August 11

This big question below keeps on popping in many places I visit. We have to give attention to this so that our brethren would enjoy reading this section of Apostle Peter’s epistle.


(Article #1)

This question is based on the context of 1 Peter 3:18-20. In an earlier article I suggested that there are questions to settle first before the issues about when and where and who went to preach to the spirits in prison should be discussed.  The following are the steps to be clarified:

A. The Greek Text

Please notice that there are two readings in the Greek and therefore there are various translations that we find in the English language. This should be discussed because if one argues based on one Greek reading  which is rendered in English a certain way, and another sees it but his English version is another based on the second Greek reading, then the two don’t join the issues.

1.1Peter 3:18b reads, “thanatotheis men sarki, zoopoietheis de tu pneumati” (Textus Receptus, Greek to English Interlinear with a Greek-English Lexicon by Rick Berry, 1981, Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan)

1Peter 3:18b, “having been put to death in flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (Revised Version)

2.1Peter 3:18b, “thanatotheis men sarki, zoopoietheis de pneumati (The Greek New Testament Edited by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, and Allen Wikgren. 3rd Edition, United Bible Societies, 1983, Biblia-Druck GmbH Stuttgart) This is called the Nestle-United Bible Societies (NU) in the preface and footnotes of the New King James Version.

3. My Observation: At the end of the above section, Textus Receptus reads “de tu pneumati” while the NU reads “de pneumati.” This might give various reasons why there are different ideas on how the pneumati is translated. Some translate it as Spirit with capital S or spirit with small s; or pneumati may refer to the spirit of Christ or the spirit nature of the incorruptible Christ. Observe also the preposition: KJV and NKJV have “by the Spirit” while RSV and ASV have “in the spirit” but NLT has “in the Spirit.” Sa Tagalog ginamit ang katagang “ayon sa Espiritu” but the Iloco Bible has “iti espiritu.” There is variance. Tagalogs think of the Holy Spirit working while Ilocanos think of the spirit of Christ or alive in the spiritual state.

4.  Note: If anyone would like to comment, please tell me if you are using the Textus Receptus or the Nestle-United Bible Societies Text and please tell me the reason why you prefer which one. Please document your reason. Cite authorities to back up your opinion.

B. Various Translations of 1 Peter 3:18b

1. King James Version – “… being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”

2. New King James Version – “… being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”

3. Revised Standard Version – “…being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;”

4. American Standard Version – “…being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;”

5. New Living Translation – “…He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.”*

6. English Study Bible (New Testament by Harold Littrell, 1994) – “…being put to death in the flesh but made alive in spirit;”

7. Mabuting Balita Biblia (1980) – “…Siya’y namatay ayon sa laman, at muling binuhay ayon sa Espiritu.”

8. Baro Naimbag a Damag Biblia (1996) – “…napapatay iti bagi ngem napagungar iti espiritu.”

C. Questions on the Variance of Translation

1. Why are translators divided on how to translate pneumati in this passage? There at least three ideas:

(a) On one side it is capital S so the idea is referring to the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead, as acting; (b) On the other side the idea has lower case s or spirit which seems to suggest that Christ was resurrected and now he exists in the spirit realm; and (c) A third party seems to say that Christ is completely governed or led by spiritual principles.

2. Which of the three above seems to you is the correct rendition in light of the context?

3. Please observe the balance of what was put to death and what was alive in the first part of  v.18 and ask: Does the KJV and NKJV maintain the obvious balance between the flesh and the spirit? Is the balance found if one side is “in the flesh” while the other side is “by the Spirit”?

As suggested, no answer should be forthcoming unless the above questions are answered. In the next article in this series we shall analyze verses 19-20 to determine the following: (a) Who went preaching? (b) When did he go preaching? (c) Where did he go preaching? (d) What is the meaning of the term “preach”? (e) Was there an expectation of conversion in this preaching? and (f) Were there actual conversions in this preaching? These things should be settled before any final answers or conclusion be made about this text.   © (Eusebio Tanicala 8.11.10)