Children of Sarah: Interpreting 1 Peter 3:6b -- By: Greg Forbes

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 15:1 (NA 2005)
Article: Children of Sarah: Interpreting 1 Peter 3:6b
Author: Greg Forbes


Children of Sarah:
Interpreting 1 Peter 3:6b

Greg Forbes

Bible College of Victoria

Any translation of 1 Pet 3:6b that treats the expression ἀγαθοποιοῦσαι καὶ μὴ φοβούμεναι μηδεμίαν πτόησιν in a conditional sense, either directly or indirectly, cannot be sustained. The use of participles as imperatives elsewhere in the Household Code and the theology of 1 Peter more generally indicate that “doing good and not being terrified” are behavioral characteristics that the author wants to see in the readers as a result of their elect status.

Key Words: participles, 1 Peter, children of Sarah, household codes

The purpose of this article is to question the common translation of 1 Pet 3:6 in the main English versions and to provide a better rendering that does justice not only to the author’s style but also to the theology of 1 Peter as a whole.

In the first six verses of chap. 3, the author is dealing with the appropriate response of believing wives to their (unbelieving) husbands. This forms part of a larger discussion that draws on the Haustafeln: codes of conduct for various facets of the household that can ultimately be traced back to Aristotle. The use of the Haustafeln is also apparent in the Pauline Epistles (Eph 5:21-6:9; Col 3:18-4:1) and appears to have been influenced not only by Christian tradition and ethics but also by Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism.1

In line with his general conception of Christian mission as “distinctive presence,” Peter urges the Christian wife to adopt a submissive attitude to her husband so as to influence him positively for the gospel. She must not focus on outward adornment but on the internal virtues

of humility and gentleness of spirit. The OT matriarchs are then used as examples of such submissive attitudes, with Sarah singled out for special interest by her obedience to Abraham and deference to him as κύριος.

Peter then, in conformity with his previous teaching regarding identity and status of believers in 2:9-10, links the faithful of both covenant eras under the one umbrella, here using the familial metaphor of mother and children. The people of God in the new covenant era (specifically here Christian wives) are designated ἧς ἐγενήθητε ...

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