“Keepers of the Home”
By Kyle Pope
Ido not envy
the position in which our world has placed women in this generation! The
mother who chooses to stay at home and raise her children is mocked and
ridiculed as one with no ambition or talent. Yet the mother who may be forced
to work outside the home is silently scorned as selfish and negligent of her
children. Both conclusions are unfair generalizations which may or may not be
Christian wife and mother must wrestle with many difficult choices in our age.
They must be obedient to the Word of God. They must nurture, love and mold
their children. They must use their abilities unto the glory of God. And they
must be prepared to answer the challenges of an ungodly world critical of their
choices. What matters in the long run is not what the world thinks about our
choices but what the Lord thinks.
article is offered as a study tool. It is for the many good Christian women
who seek to be obedient to God’s will regardless of the different circumstances
in which they may find themselves. My prayer is that the information provided
below will assist in understanding what the Lord asks of wives and mothers in
this age. In addition I hope that it may provide some resources with which to
answer those critical of choices made before Almighty God.
Key Passage – Titus
Spirit through the pen of the Apostle Paul gave instruction to the preacher Titus
to teach the older women to admonish the younger women – “to be discreet,
chaste, HOMEMAKERS, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God
may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:5 NKJV emphasis mine). This, perhaps more
than any other passage in Scripture addresses the issue. If we can understand
what the Lord is commanding in this verse we can go a long way towards
understanding what the Lord asks of wives and mothers with respect to the home.
the many English translations which are available today complicate rather than
simplify the matter. The New Testament was originally written in Greek.
Before the age of the printing press all copies of written material had to be
copied by hand. Of the more than 4000 handwritten manuscripts of the Greek New
Testament which have survived over the centuries there are minor differences
when it comes to spelling or words of similar meaning. What a translator must
decide is which manuscripts to look to in their translation.
“Keepers at Home”
Of the handwritten
copies which contain Titus 2:5 the majority of the manuscripts have the word oikourous
meaning – “Watching or keeping the house. II.
Staying at home, domestic…the mistress of the house” (Liddell &
Scott, Abridged 17th ed. pg. 478). The King James and New King James versions
look to this word in their translations – “keepers at home” (KJV).
Based on the
King James rendering one might draw the conclusion that the point is for the
woman to “keep” or “stay” at home. However the emphasis seems to be on the
woman’s responsibility to the home. Vincent claims – “The meaning is not stayers
at home, but keepers or guardians of the household” (Vol. IV, p.
342). This word is a compound of oikos (o‰kow) - “house” and ouros
Scholars tell us
that this was a common word in the ancient world. Liddell & Scott claim it
carried with it the idea of one acting as watch-dog (8th ed. p. 1032). In
Athens 400 years before Christ there stood a pagan temple called the Erectheum
which housed the figure of a snake. The snake symbolized security and
protection of the city of Athens. The playwright Aristophanes calls this “the
GUARDIAN (oikouros) Serpent” ( Lysistrata 759, p. 212, 252).
Four hundred years after Christ a preacher named Chrysostom used the word to
describe a wife’s proper conduct. He writes – “The woman who is KEEPER
OF THE HOUSE (oikouros) will be of sound mind; the KEEPER OF THE HOUSE
(oikouros) practices management of the house; she is not about
luxury, nor unnecessary goings-out, nor will she be occupied with such things
of others” (taken from Alford, Vol. III, p. 416).
Instead of the idea
of the wife as “keeper of the house” some manuscripts use the word oikourgous
meaning, “working at home” (BAG, p. 561). The
American Standard and New American Standard look to this word – “workers at
home” (ASV, NASB). It also is a compound of oikos “house”
but with the word ergon “work” added to it rather than “watcher”.
tell us this word was less common in ancient usage. The only example of oikourgous
being used outside of Scripture is that which is found in the medical writings
of a Second Century doctor named Soranus of Ephesus. Concerning one having
female illnesses he writes – “Conduct life as a house-worker (oikourgos) even sitting-still” (taken from Nicoll, Vol. IV, p. 192).
The verb form of this word is found in the writings of the Second Century
Christian Clement of Rome. In a probable reference to Paul’s teachings in
Titus 2:5 he writes – “Ye taught them to keep in the rule of obedience, and to
manage the affairs (oikourgein)
of their household in seemliness, with all discretion” (The Apostolic
Fathers, Lightfoot, Vol. II, p. 272).
The only other
clues we have regarding the meaning of what it is that the Lord is teaching us
here come from ancient translations. When translators in the first few
centuries after Christ tried to convey the idea into Latin the translator of
the Vulgate (400 AD.) used three words – domus curam habentes (“having
a care of the house” - Rheims-Douay Version, from the Vulgate). Another
early translation was one done in Syriac (Aramaic). The Syriac version called
the Peshitta (400’s AD) connects this thought with the next word in the text – “…
discreet, chaste, good homemakers,
obedient to their own husbands…” (Lamsa Version from the Peshitta).
What Can We Know
can be ascertained from this information which can help us define what the Lord
is teaching here:
1. Women are
given the responsibility to manage and watch over affairs of the household.
management is to be conducted in subjection and obedience to the husband. – “The
husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church”
(Ephesians 5:23) “Obedient to their own husbands” (Titus 2:5).
3. This is a
serious responsibility. They are the “watch-dogs” of the family, the
“guardians” of the children.
4. This job
demands industry, activity and hard work. They are “workers at home”.
demands may be placed upon her by her circumstances she must not surrender her
responsibility as “keeper of the house”.