A Minority Religion: 1 Peter 3:1–2

minority religion Isis Fortuna (2)

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8) 1 Pet 3:1–2: First Peter 3:1–9 features many similarities to 1 Tim 2:8–15.[1]

In the early church, Christianity spread faster among women than among men. Converting to a despised minority religion proved more costly to males in terms of their social status.[2]

Noting the great discrepancy in numbers, Celsus, a 2nd century AD Greek philosopher, complained, “[Christians] desire and are able to gain over only the silly, and the mean, and the stupid, with women and children.”[3]



Greco-Roman husbands held the authoritative position within a marriage.[4]

“To submit” (hypotassō) involves placing oneself under someone else. Yet, it does not necessarily include compliance.[4]

In contrast, the obedience expected of wives in Greco-Roman antiquity included allegiance to their husbands’ religions.[5]

Most households included shrines containing figures of the gods.[6]

Plutarch (ca. 46–120 AD) gave this Advice to a Bride and Groom:

A wife ought not to make friends of her own, but to enjoy her husband’s friends in common with him. The gods are the first and most important friends.

Wherefore it is becoming for a wife to worship and to know only the gods that her husband believes in, and to shut the front door tight upon all queer rituals and outlandish superstitions. For with no god do stealthy and secret rites performed by a woman find any favor.[7]



Polytheistic husbands regarded Christian women as highly insubordinate solely by virtue of their religious commitment. Peter commanded these wives not to compound the difficulty by abrasive or unseemly behavior.[8]

Thus, he directed wives to submit in order to influence their non-Christian husbands toward embracing the faith, consistent with his teaching that Christians must live such holy lives that those who malign the gospel would see their error (1 Pet 2:11–12).[9]

Nevertheless, a believer’s reverence belongs to God, not to one’s spouse (Acts 4:18–20; Acts 5:27–32).[10]

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a) Read 1 Pet 3:1–2. What made the gospel more attractive to women than to men in Peter’s era? Why would people consider the women whom Peter addressed subversive? How could living in submission to an unbelieving husband win him over to the gospel? In what ways can people living in those circumstances today apply Peter’s teaching?





Go to In the Spirit of Sarah (1 Pet 3:3–6)

[Related web pages include In the Spirit of Sarah (1 Pet 3:3–6); Living Together with Understanding (1 Pet 3:7–9); God Hates Violence (Mal 2:13–16); Effects of the Fall Reversed (Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12); Marital Separation (1 Cor 7:10–11); Concerning Mixed Marriages (1 Cor 7:12–13); Contagious Holiness (1 Cor 7:14); and Dissolution of Marriage (1 Cor 7:15–16); The Cult of Artemis (False Teaching in Ephesus); Prayer without Anger (1 Tim 2:8); Adorned with Good Works (1 Tim 2:9–10); She Must Learn (1 Tim 2:11); Domineering Women (1 Tim 2:12–14); Saved through Childbearing (1 Tim 2:15); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 8: Pain and Desire (Genesis 3:16, 20)]


[1] Hugenberger, “Women in Church Office: Hermeneutics or Exegesis. A Survey of Approaches to 1 Tim 2:8–15,” 355, http://womeninthechurch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/hugenberger%20women%20in%20church%20office%20re%20husbands%20and%20wives%20issue%20in%201%20timothy%202.pdf.

[2]Keener, IVPBBCNT2, 692.

[3]Origen, “Against Celsus,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucious Felix; Commodian; Origen, Part First and Second, vol. 4 (ed. A. Cleveland Coxe; trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; ANF; New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1926), 3.44, 482, https://archive.org/stream/antenicenefathe00menzgoog#page/n458/mode/2up.

[4] Keener, IVPBBCNT2, 692.

[5]Gerhard Delling, “′υποτασσω” (hypotassō), TDNT 8:39–46, 41.

[6] Keener, IVPBBCNT2, 692.

[7]Laura Hutchinson, “The Roman House at Hopkins: Household Gods.” John Hopkins Archaeological Museum, http://archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu/the-collection/object-stories/the-roman-house-at-hopkins/household-gods/.

[8]Plutarch, Advice to a Bride and Groom (Conjugalia Praecepta), 19, Http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2008.01.0181%3Asection%3D19.

[9]David L. Balch, “Early Christian Criticism of Patriarchal Authority: 1 Peter 2:11–3:12,” USQR 39, no. 3, January 1, 1984: 161–73, 166.

[10]Scott McKnight, 1 Peter (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 183.

[11]J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 157.