Friday, July 11, 2014

1 Peter 3:1-7 Exegetical notes

Text

3.1 Ὁμοίως γυναῖκες ὑποτασσόμεναι τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν, ἵνα καὶ εἴ τινες ἀπειθοῦσιν τῷ λόγῳ διὰ τῆς τῶν γυναικῶν ἀναστροφῆς ἄνευ λόγου κερδηθήσονται 2 ἐποπτεύσαντες τὴν ἐν φόβῳ ἁγνὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν. 3 ὧν ἔστω οὐχ ἔξωθεν ἐμπλοκῆς τριχῶν καὶ περιθέσεως χρυσίων ἐνδύσεως ἱματίων κόσμος, 4 ἀλλʼ κρυπτὸς τῆς καρδίας ἄνθρωπος ἐν τῷ ἀφθάρτῳ τοῦ πραέως καὶ ἡσυχίου πνεύματος, ἐστιν ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ πολυτελές. 5 οὕτως γάρ ποτε καὶ αἱ ἅγιαι γυναῖκες αἱ ἐλπίζουσαι εἰς θεὸν ἐκόσμουν ἑαυτάς, ὑποτασσόμεναι τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν, 6 ὡς Σάρρα ὑπήκουσεν τῷ Ἀβραάμ, κύριον αὐτὸν καλοῦσα· ἧς ἐγενήθητε τέκνα ἀγαθοποιοῦσαι καὶ μὴ φοβούμεναι μηδεμίαν πτόησιν.
7 Οἱ ἄνδρες ὁμοίως συνοικοῦντες κατὰ γνῶσιν, ὡς ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει τῷ γυναικείῳ ἀπονέμοντες τιμήν, ὡς καὶ συγκληρονόμοις χάριτος ζωῆς, εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐγκόπτεσθαι τὰς προσευχὰς ὑμῶν.

Critical

v1 αἱ / καί / omit

The SBL text omits αἱ before γυναῖκες, where NA27 includes it but in brackets. Metzger suggests that the omission might be explicable as a desire to make clear the vocative. Given the article in v7, I am inclined to include it here and read αἱ γυναῖκες.

v7 συγκληρονόμοις / συγκληρονόμοι

The former understands the reference to the wives, while the later being nominative makes the husbands the antecedents. Perhaps the influence of the previous ὡς phrase with its singular dative made the former reading less attractive to scribes. On balance, the former reading seems more likely.

v7 χάριτος ζωῆς / χάριτος ζώσης / χάριτος ζωῆς αἰωνίου / ποικίλης χάριτος ζωῆς

The textual evidence for the former reading is strong. ποικίλης seems like an addition from 4:10.

Translation

Likewise wives are to be subject to their own husbands, so that if any are disboedient to the word, through the way of life of their wives they might be won over without a word, observing your way of life [conducted] in holy fear. Let [wives’] outward adornment not be of braiding of hair and putting on of gold and the wearing of fine clothing, but the hidden person of the heart in the imperishable spirit of gentleness and quiet, which is of great value before God. For thus formerly did the holy women who hoped in God adorn themselves, being subject to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose children you have become, doing good and not fearing any terror.


The husbands likewise [should] dwell alongside [them] according to knowledge, showing honour to the woman as to a weaker vessel, as also to co-heirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers might not be hindered.

Commentary


I noted in addressing the previous section that Peter reverses the pattern of household codes in both addressing slaves directly, and addressing them first, thus making them moral agents as well as paradigmatic for Christian living. Peter continues his inversion of the household code by addressing women directly, again recognising them as moral agents, as well as at length. While no one would consider submission by wives to husbands to be revolutionary, Peter’s choice to address wives as the moral agents involved is different, rather than a command to the Graeco-Roman male to make his wife submissive. In doing so Peter expresses in a different way the kind of relativisation that is found back in 2:13. The husband is not the ultimate arbitrator of power, but Christ. Submission to Christ finds expression in submission within earthly relationships.

In passing we note Peter’s use of the participle without main verb as an independent imperatival use. Also, I understand ὁμοίως to be a reference back to 2:18, that is ‘with all reverence’.

Furthermore, the submission of wives is given a specific purpose and context: it may serve to ‘win’ or ‘gain’ unbelieving husbands to ‘the Word’, which I take as a reference to the Gospel in general. The fact that unbelieving husbands are in view, at least partially, introduces some socio-cultural dimensions that should not be overlooked. To the extent that the household was seen as the societal unit, a wife was generally expected to take on and adhere to her husband’s gods, her husband’s goals, and her husband’s social circles. The independence of worshiping, and exclusively no less, a different God, as well as associating with other believers, could both be understood as acts of non-submission, indeed betrayal. Peter does not map out the details of this submission, but clearly envisages that in the difficulty of such a marriage submission is both incumbent, and may be evangelistic.

Thus the teaching that follows in verse 3, while having some general applicability, should not be immediately divorced from the concerns of a believing wife with an unbelieving husband. Peter’s fundamental point is that adornment should be internal, of virtue, rather than of external adornment. I find it a peculiarly American interpretation to defend cultural norms of external beautification (make-up in particular) on the basis that more attention be paid to internal beautification. This is surely not Peter’s point! Both Hellenistic parallels and OT teaching prize inner virtues as the adornment of a woman. A woman attending a worship meeting outside the home signifies her intent publicly by choosing to remain unadorned, in contrast to a dolled up woman attending a semi-closed meeting without her husband.

Peter elaborates his argument by drawing an OT example, first generally with ‘the women of old that hoped in God’, then more specifically referencing Sarah and Abraham. In Genesis 18:12 LXX Sarah refers to Abraham as κύριος, but as far as the text goes never addresses him directly as such. Furthermore, instances of Abraham obeying Sarah occur frequently! Spencer suggests Gen 12:13 is the paradigmatic episode, in that Sarah obeys Abraham by pretending to be his sister, suffering for her husband’s disobedience to the word. Kiley points to the episodes in Gen 12 and 20, where in a hostile, foreign environment the wife submits to the husband’s ‘wisdom’ and choices. Meanwhile Jobes simply chooses to take a ‘catch-all’ approach, suggesting that Peter draws upon a general Jewish tradition of Sarah’s obedience to Abraham, rather than any specific text.

Verse 7 provides the final and complementary address in the household code, completing the reverse movement from slave through wives finally to men, and presumably household leaders. ‘Likewise’ should again be referred back to 2:18, “in all reverence”. It sould also be noted that Peter employes γυναικείῳ instead of γυναῖξιν in this verse, and the use of the term along with the singular article may suggest women as a category or class, so that the women in view are not restricted to the (presumably believing) wife of a believing husband, but to the women (believing or otherwise) under the authority of the male household leader.

I find the argument that the status of belief of the wife, and others, is not strictly established, so that Peter’s instructions pertain to both situations. In this case, ὡς καὶ translated “even as” establishes that the same degree of respect is to be accorded to the unconverted wife of a believer, even though she is not, in fact, (yet) a co-heir of life. This may especially be true in the social discord and dishonour that having a wife who did not adhere to her husband/master’s religion might bring.

The reference to women as “a weaker vessel” occurs within a context which views the female as generally physically weaker (as per Aristotle’s and Xenophon’s Oeconomica) and in some respects in social power and position. The injunction to accord honour, then, is not meant to mean “patronise” in the negative modern sense, but rather must teach restraint of abuses of power, whether social or physical, and a positive assignment of honour to women in the eyes of the male. This cannot be combined with attitudes of superiority without subverting that honour into hypocrisy.


The final reference to the hindering of prayers may be read as an instance of the idea that failure to live rightly within the household will in fact result in obstruction in relationship to God, manifested as the prayers of the unjust being deliberately ignored by the just God. In this way the failure of household leaders to live godly lives in their domestic sphere disables the prosperity of their household, and their very selves, in the public and cultic spheres.

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