Posted by: Ety W. | June 10, 2008

Feminism’s 4-Letter Word

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Actually this is a subject that no one likes: submission. It is thought of to mean subservience, subjugation, inferiority, inequality; things that most of us bristle at. Yet, if you’ve read through many of my word study posts on Titus 2, you should see a pattern: that our modern concepts of many words used in the Bible, are a far cry from their original, biblical meaning.

To understand what the Bible is really saying, we need to give it a fair hearing. We need to lay down our prejudices and preconceived ideas, and give it a chance to speak for itself. Anyone who has ever been misunderstood wishes for this very thing. Indeed, this is what a court of law is supposed to do before pronouncing a verdict. This is what we need to do in order to understand what God is trying to tell us through His Word.

Consider this next phrase in Titus 2:5:

To be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. Titus 2:5 (NASB)

There are three Greek words to research here: subject, their own, and husbands. This post will start to look at the first one.

Subject – Strong’s 5293 – ‘υποτασω – hupotasso = [from 5259 – ‘υπο – hupo = under, and 5021 – τασω – tasso = to place, set, appoint, arrange, order]. “To place under in an orderly fashion”1 Used 40 times in the New Testament.

In the ancient world, hupotasso was used in two contexts. Firstly, as a military term. It referred to the ordering of troops under the command of a military leader. This is an important point in understanding submission, because anyone who has ever been in the military knows that just because someone is an officer, doesn’t mean they are smarter, braver, better, or in any way superior as human beings. The position serves as a strictly structural function to keep order. Without order, nothing could be accomplished and the group would deteriorate in chaos.

Hupotasso also had a non-military use in Koine Greek, referring to a voluntary acceptance of a subordinate position. It implied cooperation, assumption of responsibility, and the carrying a of a burden.

Applying this to our verse in Titus 2, we see then that submission has absolutely nothing to do with status, but everything to do with function. It’s meaning implies cooperation, and cooperation implies common goals. Two important goals of a Christian marriage should be to honor and serve the Lord as a couple, and to raise children to know and serve the Lord. If husband and wife are working independently toward different goals, then friction and struggle result.

If we lived in a perfect world, submission wouldn’t be an issue, because we would all operate according to God’s perfect plan for humanity. Indeed, submission was not given to wives until after the Fall (Gen. 3:16).

However we live in a sinful world, where everyone wants their own way. It is our fallen nature to think we’re usually right. That’s why no one likes the idea of submission. Achieving order (in any venue: military, athletic, classroom, family, etc.) requires enough self discipline to set aside personal desires and opinions for the sake of something greater. However, if either party’s focus is only on serving Self and meeting Self’s needs, then conflict occurs.

Something else we need to understand, is that the husband is not free to try and rule his wife in any way he wishes. His position is not given to him to lord it over his wife, nor to feel superior, nor to use her to try to achieve his own personal ambitions. Submission also applies to him. How? We’ll look at that next time.

Next ….. Submission For Husbands? You’ve Got to be Kidding

1Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, 1992), p. 1427


  1. I’d also recommend Rebecca Groothius’ Good News for Women. It explains a lot about how the Bible isn’t misogynistic, the way most people perceive it to be.

  2. Ubuntucat, thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I’m not familiar with Rabecca Groothius and so appreciate the suggested reading.

  3. Ety,
    This is a great post.

    I’ve been struggling a lot with what my position as a wife is. As you said, submission has been defined wrongly, and we see the word as an affront to our person. At least I do.

    I came to a point where I started to believe God must be a woman hater. But Scripture said otherwise. Jesus didn’t behave like a misogynist, so I had to research further.
    I had always struggled with the military definition of submission because God ordained submission BEFORE there was any need for a military, and because it’s applying a human, biased understanding, to a divine principle; plus, it seems to go against the principle of mutual submission.

    I can only understand what Paul means by a wife’s “submission in everything” if I look at God’s initial purpose when he created the first woman: she was to be a helper suitable.
    He didn’t make her to be under the man (as many understand submission to be from the military definition), but to be “his other half”, in a sense. But He created her equally in His image, and told them both to have dominion together.

    When I see myself as my husband’s helper, my submission is basically laying aside my ambitions for the sake of a common goal: our family and bringing glory to God.

    Does that make sense?

    I’ve also given a lot of thought to the unity factor. What about a woman whose husband is still too close to his parents or one parent? Should she submit and support him in becoming even closer to that one parent? What if she is supporting his teaming up with one parent against the other?

    I’m reading the book “sacred influence” by Gary Thomas. So far, it’s good. He is a gentle writer (as opposed to Debi Pearl, for example), and even if his advice is coming from a man, it’s not like he’s out there with an agenda, putting women in their place, but it’s actually helpful to read a man’s perspective.

  4. Ruth, thank you for your comment. It is so interesting to me, because the things you are saying are exactly along the same lines as I’ve been thinking/researching/writing. In fact, the more I searched the Bible for this submission post, the longer it became. Finally I had to break it down into several posts, because the Bible has a lot to say on the subject.

    It seems to me that one of the reasons we struggle with submission so much is that the focus is always on the woman’s part. But that’s only half the story. As I researched the Bible’s instructions to husbands, I thought, Oh, if only more husbands would take a good look at what the Bible tells them to do and actually do it. It would be easy to submit to a husband like that!

  5. P.S.

    ” I had always struggled with the military definition of submission because God ordained submission BEFORE there was any need for a military, and because it’s applying a human, biased understanding, to a divine principle; ”

    True, but after all, the Lord did choose to discuss submission in the New Testament in Koine Greek, from which this term comes. I figure that if He developed and chose the language, then it must be with good reason.

    ” …. plus, it seems to go against the principle of mutual submission ”

    After studying the Lord’s instructions to husbands, I’ve pretty much abandoned the mutual submission concept. I’ll explain all about that in my next post.

  6. Ety,
    Thanks for your replies.
    I’m eagerly awaiting your next post now…

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