Complementarians often state that husbands are the “head of the household”, and therefore are responsible to make decisions and lead the family. I want to show that this view is actually contrary to what the Bible teaches.
Scriptures do talk about husband being the “head” of his wife. In Ephesians 5:23, it says that “the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is head of the church”. For more on what I believe this means, see my post here.
1 Timothy 5:14 Paul instructs younger women to marry, bear children and guide the house. This verse is normally used to teach women they are to be homemakers, that this is their “highest calling”. The words guide in verse 14 is translated from the word oikodespoteo(meaning household(oiko)/despot(despoteo). The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines despot as “a ruler with absolute power and authority”. Click on the link and you will see the definition of oikodespoteo, and you will also see that the NASB translates oikidespoteo as “keep house”. Oikodespoteo actually means home despot, or home authority. The phrase “keep house” doesn’t hold the same sway as “master or ruler”, does it? We can see from this that sometimes the English translation doesn’t do justice to what the Bible actually says. It also begs the question, why was it translated this way? I don’t know the answer to this question, because I can’t penetrate hearts and know people’s motives. But what I do know is this: the Bible has been translated by men, not women, for hundreds of years. The prevailing opinion throughout history has been that women were inferior to men. Was prejudice involved in the watered-down translation of oikodespoteo, the prejudice of men who couldn’t imagine the concept of women being the masters and rulers of their homes? It’s something to think about.
The word guide should have been translated ruler or authority. Wives are to rule their households. The fact is, “The only command to be found in scripture commanding men to bear rule in their homes comes from a pagan king with wicked, self-seeking counselors.” ~ (Esther 1:21-22)[ Jocelyn Andersen, Woman this is War!, 2010]. However, wives are told to rule the household, they are master of the house. They are literally told to “rule the home with absolute authority“. This idea is in stark contrast with the complementarian teachings that say a husband is the head of the household, is the authority and has the responsibility of making final decisions(none of which are taught in scripture). It turns out they’re getting it backwards; the wife is the head of the household, the “despot of the home”. Biblically speaking, it would be more accurate to say that the wife is the head of the household.
Honestly, I believe in shared leadership and shared submission in the home between a husband and wife. I’m not advocating that a wife be “in charge” of her husband any more than I would advocate the opposite. A “oneflesh” mentality lends itself to a husband and wife preferring the other above themselves, loving one another sacrificially, NOT in having one person permanently in charge of the other. What is interesting, though, is the uncritical acceptance among complemenatarians that the husband is the “head of the household”, when this is clearly NOT what scripture teaches.
*(I owe many of the ideas in this post to Jocelyn Andersen’s book, Women this is War!, 2010.)