There seems to be disagreement as to whom/what the spirit in 1 Peter 3:18 is.

(ESV) For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

(ISV) For the Messiah also suffered for sins once for all, an innocent person for the guilty, so that he could bring you to God. He was put to death in a mortal body but was brought to life by the Spirit,

(KJV) 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:

(LITV) Because even Christ once suffered concerning sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; indeed being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit;

(YLT) because also Christ once for sin did suffer--righteous for unrighteous--that he might lead us to God, having been put to death indeed, in the flesh, and having been made alive in the spirit,

Some make this the Holy Spirit in their capitalization others leave it lower case as if Christ's own spirit was made alive. (This second idea presupposes His spirit was not the Holy Spirit which is an entirely different but related question I'm not seeking to get answered here but if that's included or excluded because of the conclusion or supporting pieces to reach a conclusion to the question, fair game.) Other readings seem to indicate that he was made alive in the spiritual sense not as or by a specific spirit. Please include in the answer if there is a view that has more basis than others through the Greek or other scriptural references to indicate one over the other, or even something I hadn't thought of.

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    Micah - 5 years and 10 answers later, curious as to whether any has answered your question, or if there's anything still lacking?
    – Steve can help
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 20:49

11 Answers 11


I believe that I am correct in saying that the patristic understanding here would be that both are in a sense correct.

As has been noted in another question, the words "soul" (ψυχή) and "spirit" (πνεῦμα) as they relate to man are sometimes used interchangeably in the New Testament. When discussed as something distinct from the soul (e.g. Hebrews 4:12),though, man's spirit is understood to be the highest, innermost "part" of the soul.

The question you raise is whether πνεῦμα in 1 Peter 3:18 refers to that spirit Jesus possessed as part of his human nature or the Holy Spirit. The distinction, I think, is not so important, when one considers that the spirit within man is that which is in harmony with the Holy Spirit. This is the sense conveyed, I think, where we read that God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). One commentary explains:

If the Lord God had not then breathed into his face the breath of life (that is, the grace of our Lord God the Holy Spirit ...), Adam, however perfect he had been created and superior to all the other creatures of God as the crown of creation on earth, nevertheless would have been without the Holy Spirit within himself.1

Another more contemporary commentary reads:

By "spirit" is evidently meant that special higher harmony of the hidden part of the soul which is formed through the Grace of the Holy Spirit in a Christian - the "spirit" of which the Apostle says elsewhere: quench not the spirit (1 Thes. 5:17), and fervent in spirit (Rom. 12:11).2

Maximos the Confessor (ca 580-662) writes:

By dividing asunder soul and spirit [Hebrews 4:12] is meant distinguishing between innate virtues, the principles of which we possess by nature, and virtues which are from the Spirit, the grace of which we receive as a free gift.3

The point here - maybe a bit labored - is that the distinction between the spirit of man and the Holy Spirit in 1 Peter 3:18 is perhaps not so important. One might note, though, that however Christ was brought to life in the flesh through the spirit (or Spirit), the souls He preached to (1 Peter 3:19) seemed to have been revived in a similar fashion:

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).

1. Seraphim of Sarov, "Conversation on the aim of the Christian life" (tr. from Russian); in S. Rose, Genesis, Creation, and Early Man (2nd ed.), p.479.
2. M. Pomazanski, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (3rd ed.), p.136
3. Third Century of Various Texts (tr. from Greek); in The Philokalia, Vol. 2, p.228.


MacArthur's interpretation (from preceptaustin.org):

The phrase made alive in the spirit refers to the life of Jesus' spirit--not to the Holy Spirit. There's no article in the Greek text indicates that Peter was referring to the Holy Spirit. Rather, he seems to be contrasting what happened to the flesh (or body) of Jesus with what happened to His spirit. His spirit was alive but His flesh was dead.

Some think made alive in the spirit refers to Christ's resurrection, but that would necessitate a statement like, He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the flesh. The resurrection was a spiritual and physical occurrence. Thus Peter's point has to be that though Christ was physically dead, His spirit was still alive.

Though in spirit Christ was alive, He did experience spiritual death--not cessation of existence but separation from God. On the cross He said

My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Mt 27:46)

That shows the separation He temporarily experienced from the Father when He was made sin for us (2Cor. 5:21). Similarly, unbelievers experience spiritual death (separation from God) in this life and eternal death in the next, but they never cease to exist.

The separation between Christ and the Father was over quickly, for shortly after our Lord's lament He said,

Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit (Luke 23:46)

That shows His spirit was alive again--no longer separated from God--and could be committed to the Father.


1 Peter 3:18 is incontrovertibly talking about Jesus being resurrected as a spirit being. I shall proffer my case. Let's start by reading the passage.

1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;" (NASB)

First, he says, "put to death in the flesh." What is this trying to convey? It's talking about Jesus' death; how he "suffered for sins once for all time" while a human being, while flesh and blood. What does Peter then go on to say? That Jesus was "made alive in the spirit." This notion is linked to being "put to death in the flesh." Peter uses the conjunction δέ to denote that what he is saying about being "made alive in the spirit" is apropos being "put to death in the flesh." Thus, the expressions directly correlate to one another; you cannot separate them. In what way do they correlate? Peter has juxtaposed them to make a significant point.

We start with the expression, "put to death." Obviously, to be put to death means to die. There is no ambiguity about that. Thus, the expression is talking about a particular event, i.e. the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Then, Peter makes a point about the event of Jesus' death by adding "in the flesh" to "put to death." What does it mean to be, "in the flesh?" It means to be in the form of flesh and blood, i.e. to be a human being, which is a reference to your form and your fundamental nature. Jesus' form while being put to death was a fleshly form; his fundamental nature was that of physical. Thus, the whole expression, "put to death in the flesh", is trying to convey that Jesus was crucified in the form of flesh and blood, as a being of physical nature.

The next expression, "made alive." What does it mean to be, "made alive." The verb used there for "made alive" in Greek is ζωοποιέω(G2227). Let's do a word study.

Here's what Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says about this word; "From the same as zoon(G2226) and poieo(G4160); to (re-)vitalize (literally or figuratively) -- make alive, give life, quicken."

Let's examine all the places in the New Testament where this word is employed.

  • John 5:21 "For even as the Father raises up the dead and gives life[ζωοποιέω], thus also the Son gives life[ζωοποιέω] to whom He will."

  • John 6:63 "It is the Spirit giving life[ζωοποιέω]; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life."

  • Romans 4:17 "As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the presence of God, in whom he believed, the God who gives life[ζωοποιέω] to the dead and calls into being what does not yet exist."

  • Romans 8:11 "And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life[ζωοποιέω] to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you."

  • 1 Corinthians 15:22 "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive[ζωοποιέω]."

  • 1 Corinthians 15:36 "You fool! What you sow does not come to life[ζωοποιέω] unless it dies."

  • 1 Corinthians 15:45 "So also it has been written: "The first man Adam became into a living soul;" the last Adam into a life-giving[ζωοποιέω] spirit."

  • 2 Corinthians 3:6 "And He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life[ζωοποιέω]."

  • Galatians 3:21 "Is the law, then, opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could impart life[ζωοποιέω], then righteousness would certainly have come from the law."

  • 1 Timothy 6:13 "I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life[ζωοποιέω] to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who made the good confession in His testimony before Pontius Pilate:"

  • 1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive[ζωοποιέω] in the spirit;"

In John 5:21, what does it mean that the Father "raises up the dead and give life" to them? It means that he resurrects them. What does it mean that the Son also does so? It means that the Son also resurrects. In this context, ζωοποιέω is unquestionably a reference to resurrection. What about Romans 4:17, where it says that God "gives life to the dead"? Once again, an undeniable reference to resurrection. What about Romans 8:11, where it says that "He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life" to our mortal bodies? Our bodies are mortal because they are subject to death; Jesus' body was subject to death. God resurrected Jesus from the dead, i.e. He gave life to Jesus' mortal body(cf. Romans 6:9). That is why it says that God will also do so for us; give life to our mortal body. Therefore, this scripture is a reference to resurrection. What about 1 Corinthians 15:22? If all die in Adam, what does it mean to subsequently be made alive in Christ? Clearly, to be resurrected.

What about 1 Corinthians 15:36? What we sow does not come to life unless it dies? What is this a reference to? The context of the passage is undoubtedly about our resurrection bodies, hence when Paul says that what we sow does not come to life unless it dies, he is saying that we cannot be resurrected in incorruptible, immortal bodies unless our corruptible, mortal bodies perish first(cf. Romans 8:11). So, "come to life" in this context is, once again, concerning resurrection! And finally, 1 Corinthians 15:45. What does it mean that Jesus became a life-giving spirit? Remember John 5:21, where it says that the Son gives life(i.e. resurrects) to whomever he wants? 1 Corinthians 15:45 is talking about Jesus' resurrection capabilities; how Jesus, after being resurrected and becoming a spirit, has the power to give life to the dead, i.e. to resurrect them(cf. John 11:25, John 17:2, Revelation 1:18). So, once more, in this context ζωοποιέω is a reference to resurrection. I hope I have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that ζωοποιέω can be used with reference to resurrection. Keeping that in mind, let us examine the latter part of 1 Peter 3:18.

"For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;"

Remember, what Peter says about being "made alive in the spirit" directly correlates to what he said about being "put to death in the flesh." If you die, and you are subsequently "made alive", what has happened to you? You have, by definition, been resurrected. Cambridge Dictionary defines "resurrect" as to bring someone back to life. So, if Jesus died, and was made alive, he was brought back to life(from death), and hence resurrected. Thus, ζωοποιέω in this context is with regards to resurrection, as is the case in John 5:21, Romans 4:17, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Corinthians 15:36, and 1 Corinthians 15:45. This means that the expression "made alive" is speaking about a particular event, i.e. the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead(as is the expression "put to death" a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ).

And finally, what is "in the spirit" trying to convey? We know "made alive" is a reference to Jesus' resurrection, thus "made alive in the spirit" means "resurrected in the spirit." And we also know that this expression correlates to the expression preceding it, "put to death in the flesh." If "in the flesh" is a reference to Jesus' form(his fleshly form) and his fundamental nature(that of physical), then how about "in the spirit"? Just as the events of Jesus' death and resurrection are contrasted, so are his form/fundamental nature before his death and after his resurrection contrasted. Therefore, "in the spirit" is a reference to Jesus' form as a spirit, his fundamental nature being that of the spirit realm. Hence, the entire expression, "made alive in the spirit" is trying to convey that Jesus was resurrected in the form of spirit, as a being of spiritual nature.

In conclusion, Peter is employing juxtaposition in this text. He is juxtaposing being "put to death in the flesh" and being "made alive in the spirit" by contrasting the two events of Jesus' death and resurrection, as well as by contrasting the two forms and fundamental natures of Jesus, i.e. his fleshly form/physical nature and spirit form/spiritual nature. In doing so, along with the rest of the passage, Peter paints a beautifully coherent picture; that Jesus, while flesh and blood, suffered and died for our sins so that we might be brought to God, and that despite this, he was brought to life in the form of a spirit(with an immortal and incorruptible spiritual nature). This corroborates with what is said at 1 Corinthians 15:45 and 2 Corinthians 5:16, thus bringing everything into complete harmony.

1 Corinthians 15:45 "So also it has been written: "The first man Adam became into a living being;" the last Adam into a life-giving spirit."

2 Corinthians 5:16 "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer."

The first human, Adam was made into a living, breathing, human being of physicality. The last Adam, Jesus, was made into an immortal, incorruptible, spirit being of spirituality with the capacity to supply life to the dead. This is why we no longer regard Christ "according to the flesh"; he is no longer a being of physical nature. As the passage says, Jesus had, at one point, been regarded as flesh and bones, but ever since he was "made alive"(1 Peter 3:18), his fundamental nature has been spiritual, and henceforth it is erroneous to regard Jesus as a being of physical nature, i.e. to regard him "according to the flesh."

Hope this helps, and have a great day. :)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 11:30

Burton L. Mack, in Who Wrote the New Testament, page 91, says that 1 Peter 3:18-22 is one of several "Christ hymns" found in the New Testament:

1 Peter 3:18-20 (KJV):" 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: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

Once we remember that hymns are songs of praise, not literal statements of fact, it becomes less important what meaning we assign for 'Spirit' in the reference to 'quickened by [in] the Spirit'. We need not even assume that the author of First Peter, or perhaps the original composer of the hymn that 1 Peter uses, intended any one meaning here.

  • Thanks for your wording: "We need not even assume that the author of First Peter . . .." In other words, we CAN assume that Peter wrote the letter we call "First Peter," but we NEEDN'T assume. I can live with that. Don [P.S. One good reason for thinking the apostle Peter wrote First Peter is in verse one of chapter one: "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ . . .." In Peter's day, one identified oneself as the writer of a letter at the very beginning, not the end, as we do today (by saying, for example, "Sincerely yours, Dick Harfield"). Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 12:07
  • @rhetorician As a matter of good form, I rarely comment on other answers to questions I have answered. In this case, I don't understand the relevance of your insistence that Peter wrote 1 Peter, since I was not making a point of that. In line with the positions of most critical scholars I wrote "author of First Peter" but I could equally have written "We need not even assume that Peter, or perhaps ..." As to whether v1:1 proves anything, by analogy I could end a modern letter "Sincerely yours, rhetorician" if I wanted that letter attributed to you (or to another rhetorician). Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 22:14
  • Forgive me, I didn't know (and still don't) that comments were to be worded only in question form, which seems to be your guiding assumption. My "answer," as you call it was not an answer but a thank you, of sorts. As you already know, Dick, we will never see eye to eye on the issue of biblical authorship. Frankly, however, the people who insist that the names appended to various epistles are NOT necessarily --if ever--the people who wrote them need to assume the burden of proof as to why they aren't. The ethics of writing back then were not so different than as they are today. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 19:15
  • @rhetorician Let's continue this discussion in chat. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 21:59
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    This answer really wasn't helpful. All it tells me is "you cant ask that question." That's fine for your opinion or comment but it doesn't attempt to provide an answer merely to shut-up people with questions. I don't yet have the rank to down vote or I would. Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 0:22

There is no reason for the holy Spirit to be involved in this verse. Why?,the parallel here is between Jesus being put to "death" and then being resurrected as a "life giving spirit".

15 "Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”;[a] the last Adam became a life-giving spirit". 1 Cor. 15:45 ESV.

The following verse 19 confirms this.

19 "in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison".

Notice, the verse starts "in which" that is being in the spirit state he went and preached to the spirits in prison.

ESV,NRSVA, RSVCE,YTL,and NASB have "made alive in the spirit" and so indicate that they understand that Jesus was in a spirit state of existence and it is a correct translation.

The KJV "has quickened by the Spirit" and LITV has"made alive by the Spirit". Both translations to not keep to the parallelism and can be said that they do not accurately give the correct meaning of the verse.

  • Does the D.V mean that the ESV,NRSVA,RSVCE, YTL and the NASB versions of the bible are wrong. Give your reason so I can fix it. Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 21:26

Almost without question, this is speaking of Jesus' own human spirit, not the Holy Spirit (although it's true that 'made alive by the Spirit' is a theologically correct interpretation—Rom 8:11).

There are two textual reasons I see for concluding this:

  • St. Peter is making a contrast between the death of Jesus, in that His body was put to death, but that He Himself lived in His spirit : θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι (having been put to death in the flesh, indeed, but made alive in spirit).

  • He continues: ἐν καὶ .. πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν (in which also ... going, he preached). Notice the agreement between [in] which (ᾧ) and [in] spirit (πνεύματι). This means, grammatically speaking, that Jesus went to preach to "the spirits in prison" in the spirit in which He was made alive. In what sense did "He" go, and not only the Holy Spirit? He went in His spirit. Cf. Isa 61:1; Lk 16:22.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 7:23

I believe that the answer is definitely The Holy Spirit, as shown in Romans 8:11 "But if the Spirit (G4151 The third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, Coequal, coetetrnal with the Father and the Son.) of him that raised up (G1453 b. ...to recall the dead to life) Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit (G4151) that dwells in you."

1 Peter 3:18-19 "...but quickened by the Spirit(G4151): By which also he went and preached" Refer: 1 Cor 2:13 *"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost (G4151) teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."* What do we compare spiritual things with? We compare them with the only revealed spiritual truth; The Word of God. Which is what The Holy Spirit applies to the heart/conscience of man, just as He did at the time of the flood, and although they didn't have The Word of God in the same form as we do today, The righteousness of Christ was no less relevant for them as the measure required, than it was for Adam, or is for us today. The Word of God, became flesh and dwelt among us, The Word was spoken in the garden...Gen 2:17 "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eatest thereof you shall surely die."

Kind Regards A.P.Overton

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    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! This is a good first post, and thanks for considering context and original text. However, you are referencing G4151 from other books that don't share the same authorship as 1 Peter - Romans and 1 Cor from Paul but 1 Peter from Peter. Not a deal breaker, of course, but worth considering the more immediate text first and foremost...
    – Frank H.
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 2:34
  • Hello Frank, The Word of God has only one author...1 Corinthians 14:37 "If any one thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him recognise the things that I write to you, that it is [the] Lord's commandment.". Was Paul the author, or God?, Was Abraham the author, or God... Commented Aug 10, 2018 at 11:33

I take this as an example of a dative of agency:


God raised Jesus from the dead by "the breath of life":

NIV Psalm 104: 29When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30When you send your Spirit [], they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

NIV James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

NIV John 6: 62 Then what will happen if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before? The Spirit [breath] gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. 63 The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit [breath] and life.


The author of 1 Peter associates the vision of Enoch with Jesus:

NIV 1 Peter 3: 19After being made alive,d he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.e It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Enoch [Chapter 15] 1 And He answered and said to me, and I heard His voice: 'Fear not, Enoch, thou righteous 2 man and scribe of righteousness: approach hither and hear my voice. And go, say to the Watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: "You should intercede" for men, and not men 3 for you: Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children 4 of earth, and begotten giants (as your) sons? And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die 5 and perish. http://reluctant-messenger.com/book_of_enoch.htm


One has to establish first a Christological vision, of who is Christ, and only then venture to answer this difficult question.

I will be terse, just to give two variants of equally plausible answers.


Who is Christ? He is God's Logos who adopted, and eternally so, human nature. Since Logos is God (John 1:1-2), therefore it is correct to say that God became human. Now, Logos is Person, and Jesus' Person is that of Logos, so that Christ does not have another person but only that eternal Person of Logos. Nestorius, indeed, thought that behind the curtain of the word "Christ" two distinct persons hide: a) that of the Logos and b) that of the man Jesus, united in a most intimate manner; but this schizophrenic or better to say schizo-personic Christology was rejected in the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 429. Thus, the Person of Logos adopted not human person of Jesus, but human nature, and thus there is only one divine Person of Logos in Christ, who possesses after the Incarnation the human nature and eternally so, so that Logos now can be called also human, for He made His human nature as eternally linked and expressing His uncreated divine Personality, so that one cannot think already of this Personality in separation from the human nature He adopted, deified and eternalized. Thus, since the Person of Logos is uniquely expressed in the human unique body which He has received from Mary, then we can say that God died on the Cross, for this unique body is Logos' own body, uniquely expressing His uncreated and immortal Person through its created and mortal features, which features, through His dispensation were made His inseparable aspect, thus Logos is Jesus Christ and there is no separation between the Logos and man Jesus Christ, for both names refer to the same Hypostasis or Person, but in a certain ineffable and unmixed manner Logos also changelessly changed, for now He cannot not be without the unique body He received, which is part of His humanity. Thus, we also can freely say that God resurrected in third day, for God the Son is unimaginable already without His humanity, and His eternal Person eternalized the created bodily features as well, so even Jesus' body laying three days in sepulcher could be worshiped without any risk of idolatry, for it was already inseparable from the divine Personality of Logos. Paradoxically and ineffably, Logos never dies, but His body died, and in this sense we can say that impassible and immortal Logos suffered and died, in His body, while always being inseparably with His Father in Heavens. Vertigo of mystery, anything but easy and unparadoxical, anything but that which can be received without awe and trepidation.

Now, given that the Person of Logos adopted human nature, one may ask, what is this human nature? Is it only a body? Not of course (lest we fall into the blunder of Apolinarius, who thought that Logos inhabits just human body and Jesus does not have therefore human intelligent soul), because human nature is not only body, but also intelligent soul (I speak in categories of the classical philosophy of the Hellenistic culture, that was widely accepted in the time of Jesus). Thus, the Logos adopted not only human body, but also the intelligent soul together with this body. So, Christ is an indissoluble and unmixed unity of a) uncreated, eternal Logos; b) created human intelligent soul and c) created human body. This much about Christology, again, leaving very difficult and mind splitting nuances for another discussion, while now let us move to the 1 Peter 3:18.

Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:18:

When Jesus died on the Cross, what did in fact die? a) Logos Himself, b) Logos' created intelligent soul, or c) Logos' body? Correct answer must be that the c) is definitely right, for we can be certain that Jesus' body died. Now, could the Logos die? No! For Logos is God and God, per definition, analytically, to put it in philosophic language, cannot not be, or cannot die. Thus, the main question is: what happened to Logos' created intelligent soul? Did it die together with body and even more than body for the dead body was at least visible and touchable, whereas the intelligent soul disappeared altogether? I think, the passage very clearly suggests that this intelligent soul did not die together with body. Let me explain what gives me ground to claim the clarity of this point: if in "made alive in spirit" we put "spirit" with capitalized letters and regard it to denote the Holy Spirit, then that which is made alive - in the time when body lays dead for three days - cannot be anything else than the intelligent soul of Jesus. Why? Because, a) it cannot be body, which is still dead and thus not "made alive in spirit", and b) it cannot be Logos, which does not need to be vivified in Spirit, for He is absolutely equal to Spirit sharing full divinity with the latter and does not thus need Spirit for His vivification, being always necessarily alive for all eternity. Thus, if the "spirit" is understood as the Holy Spirit, we can infer that Jesus' intelligent soul was vivified by Spirit after Jesus' physical death, and then, after three days this same intelligent soul was united to the risen body.

Or, alternatively, if we understand "was made alive in spirit" with a lowercase letters, it cannot denote Logos, which is not to "be made alive", for being the very Principle of vivification Himself, and neither can it denote body, which lies in the sepulcher for three days, but the only solution is that what is made alive, the spirit, denotes the created intelligent soul of Logos, an aspect of the human nature adopted by Him. If so, then the principle through which the spirit is made alive is only implicit in this sentence and can imply either Logos, or the Holy Spirit, or both together, for both are the necessary Principles through whom the Father bestows life.

Thus, both alternatives are plausible and tenable, and theologically acceptable. However, objectively, at this stage of my preparation, I think that the second alternative is more precise, because the continuation of the passage says that Jesus, while His body was dead, went with His intelligent soul - called πνεύμα or spirit - to the other spirits (πνεύματα) of those people who died in ancient times, even during the deluge and Noah. Thus, the parallel usage of "spirit" in the immediate sequel must indicate that they denote the same ontological thing, the created human intelligent souls, and that those souls not only in case of Jesus, but also in case of other human beings, survive physical death, for indeed, both Jesus' and their bodies are dead, when Jesus' spirit (i.e. Logos with His created intelligent soul) communicates with those spirits (the human persons with intelligent souls) of people whose bodies were for many centuries dead.

Look one more important nuance: text says "He was put to death in body, but made alive in spirit" - those two verbs θανατωθεὶς ("was put to death") and ζωοποιηθεὶς ("was made alive") are used parallely expressing the same instance, so that it is not that He died and for few hours His spirit was also dead and then only it was made alive, but the very moment He died, His spirit was made alive. Now what does it mean? If, as we have established, the spirit most plausibly denotes God the Son's created intelligent soul, then we can assume that this soul was vivified by the very act of Christ's voluntary death, immediately before which He said "it is accomplished" (John 19:30), what is accomplished? The highest possible condition of this soul is achieved: for He loved in deed humanity with highest possible love, for there is no love higher than laying one's life for others. This highest condition, the perfection, that was achieved by death on the cross, could be called "vivification of soul" (to give just a dull analogy, if one sacrifices some of his money to a needed person, by this act he vivifies his own soul, turning it from the 'death' of stinginess, to the 'life' of generosity); the same applies to us all: unless we die for Christ, we will live for our selfish self, which is death. If we consider just continuation of existence after death, this continuation of existence also souls of disobedient sinners possess, to whom Jesus appeared in his truly living soul shining with divine grace while His body was yet laying in the sepulcher; yet, those sinful souls, while continuing to live, did not possess life in the deeper, more important and metaphorical sense - they were waiting for very long for this life to appear to them in the Person of Jesus, which was the greatest joy for them.

This teaching that intelligent souls survive bodies is a standard doctrine of the mainstream Christianity, for example, Catholics and Orthodox in ordinary liturgical cycle offer prayers for the alleviation of sins of the intelligent souls of the deceased Christians, and also ask the intercession to the intelligent souls of those saintly Christians - the saints, like Apostles, or martyrs etc. - who gained intense grace and became worthy of incredible closeness and boldness before God; in fact, remains of their bodies are venerated on earth with a reference to their living souls and intense prayful relationship with God. Thus, in the life of Church it is fundamental to believe that the intelligent soul does not die together with body, but continues to live, not though naturally, as in Platonism or Pythagoreanism, but through grace of God.

  • That was so overly verbose it was hard to follow. From what I did follow you seem to say that the soul and the spirit are the same thing but then also indicate that Christ's soul is the Spirit but not because that's part of what makes him human. I'm not sure what conclusion you've made or what exactly your answer was. Could you help me understand what you said? Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 7:51
  • Sorry for the verbosity! As to the question: I think, πνεύμα stands for Logos' (Jesus') created intelligent soul - a part of His humanity. Christ's human soul, created by God-Logos together with His flesh when He became incarnate, is not Spirit in the sense of Holy Spirit: Logos and H. Spirit are distinct divine Persons, but Jesus' created soul belongs only to the Person of Logos. So, when Jesus' body was lying dead in tomb, God-Logos, integrally with His created soul, came to the people (their souls) who had died thousand years before but continued to exist, for souls do not die with bodies. Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 11:08
  • So, you've made up a new definition for spirit in only this case and called it the special human soul that only Jesus would have had? - Soul a word not used once in this Greek passage that has it's own meaning? Forgive me but this seems to be the wildest speculation I've heard with no hermeneutic and pure conjecture. The fact that Jesus is the Word has no bearing and seems to be brought up as a distraction to make some side point. Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 15:05
  • Just so I didn't misunderstand the clear way to say what you're saying is that the Bible has the wrong word, it's not spirit it's soul, and it was a special type of soul that is different from all other human souls because it's the God+Man special soul only Jesus would have possessed? If I'm still completely misunderstanding please explain clearly without trying to throw in other things so I understand your answer. Sorry I'm having such a hard time following along. Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 15:05
  • @MicahGafford Thanks for your earnest interest and questions, I have to leave now computer for few hours and will come back to them on my return (if my mind will not be too much overwhelmed by wine). Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 15:08

What 'spirit' is 1 Peter 3:18 referring to?

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.

Let's get one thing sorted first as it helps to clarify the answer.

Jesus is not 'making proclamation' while in the tomb - he is DEAD. Before you downvote, read on. He is 'put to death in the flesh'. Then, he spends 3 days and nights [A] in the tomb as indicated by his own words.

After the 3 days and nights, Jesus is raised - not in the flesh (as Lazarus was and eventually died again) but in the spirit.

Further, Jesus is raised in the spirit - "IN WHICH" he made proclamation. So this must be after he was raised, not before! If he is not yet raised - still dead, he is not yet alive in the spirit.

knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him Rom 6:9

Jesus was mortal - flesh, until he was raised. We see that he was under he power of sin and death while facing temptation - just like one of us - not similar - just like us.

he had to be made like his brothers in every respect Heb 2:17 who was tempted in every way that we are Heb 4:15

While Jesus was in the flesh, mortal, subject to death, he did not have the spirit life yet that God would provide when He raised him from the grave.

Jesus described his post-resurrection body as comprising "flesh and bone," not flesh and blood (Luke 24:39) Thx rhetorician

Jesus was always holy - being without sin. He could have sinned as his will differed from the Father's, but was always, eventually, brought into subjection.

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38, Luke 22:42

Now we may enquire of the 'spirit' that Peter refers to.

It is not Jesus' 'own spirit'. Jesus surrendered this at death Luke 23:46 So he had this all the time since conception and died with this spirit departing at the very end. If he died in the flesh - this spirit did not prevent that death. This is just the spirit in man and is not possessing eternal life. We saw that Jesus cannot die anymore once raised.

When Jesus died, he surrendered his spirit to the Father. He does not have it anymore - he is dead, awaiting resurrection.

When Jesus was baptised, he received the Holy Spirit. This grants Jesus the power and heart of the Father. We also receive this spirit, but only as a deposit - it does not gives us a different life force. The apostles write of the Holy Spirit being the same as the spirit of the Father [B] The spirit Peter refers to is the spirit of God, that life force that supersedes flesh and blood. All spirit comes from God. The sprit beings like angels and the devil have this life force - sometimes it is holy sometimes it is not - depending on who it is in and how it is used.

God IS spirit - God is Holy, therefore His spirit is Holy spirit.

if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ Rom 8:9

This is not referring to a person separate from Christ, but is the nature of humble, faithful obedience that God has placed within us - only yet as a gift, a deposit, of what is to come.

Jesus explained that we must be 'born from above' and 'born of the spirit'. Same thing. There is no reference to Holy spirit in Jesus discussion. True life in the next age and entry to the Kingdom is only by this spirit Peter refers to. We have a gift of holy spirit now, this will not grant us new life in the Kingdom.

We will be changed into new bodies with spirit life. Just as he explained, 'a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have'.

And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, dwelling in you. Rom 8:11

It is NOT a separate spirit that raised Jesus, but the power of God - which is Himself and will also be given us. Notice, give life to your mortal bodies - making them immortal with true life.

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. John 5:26

Jesus, as the firstborn from the dead (Col 1), is the first human to be changed to have immortality, and it can only be a reality when God places His life force, His spirit in us, not as a deposit, but in full.

This is the new life that Jesus (who died in the flesh) did not have before. Unlike sprit beings who seem to be immortal and can become evil when once they were not. We, having experienced evil as mortal beings, have chosen with God's grace and truth, to live by His principles of love and true knowledge. We are going to have holiness 'baked in' when we are changed and will, according to God's word, not revert to sin anymore.

[A] Because of timing of an annual Sabbath, and the weekly Sabbath, he was killed on Wednesday afternoon and rose Saturday night

[B] for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." Luke 12:12 For it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew 10:20.

This leaves no doubt about the nature of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ. No mention of the spirit here as it is included in the Father.


"What are the three most important rules of biblical hermeneutics?" he asked. They responded, "Context, context, context."

What is the context of the verse in question (i.e., 1 Peter 3:15)?

  • the persecution the Christ followers to whom Peter was writing were experiencing, and the importance of maintaining a good witness before the world, even in the face of persecution

  • the importance of being ready to defend the faith, gently and reverently, when asked to do so by an unbeliever

  • the willingness to suffer for doing what is right, if that is God's will

  • the example set by Christ, who having done only what was right his entire "life in the flesh" (or "life in the body"), "died for sins once for all"

Christ's life in his post-resurrection appearances was different qualitatively from his life prior to his resurrection. First, Jesus described his post-resurrection body as comprising "flesh and bone," not flesh and blood (Luke 24:39). Second, after rising from the dead, Jesus seemed to have the ability to appear and disappear at will, even entering the "upper room" without the use of a door! And third, Jesus was taken up into heaven on the fortieth day after his resurrection, and he did so in bodily form in the sight of all his disciples who had gathered together with him on Mount Olivet (Acts 1:9-11).*

What made the difference? Jesus had been raised to a new life in the spirit. No longer was he subject to his self-imposed limitations as described in Philippians chapter 2:

". . . who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name . . ." (vv.6-9 NASB Updated, my italics).

Christ's exaltation, which began the moment he was resurrected, and will continue through all eternity, was made possible by his having entered into a life of the spirit. Yes, he retained a recognizable body (in most instances), which bore the scars of Calvary, but his time of humiliation and suffering was over, forever, once he emerged from the tomb.

To bring my answer around full circle, Christ alone suffered once and for all. His followers, on the other hand, will continue to suffer until God takes them to be with himself. To continue reading in 1 Peter 3, we learn that our sufferings here on earth are meant in part to mature us as Christians and to enable us to have victory over sin in our lives.

Life in the spirit will be ours, too, one day, but not yet. While we are living out our physical lives in this fallen world, with its sins and lusts (see Peter's list in 4:3), suffering has a purgative effect when we choose to yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit within us and bear up under that suffering.

As the author of Hebrews points out, very few of us will be required to experience persecution to the point of shedding our blood, as Jesus did (12:4). We all, however, should be willing to endure the hardship of suffering, for in doing so we "share in the sufferings/sorrows/afflictions of Christ," which is an honor for us (see Colossians 1:24; 3:10; and 2 Corinthians 1:5) and will surely be rewarded, if not in this life, then in the life to come.

*[We could also mention other passages in which Jesus had the ability to go about incognito, even in the presence of his closest disciples, as he did with Mary Magdalene at the garden tomb, and with the two disciples with whom he walked on the way to Emmaus.]

  • 2
    While that was a great answer I'm not sure it answered the question I asked. I almost get the impression your saying "its not the right question, let me just tell you about what I think you should understand from this section of scriptures." Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 0:13
  • @MicahGafford: You're probably right. I'll attempt a rewrite to see if I can come up with a better answer. Don Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 22:51

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