Is it bigotry? Answering a critic
Is it bigotry to suggest that the term “submit” in Ephesians 5:22 is not in the original text and that translators who imported it into the text may be misled to believe that Christian submission is one-sided? Apparently, one of my readers has recorded his criticism saying that my view borders on bigotry. I set the challenge aside to craft a response when I had time to research a complete answer. I failed to answer in a timely fashion, and another project and ill health put this research on the back shelf. It is now time to provide the evidence for the missing verb in Ephesians 5:22. This post responds to the first part of the criticism that I copied below. I hope that my readers will find the discussion helpful.
First of all, your scholarship is shallow and you are showing a very judgmental attitude toward the translators. It borders on bigotry, I suggest you check your heart before the Lord.
FYI the verse 22 DOES have the word “submit” (upotasso) in it. Only two manuscripts–P46 and B have upotasso left out. “Submit (upotasso) IS in thousands of manuscripts, including Aleph, A, D, F, G, I, K, P, Psi, the Uncials, the Byzantine; ancient translations into Italic, Syriac, Georgian, and Slavic; and ancient quotations by Chysostom, Origen, Basil, Theodore, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose, Jerome, Pelagius, and Augustine (not to mention Ignatius, in the Epistle to the Philadelphians, chap IV). Why did the editors of the NA27 Greek text leave it out? If there’s a bias in this issue, it would seem to be one that wishes to avoid the submission of women to men as taught in this verse. The only major translation that seems to follow the NA27 at this point is the New American Standard. All the others–and rightfully so, given the manuscript evidence–follow vast majority of the manuscripts, and the critical editions such as the Majority Text, Stephanus, Scrivener, and render the verse, “wives, to your own husbands submit, as to the Lord”. (Submitted by Tom)
Why did the editors of the NA27 Greek text leave out the Greek word for “submit”?
Tom suggests that the bias is with the NA27 team. Did they want to avoid the issue of the submission of wives? Tom seems to suggest that at best the scholars who produced the Greek text of NA27 had no good reason to leave out “submit” in Ephesians 5:22 or at worst that they were themselves biased. I set out to look objectively at the evidence. I found several compelling reasons for the omission of the verb “submit”. I also found out that the NA27 is not the only Greek text that has the term omitted in Ephesians 5:22. The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (Society for Biblical Literature), the UBS 4th edition and the NA28 all leave out the verb in verse 22. There are also countless scholars and commentaries that note that the earliest manuscripts do not have the verb in verse 22. So, let’s have a careful look at the evidence.
Early evidence of Jerome
Jerome (born 347 AD) was an early witness saying he knew of no Greek manuscript that had the verb in verse Ephesians 5:22.
The testimony of Jerome, who knew of no Greek MSS. with the verb, is very important. No reason can be imagined for its omission if it had been in the text originally, whereas the reason for its insertion is obvious, and was stated even by Erasmus: “adjectum, ut apparet, quo et sensus sit lucidior, et capitulum hoc separatim legi queat, si res ita postulet.” The latter reason is particularly to be noted. The diversity in the MSS. which have the verb is also of weight. The shorter reading agrees well with the succinct style of St. Paul in his practical admonitions. (A critical and exegetical commentary on the epistles fo the Ephesians and to the Colossians pg 165 by T.K. Abbott)
What Erasmus was saying in the Latin is that the scholars added to what the Spirit said, and they did it (added a word into the original Greek text) to make it easier to read the verse separately (without the context). Jerome was best known for translating most of the Bible into Latin. His translation became known as the Vulgate. If there was no copy of the Greek manuscript available in Erasmus’ time that had “submit” in Ephesians 5:22, that is a very important piece of information. There was no valid reason for the removal of “submit” in verse 22 if it was in the original.
The next evidence is the quality of the earliest text evidence for Ephesians 5:22.
Only two manuscripts but the “best” Greek text
Tom in his response to me says that the verb is in thousands of manuscripts and ancient translations. He says that “only two manuscripts–P46 and B have upotasso (submit) left out.” What Tom doesn’t reveal is that the manuscripts that do not have the addition of “submit” in verse 22 are among the oldest manuscripts that have been found. P46 is one of the oldest extant New Testament manuscripts in Greek. It was written on papyrus, and it has been dated back to between 175-225 A.D. Only about forty Greek papyrus copies of the New Testament have survived from that period. P46 is the earliest extant collection of Paul’s letters. A photograph of P46 that includes Ephesians 5:8-25 is available online here. What Tom also does not reveal is that of all the manuscripts that contain “submit” in Ephesians 5:22, there is no agreement regarding the grammar of the verb or the word order where “submit” is placed.
Ernest Best gives a three point strong argument for why the absence of any form of the verb is the correct reading.
Many MSS do in fact have a passive form of ὑποτάσσω, either (1) the second plural of the imperative with position either preceding ὡς (as in K 181 614; Chrysostom) or following γυναῖκες (as in D F G 1985), or (2) the third plural of the imperative whose position again varies either preceding ὡς as in א A I P … and the great majority of the Greek Fathers, or following γυναῖκες as in Ψ. No form of the verb is found in B46 B; Cl Hiermss. Because (i) of the variation in both position and form of the inserted verb, (ii) of the absence of any satisfactory reason for its omission if once present, and (iii) its presence would clarify the connection between v. 22 and v. 21, the absence of any form of the verb is the correct reading. It probably came to be inserted when 5:22–33 was read as a unit in worship; a lectionary reading could hardly begin with a verbless sentence (cf Erasmus). (A critical and exegetical commentary on Ephesians (p. 531). Edinburgh: T&T Clark International by Ernest Best, 1998)
Peter T. O’Brien concurs:
The verb ‘submit’ does not appear in the best Greek text, so that the verse is dependent for its sense on the participle of v. 21. This is the reading of 𝔓46 B Clement Origen and several Greek mss. [manuscripts] according to Jerome. Other textual traditions supply some form of ὑποτάσσειν (‘submit’) before or after τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν (‘their husbands’), such as ὑποτάσσεσθε (‘be subject’) or ὑποτασσέσθωσαν (‘let them be subject’). Most editors argue for the omission of the verb because it is the shorter reading and it is likely that later scribes included the verb for the sake of clarity. For a detailed discussion see B. M. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 608–9. (The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to the Ephesians. Peter T. O’Brien 1999)
The shorter reading is preferred
John Muddiman’s The Epistle to the Ephesians under the Black’s New Testament Commentary series gives a very interesting motive for the addition of the word “submit” in Ephesians 5:22. He also admits that the text without the addition is preferred.
22 There is no verb present in P46 or B but the majority of other MSS have supplied the obvious one, ‘submit’, placing it either before or after the reference to husbands and in either the second (‘wives, submit’) or third person imperative (‘let wives submit’). The shorter text should probably be preferred, and then this verse will depend grammatically on verse 21: ‘Submit to one another … wives to husbands’. One then expects the sentence to conclude ‘and husbands to wives’. The motive behind the longer readings is precisely to avoid creating that unfulfilled expectation. The grammatical awkwardness of verse 22 has resulted from the editor borrowing its verb for his formulation of verse 21. He will remind us again of this opening injunction of the code later at verses 24 and 33. MSS manuscripts Muddiman, J. (2001). The Epistle to the Ephesians (pp. 257–258). Black’s New Testament Commentary by John Muddiman.
“B” rating is almost certain
The shorter reading is rated as “B”, indicating that this reading is almost certain.
Some manuscripts place ὑποτάσσεσθε ‘be subject to’ or ὑποτασσέσθωσαν ‘let them be subject to’ after either γυναῖκες ‘wives’ or ἀνδράσιν ‘husbands’. GNT supports the reading without these verb forms with a B rating, indicating that this reading is almost certain. (GNT is The Greek New Testament. Edited by B. Aland, K Aland, J. Karavidopoulos, C. Martini, and B. Metzger. 4th ed. London, New York: United Bible Societies, 1993.) From An Exegetical Summary of Ephesians (2nd ed., p. 477) by Glen Graham, 2008.
On the same page from the above Exegetical Summary lists commentaries, Bibles and Greek grammars that all admit that verse 22 is a verbless clause. Glen Graham lists the books in their short form and then lists the full book name with the author in the credits. It is an impressive list that includes The Anchor Bible, A. T. Robertson’s Greek Grammer, F. F. Bruce’s commentary on Ephesians, James Moulton’s A Grammar of New Testament Greek, and the Word Biblical Commentary. I have bolded the abbreviated name of each book and beside the corresponding full volume name and author in the credits to make it easier to identify the book.
QUESTION—What relationship is indicated by this verbless clause? This clause is dependent upon the preceding participial clause, therefore the 2nd. pers. sing. imperative ὑποτάσσεσθε ‘be subject to’ is implied [AB, Alf, Can, Ea, EBC, EGT, El, HG, LJ, Lns, Mou, My, NIC, NTC, Rob, St, TH, TNTC, WBC, We, WeBC]. The continuity of the apostle’s style did not require a verb here [Ea], so that the idea conveyed in the participle in the previous clause guides the meaning of this one. Wives are exhorted to be dutiful to their husbands in the spirit of the preceding participle [Ea, LJ]. The argument is: if you are submissive to one another in the fear of Christ, how much more should wives be submissive to those to whom they naturally owe submission (and likewise with children and slaves) [LJ]. Some commentators note that the structure of this clause in relation to 5:21 indicates an example of the preceding command, given in the participle ὑποτασσόμενοι ‘being subject to’, now being presented in the text [AB, WeBC]. The example of the subordination of wives is the same mutual subordination which is also shown by the love of the husband, the obedience of the children, the parent’s responsibility for their children, and the slaves’ and masters’ attitude toward each other [AB].
AB Barth, Markus. Ephesians. The Anchor Bible, vols. 34, 34A. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1974. Alf Alford, Henry. “Ephesians”. In vol 3 of The Greek Testament. 1874. Revised by Everett F. Harrison. Chicago: Moody Press, 1958. Can Candlish, James S. The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1901. Ea Eadie, John. A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. Edited by W. Young. 1883. Reprint. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1979. EBC Wood, A. Skevington. “Ephesians”. In vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gabelein. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1978. EGT Salmond, S. D. F. “The Epistle to the Ephesians,” In vol. 3 of The Expositor’s Greek Testament, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll. Nd. Reprint. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1970. El Ellicott, Charles J. St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. 5th ed. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1884. HG Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman, 1934. LJ Lloyd-Jones, D. Martin. Individually titled volumes on the exposition of Ephesians. 8 vols. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1972–82. Lns Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians. Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg, 1937. Mou Moulton, James Hope. Prolegomena. A Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol. 1. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: T.and T. Clark, 1908. My Meyer, Heinrich August Wilhelm. “Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistle to the Ephesians”. In vol. 7 of Meyer’s Commentary on the New Testament. Translated from the 4th German edition by Maurice J. Evans and the translation revised and edited by William P. Dickson. With a preface, translation of references and supplementary notes to the American edition by Henry E. Jacobs. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1884. NIC Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1984. NTC Hendriksen, William. Exposition of Ephesians. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1967. Rob Robinson, J. Armitage. Commentary on Ephesians. 2nd ed. 1904. Reprint. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 1979. St Stott, John R. W. God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity, 1979. TH Bratcher, Robert G., and Eugene A. Nida. A Translator’s Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. New York: United Bible Societies, 1982. TNTC Foulkes, Francis. The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1956. WBC Lincoln, Andrew T. Ephesians. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas, Texas: Word, 1990. We Westcott, Brooke Foss. Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. 1906. Reprint. Minneapolis, Minn.: Klock and Klock, 1983. WeBC Carter, Charles W. “The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians,” In vol. 5 of The Wesleyan Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1965.
More scholarly evidence
More evidence that biblical scholarship accepts that “submit” is absent from the original Greek in Ephesians 5:22 –
5:22–24. Wives are to submit to their husbands. (The verb “submit,” absent in Gr. in v. 22, is borrowed from v. 21.) Hoehner, H. W. (1985). Ephesians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 640). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books
18–24 These verses are grammatically a single sentence (obscured by all translations). This means that the injunction to wives and husbands in vs 22–33 (along with the similar material which follows in 6:1–9) is presented as a typical example of the respectful, submissive wisdom that should characterize believers. Indeed, the verb ‘submit’ supplied in most translations at v 22 has no equivalent in Paul’s Greek, but is understood from its appearance in the dependent participle clause ‘submitting to one another’ in v 21. Turner, M. (1994). Ephesians. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1241). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
5:22 “wives, be subject” There is no verb in the Greek text of v. 22. It is supplied from v. 21. In this context it is not a command, but a PRESENT PASSIVE PARTICIPLE. Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8, p. 129). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.
On the other hand, there is no main verb in 5:22. The “submit” of “Wives submit to your husbands” must be dependent upon the verb “submit” in 5:21. Fowl, S. E. (2012). Ephesians: A Commentary. (C. C. Black, M. E. Boring, & J. T. Carroll, Eds.) (First Edition, p. 186). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
In my next post, I will continue to answer Tom’s criticism, and I will provide evidence that the term “submit” from Ephesians 5:21 is mutual Christian submission.