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Surprises in 1 Peter 3

One of the great things about working in original languages is meeting things to don’t expect, like in Exodus 15 last semester. There’s always more work to do grammatically, culturally, etc but I try to take note of what surprises me because it helps me to engage with what the text says rather than what I expect it to say. Here are some initial discoveries from yesterday in 1 Peter 3:1-7.

The first surprise came in v.1. The translation I’m most familiar with has:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,

Here’s the interesting thing: ‘words’ is actually singular. It should be ‘if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without word [or possible ‘a word’, like the ESV] by the behavior of their wives.’ The difference is whether the second ‘word’ relates the wives (i.e. not talking) or whether it relates to the first word, the one they didn’t believe. It’s possible this could affect an understanding both of submission and of witness.

The second surprise came in v.3-4. That’s the bit about outer beauty vs. inner beauty; hair braiding vs. gentle and quiet spirit. Except, the word ‘beauty’ never appears! The word that is normally translated ‘the unfading/imperishable beauty’ is just an article (the) with an adjective (unfading/imperishable) with no noun (beauty)! I’ll be interested to pursue why these translations insert beauty and what difference is makes.

The third interesting thing was that in the bit about Sarah, where the NIV has ‘you are her daughters’, it’s just ‘children’, which translations like the CEV and the ESV pick up on. The participles that follow are feminine plural, so probably still aimed at the women but it’s interesting that the writer of 1 Peter has chosen more general language than ‘daughter’.

I’ll keep you posted on what I uncover as the semester goes on!

Categories: Woman Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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