Beware Labeling Ephesians 5 as a Household Code
by Bruce C. E. Fleming
Many call Ephesians 5:22-6:9 an example of a household code inserted by Paul at this point in Ephesians. This is incorrect.
Some point out that verse 5:21 also needs to be included in any consideration of this passage. This is a valid point but also falls short of recognizing what Paul is doing in the literary structure of Ephesians 5.
So what is happening? There is no household code in Ephesians 5 at all. This passage is all about Christ and the church. In it, Paul uses a pattern of fours beginning with 5:15 that builds up to the Great Mystery of 5:32 which is now revealed.
The entire passage must be studied and understood as a whole. If one starts with verse 22 or even verse 21 the intent of the passage is misunderstood. It becomes a tool for special pleading which gets us off the track and into the weeds of confusion, argument and bad practice. The passage begins with 5:15 and runs through 6:9. The entire passage turns on 5:32 and relationships of believers with Christ.
Even recognizing the importance of 5:21 isn’t sufficient to gain a proper understanding of what is being said by Paul. This is because verse 21 is the second part of a parallelism linked with the first part of 5:19. In these two parts Paul is dealing with the interaction of believers who speak, or teach and admonish one another (19a), and who submit themselves to one another in Christ (21).
The six Episodes of Season Two of The Eden Podcast are devoted to a verse-by-verse study of this very important passage. The literary patterns used by Paul in this most magnificent of passages are explained.
Properly understanding what Paul IS saying, we are able to see what he didn’t say. He did not say that women are to obey men.
Paul did not misunderstand what happened back in the Garden of Eden when Genesis 3:16 is properly understood. In Genesis 3:16 God did not curse Eve (or Adam) or limit woman in any way. What happened in Eden is the subject of Season One and also is covered in my new volume entitled The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3