[B-Greek] Construing 1 Peter 3:7 (was "ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI in 1 Peter 3:7")
cwconrad2 at mac.com
Mon Jul 27 09:14:42 EDT 2009
The text in question is 1 Peter 3:7:
Οἱ ἄνδρες ὁμοίως, συνοικοῦντες κατὰ
γνῶσιν ὡς ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει τῷ
γυναικείῳ, ἀπονέμοντες τιμὴν ὡς
καὶ συγκληρονόμοις χάριτος ζωῆς εἰς
τὸ μὴ ἐγκόπτεσθαι τὰς προσευχὰς
[hOI ANDRES hOMOIWS, SUNOIKOUNTES KATA GNWSIN hWS ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI
TWi GUNAIKEIWi, APONEMONTES TIMHN hWS SUGKLHRONOMOIS CARITOS ZWHS EIS
EGKOPTESQAI TAS PROSEUCAS hUMWN.]
There has been a disagreement among us regarding whether ASQENESTERWi
in this text is to be understood in a positive of a negative sense,
some respondents urging a positive understanding of the adjective
while others feel strongly that it must have a negative connotation
here. I doubt that there's anything more to add on either side of
But the issue has also arisen regarding how the syntax of 1 Peter 3:7
is to be understood as a whole and in particular how the dative
sequence ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI TWi GUNAIKEIWi construes with what
precedes and what follows it.
On Jul 26, 2009, at 4:06 AM, Iver Larsen wrote:
>> I would understand hWS ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI TWi GUNAIKEIWi as
>> construing with hOMOIWS, SUNOIKOUNTES, and APONEMONTES TIMHN as
>> construing with hWS SUGKLHRONOMOIS ZWHS. On that understanding honor
>> is not given because of the "greater infirmity/weakness" but because
>> wives are "co-heirs of life."
> In a recent post CC added:
>> GUNAIKEIWi is not a noun meaning "woman"
>> but an adjective meaning "womanly" or "wifely" or "feminine".
>> Ordinarily an
>> adjective that agrees with a noun (here SKEUEI) and that is
>> preceded by an
>> article is deemed attributive to the noun.
> I am not sure about the term attributive here, since SKEUEI has no
> SUNOIKEIN needs an object in the dative because of SUN, and it seems
> natural to
> take that object as TWi GUNAIKEIWi - the 'feminine person', i.e. in
> this context
> of ANDRES and SUNOIKEIN, the wife. The subordinate clause hWS
> SKEUEI then gives part of the reason for needing to live with the
> wife KATA
> GNWSIN. ...
Upon reading Iver's remarks here, I am more than halfway inclined to
move over to his analysis, although aspects of it are troubling still.
There seems to me something excessive in the two hWS + dative
expressions here, reminding one of the manneristic colloquialism
punctuating some U.S. teenage talk: "It's like, you know, like ... "
They do seem to serve a purpose here, but they obscure the syntactic
complement of the two verbs, the dative that both SUNOIKOUNTES and
APONEMONTES TIMHN would seem to require. Some earlier versions (e.g.
KJV, RSV, DRC) evidently understood the complement of SUNOIKOUNTES as
an implicit GUNAIXI(N) and construed hWS ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI with
APONEMONTES TIMHN -- as did Oun in his earlier post in an earlier
phase of this thread -- in the sense, "allotting honor to the feminine
as a weaker vessel"-- and finally taking hWS SUGKLHRONOMOIS CARITOS
ZWHS either as appositional to TWi GUNAIKEIWi or to the supposedly
Linking APONEMONTES TIMHN to hWS ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI TWi GUNAIKEIWi
may make sense after all, particularly if we understand TIMHN in the
sense of "value"; it is a matter of attributing "worth" to something
-- "the feminine" -- which is (inherently) a weaker/more-vulnerable
vessel. The idea would be similar to that we see in 1Cor. 12:22-23:
ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον τὰ δοκοῦντα
μέλη τοῦ σώματος ἀσθενέστερα
ὑπάρχειν ἀναγκαῖά ἐστιν, 23 καὶ ἃ
δοκοῦμεν ἀτιμότερα εἶναι τοῦ
σώματος τούτοις τιμὴν περισσοτέραν
περιτίθεμεν, καὶ τὰ ἀσχήμονα ἡμῶν
εὐσχημοσύνην περισσοτέραν ἔχει, ...
[ ALLA POLLWi MALLON TA DOKOUNTA MELH TOU SWMATOS ASQENESTERA
hUPARCEIN ANAGKAIA ESTIN, 23 KAI hA DOKOUMEN ATIMOTERA EINAI TOU
SWMATOS TOUTOIS TIMHN PERISSOTERAN PERITIQEMEN, KAI TA ASCHMONA hHMWN
EUSCHMOSUNHN PERISSOTERAN ECEI, ... ]
The other alternative is to construe APONEMONTES TIMHN with an
implicit GUNAIXI(N) -- or an implicit AUTAIS -- as the intended sense
of TWi GUNAIKEIWi -- and understanding hWS SUGKLHRONOMOIS ZOHS: wives
are honored on grounds that they share the husbands' lives.
To me the most troubling feature of the whole construction is TWi
GUNAIKEIWi. Why a neuter substantive ("the feminine/womanly/wifely
thing")? Is it really the dative complement of SUNOIKOUNTES and must
we really understand hWS ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI adverbially (husbands
live together 'understandingly' with the womanly/wifely thing because
it is a weaker vessel?
If this really is a neuter substantive, it seems odd; I'm reminded of
Vergil's brief comment on Aeneas' puzzlement at Dido's
behavior:,"Varium et mutabile semper femina" -- "A woman is always
subject to change" or of Gershwin's "A woman is a sometime thing."
That's what makes it hard for me to think of the adjective
ASQENESTERWi as having a positive connotation here.
Is the author really thinking of women or wives as a conglomerate
notion -- "wifeliness" -- or as something like a Platonic idea
(Goethe's "das ewig Weiblich")?
Or is the neuter adjectival form chosen because ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI is
neuter? And if so, then why shouldn't TWi GUNAIKEIWi be understood as
an attributive adjective? -- as I was originally inclined to suppose?
Perhaps SKEUEI TWi GUNAIKEIWi is the dative complement to SUNOIKOUNTES
as well as to APONEMONTES TIMHN, in which case the hWS should be
construed only with ASQENESTERWi. It does seem to me that KATA GNWSIN
must be seen in conjunction with hWS ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI:
"consideration" is appropriate in view of the greater weakness/
vulnerability involved. In that case, we'd have something like,
"husbands sharing existence with (their) feminine/wifely vehicle in an
understanding way (since it is weaker/more-vulnerable), attributing
worth to (it/them) as co-heirs of the grace of life ... "
I confess that I'm not fully satisfied with any of the alternative
options for construing this text as a whole.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
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