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.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In the following verse:

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6)

It looks like the proper sequence of the described events is the following:

1) the gospel is preached > 2) they are judged according to men > 3) they live according to God

(the last two events can be happening simultaneously)

However, in Russian Synodal Version of the Bible, I found this rendering of the same verse:

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they, having been judged according to men in the flesh, might live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6)

which could give us quite a different sequence:

1) judged according to men > 2) the gospel is preached > 3) they live according to God

that is, the first two events are swapped.

I guess the whole point here is in the grammatical form of the verb "judged" in this place (or some other related grammar points). So, does the grammatical form of this verb in the original text make it clear whether the judgment took place before the preaching of the gospel or afterwards?

share|improve this question

The verse appears as follows in the Greek New Testament.

1 Peter 4:6 (GNT)
6 εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη ἵνα κριθῶσι μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκὶ ζῶσι δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι.

[NOTE: Arland et al. (2012) note no variants of this verse extant.]

There are three verbs in this verse:

εὐαγγελίζω = Aorist Passive Indicative (3 person singular) = "the gospel was preached"

κρίνω = Aorist Passive Subjunctive (3 person plural) = "they may be deemed"

ζάω = Aorist Active Subjunctive (3 person plural) = "they may live life"

In respective to these verbs and tenses, the literal sense of the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition provides the best translation.

1 Peter 4:6 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
6 For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to the dead: that they might be judged indeed according to men, in the flesh; but may live according to God, in the Spirit.

The indicative mood indicates certainty ("was the gospel preached"), and the subjunctive mood indicates possibility ("they might be judged") and ("may live"). So the modified sequence proposed by the Original Post would be as follows:

  1) the gospel is preached > 
  2) they may be judged according to men > 
  3) they may live according to God

In simplified terms, the idea here is that all men are born dead in their spirit (Rom 5:12), and so to-the-dead is the Gospel preached (aorist passive indicative), notwithstanding that these dead may be deemed (aorist passive subjunctive) as still-living mortals from the viewpoint of man. The desired end state is that these spiritually dead may live (aorist active subjunctive) according to God in spirit, so as to become spiritually alive and thus become "the living."

Both verses bring these thoughts together:

1 Peter 4:5-6 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
5 Who shall render account to him, who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to the dead: that they might be judged indeed according to men, in the flesh; but may live according to God, in the Spirit.

To recap, "the dead" and "the living" in this context are categories of living people; the difference is that the former are dead in spirit, notwithstanding that anyone may deem (or judge) them as mortals still living; and the latter are no longer dead spiritually, because they are now alive to God in spirit.

REFERENCE:
Arland, Kurt et al. (2012). The Greek New Testament. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 794.

share|improve this answer
    
1) Thanks for your answer, but I am a bit bothered here. You said: "the idea here is that all men are born dead in their spirit...", so you are stating that when Peter was saying "Him, who is ready to judge the living and the dead", he meant the spiritual sense of the word ("dead in spirit"), rather than the physical sense ("physically dead"). However, phrases like "He will judge the living and the dead" or "He is the judge of the living and the dead" are quite common in the Scripture - they are almost like slang in koine - and they always refer to physical death. – brilliant May 20 '14 at 6:46
    
2) Plus, the previous two times, in the same epistle, when Peter is using the word νέκρος ("dead"), he is definitely using that word in the physical sense: "...the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1st Peter 1:3), "...God, that raised him up from the dead" (1st Peter 1:21). Good hermeneutics would be not to attach two different meanings to two same words used by the same author in the same epistle. I am afraid a strong argument is needed to support the idea that in 1st Peter 4:4-6 Peter suddenly switches from using the physical sense of the word to the spiritual one. – brilliant May 20 '14 at 6:46
    
@brilliant - what did Jesus mean when he said to the disciples "let the dead bury the dead" (Matt 8:22)? It is not bad hermeneutics to say that Jesus was using "dead" in both the spiritual sense and the physical sense. In other words, Jesus said, "let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead." So it is not bad hermeneutics to see two nuances of "dead" in the same word grammatically in the same sentence. Otherwise, how would Jesus make any sense to say that physically dead people should bury other physically dead people? – Joseph May 20 '14 at 13:45
    
1) "what did Jesus mean when he said to the disciples "let the dead bury the dead" (Matt 8:22)? It is not bad hermeneutics to say that Jesus was using "dead" in both the spiritual sense and the physical sense" - In case of Matt 8:22 the very phrase "let the dead bury the dead" and its context give us a very strong basis to interpret the first "dead" in a spiritual sense (as physically dead people can't perform an act of burying) and the second "dead" in physical (it is highly unlikely that ↙ – brilliant May 20 '14 at 15:03
    
2) the disciple was going to bury his father only because of his father's poor spiritual condition and not because of his poor physical state). The second "dead" can also be interpreted in both senses. In 1st Peter 4:4-6, however, I don't see at the moment such a strong basis for such a drastic switch of the sense of the word. In fact, there is even quite a strong basis for retaining the physical sense of the word: the previous two times that he has used the word "dead" in this epistle are all in physical sense, ↙ – brilliant May 20 '14 at 15:04

My interpretation of 1 Peter 4:6 is that christians who have died were preached to while physically alive on earth and they believed and received Christ before dying physically. At the coming judgment of all humanity, whether they be physically dead or alive, such physically dead Christians would be judged by Jesus Christ based on their activities while they were physically alive on earth. For receiving Christ while on earth, they will certainly continue living the way God is living, that is, as spirit beings and enjoying the same benefits God is enjoying.

share|improve this answer
1  
Welcome to Stack Exchange. Please consider registering an account to fully take advantage of what this site has to offer and taking the site tour to learn what we are about. This is a good start, but to be a good answer you need to revise your post to either cite references that back your position or to more thoroughly explain how you get this interpretation from the text itself. – ThaddeusB Oct 10 '15 at 16:40

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.