1 Peter 3
Pulpit Commentary
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
Verse 1. - Likewise, ye wives. St. Peter has spoken of the duties of servants: why does he omit those of masters? There must have been Christian masters in Asia Minor, as is plain from Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1. But we notice that St. Paul, though he has a few words for masters, addresses slaves at much greater length. Probably Christian masters were comparatively few, while large numbers of slaves had embraced the religion which could do so much to comfort and elevate the oppressed. Again, the immediate purpose of the apostle is to inculcate submission to authority; therefore, having enforced upon Christian servants the example of their Lord, he proceeds to speak of the duty of Christian wives. Christianity was in its infancy; it was to be the means of abolishing slavery, and of raising woman to her proper place in society; but as yet slaves were cruelly oppressed, and women were ill treated and despised. Aristotle tells us that among the barbarians (and a large proportion of the population in the greater part of Asia Minor was barbarian, i.e. non-Greek) the woman and the slave hold the same rank ('Pol.,' I. 2:4). In Greek communities the case was different; but even among the Greeks women occupied a very subordinate position. Christianity would introduce a great and sweeping change in the relations of the sexes, as well as in the relations of master and slave. But the change must be gradual, not violent; it must be brought about by the softening and purifying influences of religion, not by revolt against recognized customs and established authority. Indeed, Christianity would introduce an element of division - the Lord had said so (Luke 12:51-53); families would be divided. It could not be otherwise; Christians must not set even family ties above the love of Christ. But Christian wives must be peacemakers; they must, as far as possible, live at peace even with unbelieving husbands. They would often have much ill treatment to endure in those coarse, cruel days; they must bear it with the quiet strength of gentleness. Be in subjection to your own husbands; literally, submitting yourselves. The participle, as in 1 Peter 2:18, seems to look back to the imperative, "submit yourselves," in 1 Peter 2:13. The present participle implies that this voluntary submission is to be habitual. The adjective "your own" (ἰδίοις) emphasizes the duty. That, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the Word be won by the conversation of the wives. There is a well-supported reading, "Even if any." Husband and wife would often be converted together; but if this should not be the case, and if the unbelieving husband should set himself in direct opposition to the Word of God (for the words "believe not" have more than a negative meaning, as in 1 Peter 2:7), still Christian wives must submit themselves. They must do this for the glory of God, and with the hope of saving their husbands' souls; that those unbelieving husbands may be won to Christ and to everlasting life by the silent eloquence of the quiet self-restraint and holy behavior of their wives, without argument or preaching on the wives' part. A self-denying holy life will do more to win those with whom we live in close intercourse than even holy words, and much more than debate and controversy. This seems to be the meaning of ἄνευ λόγου rather than the other possible interpretation, "without the preaching of the Word." Be won; literally, be gained. Each soul converted is a gain to Christ, to the kingdom of heaven, to itself, in this case also to the wife who is the happy instrument of saving her husband (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:19, 20). The word rendered "conversation" here, as elsewhere, means "conduct, behavior." (Compare, on the whole subject, the teaching of St. Paul, Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-11.)
While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
Verse 2. - While they behold (see note on 1 Peter 2:12, where the same verb occurs) your chaste conversation coupled with fear; literally, your chaste behavior, in fear. Bengel and others understand the fear of God. Certainly the holy fear of God is the sphere in which true Christians must always live. But the close connection with the word "chaste (τὴν ἐν φόβῳ ἁγνὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν), and the parallel passage, Ephesians 5:33 (in the Greek), make it probable that the fear here inculcated is reverence for the husband - an anxious avoidance of anything that might even seem to interfere with his conjugal rights and authority.
Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
Verse 3. - Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair. A common Hebraism, like our Lord's injunction in John 6:27, "Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which cndureth unto everlasting life." St. Peter does not forbid the moderate use of ornaments, but asserts their utter worthlessness compared with Christian graces. The ladies of the time seem often to have had their hair dressed in a very fantastic and extravagant manner. And of wearing of gold; rather, golden ornaments. Or of putting on of apparel. This verse shows that, although the mass of believers at this time belonged to the poorer classes, yet there must have been a proportion of persons of rank and wealth among the Christians of Asia Minor (comp. 1 Timothy 2:9; Revelation 3:17).
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
Verse 4. - But let it be the hidden man of the heart. The "hidden" is here equivalent to the "inward man" of Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16. It is that life which is "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2), the life of Christ ("the Second Man") in the heart, fashioning that heart after the likeness of Christ, forming in it "the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:10). This is hidden; it does not display itself like those conspicuous ornaments mentioned in the last verse. In that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit; literally, in the incorruptibility of the meek and quiet spirit. This ornament is incorruptible; not like those corruptible things (comp. 1 Peter 1:18). The meek spirit does not flash into anger, does not answer again, takes harsh words gently and humbly. The quiet spirit is calm and tranquil; peaceful in itself, it spreads peace around (comp. 1 Timothy 2:2). Which is in the sight of God of great price. The adjective πολυτελές is used in Mark 14:3 of the ointment with which Mary anointed our Lord, and in 1 Timothy 2:9 of the "array" which St. Paul discourages for Christian women. Those adornments are costly in the sight of the world; the meek and quiet spirit is precious in the sight of God.
For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
Verse 5. - For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God; rather, who hoped in God (εἰς Θεόν); whose hope was set toward God and rested in God. Bengel says," Vera sanctitas, spes in Deum." St. Peter is the apostle of hope. Adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands. The apostle bids Christian women to consider the example of the saintly women of the Old Testament. With their hope resting upon God, they could not care for finery and costly jewels. They adorned themselves with the more costly ornament of a meek and quiet spirit: they showed their meekness by living in subjection to their husbands. Submission to authority is the key-note of this part of the Epistle.
Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
Verse 6. - Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. St. Peter singles out Sarah, as the mother of the chosen people. She obeyed her husband habitually (the imperfect ὑπήκουεν is the reading of some of the oldest manuscripts; the aorist, also well supported, would represent her obedience as a whole, the character of her life now past); she called him lord (comp. Genesis 18:12, ὁ δὲ κύριος μου πρεσβύτερος.) Whose daughters ye are; literally, whose children ye became. This is another indication that the Epistle is addressed, not only to Jewish Christians, but also, and that in large measure, to Gentile converts. Gentile women became by faith the daughters of Sarah; just as we read in St. Paul's Epistles that "they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7); and that Abraham is "the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised" (Romans 4:11); comp. Galatians 4:22-31, where St. Paul tells us that we, like Isaac, are the children of promise; children, "not of the bondwoman, but of the free." As long as ye do well. This clause represents one Greek word ἀγαθοπιοῦσαι ("doing good"). Some commentators regard the words from "even as Sara" to "whose daughters ye are" as a parenthesis, and refer the participle to "the holy women" mentioned in ver. 5. This does not seem natural. It is better to regard the second half of this verse as a continuous sentence, and to understand the participle as meaning "if ye do well." The doing well, etc., is a mark that Christian women have become children of Sarah by faith. And are not afraid with any amazement. The Greek word for "amazement" (πτόησις) does not occur in any other place of the New Testament, though we meet with the corresponding verb in Luke 21:9; Luke 24:87. There seems to be a reference to Proverbs 3:25, "Be not afraid of sudden fear ' (καὶ οὐ φοβηθήσῃ πτόησιν ἐπελθοῦσαν), Πτσήσις is "dismay, scared terrified excitement," very different from the calm thoughtful φόβος, the fear lest they should fail in proper respect for their husbands, and that out of the holy fear of God, which St. Peter inculcates upon wives (ver. 2). The Christian wife might often experience cruel treatment from an unbelieving husband, but she was not to live in a flutter of excited terror; she was to be calm and quiet, trusting in God. As to the construction, the accusative may be cognate, as the Authorized Version takes it; or the accusative of the object, as in Proverbs 3:25. The last view is, perhaps, the -most suitable: "And are not afraid of any sudden terror."
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
Verse 7. - Likewise, ye husbands. As wives are exhorted to be in subjection to their own husbands, so husbands also must do their duty to their wives. The construction (participial as in ver. 1) seems, like ver. 1, to look back to 1 Peter 2:13. The relation, indeed, is no longer directly one of subjection, and marriage is an ordinance of God; but Christian husbands must submit themselves to the duties arising out of the marriage tie; and marriage involves a civil contract, though to us Christians it is a holy estate instituted of God, and a parable of the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church. St. Peter, we observe, does not consider the case of a Christian husband with an unbelieving wife; probably that would be very uncommon. Dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel; literally, living together with the feminine as with the weaker vessel. This connection seems best suited to the balance of the sentence, and also to the sense. The apostle bids the husband, first, to give due consideration to his partner on the ground of her comparative weakness; and, secondly, to give her due honor as being an heir, like himself, of the grace of life. The disparity of the sexes was the cause of the degradation of woman among the heathen; Christianity makes it the ground of tender consideration. Christian love should abound in knowledge (Philippians 1:9); it should throw its softening light upon all the relations of life. Man and woman are alike vessels - vessels made by God for his service (comp. Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6, etc.; also 1 Thessalonians 4:4, 5); the woman is the weaker, and must, for that very reason, be treated with gentleness. For "according to knowledge," comp. 2 Peter 1:5. Christians must be thoughtful; they must consider what becomes them in all the relations of life; not act carelessly and at random. And as being heirs together of the grace of life; rather, rendering honor as to those who are also fellow-heirs, or, according to another well-supported reading, rendering honor (to them) as being also fellow-heirs (with them). The sense is not materially affected: husband and wife are joint-heirs of the grace of life, that is, of God's gracious gift of everlasting life. That your prayers be not hindered; or, according to another reading, be not cut off. If husband and wife live together without mutual reverence and affection, there can be no sympathy in united prayer; the promise made by Christ in Matthew 18:19 cannot be realized. Nor can either pray acceptably if they live at variance; jealousies and bickerings are opposed to the spirit of prayer; they hinder the free flow of prayer, and mar its earnestness and devotion.
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
Verse 8. - Finally. St. Peter is bringing to a close the exhortations to submission, which depend on the imperative in 1 Peter 2:13. He turns from particular classes and relations to the whole Christian community, and describes what they ought to be in five Greek words, the first three of which are found nowhere else in the Greek Scriptures. Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; literally, sympathizing; feeling with others, rejoicing with them that do rejoice, and weeping with them that weep. Love as brethren. An adjective (φιλάδελφι) in the Greek; the corresponding substantive occurs in 1 Peter 1:22. Be pitiful. This word (εὔσπλαγχνος) has undergone a remarkable change of meaning. In Hippocrates, quoted by Huther, it is used literally of one whose viscera are healthy; it is also sometimes used figuratively, as equivalent to εὐκάρδιος ἀνδρεῖος; "goodhearted" with the heathen would mean "brave;" with Christian writers "tender," "pitiful." Be courteous. This represents a reading (φιλόφρονες) which has very little support. The true reading is ταπεινόφρονες, humble-minded.
Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
Verse 9. - Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing. St. Peter. like St. Paul (Romans 12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15), repeats his Master's teaching in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:39). He forbids revenge in word, as well as in deed. But contrariwise blessing. The word "blessing" is not the substantive, but the participle (εὐλογοῦντες), and thus corresponds with the participle "rendering" (comp. Matthew 5:44, "Bless them that curse you"). Knowing that ye are thereunto called; rather, as in the Revised Version, for hereunto were ye called. The word "knowing" is omitted in the best manuscripts (comp. 1 Peter 2:21). Some commentators take these words with the preceding: "Ye were called to bless others, that so ye may inherit a blessing." But, on the whole, it seems better to connect them with the following clause: That ye should inherit a blessing. Christians bless others, not in order that they should inherit a blessing, but because it is God's will and their duty; and that duty follows from the fact that God has made them inheritors of his blessing. "Benedictionem aeternam," says Bengel, "cujus primitias jam nunc pit habent." God has blessed them; therefore they must bless others.
For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
Verse 10. - For he that will love life; literally, he that willeth to love life. St. Peter deviates somewhat from the Septuagint Version of Psalm 34:12-16, which he is quoting. The literal rendering of it is, "What man is he that desireth life, loving good days?" His connection of the participle θέλων with ἀγαπᾶν is remarkable. Perhaps the meaning is best given by Bengel, "Qui vult ita vivere, nt ipsum non taedeat vitro" - " Who wishes to live so that he will not weary of life;" so that he may love it, so that he may have a life really worth living. There is a love of life which can only lead to the loss of the true life (John 12:25). St. Peter is teaching us to love life wisely, not with that selfish love which Christ condemns. And see good days. Not necessarily in outward prosperity, but in the favor of God; days of suffering may be good days in the truest souse. Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. We have here the usual parallelism of Hebrew poetry. The word "refrain" (παυσάτω, literally, "let him make it cease") implies a natural tendency to sins against charity.
Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
Verse 11. - Let him eschew evil, and do good; literally, let him turn away from evil. Let him seek peace, and ensue it. Let him seek it as a hidden treasure, and pursue it as if it might escape from him.
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
Verse 12. - For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers. The apostle adds the conjunction "for" (ὅτι, because) to mark the connection. God's people must turn away from evil and do good, because the all-seeing eye is upon them; they will find strength to do so, because God heareth prayer. Perhaps when the apostle was writing these words he remembered how once "the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. The preposition in the two clauses is the same (ἐπί, over, or upon). The Lord's eye is upon the good and the evil. The apostle omits the words that follow in the psalm, "to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth," perhaps because he wishes us to regard the spiritual rather than the temporal consequences of our actions.
And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
Verse 13. - And who is he that will harm you? The apostle, as he began his quotation from Psalm 34, without marks of citation, so adds at once his inference from it in the form of a question. The conjunction "and" connects the question with the quotation. If God's eye is over the righteous, and his ear open to their prayers, who shall harm them? St. Peter does not mean - Who will have the heart to harm you? He knew the temper of Jews and heathens; he knew also the Savior's prophecies of coming persecution too well to say that. The words remind us of the Septuagint rendering of Isaiah 50:9, Κύριος βοηθήσει μοι τίς κακώσει με; None can do real harm to the Lord's people; they may persecute them, but he will make all things work together for their good. If ye be followers of that which is good; rather, if ye become zealous of that which is good, with the oldest manuscripts. The Authorized Version adopts the reading μιμηταί, followers or imitators, which is not so well supported. The genitive τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ admits the masculine translation, "of him that is good," but it is probably neuter in this place (comp. ver. 11). With the masculine rendering, comp. Acts 22:3, "and was zealous toward God (ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τοῦ Θεοῦ)."
But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
Verse 14. - But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye; better, but although ye should suffer. St. Peter knew that persecution was coming; he wished to prepare his readers for it. He recalls to their thoughts the eighth beatitude, almost reproducing the Lord's words (Matthew 5:10). Such suffering (πάσχειν, lenius verbum quam κακοῦσθαι," Bengel) would do them no real harm; nay, it would bring with it a true and deep blessing. "Righteousness" here seems synonymous with "that which is good" in the last verse. Christians had often to suffer, not only because of their confession of Christ, but because of the purity of their lives, which was a standing reproach to the heathen. Compare St. Augustine's well-known saying, "Martyrem tacit non poena, sed causa." And be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. From Isaiah 8:12. The genitive may be taken as objective: "Be not afraid of the terror which they cause;" or as subjective, "with the terror which they feel." The former view is more suitable here.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Verse 15. - But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. From Isaiah 8:13. The reading of the best and oldest manuscripts here is Κύριον δὲ τὸν Ξριστόν, "Sanctify the Lord Christ," or, "Sanctify the Christ as Lord." The absence of the article with Κύριον ισ in favor of the second translation; but the first seems more natural, more in accordance with the original passage in Isaiah, and the common expression, Κύριος ὁ Θεός, is in its favor. Whichever translation is adopted, St. Peter here substitutes the Savior's Name where the prophet wrote, "the Lord of hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth" - a change which would be nothing less than impious if the Lord Jesus Christ were not truly God. "Sanctify him," the apostle says (as the Lord himself teaches us to say, in the first words of the Lord's Prayer); that is, regard him as most holy, awful in sanctity; serve him with reverence and godly fear; so you will not "be afraid of their terror." The holy fear of God will lift you above the fear of man. "Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Isaiah 8:13; see also Leviticus 10:3; Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 38:23). St. Peter adds the words, "in your hearts," to teach us that this reverence, this hallowing of the Name of God, must be inward and spiritual, in our inmost being. And be ready always to give an answer to every man; literally, ready always for an apology to every man. The word ἀπολογία is often used of a formal answer before a magistrate, or of a written defense of the faith; but here the addition, "to every man," shows that St. Peter is thinking of informal answers on any suitable occasion. That asketh you a reason of the here that is in you; literally, an account concerning the hope. Hope is the grace on which St. Peter lays most stress; it lives in the hearts of Christians. Christians ought to be able to give an account of their hope when asked, both for the defense of the truth and for the good of the asker. That account may be very simple; it may be the mere recital of personal experience - often the most convincing of arguments; it may be, in the case of instructed Christians, profound and closely reasoned. Some answer every Christian ought to be able to give. With meekness and fear. The best manuscripts read, "but with meekness and fear." The word "but" (ἀλλά) is emphatic; argument always involves danger of weakening the spiritual life through pride or bitterness. We must sometimes "contend earnestly for the faith;" but it must be with gentleness and awe. We should fear lest we injure our own souls by arrogant and angry controversy; we should seek the spiritual good of our opponents; and we should entertain a solemn awe of the presence of God, with a trembling anxiety to think and to say only what is acceptable unto him.
Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
Verse 16. - Having a good conscience. This word "conscience" (συνείδησις) is one of the many links between this Epistle and the writings of St. Paul. St. Peter uses it three times; St. Paul, very frequently. There is a close connection between this clause and the preceding verse. A good conscience is the best reason of the hope that is in us. An apology may be learned, well-expressed, eloquent; but it will not be convincing unless it comes from the heart, and is backed up by the life. Calvin (quoted by Huther) says, "Quid parum auctoritatis habet sermo absque vita." That, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers. The Revised Version follows the Sinaitic Manuscript in reading, "Wherein ye are spoken against," and omitting "as of evil-doers? It is possible that the received reading may have been interpolated from 1 Peter 2:12, where the same words occur; except that there the mood is indicative, here, conjunctive, "wherein they may possibly speak evil of you." They may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ; rather, as the Revised Version, they may be put to shame; that is, "proved to be liars" (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:14). The word translated "falsely accuse" is that which is rendered "despitefully use" in Matthew 5:44. Luke 6:28. It is a strong word. Aristotle defines the corresponding substantive as a thwarting of the wishes of others out of gratuitous malice ('Rhet.,' 2:2). For "good conversation," see 1 Peter 1:15, 18. The Christian's life is in Christ, in the sphere of his presence, he dwelling in us, and we in him (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:17, etc.).
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
Verse 17. - For it is better. St. Peter meets the common objection that suffering could be borne more easily if it were deserved; the Christian must take the cross, if it comes, as from God, sent for his good (comp. 1 Peter 2:19, 20). If the will of God be so; literally, if the will of God should so will. Θέλημα denotes the will in itself; θέλειν, its active operation (Wirier, 3:65. β). That ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing. The construction is participial, as in 1 Peter 2:20. As there, the participle expresses, not merely the circumstances, but the cause of the suffering; they would have to suffer, not simply while they were doing well, but because they did Well.
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
Verse 18. - For Christ also hath once suffered for sins; rather, because Christ also once suffered. Two of the oldest manuscripts read "died;" but "suffered" corresponds best with the previous verse. The connection is - It must be better to suffer for well-doing, because Christ himself, the All-innocent One, thus suffered, and they who so suffer are made most like unto him. The apostle refers us again to that transcendent Example which was ever before his eyes (compare the close parallel in Hebrews 9:26-28). Christ suffered once for all (ἅπαξ); so the sufferings of the Christian are soon over" but for a moment." For sins (περί); concerning sins, on account of sins; he, himself sinless, suffered concerning the sins of others. The preposition περί is constantly used in connection with the sin offering in the Septuagint (see Leviticus 6:25, Σφάξουσι τὰ περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας; comp. Leviticus 5:8-11, etc.; also Hebrews 10:6, 8, 18, 26). The Just for the unjust; literally, just for unjust. There is no article. The apostle began to speak of the death of Christ, both here and in 1 Peter it., as an example; in both places he seems to be led on by an instinctive feeling that it is scarcely seemly for the Christian to mention that stupendous event without dwelling on its deeper and more mysterious meaning. The preposition used in this clause (ὑπέρ) does not necessarily convey the idea of vicarious suffering, as ἁντί (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; comp. also 1 Timothy 2:6) does; it means simply "in behalf of," leaving the character of the relation undetermined; here the context implies the particular relation of substitution (comp. Romans 5:6; also St. Peter's description of our Lord as "the Just," in Acts 3:14). That he might bring us to God. The Vatican and other manuscripts read "you." St. Peter opens out one of the deeper aspects of the death of Christ. The veil that hid the Holiest was then rent in twain, and believers were invited and encouraged to draw near into the immediate presence of God. The verb used here is προσάγειν; the corresponding substantive (προσαγωγή) occurs in Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; also in Romans 5:2. In those places it is rendered "access" - we have access to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. The Greeks words are, Θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι, the article τῷ inserted before πνεύματι in the received text being without authority. We observe the absence of any article or preposition, and the exact balance and correspondence of the two clauses. The two datives must be taken in the same sense; it is impossible to regard one as the dative of the sphere, and the other as the dative of the instrument; both are evidently datives of "the sphere to which a general predicate is to be limited" (Winer, 31:6. a); they limit the extent of the participles (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:35; Colossians 2:5). Thus the literal translation is, "Being put to death in flesh, but quickened in spirit." For the antithesis of "flesh" and "spirit," common in the New Testament, comp. Romans 1:3, 4, "Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness;" and 1 Timothy 3:16, "Manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit;" see especially the close parallel in 1 Peter 4:6, "That they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." It seems to follow, from the opposition of flesh and spirit, and from a comparison of the passages quoted above, that by πνεῦμα in this verse we are to understand, not God the Holy Ghost, but the holy human spirit of Christ. In his flesh he was put to death, but in his spirit he was quickened. When the Lord had said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;" when he bowed his head, and gave up the spirit; - then that spirit passed into a new life. So Bengel excellently says, "Christus, vitam in semet ipso habens, et ipse vita, spiritu vivere neque desiit, neque iterum coepit; sed simulatque per mortificationem involucre infirmitatis in carne solutus erat, statim vitae solvi nesciae virtus modis novis et multo expeditissimis sese exserere coepit." Christ, being delivered from the burden of that suffering flesh which he had graciously taken for our salvation, was quickened in his holy human spirit - quickened to new energies, new and blessed activities. So it shall be with those who suffer for well-doing; they may even be put to death in the flesh, but "if we die with him, we shall also live with him." It is far better (πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον) to depart and to be with Christ, to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. They that are Christ's shall, like their Master, be quickened in the spirit; they pass at once into the new life of Paradise; their works follow them thither; it may be, we cannot tell, they will be employed in blessed work for Christ, being made like unto him not only in some degree during their earthly life, but also in the intermediate state of rest and hope.
By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
Verse 19. - By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; rather, in which (εν ω΅ι). The Lord was no longer in the flesh; the component parts of his human nature were separated by death; his flesh lay in the grave. As he had gone about doing good in the flesh, so now he went in the spirit - in his holy human spirit. He went. The Greek word (πορευθείς) occurs again in ver. 22, "who is gone into heaven." It must have the same meaning in both places; in ver. 22 it asserts a change of locality; it must do the like here. There it is used of the ascent into heaven; it can scarcely mean here that, without any such change of place, Christ preached, not in his own Person, but through Noah or the apostles. Compare St. Paul's words in Ephesians 4:9 (the Epistle which seems to have been so much in St. Peter's thoughts), "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" And preached (ἐκήρυξεν). It is the word constantly used of the Lord from the time when "Jesus began to preach (κηρύσσειν), and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Then, himself in our human flesh, he preached to men living in the flesh - to a few of his own age and country. Now the range of his preaching was extended; himself in the spirit, he preached to spirits: "Πνεύματι πνεύμασι; spiritu, spiritibus." says Bengel; "congruens sermo." He preached also to the spirits; not only once to living men, but now also to spirits, even to them. The καί calls for attention; it implies a new and additional fact; it emphasizes the substantive (καὶ τοῖς πνεύμασιν). The preaching and the condition of the hearers are mentioned together; they were spirits when they heard the preaching. It seems impossible to understand these words of preaching through Noah or the apostles to men who passed afterwards into the state of disembodied spirits. And he preached in the spirit. The words seem to limit the preaching to the time when the Lord's soul was left in Hades (Acts 2:27). Huther, indeed, says that "as both expressions (θανατωθείς and ζωσοποιηθείς) apply to Christ in his entire Person, consisting of body and soul, what follows must not be conceived as an activity which he exercised in his spirit only, and whilst separated from his body." But does θανατωθείς apply to body and soul? Men "are not able to kill the soul." And is it true, as Huther continues, that the first words of this verse are not opposed to the view that Christ preached in his glorified body, "inasmuch as in this body the Lord is no longer ἐν σαρκί, but entirely ἐν πνεύματι? Indeed, we are taught that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; "and that that which "is sown a natural body is raised a spiritual body" (σῶμα πνευματικόν); but Christ himself said of his resurrection-body, "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). He preached to "the spirits in prison (ἐν φυλακῇ)." (For φυλακή, comp. Revelation 20:7; Matthew 5:25, etc.). It cannot mean the whole realm of the dead, but only that part of Hades in which the souls of the ungodly are reserved unto the day of judgment. Bengel says, "In carcere puniuntur sontes: in custodia servantur, dum experiantur quid facturus sit judex?" But it seems doubtful whether this distinction between φυλακή and δεσμωτήριον can be pressed; in Revelation 20:7 φυλακή is used of the prison of Satan, though, indeed, that prison is not the ἄβυσσος into which he will be cast at the last.
Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
Verse 20. - Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. Omit the word "once" (ἅπαξ), which is without authority. Wherein; literally, into which; they were saved by entering into it. The last words may mean, "they were carried safely through the water," or, "they were saved by water;" that is, the water bore up the ark (Genesis 7:17, 18). The argument of ver. 21 makes the second interpretation the more probable. The verse now before us limits the area of the Lord's preaching: without it we might have supposed that he preached to the whole multitude of the dead, or at least to all the ungodly dead whose spirits were in prison. Why does St. Peter specify the generation that was swept away by the Flood? Did they need the preaching of the Christ more than other sinful souls? or was there any special reason why that grace should be vouchsafed to them rather than to others? The fact must have been revealed to the apostle; but evidently we are in the presence of a mystery into which we can see only a little way. Those antediluvians were a conspicuous instance of men who suffered for evil doing (see ver. 17); as Christ is the transcendent Example of one who suffered for well-doing. It is better to suffer with him than with them: they are in prison. His chosen are with him in Paradise. But St. Peter cannot rest in the contemplation of the Lord's death as an example; he must pass on to the deeper, the more mysterious aspects of that most stupendous or' events. The Lord suffered concerning sins, for the sake of unrighteous men; not only did he die for them, he did not rest from his holy work even while his sacred body lay in the grave; he went and preached to some whose sins had been most notorious, and most signally punished. The judgment had been one of unexampled awfulness; eight souls only were saved in the ark, many thousands perished. It may be that St. Peter mentions the fewness of the saved to indicate one reason for this gracious visit. It seems that the awful destruction of the Deluge had made a deep impression upon his mind; he mentions it twice in his Second Epistle (2 Peter 2:5; 3:6); he saw in it a solemn anticipation of the last tremendous judgment. Doubtless he remembered well how the Lord, in his great prophetic discourse upon the Mount of Olives, had compared the days of Noah to the coming of the Son of man (Matthew 24:37-39); those words seem to give a special character to the Deluge, separating it from other lesser judgments, and investing it with a peculiar awfulness. It may be that the apostle's thoughts had dwelt much upon the many mysterious problems (such as the great destruction of infant life) connected with it; and that a special revelation was vouchsafed to him to clear up some of his difficulties. These spirits, in prison at the time of the descent into Hades, had aforetime been disobedient. The Greek word (ἀπειθήσασι) means literally "disbelieving;" but here, as in 1 Peter 2:7 and elsewhere, it stands for that willful unbelief which sets itself in direct opposition to the will of God. They were guilty of unbelief, and of the disobedience which results from unbelief. Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5, where the Greek word is κῆρυξ, the substantive corresponding with the verb ἐκήρυξεν here); the vast structure of the ark was a standing warning as it rose slowly before their eyes. The long-suffering of God waited all those hundred and twenty years (Genesis 6:3), as now the Lord is "long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). But they heeded neither the preaching of Noah nor the long-suffering of God; and at last "the Flood came, and took them all away. So shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Eight only were saved then; they doubtless suffered for well-doing; they had to endure much scorn and derision, perhaps persecution. But they were not disobedient. "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house." The eight were brought safe through (διεσώθησαν); they were saved through the water; the water bore them up, possibly rescued them from persecution. But the rest perished; the destruction of life was tremendous; we know not how many thousands perished: they suffered for evil-doing. But the degrees of guilt must have varied greatly from open pro-faulty and hostility to silent doubt; while there were many children and very young persons; and it may be that many repented at the last moment. It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing; but even suffering for evil-doing is sometimes blessed to the salvation of the soul; and it may be that some of these, having been "judged according to men in the flesh," now "live according to God in the spirit" (1 Peter 4:6). For it is impossible to believe that the Lord's preaching was a "concio damnatoria." The Lord spoke sternly sometimes in the days of his flesh, but it was the warning voice of love; even that sternest denunciation of the concentrated guilt and hypocrisy of the Pharisees ended in a piteous wail of loving sorrow. It cannot he that the most merciful Savior would have visited souls irretrievably lost merely to upbraid them and to enhance their misery. He had just suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust: is it not possible that one of the effects of that suffering might have been "to bring unto God" some souls who once had been alienated from God by wicked works, but had not wholly hardened their hearts; who, like the men of Tyro and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, had not the opportunities which we enjoy, who had not been once enlightened and made partakers of the heavenly gift and the powers of the world to come? Is it not possible that in those words, "which sometime were disobedient," there may be a hint that that disobedience of theirs was not the "eternal sin" which, according to the reading of the two most ancient manuscripts in Mark 3:29, is the awful lot of those who have never forgiveness? The Lord preached to the spirits in prison; that word (ἐκήρυξεν) is commonly used of the heralds of salvation, and St. Peter himself, in the next chapter, tells us that "the gospel was preached (εὐηγγελίσθη) to them that are dead." The gospel is the good tidings of salvation through the cross of Christ. The Lord had just died upon the cross: is it not possible that, in the moment of victory, he announced the saving power of the cross to some who had greatly sinned; as at the time of his resurrection "many bodies of the saints who slept arose"? There is one more question which forces itself upon us - What was the result of this preaching? Did the spirits in prison listen to the Savior's voice? Were they delivered from that prison where they had been so long confined? Here Scripture is almost silent; yet we read the words of hope in 1 Peter 4:6, "For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." The good news was announced to them that they might live; then may we not dare to hope that some at least listened to that gracious preaching, and were saved even out of that prison by the power of the Savior's cross? May we not venture to believe, with the author of the ' Christian Year,' that even in that dreary scene the Savior's eye reached the thronging band of sou]s, and that his cross and Passion, his agony and bloody sweat, might (we know not how or in what measure) "set the shadowy realms from sin and sorrow free?" It seems desirable to add a brief summary of the history of opinion on this much-controverted passage. The early Greek Fathers appear to have held, with one consent, that St. Peter is here speaking of that descent into Hades of which he had spoken in his first great sermon (Acts 2:31). Justin Martyr, in his' Dialogue with Trypho' (sect. 72), accuses the Jews of having erased from the prophecies of Jeremiah the following words: "The Lord God of Israel remembered his dead who slept in the land of the tomb, and descended to them to preach to them the good news of his salvation." Irenseus quotes the same passage, attributing it in one place to Isaiah, in another to Jeremiah, and adds that the Lord's purpose was to deliver them and to save them (extrahere eos et salvare cos). Tertullian says that the Lord descended into the lower parts of the earth, to make the patriarchs partakers of himself (compotes sui; 'De Anima,' c. 55). Clement of Alexandria quotes Hermas as saying that "the apostles and teachers who had preached the Name of the Son of God and had fallen asleep, preached by his power and faith to those who had fallen asleep before them" ('Strom.,' 2:9). "And then," Bishop Pearson, from whose notes on the Creed these quotations are taken, continues, "Clement supplies that authority with a reason of his own, that as the apostles were to imitate Christ while they lived, so did they also imitate him after death, and therefore preached to the souls in Hades, as Christ did before them." The earliest writers do not seem to have thought that any change in the condition of the dead was produced by Christ's descent into Hades. The Lord announced the gospel to the dead; the departed saints rejoiced to hear the glad tidings, as now the angels rejoice over each repentant sinner. Origen, in his second homily on 1 Kings, taught that the Lord, descending into Hades, brought the souls of the holy dead, the patriarchs and prophets, out of Hades into Paradise; no souls could pass the flaming sword till he had led the way; but now, through his grace and power, the blessed dead who die in the Lord enter at once into the rest of Paradise - not yet heaven, but an intermediate place of rest, far better than that from which the saints of the old covenant were delivered. In this view Origen was followed by many of the later Fathers. But St. Peter says nothing of any preaching to departed saints. Christ "went and preached," he says, "unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient." Hence Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and others were led to suppose that the Lord not only raised the holy dead to a higher state of blessedness, but preached also to the disobedient, and that some of these believed, and were by his grace delivered from "prison." Some few, as Cyril of Alexandria, held that the Lord spoiled the house of the strong man armed (σεσύλητο τῶν πνευμάτων ὁ ᾅδης), and released all his captives. This Augustine reckoned as a heresy. But in his epistle to Euodius (Ep. 99 and 164) Augustine, much exercised (as he says, "vehementissime commotus") by the difficulties of the question, propounded the interpretation which became general in the Western Church, being adopted by Bode, Thomas Aquinas, De Lyra, and later by Beza, Hammond, Leighton, Pearson, etc. "The spirits in prison," he says, "are the unbelieving who lived in the days of Noah, whose spirits, i.e. souls, had been shut up in the flesh and in the darkness of ignorance, as in a prison [comp. ' Paradise Lost,' 11:723]. Christ preached to them, not in the flesh, inasmuch as he was not yet incarnate, but in the spirit, i.e. according to his Divine nature (secundum divinitatem)." But this interpretation does not satisfy St. Peter's words. The hypothesis that Christ preached through the instrumentality of Noah does not adequately represent the participle πορευθείς; the word φυλακή cannot be taken metaphorically of the flesh in which the soul is confined. If, with Beza, we understand it as meaning "who are now in prison," we escape one difficulty, but another is introduced; for it is surely forced and unnatural to make the time of the verb and that of the dative clause different. The words ἐν φυλακῇ must describe the condition of the spirits at the time of the Savior's preaching. Some commentators, as Socinus and Grotius, refer St. Peter's words to the preaching of Christ through the apostles. These writers understand φυλακή of the prison of the body, or the prison of sin; and explain St. Peter as meaning that Christ preached through the apostles to the Jews who were under the yoke of the Law, and to the Gentiles who lay under the power of the devil; and they regard the disobedient in the time of Noah as a sample of sinners in any age. But this interpretation is altogether arbitrary, and cannot be reconciled with the apostle's words. Other views are - that our Lord descended into hell to triumph over Satan (on which see Pearson on the Creed, art. 5.); that his preaching was a concio damnatoria - an announcement of condemnation, not of salvation (which is disproved by 1 Peter 4:6); that the spirits in prison were holy souls waiting for Christ, the prison being (according to Calvin) "specula, sire ipse excubandi actus;" that they were heathens, who lived according to their light, but in idolatry. We may mention, in conclusion, the monstrous explanation of the heretic Marcion, that they were those who in the Old Testament are called ungodly, but were really better than those whom the Old Testament regards as saints.
The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Verse 21. - The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us. The reading of the Textus Receptus ω΅ι, represented by "whereunto," is without authority; all the uncial manuscripts have ο}, "which," in the nominative case. The oldest manuscripts also read "you" instead of "us." The antecedent of the relative must be the word immediately preceding, ὕδατος, water; the word "baptism" is added in apposition, to define more clearly the apostle's meaning; the water which saves is the water of baptism. Thus the literal translation will be, "Which (as) antitype is saving you also, (namely) baptism;" that is, the water which is saving you is the antitype of the water of the Flood. That water was made the means of saving a few; it bore up the ark in which they were. It saved them, perhaps, from the malice of the ungodly; it saved them from that corruption which was almost universal; it was the means of saving the race of men as by a new birth through death into a new life, a new beginning; it washed away the evil, those who suffered for evil-doing, and so saved those who had doubtless been suffering for well-doing. Thus it is the figure (τύπος) of the antitype (ἀντίτυπον) baptism; the two (the water of the Flood and the water of baptism) correspond as type and antitype. The ἀντίτυπον is the counterpart of the τύπος; and as τύπος sometimes means the original, sometimes the figure, there is a correspondent variation in the meaning of ἀντίτυπον. Delitzsch says, on Hebrews 9:24, "We have found τύπος at 1 Peter 8:5 used in the sense of an original figure - a model from which a copy is made; such copy from an original (or architype) is that designated as ἀντίτυπα here. Τύπος again (as at Romans 5:14) is used in the sense of a prophetic foretype, of which the accomplishment is reserved for the future (τύπος τῶν μελλόντων); and that accomplishment is again called ἀντίτυπον (antitype); e.g. baptism, at 1 Peter 3:21, is in this sense an ἀντίτυπον of the Deluge. The earthly reflection of the heavenly archetype, and the actual fulfillment of the prophetic τύπος, are each called ἀντίτυπον." Here the water of the Flood is the prophetic foretype; baptism is the accomplishment. "Baptism," St. Peter says, "is saving you," the few Christians, separating you from the vast number of Gentiles, whom in some sense it condemns through their rejection of God's offered mercy (comp. Hebrews 11:7), saving you from the corruption of their evil example, bringing you into the ark of Christ's Church, bearing up that ark through the grace of the new birth. The apostle says, "Baptism is saving you;" he does not say, "hits saved;" he is using the present tense in its proper sense of an incomplete action; it brings us into a state of salvation, into covenant with God. But it is only the beginning, the birth; the growth must follow; the death unto sin, the new birth unto righteousness, must be realized in actual life; otherwise, alas! we shall have received the grace of God in vain (comp. Titus 3:5). (Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.) St. Peter hastens to explain his statement. Baptism doth save us, but not the mere outward ceremony; you may "make clean the outside" with the most scrupulous care; you may be very careful in putting away the filth of the flesh (or, if the genitive is to be regarded as subjective, with Bengel, the flesh may put away its filth); but more is needed than the old Jewish washings, the frequent purifications. Comp. Justin Martyr, ' Dial. cum Trypho,' p. 331 (quoted by Huther), Τί γὰρ ὄφελος ἐκείνου τοῦ βαπτὶσματος (the Jewish washing) ο} τὴν σάρκα καὶ μόνον τὸ σῶμα φαιδρύνει βαπτίσθητε τὴν ψυχήν. Observe that St. Peter uses the word here rendered "putting away" (ἀπόθεσις) again in the Second Epistle (1. 14) of putting off the earthly tabernacle (comp. also 1 Peter 2:1, where he uses the corresponding participle, ἀποθέμενοι). The next clause presents great difficulty. Is the genitive subjective or objective? What is the meaning of ἐπερώτημα? The word ἐπερώτημα occurs only in one other place in the Greek Scriptures (Daniel 4:14 [in the Authorized Version, 4:17D, where it is translated "demand;" the corresponding verb is of frequent occurrence; as in Romans 10:20, "them that asked not after me;" and 2 Kings 11:7 (2 Samuel 11:7, in the Authorized Version), where it is joined with the preposition εἰς, as in this verse. Thus ἐπερώτημα seems to mean an "inquiry," and the genitive is probably subjective. The inner meaning of baptism is not that the flesh puts away its filth, but that a good conscience inquires after God. The outward and visible sign doth not save if separated from the inward and spiritual grace. The first is necessary, for it is an outward sign appointed by Christ; but it will not save without the second; those who draw near to God must have their bodies washed with pure water, but also their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22). The inner cleansing of the soul results in a good conscience, a consciousness of sincerity, of good intentions and desires, which will instinctively seek after God. And that good conscience is the effect of baptism, when baptism has its perfect work, when those who have once been grafted into the true Vine abide in Christ, when those who have once been baptized in one Spirit into one body keep the unity of the Spirit, Christ dwelling in them, and they in Christ. Archbishop Leighton explains the word ἐπερώτημα as "the whole correspondence of the conscience with God, and with itself as towards God, or in the sight of God." If the genitive is regarded as objective, the meaning will be, "an inquiry addressed to God for a good conscience;" the soul, once awakened, seeks continually fuller purification, hungers and thirsts after righteousness. This gives a good sense, but seems less suitable in this context. It is possible also to join the preposition εἰς with συνείδησις in the sense of a good conscience in relation to God; but it seems much more natural to connect it with ἐπερώτημα. Some commentators follow AEcumenius in paraphrasing ἐερώτημα by ἀῥῤαβών ἐνέχυρον ἀπόδειξις; they take the ground that, in legal language, the word was used in the sense of a contract, and they see in St. Peter's words a reference to the covenant made with God in baptism, and to the questions and answers in which, from the earliest times, that covenant was expressed; ἐπερώτημα being used in a general sense so as to cover answers as well as questions. This is a possible alternative, but the word seems to have acquired this meaning in later times. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These words refer back to "baptism doth also now save us." Baptism derives its saving effect from the resurrection of our Lord; without that resurrection it would be an empty form (see note on 1 Peter 1:3).
Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
Verse 22. - Who is gone into heaven. The word here rendered "gone" is that used in ver. 19, "he went and preached (πορευθείς)" (comp. Ephesians 4:9, "Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?"). And is on the right hand of God (comp. Psalm 110:1; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3). It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing, for he who is the signal Example, who suffered, the Just for the unjust, is now exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high; and "is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. God "hath set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." All the angels of God, in the various grades of the heavenly hierarchy, are made subject to Christ. The words seem to include, especially when read in comparison with Colossians 2:15, the evil angels also; they are made subject against their will to Christ; they asked him once if he was come to torment them before the time. He can restrain their malice and save his people from their power.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

Bible Hub
1 Peter 2
Top of Page
Top of Page