Christ/Church imagery in Eph 5 vs 1 Peter etc


This isn’t a thread asking for ‘why’ Paul/Peter/etc said that women must submit to their husbands.

I’m just wondering why we only look Ephesians 5 when we talk about the topic. Other verses in the Bible that talk about the matter do not mention the christ/church imagery, but simply state that men shouldn’t be harsh with them. Is there really anything more than that?

I’m starting to think that we just use that because it’s the least ‘problematic’ passage as we can use the Christ/Church imagery to explain away possible sexism. If the imagery is that important in a marriage, wouldn’t it be mentioned in those verses as well? I’m obviously not saying that it’s not important at all (because if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be written), but I’m curious as to why other similar verses basically describe a basic patriarchy that does not go deeper than a “don’t be abusive” message, unlike Eph 5.

It’s interesting how Catholics/Christians in general will discuss that passage to defend the faith, when in my opinion, the other verses seem more ‘sexist’ than what Paul said in ch 5. I would assume more apologetics jumping on those verses but I hardly see any.

Is there an actual explanation why? Or does anyone have their own thoughts on it?


So, St. Paul and St. Peter were living in a different time. Slavery was an institution and women and children were essentially at the mercy of their husbands. In Roman society, husbands could kill their wives for just about any reason and not be prosecuted. In Jewish society, husbands could divorce their wives for just about any reason. Since few would marry a woman who wasn’t a virgin, divorced wives ended up as beggars, slaves or prostitutes.

In effect what Paul and Peter were saying is this: Just because it’s legal to abuse or divorce your wives, it doesn’t make it right! Do right by them and God by loving them and caring for them, because in this time in history they really can’t care for themselves.

The submissive thing had to do with telling the wives that just because they were free in Christ, it didn’t mean they should go against every social rule. If wives rebelled against their husbands because they had no fear their husbands would do them harm, then some husbands would refuse to become Christians and others would leave the Church.

Same was true with slavery. Yes, it was wrong, but it wouldn’t change overnight. Today, just as slavery should now be a thing of the past, so too, submissive wives should be a thing of the past. But that doesn’t mean wives should take advantage of this and force their husbands to submit to them. Husbands and wives should submit to one another in love, not because of some threat of reprisals. Not easy to do when two people disagree, but it should be done!


I’m not asking for why they said wives have to submit, but rather why the imagery was brought up in Ephesians 5 and not in other verses regarding the same matter actually. It’s something that confuses me because that imagery is used to justify it, when other verses about submission did not bring up that at all. Just an instruction to husbands to not be abusive.


As Catholics we don’t read the Bible as an instruction manual. We read it as a whole. The imagery, or all of the fine details, do not need to be brought up every time one of the sacred writers mentions a particular topic. If that were necessary the Bible would need to be 1000’s times bigger. So for us it isn’t Eph 5 vs 1 Peter etc, it is Eph5 + 1 Peter + the rest of the Bible + the historical and oral traditions @spockrates mentions above .

Please don’t take offense to what I am about to say here, but you are reading the Bible through fundamentalist glasses. I speak with them all of the time and 9 times out of 10 when they get to a verse of scripture they don’t agree with all they do is point to another verse and say exactly what you are say… see Jesus didn’t mention it here so therefor he must not have really meant the same thing over there.

I remember speaking with one guy who claimed Baptism wasn’t necessary because Jesus didn’t repeat the word Baptized in two consecutive verses. He also claimed we only need to believe what is taught by three different sacred writers. :thinking:

Basically what I am trying to say is… from a Catholic point of view the “imagery” you ask for isn’t written it is the “Oral Tradition” which is always present and vital for a proper interpretation of the Bible.

I hope this helps and is closer to the question you are asking.

God Bless


LOL, it’s okay. I tend to fall into the trap sometimes.

A follow up question then…if someone were to present the verse from Colossians or 1 Peter, how should a faithful Catholic respond?


Off the top of my head I am not sure which verses you are speaking of. Anyway, it would all depend on which verse(s) you are presenting and in what context you are presenting these verses. Is there something in particular that itches you the wrong way about these verses?


OK I had time to look up the verses. Basically, if someone where to present one of the verses I would probably point out all three.

Colossians 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Like @spockrates replied above these verses are in reference to the harshness of the times. Also, even if we want to ignore historical context and only use immediate context the very next verse says… 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Can you really love someone that you don’t consider to be equally valued in the eyes of God?

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.

Like you already said this seems to be the go to verse. I think it is for good reason. This is the most detailed of the verses and give us the views on Christian marriage. We need to keep this verse in mind when interpreting the other two verses in question. Because if we first don’t keep in mind that we are told…21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Then all other interpretations will be off.


1 Peter 3:1 Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands

Yep St. Peter is a bit gruff here, but hey he’s the first Pope he can tell it like it is and doesn’t need to sugar coat things. He is teaching something way different here than St. Paul, he is giving examples of how our faith can be shown as a light to the world. Once again this comes down to harshness of the times.

In the end all of these verses are teaching us something new and maybe something our current society needs to learn again. Love one another and submit to one another.

Hope this helps,

God Bless


Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior. Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.

I Peter 3:1-6

I find the example of Sarah interesting. Reading about her she does not strike me as submissive in the way we see it.


It’s not about how I feel about the verses. I feel a lot of things about it (lol) but I don’t think that’s relevant. I’ve read and watched a lot of content and I still feel some type of way, so I don’t think anyone on a forum can change it.

It’s just that the verses (eg the 1 Peter) is often explained by saying that women at that time were treated a certain way, that it’s important for early Christians not to rebel too much…

So these verses are technically explained through cultural contexts (I.e. It wouldn’t apply to couples today). However a different approach is used for Ephesians 5, which is intriguing


I don’t feel the same way, actually. She wasn’t a totaaaal doormat, but she was basically a submissive wife. The master thing is…a bit extra though :joy:


Which brings us right back to the reason why the Catholic Church doesn’t define every single verse of scripture. Totally, agree if we set a definitive interpretation of these verses base it on how the women back then were treated or don’t rebel then we can easily say this no longer applies. However, the Church doesn’t give us a definitive interpretation of this verse, she gives us teachings in regards to faith and morals. I am free to take those teachings and interpret this verse in a way that fits my marriage, as long as I am not acting contrary to her teachings. So in a way yes your feelings are relevant here. If your feelings are acting in line with the Church’s teachings on faith and morals then you are good to go. If your feelings are acting contrary to her teachings then maybe you need to look deeper at your feelings.

Personally, I think these verses still apply to my marriage today, it just seems like people consider the word “submit” to be a negative and not a positive.

God Bless


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