Here is an interesting passage, one that has come up in discussion with a few brothers in Christ, as a result of working through the Apostles’ Creed (i.e. He descended into Hell). The passage is I Peter 3:19:

. . . in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, . . .

I’ll let you look up the surrounding context, which will be necessary, of course, to come to an interpretive conclusion on this crux interpretum. Peter H. Davids provides an array of attempts to decipher this exegetical conundrum:

. . . (1) The spirits are the souls of the faithful of the OT and the “prison” is simply the place they remained awaiting Christ, who proclaims his redemption to them; (2) the spirits are the souls of those who died in Noah’s flood, who are kept in Hades, and who hear the gospel proclaimed by Christ after his death and before his resurrection (or heard the gospel in the days of Noah before being put in “prison”); (3) the spirits are the fallen angels of Gen. 6:1ff. and the prison is where they are kept bound and hear the proclamation of judgment by Christ (or a call to repent given in the days of Noah); (4) the spirits are the demons, the offspring of the fallen angels of Gen. 6:1ff., who have taken refuge or been protected (rather than been imprisoned) in the earth and the proclamation is that of Christ’s (postresurrection) invasion of their refuge; or (5) the spirits are the fallen angels, but the preacher is Enoch, who proclaimed judgment to them.

In order to decide among these alternatives, we need to examine the meaning of each term in context in the light of its linguistic background. “Spirits” in the NT always refers to nonhuman spiritual beings unless qualified (as, e.g., in Heb. 12:23; see Matt. 12:45; Mark 1:23, 26; 3:30; Luke 10:20; Acts 19:15-16; 16:16; 23:8-9; Eph. 2:2; Heb. 1:14; 12:9; 16:13,14). . . . (Peter H. Davids, “NICNT, The First Epistle of Peter,” 139-40)

So which is it? I have a preference, as, of course, does Davids. But what do you think? What alternative above fits the context best, and why do you think it does? Just give an off-the-cuff response, if you want, but at least give a little reason, why [?].

Advertisements