1 Pet 3:7

Steven R. Lo Vullo doulos at appleisp.net
Wed Aug 29 20:57:49 EDT 2001

on 8/26/01 2:24 PM, Bill and Stephanie Black at bnsblack at yimesgin.org wrote:

Hi Stephanie:

Thanks for your response to my comments. Good to hear from Ethiopia! Sorry
it took me so long to offer a rejoinder. I put a few posts in my drafts
folder, intending to get to them later, and lost track of them for a while.
This one's kind of long, so I hope you will bear with me.

> 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'.)

I don't think the above explanation of the construction ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI
TWi GUNAIKEIWi is a natural or probable way to read the text. It is
certainly possible (and perhaps probable) to take GUNAIKEIWi as an
attributive adjective in the third position (noun-article-adjective), as you
seem to have done above. But this in no way rules out taking ASQENESTERWi as
an adjective modifying SKEUEI as well. Adjectives in the third position
often clarify nouns that are indefinite, general, or, in this case,
metaphorical. And like the second attributive position
(article-noun-article-adjective), the third attributive position has an
appositional sense to it. It should also be kept in mind that the third

position construction with an *adjective* is relatively rare in the NT
(compared to the other attributive positions), but is frequent when the
modifier is other than an adjective, e.g., when it is an adjectival

The reason I bring all this up is that I think we have an example elsewhere
in the NT that is similar to what we have in 1 Pet 3.7, and that validates,
I believe, taking both ASQENESTERWi *and* TWi GUNAIKEIWi as adjectival
modifiers of SKEUEI. In John 1.18 we have MONOGENHS QEOS/hUIOS hO WN, K.T.L.
Note that we have the same construction (adjective-noun-article-adjectival
modifier). Here it is clear that the adjective modifies the same noun as the
articular adjectival participle. hO WN EIS TON KOLPON TOU PATROS further
describes MONOGENHS QEOS/hUIOS. I can think of no grammatical reason for not
taking 1 Pet 3.7 the same way. On top of that, it makes excellent sense and
reads much more naturally (IMHO) than your alternative offered above. The
idea would be, "You husbands likewise, live together [with your wives] in an
understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, that is, the female [vessel]."
Looking at it this way, TWi GUNAIKEIWi has the appositional sense common to
third position attributive adjectives (and adjectival substitutes), and, as
is the normal function of a third position attributive, clarifies what is
meant by ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI. This also explains why the author does not use
GUNH. His purpose in this instance, on this view, was not to simply affix an
appositional noun to make explicit that SKEUEI referred to the wife, but to
further clarify the *whole* phrase ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI. In other words, it
clarifies what he means by ASQENESTERWi just as much as it clarifies what he
means by SKEUEI. The *weaker* vessel is the *feminine* vessel, i.e.,
"weaker" and "female" in the author's mind were inextricably bound together.

Another explanation that is simpler and, I think, makes better sense of the
Greek is to take ASQENESTERWi as modifying SKEUEI, and TWi as
substantivizing GUNAIKEIWi. In this case, TWi GUNAIKEIWi would be in an
appositional relationship with ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI. The sense would be "as
with a weaker vessel, that is, the female." TWi GUNAIKEIWi would in this
case make explicit what is meant by ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI.

On the other hand, I think your explanation above forces us to posit very
awkward, choppy, Greek. It ends up being something like "a weaker one, a
vessel, the female one."

As for ASQENESTERWi referring to the wife being weaker "spiritually, as an
unbeliever," I find this more than a little odd (and forced). In light of
the high esteem in which faith is held in the NT in general and 1 Pet in
particular, and the NT abhorrance of unbelief, I frankly cannot see how
Peter or any New Testament writer could describe an unbeliever as simply
"weaker" than a believer. If one were to compare two people who had faith,
and described one as "weaker" than the other, that would make good NT sense.
Or to describe an unbeliever as "weak" (ASQENHS), i.e., "helpless" or
"without strength" (Rom 5.6) would be appropriate also. But to describe
someone who has *no* faith (i.e., is an unbeliever), as simply "weaker" by
comparison than someone who does have faith (i.e., is a believer) seems most
unnatural to the thought of the NT in general and Peter in particular.
While, as you point out, he doesn't elsewhere use ASQENHS or related words,
he certainly has some things to say about faith and unbelief. He, like NT
writers in general, holds faith in the highest esteem (1 Pet 1.5, 7f., 9,
21; 2.6f.; 5.9, 12), while unbelievers are characterized as those who
stumble over Christ because they are disobedient to the word (1 Pet 2.7, 8).
In his estimation, believers have been "born again" to a life that is simply
not shared by unbelievers (1 Pet 1.3, 23; 2.4f., 24). They are not simply
*weaker* spiritually, they are not alive spiritually at all.

I think in these politically-correct times in which we live, it is easy to
miss the most obvious meaning of a text like this. Most people who read this
for the first time get it. He is simply pointing out the obvious fact that
the female is weaker physically than the male. Presumably, Peter had never
seen East German women pumped-up on steroids in order to compete in the
Olympics! All he is saying is that the female is physically weaker than the
male and that special consideration should be given her in light of this. He
may, additionally, be saying that the female is emotionally more sensitive
than the male. The point is that the husband should not treat the wife
harshly in any way. He should not physically abuse her, force her to work
beyond her strength or endurence, or verbally abuse her. Neither one of
these ideas (physical weakness and emotional sensitivity) entails
intellectual, moral, or spiritual inferiority. And if some should argue that
a NT writer simply *couldn't* have believed such a thing, I would remind
them that this is the same man who just presented Sarah as an example of a
good wife, in that she "obeyed" (yikes!) her husband and called him "lord"
(double yikes!). (I'm not sure, but I think I can be arrested here in
Madison for even typing such thoughts! If you don't hear from me again,
you'll know what happened!)

> 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.

Actually, none of the above texts prove your point. In fact, they tend to
disprove it. First of all, in 1 Cor 7.7 it is crucial to note that Paul is
expressing a desire (QELW). His desire is not that all other people would
NOT be like him, but that they would be "just like he is" or, more
literally, "as also myself" (hWS KAI EMAUTON). hWS KAI indicates his desire
that people *share* his experience. I'm not sure what you mean by "mutually
exclusive parties." If you mean that no two parties are the same entity,
that is self-evident and beyond dispute whether the two parties are
believers or unbelievers, or have much or nothing in common. This proves
nothing with regard to 1 Pet 3.7 (or any other passage), since no one would
argue that the husband and wife (whether she is a believer or not) are the
same entity.

As for 1 Cor 9.5, Paul asks a rhetorical question, the point of which is
certainly not that he and the other apostles are "mutually exclusive" and do
NOT have the same "right" (EXOUSIAN). On the contrary, he is an apostle just
like they are and he and Barnabas have the right to bring along a believing
wife "just like they do," or more literally, "as also the other apostles"
(hWS KAI hOI LOIPOI APOSTOLOI). The fact that he speaks of the "*other*
apostles" (hOI LOIPOI APOSTOLOI) clearly implies that he was one of them.
Otherwise he could not claim the same "right" (EXOUSIAN). And the whole
point of the rhetorical question is that, YES, he has the same right they
do! Far from indicating "mutual exclusivity" the text (and its surrounding
context) could hardly stress more what the respective parties had in common,
i.e., apostleship and the authority (the larger issue here) that goes along
with it. Whatever else they *didn't* have in common, these things they

Heb 13.3, as with the above texts, also contraindicates your proposal for
AUTOI ONTES EN SWMATI, he is, for one thing, not using hWS comaparatively,
but causally. The recipients were to remember those who were being
mistreated SINCE ALSO they themselves were in the body and should be able to
sympathize with those experiencing bodily pain. Again, the point is not that
one party was "in the body" and the other "out of the body" (opposition or
mutual exclusivity), but that they shared *the same experience* of being "in
the body." That is the significance of the adverbial KAI ("also"). The whole
point is what they had in common, not vice versa. He's certainly not
exhorting the readers to remember those who were being mistreated AS IF they
themselves were in the body, implying that they weren't in the body! This
idea of commonality or shared experience is present in every example you
gave. So, if used to determine the meaning of hWS KAI in 1 Pet 3.7, these
examples, far from supplying evidence for the idea that the wife is an
unbeliever, actually provide evidence to the contrary.

Coming to 1 Pet 3.7, I am not sure why you lay such stress on the transition
from the singular (ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI TWi GUNAIKEIWi) to the plural
(SUGKLHRONOMOIS). I think the real (and more interesting) question is why
Peter used the singular in the first place. (It may be significant, maybe
not. I'll leave that for a future discussion.) The vocative noun (ANDRES),
participles (SUNOIKOUNTES, APONEMONTES), and personal pronoun (hUMWN) are
all plural, so it is not at all startling that a plural would be used for
believing wives, designated SUGKLHRONOMOIS. (We've already found from the
other examples of hWS KAI that there is every reason to take it as
indicating commonality or shared experience.) The plural to indicate the
"wives" of the plural "subjects" (loosely speaking) makes perfect sense, and
is certainly not out of place under the circumstances. Notice how in v. 1
the wives are addressed in the plural vocative (as the husbands are here),
the participles are plural (as here), and the noun and pronoun designating
the husbands are plural, as we would expect. So I say again, the real
question is why ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI TWi GUNAIKEIWi is singular, not why

When above you translate ASQENESTERWi as "unbelieving" (for which there is
no warrant, nor any example), and hWS KAI as "even as" (when we have seen
that it means "as also," indicating commonality or shared experience), then
add the word "would" (indicating a circumstance contrary to fact, for which
there is no warrant in hWS KAI, which indicates an actual shared experience,
as we have found), you have merely stacked the deck in your favor. I don't
think from what we have seen that there is good evidence for any of it. The
word "would," indicating a circumstance contrary to fact, is particularly
out of place here, since hWS has already been used in the same sentence to
indicate what the author considers an actuality. When he says SUNOIKOUNTES
... hWS ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI TWi GUNAIKEIWi, whatever he means by
ASQENESTERWi SKEUEI TWi GUNAIKEIWi, he is not proposing something that he
considers contrary to fact. Even using your translation, he's not saying
"live ... AS IF with a weaker person, with your wife," even though she is
not really a weaker person.
> 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).

First off, your mention of living as "aliens" and "exiles" among the EQNOI
seems to assume that Peter rules out a believing *couple* living together as
"aliens" and "exiles" among the EQNOI, and that he can only be talking about
individuals. But there is no reason to conclude that this focus *excludes* a
Christian couple living together in proper union (as described in vv. 5-7)
as "diaspora" Christians in "predominately non-Christian communities."

Next, it must be pointed out emphatically that women are NOT "assumed" to be
dealing with at least some husbands who do not believe the word, simply
because of the presence of the first class condition with EI. That is a
traditional understanding of the first class condition that has no basis in
fact. When Jesus says in Matt 12.28 EI EGW EN BEELZEBOUL EKBALLW TA
DAIMONIA, he is certainaly not saying "since I cast out demons by
Beelzebul," as if he assumed that to be true. The examples that defy this
understanding of the first class condition are abundant.

What you seem to miss here is that KAI EI makes abundantly clear that the
author is not dealing solely with, or even necessarily primarily with, a
believing wife's relationship with her disobedient husband. When he says
("be submissive to your own husbands, so that even if some disobey the word,
etc.) it is clear that TOIS IDIOIS ANDRASIN *must* at the very least
*include* believing husbands. It would make no sense at all to say "be
submissive to your [disobedient] husbands, so that *even if some* disobey
the word, etc." KAI EI ("even if") and TINES ("some") combine to make plain
that TOIS IDIOIS ANDRASIN is *not* confined to unbelieving husbands. What
was the percentage of believing husbands to unbelieving? There is no way to
know. But the fact is, there is nothing in the text to rule out believing
husbands actually being in the majority! The bottom line is that there is no
good reason to conclude that the author cannot from here go on to write
about a believing wife's relationship with her believing husband, or a
believing husband's relationship with his believing wife. The groundwork has
already been set here. This brings me to the next point.

On the basis of the above, not only is there no reason to *exclude* the
possibility that Peter could go on to talk about the relationship between a
believing couple, but he in fact does this very thing, as all must admit.
Speaking of women being submissive to their husbands, what does Peter go on
to use as an example? None other than Sarah's relationship with Abraham
(3.5f.)! (These verses are curiously missing from your discussion above.) If
we strictly held to your view, this would be a most inappropriate
illustration of what you maintain Peter is dealing with. Two points need to
be made in regard to Peter's illustration: First, it is not solely a
believing wife's relationship with an unbelieving husband that the author
has in view throughout this section (unless we would like to rename Abraham
"the father of unbelief"). Secondly, it is a perfectly natural transition
from talking about a believing wife's submission to her husband (vv. 5f.) to
talking about a believing husband's duty to treat his wife with tenderness
and honor. This, in fact, mirrors Paul's pattern in Eph 5.22ff. So this
pattern of thought is not unknown in the NT, and makes perfect dense here.

Lastly, it is not impossible to imagine that it is this very mention of
Sarah and Abraham that propmpted the author to think of a Christian couple
as SUGKLHRONOMOIS. What better example than Sarah and Abraham of a couple
who were "aliens and strangers" and yet "fellow heirs?"

Thanks for taking the time to read this (if you made it this far!). May the
Lord bless your work in Ethipia!

Steve Lo Vullo
Madison, WI     

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