As I've mentioned in other posts/questions, I am a novice to NT Greek and translation (but I'm trying to fix that!).

Today, I randomly picked 1 Peter 3:1-6 to translate as an exercise. I kinda sorta got through verse 1 with a decent understanding of how it should be translated.

Then, I got to verse 2 and saw this:

ὲποπτεύσαντες τὴν ἐν φόβῳ ἁγνήν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν.

This is a form that I have never seen before, and I don't yet know enough to even know where to begin looking in my text books.

Here are some of the more common translations of this verse:

KJV: While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.

NIV: when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

ESV: when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

NASB: as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

So, it would appear pretty obvious that ὲποπτεύσαντες is "when they see/behold/observe" something. Got it.

My question is more about how to understand the "something". So, we're on to the τὴν ἐν φόβῳ ἁγνήν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν. part of the sentence.

In my mind, the first step I do is to read the words sort of like this:

τὴν [something 1] [something 2] ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν.

If we ignored [something 1] and [something 2] for the moment, the sentence would then read:

ὲποπτεύσαντες τὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν.

My understanding is that this would be correctly translated as:

When they see your conduct/behavior/lives.

First Question:

Is this correct so far?

Assuming that I'm correct so far, let's continue.

Putting [something 2] back in, the sentence would read:

ὲποπτεύσαντες τὴν ἁγνήν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν.

I think this would then be:

When they see your pure/holy conduct/behavior/lives.

Second Question:

Am I still on the right track?

Still assuming I'm correct, we press onward.

If I look at ἐν φόβῳ by itself, I would think it would mean in/with/by fear/reverence/respect. What is really tripping me up here is its insertion in the middle of what would (I think) otherwise be a pretty straightforward accusative noun with a modifying adjective.

Based on the wide variety of ways that the different translations seem to deal with this phrase, I'm guessing this is a usage in Greek that doesn't have a perfect analogue in English.

Third Question(s):

How do you go about understanding this in the Greek, even before trying to translate it into English?

In the ESV ("when they see your respectful and pure conduct"), in the interlinear version, "respectful" is the translation of ἐν φόβῳ and the "and" is simply added in, I assume for readability. I tend to prefer the ESV, and it seems to give a good translation here. Did they get it right?

  • (aside) I highly recommend you start with Mark or anything by John first. Then Luke/Acts to fill out vocab. Then Paul (keep Romans til late). Then Peter and Hebrews. Peter's Greek is pretty convoluted.
    – fumanchu
    Jul 5, 2015 at 4:26
  • There is nothing even remotely odd about it, even for a modern English-only speaker. These type of constructions are commonplace in German, for instance, a language related to English, and sometimes even in English itself, especially in poetic (sounding) constructions. It simply reads the in fear-clean conduct-[of]-yours, as in the in-fear-[of-God]-and-purity conduct-of-yours. Kinda like me saying now the by-MBM29414-asked bible-related question, or something to that extent.
    – Lucian
    Jun 12, 2020 at 14:09
  • @Lucian Yeah, that's extremely odd English. I've learned more Greek since I asked this question, but I have never seen non-stilted English written anywhere remotely similar to your constructions. I am also a German speaker and wouldn't say this type of construction is common there, either.
    – mbm29414
    May 19, 2022 at 18:22
  • @mbm29414: Die von MBM29414 gestellte, Bibel-verbundene Frage. Diese(s) der Leyen sehr spitzige(s) Argument. Der Eigentum- und lebenzerstörende, von Putin geordnete, Russland geführte Krieg in der Ukraine.
    – Lucian
    May 20, 2022 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


Your analysis is correct, and the following grammar citation provides the grammatical explanation to answer your remaining questions.

Please click to enlarge. enter image description here Thus the "splitting" of the clause with attributives (inserted in the middle of the sentence) is normal in Greek. Such "splitting" would not be typical in English.

  • Ok, and thanks for the answer, but what does ἐν φόβῳ mean as an attributive? I mean, there has to be an adjective that means reverent or respectful that could have been used, right? So why use a prepositional phrase as an attributive?
    – mbm29414
    Jul 4, 2015 at 17:56
  • To note, יִרְאָה and its Greek equivalent φόβος, while they can simply mean "fear," may also mean "reverence." Thus, "fear Yahvheh" doesn't just mean be afraid of Yahveh, but reverence Yahveh. Likewise, the apostle Paul in Eph. 5:33 doesn't want wives to fear their husbands, but reverence them. In 1 Pet. 3:2, because ἐν φόβῳ is sandwiched within τὴν [ἐν φόβῳ] ἁγνήν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν, it evidently modifies τὴν ἁγνήν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν ("your venerable conduct") and not the aorist participle ἐποπτεύσαντες.
    – user862
    Jul 4, 2015 at 19:36
  • Thus, it means that the wives' venerable conversation is "with reverence" (for their husbands; cp. Eph. 5:33). The idea is that women are to submit themselves to their husbands (v. 1) so that if any husband does not obey the word, those husbands will be won over by their own wives' conduct wherein the wives submit to and reverence their husbands (as the word commands them to do). Basically, when someone who is not obeying the word sees a Christian obeying the word, they are convicted and corrected by the Christian's holy conduct.
    – user862
    Jul 4, 2015 at 19:39
  • Have a read through Smyth's paragraphs ##788-799 (and beyond!), and note #790 in particular. Other things can be "attributive" besides adjectives. Just because there might be such an adjective doesn't mean an author has to use it! ;) As Joseph says, this is the way Greek works, although there is something similar in English, too.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jul 4, 2015 at 19:43
  • @Davïd Wow. That looks like a tremendous resource! If I wanted a copy of this book, how do I ensure I get the right one? Seems like. Lot of folks don't like the Benediction reprintings. Any thoughts?
    – mbm29414
    Jul 5, 2015 at 2:43

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