A passage of the Bible frequently twisted by Liberals and Fundamentalists alike is 1 Peter 3:1. Fundamentalists will usually twist this to teach that a woman must stay with a husband who is abusing them. Liberals will agree with them but use it as evidence for why we should ignore the Bible anyways. Both are wrong. Here is the passage in question.
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,” 1 Peter 3:1 NASB
Notice that Peter is telling women to stay with their husbands who are disobedient to the word. I understand this as a direction for a woman who is a believer, to stay with her unbelieving husband. Hopefully he will repent and become a believer as well. I think that’s a fair way to read the passage that is consistent with other scripture. Can it be proven that wife beaters are excluded from this text altogether though? I think it can and I will make my case below.
I am going to include the full context of this passage for your review so you know I’m not hiding anything.
“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external-braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” 1 Peter 3:1-6 NASB
The context really isn’t all that helpful here to be honest. Peter doesn’t define the term “disobedient to the word” here. Based on principle that should limit the objective reader to interpretations that are consistent with the rest of scripture, like the one I presented above. However, it is possible to demonstrate by cross referencing this with Jesus teachings on divorce that wife beating is not a category Peter is working with in 1 Peter 3.
“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”” Matthew 19:9 NASB
Some translations say infidelity rather than immorality. The meaning is effectively the same. My point is that Jesus does give grounds for divorce. Not for the petty reasons many do it today, but for matters of immorality or infidelity that break the bonds of marriage one can seek a divorce. Wife beating is certainly one of those, in doing so a man breaks his oath to love his wife as Christ has loved the Church.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” Ephesians 5:25 NASB
However, we don’t see Peter interacting with this teaching of Christ that he would have been aware of. Thus it’s logical to assume he did not intend divorce-able offenses to be included in “disobedient to the word”. To insert that category here would be to twist the word. He logically had other sins in mind, like being an unbeliever as I postulated above. You’re actually free to speculate as to what that disobedience might entail, you just can’t define it as sins that would be grounds for a biblical divorce.
At the end of the day just don’t twist the word. Don’t use a text with a broad term as license to sin, or use examples of those who have done so to disregard the Bible altogether. Both of these approaches to scripture are a grave sin. The former traps women in abusive relationships and the latter sends people to hell.