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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Peter 3:19

in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,

Adam Clarke Commentary

By which - Spirit, his own Divine energy and authority.

He went and preached - By the ministry of Noah, one hundred and twenty years.

Unto the spirits in prison - The inhabitants of the antediluvian world, who, having been disobedient, and convicted of the most flagrant transgressions against God, were sentenced by his just law to destruction. But their punishment was delayed to see if they would repent; and the long-suffering of God waited one hundred and twenty years, which were granted to them for this purpose; during which time, as criminals tried and convicted, they are represented as being in prison - detained under the arrest of Divine justice, which waited either for their repentance or the expiration of the respite, that the punishment pronounced might be inflicted. This I have long believed to be the sense of this difficult passage, and no other that I have seen is so consistent with the whole scope of the place. That the Spirit of God did strive with, convict, and reprove the antediluvians, is evident from Genesis 6:3; : My Spirit shall not always strive with man, forasmuch as he is flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years. And it was by this Spirit that Noah became a preacher of righteousness, and condemned that ungodly world, Hebrews 11:7, who would not believe till wrath - Divine punishment, came upon them to the uttermost. The word πνευμασι, spirits, is supposed to render this view of the subject improbable, because this must mean disembodied spirits; but this certainly does not follow, for the spirits of just men made perfect, Hebrews 12:23, certainly means righteous men, and men still in the Church militant; and the Father of spirits, Hebrews 12:9, means men still in the body; and the God of the spirits of all flesh, Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16, means men not in a disembodied state.

But even on this word there are several various readings; some of the Greek MSS. read πνευματι, in spirit, and one Πνευματι Ἁγιῳ, in the Holy Spirit. I have before me one of the first, if not the very first edition of the Latin Bible; and in it the verse stands thus: In quo et hiis, qui in carcere erant, Spiritualiter veniens praedicavit; "by which he came spiritually, and preached to them that were in prison."

In two very ancient MSS. of the Vulgate before me, the clause is thus: In quo et his qui in carcere erant Spiritu venient praedicavit; "in which, coming by the Spirit, he preached to those who were in prison." This is the reading also in the Complutensian Polyglot.

Another ancient MS. in my possession has the words nearly as in the printed copy: In quo et hiis qui in carcere Conclusi erant Spiritualiter veniens praedicavit; "in which, coming spiritually, he preached to those who were Shut Up in prison."

Another MS., written about a.d. 1370, is the same as the printed copy.

The common printed Vulgate is different from all these, and from all the MSS. of the Vulgate which I have seen in reading spiritibus, "to the spirits."

In my old MS. Bible, which contains the first translation into English ever made, the clause is the following: In whiche thing and to hem that weren closid togyder in prison, hi commynge in Spirit, prechide. The copy from which this translation was taken evidently read conclusi erdnt, with one of the MSS. quoted above, as closid togyder proves.

I have quoted all these authorities from the most authentic and correct copies of the Vulgate, to show that from them there is no ground to believe that the text speaks of Christ's going to hell to preach the Gospel to the damned, or of his going to some feigned place where the souls of the patriarchs were detained, to whom he preached, and whom he delivered from that place and took with him to paradise, which the Romish Church holds as an article of faith.

Though the judicious Calmet holds with his Church this opinion, yet he cannot consider the text of St. Peter as a proof of it. I will set down his own words: Le sentiment qui veut que Jesus Christ soit descendu aux enfers, pour annoncer sa venue aux anciens patriarches, et pour les tirer de cette espece de prison, ou ils Pattendoient si long tems, est indubitable; et nous le regardons comme un article de notre foi: mais on peut douter que ce soit le sens de Saint Pierre en cet endroit. "The opinion which states that Jesus Christ descended into hell, to announce his coming to the ancient patriarchs, and to deliver them from that species of prison, where they had so long waited for him, is incontrovertible; and we (the Catholics) consider it as an article of our faith: but we may doubt whether this be the meaning of St. Peter in this place." Some think the whole passage applies to the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles; but the interpretation given above appears to me, after the fullest consideration, to be the most consistent and rational, as I have already remarked.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-peter-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

By which - Evidently by the Spirit referred to in the previous verse - ἐν ᾧ en hō- the divine nature of the Son of God; that by which he was “quickened” again, after he had been put to death; the Son of God regarded as a Divine Being, or in that same nature which afterward became incarnate, and whose agency was employed in quickening the man Christ Jesus, who had been put to death. The meaning is, that the same “Spirit” which was efficacious in restoring him to life, after he was put to death, was that by which he preached to the spirits in prison.

He went - To wit, in the days of Noah. No particular stress should be laid here on the phrase “he went.” The literal sense is, “he, having gone, preached,” etc. πορευθεὶς poreutheisIt is well known that such expressions are often redundant in Greek writers, as in others. So Herodotus, “to these things they spake, saying” - for they said. “And he, speaking, said;” that is, he said. So Ephesians 2:17, “And came and preached peace,” etc. Matthew 9:13, “but go and learn what that meaneth,” etc. So God is often represented as coming, as descending, etc., when he brings a message to mankind. Thus, Genesis 11:5, “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower.” Exodus 19:20, “the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai.” Numbers 11:25, “the Lord came down in a cloud.” 2 Samuel 22:10, “he bowed the heavens and came down.” The idea, however, would be conveyed by this language that he did this personally, or by himself, and not merely by employing the agency of another. It would then be implied here, that though the instrumentality of Noah was employed, yet that it was done not by the Holy Spirit, but by him who afterward became incarnate. On the supposition, therefore, that this whole passage refers to his preaching to the antediluvians in the time of Noah, and not to the “spirits” after they were confined in prison, this is language which the apostle would have properly and probably used. If that supposition meets the full force of the language, then no argument can be based on it in proof that he went to preach to them after their death, and while his body was lying in the grave.

And preached - The word used here ( ἐκήρυξεν ekēruxen) is of a general character, meaning to make a proclamation of any kind, as a crier does, or to deliver a message, and does not necessarily imply that it was the gospel which was preached, nor does it determine anything in regard to the nature of the message. It is not affirmed that he preached the gospel, for if that specific idea had been expressed it would have been rather by another word - εὐαγγελίζω euangelizōThe word used here would be appropriate to such a message as Noah brought to his contemporaries, or to any communication which God made to people. See Matthew 3:1; Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:35; Mark 5:20; Mark 7:36. It is implied in the expression, as already remarked, that he did this himself; that it was the Son of God who subsequently became incarnate, and not the Holy Spirit, that did this; though the language is consistent with the supposition that he did it by the instrumentality of another, to wit, Noah. “Qui facit per alium, facit per se.” God really proclaims a message to mankind when he does it by the instrumentality of the prophets, or apostles, or other ministers of religion; and all that is necessarily implied in this language would be met by the supposition that Christ delivered a message to the antediluvian race by the agency of Noah. No argument, therefore, can be derived from this language to prove that Christ went and personally preached to those who were confined in hades or in prison.

Unto the spirits in prison - That is, clearly, to the spirits now in prison, for this is the fair meaning of the passage. The obvious sense is, that Peter supposed there were “spirits in prison” at the time when he wrote, and that to those same spirits the Son of God had at some time “preached,” or had made some proclamation respecting the will of God. Since this is the only passage in the New Testament upon which the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory is supposed to rest, it is important to ascertain the fair meaning of the language here employed. There are three obvious inquiries in ascertaining its signification. Who are referred to by “spirits?” What is meant by “in prison?” Was the message brought to them while in the prison, or at some previous period?

I. Who are referred to by spirits? The specification in the next verse determines this. They were those “who were sometimes disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” No others are specified; and if it should be maintained that this means that he went down to hell (Hades), or to Sheol, and preached to those who are confined there, it could be inferred from this passage only that he preached to that portion of the lost spirits confined there which belonged to the particular generation in which Noah lived. Why he should do this; or how there should be such a separation made in hades that it could be done; or what was the nature of the message which he delivered to that portion, are questions which it is impossible for any man who bolds to the opinion that Christ went down to hell after his death to preach, to answer. But if it means that he preached to those who lived in the days of Noah, while they were yet alive, the question will be asked why are they called “spirits?”

Were they spirits then, or were they people like others? To this the answer is easy. Peter speaks of them as they were when he wrote; not as they had been, or were at the time when the message was preached to them. The idea is, that to those spirits who were then in prison who had formerly lived in the days of Noah, the message had been in fact delivered. It was not necessary to speak of them precisely as they were at the time when it was delivered, but only in such a way as to identify them. We should use similar language now. If we saw a company of men in prison who had seen better days - a multitude now drunken, and debased, and poor, and riotous - it would not be improper to say that “the prospect of wealth and honor was once held out to this ragged and wretched multitude. All that is needful is to identify them as the same persons who once had this prospect. In regard to the inquiry, then, who these “spirits” were, there can be no difference of opinion. They were that wicked race which lived in the days of Noah. There is no allusion in this passage to any other; there is no intimation that to any others of those “in prison” the message here referred to had been delivered.

II. What is meant by prison here? Purgatory, or the limbus patrum, say the Romanists - a place in which departed souls are supposed to be confined, and in which their final destiny may still be effected by the purifying fires which they endure, by the prayers of the living, or by a message in some way conveyed to their gloomy abodes - in which such sins may be expiated as do not deserve eternal damnation. The Syriac here is “in Sheol,” referring to the abodes of the dead, or the place in which departed spirits are supposed to dwell. The word rendered “prison,” ( φυλακῇ phulakēmeans properly “watch, guard” - the act of keeping watch, or the guard itself; then watchpost, or station; then a place where anyone is watched or guarded, as a prison; then a watch in the sense of a division of the night, as the morning watch. It is used in the New Testament, with reference to the future world, only in the following places: 1 Peter 3:19, “Preached unto the spirits in prison;” and Revelation 20:7, “Satan shall be loosed put of his prison.”

An idea similar to the one here expressed may be found in 2 Peter 2:4, though the word prison does not there occur: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;” and in 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.” The allusion, in the passage before us, is undoubtedly to confinement or imprisonment in the invisible world; and perhaps to those who are reserved there with reference to some future arrangement - for this idea enters commonly into the use of the word prison. There is, however, no specification of the place where this is; no intimation that it is purgatory - a place where the departed are supposed to undergo purification; no intimation that their condition can be affected by anything that we can do; no intimation that those particularly referred to differ in any sense from the others who are confined in that world; no hint that they can be released by any prayers or sacrifices of ours. This passage, therefore, cannot be adduced to support the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, because:

(1)the essential ideas which enter into the doctrine of purgatory are not to be found in the word used here;

(2)there is no evidence in the fair interpretation of the passage that any message is borne to them while in prison;

(3)there is not the slightest hint that they can be released by any prayers or offerings of those who dwell on the earth. The simple idea is that of persons confined as in a prison; and the passage will prove only that in the time when the apostle wrote there were those wire were thus confined.

III. Was the message brought to them while in prison, or at some previous period? The Romanists say that it was while in prison; that Christ, after he was put to death in the body, was still kept alive in his spirit, and went and proclaimed his gospel to those who were in prison. So Bloomfield maintains, (in loc.,) and so (Ecumenius and Cyril, as quoted by Bloomfield. But against this view there are plain objections drawn from the language of Peter himself:

(1) As we have seen, the fair interpretation of the passage “quickened by the Spirit,” is not that he was kept alive as to his human soul, but that he, after being dead, was made alive by his own divine energy.

(2) if the meaning be that he went and preached after his death, it seems difficult to know why the reference is to those only who “had been disobedient in the days of Noah.” Why were they alone selected for this message? Are they separate from others? Were they the only ones in purgatory who could be beneficially affected by his preaching? On the other method of interpretation, we can suggest a reason why they were particularly specified. But how can we on this?

(3) the language employed does not demand this interpretation. Its full meaning is met by the interpretation that Christ once preached to the spirits then in prison, to wit, in the days of Noah; that is, that he caused a divine message to be borne to them. Thus, it would be proper to say that “Whitefield came to America, and preached to the souls in perdition;” or to go among the graves of the first settlers of New Haven, and say, “Davenport came from England to preach to the dead men around us.”

(4) this interpretation accords with the design of the apostle in inculcating the duty of patience and forbearance in trials; in encouraging those whom he addressed to be patient in their persecutions. See the analysis of the chapter. With this object in view, there was entire propriety in directing them to the long-suffering and forbearance evinced by the Saviour, through Noah. He was opposed, reviled, disbelieved, and, we may suppose, persecuted. It was to the purpose to direct them to the fact that he was saved as the result of his steadfastness to Him who had commanded him to preach to that ungodly generation. But what pertinency would there have been in saying that Christ went down to hell, and delivered some sort of a message there, we know not what, to those who are confined there?


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-peter-3.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison,

In which ... The Spirit by which the preaching in view here was done was the blessed Holy Spirit, by whom and through whom all the preaching has been done throughout the ages. To make the spirit by which Christ preached, as here, to have been his human spirit, or anything else except the Holy Spirit, involves men in making distinctions that are simply not discernible in the word of God.

He went and preached ... Commentators with a theory to uphold make a big thing out of the went," encountering innumerable difficulties when they suppose that he went "while dead and buried"! As a matter of fact, "he went and preached" is just a Biblical way of saying he preached. "Such expressions (he went) are often redundant in Greek."[31] Herodotus often used such expressions as "he spoke, saying," or "he speaking, said," and we have the same kind of an expression in "he went and preached." "No particular stress should be laid on the clause he went."[32] Speaking of the preaching of the apostles themselves, Paul said that Christ "came and preached peace to you that were afar off" (Ephesians 2:17); but Christ preached to the Ephesians through human instruments, nevertheless it is said that he "came and preached" to them. Therefore, "If Christ is said by Paul to go and do, what he did by his apostles, Christ may with equal propriety be said by Peter to go and do what he did by Noah."[33]

Unto the spirits in prison ... The meaning of this is that the preaching mentioned in the previous verse was directed to living men and women on the earth at the time the preaching was done, but who at the time of Peter's mentioning this were "in prison," that is, in a deceased state, under the sentence of God like the angels who are cast down and reserved unto the day of judgment and destruction of the wicked. There is another possibility, namely, that the whole antediluvian world to whom the preaching was directed were said by Peter in this passage to have been "in prison" at the time of the preaching of Noah. If that is what he meant, then the figure harmonizes perfectly with Jesus' preaching to the citizens of Nazareth and others of that generation, referring to his message as "a proclamation of release to the captives," that is, the captives in sin (Luke 4:18). There is no Scriptural reason whatever for not referring to that whole generation which rejected the preaching of Noah as "the souls in prison"; however, Peter wrote, "spirits in prison"; and, for that reason, we must refer the words "spirits in prison" to their present status at the time of Peter's writing. They, like the fallen angels, were then "spirits in prison." Ages earlier, they were living men and women who rejected the preaching of Christ through Noah. Peter here spoke of them, by way of identification, as "spirits in prison"; but there is not a line in this passage which requires us to believe that Christ preached personally to those "spirits in prison" during the three days his body lay in the tomb! See Note 1 at end of the chapter.

It is clear then that the meaning attributed to "spirits in prison" turns altogether upon the fact of when the preaching was done. The next verse makes it certain that it was during the generation of Noah, a time when the "spirits" here mentioned were not "spirits" merely, but "souls"; therefore, "spirits in prison" is a reference to their status at the time Peter wrote.

[31] Ibid., p. 177.

[32] Ibid.

[33] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 480.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-peter-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison. Various are the senses given of this passage: some say, that Christ, upon his death, went in his human soul to hell; either, as some, to preach to the devils and damned spirits, that they might be saved, if they would; and, as others, to let them know that he was come, and to fill them with dread and terror; but though hell may be meant by the prison, yet the text does not say that he went unto it, or preached in it; only that the spirits were in it, to whom he sometimes went, and preached; nor is his human soul, but his divine nature meant, by the Spirit, by which he went and preached to them: and as for the ends proposed, the former is impracticable and impossible; for after death follows judgment, which is an eternal one; nor is there any salvation, or hope of salvation afterwards; and the latter is absurd, vain, and needless. Others, as the Papists, imagine the sense to be, that Christ, at his death, went in his human soul, into a place they call "Limbus Patrum", which they suppose is meant by the prison here, and delivered the souls of the Old Testament saints and patriarchs from thence, and carried them with him to heaven; but this sense is also false, because, as before observed, not the human soul of Christ, but his divine nature, is designed by the Spirit; nor is there any such place as here feigned, in which the souls of Old Testament saints were, before the death of Christ; for they were in peace and rest, in the kingdom of heaven, in Abraham's bosom, inheriting the promises, and not in a prison; besides, the text says not one word of the delivering of these spirits out of prison, only of Christ's preaching to them: add to all this, and which Beza, with others, observes, the apostle speaks of such as had been disobedient, and unbelievers; a character which will not agree with righteous men, and prophets, and patriarchs, under the former dispensation: others think the words are to be understood of Christ's going to preach, by his apostles, to the Gentiles, as in Ephesians 2:17 who were in a most miserable condition, strangers to the covenants of promise, and destitute of the hope of salvation, and sat in darkness, and the shadow of death, and, as it were, at the gates of hell; were in the bonds of iniquity, and dead in sin, and had been for long time past foolish and disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures, to which they were in bondage. This is, indeed, a more tolerable sense than the former; but it will be difficult to show, that men, in the present state of life, are called "spirits", which seems to be a word that relates to the souls of men, in a separate state from their bodies; and especially that carnal and unconverted men are ever so called; and besides, the apostle is speaking of such who were disobedient in the times of Noah; and therefore not of the Gentiles, in the times of the apostles: add to which, that the transition from the times of the apostles, according to this sense, to the days of Noah, is very unaccountable; this sense does not agree with the connection of the words: others are of opinion, that this is meant of the souls of the Old Testament saints, who were εν φυλακη, "in a watch", as they think the phrase may be rendered, instead of "in prison": and said to be in such a situation, because they were intent upon the hope of promised salvation, and were looking out for the Messiah, and anxiously desiring his coming, and which he, by some gracious manifestation, made known unto them: but though the word may sometimes signify a watch, yet more commonly a prison, and which sense best suits here; nor is that anxiety and uneasiness, which represents them as in a prison, so applicable to souls in a state of happiness; nor such a gracious manifestation so properly called preaching; and besides, not believers, but unbelievers, disobedient ones, are here spoken of; and though it is only said they were sometimes so, yet to what purpose should this former character be once mentioned of souls now in glory? but it would be tedious to reckon up the several different senses of this place; some referring it to such in Noah's time, to whom the Gospel was preached, and who repented; and though they suffered in their bodies, in the general deluge, yet their souls were saved; whereas the apostle calls them all, "the world of the ungodly", 2 Peter 2:5 and others, to the eight souls that were shut up in the ark, as in a prison, and were saved; though these are manifestly distinguished in the text from the disobedient spirits. The plain and easy sense of the words is, that Christ, by his Spirit, by which he was quickened, went in the ministry of Noah, the preacher of righteousness, and preached both by words and deeds, by the personal ministry of Noah, and by the building of the ark, to that generation who was then in being; and who being disobedient, and continuing so, a flood was brought upon them which destroyed them all; and whose spirits, or separate souls, were then in the prison of hell, so the Syriac version renders it, בשיול, "in hell", see Revelation 20:7 when the Apostle Peter wrote this epistle; so that Christ neither went into this prison, nor preached in it, nor to spirits that were then in it when he preached, but to persons alive in the days of Noah, and who being disobedient, when they died, their separate souls were put into prison, and there they were when the apostle wrote: from whence we learn, that Christ was, that he existed in his divine nature before he was incarnate, he was before Abraham, he was in the days of Noah; and that Christ also, under the Old Testament, acted the part of a Mediator, in his divine nature, and by his Spirit discharged that branch of it, his prophetic office, before he appeared in human nature; and that the Gospel was preached in those early times, as unto Abraham, so before him.


Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-peter-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

22 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

(22) A secret objection: Christ indeed might do this, but what is that to us? Indeed (faith the apostle) for Christ has showed his power in all ages both in the preservation of the godly, were they never so few and miserable, and in avenging the rebellion of his enemies, as it appears by the history of the flood: for Christ is he who in those days (when God through his patience appointed a time of repentance to the world) was present, not in corporal presence, but by his divine power, preaching repentance, even by the mouth of Noah himself who then prepared the ark, to those disobedient spirits who are now in prison, waiting for the full recompence of their rebellion, and saved those few, (that is, only eight people) in the water.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-peter-3.html. 1599-1645.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

In which also (εν ωι καιen hōi kai). That is, in spirit (relative referring to πνευματιpneumati). But, a number of modern scholars have followed Griesbach‘s conjecture that the original text was either Νωε καιNōe kai (Noah also), or Ενωχ καιEnōch kai (Enoch also), or εν ωι και Ενωχen hōi kai Enōch (in which Enoch also) which an early scribe misunderstood or omitted Ενωχ καιEnōch kai in copying (ομοιοτελευτονhomoioteleuton). 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. Luther admits that he does not know what Peter means. Bigg has no doubt that the event recorded took place between Christ‘s death and his resurrection and holds that Peter is alluding to Christ‘s Descensus ad Inferos in Acts 2:27 (with which he compares Matthew 27:52.; Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:9). With this Windisch agrees. But Wohlenberg holds that Peter means that Christ in his preexistent state preached to those who rejected the preaching of Noah who are now in prison. Augustine held that Christ was in Noah when he preached. Bigg argues strongly that Christ during the time between his death and resurrection preached to those who once heard Noah (but are now in prison) and offered them another chance and not mere condemnation. If so, why did Jesus confine his preaching to this one group? So the theories run on about this passage. One can only say that it is a slim hope for those who neglect or reject Christ in this life to gamble with a possible second chance after death which rests on very precarious exegesis of a most difficult passage in Peter‘s Epistle. Accepting the text as we have, what can we make of it?

He went and preached (πορευτεις εκηρυχενporeutheis ekēruxen). First aorist passive (deponent) participle of πορευομαιporeuomai and first aorist active indicative of κηρυσσωkērussō the verb commonly used of the preaching of Jesus. Naturally the words mean personal action by Christ “in spirit” as illustration of his “quickening” (1 Peter 3:18) whether done before his death or afterwards. It is interesting to observe that, just as the relative εν ωιen hōi here tells something suggested by the word πνευματιpneumati (in spirit) just before, so in 1 Peter 3:21 the relative οho (which) tells another illustration of the words δι υδατοςdi' hudatos (by water) just before. Peter jumps from the flood in Noah‘s time to baptism in Peter‘s time, just as he jumped backwards from Christ‘s time to Noah‘s time. He easily goes off at a word. What does he mean here by the story that illustrates Christ‘s quickening in spirit?

Unto the spirits in prison (τοις εν πυλακηι πνευμασινtois en phulakēi pneumasin). The language is plain enough except that it does not make it clear whether Jesus did the preaching to spirits in prison at the time or to people whose spirits are now in prison, the point of doubt already discussed. The metaphorical use of εν πυλακηιen phulakēi can be illustrated by 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:6; Revelation 20:7 (the final abode of the lost). See Hebrews 12:23 for the use of πνευματαpneumata for disembodied spirits.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/1-peter-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

By which ( ἐν ᾧ )

Wrong. Rev., correctly, in which in the spiritual form of life; in the disembodied spirit.

Went and preached ( πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν )

The word went, employed as usual of a personal act; and preached, in its ordinary New-Testament sense of proclaiming the Gospel.

To the spirits ( πνεύμασιν )

As in Hebrews 12:23, of disembodied spirits, though the word ψυχαὶ , souls, is used elsewhere (Revelation 6:9; Revelation 20:4).

In prison ( ἐν φυλακῇ )

Authorities differ, some explaining by 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:6; Revelation 20:7, as the final abode of the lost. Excepting in the last passage, the word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament in a metaphorical sense. It is often translated watch (Matthew 14:25; Luke 2:8); hold and cage (Revelation 18:2). Others explain as Hades, the kingdom of the dead generally.


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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/1-peter-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

By which Spirit he preached - Through the ministry of Noah.

To the spirits in prison — The unholy men before the flood, who were then reserved by the justice of God, as in a prison, till he executed the sentence upon them all; and are now also reserved to the judgment of the great day.


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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-peter-3.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Verse 19

He went and preached; an emphatical mode of expression, common in the Hebrew language, meaning he preached. So, in Acts 1:1, "all that Jesus began both to do and teach," means merely all that Jesus did and taught; and in Matthew 9:13, "Go ye and learn," &c., means, simply, learn.--Unto the spirits in prison; that is, perhaps to mankind, in their state of guilt and condemnation. See Isaiah 42:7 , where the lost and helpless condition of men is represented as an imprisonment from which the gospel brings release. The meaning seems to be, that Jesus Christ, after suffering death, rose again by the power of the Spirit, and by the same Spirit brought the offers of pardon to mankind, who were under sentence of condemnation by the divine law; in consequence of which, as the writer goes on to explain in the Peter 3:20,21 a few are now saved, through baptism, just as in ancient times, in consequence of the preaching of Noah, a few were saved by the ark. Some suppose that the preaching here spoken of refers not to the general proclamation of the gospel to mankind, but to the warnings given by Noah to his generation, which they consider this passage as showing were inspired by Christ. Others suppose that this passage means that, during the interval between the Savior's death and his resurrection, he made the offers of salvation to departed spirits in the invisible world. The interpretation first given appears best to accord with the design of the writer in his remarks. In fact, the latter would seem to detach the passage entirely from its connection with what precedes and follows it. Besides, it is impossible to give any reason, if Jesus offered salvation to any departed spirits, why, of all the generations of the dead, the contemporaries of Noah alone were preached to in their prison.


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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/1-peter-3.html. 1878.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

19.] in which (viz. πνεύματι, in the spirit, according to which His new life was. ἐν , not simply this time: see below) He also went and preached ( πορευθείς of a local transference here, just as below in 1 Peter 3:22, πορευθεὶς εἰς οὐρανόν: and ἐκήρυξεν of a preaching good news, nearly = εὐηγγελίσατο, as in all other places of the N. T.) to the spirits in prison (the disembodied spirits, which were kept shut up (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4) in the place of the departed awaiting the final judgment: in Scheol, as Syr.),


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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/1-peter-3.html. 1863-1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

19By which also Peter added this, that we might know that the vivifying power of the Spirit of which he spoke, was not only put forth as to Christ himself, but is also poured forth with regard to us, as Paul shews in Romans 5:5. He then says, that Christ did not rise only for himself, but that he made known to others the same power of his Spirit, so that it penetrated to the dead. It hence follows, that we shall not less feel it in vivifying whatever is mortal in us.

But as the obscurity of this passage has produced, as usual, various explanations, I shall first disprove what has been brought forward by some, and secondly, we shall seek its genuine and true meaning.

Common has been the opinion that Christ’s descent into hell is here referred to; but the words mean no such thing; for there is no mention made of the soul of Christ, but only that he went by the Spirit: and these are very different things, that Christ’s soul went, and that Christ preached by the power of the Spirit. Then Peter expressly mentioned the Spirit, that he might take away the notion of what may be called a real presence.

Others explain this passage of the apostles, that Christ by their ministry appeared to the dead, that is, to unbelievers. I, indeed, allow that Christ by means of his apostles went by his Spirit to those who were kept as it were in prison; but this exposition appears incorrect on several accounts: First, Peter says that Christ went to spirits, by which he means souls separated from their bodies, for living men are never called spirits; and secondly, what Peter repeats in the fourth chapter on the same subject, does not admit of such an allegory. Therefore the words must be properly understood of the dead. Thirdly, it seems very strange, that Peter, speaking of the apostles, should immediately, as though forgetting himself, go back to the time of Noah. Certainly this mode of speaking would be most unsuitable. Then this explanation cannot be right.

Moreover, the strange notion of those who think that unbelievers as to the coming of Christ, were after his death freed from their sin, needs no long refutation; for it is an indubitable doctrine of Scripture, that we obtain not salvation in Christ except by faith; then there is no hope left for those who continue to death unbelieving. They speak what is somewhat more probable, who say, that the redemption obtained by Christ availed the dead, who in the time of Noah were long unbelieving, but repented a short time before they were drowned by the deluge. They then understood that they suffered in the flesh the punishment due to their perverseness, and yet were saved by Christ, so that they did not perish for ever. But this interpretation cannot stand; it is indeed inconsistent with the words of the passage, for Peter ascribes salvation only to the family of Noah, and gives over to ruin all who were not within the ark.

I therefore have no doubt but Peter speaks generally, that the manifestation of Christ’s grace was made to godly spirits, and that they were thus endued with the vital power of the Spirit. Hence there is no reason to fear that it will not flow to us. But it may be inquired, Why he puts in prison the souls of the godly after having quitted their bodies? It seems to me that φυλακὴ rather means a watchtower in which watchmen stand for the purpose of watching, or the very act of watching, for it is often so taken by Greek authors; and the meaning would be very appropriate, that godly souls were watching in hope of the salvation promised them, as though they saw it afar off. Nor is there a doubt but that the holy fathers in life, as well as after death, directed their thoughts to this object. But if the word prison be preferred, it would not be unsuitable; for, as while they lived, the Law, according to Paul, (Galatians 3:23,) was a sort of prison in which they were kept; so after death they must have felt the same desire for Christ; for the spirit of liberty had not as yet been fully given. Hence this anxiety of expectation was to them a kind of prison.


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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-peter-3.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Ver. 19. He went and preached] Righteousness, i.e. repentance, 2 Peter 2:5, and the faith of the gospel, 1 Peter 4:6, whereby some of those many that perished in the waters arrived at heaven, Nunquam sero, si serio. Christ went to them as an ambassador sent by his Father, and spake to their hearts.


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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-peter-3.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

1 Peter 3:19

The Spirits in Prison.

I. There is one article of the Creed which, strange as it may seem, for some centuries has practically fallen into the background, and lost its hold on the thoughts and affections of mankind. We repeat the words which tell us that Christ descended into hell, but they do not move us. Our thoughts about them are indistinct and dim. They bring no strength or comfort to us. To the taught they probably suggest the dark and monstrous belief that, in order to complete the work of a penalty vicariously borne, the agony of the garden and the passion of the cross were followed by the endurance for a few brief hours of the torments of the lost. We may be quite sure that if the descent into hell had brought no other thoughts to men's minds than those which we commonly attach to it, it would never have gained a place in the creed of Christendom, or seized, as it did for centuries, on men's thought and feeling. To those who so received it it spoke of a victory over death which was the completion of the sacrifice of the cross. It told them that He who came to seek and to save the souls He loved on earth had continued that Divine work while the body was lying in the rock-hewn grave. He had passed into the unseen world as a mighty King, the herald of His own conquests; and death and hell had trembled at His coming, and the bands of the prisoners were broken, and the gates of the prison-house were thrown open. There the banner of the King was unfurled, and the cross set up, that there also, even there, the souls of those who were capable of life might turn to it and live. There had He gathered round Him the souls of those righteous ones, from Abel onwards, who had had the faith which from the beginning of the world has justified, and had confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. There He had delivered from the passionate yearning of unsatisfied desire, and had taken them to rest till the Resurrection in the paradise of God, where He had promised to be with one whose lawless life had melted at the last hour into some touch of tenderness, and awe, and pity.

II. Whatever doubt might linger round these words is removed by the reiterated assertion of the same truth a few verses further on. That which was preached to them that were dead is nothing less than a gospel—the good news of the redeeming love of Christ. And it was published to them, not to exempt them from all penalty, but that they, having been judged in all that belonged to the relations of their human life with a true and righteous judgment, should yet, in all that affected their relation to God, "live in the Spirit." Death came upon them, and they accepted their punishment as awarded by the loving and righteous Judge, and so ceased from the sin to which they had before been slaves; and thus it became to them the gate of life.

E. H. Plumptre, The Spirits in Prison, p. 1.


Reference: 1 Peter 3:19.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 84.



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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/1-peter-3.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Peter 3:19. By which also he went, &c.— By which Spirit also he, going, preached to the spirits in prison. That is, our Lord, by the Spirit, inspired Noah, and thereby constituted him a preacher of righteousness unto those who were disobedient in that age. See Genesis 6:3; Genesis 6:22. The inspiration of the prophets seems every where to be ascribed to the Holy Spirit of God, which is the principal reason for our understanding τω Πνευματι, the Spirit, in that sense, 1 Peter 3:18. That our Lord imparted the Spirit unto the Old Testament prophets, see ch. 1 Peter 1:11.; and as he had glory with the Father before the world was, even from all eternity; and as by him God made the worlds, and governed his church and people in the early ages; he imparted the Spirit unto Noah and other prophets, before his coming in the flesh. The word going, may be either looked upon as ornamental and giving strength to the idea,—as that and other like words are in the scriptures and other authors;—or as God the Trinity is represented as doing what he did by his Spirit in the prophets, (Nehemiah 9:30. Isaiah 48:16. Zechariah 7:12.) so our Lord is represented as coming (or going) and doing what others did, in his name, and by that Spirit which they had received from him. And in like manner he may here be represented as going, and preaching to that wicked generation which perished in the flood; because he gave the Spirit to Noah, and thereby inspired him to preach to them. He preached by that preacher of righteousness, in whom was his Spirit, which then strove with man. Compare 2 Peter 2:5 with Genesis 6:3. By the spirits in prison we may therefore understand such persons as are now in the custody of death; and shut up, as it were, in a prison; where they are reserved unto the judgment of the last day: but unto whom Christ formerly preached, by the Spirit, that is, in the days of Noah, when those wicked persons lived here upon earth. For he inspired Noah to preach repentance unto that wicked generation, all the while the ark was preparing. But they continued impenitent, it is to be feared, and therefore perished in the flood; when a few persons, viz. righteous Noah and his family, were saved in the ark: and if, through grace, we have that, which is principally intended by Christian baptism,—the stipulation of a good conscience towards God, we shall be saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when the wicked world shall inevitably perish.

Dr. Fulke has quoted the venerable Bede, as giving the sense of the text in words to the following purpose: he, who in our time, coming in the flesh, preached the way of life to the world; even he himself came before the flood, and preachedto them who were then unbelievers, and lived carnally. For, even he, by his Holy Spirit, was in Noah, and the rest of the holy men who were at that time; and by their good conversation preached to the wicked men of that age, that they might be converted to better manners. This interpretation Dr. Fulke doubted not but that Bede took from the more antient fathers.

To make out this interpretation, let the following things be carefully observed. The word spirit is commonly applied by the antient writers, not to living men, but to men after they are dead. Plato (toward the conclusion of his famous dialogue, entitled Gorgias) terms the place where wicked men are detained after death, το δεσμωτηριον, the prison, which they call Tartarus; and afterwards he speaks of wicked men deceased as εν Αδου — εν δεσμωτηριω,— in Hades, in prison. Elsner has quoted Aristotle, as using the phrase εν φυλακη ειναι, to be in prison, concerning the dead. For when Evoesus Syrus had hanged some of the satraps who were about to revolt, he ordered it to be told to their friends, that they were in prison, οτι εν φυλακη εισιν . But he used the word equivocally: for though he meant that they were dead, yet he designed that their friends should think they were in prison; and accordingly they gave money to ransom them; which when he had received, he brought them out dead. What therefore he said amounted to this, "That they were in custody," whereby he meant, that they were in the custody of death. But he would not add πνευματα, spirits, εν Αδου, in Hades, or any like words, because that would have made his meaning clear, which he intended should be obscure.

The persons here spoken of, are termed spirits in prison; that is, who are now in prison; though they formerly lived in bodies upon earth, and were disobedient in the days of Noah, all the while the ark was preparing. We find the word φυλακη, a prison, used concerning wicked spirits, Revelation 18:2; Revelation 20:7 and the same word is applied to wicked men after they are dead. The Syriac version has rendered the words thus; He preached unto those souls which were (or are) detained in Sheol, or Hades; that is, to wicked men, who are now spirits, confined in their proper place, in the state of the dead.

Our blessed Saviour cautioned wicked men to repent before death, lest they should be cast into prison; Matthew 5:25; Matthew 18:30. Luke 12:58. And St. Peter seems here to be speaking of that prison, in which the spirits of wicked men are detained in safe custody; reserved unto the judgment of the last day; as it is said of the fallen angels. 2 Peter 2:4-5. Jude 1:6.

To conclude.—If this part of the present epistle be looked upon as a digression, it was a very pertinent one, and a carrying on of the grand view of the epistle; which was, to encourage the Christians to bear persecution with patience and fortitude, and still to continue to do good. For, Christ, their Lord and Master, did so, and persevered unto the death; but he rose again, and was amply rewarded: inlike manner the Christians also, after suffering with him, might expect, at last, to be glorified together with him. Nay, farther; Christ was always doing good, and particularly endeavouring to render men pious and holy. For, he inspired Noah, and sent him to preach unto the antediluvians, who are now dead; and the effect was much the same with his own preaching in person, or by his apostles, afterwards; that is, some believed, but others were disobedient. It may be asked, "And what became of them?" The answer is, "The righteous few were saved in the ark: the numerous disobedient, who had rejected the admonitions of Noah for a hundred and twenty years, perished in the flood." What happened during therains, &c. we must leave. And the event will again be analogous; for the unbelieving world must perish. But as righteous Noah and his family were saved in the ark, so they who are baptized with the true Christian baptism, (which is not a mere putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the stipulation of a good conscience towards God,) will finally be saved, if they continue faithful, in consequence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is gone into heaven, and is placed at the right hand of God; angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject unto him: 1 Peter 3:22.


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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-peter-3.html. 1801-1803.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Peter 3:19. With this verse a new paragraph—extending to 1 Peter 3:22 inclusive—begins, closely connected by ἐν (i.e. πνεύματι) with what precedes, and in which reference is made to the glory of Him who was quickened according to the Spirit. It may appear singular that in this passage Peter should make mention of those who were unbelieving in the days of Noah, and of baptism as the antitype of the water of the deluge; but this may be explained from the circumstance that he looks on the deluge as a type of the approaching judgment. It must be observed that it is not so much the condemnation of the unbelieving, as the salvation of believers that the apostle has here in his mind.

ἐν καὶ κ. τ. λ.] “in which (spirit) He also went and preached unto the spirits in prison (to them), which sometime were unbelieving when,” etc. The close connection of these words with what immediately precedes—by ἐν , sc. πνεύματι,—favours the view that ἐκήρυξε refers to an act of Christ which, as the ζωοποιηθεὶς πνεύματι, He performed after His death, and that with reference to the spirits ἐν φυλακῇ of the unbelievers who had perished in the deluge. This is the view of the oldest Fathers of the Greek and Latin Church; as also of the greater number of later and modern theologians. Augustin, however, opposed it, and considered ἐκήρυξεν as referring to a preaching by Christ ἐν πνεύματι, long before His incarnation, in the days of Noah, to the people of that generation, upon whom the judgment of the deluge came because of their unbelief.(205) This view, after being adopted by several theologians of the Middle Ages, became prevalent in the Reformed Church. In recent times, it has been defended more especially by Schweizer, Wichelhaus, Besser, and Hofmann. The chief arguments which those who maintain it advance in opposition to that first mentioned, are the following:—(1) The idea that Christ preached to the spirits ἐν φυλακῇ would be an isolated one occurring nowhere else in Scripture; and, further, preaching such as this, if conceived as judicial, would have been entirely useless, whilst, looked on as a proclamation of salvation, it would stand in contradiction to the uniform teaching of Scripture regarding the state of man after death. To this, however, it must be replied, that isolated ideas are to be found expressed here and there in Scripture, and that the reconciliation of the idea of a salvation offered to the spirits ἐν φυλακῇ with the other doctrines of Scripture, can at most be termed a problem difficult of solution; nor must it be forgotten that the eschatological doctrines comprehend within them very many problems. (2) This view does not correspond with the tendency of the entire passage from 1 Peter 3:17 to 1 Peter 3:22, and therefore does not fit into the train of thought. But this assertion is to the point only if those who make it have themselves correctly understood the tendency of the passage, which in this instance they have not done. (3) It cannot be understood how Peter comes so suddenly to speak of the spirits in prison. But, in reply, it may be urged, with at least equal justification, that it is not easy to understand how Peter comes so suddenly to speak of an act of Christ before His incarnation. (4) The want of the article before ἀπειθήσασι compels us to translate this participle not: “which sometime were unbelieving,” but: “when they sometime were unbelieving.” This, however, is not the case, since the participle, added with adjectival force to a substantive, is often enough joined to the latter without an article. If Peter had put the words πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξε, before τοῖςπνεύμασι, no difficulty would have presented itself in the translation under dispute (“the sometime unbelieving spirits in prison”). The translation to which preference is given is grammatically untenable.(206)

Finally, appeal has been made to the fact that καί is placed after ἐν , indeed even to ἐν itself; but a correct explanation offers no justification for so doing. Besides the close connection of the relative clause with that immediately preceding, the following points favour the interpretation attacked:—(1) The correspondence of the πνεύματι to be supplied to ἐν with the subsequent πνεύμασιν; (2) πορευθείς, which must be taken in the same sense as the πορευθείς in 1 Peter 3:22; (3) The fact that ποτέ does not stand with ἐκήρυξε, but in 1 Peter 3:20 with ἀπειθήσασιν, which shows that the ἀπειθεῖν took place previous to the κηρύσσειν; and, lastly, (4) The circumstance that had Peter closed his sentence with ἐκήρυξεν, it could have occurred to no one that Peter was here speaking of a preaching of Christ which took place in a time long gone by.

ἐν ] is not equivalent to διό ( αἰτιολογικῶς with reference to ἔπαθε, Theophylact); but whilst refers back to πνεύματι, ἐν states in what condition Christ accomplished that which is mentioned in what follows,

He accomplished it not ἐν σαρκί (for after the σάρξ He was put to death), but ἐν πνεύματι (for after the πνεῦμα He was made alive). ἐν stands here in a position similar to that which it holds in Romans 8:8, where, however, σάρξ and πνεῦμα form an ethical antithesis, which here is not the case. Hofmann wrongly attributes to ἐν here an “instrumental force” equivalent to “by means of;” he is induced to do solely by his explanation of the πνεύματι to be supplied. Although it is evident that πνεύματι here must be taken in no sense different from that of the foregoing πνεύματι, Hofmann nevertheless holds it to be identical with the πνεῦμα χριστοῦ mentioned in chap. 1 Peter 1:11, while he himself says that the πνεύματι subjoined to ζωοποιηθείς cannot be understood of the Holy Ghost.(207)

Peter says, then, that Christ, in the Spirit according to which He was made alive, preached to the spirits ἐν φυλακῇ, which cannot be understood to mean anything else than that He did it as a πνεῦ΄α (in His pneumatical condition). Fronmüller erroneously interprets: “in the existence-form of a spirit separated from the body;” for the quickened Christ lives not as a simple spirit, but is in possession of a glorified spiritual body.

καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύ΄ασι πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν] By τὰ πνεύ΄ατα are to be understood, neither angels (Hebrews 1:14(208)) nor “men living upon the earth” (as Wichelhaus explains), but the souls of men already dead, as in Hebrews 12:23, which in Revelation 6:9; Revelation 20:4, Wisdom of Solomon 3:1, are called ψυχαί. ἐν φυλακῇ designates not only the place, but denotes also the condition in which the πνεύματα are. Hofmann wrongly—because in opposition to the uniform usage in the N. T.—denies all local reference to the expression, and would therefore translate ἐν φυλακῇ by “in durance.” The meaning is, that the πνεύματα were in prison as prisoners.(209) The expression occurs in the N. T. with the article and without it, and its more precise force here is clear from the passages: Revelation 20:7; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6. It does not denote generally the kingdom of the dead (Lactant. Inst. I. 7, c. 21: omnes [animae] in una communique custodia detinentur), but that part of it, which serves as abode for the souls of the ungodly until the day of judgment.(210) The dative depends, indeed, on ἐκήρυξεν, not on πορευθείς; but the addition of the latter word gives prominence to the fact that Christ went to those spirits, and preached to them in that place where they were. Hofmann is not altogether wrong when, in support of his own view of the passage, he says: “the operation of the spirit of Christ, by which Noah was made the organ of His proclamation, might be termed a ‘going and preaching’ on the part of Christ” (comp. especially the passage, Ephesians 2:17 : ἐλθὼν εὐηγγελίσατο; see Meyer in loc., to which Hofmann might have appealed). But that πορευθείς cannot be so taken here is shown by the πορευθείς in 1 Peter 3:22, with which it must be identical in sense.(211) ἐκήρυξε is the same verb as that so often used in the N. T. of the preaching (not the teaching) of Christ and His apostles. Usually it is accompanied by an object ( τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, χριστόν, or the like); but it is frequently, as here, used absolutely, cf. Matthew 11:1; Mark 1:38, etc.

It cannot be concluded, with Zezschwitz, from the connection of this relative clause with ζωοποιηθεὶς πνεύματι, that ζωοποίησιν illam spiritualem quasi fundamentum fuisse concionis idemque argumentum; nor does the word itself disclose either the contents or the purpose of that preaching; but since Christ is called the κήρυξας without the addition of any more precise qualification, it must be concluded that the contents and design of this κήρυγμα are in harmony with the κήρυγμα of Christ elsewhere. It is accordingly arbitrary, and in contradiction to Christ’s significance for the work of redemption, to assume that this preaching consisted in the proclamation of the coming judgment (Flacius, Calov., Buddeus, Hollaz, Wolf, Aretius, Zezschwitz, Schott, etc.), and was a praedicatio damnatoria.(212) Wiesinger justly asks: “This concio damnatoria—what does it mean in general, what here especially?”

It is unjustifiable to deny, with some commentators, that the apostle regarded this πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξε as an actual reality.(213)

καί, following ἐν , must not be explained, as Schweizer does, in this way, that Peter, wishing to hold up Christ to his readers as a pattern of how they should conduct themselves under suffering, adduces two examples, 1 Peter 3:19 ff., His death on the cross, and His preaching; the whole structure of the clauses, as well as their contents, contradicts this. Nor can it be explained, as Hofmann assumes, “from the antithesis between us whom Christ wished to bring to God, and those who as spirits are in durance.” This would hold good only if, in 1 Peter 3:18, it were affirmed that Christ did the same to us as to those spirits, that is, preached to us. It is likewise incorrect to take καί as equivalent to “even” (Wiesinger, Fronmüller); for a distinction between these spirits and others is nowhere hinted at. καί is put rather in order to show prominently that what is said in this verse coincides with the ζωοποιηθεὶς πνεύματι of 1 Peter 3:18. Zezschwitz: ut notio, quae in enunciatione ἐν latet ( ζωοπ. πνεύματι) urgeatur.


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/1-peter-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Peter 3:19. ἐν ) in which spirit. Christ had to do with the living, in the flesh; with spirits, in spirit. He Himself has efficacy with the living and the dead. There are wonders in that invisible world. In a subject full of mystery, we ought not to dismiss from it the proper signification of the language employed, because it has no parallel passages. For they, to whom each mystery has first been revealed, have most nobly believed the word of God even without parallel passages. For instance, our Saviour only once said, This is My body. The mystery respecting the change of those who shall be alive at the coming of the Lord, is only once written.— τοῖςπνεύυασι, to the spirits) Peter does not say that all the spirits were in that place of confinement, for many might have been in a more gloomy place; but he means, that Christ preached to all who were in confinement.— ἐν φυλακῇ, in guard) The guilty are punished in prison; they are kept in guard, until they experience what the Judge is about to do. The expression about the state of those living under the Old Testament, Galatians 3:23, bears some analogy to this.— πυεύμασι, to the spirits) of the dead. Comp. Hebrews 12:23. He does not call them souls, as in the next verse.— πορευθεὶς, going) namely, to those spirits. The same word is used in 1 Peter 3:22. Those spirits were not in the tomb of Jesus: He went to them.— ἐκήρυξεν, He preached) By this preaching, which followed close upon His being quickened, Christ showed Himself both alive, even then, and righteous. Peter would not say, εὐηγγελίσατο, He preached the Gospel, if even ever so much the preaching of grace only were here designed: for the hearers had fallen asleep before the times of the Gospel; therefore he uses a word of wider meaning, He preached (or published). Noah, a preacher of righteousness, was despised, 2 Peter 2:5; but Christ was a more powerful preacher, who, when quickened in spirit, vindicated His own righteousness, which was not believed by them of former times, and openly refuted their unbelief, 1 Timothy 3:16. If he were speaking of preaching by Noah, the word sometime would either be altogether omitted, or be joined with the word preached. This preaching was a prelude to the general judgment; comp. ch. 1 Peter 4:5; and the term “preaching” itself is to be taken in its wider sense, that it may be understood to have been to some a preaching of the Gospel, as Hutter says, to their consolation, which is more peculiarly the office of Christ; to others, and perhaps the greater part, a publishing of the law, for their terror. For if the judgment itself shall be a cause of joy to some, assuredly this preaching was not a subject of dread to all. The author of the Adumbrations, which are assigned to Clement of Alexandria and to Cassiodorus, says, They saw not His form, but heard the sound of His voice. Calvin, in his Institutes, 2d Book, ch. 16:9, says, For the context also leads to this conclusion, that the faithful, who had died before that time, were sharers of the same grace with us: because it enhances the power of His death from this circumstance, that it penetrated even to the dead; while the souls of the righteous obtained an immediate view of that visitation, which they had anxiously expected, on the contrary, it was more plainly revealed to the lost, that they are altogether excluded from salvation. And though Peter does not speak with such distinctness, it must not thus be understood as though he mixed together the righteous and the wicked without any difference, but he only wishes to teach, that a perception of the death of Christ was common to both.


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Bibliography
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/1-peter-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

By which also; by which Spirit, mentioned in the end of the former verse, i.e. by, or in, his Divine nature, the same by which he was quickened.

He; Christ. This notes the person that went and preached, as the former doth the nature in which, and so shows that what is here spoken of the person of Christ, is to be understood of him according to his Divine nature.

Went; or, came, viz. from heaven, by all anthropopathy, by which figure God is often in Scripture said to go forth, Isaiah 26:21, to come down, Micah 1:3, and go down, Genesis 18:21 Exodus 3:8; which two latter places are best understood of the Second Person. This therefore here notes in Christ not a change of place, but a special operation, and testification of his presence.

And preached; viz. by Noah, inspired by him, that he might be a preacher of righteousness, to warn a wicked generation of approaching judgment, and exhort them to repentance.

Unto the spirits; souls of men departed, which are frequently called spirits, Ecclesiastes 12:7 Acts 7:59 Hebrews 12:23.

In prison; i.e. in hell, so it is taken, Proverbs 27:20; compare with Matthew 5:25 Luke 12:58, where prison is mentioned as a type or representation of hell; and the Syriac renders the word by Sheol, which signifies sometimes the grave and sometimes hell. See the like expression, 2 Peter 2:4,5 Jude 1:6.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-peter-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

By which; divine Spirit.

He went and preached; by Noah.

Unto the spirits; which, when Peter wrote, were confined in torment as in a prison. Matthew 5:25-26.


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Bibliography
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Family Bible New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/1-peter-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

19. ἐν ᾧ most naturally means, in that human spirit thus quickened by death and not the divine Spirit of Christ in which He had all along been working in the world, cf. 1 Peter 1:11.

πνεύμασι is used of the dead in Hebrews 12:23, “the spirits of just men made perfect” and this interpretation is here confirmed by νεκροῖς in 1 Peter 4:6. It naturally seems to mean that those who heard Christ’s message were in a disembodied state, as He himself also was.

φυλακῇ sometimes means sentry-watch but far more commonly prison and is almost certainly so used here.

πορευθεὶς naturally suggests a change of sphere and is frequently used of the Ascension, as in 1 Peter 3:22. So here it seems to refer to the descent into Hell, and we thus have a natural chronological sequence θανατωθεὶςζωοποιηθεὶςπορευθεὶς—(διʼ ἀναστάσεως) πορευθεὶς εἰς οὐρανόν.

ἐκήρυξεν is constantly used of preaching the Gospel but never of proclaiming bad tidings. So here it probably means good tidings, cf. εὐηγγελίσθη νεκροῖς, 1 Peter 4:6.

ADDITIONAL NOTE B

ON 1 Peter 3:19

Other interpretations of this confessedly difficult passage are

A. That it does refer to the descent into Hell, but [1] the “preaching” was a proclamation of condemnation and not an offer of pardon. The objections to this view are that in 1 Peter 4:6 (which most probably refers to the same “preaching”) good tidings (εὐαγγελίσθη) is stated to have been preached to the dead. Also κηρύσσειν is the word used in the Gospels of “proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom” Matthew 4:23, “preaching repentance” Matthew 4:17, “preaching deliverance to the captives … and proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord” Luke 4:18-19. In the Acts and Epistles it is constantly used of preaching the Gospel or preaching Christ, but there is no instance of its use for proclaiming condemnation, and it would be hardly intelligible in that sense here without some words to explain it.

Or [2] that the good news was only preached in Hades to the spirits of the righteous, such as Abel, Abraham and other O.T. saints. This was a favourite idea in early writers (e.g. the Gospel of Nicodemus, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian). But the context expressly defines the spirits to be “those who were disobedient in the days of Noah.” There is no hint whatever that O.T. saints in general are intended, and ἐν φυλακῇ could hardly mean in God’s safe keeping (cf. “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God”) nor, as Calvin suggested, the watch tower from which the souls of the righteous in Hades were eagerly looking for the advent of their deliverer.

Or [3] that the passage does refer to those who perished in the Flood, but only to those who turned to God in their dying agony. But St Peter makes no allusion whatever to their repentance, but only to their disobedience.

Or [4] a more tenable interpretation would be to explain “the spirits in prison” as meaning evil angels whose influence was paramount in the world in the days of Noah, cf. Genesis 6:2, “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair,” etc. This seems to have been generally understood of immoral intercourse between angels and women, which caused the destruction of the world by the Flood. In the Book of Henoch there are constant references to this sin of the angels, and in Chapter lxvii. “the angels who have shewn injustice and who led astray are shewn to Noah inclosed in a flaming valley, but the waters of judgment are a healing of the angels and a death to their bodies.” St Peter seems to shew traces of the Book of Henoch in other passages and there is some slight similarity between this description in Henoch and St Peter’s words, 1 Peter 4:6 “judged in the flesh after the pattern of men but living in the spirit after the pattern of God.” St Jude, who quotes the Book of Henoch by name, says, 1 Peter 3:6, “Angels which left their proper habitation, he hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” But this would give no support to the view that the spirit of Christ preached to them during His descent into Hell.

B. Another interpretation, supported in one passage by Augustine and also by Aquinas and Bishop Pearson, is that the passage does not refer to the descent into Hell at all, but to the preaching of the Spirit of Christ in the world in the preaching of Noah. In 1 Peter 1:11 the Spirit of Christ is described as working in the prophets of the O.T., and it is true that it was by the indwelling Spirit of Christ that Noah was a preacher (κήρυξ) of righteousness.

But the objections to this view are:

[1] That it destroys the natural sequence of thought in the passage, in which θανατωθείς, ζωοποιηθείς, πορευθείς, ἐκήρυξε seem most naturally to describe successive stages in the work of Christ, whereas this view would refer the “preaching” to the distant past.

[2] πορευθείς like πορευθεὶς εἰς οὐρανὸν in 22 suggests the idea of a “journey” or change of sphere such as the descent into Hades rather than the omnipresent work of Christ in the world before the Incarnation. At the same time we must not introduce too materialistic ideas of space in dealing with the unseen world either of Hades or of Heaven.

[3] The recipients of the proclamation are described as πνεύμασιν ἐν φυλακῇ and this can hardly mean “those who were living men at the time when they received the message but are now spirits in the prison-house of Hades.” Nor is it likely that the contemporaries of Noah in their lifetime would be described as “spirits confined in the prison-house of sin and unbelief or in the prison-house of the body.”

[4] The spirit in which Christ preached is identified with that in which He was quickened by the death of His flesh, and thus most naturally means His human spirit—whereas His work in the world in the days of Noah could only be that of His divine Spirit.


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Bibliography
"Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-peter-3.html. 1896.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘In which also he went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison,’

And it was thus in His spiritual resurrection body, which was the consequence of His obedience unto death, that He went and made proclamation to ‘the spirits who were in prison because they had been disobedient in the days of Noah’. It is the resurrection which gives point to this proclamation. As the victorious king He openly declares His victory to His prisoners-of-war. Here we have a contrast between the One Who was obedient unto death, and was therefore raised from the dead in a spiritual body and was free, and the bodiless spirits who had been and still were ‘disobedient’, and were therefore in prison. Note again how ‘he went to the spirits in prison’ parallels ‘having gone into heaven’, i.e. He then went into heaven (1 Peter 3:22).

This is an assurance to his readers, and those who heard them pass on the message, of what the end will be of all those spirits who seek to interfere with mankind, including the ones causing their persecution. For these spirits in prison were the ones whom all knew had sought to break down the God-ordained difference between spirits and men in defiance of God. Now they were faced with One Who had broken down that difference, but in a way ordained by God, by becoming man and then being raised in a spiritual body, so that all men could enjoy full spiritual life. They had chosen the wrong way, the way of disobedience. He had chosen the right way, the way of obedience.

It should be noted in this regard that, in Scripture, when it is not in some way qualified and explained, the term ‘spirits’ always refers to ‘angels’ or ‘sons of the elohim’ (e.g. Hebrews 1:7; Hebrews 1:14; 1 Kings 22:21-23; Job 4:15; Isaiah 31:3 with 2 Kings 6:17; Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 1:20-21; Ezekiel 10:17; Zechariah 13:2 where a false spirit of prophesy is in mind).

Partly in mind here may be Isaiah 24:21-22, where we also have a picture of all supernatural beings who have opposed God being put in prison. Here Peter provides a well known example from the past of where this had already happened. 2 Peter 2:4 (which emphasises Peter’s interest in this subject), along with the context here, can leave us in no doubt that this has in mind the ‘sons of the elohim’ (‘heavenly beings’) who sinned in Genesis 6:1-4 and helped to bring about a situation which could only be dealt with by the Flood.

However we interpret Genesis 6:1-4, and it probably indicates demon possession of an intense kind described in a folksy way, it demonstrates that the ‘sons of the elohim’ had in some way left their initial condition as spirits, that is, ‘their proper habitation’, and had sought to become involved in the physical world, something which was totally forbidden (Jude 1:6). This was why they had to be prematurely ‘isolated’. Thus Peter sees Christ’s visit to the spirits in prison as in the nature of a declaration to these supernatural prisoners of God of the failure of what they had tried to accomplish, namely the ‘taking over’ of the human race, and also a declaration to them of the sure and certain final defeat of their fellow-conspirators and of God’s equally sure final victory.

It is, of course, all put in pictorial terms paralleling how an earthly king might behave as he announces his triumph to his prisoners of war (1 Peter 3:19), followed by a coronation and a ceremony where all swear fealty to him (1 Peter 3:22). Spirit beings cannot, of course, be locked in physical prisons, nor would Christ need to physically visit them in order to convey the truth. It all takes place in the spiritual world. But the realities behind it are perfectly literal. This was what Jesus had accomplished through His cross and resurrection.

Why then should Peter introduce this idea here? The answer is firstly that it is preparatory to describing Christ’s further triumph over supernatural beings in 1 Peter 3:22, secondly it is illustrating to those who are suffering persecution because of the fanaticism of idolatrous demon worshippers that the evil spirits whom these fanatics worship have been defeated once and for all, as is evidenced by these particular well known examples, so that their own suffering will not be in vain. And thirdly it is also an illustration of the contrast between the Obedient One and the disobedient ones in accordance with Peter’s main theme.

It will be remembered that Scripture brings out from beginning to end that there are invisible powers affecting the progress in the world. Beginning with the mysterious power behind the Serpent (Genesis 3), it continues with the equally mysterious ‘sons of the elohim’ (Genesis 6:1-4); the powers behind Balaam (Numbers 22-24); the demons behind idols (Deuteronomy 32:17); the deceiving of David (the 1 Chronicles 21:2); the lying spirit who interfered at the time of Micaiah (1 Kings 22:19-23); the experiences of Job (Job 1-2); the revelations of Daniel 10; the onslaught on Joshua the High Priest (Zechariah 3:1-5); Jesus’ defeat of evil spirits (Matthew 12:28 and often); and so on. And in all God was in control. That is the message of the spirits in prison.

Note On The Spirits In Prison.

Some cavil at this interpretation and see this as referring to angels who sinned before the creation of man, or as referring to the spirits of men. The latter we must reject because nowhere else is the bare term ‘spirits’ without a qualifying genitive ever applied to other than angels.

With regard to the former there is in fact no Scriptural evidence that any angels, apart from Satan, did fall before the creation of man. No indication of date is ever given to the few accounts of when the angels fell.

On the other hand we do have grounds in the very literature which Jude 1:14-15 cites (the book of Enoch), for the idea that the first angelic fall took place in the days of Noah. Thus in the Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) we have the following description of the fall of these angels, who are called the Watchers, because they were watching over mankind:

“And it came about, when the children of men had multiplied, that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children (6:1-3) --- And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in to them and to defile themselves with them (7:1). ---And again the Lord said to Raphael: 'Bind Azazel hand and foot, andcast him into the darkness(10:4) --- bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth,till the day of their judgmentand of their consummation, till the judgment that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment andthe prison in which they will be confined for ever. And whoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforthbe bound together with themto the end of all generations. And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate and the children of the Watchers, because they have wronged mankind. (10:12-15) --- Andthen will the whole earth be tilled in righteousness,and will all be planted with trees and be full of blessing (10:18-19) --- . 'Enoch, you scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heavenwho have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken to themselves wives: "You have wrought great destruction on the earth, and you will have no peace nor forgiveness of sin, and inasmuch as they delight themselves in their children, the murder of their beloved ones shall they see, and over the destruction of their children shall they lament, and will make supplication unto eternity, but mercy and peace shall you not attain.” (12:4-6).

It will be noted that if we compare these words with Peter we have the ‘spirits in prison’ (1 Peter 3:19), compare ‘the prison in which they will be confined for ever’; the ‘committing to pits of darkness to be reserved to judgment’ (2 Peter 2:5) and ‘the new earth in which dwells righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:13), and in comparison with Jude here we have ‘the angels who left their first principality’ (they ‘left the high heaven, the eternal holy place’) and their resulting ‘everlasting bonds’ (Jude 1:6), and the fact that they dwelt in darkness. Furthermore in 1 Enoch 60:8 we have mention of ‘the seventh from Adam’ (compare Jude 1:14).

The same incidents are described more briefly in Jubilees 4:15; 5:1 ff.; Testament of Reuben 5:6-7; Testament of Naphtali 3:5; Enoch 18; etc. It was clearly havily emphasised in Jewish tradition.

We have only selected a few extracts from the text, but the full text makes quite clear that we undoubtedly have reference here to the events described in Genesis 6:1-2.

This is confirmed in 2 Peter. There Peter selects three incidents in Scriptural order, the fall of the angels, the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. But the only fall of angels even hinted at in Scripture prior to the Flood, apart from that of Satan himself as hinted at in Genesis 3, is that found in Genesis 6:1-2.

End of note.


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Bibliography
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-peter-3.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

19. By which—Better, In which, namely, his pre-existent divine nature.

He went—Literally, having gone. Alford supposes local transference and personal preaching; but the case is parallelled in Ephesians 2:17, “And came [by the Holy Spirit] and preached [through the apostles] peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” So Christ went by the Holy Spirit, and preached, through Noah, to the antediluvians. He is the Jehovah who sent his Spirit to do his office of awaking to repentance the ungodly of that generation, (Genesis 6:3,) and to speak through Noah.

Preached—This is not ευαγγελιζω, the ordinary word for preaching the gospel, but κηρυσσω, to proclaim as a herald, to publish, to announce, to preach. It is used sixty times in the New Testament, and in every instance what is preached or published must be sought in the context. It never, in itself, means to preach the gospel.

The spirits in prison—The disembodied spirits of men who had been disobedient… in the days of Noah, and were in prison at the time when St. Peter wrote. The object is to identify the men to whom Christ preached; and they are spoken of as they were at the time, not of the preaching, but of this identification. The word prison is always used in a bad sense, and denotes the department of hades in which the wicked are shut up, 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:6; Revelation 20:7. To these persons, when on the earth, Noah, “a preacher of righteousness,” (2 Peter 2:5,) under the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ, preached the law of repentance and godly living for a hundred and twenty years, and preached in vain. That the apostle never dreamed of them as enjoying in their prison a second day of grace, is plain from his mention of them as, like the fallen angels, a specimen of those who are reserved (guarded in prison) unto the day of judgment, and a proof as well of the certain perdition of the ungodly, 2 Peter 2:4-9. The purpose of this digression was to show that the Christ who suffered and rose again, strove, in the earlier ages of the world, to bring men to God, as well as in the days of his passion; and, perhaps, also, as Wordsworth suggests, to confute the notion of certain heretics that the God of the Old Testament was less merciful than the God of the New.

This passage has received very various interpretations, from Augustine downward; but the weight of interpretation seems to accord with that above given. The descent into hell, with its object, some have thought they found here; and the theories thence resulting very widely differ. Some hold that Christ entered paradise and triumphantly announced his completed redemption; others add to this, the release of the Old Testament saints; some hold that he went to Tartarus as conqueror and judge, denouncing condemnation upon the ungodly there confined; others, that, as redeemer and judge, he preached to both the good and the bad; and others still, as Alford, Fronmuller in Lange, and Wordsworth, that he preached the gospel of salvation to the ungodly antediluvians; the last insisting that it was a unique case, and not repeated or continued, and the first, that it is continued to others who die impenitent. Upon this we remark:

1. That Christ “descended into hell,” (hades,) though not directly asserted in this passage, nor other scripture, appears plainly from the use of Psalms 16:10 by St. Peter in Acts 2:27-31. That his human soul, released from its connexion with the body by death, entered the world of departed spirits, as do the souls of all men, and was subject to all the laws and conditions of that world until the third morning, is a true doctrine. But let it not be made to carry what does not belong to it. The one important point in it is, that the soul of Christ did not remain in that world, but on the third day came forth for the resurrection. Yet, be it remembered, our Lord was in paradise, the blessed side of hades, whither the penitent thief accompanied him, as was promised on the cross.

2. Of Christ’s employment in that world we have no intimation, unless in the present passage, which our interpretation, necessitated by the force of the word quickened, forbids. He entered that world as do other men, with the humble, prayerful cry upon his lips, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:46,) and with the limitations of a man, as he had passed his whole earthly life. That saints and angels welcomed him as personally, though not yet officially, victorious, and that he partook of a higher bliss than when on earth, we can well believe. But not even his human soul could bridge over the awful, impassable gulf between paradise and the prison-house of hades, of which Father Abraham said to the rich man, “They which would pass from hence to you, cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” Luke 16:26. This is one of the inexorable laws of the realm of the dead, which some of the above-mentioned theories forget when they imagine Christ’s human spirit crossing to preach to the lost, or the lost accepting salvation and passing the “great gulf” into paradise, which our Lord himself, in the words cited, declares impossible.

3. If Christ, in person, preached in hades to the antediluvians there imprisoned, by the well-known law, exceptio probat regulam—the exception proves the rule—the specification of the persons to whom he preached, namely, the disobedient of Noah’s time, excludes all others from the message. This view suggests at once most serious difficulties. Why preach to the antediluvians of Noah’s time, whom St. Peter classes with fallen angels and Sodomites, reserved unto judgment, (2 Peter 2:4-9,) and not to all antediluvians? and, indeed, why to antediluvians alone, and not to all who have died disobedient? How should the selection be so effected as to exclude others from the hearing? What was the nature of the proclamation? Was it a message of wrath or of mercy? If salvation was offered, why to those particular sinners who had so persistently sinned against light and long-suffering, to the exclusion of all other sinners? And what would be the judgment of those excluded upon the partial goodness which made so limited an offer? These are pertinent questions that should be answered before the theory is accepted.

4. These representations of Christ entering the world of spirits as a triumphant conqueror, and there doing the work of judge and saviour, overlook the important fact that he was still in his state of humiliation. “Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8. He had voluntarily gone down to the lowest depths of self-humiliation in his death on the cross, and there he remained until the moment of his resurrection, the beginning of his exaltation. Death was conqueror, and still held him in its grasp. The shame of the cross was upon him. The curse which he took upon himself had crushed him in the sight of the universe; and he still lay under it where he fell. The atonement, in itself, was complete in his dying; but, however exultingly the wonderful story, soon to be made glorious, might be told in paradise, its application, and the proclamation of it as an accomplished and valid fact, required the precedent deliverance from the curse by the resurrection. Only so, as it seems to us, was the “all power” (Matthew 28:18) won to authoritatively condemn as judge, or to offer mercy as redeemer. Then, indeed, was he Conqueror and Lord; and with an authority to be gainsaid by none, his salvation could thenceforth be preached. Some, indeed, hold that his preaching in hades was after his resurrection; but not even that view can remove the difficulties, nor can it be gathered from this passage.

5. The doctrine here dissented from is contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture, which confines its offers of salvation to the present life, and connects the decisions of the final judgment with the characters and acts of men as they are in this world, and not as they may be formed after death. See Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 10:32-33; Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 8:38; Luke 16:25-26; Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 2:10. An interpretation which is at war with the analogy of faith cannot be safe or true.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-peter-3.html. 1874-1909.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Peter 3:19. in which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison. Here, again, the A.V., following the Genevan alone among these earlier English Versions, wrongly renders ‘by which.’ The sense is, ‘in which,’ i.e in the spiritual form of life which has just been noticed. The verb ‘preached’ is used absolutely here. It is not to be taken, however, in the vague sense of making proclamation, showing Himself, or bearing witness to Himself (Schott, etc.), far less in the sense of preaching judgment, but in the sense which it elsewhere has in the New Testament, where it occurs, both with the object expressed (e.g. the gospel, the kingdom of God, Christ, etc.), and with the object unexpressed (e.g. Matthew 11:1; Mark 1:38, etc.), of Christ’s earthly ministry of preaching, which was a message of grace. The word ‘spirits’ is used here, as in Hebrews 12:23, in the sense of disembodied spirits. Elsewhere (e.g. Revelation 6:9; Revelation 20:4) the term ‘souls’ is used to designate the departed. On the ground of the statement in 2 Peter 2:4, and the application of the word ‘spirit’ in such passages as Luke 9:39, Acts 16:18, etc., some have strangely supposed a reference here to the angels who sinned,—which is entirely inconsistent with the historical notice which follows. The phrase ‘in prison’ has the definite force which it has in 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6, Revelation 20:7, and is not to be explained away as merely equivalent to ‘in safe-keeping,’ or ‘in the world of the dead’ generally.


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Bibliography
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-peter-3.html. 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

In which (to wit, soul or spirit) also he came, and preached to those spirits who were in prison. The true and common interpretation of this place seems to be, that the soul of Christ, after the separation from the body and before the resurrection, descended to a place in the interior parts of the earth, called hell in that which we call the apostles' creed, (sometimes called Abraham's bosom, sometimes Limbus Patrum [Limbo of the Fathers], a place where were detained all the souls of the patriarchs, prophets, and just men, as it were in prison) and preached to these spirits in this prison; i.e. brought them this happy news, that he who was their Redeemer, who opened as it were heaven's gates. Among these were many who had been formerly at first incredulous in the time of Noe [Noah], who would not take warning from his preparing and building the ark, but it may be reasonably supposed that many of them repented of their sins when they saw the danger approaching, and before they perished by the waters of the deluge, so that they died at least not guilty of eternal damnation; because, though they were sinners, yet they worshipped the true God, for we do not find any proofs of idolatry before the deluge. These then, and all the souls of the just, Christ descended to free from their captivity, from their prison, and to lead them at his ascension triumphant with him into heaven. The Church of England cannot quarrel with this exposition, which seems altogether conformable to the third of their thirty-nine articles, which at present runs thus: "As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also it is to be believed that he went down into hell." It is thus expressed in the articles under queen Elizabeth, in the year 1562; and in the articles put out ten years before, in the year 1552, in the fourth year of king Edward the sixth, the words were: "that the body of Christ lay in the grave until his resurrection, but the spirit which he gave up was with the spirits which were detained in prison, or in hell, and preached to them, as the place in St. Peter testifieth. Dr. Pearson on the fifth article of the creed, writes thus: "There is nothing which the Fathers agree in more, than as to a local and real descent of the soul of Christ into the infernal parts, unto the habitation of the souls departed....This was the general opinion of the Church, as may appear by the testimonies of those ancient writers, who lived successively and wrote in several ages, and delivered this exposition in such express terms as are not capable of any other interpretation." Thus Dr. Pearson. He cites the Fathers. See the edition, in the year 1683, p. 237. (Witham) --- Prison. See here a proof of a third place, or middle state of souls: for these spirits in prison, to whom Christ went to preach after his death, were not in heaven, nor yet in the hell of the damned; because heaven is no prison, and Christ did not go to preach to the damned. (Challoner) --- St. Augustine, in his 99th epistle, confesses that his text is replete with difficulties. This he declares is clear, beyond all doubt, that Jesus Christ descended in soul after his death into the regions below, and concludes with these words: Quis ergo nisi infidelis negaverit fuisse apud inferos Christum? In this prison souls would not be detained unless they were indebted to divine justice, nor would salvation be preached to them unless they were in a state that was capable of receiving salvation.


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-peter-3.html. 1859.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

1 Peter 3:19 ‘in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison’

‘in which’-Must refer back to the last statement of . ‘In which spirit’.

Point to Note: A popular denominational view on these verses has been that they are teaching that after His death, Jesus preached to the lost souls in hell. And this preaching took place between His death and resurrection. This interpretation has been furthered by the unfortunate rendering of ‘hell’ in Acts 2:27 (KJV). First things first! The word in Acts 2:27 is ‘Hades’, not ‘Hell’. The spirit of Jesus went to Hades (Luke 23:43; Luke 16:19 ff). In addition, these verses are not talking about what Jesus did after His death, rather, they are talking about what happened during the days of Noah (3:20).

‘also He went and made proclamation’-As Jesus had spoken through the prophets in time past (); He had long before that, spoken to Noah’s generation, through Noah (2 Peter 2:5 ‘..a preacher of righteousness’). The activity of Jesus didn’t start with the incarnation. Rather, Jesus had been serving mankind long before that. See also Ephesians 2:17. Consider John 14:18 ‘..I will come to you’. And yet it was the Holy Spirit Who came. Even though the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles (John 16:13), it is always assumed that what is being revealed comes from Jesus (1 Corinthians 14:37; Hebrews 1:2). Hence, the Holy Spirit was guiding Noah, as He would do for other prophets (1 Peter 1:20-21), and yet Jesus was the source of the information being spoken.

‘to the spirits now in prison’-Points to Note: 1. Death ends all chances to change (2 Peter 2:9 ‘keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment’; Luke 16:19 ff). 2. The unrighteous experience conscious suffering. 3. Notice the word ‘now’. When Peter wrote these people were in prison, but they were not in prison when they heard the proclamation that originated with Jesus. They were alive, and they were in the flesh. ‘the time when this preaching was done is clearly stated in the next verse’ (Woods p. 101) 4. In addition, WHO ARE THESE SPIRITS is also defined and specified. 5. The Jehovah Witnesses contend that man doesn’t have a soul or spirit. And that the word ‘spirit’ means ‘life-breath’, or something physical that keeps the body alive. Insert that definition into this passage!


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Bibliography
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/1-peter-3.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

By which = In (Greek. en) which (condition).

also, &c. = having gone, He even preached.

preached = heralded. App-121. Not the Gospel, which would be App-121. He announced His triumph.

spirits. App-101. These were the angels of Genesis 6:2, Genesis 6:4. See App-23, where 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6 are considered together with this verse.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-peter-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

No JFB commentary on this verse.


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-peter-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

And in. "In his spiritual existence he went and preached through Noah (2 Peter 2:5) to those who are now imprisoned spirits," [Some think Jesus actually went into the world of the dead and preached the Good News to them there. But this and other views cause theological difficulties.]


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Bibliography
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/1-peter-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(19) By which.—If “by the Spirit” had been right in the former verse, this translation might have stood here, though the word is literally in; for “in” is often used to mean “in the power of,” “on the strength of:” e.g., Romans 8:15. But as that former rendering is untenable, we must here keep strictly to in which—i.e., in spirit. This might mean either of two things: (1) “spiritually speaking,” “so far as thought and sympathy goes,” as, for instance, 1 Corinthians 5:3, Colossians 2:5; or else (2) “in spirit,” as opposed to “in the body”—i.e., “out of the body” (2 Corinthians 12:2; comp. Revelation 1:10), as a disembodied spirit. We adopt the latter rendering without hesitation, for reasons which will be clearer in the next Note.

He went and preached unto the spirits in prison.—There are two main ways of interpreting this mysterious passage. (1) The spirits are understood as being now in prison, in consequence of having rejected His preaching to them while they were still on earth. According to this interpretation—which has the support of such names as Pearson, Hammond, Barrow, and Leighton (though he afterwards modified his opinion). among ourselves, besides divers great theologians of other countries, including St. Thomas Aquinas on the one hand and Beza on the other—it was “in spirit,” i.e., mystically speaking, our Lord Himself who, in and through the person of Noah, preached repentance to the old world. Thus the passage is altogether dissociated from the doctrine of the descent into hell; and the sense (though not the Greek) would be better expressed by writing, He had gone and preached unto the spirits (now) in prison. In this case, however, it is difficult to see the purpose of the digression, or what could have brought the subject into St. Peter’s mind. (2) The second interpretation—which is that of (practically) all the Fathers, and of Calvin, Luther (finally), Bellarmine, Bengel, and of most modern scholars—refers the passage to what our Lord did while His body was dead. This is the most natural construction to put upon the words “in which also” (i.e., in spirit). It thus gives point to the saying that He was “quickened in spirit,” which would otherwise be left very meaningless. The “spirits” here will thus correspond with “in spirit” there. It is the only way to assign any intelligible meaning to the words “He went and” to suppose that He “went” straight from His quickening in spirit—i.e., from His death. It is far the most natural thing to suppose that the spirits were in prison at the time when Christ went and preached to them. We take it, then, to mean that, directly Christ’s human spirit was disengaged from the body, He gave proof of the new powers of purely spiritual action thus acquired by going off to the place, or state, in which other disembodied spirits were (who would have been incapable of receiving direct impressions from Him had He not Himself been in the purely spiritual condition), and conveyed to them certain tidings: He “preached” unto them. What was the substance of this preaching we are not here told, the word itself (which is not the same as, e.g., in 1 Peter 1:25) only means to publish or proclaim like a crier or herald; and as the spirits are said to have been disobedient and in prison, some have thought that Christ went to proclaim to them the certainty of their damnation! The notion has but to be mentioned to be rejected with horror; but it may be pointed out also that in 1 Peter 4:6, which refers back to this passage, it is distinctly called a “gospel;” and it would be too grim to call that a gospel which (in Calvin’s words) “made it more clear and patent to them that they were shut out from all salvation!” He brought good tidings, therefore, of some kind to the “prison” and the spirits in it. And this “prison” must not be understood (with Bp. Browne, Articles, p. 95) as merely “a place of safe keeping,” where good spirits might be as well as bad, though etymologically this is imaginable. The word occurs thirty-eight times in the New Testament in the undoubted sense of a “prison,” and not once in that of a place of protection, though twice (Revelation 18:2) it is used in the derived sense of “a cage.”


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-peter-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
By which
1:11,12; 4:6; Nehemiah 9:30; Revelation 19:10
in
Isaiah 42:7; 49:9; 61:1; Revelation 20:7

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-peter-3.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

By which (Spirit). The services of the Spirit is still the subject that was introduced in the preceding verse. Christ (in cooperation with his Father) did some preaching through the agency of the Spirit. But since the Spirit never speaks directly to sinful man concerning his personal duty, it is necessary to have also the services of a human preacher. That preacher was Noah, for 2 Peter 2:15 says he was "a preacher of righteousness," which would. mean he did the right kind of preaching. The connection shows that the ones to whom he preached were disobedient persons, hence the preaching consisted in exhortation and call to repentance. In prison. This is a figure of speech drawn from the direct preaching that Jesus did in person to sinners while He was on earth. In Isaiah 42:7 and Isaiah 49:9 it is predicted that Jesus would preach to people in prision (of sin), and by that same figure the ones to whom Noah preached might be called "spirits in prison."


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Bibliography
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 Peter 3:19". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/1-peter-3.html. 1952.

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