Do you fear your husband

Do you fear your husband

Sunday past was Father’s Day and we turned to the last verse (33) of Ephesians 5 for our text:

Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects1 her husband.

Did you bother reading the footnote?

As I’ve watched the degradation of Bible translations during my lifetime, I’ve made it a habit always to read the footnotes in my New American Standard Bible. Here, then, I looked and saw the translators of the NASB gave the reader in the footnote what they chose not to give him in the actual text of Scripture. The original Greek inspired by the Holy Spirit as a command to wives was not that she is to see to it that she respects her husband, but that she is to see to it that she fears him.

When a crime is committed, you look for motive, and this is true for crimes against the text of God’s Word just as crimes of passion. Why would the conservative scholars who translated the NASB edit the Holy Spirit here?

Well. Er. Um. Uh. Not to put too delicate a point on it, but we are sensitive to the sensibilities of the lovely ladies, aren’t we? Also the feminist shrews. We know allowing the Holy Spirit to speak freely here would cause a ruckus, so we delete Him from the text and substitute ourselves. Our thoughts rather than His thoughts. Our words rather than His words. Our ways rather than His ways.

The Greek the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write here is φοβῆται from the verb φοβέω, the source of our English “phobia” yielding such compound words as agoraphobia, arachnophobia, and homophobia. So yes, there’s no doubt about it: the word inspired by the Holy Spirit is “fear” and not “respect.”

There are times when you can have some sympathy for translators’ changes to the Holy Spirit’s words because you know, as a pastor, that you might use the word they’ve chosen to explain the word in the text. Say, for instance, the translators of the NASB had removed the word “fear,” replacing it with “revere” or “reverence.” Pastors could easily imagine using “reverence” as a synonym for “fear” to make the point that wives are not to give in to a cringing and debasing form of fear.

But we would do this after reading what the text actually says, which is “fear.” “Reverence” or “revere” would be our explanation of the text, not our translation. So yes, if a translator strayed from his job of translation, wandering onto the pastor’s own turf of explanation and application, we would be understanding, but do our best to escort him back into his own yard.

And if you have some familiarity with Hebrew and Greek, you know this failure is habitual among Bible translators and their publishers today. They stray from translation into explanation routinely in every modern Bible translation and they do so because, sadly, that’s what pastors want today—and it’s certainly how the souls in the pew want to be scratched, also. This is tragic, but I’ve spent my life trying to warn us against it and I haven’t even been successful in convincing my own extended family that it is wrong.

We are a tender bunch today. Or maybe cosseted is the better word? We want our Bibles packaged for us like our food. Very refined. Sugared up. Premasticated, if possible.

But of course, the one thing the Holy Spirit isn’t is very refined. He is jealous for God’s glory and so makes it a habit to humble the proud, and who’s prouder than complacent and rich and fat Evangelicals in North America today? We’ve all fallen asleep and been lulled there by scholars at our colleges and seminaries who know the one who pays them gets to call the tune.

It is a conspiracy against God that we, the people in the pews, have demanded and financed. We buy Bibles that say “respect” rather than “fear” because we refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to humble us. We pay our preachers and Bible publishers and seminary professors to protect us from the Holy Spirit.

What a terrible thing we are doing.

Some readers may be thinking it really can’t be this bad, so go ahead and see for yourself. There are ninety-some uses of this Greek root in the New Testament and all but one or two of them are translated “fear.” In fact, the beginning of this notorious section of Ephesians we’re all trying to obliterate in our rebellious age reads:

ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ

There we see the same word again, but how do our translators handle it here?

Well of course they translate it “fear” when it refers to our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the NASB here:

Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Sadly, we note that almost every last modern Bible translation deletes God’s word “fear” from verse 33, replacing it with “respect.” Yet we claim we believe in the plenary verbal (every last word) inspiration of Scripture.

Silencing the Holy Spirit here makes perfect sense among a people who deny the nature of God’s authority as the Father Almighty and every authority on earth He has delegated that authority to. After all, who fears the civil authorities today? We’re too busy removing the sword from them.

Where is the father who teaches his children to fear their mother. The mother who teaches her children to fear their father? The pastor who calls his flock to fear God?

But respect? Hey, respect is easy. Nebulous and easily twisted into a perverse reciprocity as in “I’ll begin to respect my husband when he acts respectably.”

Dear sister in Christ, see to it that you fear your husband for, in the matter of his authority over you, it is delegated by God.

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1. Literally: fear.

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About The Author

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Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church since 1996, Tim and Mary Lee have five children and lots of grandchildren. Tim's books include "Daddy Tried," The Grace of Shame," "Church Reformed," and a new book for elders. Tim spent ten years in the PC(USA) and twenty in the PCA. He's now a member of Evangel Presbytery.

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