Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

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Introduction

Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker partner, showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble.  1 Peter 3:7-8 CSB

Many Christians believe that submission in marriage is the duty only of wives. These Christians often make a point of saying that the Scriptures never state that husbands are to be submissive to their wives.[1] In his instructions to Christian men, however, Peter comes very close.

In the same way …

In his first letter, Peter uses the Greek word homoiōs (which means “likewise” or “in the same way”) three times (1 Pet. 3:1; 3:7; 5:5). Each occurrence of this word appears to be used in the context of submission.

Homoiōs is used twice in 1 Peter 2:13–3:8, which is the main passage where Peter gives instructions to certain groups within the Christian community, and then he uses it again in 1 Peter 5:5. (My use of underlining.)

  • Peter first tells his whole audience to submit to every secular authority (1 Pet. 2:13).
  • Then he addresses slaves and tells them to be submissive to their masters (1 Pet. 2:18).
  • Then he says, “Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your own husbands” (1 Pet. 3:1; cf. 3:5).
  • Then he says, “Husbands, in the same way, live together with your wives …” (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter reintroduces the subject of submission and says, “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.” This is followed by a phrase that in some Greek texts has a clear exhortation for mutual submission: “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV).

In Greek, “likewise/ in the same way” (homoiōs) is typically used to link together two or more similar ideas or consecutive entities (e.g., Matt. 22:25-26). So by using “likewise,” Peter links 1 Peter 3:7 with the previous verses that contain the verb (and participles) for “be submissive.”[2]

It is important to note that 1 Peter 3:7 does not contain a finite verb. (The Greek words translated as “living with your wife” and “showing honour” are participles, not verbs.) As in English, Greek sentences need a verb. Unlike English, however, Greek can borrow the sense of a verb from a previous sentence or a previous passage and not restate it. The sense of the unstated (elided) verb is understood.[3]

Even though it is not uncommon for Greek sentences to borrow the meaning of a main verb from a previous sentence and not restate it, Peter may have intentionally left out the word for “submit” in verse 7 to soften its impact and avoid unnecessarily offending the sense of male honour that was part of the culture of Greco-Roman society. Nevertheless, the sense of submission remains.[4]

If “likewise” does not refer back to the idea of submission, what does it refer to?

Living Together with Understanding and Consideration

Peter’s instruction, “Husbands, in the same way [be submissive], living together with your wives with understanding …” did not reflect a typical Greco-Roman view of marriage. Apollodorus,[5] in his oration Against Neaera (circa 340 BC), revealed how many men regarded the sexual roles of women in the Greek world.

“We have hetaerae (mistresses, courtesans) for pleasure, pallakae (concubines, prostitutes) for the daily [sexual] service of our bodies and gynaikes (wives) to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households.” Against Neaira 59.122

There are numerous references in Greco-Roman literature about the sexual freedom of men, often with no hint of censure. In his Advice to the Bride and Groom, Plutarch (b. 46 AD) condones husbands having sexual liaisons with other women (except married women), but he advises that husbands not to provoke (or upset) their wives with the knowledge of these affairs. Plutarch advises that women should accept their husband’s extra-marital affairs.

Christian morality, on the other hand, encouraged marital fidelity. Peter instructs that Christian husbands “dwell together” or “cohabitate” (synoikountes) with their wives or women folk. By using the participle synoikountes, he could have been making a significant statement to some of the newly converted men who may not have viewed their wives as true companions and partners in life. Peter wanted husbands and wives to share their lives together. He wanted husbands to view their wives as more than just the mothers of their legitimate children.

In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter asks men to be understanding and considerate of women.[6] And, using the analogy or metaphor of a “weaker vessel,”[7] he makes the point that women are weaker than men. Women were disadvantaged in Greco-Roman society. They had fewer privileges and rights than men. Women are also, usually, physically weaker than men. Peter wanted husbands to acknowledge and be considerate of the more vulnerable situation of their wives so that they would take care not to exploit them, either intentionally or inadvertently. Many times, people in positions of privilege are not fully aware of the disadvantages of those in weaker positions. Instead of exploitation, Peter wanted husbands to treat their wives with respect. (I look more closely at Peter’s phrase “weaker vessel,” here.)

Respect or Honour?

Peter instructs the Christian husbands to give their Christian wives respect or, more accurately, honour (timē). For some in the church of Asia Minor, this may have seemed an extraordinary request of Peter. Peter tells the husbands to assign honour to their wives because, in Christ, men and women are coheirs of the life of grace. The Greek of 1 Peter 3:7 uses language that unmistakably highlights the mutuality and equality of Christian husbands and wives.[8]

The New Living Translation captures this meaning in their translation:

… you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. 1 Peter 3:7 NLT

Peter also gives a warning to husbands. He writes that if they do not give their wives honour as co-heirs, as equal partners, their prayers will be hindered. Paul J. Achtemeier makes this comment about husbands and prayer, “The point is clear: men who transfer cultural notions about the superiority of men over women into the Christian community lose their ability to communicate with God.”[9]

Harmony and Humility

The insistence of many Christians, that submission in marriage is the sole responsibility and duty of wives, is not biblical. Peter strongly implies that husbands are to be submissive to their Christian wives (1 Pet. 3:7). In Ephesians 5:21, Paul urged all Christians to be mutually submissive to one another (cf. 1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV).[10] Submission in Christian relationships is not to be understood in the military sense of subordination, but more in the sense of loyalty, cooperation, deference, humility, and consideration.

Peter sums up his passage on submission in 1 Peter 2-3 by saying, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” (1 Pet. 3:8)  This is some of what submission between husbands and wives looks like. This is some of what Christian submission between all of God’s people looks like despite gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

Footnotes

[1]  As pointed out in the previous article, God told Abraham (literally): “… in everything, whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice.” (Genesis 21:12b, translated from the Septuagint LXX). And in Genesis 16:2 (LXX) it says that Abraham (literally) obeyed Sarah’s voice.

[2] The main verb for “submit” occurs in 1 Peter 2:13; it is an imperative passive verb. “Submit” in 1 Peter 2:18 and 3:1 (and 3:5) are participles which can indicate that they are linked to, and are dependent on, the verb in 2:13. The same imperative verb as in 2:13 occurs again in 1 Peter 5:5. (In some Greek texts, “submit” occurs twice in 1 Peter 5:5; see 1 Peter 5:5 NKJV.) You can see the exact forms of these verbs and participles here on Bible Hub.
To put it another way, ὑποτάσσω (“submit”) is an imperative verb in 1 Peter 2:13 which gets the ball rolling. It’s then used as a participle in 2:18, 3:1, 3:5, and unstated but implied in 3:7. The verb in 1 Peter 2:13 acts as the boss of the “submit” participles, so to speak. The “submit” verb comes up again in 1 Peter 5:5 which I believe does double duty within this verse in most Greek texts. The added “submit” participle in 1 Peter 5:5 in the Textus Receptus (a Greek text) reflects this double duty. I’ve written about this “submit” in 1 Peter 5:5 here: https://margmowczko.com/mutual-submission-ephesians-5_21-1-peter-5_5/

[3] Here is a simple, straightforward example. In Ephesians 5:24 the Greek verb that means “being submissive/ submit” is stated in the first clause (in the Greek) and not repeated, but implied, in the second clause. English translations, however, often include the word “submit” in both clauses so that it makes good sense to English speakers: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything” (Eph. 5:24). There is a note on leaving out (eliding) verbs in New Testament letters at the end of my article looking at other “likewise” passages, here.

[4] The Greek verb hupotassō (“submit”) has a range of meanings or nuances and a range of forces. I look at some of these here: https://margmowczko.com/submission-saviour-ephesians-5/

[5] This quotation from Against Neaira has been traditionally attributed to Demosthenes. While it dates from 340 BC, the view of women described in this speech was also prevalent in the first-century Greco-Roman world.
For more on marriage in New Testament times read G.W. Peterman’s paper, “Marriage and Sexual Fidelity in the Papyri, Plutarch and Paul,” Tyndale Bulletin 50.2 (1999): 163-172. (A PDF is here.)
I compare Plutarch’s and Paul’s views on marriage, here.

[6] Gnosis is the word that is translated as “understanding” in the NIV’s translation of 1 Peter 3:7. Gnosis is used in different ways in the New Testament. It often refers to both the intellectual and experiential knowledge of God or the knowledge of things related to God. Sometimes it’s connected with knowledge and wisdom without necessarily being about God. One sense of gnosis is having understanding or being considerate in relationships where, presumably, heart knowledge (or empathy) is as important as head knowledge. It seems to have this sense of “understanding” in 1 Peter 3:7 and also in 2 Corinthians 6:6. The word gnosis is flanked by the words for “purity” and “patience” and “kindness” in 2 Corinthians 6:6. However, “purity” may belong more with “watchings” and “fastings” in the previous verse, and gnosis (“understanding, consideration”) may belong more with “patience” and “kindness.”

[7] Edwin A. Blum briefly discusses the meaning of “vessel” (skeuos).

The exact metaphorical meaning of vessel (skeuos) is disputed. In Greek usage, it is a common term for the body as the container of the soul. A Hebrew equivalent of this term was used in rabbinic teaching for “wife” or “sexual partner.” This uncertainty of interpretation applies to 1 Thessalonians 4:4 as well as to 1 Peter 3:7.
Edwin A. Blum, ”1 Peter,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12, Frank E. Gaebelein (ed) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 238.

1 Peter 3:7 and 1 Thessalonians 4:4 both contain the word “vessel” (skeuos) and “honour” (timē). There are two ways of understanding “vessel” in 1 Thessalonians 4:4, but both involve abstaining from sexual immorality (cf. 1 Pet. 2:11).
1. Each each person should “acquire their own vessel,” as in, their own marital partner (cf. 1 Cor 7:2). Christians are to treat their “vessels” with “holiness and honour.” They are not to behave like the gentile pagans, nor are they to take advantage of their brothers and sisters sexually.
2. Each person should “control their own vessel,” as in, his or her own body and its sexual urges.
The Greek verb ktaomai, used in 1 Thessalonians 4:4, can mean “acquire” or “control” depending on the context.

Here is definition II of skeuos in Liddel, Scott and Jones’ lexicon (LSJ), the most exhaustive lexicon of ancient Greek.

II. τὸ σκεῦος the body, as the vessel of the soul, a metaphor clearly expressed in 2 Cor. 4:7 ἔχομεν δὲ τὸν θησαυρὸν τοῦτον ἐν ὀστρακίνοις σκεύεσιν, cf. 1 Thess. 4:4; 1 Pet. 3:7. (Source: Perseus)

[8] My paraphrase of 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, in the same way [be submissive], living together with your female folk with consideration since they are weaker than you, assigning honour to them as co-heirs of the gracious gift of life [or, life of grace], so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

[9] Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter (Hermeneia; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 218.

[10] In Ephesians 5:25-33, the apostle Paul advised Christian husbands. He told them to give themselves up for their wives. He told them to care for their wives as they care for themselves. “To love your wife as you ‘love your own body’ is to love her as your equal.” (MaryAnn Nguyen-Kwok)  Paul uses the word “love” six times when addressing husbands in Ephesians 5:25-33. Nowhere does this passage in Ephesians 5 mention male leadership or authority. This passage is about sacrificial love and also about an edifying love that “elevated” first-century wives. (My articles on Ephesians 5 are here.)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:25-31 NIV 2011 (italics added) cf. Colossians 3:17

© Margaret Mowczko 2011
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Postscript (Last edited on October July 27 2022)
Scholars who think “submit” is implicit in 1 Peter 3:7

Since writing this article, I have come across similar interpretations of 1 Peter 3:7 that take into account the Greek word homoiōs, which means “in the same manner” or “likewise.” Admittedly, a couple of these interpretations are given tentatively.

Philip B. Payne writes,

Grammatically, [“husbands likewise”] demands something parallel to the preceding commands. All three preceding sections begin with a command to submit, using the same verb. … The best translation of this verse is “Husbands, in the same way submit to your own wives.”
(Source:  Here on Twitter, and also here) Dr Payne says much the same thing in his 2023 book, The Bible vs. Biblical Womanhood: How God’s Word Consistently Affirms Gender Equality.

Dennis R. Edwards states,

Verse 7 opens with “in the same way” (homoiōs) which is also how 3:1 begins, and as I noted at the outset, is the word that connects 2:18-25 with 3:1-7. Christian husbands are to take their behavioural cues from Christian wives, who in turn take their cues from slaves. The submissive actions of slaves follow the righteous example of the Lord Jesus who endured torturous treatment without retaliation.
Edwards, 1 Peter (The Story of God Bible Commentary; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017) (Google Books)

Peter H. Davids points out,

… there is no main verb in this sentence. The husbands are “likewise” to do something (parallel to 1 Pet 3:1, which picks up on 1 Pet 2:13, 18) by means of the participial clauses (i.e., showing consideration for and paying honor to wives). Is the implied verb “be submissive to” (cf. 1 Pet 3:1; 2:18; and 2:13)? Likely so …”
Davids, “A Silent Witness in Marriage: 1 Peter 3:1-7” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, Ronald W. Pierce and Rebbeca Merril Groothius (eds) (Leicester: Apollos, 2004), 237

Donald P. Senior states briefly,

The husbands, too (i.e. “similarly”), fall under the same principles for Christian life in the world as the slaves and the wives …
Senior, “1 Peter” in 1 Peter, Jude and 2 Peter, Daniel J. Harrington (ed) (Sacra Pagina; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008) (Google Books)

The Common English Bible translates 1 Peter 3:7 as,

Husbands, likewise, submit by living with your wife in ways that honor her, knowing that she is the weaker partner. Honor her all the more, as she is also a coheir of the gracious care of life. Do this so that your prayers won’t be hindered.

Back in the late 1800s, A.J. Mason acknowledged that Peter told husbands to submit to their wives and that Peter didn’t like to use “submitting” language when addressing the men. This is part of Dr Mason’s notes on “likewise” in 1 Peter 3:7:

Likewise, ye husbands. The subjection is not to be all one-sided, though the husband’s subjection to the wife will be of a different kind from the wife’s to him. We are hardly to take this [instruction to husbands] as a separate paragraph from the foregoing, but rather as a corollary added to it … Peter does not like to say to the husbands “submitting yourselves” (though it is implied in the “likewise”), and conveys the deference which the husbands are to pay under other terms: such as [dwelling together] “according to knowledge,” “giving honour.”
Mason, “1 Peter,” in A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, C.J. Ellicott (ed.) (London: Cassell and Co, 1897) (Source: Bible Hub)


Explore more

(1) Submission and Respect from Wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6
What does “Weaker Vessel” mean in 1 Peter 3:7?
Mutual Submission in Ephesians 5:21 and in 1 Peter 5:5
A Gentle and Quiet Spirit is not just a Feminine Virtue (1 Pet. 3:4)
Double Standards in the Promotion and Practice of Submission
Ephesians 5:22-33 in a Nutshell
Paul’s Main Point in Ephesians 5:22-33 
Likewise Women … Likewise Husbands

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

33 thoughts on “Submission and Respect from Husbands in 1 Peter 3:7-8

  1. Yes, submission means indeed cooperation, thus making mutual submission more than a possibility – it is an ideal in all relationships. What is of interest is that in 1 Peter 5, Peter actually tells elders and laity (those younger in faith, not years) to submit to each other, for you can’t wear submission as a cloth, only humility. Even elders must cooperate with their flocks, serving as examples, instead of demanding to be served as lords.

    One point that is often missed is: why does Peter talk about Abraham and Sarah, the great heroes of faith, in a passage that talks about suffering in the hands of the unbelieving? I have to come to believe Peter gives Sarah as an example of patience before an obstacle that seems unmovable. Sarah had waited for a child all her married life. Now they were both too old; her hope had been vanquished. Here comes God with a promise that she would have a child. Sarah laughs, wonders to herself how Abraham, being old, could give her a child. Dead would rise before it. Nevertheless, Isaac is born 9 months later and Sarah’s joy is fulfilled.

    If we look at 1 Peter 3 from this view point, we see Christian married women desperate for the conversion of their husbands who have rejected the spoken word. In hagiography we find evidence of Christian women leaving their unbelieving husbands rather than continue to sin with them. Note that Peter tells them to cooperate, but to remain themselves pure and undisturbed by fear. If they will trust in God, in due time they also might see their joy fulfilled.

    The Greek word “obey” means also “to listen attentively” and Sarah is said to have listened in the tent while Abraham spoke to the guests – the text Peter is referring to – but nowhere is she said to have obeyed. This is only natural, for submission is not the same as obedience, for while obedience removes free will, submission depends on our free will.

  2. Thanks Susanna!

    I have also read from early church sources that some saved wives were leaving their unsaved husbands, and so Peter and Paul’s instruction for submission can be interpreted as “don’t leave your husband but stay loyal, supportive and cooperative”.

    I completely agree with your comment, “I have to come to believe Peter gives Sarah as an example of patience before an obstacle that seems unmovable.” I’ve written something along those lines in footnote 7 of the previous article; but not as succinctly as you have done here.

    This comment of your’s is interesting: “. . . submission is not the same as obedience, for while obedience removes free will, submission depends on our free will.” Still thinking about this.

    🙂

  3. I have a question which was not addressed in your writings here. What are the various uses and iterations for the word translated “weaker” in the global context of period Greek literature? For example, does this word come up in descriptions of fine and delicate art? And does the original contain a grammatical construction of “as unto” the same as in the KJV?

    It seems to me that there are many places in the Bible which make similes, and that this verse carries an entirely different meaning if one considers that a man should treat his wife as if she were a Ming Vase or the fragile Mona Lisa. Whether she is “strong” or “weak” (for I have known both kinds of women) is irrelevant to the command. If he is commanded to treat her as if she is breakable, it is merely a command to be gentle in his words and deeds. Not a bad thing in any human relationship!

  4. Thanks for your comment, Nanci.

    Other people have contacted me and also commmented on the lack of explanation about the word “weak, weaker” (asthenēs). For some, this word is problematic, as they believe it implies inferiority, but I don’t see it that way.

    I like your last comment. I think we should all treat each other as though we are breakable.

    Here are some other occurrences of the word asthenēs in the New Testament.

    In 1 Cor. 1:25-27 we are told, “… the weakness of God is stronger than men.” and “God hath chosen the weak of the world to confound the things which are mighty;”

    When Paul lists his “credentials” in 1 Cor. 4:10, he includes this term: “… we are weak, but you are strong …”

    In 1 Cor. 12:22 we learn that “… those members of the body, which seem to weaker [the exact word used in 1 Peter 3:7], are necessary/ indispensable …”

    And in 2 Cor. 12:10 Paul writes, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

    In Matthew 25:43, Jesus tells us that He was the weak (or sick) person that some ministered to and others overlooked.

    Here is an article on “weaker vessel” that also takes into consideration how “weaker” was used for women in ancient non-Christian documents.

  5. Is this written by a feminist? I mean, I think I get the heart of the matter, but reality is, one can only submit to the other. One submitting implies the other is the leader. The man is clearly the leader in the Bible. As marriage is equated to Christ and the Church, so the is the method. Jesus submitted to the Father, so the wife submits and does the will of the husband. There is order. Terrible interpretations like these, only cause confusion and chaos. It would be better to rather explain what it means for the man to be the leader, how he should love his wife as Christ loves the Church and gave himself for up, instead of confusing and mixing up roles.

    Women are in-equal in their weakness sense, at least that is how this faulty egalitarian society would view such claims, they are also more easily deceived as 1 Tim 2 points out. Acknowledging this reality is not a bad thing. Since women are weaker, the husband must bite the bullet so to speak when dealing with the woman’s potential emotional nonsense. Realizing she is more sensitive and easier to offend on various topics and thus should deal with her as the fragile creature that she is. Wanting the best for her though, knowing that being such a way, she is able to generally have more compassion in different scenarios, especially towards children. Such differences give strengths in other areas, so that each person in the marriage compliments each together in the necessary way.

    Did it work? The submission for this site, appears to be saying it is in error, so I will submit this last time.

    1. It’s a shame this software doesn’t support emojis. That post merited a barrel of laughing faces.

  6. Hi ProveAllThings, Nice title. I’m glad this is something that you do.

    I’ve responded to your main points in order as follows:

    I do not call myself a feminist. Here is a definition of feminist, you can decide for yourself if I fit the description, but I personally don’t like the label.

    “Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.” (Source)

    Submission does not necessarily imply leadership, especially in Christian relationships. There is no leader in Ephesians 5:21. Other verses, about submissive and humble behaviour, also do not mention or imply leadership. I’ve written more about mutual submission here: https://margmowczko.com/tag/mutual-submission/

    The concept of man being the leader of his wife (or in society) is not as clear as you might think. There are many Greek words for leader, ruler, governor, authority, etc. None of these words are ever used for husbands except in Genesis 3:16 and Esther 1:22. (“Head”-kephalē does not mean “leader” in original, untranslated Classical or Koine Greek, including New Testament Greek. More about this here: https://margmowczko.com/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/

    In Genesis 3:16, it says that one of the consequences of sin was that the husband would rule the wife, but this is far for God’s ideal. In Esther 1:20-22 (esp. v22) the Persian king Xerxes decreed that husbands should rule their households. Christians, however, should not take their cues for living from the curses and consequences of the Fall or from decrees of pagan kings.

    Neither Jesus, Paul, or Peter ever tell husbands they are to lead or have authority over their wives. Ever! Instead, Paul uses the word “love” six times When addressing husbands in Ephesians 5:25ff!

    The unity and care of Jesus for his church is a picture of what we should strive for in our marriages. I’ve written more about Paul’s main point in Ephesians 5:22-33 here.]

    If two intelligent, capable adults can’t get along without one always being the leader and the other always being the follower, then that is a very sad state of affairs indeed. My husband and I manage and share our home and life together as equal partners without any problems whatsoever. There is no chaos, no confusion. In fact, there is a lot of peace and contentment.

    Giving yourself up for someone sounds a lot like submission. I believe Peter and Paul are telling husbands to be submissive to their wives, they just don’t use the word “submit.” Wives were used to being submissive to their husbands, so Peter and Paul speak plainly about this. Men in Greco-Roman society viewed humility and submission as undignified, so Peter and Paul used other words to make it sound more appealing to husbands.

    Most women are physically weaker than men. However, the Bible nowhere states that women are more easily deceived than men. Nowhere. You are assuming this is what 1 Timothy 2:12 says, but it doesn’t.

    It seems that you have a low view of women. “Emotional nonsense”, being “more sensitive”, “easier to offend”, “a fragile creature”: my goodness! No wonder you think men should be the leaders if that is how you view all women. The Bible doesn’t say such negative things about women. I’ve written about the biblical portrayal of women here: https://margmowczko.com/portrayal-of-women-and-biblical-inspiration/

    Many women are not nonsensical, sensitive, easily offended, or fragile. On the other hand, some men have immature, offensive, and harmful personalities and are driven by ego. Should these men be leaders? Of course not.

    I’m glad you are continuing to prove all things. I hope these comments have been helpful.

    [Your comments did work. They need to be “approved” before appearing. I approved your last comment.]

  7. This is a very late comment to this article… but then, I’ve only just discovered your website.
    In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter doesn’t say that women are weaker than men. He says that the husband must honour the wife AS a weaker vessel. So one way of looking at this verse is that he is to treat her as if she’s made of china, not plastic. This has already been mentioned above, and I heartily agree that we should treat all people as if they are ‘breakable.’
    It seems to me that another way of interpreting this is as follows: I am married (happily, for over 14 years now, to my best friend), and I am definitely vulnerable to my husband in a way that I am not to any other man on the planet, simply because of my emotional connection to him. I deeply care about what my husband thinks of me, but as far as other men are concerned, it’s no big deal what they think of me. So perhaps Peter is making the point that a Christian husband is to cherish and respect this vulnerability of his wife towards him, rather than exploit it (which has been the norm ever since the Fall). What do you think? Is that an over-interpretation?

  8. Hi Erica,

    I think it is an excellent point you make that we should treat all people as though they are breakable. I would even take it a step further, in that, we should recognise that people are already broken to some extent. So, we don’t want to add to that damage, but bring healing.

    I don’t have a problem with Peter describing the wife or woman as “weaker.” Most women are physically weaker than men. And when Peter was writing, they were weaker and more vulnerable in other ways too as they had less rights, freedoms, and opportunities than men.

    The NIV translation leaves out a bit, but, in the Greek, it does seem that Peter is saying, when addressing the husbands in verse 7, that women are like weaker vessels (i.e. weaker than men).

    The Greek words for “weaker” and the word for “woman” are grammatically linked. They are neuter singular dative adjectives and could both be describing the “vessel” (which is a neuter singular dative noun.) So this phrase might be translated “as with a womanly, weaker vessel.”

    “Weaker” is a comparative adjective, and I believe it is comparing the relative physical weakness of a woman to her husband.

    It’s very difficult to know where to put the commas in English translations of 1 Peter 3:7 which will help make sense of what’s happening in this verse.
    I’ve arranged the Greek (with a literal English translation) as a chiasm which may or may not help us understand Peter’s thoughts.

    A. Οἱ ἄνδρες ὁμοίως The husbands likewise
    B. συνοικοῦντες κατὰ γνῶσιν, living together according to knowledge/ understanding
    C. ὡς ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει as with a weaker vessel
    X. τῷ γυναικείῳ with the woman/ wife (or, womenfolk)
    C1. ἀπονέμοντες τιμήν, assigning honour
    B1. ὡς καὶ συγκληρονόμοις χάριτος ζωῆς, as also coheirs of [the] grace of life
    A1. εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐγκόπτεσθαι τὰς προσευχὰς ὑμῶν. so that your prayers may not be hindered.

    When rearranged in fluent English, and considering the continuing theme of submission, 1 Peter 3:7 might be translated as:
    “The men, likewise [being submissive], live together with your womenfolk recognisng they are as weaker vessels, assigning honour …”

    It’s very difficult to get inside the mind of a 1st-century wife living in Asia Minor, but I think it’s fair to say that they did not think of their husbands in deeply emotional ways.

    Most marriages were alliances made for family, economic, and political reasons, and primarily to beget legitimate children. That’s not to say that some couples did not love each other deeply in ways we would recognise, but this type of love was not the norm.

    I hope some of this makes sense.

  9. Hi Marg
    Thanks for your prompt reply. Upon reflection, I think you’re right about my second point. I guess I was trying to fit Peter’s comments into our modern culture, which is not very good hermeneutics.
    The problem I have with the translation “the woman is the weaker vessel” as opposed to “the wife,” is that it is only in one obvious area – muscular strength – that most women are weaker than most men. In every other parameter (health, emotional strength, longevity, intelligence, etc), it’s debatable which of the sexes is stronger. To me, this would make “the woman IS the weaker vessel” at odds with what actually goes on in the ‘real world.’ Since God is both the author of Scripture and the Creator, I would expect to see the truth of Scripture borne out in the real world.
    For this reason, given that the Greek word for ‘woman’ and ‘wife’ is the same, “treat YOUR woman AS you would a weaker vessel” makes more sense than “the woman IS a weaker vessel.”
    I think this is supported by the fact that this passage is written to husbands, not all men, and by what you pointed out in your reply of the cultural disadvantages that wives had at the time Peter wrote his epistle: less rights, freedoms, and opportunities, thus putting them in a place of weakness that God never intended them to be in.
    Regards
    Erica
    PS Sorry for the capitals – I don’t know how to do italics; I’m definitely not trying to shout at you.

  10. 1 Peter 3:1 et seq makes it clear that wifely submission is of a different quality than the husbands. To ignore those verses is disingenious. It also requires obedience.

    1. It is different. One of the main reasons it is different is because the instructions to wives are to women with unsaved husbands. Their submission is so that their unsaved husbands may be “won over without as word.” The instructions to husbands are to men with saved wives who are “co-heirs of the gracious gift of life”.

      Submission among Jesus’ followers can be expressed in many different ways but it involves humble deference, cooperation, and loyalty. Christian submission also involves love because love is the driving force of all Christian attitudes and behaviours.

  11. I found another interpreter that has a similar interpretation to yours, Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers (available on Bible Hub). He says the subjection is not all one sided, and that it is implied that husbands should submit themselves, though he adds the submission is different.

    1. Thanks so much, Taylor! I’ll add it to my postscript.

      It’s great to get a source from the 1800s that supports this interpretation. No one can accuse C.J. Ellicott of being a modern feminist.

  12. What a terrible perversion of God’s written Word! Desperately trying to wist God’s Word and call for men to submit to their wives! Wow! Repent of your heresy ad follow God’s perfectly clear Word!

    1. Dane, There is nothing heretical about Christians submitting to one another.

      Just like the virtues of humility and meekness, submission is, or should be, the normal Christian behaviour whether the person is male or female, husband or wife.

      Paul says this:
      “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21 NKJV).

      And Peter says this:
      “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5b NKJV).

      Perhaps 1 Peter 3:7 isn’t as clear as you think it is. Where is the (Greek) verb?

      Christian submission (humble, loyal, loving deference and cooperation) is a good thing. Relationships, including marriage, flourish where there is mutual submission, mutual service, mutual respect, and reciprocated sacrificial love. And this fits with Jesus’s teachings about relationships among Christians.

      Why would a husband submitting to a wife be wrong or heretical, especially when we acknowledge what both Paul and Peter actually say to husbands in Ephesians 5:25ff and 1 Peter 3:7?

      I stand by my conclusion in the article which includes these statements:
      Peter sums up his passage on submission in 1 Peter 2-3 by saying, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” (1 Pet. 3:8)  This is some of what submission between husbands and wives looks like. This is some of what Christian submission between all of God’s people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status looks like.

      Amen, so let it be.

  13. im a very very late to the party guest here, apologies. I had 2 questions:
    My pastor linked “in the same way, you wives, be submissive” (3:1) to the previous verbs back up in 2:13 and 2:18 ( in regards to human institutions as well as slaves to masters, whether just or unjust) as a biblical principle for wives to submit to unbelieving husbands no matter how they are treated. His reason being that the 2:18-20 verses gave context for how one was to respond to unjust, harsh treatment. So he took the whole section from 2:13-3:6 is instruction basically how to suffer like Christ under (potential) unjust treatment.
    i have an understanding of why thats not an accurate interpretation, buti am hung up on why Peter begins 3:1 with “in the same way.” At face value, and even when you use methods to understand context, it seems he is linking the wives to the slaves! can you help me understand?
    also:
    i have heard interpretations that suggest Peters phrase “heirs of the grace of life” is simply referring to being created, being made into a living human by God, NOT in regards to salvation, so he is basically applying the same principle to the husband who is in the same situation as the above wife…married to one who is not saved. the “so that your prayers would not be hindered” is in regards to his hope that she be won to Christ.
    id love to hear your thoughts on these!
    Brooke

    1. Hello Brooke, “In the same way,” carries on the idea of submission. “In the same way” also carries on the idea of submission from husbands. All the “in the same way” verses in 1 Peter are linked.

      But we must understand the context and backstory of Peter’s advice to wives. The following paragraph is from a footnote in a previous article.

      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.
      https://margmowczko.com/submission-respect-1-peter-3_1-6/

      Brooke, If your pastor says that wives today, living in western societies where women have greater access to resources, need to submit to unbelieving husbands no matter how they are treated then you need to find another church with a pastor who gives sensible and safe advice. I cannot say this more strongly. If you’re being counselled to put up with habitual injustice and harsh treatment from your spouse, leave your church and get help and support from people who care about you!

      The words “grace” and “life” are typically used in the context of our lives as Christians. Also, because of the influence that first-century husbands had, and the social expectation that wives would follow the gods of their husbands, most wives became Christians if their husband was a Christian. On the other hand, we know from several early sources, that lots of women were becoming Christians, but not their husbands.

      There is no indication whatsoever that “weaker vessel” in 1 Peter 3:7 means weak in the faith. https://margmowczko.com/weaker-vessel-gender-justice-1-peter-3_7/ Peter says nothing about non-Christian wives being won to the Christian faith in 1 Peter 3. He only indicates that there were non-Christian husbands who were married to Christian wives.

      Brooke, I’m glad you are questioning your pastor’s teaching and looking into this for yourself.

  14. also: (sorry i forgot to add this:)
    Romans 5:6 indicates that while we were still “weak” at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. If this weakness is an indication of the unsaved condition, then could peter be calling these wives a weaker vessel bc they are unsaved (spiritually weaker due to thier condition), such as were the husbands in 3:1?
    thanks!
    Brooke

  15. Hi Marg,

    Thanks for your article. I especially enjoyed the discussion about a missing verb in Peter’s instructions to husbands which implies they too are to submit.

    Is it correct to say that Peter is using in chapter 3v7: “time”(honour) as the ‘noun’ version of the verb he uses earlier in 2v17 (“timao”)? What I mean is – are we to understand Peter is instructing husbands to assign/apportion (verb:”aponemo”) their wives honour (even though society at that time didn’t) in the same way that he wants the believers to hold in high esteem the king and all people (including slaves)?

    Also, is it reasonable to suggest that Peter saying believers should “submit to the king” (2v13) and then to “honour the king” (2v17) is him saying the same thing in 2 different ways? (Compare with Rom 13:1 & 7)

    1. Hi Sarah, I’m sure some husbands valued and honoured their wives. Ancient gravestone inscriptions show us this is the case. However, there were less opportunities for women to be publicy honoured in honour-shame cultures. And, unlike today, love and honour weren’t considered important in ancient marriages.

      You asked, Is it correct to say that Peter is using in chapter 3v7: “time”(honour) as the ‘noun’ version of the verb he uses earlier in 2v17 (“timao”)?
      Yes, pretty much. Though Peter highlights or emphasises “honour” in 1 Peter 3:7 by using the participle aponemontes before the noun and having an explanatory phrase after it. This is important to Peter.

      The noun timē can mean “honour” and is used of things that are esteemed as valuable, precious, and/or worthy of respect. The noun occurs three times in 1 Peter: in 1 Peter 1:7, 2:7, 3:7. (It can also mean “price.”) Compare with the related adjective here.

      The related verb occurs twice in 1 Peter, both times in 1 Peter 2:17. (I have no idea why the aorist imperative is used in “honour everyone” and present imperative is used in “honour the emperor.”)

      When we submit to someone, it can be a way of honouring them. We see the submission-respect combo in Ephesians 5 too. At the beginning of Ephesians 5:22, wives are told to submit to their own husbands, and at the end of the passage, wivesy are told to respect their husbands. But “submission” and “respect” are not identical in meaning. Peter is saying two different but related things regarding the emperor (basileus) in 1 Peter 2:13 and 17.

      In Romans 13:7 Paul is speaking about several obligations related to Roman rule. It’s a good verse to compare with 1 Peter 2, but Paul’s concern seems to be don’t shirk your responsibilities to Roman authority including paying taxes and other financial obligations.

      It’s all related, but not identical.

      1. Hi Marg,

        Thank you for clarifying all those points for me, and especially the link to Eph 5 with submission and respect!

        I struggle to grasp what Peter meant by asking husbands to “honour their wives” because “honour” is not really a concept we refer to in our western society. Especially in my generation anyway. So I guess I’m trying to find a word that makes sense to me like “respect” or “think highly of them”, etc?

        Okay, yep, honour and submission can be related but not the same. I guess we could add “obey” as a related word.

        For example: believers are told in various places to submit, obey and show honour to their elders/leaders. Slaves are likewise told to do all of these to their masters – including honour them (1 Tim 6:1). Children are told to obey their parents which is supported with the old testament command to “honour your father and mother.”

        Yet to obey and to submit are not exactly the same because at times they are both used in the same verse – Titus 3:1, heb 13:17

        Something interesting is the 3rd and last time Peter uses the word “likewise” in his letter (ch 5:5) is again to encourage “submission” (of younger to the elders).

        1. I guess I don’t have a problem with honour. I’ve consciously done things in my marriage with honouring my husband in mind. And I’ve tried to be an honorable person in my marriage.

          “Honour” is often mentioned in wedding ceremonies.

          The wedding vows in the Roman Catholic Church, for example, mention honour:
          “I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.”

          And in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, The groom is asked, among other things, “Wilt thou love her … honour, and keep her, in sickness and in health …” And the bride is asked, “Wilt thou … love, honour, and keep him, in sickness and in health …”

          I think honour means to esteem highly. Peter’s point is that men should treat the womenfolk as their equals because men and women are coheirs, they equal partners in God’s gift of new life. Peter doesn’t want men looking down on women or belittling them. (Note that Peter doesn’t us the usual word for wives here.)

          I actually mention “in the same way” (or, “likewise”) + “submit” in 1 Peter 5:5 in the article. See the fifth bullet point above.

  16. Hi Marg,

    I think what I’m trying to say is that the word “honor” isn’t one that I hear referred to in everyday language/vocab. I don’t hear it much outside of the bible or religious ceremonies (like weddings) But I appreciate that this is not everyone’s experience.

    I didn’t use the word “honour” in my own wedding vows – I instead used words such as “respect, faithful, adore, loyal, support, care, share, give myself, etc.

    Thank you for your definition of what you understand “honour” to mean in 1 Pet 3. Esteeming others higher than yourself is referred to many times in the NT (I know you’ve written about that elsewhere) – Phil 2:3, Rom 12:10 – as well as attitudes of humility and a voluntary taking of the lower place; Luke 22:27-28/ Phil 2:5-8 (which is partly what i understand submission to mean). The NT writers speak of putting others “higher” than yourself and also of putting yourself “lower” than others.

    Ah, i hadnt noticed the word for wives was different. How is “gunaikeios” used elsewhere and why do you think he used this different word?

    Yes! I loved your point about “likewise+submit” in your article (for servants, wives and then implied to husbands). I hadnt missed it, I was just mentioning a fourth reference to this concept later in Peter’s letter for the younger to submit “likewise” to elders- as strengthening the suggestion that the word “likewise” is connecting to submission.

    1. Sorry that Luke reference was supposed to be Luke 22:26-27 (and I love also Matt 20:28, John 13:14-15, Mark 9:35)

    2. I didn’t realise that honour was an unfamiliar concept to younger generations.

      Also, unless I’m misunderstanding you, I mention the “reference to this concept later in Peter’s letter for the younger to submit ‘likewise’ to elders.” It’s an important part of my argument.

      1. I asked my husband for his definition of “honour” and he would put it in a sentence e.g. “honour their memory” and said “respect” but still struggled to put it into words! I should ask my little kids and see what they say!

        Sorry! I’m not always very clear. Thank you for your patience with me. I meant to emphasise what a great point you made about it- and how powerful it is that Peter’s theme of submission and humility runs throughout his entire letter.

  17. […] Just in case you think that last argument was a bit of a stretch, Ephesians 5:21-22 is similar in that the Greek participle for “submitting yourselves” occurs in verse 21, but there is no Greek word that means “submit” in verse 22 when talking about wives; it is implied, just as in 1 Peter 3:7.[3] (More on this in my article on Submission and Respect from Husbands in 1 Peter 3:7-8 here.) […]

  18. […] Submission and Respect from Husbands (1 Peter 3:7–8) […]

  19. […] Paul wanted all Christians, including husbands and wives, to be mutually submissive to each other (cf. Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV). Mutual submission is what Paul was aiming for in his teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5, but he conveyed his meaning in ways that men and women at that time could relate to. First-century wives were used to being told to be submissive in stronger language than the apostles use, so Paul (and Peter) wrote plainly about this. Paul (and Peter) use different words when asking for submission from husbands. [My article on Submission in Marriage here.] […]

  20. […] Similarly, the Greek verb for “submit” occurs in verse 24a, in reference to the church submitting to Christ, but is implied in 24b, which is about wives and husbands. It is not at all unusual in ancient Greek for a verbal idea to continue on from a word in a previous verse, or previous passage, without being re-stated. (See also my article here on a similar idea.) […]

  21. […] Submission and Respect from Husbands (1 Peter 3:7–8) […]

  22. […] [13] Similarly, I suggest that Peter elides a “submit” verb and speaks circumspectly to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 in order to be respectful and not threaten their dignity. (See here.) […]

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