So a little level 1 alt on the official forums would like to know. Actually I would like to know that too. Up until WotLK there has always been an array of weapons available through the regular honor system, in addition to the other gear. In BC Blizzard also made previous season arena gear available through the honor system as well. But in WotLK Blizzard changed their attitude toward "welfare epics", continuing to enable access to most arena gear from the regular honor system but making weapons arena system only.
I'm uncertain as to the exact reason for this particular change, though there had been a constant din of disapproval from hardcore arena players in BC that casuals were getting good weapons. That despite the fact that the best weapons came only from current Arena play, or from Raiding. I see no reason why that couldn't still be the case now.
As it stands, unless you are willing to participate in arena play and can obtain the needed rating for even the lowest ilevel weapons available through the arena system, the only way for you to obtain any weapons what so ever is through raiding or Heroics. We can completely discount regular 5-man instance weapons because they simply are not adequate for either raiding or PVP.
Most people choose the raiding route as far as I can tell, which I think is not the most ideal route. Take me for example. I had been working on leveling a Paladin, which I wanted for healing BGs. I had no real intention of raiding with him since I raid on my Death Knight, but it looks like if I want a really decent weapon I'm going to have to.
In the back of my mind I really wonder if this new philosophy isn't geared toward making arena play even more popular tham it is currently in some corners. There are a lot of people who participate, but there are even more who don't and Blizzard has been pushing to get their arenas into E-Sports. Recently inking a deal ESL TV indicates they are becoming more serious about the effort, so it would seem to be in their interest to get everyone involved in arena play. Perhaps forcing people to participate in order to get weapons -- the only weapons that will also give you added resilience -- is intended to help in that regard.