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In 1 Peter, we read:

1 Peter 3:7 (NIV)
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

What exactly does "the weaker partner" mean? Does the Bible state what ways are they weaker?

Also, does this still hold true today?

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I added the tag Protestantism since I'm seeking a protestant basis for this. –  Richard Oct 20 '11 at 15:21

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I do not think the NIV does the original Greek justice in this case. The English Standard Version (a respected relatively new essentially literal translation) renders the verse this way:

7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7

In Calvin's commentary on this verse his translation supports this choice in translation as well. A few other resources I checked seem to align with this as well.

That being said, the word weaker is still there. So what does this mean? Commentators seem to agree that in this passage that the use of the word weaker was used to prompt the husband to act in a gentle and gracious manner.

Calvin:

Moreover, he employs a twofold argument, in order to persuade husbands to treat their wives honourably and kindly. The first is derived from the weakness of the sex; the other, from the honour with which God favours them. These things seem indeed to be in a manner contrary,—that honour ought to be given to wives, because they are weak, and because they excel; but these things well agree together where love exists.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible:

Both husband and wife are vessels in God’s hand, and of God’s making, to fulfil His gracious purposes. Both weak, the woman the weaker. The sense of his own weakness, and that she, like himself, is God’s vessel and fabric, ought to lead him to act with tender and wise consideration towards her who is the weaker fabric

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:

Christians ought to do their duty to one another, from a willing mind, and in obedience to the command of God. Wives should be subject to their husbands, not from dread and amazement, but from desire to do well, and please God. The husband’s duty to the wife implies giving due respect unto her, and maintaining her authority, protecting her, and placing trust in her. They are heirs together of all the blessings of this life and that which is to come, and should live peaceably one with another. Prayer sweetens their converse.

The argument that "weaker vessel" implies care and gentleness carries a lot of weight in my opinion. If you have a fragile, beautiful vase are you going to knock it around and treat it roughly? Not if you care about it. Taking a good literal translation into account and viewing this as an illustrative analogy will help a lot in interpreting this verse.

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Heh, finally found a good reason for Choosing NLT over NIV. The version you gave us was the NIV. Here is NLT version of it:

1 Peter 3:7 : 7 In the same way, you husbands should live with your wives in an understanding way, since they are weaker than you. But show them respect, because God gives them the same blessing he gives you—the grace that gives true life. Do this so that nothing will stop your prayers.

Basically, what Peter is saying is that we should treat women which most of them are weaker then us with same respect and understanding, because God gives them same blessing as men.

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-1 This answer does not explain why NIV should be wrong and NLT is more correct. It just shows a bias. To show that you would need to high light how it compares with greek or other reliable sources. –  Jamess Sep 29 '11 at 8:29
    
@Jamess dont get me wrong here. I am merely stating that NLT gives you more understanding with the verse. Personally I think it is more straitfoward then the NIV. –  Phonics The Hedgehog Sep 29 '11 at 15:14

Two questions. What is a vessel ? Is it not simply a container? Is a vessel physical or spiritual? I would believe physical. If not mistaken, the body, referred to here as a vessel, carries that which is spiritual. Keep in mind that in Peter's day most women were completely dependent on there spouse for everyday things on which to live. Not so today in this and other developed countries. So I tend to believe the reference was to the physical not spiritual. Also scripture says that Christ and Paul received a great deal of financial support from women. Many a church would not be in existence probably if not for women. Food for thought.

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