Monday, October 1, 2012

Submission as Vocation, not "be dominated"

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.


There it was.  The worst period in the bible.  The worst artificial break, the worst destruction of a sentence that we see in translating.   The above is copied from the ESV, but pretty near every translation does it.

What am I talking about?  The is no period between verses 21 and 22 in the Greek, it's a semi-colon -- the idea of 21 is fleshed out in 22 and what follows.  But nope, we put a period in there -- in fact, we even through in a heading -- if you want to read about Wives and Husbands just start here at verse 22...

... in the middle of the sentence.

I think this unfortunate and terrible tradition of mistranslation has led to more stupidity and tomfoolery than most others, and why?  Because of the word "submit".  The Greek word there is "hypotasso" - I order under".  In Greek it refers to what happens when you follow a leader, when you arraign your life after them -- if you are in the second row of a marching band that is marching in a parade, and the front row turns left, what do you do?  You turn left - because you are "ordered under" them.  You follow their lead.

Submit is a Latin term - it has Latin overtones - and I suppose it is a direct move from the Greek idea into Latin.  Hypo and Sub both mean order, and tasso and mit both mean place, order.  But here's the problem.  The Greek term focus on organization, everything in its place.  The Latin term -- well, think about Rome.  How did they bring about order?  Was it the voluntary organization of everyone knowing how they fit -- or was it the legions coming in and establishing order by putting people in their place?

"Submit" is a word with a lot of violence, with a lot of force beside it.  We hear the word "submit" and we think that it means "be dominated".  And we take this and we apply it to wives (even though Christ told us not to lord it over one another, not to dominus it ... dominate it... over one another).

Which we would see is clearly wrong if we just read the first part of the sentence, the part before the fake period, verse 21.  Submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ, (wives submitting to your husbands...).

If "submit" is supposed to be a word of power and domination -- how in the world are we supposed to submit to one another?  Domination doesn't work that way.  I have power, I keep it, and you are always down beneath me -- now go make me a pie!

Submission is not "be dominated" - it is a call for Christians to live out their vocations -- because in our vocations we all serve one another.

Consider Luther's table of duties from the Catechism.  We'll just do the first pairing:
Certain passages of scripture for various holy orders and positions,
admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities

For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.
A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3:2ff ; Titus 1:6.
What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors.
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Gal. 6:6. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5:17-18. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17.]

Now, is this about power and structure and authority?  No -- it's about how each serves the other - the Pastor serves by preaching, the Hearers serve by supporting.  They submit to each other.
I, as a pastor, don't get to simply preach about whatever I want -- I submit my preaching and teaching to my people - I shape what I preach according to their needs -- I follow their lead.  Likewise, the congregation does submit to me, they give of time and money to support me, to see that I am carried for.  We both shape our lives around each other - we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This same pattern holds for the rest of the table of duties, indeed, for any vocation you can think of.  Why?  Because submission is a word that describes Vocation, not domination.

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