1 Peter 3:13-22 – The Exegesis (2)

In the previous article, we have made a suggestion that to be faithful to the text, sarki and pneumati in 1 Peter 3:18 have to be translated “in flesh” and “in spirit,” without articles, since these don’t appear with articles in the Greek text. Machen says, “There is no indefinite article in Greek…[It] has, however, a definite article, and where the Greek article does not appear, the definite article should not be inserted in the translation (Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners, 26). The presence of an article before the noun changes the interpretive meaning, and therefore the interpretive translation of a word. Note for example Romans 8:2, where pneumatos, “spirit,” has an article. This is interpreted by translators to mean the third member of the Godhead, and we agree. But note also Romans 8:6, where the phrase “mind of the Spirit” (pneumatos with article) has been translated by them as “spiritually minded.” This simply shows translators do exercise arbitrary control over their translations. How much more the commentaries? Stewardship of the Word demands that we be faithful.

I believe that both sarki and pneumati are to be classed as instrumental dative of manner. When translated in English, they look like prepositional phrases and in the clauses they function as adverbs modifying verbs. Grammarians call them adverbials because, although they function like adverbs, they are not true adverbs. In 1 Peter 3:18, the verbs these adverbials modify are found within the participles thanatotheis and zoopoietheis.

Having been “put to death in [the] flesh on one hand,” thanatotheis men sarki, Jesus was now “made alive in spirit,” zoopoietheis de pneumati. Both thanathotheis and zoopoietheis are aorist passive participles. Passive because the subject was just acted upon, or that someone other than the subject did the action on him. Aorist because it expresses not a continuing, but a one time action. Thanatotheis and zoopoietheis are two single words picturing to us like some kind of a simple snapshot what Jesus had experienced: He was put to death bodily, and was made alive spiritually. It does not mean that His spirit also died and was made alive again, but that He died in his mortal flesh and was “quickened” or “made alive” in a sphere of existence in which the power of God is displayed without hindrance or human limitation, a state that death and mortality cannot destroy. To first century audience who understood the meanings of the Koine Greek better than we do, thanatotheis sarki and zoopoietheis pneumati picture to them in more logically convincing terms why Christians should not be afraid to suffer like Jesus. Hart says, “The advantage of suffering for well-doing has been exemplified in the experience of the Christ, who gained thereby the quickening (v. 21) and the later glory (v. 22)” (J. A. Hart, “First Epistle General of Peter,” The Expositors Greek New Testament, 5:67). Jesus’ undeserved suffering, His dying on the cross, which is His means of bringing us to God, now finds an explanation that serves to bring the concept of the blessedness of suffering closer to home.

In the verse that follows, consisting only of nine words in the Greek, centers all the controversy in 1 Peter 3. It is so obscurely worded it is capable of a lot of interpretations. A number of alternative but divergent theories have been put forth as an explanation:

(1) The view that Christ in His preexistent state (“His Spirit state”) preached through Noah to those who rejected the preaching who were now in prison. The prison here is understood to mean “imprisoned in sin.” This is the view of Augustine, who holds that “Christ was in Noah when he preached,” a kind of proxy preaching (Bethany Parallel Commentary of the New Testament, 1381). In addition to this, Augustine also held a lot of other notions that have now become the foundation stones of the Roman Catholic Church.

(2) The spirits are the souls of the faithful Old Testament people and the prison is simply the non-hostile place where they remained awaiting Christ who proclaimed their redemption too after His resurrection from the dead. This is John Calvin’s theory, cited by Davids (p. 138).

(3) The “spirits” are the fallen angels of Genesis 6:1ff, who have taken refuge (“in prison”) in the earth, and the proclamation is that of Christ’s invasion of their refuge after His resurrection. This has been proposed by such commentators as F. Spitta, J. Jeremias, B. Reicke, and Dalton (cited by Davids, 139).

(4) A modification of view no. 1 which says the “spirits” are the fallen angels, but the preacher was Enoch, or Christ who preached through Enoch, proclaiming the judgment to them. This is the view of Edgar J. Goodspeed, who believes that the name “Enoch” was formerly in the text of verse 19. Bruce M. Metzger however traces this conjecture to William Bowyer back in 1772 (cited by Davids, 139).

(5) “The view that Christ in His own (and not through the agency of Noah) during the three days interval between His death and resurrection and while He was in the spirit realm (Hades), actually and literally preached to disembodied spirits.” These were spirits “who lived while the ark was being constructed but who were dead and incarcerated in the prison house of Hades at the time the preaching occurred.” This is the view of Bigg and Windisch (cited by Robertson in Bethany Parallel Commentary of the New Testament, 1381)

Which view is correct? If we are content with absorbing the theories of other commentators, copying their thoughts, mimicking even the way they argue, and when pressed for proofs we hunt for verses to defend what we already believed, we are not creating a healthy environment for study growth. But try laying aside our doctrinal predilections as irrelevant, give them a short vacation on short notice, and allow the text of the author of the book to lead our thoughts where it may.

VERSE 19. En ho kai tois en phulake pneumasin poreutheis ekeruxen. “In which [state] indeed, going to the spirits in prison he preached.” Although Peter presumably wrote to be understood by his readers, as far as we are concerned, he has failed us. The problem is no ordinary one, but it has something to do with the twenty-first century people’s lack of knowledge of first century background of thought. It is this background of thought—the meaning that Peter wants to convey, based on the texts that we have before us, which meaning the first century Christian readers understood—-that we must try to find out, using the meager words that Peter has supplied us, rather than insist that this verse cannot mean what it means because the conclusion would be such and such.

“And in which or what state indeed”? That would be the first question. The phrase en ho kai has been translated as “in which indeed” (Marshall), “in which also” (ASV, Confraternity Version), “by which also” (KJV), “by whom also” (NKJV), “in which” (RSV). “Which” is a relative pronoun, having the noun “spirit” in verse 18 as its antecedent. “In which” could be the true translation of en ho because it agrees with “spirit” in number (both are singular) and case (both are dative). Taking en ho as an adverbial, and rendering it without a grammatical antecedent does not do justice to the text. The eligible noun antecedent, pneumati, before en ho, strongly establishes a valid presumption favoring its being interpreted as a straight relative pronoun, not an adverbial.

The translation “by whom also” comes about because of the belief of some that pneumati, “spirit,” is the instrumental dative of means—that it was the Spirit (now capitalized) that quickened Him. I have pointed out that to be consistent, we must also take “flesh” as instrumental dative of means since both are parallel and analogous. In which case, we make the “Spirit” the instrument for quickening Him and the “flesh” as the instrument for putting Him to death. This however does not make sense. It is much better to take both sarki and pneumati as instrumental dative of manner, in which case both become the adverbials that modify their verbs. As adverbials they picture to us the action of the verb and the circumstances about his dying and being quickened. Rogers and Rogers take the whole phrases thanatotheis sarki and zoopoietheis pneumati as circumstances or state. Thus we may translate, “In which state,” meaning his state as “spirit” or in his circumstance as “spirit being,” Christ went to preach.

Now, to take this preaching to mean that it was done in the pre-Flood age, making Noah as Jesus’ proxy preacher, requires the interpreter to call forth from his depot of proof texts what he cannot find in the context of 1 Peter 3. By this jumping jack method one can always prove anything, including the doctrines that Jesus wedded Mary Magdalene, that Peter became pope, that you can baptize infants, that Felix Manalo is an angel, that Quiboloy is the new “Son of God.” And you can bombard me with a lot of verses from your proof text depot, but my question still remains: Where does it say in the text that Noah did the preaching? Where is the authority for teaching the idea of proxy preaching? Be careful with this doctrine of proxy preaching for it will open the floodgates to other doctrines (like attending church by proxy, giving by proxy, baptism by proxy). Time will come the Lord will put a stop to this foxiness by proxiness: Because you cannot be judged by proxy, and you cannot keep on being foxy by evading a responsibility and an appointment.

Christ certainly did the preaching but not during Noah’s time, not through some prophets like Noah or Enoch, and certainly not after his resurrection. I am inclined to believe that pneumati does not refer to his risen state at all; it may refer to his spirit state. Some have taken zoopoietheis (”quickened”) to mean “being resurrected,” but that is not one of its lexical equivalents. If we are trying to understand first century thoughts according to first century understanding, try a lexicon or an expository dictionary. Do not invent a definition. Do not assume that that is what it means.

“Going to the spirits in prison he preached.” According to France, “This is the crucial phrase” (France, 269). We certainly agree. The word “spirit” has varied meanings, and the presence of qualifying genitives plus the context can tell us which one means what. It can mean the whole person, or that inward something in that person, or just the character of the person. Michaels calls them “spirits in refuge” (Michaels, 206). The plural “spirits” referring to human beings has a single citation in the New Testament (see Hebrews 12:23), but this could be interpreted to mean “spirits without bodies,” or “disembodied spirits.” Peter says these “spirits” are kept in a place. What place? Peter calls it “prison.” Phulake has been used to refer to John the Baptist’s prison house (Matthew 14:10; Mark 6:17), the apostles’ (Acts 5:19), or Paul’s (2 Corinthians 11:23); it also stands for the condition of being imprisoned (2 Corinthians 6:5; Hebrews 11:36). To take “prison” to mean “imprisonment in sin” is an unwarranted allegorizing. In the text under consideration, Peter applies phulake to a realm or place in which the ones being imprisoned are “spirits.” From Peter’s language I understand that Jesus died of a physical death. When the text says that He was quickened in spirit, I understand this to mean He had passed on to a spiritual existence. I am in agreement with you if you say that after His death Christ went to Hades, specifically to Paradise, and that He went there as a spirit-being, that He now had taken on a new sphere of existence. If you guys think Hades is the phulake that Peter has in mind, why should I object to it? You have a good reason to believe Hades may be the prison-house for spirits. That interpretation flows smoothly with these texts under study.

One objection I heard is that it was not Christ’s spirit who went to Hades but His soul. Well, Peter says Christ went to the prison of the spirits in His spirit state. Verse 18b says He was “quickened in spirit.” Verse 19a then says, “in which, going He preached to the spirits in prison.” “Which” is a relative pronoun and its antecedent is “spirit.” That was how he was quickened, “in spirit,” and that’s also how he went, “in spirit.” This interpretation erases the grammatical problem, number-wise, gender-wise, and case-wise. But taking “spirit” as instrumental dative of means won’t solve it.

“Going…he preached.” May also be translated as: “He went and made a proclamation.” We agree with France that poreutheis does not mean “descended,” it means “went.” This could be the objection of one who believes that Hades is way down there. I don’t even know where Hades is. But the objector claims to know much, and if he knows where it is, then I am probably speaking to one who has just returned from the dead! The details about this place nobody knows, whether up there or down here. There is no sense in insisting on the verb “descending” when the verb “going” just serves as well. Also, the question of when the Lord made this journey can be answered by referring to the phrase en ho (verse 19a), which we have argued must be speaking about His spirit state before His bodily resurrection.

What did he preach? Nobody knows. Some say it was the gospel, a theory that is devoid of evidence but a very attractive one to those who desire a second chance after having lost it in this life. Ekeruxen, “he preached,” would do well to have a direct object, “the gospel,” if it were to serve as evidence to the doctrine of second chance at salvation. Ekeruxen, from kerux, means “to act as herald or harbinger.” As to the message’s content, it is neutral (France, 270). Some writers think that the message may be inferred from the passage itself. “The proclamation, it may be inferred, [is about] his triumph which finally sealed their doom” (Colin Brown, 2:682). My answer is: I don’t know. Ekeruxen, alone and without an object, can only be translated as “he preached.” It is not even a transitive verb that needs a direct object to complete its meaning.

We say then that 1 Peter 3:19 has something to do with Christ’s going to the spirits’ realm, to Hades if you may, where he preached to the spirits in prison. The verse does not say where the place of the dead is, nor what was preached to them, nor what happened after the preaching, nor why was Christ vitally interested in them. It is not necessary to our thesis to improve on what cannot be proved by scanty evidence.

VERSE 20. “To those who were disobedient then when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.”

The “spirits,” tois pneumasin, mentioned in verse 19, are identified in verse 20 as “the disobeying ones,” [tois] apeithesasin, aorist active participle. Both pneumasin and apeithesasin have same number (plural) and same case (dative); there is no way you could miss. The aorist of the participle apeithesasin speaks about the past act of their disobedience, and the active sense of the verb gives the sense that they did the disobeying themselves, that they were not made to disobey (for then, the verb would be passive). To my way of thinking, all acts of disobedience are in the active voice; no one in his logical mind can claim that “I sinned because the devil made me do it”! Personal accountability for one’s action seems to be the teaching here.

These “spirits” are described as those who were “sometime disobedient. The word “sometime” is a translation of the Greek pote, which could also be translated as “then,” or “long ago.” Christ preached to these spirits who had been disobedient “then,” their disobedience pictured as something that had occurred “long ago,” even long before He came and preached to them. Pote does not describe ekeruxen, for if it does, then you have here a text that could support the opinion that Christ preached to them long ago. A better explanation then is that Christ preached to this same group of people, thousands of years after Noah’s day, and whether of not those spirits benefited from the preaching, we are not told. The story retold by Peter is not actually for the benefit of the people of Noah’s day who are now in Hades; it is for the benefit of Peter’s audience, to comfort them that in the end their lot would be much better than those of their enemies, just as the lot of the eight souls who entered the ark was better than that of the whole world that perished in the flood.

“When the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, an ark being prepared.” This adds further to our understanding about God’s long-suffering/forbearance: It waited long days, and it waited eagerly while He was doing all means to save the disobedient by Noah’s preaching. The phrase “in the days of Noah” must have been based on tradition common among Jews and on the analogy originating with Jesus (cf. Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27), comparing Noah’s time with the present age. “While the ark was being prepared” fixes the time when God’s patience waited as mankind continued to disobey. “Being prepared,” kataskeuadzomenes, is present passive participle, and is translated as “being made ready, erected, built, constructed.” The present tense of that verb speaks of an action continuing, not in our time, but in the time when God’s patience, or long-suffering, waited. His patience waited “eagerly” and “with expectancy” for the disobedient to repent, and as that patience waited, the ark was being prepared.

The flood and the ark is one story which may have been familiar to Peter’s readers, and it is retold here for exhortatory purpose. Some important facts from that story do stand out: (1) That the disobedient many were punished; (2) That the obedient few were saved. Perhaps the persecuted pilgrim readers of Peter’s epistle were painfully aware that they were small in number compared to the pagans among whom they resided. Maybe some of them felt “unchurched.” Thus the story of the “few in the ark who were saved through water” becomes a very comforting illustration in his exhortation.

That story also furnishes a transition to another subtheme, which is baptism. “Through water, by means of water,” di’ hudatos, is instrumental dative of means, making water here the instrument for the saving of Noah’s family. But it could also mean that they were brought to safety “through water” or that they were rescued “by means of water.” The water of the Flood is the type, and water baptism is the anti-type. Noah and his family were “saved by water.” That is what the passage teaches. See comments by Rogers and Rogers, 576.

VERSE 21. “Which figure, even baptism, does also now save us, not a putting away of the filth of the flesh but an answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Marshall).

“Which figure, even baptism does also now save us.” We assume that the antecedent of the pronoun ho in the clause ho kai humas antitupon nun sodzei baptisma is the noun hudatos in the phrase di’ hudatos, “by means of water” (verse 20), and that baptisma is the antitupon of it. In other words, Noah and his family were saved “by means of water,” and that this water is the type of which baptism is the antitype. Water saved Noah’s family; baptism saves us.

I had a disagreement with my Greek teacher—a friendly disagreement, that is— who had some hang-ups concerning baptism. But I argued with him through the use of the cases in the Greek. The verb sodzei is present active indicative singular third person. In the active indicative form, the subject of the verb is said to be the one doing the action; it is not being acted upon. It is also singular third person in form, which means then that the subject of that verb sodzei, saves, is singular and in the third person. That subject is shown to be antitupon. That antitupon saves. Peter says the antitupon is baptisma, “baptism.” The passage is thus correctly translated: “Which antitype, even baptism, also now saves us.” Concerning antitupon, Rogers and Rogers have this comment: “The word connotes the exactness of correspondence between the stamp and the die…The saving by baptism Peter mentions here is symbolic not actual, as Peter hastens to explain… Baptism is the occasion and sign from an old way of life to another that is marked by a new ethic…” (Rogers & Rogers, 576).

There is no denying the actual fact that the Lord is our Saviour. But baptism is his instrument of saving. Dr. Christiaan Barnard did the first heart transplant, but in performing this he used instruments, one of which could be the scalpel. We say “baptism saves” a man in the same way that we say “a gun killed” Lincoln. But both the gun and baptism are agencies (or instruments, if you wish). I am inclined to believe that my Greek teacher was simply over-reacting, as the rest of those “baptism-does-not-save” Baptist theologians are. Let’s stop promoting a doctrine that does not have textual basis to support it.

“Not a putting away of the filth of the flesh.” When Peter says that baptism performs the spiritual function of saving, he hastens to add that it does not perform the physical function of cleaning or putting away the filth of the flesh. The passage does not teach baptismal regeneration. In fact baptism is a helpless act, a useless act even, if it is done without the authority of the one who said “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).

“But an answer of a good conscience toward God.” Peter goes on to say that baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. The Greek word eperotema means “question, inquiry, pledge, declaration of commitment” (Rogers & Rogers, 576). “In the papyri there is evidence that this word was a technical term in making a contract, denoting the pledge or undertaking given by one of the parties in answer to formal questions. The word then implies the registering of agreement to conditions or demands. Baptism is a response to conditions… Here the pledge is an assent to certain conditions; it may imply a confession of faith as well as the willingness to accept the new duties…” (Ibid.). For a baptized believer, there is no turning back, even after he has seen the prospect of martyrdom. He submits to baptism in response to the conditions set by His Lord; by baptism he agrees to His demands; by baptism he declares his commitment to Him; by baptism he confesses the Lordship of Him who recruited him to the new duties. Baptism is not to be forced on anyone, for he who submits to it must himself understand what it requires. “Infant baptism” is a doctrine that only stupid theologians impose in the absence of Bible authority; promoting it makes a mockery of God’s law. An infant who gets sprinkled is not saved; and infant sprinkling could be a bad answer of a bad conscience toward the devil who promotes this theology in the world.

“Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The construction of this phrase is dative instrumental. Furthermore, it is dative instrumental of means. It has been my experience in my studies of the Greek grammar that the instrumental dative of means goes with a verb, since that dative construction pictures the instrument that complements the verb. The verb in this case is sodzei, “saves.” “Baptism saves through (or by) the resurrection of Jesus” is an interpretation that is textually correct as our analysis shows. If you overlay this with what is being taught in Romans 6:1-11, this interpretation is also theologically correct. The raising up of the subject from the watery grave is symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and our own resurrection from death through sin. Furthermore, we focus not just on Christ’s death but also on his resurrection to make us “one new man.” He tasted death for the sins of every man, but by his resurrection he conquered it, that those who have been saved from sins may live and may continually have hope of life eternal. That salvation and that hope are pictured in baptism. Baptism is not only a contract but a union with Jesus in His death and His rising again, which leads to a sharing of His new life. Thus to these pilgrims whose faith is under a fiery trial, their baptism marks them out as God’s few chosen ones and commits them to unswerving loyalty to God in the face of martyrdom, reminding them that they will be saved although all their enemies malign them, although their lives will be at stake. It is the assurance of their salvation and symbol of their strength and victory with the risen Christ,

VERSE 22. “Who is on the right hand of God, having gone into the heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”

Peter now concludes with an exultant description of the ascended Christ sitting on God’s right hand with all dominions and powers subject to Him. Verse 18 shows the accomplishment of Jesus’ exampleship and reconciling mission on earth. The latter part of verse 18 and now verse 19 shows His victory over death and His journey to the realm of spirits, proving His authority over the realm of the spirits of the living and the dead. Verse 22 is the round up, the whole scene, showing Him in His glorious reign and dominion over a whole range of dominions—spirits, authorities, powers.

Our translation may differ from the KJV but it is based on the text. The antecedent of the phrase “who is on the right hand of God” is the resurrected Christ mentioned in verse 21. His being on the right hand of God is the capstone of his act of conquering the devil. Not only is He in heaven, He is also sitting on God’s right hand. This shows Him to be ruling over the universe, above all. Poreutheis, aorist passive deponent, could also be translated “after he went.” His act of having gone to heaven comes before his act of sitting on God’s right hand. The going to heaven is temporal action, as the aorist of the participle implies. But his sitting on God’s right hand, his ruling over all, which came after his ascension, is an on-going act, for such is the meaning of the phrase hos esten en dexia theou, “who is on the right hand of God.” Esten is present indicative singular third person, translated as be verb “is”; in this instance the subject of esten is WHO, referring to Jesus. The verb shows an on-going state, without implying an end. Christ is now ruling, and continually rules, in the heavens. He rules over all. The mention of “angels” signifies that He rules over the realm of the spirits. The mention of “authorities,” plural in form, signifies that He rules even over those who exercise authority on earth (moral, spiritual, intellectual, political), which in the minds of the first century people includes Rome, which at that time had combined both political and religious authority into one person, its emperor. Christ is even above that political and religious persecuting authority. The mention of the word “powers,” again plural in form, signifies that Christ rules over every power man can conceive of, even over those who claim power over lives, over economies, over geographies, over chances and opportunities to grow. Hupotagenton, aorist passive participle, translated “being made subject” is in the genitive absolute. Everyone and everything is made subject to Him. This is a declaration from Peter, who also has experienced persecution of some kind, by Jews, by priests who have been appointed by rulers of the Jews, and by rulers of the Jews who have been appointed by the Romans. The phrase embraces all ranks that could sow fear in the hearts of the Christians who were living at the time of the writing of this epistle. We may be sure Peter’s readers, who were facing the onslaughts of evil powers through their enemies, have found great assurance in his words.

CONCLUSION: We have always believed that the key to understanding of 1 Peter 3:13-22 is by proper exegesis of the passages, considering the whole context. The jumping jack method of interpretation does injustice to the text, and does not promote harmony of the Scriptures. Proof texting is the venture of those who have preconceived doctrines to defend. Translators have their own cows to feed; commentators have their own idols to defend. But in the marketplace of ideas, everything must be left open for every reader to examine. Our advice to every believer in Christ is: Before you invest your life, your savings, your time on something, do investigate. Or as the caveat of the Romans would say: “Let the purchaser beware.”

The context of the passage speaks of persecution and what should Christians’ attitude be toward it. In this study we have tried to understand Peter’s purpose for delving into rather difficult, complicated and obscure matters. Studying 1 Peter 3:13-22 involves too much rough sailing, as far as we are concerned. But we have attempted to show that each point Peter introduced is relevant to his readers’ situation, that they must have understood what he was saying. In our time, we are perplexed by Peter’s teachings, by his words, by his thoughts. Sometimes we do not see the logic, and may wonder at his tendency to jump from one thought to another without providing us so much details. We have tried to understand Peter the writer, but we do not pretend to understand everything that Peter the writer wrote. Our lack of understanding of everything that he said has humbled us. And while we disagree with what others think that Peter meant, we have also strived to be open-minded, and have seen the need for further study of the text.


1 Peter 3:13-22 – The Exegesis (1)

In making this exegesis, I have used every resource possible, from lexicons to theological dictionaries, to Greek grammar books. There is a use for commentaries, but as I have said we have to be wary of the opinions they express. Our method is to examine every possible evidence, and strive to have a balance of everything. We may be slaves of the Word, but let us not be slaves of human opinions.

1 Peter 3:10-12, the verses that come before verse 13, is an almost exact quotation of LXX Psalm 34:12-16, except that the Petrine quotation uses the singular 3rd person while the Psalmist uses the 2nd person. After that quote from LXX, Peter now brings the message of the inspired Scripture to bear on the situation of his Christian audience. He asks them:

VERSE 13. “And who is the one harming you if you become zealots for what is good?” In the Greek: “kai tis ho kakoson humas ean tou agathou zelotai genesthe”? The Greek kai, translated “and,” is a copulative conjunction that connects single words,” “clauses and sentences,” or introduces “an abrupt question which may often express wonder” (Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich & Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 391, 392). The Greek tis is an interrogative pronoun (“who”) and with ho kakoson humas may also be translated: “And who is going to harm you?” That is the question, to which the answer should be: “No one.” The idea behind the question also shows the conclusion to be drawn from verse 10-12 as quoted from the Psalmist. If you are a follower of what is good, nobody shall harm you.

ho kakoson. The word is from the infinitive kakou, “to harm, to mistreat, to maltrate, to cause injury” (BAGD, 398). In the LXX, the word is often applied to the fate of the Israelites (Num. 20:15) and of the Messiah (Isa. 53:7). The phrase ho kakoson is future active participle used as substantive (it comes with an article), for which reason it is translated as a noun phrase: “The one who will do you harm,” or “the one who will harm you.” Since the caring Lord always keeps watch over the righteous and His ears are ever open to their prayers, who then can harm them (3:12)?

ean tou agathou zelotai genesthe. Literally, “If you become zealots for what is good.” With the conditional ean, the writer, using the 2nd person plural aorist middle subjunctive genesthe, “if you become,” views the possibility that “no one will harm you” if the conditions of being zealous for good are met (Rogers & Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 575) because we have a God who is omniscient, omnipotent, and faithful, and has laid down a law to make sure everything works according to His plan and that everything resonates in response to His moral integrity. That is the law of sowing and reaping—by this law the good could reap benefits and the bad could be disciplined. Hence, do good.

ean with subjunctive “denotes what is expected to occur, under certain circumstances, from a given standpoint in the present” (BAGD, 211). The subjunctive deponent genesthe in this passage means “having become at a point in past time, with the present result that they are still eager,” a sense which is hard to put into smooth English. This tells us however that their zeal for good has begun in the past, with the present result that they have not lost their zeal for good yet. That is a continuing zeal. The promise does not apply to those who in their lives have been partly zealots for good. Consistency is the idea.

agathou as an adjective is generally used for “whatever that is good and useful, especially moral goodness in relation to God who is perfect” (Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 2:98). tou agathou with article is a substantive, but whether it is neuter or masculine is not clear (the singular genitive case endings in both genders are alike, cf. Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners, 61). In this study, we assume it to be neuter, hence our translation “of, for, what is good.” Matthew Henry thinks it is masculine, and translates the phrase thus: “If you are imitators of the Good One,” that is, “God” (Matthew Henry, Bethany Parallel Commentary of the New Testament, 1379). As an interpretation, this is harmless. This is an area where you have to hold your horses. Dogmatism won’t help.

zelotai, translated “zealots,” is favored by the best and ancient of manuscripts. “Zealots for what is good” is a remarkable expression, says Reicke, “in contrast to the evil zealots of the Jewish revolts” (J. R. Michaels, 1 Peter: Word Biblical Commentary, 185). Adam Clarke says this is the very probable reading (Adam Clarke, Bethany Parallel Commentary of the New Testament, 1379). Robertson says it is a correct translation, since the objective genitive tou agathou comes after zelotai which is a noun (A.T. Robertson, Robertson’s Word Pictures, Computer Bible Software Co).

VERSE 14. In the Greek: “all’ ei kai paschoite dia dikaiosunen, makarioi. Ton de phobon auton me phobete mede tarachthete.” Translation: “But if you indeed should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear their fear, nor be troubled.”

Alla, elided to all’ in this text, meaning “but,” “nevertheless.” To clarify the meaning of that assurance of “no harm” in verse 13, to strengthen that assurance, and to guard the readers against erroneously concluding that no difficulties of any kind will happen to them, the writer uses the connective alla, “but,” “nevertheless.” The word is used to introduce a contrast, or to indicate a transition from one clause to another (BAGD, 38).

Building on the promise that “no one shall hurt you” the writer continues, “But and if indeed you should suffer for the sake of righteousness” (ei kai paschoite dia dikaiosunen), then he concludes, “you are blessed” (makarioi). The conditional particle ei used with optative means “if it should be possible,” a phrase which denotes the uncertain fulfillment of the condition (BAGD, 219; Rogers & Rogers, 575). The optative active is very rare in the New Testament, and this is one instance of Peter’s use of it. This mood expresses a wish or a more remote possibility (Machen, 550). So Peter is telling them, “There is a remote possibility that you will suffer, but if you should suffer—for righteousness’ sake— then you are blessed.” The optative is one rhetorical device often used by prophets, preachers, and writers to encourage and to strengthen. Suffering, even to the point that your life is taken away from you, does not take away your blessedness but even promotes it. I also say that the suffering of martyrdom for the cause of Jesus will hasten your blessedness, for in death suffering ceases, no more pain is there, and the Christian is hastened to his reward. Suffering does not make you a martyr, but the cause for which you die does.

dia dikaiosunen, “for the sake of righteousness.” Its adjective means the quality of a man who is righteous according to law; it is also the standard which a judge is required to uphold, and to restore it must constantly be his aim; in its absolute sense, it takes its character from God himself (cf.1 Peter 2:25; Revelation 16:5). The Christian faith and conduct in life is called the way of righteousness (2 Peter 2:11), and the goal of life can be described in terms of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). So, to suffer for the sake of righteousness is to suffer on account of righteousness, or to suffer for a goal. But to suffer while one conducts his life in a righteous way must also be one meaning of this phrase. Righteousness as a goal is different from righteousness as a way of life. Let righteousness be our goal, and let that be our life.

The word paschoite. It means “to suffer, to endure, to undergo sufferings,” but in the absolute sense it also means “to suffer death, to be killed, to have to die” (BAGD, 634). First century people understood this. That seems to be the reason for Peter’s use of the optative.

Now the imports of “harm” (verse 13) and “suffer” (verse 14). Do they mean the same? From “harm” they are safeguarded by God, but by “suffering” they are blessed. I consider this a divine parallelism, a device that is very common in the Old Testament prophecies (Isaiah, for example). By his use of this device, Peter shows himself as a true Israelite, a true Jew.

Readers need this exhortation to prepare them for suffering, which is possible if not inevitable. But “for righteousness’ sake” must be the only reason why Christians should suffer. There is no promise of blessedness that await those who suffer for their unrighteousness (cf. 4:15), for the faithful who endure sufferings for the sake of righteousness are the ones who are truly blessed (makarioi). The Greek makarioi is an adjective that means “fortunate, happy, usually in the sense of being a privileged recipient of a divine favor” (BAGD, 486). That blessedness is sure and certain, it is derived from the promise equally sure and certain, and they will inherit that (1:4) at the coming of the revelation of their glorified Lord (1:7, 13).

The final clause in this verse, ton de phobon auton me phobete mede tarachthete, translated, “Do not fear their fear, nor be troubled,” is a quote from Isaiah (8:12), which, again, Peter modified by focusing on an object of fear that differs from that of the LXX Isaiah text. Phobon is defined as “terror, alarm, fright, reverence, respect, and awe (Colin Brown, 1:622; BAGD, 863). Fear provides both the motive and manner of Christian conduct (Acts 9:31; 1 Peter 2:17; Rev. 11:18). The only object of real fear, as far as Christians are concerned, is God (Heb. 10:31); He should be the object of fear of all men. me phobete is aorist passive subjunctive, and for the sake of simplifying things, we translate it thusly: “Do not be afraid, you must no longer be afraid, stop being afraid, do not be frightened.” The fear of persecution is what Peter probably has in mind in verse 14. Also, the aorist passive subjunctive mede tarachthete expresses prohibition: “Neither be troubled, agitated, or dismayed.” In a way, Peter is telling them: “Do not fear the kind of fear these pagans are afraid of, nor be agitated or troubled by it!” Persecutors too are afraid of being persecuted! If our understanding of what Peter has in mind as he writes this passage is correct, this passage then is an advice for a Christian to be completely composed as he faces his accusers. Suffering for Christ carries a blessing. Face it without fear. Do not impair your blessings by fearing man’s terror in your times of adversity.

VERSES 15-16. “But venerate the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always for defense to everyone asking you a reason about the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect, maintaining a good conscience, in order that while you are spoken against, the ones mistreating you will be put to shame by your good behaviour.” After the injunction not to fear the kind of fear these pagans are afraid of, Peter now quotes Isaiah 8:13, but makes some substitution as he sees fit. Where the LXX has “Sanctify the Lord himself,” he has “Sanctify the Lord Christ,” kurion de ton Christon hagiasate. Peter understands Jesus firstly as Lord (2:3) and that is how he interprets Isaiah’s kurion. Is ton kurion appositional to Christon, or is it the other way around? In other words, should it be translated as “Christ the Lord” or “the Lord Christ”? Many of the present-day translators make ton Christonhagiasate and kurion the predicate accusative, thus they translate: “Christ as Lord.” the object of the verb

The verb hagiasate is aorist active imperative, hence it has the force of a command: “Venerate him, sanctify him.” To sanctify is “to consecrate, to dedicate, to reverence, to treat as holy, to venerate, to adore” (BAGD, 8, 9; Rogers & Rogers, 575). The command is explicit, the focus of it is rather upon the inward acknowledgement of Christ’s Lordship, and the place of it is in the hearts, “in the hearts of you.”

The Greek aei, “always,” is an adverb modifying hetoimoi, “ready.” I am of the opinion that since this is a part of the imperative clause that commands Christians to sanctify Jesus, then aei hetoimoi should be translated “be ready always,” giving it the force of a command also. In a grammatical structure, an adverb can modify another adverb, and both adverbs can modify a verb. “always” is an adverb that modifies “ready,” another adverb, and both modify the verb “sanctify.” It is no wonder that some translations may read: “Be ready always to sanctify Jesus as Lord,” or “Being always ready, sanctify Jesus as Lord.” This will give brethren an idea why some translations differ in their renditions of the passage. An area too where the purists among us should not venture to tread.

It does seem logical however that the closest phrase aei could be associated with is pros apologian, “for defense,” in which hetoimoi also functions as a modifier of it, hence the translation, “being ready for defense always.”

Continuing on: To whom? panti to aitounti humas logon, literally “To everyone asking you a word” or a rational account of your inward hope. to aitounti is present active participle, and with its tense being present, it gives the clause an iterative sense, thus the translation: “Every time someone asks you a word.”

Concerning what? peri tes en humin elpidos, “Concerning the hope [that is] in you.” One point that distinguishes pagans from Christians is hope. The Christians, now free from the errors of their former ways, have been born again to a living hope (1:3; cf. Ephesians 2:12). It is this hope that separates them from their pagan neighbors; it is also this hope that invites confrontation with their pagan neighbors! I am of the opinion however that anyone who asks me a question, not for the purpose of knowing the reason for my inward hope, but for the purpose of finding fault in me, does not deserve an answer. I think what they are looking for is a debate. Gently, I say, you may give it to them.

How? alla meta prautetos kai phobou, “Yet [do so] with gentleness and respect.” Peter cites the qualifying phrase that recommends certain attitudes as one makes a defense for the rational account of his inward hope. Even in debates one can maintain proper Christian decorum. I have proven that many times. Do it with meekness and with fear. Not with arrogance and pride. prautetos can also mean “meekness” or “humility” (Rogers & Rogers, 575; Colin Brown, 2:256). phobou means “fear or respect” (Colin Brown, 1:621). One commentator thus asks: “Is this qualifying phrase (and the next) intended to recommend certain attitudes toward God, or toward the human questioners?” (v. 15) (Michaels, 189). If it is toward the human questioners, the text certainly recommends a Christ-like deportment toward outsiders—humility toward them, and respect for them— a deportment that certainly may redound to God’s glory on visitation day (2:12). There is nothing in the passage that could directly link phobou with the “fear” of God (unless one insists on the single definition of it). Furthermore, vv. 13 to 17 talks about how Christian disciples are to respond to their accusers when faced with queries about their heavenly hope. The verses flow smoothly if understood in this sense. But it is also possible that Peter is urging reverence or fear toward God and, on the other hand, humility and respect toward one’s accusers.

suneidesin echontes agathen, “Maintaining a good conscience.” The participle echontes is in the present and has an iterative sense, thus the translation: “Keep on having, keep on maintaining, a good conscience.” Both Peter and Paul lay great emphasis on good conscience (v. 16; 1 Timothy 1:19). “A good clear conscience” is the characteristic of a believer in Christ; a “corrupted conscience” of one who is not (cf. Titus 1:15).

hina en ho katalaleisthe, “In order that, while you are slandered, maligned, verbally abused.” A humble and respectful deportment toward accusers and a clear conscience not longer bothered by the problem of unwashed sins constitute a good response to maligners and slanderers.

hoi epereadzontes, present active participle used as substantive, “The ones mistreating, threatening, abusing, insulting” you. Four variations have been noted in the text, representing probably the efforts of some copyists to modify 1 Peter 3:16. Are you troubled by this “modification”? Not me.

kataischunthosin, aorist passive subjunctive, translated, “May be put to shame.” By what? humon ten agathen en Christo anastrophen, “By your good conduct, your good behaviour in Christ.” This appears to be the sum total of what a Christian should be, of which “humility/meekness/gentleness” and “fear/respect” are just a part of his spiritual make-up. Observing the Christians’ “good works/good lives/good conduct/good lifestyle,” how will the accusers react? The accusers of 2:12 will glorify God on the day of visitation (Does this mean these accusers become repentant? That is a good question but Peter says nothing further). The accusers of 3:16 instead are put to shame; nothing is said about their change of heart. Perhaps these accusers persist in their slander and verbal abuse of Christians (the present passive indicative sense of katalaleisthe, see above, has the sense of continuing action), instead of turning to God (2:12). As a result, they will be put to shame.

VERSE 17. “For it is better to suffer while doing good, if the will of God wills, than [to suffer] while doing evil.” Since suffering is now a reality these disciples must face, Peter sets forth two alternatives: To suffer for well-doing, paschein agathopoiountas; or to suffer for evil-doing, paschein kakopoiountas. “Well-doing” refers to “social or civic righteousness, the performance of good deeds in conformity to the laws of the state”; on the other hand, “evil-doing” refers to “criminal activities justly punishable by the authorities” (Michaels, 191; cf. 1 Peter 2:14-15; 4:15). If one is to suffer, Peter suggests the first, saying it is better (Gr. kreitton). Patiently enduring in silence without any complaint while maintaining proper Christian decorum is better, since that will put your enemies to silence and shame (v. 16). Your silence makes them silent, for they have nothing to say against you. Also, to suffer in this life at the hands of your persecutors for the sake of righteousness is better than to fall into the hands of the living God on visitation day. To suffer if the will of God be so, ei theloi to thelema tou theou, “if the will of God wills,” furthermore is better, since God’s knows what’s best for us. Jamieson says, “Those who honor God’s will as their highest law (2:15) have the comfort to know that suffering is God’s appointment (4:19)” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, from Bible Explorer 4).

We may look forward to the next verse as the other reason: To suffer in patience is better because of the example of One who did once, who was glorified after having suffered. The idea of “first the suffering, then the glory” of 1:11 is resumed here and discussed in detail.

VERSE 18. “Because indeed Christ once suffered concerning sins, the righteous one on behalf of the unrighteous ones, in order that He might bring you to God; on one hand, being put to death in the flesh, on the other hand, being made alive in spirit.”

Many scholars are said to have found in various parts of 1 Peter “traces of early Christian hymns and creedal formulae” (Jamieson, et al. Commentary on the Whole Bible, 508). This is purely hypothetical, and whether such is true or not does not matter much. The text of this verse and the next verses that follow have many uncertainties, but these have no significant effect on the exegesis. The opening statement of verse 18, hoti kai Christos, signifies that 3:18-22 functions in the same way as 2:21-25. I am inclined to believe that the purpose of both passages is the same: To set forth Jesus, firstly, as the supreme example which the readers could emulate in their lives; and, secondly, as the one who by His redemptive act on the cross made possible such lives that they now enjoy.

Hoti kai Christos hapax peri hamartion apethanen, “Because indeed Christ concerning sins died” (Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament).

There is a textual issue here as to whether apethanen, “died,” or epathen, “suffered,” is the correct reading. Both have strong manuscript support (see footnote, The Greek New Testament, 4th Revised Edition, 1998. Edited by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, & Bruce M. Metzger). Metzger, while acknowledging the difficulty of ascertaining the original text, says that the majority of the Editorial Committee preferred the reading peri hamartion epathen, “concerning sins he suffered,” for three valid reasons. Those who want to do a deeper study on this matter are advised to read Bruce M. Metzger’s A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament. The variants might be more significant to some, but R. T. France believes they do not affect exegesis significantly (Endnote no. 27, New Testament Interpretation, 279).

Hapax peri hamartion epathen, For Christ “once concerning sins suffered.” Peter now provides the suffering disciples the highest motive and example why it is better to suffer wrongfully: Because Christ too endured an unjust suffering for well-doing (vv. 17-18); He is our pattern (2:21); therefore he who suffers as He did more or less identifies with Him. Christ did suffer “once” (Greek: hapax) (“the tense of the verb reinforced by the adverb,” says Davids, p. 135); He suffered once for all (cf. Hebrews 9:24-28); He suffered “concerning sins” (Greek: peri hamartion), not his sins but ours; He suffered as a “righteous one in behalf of unrighteous ones” (Greek: dikaios huper adikon); He suffered “in order that He might bring you to God” (Greek: hina humas prosagage to theo). Prosagage introduces the reconciling aspect of the death of the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. Flagellants with their copy-cat humiliation and copy-cat crucifixion will find that their attempts to copy Jesus still fall short of what is real and genuine. The righteous Jesus suffered and died for the unrighteous that is us. If these people can’t claim they are as righteous as Jesus, then for whom are they being crucified for? Their “Good Friday” exercises, to my way of thinking, are nothing but a waste of time, of money, of blood, of energy. They can’t even save themselves; how can they save the world? They don’t even die there. I would find going to a movie on Good Friday more entertaining.

Thanatotheis men sarki, “On one hand, being put to death in [the] flesh” is Marshall’s rendition of the text. “On one hand” (Gr. men) contrasts this phrase with the one that follows. The perfect passive participle thanatotheis refers to the finished action of His death in AD 33 which has a continuing effect or consequence at the time the readers were reading Peter (AD 63), even at this time that we are reading Peter (AD 2008). The phrase could be translated as “having been put to death in [the] flesh” in order to really show the “finished-action aspect of the perfect tense, but the meaning does not stop there; the perfect also has the “abiding-result” aspect, which translators have a hard time trying to put into smooth English. Suffice it to say that the death of Christ on the cross still has abiding results and powerful effects at any time to anyone anywhere.

“Being put to death in [the] flesh” could also be translated “being put to death with respect to [the] flesh,” to emphasize the idea that it was indeed his flesh, his body, not His spirit or His soul, that died. “Flesh” is the translation of the Greek sarki, here in the dative case and does not have an article. The presence of an article gives the word another meaning; but without that article, sarki here would mean not “the flesh” but “human nature,” or “natural human sphere of existence” (BAGD, 743; Colin Brown, 1:671, 677; France, 267).

Again, examining it for its form and use in the sentence, I have come to the conclusion that sarki is not dative locative but dative instrumental. The dative instrumental has five uses (impersonal means, manner, cause, association, and direct object). sarki in this case maybe classified as dative instrumental of manner. The dative instrumental of manner expresses the way in which something is performed. Sarki, “in flesh,” in the dative case functions like an adverb, and may be translated as an adverb; “in flesh” may also mean “fleshly.”

Hence the manner of Christ’s death is fleshly, or in flesh. Only His body died. The wordings of verse 18 are also suggestive of the OT background, especially in the context of the sacrificial system, focusing on Jesus’ death as a vicarious, reconciliatory, and redeeming sacrifice. It can be viewed as the doctrine of the atonement in a capsule.

zoopoietheis de pneumati, literally rendered, “quickened in spirit,” or “made alive in spirit.” Here is one area where many interpreters also disagree. Some take sarki (above) as dative locative and translate it “in the flesh,” but they take pneumati as instrumental dative of means and translate it as “by the spirit.” The purpose of that translation is to make the Spirit as the instrument for quickening Him. If so, why not also make the flesh the instrument of his death? This is not consistent! It just shows to what extent shall some people go to prove a doctrine, they would even change the meaning of the passage to fortify their preconceived notions!

It must be noted too that both sarki and pneumati don’t have articles in the text. So why put one in the translation (“in the flesh,” “in the Spirit”)? Where is the rule for doing that? And why capitalize “Spirit”? What makes you think that the “spirit” here is the “Holy Spirit”? It is purely assumption, and we must be warned that there is nothing in 1 Peter 3 that identifies “spirit” with the “Holy Spirit.” The only way we can prove this is by doing the jumping jack, jumping from one verse to another. They call it proof-texting. The Mormons and the Iglesia ni Cristo and the “antis” are very good in that. To my way of thinking, we are not doing justice to the context when we jump from one text to another text.

“In flesh” and “in spirit” are translations that are faithful to the text. Both phrases are balanced grammatically in the text, and both are arranged in parallel. The phrase “put to death in flesh” is also analogous to the phrase “quickened in spirit.” They are both to be taken as dative instrumental of manner and not otherwise. That opinion, I believe, is consistent with the text, with grammar and with reason.

There is more to follow…

1 Peter 3:13-22 – A Backgrounder

INTRODUCTION. First Peter is just one of the two letters attributed to that Galilean apostle, whose name figures prominently in the Four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and in two of Paul’s epistles (Galatians and 1 Corinthians), which mention him in approving, and disapproving ways (see Galatians 1:18; 2:7-9, 11, 14; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5).

Early church traditions had attributed to Peter the authorship of both epistles that now bears his name. Lately however, a number of modern scholars have questioned Peter’s authorship of the first epistle, their objections based mainly on their so-called “internal evidence.” It is not within the scope of this treatise to argue on the matter of Petrine authorship of 1 Peter; I assume that everyone who reads this article doesn’t have this problem.

The place of composition is “Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13). Catholic writers believe this to be the apocalyptic name for Rome. If this is true then the “Babylon” of the Book of Revelation must also be Rome (see Revelation 14:8). Accepting both creates a dilemma for these people. We’ll not go further into that except to say that here we already have a “scholars’ swamp,” breeding ground of a lot of interpretations, scholarly and unscholarly, private and otherwise: Catholics with their purgatory; the Baptists with their baptism-does-not-save doctrine; the Mormons with their proxy salvation—-the list keeps growing. These unwarranted interpretations, like pestilent mosquitoes from the murky swampland, infest the minds of the unprepared and the unlearned. Be warned.

The Epistle of 1 Peter was addressed to the scattered strangers, Christians dispersed over a wide area of the Roman Empire, such as Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1:1). The Christian disciples were being persecuted, and so the key word “suffers” (or “suffering”) predominates in the epistle. These disciples, whom Peter styled as “strangers” (Gr. parepide’mois, 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11) and “pilgrims” (Gr. paroikous, 2:11) were undergoing a fiery trial (4:12); they were fair game to their abusive neighbors (3:16). Peter thus exhorts these believers to endure the trials of their faith, and rejoice in the hope that they have received from God through their Lord. The epistle gives practical guidance on how these Christians should deal with the pagans in the community, in the government, and at home.

At the time of writing of this epistle, the event of Jesus’ suffering and death was still fresh in the minds of these people. The truly sensible among them knew that even that suffering and that death were beyond comparison: Its cause was unjust, and its purpose was incomprehensible. But here we see Peter, an apostle who saw Christ and a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, seeing through the incomprehensibility of it all: The death of the Lord has its meaning, and the passion of the Lord has its own virtues. Jesus’ death is the answer to the problem of fear of what lies beyond the grave; his passion the answer to the problem of fear of what lies before the grave. The over-all idea is encouragement to Christians under trials, a faith-testing in which martyrdom becomes a possibility. This section, 1 Peter 3:13-22, contributes to the development of that over-all idea.

HOW THE PASSAGE IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD. 1 Peter 3:13-22 teaches that JESUS is the solution to the baffling problem of, and the pattern of patiently enduring the pains of, suffering. My rendition of the passage (see below) has been based on the rules of how the Greek words are to be understood, tense-wise, gender-wise, number-wise. After this rendition, the exegesis will follow. Consider these then.

VERSE 13. No one can harm and no one will harm the righteous if he consistently, continually, and zealously does what is good.

VERSES 14-16. But if you suffer, and that is for righteousness’ sake, here are the things to consider and to do:

(a) Your thoughts of harm must be replaced by the thought of the blessedness of suffering for the sake of righteousness (v. 14a), like Jesus (v. 18).

(b) Your fear of man and your dismay of what they can do to you (v. 14b) must be replaced by your reverential awe of Jesus (v. 15a), for he keeps watch over the good and punishes the bad (cf. v. 12).

(c) Your constant readiness for defense every time you are asked concerning your inward hope in Christ (v. 15b) must be accompanied with gentleness and courtesy (v. 15c) even toward those who are skeptical, abusive, and derisive (v. 16b), as your way of reverencing Jesus (v. 15a).

(d) Your boldness in defense of your faith (v. 15b) must be truly supported by a pure conscience that you have kept on maintaining before God (v. 16a) and by a right conduct that will put your detractors to shame (v. 16b).

VERSES 17-22. But and if you suffer, here is the pattern to emulate: Christ.

(a) Know that it is better to suffer (v. 17a), if it is the will of God (v. 17b), and if it is for well-doing than for evil-doing (v. 17c), since Christ too suffered according to God’s will, for well-doing.

(b) Consider that it is better to endure suffering (v. 17a), taking Jesus as the pattern. (i) He suffered once for sins not His own (v. 18a); (ii) He suffered, a righteous man for unrighteous men (v. 18b); (iii) He suffered that he might bring us to God (v. 18c).

(c) Think that it is better to patiently suffer (v. 17a), because of the hope of life that Christ brings, remembering him who, after having suffered and died (that is, put to death in the flesh), was made alive in the spirit (v. 18e).

(d) Understand that it is better to patiently suffer (v. 17a), because of the prospect of not spending your state with the unsaved, remembering Christ in spirit state who went and preached to the spirits in prison (v. 19), which spirits were those of men who then had kept on disobeying God while His patience waited in the days of Noah (v. 20a).

(e) Know that it is better to endure suffering (v. 17a), because of the prospect of spending one’s lot with the privileged few, remembering the eight who cast their lot with God and were saved in the ark (v. 20), whose salvation through water then corresponds to the baptism that saves us now, which is understood not as a manner of putting away the filth of the body but as an answer of a good conscience toward God, by virtue of Christ’s resurrection (v. 21).

(f) Consider that it is better to endure sufferings because of the glory that follows it, remembering Christ, who after having suffered in patience, now sits at the right hand of God and reigns in glory over all (v. 22).

Next: The Exegesis

What D’ya Think?

How do you feel being corrected by a little boy, your sentences screened and scissored by one just fresh from Kindergarten 2? Read this>>>

A Daughter At War

Arly (not her real name) has been on the warpath since Saturday night (she is not a Christian; but both her parents are). Listening to the accusations and counter-accusations the warring mother and daughter have been hurling against each other, I have even come to the conclusion that Arly has been on the warpath since she was twelve (she’s now twenty-four).

The occasion of the present war that I am watching today after church is the rebuke she receives Saturday night from the mother she has learned to hate. “Stop gambling! Take care of your child! Come to bed early so you will have strength for work tomorrow! Tell your husband to go find a job so he could support you and your child! Don’t pamper that good-for-nothing! You call him angel? He’s your devil!” Things like these that pain her and make her hate her more.

Oh how she hates her! She has learned to hate her since that afternoon twelve years ago when fresh from school she caught her in bed with someone else.

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The Prodigal

My heart bleeds for this little prodigal, a lady 29 years old, with two kids.

Ten years ago, I dreamed of her becoming like us. I mean us, as a church. Would you believe that her grandmother had been a Christian before she died? Would you believe that her mother is now a minister’s wife? He uncle too is a preacher; her uncle’s wife is a Bible teacher; her uncle’s kids are all Christians. She has all the reasons to be like us.

I pity this victim of much injustice. Her father, she says, gave her only a name, nothing else. “I have a nice surname, an equally nice first name. But you can never eat it.”

Her story ought to be for Bannawag, or Hiligaynon or Liwayway. All defunct magazines. But that’s my wish list. A few months after she was born, her mother left her in the care of her older sister (the little girl’s aunt), who dreamed dreams for her too but could not deliver those dreams. The aunt was poor, so the little girl too lived in penury. That means she went to school without having breakfast and that her dresses and shoes were hand-me-downs.

Early in her teens, she heard that her mother married a preacher. (Her father she never heard of anymore). What was that supposed to mean? She thought she could now have a home. She thought she could now live with her mother’s new family and be treated as their own. She thought she could now go to college (because all her half-brothers and half-sisters were going to college).

That never happened. She felt the bitterness of neglect.

When her case came to my attention, I saw her as a child who looked like my own. Pity. In Manila, I would invite her to lunch with me and my daughter. I gave her some money so she could buy what she needed. I often called her when I was around. I also instructed my daughter to pay her a visit when I was not around.

But she needed more than us visiting her and providing for her needs. She needed the comforting arms of a mother, the mother who left her when she was just six months old. The mother who was not and had not been, while she was growing up.

So in my own little way, I tried to influence her mother to do what is best for her child–under those circumstances of need. But, again, I was wrong in believing that she would listen to the pleadings of a preacher, or to the pleadings of her preacher-husband. She never did. But the little girl lived with her mother’s family anyway. And I heard that the mother and her husband often clashed. And the bone of contention would almost always be her love-child, the little lady now 29 years old and with two kids.

In the year 2000, I heard that she left the family of her mother and tried her luck again in Manila. But I heard too that she finally became a Christian. Thank God! Even under the worst of circumstances, she had become a child of God! It was her mother’s husband who baptized her. And at that time, she still had that loving impression of her mother. She left her because she said she did not want her to feel hurt or embarrassed or shamed. To me that was a very noble act.

Does her mother love her? is a good question. I believe in a love that works to better the state of the one you love. It is not love in word but in deed. Up to this day, I still am of the opinion that her mother’s heart beats for anyone but her. For she is the painful reminder of her past. Her love-child.

Very recently, she returned to her home province. That is where I met her again. Having heard that she is now worshipping with a group in the city, I felt happy. Happy for her. For I have been praying for her growth as a Christian. I have been praying for her to survive in these cruel and troublesome times.

I saw her the other day, her eyes beaming with love for her two kids. I understand that she loves her husband too. He is a stranger to the place and does not speak the dialect. Their love for each other, like all genuine loves should be, has a way of conquering everything, including differing cultures.

I saw that her two kids did not have anything to eat. I heard that she had tried everything. I heard that she had lost all hopes. And what I saw in her eyes when we met confirmed my suspicions about her troubled life and equally troubled faith. It troubled me too, the troubled faith of this little lady 29 years old and with two kids. Her husband, jobless for a month, has just returned to work. And you understand what return to work means: It gives you some hope. But could it put rice on the table? Payday comes after a month. The only rope you could hang on is somewhat thin.

She called me today and said she needs my help. I said okay. I made a promise. She said she’s happy there is still someone who believes in her. I said I am glad to be of help.

Our communication was long, punctuated by her long silence, or her refusal to answer my question about the idol that I saw the other day in a corner of her house. She is a Christian, a member of the Lord’s church. What is that idol doing there? That idol of the “infant child” did not just rise from nowhere. I am sure that it came because of her great distaste for her mother’s attitude toward her. She is blaming her for what happened to her life.

If that idol could help you in your troubles, why come to me?

On the other hand, this truth comes right to smack us on the face, and we better think about it: Christians by their good deeds can recruit more people for the kingdom of God. Conversely, by their evil deeds, bad attitudes, messy lives, they recruit more people for the kingdom of the devil.

That little prodigal lady needs release not just from earthly, but from spiritual troubles. But we find that sweet release only when we strive to come back. God desires us to make that first step, and wants us to keep on walking on that path toward Him. Stop the blame game; there is no good cause or reason for us to keep blaming anyone for the mess we have made with our lives. Nobody can hinder the prodigal that is us from coming home. But if we return, it is axiomatic that we make a clean break of everything, including the many idols that we have in our hearts–the hatred for those who cause us pain, sorrow and hurt, the unforgiving spirit, the desire to get even, the desire not to forget the past hurts.

I have desired for this young lady to come back, but as of now there is an idol that has come between her and her God.


That’s nothing unusual, but my brain seems to enjoy doing what I hate doing most: Reminiscing memories I wanted to tell nobody about.

It was the theme of my lecture to my nephews and my nieces and my other relatives who have been asking me countless questions. That was the other day. They flocked around me—they are out looking for a model to copy from. Hey, I said, I am not a good uncle. I have never raised you up; and even when given the opportunity I never tried. But my story, the story of how I came to be, they said, is what they want to hear. Now guys and gals, sit on my knees and listen. I had just dropped by a place that had been witness to my many angsts and anxieties, to my many pains and perils.

My school, I said, carved out of sugarcane fields. I dropped by it on my way here. Be drawn to my tales if you want to learn of my pain. It was one perilous journey of a scholar who walked seven kilometers of unpaved roads morning and afternoon, and that, for seven years until his public school education ended in 1967. The pain was in my head and in my stomach. Who could resist the ripe star apples? I only breakfasted on coffee every morning before school, walked the long arduous road to education, and lunched on nothing at noon. I had seen the star apple trees in my school grounds now as I came over here, their limbs bent by too many winds and storms, like the winds and storms of my life which in a way too had bent and conditioned me for survival. I was then a young Catholic boy, having not learned yet how to ask for grace that comes from above. But I had mastered the way of looking up and looking around the crowns of the star apple trees. Star apple trees, to my way of thinking then, operated on the law of diminishing returns; whenever I looked up, while the watching eyes of our industrial arts teacher were not looking around, those fruits would surely diminish. There were five of us hungry youths who kept returning to our favorite tree as we saw its fruits ripe and ready for the taking. We had been caught not only once but many times, but we kept on returning. It is true that I graduated from that school with honors, but I too had been dishonored by the guardian of the star apple trees. He had kept a list of our sins; we also keep an array of scars on our thighs, cuts his fingers had made whenever he caught us. The star apple trees had been my angst, personally speaking. I thought I could not graduate.

What drove me to the comforting arms of the star apple trees was my hunger and my shame. I had a relative who owned an eatery not far from the school, everybody knew that. But for a reason, details of which I would not divulge here, I chose to become the vanishing nephew, egg-gatherer, water-gatherer and dish washer. My relative’s hospitality, to my way of thinking, should also be hospitable to my self-esteem, never castigating it in exchange for a meal. I left without a word. This relative, whom I could not learn to disrespect, I have now forgiven.

This year, 2008, the lunch counter is no longer there–that four by five affair whose wooden floor sagged at the weight of the school cook. In its place is an eatery that looks more like—well, anything except an eatery. That firstly was the lunch counter of my ambitions; I had dreamed of eating there but could not afford it. It was a witness to my youthful anger at life—anger because it had made me poor.

Ah, the bad memories of the PMT office, which represented the system that wanted to educate me to prepare for war in Mindanao when I never wanted to. I refused to carry that wooden rifle and repudiated the thought of me marching to the cadence of future killing machines. For my silent civil disobedience, I was given a failing grade.

And I also remember Miss Elizabeth Dooma, my Baptist teacher, and Mr. Eduardo Montoyo Sr. (back then he was still known as an Evangelical Baptist pastor although he had already left that denomination and ministered to a small church of Christ in the city of Bacolod). These two fought for me–a young Catholic boy–as cats fought a dog. The dog was the establishment that wanted to take me off the honor list for failing the PMT. They opposed the principal’s ruling (the principal was a Baptist, but of a different stripe, Maranatha, I heard). The PMT commandant too was a Baptist, Southern Convention. I had not listened to their very hot discussion about me. But I heard that the noble Miss Dooma and the equally noble Mr. Montoyo argued my case with fervor, and logic I am sure, Miss Dooma being a lawyer and Mr. Montoyo being a seasoned debater. Thanks to them, I graduated with honors.

And so we went on our ways. Mr. Eduardo Montoyo Sr., who had pledged himself to mentor me and help me master English for its rhymes and reason, went on and tutored me on the truths of Jesus. He has now gone to his reward. To this man I am ever-thankful. The PMT commandant was too apologetic to me whenever we saw each other, having heard that I had left the Catholic church and became a “pastor” to a church that “almost looks and sounds like Baptist.” The principal became head of another big school in the city. In later years, in another case of almost similar nature, I pleaded with him to readmit my brother-in-law (my wife’s brother actually) back to school. He did, but first he reprimanded him “for not living up to the name of your brother-in-law Ed Maquiling.” I guess in a way I had redeemed myself before him. Then he died.

And Mr. Nunilon Fulo Jr, my journalism teacher and school paper adviser. Who could forget him? He it was who guided me as I learned to craft words, and made me appreciate the whimsical Henry James, the disturbingly funny James Thurber, and the artful W. Somerset Maugham. Encouraged by him, I learned to consume Henry David Thoreau, and a host of others—essayists, news writers, editorial writers, columnists. Mr. Fulo, the ever- sympathetic observer of my writing mistakes. Thanks a lot.

As for Miss Elizabeth Dooma, of Sipalay, Negros Occidental, I wish she knew that my being me would not be complete without her. I want her to know that deep in my heart my thankfulness keeps blooming like a rose. Like brother Montoyo Sr., she has never fought for a cause in vain.

This is the story my nephews and nieces wanted to hear and learn. My endurance. My ambitions. My mistakes. How I survived. How I learned never to forget. And never to be unthankful. With that, I concluded the lecture.

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