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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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2  
I added the tag Protestantism since I'm seeking a protestant basis for this. –  Richard Oct 20 '11 at 15:21
    
Sisters are weaker vessel. Brothers are then weak vessel. ;) –  pehkay Jul 26 at 2:33

5 Answers 5

up vote 15 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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In what way is the wife weaker? –  Steve Apr 25 at 18:15
    
I don't believe the intent is to necessarily infer that a woman is weaker than a man - although physically, it is generally true (physiological differences). I believe the intent - the reason why the woman is referred to as the weaker vessel - is to incite in husbands the desire to treat their wives with delicate hands and delicate speech. Women are emotionally attached - men are (generally) not emotionally driven. –  IAbstract May 8 at 15:53

"Weaker" Can Also Be Interpreted Physical Strength

The Greek word used for weaker is asthenos, which comes from the prefix "a-", meaning not coupled with the root "sthen[os]" for bodily vigour. To say women tend to have less bodily vigour or physical strength seems much more reasonable than the false suggestion woman are somehow morally inferior. Certainly considering the tendency of some men to misuse physical power over their wives, one could even say Peter is raising the view of women to equal status.

Regarding "Does it still hold true today?" All of the Bible holds true today. The entire New Testament is particularly relevant today.

Sources:

Strong's [Exhaustive Concordance] With Greek Dictionary accessed as part of the computer software QuickVerse 10

See https://goo.gl/WTIQRN for medical words using the root sthen- as muscle. The original Greek word is asthenero. I presume the different ending indicates the part of speech for the declension.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20pet%203%3A7&version=NASB;SBLGNT

http://biblehub.com/greek/772.htm lists a literal translation of "without strength"

Context: I have a minimal understanding of Greek. Consult http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com for more expertise.

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It should be weaker vessel. Weaker in the body, or outer shell. Not the spirit, mind or anything else.

The NIV is the only translation that says weaker "partner" rather than weaker "vessel." All other translations used the right translation except the NIV. There are many other examples of bad translations in the NIV. I don't use NIV anymore as you miss so much and can misinterpret when reading that version.

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Welcome to the site! I removed some pieces of the answer that didn't directly have to do with the question, and rearranged some parts to make it easier to follow. I hope to see you post again soon. –  Mr. Bultitude Jul 25 at 21:45

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
    
@PhonicsTheHedgehog But you still did not address the "why" of the question. In what was are wives weaker? –  Steve Apr 25 at 18:13

In the Greek weaker vessel can mean not weaker as in physically but weaker in morals.

From an English/Greek Lexicon:

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“ἀσθενής,” Def 2c. from: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (3rd ed.) Walter Bauer, revised by F.W. Danker. University Of Chicago Press, 2001.

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Where is your evidence for this? –  curiousdannii May 1 at 5:37
    
Needs a source. –  fredsbend May 1 at 5:51
    
Apparently I can't hide a URL that contains a parenthesis, but it can mean either: perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/… –  Susan May 1 at 5:59
    
@Susan I didn't see anything there about morals? –  curiousdannii May 1 at 6:04
    
@curious Yeah, that’s the crummy thing about not having BDAG available online. I gave the LSJ link more to point out to the poster that’s it’s certainly not only about morals, but here’s the BDAG sub-entry of interest. It’s clear from, e.g., Rom 5:6 that this (moral weakness/helplessness) is within the semantic range in its NT use. –  Susan May 1 at 6:10

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