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Hey, Who Stuck the Header Between Ephesians 5 Verse 21 and Verse 22? That Shouldn’t be There!!

Submission, Women in the Church, Ephesians 5:22, Wm. Paul Young, Patriarchy

Today, I posted a note and video on my Facebook wall and the SSB Facebook page which has received some attention. In my journey out of the abusive “Christian Patriarchy” movement which has harmed so many women, I like to grapple with Bible verses that put special rules or limitations onto women. One of the things I learned in Restorative Practices training is that it is very healthy to move toward conflict and to wrestle with it. So, I guess that’s what I’m doing as I study these verses that have been proven to be contentious to me personally.

When the subject of women comes up in Evangelical Christianity, there are a few verses that are selected out of the masses of verses that male leaders use to prove that women must submit to their husbands, that husbands are head of wives and rule over them, women must be silent in church, women must never teach men, etc. In essence, all of these verses seem to show a type of power differential and have been used by men to control women. And I believed it to be true because I trusted my church leaders. I even encouraged other women to follow these teachings.

Here is what I posted on Facebook:

The issue of women submitting to husbands (as opposed to mutual submission) is a big one in the Christian church. It is sometimes used by men improperly against their wives to control them.

One of the key passages used to justify male hierarchy is Eph 5:22 (to the neglect of 5:21 which ironically states that we are to submit to each other!!). Which one is it?? Women submit to men, or we all submit to each other? Why is this so confusing?

It’s not confusing when you listen to this and understand what happened when Bible translators improperly inserted a heading right smack in the middle of a sentence!! Everyone knows you can’t do that, but that’s what they did!

I’ve read about this from numerous Biblical scholars, but I love the way Paul Young explains it here. It makes so much sense now!

A side note: on my Facebook wall, someone asked if this is the same person who wrote The Shack. I know there are a lot of conservative Evangelicals who have issues with Wm. Paul Young because of his book, The Shack. Here is my response to her:

a lot of people dismiss him because of a fictional book he wrote to his kids. They read what other people wrote about a fictional book and make an opinion on him. He is a very learned man biblically. By all means listen and then compare with other Biblical scholars. That is what we all should do. But as I said above, it lines up from what I’ve seen in my research.

The video is only 13 minutes long. This might be the video that pulls the rug out from decades of teachings you have heard. Or it might not. But . . . I would like you to consider it, and test it. See if what Paul Young says is true.

38 thoughts on “Hey, Who Stuck the Header Between Ephesians 5 Verse 21 and Verse 22? That Shouldn’t be There!!”

  1. What do the other commentators/theologians say? Reading the verses without the header seems like an incomplete thought, but we know it’s not His word being infallible. It could be read either way. 🙂


  2. I don’t think you are understanding, B. They stuck a header in the middle of a sentence, changing the whole meaning of the direction Paul was going. Did you watch the video?


  3. JA – it was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but in this particular instance a verse can be quoted on its own as though it stands alone, rather than being read in its immediate context. Atheists frequently quote the bible as though it were written in ‘verses’ rather than flowing text and flowing logical thought. It’s an easy way of thinking to get into.

    Chapter and verse divisions can be helpful as a reference obviously, but sometimes they lead you to think ‘new chapter, new material’, and that is not always the case.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And verse 25 often gets left out too: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” I find Paul’s letters pretty well balanced, if you don’t pick and choose verses. Sometimes you have to read a chapter on each side of the topic, sometimes a verse or too, but there are usually two sides of the coin with Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s a version called “Immerse” that is published without chapters and verses. A few years ago, my church challenged us to either read part of the NT, or listen to it online, without the chapters and verses and it is definitely a different experience. As the pastor said, the chapters and verses were added, if I remember correctly, mostly for the purpose of optimizing the book for publishing page-by-page on the printing press, and there are pretty well known examples where the versification leaves incomplete thoughts. That’s where I picked up the difference in tone between, for example, Corinthians and Galatians.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The word of God says let every man be a liar and his
    Word be true.what ever the word GOD says in the King James version.It is True.Man shall not live by bread alone. But
    By every word Of God.Its says husband and wife
    Submit to each other and The wife submit to her own husband.And husband to be the head of his Wife.And
    Husband to love his wife. And woman not to teach or have authority over a man.And if you don’t believe or follow the Word Of GOD. You are not a follower CHRIST. Acts 2:38.Says Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin.


  7. If it truly is inspired, it would be the first-ever instance of a Spirit-inspired committee. I’d be much more amenable to the Tyndall-only or TEV-only argument. Rethinking this, KJV-only seems to be a very racist view. Somehow, God allowed translations into Latin, Spanish, Italian, Japaneses, Ethiopian, but only the white English version is inspired?


  8. King James, huh, Bernard?

    Goodness I love the language in King James but you can’t treat an English translation with imperfect information and an agenda by parsing a word here and there as people do!

    If they took it as a whole they’d get a better spirit of the thing, but instead they want to make it a bunch of if/then statements. It’s not that.


  9. I really love this video and he made a very good case. Honestly, it’s pretty obvious.

    It came out recently that the Vatican has been hiding evidence that women served as leaders of the early church. It seems like early on, the organized church decided they needed to twist things to support the oppression of women, probably to please political powers and tradition, and that has been carried on over the centuries ever since, with few even questioning it. It was so ingrained in the early translators that, instead of sincerely following the words where they led, they tweaked the words to fit their predetermined beliefs. (And some are still doing this, re-writing Genesis 3:16, for instance.)

    The original Bible was not the KJV, ha ha! It’s only a translation, and not a very good one at that. Sometimes I wonder if the KJV only people push that viewpoint because it is so archaic that it’s easier to confuse people about what it actually says. God has not given us a spirit of fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I just made an interesting discovery. I was looking up online Bibles, and later I will do that for my Bible Gateway phone app. But, on theirs, there’s the heading on Relationships, and it starts with verse 21. But yes, in the physical Bibles I have, which I got in the 80s and 90s, the heading starts verse 22.
    We studied all of this section in my Bible study group/Life group, and came to conclude that none of us is “off the hook”. We all have a responsibility to each other.
    Thanks for bringing this up.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It came out recently that the Vatican has been hiding evidence that women served as leaders of the early church.

    I am not at all surprised. It’s clear as day that people like Pheobe were early leaders and Paul rattles off plenty of women in his lists of people he is grateful to for his ministry. I think people have massively misinterpreted Paul for their own ends. Imagine how the church or the world might have been if women had been treated properly all these years.


  12. Finally got around to reading the whole article, watching the whole video, and reading all the comments. Thank you. I really did like the video. I have a copy of The Shack but haven’t read it. Now I have even more motivation to get to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mara – I still haven’t read The Shack. My suing pastor had all kinds of negative things to say about the book and painted it as evil. It’s funny now, but when I take another look at what he called evil, I often don’t have the same conclusion now. A lot of times it was because of a secondary doctrinal belief. I just don’t get my panties in a wad over things like that. I mean – if Biblical scholars cannot agree on such things, then why should I make a big deal about them. There are bigger battles and more important things to be doing with my time.

    I’m too lazy to look at the post (I respond to the notification), but I can’t remember if I mentioned that Paul Young was a teacher at my college group in the 80s. I remember him being pretty smart then. But you can tell that he has studied these issues.

    A side note, he gave 3 sermons at Pastor Wade Burleson’s church, which are posted on YouTube. I watched them a year or so ago and found them to be very good. I see why Wade asked him to speak!


  14. I don’t know every negative thing spoken of concerning The Shack. But I know a huge thing was that there was female representation in the Trinity. That didn’t bother me much. But I was amused by how bent out of shape patriarchal and complementarian men got. It was insane.


  15. Yes!! That’s right – that was one of the biggest issues that I remember, too! ha! For crying out loud, even the Bible uses feminine ways of describing God and those He loves: like a weaned child in mother’s arms.


  16. Sorry – he didn’t convince me, and I did give him a fair hearing. I used to believe the submission in Eph 5 : 21 was a general application to everyone – an attitude of deference. Mutual respect certainly.

    The weakness in the argument was precisely what was discussed earlier on – using a single verse and not taking into account its context. Indeed this is the only way you can attempt to make submission mutual.

    It’s true that the word submission is missing from verse 22, but implied from verse 21. I’ve never understood the importance sometimes given this, and there are plenty of NT MSS that do have the verb in v 22, iirc for reading in church in Greek starting at that verse.

    ‘One another’ can either mean everyone to everyone, reciprocal or mutual, or it can mean one or a group to one other or a group. There is an ambiguity. That here it means the latter is shown by reading the rest of the chapter and first half of chapter 6 (another unhelpful chapter division!).

    Read this, and it shows mutual submission is untenable for linguistic reasons, practical reason, and above all theological reasons. It is, I think, ruled out absolutely as an interpretation.

    I once discussed this on an egalitarian blog – quite amicably – and listed about 10 or 11 reasons why I don’t think mutual submission is tenable in this passage. That post never saw the light of day! I gave up after that. I can only assume they did not want to reconsider their existing interpretation.

    To hint at just one reason, have said ‘submitting to one another’ in v21 in the very next verse if you read it in a literal translation Paul already makes sure the ‘everyone to everyone’ is not what he means.

    You could sum up the Eph passage in two sentences: for wives Paul says be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord and for husbands love your wives, and don’t be harsh with them. It’s clear who is being addressed, and there is no mutuality instructed.

    I’m sure in the last judgement before Christ many wives are going to have to explain why the baulked at any idea of submission, and many husbands as to why they didn’t love and honour their wives the way the NT clearly outlines, and that he expects. Whatever our ~ism, we are all going to have to give an account.

    Young’s treatment of the 1 Tim 2 passage was extremely weak. tbh though if I hear another sermon on this I think I shall go start staring mad! My life very definitely does not revolve around complementarianism, or to be more precise endless discussions of it. It can make Jack a very dull boy! If your bible falls open at Eph 5, something is probably wrong!

    I hope I am not too stuck in my ways to change my mind on this, but Young was far from convincing. I’m sure the vehemence with which mutual submission is held stems from factors outside a pure discussion of what the text itself says and how to try to put it into practice.


  17. “stems from factors outside a pure discussion of what the text itself says”

    Yes, exactly, just like when Jesus calls the Pharisees to look beyond the text when it comes to divorce. “They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?'” (Matt 19:7)

    I can see the parallel today. Jesus says, “husbands must respect their wives”, but KAS says, “Why then did Paul tell only wives to respect their husbands?” By arguing that this is somehow uniquely given to husband and wife, then you are arguing either that man have no problem loving their wives (really?!) or that men do not need to love their wives. In the same way, you are arguing either that wives naturally love their husbands, or do not need to love their husbands. Since both of those are blatantly false, it seems a better reading that Paul is talking mutual love and respect in a way that draws both husband and wife.

    There are many parallel constructions like this. “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” — is it thus okay to strike a woman so that she dies?

    For example, “It will come about after this
    That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
    And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    Your old men will dream dreams,
    Your young men will see visions.
    “Even on the male and female servants
    I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29)

    Is Joel explaining the differences of how the Spirit will work in mankind, or is he drawing us in to a common work of the Spirit? Will old men not see visions and young men not dream dreams? Will the old and young men not prophesy? Of course not! Joel means this to be inclusive, not exclusive.

    So, why does this love/respect dichotomy have to be forced on Paul, when he just said submit to one another? I think it’s because you are letting your foregone conclusion interpret the text rather than the opposite.


  18. Hmmm: “A few immediate questions popped into my mind as I read this. If we follow the complementarian hermeneutic above, it appears we must conclude that Peter and Paul were advocating slavery as God’s design for living in a fallen world. Why? Because we’re now required, if we submit to the complementarian explanation, to believe that if slavery is not God’s design, then Peter and Paul were cowards for not openly condemning slavery. I mean, the above argument declares that it is only godly to openly buck the tide, whereas only cowards are quietly subversive, doesn’t it?” http://complegalitarian.blogspot.com/2007/12/considering-roman-household-codes.html

    This was also a good read:

    Quoting Jesus, “It was for the hardness of your hearts that…” – so, perhaps, also, the Greco-Roman culture was not ready for husbands and wives to be declared equal – as we seem not to be able to hear that today…

    Thanks, Mara!


  19. @Mark:

    A few years ago, my church challenged us to either read part of the NT, or listen to it online, without the chapters and verses and it is definitely a different experience.

    Because you then see the overall Narrative instead of a list of separate chapter-and-verse Sound Bites. Including Paul’s Epistles taking several chapters to build and present a legal argument to make his point.

    I always figured chapter-and-verse numbers originated as a reference index to particular passages and ended up as Twitter-Tweet-length verbal-component spells.


  20. KAS, I think you’re right, Ephesians 6 must be considered. Now, when Paul talks about slavery, is he justifying the master/slave relationship, or is he just telling Christians how to act in a culture where the master/slave relationship are legally forced on people? I think after millennia, the church finally had to come to terms that Paul was not condoning slavery, but merely giving instructions for a specific culture where slavery was in force.

    Now, we look at marriage in the established context. We cannot argue that Paul is condoning a specific hierarchical relationship based on his instruction, because in 6, he instructs slaves and masters. All we can do is say that Paul is showing a loving and respectful path within the culture.

    That is, the culture said that the wife must obey the husband’s rule, and it allowed the husband to abuse his wife. Paul is saying, the husband must LOVE his wife and not treat her like a slave, but like himself. In the same way, the wife is called, despite the societal view of her as a slave, to be more of a partner than a slave. As has been said, this was courageous and culturally radical, but not necessarily the end goal of what God wanted to say about marriage.


  21. Including Paul’s Epistles taking several chapters to build and present a legal argument to make his point.

    HUG, this is the thing we discussed in sunday school that made me really appreciate Paul better. These are letters, and they have structure and Paul generally meanders around until he gets to the final point he’s making.


  22. Complegalitarian

    Mark, that is a word I haven’t seen in a long time (speaking in internet years).
    I used to comment on that blog. I can’t even remember how long ago.
    They had shut it down because it was hard to keep things civil. I never knew they reopened it.
    I miss those days.

    As far as household codes go, not only do they stick a header in the middle of the sentence, They also start a whole new chapter right in the middle of the flow, separating the children and slave section from the husband and wife section. This completely disrupts the natural flow and directs attention away from how it was meant to be read.
    And yes, it was directed mainly at the existing household codes of the day, setting them on their heads, inserting love and grace in the place of patriarchal authoritarianism. This is why this section is hard to apply today. Evolved societies have done away with slavery and the practice of men owning women.


  23. Kas: “I’m sure in the last judgement before Christ many wives are going to have to explain why the baulked at any idea of submission, and many husbands as to why they didn’t love and honour their wives the way the NT clearly outlines, ”

    But what about the judgement of all the preachers and husbands that have used this bit of scripture to beat down and abuse women?
    Their sin is far worse because they are taking God’s Word and Name in vain for their own purposes.

    I’ve known women who tried to obey this portions of scripture, only to finally crack and turn away from God due to never being about to submit enough to please a man who had a personality or brain disorder or who listened to the wrong preacher or read the wrong book that made way more out these verses than they should have.
    (Books like Love and Respect https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2019/01/eggerichs-love-and-respect-and-abuse-womens-stories/ )


  24. Kas: “I’m sure in the last judgement before Christ many wives are going to have to explain why the baulked at any idea of submission

    I think there is a zero percent chance of this happening, personally.

    Actual Jesus: The first should be last. Stop fighting over who gets to sit at my right hand. Take care of kids. Treats women well. There is no marriage in heaven. Etc.

    Stop making him into something completely different.


  25. Actually, Lea, what Kas said about wives baulking at any idea of submission reminds me of a commenter on another blog post concerning how respect is such a foreign concept for wives. The sweeping generalization of that commenter was irritating.


    I have known women who were so traumatized by the word submit that when they see it used in other situations they have PTSD episodes. One gal said when she read a place on a document concerning where she needed to submit some papers, she had an all out panic attack. She certainly baulked at submission. But I’m pretty sure she won’t be judged for it by God.


  26. Mara – But what about the judgement of all the preachers and husbands that have used this bit of scripture to beat down and abuse women?

    I’ve already answered this: I’m sure in the last judgement before Christ many husbands [are going to have to explain] as to why they didn’t love and honour their wives the way the NT clearly outlines.

    I fully understand the verb ‘to submit’ has become debased coinage in some evangelical circles, which is why I said ‘baulk at any idea of submission’. In my day, it was shepherding/discipleship Ft Lauderdale submission that was the cause of so many problems of abused authority. There are men who never seem to get beyond it, whilst ignoring everything the apostles direct at husbands or the character qualifications of leaders. Yet the word is still in the NT, and if it is intrinsically a cause of abuse, you wonder why so many argue for it to be mutual. It is something that Jesus requires. I also have no doubt it is intended for blessing.

    Yes, I have heard of the household codes, but Eph 5 and the related parallel material in 1 Peter work against this as being what both apostles based their teaching on when it came to marriage and other relationships within the church. Culture isn’t what it is patterned on. (The egalitarian appeal to culture in Ephesus seems to me anyway to collapse under the weight of its internal contradictions.) I am far from thinking we should ignore the cultural context in which the NT is written, but we also need to be aware of reading our cultural assumptions back into the text.


  27. KAS, “Culture isn’t what it is patterned on.”

    Then you fall into the trap of Paul legitimizing slavery. If Ephesians 5-6 is God’s pattern for life irrespective of culture, then God is blessing slavery as an institution. If God is NOT blessing slavery as an institution, then it is quite valid to question whether Paul’s instruction to husbands and wives is based on culture, or based on eternal decree.

    Paul didn’t write Ephesians for US. He wrote it for the Christians in Ephesus, so it is again, valid to try and understand what context the Ephesians would have interpreted this from.

    “Yet the word is still in the NT, and if it is intrinsically a cause of abuse, you wonder why so many argue for it to be mutual.”

    As I said, and you have not answered, God clearly gives instruction for a specific time, place and culture. In Acts 15, the Gentile converts are commanded not to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Yet, in Corinthians, Paul says, the idol is nothing, so it’s okay, except for the weaker brother.

    Now, were the Christians unrighteous or was that command for a specific time and place that is no longer relevant?


  28. No kidding. There are folks within conservative c’hurches that say we are still commanded NOT to eat pork and shellfish, for we are still under the Law of Moses. They justify this by saying that the New Testament reinforces the Law of Moses, no change necessary……guess Jesus didn’t end the OT Laws! (?)!

    And I have not submitted to wearing a “head covering” to a religious meeting lately, or out picking weeds, although it might come in handy in keeping the mosquitoes out of me hair. 🙂

    And as far as the slavery thing goes, there is many a godly woman who believes she is a slave to man, wedded into complementarian marriage systems……which is NOT of our LORD Jesus Christ.

    All over the board here, just a sayin.


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