Tuesday, August 30, 2016


This is one of my occasional "question" entries. Everyone knows that I don't have all the answers, and I do these from time to time to demonstrate it. I want to ask about respect.

The most common New Testament word translated "respect" is ἐντρέπω. But you knew that. Oh, not helpful? Okay, here, a transliteration -- entrepō. Still not helping? Fine. I have a dictionary. I can tell you what it says. The word can means to either shame or respect someone. If stated in the negative, it is to shame someone. In the positive, it is to respect or reverence someone. There is another word, but that one is using "respect" as in "with respect to", meaning "in such a way". These are fine. I get them. There is one, however, that eludes me.

The reference is in Ephesians. Here's the verse.
Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Eph 5:33)
Okay, the content appears clear enough. Looking through various translations, we find that they're pretty much in agreement. It might be "respect" or it might be "reverence". One says, "shows deference to". Fine. But ... this translation of this word appears only here. The word appears all over the New Testament, but it is only translated "respect" here. What else is it used for?

The word is φοβέω -- phobeō. Recognize it? It is the word from which we get our "phobias". This word occurs 93 times in the New Testament and is almost universally translated "fear", "afraid", even "exceeding fear", but never "respect" ... except this one instance. Oh, wait, it does appear one other place in a slightly different form. That is φόβος -- phobos. And where is this other exception?
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2)
There it is again in precisely the same context, the attitude a wife should have toward her husband. In fact, the King James actually translates this one "fear". Strange.

So, we have the standard definition of "respect" which is basically "a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements." We get that. Admiration. Okay. And that's the basic notion we think of when we think of respect and is a common idea in biblical terms. Fine. So when we hear, "You don't give respect; it has to be earned", that makes sense. I mean, you can't simply drum up admiration, right? But then there is this other one. It is not the same concept. It is a different word, a different sense, even a disturbing sense.

What sense? What is this version of respect commanded by God for wives toward their husbands? It is beyond admiration. It is something more. It is the same term applied to how we are to view God (e.g., Rom 3:18; 2 Cor 5:11; 2 Peter 2:17). What is this? It is not our normal "respect". What is it? It looks like wives are commanded to have a similar fear toward their husbands that we are all commanded to have toward God. What does that look like?

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