Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

1 Peter 3:19 says that Jesus preached unto spirits in prison; are these spirits associated with the angels of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6? If not who were the spirits that He preached to?

share|improve this question
    
You may want to check out the related question, "Does Peter suggest Jesus “descended into hell”?". –  Davïd Feb 18 '14 at 7:37

3 Answers 3

The Passage in Question

1 Peter 3.18-20, NRSV
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water.


Overlap Between 1 Peter, Jude, and 2 Peter

I've highlighted a set of key elements of 1 Peter 3.19–20 from the NA28 Greek text:

ἐν ᾧ καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε, ὅτε ἀπεξεδέχετο ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ μακροθυμία ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ εἰς ἣν ὀλίγοι, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί, διεσώθησαν δι’ ὕδατος

1 Peter 3.19–20

What we have here are:

  1. Spirits (πνεύμασιν)
  2. Who disobeyed (ἀπειθήσασίν)
  3. In prison (ἐν φυλακῇ)
  4. During the days of Noah (ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε)

Jude 6

As noted in the original question, this is remarkably similar to a passage from Jude:

  1. Angels (ἀγγέλους)
  2. Did not keep their first [dwelling], but abandoned their own home (τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν ἀλλ’ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον)
  3. Are kept in eternal chains under darkness (δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον τετήρηκεν)

2 Peter 2.4–10

Critical scholars are in general agreement that the author of 1 Peter was not the same author of 2 Peter, but that the author of 2 Peter had a copy of 1 Peter (referenced in 2 Peter 3.1). Second Peter also shows extensive dependence on Jude (cf. this related answer), and appears to combine the ideas present in 1 Peter and Jude:

  1. Angels (ἀγγέλων)
  2. Who sinned (ἁμαρτησάντων)
  3. Delivered to chains of gloomy darkness in Tartarus (σειραῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν)
  4. Related to 'the ancient world' of 'Noah' (ἀρχαίου κόσμου … Νῶε)

1 Enoch 1–36: The Book of the Watchers

First Enoch, along with a few other texts from the Second Temple period, interpreted the 'sons of God' from Genesis 6.1–4 as angels, and expanded on the account. This large crowd of angels, called 'the watchers', conspired to leave heaven in order to marry human women on the earth:

1 Enoch 6.1–2
And it came to pass when the sons of men had multiplied in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, "Come, let us choose wives for ourselves from the daughters of men of earth, and let us beget children for ourselves."

The narrative describes how the watchers taught humans forbidden things, and the children the of the watchers were giants. The four archangels in heaven raise a complaint to God about the violence the watcher's offspring have brought on the earth. In response, God sends the archangel Sariel to inform Noah that he must build an ark, Raphael is sent to imprison Azazel the leader of the watchers, Gabriel is sent to destroy the watchers' giant offspring, and Michael is sent to pronounce judgment over the other watchers. (1 Enoch 9–11)

Then Enoch is enlisted by God:

1 Enoch 12.4, 13.1
"Enoch, righteous scribe, go and declare to the watchers of heaven who forsook the high heaven, the sanctuary of their eternal station, and have defiled themselves with women. … And, Enoch, go and say to Azazel, 'You will have no peace. A severe sentence has gone forth against you, to bind you. …'"

In other words, Enoch proclaims to imprisoned spirits shortly before the days of Noah.


Who Proclaims in 1 Peter 3.19–20?

The text in question, 1 Peter 3.19–20, doesn't actually identify 'Jesus' as the one preaching. Instead, Jesus, the subject of the previous verse, is inferred by readers because of the phrase ἐν ᾧ καὶ τοῖς ('in which also he'):

ἐν ᾧ καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε, ὅτε ἀπεξεδέχετο ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ μακροθυμία ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ εἰς ἣν ὀλίγοι, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί, διεσώθησαν δι’ ὕδατος

It has been suggested that the opening of verse 19 originally referred to Enoch. This conjecture takes two forms, either emending ἐν ᾧ καὶ as Ἐνώχ καὶ by suggesting the restoration of a single χ, which was misheard or misread with the following κ in καὶ, or as ἐν ᾧ καὶ Ἐνώχ by suggesting Enoch's name was dropped entirely.

A.T. Robertson (Word Pictures of the New Testament) comments on the verse, summarizing the speculation as follows:

In which also (εν ωι και). That is, in spirit (relative referring to πνευματι). But, a number of modern scholars have followed Griesbach's conjecture that the original text was either Νωε και (Noah also), or Ενωχ και (Enoch also), or εν ωι και Ενωχ (in which Enoch also) which an early scribe misunderstood or omitted Ενωχ και in copying (ομοιοτελευτον). It is allowed in Stier and Theile's Polyglott. It is advocated by J. Cramer in 1891, by J. Rendel Harris in The Expositor (1901), and Sidelights on N.T. Research (p. 208), by Nestle in 1902, by Moffatt's New Translation of the New Testament. Windisch rejects it as inconsistent with the context. There is no manuscript for the conjecture, though it would relieve the difficulty greatly.

The passage in 1 Peter 3 definitely seems to be referring back to the familiar story about the watchers, the flood, and Enoch. If such conjecture is correct, the passage would be something like this:

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also Enoch went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water.

In other words, Enoch proclaims to imprisoned spirits shortly before the days of Noah.

However, for as desirable an emendation like this may have, there is no textual evidence for it. For this reason, most scholars have rejected it. Dalton (Christ's Proclamation to the Spirits, p. 144) heavily criticizes the theory:

For a period this conjecture was in favour among a number of scholars. However it has now been abandoned, and with good reason. A pure conjecture, with no support at all in the manuscript tradition, could only be justified if the text were really incomprehensible. The text of 1 Pet 3:19-20 is indeed difficult, but not incomprehensible. In addition, such a conjecture should make the text intelligible. But the conjecture fails to do this. If Enoch is the person who makes the proclamation to the spirits, then the transition from 3:18 to 3:19 is abrupt in the extreme. In any case, it is hard to see how this ancient story about Enoch bears on the situation of the persecuted Christians.

Manuscript evidence notwithstanding, I think Dalton may be overstating his position. First Peter 3.19-20 displays too much overlap with the 1 Enoch-version of angels being imprisoned shortly before the time of the flood. That this version of the story makes explicit appearances in the related letters of Jude and 2 Peter seems to corroborate that the hypothesis has some merit.


tl;dr:

Angels who were imprisoned for their sins (the 'sons of God' from Genesis 6.1-4) are the ones being proclaimed to.

Possibly, Enoch, not Jesus, is the one doing the proclaiming, based on intertextual dependence and conjecture.

share|improve this answer
    
You could also mention that "angels" (ἄγγελοι) are equated to "spirits" (πνεύματα) in Psa. 104:4 (cp. Heb. 1:7). –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Feb 18 '14 at 4:53

Who were the spirits that He preached to?

There are several interpretations of 1 Perter 3:19. I won’t go into detail on each view but let me list them here and then I will explain which one I hold.

  • St. Augustine held the view that the spirits are unbelieving contemporaries of Noah, to who the spirit of Christ in Noah, preached, or to whom the pre-incarnate Christ himself actually preached.

  • Christian Reformation and Enlightenment(Thomas Belsham) beliefs held the view that the “spirits in prison” were simply Gentiles in the “prison of ignorance (darkness)” to whom Christ is preached by the Apostles.

  • When Christ died, he went and preached to people in hell:
    sub-view 1: offering them a second chance of salvation.
    sub-view 2: proclaiming to them that he had triumphed over them and their condemnation was final.
    sub-view 3 (fallen Angels - not people): proclaimed triumph over the fallen angels (the Nephilim, i.e. Giants in the days of Noah) who had sinned marrying human women in the days before the flood.
    sub-view 4: proclaimed release to the people who had repented before they died in the flood, and took them from purgatory into heaven.

It is my stance that the verse is most clearly interpreted by cross-referencing Isaiah, looking at the context in which Peter wrote (i.e. specifically to whom did he write this to) and trying not to tie in the interpretations of (2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 1:6) which uphold sub-view 3 most strongly.

The key to me is the preceding verse in 1 Peter 3:18 (emphasis mine):

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

The use of the word us in “that he might bring us to God” signifies the object, the human object, not fallen-angels of the next statement. Peter, a Jew, was still living in a world view held by the Jewish communities that God was for the Jews and no one else. It was still hard for the Jewish mind to let go of their selfish exclusivity on God and even the Gospel not to mention the Laws they lived by. He was reaching out to both Jewish and Gentile “elect” as we see in the first of his letter to whom it was addressed “…to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…”

This letter encourages the Elect in the audience — the mainly “gentile” audience — of these areas of the world. The gospel is preached to these folk who were by Jewish eyes those people who were “unclean” and sat in “outer darkness” of the ignorance of the true God.

Finally, let’s look at Isaiah who many years before prophesied of this exact occurrence in which Peter and others were bringing about through the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentile world.

Isaiah 42:6-7

I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;

To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, [and] them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

This is the best example of God’s grace being shed upon the unbelieving world at large which sat in ignorance obeying their lusts which imprisoned them. This gospel should bring together all people regardless of ethnicity and at that time of Peter’s writing it was still a radical idea to think that Gentiles were worthy of hearing or could even hear the good news.

I hope this helps you and you can consider this view and hopefully it makes sense. Blessings.

share|improve this answer
1  
Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. –  Dan Feb 18 '14 at 15:07
1  
Augustine's view makes most sense to me. Just as Christ preaches to men today by His pastors and teachers as they proclaim the Gospel, so He did in Noah's day through Noah. –  user5197 Feb 21 '14 at 4:03

The question as I understand it is,"Are pneuma the same as aggelos"?

To answer that question, one must understand the triparte being that man is:(1 Thess. 5:23)

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We 'live' in a body-our earthly tabernacle, we manifest our life through our soul, our 'pneuma' is the life of God(Gen. 2:7):

"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

Therefore, men are living "spirits"(pneuma), who express their life through their souls, and are housed in a physical body until they die.

An "aggelos" is not an heir of salvation:(Heb. 1:14)

"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"

They 'dwell' in God's Presense continually-therefore, they are not needing 'salvation', they are ministers of salvation to those who believe.

'But what about those who rebelled, isn't that what this text(1 Pet. 3:19) refering to?

Matt. 25:41 says,

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

Hell(everlasting fire) was prepared for Satan(the devil) and his angels-their judgement was immediate, there was no "waiting" for a Great White Throne Judgement. It's the souls w/the 'pneuma' of God who await their destiny at the Great White Throne Judgement.(Matt. 25:31)

share|improve this answer
    
I haven't downvoted, but this answer relies on these different texts (1 Peter, 1 Thessalonians, Genesis, Hebrews, Matthew) using the same definitions for the relevant words. That falls under a systematic approach that needs to be shown, not assumed. –  Mark Edward Feb 22 '14 at 18:43
    
@MarkEdward-I'm not contesting your linguistic analysis but the evidence lies within the context of how the words are used. One cannot reconcile Heb. 1:14 and maintain that "spirits in prison" are in fact "angels" who according to Jude 1:6,"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." –  Tau Feb 23 '14 at 2:23

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.