The Family Husband Man
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
Word histories often provide helpful cultural insights. Words used to translate Biblical languages are interesting. One set is husband and wife.
Wife originally meant woman or female. The word woman comes from wif+man, meaning female person.
Husband likewise was a combined Old English word: hus (house) + band (to tie or bind, a binding). The bands of the house, the "holder-together." This word has the connotation of caregiver and protector. In 17th century English, this is the way it was used. Do you remember the use of this word in the King James Version of the Bible?
It is used in both Old and New Testaments to refer to a cultivator or a farmer. The husband-man was the one who cared for the plants, who protected the crops.
This came to be applied to the family, so that the husbandman (“caretaker person”) of the family, who married the wifman (“female person”), held the family together. This, I think, expresses the biblical concept of family. Not the domineering disciplinarian who dictates to his household.
A New Level of Respect
"Submit to your husband" seems to mean "respect," and "cooperate with." This is particularly so when Paul tells husband and wife to submit to each other (Eph. 5:21). The idea is: Do not undermine the foundation, the security of the house.
The Divine Image
The focus in Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians, in their pagan context, was a step up – for the spouses to actually respect each other! The concept of Creation Theology endows each human individual with the dignity of one carrying the Image of God. Mutual submission produces a whole new level of positive relationship!
The Lord redeems and reforms the family relationship. The pagan family in the Roman Empire was held together by power. The Christian ideal envisions a family held together by Love, which gives first priority to the welfare of the beloved! Under the Gospel Way, the strong man does not demand respect – he commands respect by giving it!
Caring or Exploiting
"Some of them creep into houses and lead astray unsuspecting women" (2 Tim 3:6). This passage refers to unscrupulous men who take advantage of women. The husband-man on the other hand, respects, honors and protects women.
This speaks to the broader question of exploitation. In the 1990s, studies indicated that 50% of American women have been sexually exploited in some way during their lifetime! I was shocked by this figure.
The Biblical concept of the family as a loving, caring, mutually respectful group does not rule in most cultures. It should.
The Christian gospel carries the message of care, love, reconciliation, care and restoration. A "theology of the family" finds its roots in these simple Biblical words for the marriage partners.
The original version of this article first published in Focus on Communication Effectiveness, April 1995
First posted 27 May 2001
This version prepared and posted on Jenkins Millennium Culture Centre 22 November 2007
Orville Boyd Jenkins, Ed.D., Ph.D.
Copyright © 1992, 2001, 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Other rights reserved.