Authority. 1. Legal power, or a right to command or to act; as the authority of a prince over subjects, and of parents over children. Power; rule; sway.
Property. 4. The exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing of a thing; ownership. In the beginning of the world, the Creator gave to man dominion over the earth, over the fish of the sea and the fowls of the air, and over every living thing. This is the foundation of man’s property in the earth and in all its productions. Prior occupancy of land and of wild animals gives to the possessor the property of them. The labor of inventing, making or producing any thing constitutes one of the highest and most indefeasible titles to property. Property is also acquired by inheritance, by gift or by purchase. Property is sometimes held in common, yet each man’s right to his share in common land or stock is exclusively his own. One man may have the property of the soil,and another the right of use, by prescription or by purchase.
“Ownership” and “authority” are near synonyms. Authority is the right to use or dispose of something. Every single authority relationship is also one of property ownership. My employer owns a certain amount of my time in exchange for modest pay and benefits. I have granted them some authority over me for certain purposes. Every parent has some ownership of their children. Every husband has some ownership of his wife.
Note that I did not say ownership is the absolute right to do whatever you want with something. No authority but God’s is absolute. Therefore, no property interest but God’s is absolute. The Bible is very clear that if you abuse the things God has given you, he will take them away. That includes land, objects, people, and nations. All people have God-given rights and responsibilities. Like King George (whichever one you care to name), if you try to deny them, you forfeit your authority.
So when people, who otherwise accept the Bible’s teachings concerning a husband’s authority over his wife, get upset about a husband owning his wife, they’re actually conceding the point to the opposition. If a husband has no property interest in his wife, then he has no authority over her either. Otherwise the concept of “property” has no real meaning. There is no shame in being under authority. Everyone is under someone else’s authority in some way.
So does a husband own his wife? Not in the way we Americans normally talk about ownership, but possibly in the way that the Scriptures talk about it.
If you don’t accept the Bible’s teachings on patriarchy, then that’s another argument altogether. It still doesn’t change the definitions of property or authority.