Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ephesians 5:22 and mutual submission

Apparently Michele Bachmann was asked about Ephesians 5 recently. The question focussed specifically on the language of submission in Ephesians 5:22-4 and the article goes on to speak about translations preferred by evangelicals:

In the New International Version translation of the Bible, the version most preferred by evangelical Christians and nondenominational churches, a camp Bachmann has said she belongs to, Ephesians 5:22-24 are translated as:
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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."
There is also a quotation from a New Testament scholar about the submission of wives to husbands in Paul and the specificity of the injunction together with support for Michele Bachmann's interpretation of "submission" as "respect."
This is all beside the point! The fact of the matter is, as anyone who reads Greek knows, the verb is absent from Ephesians 5:22 and introduced by inference from Ephesians 5:21 where mutual submission is enjoined by the author. 
What we need are bible translations that use an ellipsis in Ephesians 5:22: "Wives...to your husbands as to the Lord." Second best would be translations that supply a verb in italics or that add a note to the supplied verb.  For example, the NET Bible provides a note, but reads an imperative in the translation.
   1.Wives, submit* to your husbands as to the Lord, 
      * The witnesses for the shorter reading (in which the verb “submit” is only implied) are minimal (P46 B Cl Hiermss), but significant and early. The rest of the witnesses add one of two verb forms as required by the sense of the passage (picking up the verb from v. 21). Several of these witnesses have ποτασσέσθωσαν (hupotassesthōsan), the third person imperative (so א A I P Ψ 0278 33 81 1175 1739 1881 al lat co), while other witnesses, especially the later Byzantine cursives, read ποτάσσεσθε (hupotassesthe), the second person imperative (D F G M sy). The text virtually begs for one of these two verb forms, but the often cryptic style of Paul’s letters argues for the shorter reading. 
The chronology of development in Ephesians 5:22 seems to have been that the verse first existed with no verb - then a third person imperative was added - and finally a second person imperative was added. It is not insignificant that early lectionaries began a new day’s reading with v. 22; these most likely caused copyists to add the verb at this juncture.

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