Sunday, January 17, 2010

Temple Vessels

Peter Leithart has an unusual interpretation of the phrase "weaker vessel." I have bolded the relevant passage.
    The Bible devotes a surprising amount of attention to vessels – plates, forks, bowls, pots, pans, and snuffers. One long and repetitive chapter of Numbers describes a 12-day procession during which leaders from each tribe bring forward animals, grain, and incense for the tabernacle service, along with a silver dish, a silver bowl, and a gold man.

    When Solomon builds the temple, we again get a list of “vessels”: basins, shovels, bowls, pails, tongs, cups, snuffers, spoons, firepans, all of pure gold. And when Nebuchadnezzar destroys the temple, we learn that these vessels were all packed up into exile with the people of Judah.

    Paul draws on this imagery when he describes the church as a “large house” where there are “gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.” Vessels are people within the new temple, the church.

    This is the background for Peter’s description of wives as “weaker vessels.” Feminists take offense, but Peter is emphasizing the privilege that women have in the church. In the Old Covenant, no woman ever entered the temple, but now in the New Covenant men and their wives are both implements for temple service, equipment for the worship of God.

    Since we are temple vessels, we are holy, claimed by God and devoted to His service. If we are going to be useful in the Lord’s service, we must guard our hearts, and cleanse ourselves. We must put aside wrangling and fighting, worldly and empty chatter, youthful lusts, foolish speculations.

    Alluding to the cleanliness laws of the Old Testament, Paul writes, “if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

This is interesting. Women can't be judges and prophets any more. However, they can enter the church, whereas they used to not be able to enter the temple.

So women are privileged to be weaker than they used to be, but at least they are "temple vessels" . Does this sound right? Were women not vessels in the Old Covenant? I thought women were always vessels - delicate vases, ready to be filled, all of them hoping to bear the Messiah. What am I missing here? Anyone have any ideas?


Anonymous said...

We are talking about Doug Wilsonites, here. Seriously. Wives in frilly dresses and husbands as the federal head.

Moscow, Idaho is like a big cult. Ever read Michael Metzler? He escaped this cult and wrote about it.

I would not take anything they say or write seriously. But it is fun to analyze their bizzare beliefs

Anonymous said...

Here is some more in a post entitled "Foreplay":

Why didn’t the Son come in the flesh just outside Eden? The erotic theology of the Song of Songs provides a possible hint. Throughout the Song, the lovers admire each other’s bodies and express their longing desires to be together. Union comes at the end of reciprocal arousal. ”Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,” the bride says at the outset. ”How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are!” says the bridegroom. But the bride doesn’t get her winekiss until later, until he takes her to his “house of wine” (2:4) and until his enters the locked garden and drinks of the wine, milk, and honey of her lips and mouth (4:11-5:1). A period of intensifying desire precedes tasting and touching; distance, approach, distance, approach, repeated again and again before consummation.

The history of Israel is God’s foreplay with His bride, bringing her to a pitch of desire before He takes flesh and dwells with her. Perhaps too this provides a way of describing the frenzy of Messianic excitement that Israel was undergoing in the first century.

God waits to send His Son because He is a good lover.

The guy is creepy

J. K. Gayle said...

Leithart makes quite a leap in reading Peter's "background" as the stuff of "the tabernacle service" of Numbers, the stuff of "the temple" of Solomon, and the stuff of "the church" of Paul. Stuff seems right -- especially stuff of women; but to infer it's stuff of religious places seems a jump.

Peter's "background" for the word in question is a series of addresses to slaves, then women/ wives, then to husbands / men. With respect to Peter's word, σκεύει [skeuei, or the so-called "vessel"], the context and the contrast seems to be the adornment [κόσμος, kosmos] of women / wives (in vv 3 and 5). In other words, Peter addresses wives about what shows them to be respectable; then he turns to husbands and says what is respectable.

Both σκεύει [skeuei, or the so-called "vessel"] and κόσμος [kosmos, or "adornment"] seem to have similar meanings for Peter.

The former word is used for goods, objects, merchandise, and property -- as well as for vessels or containers. In either case, it's not clear - as Leithart conjectures - that Peter is making a link to "temple" or "church" objects or containers. Rather, Peter seems to be connecting the word to gender, to females, to women, to wives.

Curiously, Aristotle would use the word σκεῦος [skeuos] in contexts of his Greek grammar lessons. The word was to indicate ungendered (i.e., neuter gendered) words, in contrast to masculine gendered and feminine gendered words.

But the word was much more commonly associated with females who, in Greek literature, were associated with goods. Here are examples from Chariton's 1st-century novel, Callirhoe:

"That is why I [Callirhoe, the beautiful protagonist of the novel] have been handed over like a mere chattel [σκεῦος, skeuos] to I know not whom..."


"next, a royal abundance of funeral offerings, first the gold and silver of the dowry, a beautiful array of garments [κάλλος καὶ κόσμος kallos kai kosmos] (for Hermocrates had contributed much from the spoils of the war), and the gifts of relatives and friends. Last of all followed the wealth of Chaereas..."

In reiterate, Leithart seems to leap to a conclusion that Peter is saying something about "the privilege that women have in the church," which Jewish women did not enjoy. Leithart also takes a stab at "feminists," without really considering the possibility that Peter is positioning wives and women with respect their jewelry and such and their husbands. It might be good also to remember how Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women reading I Peter 3 thought of the text; from The Woman's Bible on this passage:

"The Apostles having given such specific directions as to the toilets of women, their hair, ornaments, manners and position, in the Church, the State and the home, one is curious to know what kind of honor is intended for this complete subordination. Man is her head, her teacher, her guardian and her Saviour. What Christ is to him, that is he to the weaker vessel. It is fair to infer that what he has done in the past he will continue to do in the future. Unless she rebels outright, he will make her a slave, a subject, the mere reflection of another human will."

Peter Kirk said...

Good point, Suzanne. I came to a similar interpretation of this verse when working on translation of it, not into English. I discussed with the translators (women, as it happened) how to translate the Greek word for "weaker". Apparently the usual word for "weak" wouldn't work with the word for "vessel" (we used a generic word for "container, pot" in that language). So they suggested a word meaning "delicate". And this worked well. Yes, it means "weak" in the sense of "easily broken". But it is also a positive word, not for a rough pot but for fine vessels suitable for temple or church.

Gem said...

Feminists take offense, but Peter is emphasizing the privilege that women have in the church. -Liethart

I don't hear Peter as emphasizing a change in the "privileges" of women (at least not in any way which differs with male believers who equally have new "privileges" as co-heirs with Christ)

To me, "weaker vessel" in the context of Peter's marriage advice sounds like a description of a difference between men and women which has existed from the moment women were created (ie. her identity as the "weaker vessel" is not a defect; its an intentional design difference to which wise husbands would do well to be sensitive lest their prayers be hindered)

Muff Potter said...

I would tend to rule out "weaker" in a physical sense, because empirical evidence will not support the thesis that women are by nature "weaker" than men.

Grant it, in terms of brute physical strength, men may have a temporal edge, but in the long run, women will outlast men much in the same way that titanium alloys will outlast the strongest steel alloys in harsh and corrosive environments.

It is well known that women survivors of the holocaust far outnumbered the men when the Allies liberated the death camps.

So what to do with St. Peter's pronouncement on women as weaker vessels?

I would simply treat it as metaphor for the brutal cultural constraints on women in ancient Greco-Roman society.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Okay, I didn't realize who Peter Leithart was. Very strange stuff.

I don't think "weaker vessel" is deep theological teaching. It simply means that women are physically weaker in some sense, but not weaker as people. Being weaker is no virtue. The contrast is not between strong and weak, but strong and slightly less strong, in some ways, but not in others.

J. K. Gayle said...

Peter Kirk, Do you have any evidence that "the Greek word for 'weaker'" is "also a positive word"? The contexts I've found it in suggest only negative senses, such as "sicker" and "more puny, more feeble, more insignificant, more petty."

Ann Nyland translates the phrase a clause: "the wife has the weaker livelihood." In a fn, she points to "the Greek idiom... skeuos ktasthai, to gain control of one's living, see I Thess. 4:4," and she explains that the noun "skeuos is a common word with a variety of meanings. It means an implement, equipment, a living (as in one's financial state), furniture, goods, ship's tackle. With... asthenes, it means to be in a disadvantaged position for getting a living." There really does seem to be a sense of containment and/ or control in the noun. But isn't the comparative adjective suggesting there is something lesser?

Peter Kirk said...

No, Kurk, and I was not claiming to have any such evidence - although I doubt if the comparative has different nuances from the basic adjective. My point was to find a word meaning "weak" which could collocate with the word for "vessel". A vessel can't be weak as a person can be, in the sense of not being able to exert a large force, and so the commonest word for "weak" could not be used. The point of saying that this was a positive word was that that helped to make it acceptable to the translation team.

Gem said...

"Being weaker is no virtue" -Suzanne

Being weaker is nothing to be ashamed of.

"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor 12

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;" 1 Cor 1:27

Think of your "weakest" students, Suzanne. They are in no way inferior, nor less. In many ways, don't you see greatness in them of a form which eludes those who would pride themselves on being "stronger"?

Your and Peter's "delicate vase" fits IMO. But, I don't think "weaker vessel" is just physical. Its certainly not a moral judgment though, nor is it intellectual "weakness"! I think it refers to the greater vulnerability of women (which is by design and since creation).

Gem said...

In the last two paragraphs of your quote from Mr. Leithart, he refers to Paul's use of "vessel" in 2 Tim 2:20ff

"20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work." 2 Tim 2

Did they have chamber pots for toileting in Peter and Paul's day?

I imagine a chamber pot was probably pretty sturdy compared to the gold and silver vessels,
but it was full of... um... [you know!]

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks Peter. I understand that "delicate" collocates with "vessel" better than "weaker" does. If the noun must be "vessel," then your advice to your translation team is strong. I wonder if "vessel" is the best English word for the Greek noun. Could it be something like "goods," and the instruction, then, roughly the following:

"The married men, likewise, are to be setting up households knowledgeably, assigning honor to the women they've married as if to lesser, feebler goods but even as if to ones holding an inheritance of a favorable life, in order not to arrest your prayers."

Gem, Couldn't even Paul's use of the noun refer to "goods" in the house? The reason I quoted Chariton in the earlier comment was to show a first-century use of the noun that translator G. P. Goold reasonably renders (not as "vessel") but as "mere chattel." In the Mediterranean at that time, it wasn't uncommon to consider women as "goods," even for building households and marriages, even among "believers."

Gem said...

"as if to lesser, feebler goods" -Kurt

To me, that sounds like the objectification of women, which men and/or culture might embrace, but God doesn't. I take the Bible as God breathed, and God would not speak disrespectfully of or to His daughters. Thus "vessel" makes more sense to me.

In the KJV, the word was most often translated "vessel" with several unmistakable examples. For instance:

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? Rom 9:21

J. K. Gayle said...

Gem, Can't God inspire the Bible, make females (and males) in his image, speak respectfully of them all -- on the one hand -- and still -- on the other hand -- can't he let the objectification of women (and of slaves, both male and female) bleed through the pens of Peter and Paul and Moses?

Doesn't the last of the God-breathed 10 Commandments (in Deuteronomy 5:21) -- for example -- show the presumed patriarchy of his people? Isn't this the objectification of women / wives in the Bible?

"Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's."

And just to be clear, I think "vessel" works as a translation of Peter's Greek word, but even so it could be Peter's or his readers' synecdoche for the larger class of "things." There is much play in the word. I certainly don't think that we women and men reading in the 21st century have to take it necessarily directed at us. But even Peter's own wife, if she were allowed to read the letter, would not necessarily have to think that God was speaking disrespectfully of her though her husband as he was inspired by God to pen the word. It seems to me that God is inspiring Peter to move more toward honor of women and wives by men and husband -- more, that is, than Moses' Law and its patriarchal interpretations had honored women and wives. And yet there is room, even in Peter's text (I think), for God to protest something like "But it was not this way from the beginning."

Peter Kirk said...

Kurk, the problem (at least as far as I remember from my limited understanding of the language) is that the normal word for "weak" does not collocate with any word for an inanimate object - except perhaps for some kind of engine which can exert a force. Goods can be delicate or fragile, but they can't be weak in that sense. But the problem with the word for "goods" in that language is that it would probably imply that the woman is someone's property.

Gem said...

But even Peter's own wife, if she were allowed to read the letter, -Kurt

ROFLOL, that strikes me as funny!

Taken in context, the passage from 1 Peter 3:1-6 is quite clearly addressed to wives (see 1 Pet 3:1) which I take to mean that Peter and God apparently had the utmost confidence that “wives” are capable of understanding, interpreting, and and applying it- even wives contemporary with Peter! (and personally I would be wary of trusting a man's interpretation of it. Regardless of what they think their "qualifications" are, they are missing the only qualification mentioned.)

Gem said...

As far as the 10 commandments being disrespectful to women by lumping them in with possessions, that is disputable.

I favor the Catholic version of the 10 commandments, which combines the Protestant #1 and 2 and separates the Prot #10:

9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.

10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

Gem said...

can't he let the objectification of women (and of slaves, both male and female) bleed through the pens of Peter and Paul and Moses? -Kurk

I don't think so, at least not in didactic portions.

Certainly the objectification of women bleeds through in narratives: John 8, Luke 7, and Judges 19 come to mind.

Just yesterday read an interesting observation about Peter's intent from a "Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics and the New Testament"

from here

"- but the biggest problem was the story of Abraham and Sarah
- because God told Abraham: Do whatever Sarah tells you to do (Gen.21.12)
- of course, this was tied to a particular context – what to do about Hagar, her maid
- but women would still quote this when they argued with their husbands

Peter was very concerned about the Gospel being scandalised by such behaviour"

While he is lacking the qualification stated in 1 Pet 3:1 (he is not a wife) and thus lacks appropriate authority to interpret this section IMO, I am a wife and I came to the similar conclusion that the women whom Peter addressed were well aware of the account of Sarah. They knew that Sarah had much authority in her household. God had instructed Abraham that she was no longer to be called Sarai (contentious) but Sarah (ruler) Gen 17:15. Its only fair that the honor be reciprocated! :)

J. K. Gayle said...

With English at least, you're probably correct to say that "the normal word for 'weak' does not collocate with any word for an inanimate object - except perhaps for some kind of engine which can exert a force." But with classical and koine Greek, it's not too difficult to find examples of the adjective ἀσθενής /asthenes collocating with and modifying inanimate object nouns.

For example, Thucydides in his history of the Peloponnesian war writes (II.75.5.2, Richard Crawley translating) of a potentially "weak" building:

"The timbers served to bind the building together, and to prevent its becoming weak [ἀσθενὲς asthenes] as it advanced in height; it had also a covering of skins and hides, which protected the wood-work against the attacks of burning missiles and allowed the men to work in safety."

And the LXX Wisdom of Solomon chapter XIII is about humans crafting inanimate idols to worship; v.11 (Brenton translating to English) gives the detail that "A skilled woodcutter may saw down a tree easy to handle and skilfully strip off all its bark, and then with pleasing workmanship make a useful vessel [σκεῦος, skeuos] that serves life's needs." Then v.13 takes a turn: "But a castoff piece from among them, useful for nothing, a stick crooked and full of knots, he takes and carves with care in his leisure, and shapes it with skill gained in idleness." Finally, v.17 begins the end of the chapter, the outcome of creating the "weak" inanimate object:

"When he prays about possessions and his marriage and children, he is not ashamed to address a lifeless thing.
For health he appeals to a thing that is weak [τὸ ἀσθενὲς, to asthenes];
for life he prays to a thing that is dead;
for aid he entreats a thing that is utterly inexperienced;
for a prosperous journey, a thing that cannot take a step;
for money-making and work and success with his hands
he asks strength of a thing whose hands have no strength."

J. K. Gayle said...


Thanks for your thoughtful responses to my comment.

I do agree with you that Peter's wife was literate but wonder how accessible the epistles read to the churches were to wives. The letters are all from men, mostly to men.

Doesn't even the Catholic version of the ninth commandment address men who would covet the wife of another man? What if the Jewish, the Christian Catholic, and the Christian Protestant versions had all reversed it so that God was addressing wives, warning them not to covet another woman's man? The inequality and the asymmetry of the commandment betrays the presumed patriarchy, in which the men own goods, and slaves (females and males), and wives.

I agree with you about John 8, Luke 7, and Judges 19. And I'm going to think carefully, and likely a very long time, about your thoughts on Peter's invocation of Sarah with respect to Abraham.


Peter Kirk said...

Kurk, you are in fact making just the point I was making. In Greek, ἀσθενής asthenes can mean "weak" in the sense of easily broken as well as "weak" in the sense of not exerting much force. And in a collocation with σκεῦος skeuos "vessel" that is the sense that will probably be understood. So it is likely that Peter in his letter was using the comparative of ἀσθενής asthenes in this sense.

So how do we translate this? In English "weak" is possible, but could be misleading, and "delicate" or "fragile" might be a clearer rendering. In the other language I was referring to, the normal word for "weak" does not have this sense at all, I think, and so the correct translation has to use the other word which is best glossed "delicate".

Gem said...

What if the Jewish, the Christian Catholic, and the Christian Protestant versions had all reversed it so that God was addressing wives, warning them not to covet another woman's man? The inequality and the asymmetry of the commandment betrays the presumed patriarchy... Kurkdifferent. God knows that because He is our maker.

I- for one- do not feel the least bit disrespected nor dishonored by God that He chose to "lay down the law" in this area for husbands without laying down a reciprocal law for wives. To the contrary, it makes me feel honored, cherished, and protected as a wife that God included in his commandments "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife".

Gem said...

Ooops, that mangled. The first part in response to Kurk above should read:

The asymmetry is interesting to contemplate. Thank you for bringing that up!

The inequality and the asymmetry of the commandment betrays the presumed that men and women are different. God knows that because He is our maker.

J. K. Gayle said...

You say men and women are different. God knows that because He is our maker. The Maker made males and females, different, but both "in his image." And yet does difference necessarily imply inequality or, worse, hierarchy? Do bodies sexed male automatically take positions (in the household, in marriage, in synagogues, in church, in economics and politics) above bodies sexed female? Peter Leithart's interpretation of Peter the Apostle's statement is that bodies sexed females (in marriage) who become more than Jews (in the Christian church) get bumped up in the hierarchy (in comparison to the Jewish Law, where bodies sexed female are further below bodies sexed male, in a marriage). I'd agree that the writer of the epistle may be trying offer a cultural change when instructing wives with respect to their Jewish model wife, Sarah. But do you think Leithart is correct in suggesting "now in the New Covenant men and their wives are both implements for temple service, equipment for the worship of God"? Is Leithart, and Peter the epistle writer, saying that females and males in marriage are "now" equal in position, without difference in "service" in the New Covenant?

J. K. Gayle said...


You've shown two meanings of the adjective ἀσθενής asthenes, and those do not exhaust the various senses. But, even if you disambiguate the noun that the adjective modifies (i.e., "vessel" or "vase" or "pot" or "container of some sort"), I'm not sure the Greek reader is forced to choose the single sense you've preferred (i.e., "delicate" or "fragile" but not "weak" or "feeble" or "sick"). I Peter 5:10 does have the positive form of the same root (a verbal not an adjective): σθενώσει sthenosei. But even if we could conclude that this word must mean only one thing, that doesn't mean that the writer concludes that the negative (adjectival) form in I Peter 3:7 has only the opposite meaning. I'm mentioning this because many English translation teams have made the positive verbal something like "strengthen." We don't know that Peter wasn't encouraging something more like "make healthy." The LXX for Solomon's Wisdom, for example, has ὑγιείας hygieias in direct opposition to ἀσθενὲς asthenes. "Health" and "weak" seem good enough English translations from the LXX. The Greek is ambiguous with respect to both Peter's noun and to his adjective modifying the noun.

I do understand that the L2 you and your translation team were rendering into may not have the same ambiguities that the Greek has. Of course you don't want a translation to "be misleading." But might you risk "misleading" by disambiguating the Greek through translation? The fact is that we don't have Peter around to tell us whether he intended one thing and not other things also; would he remember what he intended? or might he concede that other readings he never at first intended are now possible? (I'd like to think that Thomas Jefferson might concede that "all men are created equal" also can, and really should, mean "all men and woman are created equal.") Isn't there danger of misleading by translation when the translator disambiguates in L2 the wonderful ambiguities of L1 -- as if the translator's singular decision about the certain meaning is that only one?

Peter Kirk said...

Kurk, I dispute that the Greek is ambiguous here. A vessel, or any inanimate object which is not some kind of engine, cannot be "weak" in the sense of unable to exert much force. Nor can it be sick. It can only be delicate or fragile. So the sense of asthenes that Peter had in mind is disambiguated by the noun it is modifying. It was this unambiguous sense in context which we rendered in the translation.

In any case even if the Greek had been ambiguous we would have been forced to disambiguate, as there is no word in the target language with the same set of ambiguities. This is very generally the case with ambiguities in the source text, and implies that it is impossible to translate anything, except perhaps technical literature, without disambiguating some ambiguities.

Now of course there might be some kind of word play going on in this verse, Peter comparing a woman being asthenes in one sense with a vessel which is asthenes in another sense. If there is such a word play, we have clearly not captured it in translation. But that is a different problem, and one which is even harder to correct than the ambiguity one.

J. K. Gayle said...

"Now of course there might be some kind of word play going on in this verse, Peter comparing a woman being asthenes in one sense with a vessel which is asthenes in another sense."

It's interesting, Peter, that you would see the language in the text as the author's making a comparison between a "woman" and her "being asthenes." You suggest that the adjective does (or may) extend beyond the inanimate noun it modifies to the animate noun. And hardly any reader disputes that the author is having his readers compare their animate wives with something inanimate, an inanimate something that to a comparative degree is "lesser" somehow.

(We don't even have to consider that the inanimate noun the author uses but once in his extant writings is one that Aristotle uses many times and differently. For example, Aristotle uses the noun: for "furniture" in Nicomachean Ethics 1175a.25; for "manufactured articles" in Metaphysics 1013b.18 and in Physics 195a.17; for the "semen tube" in males -- before he discusses the uterus in females -- in Generation of Animals 718a.33; for the "nest" of an eagle in History of Animals 619a.24; and most strikingly for the "neuter gender grammatical classification of Greek words" in the Rhetoric 1407b.8 and in the Sophistical Refutations 173b.40. Ann Nyland does not pull her translation "livelihood" out of nowhere.)

This is striking word play. A man uses Greek words to have other men compare their women / wives to an inanimate thing, and to describe that inanimate thing as lesser. This is striking. And Peter's writing has not prevented you, Peter, from reading his adjective meaning a comparative lesser as applicable to animate women. He obviously means for the adjective to modify the inanimate thing that is to be compared with animate females. Using "delicate" may help the English reader sense that Peter's adjective goes well and naturally with his noun. But it doesn't necessarily soften the playful, interpretive matching and mismatching of Greek words and gendered and objectified categories.

Anonymous said...

More modern translations than KJV of 1 Peter 3:7 say something like: “husbands, in the same way,live together with your wives, according to knowledge that she is the weaker vessel and give honor to her as a joint heir to the grace of life so your prayers won’t be hindered”. To me, this makes more sense. That said, I read that evidence suggests that 1 Peter was written to jewish christains rather than gentiles. After all, Peter was known as the apostle to the jews and Paul the apostle to the gentiles. With this in mind, I was wondering what the term “weaker vessel” would mean to a formerly jewish audience. I found that a man named R. Yonatan taught:

“The Creator does not test frail vessels, which He could not even tap once before they would break. Whom does He test? Beautiful, sturdy vessels that, even if He taps them several times, they will not break. Thus, the Holy One does not test wicked people, but rather the righteous, as it is written (Tehillim 11:5), “God tests the righteous.”

R. Yonatan was a first century rabbi who was taught by Hillel (the same guy who taught Paul and was a contemporary of Jesus and Peter). The term “fragile vessel” can also be a translation of the greek in 1 Peter 3:7 instead of “weaker vessel”. R. Yonatan used the term “fragile vessel” to refer to people who were unbelievers or weak believers. Personally, I think Peter is using this same phrase to describe UNBELIEVING WIVES. In the previous verses, it is widely believed that Peter is referring to christain wives with unbelieving husbands as well as slaves with unbelieving masters. Why would he be referring to something different when he is referring to husbands and their attitudes toward their wives? While “weaker vessel” can refer to physically weakness, I don’t believe so when the whole chapter is taken into consideration. So, I believe Peter is referring to unbelieving wives with the phrase “weaker vessel”. In other words, the wife is weaker due to unbelief or lack of faith. Also, the phrase “according to knowledge” never sounded right either. Knowledge according to what? Christain beliefs, gentile beliefs, jewish beliefs? Even though the rabbis denigrated women, they did believe that women had a higher level of “binah”. Binah is described as wisdom,intelligence or discernment about spiritual matters. Another word used for binah is the greek work gnosis which means knowledge (the same word in 1 Peter 3:7). Maybe the phrase “according to knowledge” means “according to binah” in jewish thought. The wife is a fragile vessel acording to binah because she lacks the spiritual discernment of a christain believer. Of course, I’m not saying women are spiritually inferior to men in general, but in the case of an unbelieving wife, she lacks the appropriate knowledge. I think Peter is telling husbands to keep in mind that their wives lack knowledge of the christain religion, but the husbands should still treat their wives with the same respect they would show a christain wife.