Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary, 1859 edition.

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1 PETER - Chapter 3

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1 Peter iii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Let wives, &c. In the first six verses he gives instructions to married women. 1. By their modest and submissive dispositions to endeavour to gain and convert their husbands, shewing them such a respect as Sara did, (whose daughters they ought to esteem themselves) who called Abraham her lord, or master; (Genesis xviii. 12.) 2. To be modest in their dress, without vanity; 3. That women take the greatest care of the hidden man, i.e. of the interior disposition of their heart, which he calls the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit; 4. Not fearing any trouble, when God's service or the duty to their husbands require it. (Witham)

Ver. 7. Husbands, &c. His advice to husbands: 1. To carry themselves towards their wives with knowledge, prudence, and discretion; 2. Not in any imperious manner, but treating their wives with respect and honour, though a wife be the weaker vessel both in body and mind; 3. Considering themselves and their wives to be joint heirs with them of God's graces and favours, both in this world and the next; 4. That their prayers and duty to God be not hindered, neither by too great a fondness and compliance, nor by disagreements and dissensions. (Witham)

Ver. 8. Be ye all of one mind. These instructions are not only for man and wife, but for every one, to whom in general these virtues are recommended. And every one's duty is comprised in these few words of Psalm xxxiii., "Turn away from evil, and do good....The eyes of the Lord are upon the just....But the countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil things," &c. Nothing can hurt you, and you need fear no menaces, no terrors, if with zeal you follow and adhere to what is good. (Witham)

Ver. 15. Always ready to satisfy,[1] &c. St. Peter would have every Christian, according to his circumstances and capacity, ready to give general reasons of his faith and hope of salvation, both to infidels and heretics that refuse to believe. (Witham)

Ver. 18. Christ....being put to death indeed in the flesh, dying on the cross for our sins, but brought to life by the spirit.[2] By the spirit here some understand Christ's divine spirit, and power of his divinity, by which he soon raised himself again from death to an immortal life by his glorious resurrection. But others by the spirit rather understand Christ's soul, by which he never died, which always remained united to his divine person, and which the third day he again reunited to his body. (Witham)

Ver. 19. In which (to wit, soul or spirit) also he came, and preached to those spirits who were in prison. The true and common interpretation of this place seems to be, that the soul of Christ, after the separation from the body and before the resurrection, descended to a place in the interior parts of the earth, called hell in that which we call the apostles' creed, (sometimes called Abraham's bosom, sometimes Limbus Patrum[Limbo of the Fathers], a place where were detained all the souls of the patriarchs, prophets, and just men, as it were in prison) and preached to these spirits in this prison; i.e. brought them this happy news, that he who was their Redeemer was now come to be their deliverer, and that at his glorious ascension they should enter with him into heaven, where none could enter before our Redeemer, who opened as it were heaven's gates. Among these were many who had been formerly at first incredulous in the time of Noe[Noah], who would not take warning from his preparing and building the ark, but it may be reasonably supposed that many of them repented of their sins when they saw the danger approaching, and before they perished by the waters of the deluge, so that they died at least not guilty of eternal damnation; because, though they were sinners, yet they worshipped the true God, for we do not find any proofs of idolatry before the deluge. These then, and all the souls of the just, Christ descended to free from their captivity, from their prison, and to lead them at his ascension triumphant with him into heaven. The Church of England cannot quarrel with this exposition, which seems altogether conformable to the third of their thirty-nine articles, which at present runs thus: "As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also it is to be believed that he went down into hell." It is thus expressed in the articles under queen Elizabeth, in the year 1562; and in the articles put out ten years before, in the year 1552, in the fourth year of king Edward the sixth, the words were: "that the body of Christ lay in the grave until his resurrection, but the spirit which he gave up was with the spirits which were detained in prison, or in hell, and preached to them, as the place in St. Peter testifieth." Dr. Pearson on the fifth article of the creed, writes thus: "There is nothing which the Fathers agree in more, than as to a local and real descent of the soul of Christ into the infernal parts, unto the habitation of the souls departed....This was the general opinion of the Church, as may appear by the testimonies of those ancient writers, who lived successively and wrote in several ages, and delivered this exposition in such express terms as are not capable of any other interpretation." Thus Dr. Pearson. He cites the Fathers. See the edition, in the year 1683, p. 237. (Witham) --- Prison. See here a proof of a third place, or middle state of souls: for these spirits in prison, to whom Christ went to preach after his death, were not in heaven, nor yet in the hell of the damned; because heaven is no prison, and Christ did not go to preach to the damned. (Challoner) --- St. Augustine, in his 99th epistle, confesses that this text is replete with difficulties. This he declares is clear, beyond all doubt, that Jesus Christ descended in soul after his death into the regions below, and concludes with these words: Quis ergo nisi infidelis negaverit fuisse apud inferos Christum? In this prison souls would not be detained unless they were indebted to divine justice, nor would salvation be preached to them unless they were in a state that was capable of receiving salvation.

Ver. 21. Baptism, &c. That is, the ark was a figure of baptism, which saveth you from the death of the soul; and as no one was saved from the waters of the deluge but those few eight persons who were in the ark, so no one can enter into heaven if he hath not been baptized, or hath had a desire of it when come to the use of reason. And such persons as are capable of knowing what they receive, must come with the dispositions of faith and a true repentance, which is here called the examination (literally, the interrogation[3]) of a good conscience, who therefore are examined whether they believe in one God and three Persons, &c. (Witham) --- Baptism is said to be the like form with the water by which Noe[Noah] was saved, because the one was a figure of the other. --- Not the putting away, &c. As much as to say, that baptism has not its efficacy, in order to salvation, from its washing away any bodily filth or dirt; but from its purging the conscience from sin: when accompanied with suitable dispositions in the party, to answer the interrogations made at that time, with relation to faith, the renouncing of Satan with all his works, and the obedience to God's commands. (Challoner)

Ver. 22. Jesus now as our Redeemer, and as man, sitteth on the right hand of God, (see Mark xvi. 19.; Colossians i.; Hebrews i. 3. &c.) having swallowed up[4] (devoured or destroyed) death; having conquered and triumphed over the devil, sin, and death, that by his grace and his merits we might become heirs of eternal life; and is gone into heaven, Angels, &c. being made subject to him. (Witham)


[1] Ver. 15. Ad satisfactionem, pros apologian, ad defensionem.

[2] Ver. 18. In quo (spiritu) en o (pneumati) veniens poreutheis, profectus. As to the different expositions of this place, see Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, &c., which also Dr. Pearson sets down at large. The late Protestant writers, as may be seen in Dr. Hammond and Dr. Wells, expound this place so as to signify no real descent of Christ's soul into hell, or to any infernal place, but only that his divine spirit sent Noe[Noah] to preach to the spirits in the prison of their body, (i.e. to those wicked men who lived in the days of Noe) to exhort them to repentance. But this exposition, as Dr. Pearson observed, is against the general opinion of the Church and the ancient Fathers; and of which St. Augustine said, (Epis. 163. tom. 2. p. 574) Quis nisi infidelis negaverit, fuisse apud inferos Christum?

[3] Ver. 21. Conscientiæ bonæ interrogatio, eperotema. See Estius.

[4] Ver. 22. Deglutiens mortem, ut vitæ æternæ hæredes efficeremur. These words, found in all Latin copies, and cited by the Latin Fathers, are scarce found in any Greek manuscript and so are omitted in the Protestant translation.


Bible Text & Cross-references:

How wives are to behave to their husbands: what ornaments they are to seek. Exhortation to divers virtues.

1 In *like manner also, let wives be subject to their husbands: that if any believe not the word, they may be gained without the word, by the conversation of the wives,

2 Considering your chaste conversation with fear.

3 *Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel:

4 But the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God:

5 For after this manner heretofore also the holy women, hoping in God, adorned themselves, being subject to their own husbands.

6 *As Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, doing well, and not fearing any trouble.

7 *Ye husbands, likewise dwelling with them according to knowledge, giving honour to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, and as to the coheirs of the grace of life: that your prayers be not hindered.

8 And finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, loving the brotherhood, merciful, modest, humble:

9 *Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing; but on the contrary, blessing: for unto this are you called, that you may inherit a blessing.

10 *For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.

11 *Let him decline from evil, and do good: let him seek peace, and pursue it:

12 Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers: but the countenance of the Lord against them that do evil things.

13 And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good?

14 *But if also you suffer any thing for justice sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their terror, and be not troubled.

15 But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being always ready to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.

16 *But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

17 For it is better doing well (if such be the will of God) to suffer, than doing ill.

18 *Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust, that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but brought to life by the spirit.

19 In which also coming, he preached to those spirits who were in prison:

20 Who in time past had been incredulous, *when they waited for the patience of God, in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.

21 Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

22 Who is on the right hand of God, swallowing up death, that we might be made heirs of eternal life: he being gone into heaven, the Angels and powers and virtues being made subject to him.



1: Ephesians v. 22.; Colossians iii. 18

3: 1 Timothy ii. 9.

6: Genesis xviii. 12.

7: 1 Corinthians vii. 3.

9: Proverbs xvii. 13.; Romans xii. 17.; 1 Thessalonians v. 15.

10: Psalm xxxiii. 13.

11: Isaias i. 16.

14: Matthew v. 10.

16: 1 Peter ii. 12.

18: Romans v. 6.; Hebrews ix. 28.

20: Genesis vi. 14. and vii. 7.; Matthew xxiv. 37.; Luke xvii. 26.