Christian Doctrines, Egalitarianism, theology

Proverbs 31 destroys preconceived “Biblical Womanhood”


Deborah, leading the people of Israel

There are some who advocate a notion of “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” with strict definitions of what roles men and women should occupy. Representative is John Piper, a leading voice in the movement named “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” In his essay “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible,” Piper writes about “biblical” manhood:

When my father came home he was clearly the head of the house… (32, cited below)

[W]hen there is no bread on the table, it is the man who should feel the main pressure to do something to get it there… a man will feel his personhood compromised if he… becomes dependent over the long haul… on his wife’s income. (42)

Shockingly, Piper even goes so far as to say that:

“[E]ven where a Christian wife may have to stand with Christ against the sinful will of her husband, she can still have a spirit of submission–a disposition to yield” (47).

Piper alleges that biblical womanhood follows this pattern:

A mature woman is glad when a respectful, caring, upright man… provides a pattern of appropriate initiatives in their relationship. (48)

[She is to follow] Biblical submission[, which] for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through… (53)

From Piper, we learn that “biblical” womanhood is to yield, to be led, not to be the head of the home, be provided for, indeed even to avoid situations in which a woman is closely leading a man in the office (52).

Proverbs 31 destroys this concept of what a “biblical” woman should be. In this astonishing passage, we read that  the ideal woman:

1. Takes care when selecting products to purchase (31:13)
2. Brings food to her family (31:14)
3. Provides for her family (31:15)
4. Appraises and purchases land (31:16)
5. Brings profitable gain (31:18)
6. Works with tools of various trades (31:18)
7. Helps the poor and needy (31:20)
8. Crafts goods to be used by the family (31:22)
9. Crafts goods to sell and is shrewd in selling them (31:24; 18)
10. Speaks and instructs with wisdom (31:26)
11. Watches over the ways of the household (31:27)
12. Above all, she fears the Lord (31:30)

Now remember, this is an “ideal” and of course no woman could be or do all of these things. This passage illustrates aspects of what a biblical woman would be.

Recall, though, the roles that have been defined for women by some complementarians–people who hold a view in which man and woman occupy different roles in the home and church, with men as leaders. Which of these are found in the description of woman in Proverbs 31? Let’s just do a quick comparison of a few (Piper citations from above):

Piper: [I]t is the man who should feel the main pressure to do something to get [bread on the table] 
Bible: “[The ideal wife/woman] gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family...” (31:15a)

Do women not share the pressure in putting bread on the table when the Bible describes ideal womanhood as a provider of food for her family without excluding the husband?

Piper: When my father came home he was clearly the head of the house…
Bible: “She watches over the affairs of her household…”(31:27a)

Does watching over the affairs of the household have an unwritten, unspoken clause that excludes men? 

Piper: [A] man will feel his personhood compromised if he… becomes dependent over the long haul… on his wife’s income.
Bible: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard… She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” (31:16; 18)

Does the wife/woman’s managing money, earning it, buying fields, ensuring profit, and staying up late into the night focusing on this profitable gain compromise her husband’s personhood?

Also interesting are the things that are not said. It doesn’t say the ideal woman yields to her husband when he does wrong, she rather brings him good, not harm (31:12). Sin is a harmful cycle, and to say women are to rebuke it, but yield because a man is the leader is perpetuating that cycle.

The question, then, becomes this: where are those like Piper, who make the statements quoted above getting their ideas from? Is Proverbs 31 biblical womanhood when it contradicts these notions, or are the Scriptural quotes above instead to be defined as the properly biblical womanhood?

The question is ‘how do we define Biblical Womanhood’? The answer: A buyer, seller, purveyor, manufacturer, innovator, leader, provider, entrepreneur, and above all, one of God.

You ask “What is Biblical womanhood?” I’ll tell you: Proverbs 31.


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Check out my posts on egalitarianism – the belief that men and women are equally qualified and called in the church and home (scroll down for more).

On the Femnization of the Church– It is frequently alleged that the church is being “feminized” and that this is a bad thing. Check out this post, wherein I analyze this notion from a few different angles.


John Piper, “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited by Piper and Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006).



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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


26 thoughts on “Proverbs 31 destroys preconceived “Biblical Womanhood”

  1. I am sure you feel the same way, and took caution not to do so, but we must be careful not to take either of these mindsets and descriptions of biblical womanhood in a vacuum. Neither, by itself, actually describes biblical womanhood. Both describe aspects of womanhood (some general, some specific).

    Posted by Poparopakovski | June 30, 2014, 9:09 AM
    • Thanks for your comment! Could you clarify what you’re trying to say when you say that both mindsets “describe aspects of womanhood”? Moreover, how do you reconcile seemingly contradictory statements as I wrote them out?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 1, 2014, 12:42 AM
  2. Yes! You have no idea how happy it makes me to read this post and see that someone gets it

    Posted by hutima | June 30, 2014, 1:17 PM
  3. I have argued for a while that “complementarians” are not really complementary – they merely take power away from women. Women can be incredible leaders and it is wrong to subordinate them because of a twisted reading of the Bible.

    Posted by johandp | June 30, 2014, 1:42 PM
    • I have frequently been upset by the use of the term “complementarian” because it really does essentially become fictitious. If women are by necessity to occupy lower spheres of authority, where is the complementing relationship? Though, to be fair to complementarians, they would see their view as defining a way for male and female roles to truly work in a complementary fashion. Again, the question I would ask is: In what way are the complementary rather than merely a subordinate/authority dichotomy?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 1, 2014, 12:44 AM
  4. Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

    Posted by Truth2Freedom | June 30, 2014, 1:44 PM
  5. Interesting idea, however…

    The translation you’re using which has “provide” is translated in most others as “gives.” This same word is translated “give (gave or given)” over 600 times. It is translated as “provide” once. Proverbs isn’t the one time.

    Any concordance has the same main definition: to give, put, set.

    This doesn’t necessarily invalidate your other points, only this one.

    It caused me to look this all up, so it was thought-provoking.

    Posted by Jeremiah J Jameson | June 30, 2014, 3:22 PM
    • Thanks for your thoughtful engagement.

      Regarding your comment, I’m not at all sure what sources you’re using, because they are not provided. Thus, it is hard to analyze your argument in any way. It’s also clear as to what you’re referencing when you say that the same word, nathan, is translated over 600 times as give/gave but not in Proverbs as provide. You don’t provide the single instance, nor do you provide a source to support it. Thus, again, I am unable to evaluate the argument.

      On the other hand, both the ESV and the NIV 2011 translate nathan here as “provide.” That, I think, carries some weight because the ESV, for example, is from Crossway, which endorses complementarianism.

      I decided to do some more legwork and look it up in the Brown Driver Briggs (Oxford edition) on my shelf and came upon the translation with the lamed (as is the case here) of “procure for one” or “give something to someone for something.” Granting that BDB is essentially the most respected of all Hebrew Lexicons, I would say “provide” is roughly equivalent to “procure for one” or “give something to someone for something.” It’s unsurprising the NIV would shorten it to “provide,” though perhaps more surprising that the ESV would do so.

      Moreover, in the BDB there are literally dozens of translations for the word, which is not to suggest the semantic range fallacy but merely to say that it is hardly the case that “give” must be placed robotically into every usage (particularly since it may also mean “take” depending on the context).

      Thus, I conclude that the translation of “provide” stands as a glossing of the longer “procure for” [another] or “give something to someone for something,” particularly because these are preferred translations of nathan + a lamed, as it appears in Proverbs 31:15. If we want to get truly technical, we could simply reword my post to say “Do women not share the pressure in putting bread on the table when the Bible describes ideal womanhood as a [edit:] procure-er of food for her family without excluding the husband?”

      I hardly think that makes a substantive difference.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 1, 2014, 12:22 AM
      • It is extremely important to realize the limitations of a concordance as opposed to a lexicon. If you’re trying to make a scholarly argument against a specific translation, a concordance is not the way to go. It’s too limited in scope. They simply try to provide the most frequent translation of the word rather than providing the actual range of definitions and usages. Moreover, they do not provide the different meanings of the terms with accusatives, which is vital in this instance because it is not merely the word on its own but the word + accusative, and as I showed above that meaning is more specific. I thus am unconvinced that a concordance (or even several concordances, given that they are written with the same purpose–summing up the most frequent usage) is able to trump something like an actual lexicon.

        To put it in an analogy, it would be like saying one’s high school textbook in astronomy makes “invalid” (to use the word you said about my argument here) one’s usage of a peer-reviewed academic journal article. The former is simplified and distilled and may even appear to contradict the latter, but only because it is by necessity not as detailed. Similarly, to dismiss my argument here as “invalidated” by a concordance is to essentially throw out the scholarship in favor of the distillation.

        I took the liberty of also looking it up in my Holladay’s concise lexicon and came across the definition of “present someone with something” which is close to the BDB meanings provided above. Of course, this is from the concise lexicon and so doesn’t have the full range of meaning and usage, so the BDB has a broader and more specified look into the meanings. But even if this were the right translation we still may wonder: why should a complenentarian be so sure that the man must provide for the family when it says here that woman should be “presenting” the family with food? She procures/presents/provides/gives food for them to eat. I’m happy with any of those translations which fit the actual usage in this text.

        In short, Lexicons trump Concordances, because the latter simply don’t have the space or intent to provide the technical material needed for arguing the nuances of the terms. The Lexicons provide substantive support for this post.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 1, 2014, 12:30 AM
      • Well, it is a quite substantive difference actually.

        Here’s your sources.

        English Standard Version (ESV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New KJV, NIV, = provides
        Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), KJV, 1599 Geneva Bible = giveth
        American Standard Version = gives
        Amplified = gets
        Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA) = given

        Strong’s Interlinear Concordance = nathan 5414 = nathan: to give, put, set

        New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance = nathan = gave (293), generously give (1), give (491), given (259), gives (67), giving (37),


        provide (1), provided (2), provides (1)

        was translated (give, given, gave) 1148 times vs 4 (provides)

        when I said 600 to 1, I was just dashing figures off the top of my head.

        According the NASEC, nathan is translated 1148 times as [give, giveth, given] derivative vs 4 for [provide, provides, provided].

        While there is a “wide range” of words used, the overwhelming number of times, it is translated as “given” or “gave.”

        abandon (1), add (1), added (1), allow (14), allowed (3), applied (1), appoint (5), appointed (15), apportion (1), appropriated (1), ascribe (2), ascribed (2), assigned (5), bear (1), bestow (1), bestowed (2), blame* (1), bring (10), bring down (2), bringing (2), brings (2), brought (3), cast (3), cause (2), causes (1), certainly be given (1), certainly give (1), comes (1), commit (1), committed (1), conferred (1), consider (1), consign (1), contribute (1), cried (1), dedicated (1), defeat (1), deliver (26), delivered (26), delivers (3), designate (1), designated (1), direct (1), display (1), displayed (1), distribute (2), divide (1), enabled (1), entrust* (1), entrusted (2), entrusted* (1), establish (1), established (1), exchange (1), execute (1), executes (2), fasten (2), fastened (1), find (1), furnishing (1), gave (293), generously give (1), gift (1), give (491), given (259), gives (67), giving (37), grant (18), granted (11), growl* (1), had (3), hand over (2), hang (3), has had (1), have (2), have* (1), heap (1), held (1), hung (1), impose (1), imposed (3), indeed deliver (1), indeed give (1), inflict (2), inflicted (1), injured* (1), injures* (1), inserted (1), instilled (4), issued (5), kept giving (1), laid (5), lay (12), laying (1), lays (1), left (2), left hanging (1), lend (1), lends (1), let (7), lies* (1), lift (5), lifts (1), made (43), made turn (3), make (66), makes (3), making (3), marry off (1), offer (2), offered (4), Oh* (13), open* (1), over (1), paid (7), pay (6), performed (1), permit (2), pierce (1), pitch (1), place (13), placed (19), planted (1), pledged (2), pledged* (1), present (2), presented (1), prevent* (2), produces (1), provide (1), provided (2), provides (1), put (192), puts (4), putting (2), raised (2), reduces (1), render (2), repay (1), Requite (2), requited (1), roared loudly* (1), roared* (1), send (4), sends (1), sent (4), set (74), setting (5), show (2), showed (1), slander* (1), sounds forth (1), sparkles* (1), speaks forth (1), spend (1), spread (1), strike (1), submitted* (1), supplies (1), surely be given (1), surely give (2), take (2), taken (1), takes (1), to pay (1), took (1), traded (1), turned (6), used (1), utter (1), uttered (2), uttered forth (1), utters (5), wept* (1), wholly given (2), work (1), would* (7), yield (13), yield* (1), yielded (2), yields (2), yours (1).

        To say that “nathan” means “provide” as in “a man provides for his family” is not very good scholarship. It’s translated give, put, set normally. It’s translated so many times thus that no concordance I found even lists the other three instances of it being translated as “provides.”

        As far as lexicons go, Brown-Driver-Briggs has nathan = 2007, verb, give, put, set

        The NASB lexicon shows Proverbs 31:15 “gives.”

        The case can be made that proverbs 31:15 is “provides”–it’s just not a very good case. The word is translated more times as “turned” (6) than “provides” (4).

        ===>Do women not share the pressure in putting bread on the table when the Bible describes ideal womanhood as a [edit:] procure-er of food for her family without excluding the husband?”<===

        Well, IF the Bible described that, but it doesn't.

        You might say all that if by "putting bread on the table" you mean "she physically goes and gets the bread and puts it on the table."

        As I said, this only invalidates the assertion that Proverbs 31:15 is some sort of Hebrew version of "I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan."

        It isn't.

        There's just no way honestly to get the verse to say that.


        Posted by Jeremiah J Jameson | July 1, 2014, 2:44 AM
      • Thanks again for the substantive comment.

        Here’s the problem: you’re taking the first definition and applying it to all sorts of different places and contexts. For example, your quotation of the BDB is to simply quote the first line. Thus, you’re ignoring the actual changing usage of the word, for example in the cases I cited in which the BDB specifically, explicitly states that with a lamed (as it is in this very passage), nathan has the meanings I cited.

        Once again, you use a concordance which does not even consider the various ways the word is used in constructs like word + lamed to tell you what it means. You’re relying on a text intended to show English readers basic meanings of the words verses the technical usage in the language. You’re doing this in order to make a technical argument. Once again: high school textbook vs. peer reviewed journal. The BDB is a lexicon with an actual eye towards how the word is used in different contexts, with different prepositions, or in different forms like the niphal. The concordance is simply not the right tool for the task. You can hammer me with the concordance all day, but when I have lexicons–actual technical books which show the usage of the term in the way it is being used in this passage–which show me you’re wrong, I rest my case. Your argument comes down to a mere assertion that a book not intended for technical usage should trump the book intended for technical usage. It fails.

        So we come down to this: You are ignoring the way that context can change the meaning of the word and using concordances and only the first definition to demand your preferred translation; I am looking at lexicons and what they say specifically about the use of the word + lamed, which is what it is in this exact text. Which is more accurate? I would say very clearly the latter.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 1, 2014, 7:44 AM
      • Consider this, moreover: the argument you’ve presented so far is that because the word is used so many times in one way, it invalidates the other in which it’s used little if at all (according to a non-technical reference work). But if that’s the argument, then why allow for the other translations in that concordance? Just going by the first line, you say the concordance gives these as alternative definitions: “abandon (1), add (1), added (1), allow (14), allowed (3), applied (1), appoint (5), appointed (15), apportion (1), ”

        Oh, but wait! It says the word is used for give/take 1148 times! All of these other translations must be invalid, right?

        No, wrong. The reason is because context matters. We go to lexicons and experts in the language to figure out why they might use it as “add” or “abandon”; not to a concordance. But the problem is, when we go to a lexicon, we find nathan + lamed = procure for/give something to someone for something. Once more, we find that use of a concordance cannot simply be used as a hammer against a lexicon. The concordance is derived and distilled from lexical meanings.

        The way you’re making this argument should, if you were consistent, invalidate every other use you cited. But why do you allow them? Because they’re in your concordance. Again, this is not good scholarship. Unless one is a Hebrew expert–which I am by no means–we have to rely on lexicons. The BDB is what I’m using, which is widely regarded as the most authoritative lexicon. But I am supposed to abandon that because a tallying from a concordance goes against it? That’s not how this works.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 1, 2014, 8:14 AM
  6. I just love how the mutual submission of Eph 5:21 is ignored. It couldn’t possibly be that men are statistically more likely to improperly love their wives and women are statistically more likely to disrespect their husbands (with disrespect comes refusal to submit).

    P.S. In the time of Proverbs 31, men would not infrequently be off at war. Who’s going to run the house and provide for it while he’s gone? She will.

    Posted by labreuer | June 30, 2014, 4:38 PM
    • Thanks for stopping by!

      I agree about the mutual submission. One thing to look for is how Bible translations break up that verse, despite it being a continuing thought in the Greek. For example, the ESV conveniently puts a heading in between 5:21 and 5:22, which suggests they are separate clauses (again, not in the Greek), while the NIV puts it higher up. It is interesting to see how the complementarian press (Crossway/ESV) conveniently inserts interpretive headings in to break the text in half and prevent the reading smoothly off the page of mutual submission.

      I like the last part of your comment quite a bit, and I think it speaks to the fact that often discussions like this are steeped in one’s own cultural blinders. We have a concept in the 21st century of what is manly and read it back onto the text, rather than allowing the text to define these things for us. See the post I linked to “On the Feminization of the Church” for some other interesting examples.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 1, 2014, 12:49 AM
      • I agree with you 100% about reading our 2014 prejudices into something that was written over 2900 years ago. I didn’t mean the answer above to be so long, but you were right about providing the references. Again, it was thought-provoking as it forced me to go look it all up again.


        Posted by Jeremiah J Jameson | July 1, 2014, 2:50 AM
      • Oh yes. And I am not much of a Piper fan myself.

        Posted by Jeremiah J Jameson | July 1, 2014, 2:52 AM
      • The same crap shows up with Col 4:1 following 3:18-25, but at least the ESV doesn’t screw that one up. I’m in increasing agreement with those who think that the addition of chapter and verse was bad. It is tremendously useful to succinctly refer to bits of text, but it also strongly encourages fragmentary reading. God wants unity, not fragments. This applies to the church (1 Cor 12, Eph 4, etc.), to the self, and I’ll bet to the understanding of scripture.

        On a somewhat unrelated note, have you noticed a desire to judge by doctrine instead of by fruit, contra Jesus’ clear instructions? (The parable of the wheat and tares pops into mind.) It strikes me that if folks were to do this with regard to women’s and men’s roles, the nature of the debate would be very different.

        Posted by labreuer | July 1, 2014, 3:59 PM
    • You’re probably right.

      It’s most likely something that’s been overlooked until now.

      Posted by Jeremiah J Jameson | July 1, 2014, 8:15 AM
  7. Lots to think about here, I’m really having to work through my thinking. However I’m sad that you seem to have lifted simple ‘prooftexts’ from some complex sentences. I don’t see Piper disputing Proverbs 31 at all; just giving it a deeper context? Still thinking, thanks for the mental workout : )

    Posted by Hilary Steele | July 1, 2014, 8:28 AM
  8. 1) J.W says ” … because the ESV, for example, is from Crossway, which endorses complementarianism.”
    I had never considered that people would translate the Bible to achieve specific ends, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Whether it is conscious or subconscious, it is quite possible to let our preconceptions and biases color our thoughts.

    2) Should this be more precisely labeled “Biblical ‘Wife’hood”? I am not sure exactly which of these ideals would apply differently to single women instead of married women, but the section seems pretty clearly to be written about wives.

    Posted by Tim Folkerts | July 1, 2014, 1:51 PM
  9. J.W.,

    Your engagement with the concept of biblical manhood and womanhood is a crucial one; yet, it is one seldom treated objectively in Christian circles, much less witnessed with clarity by non-Christians. We have a long way to go!

    This reply, like your blog entry, is not one which aims to exhaustively (nor irrefutably) argue for egalitarianism against complementarianism or vice versa. I mean only to address your analysis of Piper’s essay. While I find many of your posts insightful and informative, I do hope the manner with which you wrote this is not indicative of your approach to subjects of similar consequence. On that score, maybe the only worthwhile outcome of this reply will be a future revision or reconsideration of the methodology evinced here.

    As I see it, you made the following points in your entry:

    1. Complementarianism is a view with “strict definitions of what roles men and women should occupy”: i.e., “different roles in the home and church, with men as leaders.”
    2. Complementarians, particularly Piper, teach “that ‘biblical’ womanhood is to yield, to be led, not to be the head of the home, be provided for, indeed even to avoid situations in which a woman is closely leading a man in the office (52).” Also, “women [i.e., spouses] are [not(?)] to rebuke [a husband’s] sin” (this may be a typo on your part or a misreading on mine).
    3. “[R]oles that have been defined for women” by complementarians are not biblical because they are not present in Proverbs 31, and possibly lack Scriptural basis at all.
    4. The definition of biblical womanhood is that found in Proverbs 31: namely, one who is “A buyer, seller, purveyor, manufacturer, innovator, leader, provider, entrepreneur, and above all, one of God [sic].”

    (1) and (2) involve a biased approach to a definition of terms. However difficult (if not impossible) it may be to wholly remove one’s biases, it is not nearly so difficult to provide an accurate portrayal of that in which one finds disagreement. Avoiding terms like “alleges” and “shockingly” to describe the opposition juxtaposed with terms like “astonishing” and “destroys” to illustrate one’s own view would be a good start toward a more balanced stance. Yet, more importantly here, avoiding simplistic descriptions that underscore controversy (such as suggesting complementarians insist only men lead or hold positions of authority) can do much more to garner objectivity. But even better would be to consider and include the greater context of the book (not to mention immediate context) in which this essay exists in your analysis, the 1991 Preface (also included in the 2006 edition you cited) by Piper and Grudem (Eds.) includes a “brief note about terms” that more accurately describes what is meant by complementarian: “it suggests both equality and beneficial differences between men and women” (p. 11). This is just one of other formal definitions that may have been employed, rather than what appears to be an imprecise deduction—unless you are referring to some outside source.

    In (3), you indicated that complementarians may have limited if any exegetical support for their position, thus branding their view extra-biblical. However, Piper’s objectives in this essay are clear in his introductory remarks (p. 26): an attempt to define some of the distinct elements of manhood and womanhood from a biblical perspective as a concise overview more so than a “detailed exegetical argument,” electing to “leave the comprehensive technical discussion for the following chapters.” A fairer treatment of this criticism would therefore include commentary on this section—with the work of Ortlund, Moo, Johnson, and others—titled “Exegetical and Theological Studies.” Even if this were not the case, though Piper admits to not providing the same exegetical rigor or fully articulated argumentation for each conclusion, as he enunciates his methodological aim for the essay, he does state: “I have tried to include enough Biblical argumentation in this essay, especially in the footnotes, to show why I believe this vision of manhood and womanhood is in fact ‘according to the Bible.'” This oversight may lead your readers to question the truth of your representation.

    You made several good points regarding Proverbs 31.10-31, but as many conclusions drawn as they relate to the position of the essay do not seem tenable (4). For instance, as a unit, Proverbs 31.10-31 provide us with a robust description of an industrious and skillful woman worthy of much praise. These traits are admirable; these potential aspects of womanhood, worthy of emulation. We cannot conclude however that this is the only description of womanhood, that it is exclusive, that it is comprehensive. Neither can we say that this passage is illustrative, even by implication, of manhood according to Scripture. Fundamentally: in drawing principles from Scripture, the totality of the teachings and assertions must be contextually synthesized. To deem Piper’s essay erroneous by briefly treating this passage is an egregious misstep. Consider that, were personhood related to manhood and womanhood exhausted in this section alone, the converse portrait of manhood is merely one of “a foil for the description of the wife,” his role being “inconsequential” at best, “reduced to hanging out with the crowd at the gates, while she is the effective power in the household” (Murphy, Roland E., Proverbs. Vol. 22 of _Word Biblical Commentary_. Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. Waco: Word Books, 1998.).

    It would be, in other words, more fitting to weigh your application of Proverbs 31.10-31 alongside Piper’s statements concerning a man’s primary responsibility to provide from page 33 (a paragraph immediately preceding one of your citations):

    “The point of saying that a man should feel a responsibility to provide for a woman is not that the woman should not assist in maintaining support for the family or for society in general. She always has done this historically because so much of the domestic life required extraordinary labors on her part just to maintain the life of the family. Today in many cultures women carry a tremendous breadwinning role in the field, often while the men do far less strenuous tasks. It s possible to be excessively demanding or excessively restrictive on a woman’s role in sustaining the life of the family. Proverbs 31 pictures a wife with great ability in the business affairs of the family.”

    Where the contradiction exists here is speculative at best.

    Finally, though ver much questioned, you did not engage with Piper’s description of womanhood (and manhood), as would have been expected for an essay that would take issue with precisely that fact (p. 29):

    “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”


    “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

    It is difficult, therefore, due to the lack of objectivity in stance and misconception of approach, to find an uncompromised engagement with truth on the subject. I hope future entries on these issues prove more fruitful in their aims, exercising a greater degree of fidelity to the task.


    [In regards to women “yielding” to men even in areas of sin: It is difficult to accept your reasoning here, as it relates to submission. Below is the quote you included, with context, that makes this clear (p. 38):

    “. . .the biblical reality of a wife’s submission would take different forms depending on the quality of a husband’s leadership. This can be seen best if we define submission not in terms of specific behaviors, but as a disposition to yield to the husband’s authority and an inclination to follow his leadership. This is important to do because no submission of one human being to another is absolute. The husband does not replace Christ as the woman’s supreme authority. She must never follow her husband’s leadership into sin. She will not steal with him or get drunk with him or savor pornography with him or develop deceptive schemes with him.

    “But even where a Christian wife may have to stand with Christ against the sinful will of her husband, she can still have a spirit of submission—a disposition to yield. She can show by her attitude and behavior that she does not like resisting his will and that she longs for him to forsake sin and lead in righteousness so that her disposition to honor him as head can again produce harmony.”]

    Posted by Luis Zaldaña | July 4, 2014, 5:38 PM
  10. Complementarity will not stand in the face of the egalitarianism of God’s children. The ekklesia is composed of equals, all of whom have the right to participate in the process of Christian business and living. Complementarity is simply a reflection of roles that people must fulfill as the live their lives. Even Dr. Piper told of a time, when his mother spoke to him (a teenager at the time, I think) to him with the voice of authority just like his father (if my memory serves me correctly). The big problem is that man is depraved, and civilization cannot afford to give any person unquestioned authority over another. There must be a system of checks and balances even in the relationships between men and women. Complementarians seldom seem to provide for any such restraints.

    Posted by dr. james willingham | November 30, 2015, 7:10 AM


  1. Pingback: A Junia Thanksgiving: 5 Things We're Thankful For | The Junia Project - November 26, 2014

  2. Pingback: A Junia Thanksgiving | Challenging Tertullian - November 28, 2014

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