1 Peter 3:1-7 open_in_new
This counsel to wives and husbands is full of a fine courtesy, and true chivalry, and shows how the new leaven is at work in the thought of the Church. It is not only a contrast to paganism, but has the essence of a real advance upon Judaism, even though the example of Sarah is cited; and the claim of obedient Christian wives to be her spiritual children is almost as highly thought of, as the place of all Christians as children of Abraham is by Paul. Faithful, wise, and loving wives are regarded as the best missionaries, who may win, without a word, those who despise the Word. Deeds are more eloquent than speech.
The peculiar vanities of pagan society are deprecated, and a full idea of Christian womanhood set up. Men are granted their rights in a fuller way than modern thought would recognise them, but they are reminded that these rights mean responsibilities, and the claim upon them for consideration and protection of the physically weaker. In Christ there is neither male nor female, and so this fellowship must be true in spirit, if it is to make for godliness.
1 Peter 3:6. put in fear: this probably denotes anxieties and worries of all kinds the writer urges a calm and trustful attitude as the ideal.
1 Peter 3:7. your prayers: either those of the husband alone, which would be hindered (James 5:4) by the injured wife's complaints to God, or the prayers of both in fellowship, which cannot be offered truly, if there is lack of harmony in spirit. hindered: some MSS. read a stronger word, which differs only by one letter and means cut off.
1 Peter 3:8-17 open_in_new
This short and simple section deals with the wider relations of the Christian disciple to his fellow-disciples and to the world. It is an expansion of Christ's teaching in the Golden Rule. It is clearly shown that to suffer for righteousness is only to tread in the steps of the great Forerunner, and that such a life is reasonable, and its principles once grasped can be easily justified to others. The hope of the Christians was the chief point likely to be under discussion, since this was at once the most attractive feature of their faith, and the one most difficult of belief. This epistle is full, as we have seen, of the idea of hope, and hence the writer lays stress upon it, when urging the nature of their apologia or vindication of their manner of life, and its ruling thought. Christ is to dominate their hearts, for He constitutes their Hope in the most perfect presentation of its power.
1 Peter 3:10. he that would love life: this does not quite represent the Gr. of the OT, which is, He that desireth life, and loveth many days. It may have been changed, because the original Gr. is awkward, or to give an even finer meaning to the passage, viz. that the making of life lovely lies in the will of the individual. He can triumph over all difficulties and injustice, and make all life worthy of being loved. As Tennyson phrases it:
Let my day be brief,
So Thou wilt strike Thy glory through the day.
1 Peter 3:14. fear not their fear: Have no fear of their threats.
1 Peter 3:18-22 open_in_new
Christ Himself suffered injustice at the hands of men, but see how splendid the result! All salvation everywhere in the universe is the result of His suffering and sacrifice, and these have raised Him in triumph above all orders of creatures. Through our faith outwardly expressed in baptism we are made partakers in the power of His resurrection (Php_3:10), so our suffering counts for little. While this seems to be the general idea of the section there is one very difficult passage in it a passage that has been termed the darkest in the NT the words which deal with the preaching to the spirits in prison. A brilliant emendation by Rendel Harris (accepted in Moffatt's NT) seems the real solution of the problem. At the beginning of 1 Peter 3:19 the Gr. reads enô kai, and Harris thinks that the word enô ch followed this, and had been slipped by the scribe. We should therefore read, It was in the spirit that Enoch also went and preached, etc. The reference would then be to the story in the Book of Enoch (chs. 6 ff.) of his intercession on behalf of the fallen angels, as the result of whose sins the flood came upon the earth. This makes the illustration of Noah quite intelligible, and also, allowing for the extravagances of allegory, the supposed resemblance between the passing through the flood on the part of those in the ark and baptism.
If we decline to accept the emendation, then this passage has to bear either the burden of a special revelation as to an activity of Christ on which the rest of the NT is silent, or we must suppose that the writer invented a myth for which he had no reasonable basis. Each of these suppositions is very difficult, and it seems scarcely worth while to spend time over all the speculations to which the passage has given rise, as these may be read in the literature cited in the bibliography (p. 908). The idea of Christ's preaching in Hades laid hold of the imagination of the early Church, and has held sway ever since. In early English poetry the Harrowing of Hell was a familiar subject, and it appears in Christian art. Nineteenth-century controversies about Eternal Hope again brought it into prominence, as may be seen in such a work as Plumptre's Spirits in Prison. There is in the mind of the present writer no doubt that Rendel Harris's solution is the correct one, and this is strengthened by frequent references in the epistle to the Book of Enoch.
[The very ingenious emendation, in which Rendel Harris had, in fact, been anticipated, is most attractive, but it is difficult to harmonise with 1 Peter 4:6, which cannot well be separated from this passage. There the preaching is of glad tidings, whereas Enoch preached condemnation. Moreover, as Rendel Harris himself confesses (Side-lights on NT Research, p. 209), the text as he restores it is lacking in continuity, and further correction would be necessary to fit it into its context. The sudden transition from the experiences of Christ to the preaching of Enoch is harsh in the extreme, and it is almost incredible that the references to Christ should have been abruptly closed without the completion we naturally expect. If the present text is accepted, the meaning is probably, not that Jesus preached to the angels who mated with women (Genesis 6:1-4), but that in the interval between His death and resurrection (note the sequence of clauses and the words went and preached) He went to Hades and there preached to the imprisoned spirits of the antediluvians of Noah's time. A. S. P.]
1 Peter 3:21. interrogation: the word is difficult, and has been given many meanings (cf. mg.). Perhaps we cannot get beyond the general sense that what is of real effect is the inward turning of the contrite and genuine heart to God in the rite of baptism.
1 Peter 3:22. angels, etc.: in Enoch 61: 10 we read, He will call on all the host of the heavens. and all the angels of power, and all the angels of principalities. Probably we should here read, angels of authorities and powers, as the departments of angelic domination.