1 Peter 3:20
Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
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(20) Which sometime were disobedient.—The absence of the definite article here in the Greek (contrary to St. Peter’s usage in participial sentences—e.g., 1Peter 1:5; 1Peter 1:7; 1Peter 1:10; 1Peter 1:17) makes it possible to think that the spirits mentioned in this verse are not co-extensive with those in prison. It is, literally, to men who once upon a time were disobedient. Our Lord preached to the whole class of spirits in prison, of all times and races; and then, to magnify the bounty of this act, St. Peter instances a particular group of them, who were the most marked criminals of any, and whose case suggested a useful application. He has a reason for using the word “disobedient.” It would not describe all sinners, but those who had heard and been convinced by the word of God, but refused to accept it. (See Note on 1Peter 3:2.) This was the case with those to whom Noah preached (2Peter 2:5); and, in spite of their “disobedience,” Christ, after His innocent and sacrificial death, went in spirit and preached a gospel to them. Now, let it be recollected that St. Peter’s object through the whole of this section is to encourage the Hebrew Christians to be ready, through a good conscience, for a brave martyrdom, if need be. They are to think how their deaths, like Christ’s, may bring their persecutors to God. Nay—he seems to imply—their very spirits going forth into the world of spirits may conceivably carry a gospel of some kind even to Hebrew relatives who have passed away, like those Antediluvians, in the “disobedience” which was characteristic of the Jews. St. Clement of Alexandria, who derives the notion from the Shepherd of Hermas, gives his belief that the Apostles also, when they died, preached to those who had died before them; and though there is little that throws light on our occupation in the intermediate state, it can hardly be pronounced impossible for some spirits to be allowed to follow Christ’s example there by preaching to spirits in prison. Many expositors, afraid of the consequences of admitting that there could be a possible gospel for men who died impenitent, have supposed that the imprisoned spirits to whom Christ went were the less wicked people destroyed by the Flood; others that they were those who had some motions of penitence when the rain began to fall; but these ideas are foreign to the text, which only tells us that they “were disobedient,” and adds nothing to extenuate their crime. They are a typical instance of men who died “as evil doers” (1Peter 3:17).

When once the longsuffering of God waited.—The word “once” has no business in the text, originating only in an ingenious but unnecessary guess of Erasmus. The clause serves to heighten the guilt of the poor sinners to whom Christ preached in prison. Not only did they die a judicial death for their extreme sensuality (Genesis 6:3; Genesis 6:11), not only did they disobey an isolated call to repentance from Noah, but continuously, through all the time of the building of the ark (traditionally 120 years), they went on refusing to listen. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed without a preacher to warn them, the Canaanites were annihilated without an offer of repentance, but these abandoned Antediluvians sinned in spite of the long ministry of Noah, and died impenitent. Both their wickedness and God’s longsuffering with them were embodied in Hebrew proverbs, which St. Peter’s readers would know, and yet Christ had a gospel for them.

While the ark.—Better, while an ark. It does not merely describe the period of the disobedience, but rather changes the thought altogether. We now turn from the destruction of the majority to the salvation of the few.

Wherein.—Literally, whereintoi.e., by getting into which.

Few, that is, eight souls were saved.—The mention of disobedience calls up to the Apostle’s mind at once the vast number of Hebrews who rejected the gospel of Christ. As in 1Peter 2:4 et seq., so here, he establishes the readers against the thought, “Can I be right and all these people wrong?” by showing that from the beginning it was always a small number who accepted salvation, and they should naturally expect it to be so now. It is better to be one of the eight in the ark than of the many disobedient in the water.

By water.—Or, through water. The very water which drowned the disobedient was the instrument of saving to those who believed, for it floated their ark. It cannot be denied that this is a little forced. So, in the same way, in 1Peter 2:8, the same stone is to some a sanctuary, to some a stumbling-block. This pregnant word “water” leads on to the next thought.

3:14-22 We sanctify God before others, when our conduct invites and encourages them to glorify and honour him. What was the ground and reason of their hope? We should be able to defend our religion with meekness, in the fear of God. There is no room for any other fears where this great fear is; it disturbs not. The conscience is good, when it does its office well. That person is in a sad condition on whom sin and suffering meet: sin makes suffering extreme, comfortless, and destructive. Surely it is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing, whatever our natural impatience at times may suggest. The example of Christ is an argument for patience under sufferings. In the case of our Lord's suffering, he that knew no sin, suffered instead of those who knew no righteousness. The blessed end and design of our Lord's sufferings were, to reconcile us to God, and to bring us to eternal glory. He was put to death in respect of his human nature, but was quickened and raised by the power of the Holy Spirit. If Christ could not be freed from sufferings, why should Christians think to be so? God takes exact notice of the means and advantages people in all ages have had. As to the old world, Christ sent his Spirit; gave warning by Noah. But though the patience of God waits long, it will cease at last. And the spirits of disobedient sinners, as soon as they are out of their bodies, are committed to the prison of hell, where those that despised Noah's warning now are, and from whence there is no redemption. Noah's salvation in the ark upon the water, which carried him above the floods, set forth the salvation of all true believers. That temporal salvation by the ark was a type of the eternal salvation of believers by baptism of the Holy Spirit. To prevent mistakes, the apostle declares what he means by saving baptism; not the outward ceremony of washing with water, which, in itself, does no more than put away the filth of the flesh, but that baptism, of which the baptismal water formed the sign. Not the outward ordinance, but when a man, by the regeneration of the Spirit, was enabled to repent and profess faith, and purpose a new life, uprightly, and as in the presence of God. Let us beware that we rest not upon outward forms. Let us learn to look on the ordinances of God spiritually, and to inquire after the spiritual effect and working of them on our consciences. We would willingly have all religion reduced to outward things. But many who were baptized, and constantly attended the ordinances, have remained without Christ, died in their sins, and are now past recovery. Rest not then till thou art cleansed by the Spirit of Christ and the blood of Christ. His resurrection from the dead is that whereby we are assured of purifying and peace.Which sometime were disobedient - Which were "once," or "formerly," (ποτε pote,) disobedient or rebellious. The language here does not imply that they had ceased to be disobedient, or that they had become obedient at the time when the apostle wrote; but the object is to direct the attention to a former race of people characterized by disobedience, and to show the patience evinced under their provocations, in endeavoring to do them good. To say that people were formerly rebellious, or rebellious in a specified age, is no evidence that they are otherwise now. The meaning here is, that they did not obey the command of God when he called them to repentance by the preaching of Noah. Compare 2 Peter 2:5, where Noah is called "a preacher of righteousness."

When once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah - God waited on that guilty race for 120 years, Genesis 6:3, a period sufficiently protracted to evince his long-suffering toward one generation. It is not improbable that during that whole period Noah was, in various ways, preaching to that wicked generation. Compare the notes at Hebrews 11:7.

While the ark was a preparing - It is probable that preparations were made for building the ark during a considerable portion of that time. Peter's, at Rome, was a much longer time in building; and it is to be remembered that in the age of the world when Noah lived, and with the imperfect knowledge of the arts of naval architecture which must have prevailed, it was a much more serious undertaking to construct an ark that would hold such a variety and such a number of animals as that was designed to, land that would float safely for more than a year in an universal flood, than it was to construct such a fabric as Peter's, in the days when that edifice was raised.

Wherein few, that is, eight souls - Eight persons - Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives, Genesis 7:7. The allusion to their being saved here seems to be to encourage those whom Peter addressed to perseverance and fidelity, in the midst of all the opposition which they might experience. Noah was not disheartened. Sustained by the Spirit of Christ - the presence of the Son of God - he continued to preach. He did not abandon his purpose, and the result was that tie was saved. True, they were few in number who were saved; the great mass continued to be wicked; but this very fact should be an encouragement to us - that though the great mass of any one generation may be wicked, God can protect and save the few who are faithful.

By water - They were borne up by the waters, and were thus preserved. The thought on which the apostle makes his remarks turn, and which leads him in the next verse to the suggestions about baptism, is, that water was employed in their preservation, or that they owed their safety, in an important sense, to that element. In like manner we owe our salvation, in an important sense, to water; or, there is an important agency which it is made to perform in our salvation. The apostle does not say that it was in the same way, or that the one was a type designed to represent the other, or even that the efficacy of water was in both cases the same; but he says, that as Noah owed his salvation to water, so there is an important sense in which water is employed in ours. There is in certain respects - he does not say in all respects - a resemblance between the agency of water in the salvation of Noah, and the agency of water in our salvation. In both cases water is employed, though it may not be that it is in the same manner, or with precisely the same efficacy.

20. once—not in the oldest manuscripts.

when … the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah—Oldest manuscripts. Greek, "was continuing to wait on" (if haply men in the hundred twenty years of grace would repent) until the end of His waiting came in their death by the flood. This refutes Alford's idea of a second day of grace having been given in Hades. Noah's days are selected, as the ark and the destroying flood answer respectively to "baptism" and the coming destruction of unbelievers by fire.

while the ark was a-preparing—(Heb 11:7). A long period of God's "long-suffering and waiting," as Noah had few to help him, which rendered the world's unbelief the more inexcusable.

wherein—literally, "(by having entered) into which."

eight—seven (the sacred number) with ungodly Ham.

few—so now.

souls—As this term is here used of living persons, why should not "spirits" also? Noah preached to their ears, but Christ in spirit, to their spirits, or spiritual natures.

saved by water—The same water which drowned the unbelieving, buoyed up the ark in which the eight were saved. Not as some translate, "were brought safe through the water." However, the sense of the preposition may be as in 1Co 3:15, "they were safely preserved through the water," though having to be in the water.

Which; which spirits in prison.

Question. When were these spirits, to whom Christ preached by Noah, in prison?

Answer. Then when Peter wrote this Epistle. The Greek participle of the present tense is here to be supplied, and the word thus read, preached to the spirits which are in prison, viz. now at this time; and so the time of their being in prison is opposed to the time of their being disobedient; their disobedience going before their imprisonment; q.d. They were disobedient then, they are in prison now.

Sometime; viz. in the days of Noah, when they were upon earth.

Were disobedient; would not believe what Noah told them in God’s name, nor be brought to repentance by his preaching.

When once; not always, but for a determinate time, viz. one hundred and twenty years; which term being expired, there was no hope left for them that they should be spared.

The long-suffering of God; i.e. God in his patience and long-suffering.

Waited; for the repentance and reformation of that rebellious generation.

In the days of Noah; till the one hundred and twenty years were run out, and the ark, which was preparing for the security of him and his family, were finished.

Eight souls; i.e. eight persons, Noah, and his wife, his three sons, and their wives.

Were saved by water; either:

1. By water is here put for in, as Romans 4:11, that believe, though they be not circumcised: the same Greek preposition is used as here, and the words may be read, by, or through, or rather in uncircumcision; for uncircumcision was not the cause or means of their believing. See the like use of this particle, 2 Peter 3:5. Thus, saved in the water, is as much as, notwithstanding the water, or the water not hindering; so 1 Timothy 2:15, saved in childbearing, where the same preposition is used. Or:

2. By water; the water which drowned the world, lifting up the ark and saving Noah and his household.

Question. Doth not this place countenance the papists’ limbus, or the place where the souls of the Old Testament fathers were reserved (as they pretend) till Christ’s coming in the flesh?

Answer. No: for:

1. The spirits here mentioned were disobedient, which cannot be said of the fathers of the Old Testament, who were true believers.

2. The spirits here mentioned are not said to be delivered out of prison, but only that Christ by his Spirit preached to them, and to his preaching to them their disobedience is opposed.

3. According to the papists, Noah and his family must be in their limbus, whereas they are opposed to those disobedient spirits to whom Christ is said to preach.

Which sometime were disobedient,.... To all the instructions and warnings which God gave them, to all the strivings of his Spirit, and to the ministry of Christ, by Noah; they continued in their profaneness and impiety, and to corrupt their ways, and fill the earth with violence and wickedness; not believing what they were threatened with, or that ever a flood would come upon them, and destroy them: and this "sometime" refers to the time of their being upon earth, who were now in hell; "to the days of Noah"; hereafter mentioned; and which the Syriac version connects with this clause, reading it thus, "who of old were disobedient in the days of Noah"; at which time it was, that Christ, by his Spirit in Noah, went and preached to them: when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah: that is, when God, who is longsuffering and patient, waited on these disobedient ones, in Noah's time, for the space of an hundred and twenty years:

while the ark was preparing; by Noah, according to the directions which God gave him, Genesis 6:14 and which, as R. Tanchuma says (b), was fifty two years a building; others say (c) an hundred years; but Jarchi says (d) it was an hundred and twenty; and which seems most likely, that being the term of time in which God's longsuffering waited on them; during which time Noah was preaching to them, and building the ark:

wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water; the eight persons were, Noah, and his wife, and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and their three wives. It is a common tradition with the Jews (e), that besides these, Og, king of Bashan, escaped the flood; and who, they say, is the same that escaped, and told Abraham of Lot's being carried captive by the kings (f); the manner of his escape at the flood they relate thus (g),

"Og came, who was delivered from the men that died at the flood; and he rode upon the ark, and he had a covering upon his head, and was fed with the food of Noah; but not for his worthiness was he delivered, but that the inhabitants of the world might see the power of the Lord;

and elsewhere (h), after this manner, citing those words, "and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark", Genesis 7:23 they add,

"except Og, king of Bashan, who sat on a certain piece of wood which belonged to the scaffolding of the ark, and he swore to Noah, and his sons, that he would be their servant for ever. What did Noah do? he bored an hole in the ark, and every day reached out food to him, and he remained alive, according to what is said, Deuteronomy 3:11 "only Og, king of Bashan", &c.

But this is all a mere fiction; and equally fabulous is the account the Arabians give, who say (i) that eighty persons, together with Noah, were taken into the ark, among whom was Jorham, their father; for there were no more than eight persons saved; and this is the apostle's sense; and agreeably the Syriac version renders it, "and eight souls" "only entered into it, and were saved by water"; and we are told by some of the eastern writers (k), that when these eight went out of the ark, they built a city, which they called Themanin, which, in the Arabic language, signifies "eight", according to their number. The ark was a type of Christ, into whom whoever enters by faith, or in whom whoever believes, shall be saved; but as they that entered into the ark were but few, so are those that enter in at the strait gate, or believe in Christ; and they that went into the ark were saved by the water bearing up the ark, even by that by which others were destroyed; as the very same thing, for different reasons, is the cause or means of destruction and salvation; so Christ is set, for the fall and rising of many, is a stumblingblock to some, and the power and wisdom of God to others; and the Gospel, and the ministers of it, are the savour of life unto life to some, and the savour of death unto death to others. This instance of the dispensation of the providence of God to the old world is very appropriately, though by way of digression, introduced by the apostle; showing, that in times past, as then, God's usual method has been to afford the outward means to ungodly men, and to bear with them long, and then bring down his vengeance upon them, and save his own people; and this suffering saints might depend upon would be their case, and therefore should bear their afflictions patiently,

(b) In Pirke Eliezer, c. 23. (c) Elmacin. Hist. apud Hottinger. Smegma Orient. l. 1. c. 8. p. 249. (d) In Gen. vi. 15. (e) Targum Jon. in Deuteronomy 3.11. T. Bab. Nidda, fol. 61. 1.((f) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 42. fol. 37. 2. Targum Jon. & Jarchi in Genesis 14.13. (g) Targum Jon. in Genesis 14.13. (h) Pirke Eliezer, c. 23. (i) Pocock. Specim. Hist. Arab. p. 38. (k) Eutychii Annal. p. 43. Elmacin. Hist. l. 1. c. 1. p. 12. Patricides, p. 10. Apud Hottinger, Smegma Orient. l. 1. c. 8. p. 251, 252.

Which sometime were disobedient, when {n} once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight {o} souls were saved by water.

(n) This word once shows that there was a furthermost day appointed, and if that were once past, there should be no more.

(o) Men.

1 Peter 3:20. The words which begin this verse: ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε, characterize the spirits who are in prison according to their former conduct. The participle must not, with Wiesinger, be resolved into: “although, notwithstanding the fact that they had been disobedient;” an adversative relation of this kind must have been more plainly expressed.[214]

According to the uniform usage of the N. T., the word ἀπειθεῖν has here also the meaning of unbelief involving resistance; cf. chap. 1 Peter 2:7-8, 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 4:17. The translation: “to be disobedient,” is too inexact, for the word forms the antithesis to πιστεύειν.

ὅτε ἀπεξεδέχετο κ.τ.λ.] serves not only to specify the time when these spirits were unbelieving, but also to mark the guilt of the ἀπειθεῖν.

ἀπεκδέχεσθαι, according to N. T. usage, equivalent to: “patient waiting,” is here used absolutely, as in Romans 8:25 (comp. ἐκδέχεσθαι, Hebrews 10:13; thus Schott also). The narrative itself shows the object to which this waiting of God’s long-suffering was directed. Its duration is not to be limited to the seven days mentioned in Genesis 7:4 (de Wette), for this is in keeping neither with the ἀπεξεδέχετο ἡμακροθυμία, nor the subsequent κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ, but embraces the whole period of 120 years mentioned in Genesis 6:3.

The time specified by ὅτε κ.τ.λ. is still more precisely defined in the subsequent ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε and the κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ; in such a way, however, that these adjuncts contain a reference to the exhortation to repentance then given, for Noah was not like the others, an unbeliever, but a believer, and the preparation of the ark gave unmistakeable testimony to the approaching judgment.—“κιβωτός without the article, the expression used by the LXX. for תֵּבָה, equal to ark, arca; comp. Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27; Hebrews 11:7” (Wiesinger).

[214] Hofmann has now justly given up his former explanation: “without being obedient.” Walther’s interpretation is evidently entirely arbitrary: “to the spirits, i.e. the devils and the damned in general, particularly to those damned who,” etc. But neither is there a warrant for inserting οἶον (Bengel: subaudi οἶον, i. e. exempli gratia, in diebus Noe; subjicitur generi species maxime insignis).


Some of the interpreters who do not apply this passage to the descensus ad inferos, as Luther (in his Auslegung der Ep. Petri, 1523), the Socinians, Vorstius, Amelius, Grotius, etc., explain ἐκήρυξε as referring to the preaching of the apostles, assuming that the unbelievers in the time of Noah are mentioned only as types of the unbelievers in apostolic times. τὰ ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύματα they understand to mean the heathen alone, or those along with the Jews. Amelius: πνεύμ. hic in genere denotant homines, quemadmodum paulo post ψυχαί· ἐν φυλακῇ: in captivitate erant tum Judaei, sub jugo legis existentes, tum quoque gentiles, sub potestate diaboli jacentes. Illos omnes Christus liberavit; praedicationem verbi sui ad ipsos mittens et continuans et Apostolos divina virtute instruens.


Even interpreters who apply this passage to the descensus ad inferos, and understand ἐκήρυξε of the preaching of salvation,[215] are guilty of much arbitrariness, and especially in designating more precisely those to whom the preaching is addressed. Several of the Fathers, as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus; many of the Scholastics; further, Zwingli, Calvin (in his Comment.), and others,—hold those to have been the pious, especially the pious of the O. T.[216]

Marcion thinks the ΚΉΡΥΓΜΑ was addressed to those who, though in the O. T. termed ungodly, were actually better than the O. T. believers.

Clemens Al. supposes the ΔΊΚΑΙΟΙ ΚΑΤᾺ ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΊΑΝ, who, however, were still without faith and in the trammels of idolatry.

Several commentators assume that not all unbelievers in the days of Noah are meant, but those only who, at first indeed unbelieving, had still repented at the last moment when the flood came upon them; this is the view of Suarez, Estius, Bellarmin, Luther (zu der Erklärung der Genesis, 1536, und zu Hosea IV. 2, v. J. 1545),[217] Peter Martyr, etc. Bengel says: Probabile est, nonnullos ex tanta multitudine, veniente pluvia, resipuisse: cumque non credidissent, dum expectaret Deus, postea, cum … poena ingrueret, credere coepisse, quibus postea Christus eorumque similibus se praeconem gratiae praestiterit. Wiesinger agrees with this interpretation, at least in so far that he assumes that the moral condition of the individual (at the time of the flood) was not in every case the same, but extremely varied; although, on the other hand, he finds fault with it on the ground “that, in contradiction to the context, it limits the ἘΚΉΡΥΞΕ only to a part.” Schott remarks, as against Wiesinger, “that although some may in respect of moral condition have differed from the majority, or still have repented in the last moment, yet these were not among the spirits in durance who listened to Christ’s preaching.”

[215] It must further be remarked that several commentators: Athanasius, Ambrosius, Erasmus, Calvin (in his Inslit. lib. II. 2, c. 16, § 9), understand Christ’s preaching as at once a praedicatio salvifica and praed. damnatoria. Calvin, however, does hold by the idea of κηρύσσειν, when he says: Contextus vim mortis (Christi) inde amplificat, quod ad mortuos usque penetraverit, dum piae animae ejus visitationis, quam sollicite exspectaverant, praesenti aspectu sunt potitae; contra reprobis clarius patuit, se excludi ab omni salute.

[216] Calvin’s exposition is singular: he interprets φυλακή equal to specula vel ipse excubandi actus; τὸ ἐν φυλ. πν. equals: the spirits of those who were on the watch-tower, i.e. in the expectation of salvation, or also in anxietas expectationis Christi, and then continues: Postquam (Ap.) dixit, Christi se mortuis manifestasse, mox addit: quum increduli fuissent olim, quo significat nihil nocuisse Sanctis Patribus quod impiorum multitudine paene obruti fuerunt. Exemplum vero ex tota vetustate prae aliis illustre deligit, nempe cum diluvio submersus fuit mundus. He removes the scruple, that the dative ἀπειθήσασι is not in harmony with this explanation, by observing that the apostles sometimes employ one case in room of another.

[217] On Luther’s vacillation in interpreting this passage, see Köhler as above, and Schweizer as above, p. 7.


The view commonly accepted is that this preaching by Christ took place before His resurrection, whilst His body lay in the grave. Many even of the older dogmatists of the Lutheran Church, however, hold it to have been accomplished after His quickening, that is, in the time between this and His going forth from the grave. Quenstedt says: Christus θεάνθρωπος totaque adeo persona (non igitur secundum animam tantum nec secundum corpus tantum) post redunitionem animae ac corporis ad istud damnatorum που descendit; he fixes the time when this happened: illud momentum, quod intercessit inter ζωοποίησιν et ἀνάστασιν Christi stricte ita dictam. Hollaz: distinguendum inter resurrectionem externam et internam; illa est egressio e sepulcro et exterior coram hominibus manifestatio; haec est ipsa vivificatio; so, too, Hutter, Baier, Buddeus, etc. In like manner Schott: “in the new spiritual life which in that mysterious hour of midnight He had put on, and before appearing with it on the upper world by His resurrection, He descended.”

The verse does not indeed say that the ἐκήρυξε belongs to this very moment, but it does certainly point to the preaching having taken place after Christ’s restoration to life, as de Wette, Brückner, Wiesinger, Zezschwitz, have rightly acknowledged; for referring as ἐν ᾧ does to the πνεύματι connected with ζωοπωηθείς, it is arbitrary to find in πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξε mention made of an act of Christ which took place after the θανατωθείς indeed, but yet before the ζωοποιηθείς. As, then, both expressions apply to Christ in His entire person, consisting of body and soul, what follows must not be conceived as an activity which He exercised in His spirit only and whilst separated from His body. In addition to this, if according to His intention His preaching was to be indeed a preaching of salvation, it must have had for its substance the work of redemption, completed only in the resurrection. Weiss (p. 232) objects that πνεῦμα is not equal to σῶμα πνευματικόν, and this is undoubtedly true; but it cannot prove anything against the view that Christ as the Risen One, that is, in His glorified body, preached to the spirits in prison, inasmuch as in this body the Lord is no longer ἐν σαρκί, but entirely ἐν πνεύματι.

Thus the passage says nothing as to Christ’s existence between His death and resurrection. If Acts 2:31 presuppose the going of the dead Christ into Hades, the common dwelling-place of departed souls, this descensus ad inferos must not be identified with the one here mentioned, as also Wiesinger, Brückner, and Schott rightly observe; so that by drawing this distinction the disputed question, too, whether Christ descended into Hades, quoad animam or quoad animam et corpus, finds its correct solution. It must further be added that this passage gives no support whatever either to the doctrine of the Form. concordiae, that in Hades Christ “overcame the devil, destroyed the power of hell, and despoiled the devil of his might,” or to that of the Catholic Church of the limbus Patrum and Purgatory.

Connected with the words κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ are the thoughts which follow, in which stress is laid, not so much on the judgment which overtook unbelievers in the flood, as on the deliverance of the few.: εἰς ἣν ὀλίγοι.

διεσώθησαν διʼ ὕδατος] The preposition διά is to be explained not as equal to ἐκ (Acts 28:4 : ὃν διασωθέντα ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης), nor as if it were ἐν (in medio aquarum), nor equivalent to non obstante aqua (Gerhard), nor even as a preposition of time (eo tempore, quo aquae inundaverant); but is to be taken either locally or instrumentally. διʼ ὕδατος is then either: “through the water,” or equivalent to: “by means of water.” The former view (Bengel, Steiger, de “Wette, Brückner, Wiesinger, formerly Hofmann also) seems to be confirmed by the verbum compos. διεσώθησαν. But διασώζειν, both in the LXX. and in the N. T. (cf. Matthew 14:36; Luke 7:3, etc.), is often used as a strengthened form of σώζειν, without the peculiar force of διά being pressed. And thus it must be taken here, inasmuch as it contradicts the historical narrative in Genesis, to say that Noah and his family were saved by passing through the water. διά has accordingly here an instrumental force, so that διʼ ὕδατος indicates water as the medium through which the Noahites were delivered.[218] And this interpretation is alone in harmony with the context, inasmuch as the apostle in what follows gives special prominence to the fact that the N. T. deliverance is likewise effected by means of water. If water was the means of deliverance to Noah and those with him, “in so far as it bore those hidden within the ark, and thus preserved them from destruction, comp. Genesis 7:17-18” (Weiss, p. 313; thus also Wolf, Pott, Jachmann, Schott), this implies recourse to a pregnant construction, inasmuch as the apostle unites the two thoughts in one: “they were saved by going into the ark” and “they were saved διʼ ὕδατος.” Hofmann seeks to avoid the assumption of a pregnancy by explaining ὝΔΩΡ here as the water “which began to overflow the earth,” and which compelled Noah to enter with those belonging to him into the ark, in support of which he appeals to Genesis 7:11; Genesis 7:13. But although these passages state that both the entering into the ark and the beginning of the deluge took place on the same day, still the latter event is not indicated as the motive of the former. According to the narrative in Genesis, it was the command of God which moved the Noahites to enter the ark, and as soon as they had done so, and God had closed the ark, the deluge commenced; cf. Genesis 7:1; Genesis 7:16-17.

Further, on Hofmann’s interpretation water can be regarded only in a very loose sense as the medium of deliverance; nor would it be in keeping with the subsequent parallelism. It must be noted that ὕδατος is anarthrous, and although by the term no other water can be understood than that of the flood, yet Peter’s object here is not to show that the same water which destroyed some served as the means of deliverance for others, but merely to state that the deliverance of Noah and those with him was effected by water, in order that this water then may be recognised as the type of the saving water of baptism (comp. Schott).

ὀλίγοι, τοῦτʼ ἐστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί] ΤΟῦΤʼ ἘΣΤΙΝ Κ.Τ.Λ. justifies the use of the expression ὈΛΊΓΟΙ; so much stress is laid on this particular, very probably in order to point out, on the one hand, the great number of those who perished, and on the other, the proportion to be looked for at the final judgment.

[218] Wiesinger has expressed himself in favour of the first version, but then remarks: “the writer conceives the water at the same time as the saving element;” Fronmüller, too, combines both interpretations: “in which few souls sought shelter, and were saved through the water and by it;” this is evidently altogether unwarrantable.

20. which sometime were disobedient] The words that follow, however, appear to limit the range of the preaching within comparatively narrow boundaries. The “spirits” of whom St Peter speaks were those who had “once been disobedient:” the “once” being further defined as the time when “the long-suffering of God was waiting in the days of Noah.” We naturally ask as we read the words, (1) why the preaching was confined to these, or (2) if the preaching itself was not so confined, why this was the only aspect of it on which the Apostle thought fit to dwell? The answer to the first question cannot be given with any confidence. It is behind the veil which we cannot lift. All that we can say is that the fact thus revealed gives us at least some ground for seeing in it a part of God’s dealings with the human race, and that it is not unreasonable to infer an analogous treatment of those who were in an analogous condition. The answer to the second question is, perhaps, to be found in the prominence given to the history of Noah in our Lord’s eschatological teaching, as in Matthew 24:37-38, Luke 17:26-27, and in the manifest impression which that history had made on St Peter’s mind, as seen in his reference to it both here and 2 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 3:6. It is a conjecture, but not, I think, an improbable or irreverent one, that the disciple’s mind may have been turned by our Lord’s words to anxious enquiries as to the destiny of those who had been planting and building, buying and selling, when “the flood came and took them all away,” and that what he now states had been the answer to such enquiries. What was the result of the preaching we are not here told, the Apostle’s thoughts travelling on rapidly to the symbolic or typical aspect presented by the record of the Flood, but the notes on ch. 1 Peter 4:6 will shew that his mind still dwelt on it, and that he takes it up again as a dropped thread in the argument of the Epistle. It will be noted, whatever view we may take of the interpretation of the passage as a whole, that it is the disobedience, and not any after-repentance at the moment of death, of those who lived in the days of Noah that is here dwelt on.

Such is, it is believed, the natural and true interpretation of St Peter’s words. It finds a confirmation in the teaching of some of the earliest fathers of the Church, in Clement of Alexandria (Strom. vi. 6), and Origen, and Athanasius (cont. Apollin. i. 13), and Cyril of Alexandria (in Joann. xvi. 16); Even Augustine, at one time, held that the effect of Christ’s descent into Hades had been to set free some who were condemned to the torments of Hell (Epist. ad Euodium, clxiv.), and Jerome (on Matthew 12:29, Ephesians 4:10) adopted it without any hesitation. Its acceptance at an early date is attested by the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, nearly the whole of which is given to a narrative of the triumph of Christ over Hades and Death, who are personified as the Potentates of darkness. It tells how He delivered Adam from the penalty of his sin, and brought the patriarchs from a lower to a higher blessedness, and emptied the prison-house, and set the captives free, and erected the cross in the midst of Hades, that there also it might preach salvation. Legendary and fantastic as the details may be, they testify to the prevalence of a wide-spread tradition, and that tradition is more naturally referred to the teaching of St Peter in this passage as the germ out of which it was developed than to any other source. As a matter of history, the article “He descended into Hell,” i.e. into Hades, first appeared in the Apostles’ Creed at a time when the tradition was almost universally accepted, and when the words of the Creed could not fail to be associated in men’s minds with the hope which it embodied.

It must be admitted, however, that the weight of many great names may be urged on behalf of other interpretations, and that some of them display, to say the least, considerable ingenuity. The common element in all of them is the desire to evade what seems the natural inference from the words, that they point to a wider hope of repentance and conversion as possible after death than the interpreters were willing to admit. They divide themselves into two classes: (1) those who accept the words as referring to a descent into Hades, and (2) those who give them an entirely different interpretation. Under (1) we have (a) the view already noticed that the “preaching” was one of condemnation, anticipating the final judgment. It has been shewn to be untenable, and has so few names of weight on its side that it does not deserve more than a passing notice, (b) The view that Christ descended into Hades to deliver the souls of the righteous, of Seth, and Abel, and Abraham, and the other saints of the Old Testament, can claim a somewhat higher authority. It entered, as has been seen, into the Gospel of Nicodemus. It was adopted by Irenæus, Tertullian, Hippolytus. It was popular alike in the theology of many of the Schoolmen, and in mediæval art. It was accepted by Zwingli and Calvin among the Reformers, and receives a partial sanction from the teaching of our own Church as seen in the original form of Art. iii. as drawn up in 1552; and in the metrical paraphrase of the Apostles’ Creed which was at one time attached with a quasi-authority to the Prayer-Book, and in which we find the statement that Christ descended into Hell that He might be

“To those who long in darkness were

The true joy of their hearts.”

It is obvious, however, that whatever probability may attach to this speculation as such, it has scarcely any real point of contact with St Peter’s words. He speaks of “the days of Noah:” it takes in the whole patriarchal age, if not the whole history of Israel. He speaks of those who had been “disobedient.” It assumes penitence and faith, and at least a partial holiness. The touch of poetry in Calvin’s view that the word for “prison” should be taken as meaning the “watch-tower” upon which the spirits of the righteous were standing, as in the attitude of eager expectation, looking out for the coming of the King whom they had seen, as afar off, in the days of their pilgrimage, cannot rescue it from its inherent untenableness. (c) A modification of the previous view has found favour with some writers, among whom the most notable are Estius, Bellarmine, Luther, Bengel. They avoid the difficulty which we have seen to be fatal to that view, and limit the application of St Peter’s words to those who had lived in the time of the Deluge, and they make the preaching one of pardon or deliverance, but, under the influence of the dogma that “there is no repentance in the grave,” they assume that the message of the Gospel came to those only who turned to God before they sank finally in the mighty waters. It need hardly be said that this was to strain Scripture to make it fit in with their own theories, and to read into the words something that is not found there. St Peter, as has been urged above, would have said, “to those who were sometime disobedient and afterwards repented” if this had been what he meant to say.

(2) The other interpretation avoids all these minor difficulties by going altogether on a different track. It has the authority of some great representative theologians, Augustine among the Fathers (ut supra), Aquinas among the Schoolmen (Summ. Theolog. iii. Qu. LII. Art. 3), Bishop Pearson among Anglican divines. It starts with denying that there is any reference at all to the descent into Hades. Christ, it says, went in Spirit, not in the flesh, i.e. before His Incarnation, and preached to the spirits who are now in prison under condemnation, or were then in the prison-house of selfishness and unbelief, or simply in that of the body. He preached in Noah’s preaching, and that preaching was without effect except for the souls of Noah and his household. There is something, perhaps, attractive in the avoidance of what have been regarded as dangerous inferences from the natural meaning of St Peter’s words, something also in the bold ingenuity which rejects at once that natural meaning and the Catholic tradition which grew out of it: but, over and above the grave preliminary objection that it never would have suggested itself but for dogmatic prepossessions, it is not too much to say that it breaks down at every point. It disconnects the work of preaching from the death of Christ with which St Peter connects it. It empties the words “he went” of all significance and reduces them to an empty pleonasm. It substitutes a personal identification of the preaching of Christ with that of Noah for the more scriptural language, as in ch. 1 Peter 1:11, that the Spirit which prompted the latter was one with the Spirit which Christ gave to His disciples. The whole line of exegesis comes under the condemnation of being “a fond thing vainly invented” for a dogmatic purpose. A collection of most of the passages from the Fathers bearing on the subject will be found in the Notes to “Pearson on the Creed” on the Article “He descended into Hell,” and in the Article Eschatology by the present writer in Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Biography.

wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water] The last words admit of being taken either locally “they were saved, i.e. were brought safely, through the water,” “were delivered from the destruction which it brought to others,” or instrumentally, “they were saved by means of the water.” The latter interpretation presents, at first, the difficulty that it represents the waters of the deluge, as well as the ark, as a means of deliverance. The parallelism between the type and the antitype in the next verse, leaves, however, no doubt that this was the thought which St Peter had in his mind. He saw in the very judgment which swept away so many that which brought deliverance to others. In the stress laid upon the “few” that were thus saved, we may legitimately recognise the impression made by our Lord’s answer to the question, Are there few that be saved? (Luke 13:23). The Apostle looked round him and saw that those who were in the way of salvation were few in number. He looked back upon the earliest records of the work of a preaching of repentance and found that then also few only were delivered. In the reference to the “long-suffering” of God as waiting and leading to repentance, we find a striking parallel to the language of 2 Peter 3:9, and in both we cannot doubt that the thought present to the writer’s mind was that “God was not willing that any should perish.”

1 Peter 3:20. Ἀπειθήσασι, who had been unbelieving) who in their life had not believed the patriarchs, when they admonished them in the name of God.—ποτὲ, sometime) This sometime (used in 1 Peter 3:5 also with reference to a long time [ago]), and this long-suffering, of which he speaks immediately after, have reference to all ages of the Old Testament previously to the death of Christ. It is called forbearance, Romans 3:26. Long-suffering preceded the first coming of Christ, as here shown, and His second coming, 2 Peter 3:9, note.—ὅτε, when) The weak reading, ὅτι, is rightly refuted by Wolf. A certain edition, which has ὂτι, is very corrupt, even in this very word. Some copies have ὂτι, according to Erasmus, even in his first edition; but the Basileensis II. is the only one which is found, from which Erasmus rarely deviated, though he did in this instance, and with reason.—ἀπεξεδέχετο[32]) Other copies have ἅπαξ ἐδέχετο; but very few have this reading, ε being first corrupted into α, as is often the case; nor does the simple verb δέχεσθαι agree with the passage. See App. Crit. on this place. Ἀπεξεδέχετο, that is, God continued waiting, that men might believe. But there is greater force in the Greek double compound: He continued waiting on, until there was an end of His waiting, in the death of the men.—ἐν, in) Understand οἷον: that is, for instance [to wit], in the days of Noah. The most remarkable species is subjoined to the genus, for these reasons: 1) On no occasion did a greater number perish together than at the deluge. 2) By mention of water, Peter conveniently passes to the subject of baptism. 3) The destruction of the world by water is a prelude to its destruction by fire, 2 Peter 3:6-7, in conjunction with the last judgment, ch. 1 Peter 4:5. Nor is it matter of surprise that the word sometime is used in a wider meaning than the days of Noah; since also the days of Noah altogether were many more than the days of the building of the ark; but these, however, are immediately added. Compare with this the definite marking of time, which gradually becomes more particular, in Mark 14:30; Luke 4:25; Deuteronomy 31:10. O what ample (noble) preaching!—κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ, while an [not the] ark was in preparation) Κιβωτοῦ without the article: Hebrews 11:7. The expression is adapted to the mind of the unbelieving spectators. This building occupied a long season, for it is not probable that many assisted Noah in his work. During the whole of that time especially the long-suffering of God waited.—εἰς ἣν, into which) Having entered into the ark by faith, they sought and found safety.—ὀλίγοι, a few) It is the more probable that some out of so great a multitude repented, when the rain came; and though they had not believed while God was waiting, and while the ark was building, afterwards, when the ark was completed, and punishment assailed them, began to believe; and to these, and to all like them, Christ afterwards presented Himself as a preacher of grace. Luther attributed less weight to this interpretation in his homilies on 1st Peter, published in A.D. 1523; but shortly before his death he more decidedly embraced it. There is a well-known passage in his Comm. on Genesis 7:1, and his Exposition of Hosea agrees with it, published in the year 1545, in which, ch. 1 Peter 4:2, he referred the two days (spoken of by the prophet) to the descent into hell; and quoting this passage of Peter, he says; Here Peter plainly says, not only that Christ appeared to the fathers and patriarchs who were dead, some of whom undoubtedly Christ, on His resurrection, raised with Himself to eternal life, but also preached to some who in the time of Noah did not believe, and waited for the patience of God, that is, who hoped that God would not deal so severely with all flesh, in order that they might recognise that THEIR sins were FORGIVEN through the sacrifice of Christ. In accordance with this are the comments of L. Osiander on this passage, of Hutter, in Expl. Concordiæ, p. 993; and also of Peter Martyr, T. I. LL. CC., col. 783.—ὀκτὼ, eight) Ham, who was about to incur the curse, being taken from this number, there were seven, a sacred number.—διʼ ὕδατος, through water) διὰ, through; an appropriate particle, denoting passage, without consideration either of the peril which threatened from the waters in themselves, or of the safety afforded in their being borne above them in the ark. Thus the following verse accords with this.

[32] So ABC Vulg. Orig. 2,553d and 4,135a. Rec. Text has ἅπαξ ἐξεδέχετο, with no authority except Orig. 4,135a in a MS.

Verse 20. - Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. Omit the word "once" (ἅπαξ), which is without authority. Wherein; literally, into which; they were saved by entering into it. The last words may mean, "they were carried safely through the water," or, "they were saved by water;" that is, the water bore up the ark (Genesis 7:17, 18). The argument of ver. 21 makes the second interpretation the more probable. The verse now before us limits the area of the Lord's preaching: without it we might have supposed that he preached to the whole multitude of the dead, or at least to all the ungodly dead whose spirits were in prison. Why does St. Peter specify the generation that was swept away by the Flood? Did they need the preaching of the Christ more than other sinful souls? or was there any special reason why that grace should be vouchsafed to them rather than to others? The fact must have been revealed to the apostle; but evidently we are in the presence of a mystery into which we can see only a little way. Those antediluvians were a conspicuous instance of men who suffered for evil doing (see ver. 17); as Christ is the transcendent Example of one who suffered for well-doing. It is better to suffer with him than with them: they are in prison. His chosen are with him in Paradise. But St. Peter cannot rest in the contemplation of the Lord's death as an example; he must pass on to the deeper, the more mysterious aspects of that most stupendous or' events. The Lord suffered concerning sins, for the sake of unrighteous men; not only did he die for them, he did not rest from his holy work even while his sacred body lay in the grave; he went and preached to some whose sins had been most notorious, and most signally punished. The judgment had been one of unexampled awfulness; eight souls only were saved in the ark, many thousands perished. It may be that St. Peter mentions the fewness of the saved to indicate one reason for this gracious visit. It seems that the awful destruction of the Deluge had made a deep impression upon his mind; he mentions it twice in his Second Epistle (2 Peter 2:5; 3:6); he saw in it a solemn anticipation of the last tremendous judgment. Doubtless he remembered well how the Lord, in his great prophetic discourse upon the Mount of Olives, had compared the days of Noah to the coming of the Son of man (Matthew 24:37-39); those words seem to give a special character to the Deluge, separating it from other lesser judgments, and investing it with a peculiar awfulness. It may be that the apostle's thoughts had dwelt much upon the many mysterious problems (such as the great destruction of infant life) connected with it; and that a special revelation was vouchsafed to him to clear up some of his difficulties. These spirits, in prison at the time of the descent into Hades, had aforetime been disobedient. The Greek word (ἀπειθήσασι) means literally "disbelieving;" but here, as in 1 Peter 2:7 and elsewhere, it stands for that willful unbelief which sets itself in direct opposition to the will of God. They were guilty of unbelief, and of the disobedience which results from unbelief. Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5, where the Greek word is κῆρυξ, the substantive corresponding with the verb ἐκήρυξεν here); the vast structure of the ark was a standing warning as it rose slowly before their eyes. The long-suffering of God waited all those hundred and twenty years (Genesis 6:3), as now the Lord is "long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). But they heeded neither the preaching of Noah nor the long-suffering of God; and at last "the Flood came, and took them all away. So shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Eight only were saved then; they doubtless suffered for well-doing; they had to endure much scorn and derision, perhaps persecution. But they were not disobedient. "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house." The eight were brought safe through (διεσώθησαν); they were saved through the water; the water bore them up, possibly rescued them from persecution. But the rest perished; the destruction of life was tremendous; we know not how many thousands perished: they suffered for evil-doing. But the degrees of guilt must have varied greatly from open pro-faulty and hostility to silent doubt; while there were many children and very young persons; and it may be that many repented at the last moment. It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing; but even suffering for evil-doing is sometimes blessed to the salvation of the soul; and it may be that some of these, having been "judged according to men in the flesh," now "live according to God in the spirit" (1 Peter 4:6). For it is impossible to believe that the Lord's preaching was a "concio damnatoria." The Lord spoke sternly sometimes in the days of his flesh, but it was the warning voice of love; even that sternest denunciation of the concentrated guilt and hypocrisy of the Pharisees ended in a piteous wail of loving sorrow. It cannot he that the most merciful Savior would have visited souls irretrievably lost merely to upbraid them and to enhance their misery. He had just suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust: is it not possible that one of the effects of that suffering might have been "to bring unto God" some souls who once had been alienated from God by wicked works, but had not wholly hardened their hearts; who, like the men of Tyro and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, had not the opportunities which we enjoy, who had not been once enlightened and made partakers of the heavenly gift and the powers of the world to come? Is it not possible that in those words, "which sometime were disobedient," there may be a hint that that disobedience of theirs was not the "eternal sin" which, according to the reading of the two most ancient manuscripts in Mark 3:29, is the awful lot of those who have never forgiveness? The Lord preached to the spirits in prison; that word (ἐκήρυξεν) is commonly used of the heralds of salvation, and St. Peter himself, in the next chapter, tells us that "the gospel was preached (εὐηγγελίσθη) to them that are dead." The gospel is the good tidings of salvation through the cross of Christ. The Lord had just died upon the cross: is it not possible that, in the moment of victory, he announced the saving power of the cross to some who had greatly sinned; as at the time of his resurrection "many bodies of the saints who slept arose"? There is one more question which forces itself upon us - What was the result of this preaching? Did the spirits in prison listen to the Savior's voice? Were they delivered from that prison where they had been so long confined? Here Scripture is almost silent; yet we read the words of hope in 1 Peter 4:6, "For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." The good news was announced to them that they might live; then may we not dare to hope that some at least listened to that gracious preaching, and were saved even out of that prison by the power of the Savior's cross? May we not venture to believe, with the author of the ' Christian Year,' that even in that dreary scene the Savior's eye reached the thronging band of sou]s, and that his cross and Passion, his agony and bloody sweat, might (we know not how or in what measure) "set the shadowy realms from sin and sorrow free?" It seems desirable to add a brief summary of the history of opinion on this much-controverted passage. The early Greek Fathers appear to have held, with one consent, that St. Peter is here speaking of that descent into Hades of which he had spoken in his first great sermon (Acts 2:31). Justin Martyr, in his' Dialogue with Trypho' (sect. 72), accuses the Jews of having erased from the prophecies of Jeremiah the following words: "The Lord God of Israel remembered his dead who slept in the land of the tomb, and descended to them to preach to them the good news of his salvation." Irenseus quotes the same passage, attributing it in one place to Isaiah, in another to Jeremiah, and adds that the Lord's purpose was to deliver them and to save them (extrahere eos et salvare cos). Tertullian says that the Lord descended into the lower parts of the earth, to make the patriarchs partakers of himself (compotes sui; 'De Anima,' c. 55). Clement of Alexandria quotes Hermas as saying that "the apostles and teachers who had preached the Name of the Son of God and had fallen asleep, preached by his power and faith to those who had fallen asleep before them" ('Strom.,' 2:9). "And then," Bishop Pearson, from whose notes on the Creed these quotations are taken, continues, "Clement supplies that authority with a reason of his own, that as the apostles were to imitate Christ while they lived, so did they also imitate him after death, and therefore preached to the souls in Hades, as Christ did before them." The earliest writers do not seem to have thought that any change in the condition of the dead was produced by Christ's descent into Hades. The Lord announced the gospel to the dead; the departed saints rejoiced to hear the glad tidings, as now the angels rejoice over each repentant sinner. Origen, in his second homily on 1 Kings, taught that the Lord, descending into Hades, brought the souls of the holy dead, the patriarchs and prophets, out of Hades into Paradise; no souls could pass the flaming sword till he had led the way; but now, through his grace and power, the blessed dead who die in the Lord enter at once into the rest of Paradise - not yet heaven, but an intermediate place of rest, far better than that from which the saints of the old covenant were delivered. In this view Origen was followed by many of the later Fathers. But St. Peter says nothing of any preaching to departed saints. Christ "went and preached," he says, "unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient." Hence Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and others were led to suppose that the Lord not only raised the holy dead to a higher state of blessedness, but preached also to the disobedient, and that some of these believed, and were by his grace delivered from "prison." Some few, as Cyril of Alexandria, held that the Lord spoiled the house of the strong man armed (σεσύλητο τῶν πνευμάτων ὁ ᾅδης), and released all his captives. This Augustine reckoned as a heresy. But in his epistle to Euodius (Ep. 99 and 164) Augustine, much exercised (as he says, "vehementissime commotus") by the difficulties of the question, propounded the interpretation which became general in the Western Church, being adopted by Bode, Thomas Aquinas, De Lyra, and later by Beza, Hammond, Leighton, Pearson, etc. "The spirits in prison," he says, "are the unbelieving who lived in the days of Noah, whose spirits, i.e. souls, had been shut up in the flesh and in the darkness of ignorance, as in a prison [comp. ' Paradise Lost,' 11:723]. Christ preached to them, not in the flesh, inasmuch as he was not yet incarnate, but in the spirit, i.e. according to his Divine nature (secundum divinitatem)." But this interpretation does not satisfy St. Peter's words. The hypothesis that Christ preached through the instrumentality of Noah does not adequately represent the participle πορευθείς; the word φυλακή cannot be taken metaphorically of the flesh in which the soul is confined. If, with Beza, we understand it as meaning "who are now in prison," we escape one difficulty, but another is introduced; for it is surely forced and unnatural to make the time of the verb and that of the dative clause different. The words ἐν φυλακῇ must describe the condition of the spirits at the time of the Savior's preaching. Some commentators, as Socinus and Grotius, refer St. Peter's words to the preaching of Christ through the apostles. These writers understand φυλακή of the prison of the body, or the prison of sin; and explain St. Peter as meaning that Christ preached through the apostles to the Jews who were under the yoke of the Law, and to the Gentiles who lay under the power of the devil; and they regard the disobedient in the time of Noah as a sample of sinners in any age. But this interpretation is altogether arbitrary, and cannot be reconciled with the apostle's words. Other views are - that our Lord descended into hell to triumph over Satan (on which see Pearson on the Creed, art. 5.); that his preaching was a concio damnatoria - an announcement of condemnation, not of salvation (which is disproved by 1 Peter 4:6); that the spirits in prison were holy souls waiting for Christ, the prison being (according to Calvin) "specula, sire ipse excubandi actus;" that they were heathens, who lived according to their light, but in idolatry. We may mention, in conclusion, the monstrous explanation of the heretic Marcion, that they were those who in the Old Testament are called ungodly, but were really better than those whom the Old Testament regards as saints. 1 Peter 3:20In which (εἰς ἣν)

Lit., into which. A pregnant construction; into which they were gathered, and in which they were saved.

By water (διὰ)

Rev., through. Some take this as instrumental, by means of water; others as local, by passing through the water, or being brought safely through the water into the ark. Rev., in margin, were brought safely through water.

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