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The Text of Eph 5.22 and the Start of the Ephesian Household Code

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2021

Peter J. Gurry*
Phoenix Seminary, 7901 East Shea Boulevard, Scottsdale, AZ 85260, USA. Email:


The widespread disagreement about where the Ephesian household code begins is largely based on an equally widespread agreement that the original text of Eph 5.22 has no verb. This article addresses the former by challenging the latter. Treating the textual problem as a choice between three rather than two readings means that ὑποτασσέσθωσαν emerges as the reading that is best attested, the more difficult, and the one that best explains the others. The result is a smooth flow throughout this section of Ephesians.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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1 Barth, M., Ephesians: Translation and Commentary on Chapters 4–6 (Anchor Bible 34A; New York: Doubleday, 1974) 609Google Scholar. For how this opening further guides Barth's reading of the entire household code, see The Broken Wall: A Study of the Epistle to the Ephesians (Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1959) 227–36. The same point is made by Dawes, G. W., The Body in Question: Metaphor and Meaning in the Interpretation of Ephesians 5:21–33 (Biblical Interpretation 30; Leiden: Brill, 1998) 207Google Scholar; Hering, J. P., The Colossian and Ephesian Haustafeln in Theological Context: An Analysis of Their Origins, Relationship, and Message (New York: Peter Lang, 2007) 131Google Scholar.

2 Barth, Ephesians, 610.

3 Sampley, J. Paul, ‘And the Two Shall Become One Flesh’: A Study of Traditions in Ephesians 5:21–33 (SNTSMS 16; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971) 117CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Sampley, ‘And the Two’, 117. Cf. Fiorenza, E. S., In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1994) 270Google Scholar, who argues that the author modifies the ‘patriarchal code’ but was not, on the whole, able to Christianise it.

5 Muddiman, J., The Epistle to the Ephesians (BNTC 10; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001) 257Google Scholar; Brown, R. E., An Introduction to the New Testament (ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1997) 624Google Scholar.

6 Thielman, F., Ephesians (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010) 372Google Scholar.

7 Other reasons are sometimes given (see e.g. Best, E., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1998) 515–16Google Scholar) but not nearly as often.

8 H. Greeven, ‘Ehe nach dem Neuen Testament’, NTS 15.4 (1969) 388. Heinrich Schlier also calls it an Überschrift that extends so far forward that even the verb is added for v. 22. See Schlier, H., Der Brief an die Epheser: Ein Kommentar (Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1957) 250Google Scholar. Gerhard Sellin calls 5.21 a ‘heading and guideline to interpretation’ (‘Überschrift und Interpretationsleitzeile’) and says that the entire household code ‘stands under this sign’ (‘steht unter diesem Vorzeichen’) in Der Brief an die Epheser (KEK 8; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008) 433, 438. Karl-Heinz Fleckenstein follows suit (Ordnet euch einander unter in der Furcht Christi: Die Eheperikope in Eph 5,21–33. Geschichte der Interpretation, Analyse und Aktualisierung des Textes (Forschung zur Bibel 73; Würzburg: Echter, 1994) 172, 212).

9 Abbott, T. K., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1897) 164Google Scholar. In this, he is followed closely by Barth, Ephesians, 608. Similarly Thielman, Ephesians, 372; Sellin, Epheser, 437.

10 Watson, F., Agape, Eros, Gender: Towards a Pauline Sexual Ethic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) 222CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 Cohick, L. H., Ephesians: A New Covenant Commentary (NCC 10; Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2013) 136CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Westfall, C. L., Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle's Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016) 100Google Scholar; cf. 22 n. 57, 93 n. 81. For other examples, see Dawes, Body in Question, 207.

13 For Harold Hoehner, the meaning remains the same regardless of which reading is adopted (Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002) 731 n. 2). Eph 5.21 can be read with what precedes even without the verb as in Clark, S. and Whitters, M., ‘The Patristic Origin of “Mutual Subordination”’, Nova et vetera 14.3 (2016) 821–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Merkle, B. L., ‘The Start of Instruction to Wives and Husbands: Ephesians 5:21 or 5:22?’, BibSac 174 (2017) 179–92Google Scholar, but almost all who read 5.21 with what follows do so by appeal to the lack of a verb in 5.22. Thus, Thielman is right that ‘the variations are not entirely insignificant for the meaning of the passage’ (Ephesians, 393).

14 On the one hand, Weiss criticises the omission in B as due to the scribe's ‘thoughtless’ (‘gedankenlos’) reading of the participle with what precedes. On the other hand, he says Tischendorf is ‘shortsighted’ (‘kurzsichtig’) for following Vaticanus and creating ‘a completely inexplicable anacoluthon’ (‘ein völlig unerklärliches Anakoluth’). Weiss, B., Textkritik der paulinischen Briefe (Textkritische Untersuchungen und Textherstellung 14.3; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1896) 101–2Google Scholar.

15 They were also originally independent in punctuation, but this changed with the UBS3 corrected edition according to K. Aland and B. Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism (trans. E. F. Rhodes; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19892) 45, 47.

16 K. Aland et al., eds., Novum Testamentum Graece (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 197926) 44*.

17 D. Jongkind et al., eds., The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017) 512.

18 Translation from P. M. Head and P. Satterthwaite, Method in New Testament Textual Criticism: 1700–1850 (New York: Peter Lang, forthcoming).

19 B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek (London: Macmillan, 1881) 563. See their further comments in The New Testament in the Original Greek: Introduction, Appendix (London: Macmillan, 1881) sec. 377. Notably, had they placed this in the text, the Nestle edition would have too given its majority principle. See Aland and Aland, Text of the New Testament, 19.

20 Westcott, B. F., St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians: The Greek Text with Notes and Addenda (London: Macmillan, 1906) 83Google Scholar.

21 The CSB footnote says, ‘Other mss omit submit’, suggesting that the translators preferred a Greek text with a verb.

22 Wright, N. T., The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation (New York: HarperOne, 2011) 398Google Scholar; D. B. Hart, The New Testament: A Translation (New Haven: Yale, 2017) 386–7. Hart also offers an unusually lengthy footnote explaining his understanding of ὑποτάσσω as ‘reciprocal service and protection’ (386–7 n. c).

23 Abbott, Ephesians, 164; A. Schlatter, Die Briefe an die Galater, Epheser, Kolosser und Philemon (Schlatters Erläuterungen zum Neuen Testament 7; Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1953) 196; Schlier, Epheser, 250; Barth, Ephesians, 607–8; A. T. Lincoln, Ephesians (WBC 42; Dallas, TX: Word, 1990) 350–2; R. P. Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (Interpretation; Louisville, KY: John Knox, 1991) 67–8; R. Schnackenburg, The Epistle to the Ephesians: A Commentary (trans. H. Heron; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991) 244; Muddiman, Ephesians, 256–7; Sellin, Epheser, 437–8; Cohick, Ephesians, 136; Thielman, Ephesians, 365.

24 Martin, Ephesians, 68.

25 Sellin, Epheser, 434, 438. Another who sees 5.21 as both a transition and as standing over what follows is Gombis, T. G., ‘A Radically New Humanity: The Function of the Haustafel in Ephesians’, JETS 48.2 (2005) 323, 325 n. 33Google Scholar.

26 Westcott, Ephesians, 83; Conzelmann, H., ‘Der Brief an die Epheser’, Die Briefe an die Galater, Epheser, Philipper, Kolosser, Thessalonicher und Philemon (ed. Becker, J., Conzelmann, H., and Friedrich, G.; NTD 8; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990) 86–124, at 118Google Scholar; Bouttier, M., L’Épître de Saint Paul aux Éphésiens (CNT 9b; Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1991) 236Google Scholar; Best, Ephesians, 517; O'Brien, P. T., The Letter to the Ephesians (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) 399Google Scholar; Hoehner, Ephesians, 716; C. H. Talbert, Ephesians and Colossians (Paideia; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007) 130–32; Arnold, C. E., Ephesians (ZECNT 10; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) 355–7Google Scholar; Bock, D. L., Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary (TNTC 10; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2019) 167Google Scholar. I am aware of the problems with O'Brien's work and cite it because it is still used by many.

27 Bouttier, Éphésiens, 236–7.

28 Conzelmann, ‘Epheser’, 118.

29 Arnold, Ephesians, 379. In personal communication, he says he hopes to include 5.21 in both outlines in the future. A similar approach is taken in Cohick, L. H., The Letter to the Ephesians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020)Google Scholar.

30 Pokorný, P., Der Brief des Paulus an die Epheser (THKNT 10.2; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1992) 220Google Scholar.

31 Bruce, F. F., The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984) 381–82Google Scholar.

32 Snodgrass, K., Ephesians (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 287Google Scholar (emphasis original).

33 Snodgrass, Ephesians, 287 (emphasis original). It is interesting how commentators can draw opposite conclusions from their otherwise shared belief that 5.22–33 is an example of 5.21. For some, this expands the mutual submission of 5.21 whereas for others it restricts it. Cf. Snodgrass, Ephesians, 287; Barth, Ephesians, 610; Arnold, Ephesians, 365; Best, Ephesians, 516.

34 Kähler, E., Die Frau in den paulinischen Briefen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Begriffes der Unterordnung (Züruck: Gotthelf, 1960) 251 n. 444Google Scholar.

35 Hoehner, Ephesians, 730–1, esp. n 2.

36 Vogels, H. J., Handbuch der Textkritik des Neuen Testaments (Bonn: Peter Hanstein, 1955 2) 173–4Google Scholar.

37 Though we should note that the THGNT says its revisions of Tregelles resulted in ‘a completely new edition’. Jongkind et al., THGNT, 506.

38 For example, Text und Textwert wrongly gives 228 as reading ὑποτασσέσθω (it reads ὑποτάσσεσθε) and 1851 as reading ὑποτάσσομαι (it reads ὑποτασσόμεναι). I have also included 048 (5th cent.) on the basis of the online images. Although almost no text is visible for 5.21, the space between what is visible requires a verb. This, in addition to the presence of what appears to be an ω where a verb must be, suggests that it reads ὑποτασσέσθωσαν. This advances Dale Heath's reconstruction in ‘A Transcription and Description of Vatican Greek 2061 (Gregory 048)’ (PhD diss., Taylor University, 1966) 115. Still, without colour images for more clarity, I have marked 048 with ‘vid’.

39 A mistake facilitated either by a minuscule ligature in the exemplar or an exemplar with the final epsilon turned so sharply upward that it resembles an omega. My thanks to Maurice Robinson for these suggestions.

40 This is a slightly different (and simpler) interpretation than that of Text und Textwert, which distinguishes 1874T, 1874L and 1874C.

41 J. Kloha, ‘A Textual Commentary on Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians’ (PhD diss., University of Leeds, 2006) 624.

42 Maegan Gilliland deems Clement's shorter reading more secure because it is part of a larger citation, but both are quite long (‘Text of the Pauline Epistles and Hebrews in Clement of Alexandria’ (PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 2016) 362).

43 These are Coislin 204 (GA 1910) fol. 97v and Athos Pantokrator 28 (GA 1900) fol. 190r. The images of both were checked online. For more on these witnesses and the difficulty in reconstructing Origen's text, see Heine, R. E., The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) 2–3, 3542CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

44 Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des cantiques i (livres iii): Texte de la version latine de Rufin, introduction, traduction, et notes (ed. L. Brésard, H. Crouzel and M. Borret ; SC 375; Paris: Les éditions du Cerf, 1991) 396.

45 So H. B. Swete, Theodori episcopi Mopsuesteni in Epistolas B. Pauli commentarii: The Latin Version with the Greek Fragments, vol. i: Introduction. Galatians–Colossians (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1880) 183; R. A. Greer, Theodore of Mopsuestia: The Commentaries on the Minor Epistles of Paul (Writings from the Greco-Roman World 26; Atlanta: SBL, 2010) 271 n. 63. One might read hic est as Theodore explaining subdo with the more common subicio (used also in 5.21), but this would hardly be necessary in his original Greek.

46 See Montoro, P., ‘The Textual Stability of Patristic Citations: Romans 8:33–35 in John Chrysostom's Homilies on Romans as a Test Case’, At One Remove: Indirect Evidence and the Textual History of the New Testament (ed. Montoro, P. and Houghton, H. A. G.; Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2020) 239–61Google Scholar.

47 The UBS5 miscites the Latin of Codex Augiensis’ (f) as support. The Greek column does have ὑποτάσσεσθε, but the Latin agrees with the Vulgate's subiectae sint as expected (Houghton, H. A. G., The Latin New Testament: A Guide to its Early History, Texts, and Manuscripts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) 171CrossRefGoogle Scholar).

48 Houghton, Latin New Testament, 171.

49 H. J. Frede, Epistula ad Ephesios (VL 24/1; Freiburg: Herder, 1962) 236.

50 On the dating, see Metzger, B. M., The Early Versions of the New Testament: Their Origin, Transmission, and Limitations (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977) 56–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Williams, P. J., ‘The Syriac Versions of the New Testament’, The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis (ed. Ehrman, B. D. and Holmes, M. W.; NTTSD 42; Leiden: Brill, 2013 2) 143–66, at 150Google Scholar.

51 See B. Aland and A. Juckel, Das Neue Testament in Syrischer Überlieferung, vol. ii: Die Paulinischen Briefe. Teil 2:2: Korintherbrief, Galaterbrief, Epheserbrief, Philipperbrief und Kolosserrbrief (ANTF 23; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995) 34–8. Unusually, it is the margin that agrees with family 2138 here rather than the main text.

52 The text is found in Gibson, M. D., The Didaskalia Apostolorum in Syriac (HSem 1; London: C. J. Clay, 1903)Google Scholar.

53 Desiderius Erasmus, Collected Works of Erasmus: Annotations on Galatians and Ephesians (ed. and trans. R. A. Faber; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017) 206.

54 Metzger, B. M., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994 2) 541Google Scholar.

55 Heine, Commentaries, 233.

56 Abbott, Ephesians, 165.

57 Metzger, B. M., ‘St. Jerome's Explicit References to Variant Readings in Manuscripts of the New Testament’, Text and Interpretation: Studies in the New Testament Presented to Matthew Black (ed. Best, E. and Wilson, R. McL.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979) 179–90, at 188Google Scholar. For a discussion of Jerome's practice of textual criticism, including his particular dependence on Origen in his Ephesians commentary, see A. M. Donaldson, ‘Explicit References to New Testament Variant Readings among Greek and Latin Church Fathers’ (PhD diss., Notre Dame, 2009) 142–66, esp. 146–50.

58 Rightly noted in Watson, Agape, Eros, Gender, 222–3 n. 2.

59 My thanks to Maurice Robinson for suggesting this possibility. Watson also mentions this parallel.

60 The originality of 1 Cor 14.34–5 is immaterial since they are found in all extant manuscripts and these, rather than Paul's autograph, are what scribes would have been harmonising from.

61 Jongkind, D., Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus (Texts and Studies 3.5; Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2007) 246Google Scholar. In Royse's work, harmonisations to the context far outnumber harmonisations to parallel passages and to general usage (Royse, J. R., Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri (NTTSD 36; Leiden: Brill, 2008) 902Google Scholar).

62 See K. Junack, ‘Zu den griechischen Lektionaren und ihrer Überlieferung der katholischen Briefe’, Die alten Übersetzungen des neuen Testaments, die Kirchenväterzitate und Lectionare (ed. K. Aland, ANTF 5; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1987) 498–591; Aland and Aland, Text of the New Testament, 167–70; C. D. Osburn, ‘The Greek Lectionaries of the New Testament’, The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, 93–113, at 104–6; Gibson, S., The Apostolos: The Acts and Epistles in Byzantine Liturgical Manuscripts (Texts and Studies 3.18; Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2018) 229CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

63 Metzger, Textual Commentary, 541.

64 For the basic principle, see J. M. Ross, ‘Floating Words: Their Significance for Textual Criticism’, NTS 38 (1992) 153–6. Ross argues that floating creates a presumption of non-originality that may be overridden in particular cases.

65 Metzger, Textual Commentary, 541. He is followed by Larkin, W. J., Ephesians: A Handbook on the Greek Text (BHGNT; Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2009) 131Google Scholar.

66 See A. van Roon, The Authenticity of Ephesians (NovTSup 39; Leiden: Brill, 1974) 106–7.

67 E.g. Dawes, Body in Question, 20.

68 Muddiman, Ephesians, 257 (emphasis added). There is every reason to doubt that Muddiman's expectations were really the original readers’ given the context of first-century marital relations.

69 The nu in ἀνδράσιν is always present before a vowel in our earliest manuscripts (see Eph 5.22, 24; Col 3.18; Titus 2.5; 1 Pet 3.1 in P46, 01, 02, 03 and 06). For the nu in the imperative form, see F. T. Gignac, A Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods, vol. ii: Morphology (Testi e Documenti per Lo Studio Dell'antichità 55; Milan: Instituto editoriale Cisalpino – La Goliardica, 1981) 361.

70 We might note that we are appealing to homoioteleuton not homoteleuton.

71 Royse, Scribal Habits, 270; E. B. Ebojo, ‘A Scribe and his Manuscript: An Investigation into the Scribal Habits of Papyrus 46 (P. Chester Beatty ii – P. Mich. Inv. 6238)’ (PhD diss., University of Birmingham, 2014) 267–8.

72 Royse, Scribal Habits, 270.

73 Ebojo, ‘Scribe and his Manuscript’, 242.

74 Zuntz, G., The Text of the Epistles: A Disquisition upon the Corpus Paulinum (London: Oxford University Press, 1953) 31Google Scholar. Jongkind says P46 is ‘the type of manuscript that is used to cornfirm a reading rather than to suggest the correct reading’ (Jongkind, D., An Introduction to the Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 53Google Scholar).

75 Paulson, G. S., Scribal Habits and Singular Readings in Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi, Bezae, and Washingtonianus in the Gospel of Matthew (GlossaHouse Dissertation Series 5; Wilmore, KY: GlossaHouse, 2018) 58Google Scholar.

76 For other shorter readings shared by P46 and B that are not likely to be original, see Rom 15.30, 32; 16.7; 1 Cor 1.8; 14.39; 2 Cor 3.5; 2 Cor 12.11; Eph 5.19; 6.16; Phil 2.3; Col 2.15; 3.6; Heb 1.4; 4.3; 6.2; 9.1.

77 On the current debate, see Epp, E. J., ‘Traditional “Canons” of New Testament Textual Criticism: Their Value, Validity, and Viability – or Lack Thereof’, The Textual History of the Greek New Testament: Changing Views in Contemporary Research (ed. Wachtel, K. and Holmes, M. W., Text-Critical Studies 8; Atlanta: SBL, 2011) 79–127, at 106–16Google Scholar.

78 J. J. Griesbach, Novum Testamentum Graece, vol. i: iv Euangelia (Halle and London, 17962) lx–lxi, quoted here from Metzger, B. M. and Ehrman, B. D., The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005 4) 166Google Scholar.

79 For more on this exception, see Gurry, P. J., ‘On Not Preferring the Shorter Reading: Matthew as a Test Case’, Studies on the Intersection of Text, Paratext, and Reception: A Festschrift in Honor of Charles E. Hill (ed. Lanier, G. R. and Reid, J. N., TENT 15; Leiden: Brill, 2021) 122–41Google Scholar.

80 My thanks to Robert Plummer for pointing me in this direction.

81 NA28 has ἰδίαις in brackets but both SBLGNT and THGNT have it without brackets.

82 This does not mean that ἴδιος never occurs with a second-person imperative, as seen for example in Mark 6.31 and 2 Macc 9.20.

83 P46 has no paragraphs.

84 For this and the following details, see the fine study by J. R. Grenz, ‘Textual Divisions in Codex Vaticanus: A Layered Approach to the Delimiters in B(03)’, TC 23 (2018) 1–22.

85 Grenz, ‘Textual Divisions’, 6.

86 H. F. von Soden, Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt, hergestellt auf Grund ihrer Textgeschichte, vol. i.1 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 19112) 465.

87 Best, Ephesians, 515. For a semantic consideration of paragraphs, see Porter, S. E., ‘Pericope Markers and the Paragraph’, The Impact of Unit Delimitation on Exegesis (ed. de Hoop, R., Korpel, M. C. A. and Porter, S. E.; Leiden: Brill, 2009) 174–95Google Scholar.

88 Of those who read drafts of this article, special thanks go to Peter Head, Maurice Robinson, James Prothro, Joshua Greever and John DelHousaye.

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