[b-greek] Re: 1 Pet 3:7

From: Bill and Stephanie Black (bnsblack@yimesgin.org)
Date: Thu Aug 30 2001 - 16:50:18 EDT

> From: "Steven R. Lo Vullo" <doulos@appleisp.net>
> Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2001 19:57:49 -0500

> Hi Stephanie:
> Thanks for your response to my comments. Good to hear from Ethiopia! Sorry
> it took me so long to offer a rejoinder.

Don't worry, I didn't even realize that you hadn't responded
sooner--something happened to Ethiopia's internet server (singular) earlier
this week and the whole country was off-line for a couple of days.

Let me say I've always been a bit intrigued by this question about whether
Peter was talking about believing or non-believing wives. Since I'm not a
husband, it isn't directed to my situation particularly so I don't have an
underlying agenda, "politically correct" or otherwise--that is, it doesn't
make much difference to me personally whether they're believers or not. But
when I first read the verse in Greek years ago, I read it as unbelieving
wives since it seemed the most natural reading to me at the time. When I
realized that other people (especially other evangelicals) usually took it
as believing wives, I was interested in exploring why. I've come back to it
once or twice over the years, still contemplating how the evidence on each
side balances out.

I (Stephanie) wrote:
> > 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
> > according to knowledge, as (hWS) with a weaker person, with your
> > (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'.)

Steve wrote:
> Another explanation that is simpler and, I think, makes better sense of
> 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."

I agree that it seems a bit awkward and choppy. My interest is whether it's
what people actually said. I work all day with people who are non-native
English speakers who can tell me how we "should" say something in English,
and in many cases their reasoning is perfectly logical. But usually it's
just not the way we do it (at least in US dialect). We know that "feminine
vessel" is an attested construction to refer to a wife. What would help us
now is for some of the b-greekers who have TLG or other search capabilities
to find out to what extent "weaker vessel" is attested, especially with
"feminine" or something else in that semantic field as an additional
modifier. But it would have to be in passages which clearly are not
dependent on/influenced by 1 Pet 3:7 to make it useful for this discussion.

Steve wrote:
> The reason I bring all this up is that I think we have an example
> in the NT that is similar to what we have in 1 Pet 3.7, and that
> I believe, taking both ASQENESTERWi *and* TWi GUNAIKEIWi as adjectival
> modifiers of SKEUEI. In John 1.18 we have MONOGENHS QEOS/hUIOS hO WN,
> Note that we have the same construction (adjective-noun-article-adjectival
> modifier). Here it is clear that the adjective modifies the same noun as
> articular adjectival participle. hO WN EIS TON KOLPON TOU PATROS further
> describes MONOGENHS QEOS/hUIOS. I can think of no grammatical reason for
> taking 1 Pet 3.7 the same way.

There are several reasons to question whether this is the same construction.
First, in Jn 1:18 the article with the participle WN helps makes it clear
that the participle is substantive rather than adverbial. Since that
distinction is not at issue with an adjective like GUNAIKEIWi in 1 Pet 3:7,
the article may not be filling quite the same function in the two phrases.
Second, many interpreters prefer to take MONOGENHS as a substantive here
rather than an adjective, perhaps to avoid the potential theological
pitfalls of a rendering like "the only begotten God" (QEOS having much
better textual support than hUIOS). They generally prefer to go with
something like "God, the one and only". The third issue is that some mss,
including p75, have another hO before MONOGENHS, making the parallel here
just a bit less certain. Yes, some parallel constructions would be helpful,
but this is probably not the one we need.

I (Stephanie) wrote:
> > So in what sense is the wife 'weaker'? Perhaps spiritually, as an
> > It is difficult to argue one way or another from ASQENHS alone, as
> > does not appear elsewhere in 1 or 2 Peter.

Steve wrote:
> As for ASQENESTERWi referring to the wife being weaker "spiritually, as an
> unbeliever," I find this more than a little odd (and forced)...
> He is simply pointing out the obvious fact that
> the female is weaker physically than the male.

Quite possibly. But now how does this help us with the
believing/unbelieving wives question, as either one could be physically

I (Stephanie) wrote:
> > 2. More importantly, the combination hWS KAI in its other three
> > in the NT points to a comparison or distinction between two different

Steve wrote:
> 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"...
> 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
> NOT have the same "right" (EXOUSIAN). On the contrary, he is an apostle
> like they are and he and Barnabas have the right to bring along a
> 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! ...

> [ In Heb 13.3] The recipients were to remember those who were being
> mistreated SINCE ALSO they themselves were in the body and should be able
> sympathize with those experiencing bodily pain...

You may be making my point for me here. In each case, the desire is that
people who are not the same people share a common quality/right/empathy. In
1 Pet 3:7 the desire is that the wives and the fellow heirs, although they
are different people, receive the same treatment.

I (Stephanie) wrote:
> > 3. The section including this household code begins in 1 Pet 2:11-12
> > Peter's exhortation that as 'aliens' and 'exiles' these Christians
should live
> > good lives 'among the ETHNOI' (Gentiles, pagans, unbelievers)...

Steve wrote:
> ...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 [in 1 Pet
3:1]. That is a
> traditional understanding of the first class condition that has no basis
> 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.

Both Matt. 12:27 and 12:28 are first class conditionals in which the
protasis is assumed to be true for the sake of argument. In 12:27 (your
example) Jesus is making a rhetorical point about the implications for his
adversaries if they claim he casts out demons by Beelzebub. Wallace deals
specifically with this instance in his intermediate grammar.

Steve wrote:
> Speaking of women being submissive to their husbands, what does Peter go
> to use as an example? None other than Sarah's relationship with Abraham
> (3.5f.)! (These verses are curiously missing from your discussion above.)

I left them out primarily because that part isn't a question of Greek syntax
or lexis. How we understand the example of Sarah and Abraham depends on
where we enter our hermeneutical circle. If we start by assuming that Sarah
and Abraham are only relevant to couples who are both believers, we're
likely to downgrade the significance of Peter's overarching statements about
living good lives among the ETHNOI. If we start with the ETHNOI and put the
focus more on Christians' relationships with unbelieving
masters/husbands/wives, we'll try to find some way this illustration might
be relevant to Christian women with unbelieving husbands--perhaps in the
exhortation in v. 6 to do good and not to be afraid (even if your husband,
like Sarah's, does something dangerous to you, like loaning you to someone
else's harem?). The hermeneutical issues are probably not something we can
pursue on b-greek. Besides, I thought this discussion was about whether the
husbands in 1 Pet 3:7 were dealing with believing or unbelieving wives,
rather than the question of wives submitting to husbands. You're not tipping
your hand regarding an agenda of your own here, are you?

Anyway, I think we need to go back to hWS KAI for the key to whether the
wives in 1 Pet. 3:7 are "fellow heirs of the grace of life" or not, at least
from the standpoint of syntax. My main point is that the husbands'
actions/attitudes toward two different entities (wives and "fellow heirs")
are being related by means of hWS KAI, with the desire that these two be
shown the same honor.

As much as I enjoy discussing this, you and I may have said all we can on
the subject. (And I know I can't afford any more time on it at this point!)
I wonder if anyone else has more light to shed on this verse?

Stephanie Black

Stephanie L Black, PhD
Evangelical Theological College
Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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