in Ephesians 5:21 for all Christians to submit to one another, that the text either endorses a qualified patriarchy or rejects patriarchy all together. Other scholars reject the text as authoritative because it comes from a disputed letter. In order to better understand the meaning of the text and its implications for contemporary Christians, an understanding of its cultural background is needed, which will aid study of the text. After this study, contemporary Christians should conclude that they live in a much different culture than early Christians and should not be uncritical in applying the Haustafel in Ephesians to their context. At the same time, they should respect the text and learn from the model of Christ on how to live in their relationships, especially the marriage relationship.

While, as Carolyn Osiek points out, there are dangers in social scientific readings of the New Testament, texts must be understood in their context.[2] Charles Talbert sketches a history of modern study of the New Testament Haustafel and four positions of their presumed social context. First, Karl Weidinger argued in his 1928 volume that “the Christian sources derived their codes from Stoic tables of duties,” largely by studying second-century AD Stoic Hierocles.[3]

Hierocles, a Stoic philosopher, bases his relationships around 10 concentric circles: (1) a person; (2) parents, brothers, wife, and children; (3) uncles, aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers, brothers’ and sisters’ children; (4) remaining relatives; (5) common people; (6) members of the same tribe; (7) citizens; (8) those who live near the city; (9) people of the same race; and (10) whole human race.[4] So, Hierocles attempts to escape the hierarchical positions of figures like Aristotle and Philo, but as Balch notes, Cicero critiqued the Stoic Ariston and others who he says, “try and escape from this they adopt what is in reality the position of the Peripatetics, though still clinging tooth and nail to their own terminology.”[5] The same critique could be seen as valid for Hierocles.

Second, James Crouch in 1972 and Wolfgang Schrage in 1974 argued that while Stoic tables of duties may lie in the background of the New Testament domestic codes, the primary source for the codes came from the Hellenistic Jewish codes.[6] An example of a Hellenistic Jewish code can be seen in the work of Philo. Philo discusses the household in the midst of his discourse concerning the Decalogue. Philo has a similar hierarchical view of relationships in the household, mentioning in particular, “seniors are placed above juniors, teachers above pupils, benefactors above beneficiaries, rulers above subjects, masters above servants.”[7] Philo argues that the place of authority for women is in the private sphere, within the household.[8]

Third, Talbert notes that Dieter Lührmann in 1980 and David Balch in 1981 rejected the theory of Stoic origin for the codes and “found their origins in other Greek philosophers’ works on household management.”[9] For example, Plato, in his Laws, “discusses agreed upon rights in the matter of ruling and being ruled, alike in states and households, including parents and children, masters and slaves.”[10] Aristotle is particularly important in this discussion. David Balch argues that while Aristotle did not have much influence in the Hellenistic world, his writings became available in the first century b.c. and greatly influenced the Roman world.[11]

Balch notes concerning Aristotle, “the exact outline he gives the topos ‘on household management’ . . . is quite important in determining the origin of household codes.”[12]

Aristotle includes as the parts of the household: “master and slave, husband and wife, father and children.”[13] Dionysius of Helicarnassus and Seneca use the same three pairs in their discussions of the household.[14] The same threefold division of the household can be seen in Colossians 3:18–4:1, Ephesians 5:21–6:9, and 1 Peter 2:18–3:7 (except 1 Peter excludes parents and children). So, the nuclear family of contemporary American society is not what Aristotle or other Greco-Roman era authors, including New Testament writers, had in mind when discussing the household, for it often includes not only slaves, but also extended family members, freedman, and business acquaintances.[15] For this reason, Talbert argues that the New Testament codes should be seen primarily as instructions to a family business and not for modern Christian marriage.[16]

While Socrates saw the virtues as the same for all people, Aristotle believed that virtues for each class are different, thus Aristotle valued authority and subordination.[17] These various classes are based, for Aristotle, on the “the various parts of the soul” that people have. Aristotle says, “the slave has not got the deliberative part at all, and the female has it, but without full authority, while the child has it, but in an undeveloped form.”[18] So, Aristotle believes that the codes of the household derive from what is inherent in nature.

Fourth, Talbert notes that in 1989, Ulrich Luz and Georg Streker argued that while the household codes in Ephesians and Colossians have parallels in ancient literature, “the actual codes as they appear in the New Testament are unique and so are likely Christian creations.”[19] As Talbert notes, Ben Witherington makes a similar argument. While Witherington argues, “K.H. Rengstorf’s view of a strictly Christian origin is too-one sided,” he finds “nothing similar to what we find in the NT with reciprocal pairs that are addressed directly with imperatives.”[20]

After surveying this material, Talbert makes a few conclusions. The New Testament codes are rooted in the Mediterranean culture of the time and its concerns of household management. Also, the codes, as Balch argues, were influenced by Greek philosophy, which also influenced the thought of Jews. The duties and relationships were similar in pagan, Jewish, and Christian sources, while the motivations for the duties differed. Despite the dependency upon Mediterranean sources, Christians may well have created the forms seen in the New Testament.[21] So Talbert sees value in each of the four positions.

Hull notes that scholars defend three different models for why the New Testament domestic codes exist. The first model argues that the church originally advocated “socially revolutionary ideas.” After the delay of Christ’s return, “the church settles down and adopts a more conformist social ethic, so as not to be considered a threat to the larger society.”[22] An example of a scholar who holds to this model is Bonnie Thurston. She argues that since the delay of the parousia, “Christian household codes were part of an attempt to limit that freedom, to see that Christian women were exempt from criticism by the larger society by teaching them to conform to the expectations of that society.”[23] Thurston, who argues that Paul wrote Colossians between ad 57–60 and then a later disciple used Colossians to write Ephesians, believes this shift began during Paul’s lifetime.[24]

Osiek and Balch have a similar position, but argue against Paul’s authorship of Colossians. They argue that while the baptismal confession in Galatians 3:28 reads, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” the Colossians baptismal confession leaves out male and female saying, “In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” (Col 3:11). Colossians also introduces the “household code, which insists that there still are differences between male and female.”[25]

The second model argues that Galatians 3:26–28 advocates spiritual equality and not social equality. The New Testament codes explain the theological motivations for Christians to live in hierarchical relationships.[26] Numerous scholars over the centuries have held to this viewpoint. Neller mentions that Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and various modern commentators understand Ephesians 5:22 as endorsing “the authoritative, dominating role of the husband and subjected, servile role of the wife.”[27] Jack Cottrell holds to this viewpoint. Cottrell argues, “At the heart of the moral order of the universe is the principle of authority.”[28] Cottrell argues that God instituted as a part of this moral order male headship in marriage and the church. While men and women are, for Cottrell, equal before God, they have different roles.[29]

In the third model, “any Christian group lives in a certain tension with its culture, at the same time reflecting the social norms and bringing the gospel to bear in such a way as to ultimately to transform that society in line with the ‘new creation in Christ.’”[30] This view seems the most appropriate, for it allows texts to stand in their own context and demonstrates the tension that Christians experience in all cultures.

The domestic codes in Ephesians and Colossians, according to Hull, are divided into four parts. (1) The author gives directions to people in unequal relationships. (2) Obligations of inferior given before those to the superior. (3) Inferior person called to “obey” (ὑπακούω) or “submit” (ὑποτάσσω) to their superior. (4) A (theological) rationale is given to support the relationship.[31] Despite the similarities, there are differences between the codes in Ephesians and Colossians. The Ephesian Haustafel is longer than the one in Colossians—324 words to 117 words, sharing 70 words between them.[32] Also, the code in Colossians quickly addresses husbands, wives, children, and fathers, it spends the most time on slaves before giving a short address to masters. The Ephesian Haustafel spends most of its time addressing wives and husbands.

Thurston notes concerning the Colossian code, “The number of hapax legomena in Col 3:18–4:1 suggests that the basis of the code existed before the writing of the letter, that Paul is again using traditional materials.”[33] She argues that the Ephesian writer expands the material, especially that concerning husbands and wives.[34] Witherington, on the other hand, argues that in Ephesians, Paul draws on traditional materials to a greater extent than Colossians, for Ephesians uses Christ as a paradigm, makes references to the Old Testament, and possibly uses commonplace expressions like “no one hates his own flesh” (5:29). Witherington argues the Ephesian Haustafel might be a “pre-set piece of material” that was transformed to fit the whole of the letter.[35]

Thurston notes, “Form-critical analysis has noted that in many New Testament works it appears to have been the practice to introduce the themes of obedience and subordination after that of worship (see Rom 12; Col 3; Heb 13; Jas 1; 1 Pet 2). This pattern is at work in Ephesians.”[36] For as Ephesians 5:18–20 says, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NRSV). Thurston also notes, “Placing the household code in the context of worship stresses the need for order.”[37] Thurston elsewhere says, “In general, this casts a heavy theological authority over the command to submission, and in the particular case of Eph. 5:21–6:9 undercuts arguments that the passage is an interpolation.”[38] Ira Jolivet even argues that due to the amount of liturgical language in Ephesians, the letter should be seen as a sermon that includes language of prayer and praise. Jolivet says, “The combination of worship and ethical instruction creates a theological effect by which the reader learns to connect his or her own behavior with a deeper understanding of the ‘mystery.’”[39]

[1] Robert Hull, “The Family of Flesh and the Family of Faith: Reflections on the New Testament ‘Household Codes,’” Leaven 9 (2001): 23.

[2] Carolyn Osiek, What Are They Saying About the Social Setting of the New Testament?, rev. ed. (New York: Paulist Press, 1992), 4–6.

[3] Charles H. Talbert, Ephesians and Colossians, Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament, ed. Charles H. Talbert (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2007), 136.

[4] Hierocles, “On Duties. How to Conduct Oneself toward One’s Kinsfolk (4.27.23), Abraham J. Malherbe, Moral Exhortation: A Greco-Roman Sourcebook, Library of Early Christianity Series, Vol 4 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1989), 96–97.

[5] David Balch, Let Wives Be Submissive: The Domestic Code in 1 Peter (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1980), 44.

[6] Talbert, 137.

[7] Philo. On the Decalogue. On the Special Laws, Books 1–3, trans. F.H. Colson, Loeb Classical Library 320 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1937), 2:225–227 (447, 449).

[8] Ibid., 3:169–171 (581, 583).

[9] Talbert, 137.

[10] Ibid., 137.

[11] Balch, Let Wives Be Submissive, 37.

[12] Ibid., 33.

[13] Shortly after, Aristotle also mentions “the art of getting wealth, which is not discussed in the New Testament codes. Aristotle, Politics, trans. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library 264 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932), 1. 1253b. 1–14 (13, 15).

[14] Hull, 23.

[15] Bonnie Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians & 2 Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary (New York: Crossroad, 1995), 138.

[16] Talbert, 150.

[17] Balch, Let Wives Be Submissive, 35.

[18] Aristotle, Politics, 1260a. 9–14 (63).

[19] Talbert, 138.

[20] Ben Witherington, Women in the Earliest Churches, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series, ed. G.N. Stanton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 43, 47.

[21] Talbert, 138–139.

[22] Hull, 26.

[23] Thurston, 57.

[24] Ibid., 4–6, 57.

[25] Carolyn Osiek and David L. Balch, Families in the New Testament World: Households and House Churches, The Family, Religion, and Culture, ed. Don S. Browning and Ian S. Evison (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 120.

[26] Hull, 26.

[27] Kenneth V. Neller, “‘Submission’ in Eph. 5:21-33,” Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity: Volume I, ed. Carroll D. Osburn (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1993), 243-244.

[28] Jack Cottrell, Tough Questions—Biblical Answers, Part One (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1985), 51.

[29] Ibid., 50–51, 54–58.

[30] Hull, 26.

[31] Ibid., 23.

[32] Witherington, 54.

[33] Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians & 2 Thessalonians, 56.

[34] Ibid., 138.

[35] Witherington, 54.

[36] Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians & 2 Thessalonians, 138.

[37] Ibid., 57.

[38] Bonnie Thurston, Women in the New Testament: Questions and Commentary, Companions to the New Testament, ed. Charles Talbert (New York: Crossroad, 1998), 138.

[39] Ira J. Jolivet, “Ephesians,” in The Transforming Word: One Volume Commentary on the Bible, ed. by Mark W. Hamilton (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2009), 960.