What I mean by this is a little beyond "Wives submit to your husbands." In Joshua 7:22-25 Joshua stones and burns the entire family of Achen, including his children, after he sins by keeping back some of the loot from Jericho when God commanded it all be destroyed. Was Joshua in sin because he did this or was this a right response? God certainly blessed them right after this with victory over Ai.

Also Exodus 20:5-6 (NJKV) states:

...For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

On a more practical note according to a study reported in Baptist Press:

[If] a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow[.]

If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.

But if the father is first, there is a 93 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.

Does this point to a leadership of a father that goes beyond simple moral or financial and moves into the distinctively spiritual?

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    what "surveys" / "saved" are you referring to in the second part of the question, and what is the connection to spiritual headship here? Commented May 1, 2012 at 5:44
  • One can be found here: ncfic.org/articlemodule/view_article/id/8/src numbers are more extreme than mine. There are others as well but I can't find them now. Commented May 1, 2012 at 14:51
  • Source for that can be found at bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=15630. Can't find the focus on the family study they mention with a quick search. Commented May 1, 2012 at 15:53
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    Comments aren't the right format to discuss justice in the book of Joshua. But my point is that Rahab was the "spiritual head" of her family if you are using "saving" her family as a yardstick. The story of Achen seems a red herring to me. I don't see how this question is at all productive. Commented May 1, 2012 at 20:46
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    Okay, let me go ahead and update the question and add some more stuff. I just thought that the Achen story was compelling. Commented May 2, 2012 at 2:43

3 Answers 3


Yes. No. Maybe.

This is all really tied up in the idea of Federal Headship. The most obvious Scriptural example of this is Adam and Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:22

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive

This is developed a lot more in the epistles, but the general idea is that Adam acted as a representative for all of mankind: a distinctly spiritual head. Christ of course acted as the same, working the other way.

So, the question is, to what extent does everyone after Adam carry on his spiritual federal headship?

In Genesis 22:18 God says to Moses

in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed me voice

Paul confirms this in Galatians 3:6-7

just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

You could make similar demonstrations for prominent biblical characters such as David, or Noah. If Noah had not "by faith" (as Hebrews said) obeyed God and made the arc, his descendants would be doomed! (Mostly because they wouldn't exist)

So there seems to be a sense in which God uses the faith of a spiritual "father" (I suppose that's why we call them the patriarchs?) to direct the spiritual status of their descendants.

And of course, how can we forget the most weighty declaration of this in Exodus 20:5-6

...for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Cultural Adaptation?

I suspect (perhaps this could be asked on Judaism.SE) that this idea of federal representativeness or headship became quickly ingrained in Jewish culture. As a result, all throughout the Old Testament families are put to death because of the sins of the father. In Numbers 16, Korah's entire household. In 2 Samuel 21, 7 of Saul's sons are put to death for his unresolved sins against the Gibeonites.

It seems, then, that while this might not always be a 100%, black-and-white, specific case, that in general the father acts as the representative for the family - be it a moral, spiritual, or any other -al issue.

And now?

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul seems to generalize this even further:

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (vs. 13-14)

Regardless of what "made holy" means, there's a couple interpretations here that might support the federal headship theory:

  1. Paul is reassuring his audience that, even if the father (the spiritual head) is an unbeliever, his wife makes the children holy in his stead
  2. Both parents, whether husband or wife, contribute to the child's "holiness" and so Paul is generalizing federal headship further to both parents, not just the father.

Paedobaptists like myself would say there is definitely an element in which the parents contribute to the status of their children in the covenant community:

Acts 2:39 The promise is for you and your children...

So yes, there is definitely some biblical support for this idea and I (and I suspect most Evangelicals) would agree that to some extent the Father specifically (but also the mother) have a sort of "spiritual" leadership.

But no, it's not as if every father is acting as a second Adam, determining the righteousness of his children.

So depending on what exactly you mean: yes, no, maybe so

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    Thanks @Doubting Thomas, this is exactly the kind of thorough response I was looking for. Commented May 3, 2012 at 14:48

Of course, the man is the spiritual head of the family. There are many references in the Bible that point to it.

Ephesians 5:23

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Note that the charge of bringing children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is given to the fathers.

Joshua, spoke for his whole family -

(Joshua 24:15)

as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD

Although not directly related to spiritual headship, it should be noted that the angel appeared specifically to Joseph (Matthew 2:13, Matthew 2:20) and not to Mary, to tell him where to take the baby Jesus.

Paul, refers to himself as the "father" of the Corinthians in 1 Cor 4:15

"For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Paul sees his role of leading the Corinthians deeper in their relationship with Christ as that of a father.

Genesis 49:26

The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills...

Note that we can be brothers, sisters or mothers of Jesus, but not his father!

(Mark 3:35)

"Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother

Note that Jesus has no problem in having a human being as his mother, but he doesn't have such a provision for a father. This strongly hints towards the fact that fatherhood implies spiritual headship over the son and the family in general. Jesus himself is called the Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

Hope this helps!

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE. This is a good answer as far as content goes but it kind of starts off on the wrong foot as far as tone goes. Could we ask that you edit to fix that bit? Thanks.
    – Caleb
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 8:14
  • Please don't discern tones in written communication!! I had said it in a gentle tone!! Commented May 4, 2012 at 1:30
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    Ok that's good, but the issue runs a little deeper than tone. You lead off by implying that the OP has a "problem accepting" something. Whatever you may think about the condition of the asker here, that isn't the way to lead off. This is a technical reference site, not a personal counseling site.
    – Caleb
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 5:56
  • @Caleb, you have a valid point there. I'll edit my response. Commented May 5, 2012 at 0:06
  • And in Luke 1:30, it is just to Mary; your point about appearing to one person is moot. The only thing the other verses really show is the patriarchal society of the time... Commented May 5, 2012 at 12:10

2 Timothy 1:5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and I am persuaded is in you also. I see no mention of Timothy's grandfather or father in this verse. Leaving me to the conclusion that is not just a man's duty.

  • Also read about Deborah in judges chapters 4-5
    – Tonya
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:05
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    This doesn't answer the question.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 2:15
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    This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal interpretation, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 2:44
  • Well I did not catch wether the question was " head " in the church or home. Of course Timothys father was a Greek and mother was a Jew
    – Tonya
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 11:42

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