1 Peter 3.7 – A Turnabout Theme

What is easily recognized is that 1st Peter is a letter written to those who were being persecuted.

Although scholars find more than one theme in Peter’s epistle, they agree that the theme suffering is woven into the fabric of the entire letter. In every chapter Peter discusses this theme. In his first explicit reference, he states that the readers “now for a little while … may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1:6). In his last statement, he once more speaks of the brevity of suffering: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (5:10). In between, Peter mentions suffering in many passages.

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Peter addresses slaves who suffer unjustly at the hands of cruel masters (2:18), wives who live with unbelieving husbands (3:1–6), and all others who suffer for the sake of righteousness (3:13–17) and must submit to a “painful trial” (4:12). He informs them that they are in the world to do the will of God. Thus, he exhorts the believing wife that she must seek to convert her husband with her purity and reverence (3:2) and win him not by argument but by conduct. Peter admonishes Christians to show proper respect to the king by honoring him (2:17); yet he uses the pseudonym Babylon when he refers to Rome, the imperial capital (5:13). Peter wants the Christians to live honorably in the midst of unbelievers. In the words of Jesus, believers should “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

One of the things that we struggle with is the use of Peter’s language in describing the woman as the weaker vessel –

NAU  1 Peter 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

NET  1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way, treat your wives with consideration as the weaker partners and show them honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life. In this way nothing will hinder your prayers.

NLT  1 Peter 3:7 In the same way, 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. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

Preceding that is the comparison between the weak and the strong. Is it possible that 1st Peter 3.7 is a rhetorical device which pits the woman in society as the weaker – because she was in Roman society – while the husband is the stronger. Our author them commends to use their status to gain their husbands for Christ (like the persecuted who are commanded to survive in obedience which will show Christ’s glory). The husbands, then, are commanded to be mindful of this fact but not to live as if it matters before Christ.

Thoughts?

]] and ]]], vol. 16, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, New Testament Commentary, 21 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001).

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