Sarah’s Submission: Peter’s Analogy in 1 Peter 3:5-6 -- By: Michal Beth Dinkler
PP 21:3 (Summer 2007) p. 9
Sarah’s Submission: Peter’s Analogy in 1 Peter 3:5-6
MICHAL BETH DINKLER is a doctoral student in New Testament/Early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School. She holds the Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and the Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts degrees in English Literature from Stanford University. She also is a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Prior to pursuing doctoral work, she served as the
Associate Editor for Priscilla Papers.
In chapter 3 of his first letter, Peter1 draws an analogy between Christian wives of the first century and the Old Testament matriarch Sarah. This directive (1 Peter 3:5-6) subsequently has been used to support the view that, universally, every woman “should submit to her husband as she submits to the Lord.”2 On the other hand, some scholars hold that this passage simply “reinforc[es a] dominant patriarchal system and phallocentric mindset” and should be rejected altogether as oppressive to women.3 How are we to understand Peter’s charge? Is this a universal, divinely inspired mandate for hierarchical marriage relationships? Or is Peter hopelessly patriarchal and irrelevant? In fact, Peter’s rhetoric points to an entirely different conclusion: Peter advocates qualified submission to non-Christians in order to be a witness for Christ’s self-sacrifice.
The passage states literally:
v. 1: In the same way, wives, submitting to your own husbands, in order that also, if they are unbelievers of the word, by the conduct of the wives, without a word, they will be won over,
v. 2: having seen your reverent and pure conduct.
v. 3: (Let) it not be the outer adornment, the braiding of hair and wearing of gold or putting on of garments,
v. 4: but the hidden person of the heart, in the immortality4 of the gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great value in the sight of the Lord.
v. 5: For in this way formerly also the holy women, the ones hoping in God, were adorning themselves (by) submitting to their own husbands,
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