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Book of Genesis Chapter 6:2 : Who were the “Sons of God”?

John Calvin
Genesis 6:1
1.And it came to pass, when men began to multiply. Moses, having enumerated in order, ten patriarchs, with whom the worship of God remained pure, now relates, that their families also were corrupted. But this narration must be traced to an earlier period than the five hundredth year of Noah. For, in order to make a transition to the history of the deluge, he prefaces it by declaring the whole world to have been so corrupt, that scarcely anything was left to God, out of the widely spread defection. That this may be the more apparent, the principle is to be kept in memory, that the world was then as if divided into two parts; because the family of Seth cherished the pure and lawful worship of Good, from which the rest had fallen. Now, although all mankind had been formed for the worship of God, and therefore sincere religion ought everywhere to have reigned; yet since the greater part had prostituted itself, either to an entire contempt of God, or to depraved superstitions; it was fitting that the small portion which God had adopted, by special privilege, to himself, should remain separate from others. It was, therefore, base ingratitude in the posterity of Seth, to mingle themselves with the children of Cain, and with other profane races; because they voluntarily deprived themselves of the inestimable grace of God. For it was an intolerable profanation, to pervert, and to confound, the order appointed by God. It seems at first sight frivolous, that the sons of God should be so severely condemned, for having chosen for themselves beautiful wives from the daughters of men. But we must know first, that it is not a light crime to violate a distinction established by the Lord; secondly, that for the worshippers of God to be separated from profane nations, was a sacred appointment which ought reverently to have been observed, in order that a Church of God might exist upon earth; thirdly, that the disease was desperate, seeing that men rejected the remedy divinely prescribed for them. In short, Moses points it out as the most extreme disorder; when the sons of the pious, whom God had separated to himself from others, as a peculiar and hidden treasure, became degenerate.

That ancient figment, concerning the intercourse of angels with women, is abundantly refuted by its own absurdity; and it is surprising that learned men should formerly have been fascinated by ravings so gross and prodigious. The opinion also of the Chaldean paraphrase is frigid; namely, that promiscuous marriages between the sons of nobles, and the daughters of plebeians, is condemned. Moses, then, does not distinguish the sons of God from the daughters of men, because they were of dissimilar nature, or of different origin; but because they were the sons of God by adoption, whom he had set apart for himself; while the rest remained in their original condition. Should any one object, that they who had shamefully departed from the faith, and the obedience which God required, were unworthy to be accounted the sons of God; the answer is easy, that the honor is not ascribed to them, but to the grace of God, which had hitherto been conspicuous in their families. For when Scripture speaks of the sons of God, sometimes it has respect to eternal election, which extends only to the lawful heirs; sometimes to external vocations according to which many wolves are within the fold; and thought in fact, they are strangers, yet they obtain the name of sons, until the Lord shall disown them. Yea, even by giving them a title so honorable, Moses reproves their ingratitude, because, leaving their heavenly Father, they prostituted themselves as deserters.

Adam Clarke
Genesis 6:1
When men began to multiply – It was not at this time that men began to multiply, but the inspired penman speaks now of a fact which had taken place long before. As there is a distinction made here between men and those called the sons of God, it is generally supposed that the immediate posterity of Cain and that of Seth are intended. The first were mere men, such as fallen nature may produce, degenerate sons of a degenerate father, governed by the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life. The others were sons of God, not angels, as some have dreamed, but such as were, according to our Lord’s doctrine, born again, born from above, Joh_3:3, Joh_3:5,Joh_3:6, etc., and made children of God by the influence of the Holy Spirit, Gal_5:6. The former were apostates from the true religion, the latter were those among whom it was preserved and cultivated. Dr. Wall supposes the first verses of this chapter should be paraphrased thus: “When men began to multiply on the earth, the chief men took wives of all the handsome poor women they chose. There were tyrants in the earth in those days; and also after the antediluvian days powerful men had unlawful connections with the inferior women, and the children which sprang from this illicit commerce were the renowned heroes of antiquity, of whom the heathens made their gods.”

Keil & Delitzsch
Gen_6:1-2 relates to the increase of men generally (הָאָדָם, without any restriction), i.e., of the whole human race; and whilst the moral corruption is represented as universal, the whole human race, with the exception of Noah, who found grace before God (Gen_6:8), is described as ripe for destruction (Gen_6:3 and Gen_6:5-8). To understand this section, and appreciate the causes of this complete degeneracy of the race, we must first obtain a correct interpretation of the expressions “sons of God” (האלהים בני) and “daughters of men” (האדם בנות).

Three different views have been entertained from the very earliest times: the “sons of God” being regarded as

(a) the sons of princes,

(b) angels,

(c) the Sethites or godly men;

and the “daughters of men,” as the daughters

(a) of people of the lower orders,

(b) of mankind generally,

(c) of the Cainites, or of the rest of mankind as contrasted with the godly or the children of God.

Of these three views, the first, although it has become the traditional one in orthodox rabbinical Judaism, may be dismissed at once as not warranted by the usages of the language, and as altogether unscriptural. The second, on the contrary, may be defended on two plausible grounds: first, the fact that the “sons of God,” in Job_1:6; Job_2:1, and Job_38:7, and in Dan_3:25, are unquestionably angels (also אֵלִים בְּנֵי in Psa_29:1 and Psa_89:7); and secondly, the antithesis, “sons of God” and “daughters of men.” Apart from the context and tenor of the passage, these two points would lead us most naturally to regard the “sons of God” as angels, in distinction from men and the daughters of men. But this explanation, though the first to suggest itself, can only lay claim to be received as the correct one, provided the language itself admits of no other. Now that is not the case. For it is not to angels only that the term “sons of Elohim,” or “sons of Elim,” is applied; but in Psa_73:15, in an address to Elohim, the godly are called “the generation of Thy sons,” i.e., sons of Elohim; in Deu_32:5 the Israelites are called His (God’s) sons, and in Hos_1:10, “sons of the living God;” and in Psa_80:17, Israel is spoken of as the son, whom Elohim has made strong.

These passages show that the expression “sons of God” cannot be elucidated by philological means, but must be interpreted by theology alone. Moreover, even when it is applied to the angels, it is questionable whether it is to be understood in a physical or ethical sense. The notion that “it is employed in a physical sense as nomen naturae, instead of angels as nomen officii, and presupposes generation of a physical kind,” we must reject as an unscriptural and gnostic error. According to the scriptural view, the heavenly spirits are creatures of God, and not begotten from the divine essence. Moreover, all the other terms applied to the angels are ethical in their character. But if the title “sons of God” cannot involve the notion of physical generation, it cannot be restricted to celestial spirits, but is applicable to all beings which bear the image of God, or by virtue of their likeness to God participate in the glory, power, and blessedness of the divine life, – to men therefore as well as angels, since God has caused man to “want but little of Elohim,” or to stand but a little behind Elohim (Psa_8:5), so that even magistrates are designated “Elohim, and sons of the Most High” (Psa_82:6).

When Delitzsch objects to the application of the expression “sons of Elohim” to pious men, because, “although the idea of a child of God may indeed have pointed, even in the O.T., beyond its theocratic limitation to Israel (Exo_4:22; Deu_14:1) towards a wider ethical signification (Psa_73:15; Pro_14:26), yet this extension and expansion were not so completed, that in historical prose the terms ‘sons of God’ (for which ‘sons of Jehovah’ should have been used to prevent mistake), and ‘sons (or daughters) of men,’ could be used to distinguish the children of God and the children of the world,” – this argument rests upon the erroneous supposition, that the expression “sons of God” was introduced by Jehovah for the first time when He selected Israel to be the covenant nation. So much is true, indeed, that before the adoption of Israel as the first-born son of Jehovah (Exo_4:22), it would have been out of place to speak of sons of Jehovah; but the notion is false, or at least incapable of proof, that there were not children of God in the olden time, long before Abraham’s call, and that, if there were, they could not have been called “sons of Elohim.” The idea was not first introduced in connection with the theocracy, and extended thence to a more universal signification. It had its roots in the divine image, and therefore was general in its application from the very first; and it was not till God in the character of Jehovah chose Abraham and his seed to be the vehicles of salvation, and left the heathen nations to go their own way, that the expression received the specifically theocratic signification of “son of Jehovah,” to be again liberated and expanded into the more comprehensive idea of νἱοθεσία τοῦ Θεοῦ (i.e., Elohim, not τοῦ κυρίου = Jehovah), at the coming of Christ, the Saviour of all nations. If in the olden time there were pious men who, like Enoch and Noah, walked with Elohim, or who, even if they did not stand in this close priestly relation to God, made the divine image a reality through their piety and fear of God, then there were sons (children) of God, for whom the only correct appellation was “sons of Elohim,” since sonship to Jehovah was introduced with the call of Israel, so that it could only have been proleptically that the children of God in the old world could be called “sons of Jehovah.” But if it be still argued, that in mere prose the term “sons of God” could not have been applied to children of God, or pious men, this would be equally applicable to “sons of Jehovah.” On the other hand, there is this objection to our applying it to angels, that the pious, who walked with God and called upon the name of the Lord, had been mentioned just before, whereas no allusion had been made to angels, not even to their creation.

Again, the antithesis “sons of God” and “daughters of men” does not prove that the former were angels. It by no means follows, that because in Gen_6:1 האדם denotes man as a genus, i.e., the whole human race, it must do the same in Gen_6:2, where the expression “daughters of men” is determined by the antithesis “sons of God.” And with reasons existing for understanding by the sons of God and the daughters of men two species of the genus האדם, mentioned in Gen_6:1, no valid objection can be offered to the restriction of האדם, through the antithesis Elohim, to all men with the exception of the sons of God; since this mode of expression is by no means unusual in Hebrew. “From the expression ‘daughters of men,” as Dettinger observes, “it by no means follows that the sons of God were not men; any more than it follows from Jer_32:20, where it is said that God had done miracles ‘in Israel, and among men,’ or from Isa_43:4, where God says He will give men for the Israelites, or from Jdg_16:7, where Samson says, that if he is bound with seven green withs he shall be as weak as a man, for from Psa_73:5, where it is said of the ungodly they are not in trouble as men, that the Israelites, or Samson, or the ungodly, were not men at all. In all these passages אדם (men) denotes the remainder of mankind in distinction from those who are especially named.” Cases occur, too, even in simple prose, in which the same term is used, first in a general, and then directly afterwards in a more restricted sense. We need cite only one, which occurs in Judg. In Jdg_19:30 reference is made to the coming of the children of Israel (i.e., of the twelve tribes) out of Egypt; and directly afterwards (Jdg_20:1-2) it is related that “all the children of Israel,” “all the tribes of Israel,” assembled together (to make war, as we learn from Jdg_20:3., upon Benjamin); and in the whole account of the war, Judges 20 and 21, the tribes of Israel are distinguished from the tribe of Benjamin: so that the expression “tribes of Israel” really means the rest of the tribes with the exception of Benjamin. And yet the Benjamites were Israelites. Why then should the fact that the sons of God are distinguished from the daughters of men prove that the former could not be men? There is not force enough in these two objections to compel us to adopt the conclusion that the sons of God were angels.

The question whether the “sons of Elohim” were celestial or terrestrial sons of God (angels or pious men of the family of Seth) can only be determined from the context, and from the substance of the passage itself, that is to say, from what is related respecting the conduct of the sons of God and its results. That the connection does not favour the idea of their being angels, is acknowledged even by those who adopt this view. “It cannot be denied,” says Delitzsch, “that the connection of Gen_6:1-8 with Gen 4 necessitates the assumption, that such intermarriages (of the Sethite and Cainite families) did take place about the time of the flood (cf. Mat_24:38; Luk_17:27); and the prohibition of mixed marriages under the law (Exo_34:16; cf. Gen_27:46; Gen_28:1.) also favours the same idea.” But this “assumption” is placed beyond all doubt, by what is here related of the sons of God. In Gen_6:2 it is stated that “the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose,” i.e., of any with whose beauty they were charmed; and these wives bare children to them (Gen_6:4). Now אִשָּׁה לָקַח (to take a wife) is a standing expression throughout the whole of the Old Testament for the marriage relation established by God at the creation, and is never applied to πορνεία, or the simple act of physical connection. This is quite sufficient of itself to exclude any reference to angels. For Christ Himself distinctly states that the angels cannot marry (Mat_22:30; Mar_12:25; cf. Luk_20:34.). And when Kurtz endeavours to weaken the force of these words of Christ, by arguing that they do not prove that it is impossible for angels so to fall from their original holiness as to sink into an unnatural state; this phrase has no meaning, unless by conclusive analogies, or the clear testimony of Scripture,

(Note: We cannot admit that there is any force in Hoffmann’s argument in his Schriftbeweis 1, p. 426, that “the begetting of children on the part of angels is not more irreconcilable with a nature that is not organized, like that of man, on the basis of sexual distinctions, than partaking of food is with a nature that is altogether spiritual; and yet food was eaten by the angels who visited Abraham.” For, in the first place, the eating in this case was a miracle wrought through the condescending grace of the omnipotent God, and furnishes no standard for judging what angels can do by their own power in rebellion against God. And in the second place, there is a considerable difference between the act of eating on the part of the angels of God who appeared in human shape, and the taking of wives and begetting of children on the part of sinning angels. We are quite unable also to accept as historical testimony, the myths of the heathen respecting demigods, sons of gods, and the begetting of children on the part of their gods, or the fables of the book of Enoch (ch. 6ff.) about the 200 angels, with their leaders, who lusted after the beautiful and delicate daughters of men, and who came down from heaven and took to themselves wives, with whom they begat giants of 3000 (or according to one MS 300) cubits in height.

Nor do 2Pe_2:4 and Jud_1:6 furnish any evidence of angel marriages. Peter is merely speaking of sinning angels in general (ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων) whom God did not spare, and not of any particular sin on the part of a small number of angels; and Jude describes these angels as τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχήν ἀλλὰ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον, those who kept not their princedom, their position as rulers, but left their own habitation. There is nothing here about marriages with the daughters of men or the begetting of children, even if we refer the word τούτοις in the clause τὸν ὅμοιον τούτοις τρόπον ἐκπορνεύσασαι in Jud_1:7 to the angels mentioned in Jud_1:6; for ἐκπορνεύειν, the commission of fornication, would be altogether different from marriage, that is to say, from a conjugal bond that was permanent even though unnatural. But it is neither certain nor probable that this is the connection of τούτοις. Huther, the latest commentator upon this Epistle, who gives the preference to this explanation of τούτοις, and therefore cannot be accused of being biassed by doctrinal prejudices, says distinctly in the 2nd Ed. of his commentary, “τούτοις may be grammatically construed as referring to Sodom and Gomorrah, or per synesin to the inhabitants of these cities; but in that case the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah would only be mentioned indirectly.” There is nothing in the rules of syntax, therefore, to prevent our connecting the word with Sodom and Gomorrah; and it is not a fact, that “grammaticae et logicae praecepta compel us to refer this word to the angels,” as G. v. Zeschwitz says. But the very same reason which Huther assigns for not connecting it with Sodom and Gomorrah, may be also assigned for not connecting it with the angels, namely, that in that case the sin of the angels would only be mentioned indirectly. We regard Philippi’s explanation (in his Glaubenslehre iii. p. 303) as a possible one, viz., that the word τούτοις refers back to the ἄνθρωποι ἀσελγεῖς mentioned in Jud_1:4, and as by no means set aside by De Wette’s objection, that the thought of Jud_1:8 would be anticipated in that case; for this objection is fully met by the circumstance, that not only does the word οὗτοι, which is repeated five times from Jud_1:8 onwards, refer back to these men, but even the word τούτοις in Jud_1:14 also. On the other hand, the reference of τούτοις to the angels is altogether precluded by the clause καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, which follows the word ἐκπορνεύσασαι. For fornication on the part of the angels could only consist in their going after flesh, or, as Hoffmann expresses it, “having to do with flesh, for which they were not created,” but not in their going after other, or foreign flesh. There would be no sense in the word ἑτέρας unless those who were ἐκπορνεύσαντες were themselves possessed of σάρξ; so that this is the only alternative, either we must attribute to the angels a σάρξ or fleshly body, or the idea of referring τούτοις to the angels must be given up. When Kurtz replies to this by saying that “to angels human bodies are quite as much a ἑτέρα σάρξ, i.e., a means of sensual gratification opposed to their nature and calling, as man can be to human man,” he hides the difficulty, but does not remove it, by the ambiguous expression “opposed to their nature and calling.” The ἑτέρα σάρξ must necessarily presuppose an ἰδία σάρξ.

But it is thought by some, that even if τούτοις in Jud_1:7 do not refer to the angels in Jud_1:6, the words of Jude agree so thoroughly with the tradition of the book of Enoch respecting the fall of the angels, that we must admit the allusion to the Enoch legend, and so indirectly to Gen 6, since Jude could not have expressed himself more clearly to persons who possessed the book of Enoch, or were acquainted with the tradition it contained. Now this conclusion would certainly be irresistible, if the only sin of the angels mentioned in the book of Enoch, as that for which they were kept in chains of darkness still the judgment-day, had been their intercourse with human wives. For the fact that Jude was acquainted with the legend of Enoch, and took for granted that the readers of his Epistle were so too, is evident from his introducing a prediction of Enoch in Jud_1:14, Jud_1:15, which is to be found in ch. i. 9 of Dillmann’s edition of the book of Enoch. But it is admitted by all critical writers upon this book, that in the book of Enoch which has been edited by Dillmann, and is only to be found in an Ethiopic version, there are contradictory legends concerning the fall and judgment of the angels; that the book itself is composed of earlier and later materials; and that those very sections (ch. 6-16:106, etc.) in which the legend of the angel marriages is given without ambiguity, belong to the so-called book of Noah, i.e., to a later portion of the Enoch legend, which is opposed in many passages to the earlier legend. The fall of the angels is certainly often referred to in the earlier portions of the work; but among all the passages adduced by Dillmann in proof of this, there is only one (19:1) which mentions the angels who had taken wives. In the others, the only thing mentioned as the sin of the angels or of the hosts of Azazel, is the fact that they were subject to Satan, and seduced those who dwelt on the earth (54:3-6), or that they came down from heaven to earth, and revealed to the children of men what was hidden from them, and then led them astray to the commission of sin (64:2). There is nothing at all here about their taking wives. Moreover, in the earlier portions of the book, besides the fall of the angels, there is frequent reference made to a fall, i.e., an act of sin, on the part of the stars of heaven and the army of heaven, which transgressed the commandment of God before they rose, by not appearing at their appointed time (vid., 18:14-15; 21:3; 90:21, 24, etc.); and their punishment and place of punishment are described, in just the same manner as in the case of the wicked angels, as a prison, a lofty and horrible place in which the seven stars of heaven lie bound like great mountains and flaming with fire (21:2-3), as an abyss, narrow and deep, dreadful and dark, in which the star which fell first from heaven is lying, bound hand and foot (88:1, cf. 90:24). From these passages it is quite evident, that the legend concerning the fall of the angels and stars sprang out of Isa_24:21-22 (“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall visit the host of the height [הַמָּרֹום צְבָא, the host of heaven, by which stars and angels are to be understood on high i.e., the spiritual powers of the heavens] and the kings of the earth upon the earth, and they shall be gathered together, bound in the dungeon, and shut up in prison, and after many days they shall be punished”), along with Isa_14:12 (“How art thou fallen from heaven, thou beautiful morning star!”), and that the account of the sons of God in Gen 6, as interpreted by those who refer it to the angels, was afterwards combined and amalgamated with it.

Now if these different legends, describing the judgment upon the stars that fell from heaven, and the angels that followed Satan in seducing man, in just the same manner as the judgment upon the angels who begot giants from women, were in circulation at the time when the Epistle of Jude was written; we must not interpret the sin of the angels, referred to by Peter and Jude, in a one-sided manner, and arbitrarily connect it with only such passages of the book of Enoch as speak of angel marriages, to the entire disregard of all the other passages, which mention totally different sins as committed by the angels, that are punished with bands of darkness; but we must interpret it from what Jude himself has said concerning this sin, as Peter gives no further explanation of what he means by ἁμαρτῆσαι. Now the only sins that Jude mentions are μὴ τηρῆσαι τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχήν and ἀπολιπεῖν τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον. The two are closely connected. Through not keeping the ἀρχή (i.e., the position as rulers in heaven) which belonged to them, and was assigned them at their creation, the angels left “their own habitation” (ἴδιον οἰκητήριον); just as man, when he broke the commandment of God and failed to keep his position as ruler on earth, also lost “his own habitation” (ἴδιον οἰκητήριον), that is to say, not paradise alone, but the holy body of innocence also, so that he needed a covering for his nakedness, and will continue to need it, until we are “clothed upon with our hose which is from heaven” (οἰκητήριον ἡμῶν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ). In this description of the angels’ sin, there is not the slightest allusion to their leaving heaven to woo the beautiful daughters of men. The words may be very well interpreted, as they were by the earlier Christian theologians, as relating to the fall of Satan and his angels, to whom all that is said concerning their punishment fully applies. If Jude had had the πορνεία of the angels, mentioned in the Enoch legends, in his mind, he would have stated this distinctly, just as he does in v. 9 in the case of the legend concerning Michael and the devil, and in v. 11 in that of Enoch’s prophecy. There was all the more reason for his doing this, because not only to contradictory accounts of the sin of the angels occur in the Enoch legends, but a comparison of the parallels cited from the book of Enoch proves that he deviated from the Enoch legend in points of no little importance. Thus, for example, according to Enoch 54:3, “iron chains of immense weight” are prepared for the hosts of Azazel, to put them into the lowest hell, and cast them on that great day into the furnace with flaming fire. Now Jude and Peter say nothing about iron chains, and merely mention “everlasting chains under darkness” and “chains of darkness.” Again, according to Enoch 10:12, the angel sinners are “bound fast under the earth for seventy generations, till the day of judgment and their completion, till the last judgment shall be held for all eternity.” Peter and Jude make no allusion to this point of time, and the supporters of the angel marriages, therefore, have thought well to leave it out when quoting this parallel to Jud_1:6. Under these circumstances, the silence of the apostles as to either marriages or fornication on the part of the sinful angels, is a sure sign that they gave no credence to these fables of a Jewish gnosticizing tradition.)

it can be proved that the angels either possess by nature a material corporeality adequate to the contraction of a human marriage, or that by rebellion against their Creator they can acquire it, or that there are some creatures in heaven and on earth which, through sinful degeneracy, or by sinking into an unnatural state, can become possessed of the power, which they have not by nature, of generating and propagating their species. As man could indeed destroy by sin the nature which he had received from his Creator, but could not by his own power restore it when destroyed, to say nothing of implanting an organ or a power that was wanting before; so we cannot believe that angels, through apostasy from God, could acquire sexual power of which they had previously been destitute.

Pulpit Commentary
Vers. 1, 2.—And it came to pass. Literally, it was; not in immediate sequence to the preceding chapter, but at some earlier point in the antediluvian period; perhaps about the time of Enoch (corresponding to that of Lamech the Cainite), if not in the days of Enos. Hävernick joins the passage with ch. 4:26. When men—ha’adham, i. e. the human race in general, and not the posterity of Cain in particular (Ainsworth, Rosenmüller, Bush)—began to multiply—in virtue of the Divine blessing (ch. 1:28)—on (or over) the face of the earth. “Alluding to the population spreading itself out as well as increasing” (Bonar). And daughters were born unto them. Not referring to any special increase of the female sex (Lange), but simply indicating the cuartor whence the danger to the pious Sethites rose: “who became snares to the race of Seth” (Wordsworth).

That the sons of God. Bene-ha Elohim. 1. Not young men of the upper ranks, as distinguished from maidens of humble birth (Onk., Jon., Sym., Aben Ezra); an opinion which “may now be regarded as exploded” (Lange). 2. Still less the angels (LXX.,—some MSS. having ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ,—Philo, Josephus, Justin Martyr, Clement, Tertullian, Luther, Gesenius, Rosen-müller, Von Bohlen, Ewald, Baumgarten, Delitzach, Kurtz, Hengstenberg, Alford); for

(1) they are either good angels, in which case they might be rightly styled sons of God. (Ps. 29:1; 89:7; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Dan. 3:25), though it is doubtful if this expression does not denote their official rather than natural relationship to God, but it is certain they would not be guilty of the sin here referred to; or they are bad angels, in which case they might readily enough commit the sin, if it were possible, but certainly they would not be called, “the sons of God.”

(2) The statement of Jude (vers. 6, 7), though seemingly in favour of this interpretation, does not necessarily require it; since (α) it is uncertain whether the phrase “ρὸν ὅμοιον τούτοις τρόπον ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτἐρας” refers to the angels or to “αἰ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις”, in which case the antecedent of τούτοις will not be the ἀγγέλοι of ver. 6, but Σόδομα καὶ Γόμοῤῥα of ver. 7; (β) if even it refers to the angels it does not follow that the parallel between the cities and the angels consisted in the “going after strange flesh,” and not rather in the fact that both departed from God, “the sin of the apostate angels being in God’s view a sin of like kind spiritually with Sodom’s going away from God’s order of nature after strange flesh” (Fausset); (γ) again, granting that Jude’s language describes the sin of the angels as one of carnal fornication with the daughters of men, the sin of which the sons of Elohim are represented as guilty is not πορνεία, but the forming of unhallowed matrimonial alliances. Hence

(3) the assertion of our Lord in Luke 20:35 is inconsistent with the hypothesis that by the sons of God are meant the angels; and

(4) consistent exegesis requires that only extreme urgency, in fact absolute necessity (neither of which can be alleged here), should cause the sons of God to be looked for elsewhere than among the members of the human race.

3. The third interpretation, therefore, which regards the sons of God as the pious Sethites (Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, Augustine, Jerome, Calvin, Keil, Häver-nick, Lange, Murphy, Wordsworth, Quarry, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’), though not without its difficulties, has the most to recommend it.

(1) It is natural, and not monstrous.

(2) It is Scriptural, and not mythical (cf. Numbers 25; Judges 3; 1 Kings 11, 16; Rev. 2, for sins a of a similar description).

(3) It accords with the designation subsequently given to the pious followers of God (cf. Deut 14:1; 32:5; Ps. 73:15; Prov. 14:26; Luke 3:38; Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26).

(4) It has a historical basis in the fact that Seth was regarded by his mother as a son from God (ch. 4:25), and in the circumstance that already the Sethites had begun to call themselves by the name of Jehovah (ch. 4:26). Dathius translates, “qui de nomine Dei voca-bantur.”

(5) It is sufficient as an hypothesis, and therefore is entitled to the preference.

Saw the daughters of men (not of the Cainitic race exclusively, but of men generally) that they were fair, and had regard to this alone in contracting marriages. “Instead of looking at the spiritual kinsmanship, they had an eye only to the pleasure of sense” (Lange). “What the historian condemns is not that regard was had to beauty, but that mera libido regnaverit in the choice of wives” (Calvin). And they took them wives. Lakachish”, “a standing expression throughout the Old Testament for the marriage relationship established by God at the creation, is never applied to πορνεία, or the simple act of physical connection, which is sufficient of itself to exclude any reference to angels” (Keil; 4:19; 12:19; 19:14; Exod. 6:25; 1 Sam. 25:43).

Of all whom they chose. The emphasis on טִכֹּל (of all) signifies that, guided by a love of merely sensual attractions, they did not confine themselves to the beautiful daughters of the Sethite race, but selected their brides from the fair women of the Cainites, and perhaps with a preference for these. The opinion that they selected “both virgins and wives, they cared not whom,” and “took them by violence” (Willet), is not warranted by the language of the historian. The sons of God were neither the Nephilim nor the Gibborim afterwards described, but the parents of the latter. The evil indicated is simply that of promiscuous marriages without regard to spiritual character.

Albert Barnes
There are two stages of evil set forth in Gen_6:1-4 – the one contained in the present four verses, and the other in the following. The former refers to the apostasy of the descendants of Sheth, and the cause and consequences of it. When man began to multiply, the separate families of Cain and Sheth would come into contact. The daughters of the stirring Cainites, distinguished by the graces of nature, the embellishments of art, and the charms of music and song, even though destitute of the loftier qualities of likemindedness with God, would attract attention and prompt to unholy alliances. The phrase “sons of God,” means an order of intelligent beings who “retain the purity of moral character” originally communicated, or subsequently restored, by their Creator. They are called the sons of God, because they have his spirit or disposition. The sons of God mentioned in Job_38:7, are an order of rational beings existing before the creation of man, and joining in the symphony of the universe, when the earth and all things were called into being. Then all were holy, for all are styled the sons of God. Such, however, are not meant in the present passage. For they were not created as a race, have no distinction of sex, and therefore no sexual desire; they “neither marry nor are given in marriage” Mat_22:30. It is contrary to the law of nature for different species even on earth to cohabit in a carnal way; much more for those in the body, and those who have not a body of flesh. Moreover, we are here in the region of humanity, and not in the sphere of superhuman spirits; and the historian has not given the slightest intimation of the existence of spiritual beings different from man.

The sons of God, therefore, are those who are on the Lord’s side, who approach him with duly significant offerings, who call upon him by his proper name, and who walk with God in their daily conversation. The figurative use of the word “son” to denote a variety of relations incidental, and moral as well as natural, was not unfamiliar to the early speaker. Thus, Noah is called “the son of five hundred years” Gen_5:32. Abraham calls Eliezer בן־בותי ben-bēytı̂y, “son of my house” Gen_15:3. The dying Rachel names her son Ben-oni, “son of my sorrow,” while his father called him Benjamin, “son of thy right hand” Gen_35:18. An obvious parallel to the moral application is presented in the phrases “the seed of the woman” and “the seed of the serpent.” The word “generations” תולדות tôledot, Gen_5:1) exhibits a similar freedom and elasticity of meaning, being applied to the whole doings of a rational being, and even to the physical changes of the material world Gen_2:4. The occasion for the present designation is furnished in the remark of Eve on the birth of Sheth. God hath given me another seed instead of Habel. Her son Sheth she therefore regarded as the son of God. Accordingly, about the birth of his son Enosh, was begun the custom calling upon the name of the Lord, no doubt in the family circle of Adam, with whom Sheth continued to dwell. And Enok, the seventh from Adam in the same line, exhibited the first striking example of a true believer walking with God in all the intercourse of life. These descendants of Sheth, among whom were also Lamek who spoke of the Lord, and Noah who walked with God, are therefore by a natural transition called the sons of God, the godlike in a moral sense, being born of the Spirit, and walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit Psa_82:6; Hos_2:1.

Some take “the daughters of man” to be the daughters of the Cainites only. But it is sufficient to understand by this phrase, the daughters of man in general, without any distinction of a moral or spiritual kind, and therefore including both Cainite and Shethite females. “And they took them wives of all whom they chose.” The evil here described is that of promiscuous intermarriage, without regard to spiritual character. The godly took them wives of all; that is, of the ungodly as well as the godly families, without any discrimination. “Whom they chose,” not for the godliness of their lives, but for the goodliness of their looks. Ungodly mothers will not train up children in the way they should go; and husbands who have taken the wrong step of marrying ungodly wives cannot prove to be very exemplary or authoritative fathers. Up to this time they may have been consistent as the sons of God in their outward conduct. But a laxity of choice proves a corresponding laxity of principle. The first inlet of sin prepares the way for the flood-gates of iniquity. It is easy to see that now the degeneracy of the whole race will go on at a rapid pace.

Cambridge Bible
2. that the sons of God, &c.] This is one of the most disputed passages in the book. But the difficulty, in a great measure, disappears, if it is frankly recognized, that the verse must be allowed to have its literal meaning. According to the legend which it preserves, intermarriages took place between Heavenly Beings and mortal women.

Commentators have often shrunk from the admission that this piece of mythology could have a place in the Hebrew Scriptures. Accordingly, very fanciful explanations have sometimes found favour; e.g. (a) “the sons of God” are the men of the upper classes, “the daughters of men” are “the women of the lower classes”; (b) “the sons of God” are “the sons of the god-fearing,” “the daughters of men” are “the daughters of the impious”; (c) “the sons of God” are “the descendants of Seth,” “the daughters of men” are “the women of the Cainite race.” Such interpretations may be dismissed as arbitrary and non-natural: and they furnish no explanation of the inference in v. 4, that a race of giants or heroes was the progeny of these marriages.

the sons of God] Heb. B’nê Elohim, “sons of Elohim,” i.e. beings partaking of the Divine nature. It has been pointed out above (see note on 1:26), that the Israelites believed the Almighty to be surrounded by a court of beings who were subordinate to Him in authority, office, and rank: their dwelling-place was in Heaven; their duty was to perform the tasks appointed them by the Almighty. They were “angels” or “messengers,” Heb. mal’âkhîm, Gr. ἄγγελοι. The sons of God are mentioned in Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7, Ps. 29:1, 89:1, Dan. 3:25, 28.

The expression must be judged in accordance with Hebrew, not English, idiom. “The sons of the prophets” (1 Kings 20:35: cf. Amos 7:14) are persons who belong to the guild of the prophets, members, as we should say, of the prophet’s calling. No family relationship is implied. Similarly “the sons of God” are not “sons of gods,” in the sense of being their children, but “sons of Elohim” in the sense of belonging to the class of super-natural, or heavenly, beings.

There is no reference, on the one hand, to Oriental speculations respecting emanations from the Deity; nor to actual sonship, or generation. The description is quite general. Nowhere do we find in the O.T. mention of the “sons of Jehovah” instead of the “sons of Elohim.”

of all that they chose] i.e. whomsoever they chose. The sons of God are represented as being irresistible. The sons of men could offer no effective opposition. The marriages, contracted in this way, are evidently implied to be wrong, and the result of mere unbridled passion. The men were powerless to defend their women folk.

In the later days of Judaism, this passage became the source of the strange legends respecting “fallen angels,” of which we find traces in the N.T.: 2 Pet. 2:4, “for if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Hell”; Jude 6, “angels which kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation”; and in the Book of Enoch.

There is no trace, however, in the Book of Genesis of any tradition respecting either the fall, or the rebellion, of members of the angel-host. Unquestionably English ideas are profoundly affected by the influence of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and by the vague impression that a great and noble religious poem must have been founded upon literal facts.


New for Esword: LSJ Greek Lexicon Abbreviated

This new Dictionary module for Greek geeks is built using the LSJ entries for words listed in Strong’s Concordance, which is only about a tenth of all LSJ’s entries, but gives a very strong Classical base to your Esword Greek resources.

lsjadlsj2The module can be downloaded from here.

2 Peter 2 1-3, 12-14; Jude 16-25 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin
2 Peter 2:1
1.But there were. As weak consciences are usually very grievously and dangerously shaken, when false teachers arise, who either corrupt or mutilate the doctrine of faith, it was necessary for the Apostle, while seeking to encourage the faithful to persevere, to remove out of the way an offense of this kind. He, moreover, comforted those to whom he was writing, and confirmed them by this argument, that God has always tried and proved his Church by such a temptation as this, in order that novelty might not disturb their hearts. “Not different,” he says, “will be the condition of the Church under the gospel, from what it was formerly under the law; false prophets disturbed the ancient Church; the same thing must also be expected by us.”

It was necessary expressly to shew this, because many imagined that the Church would enjoy tranquillity under the rein of Christ; for as the prophets had promised that at his coming there would be real peace, the highest degree of heavenly wisdom, and the full restoration of all things, they thought that the Church would be no more exposed to any contests. Let us then remember that the Spirit of God hath once for all declared, that the Church shall never be free from this intestine evil; and let this likeness be always borne in mind, that the trial of our faith is to be similar to that of the fathers, and for the same reason — that in this way it may be made evident, whether we really love God, as we find it written in Deu_13:3.

But it is not necessary here to refer to every example of this kind; it is enough, in short, to know that, like the fathers, we must contend against false doctrines, that our faith ought by no means to be shaken on account of discords and sects, because the truth of God shall remain unshaken notwithstanding the violent agitations by which Satan strives often to upset all things.

Observe also, that no one time in particular is mentioned by Peter, when he says there shall be false teachers, but that all ages are included; for he makes here a comparison between Christians and the ancient people. We ought, then, to apply this truth to our own time, lest, when we see false teachers rising up to oppose the truth of God, this trial should break us down. But the Spirit reminds us, in order that we may take the more heed; and to the same purpose is the whole description which follows.

He does not, indeed, paint each sect in its own colors, but particularly refers to profane men who manifested contempt towards God. The advice, indeed, is general, that we ought to beware of false teachers; but, at the same time, he selected one kind of such from whom the greater danger arose. What is said here will hereafter become more evident from the words of Jude, [Jud_1:4,] who treats exactly of the same subject.

Who privily shall bring in. By these words he points out the craftiness of Satan, and of all the ungodly who militate under his banner, that they would creep in by oblique turnings, as through burrows under ground. The more watchful, then, ought the godly to be, so that they may escape their hidden frauds: for however they may insinuate themselves, they cannot circumvent those who are carefully vigilant.

He calls them opinions of perdition, or destructive opinions, that every one, solicitous for his salvation, might dread such opinions as the most noxious pests. As to the wordopinions or heresies, it has not, without reason, been always deemed infamous and hateful by the children of God; for the bond of holy unity is the simple truth. As soon as we depart from that, nothing remains but dreadful discord.

Even denying the Lord that bought them. Though Christ may be denied in various ways, yet Peter, as I think, refers here to what is expressed by Jude, that is, when the grace of God is turned into lasciviousness; for Christ redeemed us, that he might have a people separated from all the pollutions of the world, and devoted to holiness and innocency. They, then, who throw off the bridle, and give themselves up to all kinds of licentiousness, are not unjustly said to deny Christ by whom they have been redeemed. Hence, that the doctrine of the gospel may remain whole and complete among us, let this be fixed in our minds, that we have been redeemed by Christ, that he may be the Lord of our life and of our death, and that our main object ought to be, to live to him and to die to him. He then says, that their swift destruction was at hand, lest others should be ensnared by them.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 2:1. But there were false prophets also among the people] The section of the Epistle which now opens contains so many parallelisms with the Epistle of St Jude that we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that one was derived from the other, or both from a common source. For a discussion of the questions which thus present themselves see Introduction. As regards the meaning of the words it is again an open question whether the Apostle refers to the remoter past of the history of Israel, to the false prophets of the days of Ahab (1Ki_22:12), or Isaiah (9:15, 28:7), or Jeremiah (Jer_14:14, Jer_27:10), or Ezekiel (Eze_13:3), or Zechariah (Zec_13:4), or to those who in his own time had deceived the “people” (the distinctive term for “Israel”) in Jerusalem. The warnings against false prophets in our Lord’s discourses (Mat_7:22, Mat_24:24), and the like warnings in 1Jn_4:1, make it probable that he had chiefly the latter class in view. In the Greek compound noun (pseudo-didaskaloi) for “false teachers” we have another word peculiar to St Peter. The word was, perhaps, chosen as including in its range not only those who came with a direct claim to prophetic inspiration, but all who without authority should appear as teachers of a doctrine that was not true, and, as such, it would include the Judaizing teachers on the one side, the Gnosticizing teachers on the other. Comp. the distinction between “prophets” and “teachers” in Eph_4:11; 1Co_12:29.

who privily shall bring in] The verb is that from which was formed the adjective which St Paul uses for the “false brethren unawares brought in” (Gal_2:4). Are we justified in thinking that St Peter speaks of the same class of Judaizing teachers, or that he uses the word as indicating that it was applicable to others also, who were, it might be, at the opposite extreme of error?

damnable heresies] Literally, heresies of destruction. The word “heresy,” literally, “the choice of a party,” was used by later Greek writers for a philosophic sect or school like that of the Stoics or Epicureans, and hence, as in Act_5:17, Act_5:15:5, Act_5:24:5, Act_5:26:5, Act_5:28:22; 1Co_11:19, for a “sect” or “party” in the Church, and thence, again, for the principles characterizing such a sect, and so it passed to the ecclesiastical sense of “heresy.” The English adjective “damnable” hardly expresses the force of the Greek genitive, which indicates that the leading characteristic of the heresies of which the Apostle speaks was that they led men to “destruction” or “perdition.” Comp. the use of the same word in 1Ti_6:9. It may be noted that it is a word specially characteristic of this Epistle, in which it occurs six times; twice here, and in verses 2 and 3, and chap. 3:7, 16.

even denying the Lord that bought them] The word for Lord (despotes), literally, a master as contrasted with a slave (1Ti_6:1, 1Ti_6:2), is used of Christ here, in the hymn, which we may fairly connect with St Peter, in Act_4:24, in Rev_6:10, and, in conjunction with the more common word for Lord (Kyrios), in Jude ver. 4. Here the choice of the word was probably determined by the connexion with the idea of “buying,” as a master buys a slave. The use of that word presents a parallelism with the thought of 1Pe_1:18, and here, as there, we have to think of the “precious blood of Christ” as the price that had been paid. No words could better assert the truth that the redemption so wrought was universal in its range than these. The sin of the teachers of these “heresies of perdition” was that they would not accept the position of redeemed creatures which of right belonged to them. The “denial” referred to may refer either to a formal rejection of Christ as the Son of God, like that of 1Jn_2:22, 1Jn_2:23, or to the practical denial of base and ungodly lives. The former is, perhaps, more prominently in view, but both are probably included. We cannot read the words without recollecting that the writer had himself, in one memorable instance, denied his Lord (Mat_26:69-75). In his case, however, the denial came from a passing cowardice and was followed by an immediate repentance. That which he here condemns was more persistent and malignant in its nature, and was as yet unrepented of.

bring upon themselves swift destruction] The adjective, which is peculiar to St Peter in the New Testament (here and in chap. 1:14), implies the swift unlooked-for manner of the destruction that was to be the end of the false teachers rather than the nearness of its approach. The Apostle seems to contemplate either some sudden “visitation of God,” or possibly some quick exposure of their falsehood and baseness before men, ending in their utter confusion.

Pulpit Commentary
But there were false prophets also among the people; rather, as in the Revised Version, but there arose false prophets also among the people. The transition is simple and natural. Besides the true prophets mentioned in the last chapter, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, there arose false prophets, men who wore “a rough garment to deceive” (Zec_13:4), and assumed without warrant the prophetic character. Such pretenders would commonly prophesy false things; but the word ψευδοπροφῆται seems principally to imply the absence of a Divine mission. By “the people” (λαός) is meant the people of Israel, as in Rom_15:11; Jud Rom_1:5, etc. It is plain from these words that St. Peter, at the end of the last chapter, was speaking of the prophets of the Old Testament.

Even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies. By the false teachers, again (the word ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι is peculiar to St. Peter), may be meant men whose teaching was false, or men who falsely claimed the teacher’s office. St. Peter describes them as such as (οἵτινες) shall bring in damnable heresies. The verb (παριεσάξουσιν) is found only here in the New Testament; the adjective derived from it is used by St. Paul in Gal_2:4, “false brethren unawares brought in.” It means “to bring in by the side of,” as if these false teachers brought in their errors by the side of the true doctrine; it implies also the secondary notion of secrecy. Compare St. Jude’s use of the verb παρεισέδυσαν, compounded with the same prepositions (Jud_1:4); and notice the difference of tenses—St. Jude using the past where St. Peter looks forward to the future; but St. Peter passes to the present tense in Jud_1:10, and maintains it for the rest of the chapter. We may, perhaps, infer that the false teaching referred to was already beginning to affect the Churches of Asia Minor; but the errors were not so much developed there, the’ false teachers had not gained so much influence as it seems they had in the Churches which St. Jude had principally in his thoughts. The literal translation of the words rendered “damnable heresies” is “heresies of destruction,” the last word being the same which occurs again at the end of the verse. These heresies destroy the soul; they bring ruin both to those who are led astray and to the false teachers themselves. The word for “heresy”(αἵρεσις), meaning originally “choice,” became the name for a party, sect, or school, as in Act_5:17, “the sect of the Sadducees;” Act_15:5,” the sect of the Pharisees;” Act_24:5 (in the mouth of Tertullus). “the sect of the Nazarenes;” then, by a natural transition, it came to be used of the opinions held by a sect. The notion of self-will, deliberate separation, led to its being employed generally in a bad sense (see especially Tit_3:10, “A man that is a heretic, (αἱρετικὸς)”).

Even denying the Lord that bought them; literally, as in the Revised Version, denying even the Master that bought them. The word for “Master” (δεσπότης) implies that the deniers stand to the Lord in the relation of slaves, bondservants. The Lord had bought them; they were not their own, but his, bought with a price, “not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1Pe_1:18; see also the parallel passage Jud 1Pe_1:4). These words plainly assert the universality of the Lord’s redemption. He “tasted death for every man” (Heb_2:9), even for those false teachers who denied him. The denial referred to may have been doctrinal or practical; most of the ancient forms of heresy involved some grave error as to the Person of Christ; and the germs of these errors appeared very early in the Church (see 1Jn_2:22, 1Jn_2:23), denying sometimes the Godhead of our Lord, sometimes the truth of his humanity. But St. Peter may mean the practical denial of Christ evinced in an ungodly and licentious life. The latter form of denial appears most prominent in this chapter; probably the apostle intended to warn his readers against both. It is touching to remember that he had himself denied the Lord, though indeed the price with which our souls were bought had not then been paid; but his denial was at once followed by a deep and true repentance. The Lord’s loving look recalled him to himself; his bitter tears proved the sincerity of his contrition.

And bring upon themselves swift destruction; literally, bringing. The participial construction unites the two clauses closely; the latter expresses the consequence of the former: they bring heresies of destruction into the Church, and by so doing bring upon themselves swift destruction. The word for “swift” (ταχινός) is used by no other New Testament writer. There is an apparent allusion to this verso in Justin Martyr (‘Cum Tryph.,’ 82), and the first clause of it is quoted in a homily ascribed to Hippolytus of Portus. Notice St. Peter’s habit of repetition, he repeats the word ἀπώλεια three times in Tit_3:1-3; δίκαιος three times in Tit_3:7, Tit_3:8; the verb προσδοκάω three times in 2Pe_3:12-14, etc.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 2:1
But there were false prophets also among the people – In the previous chapter, 2Pe_2:19-21, Peter had appealed to the prophecies as containing unanswerable proofs of the truth of the Christian religion. He says, however, that he did not mean to say that all who claimed to be prophets were true messengers of God. There were many who pretended to be such, who only led the people astray. It is unnecessary to say, that such men have abounded in all ages where there have been true prophets.

Even as there shall be false teachers among you – The fact that false teachers would arise in the church is often adverted to in the New Testament. Compare Mat_24:5, Mat_24:24; Act_20:29-30.

Who privily – That is, in a secret manner, or under plausible arts and pretences. They would not at first make an open avowal of their doctrines, but would, in fact, while their teachings seemed to be in accordance with truth, covertly maintain opinions which would sap the very foundations of religion. The Greek word here used, and which is rendered “who privily shall bring in,” (παρεισάγω pareisagō,) means properly “to lead in by the side of others; to lead in along with others.” Nothing could better express the usual way in which error is introduced. It is “by the side,” or “along with,” other doctrines which are true; that is, while the mind is turned mainly to other subjects, and is off its guard, gently and silently to lay down some principle, which, being admitted, would lead to the error, or from which the error would follow as a natural consequence. Those who inculcate error rarely do it openly. If they would at once boldly “deny the Lord that bought them,” it would be easy to meet them, and the mass of professed Christians would be in no danger of embracing the error. But when principles are laid down which may lead to that; when doubts on remote points are suggested which may involve it; or when a long train of reasoning is pursued which may secretly tend to it; there is much more probability that the mind will be corrupted from the truth.

Damnable heresies – αἱρέσεις ἀπωλείας haireseis apōleias. “Heresies of destruction;” that is, heresies that will be followed by destruction. The Greek word which is rendered “damnable,” is the same which in the close of the verse is rendered “destruction.” It is so rendered also in Mat_7:13; Rom_9:22; Phi_3:19; 2Pe_3:16 – in all of which places it refers to the future loss of the soul The same word also is rendered “perdition” in Joh_17:12; Phi_1:28; 1Ti_6:9; Heb_10:39; 2Pe_3:7; Rev_17:8, Rev_17:11 – in all which places it has the same reference. On the meaning of the word rendered “heresies,” see the Act_24:14 note; 1Co_11:19 note. The idea of “sect” or “party” is that which is conveyed by this word, rather than doctrinal errors; but it is evident that in this case the formation of the sect or party, as is the fact in most cases, would be founded on error of doctrine.

The thing which these false teachers would attempt would be divisions, alienations, or parties, in the church, but these would be based on the erroneous doctrines which they would promulgate. What would be the particular doctrine in this case is immediately specified, to wit, that they “would deny the Lord that bought them.” The idea then is, that these false teachers would form sects or parties in the church, of a destructive or ruinous nature, founded on a denial of the Lord that bought them. Such a formation of sects would be ruinous to piety, to good morals, and to the soul. The authors of these sects, holding the views which they did, and influenced by the motives which they would be, and practicing the morals which they would practice, as growing out of their principles, would bring upon themselves swift and certain destruction. It is not possible now to determine to what particular class of errorists the apostle had reference here, but it is generally supposed that it was to some form of the Gnostic belief. There were many early sects of so-called “heretics” to whom what he here says would be applicable.

Even denying the Lord that bought them – This must mean that they held doctrines which were in fact a denial of the Lord, or the tendency of which would be a denial of the Lord, for it cannot be supposed that, while they professed to be Christians, they would openly and avowedly deny him. To “deny the Lord” may be either to deny his existence, his claims, or his attributes; it is to withhold from him, in our belief and profession, anything which is essential to a proper conception of him. The particular thing, however, which is mentioned here as entering into that self-denial, is something connected with the fact that he had ““bought”” them. It was such a denial of the Lord “as having bought them,” as to be in fact a renunciation of the uniqueness of the Christian religion. There has been much difference of opinion as to the meaning of the word “Lord” in this place – whether it refers to God the Father. or to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word is Δεσπότης Despotēs. Many expositors have maintained that it refers to the Father, and that when it is said that he had “bought” them, it means in a general sense that he was the Author of the plan of redemption, and had causeD them to be purchased or redeemed. Michaelis supposes that the Gnostics are referred to as denying the Father by asserting that he was not the Creator of the universe, maintaining that it was created by an inferior being – Introduction to New Testament, iv. 360. Whitby, Benson, Slade, and many others, maintain that this refers to the Father as having originated the plan by which men are redeemed; and the same opinion is held, of necessity, by those who deny the doctrine of general atonement. The only arguments to show that it refers to God the Father would be,

(1) That the word used here Δεσπότην Despotēn is not the usual term (κύριος kurios) by which the Lord Jesus is designated in the New Testament; and,

(2) That the admission that it refers to the Lord Jesus would lead inevitably to the conclusion that some will perish for whom Christ died.

That it does, however, refer to the Lord Jesus, seems to me to be plain from the following considerations:

(1) It is the obvious interpretation; that which would be given by the great mass of Christians, and about which there could never have been any hesitancy if it had not been supposed that it would lead to the doctrine of general atonement. As to the alleged fact that the word used, Δεσπότης Despotēs, is not that which is commonly applied to the Lord Jesus, that may be admitted to be true, but still the word here may be understood as applied to him. It properly means “a master” as opposed to a servant; then it is used as denoting supreme authority, and is thus applied to God, and may be in that sense to the Lord Jesus Christ, as head over all things, or as having supreme authority over the church. It occurs in the New Testament only in the following places: 1Ti_6:1-2; Tit_2:9; 1Pe_2:18, where it is rendered “masters;” Luk_2:29; Act_4:24,; Rev_6:10, where it is rendered “Lord,” and is applied to God; and in Jud_1:4, and in the passage before us, in both which places it is rendered “Lord,” and is probably to be regarded as applied to the Lord Jesus. There is nothing in the proper signification of the word which would forbid this.

(2) The phrase is one that is properly applicable to the Lord Jesus as having “bought” us with his blood. The Greek word is ἀγοράζω agorazō – a word which means properly “to market, to buy, to purchase,” and then to redeem, or acquire for oneself by a price paid, or by a ransom. It is rendered “buy” or “bought” in the following places in the New Testament: Mat_13:44, Mat_13:46; Mat_14:15; Mat_21:12; Mat_25:9-10; Mat_27:7; Mar_6:36-37; Mar_11:15; Mar_15:46; Mar_16:1; Luk_9:13; Luk_14:18-19; Luk_17:28; Luk_19:45; Luk_22:36; Joh_4:8; Joh_6:5; Joh_13:29; 1Co_7:30; Rev_3:18; Rev_13:17; Rev_18:11 – in all which places it is applicable to ordinary transactions of “buying.” In the following places it is also rendered “bought,” as applicable to the redeemed, as being bought or purchased by the Lord Jesus: 1Co_6:20; 1Co_7:23, “Ye are ‘bought’ with a price;” and in the following places it is rendered “redeemed,” Rev_5:9; Rev_14:3-4. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is true that in a large sense this word might be applied to the Father as having caused his people to be redeemed, or as being the Author of the plan of redemption; but it is also true that the word is more properly applicable to the Lord Jesus, and that, when used with reference to redemption, it is uniformly given to him in the New Testament. Compare the passages referred to above.

It is strictly and properly true only of the Son of God that he has “bought” us. The Father indeed is represented as making the arrangement, as giving his Son to die, and as the great Source of all the blessings secured by redemption; but the “purchase” was actually made by the Son of God by his sacrifice on the cross. Whatever there was of the nature of “a price” was paid by him; and whatever obligations may grow out of the fact that we are purchased or ransomed are due particularly to him; 2Co_5:15. These considerations seem to me to make it clear that Peter referred here to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he meant to say that the false teachers mentioned held doctrines which were in fact a “denial” of that Saviour. He does not specify particularly what constituted such a denial; but it is plain that any doctrine which represented him, his person, or his work, as essentially different from what was the truth, would amount to such a denial.
If he were Divine, and that fact was denied, making him wholly a different being; if he actually made an expiatory sacrifice by his death, and that fact was denied, and he was held to be a mere religious teacher, changing essentially the character of the work which he came to perform; if he, in some proper sense, “bought” them with his blood, and that fact was denied in such a way that according to their views it was not strictly proper to speak of him as having bought them at all, which would be the case if he were a mere prophet or religious teacher, then it is clear that such a representation would be in fact a denial of his true nature and work. That some of these views entered into their denial of him is clear, for it was with reference to the fact that he had bought them, or redeemed them, that they denied him.

And bring upon themselves swift destruction – The destruction here referred to can be only that which will occur in the future world, for there can be no evidence that Peter meant to say that this would destroy their health, their property, or their lives. The Greek word (ἀπώλειαν apōleian) is the same which is used in the former part of the verse, in the phrase “damnable heresies.” See the notes. In regard, then, to this important passage, we may remark:

(1) That the apostle evidently believed that some would perish for whom Christ died.

(2) If this is so, then the same truth may be expressed by saying that he died for others besides those who will be saved that is, that the atonement was not confined merely to the elect. This one passage, therefore, demonstrates the doctrine of general atonement. This conclusion would be drawn from it by the great mass of readers, and it may be presumed, therefore, that this is the fair interpretation of the passage.

(See the supplementary 2Co_5:14 note; Heb_2:9 note for a general view of the question regarding the extent of the atonement. On this text Scott has well observed: “Doubtless Christ intended to redeem those, and those only, who he foresaw would eventually be saved by faith in him; yet his ransom was of infinite sufficiency, and people are continually addressed according to their profession.” Christ has indeed laid down such a price as that all the human family may claim and find salvation in him. An unhappy ambiguity of terms has made this controversy very much a war of words. When the author here says, “Christ died for others besides those who will be saved,” he does not use the words in the common sense of an actual design, on the part of Christ to save everyone. The reader will see, by consulting the notes above referred to, how much disputing might be saved by a careful definition of terms.)

(3) It follows that people may destroy themselves by a denial of the great and vital “doctrines” of religion. It cannot be a harmless thing, then, to hold erroneous opinions; nor can men be safe who deny the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. It is truth, not error, that saves the soul; and an erroneous opinion on any subject may be as dangerous to a man’s ultimate peace, happiness, and prosperity, as a wrong course of life. How many men have been ruined in their worldly prospects, their health, and their lives, by holding false sentiments on the subject of morals, or in regard to medical treatment! Who would regard it as a harmless thing if a son should deny in respect to his father that he was a man of truth, probity, and honesty, or should attribute to him a character which does not belong to him – a character just the reverse of truth? Can the same thing be innocent in regard to God our Saviour?

(4) People bring destruction “on themselves.” No one compels them to deny the Lord that bought them; no one forces them to embrace any dangerous error. If people perish, they perish by their own fault, for:

(a) Ample provision was made for their salvation as well as for others;

(b) They were freely invited to be saved;

(c) It was, in itself, just as easy for them to embrace the truth as it was for others; and,

(d) It was as easy to embrace the truth as to embrace error.

John Calvin
2 Peter 2:2
2.And many shall follow. It is, indeed, no slight offense to the weak, when they see that false doctrines are received by the common consent of the world, that a large number of men are led astray, so that few continue in true obedience to Christ. So, at this day, there is nothing that more violently disturbs pious minds than such a defection. For hardly one in ten of those who have once made a profession of Christ, retains the purity of faith to the end. Almost all turn aside into corruptions, and being deluded by the teachers of licentiousness, they become profane. Lest this should make our faith to falter, Peter comes to our help, and in due time foretells that this very thing would be, that is, that false teachers would draw many to perdition.

But there is a double reading even in the Greek copies; for some read, “lasciviousness,” and others, “perdition.” I have, however, followed what has been mostly approved.

By reason of whom the way of truth. This I consider to have been said for this reason, because as religion is adorned when men are taught to fear God, to maintain uprightness of life, a chaste and virtuous conduct, or when at least the mouth of the wicked is closed, that they do not speak evil of the gospel; so when the reins are let loose, and every kind of licentiousness is practiced, the name and the doctrine of Christ are exposed to the reproaches of the ungodly. Others give a different explanation — that these false teachers, like filthy dogs, barked at sound doctrine. But the words of Peter appear to me on the contrary to intimate, that these would give occasion to enemies insolently to assail the truth of God. Though then they would not themselves assail the Christian faith with calumnies, yet they would arm others with the means of reproaching it.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 2:2. And many shall follow their pernicious ways] Better, their lasciviousnesses. The word is the same as in Mar_7:22, Rom_13:13, 1Pe_4:3, and elsewhere; and the English version loses the distinctive character of the sectarian teaching and conduct (analogous to what is noted in Jude, verses 4, 8, Rev_2:20) which called down the Apostle’s condemnation. The needless variation in the rendering of the English version hinders the reader from perceiving the identity with St Jude’s condemnation of those who “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness.”

the way of truth shall be evil spoken of] Better, reviled or blasphemed. Comp. Rom_2:24. In the use of the term “the way of truth” we have an interesting parallel with the frequent occurrence of that word in the Acts (18:26, 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:22), as equivalent to what we should call, in modern phrase, the “system” or the “religion” of Christ. The scandals caused by the impurities of the false teachers brought discredit upon the whole system with which, in the judgment of the outside world, they were identified.

Pulpit Commentary
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; rather, as in the Revised Version, their lascivious doings; the reading represented by the Authorized Version has very little support (comp. Jud 2Pe_1:4, 2Pe_1:8). (For “shall follow” (ἐξακολουθήσουσιν), see note on 2Pe_1:16.) By reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. The heathen were accustomed to charge Christians with immorality; the conduct of these false teachers gave them occasion; they did not distinguish between these licentious heretics and true Christians. The expression, “way of truth,” occurs in the ‘Epistle of Barnabas,’ chapter 5. Christianity is called “the way” several times in the Acts (Act_9:2; Act_19:9, Act_19:23, etc.). It is the way of truth, because Christ, who is the Center of his religion, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; because it is the way of life which is founded on the truth.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 2:2
And many shall follow their pernicious ways – Margin: “lascivious.” A large number of manuscripts and versions read “lascivious” here – ἀσελγείαις aselgeiais – instead of “pernicious” – ἀπωλείαις apōleiais (see Wetstein), and this reading is adopted in the editions of the Greek Testament by Tittman, Griesbach, and Hahn, and it seems probable that this is the correct reading. This will agree well with the account elsewhere given of these teachers, that their doctrines tended to licentiousness, 2Pe_2:10, 2Pe_2:14, 2Pe_2:18-19. It is a very remarkable circumstance, that those who have denied the essential doctrines of the gospel have been so frequently licentious in their own conduct, and have inculcated opinions which tended to licentiousness. Many of the forms of religious error have somehow had a connection with this vice. People who are corrupt at heart often seek to obtain the sanction of religion for their corruptions.

By reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of –

(1) Because they were professors of religion, and religion would seem to be held responsible for their conduct; and,

(2) Because they were professed teachers of religion, and, by many, would be understood as expounding the true doctrines of the gospel.

John Calvin
2 Peter 2:3
3.With feigned words. Peter endeavors by all means to render the faithful displeased with ungodly teachers, that they might resist them more resolutely and more constantly. It is especially an odious thing that we should be exposed to sale like vile slaves. But he testifies that this is done, when any one seduces us from the redemption of Christ. He calls those feigned words which are artfully formed for the purpose of deceiving. Unless then one is so mad as to sell the salvation of his soul to false teachers, let him close up every avenue that may lead to their wicked inventions. For the same purpose as before he repeats again, that their destruction delayed not, that is, that he might frighten the good from their society. For since they were given up to a sudden destruction, every one who connected himself with them, must have perished with them.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 2:3. through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you] Better, in or with covetousness. The adjective for “feigned” is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. This greed of gain, found in strange union with high-flown claims to a higher knowledge and holiness than that of others, seems to have been one of the chief features of the heresies of the Apostolic age. Comp. 1Ti_6:5; Tit_1:11. If they made proselytes it was only that they might get profit out of them.

whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not] Better, for whom judgment for a long time idleth not.

damnation] Better, destruction, as keeping up the continuity of thought with the preceding verses. The thought involves a half-personification of the two nouns. “Judgment” does not loiter on its way; “destruction” does not nod drowsily, like the foolish virgins of Mat_25:5. Both are eager, watchful, waiting for the appointed hour.

Pulpit Commnetary
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; rather, in covetousness. Covetousness was their besetting sin, the sphere in which they lived. St. Paul warned Titus against false teachers who taught “things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Tit_1:11; see also 1Ti_6:6 and Jud 1Ti_1:16). Simon Magus, the first heresiarch, sought to trade in holy things; the like sin seems to have been characteristic of the false teachers of apostolic times. The word translated “feigned” (πλαστοῖς) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; the words of these men were not the expression of their real thoughts and feelings; they were invented, craftily contrived to deceive men, and that for the sake of money. The last words of the clause will admit another sense: “shall gain you,” i.e., “shall gain you over to their party;” and this view derives some support from the use of the verb ἐμπορεύεσθαι in the Septuagint Version of Pro_3:14. But the verb is often used in classical writers in the sense of making a profit out of people or things, and this meaning seems most suitable here. The false teachers will work hard, as the Pharisees did, to make proselytes; but their real motive is, not the salvation of souls, but their own selfish gain.

Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not; literally, for whom the sentence of a long time idleth not. The sentence of judgment is for them, for their condemnation; in the foreknowledge of God it has been pronounced long ago, and ever since it has been drawing near; it doth not tarry (comp. Jud Pro_1:4 and 1Pe_4:17). The word rendered “of a long time” (ἔκπαλαι) occurs only here and 2Pe_3:5. And their damnation slumbereth not; destruction: it is the word which has been used already twice in 2Pe_3:1. The verb means literally “to nod,” then “to slumber;” it is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in the parable of the virgins (Mat_25:5).

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 2:3
And through covetousness – This shows what one of the things was by which they were influenced – a thing which, like licentiousness, usually exerts a powerful influence over the teachers of error. The religious principle is the strongest that is implanted in the human bosom: and men who can obtain a livelihood in no other way, or who are too unprincipled or too indolent to labor for an honest living, often turn public teachers of religion, and adopt the kind of doctrines that will be likely to give them the greatest power over the purses of others. True religion, indeed, requires of its friends to devote all that they have to the service of God and to the promotion of his cause; but it is very easy to pervert this requirement, so that the teacher of error shall take advantage of it for his own aggrandizement.

Shall they with feigned words – Greek formed, fashioned; then those which are formed for the occasion – feigned, false, deceitful. The idea is, thug the doctrines which they would defend were not maintained by solid and substantial arguments, but that they would make use of plausible reasoning made up for the occasion.

Make merchandise of you – Treat you not as rational beings but as a bale of goods, or any other article of traffic. That is, they would endeavor to make money out of them, and regard them only as fitted to promote that object.

Whose judgment – Whose condemnation.

Now of a long time lingereth not – Greek, “of old; long since.” The idea seems to be, that justice had been long attentive to their movements, and was on its way to their destruction. It was not a new thing – that is, there was no new principle involved in their destruction; but it was a principle which had always been in operation, and which would certainly be applicable to them, and of a long time justice had been impatient to do the work which it was accustomed to do. What had occurred to the angels that sinned, 2Pe_2:4 to the old world, 2Pe_2:5 and to Sodom and Gomorrah, 2Pe_2:6 would occur to them; and the same justice which had overthrown them might be regarded as on its way to effect their destruction. Compare the notes at Isa_18:4.

And their damnation slumbereth not – Their condemnation, (Notes, 1Co_11:29) yet here referring to future punishment. “Mr. Blackwell observes, that this is a most beautiful figure, representing the vengeance that shall destroy such incorrigible sinners as an angel of judgment pursuing them on the wing, continually approaching nearer and nearer, and in the mean time keeping a watchful eye upon them, that he may at length discharge an unerring blow” – Doddridge. It is not uncommon to speak of “sleepless justice;” and the idea here is, that however justice may have seemed to slumber or to linger, it was not really so, but that it had on them an everwatchful eye, and was on its way to do that which was right in regard to them. A sinner should never forget that there is an eye of unslumbering vigilance always upon him, and that everything that he does is witnessed by one who will yet render exact justice to all men. No person, however careful to conceal his sins, or however bold in transgression, or however unconcerned he may seem to be, can hope that justice will always linger, or destruction always slumber.

John Calvin
2 Peter 2:12
12.But these. He proceeds with what he had begun to say respecting impious and wicked corrupters. And, first, he condemns their loose manners and the obscene wickedness of their whole life; and then he says that they were audacious and perverse, so that by their scurrilous garrulity they insinuated themselves into the favor of many.

He especially compares them to those brute animals, which seem to have come to existence to be ensnared, and to be driven to their own ruin by their own instinct; as though he had said, that being induced by no allurements, they of themselves hasten to throw themselves into the snares of Satan and of death. For what we render, naturally born, Peter has literally, “natural born.” But there is not much difference in the sense, whether one of the two has been by somebody else supplied, or by putting down both he meant more fully to express his meaning.

What he adds, speaking evil of the things that they understand not, refers to the pride and presumption he mentioned in the preceding verse. He then says that all excellency was insolently despised by them, because they were become wholly stupefied, so that they differed nothing from beasts. But the word I have rendered for destruction, and afterwards in corruption, is the same, φθορὰ; but it is variously taken: but when he says that they would perish in their own corruption, he shews that their corruptions would be ruinous or destructive.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 2:12. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed] Literally, as irrational merely natural animals born for capture and destruction. A different order of the words in some MSS. justifies the rendering born by their nature. The words express a strong indignation, at first sight scarcely reconcilable with the implied protest against a railing accusation. It must be remembered however that the whole context implies a depth of infamy and impurity for which no language could well be too strong in its scornful condemnation.

speak evil of the things that they understand not] Literally, speaking evil (or railing) in the things in which they are ignorant. The words point to the same form of railing as before. They present, as it were, the evil of which St Paul speaks (“intruding into those things which they have not seen,” Col_2:18) at its opposite pole. As, on the one hand, there was the danger of an undue reverence for angelic “dignities,” so, on the other, there was the peril of men acting irreverently, from the standpoint of an equally crass ignorance, and speaking of the mystery of spiritual evil, not with solemn awe, but with foolish talking and jesting.

and shall utterly perish in their own corruption] We cannot improve on the English rendering, but it fails to give the emphasis which is found in the Greek from the repetition of the same root both in the noun and the verb. Literally the clause runs, they shall be corrupted in and by their corruption, i.e. in St Paul’s words, of which these are in fact the echo, “they that sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal_6:8).

Pulpit Commentary
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed. The order of the words in the best manuscripts favours the translation of the Revised Version, But these, as creatures without reason, born mere animals to be taken and destroyed. The word rendered “mere animals” is literally “natural” (φυσικά); comp. Jud 2Pe_1:10, “what they know naturally (φυσικῶς) as brute beasts.”

Speak evil of the things that they understand not; literally, as in the Revised Version, railing in matters whereof they are ignorant. (For the construction, see Wirier, 3:66. 5, at the end.) The context and the parallel passage in St. Jude show that the δόξαι, the glories, are the things which the false teachers understand not and at which they rail. Good angels do not pronounce a railing judgment against angels that sinned. These men, knowing nothing of the angelic sphere of existence, rail at the elect and the fallen angels alike, lien should speak with awe of the sin of the angels; jesting on such subjects is unbecoming and dangerous.

And shall utterly perish in their own corruption. The best manuscripts read here καί φθαρήσονται “shall also be destroyed in their own corruption.” It seems better to take φθορά in the sense of “corruption” here, as in 2Pe_1:4, and to suppose that St. Peter is intentionally playing on the double sense of the noun and its cognate verb than, with Huther, to refer the pronoun αὐτῶν, “their own,” to the ἄλογα ζῶα, and to understand St. Peter as meaning that the false teachers, who act like irrational animals, shall be destroyed with the destruction of irrational animals.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 2:12
But these, as natural brute beasts – These persons, who resemble so much irrational animals which are made to be taken and destroyed. The point of the comparison is, that they are like fierce and savage beasts that exercise no control over their appetites, and that seeM to be made only to be destroyed. These persons, by their fierce and ungovernable passions, appear to be made only for destruction, and rush blindly on to it. The word rendered “natural,” (which, however, is lacking in several manuscripts), means “as they are by nature,” following the bent of their natural appetites and passions. The idea is, that they exercised no more restraint over their passions than beasts do over their propensities. They were entirely under the dominion of their natural appetites, and did not allow their reason or conscience to exert any constraint. The word rendered “brute,” means without reason; irrational. Man has reason, and should allow it to control his passions; the brutes have no rational nature, and it is to be expected that they will act out their propensities without restraint. Man, as an animal, has many passions and appetites resembling those of the brute creation, but he is also endowed with a higher nature, which is designed to regulate and control his inferior propensities, and to keep them in subordination to the requirements of law. If a man sinks himself to the level of brutes, he must expect to be treated like brutes; and as wild and savage animals – lions, and panthers, and wolves, and bears – are regarded as dangerous, and as “made to be taken and destroyed,” so the same destiny must come upon men who make themselves like them.

Made to be taken and destroyed – They are not only useless to society, but destructive; and men feel that it is right to destroy them. We are not to suppose that this teaches that the only object which God had in view in making wild animals was that they might be destroyed; but that people so regard them.

Speak evil of the things that they understand not – Of objects whose worth and value they cannot appreciate. This is no uncommon thing among people, especially in regard to the works and ways of God.

And shall utterly perish in their own corruption – Their views will be the means of their ruin; and they render them fit for it, just as much as the fierce passions of the wild animals do.

John Calvin

2 Peter 2:13
13.Count it pleasure As though he had said, “They place their happiness in their present enjoyments.” We know that men excel brute animals in this, that they extend their thoughts much farther. It is, then, a base thing in man to be occupied only with present things. Here he reminds us that our minds ought to be freed from the gratifications of the flesh, except we wish to be reduced to the state of beasts.

The meaning of what follows is this, “These are filthy spots to you and your assembly; for while they feast with you, they at the same time luxuriate in their errors, and shew by their eyes and gestures their lascivious lusts and detestable incontinency.” Erasmus has rendered the words thus, “Feasting in their errors, they deride you.” But this is too forced. It may not unaptly be thus explained, “Feasting with you, they insolently deride you by their errors.” I, however, have given the version which seems the most probable, “luxuriating in their errors, feasting with you.” He calls the libidinous such as had eyes full of adultery, and who were incessantly led to sin without restraint, as it appears from what is afterwards said.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 2:13. and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness …] The words, which stand in the Greek as one of a series of participial clauses, are, perhaps, better joined with the last clause of the preceding verse, They shall perish … receiving the reward.…

as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time] The latter words have been variously rendered;

(1) as in the English version,

(2) counting delicate living for a day (i.e. but for a little while, laying stress on the transitoriness of all such indulgence) as pleasure:

(1) seems, on the whole, preferable, all the more so as it supplies a point of contact at once with St Peter’s own language as to the shamelessness of revel “at the third hour of the day” (Act_2:15), and with St Paul’s contrast between the works of the day and those of night (Rom_13:13, Rom_13:14; 1Th_5:7). It has been urged against this that the Greek word for “riot” means rather the delicate and luxurious living (Luk_7:25) that might be practised both by day and night rather than actual riot, but it is obvious that luxury shews itself chiefly in banquets which belong to night, and to carry the same luxury into the morning meal might well be noted as indicating excess. In the Greek version by Symmachus a cognate noun is applied to the banqueters of Amo_6:7.

Spots they are and blemishes] The former word is found in Eph_5:27; the latter is not found elsewhere in the New Testament.

sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you] The MSS. both here and in the parallel passage of Jude (ver. 12) vary between ἀπάταις (= deceits) and ἀγάπαις (= feasts of love). The latter gives, on the whole, a preferable meaning, and, even if we adopt the former reading, we are compelled by the context to look on the love-feasts as the scene of the sin referred to. The Agapae were a kind of social club feast, at first, perhaps, connected in time and place with the Lord’s Supper, but afterwards first distinguished and then divided from it. They were a witness of the new brotherhood in which the conventional distinctions of society were suspended, and rich and poor met together. Their existence is recognised in early ecclesiastical writers, in the first century by Ignatius (ad Smyrn. c. 2), in the second by Tertullian (Apol. c. 39), and they survived for three or four hundred years, till the disorders connected with them led to their discontinuance. In 1Co_11:21 we have traces of such disorders at a very early period, and St Peter’s language here shews that they had found their way into the Asiatic Churches as well as into that of Corinth. The “false teachers” and their followers took their place in the company of the faithful, and instead of being content with their simple food, consisting probably of bread, fish, and vegetables (the fish are always prominent in the representations of the Agapae in the Catacombs of Rome), brought with them, it would seem, the materials for a more luxurious meal (comp. 1Co_11:21), and, as the context shews, abused the opportunities thus given them for wanton glances and impure dalliance. Taking the first reading (“deceits”), the Apostle lays stress on the fact that in doing so they were in fact practising a fraud on the Christian society into which they thus intruded themselves.

Pulpit Commentary
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness. The two most ancient manuscripts read here, instead of κομιούμενοι ἀδικούμενοι. This reading is adopted by the Revised Version in the translation, “suffering wrong as the hire of wrongdoing.” But the other reading is well supported, and gives a better sense, “receiving, as they shall, the reward of unrighteousness.” Balaam loved the reward of unrighteousness in this world (2Pe_2:15); the false teachers shall receive its final reward in the world to come. Whichever reading is preferred, this clause is best taken with the preceding verse.

As they that count it pleasure to riot in the daytime; literally, counting the revel in daytime a pleasure. St. Peter has hitherto spoken of the insubordination and irreverence of the false teachers; he now goes on to condemn their sensuality. The words ἐν ἠμέρα cannot, with some ancient interpreters, be taken as equivalent to μαθ ̓ ἡμέραν, daily (Luk_16:19). Many commentators, as Huther and Alford, translate “delicate living for a day”—enjoyment which is temporal and short-lived. But when we compare 1Th_5:7, “They that are drunken are drunken in the night,” and St. Peter’s own words in Act_2:15, it seems more probable that the apostle means to describe these false teachers as worse than ordinary men of pleasure. They reserve the night for their feasting; these men spend the day in luxury. The word τρυφή means “luxurious or delicate living” rather than “riot.”

Spots they are and blemishes. (For σπίλοι, spots, St. Jude has σπιλάδες, sunken rocks.) The word for “blemishes” (μῶμοι) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. But comp. 1Pe_1:19, where the Lord Jesus is described as “a Lamb without blemish and without spot (ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου).” The Church should be like her Lord, “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph_5:27); but these men are spots and blemishes on her beauty.

Sporting themselves with their own deceivings; literally, reveling in their deceivings. The word for “reveling” (ἐντρυφῶντες) corresponds with τρυφή, used just above. The manuscripts vary between ἀπάταις, deceivings, and ἀγάπαις, loves, love-feasts. The former reading seems the best-supported here, and the latter in the parallel passage of St. Jude (Jud_1:12). It is possible that the paronomasia may be intentional (compare the σπίλοι of St. Peter and the σπιλάδες of St. Jude). St. Peter will not use the honourable name for the banquets which these men disgrace by their excesses. He calls them ἀπάτας, not ἀγάπας—deceits, not love-feasts. There is no love in the hearts of these men. Their love-feasts are hypocrisies, deceits; they try to deceive men, but they deceive not God.

While they feast with you. The Greek word συνευωχούμενοι occurs elsewhere only in Jud Jud_1:12. The false teachers joined in the love-feasts, but made them the occasion of self-indulgence. Compare the similar conduct of the Corinthians (1Co_11:20-22).

John Calvin
2 Peter 2:14
14.Beguiling, or baiting, unstable souls. By the metaphor of baiting he reminds the faithful to beware of their hidden and deceitful arts; for he compares their impostures to hooks which may catch the unwary to their destruction. By adding unstable souls he shews the reason for caution, that is, when we have not struck firm roots in faith and in the fear of the Lord: and he intimates at the same time, that they have no excuse who suffer themselves to be baited or lured by such flatteries; for this must have been ascribed to their levity. Let there be then a stability of faith, and we shall be safe from the artifices of the ungodly.

An heart they have exercised with covetous practices, or, with lusts. Erasmus renders the last word, “rapines.” The word is of a doubtful meaning. I prefer “lusts.” As he had before condemned incontinence in their eyes, so he now seems to refer to the vices latent in their hearts. It ought not, however, to be confined to covetousness. By calling them cursed or execrable children, he may be understood to mean, that they were so either actively or passively, that is, that they brought a curse with them wherever they went, or that they deserved a curse.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 2:14. having eyes full of adultery] The Greek gives literally the somewhat strange figure, having eyes full of an adulteress. The phrase is probably connected with a recollection of our Lord’s words as to the sin of looking on a woman, to lust after her, being equivalent to adultery (Mat_5:28). St John’s mention of the “woman Jezebel” in the Church of Thyatira (Rev_2:20-22) suggests the thought that there may have been some conspicuous woman of that type of character present to St Peter’s thoughts, who at once encouraged her followers to bring their dainties—even though they were things that had been sacrificed to idols,—to the Agapae of the Christian Church, and when they were there held them fascinated by her wanton beauty. The spell thus exercised is further described as causing a restlessness in evil. The eyes that were thus attracted could not “cease from sin.”

beguiling unstable souls] The Greek word for “beguiling” may be noted as one of those which St Peter had in common with St James. It means primarily to “take with a bait, or in a snare,” and in Jam_1:14 is rightly rendered “enticed.” The idea suggested is that the false teachers attended the Agapae as seducers of the innocence of others.

a heart they have exercised with covetous practices] Better, trained in covetousness. The words have an adequate meaning if we take “covetousness” in its ordinary sense. Greed of gain as well as wantonness characterised the false teachers. (See note on verse 3.) In not a few instances, however, there is so close a connexion between the Greek word and sins of impurity (comp. 1Th_4:6; 1Co_5:11; Eph_5:3, Eph_5:5) that it is not unreasonable to see that meaning here also. The idiomatic use of the English phrase “taking advantage” of a woman’s weakness, presents a like association of thought.

cursed children] Better, children of a curse. The Apostle falls back on the old Hebrew idiom of expressing character by the idea of sonship. So we have “children of obedience in 1Pe_1:14. “Children of disobedience” (Eph_2:2). The “son of perdition” (Joh_17:12).

Pulpit Commentary
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; literally, of an adulteress. Compare our Lord’s words in the sermon on the mount (Mat_5:28), which may have been in St. Peter’s thoughts. For the second clause, comp. 1Pe_4:1, “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.”

Beguiling unstable souls; rather, enticing. The word δελεάζοντες, from δέλεαρ, a bait, belongs to the art of the fowler or fisherman, and would naturally occur to St. Peter’s mind. He uses it again in 1Pe_4:18 of this chapter (comp. also Jas_1:14). The word for “unstable” (ἀστηρίκτους) occurs only here and in 2Pe_3:16. It is a word of peculiar significance in the mouth of St. Peter, conscious, as he must have been, of his own want of stability in times past. He would remember also the charge once given to him, “When thou art converted, strengthen (στήριξον) thy brethren” (Luk_22:32).

An heart they have exercised with covetous practices; rather, trained in covetousness, according to the reading of the best manuscripts, πλεονεξίας. This is the third vice laid to the charge of the false teachers. They had practiced it so long that their very heart was trained in the habitual pursuit of gain by all unrighteous means. Cursed children; rather, children of curse. Like “the son of perdition,” “children of wrath,” “children of disobedience,” “son of Belial,” etc.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 2:14

Having eyes full of adultery – Margin, as in the Greek, “an adulteress;” that is, gazing with desire after such persons. The word “full” is designed to denote that the corrupt passion referred to had wholly seized and occupied their minds. The eye was, as it were, full of this passion; it saw nothing else but some occasion for its indulgence; it expressed nothing else but the desire. The reference here is to the sacred festival mentioned in the previous verse; and the meaning is, that they celebrated that festival with licentious feelings, giving free indulgence to their corrupt desires by gazing on the females who were assembled with them. In the passion here referred to, the “eye” is usually the first offender, the inlet to corrupt desires, and the medium by which they are expressed. Compare the notes at Mat_5:28. The wanton glance is a principal occasion of exciting the sin; and there is much often in dress, and mien, and gesture, to charm the eye and to deepen the debasing passion.

And that cannot cease from sin – They cannot look on the females who may be present without sinning. Compare Mat_5:28. There are many men in whom the presence of the most virtuous woman only excites impure and corrupt desires. The expression here does not mean that they have no natural ability to cease from sin, or that they are impelled to it by any physical necessity, but only that they are so corrupt and unprincipled that they certainly will sin always.

Beguiling unstable souls – Those who are not strong in Christian principle, or who are naturally fluctuating and irresolute. The word rendered beguiling means to bait, to entrap, and would be applicable to the methods practiced in hunting. Here it means that it was one of their arts to place specious allurements before those who were known not to have settled principles or firmness, in order to allure them to sin. Compare 2Ti_3:6.

An heart they have exercised with covetous practices – Skilled in the arts which covetous men adopt in order to cheat others out of their property. A leading purpose which influenced these men was to obtain money. One of the most certain ways for dishonest men to do this is to make use of the religious principle; to corrupt and control the conscience; to make others believe that they are eminently holy, or that they are the special favorites of heaven; and when they can do this, they have the purses of others at command. For the religious principle is the most powerful of all principles; and he who can control that, can control all that a man possesses. The idea here is that these persons had made this their study, and had learned the ways in which men could be induced to part with their money under religious pretences. We should always be on our guard when professedly religious teachers propose to have much to do with money matters. While we should always be ready to aid every good cause, yet we should remember that unprincipled and indolent men often assume the mask of religion that they may practice their arts on the credulity of others, and that their real aim is to obtain their property, not to save their souls.

Cursed children – This is a Hebraism, meaning literally, “children of the curse,” that is, persons devoted to the curse, or who will certainly be destroyed.

John Calvin
Jude 1:16
16.These are murmurers. They who indulge their depraved lusts, are hard to please, and morose, so that they are never satisfied. Hence it is, that they always murmur and complain, however kindly good men may treat them. He condemns their proud language, because they haughtily made a boast of themselves; but at the same time he shews that they were mean in their disposition, for they were servilely submissive for the sake of gain. And, commonly, this sort of inconsistency is seen in unprincipled men of this kind. When there is no one to check their insolence, or when there is nothing that stands in their way, their pride is intolerable, so that they imperiously arrogate everything to themselves; but they meanly flatter those whom they fear, and from whom they expect some advantage. He takes persons as signifying eternal greatness and power.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 16. These are murmurers, complainers …] The first noun is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but the use of cognate verbs and nouns in Mat_20:11; Luk_5:30; 1Co_10:10; Act_6:1 and elsewhere, suggests that it refers primarily to the temper of a rebellious murmuring against human authority; in this case, probably, against that of the apostles and other appointed rulers of the Church. The Greek word for “complainers” has a more specific meaning, and means strictly blamers of fate, or, in modern phrase, finding fault with Providence. They took, as it were, a pessimist view of their lot of life, perhaps of the order of the world generally. The same word is used by Philo (Vit. Mos. p. 109) to describe the temper of the Israelites in the wilderness, and appears in the Characters of Theophrastus (c. xvii.) as the type of the extremest form of general discontent, which complains even of the weather.

walking after their own lusts] This stands in connexion with the foregoing as cause and effect. The temper of self-indulgence, recognising not God’s will, but man’s desires, as the law of action, is precisely that which issues in weariness and despair. The Confessions of the Preacher present the two elements often in striking combination (Ecc_2:1-20).

their mouth speaketh great swelling words] For the latter words and what they imply, see notes on 2Pe_2:18.

having men’s persons in admiration] Literally, admiring persons. The phrase, which is a somewhat stronger form of the more familiar “accepting persons” (Jam_2:1; Gal_2:6; Mat_22:16) occurs in the LXX. of Gen_19:21; Lev_19:15. The temper characterised is that which fawns as in wondering admiration on the great, while all the time the flatterer is simply seeking what profit he can get out of him whom he flatters.

Albert Barnes
Jude 1:16
These are murmurers – The word here used does not elsewhere occur, though the word “murmur” is frequent, Mat_20:11; Luk_5:30; Joh_6:41, Joh_6:43, Joh_6:61; Joh_7:32; 1Co_10:10. Compare Joh_7:12; Act_6:1; Phi_2:14; 1Pe_4:9. The sense is that of repining or complaining under the allotments of Providence, or finding fault with God’s plans, and purposes, and doings.

Complainers – Literally, finding fault with one’s own lot (μεμψίμοιροι mempsimoiroi.) The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament; the thing often occurs in this world. Nothing is more common than for men to complain of their lot; to think that it is hard; to compare theirs with that of others, and to blame God for not having made their circumstances different. The poor complain that they are not rich like others; the sick that they are not well; the enslaved that they are not free; the bereaved that they are deprived of friends; the ugly that they are not beautiful; those in humble life that their lot was not cast among the great and the frivolous. The virtue that is opposed to this is “contentment” – a virtue of inestimable value. See the notes at Phi_4:11.

Walking after their own lusts – Giving unlimited indulgence to their appetites and passions. See the notes at 2Pe_3:3.

And their mouth speaketh great swelling words – Notes at 2Pe_2:18.

Having men’s persons in admiration – Showing great respect to certain persons, particularly the rich and the great. The idea is, that they were not “just” in the esteem which they had for others, or that they did not appreciate them according to their real worth, but paid special attention to one class in order to promote their selfish ends.

Because of advantage – Because they hoped to derive some benefit to themselves.

John Calvin
Jude 1:17
17.But, beloved. To a most ancient prophecy he now adds the admonitions of the apostles, the memory of whom was recent. As to the verb μνήσθητε, it makes no great difference, whether you read it as declarative or as an exhortation; for the meaning remains the same, that being fortified by the prediction he quotes, they ought to be terrified.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 17. remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles …] The passage stands in close parallelism with 2Pe_3:2, but differs in speaking only of “apostles” and not of prophets, and apparently also in referring only or chiefly to the predictions of the apostles and not to their commandments. If we could assume that 2 Peter was the earlier of the two Epistles, we might see in St Jude’s language a reference to that of the Apostle. It will be noticed also that St Jude does not say, as St Peter does, “of us the apostles” (see, however, note on 2Pe_3:2), and so far leaves it uncertain whether he includes himself.

John Calvin
Jude 1:18
By the last time he means that in which the renewed condition of the Church received a fixed form till the end of the world; and it began at the first coming of Christ.

After the usual manner of Scripture, he calls them scoffers who, being inebriated with a profane and impious contempt of God, rush headlong into a brutal contempt of the Divine Being, so that no fear nor reverence keeps them any longer within the limits of duty: as no dread of a future judgment exists in their hearts, so no hope of eternal life. So at this day the world is full of Epicurean despisers of God, who having cast off every fear, madly scoff at the whole doctrine of true religion, regarding it as fabulous.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 18. there should be mockers in the last time …] The word for “mockers” is found in 2Pe_3:3, but the general character of those described agrees with the picture drawn in 1Ti_4:1; 2Ti_3:1. St Jude, it will be noted, does not dwell on the specific form of mockery, the taunts as to the delay in the second coming of the Lord, on which St Peter lays stress.

walk after their own ungodly lusts] Literally, after the lusts of their own impieties. The last word adds a special feature to the description already given, in nearly the same words, in verse 16.

Albert Barnes
Jude 1:17-18
But, beloved, remember ye … – There is a striking similarity between these two verses and 2Pe_3:1-3. It occurs in the same connection, following the description of the false and dangerous teachers against whom the apostle would guard them, and couched almost in the same words. See it explained in the notes at the similar passage in Peter. When Jude (Jud_1:17) entreats them to remember the words which were spoken by “the apostles,” it is not necessarily to be inferred that he was not himself an apostle, for he is speaking of what was past, and there might have been a special reason why he should refer to something that they would distinctly remember which had been spoken by the “other” apostles on this point. Or it might be that he meant also to include himself among them, and to speak of the apostles collectively, without particularly specifying himself.

Mockers – The word rendered “mockers” here is the same which in the parallel place in 2Pe_3:3 is rendered “scoffers.” Peter has stated more fully what was the particular subject on which they scoffed, and has shown that there was no occasion for it 2Pe_3:4, following.

John Calvin
Jude 1:19
19.These be they who separate themselves. Some Greek copies have the participle by itself, other copies add ἑαυτοὺς, “themselves;” but the meaning is nearly the same. He means that they separated from the Church, because they would not bear the yoke of discipline, as they who indulge the flesh dislike spiritual life. The word sensual, or animal, stands opposed to spiritual, or to the renovation of grace; and hence it means the vicious or corrupt, such as men are when not regenerated. For in that degenerated nature which we derive from Adam, there is nothing but what is gross and earthly; so that no part of us aspires to God, until we are renewed by his Spirit.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 19. These be they who separate themselves] Many of the better MSS. omit the reflexive pronoun. The verb is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but a simpler form, with the same meaning, occurs in Lev_20:24. It was characteristic of the false teachers and mockers who are spoken of that they drew lines of demarcation, which Christ had not drawn, between themselves and others, or between different classes of believers, those, e.g., who had the higher gnosis, or exercised a wider freedom (2Pe_2:19), and those who were content to walk in “the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Act_2:42). They lost sight of the unity of the Church of Christ and preferred the position of a sect or party; and, in so doing, united the exclusiveness of the Pharisees with the sensuous unbelief of the Sadducees.

sensual, having not the Spirit] The adjective is the same as that which describes the “natural man” of 1Co_2:14, and implies that the man lives in the full activity of his emotional and perceptive nature, without rising into the region of the reason and conscience which belong to his spiritual being. “Sensual,” or better perhaps, sensuous, is the nearest English equivalent, but, strictly speaking, it expresses the lower aspect of the character represented by the Greek term. The “sensuous” or psychical man is not necessarily “carnal” in the sense usually attached to that term, but the two words are closely connected with, and indeed overlap each other. The words seem specially directed against the boast of many of the Gnostic teachers, who, looking to St Paul’s words in 1Co_2:14, boasted that they alone were “spiritual” in that Apostle’s sense of the term, and that the members of the Church were, as the “natural” or “sensuous,” incapable of knowing the higher mysteries of God (Iren. i. 6. 2-4). St Jude retorts the charge, and says that they, who boast of their illumination, are in very deed destitute of every higher element of the religious life. The word for “Spirit” stands without the article in the Greek, and though this does not necessarily exclude the thought that the Spirit of God is spoken of, it is, perhaps, better to rest in the meaning that the false teachers were so absorbed in their lower, sensuous nature that they no longer possessed, in any real sense of the word, that element in man’s compound being, which is itself spiritual, and capable therefore of communion with the Divine Spirit.

John Calvin
Jude 1:20
20.But ye, beloved. He shews the manner in which they could overcome all the devices of Satan, that is, by having love connected with faith, and by standing on their guard as it were in their watch-tower, until the coming of Christ. But as he uses often and thickly his metaphors, so he has here a way of speaking peculiar to himself, which must be briefly noticed.

He bids them first to build themselves on faith; by which he means, that the foundation of faith ought to be retained, but that the first instruction is not sufficient, except they who have been already grounded on true faith, went on continually towards perfection. He calls their faith most holy, in order that they might wholly rely on it, and that, leaning on its firmness, they might never vacillate.

But since the whole perfection of man consists in faith, it may seem strange that he bids them to build upon it another building, as though faith were only a commencement to man. This difficulty is removed by the Apostle in the words which follow, when he adds, that men build on faith when love is added; except, perhaps, some one may prefer to take this meaning, that men build on faith, as far as they make proficiency in it, and doubtless the daily progress of faith is such, that itself rises up as a building. Thus the Apostle teaches us, that in order to increase in faith, we must be instant in prayer and maintain our calling by love.

Praying in the Holy Ghost. The way of persevering is, when we are endued with the power of God. Hence whenever the question is respecting the constancy of faith, we must flee to prayer. And as we commonly pray in a formal manner, he adds, In the Spirit; as though he had said, that such is our sloth, and that such is the coldness of our flesh, that no one can pray aright except he be roused by the Spirit of God; and that we are also so inclined to diffidence and trembling, that no one dares to call God his Father, except through the teaching of the same Spirit; for from him is solicitude, from him is ardor and vehemence, from him is alacrity, from him is confidence in obtaining what we ask; in short, from him are those unutterable groanings mentioned by Paul (Rom_8:26.) It is not, then, without reason that Jude teaches us, that no one can pray as he ought without having the Spirit as his guide.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 20. building up yourselves on your most holy faith …] Both the adjective, which is nowhere used of faith in its subjective sense, and St Jude’s use of the substantive in verse 3, lead us to take “faith” in the objective sense, as nearly identical with “creed,” which attaches to it in the later Epistles of the New Testament (1Ti_5:8 and perhaps 2Ti_4:7). The readers of the Epistle are exhorted to take that faith as a foundation, and to erect on it the superstructure of a pure and holy life.

praying in the Holy Ghost] The precise combination is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but the fact which it expresses corresponds with St Paul’s language in Rom_8:26, and the almost identical phraseology of 1Co_14:15. What is meant is the ecstatic outpouring of prayer in which the words of the worshipper seem to come as from the Spirit who “helpeth our infirmities” and “maketh intercession for us,” it may be in articulate speech, it may be also as with “groanings that cannot be uttered” (Rom_8:26). Here again we may recognise a side-glance at the false teachers. Not those who deserted the Church’s faith for a life of impurity, but those who “built” on it a life of holiness, were capable of that height of devotion which is described as “praying in the Spirit.”

Albert Barnes
Jude 1:20
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith – Compare the notes at Jud_1:3. On the word “building,” see the 1Co_3:9-10 notes; Eph_2:20 note. It is said here that they were to “build up themselves;” that is, they were to act as moral and responsible agents in this, or were to put forth their own proper exertions to do it. Dependent, as we are, and as all persons with correct views will feel themselves to be, yet it is proper to endeavor to do the work of religion as if we had ample power of ourselves. See the notes at Phi_2:12. The phrase “most holy faith” here refers to the system of religion which was founded on faith; and the meaning is, that they should seek to establish themselves most firmly in the belief of the doctrines, and in the practice of the duties of that system of religion.
Praying in the Holy Ghost – See the notes at Eph_6:18.

John Calvin
Jude 1:21
21.Keep yourselves in the love of God. He has made love as it were the guardian and the ruler of our life; not that he might set it in opposition to the grace of God, but that it is the right course of our calling, when we make progress in love. But as many things entice us to apostasy, so that it is difficult to keep us faithful to God to the end, he calls the attention of the faithful to the last day. For the hope of that alone ought to sustain us, so that we may at no time despond; otherwise we must necessarily fail every moment.

But it ought to be noticed that he would not have us to hope for eternal life, except through the mercy of Christ: for he will in such a manner be our judge, as to have no other rule in judging us than that gratuitous benefit of redemption obtained by himself.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 21. keep yourselves in the love of God …] The words admit equally of being taken of our love for God, or God’s love for us, but the latter meaning is more in harmony with the general tenor of Scripture, and, in particular, with our Lord’s language (“continue ye in my love”) in Joh_15:9, and probably also St Paul’s (“the love of Christ constraineth us”) in 2Co_5:14.

looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ] The verb implies, as in Luk_2:25, Luk_2:38, Luk_2:23:51, that the “mercy” is thought of as in the future, and probably there is a special reference to the second coming of Christ as that which will manifest His mercy no less than His righteous judgment. There is no ground, however, for limiting it to this significance, and it may well include all acts of mercy to which men were looking forward in patient expectation, as in store for them during the remainder of their earthly pilgrimage.

The reference in this and the preceding verse (1) to the Holy Spirit, (2) to the Father, (3) to the Lord Jesus Christ, may be noted as shewing St Jude’s witness to the “faith once delivered to the saints.”

Albert Barnes
Jude 1:21
Keep yourselves in the love of God – Still adverting to their own agency. On the duty here enjoined, see the notes at Joh_15:9. The phrase “the love of God” may mean either God’s love to us, or our love to him. The latter appears, however, to be the sense here, because it is not a subject which could be enjoined, that we should keep up “God’s love to us.” That is a point over which we can have no control, except so far as it may be the result of our obedience; but we may be commanded to love him, and to “keep” ourselves in that love.

Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ – Particularly when he shall come to receive his people to himself. See the Tit_2:13 note; 2Pe_3:12 note; 2Ti_4:8 note.

John Calvin
Jude 1:22
22.And of some have compassion. He adds another exhortation, shewing how the faithful ought to act in reproving their brethren, in order to restore them to the Lord. He reminds them that such ought to be treated in different ways, every one according to his disposition: for to the meek and teachable we ought to use kindness; but others, who are hard and perverse, must be subdued by terror. This is the difference which he mentions.

The participle διακρινόμενοι, I know not why this is rendered in a passive sense by Erasmus. It may, indeed, be rendered in either way, but its active meaning is more suitable to the context. The meaning then is, that if we wish to consult the well-being of such as go astray, we must consider the character and disposition of every one; so that they who are meek and tractable may in a kind manner be restored to the right way, as being objects of pity; but if any be perverse, he is to be corrected with more severity. And as asperity is almost hateful, he excuses it on the ground of necessity; for otherwise, they who do not willingly follow good counsels, cannot he saved.

Moreover, he employs a striking metaphor. When there is a danger of fire, we hesitate not to snatch away violently whom we desire to save; for it would not be enough to beckon with the finger, or kindly to stretch forth the hand. So also the salvation of some ought to be cared for, because they will not come to God, except when rudely drawn. Very different is the old translation, which reading is however found in many of the Greek copies; the Vulgate is, “Rebuke the judged,” (Arguite dijudicatos .) But the first meaning is more suitable, and is, I think, according to the old and genuine reading. The word to save, is transferred to men, not that they are the authors, but the ministers of salvation.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 22. And of some have compassion, making a difference …] The MSS. present a strange variety of readings. Those of most authority give, Some rebuke (or convict, the same word as that used in Joh_16:8; Eph_5:11) when they debate with you (participle in the accusative case). The Received Text rests on the evidence of later MSS., but it may be questioned whether the participle (in this case in the nominative), which is in the middle voice, can have the meaning of “making a difference,” and even if we adopt that reading it would be better to render the word rebuke, as you debate with them, as with an implied reference to the same word as used in verse 9. Internal evidence, as far as it goes, agrees with the better MSS. There is more point in the contrast between the teachers who need a severe rebuke and those who may be saved with fear than in the two degrees of pity presented by the Received Text.

Albert Barnes
Jude 1:22
And of some have compassion – This cannot be intended to teach that they were not to have compassion for all people, or to regard the salvation of all with solicitude, but that they were to have special and unusual compassion for a certain class of persons, or were to approach them with feelings appropriate to their condition. The idea is, that the special feeling to be manifest toward a certain class of persons in seeking their salvation was tender affection and kindness. They were to approach them in the gentlest manner, appealing to them by such words as “love” would prompt. Others were to be approached in a different manner, indicated by the phrase, “save with fear.” The class here referred to, to whom “pity” (ἐλεάτε eleate) was to be shown, and in whose conversion and salvation tender compassion was to be employed, appear to have been the timid, the gentle, the unwary; those who had not yet fallen into dangerous errors, but who might be exposed to them; those, for there are such, who would be more likely to be influenced by kind words and a gentle manner than by denunciation. The direction then amounts to this, that while we are to seek to save all, we are to adapt ourselves wisely to the character and circumstances of those whom we seek to save. See the notes at 1Co_9:19-22.

Making a difference – Making a distinction between them, not in regard to your “desires” for their salvation, or your “efforts” to save them, but to the “manner” in which it is done. To be able to do this is one of the highest qualifications to be sought by one who endeavors to save souls, and is indispensable for a good minister of the gospel. The young, the tender, the delicate, the refined, need a different kind of treatment from the rough, the uncultivated, the hardened. This wisdom was shown by the Saviour in all his preaching; it was eminent in the preaching of Paul.

John Calvin
Jude 1:23
23.Hating even the garment. This passage, which otherwise would appear obscure, will have no difficulty in it, when the metaphor is rightly explained. He would have the faithful not only to beware of contact with vices, but that no contagion might reach them, he reminds them that everything that borders on vices and is near to them ought to be avoided: as, when we speak of lasciviousness, we say that all excitements to lusts ought to be removed. The passage will also become clearer, when the whole sentence is filled up, that is, that we should hate not only the flesh, but also the garment, which, by a contact with it, is infected. The particle καὶ even serves to give greater emphasis. He, then, does not allow evil be cherished by indulgence, so that he bids all preparations and all accessories, as they say, to be cut off.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 23. and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire] Here again the MSS. present a striking variation, those of most authority giving “others save, snatching them out of the fire, and have compassion on others with fear.” If we adopt this reading we have two classes of offenders brought before us, those who are to be saved as from the fire, as on the very verge of destruction, and those who are for some reason or other objects of a more tender pity, though they do not come within the range of immediate action. That pity, however, the context shews, was not to be accompanied by any tolerance of the evils into which they had fallen. In “snatching out of the fire” we have probably a reminiscence of the “brand plucked out of the fire” of Zec_3:2.

hating even the garment spotted by the flesh] The “garment” is the inner tunic worn next to the flesh, and therefore thought of as contaminated by its impurity, and it serves accordingly as a symbol of all outer habits of life that are affected by the inner foulness of the soul that is in bondage to the flesh. As men would loathe the touch of a defiled garment, bearing the stains of a cancerous ulcer, so they were to hate whatever was analogous to it in conduct (comp. Isa_30:22). The allusion to Zec_3:2 in the previous clause makes it probable that here also there is a reference to the “filthy garments;” polluted, i.e., with some ceremonial uncleanness, in which the high-priest Joshua the son of Josedech first appears in the prophet’s vision. In the benediction of Rev_3:4 on those who “have not defiled their garments,” we have the same imagery.

R.B. Terry
Jude 1:22-23
TEXT: “·And on some have mercy, who doubt; ·and some save, by snatching [them] out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear”

NOTES: “·And convince some, who doubt; ·and some save, by snatching [them] out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear”
EVIDENCE: A 33 81 1241 1739 1881 most lat vg cop(north)

NOTES: “·And some, on whom plyou have mercy when they doubt, save by snatching [them] out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear”

NOTES: “·And convince some, who doubt; ·and some save, by snatching [them] out of the fire with fear”

NOTES: “·And on some have mercy, who doubt; ·and with fear save some, by snatching [them] out of the fire”
EVIDENCE: {C2} K L P {630 2495} Byz Lect {syr(h)}

OTHER: “·Some snatch out of the fire; ·and have mercy on those who doubt with fear”
EVIDENCE: p72 one lat syr(ph) cop(south)

OTHER: “·And on some have mercy, who doubt; ·and with fear some save, by snatching [them] out of the fire, and convince some with fear”
EVIDENCE: 104 (omit first “with fear”) 945

COMMENTS: The evidence listed above in braces has the words “with fear” at the end of the variation. The seven readings above involve three basic variations with several minor ones. The first is the verb used in the first clause. Some manuscripts read “have mercy on” while others read “convince” (which can also be translated “refute”). A few condense the reading by omitting the first phrase. There is only three letters’ difference in the spelling of the words translated “have mercy on” and “convince.” Since the word translated “doubt” can also be translated “quarrel,” as it is in verse 9, copyists who misunderstood the word in this sense would be tempted to change “have mercy on” to “refute.” The second basic variation is the omission of “and some” by one manuscript, making the three clauses into two. The omission was probably accidental. If the words were included, manuscript B would read like manuscript S. The third basic variation is the omission of the words “and on some have mercy,” making the three clauses into two. This seems to have been done by later copyists, perhaps to avoid the double use of “have mercy on.” A few copyists changed “have mercy on” to “convince” in this last clause for the same reason.

Albert Barnes
Jude 1:23
And others – Another class; those who were of such a character, or in such circumstances, that a more bold, earnest, and determined manner would be better adapted to them.

Save with fear – That is, by appeals adapted to produce fear. The idea seems to be that the arguments on which they relied were to be drawn from the dangers of the persons referred to, or from the dread of future wrath. It is undoubtedly true, that while there is a class of persons who can be won to embrace religion by mild and gentle persuasion, there is another class who can be aroused only by the terrors of the law. Every method is to be employed, in its proper place, that we “by all means may save some.”

Pulling them out of the fire – As you would snatch persons out of the fire; or as you would seize on a person that was walking into a volcano. Then, a man would not use the mild and gentle language of persuasion, but by word and gesture show that he was deeply in earnest.

Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh – The allusion here is not quite certain, though the idea which the apostle meant to convey is not difficult to be understood. By “the garment spotted by the flesh” there may be an allusion to a garment worn by one who had had the plague, or some offensive disease which might be communicated to others by touching even the clothing which they had worn. Or there may be an allusion to the ceremonial law of Moses, by which all those who came in contact with dead bodies were regarded as unclean, Lev_21:11; Num_6:6; Num_9:6; Num_19:11. Or there may be an allusion to the case mentioned in Lev_15:4, Lev_15:10, Lev_15:17; or perhaps to a case of leprosy. In all such instances, there would be the idea that the thing referred to by which the garment had been spotted was polluting, contagious, or loathsome, and that it was proper not even to touch such a garment, or to come in contact with it in any way. To something of this kind the apostle compares the sins of the persons here referred to. While the utmost effort was to be made to save them, they were in no way to partake of their sins; their conduct was to be regarded as loathsome and contagious; and those who attempted to save them were to take every precaution to preserve their own purity. There is much wisdom in this counsel. While we endeavor to save the “sinner,” we cannot too deeply loathe his “sins;” and in approaching some classes of sinners there is need of as much care to avoid being defiled by them, as there would be to escape the plague if we had any transaction with one who had it. Not a few have been deeply corrupted in their attempts to reform the polluted. There never could be, for example, too much circumspection and prayer for personal safety from pollution, in attempting to reform licentious and abandoned females.

John Calvin
Jude 1:24
24Now unto him that is able to keep you. He closes the Epistle with praise to God; by which he shews that our exhortations and labors can do nothing except through the power of God accompanying them.

Some copies have “them” instead of “you.” If we receive this reading, the sense will be, “It is, indeed, your duty to endeavor to save them; but it is God alone who can do this” However, the other reading is what I prefer; in which there is an allusion to the preceding verse; for after having exhorted the faithful to save what was perishing, that they might understand that all their efforts would be vain except God worked with them, he testifies that they could not be otherwise saved than through the power of God. In the latter clause there is indeed a different verb, φυλάξαι, which means to guard; so the allusion is to a remoter clause, when he said, Keep yourselves

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 24. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling] Better, able to keep you from stumbling. See note on the difference between “stumbling” and “falling,” on 2Pe_1:10. The form of the concluding doxology is determined naturally by the thoughts that have led up to it. The writer had been dwelling on the various ways in which men had stumbled and fallen. He now directs their thoughts to God as alone able to preserve them from a like disastrous issue.

to present you faultless before the presence of his glory] The adjective is a favourite one with St Paul (Eph_1:4, Eph_1:5:27; Php_2:15; Col_1:22) as describing the character of believers. In Heb_9:14 and 1Pe_1:19 it is used of the stainless purity of Christ. The “glory” spoken of is that which is to be manifested at the coming of Christ “in his own glory, and that of the Father, and of the Holy Angels” (Luk_9:26). Comp. also Tit_2:13.

with exceeding joy] Both adjective and substantive are expressed in Greek by the one word for “exulting joy” in Luk_1:14, Luk_1:44; Act_2:46.

Albert Barnes
Jude 1:24
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling – This ascription to one who was able to keep them from falling is made in view of the facts adverted to in the Epistle – the dangers of being led away by the arts and the example of these teachers of error. Compare Jud_1:3. On the ascription itself, compare the notes at Rom_16:25-27. The phrase “to keep from falling” means here to preserve from falling into sin, from yielding to temptation, and dishonoring their religion. The word used (ἀπταιστους aptaistous) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly, “not stumbling” as of a horse; then “without falling into sin, blameless.” It is God only who, amidst the temptations of the world, can keep us from falling; but, blessed be his name, he can do it, and if we trust in him he will.
And to present you faultless – The word here rendered “faultless” is the same which is rendered “unblamable” in Col_1:22. See the sentiment here expressed explained in the notes at that passage.

Before the presence of his glory – In his own glorious presence; before himself encompassed with glory in heaven. The saints are to be presented there as redeemed and sanctified, and as made worthy by grace to dwell there forever.

With exceeding joy – With the abounding joy that they are redeemed; that they are rescued from sorrow, sin, and death, and that heaven is to be their eternal home. Who now can form an adequate idea of the happiness of that hour?

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
Jude 25. to the only wise God our Saviour …] The form of the doxology in the Received Text presents a parallelism to that of 1Ti_1:17. The word “wise” is, however, omitted in many of the best MSS. In the use of the word “Saviour” as applied to God we have a parallelism with 1Ti_2:3. The Father, no less than the Son, was thought of by both writers as the Saviour and Preserver of all men. The MSS. that omit “wise” add, for the most part, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

be glory and majesty, dominion and power] The Greek has no verb, and the gap may be filled up either with the imperative of ascription or the indicative of assertion. The four words are brought together as expressing the aggregate of the Divine Omnipotence, the last word expressing the “power of authority,” as distinct from that of energy. The better MSS. insert after “power” the words “before all time” (literally, before the whole æon), so that the doxology includes the past eternity as well as the future. In the words “for ever” we have literally unto all the ages, or æons.

The Epistle ends with the “Amen” which was the natural close of a doxology, and, like the Second Epistle of St Peter, contains no special messages or salutations. The letter was strictly a catholic, or encyclical, Epistle.

Albert Barnes
Jude 1:25
To the only wise God – See the Rom_16:27 note; 1Ti_1:17 note.

Our Saviour – The word “Saviour” may be appropriately applied to God as such, because he is the great Author of salvation, though it is commonly applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. That it may have been designed that it should be applied here to the Lord Jesus no one can certainly deny, nor can it be demonstrated that it was; and in these circumstances, as all that is fairly implied in the language may be applied to God as such, it is most natural to give the phrase that interpretation.

Be glory and majesty – 1Ti_1:17 note; Rom_16:17 note.

Dominion and power … – See Mat_6:13. It is common in the Scriptures to ascribe power, dominion, and glory to God, expressing the feeling that all that is great and good belongs to him, and the desire of the heart that he may reign in heaven and on earth. Compare Rev_4:11; Rev_19:1. With the expression of such a desire it was not inappropriate that this Epistle should be closed – and it is not inappropriate that this volume should be closed with the utterance of the same wish. In all our affections and aspirations, may God be supreme; in all the sin and woe which prevail here below, may we look forward with strong desire to the time when his dominion shall be set up over all the earth; in all our own sins and sorrows, be it ours to look onward to the time when in a purer and happier world his reign may be set up over our own souls, and when we may cast every crown at his feet and say, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. – Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God,” Rev_4:11; Rev_19:1.

2 Peter Chapter 1:3-4, 10-21 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:3
3.According as his divine power. He refers to the infinite goodness of God which they had already experienced, that they might more fully understand it for the future. For he continues the course of his benevolence perpetually to the end, except when we ourselves break it off by our unbelief; for he possesses exhaustless power and an equal will to do good. Hence the Apostle justly animates the faithful to entertain good hope by the consideration of the former benefits of God. For the same purpose is the amplification which he makes; for he might have spoken more simply, “As he has freely given us all things.” But by mentioning “divine power,” he rises higher, that is, that God has copiously unfolded the immense resources of his power. But the latter clause may be referred to Christ as well as to the Father, but both are suitable. It may however be more fitly applied to Christ, as though he had said, that the grace which is conveyed to us by him, is an evidence of divinity, because it could not have done by humanity.

That pertain to life and godliness, or, as to life and godliness. Some think that the present life is meant here, as godliness follows as the more excellent gift; as though by those two words Peter intended to prove how beneficent and bountiful God is towards the faithful, that he brought them to light, that he supplies them with all things necessary for the preservation of an earthly life, and that he has also renewed them to a spiritual life by adorning them with godliness. But this distinction is foreign to the mind of Peter, for as soon as he mentioned life, he immediately added godliness, which is as it were its soul; for God then truly gives us life, when he renews us unto the obedience of righteousness. So Peter does not speak here of the natural gifts of God, but only mentions those things which he confers peculiarly on his own elect above the common order of nature.

That we are born men, that we are endued with reason and knowledge, that our life is supplied with necessary support, — all this is indeed from God. As however men, being perverted in their minds and ungrateful, do not regard these various things, which are called the gifts of nature, among God’s benefits, the common condition of human life is not here referred to, but the peculiar endowments of the new and Spiritual life, which derive their origin from the kingdom of Christ. But since everything necessary for godliness and salvation is to be deemed among the supernatural gifts of God, let men learn to arrogate nothing to themselves, but humbly ask of God whatever they see they are wanting in, and to ascribe to him whatever good they may have. For Peter here, by attributing the whole of godliness, and all helps to salvation, to the divine power of Christ, takes them away from the common nature of men, so that he leaves to us not even the least particle of any virtue or merit.

Through the knowledge of him. He now describes the manner in which God makes us partakers of so great blessings, even by making himself known to us by the gospel. For the knowledge of God is the beginning of life and the first entrance into godliness. In short, spiritual gifts cannot be given for salvation, until, being illuminated by the doctrine of the gospel, we are led to know God. But he makes God the author of this knowledge, because we never go to him except when called. Hence the effectual cause of faith is not the perspicacity of our mind, but the calling of God. And he speaks not of the outward calling only, which is in itself ineffectual; but of the inward calling, effected by the hidden power of the Spirit when God not only sounds in our ears by the voice of man, but draws inwardly our hearts to himself by his own Spirit.

To glory and virtue, or, by his own glory and power. Some copies have ἰδία δόξὟ, “by his own glory,” and it is so rendered by the old interpreter; and this reading I prefer, because the sentence seems thus to flow better For it was Peter’s object expressly to ascribe the whole praise of our salvation to God, so that we may know that we owe every thing to him. And this is more clearly expressed by these words, — that he has called us by his own glory and power. However, the other reading, though more obscure, tends to the same thing; for he teaches us, that we are covered with shame, and are wholly vicious, until God clothes us with glory and adorns us with virtue. He further intimates, that the effect of calling in the elect, is to restore to them the glorious image of God, and to renew them in holiness and righteousness.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1: 3. According as his divine power] Better, Seeing that.… The Greek word for “divine” is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in verse 4 and Act_17:29.

life and godliness] The words at first suggest the union of outward and spiritual blessings, the things needful for body and soul. The words that follow shew, however, that “life” must be taken in its higher sense, as extending to the eternal life which “standeth” in the knowledge of God. The word for “godliness” is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in this Epistle (1:6, 7, 3:11), and in Act_3:12, where it is used by St Peter, and in the Pastoral Epistles (1Ti_2:2, 1Ti_2:3:16, 1Ti_2:4:7, 1Ti_2:8, et al.), and like that for “knowledge” in ver. 2 is characteristic of the later period of the Apostolic age. In the LXX. of Pro_1:7 a kindred word appears as an equivalent for “the fear of the Lord.” Its strict meaning is that of “true reverence for God,” and so far answers more to “religion” than to “godliness,” the state of one who is “godly” or “like God.”

through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue] The word for “knowledge” is the same as in ver. 2, and fixes, as has been said, the meaning of “life” in the previous verse. In the last four words the English text mistranslates the preposition, and we have to read “by (or through) His own glory and virtue.” Some MSS. give the simple dative of the instrument (ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ), and others the preposition with the genitive (διὰ δόξης). For the word “virtue” see note on 1Pe_2:9. Its recurrence three times in this Epistle (here and in verse 5) and so rarely elsewhere in the New Testament (Php_4:8 only) is, so far as it goes, in favour of identity of authorship. Taking the true rendering, the thought expressed is that the attributes of God manifested by Him are the means by which He calls men to the knowledge of the truth.

Pulpit Commentary
According as his Divine power; better, seeing that, as in the Revised Version. The construction is the genitive absolute with ὡς. The words are to be closely connected with 2Pe_1:2 : “We need not fear, for God has given us all things that are necessary for our salvation; grace and peace will be multiplied unto us, if only we seek the knowledge of God.” This is better than, with Huther and others, to make a full stop after 2Pe_1:2, and to connect 2Pe_1:3 and 2Pe_1:4 closely with 2Pe_1:5. The word for “Divine” (θεῖος) is unusual in the Greek Testament; it occurs only in two other places—2Pe_1:4 and Act_17:29. Hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness; rather, as in the Revised Version, hath granted. St. Peter does not here use the ordinary verb for “to give,” but one (δωρέομαι) which in the New Testament occurs only in this Epistle and in Mar_15:45. “God hath given us all things for (πρός) life,” i.e., all things necessary for life. By “life” St. Peter means the spiritual life of the soul; that life which consists in union with Christ, which is the life of Christ living in us. “Godliness” (εὐσέβεια) is a word of the later apostolic age; besides this Epistle (in which it occurs four times) and a speech of St. Peter’s in Act_3:12, it is found only in St. Paul’s pastoral Epistles; it means reverence, true piety towards God.

Through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue; literally, through the full knowledge (ἐπιγνώσρως) of him that called us (comp. Joh_17:3, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God. and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”). The best-supported reading seems to be that followed by the Revised Version, “By his own glory and virtue (ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ καὶ ἀρετῇ).” Bengel says, “Ad gloriam referuntur attributa Dei naturalia, ad virtutem ea quae dicuntur moralia; intime unum sunt utraque.” All his glorious attributes make up his glory; ἀρετή, virtue, is the energy, the activity of those attributes. The other reading, also well supported (διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀρετῆς, “through glory and virtue”), would mean nearly the same (comp. Gal_1:15; καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ). God calls us through his attributes; his glorious perfections invite us, the revelation of those perfections calls us to his service. The word ἀρετή, with one exception (Php_4:8), occurs in the New Testament only in St. Peter’s Epistles (see 1Pe_2:9; 2Pe_1:3 and 2Pe_1:5). This is, so far, an argument in favour of identity of authorship.

R.B. Terry
2 Peter 1:3
TEXT: “the One who called us to [his] own glory and virtue.”
EVIDENCE: S A C P Psi 33 81 104 614 630 945 1241 1739 1881 2495 lat vg syr(ph,h,pal) cop

NOTES: “the One who called us through glory and virtue.”
EVIDENCE: p72 B K L Byz Lect

COMMENTS: There is only one letter difference between the Greek words for “own” and “through”; in addition, the words for “glory” and “virtue” are in different cases in the readings which makes a difference in spelling of one extra letter each. The text reading seems to have a wider range of evidence from different types of ancient text.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:3
According as his divine power hath given unto us – All the effects of the gospel on the human heart are, in the Scriptures, traced to the power of God. See the notes at Rom_1:16. There are no moral means which have ever been used that have such power as the gospel; none through which God has done so much in changing the character and affecting the destiny of man.

All things that pertain unto life and godliness – The reference here in the word “life” is undoubtedly to the life of religion; the life of the soul imparted by the gospel. The word “godliness” is synonymous with piety. The phrase “according as” (ὡς hōs) seems to be connected with the sentence in 2Pe_1:5, “Forasmuch as he has conferred on us these privileges and promises connected with life and godliness, we are bound, in order to obtain all that is implied in these things, to give all diligence to add to our faith, knowledge,” etc.

Through the knowledge of him – By a proper acquaintance with him, or by the right kind of knowledge of him. Notes, Joh_17:3.

That hath called us to glory and virtue – Margin: “by.” Greek, “through glory,” etc. Doddridge supposes that it means that he has done this “by the strengthening virtue and energy of his spirit.” Rosenmuller renders it, “by glorious benignity.” Dr. Robinson (Lexicon) renders it, “through a glorious display of his efficiency.” The objection which anyone feels to this rendering arises solely from the word “virtue,” from the fact that we are not accustomed to apply that word to God. But the original word (ἀρετή aretē) is not as limited in its signification as the English word is, but is rather a word which denotes a good quality or excellence of any kind. In the ancient classics it is used to denote manliness, vigor, courage, valor, fortitude; and the word would rather denote “energy” or “power” of some kind, than what we commonly understand by virtue, and would be, therefore, properly applied to the “energy” or “efficiency” which God has displayed in the work of our salvation. Indeed, when applied to moral excellence at all, as it is in 2Pe_1:5, of this chapter, and often elsewhere, it is perhaps with a reference to the “energy, boldness, vigor,” or “courage” which is evinced in overcoming our evil propensities, and resisting allurements and temptations. According to this interpretation, the passage teaches that it is “by a glorious Divine efficiency” that we are called into the kingdom of God.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:4
4.Whereby are given to us. It is doubtful whether he refers only to glory and power, or to the preceding things also. The whole difficulty arises from this, — that what is here said is not suitable to the glory and virtue which God confers on us; but if we read, “by his own glory and power,” there will be no ambiguity nor perplexity. For what things have been promised to us by God, ought to be properly and justly deemed to be the effects of his power and glory.

At the same time the copies vary here also; for some have δι ᾿ ὃν, “on account of whom;” so the reference may be to Christ. Whichsoever of the two readings you choose, still the meaning will be, that first the promises of God ought to be most highly valued; and, secondly, that they are gratuitous, because they are offered to us as gifts. And he then shews the excellency of the promises, that they make us partakers of the divine nature, than which nothing can be conceived better.
For we must consider from whence it is that God raises us up to such a height of honor. We know how abject is the condition of our nature; that God, then, should make himself ours, so that all his things should in a manner become our things, the greatness of his grace cannot be sufficiently conceived by our minds.

Therefore this consideration alone ought to be abundantly sufficient to make us to renounce the world and to carry us aloft to heaven. Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.

But the word nature is not here essence but quality. The Manicheans formerly dreamt that we are a part of God, and that, after having run the race of life we shall at length revert to our original. There are also at this day fanatics who imagine that we thus pass over into the nature of God, so that his swallows up our nature. Thus they explain what Paul says, that God will be all in all (1Co_15:28,) and in the same sense they take this passage. But such a delirium as this never entered the minds of the holy Apostles; they only intended to say that when divested of all the vices of the flesh, we shall be partakers of divine and blessed immortality and glory, so as to be as it were one with God as far as our capacities will allow.

This doctrine was not altogether unknown to Plato, who everywhere defines the chief good of man to be an entire conformity to God; but as he was involved in the mists of errors, he afterwards glided off to his own inventions. But we, disregarding empty speculations, ought to be satisfied with this one thing, — that the image of God in holiness and righteousness is restored to us for this end, that we may at length be partakers of eternal life and glory as far as it will be necessary for our complete felicity.

Having escaped We have already explained that the design of the Apostle was, to set before us the dignity of the glory of heaven, to which God invites us, and thus to draw us away from the vanity of this world. Moreover, he sets the corruption of the world in opposition to the divine nature; but he shews that this corruption is not in the elements which surround us, but in our heart, because there vicious and depraved affections prevail, the fountain and root of which he points out by the word lust. Corruption, then, is thus placed in the world, that we may know that the world is in us.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:4. whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises] Better, the verb being the same as in the previous verse, through which (the glory and the virtue just mentioned) He hath given unto us. The nature of the promises is indicated by the words that follow. They included pardon, peace, eternal life, participation in the Divine Nature. In the word “precious” we note a reproduction of the phraseology of the First Epistle (1Pe_1:7, 1Pe_1:19), but it should be noted that the apparent parallelism with 1Pe_2:7 is in the English only, and not in the Greek.

that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature] The words seem bold, but they simply shew how deeply St Peter had entered into the meaning of more familiar phrases. If men were “partakers of Christ,” brought by His own ordinance into communion and fellowship with Him (1Co_1:9; 2Co_1:7) and with the Father (Joh_14:20-23, 17:Joh_14:21-23; 1Jn_1:3) and with the Holy Ghost (2Co_13:14), did not this involve their partaking in that Divine Nature which was common to the Three Persons of the Godhead? Christ was one with them and with the Father, dwelling in them by the power of the Spirit.

having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust] The verb, which occurs again in chap. 2:18, 20, is peculiar to this Epistle in the New Testament. The word for “corruption,” though not peculiar, is yet characteristic (chap. 2:12, 19). The “corruption” has its seat outwardly, as contrasted with the kingdom of God, in the world that lies in wickedness (1Jn_5:19); inwardly in the element of desire (“lust” in its widest sense), which makes men live to themselves and not to God. The moment of escape must be thought of as that of conversion, of which baptism was the outward sign.

Pulpit Commentary
2 Pet 2:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; rather, as in the Revised Version, whereby he hath granted unto us h is precious and exceeding great promises. Does the word “whereby” (δἰ ὧν, literally, “through which things”) refer to the immediately preceding words, “glory and virtue”? or is its antecedent to be found in the more distant “all things which pertain unto life and godliness”? Both views are possible. God first granted unto us all things necessary for life and godliness; through those first gifts, duly used, he has granted unto us others more precious still. But it seems better to connect the relative with the nearer antecedent. It is through God’s glory and virtue, through his glorious attributes and the energetic working of those attributes, that he has granted the promises. The verb (δεδώρηται) should be translated “hath granted,” as in the preceding verse. The word for “promise” (ἐπάγγελμα) occurs elsewhere only in 2Pe_3:13; it means the thing promised, not the act of promising. The order of the words, “exceeding great and precious,” is differently given in the manuscripts; on the whole, that adopted by the Revised Version seems the best supported. The article with the first word (τὰ τίμια καὶ μέγιστα) has a possessive force, and is well rendered, “his precious promises.” They are precious, because they will be certainly fulfilled in all their depth of blessed meaning, and because they are in part fulfilled at once (comp. Eph_1:13, Eph_1:14, “In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance”). The word “precious” reminds us of 1Pe_1:7, 1Pe_1:19; the resemblance with 1Pe_2:7 is apparent only, in the Authorized Version, not in the Greek.

That by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature; literally, that through these (promises, i.e., through their fulfillment) ye may become partakers. It is true that the verb is aorist (γένησθε), but it does not follow that, might be” is the right translation, or that the writer regarded the participation as having already taken place the children of light”). As Alford says, the aorist seems to imply “that the aim was not the procedure, but the completion, of that indicated; not the γίνεσθαι, the carrying on the process, but the γενέσθαι, its accomplishment.” The end of God’s gift is the complete accomplishment of his gracious purpose, but it is only by continual growth that the Christian attains at length to that accomplishment. St. Peter’s words seem very bold; but they do not go beyond many other statements of Holy Scripture. At the beginning God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” St. Paul tells us that believers are now “changed into the same image from glory to glory” (2Co_3:18; comp. also 1Co_11:7; Eph_4:24; Col_3:10; Rom_8:29; 1Co_15:49, etc.). Christians, born of God (Joh_1:13; 1Pe_1:23), are made “partakers of Christ” (Heb_3:14), “partakers of the Holy Ghost” (Heb_6:4). Christ prayed for us that we might be “made perfect in one” with himself who is one with God the Father, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost the Comforter (Joh_17:20-23; Joh_14:16, Joh_14:17, Joh_14:23). The second person is used to imply that the promises made to all Christians (unto us) belong to those whom St. Peter now addresses. Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; literally, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world in lust. These words express the negative side of the Christian life, the former clause describing its active and positive side. God’s precious promises realized in the soul enable the Christian to become partakers of the Divine nature, and to escape from corruption; the two aspects of the Christian life must go on simultaneously; each implies and requires the other. Bengel says, “Haec fuga non tam ut officium nostrum, quam ut beneficium divinum, communionem cum Deo comitans, hoc loco ponitur.” The verb used here (ἀποφεύγειν) occurs in the New Testament only in this Epistle. It reminds us of St. Paul’s words in Rom_8:21, “The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption.” The corruption or destruction (for the Word φθορά has both those meanings) from which we must escape has its seat and power in lust; working secretly in the lusts of men’s wicked hearts, it manifests its evil presence in the world (comp. Gen_6:12; 1Jn_2:16).

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:4
Whereby – Δἰ ὧν Di’ hōn. “Through which” – in the plural number, referring either to the “glory” and “virtue” in the previous verse, and meaning that it was by that glorious divine efficiency that these promises were given; or, to all the things mentioned in the previous verse, meaning that it was through those arrangements, and in order to their completion, that these great and glorious promises were made. The promises given are in connection with the plan of securing “life and godliness,” and are a part of the gracious arrangements for that object.

Exceeding great and precious promises – A “promise” is an assurance on the part of another of some good for which we are dependent on him. It implies:

(1) That the thing is in his power;

(2) That he may bestow it or not, as he pleases;

(3) That we cannot infer from any process of reasoning that it is his purpose to bestow it on us;

(4) That it is a favor which we can obtain only from him, and not by any independent effort of our own.

The promises here referred to are those which pertain to salvation. Peter had in his eye probably all that then had been revealed which contemplated the salvation of the people of God. They are called “exceeding great and precious,” because of their value in supporting and comforting the soul, and of the honor and felicity which they unfold to us. The promises referred to are doubtless those which are made in connection with the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel, for there are no other promises made to man. They refer to the pardon of sin; strength, comfort, and support in trial; a glorious resurrection; and a happy immortality. If we look at the greatness and glory of the objects, we shall see that the promises are in fact exceedingly precious; or if we look at their influence in supporting and elevating the soul, we shall have as distinct a view of their value. The promise goes beyond our reasoning powers; enters a field which we could not otherwise

penetrate – the distant future; and relates to what we could not otherwise obtain.
All that we need in trial, is the simple promise of God that he will sustain us; all that we need in the hour of death, is the assurance of our God that we I shall be happy forever. What would this world be without a “promise?” How impossible to penetrate the future! How dark that which is to come would be! How bereft we should be of consolation! The past has gone, and its departed joys and hopes can never be recalled to cheer us again; the present may be an hour of pain, and sadness, and disappointment, and gloom, with perhaps not a ray of comfort; the future only opens fields of happiness to our vision, and everything there depends on the will of God, and all that we can know of it is from his promises. Cut off from these we have no way either of obtaining the blessings which we desire, or of ascertaining that they can be ours. For the promises of God, therefore, we should be in the highest degree grateful, and in the trials of life we should cling to them with unwavering confidence as the only things which can be an anchor to the soul.

That by these – Greek, “through these.” That is, these constitute the basis of your hopes of becoming partakers of the divine nature. Compare the notes at 2Co_7:1.

Partakers of the divine nature – This is a very important and a difficult phrase. An expression somewhat similar occurs in Heb_12:10; “That we might be partakers of his holiness.” See the notes at that verse. In regard to the language here used, it may be observed:

(1) That it is directly contrary to all the notions of “Pantheism” – or the belief that all things are now God, or a part of God – for it is said that the object of the promise is, that we “may become partakers of the divine nature,” not that we are now.

(2) It cannot be taken in so literal a sense as to mean that we can ever partake of the divine “essence,” or that we shall be “absorbed” into the divine nature so as to lose our individuality. This idea is held by the Budhists; and the perfection of being is supposed by them to consist in such absorption, or in losing their own individuality, and their ideas of happiness are graduated by the approximation which may be made to that state. But this cannot be the meaning here, because:

(a) It is in the nature of the case” impossible. There must be forever an essential difference between a created and an uncreated mind.

(b) This would argue that the Divine Mind is not perfect. If this absorption was necessary to the completeness of the character and happiness of the Divine Being, then he was imperfect before; if before perfect, he would not be after the absorption of an infinite number of finite and imperfect minds.

(c) In all the representations of heaven in the Bible, the idea of “individuality” is one that is prominent. “Individuals” are represented everywhere as worshippers there, and there is no intimation that the separate existence of the redeemed is to be absorbed and lost in the essence of the Deity. Whatever is to be the condition of man hereafter, he is to have a separate and individual existence, and the number of intelligent beings is never to be diminished either by annihilation, or by their being united to any other spirit so that they shall become one.

The reference then, in this place, must be to the “moral” nature of God; and the meaning is, that they who are renewed become participants of the same “moral” nature; that is, of the same views, feelings, thoughts, purposes, principles of action. Their nature as they are born, is sinful, and prone to evil Eph_2:3, their nature as they are born again, becomes like that of God. They are made like God; and this resemblance will increase more and more forever, until in a much higher sense than can be true in this world, they may be said to have become “partakers of the divine nature.” Let us remark, then,

(a) That “man” only, of all the dwellers on the earth, is capable of rising to this condition. The nature of all the other orders of creatures here below is incapable of any such transformation that it can be said that they become “partakers of the divine nature.”

(b) It is impossible now to estimate the degree of approximation to which man may yet rise toward God, or the exalted sense in which the term may yet be applicable to him; but the prospect before the believer in this respect is most glorious. Two or three circumstances may be referred to here as mere hints of what we may yet be:

(1) Let anyone reflect on the amazing advances made by himself since the period of infancy. But a few, very few years ago, he knew nothing. He was in his cradle, a poor, helpless infant. He knew not the use of eyes, or ears, or hands, or feet. He knew not the name or use of anything, not even the name of father or mother. He could neither walk, nor talk, nor creep. He did not know even that a candle would burn him if he put his finger there. He knew not how to grasp or hold a rattle, or what was its sound, or whence that sound or any other sound came. Let him think what he is at twenty, or forty, in comparison with this; and then, if his improvement in every similar number of years hereafter “should” be equal to this, who can tell the height to which he will rise?

(2) We are here limited in our own powers of learning about God or his works. We become acquainted with him through his works – by means of “the senses.” But by the appointment of this method of becoming acquainted with the external world, the design seems to have been to accomplish a double work quite contradictory – one to help us, and the other to hinder us. One is to give us the means of communicating with the external world – by the sight, the hearing, the smell, the touch, the taste; the other is to shut us out from the external world, except by these. The body is a casement, an enclosure, a prison in which the soul is incarcerated, from which we can look out on the universe only through these organs. But suppose, as may be the case in a future state, there shall be no such enclosure, and that the whole soul may look directly on the works of God – on spiritual existences, on God himself – who can then calculate the height to which man may attain in becoming a “partaker of the divine nature?”

(3) We shall have an “eternity” before us to grow in knowledge, and in holiness, and in conformity to God. Here, we attempt to climb the hill of knowledge, and having gone a few steps – while the top is still lost in the clouds – we lie down and die. We look at a few things; become acquainted with a few elementary principles; make a little progress in virtue, and then all our studies and efforts are suspended, and “we fly away.” In the future world we shall have an “eternity” before us to make progress in knowledge, and virtue, and holiness, uninterrupted; and who can tell in what exalted sense it may yet be true that we shall be “partakers of the divine nature,” or what attainments we may yet make?

Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust – The world is full of corruption. It is the design of the Christian plan of redemption to deliver us from that, and to make us holy; and the means by which we are to be made like God, is by rescuing us from its dominion.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:10
10.Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence. He draws this conclusion, that it is one proof that we have been really elected, and not in vain called by the Lord, if a good conscience and integrity of life correspond with our profession of faith. And he infers, that there ought to be more labor and diligence, because he had said before, that faith ought not to be barren.

Some copies have, “by good works;” but these words make no change in the sense, for they are to be understood though not expressed.

He mentions calling first, though the last in order. The reason is, because election is of greater weight or importance; and it is a right arrangement of a sentence to subjoin what preponderates. The meaning then is, labor that you may have it really proved that you have not been called nor elected in vain. At the same time he speaks here of calling as the effect and evidence of election. If any one prefers to regard the two words as meaning the same thing, I do not object; for the Scripture sometimes merges the difference which exists between two terms. I have, however, stated what seems to me more probable.

Now a question arises, Whether the stability of our calling and election depends on good works, for if it be so, it follows that it depends on us. But the whole Scripture teaches us, first, that God’s election is founded on his eternal purpose; and secondly, that calling begins and is completed through his gratuitous goodness. The Sophists, in order to transfer what is peculiar to God’s grace to ourselves, usually pervert this evidence. But their evasions may be easily refuted. For if any one thinks that calling is rendered sure by men, there is nothing absurd in that; we may however, go still farther, that every one confirms his calling by leading a holy and pious life. But it is very foolish to infer from this what the Sophists contend for; for this is a proof not taken from the cause, but on the contrary from the sign or the effect. Moreover, this does not prevent election from being gratuitous, nor does it shew that it is in our own hand or power to confirm election. For the matter stands thus, — God effectually calls whom he has preordained to life in his secret counsel before the foundation of the world; and he also carries on the perpetual course of calling through grace alone. But as he has chosen us, and calls us for this end, that we may be pure and spotless in his presence; purity of life is not improperly called the evidence and proof of election, by which the faithful may not only testify to others that they are the children of God, but also confirm themselves in this confidence, in such a manner, however, that they fix their solid foundation on something else.

At the same time, this certainty, mentioned by Peter, ought, I think, to be referred to the conscience, as though the faithful acknowledged themselves before God to be chosen and called. But I take it simply of the fact itself, that calling appears as confirmed by this very holiness of life. It may, indeed, be rendered, Labor that your calling may become certain; for the verb ποιεῖσθαι is transitive or intransitive. Still, however you may render it, the meaning is nearly the same.

The import of what is said is, that the children of God are distinguished from the reprobate by this mark, that they live a godly and a holy life, because this is the design and end of election. Hence it is evident how wickedly some vile unprincipled men prattle, when they seek to make gratuitous election an excuse for all licentiousness; as though, forsooth! we may sin with impunity, because we have been predestinated to righteousness and holiness!

For if ye do these things. Peter seems again to ascribe to the merits of works, that God furthers our salvation, and also that we continually persevere in his grace. But the explanation is obvious; for his purpose was only to shew that hypocrites have in them nothing real or solid, and that, on the contrary, they who prove their calling sure by good works, are free from the danger of falling, because sure and sufficient is the grace of God by which they are supported. Thus the certainty of our salvation by no means depends on us, as doubtless the cause of it is beyond our limits. But with regard to those who feel in themselves the efficacious working of the Spirit, Peter bids them to take courage as to the future, because the Lord has laid in them the solid foundation of a true and sure calling.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:10. give diligence to make your calling and election sure] We hardly need to prove that the “calling and election” of which St Peter speaks were thought of by him as Divine acts according to the Divine foreknowledge (1Pe_1:2, 1Pe_2:21). He was not hindered, however, by any speculative difficulties from admitting that it was in man’s power to frustrate both (comp. 2Co_6:1; Gal_2:21), and that effort was required to give them permanent validity. They were, from his point of view, as the conditions of a covenant offered by God’s mercy, but it remained with man to ratify or rescind the compact.

ye shall never fall] More literally, and more significantly, ye shall never stumble, “stumbling” being, as in Rom_11:11, a step short of falling. The use of the word may be noted as presenting a coincidence with the language of St James (Jam_2:10, Jam_3:2).

Pulpit Commentary
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence. The two first words, διὸ μᾶλλον, “wherefore the rather,” are by some understood as referring only to the last clause; as if St. Peter were saying, “Rather than follow those who lack the graces enumerated above, and forget that they were cleansed from their former sins, give diligence.” Μᾶλλον is not unfrequently used in this antithetical sense, as in 1Co_5:2; Heb_11:25. But it seems better to refer διό to the whole passage (Heb_11:3-9), and to understand μᾶλλον in its more usual intensive sense, “all the more,” as in 1Th_4:10, etc. Because God has bestowed such gifts on men, because the use of those gifts leads on to the full knowledge of Christ, therefore all the more give diligence. The word σπουδάσατε, “give diligence,” recalls the σπουδὴν πᾶσαν, “all diligence,” of 1Th_4:5. The aorist seems, as it were, to sum up the continued diligence of daily life into one vivid description. This is the only place in which St. Peter uses the vocative “brethren;” he has “beloved” in the First Epistle (1Pe_2:11) and in 2Pe_3:1, 2Pe_3:8. Both words imply affectionate exhortation.

Two ancient manuscripts, the Alexandrine and the Sinaitic, insert here, “Through your good works (διὰ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων, or τῶν καλῶν ὑμῶν ἔργων).” To make your calling and election sure. Alford calls attention to the middle voice of the verb, “Not ποιεῖν, which lay beyond their power, but ποιεῖσθαι, on their side, for their part. But the verb must not be explained away into a pure subjectivity, ‘to make sure to yourselves;’ it carries the reflexive force, but only in so far as the act is and must be done for and quoad a man’s own self, the absolute and final determination resting with Another.” The calling and election are the act of God. All the baptized, all who bear the name of Christ, are called into the Church, but few comparatively are chosen, elect (ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί, Mat_20:16). We look, as it were, from far below up to the mysteries of God’s sovereign government; we cannot read the list of blessed names written in the Lamb’s book of life; we cannot lift ourselves to a point high enough to comprehend the secrets of God’s dealing with mankind, and to reconcile the Divine foreknowledge and omnipotence with the free agency of man. But we feel the energy of that free agency within us; we know that Holy Scripture bids us to work out our salvation, and tells us of some who receive the grace of God in vain (2Co_6:1), or frustrate the grace of God (Gal_2:21); and we feel that when the apostle tells us to make our calling and election sure, he means that we must try to realize that calling and election, to bring its solemn responsibilities and its blessed hopes to bear upon our daily life, to live as men who have been called into God’s Church, who are elect unto eternal life, and so to ratify God’s election by our poor acceptance. He calls us into covenant with himself; we answer, as the children of Israel said at Mount Sinai, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exo_24:7). Our obedience makes the covenant sure to us; holiness of life is the proof of God’s election, for it implies the indwelling presence of “that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. “If ye do these things;” i.e., “If ye make your calling and election sure.” “The plural shows that the apostle considered this making sure a very many-sided act” (Dietlein, in Huther). Others refer the ταῦτα, “these things,” to the graces just enumerated. Ye shall never fall; literally, ye shall never stumble (οὐ μὴ πταίσητε). Πταίειν is “to strike one’s foot against some obstacle,” and so to stumble. St. James says, “In many things we offend (πταίομεν) all” (Jas_3:2). St. Peter here means to stumble so as to fall (Rom_11:11); while Christians “do these things,” while they make their calling and election sure by holiness of life, they cannot stumble; it is in unguarded moments that they fall into temptation.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:11
For so an entrance – In this manner you shall be admitted into the kingdom of God.

Shall be ministered unto you – The same Greek word is here used which occurs in 2Pe_1:5, and which is there rendered “add.” See the notes at that verse. There was not improbably in the mind of the apostle a recollection of that word; and the sense may be, that “if they would lead on the virtues and graces referred to in their beautiful order, those graces would attend them in a radiant train to the mansions of immortal glory and blessedness.” See Doddridge in loc.

Abundantly – Greek, “richly.” That is, the most ample entrance would be furnished; there would be no doubt about their admission there. The gates of glory would be thrown wide open, and they, adorned with all the bright train of graces, would be admitted there.

Into the everlasting kingdom … – Heaven. It is here called “everlasting,” not because the Lord Jesus shall preside over it as the Mediator (compare the notes at 1Co_15:24), but because, in the form which shall be established when “he shall have given it up to the Father,” it will endure forever, The empire of God which the Redeemer shall set up over the souls of his people shall endure to all eternity. The object of the plan of redemption was to secure their allegiance to God, and that will never terminate.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:12
12.Wherefore I will not be negligent. As we seem to distrust either the memory or the attention of those whom we often remind of the same thing, the Apostle makes this modest excuse, that he ceased not to press on the attention of the faithful what was well known and fixed in their minds, because its importance and greatness required this.

“Ye do, indeed,” he says, “fully understand what the truth of the gospel is, nor have I to confirm as it were the wavering, but in a matter so great, admonitions are never superfluous; and, therefore, they ought never to be deemed vexatious.” Paul also employs a similar excuse in Rom_15:14, “I am persuaded of you, brethren,” he says, “that ye are full of knowledge, so as to be able to admonish one another: but I have more confidently written to you, as putting you in mind.”

He calls that the present truth, into the possession of which they had already entered by a sure faith. He, then, commends their faith, in order that they might remain fixed in it more firmly.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:12. Wherefore I will not be negligent] Many of the better MSS. have the reading “I will proceed to put you in remembrance,” but the Received Text is fairly supported. The words in either case indicate the anxiety with which the Apostle looked on the threatening dangers of the time. In the addition of “though ye know them” we trace a touch of humility and courtesy, like that of St Paul in Rom_1:12. In assuming previous knowledge, the Apostle finds, as the greatest of Greek orators had found before him (Demosth. p. 74. 7), the surest means of making that knowledge at once clearer and deeper.

in the present truth] The translation, though quite literal, is for the English reader somewhat misleading, as suggesting the thought that the Apostle is speaking of some special truth, not of the truth as a whole. Better, therefore, in the truth which is present with you. So taken the words furnish a suggestive parallel to 1Pe_5:12, as a recognition of the previous work of St Paul and his fellow-labourers in the Asiatic provinces.

Pulpit Commentary
Wherefore I will net be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things; rather, as in the Revised Version, wherefore I shall be ready. This reading (μελλήσω) is better supported than that of the T.R. (οὐκ ὀμελήσω). (For this use of μέλλειν with the infinitive almost as a periphrasis for the future, compare, in the Greek, Mat_24:6.) The apostle will take every opportunity of reminding his readers of the truths and duties which he has been describing, and that because faith in those truths and the practice of those duties is the only way to Christ’s eternal kingdom. Though ye know them, and be established in the present truth; better, as in the Revised Version, and are established in the truth which is with you. These words seem to imply that St. Peter knew something, through Silvanus (see 1Pe_5:12), of those to whom he was writing; they were not ignorant of the gospel; now they had read his First Epistle, and earlier they had heard the preaching of St. Paul or his companions (comp. Rom_1:13). (For the word rendered “established” (ἐστηριγμένους), comp. 1Pe_5:10; 2Pe_3:16, 2Pe_3:17.) St. Peter seems to have kept ever in his thoughts the solemn charge of the Saviour, “When thou art converted, strengthen (στήριξον) thy brethren”  (Luk_22:32). For “the truth which is with you” (παρούση), comp. Col_1:6.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:12
Wherefore I will not be negligent – That is, in view of the importance of these things.

To put you always in remembrance – To give you the means of having them always in remembrance; to wit, by his writings.

Though ye know them – It was of importance for Peter, as it is for ministers of the gospel now, to bring known truths to remembrance. Men are liable to forget them, and they do not exert the influence over them which they ought. It is the office of the ministry not only to impart to a people truths which they did not know before, but a large part of their work is to bring to recollection well-known truths. and to seek that they may exert a proper influence on the life. Amidst the cares, the business, the amusements, and the temptations of the world, even true Christians are prone to forget them; and the ministers of the gospel render them an essential service, even if they should do nothing more than remind them of truths which are well understood, and which they have known before. A pastor, in order to be useful, need not always aim at originality, or deem it necessary always to present truths which have never been heard of before. He renders an essential service to mankind who “reminds” them of what they know but are prone to forget, and who endeavors to impress plain and familiar truths on the heart and conscience, for these truths are most important for man.

And be established in the present truth – That is, the truth which is with you, or which you have received – Robinson’s Lexicon on the word πάρειμι pareimi. The apostle did not doubt that they were now confirmed in the truth as far as it had been made known to them, but he felt that amidst their trials, and especially as they were liable to be drawn away by false teachers, there was need of reminding them of the grounds on which the truths which they had embraced rested, and of adding his own testimony to confirm their Divine origin. Though we may be very firm in our belief of the truth, yet there is a propriety that the grounds of our faith should be stated to us frequently, that they may be always in our remembrance. The mere fact that at present we are firm in the belief of the truth, is no certain evidence that we shall always continue to be; nor because we are thus firm should we deem it improper for our religious teachers to state the grounds on which our faith rests, or to guard us against the arts of those who would attempt to subvert our faith.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:13
13.Yea, I think it meet, or right. He expresses more clearly how useful and how necessary is admonition, because it is needful to arouse the faithful, for otherwise torpor will creep in from the flesh. Though, then, they might not have wanted teaching, yet he says that the goads of admonitions were useful, lest security and indulgence (as it is usually the case) should weaken what they had learned, and at length extinguish it.

He adds another cause why he was so intent on writing to them, because he knew that a short time remained for him. “I must diligently employ my time,” he says; “for the Lord has made known to me that my life in this world will not be long.” We hence learn, that admonitions ought to be so given, that the people whom we wish to benefit may not think that wrong is done to them, and also that offenses ought to be so avoided, that yet the truth may have a free course, and exhortations may not be discontinued. Now, this moderation is to be observed towards those to whom a sharp reproof would not be suitable, but who ought on the contrary to be kindly helped, since they are inclined of themselves to do their duty. We are also taught by the example of Peter, that the shorter term of life remains to us, the more diligent ought we to be in executing our office. It is not commonly given to us to foresee our end; but they who are advanced in years, or weakened by illness, being reminded by such indications of the shortness of their life, ought to be more sedulous and diligent, so that they may in due time perform what the Lord has given them to do; nay, those who are the strongest and in the flower of their age, as they do not render to God so constant a service as it behooves them to do, ought to quicken themselves to the same care and diligence by the recollection of approaching death; lest the occasion of doing good may pass away, while they attend negligently and slothfully to their work.

At the same time, I doubt not but that it was Peter’s object to gain more authority and weight to his teaching, when he said that he would endeavor to make them to remember these things after his death, which was then nigh at hand. For when any one, shortly before he quits this life, addresses us, his words have in a manner the force and power of a testament or will, and are usually received by us with greater reverence.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:13. Yea, I think it meet] More accurately, But I think it right. Though he knows them to be established in the truth, he yet looks on it as his duty to remind them of what they know.

as long as I am in this tabernacle] The term chosen is interesting (1) as a parallel to St Paul’s use of the same imagery in 2Co_5:1, and (2) as connected with the reference to the Transfiguration which follows. In that vision on the mount, it will be remembered, St Peter had uttered the prayer “Let us make three tabernacles …” (Mat_17:4). He had now learnt that the true tabernacle of Christ was His human body, and to think of his own body also as the tabernacle of His Spirit.

to stir you up by putting you in remembrance] The phrase, which occurs again in chap. 3:1, may be noticed as characteristic of St Peter. He assumes a knowledge not only of the broad outlines of Gospel truth, but of the facts of the Gospel history, including, it is obvious, the history of the Transfiguration, and corresponding therefore to the record found in the first three Gospels.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:13
Yea, I think it meet – I think it becomes me as an apostle. It is my appropriate duty; a duty which is felt the more as the close of life draws near.

As long as I am in this tabernacle – As long as I live; as long as I am in the body. The body is called a tabernacle, or tent, as that in which the soul resides for a little time. See the notes at 2Co_5:1.

To stir you up, by putting you in remembrance – To excite or arouse you to a diligent performance of your duties; to keep up in your minds a lively sense of Divine things. Religion becomes more important to a man’s mind always as he draws near the close of life, and feels that he is soon to enter the eternal world.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:14
14 I must put off this my tabernacle. Literally the words are, “Short is the putting; away of this tabernacle.” By this mode of speaking, and afterwards by the word “departing,” he designates death, which it behooves us to notice; for we are here taught how much death differs from perdition. Besides, too much dread of death terrifies us, because we do not sufficiently consider how fading and evanescent this life is, and do not reflect on the perpetuity of future life. But what does Peter say? He declares that death is departing from this world, that we may remove elsewhere, even to the Lord. It ought not, then, to be dreadful to us, as though we were to perish when we die. He declares that it is the putting away of a tabernacle, by which we are covered only for a short time. There is, then, no reason why we should regret to be removed from it.

But there is to be understood an implied contrast between a fading tabernacle and a perpetual habitation, which Paul explains in 2Co_5:1.

When he says that it had been revealed to him by Christ, he refers not to the kind of death, but to the time. But if he received the oracle at Babylon respecting his death being near, how was he crucified at Rome? It certainly appears that he died very far from Italy, except he flew in a moment over seas and lands. But the Papists, in order to claim for themselves the body of Peter, make themselves Babylonians, and say that Rome is called Babylon by Peter: this shall be refuted in its proper place. What he says of remembering these things after his death, was intended to shew, that posterity ought to learn from him when dead. For the apostles had not regard only for their own age, but purposed to do us good also. Though, then, they are dead, their doctrine lives and prevails: and it is our duty to profit by their writings, as though they were manifestly present with. us.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 2:14. knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle] Better, knowing that swift will be the putting off of my tabernacle. He speaks not so much of the nearness of his death, as of the suddenness with which it would come upon him, and he is therefore anxious to make all necessary preparations for it. In the word for “putting off” we have, as in 2Co_5:1-3, a blending of the two closely connected ideas of a tent and a garment. Comp. a like association of ideas in Psa_104:2.

even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me] Better, shewed me, the aorist pointing to some time definitely present to his mind. The only extant record of any such intimation in the Gospels is that in Joh_21:18, Joh_21:19, and, assuming the genuineness of this Epistle, it is obvious that it supplies an interesting testimony to the truth of that narrative. It will be remembered that we have already seen an interesting allusive reference to it in 1Pe_5:2. Even on the other hypothesis it is, at least, evidence of the early date of a tradition corresponding to that which St John has recorded.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:14
Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle – That I must die. This he knew, probably, because he was growing old, and was reaching the outer period of human life. It does not appear that he had any express revelation on the point.

Even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me – See the notes at Joh_21:18-19. This does not mean that he had any new revelation on the subject, showing him that he was soon to die, as many of the ancients supposed; but the idea is, that the time drew near when he was to die “in the manner” in which the Saviour had told him that he would. He had said Joh_21:18 that this would occur when he should be “old,” and as he was now becoming old, he felt that the predicted event was drawing near. Many years had now elapsed since this remarkable prophecy was uttered. It would seem that Peter had never doubted the truth of it, and during all that time he had had before him the distinct assurance that he must die by violence; by having “his hands stretched forth;” and by being conveyed by force to some place of death to which he would not of himself go Joh_21:18, but, though the prospect of such a death must have been painful, he never turned away from it; never sought to abandon his Master’s cause; and never doubted that it would be so.

This is one of the few instances that have occurred in the world, where a man knew distinctly, long beforehand, what would be the manner of his own death, and where he could have it constantly in his eye. we cannot foresee this in regard to ourselves, but we may learn to feel that death is not far distant, and may accustom ourselves to think upon it in whatever manner it may come upon us, as Peter did, and endeavor to prepare for it. Peter would naturally seek to prepare himself for death in the particular form in which he knew it would occur to him; we should prepare for it in whatever way it may occur to us. The subject of crucifixion would be one of special interest to him; to us death itself should be the subject of unusual interest – the manner is to be left to God. Whatever may be the signs of its approach, whether sickness or grey hairs, we should meditate much upon an event so solemn to us; and as these indications thicken we should be more diligent, as Peter was, in doing the work that God has given us to do. Our days, like the fabled Sybil’s leaves, become more valuable as they are diminished in number; and as the inevitable hour draws nearer to us, we should labor more diligently in our Master’s cause, gird our loins more closely, and trim our lamps. Peter thought of the cross, for it was such a death that he was led to anticipate. Let us think of the bed of languishing on which we may die, or of the blow that may strike us suddenly down in the midst of our way, calling us without a moment’s warning into the presence of our Judge.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:15. Moreover I will endeavour that you may be able after my decease …] The word “endeavour” in the modern sense is perhaps slightly too weak, the Greek verb implying diligent and earnest effort. In the Greek word for “decease” (exodos), we meet with another suggestive coincidence with the history of the Transfiguration. When the Apostle had seen the forms of Moses and Elijah, they had spoken of the “decease” which Christ should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luk_9:31). It may be noted that this use of the word, as an euphemistic synonym for “death,” is entirely absent from Greek classical writers, and that probably the two passages referred to are the earliest instances of its use in that sense. It occurs, however, a little later in Josephus (Ant. iv. 8, § 2) and in Wisd. 3:2 (“Their departure was taken for misery”), probably the work of a contemporary. In the intention thus expressed we may fairly see a confirmation of the tradition which speaks of St Mark’s acting as the “interpreter” or amanuensis of St Peter, in writing his Gospel, recording, at the request of the Apostle’s disciples, what they had heard orally from him. (Euseb. Hist. ii. 15, iii. 39, Iren. iii. 10, § 6.)

Another interpretation of the words may be noticed as deserving a place among the curiosities of exegesis. Roman Catholic commentators, Cornelius a Lapide and others, have connected the words “after my decease” with the verb “I will endeavour,” and have thus construed the Apostle’s words into an argument for his continued watchfulness and superintendence over the development of the Church’s doctrine.

Pulpit Commentary
Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance; rather, but I will also give diligence that ye may be able at every time after my decease to call these things to remembrance. Of the two particles used here the δέ connects this verso with 2Pe_1:13; the καί implies a further resolve. St. Peter will not only stir up the minds of his readers during his life, but he will give diligence to enable them to call to remembrance, after his death, the truths which he had preached. These words may refer simply to the present Epistle; but it seems more natural to understand them of an intention to commit to writing the facts of the gospel history; if this be so, we have here a confirmation of the ancient tradition that the Second Gospel was written by St. Mark at the dictation of St. Peter. The verb σπουδάσω is that used in verse 10, and should be translated in the same way; they must give diligence to make their calling and election sure. St. Peter, for his part, will give diligence to furnish them with a lasting record of the truths of Christianity. The adverb ἑκάστοτε, at every time, whenever there may be need, occurs only here in the New Testament. It is remarkable that we have here, in two consecutive verses, two words which remind us of the history of the Transfiguration, “tabernacle,” and “decease” (ἔξοδος; see Luk_9:31). Then Peter proposed to make three tabernacles; then he heard Moses and Elijah speaking of the Lord’s decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. The simple unconscious occurrence of these coincidences is a strong proof of the genuineness of our Epistle; it is inconceivable that an imitator of the second century should have shown this delicate skill in adapting his production to the circumstances of the supposed writer. The last words of the verse may mean (and in classical Greek would mean) “to make mention of these things;” but the usual rendering seems more suitable here. St. Peter was anxious rather that his readers should have the truths of the gospel living in their memories, than that they should talk about them; that would follow as a matter of course: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Some Roman Catholic commentators think that this passage contains a promise that the apostle would still, after his death, continue to remember the needs of the Church on earth, and to help them by his intercessions; but this interpretation involves a complete dislocation of clauses, and cannot possibly be the true meaning of the words.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:15
Moreover, I will endeavour – I will leave such a permanent record of my views on these subjects that you may not forget them. He meant not only to declare his sentiments orally, but to record them that they might be perused when he was dead. He had such a firm conviction of the truth and value of the sentiments which he held, that he would use all the means in his power that the church and the world should not forget them.

After my decease – My “exodus,” (ἔξοδον exodon;) my journey out; my departure; my exit from life. This is not the usual word to denote death, but is rather a word denoting that he was going on a journey out of this world. He did not expect to cease to be, but he expected to go on his travels to a distant abode. This idea runs through all this beautiful description of the feelings of Peter as he contemplated death. Hence he speaks of taking down the “tabernacle” or “tent,” the temporary abode of the soul, that his spirit might be removed to another place 2Pe_1:13; and, hence, he speaks of an “exodus” from the present life – a journey to another world. This is the true notion of death; and if so, two things follow from it:

(1) We should make preparation for it, as we do for a journey, and the more in proportion to the distance that we are to travel, and the time that we are to be absent; and,

(2) When the preparation is made, we should not be unwilling to enter on the journey, as we are not now when we are prepared to leave our homes to visit some remote part of our own country, or a distant land,

To have these things always in remembrance – By his writings. We may learn from this,

(1) That when a Christian grows old, and draws near to death, his sense of the value of Divine truth by no means diminishes. As he approaches the eternal world; as from its borders he surveys the past, and looks on to what is to come; as he remembers what benefit the truths of religion have conferred on him in life, and sees what a miserable being he would now be if he had no such hope as the gospel inspires; as he looks on the whole influence of those truths on his family and friends, on his country and the world, their value rises before him with a magnitude which he never saw before, and he desires most earnestly that they should be seen and embraced by all. A man on the borders of eternity is likely to have a very deep sense of the value of the Christian religion; and is he not then in favorable circumstances to estimate this matter aright? Let anyone place himself in imagination in the situation of one who is on the borders of the eternal world, as all in fact soon will be, and can he have any doubt about the value of religious truth?

(2) We may learn from what Peter says here, that it is the duty of those who are drawing near to the eternal world, and who are the friends of religion, to do all they can that the truths of Christianity “may be always had in remembrance.” Every man’s experience of the value of religion, and the results of his examination and observation, should be regarded as the property of the world, and should not be lost. As he is about to die, he should seek, by all the means in his power, that those truths should be perpetuated and propagated. This duty may be discharged by some in counsels offered to the young, as they are about to enter on life, giving them the results of their own experience, observation, and reflections on the subject of religion; by some, by an example so consistent that it cannot be soon forgotten – a legacy to friends and to the world of much more value than accumulated silver and gold; by some, by solemn warnings or exhortations on the bed of death; in other cases, by a recorded experience of the conviction and value of religion, and a written defense of its truth, and illustration of its nature – for every man who can write a good book owes it to the church and the world to do it: by others, in leaving the means of publishing and spreading good books in the world.

He does a good service to his own age, and to future ages, who records the results of his observations and his reflections in favor of the truth in a book that shall be readable; and though the book itself may be ultimately forgotten, it may have saved some persons from ruin, and may have accomplished its part in keeping up the knowledge of the truth in his own generation. Peter, as a minister of the gospel, felt himself bound to do this, and no men have so good an opportunity of doing this now as ministers of the gospel; no men have more ready access to the press; no men have so much certainty that they will have the public attention, if they will write anything worth reading; no men, commonly, in a community are better educated, or are more accustomed to write; no individuals, by their profession, seem to be so much called to address their fellow-men in any way in favor of the truth; and it is matter of great marvel that men who have such opportunities, and who seem especially called to the work, do not do more of this kind of service in the cause of religion. Themselves soon to die, how can they help desiring that they may leave something that shall bear an honorable, though humble, testimony to truths which they so much prize, and which they are appointed to defend? A tract may live long after the author is in the grave; and who can calculate the results which have followed the efforts of Baxter and Edwards to keep up in the world the remembrance of the truths which they deemed of so much value? This little epistle of Peter has shed light on the path of men now for 1,800 years (circa 1880’s), and will continue to do it until the second coming of the Saviour.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:16
16.For we have not followed cunningly devised fables. It gives us much courage, when we know that we labor in a matter that is certain. Lest, then, the faithful should think that in these labors they were beating the air, he now comes to set forth the certainty of the gospel; and he denies that anything had been delivered by him but what was altogether true and indubitable: and they were encouraged to persevere, when they were sure of the prosperous issue of their calling.

In the first place, Peter indeed asserts that he had been an eyewitness; for he had himself seen with his own eyes the glory of Christ, of which he speaks. This knowledge he sets in opposition to crafty fables, such as cunning men are wont to fabricate to ensnare simple minds. The old interpreter renders the word “feigned,” (fictas; ) Erasmus, “formed by art.” It seems to me that what is subtle to deceive is meant: for the Greek word here used, σοφίζεσθαι, sometimes means this. And we know how much labor men bestow on frivolous refinements, and only that they may have some amusement. Therefore no less seriously ought our minds to be applied to know the truth which is not fallacious, and the doctrine which is not nugatory, and which discovers to us the glory of the Son of God and our own salvation.

The power and the coming. No doubt he meant in these words to include the substance of the gospel, as it certainly contains nothing except Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom. But he distinctly mentions two things, — that Christ had been manifested in the flesh, — and also that power was exhibited by him. Thus, then, we have the whole gospel; for we know that he, the long-promised Redeemer, came from heaven, put on our flesh, lived in the world, died and rose again; and, in the second place, we perceive the end and fruit of all these things, that is, that he might be God with us, that he might exhibit in himself a sure pledge of our adoption, that he might cleanse us from the defilement’s of the flesh by the grace of his Spirit, and consecrate us temples to God, that he might deliver us from hell, and raise us up to heaven, that he might by the sacrifice of his death make an atonement for the sins of the world, that he might reconcile us to the Father, that he might become to us the author of righteousness and of life. He who knows and understands these things, is fully acquainted with the gospel.

Were eyewitnesses, or beholders We hence conclude, that they by no means serve Christ, nor are like the apostles, who presumptuously mount the pulpit to prattle of speculations unknown to themselves; for he alone is the lawful minister of Christ, who knows the truth of the doctrine which he delivers: not that all obtain certainty in the same way; for what Peter says is that he himself was present, when Christ was declared by a voice from heaven to be the Son of God. Three only were then present, but they were sufficient as witnesses; for they had through many miracles seen the glory of Christ, and had a remarkable evidence of his divinity in his resurrection. But we now obtain certainty in another way; for though Christ has not risen before our eyes, yet we know by whom his resurrection has been handed down to us. And added to this is the inward testimony of conscience, the sealing of the Spirit, which far exceeds all the evidence of the senses. But let us remember that the gospel was not at the beginning made up of vague rumors, but that the apostles were the authentic preachers of what they had seen.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:16. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you …] More accurately, For it was not as following cunningly devised fables that we made known—the connexion being one not of time but of causation. The “fables” or “myths” referred to are probably those of which St Paul speaks in the Pastoral Epistles (1Ti_1:4, 1Ti_1:4:7; 2Ti_4:4; Tit_1:14), which were, as the description there given of them indicates, mainly of Jewish origin. With these there might be mingled the germs of the Gnosticism incipient in the Apostolic age, and developed more fully in the next century. Possibly there may be an allusive reference to the claims of the sorcerer of Samaria, with whom the Apostle had himself come into collision (Act_8:10). The boast of Simon that he was the “great power of God,” and that his mistress Helena was the incarnation of the Divine Thought or Wisdom by which the worlds were made, would answer, closely enough, to the “cunningly devised fables” of which St Peter speaks. The word for “cunningly devised,” framed, i.e., with fraudulent and sophistical purpose, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. The question what the Apostle refers to in “we made known to you:” it may refer either to unrecorded teaching addressed to the Asiatic Churches, or to the wider circle of readers defined in verse 1, or, more probably, to the teaching of the First Epistle as to the glory that was to be manifested “at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Pe_1:7, 1Pe_1:13, 1Pe_1:4:13). The tone in which the offensive epithet is used suggests the thought that he is defending himself against a charge of having followed “fables.” Is it possible that that charge had been brought against his teaching as to “the spirits in prison,” as something superadded to the received oral traditions of the Church, or to the written records, whether identical with our present Gospels or not, in which that teaching had been embodied?

the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ] The “coming,” here, as in every other passage of the New Testament in which the word occurs, is the Second Advent, not the first. The mind of the Apostle goes back to what he had witnessed in the glory of the Transfiguration, as the pledge and earnest of that which was afterwards to be revealed. The word does not occur in the First Epistle, but the fact is implied in 1Pe_1:7, 1Pe_1:13, 1Pe_1:4:13, 1Pe_1:5:4.

but were eyewitnesses of his majesty] Both words are significant. That for “eye-witnesses” (not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but used of God as the all-seeing in 2Ma_7:35; 3Ma_2:21) was applied in Classical Greek to the highest order of those who were initiated as spectators of the Eleusinian mysteries. It would, perhaps, be too much to say that that association was definitely present to the Apostle’s mind, but the choice of an unusual and suggestive word at least implies that he looked on himself as having been chosen to a special privilege. It deserves notice also, as bearing on the authorship of the Epistle, that the verb derived from the noun had been used by the writer of 1Pe_2:12, 1Pe_3:2. (See notes there.) The word for “majesty” also has the interest of having been used in the Gospel narrative in close connexion with the healing of the demoniac boy which followed the Transfiguration (Luk_9:43), and, as found there, may fairly be taken as including, as far as the three disciples who had seen the vision of glory were concerned, what had preceded that work of healing, as well as the work itself. The only other passage in the New Testament in which it is found is in Act_19:27, where it is used of the “magnificence” of the Ephesian Artemis.

Pulpit Commentary
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables; rather, did not follow. The participle (ἐξακολουθήσαντες) is aorist. This compound verb is used only by St. Peter in the New Testament; we find it again in 2Pe_2:2 and 2Pe_2:15. Bengel and others have thought that the preposition ἐξ, from or out of, implies wandering from the truth after false guides; but probably the word merely means “to follow closely,” though in this case the guides were going astray. Perhaps the use of the plural number is accounted for by the fact that St. Peter was not the only witness of the glory of the Transfiguration; he associates in thought his two brother-apostles with himself. The word μῦθοι, fables, with this exception, occurs in the New Testament only in St. Paul’s pastoral Epistles. There is a remarkable parallel in the procemium of the ‘Antiquities’ of Josephus, sect. 4, Οἱ μεν ἄλλοι νομοθέται τοῖς μύθοις ἐξακολουθήσαντες. St. Peter may be referring to the “Jewish fables” mentioned by St. Paul (Tit_1:14), or to the stories about the heathen gods such as those in Hesiod and Ovid, or possibly to some early inventions, such as those ascribed to Simon the Sorcerer, which were afterwards to be developed into the strange fictions of Gnosticism. The word rendered “cunningly devised” occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in 2Ti_3:15; but there a different part of the verb is used, and in a different sense. When we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Peter can scarcely be referring to St. Paul or other missionaries, as the following words identify the preachers with the witnesses of the Transfiguration; he must be alluding either to his First Epistle, or to personal teaching of his which has not been recorded, or, just possibly, to the Gospel of St. Mk. St. Peter had seen the power of the Lord Jesus manifested in his miracles; he had heard the announcement of the risen Saviour, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth;” he had, like the rest of the apostles, been “endued with power from on high.” By the coming (παρουσία) he must mean the second advent, the invariable meaning of the word in Holy Scripture.

But were eye-witnesses of his majesty. The word for “eye-witnesses” is not the common one (αὐτόπται, used by St. Luk_1:2), but a technical word (ἐπόπται), which in classical Greek designates the highest class of those who had been initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. The choice of such a word may possibly imply that St. Peter regarded himself and his brother-apostles as having received the highest initiation into the mysteries of religion. The noun is found only here in the New Testament; but the corresponding verb occurs in 1Pe_2:12 and 1Pe_3:2, and in no other of the New Testament writers. Here again we have an undesigned coincidence which points to identity of authorship. The word for “majesty” (μεγαλειότης) occurs in St. Luke’s description of the healing of the demoniac boy immediately after the Transfiguration (Luk_9:43), and elsewhere only in Act_19:27.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:16
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables – That is, fictions or stories invented by artful men, and resting on no solid foundation. The doctrines which they held about the coming of the Saviour were not, like many of the opinions of the Greeks, defended by weak and sophistical reasoning, but were based on solid evidence – evidence furnished by the personal observation of competent witnesses. It is true of the gospel, in general, that it is not founded on cunningly devised fables; but the particular point referred to here is the promised coming of the Saviour. The evidence of that fact Peter proposes now to adduce.

When we made known unto you – Probably Peter here refers particularly to statements respecting the coming of the Saviour in his first epistle, 1Pe_1:5, 1Pe_1:13; 1Pe_4:13; but this was a common topic in the preaching, and in the epistles, of the apostles. It may, therefore, have referred to statements made to them at some time in his preaching, as well as to what he said in his former epistle. The apostles laid great stress on the second coming of the Saviour, and often dwelt upon it. Compare 1Th_4:16; Notes, Act_1:11.

The power and coming – These two words refer to the same thing; and the meaning is, his “powerful coming,” or his “coming in power.” The advent of the Saviour is commonly represented as connected with the exhibition of power. Mat_24:30, “coming in the clouds of heaven, with power.” See the notes at that verse. Compare Luk_22:69; Mar_3:9. The “power” evinced will be by raising the dead; summoning the world to judgment; determining the destiny of men, etc. When the coming of the Saviour, therefore, was referred to by the apostles in their preaching, it was probably always in connection with the declaration that it would be accompanied by exhibitions of great power and glory – as it undoubtedly will be. The fact that the Lord Jesus would thus return, it is clear, had been denied by some among those to whom this epistle was addressed, and it was important to state the evidence on which it was to be believed. The grounds on which they denied it 2Pe_3:4 were, that there were no appearances of his approach; that the premise had not been fulfilled; that all things continued as they had been; and that the affairs of the world moved on as they always had done. To meet and counteract this error – an error which so prevailed that many were in danger of “falling from their own steadfastness” 2Pe_3:17 – Peter states the proof on which he believed in the coming of the Saviour.

But were eye-witnesses of his majesty – On the mount of transfiguration, Mat_17:1-5. See the notes at that passage. That transfiguration was witnessed only by Peter, James, and John. But it may be asked, how the facts there witnessed demonstrate the point under consideration – that the Lord Jesus will come with power? To this it may be replied:

(1) That these apostles had there such a view of the Saviour in his glory as to convince them beyond doubt that he was the Messiah.

(2) That there was a direct attestation given to that fact by a voice from heaven, declaring that he was the beloved Son of God.

(3) That that transfiguration was understood to have an important reference to the coming of the Saviour in his kingdom and his glory, and was designed to be a representation of the manner in which he would then appear. This is referred to distinctly by each one of the three evangelists who have mentioned the transfiguration. Mat_16:28, “there be some standing here which shall not taste of death until they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom;” Mar_9:1-2; Luk_9:27-28. The transfiguration which occurred soon after these words were spoken was designed to show them what he would be in his glory, and to furnish to them a demonstration which they could never forget, that he would yet set up his kingdom in the world.

(4) They had in fact such a view of him as he would be in his kingdom, that they could entertain no doubt on the point; and the fact, as it impressed their own minds, they made known to others. The evidence as it lay in Peter’s mind was, that that transfiguration was designed to furnish proof to them that the Messiah would certainly appear in glory, and to give them a view of him as coming to reign which would never fade from their memory. As that had not yet been accomplished, he maintained that the evidence was clear that it must occur at some future time. As the transfiguration was with reference to his coming in his kingdom, it was proper for Peter to use it with that reference, or as bearing on that point.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:17
17.For he received from God the Father. He chose one memorable example out of many, even that of Christ, when, adorned with celestial glory, he conspicuously displayed his divine majesty to his three disciples. And though Peter does not relate all the circumstances, yet he sufficiently designates them when he says, that a voice came from the magnificent glory. For the meaning is, that nothing earthly was seen there, but that a celestial majesty shone on every side. We may hence conclude what those displays of greatness were which the evangelists relate. And it was necessarily thus done, in order that the authority of that voice which came might be more awful and solemn, as we see that it was done all at once by the Lord. For when he spoke to the fathers, he did not only cause his words to sound in the air, but by adding some symbols or tokens of his presence, he proved the oracles to be his.

This is my beloved Son. Peter then mentions this voice, as though it was sufficient alone, as a full evidence for the gospel, and justly so. For when Christ is acknowledged by us to be him whom the Father has sent, this is our highest wisdom. There are two parts to this sentence. When he says, “This is,” the expression is very emphatical, intimating, that he was the Messiah who had been so often promised. Whatever, then, is found in the Law and the Prophets respecting the Messiah, is declared here, by the Father, to belong to him whom he so highly commended. In the other part of the sentence, he announces Christ as his own Son, in whom his whole love dwells and centres. It hence follows that we are not otherwise loved than in him, nor ought the love of God to be sought anywhere else. It is sufficient for me now only to touch on these things by the way.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:17. For he received from God the Father honour and glory] The Greek construction is participial, For having received …, the structure of the sentence being interrupted by the parenthetical clause which follows, and not resumed. The English version may be admitted, though it conceals this fact, as a fair solution of the difficulty. “Honour and glory.” The two words are naturally joined together as in Rom_2:7, Rom_2:10; 1Ti_1:17; Heb_2:7, Heb_2:9; Rev_4:9, Rev_4:11, Rev_4:5:12. If we are to press the distinctive force of each, the “honour” may be thought of as referring to the attesting voice at the Transfiguration, the “glory” to the light which enveloped the person of the Christ, like the Shechinah cloud of 1Ki_8:10, 1Ki_8:11; Isa_6:1, Isa_6:4; Mat_17:1-5; Mar_9:2-7; Luk_9:28-36.

when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory] Literally, when such a voice as this was borne to Him. The choice of the verb instead of the more usual word for “came,” connects itself with the use of the same verb in St Luke’s account of the Pentecostal gift (Act_2:2), and the Apostle’s own use of it in verse 21 in connexion with the gift of prophecy. The word for “excellent” (more literally, magnificent, or majestic, as describing the transcendent brightness of the Shechinahcloud), not found elsewhere in the New Testament, is, perhaps, an echo from the LXX. of Deu_33:26, where God is described as “the excellent (or majestic) One of the firmament.” The corresponding noun appears in the LXX. of Psa_21:5, where the English version has “majesty.” The Greek preposition has the force of “by” rather than “from” the glory, the person of the Father being identified with the Glory which was the token of His presence.

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased] The words are given, with one slight variation not perceptible in the English, as we find them in Mat_17:5. It is obvious, assuming the genuineness of the Epistle, that we have here a testimony of great value to the truth of the Gospel records. As there is no reference to any written record of the words, and, we may add, as St Peter omits the words “Hear ye Him,” which St Matthew adds, the testimony has distinctly the character of independence. Had the Epistle been the spurious work of a pseudonymous writer, it is at least probable that they would have been given in the precise form in which they are found in one or other of the Gospels. St Mark and St Luke, it may be noted, omit the words “in whom I am well pleased.” The tense used in the Greek of these words is past, and not present, implying that the “delight” with which the Father contemplated the Son had been from eternity.

The whole passage has a special interest, as pointing to the place which the Transfiguration occupied in the spiritual education of the three disciples who witnessed it. The Apostle looked back upon it, in his old age, as having stamped on his mind ineffaceably the conviction that the glory on which he had then looked was the pledge and earnest of that hereafter to be revealed. Comp. the probable reference to the same event in Joh_1:14.

Pulpit Commentary
For he received from God the Father honour and glory. The construction here is interrupted; the literal translation is, “Having received,” etc., and there is no verb to complete the sense. Winer supposes that the apostle had intended to continue with some such words as, “He had us for witnesses,” or, “He was declared to be the beloved Son of God,” and that the construction was interrupted by the direct quotation of the words spoken by the voice from heaven (‘Grammar,’ 3:45, b). (For a similar anacoluthon, see in the Greek 2Co_5:6.) “Honour” seems to refer to the testimony of the voice from heaven; “glory,” to the splendour of the Lord’s transfigured Person. When there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory; more literally, when such a voice was borne to him. The same verb is used in Act_2:2 of “the rushing mighty wind” which announced the coming of the Holy Ghost; and in 1Pe_1:13 of “the grace which is being brought.” It is repeated in the next verse. It seems intended to assert emphatically the real objective character of the voice. It was not a vision, a dream; the voice was borne from heaven; the apostles heard it with their ears. The preposition ὑπό must be rendered “by,” not “from.” The “excellent” (rather, “majestic,” or “magnificent”) glory was the Shechinah, the visible manifestation of the presence of God, which had appeared in ancient times on Mount Sinai, and in the tabernacle and temple above the mercy-seat. God was there; it was he who spoke. For the word rendered “excellent” (μεγαλοπρεπής) compare the Septuagint Version of Deu_33:26, ὁ μεγαλοπρεπὴς τοῦ στερεώματος, literally, “the Majestic One of the firmament;” where our Authorized Version gives a more exact translation of the Hebrew, “in his excellency on the sky” (see also the ‘Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,’ Deu_9:1-29, where the occurrence of the same remarkable words, μεγαλοπρεπὴς δόξα, suggests that Clement must have been acquainted with this Epistle).

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Our translation makes these words correspond exactly with the report given by St. Matthew in his account of the Transfiguration, except that “hear ye him” is added there. In the Greek there are some slight variations. According to one ancient manuscript (the Vatican), the order of the words is different, and there is a second pen, “This is my Son, my Beloved.” All uncial manuscripts have here, instead of the ἐν ᾦ of St. Matthew’s Gospel, εἰς ὃν ἐγὼ εὐδόκησα. The difference cannot be represented in our translation. The construction is pregnant, and the meaning is that from all eternity the εὐδοκία, the good pleasure, of God the Father was directed towards the Divine Son, and still abideth on him. The same truth seems to be implied in the aorist εὐδόκησα (comp. Joh_17:24, “Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”). An imitator of the second century would certainly have made this quotation to correspond exactly with the words as given in one of the synoptic Gospels.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:18
18.In the holy mount. He calls it the holy mount, for the same reason that the ground was called holy where God appeared to Moses. For wherever the Lord comes, as he is the fountain of all holiness, he makes holy all things by the odor of his presence. And by this mode of speaking we are taught, not only to receive God reverently wherever he shews himself, but also to prepare ourselves for holiness, as soon as he comes nigh us, as it was commanded the people when the law was proclaimed on Mount Sinai. And it is a general truth, “Be ye holy, for I am holy, who dwell in the midst of you.” (Lev_11:44.)

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:18. And this voice which came from heaven we heard …] More accurately, as better expressing the force of the special word used here as in the previous verse, And this voice borne from heaven we heard.… The “we” is emphatic, as giving prominence to the fact of the personal testimony of the Apostle and his two brother-disciples.

when we were with him in the holy mount] It has been urged by some critics that the description of the Mount of the Transfiguration by the term which in Old Testament language was commonly applied to Zion (Psa_2:6) indicates the phraseology of a later age than that of the Apostles. It is obvious, however, in answer, that the scene of the manifestation of the Divineglory of which he speaks could not appear as other than “holy ground”—holy as Horeb had been of old (Exo_3:5; Act_7:33)—to the Apostle who had been there. Comp. Jos_5:15. Whether, as the Gospel narrative indicates, it was on the heights of Hermon (Mat_16:13), or, as later tradition reported, on Mount Tabor, it would remain for ever as a consecrated spot in the Apostle’s memory. It may, perhaps, be inferred from the tone in which he thus speaks of it, that he assumes that his readers had already some knowledge of the fact referred to.

Pulpit Commentary
And this voice which came from heaven we heard; rather, and this voice borne from heaven we heard. The pronoun is emphatic; we, the apostles who had that high privilege. They heard the voice when it was borne (ἐνεχθεῖσαν; he repeats for emphasis the remarkable word of 2Pe_1:17) from heaven, they heard it come from heaven. When we were with him in the holy mount. This description of the Mount of the Transfiguration supposes a knowledge of the history in St. Peter’s readers; but it gives no support to the theory of a post-apostolic date. Mount Horeb was “holy ground,” because God appeared there to Moses, because it was the scene of the giving of the Law. Mount Zion was a holy hill, because God had chosen it to be a habitation for himself; the Mount of the Transfiguration was holy, because there God the Son manifested forth his glory. God hallows every place which he pleases to make the scene of his revealed presence. This whole passage shows the deep and lasting impression which the Transfiguration made on those who were privileged to witness it (comp. Joh_1:14).

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:19
19.We have also. He now shews that the truth of the gospel is founded on the oracles of the prophets, lest they who embraced it should hesitate to devote themselves wholly to Christ: for they who waver cannot be otherwise than remiss in their minds. But when he says, “We have,” he refers to himself and other teachers, as well as to their disciples. The apostles had the prophets as the patrons of their doctrine; the faithful also sought from them a confirmation of the gospel. I am the more disposed to take this view, because he speaks of the whole Church, and makes himself one among others. At the same time, he refers more especially to the Jews, who were well acquainted with the doctrine of the prophets. And hence, as I think, he calls their word more sure or firmer. For they who take the comparative for a positive, that is, “more sure,” for “sure,” do not sufficiently consider the whole context. The sense also is a forced one, when it is said to be “more sure,” because God really completed what he had promised concerning his Son. For the truth of the gospel is here simply proved by a twofold testimony, — that Christ had been highly approved by the solemn declaration of God, and, then, that all the prophecies of the prophets confirmed the same thing. But it appears at first sight strange, that the word of the prophets should be said to be more sure or firmer than the voice which came from the holy mouth of God himself; for, first, the authority of God’s word is the same from the beginning; and, secondly, it was more confirmed than previously by the coming of Christ. But the solution of this knot is not difficult: for here the Apostle had a regard to his own nation, who were acquainted with the prophets, and their doctrine was received without any dispute. As, then, it was not doubted by the Jews but that all the things which the prophets had taught, came from the Lord, it is no wonder that Peter said that their word was more sure. Antiquity also gains some reverence. There are, besides, some other circumstances which ought to be noticed; particularly, that no suspicion could be entertained as to those prophecies in which the kingdom of Christ had so long before been predicted.

The question, then, is not here, whether the prophets deserve more credit than the gospel; but Peter regarded only this, to shew how much deference the Jews paid to those who counted the prophets as God’s faithful ministers, and had been brought up from childhood in their school.

Whereunto ye do well. This passage is, indeed, attended with some more difficulty; for it may be asked, what is the day which Peter mentions? To some it seems to be the clear knowledge of Christ, when men fully acquiesce in the gospel; and the darkness they explain as existing, when they, as yet, hesitate in suspense, and the doctrine of the gospel is not received as indubitable; as though Peter praised those Jews who were searching for Christ in the Law and the Prophets, and were advancing, as by this preceding light towards Christ, the Sun of righteousness, as they were praised by Luke, who, having heard Paul preaching, searched the Scripture to know whether what he said was true. (Act_17:11)

But in this view there is, first, an inconsistency, because it thus seems that the use of the prophecies is confined to a short time, as though they would be superfluous when the gospel-light is seen. Were one to object and say, that this does not necessarily follow, because until does not always denote the end. To this I say, that in commands it cannot be otherwise taken: “Walk until you finish your course;” “Fight until you conquer.” In such expressions we doubtless see that a certain time is specified. But were I to concede this point, that the reading of the prophets is not thus wholly cast aside; yet every one must see how frigid is this commendation, that the prophets are useful until Christ is revealed to us; for their teaching is necessary to us until the end of life. Secondly, we must bear in mind who they were whom Peter addressed; for he was not instructing the ignorant and novices, who were as yet in the first rudiments; but even those respecting whom he had before testified, that they had obtained the same precious faith, and were confirmed in the present truth. Surely the gross darkness of ignorance could not have been ascribed to such people. I know what some allege, that all had not made the same progress, and that here beginners who were as yet seeking Christ, are admonished.

But as it is evident from the context, that the words were addressed to the same persons, the passage must necessarily be applied to the faithful who had already known Christ, and had become partakers of the true light. I therefore extend this darkness, mentioned by Peter, to the whole course of life, and the day, I consider will then shine on us when we shall see face to face, what we now see through a glass darkly. Christ, the Sun of righteousness, indeed, shines forth in the gospel; but the darkness of death will always, in part, possess our minds, until we shall be brought out of the prison of the flesh, and be translated into heaven. This, then, will be the brightness of day, when no clouds or mists of ignorance shall intercept the bright shining of the Sun.

And doubtless we are so far from a perfect day, as our faith is from perfection. It is, therefore, no wonder that the state of the present life is called darkness, since we are far distant from that knowledge to which the gospel invites us.

In short, Peter reminds us that as long as we sojourn in this world, we have need of the doctrine of the prophets as a guiding light; which being extinguished, we can do nothing else but wander in darkness; for he does not disjoin the prophecies from the gospel, when he teaches us that they shine to shew us the way. His object only was to teach us that the whole course of our life ought to be guided by God’s word; for otherwise we must be involved on every side in the darkness of ignorance; and the Lord does not shine on us, except when we take his word as our light.

But he does not use the comparison, light, or lamp, to intimate that the light is small and sparing, but to make these two things to correspond,–that we are without light, and can no more keep on the right way than those who go astray in a dark night; and that the Lord brings a remedy for this evil, when he lights a torch to guide us in the midst of darkness.

What he immediately adds respectingthe day star does not however seem altogether suitable to this explanation; for the real knowledge, to which we are advancing through life, cannot be called the beginning of the day. To this I reply, that different parts of the day are compared together, but the whole day in all its parts is set in opposition to that darkness, which would wholly overspread all our faculties, were not the Lord to come to our help by the light of his word.

This is a remarkable passage: we learn from it how God guides us. The Papists have ever and anon in their mouth, that the Church cannot err. Though the word is neglected, they yet imagine that it is guided by the Spirit. But Peter, on the contrary, intimates that all are immersed in darkness who do not attend to the light of the word. Therefore, except thou art resolved wilfully to cast thyself into a labyrinth, especially beware of departing even in the least thing from the rule and direction of the word. Nay, the Church cannot follow God as its guide, except it observes what the word prescribes.

In this passage Peter also condemns all the wisdom of men, in order that we may learn humbly to seek, otherwise than by our own understanding, the true way of knowledge; for without the word nothing is left for men but darkness.

It further deserves to be noticed, that he pronounces on the clearness of Scripture; for what is said would be a false eulogy, were not the Scripture fit and suitable to shew to us with certainty the right way. Whosoever, then, will open his eyes through the obedience of faith, shall by experience know that the Scripture has not been in vain called a light. It is, indeed, obscure to the unbelieving; but they who are given up to destruction are wilfully blind. Execrable, therefore, is the blasphemy of the Papists, who pretend that the light of Scripture does nothing but dazzle the eyes, in order to keep the simple from reading it. But it is no wonder that proud men, inflated with the wind of false confidence, do not see that light with which the Lord favors only little children and the humble. With a similar eulogy David commends the law of God in Psa_19:1.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:19. We have also a more sure word of prophecy] Better, And we have yet more steadfast the prophetic word. The force of the comparative must have its full significance. The “prophetic word” was for the Apostle, taught as he had been in his Master’s school of prophetic interpretation, and himself possessing the prophetic gift, a witness of yet greater force than the voice from heaven and the glory of which he had been an eye-witness. He uses the term in its widest sense, embracing the written prophecies of the Old Testament and the spoken or written prophecies of the New. It is a suggestive fact that the Second Epistle ascribed (though probably wrongly) to Clement of Rome, contains what is given as a quotation from “the prophetic word” (chap. xi), and that that quotation presents a striking parallel to the language of St James on the one hand, and to that of this Epistle on the other. “If we are not servants to the Gospel of God because we believe not the promise, wretched are we. For the prophetic word saith, Wretched are the double-minded, those who doubt in their heart (Jam_1:8); who say, All these things we heard in the days of our fathers, but we, waiting day by day, have seen none of these things” (2Pe_3:4). Was the Apostle referring to a “prophetic word” such as this, which was then actually extant, and was to him and others as the sheet-anchor of their faith? The words quoted by the pseudo-Clement prove the existence of such a document, as held in high authority, and, though the book itself is lost, there is nothing improbable in the thought that the Apostle should refer to it, and the continuous guidance of the Spirit of which it was the token, as confirming all his previous belief, and assuring him that he had not followed cunningly-devised fables nor been the victim of an illusion. In any case we must think of him as referring to the continuous exercise of the prophetic gift, the power to speak words which came to the souls of men as a message from God, which had been given to himself and others. We can scarcely fail to note the identity of thought with that expressed in the Apostle’s speech in Act_2:16-21.

whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place] Better, as to a torch shining in a gloomy place. It may be noted (1) that the “torch shining” is precisely the term applied by our Lord (“the burning and the shining light,” Joh_5:35) to John the Baptist as the last in the long line of the prophets of the older covenant; and (2) that the Greek word for “dark” or “gloomy” (not found elsewhere in the New Testament) is applied strictly to the squalor and gloom of a dungeon. Interpreting the word, we find in the “gloomy place” the world in which the lot of the disciples was as yet cast. For them the “prophetic word,” written or spoken, was as a torch casting its beams athwart the murky air, preparing the way for a radiance yet brighter than its own.

until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts] The imagery reminds us of that of Rom_13:12 (“the night is far spent, the day is at hand”), but with a very marked and manifest difference. In St Paul’s thoughts the “day” is identical with the coming of the Lord, as an objective fact; the close of the world’s “night” of ignorance and darkness. Here the addition of the words “and the day star arise in your hearts” fixes its meaning as, in some sense, subjective. The words point accordingly to a direct manifestation of Christ to the soul of the believer as being higher than the “prophetic word,” as that, in its turn, had been higher than the attestation of the visible glory and the voice from heaven. So understood, the passage presents an interesting parallelism with the “marvellous light” of 1Pe_2:9, as also with the “day-spring from on high” of Luk_1:78. The word for “day star,” the morning star (literally, Lucifer, the light-bearer), the star that precedes and accompanies the rising of the sun, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX., but it is identical in meaning with the “bright and morning star” of Rev_2:28, Rev_22:16, and the use of the same image by the two Apostles indicates that it had come to be recognised as a symbolic name of the Lord Jesus as manifested to the souls of His people.

Pulpit Commentary
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; rather, as in the Revised Version, and we have the word of prophecy made more sure; or, we hare the word of prophecy more sure (than the testimony of the heavenly voice). The rendering of the Authorized Version is ungrammatical; we must adopt one of the other modes of representing the original. The second seems to be preferred by most commentators. Thus Archdeacon Farrar, translating the passage, “And still stronger is the surety we have in the prophetic word,” adds in a note, “Why more sure? Because wider in its range, and more varied, and coming from many, and bringing a more intense personal conviction than the testimony to a single fact.”

But when St. Peter applied the epithet “surer” (βεβαιότερον) to the word of prophecy, does he mean in his own estimate of it, or in that of others? If he is speaking of himself, it is surely inconceivable that any possible testimony to the truth of the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ could be comparable with the commanding authority of the Divine voice which he himself had heard borne from heaven, and the transcendent glory which he himself had seen flashing from the Saviour’s human form and bathing it in an aureole of celestial light. That heavenly voice had made the deepest possible impression on the apostles. “They fell on their faces,” as Moses had done under the like circumstances, recognizing it as the voice of God. Peter had said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here;” and evidently all through his life he felt that it was good for him to dwell in solemn thought on the treasured memories of that august revelation. No written testimony could be “surer” to St. Peter than that voice from heaven. But is he rather thinking of the confirmation of the faith of his readers? He is still using the first person plural, as in 2Pe_1:16 and 2Pe_1:18; in this verse, indeed, he passes to the second; hut the retaining of the first person in the first clause of the verse shows that, if he is not still speaking of apostles only, he at least includes himself among those who have the word of prophecy; and to him certainly the testimony of that word, though sacred and precious, could not be “surer” than the testimony of the heavenly voice. To Jewish Christians the evidence of the prophets of the Old Testament was of supreme importance. Nathanael, the “Israelite indeed,” was drawn to the Lord by the assurance that, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write.” The Lord himself insisted again and again upon the testimony of the prophets; so did his apostles after him. Still, it seems difficult to understand that, even to Jewish Christians, the testimony of the prophets, however sacred and weighty, could be surer than that of those apostles who made known the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, having been eye-witnesses of his majesty; while to Gentile Christians the testimony of those apostles of the Lamb who declared “what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what their hands had handled, of the Word of life,” must have had greater power to convince than the predictions of the Hebrew prophets, though these predictions, fulfilled as they were in the Lord Jesus, furnish subsidiary evidence of exceeding value. On the whole, the more probable meaning of St. Peter seems to be that the word of prophecy was made more sure to himself, and, through his teaching, to others by the overwhelming testimony of the voice from heaven and the glory of the Transfiguration. He had become a disciple long before. His brother Andrew had first told him that Jesus was the Messiah; he himself, a week before the Transfiguration, had confessed him solemnly to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God? But the Transfiguration deepened that faith into the most intense conviction; it made the word of prophecy which spoke of Christ surer and more certain. It is not without interest that the writer of the so-called ‘Second Epistle of Clement’ quotes (chapter 11) from “the prophetic word” (προφητικὸς λόγος), passages which resemble Jas_1:8 and 2Pe_3:4.

Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place. There is a parallel to the first clause of this in Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 11:6, 12; to the second in 2 Esdr. 12:42. The word rendered “light” is rather a lamp or torch; our Lord uses it of John the Baptist (Joh_5:35). The word translated “dark” (αὐχμηρός) is found only here in the New Testament; it means “dry, parched, and so squalid, desert;” there seems to be no sufficient authority for the rendering “dark.” God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path; the word of prophecy guides us to Christ. Until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts; literally, until day dawn through; i.e., “through the gloom.” There is no article. The word for “day-star” (φωσφόροv, lucifer, light-bringer) is found in no other place of the New Testament; but comp. Rev_2:28; Rev_22:16. St. Peter seems to mean that the prophetic word, rendered more sure to the apostles by the voice from heaven, and to Christians generally by apostolic witness, shines like a guiding lamp, till the fuller light of day dawns upon the soul, as the believer, led by the prophetic word, realizes the personal knowledge of the Lord, and he manifests himself according to his blessed promises to the heart that longs for his sacred presence. He is the Bright and Morning Star, the Day-star, the Light-bringer; for he is the Light of the world—he brings the light, the full light of day. The prophetic word is precious; it sheds light upon the surrounding darkness—the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of the heart that knows not Christ; but its light is as the light of a torch or a lamp, compared with the pervading daylight which the felt presence of Christ sheds into those hearts into which God hath shined to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Some understand “day” here of the great day of the Lord. Against this interpretation is the absence of the article, and the fact that the last words of the verse seem to give a subjective meaning to the passage.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:19
We have also a more sure word of prophecy – That is, a prophecy pertaining to the coming of the Lord Jesus; for that is the point under discussion. There has been considerable diversity of opinion in regard to the meaning of this passage. Some have supposed that the apostle, when he says, “a more sure word,” did not intend to make any comparison between the miracle of the transfiguration and prophecy, but that he meant to say merely that the word of prophecy was very sure, and could certainly be relied on. Others have supposed that the meaning is, that the prophecies which foretold his coming into the world having been confirmed by the fact of his advent, are rendered more sure and undoubted than when they were uttered, and may now be confidently appealed to. So Rosenmuller, Benson, Macknight, Clarke, Wetstein, and Grotius. Luther renders it, “we have a firm prophetic word;” omitting the comparison.

A literal translation of the passage would be,” and we have the prophetic word more firm.” If a comparison is intended, it may be either that the prophecy was more sure than the fables referred to in 2Pe_1:16; or than the miracle of the transfiguration; or than the word which was heard in the holy mount; or than the prophecies even in the time when they were first spoken. If such a comparison was designed, the most obvious of these interpretations would be, that the prophecy was more certain proof than was furnished in the mount of transfiguration. But it seems probable that no comparison was intended, and that the thing on which Peter intended to fix the eye was not that the prophecy was a better evidence respecting the advent of the Messiah than other evidences, but that it was a strong proof which demanded their particular attention, as being of a firm and decided character. There can be no doubt that the apostle refers here to what is contained in the Old Testament; for, in 2Pe_1:21, he speaks of the prophecy as that which was spoken “in old time, by men that were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The point to which the prophecies related, and to which Peter referred, was the great doctrine respecting the coming of the Messiah, embracing perhaps all that pertained to his work, or all that he designed to do by his advent.

They had had one illustrious proof respecting his advent as a glorious Saviour by his transfiguration on the mount; and the apostle here says that the prophecies abounded with truths on these points, and that they ought to give earnest heed to the disclosures which they made, and to compare them diligently with facts as they occurred, that they might be confirmed more and more in the truth. If, however, as the more obvious sense of this passage seems to be, and as many suppose to be the correct interpretation (see Doddridge, in loc., and Professor Stuart, on the Canon of the Old Testament, p. 329), it means that the prophecy was more sure, more steadfast, more to be depended on than even what the three disciples had seen and heard in the mount of transfiguration, this may be regarded as true in the following respects:

(1) The prophecies are numerous, and by their number they furnish a stronger proof than could be afforded by a single manifestation. however clear and glorious.

(2) They were “recorded,” and might be the subject of careful comparison with the events as they occurred.

(3) They were written long beforehand, and it could not be urged that the testimony which the prophets bore was owing to any illusion on their minds, or to any agreement among the different writers to impose on the world. Though Peter regarded the testimony which he and James and John bore to the glory of the Saviour, from what they saw on the holy mount, as strong and clear confirmation that he was the Son of God, yet he could not but be aware that it might be suggested by a caviller that they might have agreed to impose on others, or that they might have been dazzled and deceived by some natural phenomenon occurring there. Compare Kuinoel on Mat_17:1, following.

(4) Even supposing that there was a miracle in the case, the evidence of the prophecies, embracing many points in the same general subject, and extending through a long series of years, would be more satisfactory than any single miracle whatever. See Doddridge, in loc. The general meaning is, that the fact that he had come as the Messiah was disclosed in the mount by such a manifestation of his glory, and of what he would be, that they who saw it could not doubt it; the same thing the apostle says was more fully shown also in the prophecies, and these prophecies demanded their close and prolonged attention.

Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed – They are worthy of your study, of your close and careful investigation. There is perhaps no study more worthy of the attention of Christians than that of the prophecies.

As unto a light that shineth in a dark place – That is, the prophecies resemble a candle, lamp, or torch, in a dark room, or in an obscure road at night. They make objects distinct which were before unseen; they enable us to behold many things which would be otherwise invisible. The object of the apostle in this representation seems to have been, to state that the prophecies do not give a perfect light, or that they do not remove all obscurity, but that they shed some light on objects which would otherwise be entirely dark, and that the light which they furnished was so valuable that we ought by all means to endeavor to avail ourselves of it. Until the day shall dawn, and we shall see objects by the clear light of the sun, they are to be our guide. A lamp is of great value in a dark night, though it may not disclose objects so clearly as the light of the sun. But it may be a safe and sure guide; and a man who has to travel in dark and dangerous places, does well to “take heed” to his lamp.

Until the day dawn – Until you have the clearer light which shall result from the dawning of the day. The reference here is to the morning light as compared with a lamp; and the meaning is, that we should attend to the light furnished by the prophecies until the truth shall be rendered more distinct by the events as they shall actually be disclosed – until the brighter light which shall be shed on all things by the glory of the second advent of the Saviour, and the clearing up of what is now obscure in the splendors of the heavenly world. The point of comparison is between the necessary obscurity of prophecy, and the clearness of events when they actually occur – a difference like that which is observable in the objects around us when seen by the shining of the lamp and by the light of the sun. The apostle directs the mind onward to a period when all shall be clear – to that glorious time when the Saviour shall return to receive his people to himself in that heaven where all shall be light. Compare Rev_21:23-25; Rev_22:5. Meantime we should avail ourselves of all the light which we have, and should apply ourselves diligently to the study of the prophecies of the Old Testament which are still unfulfilled, and of those in the New Testament which direct the mind onward to brighter and more glorious scenes than this world has yet witnessed. In our darkness they are a cheering lamp to guide our feet, till that illustrious day shall dawn. Compare the notes at 1Co_13:9-10.

And the day-star – The morning star – the bright star that at certain periods of the year leads on the day, and which is a pledge that the morning is about to dawn. Compare Rev_2:28; Rev_22:16.

Arise in your hearts – on your hearts; that is, sheds its beams on your hearts. Until you see the indications of that approaching day in which all is light. The period referred to here by the approaching day that is to diffuse this light, is when the Saviour shall return in the full revelation of his glory – the splendor of his kingdom. Then all will be clear. Until that time, we should search the prophetic records, and strengthen our faith, and comfort our hearts, by the predictions of the future glory of his reign. Whether this refers, as some suppose, to his reign on earth, either personally or by the principles of his religion universally prevailing, or, as others suppose, to the brighter revelations of heaven when he shall come to receive his people to himself, it is equally clear that a brighter time than any that has yet occurred is to dawn on our race, and equally true that we should regard the prophecies, as we do the morning star, as the cheering harbinger of day.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:20
20.Knowing this first. Here Peter begins to shew how our minds are to be prepared, if we really wish to make progress in scriptural knowledge. There may at the same time be two interpretations given, if you read ἐπηλύσεως as some do, which means occurrence, impulse; or, as I have rendered it, interpretation, ἐπιλύσεως. But almost all give this meaning, that we ought not to rush on headlong and rashly when we read Scripture, confiding in our own understanding. They think that a confirmation of this follows, because the Spirit, who spoke by the prophets, is the only true interpreter of himself.

This explanation contains a true, godly, and useful doctrine, that then only are the prophecies read profitably, when we renounce the mind and feelings of the flesh, and submit to the teaching of the Spirit, but that it is an impious profanation of it; when we arrogantly rely on our own acumen, deeming that sufficient to enable us to understand it, though the mysteries contain things hidden to our flesh, and sublime treasures of life far surpassing our capacities. And this is what we have said, that the light which shines in it, comes to the humble alone.

But the Papists are doubly foolish, when they conclude from this passage, that no interpretation of a private man ought to be deemed authoritative. For they pervert what Peter says, that they may claim for their own councils the chief right of interpreting Scripture; but in this they act indeed childishly; for Peter calls interpretation private, not that of every individual, in order to prohibit each one to interpret; but he shews that whatever men bring of their own is profane. Were, then, the whole world unanimous, and were the minds of all men united together, still what would proceed from them, would be private or their own; for the word is here set in opposition to divine revelation; so that the faithful, inwardly illuminated by the Holy Spirit, acknowledge nothing but what God says in his word.

However, another sense seems to me more simple, that Peter says that Scripture came not from man, or through the suggestions of man. For thou wilt never come well prepared to read it, except thou bringest reverence, obedience, and docility; but a just reverence then only exists when we are convinced that God speaks to us, and not mortal men. Then Peter especially bids us to believe the prophecies as the indubitable oracles of God, because they have not emanated from men’s own private suggestions.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:20. knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation] The true meaning of the passage turns partly on the actual significance of the last word, partly on the sequence of thought as connected with the foregoing. The noun itself does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament nor in the LXX., but in Aquila’s version of Gen_40:8 it is given as the equivalent of “interpretation.” The corresponding verb meets us, however, in Mar_4:34 (“he explained all things to his disciples”) and in Act_19:39 (“it shall be determined”), and this leaves no doubt that “interpretation” or “solution” is the right rendering.

Nor again is there much room for doubt as to the meaning of “prophecy of scripture.” The words can only point to a “prophetic word” embodied in a writing and recognised as Scripture. We have seen, however (see note on 1Pe_1:10-12), that the gift of prophecy was thought of as belonging to the present as fully as to the past, and chap. 3:16, 1Ti_5:18, and possibly Rom_16:26 and 1Co_15:3, 1Co_15:4, shew that the word Scripture had come to have a wider range of meaning than that which limited its use to the Old Testament writings, and may therefore be taken here in its most comprehensive sense. Stress must also be laid on the Greek verb rendered “is,” which might better be translated cometh, or cometh into being. With these data the true explanation of the passage is not far to seek. The Apostle calls on men to give heed to the prophetic word on the ground that no prophecy, authenticated as such by being recognised as part of Scripture, whether that Scripture belongs to the Old, or the New Covenant, comes by the prophet’s own interpretation of the facts with which he has to deal, whether those facts concern the outer history of the world, or the unfolding of the eternal truths of God’s Kingdom. It is borne to him, as he proceeds to shew in the next verse, from a higher source, from that which is, in the truest sense of the word, an inspiration. The views held by some commentators, (1) that St Peter is protesting against the application of private judgment to the interpretation of prophecy, and (2) that he is contending that no single prophecy can be interpreted apart from the whole body of prophetic teaching contained in Scripture, are, it is believed, less satisfactory explanations of the Apostle’s meaning.

Pulpit Commentary
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. By “knowing this first” (γινώσκοντες) is meant that we must recognize this truth as of primary importance, or, before we commence the study of prophecy; the phrase occurs again in 2Pe_3:3. The literal translation of the following clause is, “that all prophecy of Scripture [there is no article] is not; all … not” (πᾶσα … ου)) being a common Hebraism for none, οὑδεμία; but the verb is not ἔστι, “is,” but γίνεται, “becomes, arises, comes into being.” The word for “private” is ἰδίας, “special,” or commonly, “one’s own” (see 1Pe_3:1, 1Pe_3:5; 1Pe_2:16, 1Pe_2:22; 1Pe_3:3, 1Pe_3:16, 1Pe_3:17). The word rendered “interpretation” is ἐπιλύσεως, which is found nowhere else in the New Testament; the corresponding verb occurs in Mar_4:34, “He expounded all things;” and Act_19:39, “It shall be determined or settled.” These considerations, strengthened by the context, seem to guide us to the following explanation: No prophecy of Scripture arises from the prophet’s own interpretation of the vision presented to his mind; for it was from God that the prophecy was brought, and men spoke as they were borne on by the Holy Spirit. This view of the passage is also supported by the remarkable parallel in the First Epistle (1Pe_1:10-12). The prophets searched diligently into the meaning of the revelation vouchsafed to them; they did not always comprehend it in all its details; they could not interpret it to themselves; the written prophecy arose out of the interpretation of the revelation supplied by the same Spirit from whom the revelation itself proceeded. Therefore the prophetic books of Holy Scripture are sacred and precious, and we do well in giving heed to them; though the day-star of the Lord’s own presence, shining in the illuminated heart, is holier still. Other views of this difficult passage are: Prophecy is not its own interpreter; the guidance of the Spirit is necessary. Or, prophecy is not a matter for the private interpretation of the readers; only the Holy Spirit can explain it. But the explanation adopted seems most accordant with the Greek words and with the general sense of the context (compare St. Paul’s teaching in 1Co_12:10). The gifts of the Spirit are divided as he will; to one man are given “divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.” Not every one, it seems, who had the first gift, had also the latter. Tongues and the interpretation of tongues were two distinct gifts. It may be so with prophecy and the interpretation of prophecy.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:20
Knowing this first – Bearing this steadily in mind as a primary and most important truth.

That no prophecy of the Scripture – No prophecy contained in the inspired records. The word “scripture” here shows that the apostle referred particularly to the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament. The remark which he makes about prophecy is general, though it is designed to bear on a particular class of the prophecies.

Is of any private interpretation – The expression here used (ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως idias epiluseōs) has given rise to as great a diversity of interpretation, and to as much discussion, as perhaps any phrase in the New Testament; and to the present time there is no general agreement among expositors as to its meaning. It would be foreign to the design of these notes, and would be of little utility, to enumerate the different interpretations which have been given of the passage, or to examine them in detail. It will be sufficient to remark, preparatory to endeavoring to ascertain the true sense of the passage, that some have held that it teaches that no prophecy can be interpreted of itself, but can be understood only by comparing it with the event; others, that it teaches that the prophets did not themselves understand what they wrote, but were mere passive organs under the dictation of the Holy Spirit to communicate to future times what they could not themselves explain; others, that it teaches that “no prophecy is of self-interpretation,” (Horsley;) others, that it teaches that the prophecies, besides having a literal signification, have also a hidden and mystical sense which cannot be learned from the prophecies themselves, but is to be perceived by a special power of insight imparted by the Holy Spirit, enabling men to understand their recondite mysteries.

It would be easy to show that some of these opinions are absurd, and that none of them are sustained by the fair interpretation of the language used, and by the drift of the passage. The more correct interpretation, as it seems to me, is that which supposes that the apostle teaches that the truths which the prophets communicated were not originated by themselves; were not of their own suggestion or invention; were not their own opinions, but were of higher origin, and were imparted by God; and according to this the passage may be explained, “knowing this as a point of first importance when you approach the prophecies, or always bearing this in mind, that it is a great principle in regard to the prophets, that what they communicated “was not of their own disclosure;” that is, was not revealed or originated by them.” That this is the correct interpretation will be apparent from the following considerations:

(1) It accords with the design of the apostle, which is to produce an impressive sense of the importance and value of the prophecies, and to lead those to whom he wrote to study them with diligence. This could be secured in no way so well as by assuring them that the writings which he wished them to study did not contain truths originated by the human mind, but that they were of higher origin.

(2) This interpretation accords with what is said in the following verse, and is the only one of all those proposed that is consistent with that, or in connection with which that verse will have any force. In that verse 2Pe_1:21, a reason is given for what is said here: “For (γὰρ gar) the prophecy came not in old time “by the will of man,”” etc. But this can be a good reason for what is said here only on the supposition that the apostle meant to say that what they communicated was not originated by themselves; that it was of a higher than human origin; that the prophets spake “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” This fact was a good reason why they should show profound respect for the prophecies, and study them with attention. But how could the fact that “they were moved by the Holy Ghost” be a reason for studying them, if the meaning here is that the prophets could not understand their own language, or that the prophecy could be understood only by the event, or that the prophecy had a double meaning, etc.? If the prophecies were of Divine origin, then “that” was a good reason why they should be approached with reverence, and should be profoundly studied.

(3) This interpretation accords as well, to say the least, with the fair meaning of the language employed, as either of the other opinions proposed. The word rendered “interpretation” (ἐπίλυσις epilusis) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means “solution” (Robinson’s Lexicon), “disclosure,” (Prof. Stuart on the Old Testament, p. 328,) “making free (Passow,)” with the notion that what is thus released or loosed was before bound, entangled obscure. The verb from which this word is derived (ἐπιλύω epiluō) means, “to let loose upon,” as dogs upon a hare, (Xen. Mem. 7, 8; ib 9, 10;) to loose or open letters; to loosen a band; to loose or disclose a riddle or a dark saying, and then to enlighten, illustrate, etc. – Passow. It is twice used in the New Testament. Mar_4:34, “he expounded all things to his disciples”; Act_19:39, “It shall be determined in a lawful assembly.”

The verb would be applicable to loosing anything which is bound or confined, and thence to the explanation of a mysterious doctrine or a parable, or to a disclosure of what was before unknown. The word, according to this, in the place before us, would mean the disclosure of what was before bound, or retained, or unknown; either what had never been communicated at all, or what had been communicated obscurely; and the idea is, “no prophecy recorded in the Scripture is of, or comes from, any exposition or disclosure of the will and purposes of God by the prophets themselves.” It is not a thing of their own, or a private matter originating with themselves, but it is to be traced to a higher source. If this be the true interpretation, then it follows that the prophecies are to be regarded as of higher than any human origin; and then, also, it follows that this passage should not be used to prove that the prophets did not understand the nature of their own communications, or that they were mere unconscious and passive instruments in the hand of God to make known his will. Whatever may be the truth on those points, this passage proves nothing in regard to them, any mare than the fact that a minister of religion now declares truth which he did not originate, but which is to be traced to God as its author, proves that he does not understand what he himself says. It follows, also, that this passage cannot be adduced by the Papists to prove that the people at large should not have free access to the word of God, and should not be allowed to interpret it for themselves. It makes no affirmation on that point, and does not even contain any “principle” of which such a use can be made; for:

(1) Whatever it means, it is confined to “prophecy;” it does not embrace the whole Bible.

(2) Whatever it means, it merely states a fact; it does not enjoin a duty. It states, as a fact, that there was something about the prophecies which was not of private solution, but it does not state that it is the duty of the church to prevent any private explanation or opinion even of the prophecies.

(3) It says nothing about “the church” as empowered to give a public or authorized interpretation of the prophecies. There is not a hint, or an intimation of any kind, that the church is intrusted with any such power whatever. There never was any greater perversion of a passage of Scripture than to suppose that this teaches that any class of people is not to have free access to the Bible. The effect of the passage, properly interpreted, should be to lead us to study the Bible with profound reverence, as having a higher than any human origin, not to turn away from it as if it were unintelligible, nor to lead us to suppose that it can be interpreted only by one class of men. The fact that it discloses truths which the human mind could not of itself have originated, is a good reason for studying it with diligence and with prayer – not for supposing that it is unlawful for us to attempt to understand it; a good reason for reverence and veneration for it – not for sanctified neglect.

John Calvin
2 Peter 1:21
But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. They did not of themselves, or according to their own will, foolishly deliver their own inventions. The meaning is, that the beginning of right knowledge is to give that credit to the holy prophets which is due to God. He calls them the holy men of God, because they faithfully executed the office committed to them, having sustained the person of God in their ministrations. He says that they were — not that they were bereaved of mind, (as the Gentiles imagined their prophets to have been,) but because they dared not to announce anything of their own, and obediently followed the Spirit as their guide, who ruled in their mouth as in his own sanctuary. Understand by prophecy of Scripture that which is contained in the holy Scriptures.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:21. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man] More accurately, For prophecy was not sent (or borne) at any time by the will of man. The article before “prophecy” in the Greek simply gives to the noun the generic sense which is better expressed in English by the absence of the article. The word for “came” is the same as that used of the “voice” in verses 17, 18, and is, as there shewn, characteristic of St Peter. That for “old time” is wider in its range than the English words, and takes in the more recent as well as the more distant past, and is therefore applicable to the prophecies of the Christian no less than to those of the Jewish Church. In the phrase “by the will of men” we have a parallelism with Joh_1:13.

but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost] Better, but being borne on (the same word as the “came” of the previous verse, and therefore used with an emphasis which cannot well be reproduced in English) by the Holy Ghost, men spake from God. Some of the better MSS. have the preposition “from” instead of the adjective “holy.” The words assert in the fullest sense the inspiration of all true prophets. Their workdid not originate in their own will. They felt impelled by a Spirit mightier than their own. The mode and degree of inspiration and its relation to the prophet’s cooperating will and previous habits of thought are left undefined. The words lend no support to a theory of an inspiration dictating the very syllables uttered by the prophet, still less do they affirm anything as to the nature of the inspiration of the writers of the books of the Old Testament who were not prophets. If we retain the Received Text, we have in it an example of the use of the term “man of God” (i.e. called and sent by Him) as equivalent to “prophet,” parallel to what we find in Deu_33:1; 2Ki_4:9, 2Ki_4:16, 2Ki_4:5:8, and probably in 1Ti_6:11.

Pulpit Commentary
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; literally, for not by the will of man was prophecy borne at any time. The verb is that already used in 2Pe_1:17, 2Pe_1:18, “was not borne or brought;” it refers not to the utterance of prophecy, but to its origin—it came from heaven. But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; literally, but being borne on by the Holy Ghost, the holy men of God spake; or, if we follow the Vatican Manuscript, “But being borne on by the Holy Ghost, men spake from God.” We have again the same verb, “being borne on” (φερόμενοι); comp. Act_27:15, Act_27:17, where it is used of a ship being borne on by the wind. So the prophets were borne on in their prophetic utterance by the Holy Spirit of God. They were truly and really inspired. The mode of that inspiration is not explained; perhaps it cannot be made plain to our human understanding; all the points of contact between the finite and the Infinite are involved in mystery. But the fact is clearly revealed—the prophets were borne on by the Holy Spirit of God. This is not, as some have fancied, the language of Montanism. Prophecy is but a lamp shining in a dark place; it is not the day-star. Prophecy came not by the will of man; the prophets were moved or borne on by the Holy Ghost. But St. Peter does not say that their human consciousness was suspended, or that they were passive as the lyre when swept by the plectrum. Had this passage been written after the rise of Montanism early in the second century, the writer, if a Montanist, would have said more; if not a Montanist, he would have carefully guarded his words from possible misunderstanding.

Albert Barnes
2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time – Margin, or, “at any.” The Greek word (ποτὲ pote) will bear either construction. It would be true in either sense, but the reference is particularly to the recorded prophecies in the Old Testament. What was true of them, however, is true of all prophecy, that it is not by the will of man. The word “prophecy” here is without the article, meaning prophecy in general – all that is prophetic in the Old Testament; or, in a more general sense still, all that the prophets taught, whether relating to future events or not.
By the will of man – It was not of human origin; not discovered by the human mind. The word “will,” here seems to be used in the sense of “prompting” or “suggestion;” men did not speak by their own suggestion, but as truth was brought to them by God.

But holy men of God – Pious men commissioned by God, or employed by him as his messengers to mankind.

Spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost – Compare 2Ti_3:16. The Greek phrase here (ὑπὸ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου φερόμενος hupo Pneumatos Hagiou pheromenos) means “borne along, moved, influenced” by the Holy Ghost. The idea is, that in what they spake they were “carried along” by an influence from above. They moved in the case only as they were moved; they spake only as the influence of the Holy Ghost was upon them. They were no more self-moved than a vessel at sea is that is impelled by the wind; and as the progress made by the vessel is to be measured by the impulse bearing upon it, so the statements made by the prophets are to be traced to the impulse which bore upon their minds. They were not, indeed, in all respects like such a vessel, but only in regard to the fact that all they said as prophets was to be traced to the foreign influence that bore upon their minds.

There could not be, therefore, a more decided declaration than this in proof that the prophets were inspired. If the authority of Peter is admitted, his positive and explicit assertion settles the question. if this be so, also, then the point with reference to which he makes this observation is abundantly confirmed, that the prophecies demand our earnest attention, and that we should give all the heed to them which we would to a light or lamp when traveling in a dangerous way, and in a dark night. In a still more general sense, the remark here made may also be applied to the whole of the Scriptures. We are in a dark world. We see few things clearly; and all around us, on a thousand questions, there is the obscurity of midnight. By nature there is nothing to cast light on those questions, and we are perplexed, bewildered, embarrassed. The Bible is given to us to shed light on our way.

It is the only light which we have respecting the future, and though it does not give all the information which we might desire in regard to what is to come, yet it gives us sufficient light to guide us to heaven. It teaches us what it is necessary to know about God, about our duty, and about the way of salvation, in order to conduct us safely; and no one who has committed himself to its direction, has been suffered to wander finally away from the paths of salvation. It is, therefore, a duty to attend to the instructions which the Bible imparts, and to commit ourselves to its holy guidance in our journey to a better world: for soon, if we are faithful to its teachings, the light of eternity will dawn upon us, and there, amidst its cloudless splendor, we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known; then we shall “need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God shall give us light, and we shall reign forever and ever.” Compare Rev_21:22-24; Rev_22:5.

October 10…732: The Disputed Battle of Tours

I call it disputed because

1) Sources don’t tell us much about it actually, and what they do say is debatable (the eternally inflated numbers of history, conflicting details)

2) The importance of the battle has been estimated from world-changing to just another raid in a series of Muslim raids.

Things the photo below don’t necessarily say is that the battle was more a campaign lasting a good week or more, and the Franks were suprisingly well-armored. Charles Martel, the Christian leader, seems deliberately aiming at empire, which his grandson Charlemagne would actually found. There’s a distinct hint that what stopped the Arabs was the threat of loosing their war-won booty.

Would the whole world have been changed if the Franks lost at Tours? Hard to say, but the history of France and the Holy Roman Empire, at least, would have been different, if it existed at all.

From The Medieval World at War :

1 Peter Chapter 3:13-22 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:13
13Who is he that will harm you He further confirms the previous sentence by an argument drawn from common experience. For it happens for the most part, that the ungodly disturb us, or are provoked by us, or that we do not labor to do them good as it behoves us; for they who seek to do good, do even soften minds which are otherwise hard as iron. This very thing is mentioned by Plato in his first book on the Republic, “Injustice,” he says, “causes seditions and hatreds and fightings one with another; but justice, concord and friendship.” However, though this commonly happens, yet it is not always the case; for the children of God, how much soever they may strive to pacify the ungodly by kindness, and shew themselves kind towards all, are yet often assailed undeservedly by many.

Pulpit Commentary
And who is he that will harm you? The apostle, as he began his quotation from Psa_34:1-22, 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 Isa_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. Isa_50:11). With the masculine rendering, comp. Act_22:3, “and was zealous toward God (ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τοῦ Θεοῦ).”

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:13
And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? – This question is meant to imply, that as a general thing they need apprehend no evil if they lead an upright and benevolent life. The idea is, that God would in general protect them, though the next verse shows that the apostle did not mean to teach that there would be absolute security, for it is implied there that they might be called to suffer for righteousness” sake. While it is true that the Saviour was persecuted by wicked people, though his life was wholly spent in doing good; while it is true that the apostles were put to death, though following his example; and while it is true that good people have often suffered persecution, though laboring only to do good, still it is true as a general thing that a life of integrity and benevolence conduces to safety, even in a wicked world. People who are upright and pure; who live to do good to others who are characteristically benevolent and who are imitators of God – are those who usually pass life in most tranquillity and security, and are often safe when nothing else would give security but confidence in their integrity. A man of a holy and pure life may, under the protection of God, rely on that character to carry him safely through the world and to bring him at last to an honored grave. Or should he be calumniated when living, and his sun set under a cloud, still his name will be vindicated, and justice will ultimately be done to him when he is dead. The world ultimately judges right respecting character, and renders “honor to whom honor is due.” Compare Psa_37:3-6.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:14
14. Hence Peter adds, But if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake The meaning is, that the faithful will do more towards obtaining a quiet life by kindness, than by violence and promptitude in taking revenge; but that when they neglect nothing to secure peace, were they to suffer, they are still blessed, because they suffer for the sake of righteousness. Indeed, this latter clause differs much from the judgment of our flesh; but Christ has not without reason thus declared; nor has Peter without reason repeated the sentence from his mouth; for God will at length come as a deliverer, and then openly will appear what now seems incredible, that is, that the miseries of the godly have been blessed when endured with patience.

To suffer for righteousness, means not only to submit to some loss or disadvantage in defending a good cause, but also to suffer unjustly, when any one is innocently in fear among men on account of the fear of God.

Be not afraid of their terror He again points out the fountain and cause of impatience, that we are beyond due measure troubled, when the ungodly rise up against us. For such a dread either disheartens us, or degrades us, or kindles within us a desire for revenge. In the meantime, we do not acquiesce in the defense of God. Then the best remedy for checking the turbulent emotions of our minds will be, to conquer immoderate terrors by trusting in the aid of God.

But Peter no doubt meant to allude to a passage in the eighth chapter of Isaiah; [Isa_8:12;] for when the Jews against the prohibition of God sought to fortify themselves by the aid of the Gentile world, God warned his Prophet not to fear after their example. Peter at the same time seems to have turned “fear” into a different meaning; for it is taken passively by the Prophet, who accused the people of unbelief, because, at a time when they ought to have relied on the aid of God and to have boldly despised all dangers, they became so prostrate and broken down with fear, that they sent to all around them for unlawful help. But Peter takes fear in another sense, as meaning that terror which the ungodly are wont to fill us with by their violence and cruel threatenings. He then departs from the sense in which the word is taken by the Prophet; but in this there is nothing unreasonable; for his object was not to explain the words of the Prophet; he wished only to shew that, nothing is fitter to produce patience than what Isaiah prescribes, even to ascribe to God his honor by recumbing in full confidence on his power.

I do not, however, object, if any one prefers to render Peter’s words thus, Fear ye not their fear; as though he had said, “Be ye not afraid as the unbelieving, or the children of this world are wont to be, because they understand nothing of God’s providence.” But this, as I think, would be a forced explanation. There is, indeed, no need for us to toil much on this point, since Peter here did not intend to explain every word used by the Prophet, but only referred to this one thing, that the faithful will firmly stand, and can never be moved from a right course of duty by any dread or fear, if they will sanctify the Lord.

But this sanctification ought to be confined to the present case. For whence is it that we are overwhelmed with fear, and think ourselves lost, when danger is impending, except that we ascribe to mortal man more power to injure us than to God to save us? God promises that he will be the guardian of our salvation; the ungodly, on the other hand, attempt to subvert it. Unless God’s promise sustain us, do we not deal unjustly with him, and in a manner profane him? Then the Prophet teaches us that we ought to think honourably of the Lord of hosts; for how much soever the ungodly may contrive to destroy us, and whatever power they may possess, he alone is more than sufficiently powerful to secure our safety. Peter then adds, in your hearts. For if this conviction takes full possession of our minds, that the help promised by the Lord is sufficient for us, we shall be well fortified to repel all the fears of unbelief.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:14
But and if ye suffer for righteousness” sake – Implying that though, in general, a holy character would constitute safety, yet that there was a possibility that they might suffer persecution. Compare the Mat_5:10 note; 2Ti_3:12 note.

Happy are ye – Perhaps alluding to what the Saviour says in Mat_5:10; “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness” sake.” On the meaning of the word happy or blessed, see the notes at Mat_5:3. The meaning here is, not that they would find positive enjoyment in persecution on account of righteousness, but that they were to regard it as a blessed condition; that is, as a condition that might be favorable to salvation; and they were not therefore, on the whole, to regard it as an evil.

And be not afraid of their terror – Of anything which they can do to cause terror. There is evidently an allusion here to Isa_8:12-13; “Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” See the notes at that passage. Compare Isa_51:12; Mat_10:28. “Neither be troubled.” With apprehension of danger. Compare the notes at Joh_14:1. If we are true Christians, we have really no reason to be alarmed in view of anything that can happen to us. God is our protector, and he is abundantly able to vanquish all our foes; to uphold us in all our trials; to conduct us through the valley of death, and to bring us to heaven. “All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come,” 1Co_3:21-22.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:15
Though this is a new precept, it yet depends on what is gone before, for he requires such constancy in the faithful, as boldly to give a reason for their faith to their adversaries. And this is a part of that sanctification which he had just mentioned; for we then really honor God, when neither fear nor shame hinders us from making a profession of our faith. But Peter does not expressly bid us to assert and proclaim what has been given us by the Lord everywhere, and always and among all indiscriminately, for the Lord gives his people the spirit of discretion, so that they may know when and how far and to whom it is expedient to speak. He bids them only to be ready to give an answer, lest by their sloth and the cowardly fear of the flesh they should expose the doctrine of Christ, by being silent, to the derision of the ungodly. The meaning then is, that we ought to be prompt in avowing our faith, so as to set it forth whenever necessary, lest the unbelieving through our silence should condemn the religion we follow.

But it ought to be noticed, that Peter here does not command us to be prepared to solve any question that may be mooted; for it is not the duty of all to speak on every subject. But it is the general doctrine that is meant, which belongs to the ignorant and the simple. Then Peter had in view no other thing, than that Christians should make it evident to unbelievers that they truly worshipped God, and had a holy and good religion. And in this there is no difficulty, for it would be strange if we could bring nothing to defend our faith when any one made inquiries respecting it. For we ought always to take care that all may know that we fear God, and that we piously and reverently regard his legitimate worship.

This was also required by the state of the times: the Christian name was much hated and deemed infamous; many thought the sect wicked and guilty of many sacrileges. It would have been, therefore, the highest perfidy against God, if, when asked, they had neglected to give a testimony in favor of their religion. And this, as I think, is the meaning of the word apology, which Peter uses, that is, that the Christians were to make it evident to the world that they were far off from every impiety, and did not corrupt true religion, on which account they were suspected by the ignorant.

Hope here is by a metonymy to be taken for faith. Peter, however, as it has been said, does not require them to know how to discuss distinctly and refinedly every article of the faith, but only to shew that their faith in Christ was consistent with genuine piety. And hence we learn how all those abuse the name of Christians, who understand nothing certain respecting their faith, and have nothing to give as an answer for it. But it behoves us again carefully to consider what he says, when he speaks of that hope that is in you; for he intimates that the confession which flows from the heart is alone that which is approved by God; for except faith dwells within, the tongue prattles in vain. It ought then to have its roots within us, so that it may afterwards bring forth the fruit of confession.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 3:15. but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts] The better MSS. give the Lord Christ. The original text was probably altered by transcribers to bring it into conformity with the LXX. text of Isaiah. To “sanctify Christ” or “God” was to count His Name as holy above all other names, His fear, as the only fear which men ought to cherish, and therefore as the safeguard against all undue fear of men. The words “in your hearts” are added by the Apostle to the text of Isaiah as shewing that the “hallowing” of which he speaks should work in the root and centre of their spiritual being.

be ready always to give an answer] The words imply that the disciples of Christ were not to take refuge in the silence to which fear might prompt. They were to be ready with a defence, a vindication, an apologia, for their faith and hope. And this answer was to be given not in a tone of threatening defiance, but “in meekness” as regards the interrogator, whether the questions were put officially or in private, and “in fear,” partly lest the truth should suffer through any infirmities in its defenders, partly because the spirit of reverential awe towards God was the best safeguard against such infirmities.

Pulpit Commentary
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. From Isa_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 is 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” (Isa_8:13; see also Le Isa_10:3; Isa_29:23; Eze_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.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts – In Isaiah Isa_8:13 this is, “sanctify the Lord of hosts himself;” that is, in that connection, regard him as your Protector, and be afraid of him, and not of what man can do. The sense in the passage before us is, “In your hearts, or in the affections of the soul, regard the Lord God as holy, and act toward him with that confidence which a proper respect for one so great and so holy demands. In the midst of dangers, be not intimidated; dread not what man can do, but evince proper reliance on a holy God, and flee to him with the confidence which is due to one so glorious.” This contains, however, a more general direction, applicable to Christians at all times. It is, that in our hearts we are to esteem God as a holy being, and in all our deportment to act toward him as such. The object of Peter in quoting the passage from Isaiah, was to lull the fears of those whom he addressed, and preserve them from any alarms in view of the persecutions to which they might be exposed; the trials which would be brought upon them by people. Thus, in entire accordance with the sentiment as employed by Isaiah, he says, “Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.” That is, “in order to keep the mind calm in trials, sanctify the Lord in your hearts; regard him as your holy God and Saviour; make him your refuge. This will allay all your fears, and secure you from all that you dread.” The sentiment of the passage then is, that the sanctifying of the Lord God in our hearts, or proper confidence in him as a holy and righteous God, will deliver us from fear. As this is a very important sentiment for Christians, it may be proper, in order to a just exposition of the passage, to dwell a moment on it:

I. What is meant by our sanctifying the Lord God? It cannot mean to make him holy, for he is perfectly holy, whatever may be our estimate of him; and our views of him evidently can make no change in his character. The meaning therefore must be, that we should regard him as holy in our estimate of him, or in the feelings which we have toward him. This may include the following things:

(1) To esteem or regard him as a holy being, in contradistinction from all those feelings which rise up in the heart against him – the feelings of complaining and murmuring under his dispensations, as if he were severe and harsh; the feelings of dissatisfaction with his government, as if it were partial and unequal; the feelings of rebellion, as if his claims were unfounded or unjust.

(2) To desire that he may be regarded by others as holy, in accordance with the petition in the Lord’s prayer, Mat_6:9, “hallowed be thy name;” that is, “let thy name be esteemed to be holy everywhere;” a feeling in opposition to that which is regardless of the honor which he may receive in the world. When we esteem a friend, we desire that all due respect should be shown him by others; we wish that all who know him should have the same views that we have; we are sensitive to his honor, just in proportion as we love him.

(3) To act toward him as holy: that is, to obey his laws, and acquiesce in all his requirements, as if they were just and good. This implies:

(a) That we are to speak of him as holy, in opposition to the language of disrespect and irreverence so common among mankind;

(b) That we are to flee to him in trouble, in contradistinction from withholding our hearts from him, and flying to other sources of consolation and support.

II. What is it to do this in the heart? Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; that is, in contradistinction from a mere external service. This may imply the following things:

(1) In contradistinction from a mere intellectual assent to the proposition that he is holy. Many admit the doctrine that God is holy into their creeds, who never suffer the sentiment to find its way to the heart. All is right on this subject in the articles of their faith; all in their hearts may be murmuring and complaining. In their creeds he is spoken of as just and good; in their hearts they regard him as partial and unjust, as severe and stern, as unamiable and cruel.

(2) In contradistinction From a mere outward form of devotion. In our prayers, and in our hymns, we, of course, “ascribe holiness to our Maker.” But how much of this is the mere language of form! How little does the heart accompany it! And even in the most solemn and sublime ascriptions of praise, how often are the feelings of the heart entirely at variance with what is expressed by the lips! What would more justly offend us, than for a professed friend to approach us with the language of friendship, when every feeling of his heart belied his expressions, and we knew that his honeyed words were false and hollow!

III. Such a sanctifying of the Lord in our hearts will save us from fear. We dread danger, we dread sickness, we dread death, we dread the eternal world. We are alarmed when our affairs are tending to bankruptcy; we are alarmed when a friend is sick and ready to die; we are alarmed if our country is invaded by a foe, and the enemy already approaches our dwelling. The sentiment in the passage before us is, that if we sanctify the Lord God with proper affections, we shall be delivered from these alarms, and the mind will be calm:

(1) The fear of the Lord, as Leighton (in loc.) expresses it, “as greatest, overtops and nullifies all lesser fears: the heart possessed with this fear hath no room for the other.” It is an absorbing emotion; making everything else comparatively of no importance. If we fear God, we have nothing else to fear. The highest emotion which there can be in the soul is the fear of God; and when that exists, the soul will be calm amidst all that might tend otherwise to disturb it. “What time I am afraid,” says David, “I will trust in thee,” Psa_56:3. “We are not, careful,” said Daniel and his friends, “to answer thee, O king. Our God can deliver us; but if not, we will not worship the image,” Dan_3:16.

(2) If we sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, there will be a belief that he will do all things well, and the mind will be calm. However dark his dispensations may be, we shall be assured that everything is ordered aright. In a storm at sea, a child may be calm when he feels that his father is at the helm, and assures him that there is no danger. In a battle, the mind of a soldier may be calm, if he has confidence in his commander, and he assures him that all is safe. So in anything, if we have the assurance that the best thing is done that can be, that the issues will all be right, the mind will be calm. But in this respect the highest confidence that can exist, is that which is reposed in God.

(3) There will be the assurance that all is safe. “Though I walk,” says David, “through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me,” Psa_23:4. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psa_27:1. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof,” Psa_46:1-3. Let us ever then regard the Lord as holy, just, and good. Let us flee to him in all the trials of the present life, and in the hour of death repose on his arm. Every other source of trust will fail; and whatever else may be our reliance, when the hour of anguish approaches, that reliance will fail, and that which we dreaded will overwhelm us. Nor riches, nor honors, nor earthly friends, can save us from those alarms, or be a security for our souls when “the rains descend, and the floods come, and the winds blow” upon us.

And be ready always – That is:

(a) Be always able to do it; have such reasons for the hope that is in you that they can be stated; or, have good and substantial reasons; and,

(b) Be willing to state those reasons on all proper occasions.

No man ought to entertain opinions for which a good reason cannot be given; and every man ought to be willing to state the grounds of his hope on all proper occasions. A Christian should have such intelligent views of the truth of his religion, and such constant evidence in his own heart and life that he is a child of God, as to be able at any time to satisfy a candid inquirer that the Bible is a revelation from heaven, and that it is proper for him to cherish the hope of salvation.

To give an answer – Greek, “An apology,” (ἀπολογίαν apologian.) This word formerly did not mean, as the word apology does now, an excuse for anything that is done as if it were wrong, but a defense of anything. We apply the word now to denote something written or said in extenuation of what appears to others to be wrong, or what might be construed as wrong – as when we make an apology to others for not fulfilling an engagement, or for some conduct which might be construed as designed neglect. The word originally, however, referred rather to that which was thought not to be true, than that which might be construed as wrong; and the defense or “apology” which Christians were to make of their religion, was not on the supposition that others would regard it as wrong, but in order to show them that it was true. The word used here is rendered “defense,” Act_22:1; Phi_1:7, Phi_1:17; answer, Act_25:16; 1Co_9:3; 2Ti_4:16; 1Pe_3:15; and clearing of yourselves in 2Co_7:11. We are not to hold ourselves ready to make an apology for our religion as if it were a wrong thing to be a Christian; but we are always to be ready to give reasons for regarding it as true.

To every man that asketh you – Anyone has a right respectfully to ask another on what grounds he regards his religion as true; for every man has a common interest in religion, and in knowing what is the truth on the subject. If any man, therefore, asks us candidly and respectfully by what reasons we have been led to embrace the gospel, and on what grounds we, regard it as true, we are under obligation to state those grounds in the best manner that we are able. We should regard it not as an impertinent intrusion into our private affairs, but as an opportunity of doing good to others, and to honor the Master whom we serve. Nay, we should hold ourselves in readiness to state the grounds of our faith and hope, whatever maybe the motive of the inquirer, and in whatever manner the request may be made. Those who were persecuted for their religion, were under obligation to make as good a defense of it as they could, and to state to their persecutors the “reason” of the hope which they entertained. And so now, if a man attacks our religion; if he ridicules us for being Christians; if he tauntingly asks us what reason we have for believing the truth of the Bible, it is better to tell him in a kind manner, and to meet his taunt with a kind and strong argument, than to become angry, or to turn away with contempt. The best way to disarm him is to show him that by embracing religion we are not fools in understanding; and, by a kind temper, to convince him that the influence of religion over us when we are abused and insulted, is a reason why we should love our religion, and why he should too.

A reason of the hope that is in you – Greek, “an account,” (λόγον logon.) That is, you are to state on what ground you cherish that hope. This refers to the whole ground of our hope, and includes evidently two things:

(1) The reason why we regard Christianity as true, or as furnishing a ground of hope for people; and,

(2) The reason which we have ourselves for cherishing a hope of heaven, or the experimental and practical views which we have of religion, which constitute a just ground of hope.

It is not improbable that the former of these was more directly in the eye of the apostle than the latter, though both seem to be implied in the direction to state the reasons which ought to satisfy others that it is proper for us to cherish the hope of heaven. The first part of this duty – that we are to state the reasons why we regard the system of religion which we have embraced as true – implies, that we should be acquainted with the evidences of the truth of Christianity, and be able to state them to others. Christianity is founded on evidence; and though it cannot be supposed that every Christian will be able to understand all that is involved in what are called the evidences of Christianity, or to meet all the objections of the enemies of the gospel; yet every man who becomes a Christian should have such intelligent views of religion, and of the evidences of the truth of the Bible, that he can show to others that the religion which he has embraced has claims to their attention, or that it is not a mere matter of education, of tradition, or of feeling. It should also be an object with every Christian to increase his acquaintance with the evidences of the truth of religion, not only for his own stability and comfort in the faith, but that he may be able to defend religion if attacked, or to guide others if they are desirous of knowing what is truth. The second part of this duty, that we state the reasons which we have for cherishing the hope of heaven as a personal matter, implies:

(a) That there should be, in fact, a well-founded hope of heaven; that is, that we have evidence that we are true Christians, since it is impossible to give a “reason” of the hope that is in us unless there are reasons for it;

(b) That we be able to state in a clear and intelligent manner what constitutes evidence of piety, or what should be reasonably regarded as such; and,

(c) That we be ever ready to state these reasons.

A Christian should always be willing to converse about his religion. He should have such a deep conviction of its truth, of its importance, and of his personal interest in it; he should have a hope so firm, so cheering, so sustaining, that he will be always prepared to converse on the prospect of heaven and to endeavor to lead others to walk in the path to life.

With meekness – With modesty; without any spirit of ostentation; with gentleness of manner. This seems to be added on the supposition that they sometimes might be rudely assailed; that the questions might be proposed in a spirit of evil; that it might be done in a taunting or insulting manner. Even though this should be done, they were not to fall into a passion, to manifest resentment, or to retort in an angry and revengeful manner; but, in a calm and gentle spirit, they were to state the reasons of their faith and hope, and leave the matter there.

And fear – Margin, “reverence.” The sense seems to be, “in the fear of God; with a serious and reverent spirit; as in the presence of Him who sees and hears all things.” It evidently does not mean with the fear or dread of those who propose the question, but with that serious and reverent frame of mind which is produced by a deep impression of the importance of the subject, and a conscious sense of the presence of God. It follows, from the injunction of the apostle here:

(1) That every professing Christian should have clear and intelligent views of his own personal interest in religion, or such evidences of piety that they can be stated to others, and that they can be made satisfactory to other minds;

(2) That every Christian, however humble his rank, or however unlettered he may be, may become a valuable defender of the truth of Christianity;

(3) That we should esteem it a privilege to bear our testimony to the truth and value of religion, and to stand up as the advocates of truth in the world. Though we may be rudely assailed, it is an honor to speak in defense of religion; though we are persecuted and reviled, it is a privilege to be permitted in any way to show our fellow-men that there is such a thing as true religion, and that man may cherish the hope of heaven.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:16
16With meekness This is a most necessary admonition; for unless our minds are endued with meekness, contentions will immediately break forth. And meekness is set in opposition to pride and vain ostentation, and also to excessive zeal. To this he justly adds fear; for where reverence for God prevails, it tames all the ferocity of our minds, and it will especially cause us to speak calmly of God’s mysteries. For contentious disputes arise from this, because many think less honourably than they ought of the greatness of divine wisdom, and are carried away by profane audacity. If, then, we would render approved of God the confession of our faith, all boasting must be put aside, all contention must be relinquished.

Having a good conscience What we say without a corresponding life has but little weight; hence he joins to confession a good conscience. For we see that many are sufficiently ready with their tongue, and prate much, very freely, and yet with no fruit, because the life does not correspond. Besides, the integrity of conscience alone is that which gives us confidence in speaking as we ought; for they who prattle much about the gospel, and whose dissolute life is a proof of their impiety, not only make themselves objects of ridicule, but also expose the truth itself to the slanders of the ungodly. For why did he before bid us to be ready to defend the faith, should any one require from us a reason for it, except that it is our duty to vindicate the truth of God against those false suspicions which the ignorant entertain respecting it. But the defense of the tongue will avail but little, except the life corresponds with it.

He therefore says, that they may be ashamed, who blame your good conversation in Christ, and who speak against you as evil-doers; as though he had said, “If your adversaries have nothing to allege against you, except that you follow Christ, they will at length be ashamed of their malicious wickedness, or at least, your innocence will be sufficient to confute them.”

Pulpit Commentary
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 1Pe_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”. The word translated “falsely accuse” is that which is rendered “despitefully use” in Mat_5:44. Luk_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.,’ Luk_2:2). For “good conversation,” see 1Pe_1:15, 1Pe_1:18. The Christian’s life is in Christ, in the sphere of his presence, he dwelling in us, and we in him.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:16
Having a good conscience – That is, a conscience that does not accuse you of having done wrong. Whatever may be the accusations of your enemies, so live that you may be at all times conscious of uprightness. Whatever you suffer, see that you do not suffer the pangs inflicted by a guilty conscience, the anguish of remorse. On the meaning of the word “conscience,” see the notes at Rom_2:15. The word properly means the judgment of the mind respecting right and wrong; or the judgment which the mind passes on the immorality of its own actions, when it instantly approves or condemns them. There is always a feeling of obligation connected with operations of conscience, which precedes, attends, and follows our actions. “Conscience is first occupied in ascertaining our duty, before we proceed to action; then in judging of our actions when performed.” A “good conscience” implies two things:

(1) That it be properly enlightened to know what is right and wrong, or that it be not under the dominion of ignorance, superstition, or fanaticism, prompting us to do what would be a violation of the divine law; and,

(2) That its dictates must always be obeyed. Without the first of these – clear views of that which is right and wrong – conscience becomes an unsafe guide; for it merely prompts us to do what we esteem to be right, and if our views of what is right and wrong are erroneous, we may be prompted to do what may be a direct violation of the law of God. Paul thought he “ought” to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth Act_26:9; the Saviour said, respecting his disciples, that the time would come when whosoever should kill them would think that they were doing God service, Joh_16:2; and Solomon says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” Pro_14:12; Pro_16:25 Under an unenlightened and misguided conscience, with the plea and pretext of religion, the most atrocious crimes have been committed; and no man should infer that he is certainly doing right, because he follows the promptings of conscience.

No man, indeed, should act against the dictates of his conscience; but there may have been a previous wrong in not using proper means to ascertain what is right. Conscience is not revelation, nor does it answer the purpose of a revelation. It communicates no new truth to the soul, and is a safe guide only so far as the mind has been properly enlightened to see what is truth and duty. Its office is “to prompt us to the performance of duty,” not “to determine what is right.” The other thing requisite that we may have a good conscience is, that its decisions should be obeyed. Conscience is appointed to be the “vicegerent” of God in inflicting punishment, if his commands are not obeyed. It pronounces a sentence on our own conduct. Its penalty is remorse; and that penalty will be demanded if its promptings be not regarded. It is an admirable device, as a part of the moral government of God, urging man to the performance of duty, and, in case of disobedience, making the mind its own executioner.

There is no penalty that will more certainly be inflicted, sooner or later, than that incurred by a guilty conscience. It needs no witnesses; no process for arresting the offender; no array of judges and executioners; no stripes, imprisonment, or bonds. Its inflictions will follow the offender into the most secluded retreat; overtake him in his most rapid flight; find him out in northern snows, or on the sands of the equator; go into the most splendid palaces, and seek out the victim when he is safe from all the vengeance that man can inflict; pursue him into the dark valley of the shadow of death, or arrest him as a fugitive in distant worlds. No one, therefore, can over-estimate the importance of having a good conscience. A true Christian should aim, by incessant study and prayer, to know what is right, and then always do it, no matter what may be the consequences.

That, whereas they speak evil of you – They who are your enemies and persecutors. Christians are not to hope that people will always speak well of them, Mat_5:11; Luk_6:26.

As of evildoers – See the notes at 1Pe_2:12.

They may be ashamed – They may see that they have misunderstood your conduct, and regret that they have treated you as they have. We should expect, if we are faithful and true, that even our enemies will yet appreciate our motives, and do us justice. Compare Psa_37:5-6.

That falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ – Your good conduct as Christians. They may accuse you of insincerity, hypocrisy, dishonesty; of being enemies of the state, or of monstrous crimes; but the time will come when they will see their error, and do you justice. See the notes at 1Pe_2:12.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:17
17For it is better This belongs not only to what follows but to the whole context. He had spoken of the profession of faith, which at that time was attended with great danger; he says now that it is much better, if they sustained any loss in defending a good cause, to suffer thus unjustly than to be punished for their evil deeds. This consolation is understood rather by secret meditation, than by many words. It is what indeed occurs everywhere in profane authors, that there is a sufficient defense in a good conscience, whatever evils may happen, and must be endured. These have spoken courageously; but then the only really bold man is he who looks to God. Therefore Peter added this clause, If the will of God be so For in these words he reminds us, that if we suffer unjustly, it is not by chance, but according to the divine will; and he assumes, that God wills nothing or appoints nothing but for the best reason. Hence the faithful have always this comfort in their miseries, that they know that they have God as their witness, and that they also know that they are led by him to the contest, in order that they may under his protection give a proof of their faith.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:17

For it is better, if the will of God be so – That is, if God sees it to be necessary for your good that you should suffer, it is better that you should suffer for doing well than for crime. God often sees it to be necessary that his people should suffer. There are effects to be accomplished by affliction which can be secured in no other way; and some of the happiest results on the soul of a Christian, some of the brightest traits of character, are the effect of trials. But it should be our care that our sufferings should not be brought upon us for our own crimes or follies. No man can promote his own highest good by doing wrong, and then enduring the penalty which his sin incurs; and no one should do wrong with any expectation that it may be overruled for his own good. If we are to suffer, let it be by the direct hand of God, and not by any fault of our own. If we suffer then, we shall have the testimony of our own conscience in our favor, and the feeling that we may go to God for support. If we suffer for our faults, in addition to the outward pain of body, we shall endure the severest pangs which man can suffer – those which the guilty mind inflicts on itself.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:18
18For Christ also It is another comfort, that if in our afflictions we are conscious of having done well, we suffer according to the example of Christ; and it hence follows that we are blessed. At the same time he proves, from the design of Christ’s death, that it is by no means consistent with our profession that we should suffer for our evil deeds. For he teaches us that Christ suffered in order to bring us to God. What does this mean, except that we have been thus consecrated to God by Christ’s death, that we may live and die to him?

There are, then, two parts in this sentence; the first is, that persecutions ought to be borne with resignation, because the Son of God shews the way to us; and the other is, that since we have been consecrated to God’s service by the death of Christ, it behoves us to suffer, not for our faults, but for righteousness’ sake. Here, however, a question may be raised, Does not God chastise the faithful, whenever he suffers them to be afflicted? To this I answer, that it indeed often happens, that God punishes them according to what they deserve; and this is not denied by Peter; but he reminds us what a comfort it is to have our cause connected with God. And how God does not punish sins in them who endure persecution for the sake of righteousness, and in what sense they are said to be innocent, we shall see in the next chapter.

Being put to death in the flesh Now this is a great thing, that we are made conformable to the Son of God, when we suffer without cause; but there is added another consolation, that the death of Christ had a blessed issue; for though he suffered through the weakness of the flesh, he yet rose again through the power of the Spirit. Then the cross of Christ was not prejudicial, nor his death, since life obtained the victory. This was said (as Paul also reminds us in 2Co_4:10) that we may know that we are to bear in our body the dying of Christ, in order that his life may be manifested in us. Flesh here means the outward man; and Spirit means the divine power, by which Christ emerged from death a conqueror.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 3:18. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins] As in the previous chapter (2:21-25), so here, the Apostle cannot think of any righteous sufferer needing comfort without thinking also of the righteous Sufferer whom he had known. And here also, as there, though he begins with thinking of Him as an example, he cannot rest in that thought, but passes almost immediately to the higher aspects of that work as sacrificial and atoning. Every word that follows is full of significance—“Christ suffered” (better than “hath suffered,” as representing the sufferings as belonging entirely to the past), once and once for all. The closeness of the parallelism with Heb_9:26-28 might almost suggest the inference that St Peter was acquainted with that Epistle, but it admits also of the more probable explanation that both writers represent the current teaching of the Apostolic Church. The precise Greek phrase “for sins” (literally, “concerning, or on account of, sins”) is used in Heb_10:6, Heb_10:8, Heb_10:18, Heb_10:26, and in the LXX. of Psa_40:6, and was almost the technical phrase of the Levitical Code (Lev_4:33).

the just for the unjust] The preposition in this case means “on behalf of,” and is that used of the efficacy of Christ’s sufferings in Mar_14:24, Joh_6:51, 1Co_5:7, 1Ti_2:6. It is used also of our sufferings for Christ (Php_1:29), or for our brother men (Eph_3:1, Eph_3:13), and therefore does not by itself express the vicarious character of the death of Christ, though it naturally runs up into it. In the emphatic description of Christ as “the Just,” we have an echo of St Peter’s own words in Act_3:14; in the stress laid on the fact that He, the just, died for the unjust, a like echo of the teaching of St Paul in Rom_5:6.

that he might bring us to God] This, then, from St Peter’s point of view, and not a mere exemption from an infinite penalty, was the end contemplated in the death of Christ. “Access to God,” the right to come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb_4:16), was with him as with St Paul (Rom_5:2; Eph_2:18, Eph_3:12), the final cause of the redemptive work. The verb, it may be noted, is not used elsewhere in this connexion in the New Testament.

being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit] The change of the preposition and the mode of printing “Spirit” both shew that the translators took the second clause as referring to the Holy Spirit, as quickening the human body of Christ in His resurrection from the dead. The carefully balanced contrast between the two clauses shews, however, that this cannot be the meaning, and that we have here an antithesis, like that of Rom_1:3, Rom_1:4, between the “flesh” and the human “spirit” of the man Christ Jesus, like that between the “manifest in the flesh” and “justified in the spirit” of 1Ti_3:16. By the “flesh” He was subject to the law of death, but in the very act of dying, His “spirit” was quickened, even prior to the resurrection of His body, into a fresh energy and activity. What was the sphere and what the result of that activity, the next verse informs us.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
1 Peter 3:18
Confirmation of 1Pe_3:17, by the glorious results of Christ’s suffering innocently.
For — “Because.” That is “better,” 1Pe_3:17, means of which we are rendered more like to Christ in death and in life; for His death brought the best issue to Himself and to us [Bengel].

Christ — the Anointed Holy One of God; the Holy suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust.

also — as well as yourselves (1Pe_3:17). Compare 1Pe_2:21; there His suffering was brought forward as an example to us; here, as a proof of the blessedness of suffering for well-doing.

once — for all; never again to suffer. It is “better” for us also once to suffer with Christ, than for ever without Christ We now are suffering our “once”; it will soon be a thing of the past; a bright consolation to the tried.

for sins — as though He had Himself committed them. He exposed Himself to death by His “confession,” even as we are called on to “give an answer to him that asketh a reason of our hope.” This was “well-doing” in its highest manifestation. As He suffered, “The Just,” so we ought willingly to suffer, for righteousness’ sake (1Pe_3:14; compare 1Pe_3:12, 1Pe_3:17).

that he might bring us to God — together with Himself in His ascension to the right hand of God (1Pe_3:22). He brings us, “the unjust,” justified together with Him into heaven. So the result of Christ’s death is His drawing men to Him; spiritually now, in our having access into the Holiest, opened by Christ’s ascension; literally hereafter. “Bring us,” moreover, by the same steps of humiliation and exaltation through which He Himself passed. The several steps of Christ’s progress from lowliness to glory are trodden over again by His people in virtue of their oneness with Him (1Pe_4:1-3). “To God,” is Greek dative (not the preposition and case), implying that God wishes it [Bengel].

put to death — the means of His bringing us to God.

in the flesh — that is, in respect to the life of flesh and blood.

quickened by the Spirit — The oldest manuscripts omit the Greek article. Translate with the preposition “in,” as the antithesis to the previous “in the flesh” requires, “IN spirit,” that is, in respect to His Spirit. “Put to death” in the former mode of life; “quickened” in the other. Not that His Spirit ever died and was quickened, or made alive again, but whereas He had lived after the manner of mortal men in the flesh, He began to live a spiritual “resurrection” (1Pe_3:21) life, whereby He has the power to bring us to God. Two ways of explaining 1Pe_3:18, 1Pe_3:19, are open to us:

(1) “Quickened in Spirit,” that is, immediately on His release from the “flesh,” the energy of His undying spirit-life was “quickened” by God the Father, into new modes of action, namely, “in the Spirit He went down (as subsequently He went up to heaven, 1Pe_3:22, the same Greek verb) and heralded [not salvation, as Alford, contrary to Scripture, which everywhere represents man’s state, whether saved or lost, after death irreversible. Nor is any mention made of the conversion of the spirits in prison. See on 1Pe_3:20. Nor is the phrase here ‘preached the Gospel’ (evangelizo), but ‘heralded’ (ekeruxe) or ‘preached’; but simply made the announcement of His finished work; so the same Greek in Mar_1:45, ‘publish,’ confirming Enoch and Noah’s testimony, and thereby declaring the virtual condemnation of their unbelief, and the salvation of Noah and believers; a sample of the similar opposite effects of the same work on all unbelievers, and believers, respectively; also a consolation to those whom Peter addresses, in their sufferings at the hands of unbelievers; specially selected for the sake of ‘baptism,’ its ‘antitype’  (1Pe_3:21), which, as a seal, marks believers as separated from the rest of the doomed world] to the spirits (His Spirit speaking to the spirits) in prison (in Hades or Sheol, awaiting the judgment, 2Pe_2:4), which were of old disobedient when,” etc.

(2) The strongest point in favor of (1) is the position of “sometime,” that is, of old, connected with “disobedient”; whereas if the preaching or announcing were a thing long past, we should expect “sometime,” or of old, to be joined to “went and preached.” But this transposition may express that their disobedience preceded His preaching. The Greek participle expresses the reason of His preaching, “inasmuch as they were sometime disobedient” (compare 1Pe_4:6). Also “went” seems to mean a personal going, as in 1Pe_3:22, not merely in spirit. But see the answer below. The objections are “quickened” must refer to Christ’s body (compare 1Pe_3:21, end), for as His Spirit never ceased to live, it cannot be said to be “quickened.” Compare Joh_5:21; Rom_8:11, and other passages, where “quicken” is used of the bodily resurrection. Also, not His Spirit, but His soul, went to Hades. His Spirit was commended by Him at death to His Father, and was thereupon “in Paradise.” The theory – (1) would thus require that His descent to the spirits in prison should be after His resurrection! Compare Eph_4:9, Eph_4:10, which makes the descent precede the ascent. Also Scripture elsewhere is silent about such a heralding, though possibly Christ’s death had immediate effects on the state of both the godly and the ungodly in Hades: the souls of the godly heretofore in comparative confinement, perhaps then having been, as some Fathers thought, translated to God’s immediate and heavenly presence; but this cannot be proved from Scripture. Compare however, Joh_3:13; Col_1:18. Prison is always used in a bad sense in Scripture. “Paradise” and “Abraham’s bosom,” the abode of good spirits in Old Testament times, are separated by a wide gulf from Hell or Hades, and cannot be called “prison.” Compare 2Co_12:2, 2Co_12:4, where “paradise” and the “third heaven” correspond. Also, why should the antediluvian unbelievers in particular be selected as the objects of His preaching in Hades? Therefore explain: “Quickened in spirit, in which (as distinguished from in person; the words “in which,” that is, in spirit, expressly obviating the objection that “went” implies a personal going) He went (in the person of Noah, “a preacher of righteousness,” 2Pe_2:5 : Alford’s own Note, Eph_2:17, is the best reply to his argument from “went” that a local going to Hades in person is meant. As “He CAME and preached peace” by His Spirit in the apostles and ministers after His death and ascension: so before His incarnation He preached in Spirit through Noah to the antediluvians, Joh_14:18, Joh_14:28; Act_26:23. “Christ should show,” literally, “announce light to the Gentiles”) and preached unto the spirits in prison, that is, the antediluvians, whose bodies indeed seemed free, but their spirits were in prison, shut up in the earth as one great condemned cell (exactly parallel to Isa_24:22, Isa_24:23 “upon the earth … they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison,” etc. [just as the fallen angels are judicially regarded as “in chains of darkness,” though for a time now at large on the earth, 1Pe_2:4], where 1Pe_3:18 has a plain allusion to the flood, “the windows from on high are open,” compare Gen_7:11); from this prison the only way of escape was that preached by Christ in Noah. Christ, who in our times came in the flesh, in the days of Noah preached in Spirit by Noah to the spirits then in prison (Isa_61:1, end, “the Spirit of the Lord God hath sent me to proclaim the opening of the prison to them that are bound”). So in 1Pe_1:11, “the Spirit of Christ” is said to have testified in the prophets. As Christ suffered even to death by enemies, and was afterwards quickened in virtue of His “Spirit” (or divine nature, Rom_1:3, Rom_1:4; 1Co_15:45), which henceforth acted in its full energy, the first result of which was the raising of His body (1Pe_3:21, end) from the prison of the grave and His soul from Hades; so the same Spirit of Christ enabled Noah, amidst reproach and trials, to preach to the disobedient spirits fast bound in wrath. That Spirit in you can enable you also to suffer patiently now, looking for the resurrection deliverance.

R.B. Terry
1 Peter 3:18

TEXT: “Christ also suffered for sins”

NOTES: “Christ also suffered for sins on our behalf”
EVIDENCE: 81 104

NOTES: “Christ also died for sins”
EVIDENCE: earlier vg

NOTES: “Christ also died for sins on our behalf”
EVIDENCE: S C2(vid) 33 614 630 945 1739 1881 syr(h) cop(north)

NOTES: “Christ also died for sins on plyour behalf”
EVIDENCE: p72 A 1241 2495 (“on behalf of sins”)

NOTES: “Christ also died for our sins”
EVIDENCE: C*(vid) lat later vg syr(p) cop(south)

OTHER: “Christ also died for plyou on behalf of sins”
COMMENTS: Although it is possible that “suffered” was borrowed from 1Pe_2:21, it was natural for copyists to change “suffered” to “died” next to “for sins.” The words “our,” “on our behalf,” and “on plyour behalf” (the last two of which were pronounced alike in later Greek) were natural expansions of the kind copyists often made.

1 Peter 3:18
TEXT: “that he might bring plyou to God”
EVIDENCE: p72 B P Psi 1241 2495 Byz one lat syr(p,h)

NOTES: “that he might bring us to God”
EVIDENCE: Sc A C K 33 81 104 614 630 945 1739 1881 Lect most lat vg cop

OTHER: “that he might bring to God”
COMMENTS: In later Greek the words for “plyou” and “us” were pronounced alike, so this variation is due to a mistake of the ear. Copyists were more likely to change “plyou” to “us” than vice versa, since “us” is more inclusive.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:18
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins – Compare the notes at 1Pe_2:21. The design of the apostle in the reference to the sufferings of Christ, is evidently to remind them that he suffered as an innocent being, and not for any wrong-doing, and to encourage and comfort them in their sufferings by his example. The reference to his sufferings leads him 1Pe_3:18-22 into a statement of the various ways in which Christ suffered, and of his ultimate triumph. By his example in his sufferings, and by his final triumph, the apostle would encourage those whom he addressed to bear with patience the sorrows to which their religion exposed them. He assumes that all suffering for adhering to the gospel is the result of well-doing; and for an encouragement in their trials, he refers them to the example of Christ, the highest instance that ever was, or ever will be, both of well-doing, and of suffering on account of it. The expression, “hath once suffered,” in the New Testament, means once for all; once, in the sense that it is not to occur again. Compare Heb_7:27. The particular point here, however, is not that he once suffered; it is that he had in fact suffered, and that in doing it he had left an example for them to follow.

The just for the unjust – The one who was just, (δίκαιος dikaios,) on account of, or in the place of, those who were unjust, (ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων huper adikōn;) or one who was righteous, on account of those who were wicked. Compare the Rom_5:6 note; 2Co_5:21 note; Heb_9:28 note. The idea on which the apostle would particularly fix their attention was, that he was just or innocent. Thus, he was an example to those who suffered for well-doing.

That he might bring us to God – That his death might be the means of reconciling sinners to God. Compare the notes at Joh_3:14; Joh_12:32. It is through that death that mercy is proclaimed to the guilty; it is by that alone that God can be reconciled to people; and the fact that the Son of God loved people, and gave himself a sacrifice for them, enduring such bitter sorrows, is the most powerful appeal which can be made to mankind to induce them to return to God. There is no appeal which can be made to us more powerful than one drawn from the fact that another suffers on our account. We could resist the argument which a father, a mother, or a sister would use to reclaim us from a course of sin; but if we perceive that our conduct involves them in suffering, that fact has a power over us which no mere argument could have.

Being put to death in the flesh – As a man; in his human nature. Compare the notes at Rom_1:3-4. There is evidently a contrast here between “the flesh” in which it is said he was “put to death,” and “the Spirit” by which it is said he was “quickened.” The words “in the flesh” are clearly designed to denote something that was unique in his death; for it is a departure from the usual method of speaking of death. How singular would it be to say of Isaiah, Paul, or Peter, that they were put to death in the flesh! How obvious would it be to ask, In what other way are people usually put to death? What was there special in their case, which would distinguish their death from the death of others? The use of this phrase would suggest the thought at once, that though, in regard to that which was properly expressed by the phrase, “the flesh,” they died, yet that there was something else in respect to which they did not die. Thus, if it were said of a man that he was deprived of his rights as a father, it would be implied that in, other respects he was not deprived of his rights; and this would be especially true if it were added that he continued to enjoy his rights as a neighbor, or as holding an office under the government. The only proper inquiry, then, in this place is, What is fairly implied in the phrase, the flesh? Does it mean simply his body, as distinguished from his human soul? or does it refer to him as a man, as distinguished from some higher nature, over which death had no power Now, that the latter is the meaning seems to me to be apparent, for these reasons:

(1) It is the usual way of denoting the human nature of the Lord Jesus, or of saying that he became in carnate, or was a man, to speak of his being in the flesh. See Rom_1:2; “Made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” Joh_1:14; “and the Word was made flesh.” 1Ti_3:16; “God was manifest in the flesh.” 1Jo_4:2; “every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God.” 2Jo_1:7; “who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.”

(2) So far as appears, the effect of death on the human soul of the Redeemer was the same as in the case of the soul of any other person; in other words, the effect of death in his case was not confined to the mere body or the flesh. Death, with him, was what death is in any other case – the separation of the soul and body, with all the attendant pain of such dissolution. It is not true that his “flesh,” as such, died without the ordinary accompaniments of death on the soul, so that it could be said that the one died, and the other was kept alive. The purposes of the atonement required that he should meet death in the usual form; that the great laws which operate everywhere else in regard to dissolution, should exist in his case; nor is there in the Scriptures any intimation that there was, in this respect, anything special in his case. If his soul had been exempt from whatever there is involved in death in relation to the spirit, it is unaccountable that there is no hint on this point in the sacred narrative. But if this be so, then the expression “in the flesh” refers to him as a man, and means, that so far as his human nature was concerned, he died. In another important respect, he did not die. On the meaning of the word “flesh” in the New Testament, see the notes at Rom_1:3.

But quickened – Made alive – ζοωποιηθεὶς zoōpoiētheis. This does not mean “kept alive,” but “made alive; recalled to life; reanimated.” The word is never used in the sense of maintained alive, or preserved alive. Compare the following places, which are the only ones in which it occurs in the New Testament: Joh_5:21 (twice); Joh_6:63; Rom_4:17; Rom_8:11; 1Co_15:36, 1Co_15:45; 1Ti_6:13; 1Pe_3:18; in all which it is rendered “quickened, quicken, quickeneth;” 1Co_15:22, “be made alive;” 2Co_3:6, “giveth life;” and Gal_3:21, “have given life.” “Once the word refers to God, as he who giveth life to all creatures, 1Ti_6:13; three times it refers to the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, or of the doctrines of the gospel, Joh_6:63; 2Co_3:6; Gal_3:21; seven times it is used with direct reference to the raising of the dead, Joh_5:21; Rom_4:17; Rom_8:11; 1Co_15:22, 1Co_15:36, 1Co_15:45; 1Pe_3:18.” See Biblical Repos., April, 1845, p. 269. See also Passow, and Robinson, Lexicon. The sense, then, cannot be that, in reference to his soul or spirit, he was preserved alive when his body died, but that there was some agency or power restoring him to life, or reanimating him after he was dead.

By the Spirit – According to the common reading in the Greek, this is τῷ Πνεύματι tō Pneumati – with the article the – “the Spirit.” Hahn, Tittman, and Griesbach omit the article, and then the reading is, “quickened in spirit;” and thus the reading corresponds with the former expression, “in flesh” (σαρκὶ sarki,) where the article also is lacking. The word “spirit,” so far as the mere use of the word is concerned, might refer to his own soul, to his divine nature, or to the Holy Spirit. It is evident:

(1) That it does not refer to his own soul, for:

(a) As we have seen, the reference in the former clause is to his human nature, including all that pertained to him as a man, body and soul;

(b) There was no power in his own spirit, regarded as that pertaining to his human nature, to raise him up from the dead, any more than there is such a power in any other human soul. That power does not belong to a human soul in any of its relations or conditions.

(2) It seems equally clear that this does not refer to the Holy Spirit, or the Third Person of the Trinity, for it may be doubted whether the work of raising the dead is anywhere ascribed to that Spirit. His special province is to enlighten, awaken, convict, convert, and sanctify the soul; to apply the work of redemption to the hearts of people, and to lead them to God. This influence is moral, not physical; an influence accompanying the truth, not the exertion of mere physical power.

(3) It remains, then, that the reference is to his own divine nature – a nature by which he was restored to life after he was crucified; to the Son of God, regarded as the Second Person of the Trinity. This appears, not only from the facts above stated, but also:

(a) from the connection, It is stated that it was in or by this spirit that he went and preached in the days of Noah. But it was not his spirit as a man that did this, for his human soul had then no existence. Yet it seems that he did this personally or directly, and not by the influences of the Holy Spirit, for it is said that “he went and preached.” The reference, therefore, cannot be to the Holy Spirit, and the fair conclusion is that it refers to his divine nature.

(b) This accords with what the apostle Paul says Rom_1:3-4, “which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,” that is, in respect to his human nature, “and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness,” that is, in respect to his divine nature, “by the resurrection from the dead.” See the notes at that passage.

(c) It accords with what the Saviour himself says, Joh_10:17-18; “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” This must refer to his divine nature, for it is impossible to conceive that a human soul should have the power of restoring its former tenement, the body, to life. See the notes at the passage. The conclusion, then, to which we have come is, that the passage means, that as a man, a human being, he was put to death; in respect to a higher nature, or by a higher nature, here denominated Spirit (Πνεῦμα Pneuma,) he was restored to life. As a man, he died; as the incarnate Son of Gods the Messiah, he was made alive again by the power of his own Divine Spirit, and exalted to heaven. Compare Robinson’s Lexicon on the word Πνεῦμα Pneuma, C.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:19
19By which also Peter added this, that we might know that the vivifying power of the Spirit of which he spoke, was not only put forth as to Christ himself, but is also poured forth with regard to us, as Paul shews in Rom_5:5. He then says, that Christ did not rise only for himself, but that he made known to others the same power of his Spirit, so that it penetrated to the dead. It hence follows, that we shall not less feel it in vivifying whatever is mortal in us.

But as the obscurity of this passage has produced, as usual, various explanations, I shall first disprove what has been brought forward by some, and secondly, we shall seek its genuine and true meaning.

Common has been the opinion that Christ’s descent into hell is here referred to; but the words mean no such thing; for there is no mention made of the soul of Christ, but only that he went by the Spirit: and these are very different things, that Christ’s soul went, and that Christ preached by the power of the Spirit. Then Peter expressly mentioned the Spirit, that he might take away the notion of what may be called a real presence.

Others explain this passage of the apostles, that Christ by their ministry appeared to the dead, that is, to unbelievers. I, indeed, allow that Christ by means of his apostles went by his Spirit to those who were kept as it were in prison; but this exposition appears incorrect on several accounts: First, Peter says that Christ went to spirits, by which he means souls separated from their bodies, for living men are never called spirits; and secondly, what Peter repeats in the fourth chapter on the same subject, does not admit of such an allegory. Therefore the words must be properly understood of the dead. Thirdly, it seems very strange, that Peter, speaking of the apostles, should immediately, as though forgetting himself, go back to the time of Noah. Certainly this mode of speaking would be most unsuitable. Then this explanation cannot be right.

Moreover, the strange notion of those who think that unbelievers as to the coming of Christ, were after his death freed from their sin, needs no long refutation; for it is an indubitable doctrine of Scripture, that we obtain not salvation in Christ except by faith; then there is no hope left for those who continue to death unbelieving. They speak what is somewhat more probable, who say, that the redemption obtained by Christ availed the dead, who in the time of Noah were long unbelieving, but repented a short time before they were drowned by the deluge. They then understood that they suffered in the flesh the punishment due to their perverseness, and yet were saved by Christ, so that they did not perish for ever. But this interpretation cannot stand; it is indeed inconsistent with the words of the passage, for Peter ascribes salvation only to the family of Noah, and gives over to ruin all who were not within the ark.

I therefore have no doubt but Peter speaks generally, that the manifestation of Christ’s grace was made to godly spirits, and that they were thus endued with the vital power of the Spirit. Hence there is no reason to fear that it will not flow to us. But it may be inquired, Why he puts in prison the souls of the godly after having quitted their bodies? It seems to me that φυλακὴ rather means a watchtower in which watchmen stand for the purpose of watching, or the very act of watching, for it is often so taken by Greek authors; and the meaning would be very appropriate, that godly souls were watching in hope of the salvation promised them, as though they saw it afar off. Nor is there a doubt but that the holy fathers in life, as well as after death, directed their thoughts to this object. But if the word prison be preferred, it would not be unsuitable; for, as while they lived, the Law, according to Paul, (Gal_3:23,) was a sort of prison in which they were kept; so after death they must have felt the same desire for Christ; for the spirit of liberty had not as yet been fully given. Hence this anxiety of expectation was to them a kind of prison.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 3:19. by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison] We enter here on a passage of which widely different interpretations have been given. It seems best in dealing with it to give in the first place what seems to be the true sequence of thought, and afterwards to examine the other views which appear to the present writer less satisfactory. It is obvious that every word will require a careful study in its relation to the context.

(1) For “by which” we ought to read “in which.” It was not by the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, but in His human spirit as distinct from the flesh, that He who had preached to men living in the flesh on earth now went and preached to the spirits that had an existence separate from the flesh.

2) The word “went” is, in like manner, full of significance. It comes from the Apostle who was the first to proclaim that the “spirit” or “soul” of Christ had passed into Hades, but had not been left there (Act_2:31). It agrees with the language of St Paul in the Epistle to which we have found so many references in this Epistle, that He had “descended first into the lower parts of the earth,” i.e. into the region which the current belief of the time recognised as the habitation of the disembodied spirits of the dead (Eph_4:9). It harmonises with the language of the Apostle who was St Peter’s dearest friend when he records the language in which the risen Lord had spoken of Himself as having “the keys of Hades and of death,” as having been dead, but now “alive for evermore”  (Rev_1:18). Taking all these facts together, we cannot see in the words anything but an attestation of the truth which the Church Catholic has received in the Apostles’ Creed, that Christ “died and was buried and descended into Hell.” And if we accept the record of St Peter’s speeches in the Acts as a true record, and compare the assured freedom and clearness of his teaching there with his imperfect insight into the character of our Lord’s work during the whole period of His ministry prior to the Resurrection, we can scarcely fail to see in his interpretation of the words “thou shalt not leave my soul in hell,” the first-fruits of the method of prophetic interpretation which he had learnt from our Lord Himself when He expounded to His disciples the things that were written concerning Himself in the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luk_24:44), when He spoke to them of “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Act_1:3). In the special truth on which the Apostle now lays stress, we must see, unless we think of him as taking up a legendary tradition, as writing either what had been revealed to him, “not by flesh and blood, but by his Father in heaven” (Mat_16:17), or as reporting what he had himself heard from the lips of the risen Lord. Of the two views the latter seems every way the more probable, and accepting it, we have to remember also that it was a record in which he was guided by the teaching of the Spirit.

And he “went and preached.” The latter word is used throughout the Gospels of the work of Christ as proclaiming “the Gospel of the kingdom” (Mat_4:23), preaching “repentance” (Mat_4:17), and the glad tidings of remission of sins as following upon repentance. It would do violence to all true methods of interpretation to assume that the Apostle, who had been converted by that preaching and had afterwards been a fellow-worker in it, would use the word in any other meaning now. We cannot think of the work to which the Spirit of Christ went as that of proclaiming an irrevocable sentence of condemnation. This interpretation, resting adequately on its own grounds, is, it need hardly be said, confirmed almost beyond the shadow of a doubt by the words of ch. 4:6, that “the Gospel was preached also to the dead.” Those to whom He thus preached were “spirits.” The context determines the sense of this word as denoting that element of man’s personality which survives when the body perishes. So, in Heb_12:23, we read of “the spirits of just men made perfect;” and the same sense attaches to the words in Luk_24:37, Luk_24:39, Act_23:8, Act_23:9, and in the “spirits and souls of the righteous” in the Benedicite Omnia Opera. And these spirits are in “prison.” The Greek word, as applied to a place, can hardly have any other meaning than that here given (see Mat_14:3, Mat_14:10, Mar_6:17, Mar_6:27, Luk_21:12), and in Rev_20:7 it is distinctly used of the prison-house of Satan. The “spirits in prison” cannot well mean anything but disembodied souls, under a greater or less degree of condemnation, waiting for their final sentence, and undergoing meanwhile a punishment retributive or corrective (see note on 2Pe_2:9). Had the Apostle stopped there we might have thought of the preaching of which he speaks as having been addressed to all who were in such a prison. The prison itself may be thought of as part of Hades contrasted with the Paradise of God, which was opened, as in Luk_23:43, Rev_2:7, to the penitent and the faithful.

Pulpit Commentary
By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; rather, in which (εν ᾦ). 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 1Pe_3:22, “who is gone into heaven.” It must have the same meaning in both places; in 1Pe_3:22 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 Eph_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” (Mat_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 (Act_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” (Luk_24:39). He preached to “the spirits in prison (ἐν φυλακῇ).” (For φυλακή, comp. Rev_20:7; Mat_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 Rev_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.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:19

By which – Evidently by the Spirit referred to in the previous verse – ἐν ᾧ en hō – the divine nature of the Son of God; that by which he was “quickened” again, after he had been put to death; the Son of God regarded as a Divine Being, or in that same nature which afterward became incarnate, and whose agency was employed in quickening the man Christ Jesus, who had been put to death. The meaning is, that the same “Spirit” which was efficacious in restoring him to life, after he was put to death, was that by which he preached to the spirits in prison.

He went – To wit, in the days of Noah. No particular stress should be laid here on the phrase “he went.” The literal sense is, “he, having gone, preached,” etc. πορευθεὶς poreutheis. It is well known that such expressions are often redundant in Greek writers, as in others. So Herodotus, “to these things they spake, saying” – for they said. “And he, speaking, said;” that is, he said. So Eph_2:17, “And came and preached peace,” etc. Mat_9:13, “but go and learn what that meaneth,” etc. So God is often represented as coming, as descending, etc., when he brings a message to mankind. Thus, Gen_11:5, “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower.” Exo_19:20, “the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai.” Num_11:25, “the Lord came down in a cloud.” 2Sa_22:10, “he bowed the heavens and came down.” The idea, however, would be conveyed by this language that he did this personally, or by himself, and not merely by employing the agency of another. It would then be implied here, that though the instrumentality of Noah was employed, yet that it was done not by the Holy Spirit, but by him who afterward became incarnate. On the supposition, therefore, that this whole passage refers to his preaching to the antediluvians in the time of Noah, and not to the “spirits” after they were confined in prison, this is language which the apostle would have properly and probably used. If that supposition meets the full force of the language, then no argument can be based on it in proof that he went to preach to them after their death, and while his body was lying in the grave.

And preached – The word used here (ἐκήρυξεν ekēruxen) is of a general character, meaning to make a proclamation of any kind, as a crier does, or to deliver a message, and does not necessarily imply that it was the gospel which was preached, nor does it determine anything in regard to the nature of the message. It is not affirmed that he preached the gospel, for if that specific idea had been expressed it would have been rather by another word – εὐαγγελίζω euangelizō. The word used here would be appropriate to such a message as Noah brought to his contemporaries, or to any communication which God made to people. See Mat_3:1; Mat_4:17; Mar_1:35; Mar_5:20; Mar_7:36. It is implied in the expression, as already remarked, that he did this himself; that it was the Son of God who subsequently became incarnate, and not the Holy Spirit, that did this; though the language is consistent with the supposition that he did it by the instrumentality of another, to wit, Noah. “Qui facit per alium, facit per se.” God really proclaims a message to mankind when he does it by the instrumentality of the prophets, or apostles, or other ministers of religion; and all that is necessarily implied in this language would be met by the supposition that Christ delivered a message to the antediluvian race by the agency of Noah. No argument, therefore, can be derived from this language to prove that Christ went and personally preached to those who were confined in hades or in prison.

Unto the spirits in prison – That is, clearly, to the spirits now in prison, for this is the fair meaning of the passage. The obvious sense is, that Peter supposed there were “spirits in prison” at the time when he wrote, and that to those same spirits the Son of God had at some time “preached,” or had made some proclamation respecting the will of God. Since this is the only passage in the New Testament upon which the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory is supposed to rest, it is important to ascertain the fair meaning of the language here employed. There are three obvious inquiries in ascertaining its signification. Who are referred to by “spirits?” What is meant by “in prison?” Was the message brought to them while in the prison, or at some previous period?

I. Who are referred to by spirits? The specification in the next verse determines this. They were those “who were sometimes disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” No others are specified; and if it should be maintained that this means that he went down to hell (Hades), or to Sheol, and preached to those who are confined there, it could be inferred from this passage only that he preached to that portion of the lost spirits confined there which belonged to the particular generation in which Noah lived. Why he should do this; or how there should be such a separation made in hades that it could be done; or what was the nature of the message which he delivered to that portion, are questions which it is impossible for any man who bolds to the opinion that Christ went down to hell after his death to preach, to answer. But if it means that he preached to those who lived in the days of Noah, while they were yet alive, the question will be asked why are they called “spirits?”

Were they spirits then, or were they people like others? To this the answer is easy. Peter speaks of them as they were when he wrote; not as they had been, or were at the time when the message was preached to them. The idea is, that to those spirits who were then in prison who had formerly lived in the days of Noah, the message had been in fact delivered. It was not necessary to speak of them precisely as they were at the time when it was delivered, but only in such a way as to identify them. We should use similar language now. If we saw a company of men in prison who had seen better days – a multitude now drunken, and debased, and poor, and riotous – it would not be improper to say that “the prospect of wealth and honor was once held out to this ragged and wretched multitude. All that is needful is to identify them as the same persons who once had this prospect. In regard to the inquiry, then, who these “spirits” were, there can be no difference of opinion. They were that wicked race which lived in the days of Noah. There is no allusion in this passage to any other; there is no intimation that to any others of those “in prison” the message here referred to had been delivered.

II. What is meant by prison here? Purgatory, or the limbus patrum, say the Romanists – a place in which departed souls are supposed to be confined, and in which their final destiny may still be effected by the purifying fires which they endure, by the prayers of the living, or by a message in some way conveyed to their gloomy abodes – in which such sins may be expiated as do not deserve eternal damnation. The Syriac here is “in Sheol,” referring to the abodes of the dead, or the place in which departed spirits are supposed to dwell. The word rendered “prison,” (φυλακῇ phulakē,) means properly “watch, guard” – the act of keeping watch, or the guard itself; then watchpost, or station; then a place where anyone is watched or guarded, as a prison; then a watch in the sense of a division of the night, as the morning watch. It is used in the New Testament, with reference to the future world, only in the following places: 1Pe_3:19, “Preached unto the spirits in prison;” and Rev_20:7, “Satan shall be loosed put of his prison.”

An idea similar to the one here expressed may be found in 2Pe_2:4, though the word prison does not there occur: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;” and in Jud_1:6, “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” The allusion, in the passage before us, is undoubtedly to confinement or imprisonment in the invisible world; and perhaps to those who are reserved there with reference to some future arrangement – for this idea enters commonly into the use of the word prison. There is, however, no specification of the place where this is; no intimation that it is purgatory – a place where the departed are supposed to undergo purification; no intimation that their condition can be affected by anything that we can do; no intimation that those particularly referred to differ in any sense from the others who are confined in that world; no hint that they can be released by any prayers or sacrifices of ours. This passage, therefore, cannot be adduced to support the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, because:

(1) The essential ideas which enter into the doctrine of purgatory are not to be found in the word used here;

(2) There is no evidence in the fair interpretation of the passage that any message is borne to them while in prison;

(3) There is not the slightest hint that they can be released by any prayers or offerings of those who dwell on the earth. The simple idea is that of persons confined as in a prison; and the passage will prove only that in the time when the apostle wrote there were those wire were thus confined.

III. Was the message brought to them while in prison, or at some previous period? The Romanists say that it was while in prison; that Christ, after he was put to death in the body, was still kept alive in his spirit, and went and proclaimed his gospel to those who were in prison. So Bloomfield maintains, (in loc.,) and so (Ecumenius and Cyril, as quoted by Bloomfield. But against this view there are plain objections drawn from the language of Peter himself:

(1) As we have seen, the fair interpretation of the passage “quickened by the Spirit,” is not that he was kept alive as to his human soul, but that he, after being dead, was made alive by his own divine energy.

(2) If the meaning be that he went and preached after his death, it seems difficult to know why the reference is to those only who “had been disobedient in the days of Noah.” Why were they alone selected for this message? Are they separate from others? Were they the only ones in purgatory who could be beneficially affected by his preaching? On the other method of interpretation, we can suggest a reason why they were particularly specified. But how can we on this?

(3) The language employed does not demand this interpretation. Its full meaning is met by the interpretation that Christ once preached to the spirits then in prison, to wit, in the days of Noah; that is, that he caused a divine message to be borne to them. Thus, it would be proper to say that “Whitefield came to America, and preached to the souls in perdition;” or to go among the graves of the first settlers of New Haven, and say, “Davenport came from England to preach to the dead men around us.”

(4) This interpretation accords with the design of the apostle in inculcating the duty of patience and forbearance in trials; in encouraging those whom he addressed to be patient in their persecutions. See the analysis of the chapter. With this object in view, there was entire propriety in directing them to the long-suffering and forbearance evinced by the Saviour, through Noah. He was opposed, reviled, disbelieved, and, we may suppose, persecuted. It was to the purpose to direct them to the fact that he was saved as the result of his steadfastness to Him who had commanded him to preach to that ungodly generation. But what pertinency would there have been in saying that Christ went down to hell, and delivered some sort of a message there, we know not what, to those who are confined there?

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:20
Thus far the Apostle’s words seem to agree together, and with the thread of the argument; but what follows is attended with some difficulty; for he does not mention the faithful here, but only the unbelieving; and this seems to overturn the preceding exposition. Some have for this reason been led to think that no other thing is said here, but that the unbelieving, who had formerly persecuted the godly, found the Spirit of Christ an accuser, as though Peter consoled the faithful with this argument, that Christ, even when dead, punished them. But their mistake is discovered by what we shall see in the next chapter, that the Gospel was preached to the dead, that they might live according to God in the spirit, which peculiarly applies to the faithful. And it is further certain that he repeats there what he now says. Besides, they have not considered that what Peter meant was especially this, that as the power of the Spirit of Christ shewed itself to be vivifying in him, and was known as such by the dead, so it will be towards us.
Let us, however, see why it is that he mentions only the unbelieving; for he seems to say, that Christ in spirit appeared to those who formerly were unbelieving; but I understand him otherwise, that then the true servants of God were mixed together with the unbelieving, and were almost hidden on account of their number. I allow that the Greek construction is at variance with this meaning, for Peter, if he meant this, ought to have used the genitive case absolute. But as it was not unusual with the Apostles to put one case instead of another, and as we see that Peter here heaps together many things, and no other suitable meaning can be elicited, I have no hesitation in giving this explanation of this intricate passage; so that readers may understand that those called unbelieving are different from those to whom he said the Gospel was preached.

After having then said that Christ was manifested to the dead, he immediately adds, When there were formerly unbelievers; by which he intimated, that it was no injury to the holy fathers that they were almost hidden through the vast number of the ungodly. For he meets, as I think, a doubt, which might have harassed the faithful of that day. They saw almost the whole world filled with unbelievers, that they enjoyed all authority, and that life was in their power. This trial might have shaken the confidence of those who were shut up, as it were, under the sentence of death. Therefore Peter reminds them, that the condition of the fathers was not different, and that though the multitude of the ungodly then covered the whole earth, their life was yet preserved in safety by the power of God.

He then comforted the godly, lest they should be cast down and destroyed because they were so few; and he chose an example the most remarkable in antiquity, even that of the world drowned by the deluge; for then in the common ruin of mankind, the family of Noah alone escaped. And he points out the manner, and says that it was a kind of baptism. There is then in this respect also nothing unsuitable.

The sum of what is said is this, that the world has always been full of unbelievers, but that the godly ought not to be terrified by their vast number; for though Noah was surrounded on every side by the ungodly, and had very few as his friends, he was not yet drawn aside from the right course of his faith.

When once the long-suffering of God waited This ought to be applied to the ungodly, whom God’s patience rendered more slothful; for when God deferred his vengeance and did not immediately execute it, the ungodly boldly disregarded all threatenings; but Noah, on the contrary, being warned by God, had the deluge for a long time before his eyes. Hence his assiduity in building the ark; for being terrified by God’s judgment, he shook off all torpidity.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 3:20. which sometime were disobedient] The words that follow, however, appear to limit the range of the preaching within comparatively narrow boundaries. The “spirits” of whom St Peter speaks were those who had “once been disobedient:” the “once” being further defined as the time when “the long-suffering of God was waiting in the days of Noah.” We naturally ask as we read the words,

(1) why the preaching was confined to these, or

(2) if the preaching itself was not so confined, why this was the only aspect of it on which the Apostle thought fit to dwell?

The answer to the first question cannot be given with any confidence. It is behind the veil which we cannot lift. All that we can say is that the fact thus revealed gives us at least some ground for seeing in it a part of God’s dealings with the human race, and that it is not unreasonable to infer an analogous treatment of those who were in an analogous condition. The answer to the second question is, perhaps, to be found in the prominence given to the history of Noah in our Lord’s eschatological teaching, as in Mat_24:37, Mat_24:38, Luk_17:26, Luk_17:27, and in the manifest impression which that history had made on St Peter’s mind, as seen in his reference to it both here and 2Pe_2:5, 2Pe_3:6. It is a conjecture, but not, I think, an improbable or irreverent one, that the disciple’s mind may have been turned by our Lord’s words to anxious enquiries as to the destiny of those who had been planting and building, buying and selling, when “the flood came and took them all away,” and that what he now states had been the answer to such enquiries. What was the result of the preaching we are not here told, the Apostle’s thoughts travelling on rapidly to the symbolic or typical aspect presented by the record of the Flood, but the notes on ch. 4:6 will shew that his mind still dwelt on it, and that he takes it up again as a dropped thread in the argument of the Epistle. It will be noted, whatever view we may take of the interpretation of the passage as a whole, that it is the disobedience, and not any after-repentance at the moment of death, of those who lived in the days of Noah that is here dwelt on. Such is, it is believed, the natural and true interpretation of St Peter’s words. It finds a confirmation in the teaching of some of the earliest fathers of the Church, in Clement of Alexandria (Strom. vi. 6), and Origen, and Athanasius (cont. Apollin. i. 13), and Cyril of Alexandria (in Joann. xvi. 16); Even Augustine, at one time, held that the effect of Christ’s descent into Hades had been to set free some who were condemned to the torments of Hell (Epist. ad Euodium, clxiv.), and Jerome (on Mat_12:29, Eph_4:10) adopted it without any hesitation. Its acceptance at an early date is attested by the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, nearly the whole of which is given to a narrative of the triumph of Christ over Hades and Death, who are personified as the Potentates of darkness. It tells how He delivered Adam from the penalty of his sin, and brought the patriarchs from a lower to a higher blessedness, and emptied the prison-house, and set the captives free, and erected the cross in the midst of Hades, that there also it might preach salvation. Legendary and fantastic as the details may be, they testify to the prevalence of a wide-spread tradition, and that tradition is more naturally referred to the teaching of St Peter in this passage as the germ out of which it was developed than to any other source. As a matter of history, the article “He descended into Hell,” i.e. into Hades, first appeared in the Apostles’ Creed at a time when the tradition was almost universally accepted, and when the words of the Creed could not fail to be associated in men’s minds with the hope which it embodied.

It must be admitted, however, that the weight of many great names may be urged on behalf of other interpretations, and that some of them display, to say the least, considerable ingenuity. The common element in all of them is the desire to evade what seems the natural inference from the words, that they point to a wider hope of repentance and conversion as possible after death than the interpreters were willing to admit. They divide themselves into two classes:

(1) those who accept the words as referring to a descent into Hades, and

(2) those who give them an entirely different interpretation. Under (1) we have

(a) the view already noticed that the “preaching” was one of condemnation, anticipating the final judgment. It has been shewn to be untenable, and has so few names of weight on its side that it does not deserve more than a passing notice,

(b) The view that Christ descended into Hades to deliver the souls of the righteous, of Seth, and Abel, and Abraham, and the other saints of the Old Testament, can claim a somewhat higher authority. It entered, as has been seen, into the Gospel of Nicodemus. It was adopted by Irenæus, Tertullian, Hippolytus. It was popular alike in the theology of many of the Schoolmen, and in mediæval art. It was accepted by Zwingli and Calvin among the Reformers, and receives a partial sanction from the teaching of our own Church as seen in the original form of Art. iii. as drawn up in 1552; and in the metrical paraphrase of the Apostles’ Creed which was at one time attached with a quasi-authority to the Prayer-Book, and in which we find the statement that Christ descended into Hell that He might be “To those who long in darkness were The true joy of their hearts.”

It is obvious, however, that whatever probability may attach to this speculation as such, it has scarcely any real point of contact with St Peter’s words. He speaks of “the days of Noah:” it takes in the whole patriarchal age, if not the whole history of Israel. He speaks of those who had been “disobedient.” It assumes penitence and faith, and at least a partial holiness. The touch of poetry in Calvin’s view that the word for “prison” should be taken as meaning the “watch-tower” upon which the spirits of the righteous were standing, as in the attitude of eager expectation, looking out for the coming of the King whom they had seen, as afar off, in the days of their pilgrimage, cannot rescue it from its inherent untenableness.

(c) A modification of the previous view has found favour with some writers, among whom the most notable are Estius, Bellarmine, Luther, Bengel. They avoid the difficulty which we have seen to be fatal to that view, and limit the application of St Peter’s words to those who had lived in the time of the Deluge, and they make the preaching one of pardon or deliverance, but, under the influence of the dogma that “there is no repentance in the grave,” they assume that the message of the Gospel came to those only who turned to God before they sank finally in the mighty waters. It need hardly be said that this was to strain Scripture to make it fit in with their own theories, and to read into the words something that is not found there. St Peter, as has been urged above, would have said, “to those who were sometime disobedient and afterwards repented” if this had been what he meant to say.

(2) The other interpretation avoids all these minor difficulties by going altogether on a different track. It has the authority of some great representative theologians, Augustine among the Fathers (ut supra), Aquinas among the Schoolmen (Summ. Theolog. iii. Qu. LII. Art. 3), Bishop Pearson among Anglican divines. It starts with denying that there is any reference at all to the descent into Hades. Christ, it says, went in Spirit, not in the flesh, i.e. before His Incarnation, and preached to the spirits who are now in prison under condemnation, or were then in the prison-house of selfishness and unbelief, or simply in that of the body. He preached in Noah’s preaching, and that preaching was without effect except for the souls of Noah and his household. There is something, perhaps, attractive in the avoidance of what have been regarded as dangerous inferences from the natural meaning of St Peter’s words, something also in the bold ingenuity which rejects at once that natural meaning and the Catholic tradition which grew out of it: but, over and above the grave preliminary objection that it never would have suggested itself but for dogmatic prepossessions, it is not too much to say that it breaks down at every point. It disconnects the work of preaching from the death of Christ with which St Peter connects it. It empties the words “he went” of all significance and reduces them to an empty pleonasm. It substitutes a personal identification of the preaching of Christ with that of Noah for the more scriptural language, as in ch. 1:11, that the Spirit which prompted the latter was one with the Spirit which Christ gave to His disciples. The whole line of exegesis comes under the condemnation of being “a fond thing vainly invented” for a dogmatic purpose. A collection of most of the passages from the Fathers bearing on the subject will be found in the Notes to “Pearson on the Creed” on the Article “He descended into Hell,” and in the Article Eschatology by the present writer in Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Biography.

wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water] The last words admit of being taken either locally “they were saved, i.e. were brought safely, through the water,” “were delivered from the destruction which it brought to others,” or instrumentally, “they were saved by means of the water.” The latter interpretation presents, at first, the difficulty that it represents the waters of the deluge, as well as the ark, as a means of deliverance. The parallelism between the type and the antitype in the next verse, leaves, however, no doubt that this was the thought which St Peter had in his mind. He saw in the very judgment which swept away so many that which brought deliverance to others. In the stress laid upon the “few” that were thus saved, we may legitimately recognise the impression made by our Lord’s answer to the question, Are there few that be saved? (Luk_13:23). The Apostle looked round him and saw that those who were in the way of salvation were few in number. He looked back upon the earliest records of the work of a preaching of repentance and found that then also few only were delivered. In the reference to the “long-suffering” of God as waiting and leading to repentance, we find a striking parallel to the language of 2Pe_3:9, and in both we cannot doubt that the thought present to the writer’s mind was that “God was not willing that any should perish.”

Pulpit Commentary
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 (Gen_7:17, Gen_7:18). The argument of 1Pe_3:21 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 1Pe_3:17); 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 (1Pe_2:5; 1Pe_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 (Mat_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 1Pe_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” (2Pe_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 (Gen_6:3), as now the Lord is “long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Pe_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” (1Pe_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 be 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 Mar_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 1Pe_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 hero speaking of that descent into Hades of which he had spoken in his first great sermon (Act_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.,’ Jer_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 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 1Pe_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.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:20
Which sometime were disobedient – Which were “once,” or “formerly,” (ποτε pote,) disobedient or rebellious. The language here does not imply that they had ceased to be disobedient, or that they had become obedient at the time when the apostle wrote; but the object is to direct the attention to a former race of people characterized by disobedience, and to show the patience evinced under their provocations, in endeavoring to do them good. To say that people were formerly rebellious, or rebellious in a specified age, is no evidence that they are otherwise now. The meaning here is, that they did not obey the command of God when he called them to repentance by the preaching of Noah. Compare 2Pe_2:5, where Noah is called “a preacher of righteousness.”

When once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah – God waited on that guilty race for 120 years, Gen_6:3, a period sufficiently protracted to evince his long-suffering toward one generation. It is not improbable that during that whole period Noah was, in various ways, preaching to that wicked generation. Compare the notes at Heb_11:7.

While the ark was a preparing – It is probable that preparations were made for building the ark during a considerable portion of that time. Peter’s, at Rome, was a much longer time in building; and it is to be remembered that in the age of the world when Noah lived, and with the imperfect knowledge of the arts of naval architecture which must have prevailed, it was a much more serious undertaking to construct an ark that would hold such a variety and such a number of animals as that was designed to, land that would float safely for more than a year in an universal flood, than it was to construct such a fabric as Peter’s, in the days when that edifice was raised.

Wherein few, that is, eight souls – Eight persons – Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives, Gen_7:7. The allusion to their being saved here seems to be to encourage those whom Peter addressed to perseverance and fidelity, in the midst of all the opposition which they might experience. Noah was not disheartened. Sustained by the Spirit of Christ – the presence of the Son of God – he continued to preach. He did not abandon his purpose, and the result was that tie was saved. True, they were few in number who were saved; the great mass continued to be wicked; but this very fact should be an encouragement to us – that though the great mass of any one generation may be wicked, God can protect and save the few who are faithful.

By water – They were borne up by the waters, and were thus preserved. The thought on which the apostle makes his remarks turn, and which leads him in the next verse to the suggestions about baptism, is, that water was employed in their preservation, or that they owed their safety, in an important sense, to that element. In like manner we owe our salvation, in an important sense, to water; or, there is an important agency which it is made to perform in our salvation. The apostle does not say that it was in the same way, or that the one was a type designed to represent the other, or even that the efficacy of water was in both cases the same; but he says, that as Noah owed his salvation to water, so there is an important sense in which water is employed in ours. There is in certain respects – he does not say in all respects – a resemblance between the agency of water in the salvation of Noah, and the agency of water in our salvation. In both cases water is employed, though it may not be that it is in the same manner, or with precisely the same efficacy.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:21
21The like figure whereunto I fully think that the relative ought to be read in the dative case, and that it has happened, through a mistake, that ὃ is put, and not ᾧ. The meaning, however, is not ambiguous, that Noah, saved by water, had a sort of baptism. And this the Apostle mentions, that the likeness between him and us might appear more evident. It has already been said that the design of this clause is to shew that we ought not to be led away by wicked examples from the fear of God, and the right way of salvation, and to mix with the world. This is made evident in baptism, in which we are buried together with Christ, so that, being dead to the world, and to the flesh, we may live to God. On this account, he says that our baptism is an antitype (ἀντίτυπον) to the baptism of Noah, not that Noah’s baptism was the first pattern, and ours an inferior figure, as the word is taken in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the ceremonies of the law are said to be antitypes of heavenly things, (Heb_9:9.) Greek writers apply the same word to sacraments, so that, when they speak of the mystical bread of the holy Supper, they call it the antitype. But here there is no comparison made between the greater and the less; the Apostle only means that there is a likeness, and as they commonly say, a correspondence. Perhaps it might more properly be said to be correspondency, (ἀντίστροφον,) as Aristotle makes Dialectics to be the antistrophè of Rhetoric. But we need not labor about words, when there is an agreement about the thing itself. As Noah, then, obtained life through death, when in the ark, he was enclosed not otherwise than as it were in the grave, and when the whole world perished, he was preserved together with his small family; so at this day, the death which is set forth in baptism, is to us an entrance into life, nor can salvation be hoped for, except we be separated from the world.

Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh This was added, because it might be that the greatest part of men would profess the name of Christ; and so it is with us, almost all are introduced into the church by baptism. Thus, what he had said before would not be appropriate, that few at this day are saved by baptism, as God saved only eight by the ark. This objection Peter anticipates, when he testifies that he speaks not of the naked sign, but that the effect must also be connected with it, as though he had said, that what happened in the age of Noah would always be the case, that mankind would rush on to their own destruction, but that the Lord would in a wonderful way deliver His very small flock.

We now see what this connection means; for some one might object and say, “Our baptism is widely different from that of Noah, for it happens that most are at this day baptized.” To this he replies, that the external symbol is not sufficient, except baptism be received really and effectually: and the reality of it will be found only in a few. It hence follows that we ought carefully to see how men commonly act when we rely on examples, and that we ought not to fear though we may be few in number.

But the fanatics, such as Schuencfeldius, absurdly pervert this testimony, while they seek to take away from sacraments all their power and effect. For Peter did not mean here to teach that Christ’s institution is vain and inefficacious, but only to exclude hypocrites from the hope of salvation, who, as far as they can, deprave and corrupt baptism. Moreover, when we speak of sacraments, two things are to be considered, the sign and the thing itself. In baptism the sign is water, but the thing is the washing of the soul by the blood of Christ and the mortifying of the flesh. The institution of Christ includes these two things. Now that the sign appears often inefficacious and fruitless, this happens through the abuse of men, which does not take away the nature of the sacrament. Let us then learn not to tear away the thing signified from the sign. We must at the same time beware of another evil, such as prevails among the Papists; for as they distinguish not as they ought between the thing and the sign, they stop at the outward element, and on that fix their hope of salvation. Therefore the sight of the water takes away their thoughts from the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit. They do not regard Christ as the only author of all the blessings therein offered to us; they transfer the glory of his death to the water, they tie the secret power of the Spirit to the visible sign.

What then ought we to do? Not to separate what has been joined together by the Lord. We ought to acknowledge in baptism a spiritual washing, we ought to embrace therein the testimony of the remission of sin and the pledge of our renovation, and yet so as to leave to Christ his own honor, and also to the Holy Spirit; so that no part of our salvation should be transferred to the sign. Doubtless when Peter, having mentioned baptism, immediately made this exception, that it is not the putting off of the filth of the flesh, he sufficiently shewed that baptism to some is only the outward act, and that the outward sign of itself avails nothing.

But the answer of a good conscience The word question, or questioning, is to be taken here for “answer,” or testimony. Now Peter briefly defines the efficacy and use of baptism, when he calls attention to conscience, and expressly requires that confidence which can sustain the sight of God and can stand before his tribunal. For in these words he teaches us that baptism in its main part is spiritual, and then that it includes the remission of sins and renovation of the old man; for how can there be a good and pure conscience until our old man is reformed, and we be renewed in the righteousness of God? and how can we answer before God, unless we rely on and are sustained by a gratuitous pardon of our sins? In short, Peter intended to set forth the effect of baptism, that no one might glory in a naked and dead sign, as hypocrites are wont to do.

But we must notice what follows, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ By these words he teaches us that we are not to cleave to the element of water, and that what is thereby typified flows from Christ alone, and is to be sought from him. Moreover, by referring to the resurrection, he has regard to the doctrine which he had taught before, that Christ was vivified by the Spirit; for the resurrection was victory over death and the completion of our salvation. We hence learn that the death of Christ is not excluded, but is included in his resurrection. We then cannot otherwise derive benefit from baptism, than by having all our thoughts fixed on the death and the resurrection of Christ.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1 Pet 3:21. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us] The MSS. present two readings; one that of the Textus Receptus, answering to the English Version as giving the relative pronoun in the dative, the other, supported by the better MSS., giving the pronoun in the nominative, “which also” (sc. the element of water) “the antitype [of the deluge,] doth even now save us,” and then he adds, as explaining what was the antitype, the word “baptism” in apposition with the subject of the sentence. At first it seems hard to see the parallelism between the flood which destroyed and the baptism which saves, but reflection will shew that the Apostle may well have thought of the deluge as burying the old evils of the world and giving the human race, as it were, a fresh start, under new and better conditions, a world, in some sense, regenerated or brought into a new covenant with God, and therefore new relations to Him. Does not the teaching of the previous verse suggest the inference that he thought of the flood as having been even for those who perished in it, not merely an instrument of destruction, but as placing even the souls of the disobedient in a region in which they were not shut out from the pitying love of the Father who there also did not “will that any should perish”?

not the putting away of the filth of the flesh] The Greek word for “putting away” may be noted as one of those common to the two Epistles (see note on 2Pe_1:14). The implied protest against the notion that this was all that was meant by Christian baptism, though it might be necessary both for Jewish and heathen converts, gains immensely in its significance if we think of the Epistle as addressed mainly to the former class. They were in danger of looking upon baptism, not as the sacrament of a new birth, but as standing on the same level as the “washing” or “baptism” (the same word is used) of the older ritual. So, even during the ministry of the Baptist, there was a dispute between some of his disciples and the Jews “about purification” (Joh_3:25), obviously rising out of that confusion of thought. So it formed part of the elementary instruction of Christian catechumens that they should learn the “doctrine of baptisms” (Heb_6:2), i.e. the distinction between the Jewish and the Christian rites that went almost or altogether1 by the same name. St Peter warns men against the perilous thought that they washed away their sins by the mere outward act. So far as he may have contemplated heathen converts at all we may remember that they too thought of guilt as washed away by a purely ceremonial institution. So Ovid, Fast. ii. 45, “Full easy souls who dream the crystal flood Can wash away the deep-dyed stain of blood.” [Ah, nimium faciles qui tristia crimina caedis  Fluminea tolli posse putetis aqua.]
Comp. also Juven. Sat. vi. 522, Persius, Sat. ii. 15, Horace, Sat. ii. 3.290.

History records but too many instances of the revival of a like superstition. The tendency to postpone baptism in order to cancel the sins that were in the meantime accumulating, and avoid the danger of postbaptismal sin, of which we see conspicuous instances in the lives of Constantine and Augustine, the mediæval dogma still lingering in popular belief, that unbaptized infants are excluded from salvation; these are examples of ways of looking at baptism more or less analogous to that which St Peter condemns. With him the saving power of baptism varies with the activity and purity of the moral consciousness of the baptized.

but the answer of a good conscience toward God] The words admit of very different interpretations.

(1) The Greek word translated “answer” means primarily “question,” “enquiry.” If this sense be admitted here, there would then rise the question whether the words “of a good conscience” were in the genitive of the subject or the object. If the former, the condition on which St Peter lays stress would be equivalent to

(a) the enquiry of a good conscience, the seeking of the soul after God; if the latter, that condition would be

b) the prayer addressed to God for a good conscience. Neither of these interpretations, however, is satisfactory. It is against

(a) that it is the idea of baptism that men are no longer seeking God but have found Him. It is against

(b) that it is also the idea of baptism that it is more than the asking for a gift. A true solution is found partly in the forensic use of the Greek word for question, as including, like our word “examination,” both question and answer, and so applied to the whole process of a covenant, the conditions of which were determined by mutual interrogatories and affirmative or negative replies, and partly in the fact that at a date so early that it is reasonable to infer an Apostolic origin, the liturgical administration of baptism involved interrogatories and answers, in substance identical with those that have been in use in the Church at large and are in use still. “Dost thou renounce Satan?” “I do renounce him.” “Dost thou believe in Christ?” “I do believe in Him,” the second question sometimes taking the form “Dost thou take thy stand with Christ?” and the answer, “I do take my stand.” In this practice of interrogation then we find that which explains St Peter’s meaning. That which is of the essence of the saving power of baptism is the confession and the profession which precedes it. If that comes from a conscience (see notes on chaps. 2:19, 3:16) that really renounces sin and believes on Christ, then baptism, as the channel through which the grace of the new birth is conveyed and the convert admitted into the Church of Christ, “saves us,” but not otherwise. The practice of Infant Baptism, though the scales of argument both as regards Scripture and antiquity turn in its favour, presents, it must be admitted, an apparent inversion of the right order, though the idea is still retained in the questions put to the sponsors who answer in the infant’s name, as his representatives. If the question is asked, What then is the effect of Infant Baptism? the answer must be found, that it is, in the language of Scripture, as a new birth, the admission into new conditions of life, into, as it were, the citizenship of a new country. It gives the promise and potency of life, but its power to save the man that grows out of the infant varies with the fulfilment of the conditions when consciousness is developed. Now, as when St Peter wrote, it is not the “putting away the filth of the flesh” that saves, but “the answer of a good conscience towards God.”

by the resurrection of Jesus Christ] So far the words have brought before us the human side of baptism. But the rite has also a divine side and this the last words of the verse bring before us. Baptism derives its power to save from the Resurrection of Christ. It brings us into union with the life of Him who “was dead and is alive for evermore” (Rev_1:18). We are buried with Him in baptism, planted together with Him in the likeness of His death, that we may be also in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom_6:4, Rom_6:5).

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
1 Peter 3:21
whereunto — The oldest manuscripts read, “which”: literally, “which (namely, water, in general; being) the antitype (of the water of the flood) is now saving (the salvation being not yet fully realized by us, compare 1Co_10:1, 1Co_10:2, 1Co_10:5; Jud_1:5; puts into a state of salvation) us also (two oldest manuscripts read ‘you’ for ‘us’: You also, as well as Noah and his party), to wit, baptism.” Water saved Noah not of itself, but by sustaining the ark built in faith, resting on God’s word: it was to him the sign and mean of a kind of regeneration, of the earth. The flood was for Noah a baptism, as the passage through the Red Sea was for the Israelites; by baptism in the flood he and his family were transferred from the old world to the new: from immediate destruction to lengthened probation; from the companionship of the wicked to communion with God; from the severing of all bonds between the creature and the Creator to the privileges of the covenant: so we by spiritual baptism. As there was a Ham who forfeited the privileges of the covenant, so many now. The antitypical water, namely, baptism, saves you also not of itself, nor the mere material water, but the spiritual thing conjoined with it, repentance and faith, of which it is the sign and seal, as Peter proceeds to explain. Compare the union of the sign and thing signified, Joh_3:5; Eph_5:26; Tit_3:5; Heb_10:22; compare 1Jo_5:6.

not the, etc. — “flesh” bears the emphasis. “Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh” (as is done by a mere water baptism, unaccompanied with the Spirit’s baptism, compare Eph_2:11), but of the soul. It is the ark (Christ and His Spirit-filled Church), not the water, which is the instrument of salvation: the water only flowed round the ark; so not the mere water baptism, but the water when accompanied with the Spirit.

answer — Greek, “interrogation”; referring to the questions asked of candidates for baptism; eliciting a confession of faith “toward God” and a renunciation of Satan ([Augustine, The Creed, 4.1]; [Cyprian, Epistles, 7, To Rogatianus]), which, when flowing from “a good conscience,” assure one of being “saved.” Literally, “a good conscience’s interrogation (including the satisfactory answer) toward God.” I prefer this to the translation of Wahl, Alford and others, “inquiry of a good conscience after God”: not one of the parallels alleged, not even 2Sa_11:7, in the Septuagint, is strictly in point. Recent Byzantine Greek idiom (whereby the term meant: (1) the question; (2) the stipulation; (3) the engagement), easily flowing from the usage of the word as Peter has it, confirms the former translation.
by the resurrection of Jesus — joined with “saves you”: In so far as baptism applies to us the power of Christ’s resurrection. As Christ’s death unto sin is the source of the believer’s death unto, and so deliverance from, sin’s penalty and power; so His resurrection life is the source of the believer’s new spiritual life.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:21
The like figure whereunto, even baptism, doth also now save us – There are some various readings here in the Greek text, but the sense is not essentially varied. Some have proposed to read (ῷ hō) to which instead of (ὅ ho) which, so as to make the sense “the antitype to which baptism now also saves us.” The antecedent to the relative, whichever word is used, is clearly not the ark, but water; and the idea is, that as Noah was saved by water, so there is a sense in which water is made instrumental in our salvation. The mention of water in the case of Noah, in connection with his being saved, by an obvious association suggested to the mind of the apostle the use of water in our salvation, and hence led him to make the remark about the connection of baptism with our salvation. The Greek word here rendered “figure” – ἀντίτυπον antitupon – “antitype” means properly, “resisting a blow or impression,” (from ἀντί anti and τύπος tupos;) that is, hard, solid. In the New Testament, however, it is used in a different sense; and (ἀντί anti) in composition, implies resemblance, correspondence and hence, the word means, “formed after a type or model; like; corresponding; that which corresponds to a type” – Robinson, Lexicon. The word occurs only in this place and Heb_9:24, rendered “figures.” The meaning here is, that baptism corresponded to, or had a resemblance to, the water by which Noah was saved; or that there was a use of water in the one case which corresponded in some respects to the water that was used in the other; to wit, in effecting salvation. The apostle does not say that it corresponded in all respects; in respect, e. g., to quantity, or to the manner of the application, or to the efficacy; but there is a sense in which water performs an important part in our salvation, as it did in his.

Baptism – Not the mere application of water, for that idea the apostle expressly disclaims, when he says that it involves not “putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.” The sense is, that baptism, including all that is properly meant by baptism as a religious rite – that is, baptism administered in connection with true repentance, and true faith in the Lord Jesus, and when it is properly a symbol of the putting away of sin, and of the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit, and an act of unreserved dedication to God – now saves us. On the meaning of the word “baptism,” see the notes at Mat_3:6, Mat_3:16.

Doth also now save us – The water saved Noah and his family from perishing in the flood; to wit, by bearing up the ark. Baptism, in the proper sense of the term, as above explained, where the water used is a symbol, in like manner now saves us; that is, the water is an emblem of that purifying by which we are saved. It may be said to save us, not as the meritorious cause, but as the indispensable condition of salvation. No man can be saved without that regenerated and purified heart of which baptism is the appropriate symbol, and when it would be proper to administer that ordinance. The apostle cannot have meant that water saves us in the same way in which it saved Noah, because that cannot be true. It is neither the same in quantity, nor is it applied in the same way, nor is it efficacious in the same manner. It is indeed connected with our salvation in its own proper way, as an emblem of that purifying of the heart by which we are saved. Thus, it corresponds with the salvation of Noah by water, and is the (ἀντίτυπον antitupon) “antitype” of that. Nor does it mean that the salvation of Noah by water was designed to be a type of Christian baptism. There is not the least evidence of that; and it should not be affirmed without proof. The apostle saw a resemblance in some respects between the one and the other; such a resemblance that the one naturally suggested the other to his mind, and the resemblance was so important as to make it the proper ground of remark.

(But if Noah’s preservation in the ark, be the type of that salvation of which baptism is the emblem, who shall say it was not so designed of God? Must we indeed regard the resemblance between Noah’s deliverance and ours, as a happy coincidence merely? But the author is accustomed to deny typical design in very clear cases; and in avoiding one extreme seems to have gone into another. Some will have types everywhere; and, therefore, others will allow them nowhere. See the supplementary note at Heb_7:1; M. Knight’s Essay, viii. Sect. v., on the laws of typical interpretation, with his commentary in loco)

The points of resemblance in the two cases seem to have been these:

(1) There was salvation in both; Noah was saved from death, and we are saved from hell.

(2) Water is employed in both cases – in the case of Noah to uphold the ark; in ours to be a symbol of our purification.

(3) The water in both cases is connected with salvation: in the case of Noah by sustaining the ark; in ours by being a symbol of salvation, of purity, of cleansing, of that by which we may be brought to God.

The meaning of this part of the verse, therefore, may be thus expressed: “Noah and his family were saved by water, the antitype to which (to wit, that which in important respects corresponds to that) baptism (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, or the mere application of material water, but that purifying of the heart of which it is the appropriate emblem) now saves us.”

Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh – Not a mere external washing, however solemnly done. No outward ablution or purifying saves us, but that which pertains to the conscience. This important clause is thrown in to guard the statement from the abuse to which it would otherwise be liable, the supposition that baptism has of itself a purifying and saving power. To guard against this, the apostle expressly declares that he means much more than a mere outward application of water.

But the answer of a good conscience toward God – The word here rendered “answer” (ἐπερώτημα eperōtēma) means properly a question, an inquiry. It is “spoken of a question put to a convert at baptism, or rather of the whole process of question and answer; that is, by implication, examination, profession” – Robinson, Lexicon. It is designed to mark the spiritual character of the baptismal rite in contrast with a mere external purification, and evidently refers to something that occurred at baptism; some question, inquiry, or examination, that took place then; and it would seem to imply:

(1) That when baptism was performed, there was some question or inquiry in regard to the belief of the candidate;

(2) That an answer was expected, implying that there was a good conscience; that is, that the candidate had an enlightened conscience, and was sincere in his profession; and,

(3) That the real efficacy of baptism, or its power in saving, was not in the mere external rite, but in the state of the heart, indicated by the question and answer, of which that was the emblem.

On the meaning of the phrase “a good conscience,” see the notes at 1Pe_3:16 of this chapter. Compare on this verse Neander, Geschich der Pfianz. u. Leit. der chr, Kirche, i. p. 203ff, in Bibl. Reposi. iv. 272ff. It is in the highest degree probable that questions would be proposed to candidates for baptism respecting their belief, an we have an instance of this fact undoubtedly in the case before us. How extensive such examinations would be, what points would be embraced, how much reference there was to personal experience, we have, of course, no certain means of ascertaining. We may suppose, however, that the examination pertained to what constituted the essential features of the Christian religion, as distinguished from other systems, and to the cordial belief of that system by the candidate.

By the resurrection of Jesus Christ – That is, we are saved in this manner through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The whole efficiency in the case is derived from that. If he had not been raised from the dead, baptism would have been vain, and there would have been no power to save us. See this illustrated at length in the notes at Rom_6:4-5. The points, therefore, which are established in regard to baptism by this important passage are these:

(1) That Christian baptism is not a mere external rite; a mere outward ablution; a mere application of water to the body. It is not contemplated that it shall be an empty form, and its essence does not consist in a mere “putting away of the filth of the flesh.” There is a work to be done in respect to the conscience which cannot be reached by the application of water.

(2) That there was an examination among the early Christians when a candidate was about to be baptized, and of course such an examination is proper now. Whatever was the ground of the examination, it related to that which existed before the baptism was administered. It was not expected that it should be accomplished by the baptism. There is, therefore, implied evidence here that there was no reliance placed on that ordinance to produce that which constituted the “answer of a good conscience;” in other words, that it was not supposed to have an efficacy to produce that of itself, and was not a converting or regenerating ordinance.

(3) The “answer” which was returned in the inquiry, was to be such as indicated a good conscience; that is, as Bloomfield expresses it, (New Testament in loc.,) “that which enables us to return such an answer as springs from a good conscience toward God, which can be no other than the inward change and renovation wrought by the Spirit.” It was supposed, therefore, that there would be an internal work of grace; that there would be much more than an outward rite in the whole transaction. The application of water is, in fact, but an emblem or symbol of that grace in the heart, and is to be administered as denoting that. It does not convey grace to the soul by any physical efficacy of the water. It is a symbol of the purifying influences of religion, and is made a means of grace in the same way as obedience to any other of the commands of God.

(4) There is no efficacy in the mere application of water in any form, or with any ceremonies of religion, to put away sin. It is the “good conscience,” the renovated heart, the purified soul, of which baptism is the emblem, that furnishes evidence of the divine acceptance and favor. Compare Heb_9:9-10. There must be a deep internal work on the soul of man, in order that he may be acceptable to God; and when that is missing, no external rite is of any avail.

(5) Yet, it does not follow from this that baptism is of no importance. The argument of the apostle here is, that it is of great importance. Noah was saved by water; and so baptism has an important connection with our salvation. As water bore up the ark, and was the means of saving Noah, so baptism by water is the emblem of our salvation; and when administered in connection with a “good conscience,” that is, with a renovated heart, it is as certainly connected with our salvation as the sustaining waters of the flood were with the salvation of Noah. No man can prove from the Bible that baptism has no important connection with salvation; and no man can prove that by neglecting it he will be as likely to obtain the divine favor as he would by observing it. It is a means of exhibiting great and important truths in an impressive manner to the soul; it is a means of leading the soul to an entire dedication to a God of purity; it is a means through which God manifests himself to the soul, and through which he imparts grace, as he does in all other acts of obedience to his commandments.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:22
22Who is on the right hand of God. He recommends to us the ascension of Christ unto heaven, lest our eyes should seek him in the world; and this belongs especially to faith. He commends to our notice his session on the Father’s right hand, lest we should doubt his power to save us. And what his sitting at the right hand of the Father means, we have elsewhere explained, that is, that Christ exercises supreme power everywhere as God’s representative. And an explanation of this is what follows, angels being made subject to him; and he adds powers and authorities only for the sake of amplification, for angels are usually designated by such words. It was then Peter’s object to set forth by these high titles the sovereignty of Christ.

Cambridge Bible Plumptre
1Pet 3:22.
who is gone into heaven] The parallelism between the substance of this verse and that of 1Ti_3:16, and of both with the closing clauses of the second section of the Apostles’ Creed, leaves scarcely any room for doubt that we have here a precious fragment of the baptismal profession of faith of the Apostolic Church. The train of thought of the previous verse naturally led on to this. This was what the answer of a good conscience towards God involved. In the union of confession with the mouth and belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in Rom_10:9, we may probably trace a reference to a like formulary. The word for “he is gone” is the same participle as that in verse 19 and is important as determining its meaning. If there was a real Ascension into Heaven, there was also a real descent into Hades. St Peter seems to echo the words of St Paul, “Now that he ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” (Eph_4:9.)
angels and authorities and powers] Here again the phraseology reminds us of that of the twin Epistles of St Paul (Eph_1:21, Col_1:16). “Authorities” and “powers” are used as comprehensive terms, including the whole hierarchy of heaven, Cherubim, Seraphim and the like; probably also, looking to Col_2:15, Php_2:10, and the manifest sequence of thought from verse 19, the powers of evil who had been subdued by the conquering Christ in His descent into Hades.

Pulpit Commentary
Who is gone into heaven. The word here rendered “gone” is that used in 1Pe_3:19, “he went and preached (πορευθείς)” (comp. Eph_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. Psa_110:1; Rom_8:34; Col_3:1; Eph_1:20; Heb_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 Col_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.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:22
Who is gone into heaven – See the notes at Act_1:9.

And is on the right hand of God – See the notes at Mar_16:19.

Angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him – See the notes at Eph_1:20-21. The reason why the apostle here adverts to the fact that the Lord Jesus is raised up to the right hand of God, and is so honored in heaven, seems to have been to encourage those to whom he wrote to persevere in the service of God, though they were persecuted. The Lord Jesus was in like manner persecuted. He was reviled, and rejected, and put to death. Yet he ultimately triumphed. He was raised from the dead, and was exalted to the highest place of honor in the universe. Even so they, if they did not faint, might hope to come off in the end triumphant. As Noah, who had been faithful and steadfast when surrounded by a scoffing world, was at last preserve by his faith from ruin, and as the Redeemer, though persecuted and put to death, was at last exalted to the right hand of God, so would it be with them if they bore their trials patiently, and did not faint or fail in the persecutions which they endured.

From the exposition given of the important 1Pe_3:18-21, we may derive the following inferences:

(1) The pre-existence of Christ. If he preached to the antediluvians in the time of Noah, he must have had an existence at that time.

(2) His divinity. If he was “quickened” or restored to life by his own exalted nature, he must be divine; for there is no more inalienable attribute of the Deity than the power of raising the dead.

(3) If Christ preached to the pagan world in the time of Noah, for the same reason it may be regarded as true that all the messages which are brought to people, calling them to repentance, in any age or country, are through him. Thus, it was Christ who spake by the prophets and by the apostles; and thus he speaks now by his ministers.

(4) If this interpretation is wellfounded, it takes away one of the strongest supports of the doctrine of purgatory. There is no stronger passage of the Bible in support of this doctrine than the one before us; and if this does not countenance it, it may be safely affirmed that it has not a shadow of proof in the sacred Scriptures.

(5) It follows that there is no hope or prospect that the gospel will be preached to those who are lost. This is the only passage in the Bible that could be supposed to teach any such doctrine; and if the interpretation above proposed be correct, this furnishes no ground of belief that if a man dies impenitent he will ever be favored with another offer of mercy. This interpretation also accords with all the other representations in the Bible. “As the tree falleth, so it lies.” “He that is holy, let him be holy still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” All the representations in the Bible lead us to suppose that the eternal destiny of the soul after death is fixed, and that the only change which can ever occur in the future state is that which will be produced by development: the developement of the principles of piety in heaven; the development of the principles of evil in hell.

(6) It follows, that if there is not a place of purgatory in the future world there is a place of punishment. If the word prison, in the passage before us, does not mean purgatory, and does not refer to a detention with a prospect or possibility of release, it must refer to detention of another kind, and for another purpose, and that can be only with reference “to the judgment of the great day,” 2Pe_2:14; Jud_1:6. From that gloomy prison there is no evidence that any have been, or will be, released.

(7) People should embrace the gospel at once. Now it is offered to them; in the future world it will not be. But even if it could be proved that the gospel would be offered to them in the future world, it would be better to embrace it now. Why should people go down to that world to suffer long before they become reconciled to God? Why choose to taste the sorrows of hell before they embrace the offers of mercy? Why go to that world of woe at all? Are people so in love with suffering and danger that they esteem it wise to go down to that dark prison-house, with the intention or the hope that the gospel may be offered to them there, and that when there they may be disposed to embrace it? Even if it could be shown, therefore, that they might again hear the voice of mercy and salvation, how much wiser would it be to hearken to the voice now, and become reconciled to God here, and never experience in any way the pangs of the second death! But of any such offer of mercy in the world of despair, the Bible contains no intimation; and he who goes to the eternal world unreconciled to God, perishes for ever. The moment when he crosses the line between time and eternity, he goes forever beyond the boundaries of hope.

1 Peter Chapter 3:1-12 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:1
He proceeds now to another instance of subjection, and bids wives to be subject to their husbands. And as those seemed to have some pretense for shaking off the yoke, who were united to unbelieving men, he expressly reminds them of their duty, and brings forward a particular reason why they ought the more carefully to obey, even that they might by their probity allure their husbands to the faith. But if wives ought to obey ungodly husbands, with much more promptness ought they to obey, who have believing husbands.

But it may seem strange that Peter should say, that a husband might be gained to the Lord without the word; for why is it said, that “faith cometh by hearing?” Rom_10:17. To this I reply, that Peter’s words are not to be so understood as though a holy life alone could lead the unbelieving to Christ, but that it softens and pacifies their minds, so that they might have less dislike to religion; for as bad examples create offenses, so good ones afford no small help. Then Peter shews that wives by a holy and pious life could do so much as to prepare their husbands, without speaking to them on religion, to embrace the faith of Christ.

Cambridge Bible 1 Peter Plumptre
1 Pet 2:1 Likewise, ye wives] The sequence of thought is every way suggestive. The Apostle passes from the all but universal relation of the master and the slave as one element of social life, to the other, yet more universal, and involving from the Roman point of view almost as great a subordination, of husband and wife. Here also it was his object to impress on men and women, especially on the latter, the thought that the doctrine of Christ was no element of disorder. The stress which he lays on their duties may be fairly taken as indicating the prominence of women among the converts to the new faith. Of that prominence we have sufficient evidence in the narrative of the Acts (16:13, 17:4, 12). In what follows we have again a reproduction of the teaching of St Paul (Eph_5:22-24; Col_3:18; 1Ti_2:9). It is not without interest to recall the fact that Aristotle makes the two relations of which St Peter speaks, that of husband and wife, that of master and slave, the germ-cells, as it were, out of which all political society has been developed (Arist. Pol. i. 2).

be in subjection to your own husbands] The use of the Greek adjective for “own” is not intended, as some interpreters have thought, to emphasize a contrast between obedience rendered to their own husbands and that which they might be tempted to give to others, but rather to lay stress on the fact that their husbands, because they were such, had a right to expect the due measure of obedience in all things lawful. The words that follow indicate the frequency of the cases in which the wife only was a convert. The Greek text runs “that even if any obey not the word,” as though, in some cases at least, it might be expected that husband and wife would both have been converted together. In “the word” we have the familiar collective expression for the whole doctrine of the Gospel. The Greek verb for “obey not” implies, as in chap. 2:7, Act_14:2, Heb_3:18, Heb_3:11:31, a positive antagonism rather than the mere absence of belief and obedience.

may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives] The Greek for “word” has no article, and the probable meaning is not “without the open preaching of the word of Christ,” but rather, without speech, without a word

being uttered]. On “conversation,” see note on chap. 1:15. Here, where “conversation” is used as the direct antithesis to speech, the contrast between the new and the old meanings of the word is seen with a singular vividness. The silent preaching of conduct is what the Apostle relied on as a more effective instrument of conversion than any argument or debate. In the verb “be won,” literally, be gained over, we have the same word as that used by St Paul in 1Co_9:19, 1Co_9:20, and by our Lord, in teaching which must have made a special impression on St Peter’s mind, in Mat_18:15.

Pulpit Commentary
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 Eph_6:9; Col_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. Col_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 (Luk_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 1Pe_2:18, seems to look back to the imperative, “submit yourselves,” in 1Pe_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 1Pe_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. The word rendered “conversation” here, as elsewhere, means “conduct, behavior.” (Compare, on the whole subject, the teaching of St. Paul, Eph_5:22-24; Col_3:18; 1Ti_2:9-11.)

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:2
2While they behold For minds, however alienated from the true faith, are subdued, when they see the good conduct of believers; for as they understood not the doctrine of Christ, they form an estimate of it by our life. It cannot, then, be but that they will commend Christianity, which teaches purity and fear.

Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
3:2. while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear] On the verb “behold” see note on chap. 2:12. The word “coupled” is not in the Greek, and the true meaning of the word is that the “chaste conduct” of the women who are addressed must have its ground and sphere of action in the reverential awe which is the right feeling of a wife towards her husband.

Pulpit Commentary
While they behold (see note on 1Pe_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, Eph_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.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:2
While they behold your chaste conversation – Your pure conduct. The word chaste here (ἁγνὴν hagnēn) refer’s to purity of conduct in all respects, and not merely to chastity properly so called. It includes that, but it also embraces much more. The conduct of the wife is to be in all respects pure; and this is to be the grand instrumentality in the conversion of her husband. A wife may be strictly chaste, and yet there may be many other things in her conduct and temper which would mar the beauty of her piety, and prevent any happy influence on the mind of her husband,

Coupled with fear – The word fear, in this place, may refer either to the fear of God, or to a proper respect and reverence for their husbands, Eph_5:33. The trait of character which is referred to is that of proper respect and reverence in all the relations which she sustained, as opposed to a trifling and frivolous mind. Leighton suggests that the word fear here relates particularly to the other duty enjoined – that of chaste conversation – “fearing the least stain of chastity, or the very appearance of anything not suiting with it. It is a delicate, timorous grace, afraid of the least air, or shadow of anything that hath but a resemblance of wronging it, in carriage, or speech, or apparel.”

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:3
3Whose adorning The other part of the exhortation is, that wives are to adorn themselves sparingly and modestly: for we know that they are in this respect much more curious and ambitious than they ought to be. Then Peter does not without cause seek to correct in them this vanity. And though he reproves generally sumptuous or costly adorning, yet he points out some things in particular, — that they were not artificially to curl or wreath their hair, as it was usually done by crisping-pins, or otherwise to form it according to the fashion; nor were they to set gold around their head: for these are the things in which excesses especially appear.

It may be now asked, whether the Apostle wholly condemns the use of gold in adorning the body. Were any one to urge these words, it may be said, that he prohibits precious garments no less than gold; for he immediately adds, the putting on of apparel, or, of clothes. But it would be an immoderate strictness wholly to forbid neatness and elegance in clothing. If the material is said to be too sumptuous, the Lord has created it; and we know that skill in art has proceeded from him. Then Peter did not intend to condemn every sort of ornament, but the evil of vanity, to which women are subject. Two things are to be regarded in clothing, usefulness and decency; and what decency requires is moderation and modesty. Were, then, a woman to go forth with her hair wantonly curled and decked, and make an extravagant display, her vanity could not be excused. They who object and say, that to clothe one’s-self in this or that manner is an indifferent thing, in which all are free to do as they please, may be easily confuted; for excessive elegance and superfluous display, in short, all excesses, arise from a corrupted mind. Besides, ambition, pride, affectation of display, and all things of this kind, are not indifferent things. Therefore they whose minds are purified from all vanity, will duly order all things, so as not to exceed moderation.

Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
3:3. that outward adorning of plaiting the hair] So St Paul lays stress in 1Ti_2:9 on the “braided hair and gold and pearls” which were at the time conspicuous in the toilet of Greek and Roman women. The sculptures of the Empire at this period shew to what extent this “braiding” and “plaiting” was carried, sometimes rising to a height of some inches above the head, sometimes intertwined with twisted chains of gold or strings of pearls. The fineness and fashion of the garments of women had at this time reached an almost unparalleled extravagance. The filmy half-transparent tissue of the Coan loom, the dyed garments of Miletus and Sardis, were especially in demand. Christian women, St Peter teaches, were not to seek their adornment in such things as these, but in “a meek and quiet spirit.” The question may be asked, Are the Apostle’s words prohibitive as well as hortatory? Is it wrong for Christian women now to plait their hair, or to wear gold ornaments or pearls? The answer to that question must be left mainly to the individual conscience. “Let every one be fully persuaded in her own mind.” As some help to a decision, however, it may be noted

(1) that the language is not that of formal prohibition, but of a comparative estimate of the value of the two kinds of adornment;

(2) that in regard to the third form of ornamentation, seeing that some clothes must be worn, the words cannot have a merely prohibitive force; and

(3) that in the possible, if not common, case of the husband giving such ornaments and wishing his wife to wear them, the “meek and quiet spirit” which the Apostle recommends would naturally shew itself in complying with his requests rather than in an obstinate and froward refusal. On the whole then, as a rule bearing upon daily life, we may say that while the words do not condemn the use of jewellery, or attention to the colour and the form of dress, within the limits of simplicity and economy, they tend to minimise that form of personal adornment, and bid women trust not to them, but to moral qualities, as elements of attraction. It would be, perhaps, a safe rule that no woman should spend money for herself on such ornaments.

Pulpit Commentary
Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair. A common Hebraism, like our Lord’s injunction in Joh_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.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:4
4But let it be the hidden, man of the heart The contrast here ought to be carefully observed. Cato said, that they who are anxiously engaged in adorning the body, neglect the adorning of the mind: so Peter, in order to restrain this desire in women, introduces a remedy, that they are to devote themselves to the cultivation of their minds. The word heart, no doubt means the whole soul. He at the same time shews in what consists the spiritual adorning of women, even in the incorruptness of a meek and quiet spirit “Incorruptness,” as I think, is set in opposition to things which fade and vanish away, things which serve to adorn the body. Therefore the version of Erasmus departs from the real meaning. In short, Peter means that the ornament of the soul is not like a fading flower, nor consists in vanishing splendor, but is incorruptible. By mentioning quiet and a tranquil spirit, he marks out what especially belongs to women; for nothing becomes them more than a placid and a sedate temper of mind. For we know how outrageous a being is an imperious and a self-willed woman. And further, nothing is more fitted to correct the vanity of which Peter speaks than a placid quietness of spirit.

What follows, that it is in the sight of God of great price, may be referred to the whole previous sentence as well as to the word spirit; the meaning indeed will remain the same. For why do women take so much care to adorn themselves, except that they may turn the eyes of men on themselves? But Peter, on the contrary, bids them to be more anxious for what is before God of a great price.

Cambridge Bible 1Pet
3:4. the hidden man of the heart] The phrase is identical in meaning with the “inward man” of Rom_7:22, 2Co_4:16, Eph_3:16. The word for “man” is one which takes within its range women as well as men. The “hidden humanity of the heart” would be somewhat too abstract in its form, and “the hidden human,” though the word has the sanction of one or two poets of mark, would sound too grotesque, but either would express the meaning of the word adequately. The “hidden man of the heart”—(the genitive expresses the fact that the life of the “hidden man” manifests itself in the sphere of the feelings and affections)—is the “new creature” (2Co_5:17, Gal_6:15), the “Christ formed in us” (Gal_4:19), on which St Paul loves to dwell. Men do not see it with the outward eye, but they can be made to recognise its presence.

in that which is not corruptible] The contrast rests on the same sense of the perishableness even of the gold and silver and gems which men looked on as most durable, that we have seen in chap. 1:18. These pass away, but the true ornament of the hidden man has its being in the region of the imperishable.

of a meek and quiet spirit] The New Testament usage of the second adjective is confined to this passage and to 1Ti_2:2. So far as we can distinguish, where it is almost impossible to separate, “meekness,” the absence of self-assertion, of any morbid self-consciousness, may be thought of as the cause, and “quietness,” the calm tranquillity which is not only not an element of disturbance, but checks the action of such elements in others, as the effect. In their union the Apostle, speaking, we may hope, from his own experience, rightly finds a charm, a kosmos, compared with which gold and jewels are as nothing.

of great price] The Greek word is the same as that used of the “very precious ointment” in Mar_14:3 and the “costly array” of 1Ti_2:9. The connexion of St Peter with St Mark’s Gospel (see Introduction) gives a special interest to the first of these references. He had learnt the lesson that God’s estimate of value differs altogether from man’s, and is not to be measured by the standard which the world commonly applies.

Pulpit Commentary
But let it be the hidden man of the heart. The “hidden” is here equivalent to the “inward man” of Rom_7:22; 2Co_4:16; Eph_3:16. It is that life which is “hid with Christ in God” (Col_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”  (Col_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. 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. Which is in the sight of God of great price. The adjective πολυτελές is used in Mar_14:3 of the ointment with which Mary anointed our Lord, and in 1Ti_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.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:4
But let it be the hidden man of the heart – This expression is substantially the same as that of Paul in Rom_7:22, “the inward man.” See the notes at that place. The word “hidden” here means that which is concealed; that which is not made apparent by the dress, or by ornament. It lies within, pertaining to the affections of the soul.

In that which is not corruptible – Properly, “in the incorruptible ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” This is said to be incorruptible in contradistinction to gold and apparel. They will decay; but the internal ornament is ever enduring. The sense is, that whatever pertains to outward decoration, however beautiful and costly, is fading; but that which pertains to the soul is enduring. As the soul is immortal, so all that tends to adorn that will be immortal too; as the body is mortal, so all with which it can be invested is decaying, and will soon be destroyed.

The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit – Of a calm temper; a contented mind; a heart free from passion, pride, envy, and irritability; a soul not subject to the agitations and vexations of those who live for fashion, and who seek to be distinguished for external adorning. The connection here shows that the apostle refers to this, not only as that which would be of great price in the sight of God, but as that which would tend to secure the affection of their husbands, and win them to embrace the true religion, (see 1Pe_3:1-2); and, in order to this, he recommends them, instead of seeking external ornaments, to seek those of the mind and of the heart, as more agreeable to their husbands; as better adapted to win their hearts to religion; as that which would be most permanently proved. In regard to this point we may observe:

(1) That there are, undoubtedly, some husbands who are pleased with excessive ornaments in their wives, and who take a pleasure in seeing them decorated with gold, and pearls, and costly array.

(2) That all are pleased and gratified with a suitable attention to personal appearance on the part of their wives. It is as much the duty of a wife to be cleanly in her person, and neat in her habits, in the presence of her husband, as in the presence of strangers; and no wife can hope to secure the permanent affection of her husband who is not attentive to her personal appearance in her own family; especially if, while careless of her personal appearance in the presence of her husband, she makes it a point to appear gaily dressed before others. Yet.

(3) The decoration of the body is not all, nor is it the principal thing which husband desires. He desires primarily in his wife the more permanent adorning which pertains to the heart. Let it be remembered:

(a) that a large part of the ornaments on which females value themselves are lost to a great extent on the other sex. Many a man cannot tell the difference between diamonds and cut-glass, or paste in the form of diamonds; and few are such connoisseurs in the matter of female ornaments as to appreciate at all the difference in the quality or color of silks, and shawls, and laces, which might appear so important to a female eye. The fact is, that those personal ornaments which to females appear of so much value, are much less regarded and prized by people than they often suppose. It is a rare thing that a man is so thoroughly skilled in the knowledge of the distinctions that pertain to fashions, as to appreciate that on which the heart of a female often so much prides itself; and it is no great credit to him if he can do this. His time usually, unless he is a draper or a jeweler, might have been much better employed than in making those acquisitions which are needful to qualify him to appreciate and admire the specialties of frivilous female apparel.

(b) But a man has a real interest in what constitutes the ornaments of the heart. His happiness, in his contact with his wife, depends on these. He knows what is denoted by a kind temper; by gentle words; by a placid brow; by a modest and patient spirit; by a heart that is calm in trouble, and that is affectionate and pure; by freedom from irritability, fretfulness, and impatience; and he can fully appreciate the value of these things No professional skill is necessary to qualify him to see their worth; and no acquired tact in discrimination is requisite to enable him to estimate them according to their full value. A wife, therefore, if she would permanently please her husband, should seek the adorning of the soul rather than the body; the ornament of the heart rather than gold and jewels. The one can never be a substitute for the other; and whatever outward decorations she may have, unless she have a gentleness of spirit, a calmness of temper, a benevolence and purity of soul, and a cultivation of mind that her husband can love, she cannot calculate on his permanent affection.

Which is in the sight of God of great price – Of great value; that being of great value for which a large price is paid. He has shown his sense of its value:

(a) By commending it so often in his word:

(b) By making religion to consist so much in it, rather than in high intellectual endowments, learning, skill in the arts, and valor; and,

(c) By the character of his Son, the Lord Jesus, in whom this was so prominent a characteristic.

Sentiments not unlike what is here stated by the apostle, occur not unfrequently in pagan Classic writers. There are some remarkable passages in Plutarch, strongly resembling it: “An ornament, as Crates said, is that which adorns. The proper ornament of a woman is that which becomes her best. This is neither gold, nor pearls, nor scarlet, but those things which are an evident proof of gravity, regularity, and modesty” – Conjugalio Praecept., c. xxvi. The wife of Phocion, a celebrated Athenian general, receiving a visit from a lady who was elegantly adorned with gold and jewels, and her hair with pearls, took occasion to call the attention of her guest to the elegance and costliness of her dress. “My ornament,” said the wife of Phocion, “is my husband, now for the twentieth year general of the Athenians” – Plutarch’s Life of Phocion. “The Sicilian tyrant sent to the daughters of Lysander garments and tissues of great value, but Lysander refused them, saying, “These ornaments will rather put my daughters out of countenance than adorn them” – Plutarch. So in the fragments of Naumachius, as quoted by Benson, there is a precept much like this of Peter: “Be not too fond of gold, neither wear purple hyacinth about your neck, or the green jasper, of which foolish persons are proud. Do not covet such vain ornaments, neither view yourself too often in the glass, nor twist your hair into a multitude of curls,” etc.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:5
He sets before them the example of pious women, who sought for spiritual adorning rather than outward meretricious ornaments. But he mentions Sarah above all others, who, having been the mother of all the faithful, is especially worthy of honor and imitation on the part of her sex. Moreover, he returns again to subjection, and confirms it by the example of Sarah, who, according to the words of Moses, called her husband Lord. (Gen_18:12.) God, indeed, does not regard such titles; and it may sometimes be, that one especially petulant and disobedient should use such a word with her tongue; but Peter means, that Sarah usually spoke thus, because she knew that a command had been given her by the Lord, to be subject to her husband. Peter adds, that they who imitated her fidelity would be her daughters, that is, reckoned among the faithful.

Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
3:5. For after this manner in the old time] It is obvious from the special instance given in the next verse that the Apostle has in his mind exclusively the saintly wives and mothers of the Old Testament. The names of Penelope, Andromache, Alcestis, which are familiar to us as patterns of wifely excellence, were not likely to have come within the horizon of his knowledge.

who trusted in God] More accurately, who hoped in God. It may be noted that the same inadequate rendering is found in the Authorized Version of Rom_15:12, and Philem. v. 22. The idea of “trust” is, of course, not far removed from that of “hope,” but the variation of rendering was a needless one, and ought therefore to have been avoided.

being in subjection unto their own husbands] The repetition of the same verb as that used in ver. 1 and ch. 2:13, should, be noticed as reproducing what might almost be called the key-note of the Epistle. It occurs again in ch. 3:22, 5:5.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:6
6And are not afraid The weakness of the sex causes women to be suspicious and timid, and therefore morose; for they fear lest by their subjection, they should be more reproachfully treated. It was this that Peter seems to have had in view in forbidding them to be disturbed by any fear, as though he had said, “Willingly submit to the authority of your husbands, nor let fear prevent your obedience, as though your condition would be worse, were you to obey.” The words may be more general, “Let them not raise up commotions at home.” For as they are liable to be frightened, they often make much of a little thing, and thus disturb themselves and the family. Others think that the timidity of women, which is contrary to faith, is generally reproved, as though Peter exhorted them to perform the duties of their calling with a courageous and intrepid spirit. However, the first explanation is what I prefer, though the last does not differ much from it.

Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
3:6. even as Sara obeyed Abraham] The tense which St Peter uses would seem to imply a reference to some special instance of obedience, but, as the history of Genesis supplies no such instance in act, we are left to infer that he saw in her use of “my lord,” in speaking of her husband (Gen_18:12), a representative utterance that implied a sense of habitual subordination. It seems strange to refer to literature like that of the sixth satire of Juvenal in illustration of an Epistle of St Peter, but there can be no clearer evidence that the general corruption of the Empire had extended itself to the life of home, and that over and above the prevalence of adultery and divorce, the wives of Rome, and we may believe also, of the cities that followed in the wake of Rome, had well-nigh thrown aside all sense of the reverence which the Apostle looked on as essential to the holiness, and therefore the happiness, of married life.

whose daughters ye are] whose daughters ye became. If the words were addressed to women who were converts from heathenism, we might see in the words a suggestive parallel to those of St Paul, that Abraham was the father of “all them that believe though they be not circumcised” (Rom_4:11), that “they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal_3:7). Taking this view there would be a special interest in the fact that St Peter, the married Apostle, told the female converts from among the Gentiles that they were as truly daughters of Sarah as their husbands, if believing, were sons of Abraham. On the assumption which has been adopted throughout these notes, as on the whole the most probable, that the Epistle was really addressed, as it purports to be, to the Jews of the dispersion, the words have another significance. The daughters of Sarah according to the flesh are told that they only became truly her children when they reproduced her character. The words, on this view, present a striking parallelism to those in which St Paul speaks of Abraham as being “the father not of the circumcision only, as such, but of those who walk in the steps of Abraham’s faith” (Rom_4:12).

as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement] The construction of the Greek sentence is not quite clear, and admits of being taken either

(1) as in the English version, or

(2) treating the words “as Sara obeyed.… whose daughters ye became” as a parenthesis, we may refer the words “doing well” to the “holy women” of ver. 5.

On the whole (1) seems preferable. It may be questioned whether the words “so long as” rightly represent the force of the participle. If we adopt the rendering given above (“ye became”) that meaning is clearly inadmissible, and we have to see in the two participles the process by which Christian women became daughters by doing good and not being afraid. The word for “amazement” does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but the cognate verb is found in Luk_21:9, Luk_24:37. The noun itself meets us in the LXX. of Pro_3:25. It implies the crouching, shuddering fear of one who is overwhelmed with terror. In warning the women to whom he writes against such a fear, St Peter seems to be guarding them against the unwisdom of rushing from one extreme to the other.

The Christian wives of unbelieving husbands, whether Jews or heathens, might often have much to bear from them, but if they were always shewing their terror, cowering as if they expected the curse or the blow, that very demeanour was certain to make matters worse. It was a tacit reproach, and therefore would but irritate and annoy. Wisely therefore does the Apostle urge on them a different line of action. “Be certain,” he seems to say, “that you are doing what is right and good, and then go about the daily tasks of your household life with a cheerful intrepidity.” Two interpretations may be noticed only to be rejected,

(1) that which takes the second clause as meaning “be not afraid of anything that causes terror,” and

2) that which renders it “doing good, even though you are not afraid,” as though stress were laid on their good conduct being spontaneous and not originating in fear.

Pulpit Commentary
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. Gen_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” (Gal_3:7); anti that Abraham is “the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised” (Rom_4:11); comp. Gal_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 Gal_4:5. 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 Luk_21:9; Luk_24:1-53 :87. There seems to be a reference to Pro_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 (Pro_3:2). 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 Pro_3:25. The last view is, perhaps, the -most suitable: “And are not afraid of any sudden terror.”

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:6
Even as Sara obeyed Abraham – Sarah was one of the most distinguished of the wives of the patriarchs, and her case is referred to as furnishing one of the best illustrations of the duty to which the apostle refers. Nothing is said, in the brief records of her life, of any passion for outward adorning; much is said of her kindness to her husband, and her respect for him. Compare Gen_12:5; Gen_18:6.

Calling him Lord – See Gen_18:12. It was probably inferred from this instance, by the apostle, and not without reason, that Sarah habitually used this respectful appellation, acknowledging by it that he was her superior, and that he had a right to rule in his own house. The word lord has the elementary idea of ruling, and this is the sense here – that she acknowledged that he had a right to direct the affairs of his household, and that it was her duty to be in subjection to him as the head of the family. In what respects this is a duty, may be seen by consulting the notes at Eph_5:22. Among the Romans, it was quite common for wives to use the appellation lord, (dominus), when speaking of their husbands. The same custom also prevailed among the Greeks. See Grotius, in loc. This passage does not prove that the term lord should be the particular appellation by which Christian wives should address their husbands now, but it proves that there should be the same respect and deference which was implied by its use in patriarchal times. The welfare of society, and the happiness of individuals, are not diminished by showing proper respect for all classes of persons in the various relations of life.

Whose daughters ye are – That is, you will be worthy to be regarded as her daughters, if you manifest the same spirit that she did. The margin here, as the Greek, is children. The sense is that if they demeaned themselves correctly in the relation of wives, it would be proper to look upon her as their mother, and to feel that they were not unworthy to be regarded as her daughters.

As long as ye do well – In respect to the particular matter under consideration.
And are not afraid with any amazement – This passage has been variously understood, Some have supposed that this is suggested as an argument to persuade them to do well, from the consideration that by so doing they would be preserved from those alarms and terrors which a contest with superior power might bring with it, and which would prove as injurious to their peace as to their character. Rosenmuller explains it, “If ye do well, terrified by no threats of unbelieving husbands, if they should undertake to compel you to deny the Christian faith.” Doddridge supposes that it means that they were to preserve their peace and fortitude in any time of danger, so as not to act out of character, through amazement or danger. Calvin, Benson, and Bloomfield understand it of that firmness and intrepidity of character which would be necessary to support their religious independence, when united with pagan husbands; meaning that they were not to be deterred from doing their duty by any threats or terrors, either of their unbelieving husbands, or of their enemies and persecutors. Dr. Clarke supposes that it means that if they did well, they would live under no dread of being detected in improprieties of life, or being found out in their infidelities to their husbands, as those must always be who are unfaithful to their marriage vows. The word rendered “amazement” ptonsis – does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means terror, trepidation, fear; and the literal translation of the Greek is, “not fearing any fear.” It seems to me that the following may express the sense of the passage:

(1) There is undoubtedly an allusion to the character of Sarah, and the object of the apostle is to induce them to follow her example.

(2) The thing in Sarah which he would exhort them to imitate, was her pure and upright life, her faithful discharge of her duties as a woman fearing God. This she did constantly wherever she was, regardless of consequences. Among friends and strangers, at home and abroad, she was distinguished for doing well. Such was her character, such her fidelity to her husband and her God, such her firm integrity and benevolence, that she at all times lived to do good, and would have done it, unawed by terror, undeterred by threats, To whatever trial her piety was exposed, it bore the trial; and such was her strength of virtue, that it was certain her integrity would be firm by whatever consequences she might have been threatened for her adherence to her principles.

(3) They were to imitate her in this, and were thus to show that they were worthy to be regarded as her daughters. They were to do well; to be faithful to their husbands; to be firm in their principles; to adhere steadfastly to what was true and good, whatever trials they might pass through, however much they might be threatened with persecution, or however any might attempt to deter them from the performance of their duty. Thus, by a life of Christian fidelity, unawed by fear from any quarter, they would show that they were imbued with the same principles of unbending virtue which characterised the wife of the father of the faithful, and that they were not unworthy to be regarded as her daughters.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:7
7Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them. From husbands he requires prudence; for dominion over their wives is not given them, except on this condition, that they exercise authority prudently. Then let husbands remember that they need prudence to do rightly their duty. And doubtless many foolish things must be endured by them, many unpleasant things must be borne with; and they must at the same time beware lest their indulgence should foster folly. Hence the admonition of Peter is not in vain, that the husbands ought to cohabit with them as with a weaker vessel. Part of the prudence which he mentions, is, that the husbands honor their wives. For nothing destroys the friendship of life more than contempt; nor can we really love any but those whom we esteem; for love must be connected with respect.

Moreover, he employs a twofold argument, in order to persuade husbands to treat their wives honourably and kindly. The first is derived from the weakness of the sex; the other, from the honor with which God favors them. These things seem indeed to be in a manner contrary, — that honor ought to be given to wives, because they are weak, and because they excel; but these things well agree together where love exists. It is evident, that God is despised in his gifts, except we honor those on whom he has conferred any excellency. But when we consider that we are members of the same body, we learn to bear with one another, and mutually to cover our infirmities. This is what Paul means when he says that greater honor is given to the weaker members, (1Co_12:23;) even because we are more careful in protecting them from shame. Then Peter does not without reason command that women should be cared for, and that they should be honored with a kind treatment, because they are weak. And then as we more easily forgive children, when they offend through inexperience of age; so the weakness of the female sex ought to make us not to be too rigid and severe towards our wives.
The word vessel, as it is well known, means in Scripture any sort of instrument.

Being heirs together (or co-heirs) of the grace of life Some copies have “of manifold grace;” others, instead of “life,” have the word “living.” Some read “co-heirs” in the dative case, which makes no difference in the sense. A conjunction is put by others between manifold grace and life; which reading is the most suitable. For since the Lord is pleased to bestow in common on husbands and wives the same graces, he invites them to seek an equality in them; and we know that those graces are manifold in which wives are partakers with their husbands. For some belong to the present life, and some to God’s spiritual kingdom. He afterwards adds, that they are co-heirs also of life, which is the chief thing. And though some are strangers to the hope of salvation, yet as it is offered by the Lord to them no less than to their husbands, it is a sufficient honor to the sex.

That your prayers be not hindered For God cannot be rightly called upon, unless our minds be calm and peaceable. Among strifes and contentions there is no place for prayer. Peter indeed addresses the husband and the wife, when he bids them to be at peace one with another, so that they might with one mind pray to God. But we may hence gather a general doctrine — that no one ought to come to God except he is united to his brethren. Then as this reason ought to restrain all domestic quarrels and strifes, in order that each one of the family may pray to God; so in common life it ought to be as it were a bridle to check all contentions. For we are more than insane, if we knowingly and wilfully close up the way to God’s presence by prayer, since this is the only asylum of our salvation.
Some give this explanation, that an intercourse with the wife ought to be sparing and temperate, lest too much indulgence in this respect should prevent attention to prayer, according to that saying of Paul, “Defraud not one another, unless by consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.” (1Co_7:5.)
But the doctrine of Peter extends wider: and then Paul does not mean that prayers are interrupted by mutual cohabitation. Therefore the explanation which I have given ought to be retained.

Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
3:7. dwell with them according to knowledge] It is significant that while the Apostle dwells emphatically on the case of Christian women who have unbelieving husbands, his exhortations to men seem to take for granted that their wives were of one mind with them. In the then existing state of society this was, of course, natural enough. The wife might be converted without the husband, but hardly the husband without the wife. The word for “dwell together” (not found elsewhere) is clearly intended to cover all the relations of married life. In those relations men were to act “according to knowledge,” i.e. with a clear perception of all that marriage involved, and of the right relation in which each of the two parties to the contract stood to the other. The wife was not to be treated as a slave or a concubine, nor again as the ruler and mistress of the house, but as a helpmeet in the daily work of life, a sharer in its higher hopes and duties, the mother of children to be brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel] The word for “giving,” not found elsewhere in the New Testament, implies an equitable apportionment, that for “wife” is strictly an adjective agreeing with “vessel,” and would therefore be rightly rendered by female. In the term “vessel,” which finds a parallel in 1Th_4:4, we have the thought that all, men and women alike, are “instruments” which God has made for His service (comp. 2Ti_2:20, 2Ti_2:21). The husband is bound to think of himself in that light. He must recognise himself as the stronger vessel of the two, and therefore, because noblesse oblige, he must render due honour to the weaker, seeking to strengthen and purify and elevate it.

as being heirs together of the grace of life] The MSS. present various readings, some making the word “heirs” refer to the husbands and some to the wives. As, in either case, stress is laid on their being joint heirs, there is practically no difference. The “life” in which both are thus called to be sharers is, of course, none other than the eternal life which consists in knowing God. (Joh_17:3.)

that your prayers be not hindered] Some MSS. give a stronger form of the verb, “that your prayers be not cut off (or, stopped).” The more natural interpretation is that which refers the pronoun to both the husband and the wife. Where there was no reciprocated respect, each recognising the high vocation of the other, there could be no union of heart and soul in prayer. Where the husband thought of the wife only as ministering to his comfort or his pleasures, as one whom he might, as both Jewish and Roman law permitted, repudiate at will, there could be no recognition of the fact that she shared his highest hopes. The words clearly include, though they do not dwell on them, the special hindrances to prayer referred to in 1Co_7:3-5.

Pulpit Commentary
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 1Pe_3:1) seems, like 1Pe_3:1, to look back to 1Pe_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 (Php_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. Isa_64:8; Jer_18:6, etc.; also 1Th_4:4, 1Th_4:5); the woman is the weaker, and must, for that very reason, be treated with gentleness.

For “according to knowledge,” comp. 2Pe_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 Mat_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.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:7
Likewise, ye husbands – On the general duty of husbands, see the notes at Eph_5:25 ff.

Dwell with them – That is, “Let your manner of living with them be that which is immediately specified.”

According to knowledge – In accordance with an intelligent view of the nature of the relation; or, as becomes those who have been instructed in the duties of this relation according to the gospel. The meaning evidently is, that they should seek to obtain just views of what Christianity enjoins in regard to this relation, and that they should allow those intelligent views to control them in all their contact with their wives.

Giving honor unto the wife – It was an important advance made in society when the Christian religion gave such a direction as this, for everywhere among the pagan, and under all false systems of religion, woman has been regarded as worthy of little honor or respect. She has been considered as a slave, or as a mere instrument to gratify the passions of man. It is one of the elementary doctrines of Christianity, however, that woman is to be treated with respect; and one of the first and most marked effects of religion on society is to elevate the wife to a condition in which she will be worthy of esteem. The particular reasons for the honor which husbands are directed to show to their wives, here specified, are two: she is to be treated with special kindness as being more feeble than man, and as having a claim therefore to delicate attention; and she is to be honored as the equal heir of the grace of life. Doddridge, Clarke, and some others, suppose that the word honor here refers to maintenance or support; and that the command is, that the husband is to provide for his wife so that she may not want. But it seems to me that the word is to be understood here in its more usual signification, and that it inculcates a higher duty than that of merely providing for the temporal needs of the wife, and strikes at a deeper evil than a mere neglect of meeting her temporal necessities. The reasons assigned for doing this seem to imply it.

As unto the weaker vessel – It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to compare the body to a vessel, (Compare the notes at 1Th_4:4), and thence the comparison is extended to the whole person. This is done either because the body is frail and feeble, like an earthen vessel easily broken; or because it is that in which the soul is lodged; or because, in accordance with a frequent use of the word, (see below,) the body is the instrument by which the soul accomplishes its purposes, or is the helper of the soul. Compare Act_9:15; Rom_9:22-23; 2Co_4:7. In the later Hebrew usage it was common to apply the term vessel (Hebrew כלי keliy, Greek σκεύος skeuos) to a wife, as is done here. See Schoettgen, Hor. Heb. p. 827. Expressions similar to this, in regard to the comparative feebleness of woman, occur frequently in the classic writers. See Wetstein in loc. The reasons why the term vessel was given to a wife, are not very apparent.

A not unfrequent sense of the word used here (σκεύος skeuos) in the Greek classics was that of an instrument; a helper; one who was employed by another to accomplish anything, or to aid him (Passow), and it seems probable that this was the reason why the term was given to the wife. Compare Gen_2:18. The reason here assigned for the honor that was to be shown to the wife is, that she is “the weaker vessel.” By this it is not necessarily meant that she is of feebler capacity, or inferior mental endowments, but that she is more tender and delicate; more subject to infirmities and weaknesses; less capable of enduring fatigue and toil; less adapted to the rough and stormy scenes of life. As such, she should be regarded and treated with special kindness and attention. This is a reason, the force of which all can see and appreciate. So we feel toward a sister; so we feel toward a beloved child, if he is of feeble frame and delicate constitution; and so every man should feel in relation to his wife. She may have mental endowments equal to his own; she may have moral qualities in every way superior to his; but the God of nature has made her with a more delicate frame, a more fragile structure, and with a body subject to many infirmities to which the more hardy frame of man is a stranger.

And as being heirs together of the grace of life – The grace that is connected with eternal life; that is, as fellow-Christians. They were equal heirs of the everlasting inheritance, called in the Scripture “life;” and the same “grace” connected with that inheritance had been conferred on both. This passage contains a very important truth in regard to the female sex. Under every other system of religion but the Christian system, woman has been regarded as in every way inferior to man. Christianity teaches that, in respect to her higher interests, the interests of religion, she is every way his equal. She is entitled to all the hopes and promises which religion imparts. She is redeemed as he is. She is addressed in the same language of tender invitation. She has the same privileges and comforts which religion imparts here, and she will be elevated to the same rank and privileges in heaven. This single truth would raise the female sex everywhere from degradation, and check at once half the social evils of the race. Make her the equal of man in the hope of heaven, and at once she rises to her appropriate place. Home is made what it should be, a place of intelligence and pure friendship; and a world of suffering and sadness smiles under the benefactions of Christian woman.

That your prayers be not hindered – It is fairly implied here:

(1) That it was supposed there would be united or family prayer. The apostle is speaking of “dwelling with the wife,” and of the right manner of treating her; and it is plainly supposed that united prayer would be one thing that would characterise their living together. He does not direct that there should be prayer. He seems to take it for granted that there would be; and it may be remarked, that where there is true religion in right exercise, there is prayer as a matter of course. The head of a family does not ask whether he must establish family worship; he does it as one of the spontaneous fruits of religion – as a thing concerning which no formal command is necessary. Prayer in the family, as everywhere else, is a privilege; and the true question to be asked on the subject is not whether a man must, but whether he may pray.

(2) It is implied that there might be such a way of living as effectually to hinder prayer; that is, to prevent its being offered aright, and to prevent any answer. This might occur in many ways. If the husband treated the wife unkindly; if he did not show her proper respect and affection; if there were bickerings, and jealousies, and contentions between them, there could be no hope that acceptable prayer would be offered. A spirit of strife; irritability and unevenness of temper; harsh looks and unkind words; a disposition easily to take offence, and an unwillingness to forgive, all these prevent a “return of prayers.” Acceptable prayer never can be offered in the tempest of passion, and there can be no doubt that such prayer is often “hindered” by the inequalities of temper, and the bickerings and strifes that exist in families. Yet how desirable is it that husband and wife should so live together that their prayers may not be hindered! How desirable for their own peace and happiness in that relation; how desirable for the welfare of children! In view of the exposition in this verse we may remark:

(a) that Christianity has done much to elevate the female sex. It has taught that woman is an heir of the grace of life as well as man; that, while she is inferior in physical vigor, she is his equal in the most important respect; that she is a fellow-traveler with him to a higher world; and that in every way she is entitled to all the blessings which redemption confers, as much as he is. This single truth has done more than all other things combined to elevate the female sex, and is all that is needful to raise her from her degradation all over the world.

(b) They, therefore, who desire the elevation of the female sex, who see woman ignorant and degraded in the dark parts of the earth, should be the friends of all well-directed efforts to send the gospel to pagan lands. Every husband who has a pure and intelligent wife, and every father who has an accomplished daughter, and every brother who has a virtuous sister, should seek to spread the gospel abroad. To that gospel only he owes it that he has such a wife, daughter, sister; and that gospel, which has given to him such an intelligent female friend, would elevate woman everywhere to the same condition. The obligation which he owes to religion in this respect can be discharged in no better way than by aiding in diffusing that gospel which would make the wife, the daughter, the sister, everywhere what she is in his own dwelling.

(c) Especially is this the duty of the Christian female. She owes her elevation in society to Christianity, and what Christianity has made her, it would make the sunken and debased of her own sex all over the earth; and how can she better show her gratitude than by aiding in any and every way in making that same gospel known in the dark parts of the world?

(d) Christianity makes a happy home. Let the principles reign in any family which are here enjoined by the apostle, and that family will be one of intelligence, contentment, and peace. There is a simple and easy way of being happy in the family relation. It is to allow the spirit of Christ and his gospel to reign there. That done, though there be poverty, and disappointment, and sickness, and cares, and losses, yet there will be peace within, for there will be mutual love, and the cheerful hope of a brighter world. Where that is missing, no outward splendor, no costly furniture or viands, no gilded equipage, no long train of servants, no wine, or music, or dances, can secure happiness in a dwelling. With all these things there may be the most corroding passions; in the mansion where these things are, pale disease, disappointment, and death may come, and there shall be nothing to console and support.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:8
Now follow general precepts which indiscriminately belong to all. Moreover he summarily mentions some things which are especially necessary to foster friendship and love. The first is, Be ye all of one mind, or, think ye all the same thing. For though friends are at liberty to think differently, yet to do so is a cloud which obscures love; yea, from this seed easily arises hatred. Sympathy (συμπάθεια) extends to all our faculties, when concord exists between us; so that every one condoles with us in adversity as well as rejoices with us in prosperity, so that every one not only cares for himself, but also regards the benefit of others.

What next follows, Love as brethren, belongs peculiarly to the faithful; for where God is known as a Father, there only brotherhood really exists. Be pitiful, or merciful, which is added, means that we are not only to help our brethren and relieve their miseries, but also to bear with their infirmities. In what follows there are two readings in Greek; but what seems to me the most probable is the one I have put as the text; for we know that it is the chief bond to preserve friendship, when every one thinks modestly and humbly of himself; as there is nothing on the other hand which produces more discords than when we think too highly of ourselves. Wisely then does Peter bid us to be humble-minded (ταπεινόφρονες,) lest pride and haughtiness should lead us to despise our neighbors.

Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
3:8. Finally, be ye all of one mind] From the two special relations which were the groundwork of social life, the Apostle passes to wider and more general precepts. The adjective for “of one mind” (not found elsewhere in the New Testament) implies, like the corresponding verb in Rom_12:16, Rom_15:5, and elsewhere, unity of aim and purpose. That for “having compassion one of another” (this also used only by St Peter in the New Testament) exactly answers, as describing the temper that rejoices with those that rejoice and weeps with them that weep, to our word sympathizing.

love as brethren] Here also we have an adjective peculiar to St Peter. The corresponding substantive has met us in ch. 1:22. It may mean either what the English version gives, or “lovers of the brethren.” On the whole the latter meaning seems preferable.

pitiful] The history of the word, literally meaning “good-hearted,” affords an interesting illustration of the influence of Christian thought. It was used by Greek writers, especially Greek medical writers, such as Hippocrates (p. 89 c), to describe what we should call the sanguine or courageous temperament. By St Peter and St Paul (Eph_4:32), it is used, as the context in each case shews, for the emotional temper which shews itself in pity and affection.

be courteous] The MSS. present two readings, one of which, “courteous” or better, perhaps, friendly, is a fair rendering, and the other a word not found elsewhere, but meaning “lowly” or “humble,” and corresponding to the noun “humility” in Act_20:19; Php_2:3; 1Pe_5:5.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:8
Finally – As the last direction, or as general counsel in reference to your conduct in all the relations of life. The apostle had specified most of the important relations which Christians sustain, 1Pe_2:13-25; 1Pe_3:1-7; and he now gives a general direction in regard to their conduct in all those relations.
Be ye all of one mind – See the notes at Rom_12:16. The word used here (ὁμόφρων homophrōn) does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means, of the same mind; like-minded; and the object is to secure harmony in their views and feelings.

Having compassion one of another – “Sympathizing,” (συμπαθεῖς sumpatheis;) entering into one another’s feelings, and evincing a regard for each other’s welfare. See the notes at Rom_12:15. Compare 1Co_12:26; Joh_11:35. The Greek word used here does occur not elsewhere in the New Testament. It describes that state of mind which exists when we enter into the feelings of others as if they were our own, as the different parts of the body are affected by that which affects one. See the notes at 1Co_12:26.

Love as brethren – Margin, “loving to the;” that is, the brethren. The Greek word (φιλάδελφος philadelphos) does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means loving one’s brethren; that is, loving each other as Christian brethren – Robinson, Lexicon. Thus, it enforces the duty so often enjoined in the New Testament, that of love to Christians as brethren of the same family. See the notes at Rom_12:10. Compare Heb_13:1; Joh_13:34.

Be pitiful – The word used here (εὔσπλαγχνος eusplangchnos) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in Eph_4:32, where it is rendered “tender-hearted.” See the notes at that verse.

Be courteous – This word also φιλόφρων (philophrōn) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means “friendly-minded, kind, courteous.” Later editions of the New Testament, instead of this, read (ταπεινόφρονες tapeinophrones) of a lowly or humble mind. See Hahn. The sense is not materially varied. In the one word, the idea of “friendliness” is the one that prevails; in the other, that of “humility.” Christianity requires both of these virtues, and either word enforces an important injunction. The authority is in favor of the latter reading; and though Christianity requires that we should be courteous and gentlemanly in our treatment of others, this text can hardly be relied on as a prooftext of that point.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:9
9Not rendering evil for evil In these words every kind of revenge is forbidden; for in order to preserve love, we must bear with many things. At the same time he does not speak here of mutual benevolence, but he would have us to endure wrongs, when provoked by ungodly men. And though it is commonly thought that it is an instance of a weak and abject mind, not to avenge injuries, yet it is counted before God as the highest magnanimity. Nor is it indeed enough to abstain from revenge; but Peter requires also that we should pray for those who reproach us; for to bless here means to pray, as it is set in opposition to the second clause. But Peter teaches us in general, that evils are to be overcome by acts of kindness. This is indeed very hard, but we ought to imitate in this case our heavenly Father, who makes his sun to rise on the unworthy. What the sophists imagine to be the meaning, is a futile evasion; for when Christ said, “Love your enemies,” he at the same time confirmed his own doctrine by saying, “That ye might be the children of God.”

Knowing that ye are thereunto called He means that this condition was required of the faithful when they were called by God, that they were not only to be so meek as not to retaliate injuries, but also to bless those who cursed them; and as this condition may seem almost unjust, he calls their attention to the reward; as though he had said, that there is no reason why the faithful should complain, because their wrongs would turn to their own benefit. In short, he shews how much would be the gain of patience; for if we submissively bear injuries, the Lord will bestow on us his blessing.

The verb, κληρονόμειν, to inherit, seems to express perpetuity, as though Peter had said, that the blessing would not be for a short time, but perpetual, if we be submissive in bearing injuries. But God blesses in a way different, from men; for we express our wishes to him, but he confers a blessing on us. And on the other hand, Peter intimates that they who seek to revenge injuries, attempt what will yield them no good, for they thus deprive themselves of God’s blessing.

Cambridge Bible 1Pet Plumptre
3:9. not rendering evil for evil] We may probably see in the words a verbal reproduction of the precept of Rom_12:17, 1Th_5:15, an echo of the spirit of the teaching of Mat_5:39. As this clause forbids retaliation in act, so that which follows forbids retaliation in words.

that ye are thereunto called] Better, were called, as referring definitely to the fact and time of their conversion.

that ye should inherit a blessing] It is not without significance that this is given as the reason for not retaliating. God blesses, therefore we should bless. He forgives us, and therefore we should forgive others. Vindictiveness, in any form, whether in word or act, is at variance with the conditions on which that inheritance is offered and involves therefore its certain forfeiture.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:9
Not rendering evil for evil – See the Mat_5:39, Mat_5:44 notes; Rom_12:17 note.

Or railing for railing – See the notes at 1Ti_6:4. Compare Mar_15:29; Luk_23:39.

But contrariwise blessing – In a spirit contrary to this. See the notes at Mat_5:44.

Knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing – “Knowing that you were called to be Christians in order that you should obtain a blessing infinite and eternal in the heavens. Expecting such a blessing yourselves, you should be ready to scatter blessings on all others. You should be ready to bear all their reproaches, and even to wish them well. The hope of eternal life should make your minds calm; and the prospect that you are to be so exalted in heaven should fill your hearts with benignity and love.” There is nothing which is better suited to cause our hearts to overflow with benignity, to make us ready to forgive all others when they injure us, than the hope of salvation. Cherishing such a hope ourselves, we cannot but wish that all others may share it, and this will lead us to wish for them every blessing, A man who has a hope of heaven should abound in every virtue. and show that he is a sincere well-wisher of the race. Why should one who expects soon to be in heaven harbor malice in his bosom? Why should he wish to injure a fellow-worm? How can he?

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:10
10For he He confirms the last sentence by the testimony of David. The passage is taken from the thirty-fourth Psalm, [Psa_34:12,] where the Spirit testifies that it will be well with all who keep themselves from all evil-doing and wrong-doing. The common feeling indeed favors what is very different; for men think that they expose themselves to the insolence of enemies, if they do not boldly defend themselves. But the Spirit of God promises a happy life to none except to the meek, and those who endure evils; and we cannot be happy except God prospers our ways; and it is the good and the benevolent, and not the cruel and inhuman, that he will favor.

Peter has followed the Greek version, though the difference is but little. David’s words are literally these, — “He who loves life and desires to see good days,” etc. It is indeed a desirable thing, since God has placed us in this world, to pass our time in peace. Then, the way of obtaining this blessing is to conduct ourselves justly and harmlessly towards all.

The first thing he points out are the vices of the tongue; which are to be avoided, so that we may not be contumelious and insolent, nor speak deceitfully and with duplicity. Then he comes to deeds, that we are to injure none, or cause loss to none, but to endeavor to be kind to all, and to exercise the duties of humanity.

Cambridge Bible
1Pet Plumptre
3:10-12. For he that will love life] The three verses are from the LXX. version of Psa_34:12-16. It is characteristic of St Peter that he thus quotes from the Old Testament without any formula of citation. (See 2Pe_2:22.) In this case, however, the quotation does not agree with the extant text of the LXX. which gives “What man is he that would fain have life, loving good days?” The English version of the first clause hardly expresses the force of the Greek, which gives literally, he that willeth to love life. The combination may have been chosen to express the strength of the yearning for life in its lower or higher forms which the words imply, or more probably that the object wished for is not mere life, as such, but a life that a man can love, instead of hating with the hatred that is engendered, on the one hand, by the satiety of the pleasure seeker, and on the other, by bitterness and wrath. It need hardly be said that the Apostle uses the words of the Psalmist in a higher meaning. “Life” with him is “life eternal,” and the “good days” are not those of outward prosperity, but of the peace that passeth understanding.

let him refrain his tongue from evil] The last words were probably those which determined the choice of the quotation. In itself it is, of course, inclusive of the “guile,” which follows in the second clause, but here it follows the laws of antithetical parallelism which prevail in Hebrew Poetry, and must be understood of open evil, such as the “railing” which the Apostle had just condemned.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:10
For he that will love life – Greek, “He willing, (θέλων thelōn,) or that wills to love life.” It implies that there is some positive desire to live; some active wish that life should be prolonged. This whole passage 1Pe_3:10-12 is taken, with some slight variations, from Psa_34:12-16. In the Psalm this expression is, “What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?” The sense is substantially the same. It is implied here that it is right to love life, and to desire many days. The desire of this is referred to by the psalmist and by the apostle, without any expression of disapprobation, and the way is shown by which length of days may be secured. Life is a blessing; a precious gift of God. We are taught so to regard it by the instinctive feelings of our nature; for we are so made as to love it, and to dread its extinction. Though we should be prepared to resign it when God commands, yet there are important reasons why we should desire to live.

Among them are the following:

(1) Because, as already intimated, life, as such, is to be regarded as a blessing. We instinctively shrink back from death, as one of the greatest evils; we shudder at the thought of annihilation. It is not wrong to love that, in proper degree, which, by our very nature, we are prompted to love; and we are but acting out one of the universal laws which our Creator has impressed on us, when, with proper submission to his will, we seek “to lengthen out our days as far as possible.

(2) That we may see the works of God, and survey the wonders of his hand on earth. The world is full of wonders, evincing the wisdom and goodness of the Deity; and the longest life, nay, many such lives as are allotted to us here, could be well employed in studying his works and ways.

(3) That we may make preparation for eternity. Man may, indeed, make preparation in a very brief period; but the longest life is not too much to examine and settle the question whether we have a well-founded hope of heaven. If man had nothing else to do, the longest life could be well employed in inquiries that grow out of the question whether we are suited for the world to come. In the possibility, too, of being deceived, and in view of the awful consequences that will result from deception, it is desirable that length of days should be given us that we may bring the subject to the severest test, and so determine it, that we may go sure to the changeless world.

(4) That we may do good to others. We may, indeed, do good in another world; but there are ways of doing good which are probably confined to this. What good we may do hereafter to the inhabitants of distant worlds, or what ministrations, in company with angels, or without them, we may exercise toward the friends of God on earth after we leave it, we do not know; but there are certain things which we are morally certain we shall not be permitted to do in the future world. We shall not:

(a) Personally labor for the salvation of sinners, by conversation and other direct efforts;

(b) We shall not illustrate the influence of religion by example in sustaining us in trials, subduing and controlling our passions, and making us dead to the world;

(c) We shall not be permitted to pray for our impenitent friends and kindred, as we may now;

(d) We shall not have the opportunity of contributing of our substance for the spread of the gospel, or of going personally to preach the gospel to the perishing;

(e) We shall not be employed in instructing the ignorant, in advocating the cause of the oppressed and the wronged, in seeking to remove the fetters from the slave, in dispensing mercy to the insane, or in visiting the prisoner in his lonely cell;

(f) We shall not have it in our power to address a kind word to an impenitent child, or seek to guide him in paths of truth, purity, and salvation.

What we can do personally and directly for the salvation of others is to be done in this world; and, considering how much there is to be done, and how useful life may be on the earth, it is an object which we should desire, that our days may be lengthened out, and should use all proper means that it may be done. While we should ever be ready and willing to depart when God calls us to go; while we should not wish to linger on these mortal shores beyond the time when we may be useful to others, yet, as long as he permits us to live, we should regard life as a blessing, and should pray that, if it be his will, we may not be cut down in the midst of our way.

“Love not thy life, nor hate; but what thou livest. Live well; how long, or short, permit to heaven.”

Paradise Lost.
And see good days – In the Psalm Psa_34:12 this is, “and loveth many days, that he may see good.” The quotation by Peter throughout the passage is taken from the Septuagint, excepting that there is a change of the person from the second to the third: in the psalm, e. g., “refrain thy tongue from evil,” etc.; in the quotation, “let him refrain his tongue from evil,” etc. “Good days” are prosperous days; happy days; days of usefulness; days in which we may be respected and loved.

Let him refrain his tongue from evil – The general meaning of all that is said here is, “let him lead an upright and pious life; doing evil to no one, but seeking the good of all men.” To refrain the tongue from evil, is to avoid all slander, falsehood; “obscenity, and profaneness, and to abstain from uttering erroneous and false opinions. Compare Jam_1:26; Jam_3:2.

And his lips that they speak no guile – No deceit; nothing that will lead others astray. The words should be an exact representation of the truth. Rosenmuller quotes a passage from the Hebrew book Musar, which may be not an inappropriate illustration of this: “A certain Assyrian wandering through the city, cried and said, “Who will receive the elixir of life?” The daughter of Rabbi Jodus heard him, and went and told her father. “Call him in,” said he. When he came in, Rabbi Jannei said to him, “What is that elixir of life which thou art selling?” He said to him, “Is it not written, What man is he that desireth life, and loveth days that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile. Lo, this is the elixir of life which is in the mouth of a man!””

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:11
11Let him seek peace It is not enough to embrace it when offered to us, but it ought to be followed when it seems to flee from us. It also often happens, that when we seek it as much as we can, others will not grant it to us. On account of these difficulties and hindrances, he bids us to seek and pursue it.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:11
Let him eschew evil – Let him avoid all evil. Compare Job_1:1.

And do good – In any and every way; by endeavoring to promote the happiness of all. Compare the notes at Gal_6:10.

Let him seek peace, and ensue it – Follow it; that is, practice it. See the Mat_5:9 note; Rom_12:18 note. The meaning is, that a peaceful spirit will contribute to length of days:

(1) A peaceful spirit – a calm, serene, and equal temper of mind – is favorable to health, avoiding those corroding and distracting passions which do so much to wear out the physical energies of the frame; and,

(2) Such a spirit will preserve us from those contentions and strifes to which so many owe their death. Let anyone reflect on the numbers that are killed in duels, in battles, and in brawls, and he will have no difficulty in seeing how a peace fill spirit will contribute to length of days.

John Calvin
1 Peter 3:12
12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, or, on the righteous. It ought to be a consolation to us, sufficient to mitigate all evils, that we are looked upon by the Lord, so that he will bring us help in due time. The meaning then is, that the prosperity which he has mentioned depends on the protection of God; for were not the Lord to care for his people, they would be like sheep exposed to wolves. And that we for little reason raise a clamor, that we suddenly kindle unto wrath, that we burn with the passion of revenge, all this, doubtless, happens, because we do not consider that God cares for us, and because we do not acquiesce in his aid. Thus in vain we shall be taught patience, except our minds are first imbued with this truth, that God exercises such care over us, that he will in due time succor us. When, on the contrary, we are fully persuaded that God defends the cause of the righteous, we shall first attend simply to innocence, and then, when molested and hated by the ungodly, we shall flee to the protection of God. And when he says, that the ears of the Lord are open to our prayers, he encourages us to pray.

But the face of the Lord By this clause he intimates that the Lord will be our avenger, because he will not always suffer the insolence of the ungodly to prevail; and at the same time he shews how it will be, if we seek to defend our life from injuries, even that God will be an adversary to us. But it may, on the other hand, be objected and said, that we experience it daily far otherwise, for the more righteous any one is, and the greater lover of peace he is, the more he is harassed by the wicked. To this I reply, that no one is so attentive to righteousness and peace, but that he sometimes sins in this respect. But it ought to be especially observed, that the promises as to this life do not extend further than as to what is expedient for us to be fulfilled. Hence, our peace with the world is often disturbed, that our flesh may be subdued, in order that we may serve God, and also for other reasons; so that nothing may be a loss to us.

Cambridge Bible 1 Pet Plumptre
3:12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous] It may be noted that the “for” is added by the Apostle to emphasize the sequence of thought. There is no conjunction either in the Hebrew or the LXX. The disciples of Christ were to find peace and calmness in the thought of the Omniscience of God. He knew all, and would requite all. Vengeance—so far as men dared desire vengeance—was to be left to Him (Rom_12:19). The two prepositions “over the righteous” and “against them that do evil” express, perhaps, the thought of the original, but as the Greek preposition is the same in both cases, they are open to the charge of being an interpolated refinement. The eyes of God are upon both the good and the evil. It lies in the nature of the case that the result is protective or punitive according to the character of each.

Pulpit Commentary
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.

Albert Barnes
1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous – That is, he is their Protector. His eyes are indeed on all people, but the language here is that which describes continual guardianship and care.

And his ears are open unto their prayers – He hears their prayers. As he is a hearer of prayer, they are at liberty to go to him at all times, and to pour out their desires before him. This passage is taken from Psa_34:15, and it is designed to show the reason why a life of piety will contribute to length of days.

But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil – Margin, upon. The sense of the passage, however, is against. The Lord sets his face against them: an expression denoting disapprobation, and a determination to punish them. His face is not mild and benignant toward them, as it is toward the righteous. The general sentiment in these verses 1Pe_3:10-12 is, that while length of days is desirable, it is to be secured by virtue and religion, or that virtue and religion will contribute to it. This is not to be understood as affirming that all who are righteous will enjoy long life, for we know that the righteous are often cut down in the midst of their way; and that in fire, and flood, and war, and the pestilence, the righteous and the wicked often perish together. But still there is a sense in which it is true that a life of virtue and religion will contribute to length of days, and that the law is so general as to be a basis of calculation in reference to the future:

I. Religion and virtue contribute to those things which are favorable to length of days, which are conducive to health and to a vigorous constitution. Among those things are the following:

(a) A calm, peaceful, and contented mind – avoiding the wear and tear of the raging passions of lusts, avarice, and ambition;

(b) Temperance in eating and drinking – always favorable to length of days;

(c) Industry – one of the essential means, as a general rule, of promoting long life;

(d) Prudence and economy – avoiding the extravagancies by which many shorten their days; and,

(e) A conscientious and careful regard of life itself.

Religion makes men feel that life is a blessing, and that it should not be thrown away. Just in proportion as a man is under the influence of religion, does he regard life as of importance, and does he become careful in preserving it. Strange and paradoxical as it may seem, the lack of religion often makes people reckless of life, and ready to throw it away for any trifling cause. Religion shows a man what great issues depend on life, and makes him, therefore, desirous of living to secure his own salvation and the salvation of all others.

II. Multitudes lose their lives who would have preserved them if they had been under the influence of religion. To see this, we have only to reflect:

(a) On the millions who are cut off in war as the result of ambition, and the want of religion;

(b) On the countless hosts cut down in middle life, or in youth, by intemperance, who would have been saved by religion;

(c) On the numbers who are the victims of raging passions, and who are cut off by the diseases which gluttony and licentiousness engender;

(d) On the multitude who fall in duels, all of whom would have been saved by religion;

(e) On the numbers who, as the result of disappointment in business or in love, close their own lives, who would have been enabled to bear up under their troubles if they had had religion; and,

(f) On the numbers who are cut off from the earth as the punishment of their crimes, all of whom would have continued to live if they had had true religion.

III. God protects the righteous. He does it by saving them from those vices by which the lives of so many are shortened; and often, we have no reason to doubt, in answer to their prayers, when, but for those prayers, they would have fallen into crimes that would have consigned them to an early grave, or encountered dangers from which they would have had no means of escape. No one can doubt that in fact those who are truly religious are saved from the sins which consign millions to the tomb; nor is there any less reason to doubt that a protecting shield is often thrown before the children of God when in danger. Compare Ps. 91.