1 Peter Bible Study Notes, Week 10
1 Peter 3:1-6
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him ‘lord.’ You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3:1-6 NIV
Things to think about
To who are you submissive? How do you express this?
What are some expressions of biblical submission?
Are you more concerned with your inner self or your outer appearance?
How much time (and money) do you spend developing your inner self compared with time spent on personal grooming?
Who are the “holy women of old” that Peter is referring to?
Name some Bible women who were submissive to their husbands?
In this passage, Peter speaks directly to the Christian wives and dissuades them from focusing on their outward appearance. In the Old Testament, it seems that a woman’s worth was largely determined by how she looked and appealed to men. A beautiful woman was worth more than a plain woman. In the New Testament, a woman’s appearance does not seem to be nearly as important. [More on this here.]
One of the reasons Peter, and also Paul, dissuaded women from focusing on their looks was because a woman’s hairstyle, jewellery, and clothes, reflected her social status and wealth, and distinctions of status and wealth were undesirable in early church communities where equality was encouraged and favouritism discouraged. [More on this here.] Instead of being concerned with their appearance, Peter wanted the Christian women to focus on their character.
The instruction for wifely submission in 1 Peter 3:1 picks up again on the theme of submission that Peter began earlier in his letter. Peter had first told all Christians to submit to governing authorities using an imperative verb (1 Pet 2:13). Then he used a participle of submission in his instruction to the household servants to be submissive to their masters (1 Pet 2:18). And then he used the participle again in his instruction to wives to be submissive to their husbands (1 Peter 3:1). Being submissive—which includes being humble, deferential, cooperative, loyal and respectful—is a characteristic of Christ-like living.
[The following has been copied and pasted from a previous article entitled Submission and Respect from Wives: 1 Peter 3:1-6.]
The Holy Women of the Past
I’ve read this scripture countless times and have never questioned what Peter wrote. I just accepted that there must be numerous “holy women of the past” who were examples of the kind of wifely submission that is promoted in many churches today. I had also simply accepted that Sarah must have been a particularly good example of wifely submission.
Just recently though, I’ve been taking a closer look at 1 Peter, and I’ve started asking some questions about the text. For example, Who were these “holy women of the past”? And, In what way was Sarah submissive to Abraham? Here are some of my findings and thoughts.
In 1 Peter 3:1ff, Peter addressed the Christian women of Asia Minor and he urged them to be submissive to their (mostly) unsaved husbands. He also wanted them to focus on their inner beauty rather than on their outer beauty and live their lives in purity. The purpose of Peter’s instruction was evangelistic. Peter hoped the virtuous behaviour and lifestyle of the Christian wives might be persuasive and “win” (a missionary term) the husbands. These men had been unpersuaded by the Word (logos), but Peter suggests they may be won to the Christian faith without a word (logos) from their godly Christian wives.
Peter used the examples of the “holy women of the past” to illustrate how the women in Asia Minor should behave. But who exactly were these holy women who Peter had in mind?
As I go through the list of Bible women in my mind, apart from Sarah, I cannot find one single clear example of a woman who submitted to her husband. On the contrary, the Bible gives us numerous examples of holy women who did not behave in (what much of the Church would consider) a submissive manner towards their husbands.
Several holy women took the initiative in significant situations without the apparent permission, protection, or cooperation from men. These women include Moses’ mother (Exod. 2:1–3), Rahab (Josh. 2:1–6), Deborah (Judg. 4–5), Ruth (Ruth 2:2–3; 3:1–6), Hannah (1 Sam. ch. 1–2), and a well-to-do Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8–37), etc.
Several holy women were the primary or first recipients of divine, angelic, or prophetic visitations, without the intervention or presence of a husband or male guardian. The following are just a few examples where God, an angel, or a prophet spoke directly to a woman: Rebekah (Gen. 25:22–23); Samson’s mother (Judg. 13); the “Wailing Women” (Jer. 9:17); Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26–38); Mary Magdalene (Matt. 28:9–10; Mark 16:9–11; John 20:17–18), etc. Moreover, Huldah, Miriam, Deborah, Anna, and Philip’s daughters are acknowledged as respected prophetesses in the Bible.
Several holy women went against authority figures, disobeyed laws, and disregarded the wishes of their own husbands. Shiphrah and Puah disobeyed Pharaoh’s command, and God blessed them for their disobedience (Exod. 1:15–21). Rebekah and Abigail went against their husband’s wishes. There is no hint of censure against Rebekah in the Bible (Gen. 27:1–28:2), and Abigail was commended for her wise and brave actions (1 Sam. 25). Queen Esther, in order to save the Jewish people, disobeyed a law and risked her life by coming into her husband’s presence without being summoned (Esth. 4:11; 5:1).
It seems that Peter may not have had any specific woman in mind, apart from Sarah, when he wrote, “the holy women of the past who submitted themselves to their husbands.” It seems he may have been writing about godly women in general.
I am amazed there are so many women mentioned in the Bible who took the initiative and acted bravely and independently in what was a very patriarchal society. I am equally amazed there are almost no women mentioned in the Bible who are obvious examples of wifely submission. I guess women who lead nations (Judg. ch. 4–5) and ward off aggressive armies (1 Sam. ch 25), etc, are more interesting than women who lead quiet lives in the home. And so the more interesting women and their stories have made it into the Bible.
Sarah is the only Bible woman who clearly submitted to her husband’s wishes. It was a great act of submission and courage for Sarah to leave her home and clan, and accompany her husband on a difficult, dangerous journey into the unknown (Gen. 12:1–5).
Furthermore, on two occasions Sarah complied with her husband’s request to deceive a foreign king. (See Genesis 12:10–20 and 20:1–18, esp. Gen 20:13b.) Abraham was worried that the kings would kill him in order to clear the way to his beautiful wife. She must have been a stunner! So Abraham asked Sarah to go along with the ruse that he was her brother and not her husband (Gen. 12:11-13; 20:13b). This was a half-truth as Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister (Gen. 20:12).
Abraham’s motives appear to have been selfish. His main concern was for his own safety. He does not seem to have been concerned about his wife who was taken by foreign kings, twice (Gen. 12:15; 20:2–3). The Bible is clear that on the second occasion Sarah was spared from having sex with the king, but it seems she became the first king’s wife for a short time (Gen. 12:19 cf. 20:4–6).
Sarah did not submit simply because Abraham was her master; she submitted because she wanted to protect her husband. Sarah, however, did not always go along with what Abraham wanted. For instance, Sarah wanted to dismiss Hagar and Ishmael, but this idea distressed Abraham. On this occasion, God said to Abraham (literally): “… in everything, whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice.” (Genesis 21:12b, translated from the Septuagint). In Genesis 16:2 it says that Abraham (literally) obeyed Sarah’s voice. The Greek word hupakouō used in this verse is a common word in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) and the Greek New Testament and is usually translated as “obey.” Conversely, nowhere in the Genesis narratives of Abraham and Sarah does it state that Sarah “obeyed” her husband. “Nevertheless, the submission of Sarah to Abraham was a long-standing element of Jewish traditions.”
Peter also mentions that Sarah called Abraham “lord.” The Greek word for “lord,” kurios, is common in the Septuagint and in the New Testament. Kurios is usually translated into English as “lord,” “master,” or “sir.” Sarah refers to Abraham as kurios in Genesis 18:12 in the Septuagint, “though she does not address him directly by that term. This noun [kurios] is the only lexical connection between the [biblical] story of Sarah and Peter’s claim.”
It is interesting to note that Sarah is laughing when she refers to Abraham as her lord: “Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'” (Gen, 18:12). She does not use the word in an especially reverential fashion. Note also that Rebekah called Abraham’s servant “sir” (kurios) in Genesis 24:18 (Septuagint), and Mary Magdalene called Jesus “sir” (kurios) when she mistook him for a gardener in John 20:15. Rebekah and Mary Magdalene were using the word as a term of respect.
As well as being a term of respect, kurios is also used with affection. In The Testament of Abraham, a work which, like First Peter, probably dates to the end of the first century AD, Sarah calls Abraham “my lord.” This is most likely the text that Peter had in mind when he mentions Sarah to the wives in Asia Minor. There are two Greek recensions (a long and a short version) of The Testament of Abraham. In the longer version, Sarah addresses Abraham as “my lord” five times, but there is nothing shy or retiring about her speech. Rather, her conversation with Abraham is affectionate (5.31) and candid (6.4, 7, 12, 25), and it indicates that she is a woman with spiritual discernment.
In our culture, it would be very odd for a wife to call her husband “lord” or “sir.” Sarah, however, was simply using a term of respect and affection that was appropriate for the culture of that time. The New Testament has clear instructions for husbands and for wives to treat their marriage partners with honour, respect and affection. (See 1 Peter 3:7 and Ephesians 5:33.)
I suspect that Peter’s use of “the holy women of the past” was to highlight the godliness and faithfulness of women, more so than their submission to husbands. Many Old Testament women showed great faithfulness to God and displayed considerable courage in difficult circumstances. Peter advises the wives in Asia Minor to be gentle and do good and not to be afraid of intimidation of their non-Christian husbands. (These themes are picked up again in 1 Peter 3:13-17).
Peter was asking the wives to be brave and he uses the example of Sarah as encouragement. It seems that Sarah, who like the wives in Asia Minor may not have had much choice in the matter, was courageous and willing to mislead kings, putting her well-being in jeopardy, in order to save her husband’s life.
You have become [Sarah’s] children when you do what is good and do not fear any intimidation (1 Pet. 3:6b CSB).
Sarah did not always comply with her husband’s wishes, however. She used her own wisdom and discernment when deciding whether or not she would do what Abraham wanted. While husbands, as well as wives, should always be seeking to support, help, and accommodate their spouse, they also need to be sensible and wise, and do the right thing. Sometimes doing the good and right thing means not complying with the request of your spouse.
The purpose of this article is not to say that women do not need to be submissive to their own husbands. In fact, the New Testament is clear that, like humility, meekness, and kindness, submission is a Christian virtue for men and for women (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5 NJKV). The purpose of this article is to show that women can have a humble and submissive attitude and use their intelligence, influence, initiative, and individual abilities without artificial limitations. This becomes evident when you use real Bible women as examples of submission, rather than the idealised or overly domesticated versions of womanhood promoted by some churches.
The church’s view of wifely submission has been distorted by a patriarchal mindset, combined with a misunderstanding of the Greek. The Greek word for “submit” (hupotassō) has a military usage and meaning of “subordinate” and a non-military usage and meaning that includes the idea of “cooperate.” It is tragic that the church has taken the more severe military meaning of hupotassō and applied it to the precious and intimate relationship of marriage, especially Christian marriage where love must be paramount.
The church has largely expected women to be subordinate to men, rather than seeing men and women as true equals who are to mutually love and care for one another. Moreover, contrary to the examples of godly women in the Bible, the church has tried to limit the parameters and opportunities for women to use their abilities. We must be very careful not to let a narrow, graceless, and faulty concept of submission bind women and limit the use of their talents and skills—talents and skills that God wants to use for his purposes.
 Sarah was outwardly very beautiful. Many women in the Old Testament are described primarily as being beautiful. Conversely, no woman in the New Testament is described as being beautiful. [More on this here.]
 Many Christians (who call themselves “complementarians”) go further than what the Bible says, and they teach that all women should be submissive to all men. (See chapter one of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper and Wayne Grudem (eds) (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 2006)
 Many Bible women displayed considerable courage as they helped others and were used by God to achieve his purposes. Brave Bible women include Jael (Judg. 4:21; 5:24–27), the woman who killed Abimelech (Judg. 9:53), Rahab (Josh. 2:1–6), Abigail (1 Sam. ch 25), the servant girl who was given a dangerous task (2 Sam. 17:17–18), the woman of Bahurim (2 Sam. 17:19-20), Esther (Esth. 4:11, 16), and Priscilla, who risked her life for Paul’s sake, as did her husband Aquila (Rom. 16:3–5). Other women also showed commendable initiative, shrewdness, and courage; women such as Tamar (Gen. 38:26), Naaman’s wife’s servant (2 Kings 5:3), Ruth (Ruth 1:15–18; 2:2), the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah (2 Sam. 20:15–22), etc. From The Women who Protected Moses.
 Abraham’s deception had disastrous consequences for the unsuspecting kings (Gen. 12:17; 20:17). Abraham, on the other hand, did not experience any negative consequences from his deception; instead, he profited from the experiences (Gen. 12:16; 20:14–16).
 Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005), 205.
 The New Living Translation (NLT) has chosen what I think is the most severe of the three options and translates kurios as “master” in 1 Peter 3:6. The NLT is known for the way it emphasises male authority.
 Jobes, 1 Peter, 205.
 Extract from The Testament of Abraham:
5.31 And Sarah said with weeping, “My Lord Abraham, what is this that you weep?” [To the chief-captain Michael,] “Tell me, my Lord, has this brother that has been entertained by us this day brought you tidings of Lot, your brother’s son, that he is dead? Is it for this that you grieve thus?” The chief-captain answered and said to her, “Nay, my sister Sarah, it is not as you say, but your son Isaac, methinks, beheld a dream, and came to us weeping, and we seeing him were moved in our hearts and wept.”
6. Then Sarah, hearing the excellence of the conversation of the chief-captain, straightway knew that it was an angel of the Lord that spoke. Sarah therefore signified to Abraham to come out towards the door, and said to him, “My Lord Abraham, do you know who this man is?” Abraham said, “I know not.” Sarah said, “You know, my Lord, the three men from heaven that were entertained by us in our tent beside the oak of Mamre, when you killed the kid without blemish, and set a table before them. After the flesh had been eaten, the kid rose again, and sucked its mother with great joy. Do you not know, my Lord Abraham, that by promise they gave to us Isaac as the fruit of the womb? Of these three holy men this is one.”
Abraham said, “O Sarah, in this you speak the truth. Glory and praise from our God and the Father. For late in the evening when I washed his feet in the basin I said in my heart, ‘These are the feet of one of the three men that I washed then'”; and his tears that fell into the basin then became precious stones. And shaking them out from his lap he gave them to Sarah, saying, “If you believe me not, look now at these.” And Sarah receiving them bowed down and saluted and said, “Glory be to God that shows us wonderful things. And now know, my Lord Abraham, that there is among us the revelation of something, whether it be evil or good!”
Translated by W.A. Craigie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co.,1896) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.
Sandra Glahn has an informative article about this passage and Sarah in 1 Peter 3:5-6 here.
 Life was difficult for the recipients of Peter’s letter, and persecution and patriarchy is the context of Peter’s instructions to wives. The Christians in Asia Minor were being slandered and persecuted and they were fearful. It would have been especially difficult for Christian wives with unsaved husbands. Most of these women had no real alternative but to submit to their husbands, even when it jeopardised their safety. Peter gives them the hope, however, that their virtuous living may win their husbands for Jesus Christ. In contemporary, Western society, women have more freedoms and options. Secular society does not expect wives to put up with foolishness or abuse from their husbands, and neither should the church. Jesus came to bring freedom to those who are captive. This should be the church’s mission too.
 The ideal Christian marriage relationship is one of mutual and reciprocal submission (i.e. loyalty, cooperation, deference and respect) between husband and wife (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:8).
 The Greek verb hupotassō (“submit”) has a range of senses and forces. We should not, for example, assume that a military usage applies in Christian relationships, including the relationship between Christian husbands and wives. Bible Study Tools differentiates between a military and non-military usage.
Hupotassō: A Greek military term meaning ‘to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader’. In non-military use, it was ‘a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.’
I define Christian submission as humble, loyal, and loving deference.
 Many churches associate wifely submission with wives being assistants and even servants to their husbands, and not vice versa. Yet both men and women, husbands and wives, are called to follow Jesus’ example of sacrificial and loving service.
© Margaret Mowczko 2012
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All my articles on submission are here.
24 thoughts on “Submission and Respect from Wives – 1 Peter 3:1-6”
great words about the Holy Women of the past. Inspiring. I may use some of it for my Mother’s Day sermonette.
Good thoughts, Marg. On the link between looks and patriarchy, the following might be of interest: http://soulation.org/jonalynblog/2012/04/ashley-judd-gets-it-right.html
Thanks TL. It’s gratifying to know that this is useful.
Looking now, Deborah. Thanks.
“I actually think that the church’s view of wifely submission has been distorted by a patriarchal mindset, combined with a misunderstanding of the Greek.”
I totally agree with this; I was actually thinking the same thing even before I read this and similar articles. There most likely could have been corrupted priests in early church history who, in this sense wanted to hold onto some of the old laws that Jesus broke and their interpretation/perception perhaps just passed down through the church from generation to generation, which explains why many people still do not properly understand this area today. Because the church just quotes it when that time of the liturgical year comes around; they never give a proper explanation of what this and similar scriptures mean. Man, they’re in for quite a suprise when they meet God face to face!
Truth be told, the church has not only stolen from women through this, but also from itself and the world at large by not giving women the opportunity to share their gifts because women have ALOT to offer. (oh yea, they will definitely be held accountable for this.) Of course, the ignorant people who believe that the church is sinless would never believe that. But I know God alone is the only incorruptible entity….the truth is there have always been corrupted priests/pastors within the church misleading people. I don’t even want to think about how God is going to deal with them….
I think this misunderstanding also has alot to do with their personal perceptions or the image of “the woman” that they have in their minds; some of them just cannot seem to bring themselves to see the woman as the bold, brave and authoritative creature that God created her to be….but that is THEIR inability to perceive things accurately, I am not going to let THEIR problem become a problem for me because I know better. I think the Mother of God is the perfect reference to that by the way…she was the only one, man or woman alike who had the priveleges she did (but they don’t point that out much – do they?) Not just conceiving the Son of God but also being crowned with the 12 stars and all the unique priveleges she has, which I’m glad for because I just love her so much…
Thanks again for your work Marg, brilliant thought-provoking material. I pray for women and girls all over the world (especially in other religions) because I don’t want them to be subject to anything oppressive, but in some societies they just don’t know any better. I ask God to be their everything…women have had to put up with alot for far too long.
Hi Rieanna, I agree, women do put up with too much, and often unnecessarily.
I love your observation that “the church has not only stolen from women … but also from itself and the world at large by not giving women the opportunity to share their gifts”
I’m going to repost this quote on my newlife.id.au facebook page. I hope you don’t mind.
Hi Marg, what does hupakouō mean exactly? Is the same word used in Gen 21:12 from Abraham to Sarah in the LXX?
Hi Judy, hupakouō is a composite word made up akouō (“hear, heed”) with a prefix that intensifies the meaning. It is typically translated as “obey”.
In Genesis 21:12 the word is akouō without the prefix. Here God tells Abraham to listen to, or heed, Sarah.
Hupakouō is used in Genesis 16:2 where Abraham obeyed Sarah.
I had some one point out to me that reverent “phobos” and respect “phobeo” can mean to fear someone. Like to give reverential obedience to one in leadership. Like how we “fear” the Lord. That these verses say a woman should view her husband in reverent awe. Do you any articles that deal with the meaning of these words?
Phobos is a noun; phobeō is a verb. They basically mean the same thing except, of course, that one is a noun and the other a verb.
They are common words in Greek and used to describe a range of emotions and behaviours from terror and fear to apprehension and anxiety to respect, reverence, and awe.
Here are two excerpts, one from arguably the most respected dictionary of New Testament words (TDNT), the abridged version, and another from arguably the most respected lexicon of New Testament and other early Christian literature (BDAG).
I hope they help.
“Fear as respect still has a place in human relationships (1 Pet. 2:18; 3:2; Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22) but only on the basis of fear of God (1 Pet. 2:17). All believers are finally to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ (Eph. 5:21). Precisely because reverence is due to Christ, the point of these admonitions lies in the demand for a pure, patient and gentle heart (Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:5; 1 Pet. 3:2, 4).
Geoffrey W. Bromiley “Phobeō” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, Eds. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 1276.
Here are the definitions of phobeō in BDAG: (1) to be in an apprehensive state, be afraid … become frightened. (2) to have a profound measure of respect for, (have) reverence, respect, with special reference to fear of offending.
Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, revised and edited by F.W Danker (University of Chicago Press, 2000) p1061. (His use of italics.)
I have more on this word in the context of marriage here.
Thanks for getting back to me so fast. I was discussing this with someone who believes that because wives are told to “phobeo” there husbands as slaves are told to do so to their masters this is evidence of the husband’s status as leader. That it’s a respect due to someone in a leadership position i.e. husbands, masters, government, God. Is this not the case? Is it not saying give your husbands the respect due him as the leader but respect him in such a way that you don’t offend him? Thanks again for your patience.
Hi Ashley, these are all good questions.
Behaving with respectful “fear” towards another person does not necessarily denote a leader-follower, or superior-inferior, dynamic in the New Testament scriptures.
E.g. “Submit to one another out of reverence (phobeō) for Christ (Ephesians 5:21 NIV). (Greek: ὑποτασσόμενοι ἀλλήλοις ἐν φόβῳ Χριστοῦ.)
I’m intrigued that your friend would use scriptures that seemingly endorse slavery to support the idea that husbands are the leaders of their wives. I think your friend is missing Paul’s true intent here. 🙁
Thank you. It may not necessarily denote a leader-follower situation but my friend makes a good point. The passage you quoted says we are to “submit” to one another out of “phobeo” for Christ. That is an example of phobeo being from a follower to a leader.
I’ve been looking for an instance in the scriptures where it’s used from a leader to a follower and not finding one. If phobeo is commonly used in a leader-follower situation and you paired that to wives submitting “in everything,” then I can’t see how the husband doesn’t have some position of leadership in the home that the wife does not. Husbands to my knowledge are never told to “revere” their wives. My friend is in a traditional marriage. The husband is the authoritative leader in the home.
I’m always amazed by the speed of your responses. Thank you so much.
Hi Ashley, Ah, I see what you’re saying. It is our reverence for Christ which influences our behaviour in Ephesians 5:21, and Jesus is definitely our leader and superior. And later women are told to reverence their husbands which could be seen in the same light (Ephesians 5:33).
I’ll see if I can find an instance where a person in a superior social position is instructed to reverence a person in a lower social position (according to the customs of the day), but I think it’s unlikely.
The NT letter writers were speaking to people within a certain social setting with social dynamics and values that are so different from our own, yet they still manage to say some remarkable things with the intention of changing relationship dynamics away from those of a patriarchal, or hierarchal, society. For example, Peter tells husbands to honour (timē) their wives (1 Peter 1:7). And Paul tells husbands to give themselves up for their wives (Eph. 5:25). Remarkable!
I can answer your questions quickly because most of them are straightforward and concern just one issue. I’ve been and out today and there is a comment from someone else that I still haven’t had time to answer because she brings up many issues at once. Anyway, I’m on my way out again.
I should add that phobeō is used twice in 1 Peter 3:1-6, the subject of this post.
In verse 2 the verb is translated as “reverence” in the NRSV and NIV. This reverence is not directed towards anyone but is a characteristic of a woman’s demeanor, along with purity.
In verse 6 a participle of phobeō is used. The NRSV translates 6b as “You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” (My emphasis.)
Food for thought.
I was wondering if the verses in ephesians are more descriptive in acknowledging that the husband’s were leaders, and not prescribing that they should be. And that the wives should fear their husbands similarly to how slaves should fear their masters. In a time and culturally bound way as opposed to the ideal (submitting to one another, love and honor).
Hi Kimberly, Do you mean the verses in 1 Peter 3 or Ephesians 5? These two passages have different aims and underlying concerns, but they definitely reflect the culture of the time.
It’s interesting that neither Paul or Peter, when speaking to husbands, say “You’re the boss” or You’re the leader.” It’s only in verses to wives that these kinds of idea are inferred by some.
I was reading Ignatius’s letters to the Tarsians and in ch.9 he states that the women should not call their husbands by their names like in 1 Peter 3:6. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0114.htm.
It looks like he took 1 Peter literal. 1 Peter wasn’t written to those in Turkey but those in the Roman Empire. How can 2 cultures see the duties of the wife similarly? I haven’t been able to find how women of these 2 areas treated their husbands on my google search. What are your thoughts? Have you come across this writing of Ignatius before?
Turkey (or, Asia Minor as it was call then) was part of the Roman Empire. The Roman empire was a very big place and customs weren’t uniform. Peter’s first letter is written to the Jewish Christians living in certain cities in Asia Minor (i.e. where modern-day Turkey is now).
The letter to the Tarsians was most probably not written by Ignatius. It’s “spurious” as indicated on the New Advent website. It was written much later than Peter’s letters.
I have read his genuine letters. My articles on the women in the church at Smyrna are mostly based on Ignatius letters to the Smyrneans and to Polycarp.
Nevermind. It was ch.9 to those in Antioch! Where could I find the customs of wives in Antioch? This makes more sense since 1 Peter was to those in the regions of the Roman empire. What are your thoughts?
Antioch (in Syria) and Tarsus (in Cilicia) are about 250 km apart, and neither place is mentioned in 1 Peter. Antioch is well outside of where Peter’s intended audience lived.
I’m not sure that we have much information wives in Antioch (Syria), and if we did, it would tell us nothing about the wives of Asia Minor.
I’ll take a longer look at the letter to the Tarsians later.
I’ve had a read of the letters to the Tarsians and to the Antiocheans.
The writer regards a wife calling her husband by his name as disrespectful. In Australia we call everyone by their first names: the Prime Minister, university lecturers (professors), pastors, etc. But it hasn’t always been like that. I remember when the bank started addressing me by my first name and I thought it was a bit rude, but now I’m used to it. Everyone calls me Marg or Margaret.
If you read any of the five Jane Austen novels (published between 1811-1817), you’ll see that some wives don’t address their husbands by their first names. It’s just a custom. Today there are different things that mark respect.
This article explains that eight of the letters that have been traditionally atributed to Ignatius were probably not written before the sixth century. So the contents have nothing to do with the situation in Antioch or Asia Minor in the first century, but speak about later customs and heresies, etc.
“The Greek word for “submit” (hupotassō) has a military usage and meaning of “subordinate”, and a non-military usage and meaning of “cooperate”. It is tragic that the church has taken the more severe military meaning of hupotassō and applied it to the precious and intimate relationship of marriage.”
I think you captured the essential error in much patriarchal thinking: misapplication. Perhaps the military usage was assumed because of the other examples of military allegory in scripture and the church in general (e.g., spiritual armor, fighting the good fight, the centurion’s faith in Matthew 8, “Onward, Christian Soldier”, etc.). But, as you say, using a military word to define a marriage relationship, which would include Christ and the Church, is tragic. What a cold, mechanical relationship that would be – sacrificial camaraderie at best, perhaps, yet lacking in personal, spiritual, intellectual and passionate involvement.
What would we mean by a “personal relationship with God”, if all it meant was militaristic subordination? God will have that just be cause He is God. But to be the Bride of Christ is so much more!
Cold and mechanical is right. This is not how Jesus wants us to submit to him. With perhaps a few exceptions (as when a Christian wife really has no other option, as may have been the case of some wives addressed in 1 Peter 3:1ff with non-Christian husbands) it’s not how Jesus wants wives to submit to their husbands.
Thank you, Marg. This passage was preached this morning in my church (livestream). While not as rigid as some sermons I have heard (pretty good, in fact), I came straight here for your perspective. Misuse of Greek words seems to be a favourite pastime of the Patriarchy…I’m glad to be able to read your thoughts on this passage. Your page is a wonderful resource, thank you.