This post mostly relies on excerpts from Litore’s notes on translation. Thus a lot of “” in what follows.
What Lirore is doing is going back to the meanings of the words used and the historical context to seek a meaning from what the text says rather than what it was taken to mean by Victorian English readers.
From now until “end quote three” I am quoting Litore.
“the Greek sentence begins a verse earlier and continues well past 5: 22, and in Koine Greek, it reads more like this:
Set yourselves in support of one another out of reverence for Christ: wives, for your husbands… husbands, love your wives… etc.
There are several problems with how we use this passage.
The first problem is that we start quoting it midsentence, and so we lose sight of the fact that in any case we couldn’t talk about wives submitting to husbands without also talking about husbands submitting to wives.”
…end quote one…
“more faithfully to both the biblical ideal of the eshet chayil and to the larger context of this passage:
“Wives, go to battle for your husbands.”
“Wives, defend your husbands.”
The word being translated here is a combination of the verb -tasso with the prefix hupo-.
What we miss right away in English is that this verb was a military term for arranging soldiers in ordered formation to confront an enemy.
In fact, if you were to look up the verb in Strong’s concordance (it’s #5021), you would find the following explication:
“/tasso (place in position, post) was commonly used in ancient military language for designating/appointing /commissioning a specific status…”
“tasso was primarily a military term meaning ‘to draw up in order, arrange in place, assign, appoint, order…”
What we’re talking about is not an ancient Greek word for abstract obedience but a concrete metaphor of military support.
The grammar is important, too. The ending of the word hupotassemenoi tells us we’re in the middle voice.
“Arrange yourselves under.” “Deploy yourselves under.”
This is important, because as we will see in this chapter, the women of the early church were called to lives of vigorous activity, not passive subservience.
….end quote two…
“The first-century ekklesia is invited to operate in concert (homothumadon, “of one mind”) like a Greek phalanx or a Roman battle square.
Soldiers in the Roman army fought as a cohesive unit, not as individual warriors.
Each soldier wields a blade in one hand and, with the other, shields the soldier to their left.
It is a military ethos reliant on interdependency.
That is what Ephesians is about—not hierarchy and obedience, but the disciplined and alert support that Christians are called to provide each other.
Hupotassemenoi is actually a remarkable word to use in this first-century Greek text because military metaphors were usually reserved for men.
In Ephesians, however, people of all genders are invited to equip themselves with the “full armor of God” and deploy themselves within a battle-ready unit in support of each other.”
…end quote three…
— Lives of Unforgetting: What We Lose in Translation When We Read the Bible, and A Way of Reading the Bible as a Call to Adventure by Stant Litore
My thoughts based on what Litore writes.
First The pulling in the reference to the Roman military formations from the original text and the interdependent nature of the way they arrayed themselves really brings it home.
Modern military units don’t really have something quite so interdependent where everyone in the line of combat shields the person next to them and relies on the next person to shield them.
That part of Litore’s analysis really brought home what he was saying to me, especially given my fifty year old amateur historian hobby.
Second, I really appreciated his calling out Victorian and feudal overlays to scripture significant. That we need to restore original meaning to the words rather than be submerged in more recent cultural mores
I found the analysis of this part of what we need to restore to the reading of the scripture especially interesting and significant for a church where we believe in the restoration of what has drifted out of the scriptures with changed language and translations.
It makes sense that if we are looking for a restoration or remembrance of things that are lost we are going back to what was written rather than the culture of the times of Queen Victoria.
Otherwise, what restoration was really needed?
For our readers:
- Do you think there was a need for restoration?
- What things do you think we need to restore to our readings and understanding by a more correct translation of scripture?
- Is the “primitive church” 19th century Anglican theology and social structures or something different?
- What other places have you studied the original context of scriptures and learned something?