Hope Lutheran Church, Fargo, ND - Pastor Mark Vitalis Hoffman
Should a Wife Be Submissive?
A Study of 1 Peter 3.1-7
- Give an example from your youth of how you were either rebellious
- What is something you really hate sharing with someone else?
- The biggest surprise I experienced in marriage is that...
For Your Information:
Note how this provides the background for the whole section in
2.11-4.19 on Christian responsibilities in time of suffering.
The ancient world was a highly patriarchal society where women
were indeed regarded as the "weaker sex" (see verse
7 - on such weakness, though, read 1 Corinthians 1.26-29!). Note
that this passage envisions a situation where there are women
who have become Christians whose husbands have not. (A similar
situation is described in 1 Corinthians 7.12-16.) It is assumed
in 3.7 that the husbands all have Christian wives. The presence
in the early Christian church of so many slaves and women, people
low on the social scale, is an indication that life among Christians
was found to be a liberating experience that acknowledged greater
equality than the prevailing non-Christian culture.
The instructions about husbands and wives given in 3.1-7 are representative
of "Household Rules" which were common in 1 Peter's
time and culture. For more on husbands and wives, read Ephesians
5.21-33; Colossians 3.18-19; and Titus 2.3-5. For examples of
how non-Christian Jews and Greeks expressed similar thoughts,
see the excerpts on the back page of this handout.
- 3.1 and 7 - Note that both the section addressed to wives
and the one to husbands begins with, "In the same way..."
This means that the advice to both husbands and wives is like
the advice to slaves given in 2.18-25. Ultimately, all the advice
refers back to 2.16 where all Christians are identified as being
slaves of God.
- 3.1 and 5 - The Greek word translated by "accept the
authority of" is hypotasso. It carries the sense of
"be subordinate to" or "be subject to." The
outward display of such subordination is "obedience"
(hypakouo) as exhibited by Sarah in verse 6. Part of the
background for the instruction about a wife's subordination is
Genesis 3.16. Read this passage but note that the subordination
of Eve is pronounced as punishment for sin.
- 3.3-4 - Also read 1 Timothy 2.9-10.
- 3.5 - The word for adorn is kosmeo from which comes
the English word "cosmetic."
- 3.5-6 - Read Genesis 18.1-15 for more information on the relationship
between Sarah and Abraham.
For Your Consideration:
- How is the Bible like or unlike the following? What difference
does your initial understanding of the Bible make in how you interpret
- History textbook
- Law book
- Romance novel
- Mystery novel
- Reader's Digest
- Owner's manual
- Book of poetry
- Philosophy textbook
- TV Guide
- Science textbook
- Script for a play
- What other factors are involved in your interpretation of
the Bible? What texts are more important for you: Old or New Testament?
Words of Jesus or those of Paul? How do your own reasoning and
experiences influence your understanding of Scripture? What is
the role of the Church and the Christian tradition?
- 3.1 - What does it mean for a wife to "accept the authority"
of one's husband or to "be subject to" or "be submissive
to" him? What are some examples of how this could work out
well in a marriage relationship? What are the problems with it?
- 3.1-7 - Is this description of how women are to be submissive
to the authority of their husbands given as advice specific to
that time and community or as a perpetual command? Is it Christian
counsel given in light of the culture of that time or is it a
description of how culture ought always to be and how women are
to act within it? Note that the goal given in verse 1 why women
are to act in the specified way is an evangelistic one: to win
converts to Christ. If this goal remains our foremost consideration,
how ought women (and men) act today in our culture?
- 3.1-7 - Does this passage indicate that women should remain
submissive even in a relationship where the husband is abusive?
What advice would you give to a woman whose husband was abusive?
- How do you reconcile verses 1-2 with verse 8 or 1 Peter 4.8?
Read again Ephesians 5.21 and 22 and 33. Explain how these passages
are relevant. How do passages like 1 Corinthians 7.3-4 and Galatians
3.28 fit into the picture?
- 3.3-4 - How do you deal with this passage which says that
women ought not to braid their hair or wear gold ornaments or
fine clothing? Do the Amish women in their plain dressing have
it right? What is really at issue in the warning against women
outwardly adorning themselves? How does that compare with the
issues women face today? How does the way we dress make a social
statement? A religious statement?
- 3.7 - How does a relationship with a spouse affect one's prayers
- What would the relationship of a husband and wife be like
in an ideal marriage where sin was not a factor?
- What is something you could do for your spouse to show love
and respect? Do it!
- Do you think that you and your spouse could provide support
and worthwhile advice to a newly married couple? Let one of your
pastors know if you would be willing to serve as mentors.
- Read 1 Corinthians 13 and use it as the basis for prayer with
What other people were saying about husbands and wives in
the first century:
Plutarch (a late first century Greek biographer and
essayist), Moralia, "Advice to Bride and Groom"
- Whenever two notes are sounded in accord the tune is carried
by the bass; and in like manner every activity in a virtuous household
is carried on by both parties in agreement, but discloses the
husband's leadership and preferences. (139D)
- A wife ought not to make friends of her own but to enjoy
her husband's friends in common with him. The gods are the first
and most important friends. Wherefore it is becoming for a wife
to worship and to know only the gods that her husband believes
in, and to shut the front door tight upon all strange rituals
and outlandish superstitions. (140D)
- A woman ought to do her talking either to her husband or through
her husband, and she should not feel aggrieved if, like the flute-player,
she makes a more impressive sound through a tongue not her own.
- If women subordinate themselves to their husbands, they are
commended, but if they want to have control, they cut a sorrier
figure than the subjects of their control. And control ought to
be exercised by the man over the woman, not as the owner has control
of a piece of property, but, as the soul controls the body, by
entering into her feelings and being knit to her through goodwill.
As, therefore, it is possible to exercise care over the body without
being a slave to its pleasures and desires, so it is possible
to govern a wife, and at the same time to delight and gratify
Josephus (a first century Jewish historian and apologist),
Against Apion 2.201
- The woman, says the Law, is in all things inferior to the
man. [Genesis 3.16] Let her accordingly be submissive, not for
her humiliation, but that she may be directed; for the authority
has been given by God to the man.
Further Study Tools on 1 Peter 3
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Permission requests? Let me
Key Texts Used in this Study (NRSV)
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens
and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage
war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the
Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may
see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.Return to Bible Study
1 Peter 3:1 Wives, in the same way, accept the
authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not
obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives'
conduct, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
3 Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and
by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; 4 rather, let your
adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle
and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight. 5 It
was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God
used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands.
6 Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become
her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears
alarm you. 7 Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for
your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as
the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious
gift of life--so that nothing may hinder your prayers. Return to Bible Study