Sunday, December 22, 2019

Dr. Daniel Segraves's Response to My Critique of His Article "Marriage without a Helpmate" Part 3

Below is a continuation of Dr. Segraves's response to my critique of his article "Marriage without a Helpmate," which appeared in the January 2020 issue of Pentecostal Life. You can read the full Word document with comments on Daniel Segraves's Blog.

Again, this seems to be at odds with the earlier statements “a wife’s submission to her husband is not the result of Adam’s sin in the Garden” and “God’s judgement that a wife’s ‘desire shall be unto her husband, and he shall rule over you’ speaks of sin’s effect on the relationship of a husband and wife.”
There is nothing in Ephesians 5:30-31 or Genesis 2:23-24 to suggest that “the husband is the head of the wife.” Instead, these texts point out that the two are “one flesh.” The focus is on their equality, as in `azer kenegdō, not on any idea of male “headship” or “authority.”

Hopefully, these biblical texts do not call on a wife to submit to her husband’s authority in the sense that children are to submit to their parents’ authority!

Lexicons are dictionaries [I think Dr. Segraves meant to say “not dictionaries” – JLW]. They do not define words. Words are defined by the context in which they are used. That some lexicons or other resources may not recognize the possibility that “origin” or “source” are in the range of meaning is not the final word. To reject “origin” or “source” in favor of BDAG’s “superior rank” (which is applied to “the husband in relation to his wife”) immediately introduces theological problems. “The divine influence on the world results in the series . . . : God the [kephalē] of Christ, Christ the [kephalē] of man, the man the [kephalē] of the woman” (BDAG, 430).

The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, a more recent and complete resource that reflects current Greek scholarship, recognizes “beginning, origin” and “mouth” (as of a river) as within the range of meaning for kephalē (Franco Montnari, The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek [Boston: Brill, 2015], 1120).

The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words recognizes “the source or mouth of a river” as within the range of meaning for kephalē and comments on Ephesians 5: “It is very critical here not to read into this passage hierarchical notions. Instead, it would appear that ‘head’ is used in its well-established sense of source and nourisher of life. Rather than demand from the church, Christ ‘gave himself up for her’ (v. 25)” (Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words [Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1985], 327-328).

Bilezikian’s observations are perceptive. In his comments on Ephesians, he notes, “Paul’s use of the word head will be defined from the writings of Paul himself. At the same time, it should be noted that the term for head in Hebrew (Old Testament) has the meaning of superior, leader, master, ruler. This is not true of either classical or Koine Greek (New Testament). Some Greek lexicons give a simplistic translation of kephalē by imposing their own modern concept on the term and then engaging in a process of circular definition: ‘kephalē means ruler in the New Testament because it means ruler in these New Testament passages.’

“In order to understand properly the meaning of ‘head’ as used by the apostle Paul, it is helpful to determine its meaning within the language spoken by Paul. The authors of works such as A Greek-English Lexicon by Henry G. Liddell and Robert Scott (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), or Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965, 10 volumes) have thoroughly investigated biblical and contemporary extra-biblical writings and reported that the word kephalē was used in secular and religious Greek contemporary to Paul, with the meaning of source, origin, sustainer, and not of ruler. The second-century B.C. translation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament into Greek provides a case in point. The Hebrew word for head [rosh], commonly used for leader, ruler, or supreme is translated in the Septuagint by a Greek word other than ‘head’ (kephalē) over 150 times. It was much later that the word kephalē began to be used as “authority” under the pressure of Latin usage, as evidenced in the writings of some post-apostolic church fathers. For Paul and his correspondents the use of the word kephalē as a synonym for ruler or authority would have been as meaningless as attempting to do the same today with tete in French, or Kopf in German. . . .

“Making head to mean ‘authority’ raises difficulties with the doctrine of the lordship of Christ. In what sense can Christ have authority over man and not over woman at the same time? He is ruler over both men and women, and His lordship extends to all. Christ is never presented as Lord over males to the exclusion of females; neither is He Lord over husbands in any sense that would exclude His lordship over wives. When Christ is cited as a model to husbands, He is presented in His servanthood and saviorhood, never in His Lordship (Eph. 5:23, 25). And, in any case, modeling Christ is not the issue in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Therefore, head has  meaning other than ‘authority’ in this passage, and it is a meaning that applies to man and not to woman.” (Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1985, ninth printing, October 1997), 277-279).

My comments about the use of kephalē in the LXX take into account that the revision of the LXX by Tov and Polak introduces kephalē in cases where it does not appear in the earliest text of the LXX, as in Judges 10:18, 11:8, 9. In the texts that do use kephalē, the meaning is not static. Context is always required to determine meaning.

The word kephalē does not appear in Judges 10:18. The word translated “head” is ἄρχοντα

The word kephalē does not appear in Judges 11:8. The word translated “head” is ἄρχοντα.

The word kephalē does not appear in Judges 11:9. The word translated “head” is ἄρχοντα.

Judges 11:1 does have the phrase κεφαλὴν καὶ εἰς ἀρχηγόν which the NKJV translates “head and commander.” Other translations render the phrase “head and chief,” “head and ruler,” “leader and commander,” and so forth. These two nouns are not synonyms, and since ἀρχηγόν is used elsewhere in the sense of commander, it suggests that κεφαλὴν in this case has another meaning.

Both II Samuel 22:44 and Psalm 18:43 (virtually synonymous texts) use κεφαλὴν in the sense of leadership. This is recognized by some English translations.

The use of κεφαλὴν in these verses introduces various meanings. Sometimes it refers to a city, sometimes to a person.

The use of κεφαλὴν here apparently refers to nations considered to be superior to “the remnant of Israel.”

The use of κεφαλὴν here refers to Babylon as the conqueror of Jerusalem.

The absence of a word to represent a specific meaning does not prove the word has the meaning in other contexts.

There is no connection between the absence of kephalē in Genesis 2:10 and the use of kephalē in I Corinthians 11:3. If kephalē in I Corinthians 11:3 refers to “the husband’s position of authority over his wife,” it also refers to the authority of Christ over every man (with the contextual indication that Christ is not the authority over women; that is man’s role) and that God is the authority over Christ. This creates questions about the deity of Christ and His relationship with God. The context provided by I Corinthians 11:11-12 indicates I Corinthians 11:3 refers to source or origin, not at.

This is easy to say, but if the husband has “authority” over his wife in any meaningful sense of the word and with no regard for mutual submission, it invites conflicts, struggles, and marital difficulty. If one person in the marriage has “authority” over the other, that person is the final authority. How can a married woman with a call to any of these gifts exercise the spiritual authority inherent in the gifts if her husband has authority to which she must submit simply because he is male? How would this work in the case of I Peter 3, when her husband is an unbeliever?
[End of Dr. Segraves's Response]

You can follow this link to my previously published follow up to Dr. Segraves's response in my blog post "Further Clarity on My Review of 'Marriage without a Helpmate.'"

Dr. Daniel Segraves's Response to My Critique of His Article "Marriage without a Helpmate" Part 2

Below is a continuation of Dr. Segraves's response to my critique of his article in Pentecostal Life January 2020, "Marriage without a Helpmate." You can view the full Word document with comments on Daniel Segraves's Blog.

The following is an excerpt from the book Marriage: Back to Bible Basics, written by me and my late wife, Judy. We were married 46 ½ years.

“One of the most extended treatments of marriage in the New Testament is found in Ephesians 5:21-33. The literary form found in Ephesians 5:21-6:9, Colossians 3:18-4:1 and I Peter 2:18-3:7 reflects the ‘house codes’ common in secular literature in the first century. The house codes addressed the proper deportment of wives in relation to their husbands, children in relation to their fathers, and slaves in relation to their masters. The secular house codes focused almost exclusively on the responsibility of wives to obey their husbands, children to obey their fathers, and slaves to obey their masters. These inspired house codes move these relationships to a much higher plane. It was no surprise to the original readers that they called on wives, children and slaves to submit, but it was a radical departure from custom to discover the kind of responsibilities Christianity called for from husbands, fathers and masters.

“Much of the New Testament literature was written in response to specific problems that arose in the first century church, and the house codes are no different. Early Christians were accused by non-believers of destroying society with their emphasis on freedom, love and following Christ, an emphasis which included placing new value on children, servants (Mark 10:44) and women. [The sentiment that “children should be seen, and not heard” was certainly current in the first century. Although children were loved in the Jewish community, they had no legal status or rights. Among the Jewish people, status was connected to age. (See Galatians 4:1-3.) Outside of the Jewish communities, children were commonly devalued. The death of children by exposure was common. Jesus’ elevation of children as a model of faith and humility would have been shocking to His disciples. (See Matthew 18:1-6.)] With the ethnic, gender and social boundaries that divided people in the first century, nothing could have been more shocking than Paul’s declaration that ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28, NKJV). Critics of Christianity took this to mean that this was a subversive religion that relieved wives of their duty to submit to their husbands, children of their duty to submit to fathers, and slaves of their duty to submit to their masters [For a fuller discussion of these issues see Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 293-296).

“Paul’s advice to Titus, which follows to some degree the pattern of the house codes, seems specifically intended to establish a pattern of behavior among Christians which would remove any possibility of criticism from the non-Christian community. Wives are told to love their husbands and children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, and obedient to their own husbands for a specific purpose: that the word of God may not be blasphemed (Titus 2:4-5). To blaspheme is to speak evil against something or someone. The behavior of Christian wives was to be such that unbelievers would have no ground to speak evil against the gospel as if it were a movement subversive to the stability of the family. . . .

“Rather than the house codes being viewed as focusing on the submission of wives, children and slaves—which was already the norm in society at large—they should be understood as introducing a new dimension and purpose to the wife-husband, child-father and slave-master relationship. It was nothing new to call on wives to submit, but it was something new to call on husbands to love their wives in a self-sacrificing way. There was nothing novel in the appeal to children to obey their parents, but there was something innovative in calling on fathers not to provoke their children but to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There was nothing strange about the call for slaves to be obedient to their masters, but it was a radically new idea to call on masters to reciprocate by giving up threatening and treating them with goodwill.

“In other words, Christianity did not seek to overthrow the established ethics of society. It sought to lift those ethics to new heights by infusing love, kindness and thoughtfulness into human relationships. . . .

“In Ephesians 5:21-33, the marriage relationship is compared to the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church. The duties of the wife are addressed in three verses (verses 22, 24, 33). The duties of the husband are addressed in four verses (verses 25, 28, 31, 33).

“Wives are called on to:
   Submit to their own husbands as to the Lord, being subject to their husbands in everything (verses 22, 24).
    Respect their husbands (verse 33).

“Husbands are called on to:
    Love their wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her (verse 25).
    Love their wives as their own bodies (verses 28, 33).
    Nourish and cherish their wives (verse 29).
    Leave fathers and mothers and be joined to their wives, becoming one flesh (verse 31).

“It should be readily apparent that where husbands love their wives in the self-sacrificial way described in this passage, nourishing and cherishing them and putting their interests ahead of their own—as Christ did for the church on the cross—wives will have very little difficulty submitting to their husbands and respecting them. But where any husband fails in his responsibility as described here, it will be extremely difficult for his wife to submit to him and to respect him, even if he demands it on the basis of this passage.

“A verse-by-verse look at this passage may be helpful in clarifying the individual responsibilities of the husband and wife.

“ . . . submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21, NKJV).

“Though some Bibles which divide the text into paragraphs begin the section with verse 22, there is strong evidence that it actually begins with verse 21, where there is a call to mutual submission. First, the participle translating “submitting” . . . may be taken as an independent participle functioning as an imperative. Second, the word translated ‘to be in subjection’ in verse 22 is not in some of the oldest Greek manuscripts, even though the idea is derived from verse 21. It the section actually does begin with verse 21, there is a call to mutual submission before there is a focus on the wife’s duty to submit to her husband. It may seem strange to think that there would be any circumstance in which the wife would have authority over her husband, but in the matter of sexual relationships, Paul wrote, ‘The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does’ (I Corinthians 7:4, NKJV). This is preceded by another statement of mutual responsibility: ‘Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband’ (I Corinthians 7:3, NKJV). If there is to be abstinence from the sexual relationship even for a limited period of time, it must be by mutual consent (I Corinthians 7:5). So whether or not Ephesians 5:21 calls for mutual submission between the husband and wife, there is a clear call for it in other texts.

“Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22, NKJV).

“Wives are called to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. As we have seen, it was no surprise for them to be called to submit to their husbands. This was accepted practice among both Jews and Gentiles in the first century. But submission took on new significance in that it was to be done “as to the Lord.” This does not mean that the wife is to submit to her husband in the same way or as completely and fully as she does to the Lord. Only the Lord Himself is worthy of the kind of full and complete submission we give to Him as God. If this verse meant that the wife was to submit to her husband in the identical manner she submits to the Lord, it would be a command to commit practical idolatry. Rather, the verse means that the wife is to view her submission to her husband as service done to the Lord. As part of her worship and service to God, the wife submits to her husband. The same idea is expressed in the command to children to “obey their parents in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1). This does not mean children are required to obey only Christian parents; it means they are to obey their parents as part of their relationship with the Lord.

“This lifts the idea of submission above that commonly practiced in first century society. There, the submission of the wife was done to maintain the order of society. In the church, however, the submission of the wife serves a much higher purpose. As we shall see in this passage, it reflects submission of the church to Jesus Christ. . . .

“For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23, NKJV).

“This is one of the references that declare the husband to be the “head” of the wife. (See also I Corinthians 11:3.) Some quickly assume that “head” (Greek, kephalē) means something like “boss” or “person in charge” or “leader,” since the English word “head” is used as a metaphor for these meanings. It is but a short leap from this assumption to using this verse as justification for male dominance and perhaps even superiority, with the accompanying idea that women are somehow weaker in character, spirituality and morals than men.

“But the interpretation of this verse is complicated by uncertainty as to the meaning of ‘head.’ There is good reason to think that ‘head’ in some contexts means ‘source’ or ‘origin,’ rather than ‘chief’ or ‘the person of the highest rank.’ [See the discussion in Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 502-505 and Klyne Snodgrass, op.cit., 294-295.] On the other hand, ‘head’ may refer to ‘responsibility for.’

“If we return to the ideal of Eden, there is no idea prior to the Fall that Adam was Eve’s ‘head’ in the sense of ‘boss.’ There is, however, a clear indication that he was Eve’s ‘head’ in the sense of being the source or origin from which she was drawn, as well as in having responsibility for her well being.
“In any event, the subsequent verses make clear that the husband is not to dominate his wife; he is to love his wife in a way that mirrors the love of Christ for the church.

“This verse does not mean that the husband is the head of his wife in every way that Christ is the head of the church. Nor is the husband his wife’s savior. Rather, Paul’s point is that Christ is in some way the head of the church—a headship illustrated by His redemptive work in saving the church. Likewise, the husband is in some way the head of his wife. It will soon be discovered that he is to exercise his headship by loving his wife as his own body, nourishing and cherishing her.

“Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24, NKJV).

“This verse has also been used to justify a master-slave relationship between the husband and wife. To those who take this view, since it is the duty of the church to submit to Christ on every point, it is also the duty of the wife to submit unquestioningly to her husband regardless of the nature of his request or command. How this could be reconciled with I Corinthians 7:4-5, 11, 15 is not explained.
“But no verse of Scripture can be accurately interpreted in isolation from its context. Without question, the wife is to be subject to her husband. But the subjection of the church to Christ is the pattern upon which this subjection is based, and the church is able to be subject to Christ because of His unconditional, self-sacrificing love for her.

“When you know that another person loves you unconditionally and that person is fully committed to nourishing and cherishing you, it is not difficult at all to trust that person to the point of submission. Indeed, there is something about such love that naturally results in submission. There is little need to focus on the submission; it is a natural, trusting response to love.

“But when it is evident that you are not loved and that another person does not have your well being at heart, it is exceedingly difficult to trust that person, to say nothing of submitting.

“Those husbands who love their wives as Christ loved the church will find little need to remind their wives of their duty to submit.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5;25, NKJV).

“In verses 22 and 23, the Greek adverb hos is translated “as” in the phrases “as to the Lord” and “as also.” In this verse, a new word is introduced (Greek, kathos) and translated “just as.” This stronger word means that the husband is to love his wife in the manner that Christ loved the church. The manner of this love is seen in the fact that Christ gave Himself for the church.

“It is the responsibility of the husband to focus, not on his wife’s need to submit to him, but on his need to love his wife in a self-sacrificing way. If Jesus was willing to actually surrender His life for the church, a husband must be willing to put his own priorities aside, even if it involves yielding some perceived ‘rights’ for the benefit of his wife. . . .

“So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church’ (Ephesians 5:28-32).

“Following Christ’s example of self-sacrificing love for His church, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. This is because the husband and wife—in a very real sense—are no longer two (Matthew 19:6), but one flesh.

“To say that a husband should love his wife as he does his own body may seem strange in Western society with our romantic view of love as a feeling. Does this mean that the husband has some particular kind of feeling about his body that he is also to have for his wife?

“The biblical concept of love has a dimension that is largely missing from contemporary definitions of love. In the Hebrew language, love (ahav) is a verb, not a noun. It has to do with what a person does, not with how a person feels.

“The call for a man to love his wife as he does his own body is simply a call for him to care for her, to nourish and cherish her as he does his own body. The intimacy of the husband and wife in the ‘one flesh’ relationship is seen in the statement, ‘he who loves his wife loves himself.’ . . .

“There is in these verses great theological depth as to the relationship between Christ and the church, but as it relates to human marriage, the point if simple: Men are to demonstrate their love for their wives by showing as much concern for the well-being of their wives as they do for their own bodies.

“Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33, NKJV).

“Here is reiterated that a man’s love for his wife should be the same kind of love he has for himself, that is, for his own body. A man who loves his wife in this way will never abuse her, hurt her, take advantage of her, command her to do anything beyond reason, or fail to provide for any genuine need she has. And his love will not be limited to a narrow range of concern. Any man who obeys this verse will be deeply concerned for his wife’s physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well being. He will make sure he does whatever is needed to assure his wife’s health in all of these matters.

“This final verse in the house code that pertains to the wife’s duty to her husband calls on the wife to ‘see that she respects her husband.’ It should be obvious at this point that if her husband loves her as he is commanded to do, she will have little trouble respecting him.

“It may be surprising that nowhere in the passage is the wife called on to love her husband; her responsibility is to submit. This seems strange to our Western mind with our definition of love as emotional currents flowing across our souls. But the entire passage focuses on the responsibility of the husband to be proactive in loving his wife. Since wives were already expected—by society at large—to submit to their husbands, and since this passage emphasizes the man’s responsibility to love his wife, we must view the chief purpose of this section of Scripture as dealing with man’s responsibility. And in any healthy marriage, the man who expresses this kind of love toward his wife will find it richly reciprocated even though it may not be commanded.”

This is an excerpt from my book First Peter: Standing Fast in the Grace of God (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1999, reprint 2010).

D.        Responsible Conduct in Marriage (3:1-7)

            (1) Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; (2) While they behold your chaste conversation, coupled with fear. (3) Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; (4) But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (5) For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: (6) Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. (7) Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

            This section continues Peter's treatment of the house codes, which originated in 2:13.  (See the discussion of house codes in the introductory section to 2:13-17.)  Here, Peter called on believing wives to defer to their unbelieving husbands, with a view to leading their husbands to faith in Christ.  (See the discussion of the Greek hypotassein, a form of which is translated "be in subjection" here.  The word has to do with voluntary deference as opposed to hypekouein, which is used in 3:6 of Sarah's "obedience.")

            Verse 1.  As Christianity swept through the Roman Empire, it was inevitable that there would be cases where one spouse came to faith in Christ before the other.  It was expected in Roman society that a woman would take her husband's gods.   With the emphasis on male dominance, those wives who were converted to Christ could easily have been viewed as subversive as they cast off their husbands' gods.  This would certainly have been counterproductive to the cause of Christ.

            So Peter informed his audience that those women who have embraced Christianity are still responsible to submit to their husbands who have not.  This is the only way these husbands could be expected to believe.  If their wives became Christians and then overthrew all social conventions, rebelling against their husbands, few of those men would ever come to Christ, and other men would make sure their wives were never exposed to the gospel.

            The saved wife was not to try to convince her unsaved husband to place his faith in Christ by talking him into it so much as by demonstrating genuine Christianity before him.  The word translated "conversation" (Greek, anastrophes) means "conduct."  Peter used the same word in 1:15, 17.
            The word translated "likewise" (Greek, homoios) should be understood as a simple connective.  It does not imply that the wife's submission to her husband is in the same category or to the same degree as the slave's submission to his master (2:18).   The same word appears in verse 7, where it is certainly not intended to indicate that the husband's behavior finds its antecedent in the slave's submission to his master.  Although the idea of submission which originated in 2:13 continues through 3:1, the nature of each individual relationship must be found in the immediate context of each (2:13-14, 18; 3:1).  In the social context of the Roman world, unqualified submission of a wife to her husband required her to embrace his gods.  Obviously, Peter had a specific limitation in mind when he called on believing wives to submit to their unbelieving husbands.  He did not expect believing wives to embrace their husbands' gods.  He expected just the opposite.

            Peter did not root his counsel for wives to submit in any perceived inferiority of women.  Instead, he wanted the wives to submit "because of the influence...they can exert on their non-Christian husbands."   He certainly had submission in view, but what a powerful submission!  His point was not to subjugate women and to justify masculine domination, which was common in the Roman Empire, but to put in the hands of believing women their most potent and effective instrument for influencing their unbelieving husbands: submission.  It is not for women alone that submission serves as a tool of persuasion.  Believers in general may "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men" by submitting to civil government (2:13-16).  Slaves may influence their masters by submitting to them (2:18-20).  Christ redeemed the human race by submitting to unjust suffering (2:21-25).   It is characteristic of unbelievers to seek to dominate others by the exercise of authority, but among believers the greatest trait is to serve.  (See Matthew 20:25-28.)  In the kingdom of God, the position of the servant is far more influential than the position of the ruler.  Christianity is characterized by servant leadership.

            Although Peter's counsel in 3:1-7 has application to all aspects of the marriage relationship, it is possible that he, like Paul in I Corinthians 7:2-5, had in mind specifically the sexual aspects of married life.  This is indicated in three ways.  First, wives are called on to be submissive to their "own husbands."  Peter did not have in mind any supposed obligation of women in general to submit to men in general.  He had in view the specific relationship of a married woman to her husband.  One of the responsibilities of married life is the conjugal relationship.  Second, the reference to Sarah's obedience to Abraham in verse 6 is derived from the Septuagint translation of Genesis 18:12, which was Sarah's response when she overheard the angel declare to Abraham that she would bear Abraham a son.  Third, the Greek synoikountes, translated "dwell with them" in verse 7, includes sexual relations between a husband and wife.

            If Peter did indeed have in mind here the continued conjugal responsibility of a believing woman to her unbelieving husband, these verses expose the error of sects throughout church history which have taught that the sexual relationship is to be avoided in marriage.  These groups, like the American Shakers of the nineteenth century, mistakenly perceived the sexual relationship in marriage to be a hindrance to spirituality.   This is at least in part a consequence of viewing human existence in a fragmented way, as the Western mind set tends to do, rather than in the holistic perspective of Hebrew thought.

            The word translated "obey not" (Greek, apeithousin) indicates more than passive disobedience.  It is the same word used in 2:8, and it indicates a strong sense "of active disobedience to the standards of Scripture and even rebellion against them."   The larger context suggests that some of these unbelieving husbands may have been among the number of those who slandered believers.   (See 2:12, 15; 3:9, 16.)  If so, Peter saw the Christian lifestyle as an instrument powerful enough to defuse this antagonism.  Little would be accomplished by any attempt on the wife's part to persuade her husband of the legitimacy of her faith by verbal apologetics.  But it would be difficult for an unbelieving husband to deny the legitimacy of a faith which had transformed his wife's life for the good.

            The word translated "won" (Greek, kerdethesontai) "focuses on the actual process of conversion, or changing one's attitude...."   This is not the only place where Peter indicates that Christian conduct has such a powerful impact.  (See 2:12.)

            This text is one of those which has been abused in societies where it is seen as normative for men to dominate women.  The abuse of this text has in some cases led to the abuse of women.   This is regrettable, and it demonstrates the dangers of coming to Scripture with preconceived notions which are imposed on the text.

            Peter made no claim here for female inferiority or male dominance.  His purpose is rather to assure believing women that their unbelieving husbands can be won to the Lord in the same way all unbelievers may be brought face-to-face with the claims of Christ: This happens not as a result of arguments, debate or rhetoric, but as a result of the demonstration of genuine Christianity.

            Verse 2.  Here Peter described the kind of conduct by which a believing wife could be influential in bringing her unbelieving husband to faith in Christ.  The two words used to describe this conduct are "chaste" and "fear."

            The word translated "chaste" (Greek, hagnen) seems in this context to have to do with chastity or sexual purity.   Thus one of the things that would be remarkable to an unbelieving husband in the first century would be that there would never be a question about his wife's faithfulness to him.  It may be that a man with an unbelieving wife would have to be concerned that she might betray him with another man.  The fact that a believing wife would never do this was in itself something her husband would find comforting and attractive.  If, as suggested in the comments on verse 1, this entire passage has to do with the sacredness of the sexual relationship in marriage, the chastity of the believing wife contributes to that sacredness.

            The "fear" which should characterize the believing wife is not terror of her husband.  (See comments on 1:17; 2:17-18; 3:14-15.)  No wife should live in terror of her husband.  (See comments on 3:6.)  The "fear" in view here is the fear of God, which has to do with the reverence every believer must give to Him.  This would contrast with the attitudes of those of the first century who worshipped various pagan gods.  These attitudes might range from stark terror to mere duty to casual acknowledgement, but they would not be described as reverence.  (See Acts 17:16-23.)  A believer is not attempting to appease a vengeful god or to curry favor with a temperamental deity.  Those who believe in the only true God know something about His character, and they know that their standing with Him is based on the sufficiency of Christ's atoning work (2:24).  Thus their attitude toward Him is one of deeply reverent respect bathed in love.  For a believing wife to have this kind of attitude toward God would at least pique the curiosity of her husband.  At best, as it is coupled with her uncompromising loyalty and faithfulness to her husband, it could bring him to a place of exploring and finally embracing the Christian faith.

            The word translated "while they behold" (Greek, epopteusantes) is an aorist active participle, indicating action that is finished.  The point is that once unbelieving husbands have observed the conduct of their believing wives, it is possible for them to be won to Christ.  That an undetermined period of time may elapse is indicated by the future passive indicative form of kerdethesontai, translated " won" in verse 1.  (See comments on verse 1.)  This is not something that happens quickly.  But once unbelieving husbands have had the opportunity to observe the consistent Christian conduct of their believing wives, there is a strong possibility they will come to Christ.  Though it is not spoken here, the implication is that a believing wife should not expect her unbelieving husband to immediately place His faith in Christ simply because she announces that she has done so or even after a week or a month.  Of course no one can predict how quickly another person will believe.  But the scenario Peter had in mind is one that would occur over a period of time, a long enough period for the believing wife to demonstrate faithfulness to her husband and reverence to God.

            Verse 3.  Still describing the conduct which should characterize a believing wife, Peter indicated first what it should not be.  Her "adorning" should not be outward, as seen in "plaiting the hair," "wearing of gold," and "putting on of apparel."  The NKJV translates the verse, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel."

            In the first century, as at many other times, women's hair "was braided in elaborate manners, and well-to-do women strove to keep up with the latest expensive fashions.  The gaudy adornments of women of wealth, meant to draw attention to themselves, were repeatedly condemned in ancient literature and speeches...."   Paul addressed the same issue in I Timothy 2:9-10: "in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (NKJV).

            Ancient Jewish writings warn of the sexual temptations involved in the kind of adornments described by Peter and Paul.   Since Peter's concern seems to have to do with encouragement to married women to demonstrate genuine Christianity by being faithful to their husbands, he discouraged them from any kind of outward adornment which could be interpreted as compromising this faithfulness.  In other words, Christian women should not dress in such a way as to draw the wrong kind of attention to themselves.  Obviously, this does not mean they must be dowdy, but they must dress modestly, with propriety and moderation.

            Some have thought that Peter intended here to place a complete ban on certain kinds of hair arrangements or on the wearing of anything gold.  But the grammar of the verse will not permit that meaning, or we must interpret it as also banning the wearing of clothing.  The word "fine" is supplied by the NKJV translators to describe "apparel," but this has no basis in the Greek text.  The KJV translation is more literal at this point.

            It may be that the statement "plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold" is a figure of speech, a hendiadys, "whereby one idea is expressed by two (or occasionally three) nouns linked by the simple 'and.'  The first noun is treated as the main substantive, with the second (and third) taken adjectivally."   The meaning would thus be "gold-braided hair."   The fashionable and extravagant hairstyles worn by wealthy women in the first century amounted to "submerging the hair in lavish gold spangles."

            The word "adorning" has to do with "the focus of attention for one's attractiveness, the thing one uses to make oneself beautiful to others."   The point, as seen in the next verse, is that believing women are not to focus on external appearance but on internal character.

            Verse 4.  Instead of focusing on externals, believing women should focus on "the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (NKJV).  The reference to the inner person as the "hidden person of the heart" is a typical Hebraism, further suggesting that the primary recipients of this letter were Jewish.

            Those things which are used to adorn the outer man (verse 3) are "corruptible," but the qualities of character described by Peter are incorruptible.  The focus on incorruptibility is typical for Peter.  (See 1:4, 18, 23.)  Although these character qualities certainly influence one's behavior in the visible, tangible realm, they are rooted in the invisible, intangible realm of the spirit.  Specifically, believing women are to adorn themselves with "a meek and quiet spirit."  The word translated "meek" by the KJV (Greek, praeos) has to do with gentleness.  The word translated "quiet" (Greek, hesychios) has to do with tranquility and calmness.  In other words, believing women are not to be loud, abrasive and harsh.  This does not imply weakness of character, but strength.  Those with little depth of character find it easy to be hard and loud.  Gentleness and quietness spring from self control and maturity.  (See Proverbs 9:13; 11:22; 12:4; 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15; 31:26.)  To be gentle means not to insist on one's own rights, not to be pushy or selfishly assertive and not to demand one's own way.

            In contrast to the value some human beings tend to place on expensive temporal adornment (verse 3) which will corrupt and pass away, the incorruptible adornment of the inner person with gentleness and quietness "is in the sight of God of great price."  God's value system is in direct opposition to the value system of the world.  (See Luke 16:15.)  Gentleness and quietness of spirit cannot be contrived; if these qualities are not genuine, pretense will be exposed under the pressures of life.  Specifically, they cannot long be pretended under the day-to-day pressures of marriage.  Genuine gentleness and quietness spring only from one's relationship with God which is rooted in deep trust in Him.  (See comments on verse 5.)

            Verse 5.  As an example of the kind of behavior (described as adornment) he commended to believing wives, Peter referred to "the holy women" of "former times" (NKJV).  These were women who "trusted in God" and who were "submissive to their own husbands" (NKJV).

            In Jewish thought, the submission of a woman to her husband did not place her in a position of weakness, but of strength.  "A certain wise woman said to her daughter: 'My child, stand before your husband and minister to him.  If you will act as his maiden, he will be your slave, and honor you as his mistress.  But if you exalt yourself against him, he will be your master, and you will become vile in his eyes, like one of the maidservants.'"   This reflects the significance of the words spoken by God to Eve: "Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16b).  In the Hebrew text, the idea seems to be that the woman would desire to rule her husband, but that he would rule her.  The same idea is expressed in Genesis 4:7 where God said to Cain concerning the sin lying at his door, "And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (NKJV).  Prior to the sin of Adam and Eve, their relationship had been characterized by equality and mutual respect.  Adam was incomplete alone; God made Eve as a "help" (Hebrew, _ezer) to compensate for the deficiency of Adam's solitary existence.  _ezer indicates a significant help that is not an option.  The word translated "meet" (Hebrew, k'negdo) means the woman is a match for man.  The word may mean either "at his side," meaning "fit to associate with" or "as over against him," meaning "corresponding to him."  Adam recognized Eve as bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh (Genesis 2:23).  That is, he could no more do without her than he could do without his own flesh and bones.  Because of her equality with Adam, the feminine form of the word "man" is used to describe Eve.  The Hebrew word translated "man" is 'ish.  The word translated "woman" is the feminine form, 'ishah.

            The sin of Adam and Eve introduced a subtle change into the dynamics of their relationship.  Now there was a tension which was never intended by God to be characteristic of human relationships.  This tension can be lessened, however, where a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25) and where a wife views here submission to her husband as service rendered to God (Ephesians 5:22).  Just as any service, or worship, offered to God with a sincere heart has powerful results, so does this kind of submission of a believing woman to her husband.  By her submission, a wife can influence her husband in significant ways.  The most important decision a man can ever make is the decision to put his trust in Jesus Christ.  If a believing wife's submission to her husband can be influential in bringing him to make this decision (3:1-2), how much more influential can she be in lesser decisions?

            Even here, the word translated "subjection" is hypotassomenai, which indicates deference, as in 2:13, 18; 3:1.  This does not mean that the holy women exercised blind, unthinking obedience based on inferiority of value or some kind of misguided caste system, but that they exercised thoughtful, creative submission intended to honor God and to provide a wholesome influence on their husbands.

            Hillyer points out that the association of married life with holiness is a genuinely Jewish idea.  "As a divine institution, marriage is viewed in a twofold light.  First, as the means intended for the propagation of the human race.  Secondly, as an ideal state for the promotion of sanctity and purity of life."   It seems Paul would have agreed with this sentiment.  He wrote, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband" (I Corinthians 7:2).

            The submission that the "holy women" in Hebrew history gave to their husbands sprang from their trust in God.  That is, they knew God was personally involved in their lives, even in their marriages, and they believed He would direct the steps of their husbands.  Where even one spouse trusts in God, there is a powerful influence for good in the marriage and home.  (See I Corinthians 7:12-14.)  But where there is no trust in God in the home and thus no awareness on the part of the husband that he is to mirror Christ's love for the church in his love for his wife and no awareness on the part of the wife that she is to submit to her husband as an act of service to God, the relationship tends to grow increasingly strained.

            Verse 6.  Now Peter offered a specific example of a holy woman who portrayed the kind of behavior he commended to believing wives in the first century.  The example is Sarah, the wife of the great patriarch Abraham.

            It is obvious that Peter's concern was no longer limited to the believing wives of unbelieving husbands, because Abraham could not be characterized as an unbeliever.  Neither, for that matter, could the husbands of the "holy women" mentioned in verse 4.  In the minds of Jewish readers, these women would have included not only Sarah, but also Rebekah, Rachel and Leah.   On the other hand, the focus at this point is still on the wives; it does not turn to the husbands until verse 7.  Even though Abraham is mentioned, Peter's concern was not so much for any particular episode in Abraham's life.  It certainly would be possible to find examples where Abraham's behavior was not exemplary.  (See, e.g., Genesis 12:13, 19; 20:2, 5.)

            This is the first time in the context of submission that the word hypekouein (translated "obeyed") appears.  This is a stronger word than the word translated "submit" (2:13), "be subject" (2:18), "be in subjection" (3:1) and "being in subjection" (3:5).  "Other NT household codes use [hypekouein] of the obedience of children to parents (Col 3:20; Eph 6:1) and slaves to masters (Col 3:22; Eph 6:5), but not of wives in relation to husbands.  [Hypekouein] occurs nowhere else in I Peter, but the three instances of the cognate [hypekoe] (1:2, 14, 22) all refer to Christian conversion or faith in God, not to social relationships."

            Another element which enters into the dynamic of the relationship between Sarah and Abraham is the fact that upon occasion he obeyed her.  In the Septuagint, the same word here translated "obeyed" is used to describe how Abraham "hearkened" to the voice of Sarah when she said to him, "Go therefore in to my maid, that I may get children for myself through her" (Genesis 16:2, LXX).  The Greek hypekouein is an accurate translation here of the Hebrew shema_, which is often translated "hear" (as in Deuteronomy 6:4) with the force of the word meaning "obey."

            The specific event which Peter apparently had in mind here is recorded in Genesis 18:12.  When Sarah, who was inside the tent, heard the angel tell Abraham, "Thy wife shall have a son" (Genesis 18:10), she laughed, saying to herself, "After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?"  Grudem does not think the reference here is to Genesis 18:12, for he can find no obedience to Abraham mentioned in that passage and because Sarah is speaking to herself rather than to Abraham.   But Peter did not suggest that Sarah was speaking to Abraham when she called him "lord."  The problem of finding the exact episode of Sarah's obedience may be a result of reading too much into Peter's use of hypekouein.  First, although hypekouein is a stronger word than hypotassein (which is used of voluntary deference in 2:13, 18; 3:1, 5; 5:5), it may be that Peter's use of it is more stylistic than substantial.  In this case, the meaning of "obey" is influenced by the prior references to "deference."  But if Peter meant to emphasize Sarah's obedience the obedience he had in view seems to be defined by the context in which she referred to Abraham as her "lord."  That is, even though she was old and past the time of childbearing (Genesis 18:11), she submitted to Abraham in the sexual relationship which resulted in the conception of Isaac.  If this is the case, it is once again seen that the husband's relationship with his wife is not portrayed as that of an iron-fisted dictator who dominates his wife.  Sarah's obedience was actually submission in which she shared Abraham's hope for a son.  I Corinthians 7:4 makes it clear that the sexual relationship between a husband and wife is an expression of mutual submission.

            If, as several points indicate (see comments on verse 1), the underlying theme of this passage is the sacredness of the sexual relationship in marriage, Sarah's example is even more significant.  Believing wives were not to use their husbands' lack of faith as an excuse to abstain from sexual relationships with them.  It would not be difficult to image that a misguided believing woman might think she could apply pressure to her unbelieving husband by isolating herself from him and depriving him of his conjugal rights.  But if this was the case, Peter pointed out this was not the way to bring an unbelieving husband to a place of faith.  If Sarah, as an aged woman with no physical reason to hope their union would be productive, did not reject Abraham, neither should believing wives in the first century reject their husbands, even if they were unbelievers.

            When Sarah called Abraham "lord," she used the Hebrew 'adon which, like all words, is defined by its context.  Although it is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures in reference to the true God, it is also used in a wide variety of other contexts.  When it is used by one human being to address another, its meaning is often something like the English "sir."  It is a title of respect.  There is no basis here for any idea that women must address men as their masters or rulers.  Wives are to respect their husbands, but as Peter pointed out in this verse, they are not to be afraid of them with "any terror" (NKJV).

            Peter promised the believing women reading his letter that they could be Sarah's daughters.  Just as Jesus explained to the unbelieving Jews that if they were genuinely the children of Abraham they would do the works of Abraham (John 8:39), so Peter tied the matter of being Sarah's daughters together with a certain kind of behavior.  This behavior is specifically identified in this verse as doing "well" and not succumbing to "terror" (NKJV).  Michaels points out that the "wives to whom Peter is writing have become Sarah's 'children'...through their faith in Christ expressed in baptism (cf. 3:21)."

            Contextually, to "do well" is defined in this passage as the deference a wife is to give to her husband.  (See also 2:15.)  It may seem strange that Peter would include in the behavior which qualifies believing wives as the daughters of Abraham that they must not be "afraid with any terror" (NKJV).  But there was always the possibility that the unbelieving husband may not tolerate his wife's strange religion "and that consequently her freedom or safety may be jeopardized.  Hence the ominous word of 'comfort' with which Peter's advice to wives concludes...."

Peter's encouragement not to fear seems to reflect Proverbs 3:25: "Do not be afraid of sudden terror, Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes" (NKJV).  The word translated "amazement" in the KJV and "terror" in the NKJV is ptoein, which appears in the Septuagint translation of Proverbs 3:25 but nowhere else in the New Testament.  In the first century, it was always possible that submission to authority could have painful consequences.  Submission to civil government could result in martyrdom (2:13-14).  It was possible that for a slave to submit to his master could result in cruel and unjustified suffering (2:18-20).  And it was possible that a wife could be abused by her husband.  But believers must not allow fear to control them.  (See 3:14, 17.)  They can avoid this by their unswerving focus on eternity.  (See comments on 1:3-9, 13.)

            Verse 7.  Now Peter turned his attention to the responsibilities of the husband toward the wife.  Although the passage began with instruction to believing wives as to how to influence unbelieving husbands toward faith in Christ (verse 1), the focus has now shifted to believing husbands and what they should do to honor their wives.  This shift began in verse 5, where holy women (e.g., Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah) whose husbands could not be characterized as unbelievers are held up as examples to the wives among Peter's readers, and it developed further in verse 6, where one of the holy women, Sarah, was singled out as a specific example to believing women.  Sarah's husband, Abraham, could not be characterized as an unbeliever: he is the father of all who believe.  (See Romans 4:11-12.)

            The word "likewise" (Greek, homoios) "functions only to connect related sections of the household duty code, not to point out any real analogy."   In other words, there is no idea here of the husband submitting to the wife in the manner of citizens to civil government (2:13) or slaves to their masters (2:18).  But in retrospect, since the same word (homoios) is used in verse 1, it serves there as a connective also, not to indicate that the nature of the wives' submission to their husbands is analogous to the citizen's or the slave's submission.  (See comments on verse 1.)  The nature of the wives' submission is found in the immediate context of verse 1 and the following verses, not in the prior context of citizens and slaves.  It would be wrong to describe the wives' submission to her husband as being of the same kind or to the same degree as the slave's submission to his master or as the citizen's submission to civil government.  The relationship between a husband and wife is a completely different kind of relationship than that found in government-citizen or master-slave settings.  The relationship which best describes marriage is seen in the relationship between Christ and His church.  (See Ephesians 5:21-33.)  This is much more of an intimate, mutually reciprocal relationship than that which characterizes the government with its citizens or masters with their slaves.

            The significance of the counsel Peter gave in this verse can be fully appreciated only in the context of the culture of the first century.  Women had few legal rights.  As far as Jewish law was concerned, women were the property of their husbands, right along with his sheep and cattle.  He could divorce her; she could not leave him.   Greek philosophers and even Jewish teachers declared that women were morally and intellectually weaker than men.  Aristotle's legacy continued to influence thinkers in the first century, including his idea that women were by nature inferior to men in every way except sexually.  As far as the Roman legal system was concerned, women were weak and unable to make sound decisions.

            The Greek word translated "dwell with them" (synoikeo) commonly referred to sexual relations and is used in that sense in the Septuagint.   (See Deuteronomy 22:13; 24:1; 25:5.)  The point Peter is making is that a Christian man is not "demanding nor selfish in his sexual and marital relations; he is instead considerate, sensitive, and serving."   (See also I Corinthians 7:3-5; Hebrews 13:4.)

            The man must dwell with his wife "according to knowledge" or "with understanding" (NKJV).  Where a wife is viewed as a "thing," as in Jewish Law , there is little incentive to give careful thought as to how to relate to her.  Men who view their wives as possessions on the level of livestock or property will not tend to be sensitive to the need to develop a meaningful and mutually rewarding relationship.  On the other hand, men who view their wives as individuals uniquely made in the image of God, worthy of honor and sharing equally in the gift of life will tend to exercise great care in getting to know their wives as persons.  They will want to learn as much as possible about their wives' ideas, opinions and values.  They will want to come to a realistic assessment of their wives' gifts and talents so as to be able to help them explore their interests and to gain the satisfaction of a fulfilling and meaningful ministry to others.

            The husband is to give honor to his wife "as unto the weaker vessel."  Peter did not declare the wife to actually be a weaker vessel.  Rather, he used the analogy of a weaker vessel to give the husband a specific and understandable image to illustrate the manner in which the husband is to honor his wife.  It was commonly held among unbelievers during the first century that women were morally and intellectually weaker than men, but Peter gave the idea of "weakness" new significance.   The weakness he had in view was to be honored, not despised.  It may be that by "weakness," Peter had in mind the "common early Christian conviction that honor in God's sight belongs to those who are (or make themselves) 'last,' or 'least,' in the eyes of the world."

            In any event, Peter did not mean to imply that women are in any sense inferior to men.  The word translated "honor" (Greek, timen) means "respect" which springs from value.   Respect is typically given only to those who are considered to be of equal value or in some way superior to the person who is extending the respect.  This is not the insincere, demeaning flattery sometimes given by one person to another for personal advantage.  The honor Peter had in mind springs from the husband's careful assessment of his wife's value.

            The husband is not to take advantage of his wife's submission to oppress her.  He is to be considerate of his wife and to treat her not in a rough and thoughtless manner—as he might a stout, cheap vessel, but gently and thoughtfully—as he would a fragile, expensive vase.

            The husband and wife are not merely one flesh, they are also to be "heirs together of the grace [or gift, Greek charitos] of life."  That is, they are to develop oneness in all areas of the life that God has graciously granted them together.  That this includes oneness in spirit is seen in the purpose clause: "that your prayers may not be hindered."  The partners in a marriage united not only in flesh but also in spirit will find their prayers to have new power and effectiveness, whether the prayer is private or together.  Where a husband fails to honor his wife and neglects to invest whatever time and effort is necessary to gain a thorough knowledge of her as an individual, his prayers will tend to be ineffectual.  The married couple's relationship with each other is one of the most important factors in making their prayers effectual.