• Gentle and Quiet Spirit is not just a Feminine Virtue.


    A Gentle and Quiet Spirit is not just a Feminine Virtue.


    Gentleness in First Peter.

    I have heard Christians say that gentleness is a feminine virtue, a trait for women especially to pursue.[1] Is this really what the New Testament teaches?

    In First Peter, gentleness is mentioned in connection with wives, but later in the same chapter it is mentioned without specifying gender.[2] Let’s take a look.

    1 Peter 3:4 is about the conduct of wives towards their (mostly unbelieving) husbands. Here Peter writes that “the unfading beauty of a gentle (praus) and quiet spirit . . . is precious in God’s sight. Like other verses that apply to women, this text has been overemphasised by some Christian teachers, and the disposition of “a gentle and quiet spirit” has been mistakenly described as something uniquely or essentially feminine. (“Quiet” is briefly discussed in endnote 5.)

    1 Peter 3:15-16 is about the conduct of Christians, both men and women, as they respond to people asking them about their faith. In this context, Peter writes, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness (prautēs) and respect (phobos)” (1 Pet. 3:15 NIV).

    In both these situations, Peter advises a gentle demeanor. Considering his use in verse 15, it seems he did not regard gentleness as an especially feminine virtue even though he used “gentle” for wives in verse 4.

    Gentleness in other Books of the New Testament.

    Jesus, likewise, did not regard gentleness as a feminine virtue or disposition. He described himself in Matthew 11:29 as gentle or meek (praus), and he taught, “Blessed are the meek (praus) for they will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). In Matthew 21:5 (NIV), the gospel writer quotes Zechariah 9:9 as applying to Jesus: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle (praus) and riding on a donkey . . .'”[3]

    The related noun prautēs occurs nine times in Paul’s letters, in verses that do not primarily address women. In fact, a few of these verses refer to certain men.



      • In 1 Corinthians 4:21, Paul refers to himself, coming to Corinth, with a “spirit of gentleness”.



      • In Galatians 5:23, gentleness is listed as one of several fruit of the Spirit.


      • In Galatians 6:1, Paul again uses the phrase “spirit of gentleness”.


      • In Ephesians 4:2 and Colossians 3:12, gentleness is one of the traits of leading a life “worthy of the calling to which you have been called” and of being God’s chosen.



      • In Titus 3:2, gentleness is one of several traits that Titus must remind the Cretans of.


    The noun prautēs (gentleness) also occurs in the letter of James: in James 1:21 and 3:13.

    Importantly, the contexts of every verse in the New Testament where the noun and adjective appear shows that being meek or gentle has nothing to do with being shy or demure or passive. Rather, it requires self-control and humility when dealing with others, as well as cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit.

    The gentleness that Jesus and the apostles taught and demonstrated has little to do with gender. They taught that a gentle and quiet[5] spirit is a Christ-like or Christian virtue, and not just a feminine virtue. The trait of gentleness is for all followers of Jesus to pursue.




    [1] For example, Nancy Leigh DeMoss (author of Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free) states, “Meekness is especially, in Scripture, commended to women.” (Source) Meekness or gentleness, however, is commended specifically to women only once in the New Testament. In comparison, it is commended to Timothy twice (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:25), and is associated with Jesus a few times (e.g., Matt. 11:29; 21:5; 2 Cor. 10:1). I hope this truth will set women free from the guilt and second guessing that comes with an undue emphasis on 1 Peter 3:4.


    [2] The Greek adjective for “gentle/meek” (praus-πραΰς) is used in 1 Peter 3:4 and the related noun for “gentleness/meekness” (prautēs-πραΰτης) is used in 1 Peter 3:15b (or verse 16a, depending on what translation or Greek text is used).


    [3] Apart from the reference in 1 Peter 3:4, the Greek adjective praus occurs three times in the New Testament, all in Matthew’s Gospel: Matthew 5:5; 11:29; 21:5.
    An unrelated adjective, ēpios, meaning “gentle/mild”, occurs in 2 Timothy 2:24 and in some Greek texts of 1 Thessalonians 2:7.


    [4] In better Greek texts, the cognate compound noun praupathia occurs in 1 Timothy 6:11, rather than prautēs.


    [5] The Greek adjective meaning “quiet/tranquil/still” occurs once more in the New Testament, in 1 Timothy 2:2, in a verse that applies to Christian men and women. The related noun hesuchia occurs four times: in Acts 22:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:12, and in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 2:12 which address the behaviour of a woman in the Ephesian church. (More on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here.) (Posted by Marg | Oct 8, 2017).



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