Ephesians 5:22-33 an Exegesis Essay

Pages: 10 (3363 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Women, it would seem, need love more than respect while men, on the other hand, require respect more than love.

The Idea of Marriage,

As Clinton E. Arnold observes, St. Paul's idea of Christian marriage in Eph 22-33 is founded upon "a number of assumption that he had about husbands and wives derived from Scripture and informed by the implications of the new covenant in Christ."

Having simply observed the fact of the creation of man and woman by God in the image of God (Gen 1:27), St. Paul sets the stage for the idea that men and women should reflect God in His actions. Thus, the idea of sacrifice is written into Eph 22-33 by way of extended analogy. Christ sacrifices Himself for the Church: So too must man and wife be willing to sacrifice themselves for the Family. In this sense, the woman must sacrifice her will or, as St. Paul states, submit her will to her husband; and the man must sacrifice his Ego or self-love, and give love to his wife.

St. Paul cushions this last directive (unless men prove too sensitive that they reject the doctrine) by asserting that "he who loves his own wife, loves himself" (Eph 5:29). The man is thus comforted (to a degree) by the thought that he is not losing his Ego but rather enhancing it. However, such an explanation need not be accepted unconditionally. The point is that a man ought to be willing to "deny themselves in the grind of daily life, put their wives first, and demonstrate love in tangible ways that may interfere with other conflicting desires of a lesser priority."

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Essay on Ephesians 5:22-33 an Exegesis of Assignment

St. Paul is careful to couch his directives toward men in terms of rational explanation, analogy, and orthodoxy. St. Paul's appeal to orthodoxy plays a major role in establishing the passage in men's minds as a duty. He does so with the very first verse directed to men: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word; in order that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:25-27). In these three verses are found the whole of the justification for St. Paul's command to husbands -- and, as has just been stated, that justification is grounded in orthodoxy, the doctrine of the Church as preached by the Apostles.

An examination of these three verses reveals the husband's mission (and it is indicative of St. Paul's understanding of man's nature that the command may be taken in fact as a "mission"). First, the husband must be Christ-like in his love for his wife. This means that his love cannot be sentimental but, on the contrary, deep and principled. It should be sacrificial (Eph 5:25), since Christ "gave himself up" for His Church (of whom the wife is a symbol). Furthermore, the objective is clear: the husband must give himself up for the wife not so that she may rule over him but so that he may "make her holy" through his example of self-sacrifice, which in turn acts as a kind of baptism ("cleansing her by the washing with water through the word") and draws her into the mystery of the Redemption. It is clear that St. Paul gives the man an extraordinary mission, illustrating both the reality (Christ) of the mission and its goal (sanctification). St. Paul's subsequent appeal to common sense ("After all, no one ever hated their own body") is a further attempt to encourage the husband in his mission of loving self-sacrifice.

Relying upon Scripture to Direct Husbands

Reminding the husband that his wife is his own flesh (Gen 2:24), St. Paul relies upon the facts of divine revelation recorded in the Hebrew Old Testament. The sense that the Gentile converts of Asia Minor had no traditional foundation in the Old Testament is irrelevant, for the facts of the Old Testament are incontestable: God made man and woman with a specific purpose in mind.

St. Paul uses this fact as a final thrust in his imperative to husbands, implying that his command is not his own but comes indeed from God Himself (and, moreover, has been decreed since the first man and woman were created). Ernst Kasemann, on the other hand, asserts that the Old Testament plays little part in Ephesians.

While this may be true for Ephesians as a whole, it is undeniable that St. Paul's foundation for his approach to Christian marriage is conceived in Genesis.

St. Paul thus illustrates that his teaching is nothing new or novel but is rather as old as humanity. Now that Christ has come, it has been given a new dimension -- one that deepens the relationship and evokes the Mystery of Christ and His Church. Thus, husbands are not only given a mission -- but they are also given a mystery which they might contemplate as they execute their mission. St. Paul indeed takes very good care to provide for husbands, further illuminating his understanding of man's nature, which craves mental exercise just as much as it craves physical exercise.

Relying upon Simplicity to Direct Wives

St. Paul has to jump through no such hoops in his attempt to instruct the wives. He is clear, precise, and practical with them. His understanding of womankind is clearly present: she requires no in depth analysis or appeal to patriarchy or common sense. On the contrary, it appears that St. Paul expects her to grasp almost at once the veracity and practicality of his words to her: "Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord; because a husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the Church, being himself savior of the body. But just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things" (Eph 5:22-24). Here, in these three verses is contained all that St. Paul means to say to wives. The message is direct and without ambiguity. Its efficacy and place in the greater totality of the Mystery of Redemption is not expounded upon for St. Paul knows there is no need, for the woman by her very nature intuits all of this. Therefore, St. Paul wastes no time with words, which, apparently, the wife already understands.

The wife's role is clear, nonetheless. She is neither to be passive nor aggressive, but subject to her head (who is her husband) just as she (and the Church) are subject to the Lord (Eph 5:22-23). This portion of St. Paul's Epistle is so lucid in its approach to women that there is little wonder it is such a source of trouble to feminist analysis. As Carolyn Osiek asserts, "A feminist analysis indicates some interpretive mistakes and suggests some criteria for approaching this beautiful but dangerous text."

A feminist analysis has difficulty interpreting the text in the light of its own theory, which may well indicate that the theory does not fit the text. Certainly it is a stretch to assert that St. Paul may be read in the light of feminist theory. Everything in Ephesians and in this passage in particular asserts the contrary -- that St. Paul was orthodox and fully accepting of the differences between man and woman.


Andrew Trotter states that "to know the author of an epistle, when it was written, its geographical destination, and something about its readership helps modern day readers to relate the teaching of that epistle more clearly and more consistently to their own concerns."

Thus, the exegesis provided above should help in realizing how Eph 5:22-33 may be applied in modern life. As Gregory W. Dawes notes, however, "Ephesisans 5:21-33 has become a deeply problematic biblical passage for many modern readers."

The reason for this troubling note may be found in the sad fact that the modern world has divorced itself so thoroughly from the orthodoxy that St. Paul embodied.

For example, one need look no further than the feminist theory presented above, in which a single theory asserts that a text may have been translating incorrectly since it fails to fit the worldview represented by the theory. To assert such a premise is a failure of the modern mind to adapt to the demands of the ancient customs, approved by the Church. Here, indeed, is the key for modern application: one must adapt himself to the text, not the text to himself.

When one considers this idea, one finds that it represents the whole idea of Christianity, which is a religion in which man is called to adapt himself to Christ -- to "put on" Christ, as St. Paul asserts everywhere in his Epistles, including Ephesians. If a theory attempts to re-interpret Paul's words in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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