Christ’s Descent into Hell (Part 2)

In a previous post, we started looking at one of the most difficult and strange passages in the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:18-22. Many Christians avoid passages like this because they are difficult and hint at content that doesn’t fit well with their own theological views.

Let’s take another look at it with an attempt to clarify its meaning.

1 Peter 3:18–22
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

In the previous post, I explained the two main views that Christ either “went” somewhere in his spirit body during his death on the cross or he “went” after he resurrected BEFORE he ascended into heaven. Then I proved that the “spirits in prison” were not humans but the angelic powers who had fallen during the days of Noah, and were imprisoned much like the book of 1Enoch says. (And Peter is borrowing from 1Enoch)

The last two questions we now want to address are:
Where did he go to proclaim to the spirits? (v. 19)
What did he proclaim? (v. 19)

Where is the “Prison”?

One interpretation of the prison is that it is a metaphor for human beings on earth who are “imprisoned” in their sin. But the context of the passage mitigates against this view.

When the New Testament refers to preaching the Gospel to people on earth, the Greek term for “soul,” is used (psyche). But this is not a term about a ghost in a machine, but rather an expression of the life of an individual human, their inner being, their “person,” or their “self.” Thus, Peter writes in 3:20 that “eight persons (psyche) were brought safely through the waters” in the ark during the Flood.

When Peter preaches the Gospel in Acts 2, it says that “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls [psyche]… and awe came upon every soul [psyche]” (Acts 2:42-43). “Soul” could be used synonymously with “individuals” or “persons.”

But in 1 Peter 3, the distinct Greek term for “spirit” (pneuma), not “soul” (psyche), is used in contrast to the physical flesh. And these “spirits” are those who were disobedient in the days of Noah (v. 20), so they could not be people on earth at the time of Christ. Christ was proclaiming to spirits.

During the time of Christ, those who were around in the days of Noah could only be in one place according to the Old Testament: The underworld of Hades or Sheol.

What was Hades?

Hades was well known in the Greco-Roman world as the holding cell of the spirits of the dead until the judgment. Sheol was the Hebrew equivalent for Hades so the two could be used interchangeably.[1] Prisons in that time period were exactly that, holding cells for punishment. So when Peter refers to a prison for spirits, this view concludes that he is referring to Hades, just as he did in 2 Peter 2:4 when he said that the disobedient angels were cast into Tartarus, the lowest prison region in Hades.

There are orthodox traditions of Christian scholars who have supported this passage as referring to Christ’s proclamation as occurring at his physical ascension into heaven and others as referring to Christ’s spiritual descent into Hades. I take the position in Jesus Triumphant that Christ spiritually descended into Hades. So did early church fathers like Tertullian, Augustine, Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Cyril, and Origen, as well as Medieval scholastics like Robert Bellarmine, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, and modern scholars like Charles B. Cranfield, and Bo Reicke.[2] But I also incorporate the post-resurrection interpretation as well, with its fascinating possibilities.

Ad300x250-BookofEnoch1 Enoch, which seems to be the source of the Biblical text, does in fact depict Enoch as visiting the place of the condemned Watchers who were “formerly in heaven” (1 Enoch 16:2), and that place is described as a “deep pit,” in the bottom of a mountain, just like Tartarus of Hades (Sheol), “an empty place with neither heaven above nor an earth below” (1 Enoch 21:1-2).[5]

The descent of Christ in 1 Pet. 3:19 is poetically structured to counterbalance the ascent of Christ into heaven in verse 22. In the same way that Christ went down into Sheol, he later ascended up into heaven. But more importantly, if Christ makes a proclamation to the spirits in prison, those dead and bound prisoners are certainly not in heaven. They are most likely in Sheol.

Another passage, Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalms 68:18 about Christ “ascending on high and leading a host of captives.” Paul then adds a parenthetical,

Ephesians 4:9-10
“In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”
 
Christ “descending into the lower regions, the earth” can legitimately be interpreted as referring to Christ’s incarnation or even his descent in the Spirit on Pentecost.[6] But other scholarship argues that the phrase is better translated as “descending into the lowest parts of the earth,” in other words into Sheol.[7]

This underworld (Sheol) interpretation would seem to coincide with the memes presented in 1 Peter 3. The contrast of the heights of heaven with the depths of Sheol, and the tying of Christ’s death, descent into Sheol, resurrection, and ascension into the totality of his victory over the angelic principalities and powers.[8]

Psalm 68 says that after leading the host of captives, God “received gifts from men,” a reference to the notion of ancient victors receiving tribute from their conquered foes. Paul changes that “receiving of gifts” into “giving of gifts” as a expansion of that victory over foes into a sharing of victory with his army, the people of God. Perhaps this is the meaning of the Old Testament saints resurrected at the time of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53). They too were sharing in the long awaited victory train of Messiah to free them from Hades and ascend into heaven.

The context of conquest over the angelic powers is also apparent in Eph. 1:20-21, “when he raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.”

Christ’s death on the Cross becomes the apparent defeat by God’s enemies, led by angelic principalities and powers. But it turns around and becomes a disarming of those spiritual powers and the beginning of his triumph over them (Col. 2:15). In this view, Christ goes down into Sheol (in his spirit or later, in his resurrected body) to make a proclamation to the original minions of evil, now held captive. After he raises from the dead, he ascends into heaven to be coronated as king over all authority and powers of heaven and earth (Eph. 1:20-21). And that victory over spiritual powers brings us to the next element of 1 Peter 3:18-22.

What was the Proclamation?

Some have believed it was Christ preaching the Gospel to the Old Testament dead, as if they may have a second chance to repent because they died before Messiah, or even to Old Testament believers who did not yet have the historical sacrifice of Christ to apply to them yet. This brings us back to the human interpretation of the “spirits in prison.”
Since there is no place in the New Testament that supports the notion of a purgatorial type of second chance after death (Heb. 9:27), then the proclamation that Christ makes cannot be the “preaching of the Gospel” unto salvation, but something else. That something else is most likely a triumphant proclamation of his victory over the angelic authorities and powers.

In the ancient world, kingly victors would perform a triumphal procession through the streets of a conquered city. They would parade their captive opponents, alive or dead, on carts to show off their power over their enemies. Thus the triumphal procession in Psalm 68 quoted in Ephesians 4:8 as “ascending on high and leading a host of captives.” This would also be an encouragement for obedience from the vanquished inhabitants.[9] Triumphal language like this in 1 Peter as well as other passages, reflect this military type victory of Christ over the ruling authorities achieved at the Cross.

2 Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

This triumph is referred to in the next verse of 1 Peter 3:22. “Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” The subjection of the spiritual powers occurs sometime before or during the ascension in this passage, most likely in the prison of Sheol.

In Col. 2:15 we read that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” in Christ’s death and resurrection. His death on the cross forgives us the legal debt of our sin, his resurrection unites us in our new spiritual life, and his ascension wraps it all up with a victory lap, towing the bound and defeated principalities and powers of the nations behind him.

Ad300x250-ChroniclesNephilimOne of the premises of the entire Chronicles of the Nephilim series is the Deuteronomy 32 worldview that spoke of the  allotment of earthly nations to the fallen Watchers, at the time of the Tower of Babel (Deut. 32:8-9; 29:26). God granted territorial authority to these divine beings (Deut. 4:19-20; Daniel 10). But God kept Jacob for himself and then took the land of Canaan as his inheritance.

So the picture is one of a world divided up into parcels of land underneath the authority of the fallen Watchers as false gods, with Yahweh having Israel in Canaan as his own.
And this allotment occurred at the division of tongues during the Tower of Babel episode (Duet. 32:8). But one day, the coming Messiah would ultimately take back that Watcher allotment and inherit the entire earth as his territory, along with the nations to be his people.

Daniel 4:17
The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.
 
Psalm 2:7–8
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
 
The proclamation that Christ made to the spirits in prison was most likely his proclamation of victory and authority over the angelic powers that once ruled the Gentiles. The first of those powers were imprisoned in the Days of Noah, but their fellow fallen angels continued to rule in their absence over the nations. This inheritance of the earth and the drawing in of the nations would finally commence on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would literally undo Babel and the division of tongues and begin to draw those nations to himself (Acts 2).

But why would Christ have to proclaim authority or victory to those who were already imprisoned? Would that not be anti-climactic? Not if their fellow fallen angelic powers still ruled outside that prison on the earth, much like imprisoned Mafioso leaders are still linked to their fellow criminals on the outside. The angelic powers imprisoned at the Flood were the original rebels, the progenitors of the ongoing Seed of the Serpent that continued on in a lineage of evil on earth. They were in bonds, but the resultant War of the Seed that they spawned originated with their fall.

Christ’s exorcism of demons becomes the picture of his cosmic authority casting out the occupying evil powers, described as an army (Luke 11;18). And that cosmic authority would ultimately crush the Serpent’s head.

Luke 11:20–22
[Jesus:] “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.”

The incarnation and ministry of Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of Messiah, the Kingdom of God. His death, resurrection, and ascension accomplished the atonement of sins for his people (Col. 2:13-15), the crushing of the head of the Serpent (Luke 10:17-19), and the victorious triumphal procession of binding his enemies, from Sheol up to heaven (1 Pet. 3:18-22), as he rose to the ultimate seat of authority over all kingdoms, rulers, and authorities: The right hand of God the Father (Eph. 1:21). From there Jesus reigns victoriously, in which he undid the Tower of Babel (Acts 2) evicted the spiritual authorities over the nations (Deut. 32:8), and began to draw those nations away from their gods unto the new cosmic mountain, Mount Zion (Isa. 2). This is the cosmic War of the Seed, a war of conquering Christ’s enemies through the power of the proclaimed Gospel in history…

1 Corinthians 15:24–28
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. or “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

But is Hades Hell? Did Jesus really go into hell? I will address that in the next post.

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to www.ChroniclesoftheNephilim.com under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.


[1] Richard Bauckham, “Hades, Hell,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 14.
[2] Pierce, Spirits and the Proclamation, 2-10.
[5] Enoch has a dream vision and ascends to heaven in 1 Enoch 14 and 15. But then he is brought to the place of punishment in chapter 18:10-19:3, which is not in heaven, but is a mountain that leads him down into the pit of Sheol.
[6] For a good survey of the defense of these views, see: Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 244–247.
[7] “κατώτερος,” Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 640; Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans to Philemon., vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 325.
[8] Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 99–100.
[9] Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans to Philemon., vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 387.

6 comments on “Christ’s Descent into Hell (Part 2)

  • TIM CATCHIM says:

    How do you account for 1 Peter 4:5-6 that says he evangelized the dead so they could be made alive to God? Is this not conversion of people (not divine beings)?

    Reply
    • v 18 is talking about spirits in prison. 4:1-6 is talking about people with flesh who are spiritually dead. Two different creatures, two different scenarios.

      Reply
  • TIM CATCHIM says:

    I would disagree 🙂 Here’s why. The Greek term for “prison in 1 Peter 3:19 is phylake and it is not the same Greek word that is used in the book of Enoch, which is desmoterion. . If Peter was echoing Enoch, and wanted the reader to “unambiguously” identify those spirits as the fallen angels/watchers, why not just use desmoterion to establish the link. Instead, he uses phylake. Could it be that Peter is intentionally distancing the reader from the book of Enoch by using phylake instead of desmoterion? What if Peter wanted to communicate that Jesus, during his postmortem state as a disembodied human spirit, went and evangelized other disembodied human spirits from the time of Noah (I Peter 4:6)? Wouldn’t using a different word than the one used in Enoch for their holding place be a strategic way to differentiate the audience of that proclamation? We have to ask ourselves why he used phylake instead of desmoterion, especially if you want to argue that Peter is trying to make a clear link between the spirits in 1 Peter 3:19 and the watchers mentioned in Enoch. Also, if Peter was wanting us to think the “spirits” were “angels” he could have easily used the word “angels” like he did earlier in his letter (1:12), or later in 2 Peter 2. But he didn’t… Also, he says the spirits ere “disobedient.” The Greek word here is apetheia – and in 1 Peter this alays refers to people who reject a message – it is where we get our word apathy from, and it implies being unresponsive to a persuasive message i.e being evangelized. A close reading of 4:1-6 reveals that he is indeed talking about people who are literally living and dead, not spiritually living and spiritually dead. Otherwise, the logic of his argument makes no sense. He is saying that because God will judge the living and the dead (a phrase used elsewhere in the New Testament for refer to actual living and dead people) that they must have an opportunity to be adequately exposed to the gospel, and this is why Jesus went and evangelized the dead people who were disobedient during the time of Noah – so they would have an opportunity to respond and be made alive to God. Notice that the dead people he is referring to have already been judged according to men in the flesh i.e. the flood/death.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your thoughtful offerings. I appreciate an intelligent and respectful dialogue, which is not common these days. So I will seek to return the favor.

      I don’t accept your interpretation for several reasons. First, I think you are pushing the “word study” too far into the word study fallacy. Words are not the ultimate definers of meaning. Linguists and hermeneutical experts say that context determines meaning, above words. Same words can mean different things in different contexts.

      The context of 1 Peter (and 2 Peter, which connects with it) is decidedly Enochian in content. In my article The Book of Enoch: Scripture, Heresy or What? I chronicle 16 points of correlation between 1 Peter and 1 Enoch 108 alone. I also chronicle at least 14 points of correlation between 2 Peter and 1 Enoch illustrating that the content of the letters is following the Enochian paradigm and content. This has massive scholarly support.

      So any variation of language (word use) can be understood as Peter adding his own unique angle based upon what he wants to communicate about that content he is referencing. This is not a trick. All of Biblical context does this. Different words are used for the same thing all the time in both the Bible and secular literature. For instance, “Church,” “body of Christ,” “household of God,” “Congregation of the Lord” all refer to the same thing with different Greek words to stress different angles in different contexts. Same thing for “Holy ones,” “heavenly host” “stars” “Watchers” “divine council.” All the same creatures, but with different contextual meanings.

      Let us not forget that hundreds of years of difference between a Hellenistic document and a Roman document means different cultures and time periods. Yes, Peter can and does use some similar words, but language shifts so if he is not quoting the text, he doesn’t have to use the same Greek word because he is adding his intent or angle to it. Although, actually, Bible writers even change words of Scripture when they quote Scripture (Eph 4:8), so that argument wouldn’t hold even if you wanted it to.

      So, for example, Peter’s use of phylake for prison simply shows he is stressing the detention nature of the imprisonment. So, yes, Peter may be altering Enoch’s precise usage (I don’t know if Enoch uses phylake anywhere else. It would be helpful to know), but Peter is still using Enoch as a base paradigm that he seems to agree with on the whole. I’ve never said Enoch is Scripture so it doesn’t have to be fully accepted by Bible writers. So, I would expect Peter to put it in his own words with alterations, especially since he doesn’t quote Enoch, he only paraphrases him. (Jude, however, in addressing the SAME CONTENT as Peter–textual criticism indicates one is using the other as reference–Does quote 1 Enoch quite explicitly)

      Your questions of what word Peter could or should have used is speculation. I can speculate the other way as well. The NT uses both phylake and desmios for prison. The Book of Acts tends to use desmios of prisoners and phylake for the prison. I wold expect Peter to be more in line with NT usage than the more ancient Hellenistic usage.

      Re: The spirits, as I wrote in the article, “John Elliott debunks the notion that “spirits” refers to human beings by looking at the Greek word for spirits (pneuma) in Biblical and Intertestamental texts. He concludes, “use of ‘spirits’ for human beings is very rare, and even then it is always qualified. In the Bible and related literature, when reference is made to deceased humans in Hades or the underworld, the term used is not pneuma but psyche.”

      Angelos: Your attempt to differentiate angels from spirits does not really work. Biblical word usage is quite fluid. New Testament writers use “angelos” of OT “elohim” or gods (see Heb 2:7 and Psalm 8:5). Angels are sometimes called “spirits” (Heb 1:14)

      Disobedient: Since you like speculating, then, if Peter was talking about Watchers who were disobedient to God, as opposed to humans disobedient to God, what word should Peter have used? You see, this is speculation based on silence. The disobedience of “angels” would not have to be a different word than the disobedience of humans.

      Proclamation and humans: As I wrote, “Some have believed it was Christ preaching the Gospel to the Old Testament dead, as if they may have a second chance to repent because they died before Messiah, or even to Old Testament believers who did not yet have the historical sacrifice of Christ to apply to them yet. This brings us back to the human interpretation of the “spirits in prison.”
      Since there is no place in the New Testament that supports the notion of a purgatorial type of second chance after death (Heb. 9:27), then the proclamation that Christ makes cannot be the “preaching of the Gospel” unto salvation, but something else. That something else is most likely a triumphant proclamation of his victory over the angelic authorities and powers.” And that proclamation to the powers is all over the NT (1Peter 3:22; Col 2:15; 2Cor 2:14; 1Cor 2:6; Eph 3:6, 10; 4:7-10 etc.) See my booklet “Psalm 82” it goes into the victory of Christ over the powers.

      You seem to concur that 4:1-6 is talking about a different group of beings, living humans who are spritually dead. That’s the application of the previous theological set up about the proclamation of Christ’s victory to the imprisoned powers.

      I appreciate your thoughtful challenge. I recommend reading “The Disobedient Spirits and Christian Baptis” by Bo Reicke. He deals with the Greek language and theological issues in this debate.

      Reply
  • TIM CATCHIM says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed reply. It is indeed rare to have civiI public discourse 😉 I will respond by quoting select statements of your reply and comment in a “discussion type format.”

    Godawa: “First, I think you are pushing the “word study” too far into the word study fallacy. Words are not the ultimate definers of meaning. Linguists and hermeneutical experts say that context determines meaning, above words. Same words can mean different things in different contexts.”

    I agree that meanings of words have limitations based on their context. This is why I primarily limited my points to language already being used in the 1 and 2 Peter writings. But a point was being made by you in reference to another text – the book of Enoch. Which is why I drew attention to the different terms beings used between those texts. If anything, it should raise a question as to why, if Peter is wanting to “restate” the Enoch scenario of the Watchers in desmoterion, why would he not use desmoterion? It is a valid question that can work both ways. It can be dismissed as an incidental factor, or it could be seen as more significant.

    Godawa: “The context of 1 Peter (and 2 Peter, which connects with it) is decidedly Enochian in content. In my article The Book of Enoch: Scripture, Heresy or What? I chronicle 16 points of correlation between 1 Peter and 1 Enoch 108 alone. I also chronicle at least 14 points of correlation between 2 Peter and 1 Enoch illustrating that the content of the letters is following the Enochian paradigm and content. This has massive scholarly support.”

    I have not read your article. And I do not doubt there are significant points of correlation between Enoch and the letters of 1 and 2 Peter. But this does not automatically guarantee that the “spirits in prison” being referred to in 1 Peter 3:18-19 are Watchers/Divine Beings. That has to be determined, primarily, by the text of 1 Peter 3:15-4:6.

    Godawa: “So any variation of language (word use) can be understood as Peter adding his own unique angle based upon what he wants to communicate about that content he is referencing. This is not a trick. All of Biblical context does this. Different words are used for the same thing all the time in both the Bible and secular literature. For instance, “Church,” “body of Christ,” “household of God,” “Congregation of the Lord” all refer to the same thing with different Greek words to stress different angles in different contexts. Same thing for “Holy ones,” “heavenly host” “stars” “Watchers” “divine council.” All the same creatures, but with different contextual meanings.”
    I agree with your basic premise here, but I think it is somewhat of a case of apples and oranges. For example, Peter already used the language of angels in 1 Peter 1:12 to refer to heavenly beings. Why would he opt for the term” spirit” if he is referring to the same kind of being, especially if he uses the term angels in 2 Peter to describe fallen angels? Would this not be confusing to the reader, or at last create opportunity for misunderstanding? Your examples of different terms being used for the people of God – “church” “body of Christ” – is not appropriate because in each of those cases, we are still referring to the same type of being – humans. Those terms doo not alter our pereption of the type of being referenced. In Peter’s writings, he seems to consistently use the word angel when he wants to talk about angels. So why would I assume he is talking about angels when he does not use the language of angel, especially if he has demonstrated a pattern of using the term angel when referring to what we would call “divine beings”? If 1 Peter 3:19 is the only alleged example in 1 and 2 Peter of him using a term other than angel to refer to angels, it would at least create the possibility that he is not in fact referring to angels in that passage. In other words, 3:19 is the exception to the pattern, which would cause one to ask – why?

    Godawa: “Let us not forget that hundreds of years of difference between a Hellenistic document and a Roman document means different cultures and time periods. Yes, Peter can and does use some similar words, but language shifts so if he is not quoting the text, he doesn’t have to use the same Greek word because he is adding his intent or angle to it. Although, actually, Bible writers even change words of Scripture when they quote Scripture (Eph 4:8), so that argument wouldn’t hold even if you wanted it to.”

    I would say that the argument I am making about Peter not using the term “desmoterion” in his writing is a valid point because when we say that one writer is alluding to the events of language of another text, we have to substantiate that claim by finding parallel language and events in the other text. According to 1 Peter 3:18-4:6 the event Peter is referring to is entirely new – it had never happened before. That novelty at least makes it possible that Jesus is not only doing something outside of the point of reference in the book of Enoch, but that Jesus is also addressing “new” beings – humans – that are equally outside and beyond a point of reference in the book of Enoch. Just because there are points of correlation between 1 and 2 Peter and the book of Enoch does not mean Jesus’ activity is focused on, constrained by, the limited range of beings or actors being referenced in the book of Enoch.

    Godawa: “Your questions of what word Peter could or should have used is speculation. I can speculate the other way as well.”

    True, so this equally means that your points you offered above about the chosen language are equally subject to questioning and invalidation by my proposed alternative interpretations 🙂

    Godawa: “So, for example, Peter’s use of phylake for prison simply shows he is stressing the detention nature of the imprisonment. So, yes, Peter may be altering Enoch’s precise usage (I don’t know if Enoch uses phylake anywhere else. It would be helpful to know), but Peter is still using Enoch as a base paradigm that he seems to agree with on the whole. ”

    Again, just because their are correlations between 1 and Peter and Enoch does not mean the activity of Jesus being described in 1 Peter 3:18-4:6 is constrained by the available actors and activities being referenced in Enoch. What Jesus is doing is entirely new and should be afforded the same level of novelty with regard to the recipients of his proclamation.

    Godawa: “Enoch as a base paradigm that he seems to agree with on the whole. I’ve never said Enoch is Scripture so it doesn’t have to be fully accepted by Bible writers. So, I would expect Peter to put it in his own words with alterations, especially since he doesn’t quote Enoch, he only paraphrases him. (Jude, however, in addressing the SAME CONTENT as Peter–textual criticism indicates one is using the other as reference–Does quote 1 Enoch quite explicitly)”

    The point of contention here is not if Peter is operating out of an Enoch paradigm to some degree, the point of tension is who is Jesus proclaiming to in 3:18-19. It is not possible for Peter to be paraphrasing Enoch in reference to the 3:18-19 because the events recorded in 3:18-19 had not taken place when Enoch as written. They are entirely new, and therefore can not be found within Enoch – at all. Unless you are referring to the 2 Peter and Jude correlation, and in that case, yes, they are paraphrasing each other. But the events in 3:18-19 are not the same events 2 Peter 2 and Jude are referring to. One happens during Genesis 6, the other happens AD 33 (approximately).

    Godawa: “Re: The spirits, as I wrote in the article, “John Elliott debunks the notion that “spirits” refers to human beings by looking at the Greek word for spirits (pneuma) in Biblical and Intertestamental texts. He concludes, “use of ‘spirits’ for human beings is very rare, and even then it is always qualified. In the Bible and related literature, when reference is made to deceased humans in Hades or the underworld, the term used is not pneuma but psyche.”

    This is a misrepresentation of the Biblical data. I think we would agree that if Peter is referirng to humans as spirits, he is of course referring to them as disembodies spirits. As such, it would be referring to the conscious part of our human nature that lives on after we die and are disembodies. This conscious part of our human nature is referred to multiple times in the New Testament as a “spirit”. For example: Jesus says on the cross “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians “Who knows the things of a man, save the spirit of the man who is in him.” The spirit here is referring to the part of human nature that is conscious and knows things. Hebrews 12:23 says we have come to the mountain of where the “spirits of just men made perfect.” Since this coming to the mountain is pre resurrection, these spirits are people who have died and are awaiting resurrection, and are referred to as spirits. There are other passages – both Old and New Testament – that could be cited that would provide adequate evidence that to refer to someone post-mortem as a spirit, thus debunking the notion that it is strange or rare to do so.

    Godawa: “Angelos: Your attempt to differentiate angels from spirits does not really work. Biblical word usage is quite fluid. New Testament writers use “angelos” of OT “elohim” or gods (see Heb 2:7 and Psalm 8:5). Angels are sometimes called “spirits” (Heb 1:14)”

    I may not have communicated slearly. I recognize that angels can be called spirits i.e. Hebrews 2 etc. My point was that in the book of 1 and 2 Peter there is a consistent pattern of using the term angel when referring to what we would, in colloquial terms” describe as fallen angels or Watchers. Even Jude follows this pattern. Which begs the question: why would he use the term “spirit” to refer to angels if he was already using the term angels to refer to angels? It seems to me that his choice of words here is strategic: he is differentiating between angels and disembodied human beings who died in the flood, went to a prison, and were visited by Jesus so that he could evangelize them (4:5-6). He uses the word spirits precisely because he does not want us to think angels, but disembodied human beings.

    Godawa: “Disobedient: Since you like speculating, then, if Peter was talking about Watchers who were disobedient to God, as opposed to humans disobedient to God, what word should Peter have used? You see, this is speculation based on silence. The disobedience of “angels” would not have to be a different word than the disobedience of humans.”

    It’s not really a speculation. I am limiting my observations to how this word is used in 1 Peter. It would stand to reason that he Peter would use the term in a similar way in 3:18-19 as he would in other places in 1 Peter whee the “disobedient” are those who refuse to respond to the message of the gospel (the word study reveals this). It is just being consistent with the context. It’s true that the word “disobedient” could also be used for angels. The point is that it is consistently used in a certain way in 1 Peter, and I assume it being used in the same way in 3:18-19. It makes sense to make this assumption, unless one sees the “spirits” to be angels, and then there would be a need for one to argue an opposing view – but that argument would run against the grain of how the term is used in 1 Peter.

    Godawa: “Proclamation and humans: As I wrote, “Some have believed it was Christ preaching the Gospel to the Old Testament dead, as if they may have a second chance to repent because they died before Messiah, or even to Old Testament believers who did not yet have the historical sacrifice of Christ to apply to them yet. This brings us back to the human interpretation of the “spirits in prison.”
    Since there is no place in the New Testament that supports the notion of a purgatorial type of second chance after death (Heb. 9:27), then the proclamation that Christ makes cannot be the “preaching of the Gospel” unto salvation, but something else. That something else is most likely a triumphant proclamation of his victory over the angelic authorities and powers.” And that proclamation to the powers is all over the NT (1 Peter 3:22; Col 2:15; 2Cor 2:14; 1Cor 2:6; Eph 3:6, 10; 4:7-10 etc.)”

    The reference to Hebrews 9 does not substantiate your argument. It says we die once, not that there is only one judgment. This is an important distinction to make, and requires hermeneutical diligence to see this distinction. The logic you are using is basically circular. If 1 Peter 3:18-4:6 is referring to humans, then it would force a reinterpretation of your current stance. Instead, it seems you are assuming your current stance is true, and therefore dismiss the validity of what 1 Peter 3:15-4:6 is presenting. We all do this to some degree, I am merely pointing out that if we allow 1 Peter to say what it is saying, it will call into question other assumptions. It all depends on what your starting point is. Regarding the proclamation not being unto salvation, I wold appeal to how the term proclamation is consistently used in 1 Peter – it always refers to proclamation to salvation. Also, the term used in 4:6 for proclaimed is the exact same term being used in the book of Acts (Acts 5:42) for the activity of evangelism, as well as the word used for the conversion of his audience (1 Peter 1:12,25). The internal evidence of 1 Peter is quite telling.

    Regarding proclamation to the powers, I will address the passages you cited:

    1 Peter 3:22 – this is circular reasoning. It assumes the “spirits” are divine beings. Also, it does not say he proclaimed to those powers. It merely says they were made subject to him. Tongue in cheek: as a fiction writer, you can understand the need to differentiate what a text says some actor did to another actor (Jesus did something to the powers), and what a text says has happened to an actor (something happened to the powers in relation to Jesus.) It does not say Jesus proclaimed to the powers.

    Colossians 2:15 – this does not say Jesus proclaimed to the powers. The grammatical structure is not there. It says the powers were disarmed and put to open spectacle. Jesus is not proclaiming to the powers in this text.

    2 Cor 2:14 – those who are perceiving Paul as an aroma of death are not the powers. They are unbelieving humans. The powers are not even mentioned here.

    Ephesians 3:6/10 – It is the church who makes known the manifold wisdo of God to the powers in this passage, not Jesus. Again, it requires hermeneutical dilligence to perceive this.

    Ephesians 4:8-10 – Again, there is no proclamation to the powers taking place in this text. There is captivity being taken capptive (Judges 5:12 as correlation for language in both Hebrew and LXX), but Jesus is not proclaiming anything to the powers. It’s just not in the text.

    Etc. – I am curious if there are any other passages you can think of that explicitly say Jesus proclaims a message to the powers in either post mortem or during his resurrection or ascension???? I can’t think of any, but I am open to being corrected.

    Almost every commentary will support the idea that 1 Peter 3:15-4:6 is one literary unit, addressing the same topic: how to respond to unjust suffering in an evangelistic way. Peter is telling the persecuted Christians to use their unjust suffering as an opportunity to evangelize (3:15-17). He then says (paraphrasing) “I am not asking you do do anything that Christ has not already done. He too too suffered unjustly – He was murdered – put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. But he used that as a opportunity to evangelize the most wicked generation to have alkd the face of the earth. He used his disembodied state as a way to evangelize other disembodied people in prison. (3:18-20/4:5-6) It is a seamless thematic element in that extended pericope and fits the logic of his argument and flow of thought. Regarding proclamation to the powers,

    Godawa: “You seem to concur that 4:1-6 is talking about a different group of beings, living humans who are spritually dead. That’s the application of the previous theological set up about the proclamation of Christ’s victory to the imprisoned powers.”

    Actually, my reading of the text breaks down this way:

    3:18-20 – Jesus visits people who were formerly disobedient in the time of Noah and proclaims the gospel to them (evangelizes them 4:6).
    4:1-5a – “Yourselves” and “They” refers to people who are living at the time of Peter writing his letter.
    4:5b-6 – “…will give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” The word dead here does not refer to those who are “spiritually dead”. It is the literal dead i.e. the spirits who were disobedient during the time of Noah. This is consistent with the context of the passage, and the literary unit that stretches from 3:15-4:6. For example, in 4:5 “will give an account” is in the future tense, refering to the future judgment. The word living” is in the present tense, and the word “dead” is joined by KAI, making it in the present tense too. This means that the living are presently living, and the dead are presently dead. This may seme like a moot point, until we get to 4:6. There he says, “FOr this reason..” What reason? The fact that God will judge those presently living and those presently dead necessitated the gospel being preached to the dead. The phrase “gospel was preached” is one word – the same word used in Acts 5:42, and 1 Peter 1:12,25 to describe the conversion process to salvation. And what as the purpose of evangelizing the dead? He says “in order that…” The Greek word is INA and means “in order that…” It shows intent and purpose. The goal of evangelizing was so that the dead “might be judged according to men in the flesh.” The word “might be judged” is in the subjunctive mood and conveys the idea of a contingency. In other words, the judgment may not happen if they respond to the proclamation. “But live according to God in the spirit.” This is the other side of the subjunctive mood. They will either be judged according to men in the flesh, or live according to God in the spirit. It is significant that the verb tense for evangelizing is in the aorist – which implies that it had already taken place. Where in the text do we see dead people being evangelized? The answer would be 3:18-20. It fits the context and logic of the passage. Ok, I have to run. Appreciate you engaging my thoughts. Blessings to you.

    Reply
    • This is becoming too long to continue. If I am going to write a book, I would rather write one that I can pay the bills off of! So, this will be the last exchange.

      So First, I point you to my books When Giants Were Upon the Earth and Psalm 82 (booklet) and The Book of Enoch (booklet) for more clarification and detailed Biblical explanations to all your points.

      I think the biggest difference between us is that you are prioritizing local context and I am prioritizing global context. We need both, but Global takes priority over local because Global informs the context of the local.

      I need to reiterate the principle that Greg Koukl says,”Never read a Bible verse.”
      Not only is this an encouragement to read it in context with the sentence, the paragraph, the book, the NT, and the OT, but it is a primary hermeneutical principle that no text is written or read within a vacuum.

      There is another high priority of context that I am using that I think you are either downplaying or not aware of. That is that when you say that meaning “has to be determined, primarily, by the text of 1 Peter 3:15-4:6,” I simply do not agree. That is PART of the package, it may even be a chronological necessity when we begin reading a text.

      But here’s the problem. When YOU read the text only within 1 Peter and ignore that Peter was in fact drawing upon HIS ANCIENT context of Enoch and other prior Hebrew concepts, you will actually misread the text. You will impose your own modern context upon it. For what else do you have if you ignore the authorial context? There is no such thing as objective contextless interpretation. All interpretation is within a context. This is why I don’t buy the “plain reading” of the Bible. There are so many things, so many that we completely misread because our context is completely alien to the original context so even the words mean something different to us than they did to them.

      This is not a claim of relativism of course, but a critique of the cultural imperialism of reading the text only within its single book without understanding broader cultural contexts, which means you import your context over it. It was written for a specific occasion, but it was NOT written without an entire context. Scripture echoes so many things that are not explicit.

      YOU WRITE: “Peter already used the language of angels in 1 Peter 1:12 to refer to heavenly beings. Why would he opt for the term” spirit” if he is referring to the same kind of being, especially if he uses the term angels in 2 Peter to describe fallen angels?”

      Different words are used within the same book and even sentences sometimes to refer to the same thing. In fact, Parallelism is a common ancient Biblical form of writing.

      Again, remember, it’s the context. The spirits in prison are a specific group of evil beings who are imprisoned, while the angels of 1Peter 1:12 are those good who are not. I would expect Peter to use a different word to differentiate their identities, not in terms of essence but in terms of status or position or location.

      Your comments on the different words used for Church affirm my point: that they are “still referring to the same kind of beings.” Yes! Different words used to describe different angles of the same beings. Like phylake or desmoterion, prison and prisoner. Either word could be used.

      The explicit use of spirits in Enoch (our basic primary context) is to the Watchers.

      YOU WRITE: “Again, just because their are correlations between 1 and Peter and Enoch does not mean the activity of Jesus being described in 1 Peter 3:18-4:6 is constrained by the available actors and activities being referenced in Enoch. What Jesus is doing is entirely new and should be afforded the same level of novelty with regard to the recipients of his proclamation.”

      ME: Ackshually… This is begging the question. If Jesus is doing something new, but he is doing it in reference to something that is understood by the ancient Jews as referenced in Enoch, then the ancient presuppositional context of Enoch DOES take priority over an importation of modern theological presuppositions.

      The spirits in Enoch that are imprisoned are the Watchers, so to use your form of speculation, why would Peter draw massively from the storyline and paradigm of Enoch and then change the identities of the imprisoned ones without telling us that they are the humans, not the Watchers that you are assuming? In this sense, the argument of silence FAVORS the original Enochian context, So silence will often mean assumed common notion. I know this is not a logical certainty, but it is a reasonable one, more so than arbitrarily changing the meaning without saying so.

      BTW, Enoch is not the only context to consider for 1Peter. 2Peter2 is as well. We see the same storyline with the same elements of imprisoned spirits linked to Noah and peculiar sin. Another rule of hermeneutics is that the more clear is interpreted with favor over the less clear. And so the angels and Tartarus are clearly another way of saying “spirits in prison.”

      YOU WRITE: “the events recorded in 3:18-19 had not taken place when Enoch as written. They are entirely new, and therefore can not be found within Enoch – at all.”

      The action occurring by Christ is new, but he is doing it within the context of a prior referenced Enochian storyline, so the newness of actions does not necessitate changing the storyline setting or elements, If his readers, as I would contend, know the storyline of the imprisoned spirits called Watchers, and Peter says, “Hey Jesus did this new thing to the “spirits in prison,” but he doesn’t qualify it, then yes, the original is to be assumed. Now, you think that using Phylake is that change, but as I have previously shown, singular words are NEVER the exclusive references to any Biblical concept. There are always multiple words used IN DIFFERENT CONTEXTS to say the same thing.
      But even in light of that, the Enochian assumption is the spirits in prison are the Watchers in Tartarus not humans in Hades.

      But there is another weakness to your view of the spirits as humans. The reference to those before the Flood has prior contextual narratives of the Watchers imprisoned, but it would not make sense for Jesus to go back and only preach to the human dead before the flood. What about all the other dead after the Flood and before Messiah? If Christ preached the Gospel to the dead, why would he leave out most of humanity, since there were way more people who died before Christ after the Flood than before. It is the nature of the Gospel to be for ALL Nations, for ALL people, not just for one special group. So a Gospel to ONLY the human dead before the Flood is not coherent, but proclaiming victory over the primary powers in prison before the Flood DOES make sense because they were the first ones who were connected to those powers over the nations after the Flood.

      YOU WRITE: “why would he use the term “spirit” to refer to angels if he was already using the term angels to refer to angels?”

      ME: Because the angels in Tartarus are the spirits imprisoned, the same thing said in different ways in parallel. Bringing in humans is alien to the assumed story, so it would require explanation if done so. Since it is not, we must assume the original context.

      Again, 1Peter is NOT the only context to consider. Assumed narratives and imagery are actually prior and therefore more determinative than mere words. Remember the Word Study Fallacy. Broader context is more significant than mere word usage. I am a writer and I can verify that that is still true of all writing that all writers do. Yes, local context matters and is helpful in understanding, but if it is prioritized over broader book and cultural context, then it will be misread by the bias of the reader.

      The references to the Powers.
      My references about the powers requires some study to understand, The main point is that Paul and the other NT writers use terms like “Authorities, principalities and powers” that are sometimes explained to be clearly spiritual and sometimes human, but contextually it comes from a view of the earthly powers being connected to heavenly powers, and that there is an entire storyline that I explain in my book Psalm 82 that biblically and historically refers to Christ as victor over the spiritual powers who were over the Gentile nations. I don’t think this is the place to generate an entirely new discussion that will end as a book. so I just point to my book for that introduction. Jesus triumphing over the powers includes his death/descent/resurrection/ascension complex of events. You seemed to miss that in your misreading of the “powers” passages.

      1Peter 3:19 DOES say he “proclaims”
      Col 2:15 “Triumphing” over the powers is a cultural reference to the Roman Triump which was both a verbal and an incarnational proclamation of victory. So, yes Col 2 DOES operate as a proclamation.
      2Cor 2:14 IS a proclamation because it is a “triumphal procession” as described above.

      When you address the verses I wrote you focus on “proclamation.” I can see why you misunderstood my intent. I did not word my point properly. My bad. I did not intend to say that the verses all used “proclamation”, I was saying that together, they illustrate the narrative paradigm of Christ’s victory AND proclamation over the powers through his Death/Rez/Ascension events. It was the narrative I was referring to, not merely the proclamation alone, though as I wrote, proclamation is PART of the narrative. And of course, the verses above contain the concept, which you seemed to have missed.

      This is the scholarly work I recommend on the 1Per 3:19 passage:
      https://amzn.to/2JUlFry

      And this is the book that introduces the reader to the ancient Biblical and Enochian narrative context of Christ’s victory over the powers, Christus Victor:
      https://amzn.to/30XIjoI

      Tim,
      I have enjoyed your challenges and this discussion.
      I have to say that I think we’ve made our differences known and to do any more is to become redundant.
      I also cannot give any more time because I have alot of other things I need to give attention to.
      Since this is my blog, I get the last say, so this will be the last post.
      Again, thanks for the challenge, it’s good for iron to sharpen iron.
      I hope you have listened as well.
      Best,
      Brian

      Reply

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