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1 Peter 3

1 Peter 3:18 KJV (With Strong’s)

men (Greek #3303)
properly, indicative of affirmation or concession (in fact); usually followed by a contrasted clause with 1161 (this one, the former, etc.)
KJV usage: even, indeed, so, some, truly, verily. Often compounded with other particles in an intensive or asseverative sense.
Pronounce: men
Origin: a primary particle
hoti (Greek #3754)
demonstrative, that (sometimes redundant); causative, because
KJV usage: as concerning that, as though, because (that), for (that), how (that), (in) that, though, why.
Pronounce: hot'-ee
Origin: neuter of 3748 as conjunction
Christos (Greek #5547)
anointed, i.e. the Messiah, an epithet of Jesus
KJV usage: Christ.
Pronounce: khris-tos'
Origin: from 5548
y also
kai (Greek #2532)
and, also, even, so then, too, etc.; often used in connection (or composition) with other particles or small words
KJV usage: and, also, both, but, even, for, if, or, so, that, then, therefore, when, yet.
Pronounce: kahee
Origin: apparently, a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force
pascho (Greek #3958)
to experience a sensation or impression (usually painful)
KJV usage: feel, passion, suffer, vex.
Pronounce: pas'-kho
Origin: πάθω (path'-o), and πένθω (pen'-tho), used only in certain tenses for it apparently a primary verb
hapax (Greek #530)
one (or a single) time (numerically or conclusively)
KJV usage: once.
Pronounce: hap'-ax
Origin: probably from 537
pascho (Greek #3958)
to experience a sensation or impression (usually painful)
KJV usage: feel, passion, suffer, vex.
Pronounce: pas'-kho
Origin: πάθω (path'-o), and πένθω (pen'-tho), used only in certain tenses for it apparently a primary verb
peri (Greek #4012)
properly, through (all over), i.e. around; figuratively with respect to; used in various applications, of place, cause or time (with the genitive case denoting the subject or occasion or superlative point; with the accusative case the locality, circuit, matter, circumstance or general period)
KJV usage: (there-)about, above, against, at, on behalf of, X and his company, which concern, (as) concerning, for, X how it will go with, ((there-, where-)) of, on, over, pertaining (to), for sake, X (e-)state, (as) touching, (where-)by (in), with. In comparative, it retains substantially the same meaning of circuit (around), excess (beyond), or completeness (through).
Pronounce: per-ee'
Origin: from the base of 4008
hamartia (Greek #266)
a sin (properly abstract)
KJV usage: offence, sin(-ful).
Pronounce: ham-ar-tee'-ah
Origin: from 264
, the just
dikaios (Greek #1342)
equitable (in character or act); by implication, innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively)
KJV usage: just, meet, right(-eous).
Pronounce: dik'-ah-yos
Origin: from 1349
a for
huper (Greek #5228)
"over", i.e. (with the genitive case) of place, above, beyond, across, or causal, for the sake of, instead, regarding; with the accusative case superior to, more than
KJV usage: (+ exceeding, abundantly) above, in (on) behalf of, beyond, by, + very chiefest, concerning, exceeding (above, -ly), for, + very highly, more (than), of, over, on the part of, for sake of, in stead, than, to(-ward), very. In the comparative, it retains many of the above applications.
Pronounce: hoop-er'
Origin: a primary preposition
the unjust
adikos (Greek #94)
unjust; by extension wicked; by implication, treacherous; specially, heathen
KJV usage: unjust, unrighteous.
Pronounce: ad'-ee-kos
Origin: from 1 (as a negative particle) and 1349
, that
hina (Greek #2443)
in order that (denoting the purpose or the result)
KJV usage: albeit, because, to the intent (that), lest, so as, (so) that, (for) to. Compare 3363.
Pronounce: hin'-ah
Origin: probably from the same as the former part of 1438 (through the demonstrative idea; compare 3588)
he might bring
prosago (Greek #4317)
to lead towards, i.e. (transitively) to conduct near (summon, present), or (intransitively) to approach
KJV usage: bring, draw near.
Pronounce: pros-ag'-o
Origin: from 4314 and 71
hemas (Greek #2248)
KJV usage: our, us, we.
Pronounce: hay-mas'
Origin: accusative case plural of 1473
to God
ho (Greek #3588)
the definite article; the (sometimes to be supplied, at others omitted, in English idiom)
KJV usage: the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.
Pronounce: ho
Origin: ἡ (hay), and the neuter τό (to) in all their inflections
theos (Greek #2316)
a deity, especially (with 3588) the supreme Divinity; figuratively, a magistrate; by Hebraism, very
KJV usage: X exceeding, God, god(-ly, -ward).
Pronounce: theh'-os
Origin: of uncertain affinity
, being put to death
thanatoo (Greek #2289)
from 2288 to kill (literally or figuratively)
KJV usage: become dead, (cause to be) put to death, kill, mortify.
Pronounce: than-at-o'-o
b in the flesh
sarx (Greek #4561)
flesh (as stripped of the skin), i.e. (strictly) the meat of an animal (as food), or (by extension) the body (as opposed to the soul (or spirit), or as the symbol of what is external, or as the means of kindred), or (by implication) human nature (with its frailties (physically or morally) and passions), or (specially), a human being (as such)
KJV usage: carnal(-ly, + -ly minded), flesh(-ly).
Pronounce: sarx
Origin: probably from the base of 4563
, but
de (Greek #1161)
but, and, etc.
KJV usage: also, and, but, moreover, now (often unexpressed in English).
Pronounce: deh
Origin: a primary particle (adversative or continuative)
zoopoieo (Greek #2227)
to (re-)vitalize (literally or figuratively)
KJV usage: make alive, give life, quicken.
Pronounce: dzo-op-oy-eh'-o
Origin: from the same as 2226 and 4160
by the Spirit
ho (Greek #3588)
the definite article; the (sometimes to be supplied, at others omitted, in English idiom)
KJV usage: the, this, that, one, he, she, it, etc.
Pronounce: ho
Origin: ἡ (hay), and the neuter τό (to) in all their inflections
pneuma (Greek #4151)
a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively, a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, demon, or (divine) God, Christ's spirit, the Holy Spirit
KJV usage: ghost, life, spirit(-ual, -ually), mind. Compare 5590.
Pronounce: pnyoo'-mah
Origin: from 4154

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Cross References


Ministry on This Verse

1 Peter 2:21‑24• 21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
(1 Peter 2:21‑24)
1 Peter 4:1• 1Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; (1 Peter 4:1)
Isa. 53:4‑6• 4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isa. 53:4‑6)
Rom. 5:6‑8• 6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
(Rom. 5:6‑8)
Rom. 8:3• 3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Rom. 8:3)
2 Cor. 5:21• 21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor. 5:21)
Gal. 1:4• 4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Gal. 1:4)
Gal. 3:13• 13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (Gal. 3:13)
Titus 2:14• 14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:14)
Heb. 9:26,28• 26For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
28So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
(Heb. 9:26,28)
the just.
 Christ suffered throughout for righteousness, for truth, for love; and we have it as our privilege to share these sufferings (1 Peter 3:17-18 by W. Kelly)
 Christ also suffered once for sins, Just for unjust. He was alone in that one act of suffering supremely at God's hand. It was for unjust or unrighteous men (1 Peter 3:17-18 by W. Kelly)
 Christ has suffered for sins once for all; let that suffice; let us suffer only for righteousness. To suffer for sin was His task; He accomplished it, and that forever. (1 Peter 3 by J.N. Darby)
 Note the object of His substitutionary sufferings—“that He might bring us to God,” making us thoroughly at home in His presence, having a fitness to be there. (1 Peter 3 by F.B. Hole)

J. N. Darby Translation

for Christ indeed has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjustg, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in flesh, but made alive in theh Spirit,

JND Translation Notes

"Just" is singular, "unjust" plural. There is no article in either case. It is not "the just" par excellence, as Acts 3.14.
The article being left out, it is characteristic, in contrast with "in flesh." Both flesh and spirit are the manner and character of what is predicated of Christ. We could say "present in spirit," "fervent in spirit," because it is characteristic. but "made alive in spirit" conveys to the English mind the idea of an accomplished fact. It cannot be simply characteristic. In Greek, on the other hand, although conveying a fact, it has a characteristic significance. The sense given here is right.

W. Kelly Translation

Because even Christ once suffered for sins, just for unjust, that he might bring us to God, put to death indeed in flesh, but made alive in [the] Spirit1,

WK Translation Notes

suffered: [See note to 1 Peter 2:21]
suffered: ἀπέθανεν ("died") is the reading of א A C, more than a dozen cursives, Vulg., Syrr., Memph., Arm., Aeth., with several Greek and Latin fathers; while the common text is suported by B K L P, the mass of cursives, and some of the same fathers. (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p.4)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit: τῷ before πν. is the received reading on the strength of a few cursives, contrary to all the uncials, the great majority of the cursives, and all the Greek fathers, not even excepting Epiphanius who elsewhere does give the article. There need be no hesitation in accepting the anarthrous form, which cannot mean His Spirit. (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 4)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit: The article is certainly to be eliminated: what is the bearing of its absence on the meaning? If the articles were inserted, τῆ σαρκὶ and τῳ πν., these would be the contrast of the two parts of our Lord’s being as a man, the outer and the inner; were it τὴν σ. and τὸ πν., it would be the utterly false thought that His Spirit as man was the object of quickening. The anarthrous form points to the character of the acts specified; but so far is it from denying the agency of the Holy Ghost in the quickening spoken of, that the presence of the article would be more consistent with Christ’s Spirit as a man. No doubt, when it is intended to present the Holy Spirit objectively or extrinsically, the article is required and, as far as I can mark the usage, the prep. ἐν or ὐπό; it is excluded where the manner of His action is meant. On the other hand, wherever the spirit either of Christ as man or of any other is to be expressed, the article is indispensable, as may be seen in Matt. 5:3; 26:41; 27:50; Mark 14:38; Luke 10:21; John 11:33; 13:21; 19:30; Acts 19:21; 20:22; 1 Cor. 5:3,5.
Again, the following cases without the article clearly mean the Holy Spirit, but characterizing the action rather than specifying the person, though He must ever be a person: Matt. 22:43; John 3:5; 4:23, 24; Rom. 8:1,4, 9, 13; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2, 15, 16, 18, 25; Eph. 2:22; 3:5; 5:18; Col. 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Peter 4:6; Rev. 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10. The attentive reader of these instances will see that the turning-point is not the presence or absence of a preposition, as some scholars have thought. Words after a preposition follow the ordinary rules. Only, after prepositions capable of usage with a statement of manner (as κατὰ, ἐκ, ἐν, κ. τ. λ.), the anarthrous form is of course more common. Thus ἐν πνεύματι would mean in the power of the Spirit, the manner of being, or of being carried, built, justified, or of blessing, preaching, or whatever else may be in question. (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 9-10)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit: It may be doubted then whether quickened "by the Spirit" best gives the meaning of the apostolic statement: for that would most naturally suppose the Spirit as an exterior agent. Still the anarthrous construction, as is certain from the numerous places cited, does not at all exclude the Holy Spirit: only it expresses the manner of the quickening, not the personal agent. But the thought of His power is conveyed by the phrase that follows, ἐν ῷ, wherein Christ is said to have gone and preached, etc. Thereby it is pointedly contradistinguished from πορευθεὶς in verse 22, which is not qualified by ἐν ῷ or ἐν πνεύματι, but left in its strict sense of a personal change of locality to heaven. Thus it is excessively rash to say that the rendering of the English version here is wrong either grammatically or theologically, though it is more correct to cleave as closely as our language permits to the Greek style of expressing "Spirit" as the character rather than agent of the quickening of Chirst, though agent too He was beyond doubt.
Bishop Middleton wrote with great force on the insertion of the article, but he was not equally successful in accounting for its omission. Prepositions he treated as exceptions to rule, and anarthrous cases like σαρκὶ, πνεύματι, as practically adverbial. Hence in our passage, he held the apostle to mean that "Christ was dead carnally but alive spiritually"; as indeed he thought would flow from τῷ πν. if the article had been authentic. (Doctrine of the Greek Art., p. 430, Rose’s Ed., 1855) The only difference is, he thought, that by retaining the article we destroy the form of the antithesis between σ. and πν. But instances already given show how imperfect this able treatise is in requiring either the article or a preposition to accompany πν. in the gen., dat., or accus., in order to mean the Spirit of GOD. Romans 8:13, to which he himself refers, refutes his position.
Here Dean Alford, who is so strong against "by the Spirit" in 1 Peter 3:18, translates the same word exactly in the way condemned: "but if by the Spirit ye slay the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of GOD, these are sons of GOD." So on Gal. 5:5, Alford expressly remarks on πνεύματι "not `mente’ [Fritz] nor `spiritually,’ Middleton, al., but by the [Holy] Spirit, [reff.] as opposed to σ.," the very rendering he afterward treats as wrong grammatically and theologically. Again, on verse 16 he particularly observes that πν. without the article may and does here mean "by the Spirit" [i.e. of GOD]. His reason, probably after Winer or the like, is invalid; for it is not because it is a sort of proper name, but because it is employed characteristically. There is no need to multiply proofs against the comments on πν,. in 1 Peter 3:18—proofs equally at least against Middleton. Consequently Barrow, Hall, Leighton, Pearson, Ussher, etc., the divines who denied the applicability of the passage to Christ’s descent to hades, were not mistaken, as thinks Dr. E.H. Browne, sometime Bishop of Ely. They contend that the true meaning of the text is that our Lord by the Spirit in Noah preached to the antediluvians, who are now for their disobedience imprisoned in hades.
“This interpretation of the passage," says the Bishop, "depends on the accuracy of the English version. That version reads in the eighteenth verse, ’quickened by the Spirit.’ It is to be noted, however, that all the versions except one (the Ethiopic) seem to have understood it ’quickened by the Spirit’: and it is scarcely possible, upon any correct principles of interpretation, to give any other translation to the words. If, therefore, we follow the original, in preference to the English version, we must read the passage thus: `... but quick in His Spirit;..." (An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, etc., 1868, pp. 94,95.)
... the Bishop of Ely (see note, p. 94) knows that the best critics reject the article before πν’. If absent, it is impossible for πν,. to mean "in His Spirit.”
Besides, the resulting theology is as strange as the grammar... (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 11-14)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit:... when Bishop Middleton considers the true meaning to "be dead carnally, but alive spiritually," almost every word is misrepresented. For, to bear such a translation, the sentence should have been θανὼν μὲν σαρκικῶς, ζῶν δὲ πνευματικῶς, though one might call such a statement absurd and heterodox. I deny that we must or can render θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι in any such fashion. Bishop Browne is as wrong in adopting such a thought in the note to p. 95, as he is in giving "quick in His Spirit" in the text of p. 95, or in expounding it as Christ alive in His soul, in or by which He went to the souls ἐν φ. All this in my judgment is as loose in grammar as in philosophy, if they allude to this; and as faulty also in theology, as it has not the least coherence with the context or the scope of the apostle’s reasoning.
... Bishop Horsley’s Sermon on the passage, which is so warmly commended in Bishop Middleton’s Treatise and in Bishop Browne’s Exposition, appears to sober minds little worthy of confidence. Thus he affirms strongly that the English translation of ζ. δὲ πν., though "a true proposition, is certainly not the sense of the apostle’s words. It is of great importance to remark, though it may seem a grammatical nicety, that the prepositions, in either branch of this clause, have been supplied by the translators and are not in the original. The words ’flesh’ and ’spirit,’ in the original, stand without any preposition, in that case which, in the Greek language, without any preposition, is the case either of the cause or instrument by which—of the time when—of the place where—of the part in which—of the manner how—or of the respect in which, according to the exigence of the context; and to any one who will consider the original with critical accuracy it will be obvious, from the perfect antithesis of these two clauses concerning flesh and spirit, that if the word ’spirit’ denote the active cause by which Christ was restored to life, which must be supposed by them who understand the word of the Holy Ghost, the word ’flesh’ must equally denote the active cause by which He was put to death, which therefore must have been the flesh of His own body an interpretation too manifestly absurd to be admitted. But if the word ’flesh’ denote, as it most evidently does, the part in which death took effect upon Him, `spirit’ must denote the part in which life was preserved(!) in Him, that is, His own soul; and the word `quickened’ is often applied to signify, not the resuscitation of life extinguished, but the preservation and continuance of life subsisting(?). The exact rendering, therefore, of the apostle’s words would be, ’Being put to death in the flesh, but quick in the spirit,’ that is, surviving in His soul the stroke of death which His body had sustained, ’by which,’ or rather ’in which,’ that is, in which surviving soul, ’He went and preached to the souls of men in prison or in safe keeping.’”
I have given this long extract, which clearly puts this able divine’s objections to the Authorized Version. Now without committing myself to the defense of what is not quite correct, I have no hesitation in asserting that Horsley, by his own mistaken view, has diverged incomparably farther from the truth. We need not go beyond the Bishop himself and the passage in debate, where he gives a difference of shade to the two participles, which are quite as much contrasted with each as their complementary datives. According to his own principle therefore, as the first means "put to death," the other should be "made alive," even if its uniform usage by inspired writers did not force one to the same conclusion. Why then did not H. carry out fairly and fully his own reasoning? Because it would have involved him in the result that Christ was not only put to death in the flesh, but made alive in His own soul or spirit. The good Bishop of course shrank from so portentous an inference, and was therefore driven to modify the antithesis, not in πνεύματι, but in an unnatural and unfounded interpretation put on ζωοποιηθείς, which even Dean A. explodes, who insists justly on "brought to life," instead of "preserved alive.”
The truth is that Horsley did not himself seize the exact force of σαρκὶ and πνεύματι, still less the difference produced by ἐν in the beginning of verse 19. Christ was put to death in (i.e. in respect to) flesh, as a living man below; He was made alive in (i.e. in respect to) Spirit, as one henceforth living in the life of resurrection, characterized by the Spirit as the other by flesh, though Christ was not a spirit only but had a spiritual body. It is not His own spirit as man, which is far worse than the English Version here, both grammatically and theologically. Grammatically it would demand τῷ πν., which is a reading unknown to the best copies and scouted by all competent critics; but even if diplomatically and grammatically legitimate, it would land us in the frightful heterodoxy that Christ died not merely in flesh but in spirit, and had to be quickened in the human spirit, which dies not even in the lost. Only the materialist conceives that spirit, if he at all allows of spirit, can die.
Further, if ζ. δὲ πν. refers to the resurrection of Christ, it is harshness itself and out of all reason to suppose Him back in the separate state in the verse following, where Horsley takes ἐν ῷ to mean in which surviving soul He went and preached to the souls of men in prison. But understand it as ἐν means we should, that Christ also went ἐν πνεύματι, not merely in character of Spirit, but in His power when He preached through Noah; and all is precise in grammar, correct in doctrine, clear in sense, and consistent with the context. When we are raised by-and-by it will be διὰ τὸ ἐνοικοῦν αὐτοῦ πνεῦμα, because of His Spirit that dwelleth in us. It was not suitable to Christ, so to speak of His resurrection. He was, when put to death, quickened πνεύματι, denoting the character of His life in resurrection (not merely the agent), ἐν ῷ καὶ marking the Spirit’s power in which, before He was thus put to death and raised, He went and preached to the spirits in prison, disobedient as they were once when, etc. (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 20-25)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit: The spirit which is here distinguished against seems as if it could not possibly mean anything else than the soul, says [Cardinal Bellarmine].... If the article of the vulgarly received text before πνεύματι possessed any real weight of evidence, the phrase might well, if not certainly, convey the sense of Christ’s spirit as man; but all the copies of value concur in the anarthrous form, which cannot bear the meaning for which [Bellarmine] contends.... (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 63)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit: There is no such statement as that Christ’s Spirit was the subject, recipient, or vehicle of restored life, for this would require the article to convey such a sense. Yet were the article genuine and such a sense necessarily taught, it is hard to see how one who held to the text thence resulting could deny the monstrous inference that His spirit had previously died at least, if the case connected had been the direct complement, not the indirect. (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 71)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit: Commenting on the Authorized Version [Dr. J. Brown] says (168,169), "the words flesh and spirit are plainly opposed to one another. The prepositions in and by are not in the original. The opposed words [σαρκὶ―πνεύματι] are in the same case; they stand plainly in the same relation respectively to the words rendered `put to death’ and `quickened’ [θανατωθεὶς, ζωοποιηθεὶς], and that relation should have been expressed in English by the same particle. If you give the rendering, `put to death in the flesh,’ you must give the corresponding rendering, `quickened in the spirit,’ which would bring out the sense, either ’quickened in His human spirit or soul,’ a statement to which it is difficult to attach a distinct meaning; for the soul is not mortal. Christ’s spirit did not die, and to continue alive is not the meaning of the original word; or `quickened in His divine nature,’ a statement obviously absurd and false, as implying that He who is the life, the living One, can be quickened, either in the sense of restored from a state of death, or endowed with a larger measure of vitality. On the other hand, if you adopt the rendering of our translators in the second clause, `quickened by the Spirit,’ then you must render in accordance with it the first clause, `put to death by the flesh.’ If by the Spirit you understand the divine nature of our Lord, by the flesh you must understand the human nature, which makes the expression an absurdity. On the other hand, if you understand by the Spirit the Holy Ghost, then by flesh you must understand ’mankind,’ put to death by men, but restored to life by GOD the Spirit. This interpretation, though giving a consistent and true sense, the sense so forcibly expressed in Peter’s words to the Jews, `whom ye crucified; whom GOD raised from the dead,’ is forbidden by the usage of the language. Then there can be no doubt that there does appear something very material in introducing our Lord in what is plainly a result of His atoning sufferings, as having in the Spirit, by which He was quickened after He had been put to death, gone many centuries before, in the antediluvian age, to preach to an ungodly world; and there is just as little doubt that the only meaning that the words will bear, without violence being done them, is that it was when He had been put to death in the flesh, and quickened in the Spirit or by the Spirit, whatever that may mean, He went and preached; and that ’the spirits,’ whoever they be, were `in prison,’ whatever that may mean, when He preached to them.”
This is no unfair specimen of what one cannot but characterize as daubing with untempered mortar. It is but a balancing of probabilities or rather of improbabilities, and recalls the passage of Isaiah, who tells us of the judicial sleep poured out on Israel; so that the whole vision became to them like the words of a sealed book. For this, if delivered to the learned man with the request to read it, elicits the reply, I cannot, for it is sealed; or, if delivered with the same request to the unlearned, he excuses himself as unable because of the want of learning.
It is confessed by Dr. J. B. that the sense brought out is self-consistent and not incompatible with any of the facts or doctrines of revelation. He only complains of the mode of interpretation as liable to objections. I shall show, however, that, far from being really insurmountable, every one of these objections is destitute of weight.
Flesh and spirit are opposed; though in the same case it does not follow that they must have the same preposition supplied in English. This would not be necessary if the same Greek preposition (which is far stronger or more precise) accompanied each of the two opposed terms. Thus in Romans 4:25 two clauses stand in antithesis with one another, whence many have been allured to argue, like our author here, for a necessarily similar force of διὰ with each accusative. But this is an error. For the former clause means that our Lord Jesus was delivered because of our offenses; the second, that He was raised again on account of the justifying of us (that is, in order to it); for justifying cannot be severed from faith, as the very next verse proves (Rom. 5:1). Indeed the notion of justification before faith would introduce nothing but confusion and false doctrine, not to speak of the evil in practice which naturally results. The Authorized Version however has not rendered ill in giving "for" with both clauses, the English preposition "for" being as flexible as the corresponding Greek one.
Similarly here there is no necessity to vary the English by supplying in the flesh and by the Spirit; but, if there were, it was open to the translators to have done so. The relation of the dative is not so contracted or consequently so uniform as to demand the exactly same form of representing it. Besides we have to take into account the idiom of the English tongue, which does not by any means conform always to the Greek. The reader is already aware that "in" or "in respect of" may be given equally in both clauses; but the translators might legitimately enough have given "in" and "by" as they have done. Hence the reasoning which develops the objection is invalid. "In His human spirit," if it were ever so proper in itself, would require the article τῷ (as in the common text). But as the best MSS. expunge it, so the sense resulting from its presence would have been really an insurmountable objection, for it is impossible to apply "quicken" to the spirit of Christ any more than to His divine nature. But as we have seen, if one translates the latter term "by the Spirit," it is not correct to assume that we must translate the former "by the flesh." The alleged necessity is just the mistake which falsifies the reasoning of many interpreters, and has mystified more readers.
Strictness of parallelism is to my mind more common in the limited scope of human thought than in the word of GOD, which habitually (I believe), while thus comparing or contrasting, gives a further and varying side of truth in the fullness of divine wisdom. Hence the mere technicality of the schools is sure to err in interpreting scripture. It does not follow therefore, that, when we see two datives balanced against each other, they must both be expressions of element, agency, or instrument, though it may be wise to avoid a greater precision in the rendering than the inspired original itself carries. At the same time such a difference is not advocated in the present instance; but, as the authorized translators rightly enough elsewhere represent διὰ twice by an English "for," so "in" or "in respect of will be found to suit both here. Consequently there is no such difficulty connected with the version or with the interpretation already given as to weaken it; still less, as some easily frightened have supposed, to convince us that it is untenable. (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 89-93)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit: [In] Dr. E.W. Bullinger’s pamphlet (fifth edition revised, 1898)... in p. 8 we come to the question, and first the fact that τῷ before πν. is rejected by the best critics, though read by perhaps all the editions before the A.V. of 1 Peter 3:18. But in p. 9 "Holy Spirit" is repeatedly given as the sense. This is erroneous, for it would require the omitted article. The rendering of the A.V. is not so far wrong, though it is better to avoid "by" with "spirit" if we have "in" with "flesh." They are antithetical, and if we say "in respect to" we can say it of both. But it is not possible to justify the inference from the true text, "that though as regards His flesh Christ was put to death, yet as regards His Spirit He was quickened or made alive" (p. 9). It is as unsound philologically as in theology. In no way is it justifiable. Undoubtedly the second member refers to resurrection; but how can any legitimately draw "the body" from "His Spirit"? This is an error which the anarthrous construction repels; for πνεύματι without τῷ cannot mean "His Spirit." The true text points to the Spirit of GOD, as I have already shown, and Dr. B. can verify it in his own dictionary, in Bruder’s Concordance, or in any good text of the Greek N.T.
Our tongue does not always admit of the Greek anarthrous expression. If it did, we might say, "Put to death indeed in flesh, but made alive in Spirit." But English requires for most ears "in [the] Spirit." It is a simple difference of idiom, and does not affect the sense intended.... Thus, though the A.V. varied the preposition needlessly, their version is right in substance, and Dr. B. is clearly wrong. (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 116-118)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit:... Nor does the R.V. decide anything against referring to the Holy Spirit, save perhaps by their small "s." (Preaching to the Spirits in Prison, p. 128)
in ^ flesh... in [the] Spirit: to print "spirit" without a capital initial is a matter for regret, if there be no real ground to doubt that the Spirit of God is meant. Had the phrase been as in the Text. Rec., τῷ πν., there might so far have been a better ground for supposing the spirit of Christ as man, though it would not have been decisive against the Holy Spirit. But the anarthrous phrase distinctly points to that Divine Person, though presented in character rather than objectively; and what is added conclusively proves this "in which (or in the power of which Spirit) also he went and preached to the spirits in prison," etc. (Bible Treasury 14:80)