The demeanor of wives (1 Peter 3)

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1 Peter 3:1-7 develops the theme that Christians are to conduct themselves honourably among the Gentiles by being submissive to human institutions, so that Gentiles may observe Christian behaviour, be converted and glorify God. A woman who was married to an unbelieving husband was to use her Christian demeanour to win over her husband to Christ.

Peter specifically exhorted women to a beauty that exuded from the heart rather than one based solely upon external appearance. 3:3 may be translated simply as “gold-braided hair” rather than “braided hair and the wearing of gold Jewelry.” Women in Peter’s day would often braid their hair, interweaving into it golden spangles and threads that glittered and tinkled with every movement of the head. One ancient writer, Xeophon of Ephesus, described women with hair braided in such a way in a procession for the goddess Artemis as erotically attractive. This was not to be the way of Christian women.

The theme of Christian conduct continues as the discussion turns to Sarah, “who obeyed Abraham and called him her master” (3:6). The same word rendered here as “master” is translated in John 12:21 as “sir”, a common, deferential mode of address. Husbands were likewise expected to demonstrate respect for their wives (1 Peter 3:7).


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