Jesus Didn’t Preach a Gendered Gospel





1. the teaching or revelation of Christ.

2. the record of Jesus’ life and teaching in the first four books of the New Testament.



“[..] the apostle Paul consistently championed the principle of sexual equality within the Church and the home. He carefully avoided those words in Greek that would connote meanings that-ironically-our modern English translations imply! He carefully selected his words in writing about women and marriage, challenging the social roles for women in his age and the philosophy and theology that defined these roles. And yet his words have been interpreted so as to defend the very roles he challenged. ”
(John Temple Bristow, What Paul Really Said about Women).

There is often a lot of controversy over certain passages of Scripture in the Bible. One of those controversial passages includes undoubtedly Ephesians chapter 5. Without question Paul’s Gospel, as it has been called, is straight from the Lord, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11-12. Ephesians chapter 5 is often the center of controversy between complementarians and egalitarians – the two main theological views of gender in the Bible.

“Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. […] For some Christians whose complementarian view is biblically-prescribed, these separate roles preclude women from specific functions of ministry within the community. Though women may be precluded from certain roles and ministries they are held to be equal in moral value and of equal status. The phrase used to describe this is ‘Ontologically equal, Functionally different’. Complementarians assign primary headship roles to men and support roles to women—based on their interpretation of certain biblical passages. One of the precepts of Complementarianism is that while women may assist in the decision-making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the purview of the male in marriage, courtship, and in the polity of churches subscribing to this view.”


The main contrasting viewpoint is egalitarianism which maintains positions of authority and responsibility in marriage, religion, business, and elsewhere should be equally available to females as well as males, and ‘male chauvinism’, is a generalized bias that in most situations benefits men and them of significantly greater value than women. Source: Wikipedia.

“Egalitarianism (from French égal, meaning ‘equal’)—or equalitarianism —is a trend of thought that favors equality for all people. “The main contrasting viewpoints are egalitarianism which maintains positions of authority and responsibility in marriage, religion, business, and elsewhere should be equally available to females as well as males, and ‘male chauvinism’, a generalized bias that in most situations men are of significantly greater value than women.” Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term has two distinct definitions in modern English: either as a political doctrine that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights; or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people, economic egalitarianism, or the decentralization of power. Some sources define egalitarianism as the point of view that equality reflects the natural state of humanity. […] The Christian egalitarian view holds that the Bible teaches the fundamental equality of women and men of all racial and ethnic mixes, all economic classes, and all age groups, but within the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, God, and the overarching principles of scripture. Within the wide range of Christianity, there are dissenting views to this from opposing groups, some of which are Complementarians and Patriarchalists. There are also those who may say that, whilst the Bible encourages equality, it also encourages law and order and social structure (for example, parents having authority over their children, and the view that the wife should submit to her husband).[Eph. 5:22-33] These ideas are considered by some to be contrary to the ideals of egalitarianism. At its foundation, Galatians 3:28 holds that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”—defining all as equal in the sight of God. Similarly, Colossians 3:11 says, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all”, defining all as equal in the sight of God in relationship to faith in Jesus Christ.” Source: Wikipedia.

I am going to analyze and interpret Ephesians 5:21-24 in the following exegetical study by simply following the original Greek text of the passage while considering both historical and cultural context.

“Wives, be subject 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 is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:21-24.

Other examples of similar verses…

1 Peter 3:1 also says:

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not
the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of
the wives;”

and Colossians 3:18 as well:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”

(also Ephesians 5:22 mentioned above) all say  in English that women are to submit to/be subject to/obey their husbands. The words in the original Koine Greek are hypotassomenai and hypotassesthe respectively. The root of both words is hupotasso. The word has two meanings and uses for military and non-military use.

  1. The military use of the word hupotasso, as it would have been used during the time of Paul, means “to be obedient and to arrange in order in reference to a hierarchy of command”.

2. The non-military use of the word as it would have been used in everyday common   speech during Paul’s time also had the secondary meaning of “to assume a
responsibility and to help carry a burden”. This gives women a place of
responsibility in the call of God and authority within the family and spousal dynamic.

You can look at the definition here for yourself: NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon

The second non-military definition of hupotasso is often ignored and completely eliminated during the discussion of submission. This has often led to abuse and misuse of Scripture that paints women as second class partakers in both the Church and the marriage covenant. Often times we will hear people say things to the nature of “submission doesn’t mean less in value”. If submission isn’t that complicated but rather something natural that women are designed to do then why is this subject so controversial? It is controversial because the traditional interpretation is purposefully incorrect and misleading.

For many people who have studied this subject this is the first time that they have heard of the second definition of hupatasso. It is also often the first time that many have been made aware of the fact that the word had both a military and non-military common everyday usage during Paul’s time. It is common sense that a wife is not a part of a military chain of command and nor would a woman ever been referred to in this way in first century Rome. The first definition of the word hupotasso would have actually referred strictly to men only. The second definition can apply to both men and women. This gives a very different definition, understanding and meaning to the application of the word submission as we know it.

The issue of submission is an issue that the Church as a whole needs to revisit and rethink. It is not the Bible that is wrong; it is the interpretation and translation that is incorrect. Many have made the teachings of Christ a gendered Gospel that appeals to their own desire for power and is filtered through their own biases. We must not filter the Bible through ourselves but rather study the Scriptures within the context in which they are written. We must ask the Holy Spirit for inspiration and direction as to what His meanings are behind the Scriptures that we don’t fully understand. Rather than just assuming that we know, we should ask for interpretation and direction.

Leave a Reply