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Reader Matthew raises some concerns in response to yesterday’s post on the fear instinct in women:

Hey Brother,

Using your own source (strongs) for Ephesians 5:33 you may be in error – the correct translation seems to be “reverence”. From my brief review of the major translations, only the ISV shows “fear” as the translation, even the KJB uses “reverence”, NKJB “respect”…

Just CTRL+F the Ephesians passage in your source:

we husbands are called to love our wives as God loved His church, and God doesn’t beat us or the church into submission when we’re horrible so neither should we our wives. That’s not to say that we should not be able to defend ourselves and give her a solid slap; we need to avoid getting into the situation in the first place. Foresight, and the ability to discern a healthy minded woman is what will save us in the current year.

I’m sure it’s much more complicated when you’re being abused… and perhaps it becomes a lot simpler…

My two cents, anyway God bless!

First off, Matthew is correct that we are not called to beat our wives into submission. We are called to love and nourish her body.

I also agree that there is almost no situation where one would ever need to resort to physical violence with a woman. Foresight and communication skills are normally all that’s required to avoid violence.

It is worth noting though, unlike our present culture, God did not see the need to give any warning against “domestic abuse” or make it a sin to hit a woman.

I think there’s an important reason for that.

There are two issues here: the issue of translations, and the relationship of love and fear.

How to spot translation biases

In terms of translations, we have to remember that none of the popular Bible translations are literal word-for-word translations from the Greek. The translators make their word and phrase choices based on what they think the text means rather than choosing the closest equivalent words.

Some translations advertise themselves as “conservative”, but they don’t mean conservative to the Greek text, they mean conservative to traditional church doctrine.

The advantage of popular translations is they make for smooth reading and often use familiar poetic phrases that have become important expressions of faith in our language.

The disadvantage is we inherit the translators’ biases in the biblical text.

The biases can be easily exposed though by using a concordance and/or literal translations of the Bible. (You can find a list of literal translations online for free at Click the dropdown menu to see the options.)

The concordance for the Greek word phobeo shows that in every other case its used, even in the popular versions, the word is translated as “fear”, “afraid,” etc.

In one case it is translated as “awestruck.” But only in Ephesians 5:33 is it rendered “respect.”

Whenever you see a Greek word commonly translated into one word, but translated into a different word in one special instance, that’s a red flag. It means that the translators (intentionally or not) are probably suppressing an uncomfortable truth they’d rather keep hidden.

And a woman fearing her man is the uncomfortable truth.

Our fear of fear

Regardless, of what words we use to describe a woman’s state of submission, the important question is this:

What is the underlying mechanism that triggers “respect” or “reverence?”

Respect is an end state. We don’t automatically respect someone simply because they exist.

We respect those whom we fear.

We respect our bosses because we fear their disapproval (and subsequent loss of income.)

We show respect to police officers because we fear their power to punish us.

And we respect men who are stronger than us (at least to their face), because we fear offending them and getting an ass whipping.

Fear is a difficult subject to openly discuss today. We live in a post-Marxist culture that categorizes the world into “oppressors” and “oppressed.”

This is a relatively novel way of looking at the world. In ancient Rome, strength was virtue and weakness was “sin.” The Bible corrected the faults of this worldview, but it never eliminated the necessity of fear and respect in human relationships.

My grandfather was a great admiror of the Romans. He had a saying he told my dad, who passed it along to me:

“The day you can kick my ass is the day you can stop listening to me.”

While not entirely consistent with the Biblical ethos, it does highlight an important point:

When I become physically stronger than my father, I will no longer fear his disapproval of how I live my life. When I can “kick his ass”, I will be a completely free man.

Judging by the current trend, I expect to arrive at that point within 5-10 years.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean I’m going to physically assault my dad. What it means is there is an underlying mechanism of power.

When one person perceives another person as harmless, there is no need for fear. And without fear, we have no regard for the other’s judgments on us.

So it is when a woman perceives her man as harmless. She no longer fears his disapproval and thus has no cause to revere him.

Both the church and the state seem to be doing everything in their power to render men harmless to women.

But this is a form of depraved thinking. It goes against nature. Men are supposed to be stronger than women. Stronger means the capacity to physically overpower the woman, the capacity to humiliate her mentally with superior intelligence, and the ability to ignore her emotional manipulations.

Note that it is the capacity to overpower and humiliate the woman. Most women do not need a daily demonstration to get the point. The virtue of gentleness leads a man to hold back his strength, never exerting his maximum ability… only the amount the situation calls for.

A long-term relationship should mature beyond the point of fear. But fear is the starting point for any relationship involving authority and submission.

God always began his relationship with a people by demonstrating his power, not by showing his kindness. The power gives context to the kindness.

The strategy of reminding wives to “respect” their husbands regardless if they’re “worthy of it” is clearly not working. We need to build men that inspire fear.

Perhaps we can take a hint from the popular fairy tale:

It’s called Beauty and the Beast, not Beauty and the Kind-Hearted Prince.