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THEOCRACY VERSUS DEMOCRACY I — THE POSITION OF WOMEN

By 13. June 2024June 16th, 2024Bible study

THEOCRACY VERSUS DEMOCARCY IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

The differences between a democracy and a theocracy are seen in the following quotations from Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

 Democracy: A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

Theocracy: Government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.[1]

This study is based on the view that the whole Bible is inspired by God. On this basis, I apply the two definitions to the situation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There was a theocracy because Jehovah was the supreme God. He had given the two first humans a beautiful paradise and the possibility of living forever on the earth. In order to continue to be a part of the theocracy they had to follow God’s law not to eat the fruit of one particular tree. They violated this law, and by this, they introduced the first democracy. They took the situation into their own hands, so to speak, and rejected the governing of God.

Because the two first humans violated God’s law, they lost their good relationship with him, which is necessary to live a perfect life. They became sinners, and their children inherited their sin. In connection with this situation, God made some statements that have had and will have serious consequences for all descendants of Adam. I quote Genesis 3:15:

15 And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”

This is a prophecy showing the judgment of the spirit person who was behind the snake and the future introduction again a theocratic government. In other words, the prophecy means “the restoration of all things” that was the original purpose of God, including the earthly paradise. (Acts 3:21)

The quoted statement refers to a future permanent theocratic government. But God also made a statement of the temporary consequences of the introduction of a democratic system. I quote Genesis 3:16-19:

16 To the woman he said: “I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children, and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.

17 And to Adam he said: “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and took to eating from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. 18 And thorns and thistles it will grow for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.”

The first point was that in contrast with the paradise where food was easy to get, the ground was now cursed and humans had to toil get their food.

The second point was that Eve and other women would have pain in their pregnancies and births. This evidently is something that is connected with the imperfect body that was caused by the sin. And it was not something Gud introduced to punish the women.

The third point is that Adam would dominate Eve, and the men would dominate their wives. This is an important point in this discussion, so let us look at the meaning of the words.

The verb translated with “craving” is the Hebrew word shūq with the meaning “desire, longing.” (Kohlenberger and Mounce). The word translated “dominate” is māshal with the meaning, “rule, govern, control.” (Kohlenberger and Mounce). The ruling of God means that the women would feel that they were dependent of their men, and the men would dominate them.

We should keep in mind that men and women are different in many ways. Peter compares humans to vessels, and in 1 Peter 3:7 calls wives for “the weaker vessel.” The adjective asthenēs has the meaning “without strength, weak, infirm.” (Mounce) and “pertaining to being physically weak.” (Louw and Nida). The adjective is parsed as comparative, and this means that women are not called “weak” but “weaker” — they generally are weaker that their men in different resepcts.

It is important to understand that the words of God and the words of Peter do not mean that the woman is inferior to the man or of less value than the man. But the words refer to the situation that would exist in this temporary situation where all men had inherited sin, before the coming new earth.

[1]. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy; https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theocracy

THE SITUATION OF WOMEN IN ANCIENT ISRAEL

The situation in ancient Israel mirrors the words of Jehovah in Genesis 3:16 “your husband will dominate you.” So, let us take a look at the marriages in ancient Israel.

WIVES OWNED BY THEIR HUSBANDS  

The noun ba‘al means “lord, owner, husband,” and the verb meaning “to marry” is bā‘al, which can have the meaning “to own, be owned.” I quote Proverbs 12:4 (above) and Deuteronomy 22:22 (below)

4 A capable wife (’isshā) is a crown to her owner (ba‘al), but as rottenness in his bones is she that acts shamefully.

22 “In case a man is found lying down with a woman owned  by an owner (’isshā  bā‘al ba‘al),  both of them must then die together, the man lying down with the woman and the woman. So you must clear away what is bad out of Israel.

In the first example ba‘al parallels ’isshā (“woman, wife”) and has the meaning “husband.” In the second example ’isshā is followed by the verb bā‘al as passive participle and by the noun ba‘al. Literally the words could be translated as “wife married to a husband” or “wife owned by an owner.”

The word that in most cases is used for “husband” is ‘ādōn with the meaning “lord, husband.”  I quote Genesis 18:12 (above), Judges 19:26 (middle), and Numbers 30:6-8 (below):

12 Hence Sarah began to laugh inside herself, saying: “After I am worn out, shall I really have pleasure, my lord (‘ādōn) being old besides?”

26 Then the woman came as it was turning to morning, and fell down at the entrance of the man’s house where her master (‘ādōn) was,—until daylight.

6 “However, if she at all happens to belong to a husband, and her vow is upon her or the thoughtless promise of her lips that she has bound upon her soul, 7 and her husband actually hears it and keeps silent toward her on the day of his hearing it, her vows must also stand or her abstinence vows that she has bound upon her soul will stand. 8 But if her husband on the day of hearing it forbids her, he has also annulled her vow that was upon her or the thoughtless promise of her lips that she bound upon her soul, and Jehovah will forgive her.

The words ba‘al and ‘ādōn indicate that the husband was the wife’s owner. This is seen in connections with vows, as expressed in Numbers 30:6-8:

The vows that a wife made could be annulled by her husband. While the words ba‘al and ‘ādōn also were used in connection with lords and their slaves and with kings and their subjects,  the situation of a wife in no way could be compared to the situation of a slave. The law of Moses protected the wives.

WIVES WERE PROTECTED BY MARRIAGE LAWS  

Polygamy was allowed by the law, but it was regulated and it was discouraged. Each time a man had sexual relations with his wife, he was unclean for one day in a religious sense, and that would prevent him from different activities. (Leviticus 15:16, 17) Having relations with several wives would therefore create problems. A man could love one wife more than another wife. But in connection with inheritance, the firstborn son should have the double inheritance, regardless of to which wife he was born. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17)

Women were protected by the law, and had a respected status in the community. If a man seduced a virgin, he had to marry her, and he could never divorce her. (Deuteronomy 22:28, 29) If a man falsely accused his wife not to be a virgin, he could never divorce her. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21) If a man seduced an engaged woman, he would be sentenced to death. (Deuteronomy 22:25-27) Thus, women were protected. A man could divorce his wife, but there had to be a serious cause. He had to write her a certificate of divorce. Now the woman could marry again, and the certificate protected her from accusations of prostitution or adultery.

While the husband dominated his wife in ancient Israel, the wives had a much more dignified position than in the nations around Israel. This is expressed in Proverbs 31:10-31:

10 A capable wife who can find? Her value is far more than that of corals. 11 In her the heart of her owner has put trust, and there is no gain lacking. 12 She has rewarded him with good, and not bad, all the days of her life.13 She has sought wool and linen, and she works at whatever is the delight of her hands.14 She has proved to be like the ships of a merchant. From far away she brings in her food. 15 She also gets up while it is still night, and gives food to her household and the prescribed portion to her young women. 16 She has considered a field and proceeded to obtain it; from the fruitage of her hands she has planted a vineyard. 17 She has girded her hips with strength, and she invigorates her arms.

18 She has sensed that her trading is good; her lamp does not go out at night. 19 Her hands she has thrust out to the distaff, and her own hands take hold of the spindle. 20 Her palm she has stretched out to the afflicted one, and her hands she has thrust out to the poor one. 21 She does not fear for her household because of the snow, for all her household are clothed with double garments. 22 Coverlets she has made for herself. Her clothing is of linen and wool dyed reddish purple. 23 Her owner (bā‘al) is someone known in the gates, when he sits down with the older men of the land.

24 She has made even undergarments and proceeded to sell [them], and belts she has given to the tradesmen.25 Strength and splendor are her clothing, and she laughs at a future day. 26 Her mouth she has opened in wisdom, and the law of loving-kindness is upon her tongue.  27 She is watching over the goings-on of her household, and the bread of laziness she does not eat. 28 Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner [rises up], and he praises her. 29 There are many daughters that have shown capableness, but you—you have ascended above them all. 30 Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; [but] the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself. 31 GIVE her of the fruitage of her hands, and let her works praise her even in the gates.

A good wife contributed much to the welfare of the family with her hard work, and far more than corals was she valued.

WOMEN IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

Ancient Israel was a theocracy, and Jehovah God governed the nation through the laws he gave through Moses. Today is the view of a democracy, a government by the people, prominent in many countries. In ancient Rome the slogan was Vox populi vox Dei (“the voice of the people is the voice of God.”) The democratic principle is a good principle in many situations. But this principle has been taken to the extreme in many instances. Particularly when all persons claim that they have the right to do what they want, regardless of the consequences for others. And there are no absolute norms, but everything goes.

Christianity, as it is described in the Christian Greek Scriptures, is a theocracy, which means that God is governing this society through the laws and principles that are found in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The situation is not that a consensus by a group of Christians can be used as norms for all Christians. The only norms that Christians should follow are those that are found in the Christian Greek Scriptures.

There are many parallels between the laws of Moses and the Christian community. But there are also great differences. The common denominator between the two systems is that the people of God must follow the laws and principles of God, and they cannot make their own laws, as is the case of democracies.

THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF MARRIAGE

While polygamy was tolerated in Ancient Israel, that is not the case in the Christian community. Some Pharisees asked Jesus about marriage, and we read the account in Matthew 19:3-9:

 3 And Pharisees came up to him, intent on tempting him and saying: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on every sort of ground?” 4 In reply he said: “Did YOU not read that he who created them from [the] beginning made them male and female 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? 6 So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” 7 They said to him: “Why, then, did Moses prescribe giving a certificate of dismissal and divorcing her?” 8 He said to them: “Moses, out of regard for YOUR hardheartedness (sklērokardia), made the concession (epitrepō) to YOU of divorcing YOUR wives, but such has not been the case from [the] beginning. 9 I say to YOU that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.”

Let us look at the two important Greek words in verse 8. The word sklērokardia has the meaning, “hardness of heart, obstinacy, perverseness.” (Mounce) The word epitrepō has the meaning, “to give over, to leave to the entire trust or management of any one; hence, to permit, allow, suffer.” (Mounce) God did not impose the arrangement of divorce on the Jewish nation. But he permitted this arrangement. The reason was that the men had a hard and insensitive heart.

We cannot expect the same moral behavior and understanding from one who have been a Christian for a short time, and from one who has a long experience as a servant of God. And we would turn a blind eye to this person’s shortcomings while he is growing toward Christian maturity. In a similar way, God could not expect that the ancient Jews with their hard hearts could follow the elevated norms of Christianity that is expressed in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Therefore, God accepted that a man could have more than one wife.

The men of Israel had the law of Moses, and in Leviticus 19:18 we read:

18 “‘You must not take vengeance nor have a grudge against the sons of your people; and you must love your fellow (rē‘) as yourself. I am Jehovah.

The Hebrew word rē‘ has the meaning, “neighbor; friend, companion, associate.” (Kohlenberger and Mounce), and the closest companion of a man would be his wife. By divorcing his wife without a serious cause, the man violated this law because of his insensitive heart. A man could, for example, unrightly divorce his wife because he was in love with another woman.

The importance of the words of Jesus is that he refers the creation of Adam and Eve and show that the norm presented in Eden was that the man and woman became one flesh, and what God has yoked together no man should put apart. Jesus introduced the original standard of marriage between one man and one woman.

But what about divorce? Jesus shows that there is only one reason for divorce, namely, fornication (porneia). The only meaning of porneia in the Christian Greek Scriptures is to have sexual intercourse with a person to whom one is not married. Several other meanings and references are given porneia. But these have no biblical basis, and by introducing other reasons for divorce than sexual intercourse, those people are violating the laws of God. I compare this with Deuteronomy 24:1:

1 “In case a man takes a woman and does make her his possession as a wife, it must also occur that if she should find no favor in his eyes because he has found something indecent (‘ærwā) on her part, he must also write out a certificate of divorce for her and put it in her hand and dismiss her from his house.

The Hebrew word ‘ærwā has the meaning, “nakedness (indecent or shameful in certain situations); “to expose the nakedness” is to have sexual relations.” (Kohlenberger and Mounce) The Hebrew word has some similarity with the Greek word porneia. But its definition is not so clear as the definition of porneia. Because the word was not clear, many Jewish men used different reasons to divorce their wives. The passage suggests that only the man could decide to divorce his wife, and the wife could not decide to divorce her husband. According to Matthew 19:8,  that is quoted above, Jesus spoke about the man who divorces his wife. However, I quote Mark 10:11:

11 And he said to them: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if ever a woman, after divorcing her husband, marries another, she commits adultery.”

Here, Jesus introduces something new, namely that also the wife can decide to divorce her husband. From the words of Jesus, one could get the impression that divorce was not possible under any circumstances. But we must read these words in the light of Matthew 19:8 where Jesus says that the only reason for divorce is adultery (moikheia) which can be subsumed under porneia. The word porneia has three references, 1) sexual intercourse between a married person and one to whom he or she is not married (moikheia), 2) sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons, and 3) sexual intercourse between homosexuals.

In ancient Israel, only a man could demand divorce and while the reason should be serious, the man could interpret what was a serious reason.

Jesus introduced the norm that both a man and a woman could demand divorce. But there was only one reason: His or her spouse had sexual intercourse with a person to whom he or she was not married.

WOMEN HAS THE SAME VALUE AS MEN — WOMEN ARE NOT INFERIOR TO MEN

In his discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus referred to the creation of the man and the woman in Genesis 2:21-24 and to the first marriage. But he did not say anything about God’s words in Genesis 3:16, that the man “will dominate you.” But indirectly, he gave a signal regarding these words. On the basis of God’s words, the wives in Israel were in a way owned by their husbands. But now, by saying that the wives could demand divorce when the husband was guilty of porneia, he showed that husbands no longer owned their wives. Would that mean that no part of the words in Genesis 3:16 were valid? The words are still valid because all humans still are sinners. But they must be seen in the light of the norms of the Christian community. The Christian community is a theocratic arrangement where God’s laws and principles are the norms. As human beings there is not difference between man and women — they have the same value. But in marriage and in the congregation men and women have different functions.

I will now look at the value as human beings. In connection with head covering of women in the congregation, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:11, 12:

11 Besides, in connection with [the] Lord neither is woman without man nor man without woman. 12 For just as the woman is out of the man, so also the man is through the woman; but all things are out of God.

A literal translation of the verses is seen above and the NIV translation is seen below:

11 But neither a woman apart from man or a man apart from a woman in the lord 12 For just as the woman out of man so also the man through the woman but all things out of God.

11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

The point here is that both man and woman are dependent on each other. They are both created by God, and man and woman have the same value. The same conclusion from the viewpoint of being God’s servants is found in Galatians 3:28:

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for YOU are all one [person] in union with Christ Jesus. 29 Moreover, if YOU belong to Christ, YOU are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.

As Abraham’s seed and as servants of God there is no difference between man and woman, all have the same value.

THE THEOCRATIC ARRANGEMENT IS THAT THE FUNCTIONS OF MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT

In a modern democratic society, the stress is on the rights of every citizen. All citizens have equal rights, and all citizens, regardless of their sex, have the right to do exactly the same things. In the Christian community, the focus is on obligations and responsibilities and how each one can live a happy life by following the laws of God.

In the Christian arrangement, men and women have the same value. But they have different functions.

WIVES SHOULD BE IN SUBJECTION TO THEIR HUSBANDS

In ancient Israel, the man was the owner of his wife. This was something that was based on the words of God in Genesis 3.16 that “he will dominate you.” This was not a wrong situation, seen in relation to the society at that time, as we see in 1 Peter 3:1-6:

1 In like manner, YOU wives, be in subjection (hypotassō) to YOUR own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of [their] wives, 2 because of having been eyewitnesses of YOUR chaste conduct together with deep respect. 3 And do not let YOUR adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, 4 but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible [apparel] of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God. 5 For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting (hypotassō) themselves to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah used to obey Abraham, calling him “lord (kyrios).” And YOU have become her children, provided YOU keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror.

The Greek word hypotassō has the meaning “to place or arrange under, to subordinate.” (Mounce). The word kyriosmeans “lord,” and this corresponds the Hebrew word ’ādōn that Sarah used when she spoke about Abraham. Paul agrees with Peter, and in 1 Corinthians 11:3 we read:

3  But I want YOU to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.

The use of the word “head” also refers to subjection. Christ is subjected to God, and the wife is subjected to her husband.

WHAT IT MEANS THAT A WIFE IS SUBJECTED TO HER HUSBAND

What are the similarities and the differences between the arrangement between wife and husband in ancient Israel and in the Christian commun ity, We find one answer in Ephesians 5:22-33:

22 Let wives be in subjection (hypotassō) to their husbands as to the Lord, 23 because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of [this] body. 24 In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, continue loving YOUR wivesjust as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it,26 that he might sanctify it, cleansing it with the bath of water by means of the word, 27 that he might present the congregation to himself in its splendor, not having a spot or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28 In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, 29 for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave [his] father and [his] mother and he will stick to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This sacred secret is great. Now I am speaking with respect to Christ and the congregation. 33 Nevertheless, also, let each one of YOU individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect (fobeō) for her husband.

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul again tell the wives to be in subjection to their husbands, showing them “deep respect.”  The Greek word translated as “deep repsect” is fobeō with the meaning “fear, be afraid of; fear, be afraid (to do something); fear, worship, reverence (God); respect.” (UBS Lexicon) The basic meaning of the verb is “to fear.” But it is also used in connection with God, so we understand that “respect” is also a basic meaning. This means that the adjective “deep” in the expression “deep respect” can be deleted.

There is no doubt that in the Christian community the husband is the leader of the family. But this can be misunderstood, so it is important to define it.

“IN SUBJECTION” IN DIFFERENT WAYS

The expression “be in subjection” can have different meanings and nuances. So, what is the difference between this position in the Christian community and under the law of Moses, where the husband owned his wife? We can see how the word hypotassō is used in the following passages: Colossians 3:18 (above), Titus 2:9 (top middle), 1 Peter 2:13-15 (bottom middle), 1 Peter 5:5 (below):

18 YOU wives, be in subjection (hypotassō) to [your] husbands, as it is becoming in [the] Lord.

9 Let slaves be in subjection (hypotassō) to their owners in all things, and please them well, not talking back.

13 For the Lord’s sake subject (hypotassō) yourselves to every human creation: whether to a king as being superior 14 or to governors as being sent by him to inflict punishment on evildoers but to praise doers of good.15 For so the will of God is, that by doing good YOU may muzzle the ignorant talk of the unreasonable men.

5 In like manner, YOU younger men, be in subjection (hypotassō) to the older men. But all of YOU gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.

These passages show that the meanings and nuances of the Greek word hypotassō are different. Titus 2:9 speaks about slaves. According to Roman law, the lords owned the slaves, and they could dictate them to do anything, according to this law. Christian slaves, however, would not do things that were against God’s laws.[1]

The submission (hypotassō) of slaves to their owners was different than the Christian’s submission to the king or to the authorities, as 1 Peter 2:13-15 speaks about. The king and the superior authorities did not own their subjects. And the Christian submission to the authorities would be limited to keeping the laws of these authorities. The submission of younger men to older men, as 1 Peter 5:5 speaks about, is even more limited than the Christian’s submission to the superior authorities. The older men had not made any laws that the younger ones had to keep. But the point of Peter seems to be that older men have more experience in the Christian way than younger ones. Therefore, younger men should show the older ones respect and in a positive way follow the suggestions and examples.

We see that being in subjection to someone or something has different applications.

“IN SUBJECTION TO ONE ANOTHER”

We have seen that hypotassō has different applications and different nuances. So, what does it mean that a wife is in subjection to her husband? We can get some clues in Ephesians 5:20:21:

20 in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ giving thanks always for all things to our God and Father. 21 Be in subjection (hypotassō) to one another in fear of Christ.

The letter to the Ephesians was addressed to “the holy ones” in Ephesus, which includes men and women. In this letter Paul not only wrote that the wives should be in subjection to their husbands. But he also wrote that men and women should “be in subjection to one another.” To understand what this means I quote Romans 12:5, 10 (above), Philippians 2:3, 4 (top middle), Ephesians 4:2, 32 (middle middle), Colossians 3:13, 14 (bottom middle), and Galatians 6:2 (bottom):

 5 so we, although many, are one body in union with Christ, but members belonging individually to one another10 In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.

3 doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to YOU4 keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just YOUR own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.

2 with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love32 But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave YOU.

13 Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave YOU, so do YOU also. 14 But, besides all these things, [clothe yourselves with] love, for it is a perfect bond of union.

2 Go on carrying the burdens of one another, and thus fulfill the law of the Christ.

All the passages above were written to congregations with men and women, husbands and wives. They show that all the members of each congregation should be in subjection to one another in different ways.

Romans 12.5, 10 shows that as Christians each holy one, including husband and wife, belong to the other holy ones with no one in subjection. And each one should take the lead in honoring the others, the wife honoring the husband, and the husband honoring the wife.

Philippians 2:3, 4 shows that each Christian should have lowliness in mind, the husband should view the wife as superior to himself, and the wife should view the husband superior to herself. And both should take personal interest in the interests of the other.

The relationship between husband and wife that is discussed in Ephesians 4:2, 32, show that all the congregation members, including husbands and wives, can be in subjection to one another by putting up with one another in love and become kind to one another.

Colossians 3:13, 14 adds to this by admonishing all to be putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely, and Galatians 6:2 say that all Christians, including husbands and wives must go on carrying the burdens of one another.

The quoted passages in no way nullifies the Christian law that the husband is the head of the wife, and that she should be in subjection to him. But they show that this subjection is very far from the subjection of the wife to her husband in ancient Israel and the subjection of slaves to their owners.

THE RESPONSIBILITY AND ACTION OF THE HUSBAND

The discussion above has shown that the subjection of the wife to her husband is not like any other form of subjection that is mentioned in the Christian Greek Scriptures. We have seen that while Paul says that the wife must be in subjection to her husband, there are also several areas where both husband and wife must be in subjection to one another. I will now consider the position of the husband, and I again quote Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33:

25 Husbands, continue loving YOUR wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.

28 In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, 29 for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the

33 Nevertheless, also, let each one of YOU individually so love his wife as he does himself.

According to God’s purpose in this old system of things, the man is the leader of the family. That demands much more of him than of the wife because he has the final responsibility of both good and bad things that happen in connection with the family.

A Christian husband naturally loves his wife. But he is also required to do that. He is required to follow the example of Jesus Christ and how Jesus treated his congregation. For example, if the husband and wife live in a place where there is a famine, and they only have one small piece of bread, a husband who follows the example of Jesus will give the give of bread to his wife — he loves her as his own body. If there is a situation where either the husband or the wife has to die, without hesitation, the husband will die instead of his wife, just as Jesus delivered up himself for the congregation.

Being the head is something that requires many sacrifices on the part of the husband.

 DECISIONS IN THE MARRIAGE WHERE THE HUSBAND IS THE HEAD 

How should decisions be taken in a family where the husband is the head and the wife is in subjection to him? The Christian Greek Scriptures do not discuss this in detail. But there is one situation dealing with sexual relations that illuminates this whole issue. We read in 1 Corinthians 7:2-5:

2 yet, because of prevalence of fornication, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to [his] wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to [her] husband. 4 The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does. 5 Do not be depriving each other [of it], except by mutual consent (symfōnos) for an appointed time, that YOU may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting YOU for YOUR lack of self-regulation.

The important word in verse 5 is symfōnos with the meaning: “to come to an agreement with, often implying a type of joint decision.” (Louw and Nida) and “mutual consent” (UBS Lexicon). This adjective occurs only one time in the Christian Greek Scriptures. But the corresponding verb symfōneō occurs six times. I quote two examples that help us understand the force of the adjective symfōnos, Matthew 18:19 (above), and Acts 5:9 (below):

19 Again I truly say to YOU, If two of YOU on earth agree (symfōneō) concerning anything of importance that they should request, it will take place for them due to my Father in heaven.

9 So Peter said to her: “Why was it agreed (symfōneō) upon between YOU [two] to make a test of the spirit of Jehovah? Look! The feet of those who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”

The meaning of both the adjective and the verb is that two or more persons discuss an issue or a situation, and they agree to act in a similar way, in harmony. The importance of the use of the word symfōnos (“mutual consent”) in connection with sexual relations, is that the fact that the man is the head of the family would not prevent the couple to discuss the situation and reach an agreement. Because this is the advice of the Christian Greek Scriptures in connection with sexual relations, this must be the advice in all other issues between the husband and the wife as well.

It shows that the function as the head does not make the man a dictator, one who will make all the decisions. But the husband and the wife should make decisions because of mutual agreement.

The advice that a husband and his wife shall discuss the question of sexual relations and reach an agreement shows that such discussions in order to reach agreements also should occur in connection with all other issues in the family. That the husband is the head of the family does not prevent such discussions in order to reach agreements.  

I quote Genesis 2:18, 24 and Matthew 19:5-6:

18 And Jehovah God went on to say: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper (‘ēzer) for him, as a complement (ke-nægd-ō) of him.”

24 That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick (dābak) to his wife and they must become one flesh.

5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh? 6 So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”

The woman is said to be “a helper” (‘ēzer) for the man. Defining this helper are the words ke-nēgæd. The BDB Lexicon refers to Genesis 2:18 and defines the words in the following way: “what is in front of = corresponding to, a help corresponding to him i.e. equal and adequate to himself.” The translation “complement” in NWT84 is a good rendering.

That the woman is called the “helper” of the man corresponds to the man’s position as head in the marriage. However, “the helper” of the man who is his complement, and he, is united into one unit. The Hebrew word dābak has the meaning “to be united, hold fast, keep, cling to.” (Kohlenberger and Mounce). Its application in Genesis 2:24 means that the man and the woman were united to the point that they became two parts of one unit, they became one flesh. This means that the man and the woman are equal as human beings, even though one part was created before the other. Jesus confirms this complete unity between the two in Matthew 19:5, 6.

I would like to share my own experience of my marriage. My wife and I were married for 54 years. First of all, our basis was Jehovah, and we tried to follow Bible principles in our lives.

When decisions had to be made, we discussed the situation in a friendly way. Sometimes we had different viewpoints. But we always followed our unwritten rule: If my wife understood that something meant very much to me, she said that this we must do, even if she believed that this was not the best way to do things. And similarly, if I understood that something meant very much to her, I would say that this we must do, even though I believed that this was not the best way to do things. We always reached an agreement!

 

We also followed the unwritten rule, that if someone did something to us that was not good, we should forget it and never talk about it. But if someone did something good to us, we would speak about it and never forget it. We had a very happy marriage because we tried to follow Jehovah’s principles.

But if decisions should be reached by mutual consent, and the husband and the wife should “with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to YOU,” (Philippians 2:3) where do we see the relationship of the husband as head to the wife as subordinated to him? Ephesians 5:33 says “the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” So, the wife should always keep in mind that according to the theocratic arrangement the man is her head.

We can compare the position as the man as head of the wife to the position of the chairman of a board of a commercial company. If a decision is to be made, and there are a similar number of votes for and against the proposition, he will use his double voice, so the proposition will be decided. In a similar way, when a mutual consent cannot be reached, the husband will, as the head,  use his “double voice” so the issue will be decided. But connected with his ”double voice” is the love of his wife that is so strong that he will give his life for her, just as Jesus gave his life for the congregation. (Ephesians 5:25) It is not difficult to be subordinated to husbands who follow the example of Jesus Christ.

In ancient Israel, the man was the lord of the wife and owned her, and he could confirm or deny the vows that she made.

In the Christian community, the man and the wife are two individuals with equal value. They are two parts of the same unit because they are one flesh. The man is the head of the family and has the final responsibility. But decisions should be made in a cordial way by mutual consent.

THE FUNCTION OF WOMEN IN THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION

In ancient Israel, there were different laws regarding the worship of Jehovah in the temple.  The people brought offerings to the temple. But only the priests could make the offerings on the altar. The Jewish people could enter the courtyard of the temple but not enter the temple itself. People of the nations were only allowed to enter the outer courtyard, the Courtyard of the Gentiles.

The instructions regarding the temple and the worship there were made by God and was a theocratic arrangement. There is no account showing that anyone criticized these instructions. Today, the situation is different, and because of the democratic viewpoint that permeates great parts of the western world, that everyone has the right to do everything that others can do, the arrangements in the Christian congregations regarding men and women have been criticized. But the arrangement has a clear biblical basis.

ONLY MEN CAN BE TEACHERS

I would like to stress that there is a difference between the teaching inside and outside of the congregation. I quote Acts 8:1, 4:

1 On that day great persecution arose against the congregation that was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Ju·deʹa and Sa·marʹi·a…4 However, those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news (evanggelizō) of the word.

The congregation in Jerusalem consisted of men and women, and the text says that all these, except the apostles were scattered in Judea and Samaria. All those who were scattered preached the good news, and this shows that women could teach men who were not a part of the Christian congregation. But that was not the case inside the congregation. We read in 1 Timothy 2:8-14:

8 Therefore I desire that in every place the men carry on prayer, lifting up loyal hands, apart from wrath and debates. 9 Likewise I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb,10 but in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.

11 Let a woman learn in silence (ēsykhia) with full submissiveness (hypotqē). 12 I do not permit a woman to teach (didaskō), or to exercise authority (authenteō) over a man, but to be in silence (ēsykhia).13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 Also, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived and came to be in transgression. 15. However, she will be kept safe through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and sanctification along with soundness of mind.

There are two reasons given by Paul why a woman shall not have authority over and teach a man, 1) Adam was created first, and 2) she was deceived and came to be in transgression.  The sentence imposed on Eve and her female descendants because Even came to be in transgression, was, according to  Genesis 3:16  that the man “will dominate you,” And that was one of the reasons why a woman should not teach the man.

What does it mean that a woman must learn in silence? The Greek word ēsykhia (“silence”) occurs only three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. I can mean that a person does not say anything, as in Acts 22:2. But it can also refer to a situation where words are uttered, as we see in 2 Thessalonians 3:12:

12 To such persons we give the order and exhortation in [the] Lord Jesus Christ that by working with quietness (ēsykhia) they should eat food they themselves earn.

Paul does not refer to one single example of working. But he refers to people who are working in order to be able to pay for their food. These people will speak while they are working. But Paul’s point is that they should do this while keeping a low profile. So, the words that a woman should be in silence does not mean that she cannot speak. But she must be quiet in relation to teaching a man.

We should also note that Paul shows that women can serve God in different ways apart from teaching.  Women should adorn themselves in a balanced way, according to 1 Timothy 2:9, 10 and show reverence to God through good works. In verse 15, the pronoun “she” refers to women and not to the first woman Eve. Christian women will be kept safe when they fill their place in the family, which may include bearing children, provided that they keep their faith.

A similar situation is described in 1 Corinthians, and I quote 14: 27-30, 34, 35

27 And if someone speaks in a tongue, let it be limited to two or three at the most, and in turns; and let someone translate. 28 But if there be no translator, let him keep silent (siagō) in the congregation and speak to himself and to God. 29 Further, let two or three prophets speak, and let the others discern the meaning. 30 But if there is a revelation to another one while sitting there, let the first one keep silent (siagō). 31 For YOU can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all be encouraged.   31 For YOU can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all be encouraged. 32 And [gifts of] the spirit of the prophets are to be controlled by the prophets. 33 For God is [a God], not of disorder, but of peace.

As in all the congregations of the holy ones, 34 let the women keep silent (siagō) in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak, but let them be in subjection, even as the Law says. 35 If, then, they want to learn something, let them question their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in a congregation.

The verb sigaō (“be quiet, not to speak) is used three times in these verses. In all three instances, there are special circumstances for keeping quiet.

The purpose of the meeting should be upbuilding for others. If someone was speaking in a tongue and there was no translator, the person should keep quiet (verse 28). But he could, of course, speak in other situations in the congregation. Two or three could speak, and the congregation would learn from this. But if one got a revelation, the first one should keep quiet (verse 31). But again, the person who in this situation had to keep quiet could speak in other situations in the congregation.

According to verse 34, Paul said that women should be silent in the congregation, and the reason was that they should be in subjection. Paul said that even the law supports this, and the only place in the law where this is clearly stated is in Genesis 3:16, where God said that the man “will dominate you.” The words about subjection refer to teaching, as Paul says in 1. Timothy 2:12, as we have discussed above.

The reason why Paul spoke about situations of silence in connection with speaking in a tongue and in connection with prophesying, evidently was that situations that were not upbuilding for the congregation could occur. He spoke his words to uphold the order in the congregation. In a similar way, his words to women evidently were spoken because of situations that were not upbuilding for the congregation. The words that they should question their own husbands at home indicate that women may have asked questions that did not upbuild the congregation. That may have been the reason why he told the women to ask their husbands at home. But as in the situations mentioned above where silence was necessary, the women could, of course, speak in situations where they were not teaching the men.

Evidence for this is found in 1 Corinthians 11:4, 5:

4 Every man that prays or prophesies having something on his head shames his head;  5 but every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames her head, for it is one and the same as if she were a [woman] with a shaved head.

Particularly prophesying, which means that a Christian was inspired by God’s spirit, is connected with the congregation. This shows that a woman could speak in the congregation in other situations than teaching the congregation. So, the words about “keep silence” did not mean that women could not speak at all at congregation meetings.

But why must a woman, when she is praying or prophesying, cover her head? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 11:3-10:

3 But I want YOU to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God. 4 Every man that prays or prophesies having something on his head shames his head; 5 but every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames her head, for it is one and the same as if she were a [woman] with a shaved head. 6 For if a woman does not cover herself, let her also be shorn; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.

7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, as he is God’s image and glory; but the woman is man’s glory. 8 For man is not out of woman, but woman out of man; 9 and, what is more, man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. 10 That is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels.

Here we have the same argument that Paul used in 1 Timothy 2:13 where he gave the reason why women should not teach men, namely, that Adam was created first. Here we have the same view that is expressed in verse 7, that “man is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory.” However, as I already have discussed, verses 8 and 9 show that women are not inferior to men, but the two have exactly the same value and are equally precious.

And now, in verse 10, we come to what is the real important issue in Paul’s words to women:

10 That is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a great amount of food that they could eat. But one kind of fruit was forbidden to eat. Instead of accepting the theocratic rule of God, they introduced democracy by deciding for themselves what they would do in spite of God’s law.

We have exactly the same situation today — theocracy versus democracy. A part of God’s ruling against Eve and her female descendants was that the men would dominate the women by being their heads. The task of women is simple. It is to follow God’s theocratic rule and showing this by having a sign of authority on their head when they do something that the man naturally should have done. This is a good example for the angels, who also follow God’s theocratic rule in heaven. So, the meaning of Paul’s words “a sign of authority” is “to show agreement with the theocratic arrangement.”

The situation today is exactly the same as the situation in the Garden of Eden. Would Adam and Eve respect the theocratic arrangement, or would they make democratic choices and decide what was good and bad? Christian women have great spiritual riches, including the hope of everlasting life in the coming paradise earth. Having deep respect for their husbands as their heads, and letting men do the teaching in the congregation is not more difficult for them than for Adam and Eve to follow the law against eating of one particular tree.

Most Christian women today in the congregations of God chose to follow the theocratic arrangement of headship instead of making democratic decisions.

[1]. A following article will study the Christian view of slavery, why the Christian Greek Scriptures accepts slavery.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Can we expect that women always must have “a sign of authority” on their heads? The answer is no because this situation of headship is a part of this system of things where sin is ruling. In connection with the new system of things I quote Luke 20:34, 35:

34 Jesus said to them: “The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Jesus spoke about marriage.  There are two purposes with marriage, 1) it is not good for man to be alone, and 2) to bear children. The words of Jesus show that marriage, as we know this institution today, will not be in the new system of things among those who will be resurrected. This means that when the earth is filled, no more children will be born.

However, in the new system of things, still,  there is not good for man to be alone. This indicates that there will be some kind of personal bonds between those living. At that time, men will no longer dominate the women — this is something that is connected with the present system of things inhabited by sinners.

But the words of God before the creation of man indicate that some persons will have a closer bond between one another than others. Abraham and Sarah had a strong bond between each other. After their resurrection, they will no longer be married. But because we know God, we can expect that their strong bond will continue, they will be closer to one another than to others. And the same will be true for all of us who have lost our spouses or other loved ones in death. The strong bonds that we had to these will not be broken by death. Even though this is not written in the Holy Scriptures, we know that Jehovah never will do something that will give us sorrow. But he will arrange the situation in a way that we will be happy, that Romans 8:32 shows:

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers 39 nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These words do not speak about the resurrection or the paradise earth. But they speak about God’s love. Paul was convinced that neither death nor anything else could separate us from God’s love. And we can be convinced that when we mourn for a loved one who has died, we will meet him or her in the resurrection, and the love of God will allow us to have the same strong bond with him or her that we had before he or she died

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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