What is a better translation than the "weaker vessel"?

Suzanne of Abecedaria blog asks in a BBB (Better Bible Blog) comment:

Here is a further question. Why is 1 Peter 3:7 translated with wives are the “weaker sex” or “weaker partner” I realize “vessel” is not so great either but why can’t someone just say that women, on average, are physically weaker than their husbands. That would make a relevant comment. Women are physically more poorly equipped than men (on average). The weaker partner – hmm. They sometimes have less economic viability. These things are important but it shouldn’t mean be used as a way to justify a disparity in power relations – “women are the weaker sex so therefore …?”

This is the kind of feedback that Bible translation teams need to make better Bibles. First, the easy part, the word “vessel” is no longer adequate for contemporary English translations. The primary meanings people have today for “vessel” refer to some kind of ship or to a conduit in the body through which blood flows. In previous stages of English, the word “vessel” could refer to a person, at least metaphorically. But that usage is now outdated, and not acceptable if we want our Bible translations to communicate accurately to the widest possible audiences.

The more difficult question is: What is a better way of translating Greek asthenetero skeuei of 1 Peter 3:7 to English so that its original meaning, in context, will be understood more accurately and clearly than many of the less acceptable wordings in other English versions?

In what sense are women weaker than men, so that their husbands need to treat them with understanding? The UBS Handbook on 1 Peter says this:

It is not shown in what way the wife is the weaker sex, whether physically, intellectually, or spiritually, but perhaps the physical and the social are intended here, that is, women were considered physically inferior to men, and during that time at least, they were of a much lower social status than men.

As I would for several of the UBS Handbooks, especially the older volumes, I would consider some of the comments here to be inadequte. I think objective studies have clearly shown that women are not intellectually weaker than men. I remember “resenting” the women in our Greek class at Bible school because they were nearly always at the top of the grading curve, making it more difficult for us men to get as high grades as we might like. My wife is a mathematician, with a very sharp mind. It is possible that Peter was referring to a “weaker” social status for women. There could be a tendency for a husband to lord it over his wife, because of the traditional social status for women at the time Peter was writing (and, at least in some religions and societies, including among some conservative Christians, there are still remnants of this idea of a lower social status for woman). But if social status was referred to, Peter quickly makes sure that it is not used as an excuse to treat a wife as not equal spiritually to her husband, since he says:

since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (ESV)

The most likely sense of “weaker” that Peter was referring to was that women are generally physically weaker, smaller, than men. Husbands need to be understanding of this difference between men and women, as I read Peter’s words here. It is inappropriate for a husband to expect his wife to be able to lift up the opposite end of a heavy couch (sofa) just as easily as he can (if he can!), to move the couch. Husbands should not expect their wives to be able to dig ditches as easily as they can.

And even though women are generally smaller than men, experience and studies have shown that women often outperform men in some “physical” areas. Women often have a greater threshold for pain. Few men, I think, would do very well if they had to endure the intensity of pain experienced during childbirth. Women often work longer hours than men, taking care of the children, clothes washing, housecleaning, etc. None of this is easy work, as husbands quickly find out when their wives are gone and they are responsible for household chores, including taking care of the children!

Peter seems to be saying to husbands that they should be sensitive (“understanding”) of the fact that their wives are not as physically strong as they are. But husbands, don’t take advantage of that fact, because husband and wife will share alike in spiritual blessings. And, Peter adds, that if husbands aren’t understanding toward their wives, their prayer life will suffer. There may be some hint of spousal abuse here. Any man who abuses his wife cannot expect to have a vibrant prayer life, getting answers to prayer that a godly, considerate man can expect.

Traditional translations of the Greek here as “the weaker sex” (what does that mean?) or “the weaker vessel” (obsolete) do not cut it for me. Following are some Bible versions which do communicate accurately, I think, what Peter was saying to husbands:

Treat her with honor, because she isn’t as strong as you are (CEV)

live with your wives with understanding since they are weaker than you are. (GW)

you husbands should live with your wives in an understanding way, since they are weaker than you. (NCV)

Treat her 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. (NLT: I especially like this wording)

live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman (NASB; this is good, IMO)

As I understand what Peter is saying, these seem to be better translations, and, as I like to quote the TV commercial, “better is better.”

What do you think?

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  1. Suz
    Posted July 19, 2005 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Hi Wayne,

    When I used the term “equipped” it sounds very odd in English but that seemed to be the original Greek. It was in general a vessel, instrument or equipment. Anyhow this is just to explain my awkward phrase “more poorly equipped” as a ‘literal’ translation. Definitley not a serious candidate as a translation.

  2. Tim
    Posted July 20, 2005 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Wayne, you say: “In previous stages of English, the word ‘vessel’ could refer to a person, at least metaphorically.” This fits with the old KJV “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” so the question seems to me to be, is there evidence which demands any more precision that “women are weaker than men”…

  3. Wayne Leman
    Posted July 20, 2005 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tim. You asked: is there evidence which demands any more precision that “women are weaker than men”…

    I wondered about this also. As far as I can tell the answer is no, and it has the advantage of allowing for other kinds of weakness, without the odd sound of “weaker sex”. I think what needs to be avoided is any connotation that women are somehow weaker as persons than men. I don’t think that is taught anywhere in scripture. We clearly know that most women cannot lift as much weight as most men. But women are often stronger than men is other areas of strength of personhood, etc. For example, some wives have a higher IQ than their husbands. But IQ is a measure of only one kind of intelligence. It does not measure what is now called “emotional intelligence,” visual intelligence, mechanical intelligence, etc.

    I think most people understand the phrase “women are weaker than men” to refer to physical strength, and not to any inherent character flaw. So I think the NASB wording works OK, for instance.

  4. Peter Kirk
    Posted July 21, 2005 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Wayne, I was surprised by your statement:

    In previous stages of English, the word “vessel” could refer to a person, at least metaphorically. But that usage is now outdated, …

    Do you have any evidence that this was ever a genuine English usage, rather than translation English in KJV and other translations, and in quotations from and allusions to them? In other words, is it in fact just a sense of the Greek word σκεῦος (skeuos), which has been illegitimately transferred to the partially equivalent English word “vessel”?

    In fact it seems that this Greek word had a sense “body”. In his commentary on the letters of Peter and Jude (on 1 Peter 3:7), JND Kelly wrote: “Skeuos and its equivalents … were regular Greek terms for ‘body’, the underlying idea being that the soul is contained in the body”.

  5. Alistair
    Posted January 15, 2009 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    I realize this is a really old entry, but perhaps you’ll still get this message:

    I believe that you (and many other who wrestle with this verse) are focusing on the wrong part of the verse.

    “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” (NKJV)

    Everyone always focuses on the “weaker vessel” part. But if you read it, it says “..giving honer to the wife, AS to the weaker vessel..” (My emphasis added). As I’ve always understood this, is that it’s not that the wife actually is weaker than the man, but rather treat her BETTER than you would treat a man, as though she were weaker.

    I hope that my somewhat different take on this is helpful!

  6. Posted January 15, 2009 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    I am not sure where the “as though” came from. It says simply “as to the weaker vessel.” To my mind, weaker in body.

    I am not sure that treating a woman as though she were weaker in areas where she is not, for example, in morality, would be helpful at all.

    I also don’t think it is helpful to not recognize that women have a weaker musculature. Naturally this varies, but for the most part is true. I think this must be recognized.

  7. Posted January 15, 2009 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    the adverb has more the sense of “since she is” I believe. Perhaps others will offer a different view but I don’t find “as if” or “as though” a common use of ὡς.

  8. Posted January 15, 2009 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    It’s a complex verse. Here is the Emphasized Bible, fairly literal.

    Ye husbands, in like manner, dwelling with them according to knowledge, – as unto a weaker vessel, unto the female vessel , assigning honour, as joint – inheritors also of life’s favour, – to the end that unhindered may be, your prayers.

    After this, I’ll bow out. I can’t offer anything definitive.

  9. Sami
    Posted January 23, 2009 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    Well first of all if we want to understand such passages we cannot take them in isolation, and we must not forget that the Word of God is always true no matter how strange or against our modern ideas it may be. I do not believe that the Bible gives women “an inferior social structure” but it does give them a different sphere of life to operate in than it gives a man, this is a simple fact that can be seen from the creation account, God makes man and woman to be mans help or counterpart. He did not make man for the woman but He DID make woman for the man.

    This is good and women who understand this have a very fruitful as peaceful life, just as when men better understand their roles in society they are happier because they can understand and exercise their God given roles and leaders and protectors (moral protection included)

    There is nothing in Gods word for us to be suspicious of, I don’t think God expects us to reword things to make them more acceptable to modern man and his skewed humanistic ideologies which are foolish anyway.

    Women are greatly esteemed in the Bible right from Genesis onwards, God has made it so that all men are carried by their mothers and they live and have their being in their mother for many years, they are formed in the womb, and sustained at her breasts. You can’t really have a more honor worthy position in the family other than being the head of the family, proverbs 31 makes it very clear that a godly woman, who is focused on the things that God actually made her for, is very highly appreciated and esteemed by her children and her husband and of course the rest of the community (see Boaz comments on Ruths reputation in the book of Ruth)

    I am not saying the only role for a woman in life is to bear children, Pastor Albert martin did an excellent series on this which I highly recommend to all, he gives a thorough treatment of these issues in a 5 part sermon

    Here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=4190394117
    as well as other sermons on woman such as a sermon on proverbs 31.

    So I believe the best translation is the most literal one, you shouldn’t interpret something for him then spoon feeding him by telling him this is what the bible says in its text, when actually it is your interpretation of that text, this is why literal translation as much as is possible is I believe required
    of us, it is up to the reader to study Gods word to understand the meaning of such passages.

    I have long wondered at this sentence myself, but it has really just been a wondering, I have not really delved into the scripture to study it, my thoughts are that though understanding it to mean physically weaker seems the most simple, It doesn’t make sense to me as this is such an obvious fact why on earth would you state it, he doesn’t say the same for children anywhere (parents be careful not to give your children too much work to do or to much weight to carry at anytime, for example)

    I think when I look at marriages and what I know from life and scripture, it might be talking about how women are quite often less hardy than a man in marriage. What I mean is, often the man is not so sensitive to the woman’s needs, He does not need the same level of emotional comfort and reassurance that a woman needs.

    I have seen 2 cultures, middle eastern culture and western. I have seen that in both (though more in the middle east) men are not as emotionally driven as women are, woman are in both cultures very social and have great interest (more in the middle east) in building and maintaining close relationships, especially in family circles. Whereas men seem more concerned with progression, work and pioneering the future of their families.

    There is an excellent article on this kind of thing here:


    I think the context is, husbands, be understanding with your wive, she is not as hardy as you are, she needs comfort and emotional support more than you do so you need to be there for her.

    It is nowhere taught that women are not as smart as men in scripture (I have never seen anything that makes me think it teaches this) but it is taught that they have different roles and that they were made for different things in a different way than men.

    I think its clear, that men were designed to lead (hence the assignment by the scripture of men to leadership positions as the norm and almost exclusive, we are talking about a rare handful of exceptions in the old testament when the men refuse to take their roles, God uses it to shame them in judges with Deborah, even she herself says how shameful it is that a woman is leading them to war, and the only reason she led it is because the man who was supposed to lead insisted that she led) and the woman designed to follow the mans leadership.

    I think it is scriptural, and self evident when you look at society that this is true, it is so often women who are led astray by men, who fall pray to the cunning tactics of men beguiling them. This is a vulnerability, not a character flaw. This is a good thing in a godly society, when the men love the women and protect them and would never deceive them for personal gain. But if you look around, it is often the women who were conned by men, who are left pregnant while the man has run off, and she thought he loved her and was going to marry her etc etc.

    I think it is really because women are much more emotionally driven than men, this again is not a character flaw, this is a wonderful thing as it makes them great wives and mothers, whom of us would not feel that the world and our own lives were somewhat incomplete and empty without women?

    But it is a weakness, it makes them prone to make decisions based on how they feel about it rather than the objective truth of the matter, that is they are softer and more lenient than man, which of us confided in our Dad when we did something wrong? Or wanted something? I think most people were far more inclined to run to their mum because we expected more leniency from her, and often we hope our mothers will intercede for us with our when we have done something wrong fathers.

    So in this respect, I would say another aspect of their weakness talked about here, is that they are more easily deceived. This is exactly why they are not in positions of leadership. The scripture expressly gives this as the reason here (1 timothy chapter 2):

    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

    Or NASB:
    A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
    But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
    For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
    And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

    the last part of this sentence (but she shall be saved through childbearing) is a bit off topic so I wont go into it but Albert Martin made this very clear to me in his sermons that I linked earlier.

    So then I think its not really ambiguous from the scripture what is being mentioned, we have a lot to go on in the scriptures concerning things, let no one think that women are somehow undervalued just because they are not given the exact roles men are given, in fact, to say that a woman is only considered complete or valuable when she can do (and is indeed expected to do by modern culture) all the things a man does is to take away that precious gift God has given her, her femininity. Men and women do not compete but a compliment, it is only the perverse ideas of man that tell women they must compete with men, and that tell me they do not need to love and care for women.

    I just remembered another brilliant sermon on this topic, the Myth of sexual equality, it can be found here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=6703214626

    God bless you all, I sincerely hope you are edified by what I have found out on the subject in my research and meditation.

  10. Sami
    Posted January 23, 2009 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Oh, sorry by the way if the main thrust of the topic is how best to translate it and you think I am off topic, my main point was be careful not to add into the text the meaning that is not there, it may not be talking about physically at all so you shouldn’t say physically because it is not said in the text, it may well be referring to some other points I mentioned that others have studied and I have learned from.

    God forbid we should add to His word, really we should be careful not to do that. A proper understanding of the text plays a role in warning us not to predigest it for the reader, as he will think this is what the actual Greek means (when really it is mere interpretation on your part)

  11. Keith Marx
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Well I’m not a Greek expert at all so pardon my ignorance. But I have to dive in because we are working thru this verse for a PreMarriage Class…….

    From what I have seen the best form of the translation is something like: ” Giving Honor to them AS to a weaker vessel”. How does one give honor to the physically weaker. Not sure I follow that. One could give them courtesy or assistance but honor ? I’ve seen one interpretation that notes “Weaker Vessel” would be considered something like “Fine China”. In this case I could see the connection on giving them honor since that is exactly what we do with our High Price Dishes: we feature them, we are protective of them, and we continually acknowledge their value in some way.

    Is there anything within Greek Language Scholarship that would support this ?

  12. Posted March 4, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Keith, it seems to me that the Greek word here translated “weaker” cannot mean “more valuable”, but it certainly can mean “more delicate” or “more fragile”. And “giving honour” might be understood in terms of “handling with care”. So the image of fine china is an appropriate one as long as we don’t bring price into it. Men and women are equally valuable in God’s sight, but I suppose the point is that women are more delicate, as well as physically weaker, and for that reason need more careful handling. I hope this helps you as you consider how to relate to your wife to be.

  13. Keith Marx
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Thnx for the input………….I think it helps a bunch

  14. Leah
    Posted April 9, 2009 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Speaking from sad experience………relating to this “weakness”
    issue that can be manifested in women: there is a great article entitled, “A Word To The Wives.” It can be found at:

    There are many in so-called “positions of church leadership” who are taking advantage of many women (wives in particular) in the church and are using them as tools to gain their own ends.

    The article mentioned above explains in all-to-perfect detail what I am talking about.


  15. Keith Marx
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Wow………….that just stinks. I think I’ve seen one case of that (although not in that congregation).

  16. Posted April 21, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    This is a late addition to a conversation that seems to have started again recently:

    Going back to the I Peter Greek phrase makes me go back to the use of some of the same words (and translations) in much earlier contexts:

    ὡς ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει τῷ γυναικείῳ /hos asthestero skeuei to gunaikeio/ – 1Pt 3:7

    Compare this to Plato’s Republic (455d-e) and to his Gorgias (477b):

    “You are right,” he said, “that the one sex is far surpassed by the other in everything, one may say. Many women, it is true, are better than many men in many things, but broadly speaking, it is as you say.” “Then there is no pursuit of the administrators of a state that belongs to a woman because she is a woman or to a man because he is a man. But the natural capacities are distributed alike among both creatures, and women naturally share in all pursuits and men in all— [455e] yet for all the woman is weaker than the man.” [[(455e) πάντων δὲ ἀνήρ, ἐπὶ πᾶσι δὲ ἀσθενέστερον γυνὴ ἀνδρός]] panton de aner, epi pasi de asthenesteron gune andros — translated by Paul Shorey

    “[477b] And what in his bodily resources? You would say that badness there is weakness or disease or ugliness or the like?” [[(477b) Τί δ’ ἐν σώματος κατασκευῇ; κακίανἂν φήσαις ἀσθένειαν εἶναι καὶ νόσον καὶ αἶσχος καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα;]] Ti d’ en somatos kataskeue kaianon phesais asthenesian einai kai noson kai aischos kai ta toiauta — translated by W.R.M. Lamb

    And Xenophon in his Anabasis (Book V Chapter 3) has women and children and the weak placed on the ship with the “baggage.” This luggage is Peter’s word, σκεύει.

    If a man and a woman is by Peter’s conception a container of some sort, then by his and by ancient Greek concepts of the woman, man is stronger. Don’t know if this adds to the discussion, but it does seem helpful to compare various uses of the Greek words and concepts in a single context.

  17. Julia
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    It’s vile to assume that women have a higher pain tolerance than men due to childbirth, when historically, likely more often than not women had NO choice in the matter. Obviously only females can give birth, but also there were no laws against marital rape until the last century in developed countries, and societies pressured women to have children. I believe women are more delicate physically and emotionally. I would bet that in reality women likely suffer more than men when having the same level of physical damage inflicted on them. Having come from an abusive misogynistic “Christian” home, I was refreshed to hear that my strong Christian uncle handled things in his home completely opposite to how our home was run. He spanked any defiant child, but only used a belt for a very serious offense, and NEVER on the girls! In our home a girl was treated harshly for the same act a boy would have gotten away with or even supported for.

  18. susan
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    More modern translations than KJV of 1 Peter 3:7 say something like: “husbands, in the same way,live together with your wives, according to knowledge that she is the weaker vessel and give honor to her as a joint heir to the grace of life so your prayers won’t be hindered”. To me, this makes more sense. That said, I read that evidence suggests that 1 Peter was written to jewish christains rather than gentiles. After all, Peter was known as the apostle to the jews and Paul the apostle to the gentiles. With this in mind, I was wondering what the term “weaker vessel” would mean to a formerly jewish audience. I found that a man named R. Yonatan taught:

    “The Creator does not test frail vessels, which He could not even tap once before they would break. Whom does He test? Beautiful, sturdy vessels that, even if He taps them several times, they will not break. Thus, the Holy One does not test wicked people, but rather the righteous, as it is written (Tehillim 11:5), “God tests the righteous.”


    R. Yonatan was a first century rabbi who was taught by Hillel (the same guy who taught Paul and was a contemporary of Jesus and Peter). The term “fragile vessel” can also be a translation of the greek in 1 Peter 3:7 instead of “weaker vessel”. R. Yonatan used the term “fragile vessel” to refer to people who were unbelievers or weak believers. Personally, I think Peter is using this same phrase to describe UNBELIEVING WIVES. In the previous verses, it is widely believed that Peter is referring to christain wives with unbelieving husbands as well as slaves with unbelieving masters. Why would he be referring to something different when he is referring to husbands and their attitudes toward their wives? While “weaker vessel” can refer to physically weakness, I don’t believe so when the whole chapter is taken into consideration. So, I believe Peter is referring to unbelieving wives with the phrase “weaker vessel”. In other words, the wife is weaker due to unbelief or lack of faith. Also, the phrase “according to knowledge” never sounded right either. Knowledge according to what? Christain beliefs, gentile beliefs, jewish beliefs? Even though the rabbis denigrated women, they did believe that women had a higher level of “binah”. Binah is described as wisdom,intelligence or discernment about spiritual matters. Another word used for binah is the greek work gnosis which means knowledge (the same word in 1 Peter 3:7). Maybe the phrase “according to knowledge” means “according to binah” in jewish thought. The wife is a fragile vessel acording to binah because she lacks the spiritual discernment of a christain believer. Of course, I’m not saying women are spiritually inferior to men in general, but in the case of an unbelieving wife, she lacks the appropriate knowledge. I think Peter is telling husbands to keep in mind that their wives lack knowledge of the christain religion, but the husbands should still treat their wives with the same respect they would show a christain wife.

  19. Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Susan, that is an interesting point that you make. It would indeed fit the context for Peter to be writing about unbelieving wives. I wondered how to fit that in with the part of the verse about “joint heirs of the grace of life”. But I guess the verse could be about how to live with two separate groups, (a) living considerately with unbelieving wives and (b) treating with respect believing ones. I would still want to see more evidence that Greek-speaking Jews as far away as Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia would have understood “more fragile vessel” to mean “unbelieving”.

  20. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Susan, that is a thought provoking observation.

    Perhaps the “according to knowledge” has to to with the knowledge SHE has. In other words, while there is a definite divide between believing and unbelieving, the way one lives is also quite definitely affected by the knowledge one has regarding the way of Christ. So, the husband would “live with his wife” differently depending where along the spectrum of knowledge she resides.

    Also, we interpret “grace of life” (χάριτος ζωῆς) as if life referred to eternal life. Why? Isn’t our biological life a divine favor also? Husband and wife live here, together, on this planet. In what way could the inheritance of eternal life be thought of as joint?

    So, we have (taking the KJV as a jumping off point):
    Husbands, in the same way [as the wives in dealing with their unbelieving husbands], live together with your wives, according to [their] knowledge [of the truth]. [S]he is an unbelieving vessel. [G]ive honor to her as a joint heir to the favor of this life so your prayers won’t be hindered

  21. Susan
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    “I would still want to see more evidence that Greek-speaking Jews as far away as Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia would have understood “more fragile vessel” to mean “unbelieving”.”

    Well, I am no greek or jewish scholar, nor do I claim to be. The topic definitely needs more research by scholars. However, IMO, it makes sense.

    “Perhaps the “according to knowledge” has to to with the knowledge SHE has. In other words, while there is a definite divide between believing and unbelieving, the way one lives is also quite definitely affected by the knowledge one has regarding the way of Christ. So, the husband would “live with his wife” differently depending where along the spectrum of knowledge she resides.”

    Actually, this was the exact point I was trying to make because the Hebrew word “binah” is believed by the rabbis as primarily a woman’s knowledge. According to my research, binah can be translated into the greek “gnosis” (knowledge) which is what is used in 1 Peter 3:7. Peter used the greek term gynaikeios which means “that which pertains or belongs to a woman”. I thought he could be talking about “gnosis”. Anyway, it was hard to say exactly what I meant without confusion, but I am glad you picked up on it anyway.

  22. Susan
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    “Also, we interpret “grace of life” (χάριτος ζωῆς) as if life referred to eternal life. Why? Isn’t our biological life a divine favor also? Husband and wife live here, together, on this planet. In what way could the inheritance of eternal life be thought of as joint?”

    I thought a little bit more about this, and I think you could be right. After all, unbelieving wives are suppose to be sanctified by the believing husband and vice versa. “Grace of life” could refer to a fruitful life or a good life lived with your earthly spspouse. Where else could a husband’s prayers be hindered, but on earth if he doesn’t honor his wife? After all, once we’re in heaven, our prayers are already answered! Good point Mike!

  23. iverlarsen
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the context of the chapter again, it seems to me that the main point in 3:1-6 is hUPOTASSW (submit/respect). The word occurs in different contexts: 1 Pet 2:13: “For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state,…” (NLT). In 1 Pet 2:18 slaves are to submit to their masters. In 3:1 and 5, wives are to respect their husbands. In 3:6 Sarah is commended for obeying her husband and calling him “master”. In 5:5 young men are to respect/submit to the elders. The situation of an unbelieving husband is only an example where the wife would be tempted to not respect him. But such an attitude would not lead the husband to faith, but might well result in the husband misbehaving or intimidating the wife as alluded to at the end of v. 6. How many men want to be preached to by their wives?

    In v. 7 I do not see how the wife could be an unbeliever, since they are both heirs to the gift of life. This has to be spiritual life that will be fully experienced in Heaven.

    The Greek word ἀσθενής can mean vulnerable and sometimes it can mean “looked down upon” by society. The only other place where the comparative form is used is in 1 Cor 12:22 where Paul talks about certain parts of the body that are most vulnerable and not shown in public. They are in fact the most necessary ones, so don’t look down upon them. Do not dishonor them. In v. 23 he says: “those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor” (RSV).

    In 1 Pet 3:7 the husband is asked to live wisely with his wife and show her the honor that is due to her as an equal co-heir to the gift of life. It seems likely to me that Peter is correcting the general, non-Christian (both pagan and Jewish?) society of his day, which tended to look down upon women, and even use them as “instruments”. A Christian husband should not do that, but rather honor his wife and act wisely towards her as someone who in certain ways is more vulnerable and may be somewhat looked down upon in the non-Christian society of the time.

  24. Susan
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    “Looking at the context of the chapter again, it seems to me that the main point in 3:1-6 is hUPOTASSW (submit/respect). The word occurs in different contexts: 1 Pet 2:13: “For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state,…” (NLT). In 1 Pet 2:18 slaves are to submit to their masters. In 3:1 and 5, wives are to respect their husbands”

    Just before Peter talks about submitting to authorities, masters, etc, he says in 1 Peter 2:12:

    “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation”

    Before Peter starts talking about submission to masters, he says in 1 Peter 2:15:

    “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men”

    It’s obvious that Peter is advocating “submission” in different situations to help christians defend themselves against false accusations as evildoers brought by gentiles and to possibly win more converts when gentiles see the good life of the christians. This theme runs throughout the entire section of chapters 2-3.

    “In 3:6 Sarah is commended for obeying her husband and calling him “master”.”

    There was a well known rabbinical saying that Peter probably knew and was quoting here. The rabbis said, “The wife of Abraham referenced him and called him lord.” Peter probably changed the wording of “reference” to “obey” because the former word has a spectrum of meanings from respect, revere all the way to “fear”. Since Peter follows this up with advice for wives to “fear no terror”, that explains why he changed the wording. That said, how should 3:6 be interpreted? Well, just before 3:6, Peter writes in 3:5:

    “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”

    I think this is key to understand why Peter commends Sara for “obeying” Abraham and calling him “lord”. He’s trying to draw attention to the part of the Genesis story where Sara called Abraham lord. She heard she was going to conceive a child and laughed because she thought she and her “lord” Abraham were too told. Abraham was a believer, but he was a weak believer. He didn’t trust the lord to protect him so he told Sara to say she was his sister. Sara “obeyed” Abraham and ended up being sold into Pharaoh’s harem. Apparently, Abraham thought the promise of a child included only him because he didn’t do anything to get Sara back. Who came to the rescue? God. However, Sara still was terrified because she didn’t think she could give Abraham a child, and she brought Hagar in to have a child in her place. Apparently, this was a ploy on Sara’s part to keep Abraham from divorcing her for being childless, and Abraham certanly didn’t object. Both Abraham and Sara were weak in faith because they didn’t trust enough in God to give THEM a child. The situation with Hagar didn’t work out for anyone. Anyway, this is the point where Sara laughs and calls Abraham “lord”. I believe this is the part that Peter is focusing on. Sarah is rebuked for laughing, and she starts to develop more trust in God. By contrast, Abraham still lacks faith that God will protect him because he asks Sara AGAIN to say she is his sister instead of his wife. Sara “obeys” Abraham again, and ends up in Abimelech’s harem. However, this time Sara’s motives are different. She “obeyed” Abraham OUT OF FAITH that God would spring her from the harem like he did the first time. This is what Peter means when he says the”women of old submitted to their husbands with their trust in God”. This is also confirmed in Hebrews 11:11:

    “By faith Sarah, even though she was old and barren, received the strength to conceive, because she was convinced that the one (God) who had made the promise was faithful.”

    This is why I believe Peter is using Sara as an example to christain wives with unbelieving husbands. Abraham’s lack of faith prompted him to ask Sarah to protect him resulting in Sarah ending up in Abimelech’s harem. Sara’s faith in God resulted in her “obeying” Abraham because SHE TRUSTED GOD TO RESCUE HER. After Sara was rescued, Isaac was born, and Sara developed a new sense of self-respect. She demanded that Abraham get rid of any polygamy in their household, and that Isaac be given his rightful place as the only heir. Abraham didn’t want to do it, but God told him TO OBEY SARAH. In fact, this is the only place in the entire Abraham and Sara story where the word “obey” is used to describe the relationship between them. While Peter tells christian wives to “submit” to their unbelieving husbands, he never tells them to “obey”. Sometimes, people use an extreme example to make a point as Peter uses Sara. That said, the greek word hupotasso can mean concilitation, being agreeable, etc. Peter wants believing wives to submit to their unbelieving husbands whenever possible when principle isn’t involved in the hopes that the husband will see the better way and convert. The same with slaves. That is Peter’s whole point.

    “In v. 7 I do not see how the wife could be an unbeliever, since they are both heirs to the gift of life. This has to be spiritual life that will be fully experienced in Heaven”

    I disagree. The phrase “joint heirs to the grace of life” can be translated as “joint participants in the bounty of life” according to the blue letter bible online translations. That said, the phrase “grace of life” is an odd phrase to say the least. 1 Peter 3: 7 is THE ONLY PLACE in the gospel where this phrase is used (charis zoe). Why is that? I would think “grace of God” (charis theos) would be more suitable if spiritual life in Heaven is meant. In Titus 2:11 it says:

    “For the grace of God (charis theos) that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”

    Grace of God (charis theos) is used many times in scripture. In fact, it’s used at least twice in 1 Peter itself. It seems odd to me that Peter would change the wording of the phrase in relation to a christian couple. That said, the fact that Peter may be using a well known rabbinical saying (as Sara obeyed or referenced Abraham) to illustrate a point tells me that he is using rabbinical sayings and phrases to make his points to a jewish christian audience. The phrase “weaker vessel” is definitely used by a well known rabbi from Peter’s time to describe unbelievers. Peter uses a similar phrase at the end of a big discussion about christians in relationships with unbelievers. That connects the dots for me.

  25. Susan
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    “The Greek word ἀσθενής can mean vulnerable and sometimes it can mean “looked down upon” by society. The only other place where the comparative form is used is in 1 Cor 12:22 where Paul talks about certain parts of the body that are most vulnerable and not shown in public. They are in fact the most necessary ones, so don’t look down upon them. Do not dishonor them. In v. 23 he says: “those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor” (RSV).”

    In 1 Cor. 8:10-11, another form of this word is used to describe a weak believer, or someone lacking in spiritual knowledge or faith:

    “For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

    1Cr 8:11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?”

    In 2 Cor. 4:6-7, Paul describes the christian’s knowledge of the glory of God as “treasures kept in earthern vessels”:

    2 Cor. 4-6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

    2 Cr 4:7 ¶ But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

    In other words, Paul uses the word “weak” to describe a believer lacking in knowledge or faith. Paul calls christians who have the knowledge of the glory of god “earthern vessels”. Rabbi Yocatan, a first century contemporary of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Hillel, calls unbelievers a frail vessel. Peter uses the term “weaker vessel” to describe wives at the end of a long discussion concerning christians in relationships with unbelievers 1 Peter 3:7. So, why can’t Peter be using the term “weaker vessel” to refer to unbelieving or weak believing wives? IMHO, the biblical and extra biblical evidence directly and indirectly supports my theory.

  26. Leonard Man
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I do not know Hebrew and Greek.

    By common sense, I perceive what Peter referred to as the nature of the feminine gender both on physical term and mental term. He was telling the fact in general.

    For instance, I belong to the male gender, however, I consider myself as a weak vessel on physical term.

    24th March, 2011

    16 : 14

    ( Hong Kong )

  27. Iver Larsen
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    For the meaning of 1 Pet 3:7 compare Titus 3:7 and other places where “heir” or “co-heir” occur.

  28. Susan
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    “By common sense, I perceive what Peter referred to as the nature of the feminine gender both on physical term and mental term. He was telling the fact in general.”

    Your “common sense” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “common sense” to a jewish christian in first century Roman empire. To assume so is cultural relativism. I chose not to make assumptions, and I went looking for information much closer to the source. And what did I find? A first century rabbi who used the same identical expression as Peter. Common sense tells me that the rabbi’s usage of the term is probably closer to Peter’s than our modern day understanding. I could be wrong, but that is my opinion. OTOH, if “weaker vessel” were so easy to understand in our modern culture, this wouldn’t continue to be such a big debate.

  29. Susan
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Titus 3:7 specifically uses the adjective ETERNAL (aionios) to describe the noun LIFE. That tells you exactly what kind of life is meant. Aionios is absent from 1 Peter 3:7. That’s quite a distinction in my book.

  30. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Iver, you’re not saying that συγκληρονόμος (SUGKLHRONOMOS–‘coheir’) has a necessary component such that it always refers to something spiritual or heavenly or eternal, are you?

    I would think that while it’s not a broadly common word, the meaning is fairly straight forward. It probably has a strong component of “sibling involvement.” This concept seems to be readily attainable from each occurrence.

    Also, for anyone reading this that might be interested to know where the other occurrences of this word are:
    Rom. 8:17
    Eph. 3:6
    Heb. 11:9
    1Pet. 3:7

  31. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    The section in which 1 Peter 3:7 occurs appears to me to start at 2:11 and end at 4:11.

    Both 2:11 and 4:12 start with a vocative ἀγαπητός (AGAPHTOS, “beloved”, “Dear friends”). 4:11 ends with ἀμήν (AMHN, “amen”).

    Also, 2:11 appears to state the topic of the entire section. I’m tentatively giving this section the heading: “Witness to unbelievers via your life by appropriately dealing with the ‘flesh’.”
    This is followed by two short paragraphs explaining how to live such a witness. The first is people to governmental authorities and the second is slaves to their masters.

    This is followed by a section explaining why we are called to such a life–Christ suffered (verses 21ff)

    This is then followed by two more paragraphs. These start with ὁμοίως (OMOIWS, “likewise”). This ‘likewise’ points the following text back to what was just said about Christ, just like the εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ ἐκλήθητε (EIS TOUTO GAR EKLHQHTE, “To this you were called”) (verse 2:21) points the preceding text forward to the statements about Christ. However, the important point is that these two paragraphs pick up the same topic that was introduced in 2:11.

    Also, such sandwiching of a foundational point between two highly related applications of the foundational point is a rather unsurprising Hebraic way of forming an argument, to say the least.

    There’s a major discourse marker at 3:8–τὸ δὲ τέλος (TO DE TELOS, “finally”, “Speaking directly to the point,…”) So, 8 through 22 speak directly to the point about what it takes to witness to the watching unbelievers.

    Lastly, there’s a major discourse marker at 4:1 with οὖν (OUN, “therefore”, development plus continuity). In many ways verses 4:1-6 reflect what Peter stated in 2:11. But, it’s more like a conclusion of the entire section. Verses 7 through 11 close out the section. These last 5 verses read like a preacher’s last, parting words, before sitting down.

    Summing up we have:

    1. Introduce topic.

    2. People to Governmental authorities.
    3. Slaves to Masters.
    4. Christ exemplifies our calling.
    5. Wives to Husbands.
    6. Husbands to Wives.

    7. Stating the point in broadly applicable, but specific terms.

    8. Summation.
    9. Conclusion.

    In other words, the entire section is dealing with witnessing to a watching world. One does this by constraining the activity of the “flesh”.[1] One has the ability to do that because of what Christ has done. And he has also shown us the example.

    In such a context, ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει (ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI, “fragile container”), especially with its use by a Rabbi of the time, would readily bring to mind an unbeliever who should be gently witnessed to. Otherwise, one’s prayers for her will be rather ineffectual.

    [1] I couldn’t help but think how we seek to find a simple program, one we can easily implement so as to witness for Christ. However, Peter appears to me to be stating that it’s one’s life. It’s how one treats people. Having a ready answer is only valuable if people are motivated to ask the “why do you hope” question.

  32. Posted March 25, 2011 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    I just saw this post. σκεῦος menas “tool” or “utensil” doesnm’t it? In Modern Greek σκευοφόρος means baggage boy or porter..”carrier of luggage” ;)Interestingly enough, my Esperanto bible has “pli malforta ilo”, weaker tool. and Cherokee also says “tool”. ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎬᏔᏂᏓᏍᏗ gohusdi gvtanidasdi
    I thought in Ancient times, the body was thought of as a vessel……either way, calling someone a “tool” is never a nice thing to say :)

  33. Susan
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    “1. Introduce topic.

    2. People to Governmental authorities.
    3. Slaves to Masters.
    4. Christ exemplifies our calling.
    5. Wives to Husbands.
    6. Husbands to Wives.

    7. Stating the point in broadly applicable, but specific terms.

    8. Summation.
    9. Conclusion.”

    A chiasmus?

  34. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    A chiasmus?

    Pretty close. The full structure contains a bit more. Chiasm containing a bit more are not all that unusual either. Ken Bailey calls the “added bits” footnotes, though the bits he’s referring to are a bit smaller and interspersed than the case we’re discussing. I’ll add that I find it interesting that these footnotes are embedded in the text in order to clarify meaning for the reader. They’re easy to see since they modify the chiasmus from a pristine form. I’m just pointing this out to show that a writer is “allowed” to mold a chiasmus to suit his or her needs.

    Sandwich like structures seem to be a very natural form to ancient, particularly Jewish, people. This isn’t a result from sustained chiasm focused research on my part. But, after bumping up against it so much when trying to understand the original text, I think such forms become rather easy to see.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, a broader term is “Hebrew parallelism“. Let me bring other readers along for the ride. These are forms like: AA BB CC, A B C B’ A’, and ABC ABC. Chiasm, of course, is the one in the middle. :-)

    And they are remarkably frequent, though, quite honestly, it shouldn’t be remarkable to us. It’s just we think in a linear, first to last, sequence. They didn’t. We expect the climax to go at the end, for example. They didn’t–generally, it’s in the middle for them. So, from our own cognitive model of how a discourse should work, we find Hebraic parallelisms surprising. We try our best to dismiss it as pure style. It’s not. We exegetes and Bible translators must take the semantic import of these forms quite seriously. Since it’s not natural to us, we have to be intentional about it, or we miss it.

    The thing I so appreciate about these parallel structures is they lower the ambiguity level. If half the thought is in A and the other half is in A’ in a A B C B’ A’ structure, then the A’ will tend to disambiguate the ambiguity in A and vice versa. The structure also helps us figure out where the rhetorical boundaries are, and, hopefully, free us from the tyranny of the numbers (chapter and verse), which too greatly influences our exegesis and even our translation (we tend to translate verses!)

  35. Susan
    Posted March 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    “However, Peter appears to me to be stating that it’s one’s life. It’s how one treats people. Having a ready answer is only valuable if people are motivated to ask the “why do you hope” question.”

    I think your right. Right after Peter says husbands and wives are co-heirs to the “grace of life”, he says this:

    “1 Pet 3:8 Finally, [be ye] all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, [be] pitiful, [be] courteous:

    “1Pe 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should INHERIT A BLESSING.”

    In other words, Peter is saying that christians will inherit a blessing depending on how well they treat others. What kind of blessing? The next verse says:

    “1 Peter 3:10 FOR HE THAT LOVES LIFE AND DESIRES GOOD DAYS let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile”

    1Pe 3:11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

    1Pe 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord [are] over the righteous, and his ears [are open] unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord [is] against them that do evil.”

    Peter is quoting Psalms 34 here. In the original Psalms; King David is instructing children how to live a GOOD AND PROSPEROUS EARTHLY LIFE or else their prayers won’t be listened to. That’s the same thing Peter tells husbands. In other words, 1 Peter 3:10-12 is defining what he means by “grace of life” and what kind of blessing they’ll be co-heirs of. A GOOD AND PROSPEROUS EARTHLY LIFE. After this section, Peter goes on to explain that even if christians don’t get an EARTHLY BLESSING because they are ill-treated, they will STILL be blessed with a spritiual blessing. It’s obvious to me that Peter is trying to describe two different blessings-an earthly one and a spiritual one. The earthly blessing is the one that is shared by a christitan husband, and his unbelieving wife. Peter uses the term “inheritance of a blessing”. In Hebrews 11:20, it says:

    “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.”

    Isaac blesses both Jacob and Esau here. Jacob’s blessing was spiritual while Esau’s blessing was earthly. Jacob represents the believer, and Esau represents the unbelievers. Yet, both receive blessings through Isaac’s faith in God. That tells me that an unbelieving wife can be a co-heir with a christian husband to an earthly blessing from God.

  36. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 26, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I thought in Ancient times, the body was thought of as a vessel……either way, calling someone a “tool” is never a nice thing to say :-)

    You bring up a good point about tool, and I’m going to comment on that in a little bit.

    However, from what I can gather, the Hellenist’s view and the Jewish view were different. So, how one understands the word depends on which side you come down on. The Platonic view was that the body was a container for the soul. The Hebraic view aligned more with the body being an instrument useful to God or Satan. My own opinion is the audience for 1 Peter was highly Jewish. I use to think σκεῦος predominantly meant container. I’ve changed my mind.

    The word σκεῦος, in common usage, is large enough, or broad enough, to encompass both meanings depending on context. The English vessel brings to mind a container, which is rather narrow. However, the word appears to me to mean, something which has utility. It’s not as broad as thing, but it certainly is broader than such words as tool, baggage, utensil, rigging, etc.

    A translator has to make a decision when the referent is clearly known. When the referent is not as clearly known, as here in 1 Pet 3:7, it gets a bit more difficult, unless one can uncover the referent through more thorough and careful exegesis.

  37. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I just found something more while reading some references in Kittel.

    The word σκεῦος, when it refers to a wife, would have very easily been interpreted as a “tool for sexual use.” This appears to be driven by several factors:

    1. An Aramaic loan word meaning “concubine” which comes from an Akkadian word which means both “harlot” and “vessel”.
    2. The ordering by Xerxes of his wife Vashti to appear before him and his guests wearing nothing more than her crown. Though not in the Bible’s text, Xerxes is reported [bMeg., 12b--I believe this is the Megilla Mishnah] to have responded to his guests when they had an argument regarding whether Persian or Median women were more beautiful. Keep in mind these men had seven days of wine flowing freely. He said something like, “the vessel I use is from Kasdim. Do you want to see her?” They responded by saying something to the effect of, “Of course! Naked!” So, Xerxes called for 7 Eunuchs to go fetch her, and she is to “wear her crown,” which I take to mean only her crown. By the way, I had never heard this explanation, but it certainly explains her refusal in spite of what could have meant the end of her life. It also explains the sexual contest that ensued by those seeking to be chosen the new queen (not that they had much choice).
    3. Apparently, the word used in Isa. 54:5 for ‘completing’ the woman has clearly sexual connotations. The connection with “vessel” comes from Rabbi Samuel ben Uniah who says that a “Woman…makes a covenant only with him who makes [her] a ready vessel” and then cites Isa. 54:5 in support. The word for ‘completing’ is in Isa. 54:5. Thus connecting ‘vessel’ and ‘sexual use.’

    So, using the term ‘vessel’ in the context of marriage would very easily bring to mind sexuality. Obviously, this text is about a marriage relationship; in fact, that marital context is strengthened even more by Peter’s use of the word συνοικέω (SUNOIKEW, “dwell together in marital relationship”).

    You’re probably thinking, “Where is he heading with this?” [It's like watching a movie and not being sure what is going to spring up next, isn't it? So, let me get to the point.]

    If sexual use is not what is meant here–and I certainly do not think it is—then, in order to serve his audience, the author must have done something, preferably front some communicative element, that would turn off that unintended meaning. He, in fact, does exactly that. And he does so by fronting the phrase κατὰ γνῶσιν (KATA GNOSIN, “according to knowledge”). The following phrase is to be thought of within the context of γνῶσις and not within a context which would more readily come to mind.

    To be clear, the lowered capacity (ἀσθενής) to provide utility (σκεῦος) was to be thought of in terms of what he or she knew (γνῶσις) and not in terms of what men might think she could do or what they might think she was there for. To turn off the meaning of “Husbands, dwell in a marital way [with your wife] as a sexual partner with lowered capacity,” Peter fronts the prepositional phrase κατὰ γνῶσιν. If an audience doesn’t need that sense turned off (just like us), then he wouldn’t have needed the fronted κατὰ γνῶσιν. He could have put it on the end. Or, possibly, he could have left it off altogether.

    This doesn’t definitively answer the question of whose knowledge Peter is referring to; but it does, I believe, tell us why the prepositional phrase occurs where it does. And it gives us another avenue upon which to pursue a more thorough exegesis.

    English ‘as’ can take on a meaning similar to ‘about’. As in, “Husbands, live with your wives according to [some] knowledge about their lowered capacity to provide utility.” But, that’s not what ὡς means. Ὡς correlates two things—this is like that. It seems to me to be closer to the sense of “in terms of” or “in the sense of.” I think maybe it can even be in the sense of “in metaphorical terms.” Just over half of the 27 occurrences in 1 Peter do in fact introduce a metaphor. The case here in 3:7 is one of those cases. The difficulty for us English speakers is when we place the word knowledge in there we tend to interpret ‘as’ to mean ‘about’. Let’s clarify what Peter actually meant with a better understanding of ὡς.

    If we postulate that Peter didn’t need to turn off the unintended sense (that is, let’s temporarily drop the κατὰ γνῶσιν), he could have written, οἱ ἄνδρες ὁμοίως συνοικοῦντες ὡς ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει.

    So, taking that as a jumping off point, the translation would be “Husbands, dwell in a marital way [with your wife] as a woman who has a lowered capacity to be useful [to God].” Recall my previous comment where I said, “The Platonic view was that the body was a container for the soul. The Hebraic view aligned more with the body being an instrument useful to God or Satan.” Since I think the audience was Jewish, the later would be implicit information understood by the writer and audience alike. So, I think that translation conveys basically what Peter is trying to get across.

    However, that immediately brings up a very important question, “In what way does a wife have lowered capacity to be useful to God?” The only reasonable explanation is that she is an unbeliever. And relating to unbelievers, as has been shown, is a major constituent of the discourse topic.

    In conclusion, I don’t think this answers the question of whose knowledge Peter is referring to. I tend to think it’s the wife’s, given her unbelief and the cultural view that the husband was responsible for his wife’s religious understanding. If it’s the husband’s knowledge (understanding) about his wife, then the wife’s knowledge would still have to be improved. So, practically speaking in regards to how this works its way out, there’s little difference between the two alternatives.

    So, I am tentatively thinking a good translation would be:

    Husbands, likewise, dwell with your unbelieving wife as one whose knowledge lack of understanding lowers her ability to be useful to God.

    This effectively gives the husband a clear responsibility to grow his unbelieving wife spiritually, enabling her to serve God. This in some ways is similar to how Jesus treated Mary when she sat at the feet of one who was a Rabbi–a disciple learning how to serve.

  38. Susan
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    Mike, that is really interesting information. I have also come across another rabbinical saying. Samuel b. Unya wrote about the transformation women undergo upon partnership with men in B. Sanhedrin:

    “Before marriage a woman is a shapeless lump. It is her husband who transforms her into a useful vessel.”

    I emailed a copy of my original post to Sandra Teplinsky. She comes from an orthodox jewish background. She currently co-pastors a messianic jewish ministry “Light of Zion”. This is what she said to me:

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you very much for your letter. It deserves a much more thorough response than I can provide, as I am unfortunately suffering from an arm injury that prevents me from prolonged typing. There is more I’d like to share with you but regrettably, the following will have to be sufficient.

    First, I must point out I am not a scholar on the subject ~ and second, we’ve lived in Jerusalem the past 2 years so I’m out of the loop on the most contemporary thought on the matter.
    With those disclaimers, your perspective is intriguing and yes, I do believe it is possible, to answer your question. I don’t know if I would say it is probable, but certainly possible. As you surely know, much of Paul’s writings about women reflect the fact they were at that time generally far less educated in Jewish theology, so perhaps “weaker” may refer to weaker in knowledge of the Scriptures, instead of, or as well as, unsaved. But unsaved would render the chapter consistent in its address first to women with unsaved husbands. (There are, as you likely know, all kinds of interpretive problems with biblical Greek which render NT details harder to understand in many ways than those in the OT.)

    I do want to thank you for sharing a perspective I had not previously considered. I laud your commitment to the Scriptures and especially to the topic of women’s identity in Messiah. What you may or may not know is that the Messianic movement is highly restrictive of women to this day, although the younger adults tend to be more liberal, or shall we say, biblical, in their understanding. Holy Spirit’s anointing on you!

    Much blessing and grace,

  39. Iver Larsen
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I thought Peter H. Davids made several good points in his explanation of this verse in his commentary. I’ll only copy a few excerpts:

    “It is clear that Peter does not think about the possibility of a husband with a non-Christian wife…

    First, husbands are to live considerately with their wives. The term “living with” is found only here in the NT, but in the Greek OT it occurs eight times. It includes the total marital relationship, often with sexual overtones (Deut. 22:13; 24:1; 25:5 are more sexually toned than Isa. 62:5; Prov. 19:14; Sir. 25:8; 42:9; 2 Macc. 1:14). As in 1 Cor. 7:1–5, the scriptural authors are not reticent to extend God’s rule and interest to the marriage bed as well as to other aspects of life. Husbands, then, are to live out their marriages “considerately” or “according to knowledge.” The Greek term gnwsis has a variety of meanings, but here it is not analytical knowledge or religious insight that is intended, but personal insight that leads to loving and considerate care, whether in the bedroom or in other activities of marriage. Paul used the expression similarly in 1 Cor. 8:1–13; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:9–10; 3:10 (cf. 2 Pet. 3:5–6).

    This consideration will be expressed by “showing honor to your wives as to the more vulnerable sex.” The expression “showing honor,” which appears only here in the NT, is a common classical expression also used by Clement in 1 Clem. 1:3, “paying all fitting honor to the older among you.” It includes honoring (rather than running down) a person verbally, but also indicates deeds that show that the person is honored, a proper respect and deference to the person. This is especially needed because the wives are “the more vulnerable sex” or “the weaker vessel.” This is a difficult expression for, as L. Goppelt has shown, “vessel” has four meanings: “(1) a person as an instrument (Acts 9:15), (2) the body as the vessel of the spirit (Hermas, Man. 5.1; Barn. 7:3), (3) the person as a creature, a meaning common in the OT and Judaism after the potter parable of Jer. 18:1–11, and (4) in rabbinic writings K’lí, ‘vessel,’ for a wife.” It is likely that Peter is thinking of the second and third of these meanings (as is 1 Thess. 4:4; cf. 2 Tim. 2:20–21; Rom. 9:21–23); that is, of the two creatures of God, male and female, the woman is weaker in body and generally more vulnerable. The sense of “weaker,” then, is not weaker in mind or morally inferior, an opinion widely held in the Greek and Hebrew world (e.g., Plato, Leg. 6.781b; cf. Rom. 5:6, which uses this sense for all humans), nor weaker in conscience (e.g., 1 Cor. 8:7–11; Rom. 14:1), for the previous exhortation has just called women to feats of moral and spiritual strength as independent moral agents, but weaker physically than men, as both Jews and Greeks observed (e.g., Plato, Resp. 5.455e, 457a; Leg. 781a; Philo, De Ebr. 55; Papyrus Oxy. 261.11-13), and for that and social reasons more vulnerable. It normally was quite easy for a husband to abuse his wife physically or sexually, or, because of his social power, including the power to divorce, intimidate her emotionally. All of this Peter rules out: especially because of her vulnerability he is to be sure to honor her in word and deed; rather than exploiting his power or denying that he has it, he lends it to her.

    Peter gives two reasons for this command.

    First, such action recognizes what society did not, that before God husband and wife are equal, joint heirs of God’s gracious gift, which is eternal life. As Paul argued emphatically in Gal. 3:28, in what mattered there was no difference between male and female.

    Second, a failure to keep this relationship loving, a giving in to the societal tendency to dominate and exploit one’s wife, would injure one’s relationship with God, hindering his prayers. Matt. 5:23; 6:12, 14–15; 1 Cor. 11:33–34; and Jas. 4:3, among other passages, indicate that relational disturbances with others will hinder one’s relationship with God, including prayer. As the closest human relationship, the relationship to one’s spouse must be most carefully cherished if one wishes a close relationship with God.”

  40. Susan
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    “Apparently, the word used in Isa. 54:5 for ‘completing’ the woman has clearly sexual connotations. The connection with “vessel” comes from Rabbi Samuel ben Uniah who says that a “Woman…makes a covenant only with him who makes [her] a ready vessel” and then cites Isa. 54:5 in support. The word for ‘completing’ is in Isa. 54:5. Thus connecting ‘vessel’ and ‘sexual use.”

    Sorry Mike, I see you already have the verse I posted. I was in a hurry because I had to go to work and didn’t read your post that clearly. Anyway, I think your information is great!

  41. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink


    What does ὁμοίως (hOMOIWS, “likewise”) mean? That is, what action does it refer back to?

    Does it refer back to

    2:11-12 (all quotes are from NIV)
    Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

    Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority…For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (ἀνθρώπων, “people”).

    Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering…

    To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

    Or, the more likely,
    Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior…

    Perhaps it refers back to all of these.

  42. Susan
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    In 1 Peter 3:9, Peter says a person can “inherit a blessing”.

    Right now, modern day israel, UNBELIEVING ISRAEL, is definitely the beneficiary of a huge blessing. I saw a satellite photo of israel once, and all of the countries around it were brown baren dessert. The only green was Israel itself. Israel is the only country in the middle east that’s a democracy, and women in israel have more rights than any other middle eastern country. You look at the differences between israeli and palesttinian settlements, and you can can see how well kept and prosperous the israelis compared to the palestinians. Religious minorities are free to practice their religion without persecution. You don’t see that in the surrounding arab countries. The tiny country of Israel won 6 wars even though it’s totally surrounded by enemies that hate them. Modern day Israel is as unbelieving as it’s arab neighbors as far as christianity is concerned. Yet, Israel is blessed on account of Abraham’s faith in God. Modern day unbelieving Israel is INHERITING A BLESSING that was given to a believing Abraham. Modern day Israel is like God’s unbelieving wife who is sanctified and set apart in the hopes that she will eventually pick earthly life. In the meantime, God is blessing Israel ON EARTH and making her prosperous. Abraham and his descendents are the heirs to a blessing. In fact, Abraham is called co-heirs with his two immediate descendents Isaac and Jacob in Hebrews 11:9. You can’t tell me that modern day israelis are any less co-heirs than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob despite their unbelief. LIKEWISE, you can’t tell me that an unbelieving wife can’t be a co-heir with her christian husband to inherit a blessing from God IN THIS LIFE. To say otherwise is absolutely ridiculous. 1 Peter 3:7 is talking about christian husbands and unbelieving wives plain and simple. That’s it in a nutshell.

  43. Iver Larsen
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Permalink


    You asked about ὁμοίως. It refers to the similarity of the advice that Peter gives to the different groups he is adressing in the different sections. The main topic is good conduct and humility.

    In 2:11 he addresses all as a group: “Beloved”. 2:11-12 talks in general about good conduct that glorifies God.

    In 2:13 he still talks to all but is more specific about the conduct and starts off with ὑποτάγητε (place yourself under).

    In 2:18 he talks to household slaves, and it is linked to the previous verses by ὑποτασσόμενοι, but it is still under the main topic of living a commendable life.

    In 3:1 the ὁμοίως moves to a different group that he likewise has some advice for, again ὑποτασσόμεναι. A commendable life for a devout, Christian wife.

    In 3:7 he likewise has advice for the husbands about a commendable life, in particular how they should treat their wives better than pagans do. (An interesting parallel to 1 Thes 4:4 where the “vessel” also occurs. This place is misunderstood and mistranslated by NIV, but correct in RSV.)

    In 3:8 Peter is back to the general audience.

    The final group introduced by ὁμοίως is the young men in 5:7, again with the key word ὑποτάγητε. Peter likewise has advice for them. It is the same kind of advice.

  44. Susan
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Mike, thanks for the explanation of hebrew parallelism. I think it makes this section of 1 Peter even clearer to understand. It puts everything in a logical content and clarifies that this whole passage pertains to christians in a relatinship with unbelievers especially 1 Peter 3:7. I always suspected it did, and I could see a chiasmus, but I’m certainly no expert on the overall structure. What you said makes a lot of sense especially when it comes to 1 Peter 3;7.

  45. Susan
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    In the Babylonian Talmud, women are said to be under the “Ten Curses of Eve”. In other words, these are punishments that all women (no men) inherit from Eve because she sinned first. If anyone’s curious what these curses are, they can google the information themselves. They aren’t nice. That said, the phrase “co-heirs to the grace of life” makes even more sense in the context of an unbelieving wife. The opposite of a cursed state would be a “state of grace”. The greek word for life is Zoey, and it’s also the greek name for EVE. What am I getting at? “Grace of life” is the opposite of “Curses of Eve”. Peter is telling jewish christians husbands they are to live with their unbelieving wives according to knowledge as the “weaker vessel”, and they have to give her honor as a co-heir to the grace of life. In other words, the unbelieving wife is not to be treated like she inherited a bunch of curses because of Eve (especially if she’s a jewish unbeliever). Instead, her husband has to give her the same diginity that rabbis thought only men were allowed. The word Zoey is used instead of Eve to contrast that women are no longer under some so-called curse because of Eve. Instead, Peter wants jewish christian husbands to understand that their wives are now co-heirs with them to the “grace of life”. The ten curses of Eve were supposed to be punishments on women IN THIS LIFE. The “grace of life” is something women are suppose to inherit with their husbands in THIS LIFE.

  46. Posted March 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    @Susan: That is a fanTAStic response. Since most Jewish men at that time were aware of the Talmud (since it was more important than the direct word of God, like most Orthodox synagogues now), this would make a lot of sense. Since the Greek new testament ,even though it was written in Greek, it was “thought” in Aramaic/Hebrew. Peter’s scribe may have translated it as Peter dictated the letter.

  47. Susan
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Ant Writes! You make a great point about the scribe. Also, in the case of a pagan gentile wife, there was a tendency to mix up the storys of Eve and the greek myth Pandora. In fact, Pandora’s box is incorrect. It was originally a vessel. The talmud actually was compiled later I think, but it was based on the oral tradition of the jews-an oral tradition that included the ten curses of eve. Anyway, the mingling of Pandora and Eve would explain the vessel comments in both jewish and gentile culture to some extent.

  48. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m the one (I think) that proffered the “of this life” idea. However, I always like to explore the various alternatives. I’ll explore another here. It’s a lot of rabbit trails, but sometimes, along the pathway, I find a real gem.

    In any case, could ὡς καὶ συγκληρονόμοις χάριτος ζωῆς be translated as “even as a joint-heir of the benefits of a renewed life.”?

    I’m focused on the two words, ὡς καὶ. So, yes, I’m thinking in terms of the Christian life, but with the caveat that she isn’t yet a believer–she just gets treated with the same honor that she would if she were a believing spouse. She’s not to be put down as an unbeliever; but, lifted up as special. Even benefitting from an ever increasing understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

    Part of the reason for exploring this comes from the earlier part of I Peter which talks about an inheritance (1:4). So, I’m a bit reluctant to too quickly think of “joint-heir” as not in some way referring back to the same inheritance. So, perhaps it’s joint-heir in potential.

    There seems to me to be two threads woven together, playing off of each other, in the Petrine letter. On the one hand there’s an inheritance waiting to be obtained. On the other, there’s a salvation benefit to be applied to this world (I’m thinking of the temple metaphor and the fact that believers are currently serving here, in this world, as priests).

    To get specific, I’m thinking of καὶ in an ascensive sense like that offered by Louw & Nida, section 91.12:
    καὶ: a marker of emphasis, involving surprise and unexpectedness = ‘then, indeed, how is it then, yet.’ Matthew 11:9 would be a good example: “Certainly, and I’ll tell you, even one better than a prophet.”

    So, the sense that I’m wondering out loud about is like this: “showing her honor…just as if she were a joint-heir”.

    There are 22 cases of ὡς καὶ in the NT. And the ones I looked at appear to me to work just fine with the increased emphasis of “even as”. In some cases, it appears to me to clarify the sense of the clause a bit better than thinking of the phrase as “as also”. The later comes across to my mind as “additionally.” And, therefore, it’s a bit weak. “Additionally” doesn’t work for me here in I Peter 3:7.

    Here’s the 22 cases for those who would like to explore.
    Matt. 06:12
    Matt. 20:14
    Acts 10:47
    Acts 11:17
    Acts 13:33
    Acts 17:28
    Acts 22:05
    Acts 25:10
    Rom. 09:25
    Gal. 06:10
    Eph. 02:03
    Eph. 05:23
    1 Cor. 07:07
    1 Cor. 09:05
    2 Tim. 03:09
    Heb. 03:02
    Heb. 13:03
    1 Pet. 03:07
    2 Pet. 02:01
    2 Pet. 03:16
    Rev. 06:11
    Rev. 18:06

  49. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Reading back through the comments, I just realized that Alistair made a very similar point.
    See here.

  50. Iver Larsen
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink


    I think the reason that “additionally” does not work for you in this verse is that you have gone down a dubious rabbit trail.

    I agree that the inheritance topic is important, and the mention in 1:4 is clearly a future inheritance in heaven. So why not the same in 3:7?

    In the case of ὡς, BDAG lists both occurrences in this verse under the following description:

    ③ marker introducing the perspective from which a pers., thing, or activity is viewed or understood as to character, function, or role, as
    ⓐ w. focus on quality, circumstance, or role.

    The second ὡς needs to be looked at together with the dative adjective συγκληρονόμοις which describes the wives as “joint-heirs”. When καί functions as an adverb, as it does here, it always modifies the following word, meaning that the wives are also heirs together with you (since they are believers as much as you are.) So, rather than look at ὡς καί alone, we need to look at the main word that both of these smaller words modify, i.e. συγκληρονόμοις.

    BDAG has an additional description under the same sense 3:
    β. ὡς w. ptc. gives the reason for an action as one who, because.

    Although we don’t have a participle here, we do have the closely related adjective.

    Both ideas are present: You need to treat your wives with honour from the perspective of them being joint-heirs and also because they are joint-heirs.

    That is why RSV is quite right in translating: “since you are joint heirs.” ESV does the same.

    TEV is also correct, but use more words: “because they also will receive, together with you, God’s gift of life.”

    Have you found any commentary that support your suggestion of wives who are unbelievers? I don’t see how the text can possibly be tweaked to mean that.

  51. Susan
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    1 Cor. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

    Acts 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an INHERITANCE AMONG ALL THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED.

    1 Peter 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should INHERIT A BLESSING.

    1Pe 3:10 For whoever finds pleasure in life and desires to see many good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile

    1 Peter 3:9 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

    1Pe 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord [are] over the righteous, and his ears [are open] unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord [is] against them that do evil.

    1 Peter 3:7 “as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered”.

  52. Posted March 30, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Hello everyone! I just found this blog and thread while looking for more posts by Iver about TEKNION and PAIDION.

    I have a comment on the “weaker vessel”. After reading what was previously said over the past (almost) six years, I like the phrase “a more delicate instrument” to explain what Peter was getting at or what God may have intended. By the way, my wife dislikes the phrase as being too technical. I agree. But, it fits well in my assumed mindset of Peter.

    What I see is that women are not an inferiorly made tool that breaks. I see them as a specialized tool that requires a more gentle touch. I can do almost anything to my form hammer and not break it. If I do the same with one of my machinist calipers, it would become useless.

    I have no real hard support to back this up, but also I see no hard support to refute it. All I see in scripture is what you have already stated. Plus, she is a help-meet taken from a rib and not a foot or neck bone. As mentioned, she is, in essense, to become equal in the family as one would as with a male partner in a buisness. This is just a thought to add to the color of this post.

    I have to get back to translating 1 John 2. I hope to converse more with this new found group and blog. I focus more on the Bible’s aspect of children and ministry. Have a blessed day!!

  53. Mike Sangrey
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    The reason “additionally” doesn’t work for me is because καὶ is functioning as an adverb and not as a conjunctive. That is, the subsequent clause is not simply connected to the previous one. The NIV presents a clear example of a conjunctive exegesis: treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you. Since καὶ can’t function as a conjunctive here, there’s a problem with this translation; see below.

    Also, regarding commentaries: My intent has always been to improve the art and science of Bible translation; so I very much tend to not dwell on the more ordinary. Commentaries, too frequently, present the ordinary (not that ordinary is normally wrong; it’s just not my focus). Few deal with the discourse as a discourse. As you know, a discourse analysis (even a simple one like the one I present above) helps determine many translation choices when the translator is faced with ambiguity. It’s how the cognitive choices made by the author work, too.

    And about the tweak: Since a major constituent of the whole section has to do with believers living out their hope before unbelievers–the whole letter is about that–the text needs no tweak. You’re looking at the text from a foreign perspective. From that foreign perspective, it would need a tweak.

    Additionally, the “normal” interpretation has always left me with nagging questions. Generally, it appears to me to interact with the original text from an English idiom point of view and not from within a Greek (Hebraic) idiom framework (which is what drives me to present an idiomatic understanding of the text–as I did above).

    Now, back to interacting with the text.

    I think it is very well established that when καὶ follows a subordinating conjunction, such as ὡς, it is always an adverb. In fact, a postpositive καὶ is always an adverb (and, yes, of course, adverbial καὶ always modifies the following word, I thought that was obvious).

    The thing I’d like to point out, however, is that the adverbial, postpositive, καὶ is an intensifier. Translators miss this–too often.

    Let me quote an example not related to 1 Peter to illustrate how this is missed. This is from Black[1].

    In 2 Corinthians 5:6 virtually all the translations and commentaries have interpreted καὶ as a conjunction, surfacing in English as “and” or asyndeton…(Eg. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord). This rendering of καὶ, however, does not make much sense. How does “knowing that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” cause us to be of good courage? The opposite would be assumed since “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (v. 8 ) … A suggested translation could be “Therefore we are always confident even though we know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” [emphasis is Kermit's].

    He goes on to say:

    Καὶ as an adverb serves basically as a spotlight. It is an intensifier calling special attention to what follows. The nature of the emotive impact, (whether surprise, bewilderment, disbelief, or some other feeling) is contingent on the context. It may be translated in English by such words as “even,” “also,” “indeed,” “very,” and “certainly.” However, at times, a more ingenious method may be needed in order to elicit the particular emphasis portrayed.

    I’ll point out here that English also is a weak intensifier at best. I’d have to think more about it, but it seems to me that also only intensifies when it follows and–“and also”. “As also” strikes me to mean “additionally.”

    I find Kermit’s description of the emotive impact insightful. It’s that element of surprise existing as a pragmatic component of the word following the adverbial καὶ that needs be understood in the exegesis, and conveyed (somehow) in the translation. This means that somehow συγκληρονόμοις (joint-heirs) is a bit surprising. Why would it be surprising, even in the littlest degree, if she were a believer?

    This is what I’m referring to when I say it’s not an additional thought. There’s some kind of intensification going on here. Translating καὶ as also doesn’t do that. Translating ὡς καὶ συγκληρονόμοις as “as even a joint-heir” certainly does.

    I think what happened with the NIV rendering is that the translator was thinking as also and realized that the also was redundant–it does NOT intensify (not that he was thinking it should). So, he simply dropped it. And then needed a more English-like way to join the two clauses, so he inserted the and before the as.

    Once one accepts that ὡς καὶ συγκληρονόμοις needs some sense of intensification, the pathway to a different exegesis than the “normal” one opens up.

    [1] Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, edited by David Alan Black. The quote above is from Kermit Titrud. pgs 240-270
    Also, Levinsohn’s book is helpful. See: Discourse features of New Testament Greek, Stephen Levinsohn; pgs 99ff, a section entitled “Non-Conjunctive καὶ”

  54. Iver Larsen
    Posted March 31, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink


    I agree that KAI is an adverb here rather than a sentence or clause conjunction. What the NIV translator was thinking is hard to say. Maybe they were following KJV?

    RSV is better in that they have, correctly in my mind, understood the hWS here to mean “since”. I am looking at the text from a discourse and Greek perspective rather than what the text ought to say to be acceptable to modern, Western sentiments. It is fine to suggest alternative views, but then they should be convincing. If no commentator agrees with you, the burden of proof is even greater.

    The word “joint-heir” is explained well in Rom 8:17. We are “heirs” to the new life in Heaven that God has promised to give to his children. But we are also joint-heirs with Christ, whom we will be together with at that time. In Eph 3:6, the Gentile believers are joint-heirs with the Jewish believers and with Christ to that heavenly life. In 1 Pet 3:7 Peter is reminding the husbands that they are joint-heirs to that life, not just joint with Christ but with their believing wives. An unbelieving wife would not be such a joint-heir.

    The dative form of the adjective (συγκληρονόμοις) can apparently be understood as either masculine or feminine. The alternative reading of συγκληρονόμοι has good mss support and is also the Majority text reading. If the dative is original, it would connect to the wives as being joint-heirs with and in additon to the husbands. If the nominative is original, the husbands (ἄνδρες) in the beginning of the sentence are said to be joint-heirs with the wives.

    The KAI may be easier to grasp if the dative is used. Then the wives are ALSO joint-heirs with you husbands. Remember that!
    It is an intensifier, but it does not have to be surprising. If the nominative is taken as original, the sense of KAI is more like “indeed”. You husbands are indeed co-heirs with your wives. Remember that!

    Metzger has this comment:
    “If one adopts the dative, the reference of the clause ὡς … ζωῆς is to the wives; if the nominative, the reference is to the husbands. (The substantive συγκληρονόμος, being derived from an adjective of two terminations, is both masculine and feminine.) The transition in sense from the singular τῷ γυναικείῳ σκεύει to the plural συγκληρονόμοις may have seemed harsh to copyists, who therefore preferred the nominative. Actually, however, the transition is not unnatural, and the dative is more in harmony with the structure of the sentence and the thought (for the presence of καί seems to favor taking the two clauses as coordinate).”

    Peter seems to be saying to these husbands that since they are indeed co-heirs with their wives to God’s gift of new life, they should honor their wives from that perspective as well as their more fragile nature. To suggest that unbelieving wives are also co-heirs is more than surprising, it is impossible.

  55. Susan
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    “Grace of life” has to be looked at from a jewish perspective. The jews had many prayers or blessings for DAILY LIFE. A major blessing was the Birkat Ha Mazon or GRACE AFTER MEALS. Actually, the Birkat Ha Mazon consisted of four blessings:

    1) Blessing for food.
    2) Blessing for the land of Israel as an inheritance.
    3) Blessing for Jerusalem to be rebuilt and the coming of the Messiah.
    4) Birkat Ha-Tov v’Ha-Maytiv (the blessing for being good and doing good)

    The first 3 blessings were added around the time of Ezra and the assembly. The 4th blessing was added after the destruction of the temple but it existed before that time. 1 Peter 3:9-13 is perfect confirmation that it did:

    1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

    1Pe 3:10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.

    1Pe 3:11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.

    1Pe 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

    1Pe 3:13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?

    It’s not hard to figure out what Peter meant by the “grace of life” especially when he ties it in with that whole “inherit a blessing” so the Lord hears your prayers thing. He is talking about blessings in DAILY LIFE NOT ETERNAL LIFE. His emphasize on this particular blessing is what an unbelieving wife is co-heir with her christian husband. Peter is obviously taking things from jewish culture that he can make compatible with christian teaching in a way that JEWISH CHRISTIANS will understand it. A lot of jewish christian men came from backgrounds where they heard nasty things about women and/or gentiles in the context of a blessing that wasn’t very nice. Jewish men recited blessings (based on greek beliefs) that they are glad they weren’t made a woman or gentiles. I can imagine what an unbelieving gentile wife would be thinking if she heard this! Combine this with the “curses of eve” and the tradition that gentile women were unclean ALL the time, it’s understandable why Peter is exhorting jewish christian husbands to be careful how they “give honor” to an unbelieving wife without putting them down. Peter wants to convert these women not drive them away. Jews also had a daily blessing called a Birkat Hatorah. This is blessing of the learning of the torah-something even jewish women weren’t allowed except in cases of niddah or other limited exceptions. Women were thought not to be knowledgeable enough to learn the torah like men did. Another blessing that could probably be covered under “grace of life”. Birkat Hatorah was seen as an INVITATION TO LEARN THE TORAH. All within a christian context of course. Anyway, the jews are, and still are, a people who put a lot of emphasize on blessings for DAILY LIFE. It’s obvious to me at least that “grace of life” is going to have an entirely different meaning to first century jewish christians culture than it does to us. I think looking at the phrase “grace of life” from a modern christian perspective isn’t going to cut it. Unfortunately, that’s what is happening.

  56. silvereyes1945
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I think the interpretation of weaker vessel as an unbeliever is correct. Someone up thread wanted to know how jewish christian in the diaspora would understand the term weaker vessel. I think the answer can be found in greek culture. Plato used the term “leaky vessel” to describe foolish people, ignorant, or people who were unitiated in the mystery religion due to lack of belief. Their punishment, along with people who commit murder, was to carry leaky vessels of water in Hades for an eternity. Foolish people were thought to leak knowledge out of their heads like a leaky vessel. I find it interesting that Paul said of unbelieving women in 2 Timoty 3:7:

    “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

    Pausanius, greek travel writer, said that the unbelievers, or unitiated, in the mystery religions were those doomed to carry water in leaky vessels in Hades for eternity as well. Plato lived in 387 B.C. and Pausanius lived in the second century. Obviously, this idea of leaky vessels and unbelievers has been around for a long time. The jewish quote about the fragile vessel is probably based on this idea. So, yeah, I think it’s true that first century jewish christians in the diaspora would have understood weaker vessel as an unbeliever. Also, I find it interesting that Peter says this in 2 Peter:

    ” 2 Peter 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

    2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;

    2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”

    In other words, Peter is telling people to grow in grace and knowledge so they can discern the truth unlike untaught people who misunderstand or twist the scriptures. In this context, it would make sense for Peter to tell a christian husband to honor an unbelieving wife as a co-hair to the grace of life. In other words, Peter is talking about spiritual growth. In 1 Peter 2:2-3, Peter talks about spiritual growth just before he talks about relationships between believers and unbelievers.

  57. silvereyes1945
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    “Peter seems to be saying to these husbands that since they are indeed co-heirs with their wives to God’s gift of new life, they should honor their wives from that perspective as well as their more fragile nature. To suggest that unbelieving wives are also co-heirs is more than surprising, it is impossible.”

    I think people are neglecting the historical background here. In the greco-roman world, wives were expected to worship the husband’s household gods. In judaism, a gentile wife would be expected to convert. In fact, there was no question about a wife’s conversion; it was assumed to be automatic. Why else does Peter describe the tension that might exist between a christian wife and her unbelieving husband? Yet, her aim is to submit to her husband as much as possible with the hope of leading him to a christian life. The christian husband doesn’t have this problem. It’s automatically assumed within that culture the wife will convert. The wife knows that she is expected to convert to her husband’s religion. Notice it says the husband is suppose “to give” honor to his wife as joint heirs to the grace of life. In other words, the husband is suppose to relate to his wife as a christian convert while keeping in mind that she may be weak in belief or knowledge. The husband is in an excellent position to teach his wife about christianity without forcing it on her, and the wife will more likely be receptive to her husband’s efforts to convert her. Peter is trying to persuade christian husbands, wives, and slaves to use their cultural position to their advantage in their personal relationship with unbelievers.

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