What is understood by submission in marriage? – Part 1

February 14, 2017

What is understood by submission in marriage? – Part 1

Today we will answer the question that asks why women are called to submit to their husbands in the Orthodox ceremony of matrimony. 

To answer this question, we need to go all the way back to see what it is that happened within the fall of mankind that lead the Orthodox Church to make such a declaration?

We will separate the answers in to two videos.

This video will focus on understanding what happened to both man and woman and to all of creation when the fall of mankind occurred through Adam and Eve.

We need to begin by asking if this was God’s intention from the beginning for man to have an authority over his wife and if this was part of His Divine plan for all creation from the beginning (before the fall)?

To answer this we turn to Genesis 3:16.  At this point the Lord God was speaking to both Adam and Eve and He turned to Eve and asked her about what was it that she has done.  She answered by saying that the serpent deceived her and she ate the fruit and she fell and she offered it to her husband who also fell.  In this verse the Lord God explains the natural consequences to women because Eve fell into the sin. He tells Eve that from now on “your desire shall be to your husband only and he shall rule over you’. 

This is important for us to us to understand that there has been a shift.  God is explaining the consequences of something that He never intended.  As a matter of fact we see this clearly in the explanation of St John Chrysostom when he gives his commentary on Genesis. 

When St John is speaking, he is speaking as if it was God speaking to Eve: “In the beginning I created you equal in esteem to your husband, and my intention was that in everything you would share with him as an equal, and as I entrusted control of everything to your husband, so did I to you; but you abused your equality of status.  Hence I subject you to your husband”

This is the understanding of St John Chrysostom.  He is telling us that God’s original plan was for Adam and Eve (man and woman) to be united in one flesh and walking next to each other holding handsEver since the fall there is a commandment that has been given, not that you shall let go of each other’s hands, but rather that the man should take a step up and lead and the woman should take a step back and follow.  Man and woman no longer stand side by side.  They stand united and not separated but with the man having a pace a little bit faster than hers in order to lead the way.

Now why is it that God asked Adam to do this?

To understand why God called Adam to be able to rule over his wife and for Eve to submit and for her desire to be only to her husband we need to understand the meaning of the word rule

In Genesis 3:16 when it says “your husband shale rule over you” the original Hebraic word is ‘Mashal’.  The word expresses not necessarily a notion of power and authority towards a subordinate but it explains that through leadership you make someone like you or you assimilate the other to you.

So God was telling Eve that your husband will make you like him that he will lead you in a direction where you both will be together.

To understand the notion of not being separated let’s explore again what happened at the fall.  We see an image of Eve away from the husband speaking to the serpent alone and in that situation she falls and brings the fruit to her husband to eat and hence he also falls.  So instead of helping him she offered to him the fruit of disobedience.  So God is trying to reinstate the original purpose of man and woman being together.  That they both walk together with one purpose and one will which is to know Him. 

Now are we simply saying that only women fell?  No of course not, Adam also is mistaken in the story.  He has part responsibility.  Adam was given the responsibility of making sure that he was the head (just like Christ is the head of the Church today).  St John Chrysostom shows us this in his commentary where he speaks as if it was God speaking to Adam and says: “ After all you are the head of your wife, and she has been created for your sake; but you have inverted the proper order:  not only have you failed to keep her on the straight and narrow but you have been dragged down with her, and whereas the rest of the body should follow the head , the contrary has in fact occurred, the head following the rest of the body, turning things upside down.”

St John is explaining the fact that in the fall everything was flipped upside down.  It was the man who was supposed to hold his wife dear and close to him and walk with her in the knowledge of God and she was supposed to be his helper who supported him in growing in the knowledge of God.  In the fall it was the opposite, he was not leading her it was her leading him and she was not helping him she was the reason for his fall. 

Now God tries to reinstitute a new order; an order where things go back to the way He intended it to be. 

God gives us the perfect example of how a husband should be when Christ became a man and He became the Bridegroom of His wife, His bride the Church.

To understand that we will see it in a separate video when we discuss what St Paul the Apostle has to say about Christ the Bridegroom and the wife being exactly like the Church (the bride).


Remember know your faith, live your faith and teach your faith


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