WHEN and WHERE and WHY CHRIST WENT TO PREACH TO SPIRITS IN PRISON (#2)

by Eusebio Tanicala

     This is the second of a series of four lessons. The first of the series contains an enumeration of the ten questions which we intend to answer. It also records the wordings of I Peter 3:18-20 from thirty one versions of the Bible.  Before reading the explanation in every series, it is important that one reads the 31 versions to get a feel of the arrangement and flow of events.

The ten questions considered in our study which are inter-related are as follows:

Question #1: How should the Greek phrase too pneumati be rendered – small s OR capital S, and will the         preposition be “by” “in” “through” or “according to”?

Question #2: Who went to preach to the spirits in prison?

Question #3: What is the meaning of the term “preach” in the passage?

Question #4: What is the content of the act of preaching in this passage?

Question #5: What is the intention of this act of preaching in this passage?

Question #6: When did the preacher go preach to the spirits in prison?

Question #7: When did the preacher go preach to the spirits in prison?

Question #8: Who were those in the audience in this preaching?

Question #9: How is the preaching period related to the disobedience period?

Question #10: How should the flow of events in the passage be arranged?

     In this series we tackle Questions #1, #2 and #3.

Question #1: How should the Greek phrase too pneumati be rendered – small s OR capital S, and will the preposition be rendered “by” “in” “through” or “according to”?

The Greek phrase is difficult to translate. There’s a great variety of translation. Please note how the 31 versions quoted in Series #1 render the phrase.

Of the 31 versions in our list there are twenty one (21) that favor the lower case s for pneumati. So pneumati is translated “spirit” in the small s.

Of the 31 versions in our list there are seven (7) that favor the capital S for pneumati. So pneumati is translated “Spirit” in the upper case.

As regards the preposition preferred we have the following observation:

Of the 31 versions in our list there are nineteen (19) versions that prefer the preposition “in”. So the translation is “in the spirit” or “in the Spirit.”

Of the 31 versions in our list there are six (6) versions that prefer the preposition “by.” So the translation is “by the spirit” or “by the Spirit.”

Of the 31 versions in our list there are two (2) versions that prefer the preposition “through.”

Of the 31 versions in our list there is one (1) that uses “according.”

Question #2: Who went to preach to the spirits in prison?

One school of thought says that the preacher was Christ through the Holy Spirit who inspired and moved Noah to speak about the righteousness of God for a period of 120 years. It means that the  preacher who appeared in person was Noah himself.

On the other hand, the second school of thought says that the personal preacher that appeared to the spirits in prison was Christ in His spiritual aspect and that the spirits in prison are those imprisoned in the dungeon of Tartarusas, the lower part of Hades.

Question #3: What is the meaning of the term “preach” in the passage?

The word in 1 Peter 3:19 is ekeruksen (preached).

One school of thought wants to limit the meaning of “preach” to the ordinary Christian and specific modern usage of “preaching the gospel in order to persuade a person to turn away from wickedness and follow righteousness.” So the meaning attached to the term in 1 Peter 3:19 is that the preaching sought to persuade the spirits in prison to a second chance of following a path of righteousness. This is the position of the Mormons who practice a “baptism for the dead.”

On the other hand, a second school adds the generic meaning of the term. In its verb form, the Greek word kerusso means “to be a herald, to officiate as a herald, to proclaim. . . to publish, proclaim openly…” (Thayer, 346). In its noun form, keroks means from Homer’s time down to refer to a “herald, a messenger vested with public authority, who conveyed the official message of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders or who gave a public summons or demand and perform various other duties … (Ibid).

Note that in Revelation 5:2, Apostle John in a vision saw an angel “proclaiming (kerussaonta)” the message  in a question form: “Who is worthy to open the book?” The angel simply shouted something  and it is called a proclamation. The angel is a keruks. Thus we see that the angel is referred to as doing the act of kerussein (to proclaim).  So ekeruksen in 1 Peter 3:19 could be better translated “proclaimed.”

Preference of Versions    

Our analysis of the 31 Bible versions in our list if we asked who the preacher is:

Christ in person is the preacher — at least 27 versions clearly point to Christ.

Christ in or by or through the Holy Spirit – 4 versions.

Conclusion

My personal idea is summed up: Christ in the spirit or in His spirit existence went to Paradise as he reveals to one of the thieves crucified beside him that in that very day, they would be in Paradise. Christ’s glorious appearance in Paradise which was beheld by the inhabitants of the lower part of Hades was a proclamation, a preaching, of Christ victory over Satan and fulfillment of the promised salvation offered to mankind through the seed of the woman.

Lesson #3 that tackles Questions 4, 5 and 6 follows very soon. #

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