Dear Rev. Know it all,
Last Sunday my pastor read that awful passage from Ephesians about “wives submitting to their husbands in all things.” I thought that had been removed from the Bible. Can you comment?
Frances X. Punge
Dear Ms. Punge,
The only people who remove things from the Bible are Martin Luther and the Jesus Seminar. The Catholic Church does not take something out of the Scriptures because we don’t agree with it or it is not “modern.” Let me quote the passage to which you are referring.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. (Ephesians, fifth chapter)
In the olden days, when I was a classics teacher, I had a student who said that he never translated a word that was three letters or less. Needles to say, he didn’t learn much Latin or Greek. The smallest words in any language are the most important. Things like “yes,” “no” and “if” change things. In the above quoted passage, the most important word is “as.” Submit to your husband “AS” to Christ, not “as” to an owner, a ruler or a slavedriver. This passage qualifies the ancient relationship of husband and wife.
In a world where men owned women, this was heady stuff! To say that “the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife was inflammatory (1Cor. 7:4) As far as I know, St. Paul is the first person in human history to say that a man must, in any way, submit to a woman. The passage that you want to expunge from the Bible is about the mutuality of the love of a man and a woman. This was a new vision in the ancient world.
When St. Paul goes on to say, “husbands, love your wives” an ancient Greek or Roman would have asked “Why?” A woman was a kitchen appliance that could also bear children. The Arabs didn’t invent the harem, the Greeks did! (Among others.) Remember that the Roman empire was not Latin. It was culturally Greek At the time of the Apostles, there may well have been more people in Rome who spoke Greek than spoke Latin. It was a Greek, or Hellenistic world.
A respectable, upper-class Greek woman in the ancient world never left the house. She had slaves to do that. She stayed in the back rooms and led a life of well to do boredom. Greek men married for purposes of family alliances, money, status and so on, not for love. For love they had girl friends or boy friends. Marriage, especially among the upper classes, was an economic or political matter, and the same held true among the Romans, though they were not as prone to certain types of relationships as were the ancient Greek aristocracy. St. Paul’s insistence on love in marriage would have seemed outlandish to his readers.
This shallow reading of Scripture, popular among feminists and the “Jesus Seminar “ people is one more example of the arrogance that passes for scholarship in the modern world. Because we cannot explain something in terms that satisfy the current age we dispose of it as being outdated. The 80 year-old young liberals who sit enthroned in universities, especially Catholic Universities, and in chancery offices, (or as we like to call it here in the diocese of Frosbite Falls, “downtown,”) are members of the age of Aquarius. (Remember? This is the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius...) Hasn’t the age of Aquarius worked out splendidly? Remember the song from the musical “Hair?”
This is the dawning of the Age of AquariusThe Age of Aquarius, Aquarius! Aquarius!Harmony and understandingSympathy and trust aboundingNo more falsehoods or derisionsGolden living dreams of visionsMystic crystal revelationAnd the mind's true liberationAquarius! Aquarius!
To be continued…...