Are women the ‘weaker sex’ in the Bible?

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Calling women “the weaker sex” elicits many knee-jerk reactions. Many men will agree, claiming “the Bible says so!” Women are likely to disagree, but may feel unsure about it, considering the authority cited.

What does the Bible actually say; and, is it clear that women must let the “big, strong men” lead them around in church, society and the home?

Two of the Apostle Peter’s statements have led some to support that. First: “In the same way, you wives must submit to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe God’s word, your conduct will win them over to believe” (1 stPet. 3:1TEV).

Six verses later, he says: “In the same way, you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are the weaker sex. Treat them with respect, because they also will receive, together with you, God’s gift of life” (v. 7). This attitude would also enhance their marital prayer life.

Whatever their face value, the larger context is not the traditional “battle of the spouses.” Peter’s concern is evangelism: Christian wives “winning over” the souls of their unbelieving husbands, not “giving in” to their whims and fantasies. (3:1).

Two possible scenarios fit these verses. First, a wife in a long term pagan marriage has become a Christian; or, a Christian woman has married a pagan man. Either way, her dramatic conversion to Christ from her own immoral lifestyle (4:3-4) would be rejected by her husband, society and the Roman government.

Burdened by centuries of second-class status, women were “weak” in many ways: socially, economically, legally, etc. Abuse of women was rampant (2 nd Tim. 3:6).

Christian husbands were to recognize their wives’ weaknesses and “treat them with respect,” lifting them up as equal recipients of God’s gift of life (3:7b), rather than keeping them in the status quo and taking advantage of them.

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