I’ve written before about how Paul’s seemingly misogynistic passages were a real stumbling block to me at one time. In that post I mentioned that although Peter said some of the same things Paul said, he never bothered me quite the same way. Whether that’s because I already liked Peter, who kept me laughing with all his mouth-moving-before-mind antics, or because he didn’t write half the New Testament, so that his words didn’t carry the same metaphorical weight, I’m not sure. I only know I should probably have dealt with his household codes before now. So I’m here today to offer you the latest in these apostolic adventures of mine.
First of all let me just say that I probably should have been asking more questions about Peter. For instance, where was his wife on all those missionary journeys?? I knew he had a wife, because I knew he had a mother-in-law, but I never asked the question – or, if I did, I assumed she stayed at home while he gallivanted all over Roman territory. (Perhaps I’d been too influenced by the more modern life of William Carey.)
Turns out, Peter’s wife traveled with him. It’s right there, plain as day, in I Corinthians 9:5 (which begs the question, how exactly did I miss this??). “Don’t we have the right to bring a Christian wife with us as the other apostles and as the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does?” So he didn’t leave her at home. He valued her and brought her with him on his travels. (Many thanks to Michael Card for pointing this out in his commentary on Mark.)
Another thing Peter did? He took care of his mother-in-law, something I never questioned but that Card claimed wasn’t Peter’s cultural responsibility – it would have been his wife’s brothers’ responsibility. So it seems Peter valued his wife, and he valued his mother-in-law, and maybe just maybe he wasn’t as anti-woman as I’d always thought, either.
In the past I’d kind of fixated on I Peter 3:1-6, with verses 5 and 6 giving me especial trouble as a trailing spouse:
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands. For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.
So anyway, prompted by Michael Card, I went and read all of I Peter 3, including verse 7 in the New Living Translation:
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
And this Bible verse, this amazing, freeing, validating, liberating Bible verse, it was neither underlined nor starred in my Bible. WHY EVER NOT?!?! This is a Bible I’ve used for six years. Six years of reading the previous verses and feeling the weight of their burden, but never noticing verse 7 just below them?
These words are such a balm for my soul. Right there in verse 7 Peter calls me, as a wife, an equal partner. An equal partner. And this particular version tells husbands that they MUST give honor to their wives. Must?? That’s a much more commanding tone than NIV or KJV.
So I did what I usually do when a verse strikes my fancy: I looked up the Greek words on Bible Hub.
- Give — to assign or apportion, to render; from the Greek aponemontes
- Honor – to accord or apportion honor, pay respect, perceived weight or value, from the Greek timen
- Understanding – knowledge, wisdom; from the Greek gnosin
- Weaker – weak, depleted, without sufficient strength (mostly physically); from the Greek asthenestero
- Equal partner – joint heir, participant, coinheritor; used of believers sharing inheritance with Christ; from the Greek synkleronomois
- Hindered – puts obstacles in the way of a moving object (this made me wonder, is the thing that the mistreatment of women hinders the movement of the Gospel?); to sharply impede or cut off what is desired or needed; from the Greek enkoptesthai
Basically, Peter is instructing husbands to assign appropriate honor and respect (there it is again, a woman’s heart-need for respect) to their wives, because they are valuable and worthy, and to live with their wives in a wise and understanding way (“It’s not about the nail” comes to mind), because she is a joint heir, co-inheritor, and equal partner in Christ. And why should they do this? So the work of God won’t be blocked or shortchanged in their lives.
Of course Eugene Peterson’s The Message interpretation is even better:
The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.
But even if you stick with a strict translation and some Greek background, you will not get the same thing out of Peter that I have been getting for years (on the surface): a man at the top calling all the shots. Instead you will get: EQUAL PARTNER. A wife is her husband’s equal partner.
It brings me to my knees in thanksgiving to have a Lord whose gospel of life reframes everything human beings tried to twist His perfect Edenic world into. So I’m now laying to rest my last reservation with Peter. Peter and I can now be completely at peace. And I can now rejoice that Peter — and God — calls me my husband’s equal partner.