Postcolonial Reading of ύποτασσώ (to submit) in Ephesians 5:21: Hope for the Family Today


Elijah Makhanu


There has been a lot of discussion and debate in recent years over the precise meaning and interpretation of Ephesians 5:21. The concept of ύποτασσώ (to submit) in the book of Ephesians is one that has been grossly misinterpreted and misapplied in different situations but worst of all, in the marriage set up. This is even complicated by an alternative interpretation, popularly known as 'mutual submission,' which has become increasingly accepted in Church circles. Yet, the interpretation of Ephesians 5:21 is to be viewed as one of the foundational verses upon which a successful approach to marriage, self and life are built. Incidentally, this verse has been used by those who are in power to suppress the voices of those who may not be in a position to voice their views. This paper examines the concept of ύποτασσώ as used in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians through the lenses of postcolonial biblical criticism with a view of recovering an interpretation Paul had in mind informed by the circumstances surrounding him at the time of writing. More specifically, the paper endeavors to investigate the concept of ύποτασσώ with its cognates, in light of current Postcolonial studies in order to see the impact the Roman Empire had on Paul and his understanding of the concept in discussion. The purpose of this paper is to first, evaluate the contemporary historical and social-scientific interpretations of ύποτασσώ and argue for the importance of understanding the concept in the light of ancient rhetoric. Secondly, having situated this paper within a postcolonial dialogue, the study will seek a specific definition of Postcolonial interpretation looking for domination/ subordination relationships in the book of Ephesians. Additionally, the paper will seek to reconsider Paul’s ύποτασσώ in light of the slavery metaphor by comparing Paul’s concept with the ancient concept of submission. And finally, the paper will offer a new interpretation of the term ύποτασσώ as it reveals Paul’s suppressed status as a colonized Jew looking for an alternative way to express the deep longing of his heart for an ultimate master worthy of his loyalty and devotion. It is the intention of this paper to bring to the surface the slave metaphor and stimulate the mind of the readers as to the exact meaning of the concept under study in order for us to grasp the relationship of Paul with Christ as seen from the book of Ephesians.
Key words: Family, Ephesians, Postcolonial Reading


How to Cite
Makhanu, E. (2022). Postcolonial Reading of ύποτασσώ (to submit) in Ephesians 5:21: Hope for the Family Today. African Multidisciplinary Journal of Research, 4(2). Retrieved from