This is going to be a follow up to my previous post on whether husbands and wives should be best friends. In the comments on that post, the topic of how a woman should love her husband was raised and I am going to share here the results of my research on the meaning of Titus 2:4.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Greek scholar and I don't even play one on TV. For the most part, I believe that a good English translation of the Bible is sufficient for English speaking people to understand how to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, which is man's primary purpose according to the Westminster Confession of Faith with the accompanying proof texts. However, because of our culture and because of our pathetic use of the English language, Americans have lost the meaning of many important words, replacing their meanings with mere shadows of their former selves.
For that reason, sometimes it helps a person, like a homemaker, to consult the Greek text in order to fully understand and exercise her duties to God. Over the years there have been several important New Testament passages which have guided me in my relationship with my husband, with 1 Peter 3:1-6 and Titus 2:3-5 topping the list. I have already covered 1 Peter 3:1-6 here.
On to the text!
There is so much here that could be addressed, but this is a blog post, not a book, so I am going to attempt to limit my discussion to only verse 4 and the words “to love their husbands.” Right here I'm just going to add that this is a grave issue. It is highly important, because when the older women don't do their duty to teach these skills to the younger women, it results in the word of God being blasphemed, which sounds pretty awful and I don't want that to happen.
The word translated “love” here is the Greek word philandros. This is a combination of two words, the word philos which has the basic meaning of dear, fond or affection. As a noun, by itself, it can mean associate, neighbor or friend. The second part of the word is aner which means a man (an individual male), fellow, husband or sir. Putting these two words together into philandros, combined with the context (an act or skill that is to be taught to young wives) I believe the most useful working definition of it would be “to love their husbands in an affectionate way, the way a wife loves a husband.” In other words, teach them to be their husbands' lovers. George Ricker Berry's Interlinear Greek-English New Testament says it this way:
...that they may school the young [women] lovers of [their] husbands to be
Let's ignore that it sounds like the Yoda translation, shall we?
I feel very confident in saying that Paul believed the young wives need to be taught how to be affectionate towards a husband, particularly in a physical way. This word is used in no other place in the New Testament, Paul chose this very specific and detailed word to describe the acts of a woman toward a man to whom she is married and toward no other person in the world. It refers to acts unique within the marriage relationship. It would include, but not be limited to, how to make love.
This verse demonstrates graphically that Greek is superior to English in expressing specific types of love. In this very same verse we see another related word, philoteknos, which is translated “to love their children” which conveys a very different type of affection from that shown to a husband. Also, the word is not only specific to being an affection for children, it is also specific in being a maternal love, that is, the type of affection that comes only from a mother. Even though fathers should love their children, this Greek word would not be accurate in describing that action.
It is not possible to use Titus 2:4 to state that wives should be “friends” with their husbands or even that they should love them with “brotherly love.” The Greek language, in which this passage was originally recorded, offers better and more specific descriptions of the nature of a wife's love toward her husband. This love is not a feeling or an emotion. This love expresses itself in acts of affection and physical relations.
There may be some confusion as to whether wives are commanded by God to love their husbands. I would say they are not, or at least not in Titus 2. The context here is one of the apostle Paul instructing Titus in how to shepherd the flock, the church, at Crete. Titus was there to set it in order. By application, these instructions should apply to all pastors. Pastors should direct the older women in the church, if they aren't doing it already, to school the younger women in proper behavior within their homes, towards their husbands and children, as well as in the greater congregation and world-at-large. The difference between commands and instructions is that a violation of a command of God is sin, even if the transgressor is not aware of the command. Instructions are there for the improvement of a person. We all need skills to make our lives enjoyable, to enable us to survive, and to improve our relations with our fellows. Just as children are to be trained up in the way they should go, young wives need guidance to acquire proficiency in areas that are less than intuitive.
As children are not punished for not knowing how to do a task, wives are not punished for not knowing how to love (philandros) their husbands. A failure in this area is not a sin but simply evidence of the need for better training. A church full of young wives who do not love their husbands is not necessarily the evidence of rebellious women, but is more likely the evidence of older women not passing on their knowledge of how to do this. The danger of this is that the young women will either wing it or acquire wrong instruction from the popular culture. I can see why Paul thought it important enough to admonish Titus to pay attention to this.