We’re going to start with Titus 2, with a focus on the part relating to “submission”.
Titus 2:1-5 (YLT) “And thou — be speaking what doth become the sound teaching; aged men to be temperate, grave, sober, sound in the faith, in the love, in the endurance; aged women, in like manner, in deportment as doth become sacred persons, not false accusers, to much wine not enslaved, of good things teachers, that they may make the young women sober-minded, to be lovers of [their] husbands, lovers of [their] children, sober, pure, keepers of [their own] houses, good, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be evil spoken of.”
The word for “subject” here is “hupotassomenas”, which is the same root word of hupotasso used in Eph 5 referring to wives being “submissive” to husbands. This word hupotasso would be better translated as “submit themselves” to their own husbands. Here the instruction is for older women to teach the younger to submit themselves to their husbands. In all places in which the Bible directs instructions directly to wives, telling them to submit such as Eph 5, the word hupotasso is reflexive, which means that this is something wives are told to do to themselves, like wash themself, or dress themself. Hupotasso is always directed towards wives to “submit themselves”.
Here, the stated reason why is so “that the word of God may not be evil spoken of.” The phrase “evil spoken of” is an ok translation, as the word in Greek is “blasphemetai”, which according to Strong’s mean “abusive, speaking evil” and Thayer’s says “to speak reproachfully of, rail at, revile, calumniate”. (I prefer the Thayer’s to the Strong’s as it is generally more reliable in my opinion.)
The “word of God” here seems like it must refer to the Bible, specifically the Old Testament as of this point in time. This is an assertion, but if Paul was referencing only to his own letters and the Gospels as scriptures would not seem likely. It is far more in keeping with Paul’s writings to see the “word of God” here to mean the Old Testament. So basically Titus 2 says that it is sound teaching that women should be submissive to their own husbands so that people will not rail at or speak reproachfully about the Word of God, which was the Old Testament at this time.
This reason makes sense if a lack of submission of wives to their husbands would create a stumbling block or tempt people to think (incorrectly) that the Old Testament has some flaw in it, that people would use as opportunity to speak evil of the Old Testament. And it only makes sense if the Old Testament does, in fact, speak on wives being submissive to their husbands.
Therefore somewhere in the Old Testament there is something that verifies that women should, as Christians, be submissive to their own husbands. Yet, nowhere in Titus 2:1-5 do the verses specifically say that the Old Testament actually says “wives submit to your husbands”. Titus 2 does not say that it is written in the Old Testament “wives submit to your own husbands”. But something must be written in the Old Testament that would result in that wives should be submissive to their own husbands, else the Old Testament would be falsely criticized and reviled at.
So, I read the whole Bible and could not find a place in the Old Testament where it says “wives submit to your husbands” or “women submit to men”. I looked. I sought. I did not find.
What I did find was Genesis 3:16, which says that “he will rule over you” or “he will govern over you” and that is how I read it, not “he shall rule over you” but that “he will rule over you”. This is an important difference, because “he shall rule” implies that God is giving permission, which He is not because he is describing something evil and unwanted, because all the things here are the negative consequences of the fall that God is listing:
Gen 3:14-19 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
To the woman He said,
Multiply, I will multiply your pains, and your conception in pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.
“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
Now, as much as pain in childbirth, a cursed ground, and eating dust, are negative repercussions of the fall so also is “he will rule over you” also a negative repercussion of the fall. God is not giving the man permission to rule over the woman here, but rather God is speaking to the woman and is letting the woman know of the worst consequences of the fall into sin. Some of those consequences include God placing a curse on the snake, and on the ground, putting enmity between the woman and the snake, and causing multiplying of the woman’s pain of childbearing. But no where here does God say that He will cause the man to rule over her, or give permission for him to do so, but rather this is stated as a negative consequence of the fall that naturally follows and extends from her and the man’s new, sinful, nature.
So I do not read this as “he shall rule” but instead “he will rule”. As “he will rule” implies that it is going to happen, like “it will rain” which simply put means, it’s going to happen. The question here is whether God is talking about negative consequences of sin, and He is. As such, “he will rule over you” is a negative consequence of the fall into sin.
So how does “he will rule over you” relate to Titus 2? Because God is giving a prophecy in Gen 3:16. God is stating the facts in Genesis 3:16. It is a fact “He will rule over you”. It’s going to happen. And that’s what I see, looking over the history of humanity. Husbands have ruled over wives. Men have ruled over women. It has happened. And as a trend in the world, it makes sense that a sinful man is going to beat a sinful women every time, if for no other reason than his superior physical strength. He is stronger and she is weaker.
So what is being said in Titus? That there is another way for the Old Testament statement “he will rule over you” to be true. That what God says will happen, will happen, that “he will rule over you”, that husbands will rule over their wives.
But there is more than one way that this can be true: The old way, seen throughout history and in the Bible itself, is that the husband rules over his wife through a forceful sinful domination. The new way is the way described in Eph 5 and other places in the New Testament, a way of the wife voluntarily submitting herself and showing respect, and the husband loving and honoring the wife. This new way replaces the old way, for Christians.
And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church submits to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.
FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife in order that she respects her husband.
And this means that women should be submissive because that is another way, a new way, a Christian way, that replaces the old way of a husband trying to dominate. There are good rulers and bad rulers, and a good way to govern and a bad way to govern. Both the old bad domination and the new good accepted leadership of a willing follower can both be true under the statement “he will rule over you”. But they are worlds apart, like night and day! And it is the honor of the wife to carry out God’s word by being submissive to her own husband, protecting the Bible from people speaking evil against it, and in doing so strengthening her witness.
Still what is submission? More on just what submission Is in another article. Still, nothing so far has defined submission any more than describing it as part of a replacement for the man dominating his wife. And Nothing so far has said women are to be submissive to men, but rather only that wives are to be submissive to their own husbands.