Monday, August 13, 2018

Defer to your husband

13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

3 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (1 Pet 2:13-25-3:1-7). 

1. 1 Pet 3:1-6 is a complementation prooftext. Unlike some Pauline prooftexts (1 Cor 11:8-9; 1 Tim 2:13), 1 Pet 3:1-6 doesn't ground uxorial deference in the natural order, so I think it's a weaker complementarian prooftext than the Pauline examples–although it's certainly consistent with complementarianism. Eph 5:22-33 is another one of the stronger complementarian texts, grounded in a Christological analogy.

2. Because this is paired with Peter's discussion of slavery, some egalitarians use this as a wedge tactic: if complementarianism is the norm, so is slavery. In 1 Pet 2-3, they rise and fall together. 

3. That's an interesting argument, but the issue is more complex. To begin with, biblical regulations don't necessarily indicate approval. Biblical codes of conduct aren't utopian. Biblical codes of conduct are sometimes pragmatic, given the vicissitudes of life in a fallen world. It's important to consider the underlying rationale for biblical regulations. 

4. Imagine how dangerous it would be to a slave to be insolent to his master. Imagine how dangerous it would be to a 1C wife to be insolent to her husband. At a minimum, this is prudential guidance. 

5. Although Peter counsels wives to be deferential to their husbands, that's only half the story. It has a subtext. The implied context is Christian wives married to pagan husbands. Presumably, both were heathen at the time of marriage, but the wife is now a convert to Christianity. But as one commentator notes:

Peter's advice to women married to [pagan] husbands "should be understood against the social background in which a wife was expect to accept the customs and religious rites of her husband…In society's eyes these women were already highly insubordinate just by virtue of their Christian commitment. J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter (Thomas Nelson 1988), 157. 

So Christian wives are expected to be both submissive and independent. They are bucking the system by refusing to accede to their husband's religion. So it's not just about assuming a subordinate role. For the backdrop is assuming an insubordinate role. Those are balanced. 

6. In addition, Karen Jobes says Greco-Roman wives were not supposed to have any friends outside her husband's social circle, but as a Christian she will develop friendships within the Christian community. K. Jobes, 1 Peter (Baker 2005), 203. So there's a maverick element to the role of a Christian wife. In a mixed marriage, her duties include uxorial independence as well as uxorial deference. 

7. Peter's counsel includes the duties of a husband as well as a wife. His should be an understanding husband who honors his wife. 

What does Peter mean when he says the wife is the weaker vessel? Since he doesn't explain his terminology, we can only speculate:

i) Presumably it includes the fact that women in general are physically weaker than men.

ii) In addition, Jobes quotes Aristotle and Xenophon who say women are not as psychologically hardy as men. They are less aggressive than men (Aristotle, Xenophon). In addition, a man's mind and body have greater stamina to endure heat and cold, outdoor tasks, journeys, and military campaigns (Xenophon).

In the ancient world, full of bandits, burglars, rustlers, wild animals, feral dogs, and warfare, men are wired to protect and provide for women, not just physically, but by virtue of their natural psychological makeup. And that has modern counterparts. 

iii) Jobes thinks it may also refer to lower social status. Ibid. 209. 

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