Saturday, March 14, 2009

Love and Respect 4

I fell out of order somehow. A little bit of the white queen sometimes, I'm afraid.

One of the difficulties with using the "love and respect" pair in Ephesians 5:33 to represent the marriage relationship, as Eggerichs does is that there is no Bible which gives us a transparent translation of this verse.

In all the major translations which I reviewed I found that people are still to "fear" God, but wives are to "respect" their husbands. It is striking that all translations have agreed to translate the word phobeomai differently in collocation with God and with husband.

The word "respect" in English only marginally includes hierarchy in the meaning, if the context makes this clear already. So, it is the context and not the word "respect" which communicates hierarchy. We can equally say in English "respect your children" and "respect your elders." I noted about 60,000 hits in google for "respect your children" and 100,000 hits for "respect your elders." One cannot say that the word "respect" necessarily involves a recognition of hierarchy.

There is, however, the expression to "respect" someone with greater power. One might say that you should have a "healthy respect for bears" and not feed them in national parks. This may be a trace reminder that "respect" once included the meaning "fear." Here are a few takes from google.
    Every person in the backcountry should have a healthy respect for bears: a sense of caution, knowledge and awareness of potential hazards. ...

    Although most people maintain a healthy respect for bears, this wilderness ethic goes far beyond fearing bears and their powerful abilities. ...

    Bear attacks are rare, and most can be avoided with the proper precautions. Always maintain a healthy respect for wildlife. Never feed animals, and be sure ...

    Vancouver Island is home to black bear and cougar, and while conflict between these animals and humans cannot always be avoided, a healthy respect for their wildness is key to reducing dangerous encounters.
So the question is whether a husband "needs" this kind of respect, or whether Ephesians 5:33 recommends "respect" because it is a part of the existing power relations at that time. In some sense it is hard to replicate the meaning of phobeomai, but we should be hesitant to read it into the use of the word "respect" in most social science literature. Park signage is a different thing altogether.

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