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Why do certain translations add the word 'fine' in 1 Peter 3:3 whilst others do not?

Let your adornment not be the external kind, braiding hair and putting on gold jewelry or putting on fine clothing, but the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is highly valuable in the sight of God.

Checking the reverse interlinear it would apparently flow out from ἱματίων, but I can't seem to see exactly why. John Piper is basing a pretty big argument in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (see p. 202) on the lack of the word in the original text, so I am trying to figure out why exactly it is added in most modern translations.

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Here is the English translation of the interlinear version of 1 Peter 3:3-4 in the New American Standard:

Whose let it be not the external of braiding of hair and putting around of gold or putting on of garments adorning1

But the hidden of the heart man in the imperishable [beauty] of the gentle and quiet spirit which is before God of great worth

By taking the verse apart in the following way, I think we can better appreciate how Peter in thinking in this verse:

The adornment of what is external: NOT SIGNIFICANT

  • braided hair
  • gold (jewelry)
  • (fine) clothes

The adornment of what is internal: VERY SIGNIFICANT

  • imperishable quality
  • tranquil and gentle spirit
  • precious to God

There is clearly a contrast here between the two types of adornment: one is purely physical and outward, while the other is spiritual and inward.

Frankly, the word fine is not needed to make sense of the contrast Peter is painting with his words. The contrast comprises, on the one hand, adornment which is external and expensive, yet ultimately perishable. On the other hand, there is adornment which is costly (but costly to women only in terms of the discipline required for holy living), internal, and imperishable, as is all our treasure in heaven (see Matthew 6:20).

The perishable includes elaborate hairstyles, gold (i.e., gold jewelry, another word which is inserted in English versions, and even though it is not in the Greek text, the word peritheseos is, meaning "putting around," which suggests necklaces, bracelets, and the like), and clothing. This last item, as has been pointed out by @JonathanChell, above, makes sense only as fine clothes. In fact, the thematic element in Peter's contrast is adornment, which in our English language means "that which lends beauty to or enhances aesthetically." Implied, then, is finery, not rags!

In conclusion, Peter is obviously talking about two types of adornment: One is outward and attractive; that is, carefully coiffed, ostentatious, and perhaps even garish; while the other is inward and precious; that is, hidden, spiritual, and precious in God's sight. This last characteristic takes us all the way back to God's instructions to the prophet Samuel concerning his selection of David as King Saul's successor:

"'Do not look at his [i.e., Saul's] appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart'" (1 Samuel 16:7 NASB Updated).

As Jesus said of the Pharisees and their insistence on outward and noticeable acts of piety and the external aspects of religion:

"They have their reward in full [here on earth]" (Matthew 6:2, 5, and 16).

Likewise, the women in a local assembly of Christians can dress to the nines and have their public reward in full, or they can dress modestly in public but reap a reward both here and now by nurturing their inner character so as to please the Lord.

1"adorning" = Gk. kosmos; compare 1 Timothy 2:9, where "to adorn" = Gk. kosmein

  • Thanks for the longer answer! At least I feel confident now that my perspective on the text makes sense xD John Piper was arguing that as the text only said clothing and not fine clothing and as it obviously is not wrong to wear clothing the other stuff was acceptable too (just that it shouldn't be a womens source of beauty). – David Mulder Jul 22 '15 at 17:31
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    @DavidMulder: Thanks, Dave. Paul's "take" on adornment (see footnote number one in my answer) makes a similar point. He's NOT saying women must not dress elegantly if they have the means to do so. Rather, he is saying that adorning oneself with good deeds is more significant to the local assembly and to God than merely adorning oneself with haute couture and bling! In a poorer congregation, dressing down could be a good deed for a woman who is well off. OTOH, in a richer congregation, dressing up could make the other women feel comfortable. The same thinking applies to public occasions. Don – rhetorician Jul 22 '15 at 17:46
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1 Peter 3:3 ὧν ἔστω οὐχ ὁ ἔξωθεν ἐμπλοκῆς τριχῶν καὶ περιθέσεως χρυσίων ἢ ἐνδύσεως ἱματίων κόσμος (1Pe 3:3 BGT)

A literal translation of the Greek would be “Let not your adornment be external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on clothes.”

Peter, however, is not forbidding the wearing of any clothes at all (as a literal reading of a more literal translation might imply). His point is that women shouldn't be putting on clothes that are in some way immodest. In the more literal translations like the NJKV that choose 'fine apparel' you will note that the word fine is in italics, which means the translators felt it necessary to clarify the sense of the Greek as they also do with the word merely earlier in the verse.

It seems to me that the inclusion of the word 'fine', is driven by the word ‘adornment’ (see entry II.1), as the sense of verse is not about dressing and making yourself look nice but is about focusing on the outward rather then the inward.

  • Normally supplied words are words that are abundantly clear and required for the flow of the text. My entire question is why so many translators feel like the additions of 'fine' is justified then. Do they consider it an oversight of Peter which they fix for him? Or would ἱματίων actually be understood in a Greek context as fine clothes? I mean, I would expect literal translations to leave it out then, but even translations like LEX add the word 'fine' (marked as supplied of course, but still). – David Mulder Jul 21 '15 at 16:52
  • The word 'adornment' implies these are not just clothes but fine clothes. – Jonathan Chell Jul 21 '15 at 17:02
  • David, they do not consider it an oversight so much as they do not trust all readers' ability to infer meaning from context. The intent is to avoid any possible misreading by cementing the contextual meaning as text. I've found in my own studies plenty of places where that actually cements the translators' own misunderstanding, so I don't generally agree with that approach, but that seems to be their intent. – fumanchu Jul 21 '15 at 17:33
  • @JonathanChell If that's the case then that would make for a crucial part of the answer as far as I can see and understand. – David Mulder Jul 21 '15 at 17:50

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