- however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. RSV
First, the Greek word phobeomai , found in Eph. 5:33 maps poorly onto the English word "respect." In the Tyndale and Coverdale translations the word was "fear." This was changed to "reverence" and finally "respect," while phobeomai, when used with reference to God, is still translated as "fear." So a certain part of the sense of the chapter has been watered down.
We might consider whether wives were in a position where they were to phobeomai "fear" their husbands. Perhaps they were in a relationship not completely different from that of the slave to the slave owner.
On the other hand, I would like to continue exploring further the semantic range of phobeomai. It is used in the commandments in Lev. 19:3
- Ye shall fear (phobeomai) every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. Lev. 19:3
Honour (timao) thy father and thy mother Ex. 20:12
Children, obey (hupakouo) your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Eph. 6:1
Honour (timao) thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; Eph. 6:2
- For although they knew God, they did not honor (timao( him as God or give thanks to him, Romans 1:21
but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. Romans 2:10
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 1 Cor. 12:23
Honor widows who are truly widows. 1 Tim. 5:3
Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, 1 Tim. 6:1
Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7
I see two choices for the interpretation of Eph. 5:33. "Respect" (phobeomai) could nean that a wife must "obey" or "fear" her husband because he has power over her. If this is the case, then the wife is no better than a child or a slave. The relationship is not reciprocal and according to John Gottman, the person who is not respected, in this case the wife, is demeaned and deprived of dignity.
The second choice is that "respect" phobeomai is roughly equivalent to "honor" timao. If this is the case, then the husband must honor his wife according to the scriptures. "Honor" is something which is reciprocal within the adult church members. Widows especially must be honored.
When Eggerichs writes,
- Interestingly enough, scientific research confirms that love and respect are the foundation of a successful marriage
- Gottman's findings confirm what has already been in Scripture for some two thousand years. Chapter 5 of Ephesians is considered by many to be the most significant treatise on marriage in the New Testament. Paul concludes these statements on marriage by getting gender specific in verse 33. He reveals commands from the very heart of God as he tells the husband he must love his wife unconditionally and the wife must respect her husband, whether or not her husband comes across as loving. page 35-36
I firmly believe that women should be invited into reciprocal relations with men. Unfortunately only men can facilitate this.