Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Being a Subject

Subject, verb  To bring under the power or dominion of.
2. To put under or within the power of
3. To enslave; to make obnoxious
4. To expose; to make liable
5. To submit; to make accountable
6. To make subservient

Subjection, noun The act of subduing; the act of vanquishing and bringing under the dominion of another
2. The state of being under the power, control and government of another.

The above is from The American Dictionary of the English Language  by Noah Webster, 1828. Please keep those definitions in mind when meditating on the following:

 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

1 Peter 3:1-6

No exposition of this passage would be complete without examining and understanding the very first word, "likewise." Like what? Well, we are supposed to follow the instructions that Peter is about to give in the exact same way, or "likewise,"  as what had just been described, which was Jesus' commitment to giving His life, to suffering on the cross for our sins. We are to be in subjection to our own husbands with same unwavering commitment with which Jesus based his actions to save us.  For a more thorough understanding of Jesus' submission to the Father's will in that matter, read the Gospels. 

Now, to the meat of the passage, the command: "be in subjection to your own husbands." This word "subjection" is not a word of nuance, is it? None of this egalitarian nonsense about partnering with your husband in leadership. The English word "subjection" probably meant pretty much the same in 1828 when Noah Webster was putting the definition down for the record as it meant in 1611 when the translators used it for the Greek word "hupotasso."  I am not qualified to discuss whether the translators chose an appropriate English word, so if your argument is that they didn't, then you are more of a Greek scholar than those translators and I can't really dispute it with you. 

Looking at the passage again, we can see that Peter clearly meant that wives should be in subjection to their own husbands. Wives are to be under the authority, power, government, control and dominion of their husbands. This brings me to the related word "subject". When one person is the subject of another, it makes us think of a king, prince or lord, does it not? A king is surrounded by his subjects, that is, those people who are subject to his rule. So what Peter is describing is a king/subject relationship or lord/subject relationship. And I can say this with authority because Peter himself sums up the passage by telling us that Sara obeyed Abraham calling him lord. There it is. Even as Abraham was a lord to Sara, our husbands are lords to us. Or, it might be said they are lords over us. (I can hear the feminists and egalitarians cringing now.)

What is interesting about Peter using Sara for an example is two-fold. First, he uses Sara as an example because his readers would have been familiar with the life of Sara. Peter is referring to something, some event, about which all of his readers would have known. He has not been given special knowledge by God about Sara obeying Abraham, he is talking about something well known to those who had read the Old Testament, which is the only Scriptures Peter's readers had. It would seem that Peter, then, is talking about Sara's obedience to Abraham when he told her to say that she was Abraham's sister, to conceal that she was his wife, and, if necessary to commit adultery with king Abimelech on one occasion (Gen.20:5) and with Pharaoh on another (Gen. 12:13). I don't know of any other circumstance where we see Sara obeying, and interestingly enough, it is a very serious matter, not a small matter. 

When women say that they would obey their husbands unless he was asking them to do something they believed was sinful, they are not following the example of Sara. Sara obeyed and was not afraid with any amazement.

Second, this was not a contemporary example for Peter's readers. Sara lived close to 2000 years before Peter. Her culture could have been as different from Peter's as Peter's would be from ours. The argument that Peter was describing a cultural practice makes no sense in the light of the wifely example he chose.  He didn't argue that it was current custom or that his contemporaries in the Church had the practice of wives being in subjection to husbands. He claims that holy women, like Sara, have always done so.  It is the evidence of a woman who trusts in God, according to Peter. Which implies that women who will not be in subjection to their own husbands do not  trust God. 

We don't really have a choice as believing wives. We can trust God and be holy like Sara, obeying our own husbands and calling them, "lord," or we can be distrusting of God, disobeying our husbands and refusing to be subject to them. But if we choose the latter, then our actions show that we really aren't believers at all. 

As James said, "Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."  James 2:18


Anonymous said...

yes sister,i agree with you.As a woman,it's not our duty to find truth rather it's our duty to please/obey our husbands.that's what we are created for.feminism first disturbs the bible with "follow your husband only when he is Mr.Right" then "mutual submission" now "bible says so because that's 2000 years old and that's just a cultural norm".we are submitting to our men only in right things mean we are deciding what is right/wrong which is the duty of husband-that is ultimately we are judging our husbands/our lords.everyone who says "submit......only if...." are trying to impress (wo)men rather than following god.I don't know why someone manipulate bible teachings.our women have simple duties(though difficult)-to obey and love our husbands,to give our husband children,to love our children,be virtuous,be chaste.simple.isn't it?
(sorry for my poor english)

subject by design said...

Thanks for your comment. I agree, we sit in judgment of our husbands, which is clearly not our role. Simple but not easy, you are exactly right.