Summary: Decades ago, most Christian pastors, teachers, and counselors in effect tore-out of their Bibles the portion of Titus 2:5 which enjoins that women (especially younger women) are to be “keepers at home.”
For over a half-century, we have witnessed our society depart from God's will in regard to the differing roles and responsibilities that individuals are to play based upon their gender. Feminism, more than any other ungodly philosophy, has motivated American and European societies to reject the fundamental Biblical teaching on gender roles. To even suggest, in this 21st Century, that there are different roles and responsibilities assigned by the Lord for each gender is blasphemous to our secular culture.
Tragically, most churches and their leaders have felt a need to downplay or even reject much of the Scriptural instruction on gender roles for fear of being labeled sexist and promoters of gender prejudice and 'oppression'. For example, decades ago, most Christian pastors, teachers, and counselors in effect tore-out of their Bibles the portion of Titus 2:5 which enjoins that women (especially younger women) are to be “keepers at home.” Even those pastor/teachers who have claimed to be 'conservative' or 'fundamentalist' in their approach to the Scriptures have so distorted the meaning of the text so as to render its application void.
In this article, I want to address the meaning and application of Paul's admonition that women are to be “keepers at home.”
To gain a surer understanding of what it means for the women to be “keepers at home”, I think we should consider the Greek text. We need to discern the concept conveyed by the Greek term.
The phrase “keepers at home” is the translation of the single Greek term “oikouros”. This is a compound of 'oikos” (house) and 'ouros' (guardian, watcher). During the classical Greek period, it described being stationed at a location (e.g., house, temple, community) and ensuring that the affairs meant to be accomplished at that location were able to be accomplished by maintaining its protection and security. Liddell and Scott claim it carried with it, in ancient times, the idea of one acting as a watchdog (8th ed. 1032).
As is so often the case with words, over time the meaning and use of the word “oikouros” evolved. By the time the New Testament was written and extending forward into the period of the Early Church Fathers, the term had lost its meaning of supplying physical protection and security to a house. Rather, it took on the meaning of one who abides within the house and tends to its affairs as a domestic (whether bond or free), a house-keeper, a homemaker.
Many, today, teach that “oikouros” does not imply that the woman has to abide in the home as a domestic. They assert that as long as a woman can see to it that household chores are done and the family's basic needs are met, the woman can still obey Paul's instruction even if she is employed outside of the home. However, there isn't any grammatical or lexical ground to support such a leap.
One must adhere to what the term meant when it was originally chosen. The fact is, “oikouros” does carry the idea that the woman is to abide in the home. The vast majority of Greek experts agree with the definition of “oikouros” as stated in Walter Bauer's 'A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature' as “staying at home” and being a “domestic”.
It is also noteworthy that those who have translated Titus 2:5 from the Greek text (Textus Receptus) into our English versions such as the KJV, have rendered the term as “keepers AT home” rather than simply 'keepers OF THE home.”
There is another piece of evidence that supports the view that Paul was teaching that women are to remain at home rather than be employed outside of the home. The bulk of the earlier, older surviving Greek manuscripts of Titus 2:5 have the term “oikourgos” rather than “oikouros”. “Oikourgos” is a compound of 'oikos” (house) and 'ergos' (workers). Our newer English translations, such as the ASV, ERV, NASB, NIV, etc., are derived from these earlier manuscripts and, therefore, read that the women are to be “workers at home.”
It is likely that “oikourgos”, a rather rare word, was the original term used by Paul and that later copyists chose to substitute it with the more common word “oikouros.” Whether one or the other word is the original doesn’t make much difference, however, as both oikourgos and oikouros have a similar meaning. Both words are about staying at home and domesticity; but, oikourgos has the added meaning of being productive while staying at home.
Respected Greek authorities overwhelmingly agree on the terms' meaning. For example - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and Lexicon states that the woman is to be “a stayer at home, i.e., domestically inclined.” Moulton's Greek Dictionary says she is to be a “house-worker”. William Mounce's The Biblical Greek Primer has the woman being “busy at home, domestic; one who is occupied in domestic affairs.” Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament states that Paul is teaching that the Christian women are to be “keeping at home and taking care of household affairs.”