Head and body in Ephesians 5:23
In the light of our recent discussions on the meaning of kefalē, the Greek word for "head", I came across an interesting little point in Ephesians 5:23 today. Here is the Greek text of the second half of the verse:
ὡς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς κεφαλὴ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, αὐτὸς σωτὴρ τοῦ σώματοςliterally translated:
as also the Christ [is] Head of the church, he [is] Saviour of the body.I'm not sure why TNIV rearranges this to:
as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour.(nor why "Saviour" merits a capital letter but "head" does not). For the identification of the body with the church is left implicit here, and in verse 30, although it is of course explicit in 1:22-23. Indeed, and here I partially correct what I noted in a comment on a previous post, Colossians 1:18 is the only place where Paul explicitly describes Christ as "the Head of the body". Also, despite the NASB mistranslation of Colossians 2:10, the only place where Christ is called "Head over" anything at all is in Ephesians 1:22-23, where he is described as:
head over everything for the church, which is his body (TNIV).Thus there is no justification for the claim that Christ is "head over the church", or for assuming that "head of the body" implies a hierarchy.
The interesting point in 5:23 is that here we have two parallel descriptions of Christ, "Head of the church" and "Saviour of the body". I note that the second elements of the parallel, "church" and "body", are known to be identified with one another; also that there is some kind of cross-over or chiasmus here in that "Head" and "body" go together as part of the same metaphor, whereas "church" and "Saviour" go together as less metaphorical and more theological language. This strongly suggests to me that Paul has deliberately constructed a synonymous parallel pair here, with "Head of the church" and "Saviour of the body" effectively having the same meaning. Indeed we could probably unpack the chiasmus and understand Paul as saying "Head of the body, i.e. Saviour of the church".
This is significant in that it shows us what Paul means by "Head", when referring to Christ. Apparently he means not so much "Ruler" as "Saviour".
If so, what are the implications for the first half of the verse, where Paul states that
the husband is the head of the wife (TNIV)?The connection with "as" makes it certain that "head" is being used in the same way in both halves of the verse. We must therefore conclude that the husband is to be understood as the saviour of the wife. How so? For an explanation we need to move on to verses 25-27:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (TNIV).Christ by his sacrificial love as expressed on the cross was able to save the church. And in the same way husbands are expected to "save" their wives by loving them in a self-sacrificial way.
Thus here in Ephesians 5:22-6:9 (and similarly in Colossians 3:18-4:1) Paul takes the traditional form of a "household code", with instructions for various groups, and turns it on its head. In the traditional form, wives were told to submit to their husbands and husbands to rule over their wives, but Paul's version is very different.
Paul does not omit the instruction for wives to submit to their husbands, but transforms it by putting it immediately after the instruction to all in Ephesians 5:21:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (TNIV).Thus the submission of a wife to her husband is only an example of the submission of any believer to any other, including by implication the husband to his wife.
Paul does omit the instruction for men to rule over their wives; indeed this is nowhere taught in the Bible. Paul replaces it with "Husbands, love your wives" (5:25), further explained as quoted above. This omission of "rule" must be significant; the point is surely that for a husband there is no place here for ruling over his wife, but only for love and self-sacrifice.