Paul’s Reinterpretation of Aristotle’s Household Codes

In Ephesians 5:21-6:9 Paul is reinterpreting the Greco-Roman “household codes” that had been taught for hundreds of years going back to Aristotle (384-322 BC). In my recent attempt at contextual study I found that Paul’s reinterpretation is bookended with mutual submission (see 5:21 and 6:9) and I have come to see that Paul turned the household codes on their head in a subtle yet spectacular way by redefining the male role from one who rigidly rules to one who sacrificially loves (Gk word agapaō) and serves his whole household. The subversive significance of Paul’s reinterpretation is that women, children, and slaves were now given a voice, which was intended to sow the seeds of a practical equality and dignity for every human. And regarding slavery, Paul clearly condemns “manstealing” in 1 Timothy 1:10.

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