1 Pet 3:7

Bill and Stephanie Black bnsblack at yimesgin.org
Sun Aug 26 15:24:24 EDT 2001

Since Steve has offered the view that the wives in 1 Pet 3:7 are believers, I'll weigh in on the other side, that the wives are unbelievers.  The evidence for this is as follows: 
1.  SKEUEI goes with TWi GUNAIKEIWi in the known fixed phrase for wife, 'feminine vessel' (that is, not 'weaker vessel'), leaving ASQENESTERWi on its own as a substantive, 'weaker one'.  This gives the reading, "living together according to knowledge, as (hWS) with a weaker person, with your wife."   So in what sense is the wife 'weaker'?  Perhaps spiritually, as an unbeliever.  It is difficult to argue one way or another from ASQENHS alone, as ASQENHS does not appear elsewhere in 1 or 2 Peter.  (BTW, whatever explanation you come up with for this construction, you're going to have to explain why it is GUNAIKEIOS, 'feminine', rather than GUNH, 'woman/wife'.)

2.  More importantly, the combination hWS KAI in its other three occurrences in the NT points to a comparison or distinction between two different parties.  See 1 Cor 7:7 (between Paul and 'all [other people]'); 1 Cor 9:5 (between Paul and 'the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas'); and Heb. 13:3 (between 'those who are being ill-treated' and 'you yourselves').  In 1 Pet 2:7, the comparison/distinction is between 'fellow heirs of the grace of life' and the wife, presented as mutually exclusive parties.  This is apparent also in the difference between the singular form 'feminine vessel' (wife) and the plural form 'fellow heirs', both in the dative case.  So: "rendering honor to your (unbelieving/weaker) wife 'as even' (hWS KAI) you would to fellow heirs of the grace of life."  Interestingly enough, Gramcord makes it difficult to search for this possibility.  Treating KAI as a conjunction here, Gramcord informs you that there is no other combination of hWS followed by the conjunction KAI in the NT.  However, if you ask Gramcord to search for hWS followed by KAI as an adverb, you'll find these other three occurrences. 

3. The section including this household code begins in 1 Pet 2:11-12 with Peter's exhortation that as 'aliens' and 'exiles' these Christians should live good lives 'among the ETHNOI' (Gentiles, pagans, unbelievers).  In the household code itself slaves are directed to submit even, and especially, to SKOLIOS (crooked, perverse, dishonest) masters (1 Pet 2:18; certainly not believing masters?). 'Likewise' (hOMOIWS) women are assumed to be dealing with at least some husbands who 'do not believe the word' (first class conditional with EI in 1 Pet 3:1), and these husbands are the focus of Peter's following comments.  The husbands' portion of the household code is also introduced by 'likewise' or 'in the same way' (hOMOIWS), suggesting that Christians' relationships with unbelievers are still in view.  This fits well with the epistle's overarching focus on 'diaspora' Christians living in predominately non-Christian communities (1 Pet 1:1).

The only real question left is whether this verse is intended to refer only to relationships with unbelievers, primarily to relationships with unbelievers, or should be understood as broadly generalizable to both believers and unbelievers.  Unfortunately that discussion is often theologically motivated rather than simply a question of Greek. 


Stephanie Black


P.S.  My apologies if I've gotten the b-greek transliteration wrong--I don't have internet access to check the web page for the correct transliteration.  Sorry!

Stephanie L Black, PhD
Evangelical Theological College
Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
bnsblack at yimesgin.org

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