The passage seems to locate the time frame in which the spirits in prison were disobedient to the time period in which the ark was being prepared by Noah. Does the Greek support this reading of the text?

in which He also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who once were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark 1 Peter 3:19-20

In other words, is Peter giving us a specific window of time in which these spirits were disobedient - while God was waiting for Noah to complete the ark?

  • FYI, this post provides some context to the verse in Q. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/413/…
    – Steve
    Sep 22, 2021 at 5:31
  • The "spirits" must be understood within their proper context before asking about them can be profitable. This is one of the most misunderstood of Bible passages because many neglect the context and focus on the peculiar-looking points of this one verse. This may help answer the question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/58260/…
    – Polyhat
    Sep 22, 2021 at 6:24
  • @Polyhat, Unfortunately you should have checked the Greek. πνεύμασιν (pneumasin) does not refer to people - we are not spirits.
    – Steve
    Sep 22, 2021 at 6:32
  • @steveowen I agree that we are not spirits. We are not bodies either. Without spirit+body+soul, we aren't. But that we have spirits is the biblical teaching.
    – Polyhat
    Sep 22, 2021 at 6:50
  • 1
    @Tim Catchim Your question looks like "What function does "when" have in 1 Peter 3:19-20?" i.e. possibly a duplicate.
    – C. Stroud
    Sep 22, 2021 at 20:13

4 Answers 4


We are looking for time information in Berean Literal Bible, 1 Peter 3:

20 at one time having disobeyed, when the longsuffering of God was waiting in the days of Noah, of the ark being prepared, in which a few--that is, eight souls--were saved through water,

who disobeyed
ἀπειθήσασίν (apeithēsasin)
Verb - Aorist Participle Active - Dative Masculine Plural

This points to a distinct past event long ago.

ἀπεξεδέχετο (apexedecheto)
Verb - Imperfect Indicative Middle or Passive - 3rd Person Singular

This is another past action.

was being built.
κατασκευαζομένης (kataskeuazomenēs)
Verb - Present Participle Middle or Passive - Genitive Feminine Singular

This points to a building work in progress.

were saved
διεσώθησαν (diesōthēsan)
Verb - Aorist Indicative Passive - 3rd Person Plural

This is another aorist one-time distinctive event.

Is Peter giving us a specific window of time in which these spirits/people were disobedient - while God was waiting for Noah to complete the ark?

Yes, all the Greek verb forms are consistent with this interpretation.

  • Thank you, this is helpful. The reason this interests me is that the book of Enoch identifies the time period in which the "angels" or Sons of God were disobedient - it was in the days of Jared, not Noah. And if Peter is aware of the book of Enoch (and most scholars think he is, and that he even considers it a credible source) then he is intentionally identifying the spirits in prison, not with the angels/sons of God from the days of Jared, but with the human beings who were disobedient while the ark was being prepared. Sep 26, 2021 at 22:28

To do anything on this earth, you need a body. Without a physical body you can’t do anything - at all.

And the ‘thing’ that does something with your body is you. So you are not your body. But, already some discussion and disagreements on this in this question, so those that see differently can answer this from their perspective, then you can decide.

GEN 6:4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Irrespective of your understanding of this passage, there were offspring. Irrespective of what you believe the ‘sons of god’ were, there were entities involved, and, when they ‘died’, and/or when they lost the use of their body, they became the ‘spirits’, that while they had bodies - were disobedient. They were disobedient because they made their ‘bodies’ do the wrong ‘thing’.

YOU decide what to do (and you need your/a body to ‘do’ it, else you can’t do it). And you will be held responsible (for what you ‘do’ with your body). But you are not your body. The account of this same incident in the book of Jude clearly says they (sons of god) were ‘disobedient’ with their ‘bodies’

JUDE 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode

Habitation ‘proper domain’, - oikētērion - of the body as a dwelling place for the spirit (Strong's G3613)


For someone to go proclaim something to the spirits in prison would mean that there would be those who would hear what he had to say.

Scripture states that when men are dead they know nothing. They would not be able to hear because they are still in a state of death. Still waiting for resurrection.

When man dies his spirit goes back to God.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). At death everything returns to where it came from; the dust returns to the earth from which it was taken and the spirit returns to God who gave it.<

  1. Do the dead know anything? 
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, Eccl. 9:5.<

On the others hand angels are being chained in prison. Why would they need to be chained in prison. It makes sense that they are awake. Jesus who has now been given authority In heaven and earth now goes in spirit and proclaims something to these prisoners.

in which also having gone, He preached to the spirits in prison 20at one time having disobeyed, when the longsuffering of God was waiting in the days of Noah, of the ark being prepared, 1 Peter 3:19<

For if God did not spare the angels having sinned, but having cast them down to Tartarus, in chains of gloomy darkness,a delivered them, being kept for judgment; 2 Peter 2:4

You're Question was:

In other words, is Peter giving us a specific window of time in which these spirits were disobedient - while God was waiting for Noah to complete the ark?

It seems to confirm that these sons of God in genesis 6:2 and the Nephilim are of a spiritual nature to begin with. These are the ones who were very much alive during that time Noah was building the ark. Angels don't die like men do. That is why the abyss and prisons below were made for these Spiritual beings:

I can't help but wonder if there was any mention of Colossians 1:20 That may have been spoken to them as well.


When were the spirits in 1 Peter 3:19-20 disobedient?

Answer: During the days of Noah.

Here are the passages in question:

1 Peter 3:18-20: "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; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water."

Suppose we break this down. Note that the Greek is unnecessary for this:

1. Christ died... having been put to death in the flesh.
2. He was then made alive in the spirit.
3. Christ then proclaimed the Word — through Noah — to spirits that are now in prison.

Note: Let us pause here. Why would Christ ever proclaim the Word to the lost? To taunt them? The fact is, we are told how this took place:

4. These spirits, now in prison were once disobedient people in the days of Noah.
5. They were those of the Pre-Flood age to whom Noah preached ("proclamation", vs. 19) as he built the ark.
6. The patience of God waited for these same people to repent (vs. 20), but they refused the Message.
7. Therefore, only 8 persons were saved whereas all others perished.

With all of these points in mind, suppose we now paraphrase the verses using bracketed notation for clarity:

1 Peter 3:19-20: "[Christ was] made alive in the spirit; in which also [Christ] went and [preached through Noah to people whose] spirits [are now in prison as Peter wrote his Letter], who once were disobedient [all the people refused Noah's Message], when the patience of God kept waiting [~100 years] in the days of Noah."

Peter is clearly differentiating between the time he wrote (thousands of years after the Flood) and the age in which people lived prior to the Flood.

All of pre-Flood humanity died in the deluge, their spirits now residing in the prison of Hades as Peter recorded his Letter.

  • I'm not sure how many times this needs to be said, 2 Cor. 4:16: "[Though] our outer man [physical body] is decaying, yet our inner man [our SPIRIT] is being renewed day by day." What part of our spirit don't you understand? We are mortal bodies with a spirits that live on past the grave -- a fundamental, biblical fact.
    – Xeno
    Sep 22, 2021 at 7:34
  • Ok, let this be the end of a useful chat. If we were eternal spirits, which Jesus wasn't, then why do we need a resurrection from the dead - like he did? It's another tradition interpretation that actually is not biblically consistent. Cheers (you still haven't addressed the Greek as requested - this is what the question was about)
    – Steve
    Sep 22, 2021 at 7:55
  • @steveowen Pity you’ve ended this chat - because I’d like to know how you arrive at the conclusion that Jesus wasn’t an eternal spirit? And, BTW, it’s our bodies that are or need to be resurrected.
    – Dave
    Sep 23, 2021 at 2:42
  • What have you got to show that he was? The gospels show he originated with his birth via Mary just as a normal child - bar the unusual Father aspect. It's a simple story without complications - it is up to you to show that this simple reading is not valid or correct.
    – Steve
    Sep 23, 2021 at 2:59
  • "3. Christ then proclaimed the Word — through Noah — to spirits that are now in prison." This approach seems to violate the linear sequence of events outlined in Christs activity in 18-22. The text appears to be describing events from Christ that take place in linear order - put to death in the flesh, made alive in/by the spirit, preaching to sprits in prison, raised, gone into heaven, seated on the right hand of God. Jul 22, 2022 at 14:39

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