Keepers of the Home
do 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. The mother
who may be forced to work outside the home, however, is silently scorned as
selfish and negligent of her children. Both conclusions are unfair
generalizations that may or may not reflect the truth of the situation.
The Christian wife and mother must wrestle with many difficult
choices in our age. She must be obedient to the word of God. She must
nurture, love, and mold her children. She must use her abilities unto the
glory of God. And she must be prepared to answer the challenges of an ungodly
world critical of her choices. What matters in the long run is not what the
world thinks about our choices but what the Lord thinks.
following study 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 requires
of wives and mothers in this age. In addition, I hope it may provide some
resources with which to answer those critical of choices made before Almighty
Key Passage: Titus 2:5
The Holy 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 within the home.
Unfortunately, the many English translations that 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 6000
handwritten manuscripts of the Greek New Testament that 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 rely
upon when making a 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 and Scott, Abridged, 17th edition, 478).
The King James and New King James versions look to this word in their
translation—“keepers at home” (KJV) or “homemakers” (NKJV).
Based on the King James rendering one might draw the
conclusion that the point is for the woman to keep or stay at
home. The emphasis, however, seems to be on the woman’s responsibility to the
home, not exclusively her presence in the house. Vincent explains,“The meaning
is not stayers at home, but keepers or guardians of the
household” (Vol. IV, 342). This word is a compound of oikos meaning “house”
and ouros meaning “a watcher.”
Scholars tell us
that oikouros was a common word in the ancient world. Liddell and Scott
claim it carried with it the idea of one acting as a watchdog (8th ed. 1032).
In Athens four hundred 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).
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” (Homily 4, on Titus).
“Workers at Home”
Instead of the idea of the wife as “keeper of the house”
some manuscripts use the word oikourgous meaning “working at home”
(BAG, 561). The American Standard and New American Standard look to this word—“workers
at home” (ASV, NASB). It also is a compound of oikos meaning “house,”
but with the word ergon “work” added to it rather than the word
Scholars tell us this word was less common in ancient
literature. 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 a female illnesses he
writes—“Conduct life as a house-worker
sitting-still” (1.27). 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” (To the
The only other clues we
have regarding the meaning of what the Lord is teaching us in this text come
from ancient translations. When translators in the first few centuries after
Christ sought to convey the idea into Latin the translator of the Vulgate (ca.
400 A.D.) 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 (or Aramaic). The Syriac version called the
Peshitta (ca. 400 A.D,) connected 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 With Certainty?
Several points 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.
2. This 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). Women are to be “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.”
5. Whatever demands may be placed upon her by her
circumstances she must not surrender her responsibility as “keeper of the