Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 5:33

πλὴν καὶ ὑμεῖς οἱ καθ᾽ ἕνα, ἕκαστος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ γυναῖκα οὕτως ἀγαπάτω ὡς ἑαυτόν, ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἵνα φοβῆται τὸν ἄνδρα. Nevertheless, also, you each one, let each so love his own wife as himself, but the wife in order to fear the husband.

Paul now gives a short restatement of his exhortations to both the husbands and the wives. He begins with πλὴν. This word is functioning to break the current argument in order to give what is important. It is not contrasting what came before it. Therefore, we can simply translate it as “Now.” The next word, καὶ, is not functioning as a coordinating conjunction. Instead, it is simply marking additional content. In this way, Paul begins his summary statement with these words: “Now also, . . .” The next phrase is quite intriguing.

“. . . you each one, let each . . .” is a very rough translation of the Greek text. The location of the comma between ἕνα and ἕκαστος is confusing. Why does the article follow ὑμεῖς? What is κατά doing in the phrase (i.e., how is it functioning)? The phrase emphasizes the group, ὑμεῖς, “you,” by placing it first. The preposition, κατά, “each,” is functioning distributively here. We can therefore translate καθ᾽ ἕνα as “individually.” Furthermore, the article preceding κατά is not only referencing back to ὑμεῖς but it is also part of the distributive phrase, καθ᾽ ἕνα. We should take the article with the distributive phrase while realizing that it links the phrase as a reference to ὑμεῖς (literally, “. . . you, the ones individually, . . .”). But what do we make of ἕκαστος? There is normally an emphatic force with κατά + εἶς + ἕκαστος. However, this force comes only when we have matching cases. In this instance, we have an accusative, ἕνα, plus a nominative, ἕκαστος. These words cannot be understood together as an emphatic distributive phrase. Instead, they are separate. Paul starts with the group, transitions focus to the individual, and then instructs every individual. If we were to translate this phrase literally, it would be given this way: “. . . you, the ones individually, let each one . . .” But this translation is awkward. If we understand the phrase idiomatically with a special emphasis on the group, we can translate it with these words: “. . . let each one of you . . .” The subject of the text is in fact the group, but Paul is singling out every individual in that group all at once with the same instruction.

Paul instructs the husband to love his wife as himself. We have here a οὕτως . . . ὡς . . . construction. In what way will the husband love his wife? The answer is, “as himself.” It is understood that they all love themselves. Now they need to love their wives as themselves as well.

Paul then instructs the individual wife. Paul uses a ἵνα + subjunctive clause. This clause is not marking purpose, but instead, it is a subjunctive clause bearing the force of a command. Therefore, we should translate it, “. . . but let the wife fear the husband.” The article preceding ἄνδρα implies possession, so we can translate it as “her husband.” The wife is not to fear the husband in the sense that she fears for her life. Instead, this command bears the idea of reverence and respect, and it calls to mind the submission of Eph. 5:21. Wives are being commanded to respect their husbands, which implies voluntary submission.

Now also, let each one of you love his own wife as himself, but let the wife respect her husband.

Every husband has been instructed to love his own wife as himself. Wives have been instructed to respect their husbands. In truth, the act of the husband loving his wife and the wife respecting her husband is a prime example of the call for believers to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. It is part of one’s Christian duty. We are to live in such a way that we please God with our actions. One of the things that is expected of us is mutual submission. We do this not because we owe it to each other, but because we want to serve and honor Christ. To submit to someone else is to serve Christ. Therefore, such submission bears a great responsibility. Husbands are called to love their wives as themselves. Leviticus 19:18 rings loud and clear, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In the husband’s case, his wife is his neighbor. But the wife is to respect her husband. She actively chooses to place herself under her husband’s authority. This choice is done of her own accord, but out of service to Christ. We need to realize that the way we live and interact with each other has a significant place in our relationship to God and with Christ. We should put our actions to the test, making sure that all that we do is pleasing to God, even in our own marriages.