The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP vs. JPH vs. Christian Universalism

Part 14: Disagreements about Hebrews 9

JPH’s Mormon opponent attempts to read Hebrews 9:27 (“Just as man is appointed (literally “laid up”) to die once, and after that, judgment”) as “not implying immediacy, for Man’s ultimate judgment does not come right after death.” I agree however with JPH that the {krisis} (which is where we get the English word “crisis” from) of judgment starts at death, even though there’s an ultimate judgment later. His Mormon opponent is apparently not a universalist, and so regards judgment as being hopelessly final; consequently it’s important for the Mormon that the judgment not start at death for anyone. The verse itself does not indicate that the “crisis” is hopeless, though: that is something JPH (and his Mormon opponent) are reading into the verse, be they right or wrong to do so.

JPH says that an extra chance after death “must be speculated to be something extraneous to this verse”, but so is hopelessness of the judgment. One way or the other there are more details in which light the verse should be understood, including elsewhere in EpistHebrews.

The local preceding context itself is about how previous high priests, even if they kept off judgment for the people by sacrificing something other than themselves, still were mortal and died. By contrast, Christ sacrifices Himself to put the covenant of salvation in effect, since a covenant is never in force while the one who made it lives but is valid only when the one who makes it dies (9:16-17)–which is why those who could not live after dying sacrificed other lives belonging to them in representation of themselves. And yet Christ lives eternally to put that covenant of salvation in effect: a covenant God makes with Israel, which Israel is supposed to keep, but which the Son (acting as the perfect Israel, the perfect prince of God) perfectly keeps and puts into effect.

Thus the contrast by comparison: just as it is appointed for men to die once and after this a crisis (for those men, since they cannot come back to life under their own power), so Christ (verse 28) also having been offered once to bear the sins of many (which in other contexts means “the sins of all”, as any Arminian would agree) shall be seen a second time, apart from sin, by the ones awaiting Him into salvation.

Consequently, the judgment or crisis mentioned by the Hebraist at verse 9:27 is contrasted explicitly to the superior salvation from sin that Christ promises by His covenant, sealed by His dying and rising again: men die once and then are in crisis–a judgment from God (including as the Son) due to our sin–but Christ (the Judge Himself) dies once and lives again to save sinners from our sins! Which is exactly why Christians should eagerly await His second coming when He shall be seen by everyone!–even though that will also result in crisis-judgment for many people.

And what is the covenant that Christ puts into effect by dying and yet living? The Hebraist talks about it at 10:16, quoting Jer 31:33, “This is the covenant that I will make with them, after those days, says YHWH” (referring to the days of Israel’s punishment for her sins and the coming Day of the Lord). “I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them. And their sins and their rebellions I will remember no more.” “Now where there is forgiveness of these things,” comments the Hebraist, “there is no longer an offering for sin.”

If the Father and the Son do not keep acting in solidarity with that covenant They have made with each other, as a promissory to the covenant YHWH will eventually make with penitent Israel after their days of punishment, then They are breaking covenant with each other, which would put Them on par with sinners who break their covenants with God. A mere static establishment isn’t enough, just like a promise to keep the covenant isn’t enough for a human: They have to perform, and to keep performing. And the Hebraist emphasizes that this covenant which will be made by God with penitent and previously punished Israel in the Day of the Lord to come, was first put into true and perfect effect as a covenant between Son and Father with the death of Christ (the Son being faithful unto death for the Father, and the Father being faithful beyond death for the Son).

To cease seeking, or never to seek, to bring about salvation of sinners from sin, would be for the Persons of God to break covenant with each other on that topic, too.

I certainly do not, by this interpretation, deny the crisis (including in its meaning as judgment), nor do I deny that the judgment starts at death (where applicable, since those whom Christ judges to have followed Him truly are exempt from that judgment, as Paul often notes in his epistles.) But where sin exceeds and leads to judgment, Christ (the judge Himself) hyper-exceeds in His salvation!–for not as the sin is Christ’s grace.

(Or else those verses from Romans should have been written the other way around–as non-universalists inadvertently tend to imply–to read that as the grace of God exceeds, sin hyper-exceeds, for not as the grace is the sin.)

Next up: the grand finale on 1 Peter begins

Well, Part 15 was delayed due to ‘work’ work issues and server issues (and some extensive discussion elsewhere on the forum with someone else holding positions related to JP Holding’s); and it doesn’t help that I haven’t actually written Part 15 yet. :laughing:

But fortunately there are some preliminary issues to address and establish before getting into the meat of JPH’s 1 Peter discussion, so I have a few days of leeway remaining. :wink:

Part 15: Disagreements on 1 Peter 3 (Part 1 of x)

And so at last we come to the Big Gun, the discussion on 1 Peter 3:18-20 (plus related contexts from chapter 4 afterward). {insert the Peter Gunn theme here} :sunglasses:

(Once Part 15 is completed, I’ll go back and replace the variable ‘x’ above.)

JPH happens to be wrong that “all [the Church Fathers] seem to indicate that it is only certain OT saints that were released from bondage”. On the contrary, there was a wide divergence of belief on the topic. Moreover, even Augustine believed in the descent of Christ into hades, although he didn’t think 1 Peter referred to it: precisely because he also acknowledged that the passage was clearly about evangelizing rebels, and Augustine didn’t believe rebels were evangelized in hades. Therefore Augustine figured it must have been referring to a pre-Incarnate Christ descending to evangelize rebels before the Flood sent them to the swirling depths of the abyss/hades.

The best source I currently know of for primary source data on the historical post-canonical interpretations of the descent into hades, is Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev’s Christ The Conqueror Of Hell: the Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective. Regardless of which side anyone thinks is theologically true (or at least more correct than others) on the topic, the tally of weight is rather different than JPH thinks. In this part, therefore, I will quote from the Bishop’s epilogue for sake of historical post-canonical context (trivial or secondary though we Protestants may regard that as being), and start the actual exegetical and theological dueling in the next Part.

My own comments and explanatory additions will be occasionally included as [brackets] in the citation.

the OT righteous came out of hades. On the other hand, no writer, so far as I recall from the Archbishop’s sources, believed Satan or other rebel angels followed Christ as a result of the descent, even when those writers believed the rebel angels, up to and including Satan, would eventually repent and follow Christ later.]

The first interpretation [all souls in total were saved out of hades] is most widely reflected in the liturgical texts of the [Eastern] Orthodox Church: that Christ “emptied” hell and “not a single mortal” remained [quoting terms from those texts]. The first and second opinions were endowed with equal authority in the Eastern Christian patristic tradition, but with the passing of the centuries the first gradually gave way to the second. In the Western tradition after Augustine, the second and fourth views were given preference. [The third view, that the only unbelievers Christ came for were those who were already relatively righteous and pious, as well as for OT ‘saints’, never gained authoritative prominence.]

Christ’s preaching in hell, mentioned [disputably] in 1 Peter 3:18-21, has also been interpreted in different ways. Some writers allowed the possibility that those who did not believe in Christ during their lifetimes could come to believe in him after their death. Others, mainly Western theologians, rejected this possibility. Some insisted on a literal interpretation: that Christ preached only to the unrepentant sinners from Noah’s time [not to unrepentant sinners after Noah]. Others interpreted it in a wider sense: that Christ’s preaching in hell reached all who were held there. Augustine and later Western writers did not consider the Petrine text to refer to the descent into Hades and did not, therefore, believe it should be understood [except in?] an allegorical sense. This view does not correspond to any early or Eastern Christian understandings of the passage.

What is universally endorsed is the teaching that Christ mortified death and destroyed hell. This is, however, understood in different ways. The Eastern liturgical texts and many of the fathers speak of a total destruction of death and hell. Others are more specific, saying that death and hell continue to exist but only inasmuch as people’s evil wills encourage its existence. In the Western tradition the view that Christ’s death harmed hell but did not mortify it came into dominance.

The soteriological significance of the descent into Hades has been evaluated in a variety of ways. In the West, some maintained that the descent into Hades was a “one-time” event that had significance only for those who were in hell when it happened. Certain Western writers even considered that the “memory” of Christ’s descent into Hades was not retained there. This is a perception that is entirely foreign to the Eastern tradition, in which the descent is seen as an event of universal significance. A great number of Eastern authors perceived Christ’s descent into Hades as an event of universal significance, and some extended its saving action not only to past generations but also to all those who followed. The idea that all the dead received the opportunity to be saved is quite widespread among Eastern Christian writers, and it was only in the West where some authors labeled it heretical.

The rest of the Archbishop’s Epilogue involves his theological opinion as to which of these is and is not theological opinion and dogmatic Orthodox doctrine (JPH may insert irony here as appropriate), so would be outside the scope of our dispute since, although we are trinitarian Christians, neither JPH nor I am in the Eastern Orthodox communion.

As I noted previously, this may only be trivial to our dispute, but I did want to give a clearer picture of the historical post-canonical situation before moving on.

Next, I’ll introduce the relevant texts from 1 Peter.

As it happens, JPH’s new eBook The Atonement Contextualized was released a week or so ago. I have no idea what’s in it yet (having just checked in at Tekton and learned of its release today); but I’ve been planning to return to that topic since he first told me a revision was on the way. Meanwhile, for anyone who is interested, there’s the Amazon link above. :slight_smile:

I’m still working on finishing up the comments from JPH and myself on 1 Peter (i.e Part 15), before I move along to the new Atonement book, by the way. I was hoping to have one of my sources back before I started this sub-part, but alas, not for another day or so. If it suggests something more accurate, I’ll revise in the next few days.

Part 15 (part 2 of x): The Relevant Texts of 1 Peter On The Topic

Before I start getting technically picky, I should note that if 1 Peter wasn’t really written by the apostle (as even a number of conservative theologians allow is possible or even certain), but was written very late in the 1st century, this might significantly undermine the authoritative importance of the text as revealed testimony for Christians. I incline to the side of Petrine authorship (probably through a scribe, possibly Jude the brother of Jesus); but my Christian faith wouldn’t be undermined in the slightest if the text was a forgery or a less/un-authoritative pseudonymous text, even though I’d have to drop it (of course) as being primary exegetical evidence for several doctrines (trinitarian as well as soteriological). I am aware of some of the problems in accepting it as authentic, and I don’t begrudge people if they prefer to disregard it: I don’t actually need it for anything (including post-mortem salvation testimony), and even if I did need it I’d rather work from shared agreements with opponents where possible.

Anyway, I treat it as Petrine and authoritative, and JPH does, too. I just wanted to qualify that I wouldn’t be upset by people ditching the relevant testimony on grounds of the text being inauthentic teaching, and so skipping over the grand finale here: JPH devotes around 1/3 of his rebuttal to post-mortem evangelism arguments, to a discussion of this text, which is reasonable considering its historical importance to the topic–and considering its avowed difficulties in translation and interpretation (also reflected in historical church usage)!

It doesn’t help that there’s a messy textual transmission puzzle at 3:18. Did Christ suffer concerning sins, or did Christ die away concerning sins? The two words in Greek sound similar, once the proper grammatic forms are factored in: {epathen} {apethanen}, and either one would work contextually, although Peter (or his scribe/translator, or whoever the author is) has been using “suffer” several times just immediately prior, and is in the process of arguing that we ought to follow Christ’s example. Also, {apethanen} isn’t a term used anywhere else in the epistle. But on the other hand, that might be a strong reason for a scribe, thinking a previous copyist had misheard the Greek term, to fix {apethanen} to {epathen}!–and {apethanen} is found on the only papyrus copy of 1 Peter. But then each term occurs in numerous respectable early surviving copies. Which is all entirely aside from the fact that each verb has four to six fairly well-attested variations of other words included in the sentence along with them! Add a couple of grammatic form variations and…

…and fortunately, none of this is of any concern for our dispute at all, since whether Christ “suffered” or “died away” concerning/about our sins, the basic concept is the same. I mention it, not because JPH does (he doesn’t), but just to head off potential questions about the stability of the text transmission. (For what it’s worth, a majority of the UBS/Nestle editors went in favor of “suffered” with no extra terms added.)

Similarly (and to mention the other transmission puzzle in verse 18), it does not matter in the least whether Christ did this in order to lead “you-plural”, or to lead “us”, to God. (The two terms are very evenly matched in copies, and each would sound similar to the ear during transcription; but each retains the sense of the passage.) There are no further significant text critical issues in the passages we’ll be looking at.

So we come to the text. Peter has been encouraging his Christian readers to live righteously even if they suffer for it including the famous verse about being always ready to give a defense {apologian} to every one requesting from us an account about the hope in us with meekness and fear. The meekness and fear apparently apply to our attitude in defending the account of our hope, and is by context intended to imply good behavior on our part such that those who talk as though we are evildoers will be ashamed of having done so. For it is better (3:17), if God so wills it, for us to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Thus the context leads into verse 18 where Christ is presented as the example we should follow, Who also suffered for doing good rather than for doing evil:

{hoti} == that (in the sense of “seeing that” or “considering that” or a logical “since”)

{kai} == usually a connective conjunction, somewhat stronger than {de}, but may mean “also” which by context is intended here

{xristos} == Christ

{hapax} == once, or one time

{peri hamartiôn} == about/concerning sins

{epathen} == suffered in an active way (grammatically connected to “Christ”)

{dikaios} == a/the fair-one

{huper adikôn} == over of unfair-one, i.e. the Just One not only belongs to the unjust somehow but is also over them, so “authoritatively for the sake of” unfair-ones

{hina} == so that

{humas [hêmas] prosagagê t(i)ô the(i)ô} == he may be toward-leading you-plural [or “us” depending on which is original] to the God (by suffering authoritatively for the sake of unfair-ones, as Peter is asking Christians to suffer in regard to the unfair-ones in their lives)

{thanatôtheis} == he being caused to die

{men sarki} == indeed to flesh

{z(i)ôopoiêtheis de pneumati} == yet/but/and he-being-caused-to-live to-the-spirit

Verse 19:

{en h(i)ô kai} == in which also (or, “and in which” or some other conjunction for “and”)

{tois en phulak(i)ê pneumasin} == to the-ones in a/the guardplace spirits, or “to the spirits in jail”

{poreutheis} == he being-gone

{ekêruxen} == he proclaims, or he heralds/announces

Verse 20:

{apeithêsasin} == to ones-being-stubborn (the verb is dative and a preposition is implied although not spelled out so it might mean other things)

{pote} == once-when, a non-interrogative use of “when”, i.e. at some time in the past, “once upon a time”

{hote} == when (a different term for when thus signaling application to a different topic occurring or behaving at the same time as the previous reference)

{apexedecheto} == a conflation of two words {hapax exedecheto}, which also appear that way in some manuscripts, literally “once he out-received” or “once he patiently waited” or “once he awaited”

{hê tou theou makrothumia} == the far-feeling (or long-suffering) of the God (with “of the God” embedded for special emphasis between “the longsuffering”)

(Note: it is ambiguous whether “he patiently waited” refers back to Christ, masculine, or to “the longsuffering (of God)” which would be feminine, or to “God” by extractive implication since “the longsuffering” wouldn’t really be what was patiently waiting anyway. My sources oddly don’t indicate the gender of the verb there.)

{en hêmerais nôe kataskeuazomenês kibôtou} == in days Noah being-constructed ark

{eis hên} == in which (referring grammatically to the ark)

{oligoi} == few

{tout’ estin oktô phuchai} == this is/means eight souls/lives

{diesôthêsan di’ hudatos} == they were saved-through through water

The next few verses (transitioning into a new chapter as traditionally chapter/versed) talk about how the water of the Flood (not the ark, grammatically speaking–the grammatic form definitely connects to the water, not to the ark) represents baptism that is now saving us, not of flesh putting off of filth, but a good inquiry of conscience into God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who is in God’s right hand, having been gone into heaven, and messengers and authorities and powers being subjected to Him.

Christ, then, having suffered for us in the flesh this way for our sake, we should arm ourselves (metaphorically taking up weapons in preparation) with the same mind or attitude, that the one suffering in flesh has ceased from sin; the point being that we should live the rest of our lives no longer in the lusts of men but in the will of God, our previous lives having been sufficient to have wrought the “will of the Gentiles” when we walked in all kinds of fleshly sins–which (“will of the Gentiles” by grammatic connection) is why the Gentiles think it strange that we don’t run with them to the same puddle of excess (as the Greek colorfully puts it!), and so speak evil of us, who shall be giving up account to the One Who is readily having to judge living ones and dead ones {nekrous}. (The plural “who shall be giving up account” could refer grammatically to Christians or the ones who speak evil against us; but obviously both shall be giving up an account.)

This brings us to 4:6.

{eis touto gar kai} == for in this also (the “for” is the post-positive {gar}, and the {kai} definitely means “also” this time due to its position and because the {gar} is holding the position of prime conjunction; “this” is singular neuter)

{nekroia} == to dead ones

{euêggelisthê}} == is evangelized (divine passive form, singular)

{hina} == so that

{krithôsi} == they may be being judged (divine passive plural)

{men} == certainly or indeed (the affirmation behind the declaration “amen”)

{kata anthrôpous sarki} == according to (or down from, or down by) humans in-flesh (or as to flesh)

{zôsin de} == yet may be living (the “yet” is a quick conjunction {de} put in post-positive position behind the emphasis of the verb)

{kata theon pneumati} == according to (or down from, or down by) God in-spirit (or as to spirit)

Verse 4:7a

{pantôn de} == yet/now of-all-things (plural all, put before the quick conjunction for emphasis)

{to telos} == the completion

{êggikan} == has neared (literally has handied)

Not long afterward, as a topically related context, Peter reminds his readers (4:17-18) that it is the season of the One ({tou}, the genitive singular direct article, but with no matching genitive noun so “of that one” or something similar is implied) to begin the judgment from the house of God. “And if foremost (chiefly emphatically first) from us, what (is) the completion of the ones being stubborn as to the good news of God? Yet/and/but if the just one hardly is being saved (literally ‘is being saved toil-ly’), where shall the irreverent one and sinner be appearing?”

With this obscure allusion from somewhere that Peter had remembered (apparently not from Proverbs 11:31 or Luke 23:31, as the NASB editors think, although it matches very closely to something famous said by Peter elsewhere!), the immediate and local context is concluded.

Discussion of it will begin next.

Part 15 (subpart 3 of x): JRP’s Analysis of the Relevant Petrine Texts

Before we get to JPH’s analysis and rebuttals against his Mormon opponent’s appeal to 1 Peter, I think it would be best for me to establish my interpretation of the texts so we’ll have a basis for comparison later.

Repeating the opening context so readers won’t have to scan back up several pages for it:

Peter has been encouraging his Christian readers to live righteously even if they suffer for it, including the famous verse about being always ready to give a defense {apologian} to every one requesting from us an account about the hope in us with meekness and fear. The meekness and fear apparently apply to our attitude in defending the account of our hope, and is by context intended to imply good behavior on our part such that those who talk as though we are evildoers will be ashamed of having done so. For it is better (3:17), if God so wills it, for us to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Thus the context leads into verse 18 where Christ is presented as the example we should follow, Who also suffered for doing good rather than for doing evil:

Verse 18a: “Since [logically] Christ also previously actively suffered concerning sins…”

Christ also suffered thanks to sinners despite being innocent, although He didn’t just accidentally or inadvertently suffer against His will: He intentionally accepted the suffering. This is a bit of a paradox, since suffering necessarily involves reacting to something stimulating the reaction. But Christ knew it was going to happen, and acted in cooperation with what happened in various ways. Why?

Verse 18b: “…the Fair One [or the Just One] authoritatively for the sake of unfair ones [or unjust ones]…”

Christ cooperated with the suffering inflicted upon Him by unjust people, not only “over” them (in authoritative supremacy), but for their sake. By commending Christ to us as our example for patiently suffering unfair treatment from sinners, we’re logically expected to do so with the same intention in mind as Christ: for the sake of the unjust ones.

But there is to be no mere us-the-righteous vs. them-the-sinners! For we ourselves were also sinners (as Peter certainly affirms in context, including later in related statements) for whom Christ died authoritatively and intentionally. So Peter continues,

Verse 18c: “[Christ authoritatively died for the sake of unjust ones]… so that He (Christ) may be leading you/us (emphatically) to the God…”

We ought to be actively cooperating with unfair suffering for the same reason, so that those who unfairly cause us to suffer will be led to God, just as we were. We aren’t cooperating with Christ if we divorce such suffering (even though it is unfairly inflicted) from that intention and goal. This fits very well with the contexts preceding verse 18, too.

Verse 18d: “…He (Christ) being certainly caused to die in flesh (or to the flesh), yet being caused to live in spirit (or to the spirit)…”

A typical death and resurrection motif/statement, but as verse 19 will indicate being “caused to live in spirit” this time means something more like “yet was still alive in spirit”.

Verse 19 (which continues the previous sentence from verse 18): “…in which, being gone, He (Christ) also proclaims (or heralds or announces to the spirits in jail…”

“In which” connects directly by grammar to “spirit”, so in spirit not in flesh Christ is making a proclamation or an announcement of something to someone. And the proclamation or herald is made in parallel with some other proclamation by Christ (He “also” proclaims). And this proclamation occurs subsequent or consequent to Christ being gone from somewhere.

So Peter isn’t referring to something the pre-incarnate Christ did in the past, but to something Christ did after leaving somewhere relative to Peter: “being gone” implies being gone from ‘here’. And it’s something Christ did while alive in the spirit but not alive in the flesh. So it’s something Christ did after death but before the resurrection (which Peter affirms elsewhere).

To whom? To spirits in {phulak(i)ê}, in jail or in a place watched by guards.

This term is only used two ways anywhere else in the NT, where although relatively uncommon it appears a dozen times or so. It either means a time of night during which a guard stands watch, or it means a place of imprisonment or captivity guarded by someone technically hostile or in power over the one being restrained. (It refers to a birdcage once in Rev 18:2, but even then the imagery is applied as analogy for rebel or evil or despised things: “[Babylon the great, now fallen, has become] the dwelling place of demons and jail of every unclean spirit and cage of every unclean and hateful bird!”)

Any time the term doesn’t mean a watch of the night (or shepherds maintaining a protective guard over sheep at night in the Nativity), it always without fail means punitive imprisonment everywhere else in the NT, whether the imprisonment is regarded as fair or unfair.

So unless context here in 1 Peter indicates otherwise (which it does not), then the term should be interpreted similarly here: Jesus has gone in spirit to a jail of spirits to make a proclamation for some reason.

The next question would be what kind of spirits? Are they spirits which were unfairly imprisoned (perhaps like Christians or like Christ?–the term in the NT often refers to Christians, Christ or John the Baptist.) Or spirits which were justly imprisoned?

Verse 20a: “[Christ proclaims or announces something to spirits in jail]… to ones being stubborn once upon a time, a time when He (God or Christ, or both if Christ is God of course) patiently waited, the longsuffering of God…”

So the spirits in jail were ones that had been stubborn to God’s long-suffering at some time in the past. “Longsuffering” is a term in both the NT and the OT which always(?!) everywhere else refers to God’s intention to save sinners from sin and His unwillingness to punish them if possible. (A Calvinist might disagree with that term usage, but an Arminian would not; and even Calvs in my acquaintance realize the term almost always with perhaps only a couple of exceptions refers positively to God’s intention to save sinners! Indeed last year I had one Calvinist apologist admit the term was used everywhere else except the portion under debate–not 1 Peter–to reflect God’s intention and attitude for salvation! And he was wary as a result about having to claim it meant nothing to do with salvation where we were discussing!)

At this point it really doesn’t matter in principle how long ago that was; what matters is what Christ’s intention was to proclaim whatever He did. Which hasn’t been directly mentioned yet, although Peter has tacitly expressed it by context earlier (more on that soon). But Peter goes on to explain who these spirits were:

Verse 20b: “[the time when the spirits were stubborn and God was longsuffering patiently with them]… in Noah-days, (while) the ark being constructed…”

The grammar is a bit glitchy here by English (and maybe Greek) standards, but Peter means the spirits were being stubborn back in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

So we’re talking narratively about the first rebel humans, or about incarnated rebel spirits, or both. Jewish typology generally regards the Flood (and so any scary large body of water) as being the prison of rebel demons, and Peter elsewhere certainly holds to the concept of human sinners being put in the prison of rebel angels. These could be presented as an example of how far Jesus goes to proclaim something to rebel spirits in jail: not just recent ones, but as far back as human history goes. And maybe including rebel angels.

Verse 20c: “…in which (ark) few – this is eight souls – were rescued-through, through water…”

At the time the ark saved only eight persons–and they were hardly sinless! Noah’s family were, by the double way of indicating “through”, catapulted to safety through the violent water that killed the other people (humans and incarnated rebel angels alike).

Note that it doesn’t matter overmuch how historical any of that was; the principle is what counts, and Peter is about to use it as a typological illustration anyway. But it’s a very unexpected typological illustration: Peter starts talking about how the water, not the ark but the water that killed the impenitent sinners, represents the same baptism by which we are saved into Christ!

And it’s definitely the water: the “to which” Peter says baptism is an “antitype” is a singular neuter direct article, so it ought to be referring back to another neuter singular noun or pronoun (or to another neuter singular direct article standing as a pronoun the way this one does. In Greek “the” often means “this” or “that” or “that which” or “the one” or “those” depending on its grammatic form.) The immediately preceding noun, “water”, is a singular neuter (even though it’s in genitive instead of dative form, but that makes no difference here as the reason for referring to it changes correspondingly). But “ark” (along with its connected verb, not incidentally) is singular female, not singular neuter! Nor is there another singular neutral topic nearby, before or afterward, to which “to which” could refer.

It’s possible that this is a grammatic error on Peter’s part; but even if “the ark” was being referred to, it could only stand for an object (a burial tomb?) being baptized by water. The water is still the baptizing subject, and the water is also the means by which (in the story) God kills the rebel humans and angels–to at least one set of whom Christ is now proclaiming something to them in their jail.

But proclaiming what?

Peter doesn’t specifically outright say, which has led to understandable confusion and differences of interpretation. But the local contexts before and after this verse all talk about one thing: salvation of sinners by God. That’s how Peter got into this statement in the first place, encouraging Christians to be kind and unresentful to pagans unjustly making Christians suffer despite being innocent of crimes, so that they can be led to God the way Christ led us to God suffering for us when we were unjust. The comparison is a “greater includes the lesser” type: if Christ voluntarily and even authoritatively suffers to death on a cross to save those unjustly condemning Him, among whom we must include ourselves, we ought to be willing to put up with any amount of social injustice against us, too, for the sake of the people who currently are what we used to be. In fact we can use what happens to us unjustly as an opportunity to give an answer in good conscience for the reason of our hope to those who are currently unjust so that they may be ashamed they have accused us of being doers of evil.

That was how Peter got into discussing Christ going in spirit after being put unjustly to death in the flesh, to spirits in jail who were justly slain and put there by God for being unjust but whom God patiently wanted to save from their sins.

And now, having talked about that, Peter says in 3:21 that the water that killed those sinners is a figure for the water that baptizes us and saves us. The most important way to think of that water, whether the water of the Flood or of our baptism, is not to focus primarily on the putting away of the filth of the flesh (although in somewhat related ways the water did that to the ancient human and angelic rebels just as it does for us), but rather we should present that water–the water of the Flood being a type of the water of our baptism–as somehow being part of “the answer of a good conscience toward God”. This phrase echoes what Peter said back in verses 15 and 16: how we answer those who unjustly accuse us of evil, in explaining the reason of the hope in us, involves us having humility and fear and a good conscience. But this answer of a good conscience must have something to do with connecting the water that slew and imprisoned justly punished rebel humans and angels, to the water that saves us in baptism. It also has to be connected to our salvation being accomplished through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (verse 21), which is itself connected (by application of a typical reference) to Jesus dying in the flesh yet being alive in the spirit.

In all this surrounding context, the only concept that makes thematic and narrative sense would be for Jesus to be preaching the gospel to the dead ones as spirits in jail, with an intention that even though they were slain justly in the flesh they may live to God eventually in the spirit: basically so that sooner or later they will be resurrected with Christ into the “eonian life” that Christ always had and which He shares with those who loyally follow Him.

This would of course require that any rebel angels and authorities and powers who aren’t yet loyal to Him shall be someday made subject to Him–including the ones who had incarnated themselves in human prehistory and were slain by God as rebels along with ancient human rebels. But then Peter appends the brief hymn-kerygma about Christ the resurrected One “Who is in the right-hand of the God, being gone into heaven, of Whom angels and authorities and powers are being subjected to Him!” (verse 3:22)

If Christ suffers over us in the flesh for the sake of our salvation, we should take up arms in the same mind and with the same intention as Christ toward the unjust. (4:1a) Peter goes on to talk about how we in Christ already suffer and have suffered in the flesh to cease from sin, putting away our former pagan misbehaviors that we previously indulged in. But Peter was also just recently talking about another group of unjust people who have suffered in the flesh for their unjust behaviors and attitudes. The same goal, from God’s perspective, must apply. Does that mean impenitence will be passed by? No, it wasn’t passed by for those dead ones, and won’t be passed by for currently impenitent people still alive in the flesh; and Christ is entirely ready to judge both the living ones and the dead oens! And so we come to 4:6:

Verse 4:6: “For into this, also for dead ones, a gospel is brought…”

“The dead ones” is in dative form, so it probably means “regarding dead ones” or “for dead ones” not “to dead ones” in a vector action sense. But {eis touto} is an accusative “in” so it does mean “into this” in a vector action sense. (The initial “for” in English is a post-positive {gar}, the placement of which settles some other grammatic issues here, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)

But there are some much stranger grammatic issues. Why is “evangelized” a singular third-person verb? Like “he is” or “she is” or “it is” evangelized? Grammatically it couldn’t refer to “the dead ones”: they’re plural. Yet it’s also obvious that the evangel applies to “the dead ones” somehow (“that they may be being etc.”, which we’ll get to soon). So what is being evangelized?!

The root word for this term involves a gospel (a good message) being announced to someone. So the singular form of the verb is commonly regarded as applying to the gospel itself, not to whoever is being evangelized. However, there are examples such as Matt 11:5 which show that the term shifts into the plural when plural objects (“poor-ones” in this example) are the receivers of the gospel. (When the verb is in a middle voice the tense matches who is bringing the gospel.)

So since this verb is in passive singular, who or what is having the gospel brought to it/him/her? (The third person singular of this verb can work with any gender or neuter.)

“This” from “into this” is the nearest single noun or pronoun; but then that raises a new puzzle: what is “this” referring to? It’s a singular neutral pronoun; but there aren’t any single neutral nouns or pronouns nearby!

For this reason, translators have tended to supply a reasonable guess as to what “for in(to) this” means: “for this reason”! That does make contextual sense: since everyone shall give an account to Christ who is ready to judge the living and the dead, for this reason the gospel is announced or preached to the dead ones. But this interpretation runs into the grammatic problem that the verb ought to be plural if “the dead ones” are the object of the gospel.

And yet, the gospel is being brought for the salvation of the dead ones:

4:6b: “…so that they may be being judged, certainly according to (or down from) persons in flesh, yet may be living according to (or down from) God in spirit.”

“They” can only mean “the dead ones” here. And the gospel is being brought to something so that these dead ones may not only be judged in their flesh as a result of something men have done, but also so that the dead ones may be living in spirit as a result of something God has done.

And these dead ones are to be contrasted somehow with “living” ones" whom Christ is also ready to judge. Yet they are also to be contrasted somehow in the sense that the gospel is brought also to these dead ones not only to the living ones. We can be 100% sure the general conjunction {kai} not only means “also” here but that the also applies to “the dead ones” not to “In this”: because the {gar}, which in grammatic logic starts the whole clause (as our English “For” starts the clause), but which always runs after the initial word or phrase of the sentence or clause, comes after {eis touto}, but not after {kai}. If the {kai} was meant to apply grammatically to {eis touto} (as some translations put it “For this reason also” or “Also for this reason”), it would be included in that phrase somewhere, at the beginning or the end (so as not to split the prepositional phrase {eis touto}). In other words, the opening phrase would have read {kai eis touto gar} or {eis touto kai gar}, not what it does read {eis touto gar kai}.

If “living ones” from verse 5 means people already “living according to God in spirit”, then the gospel has already been brought to them and they have accepted it (even if Christ is still judging them according to their deeds). So the gospel is brought even to those dead ones whose judgment shall certainly come or has come in the flesh, not for any hopeless purpose but so the dead ones may also be living.

Yet while a reference to judging the living and the dead may involve God (and/or Christ, or God as Christ) judging the deeds of the saved and the unsaved, typically the phrase refers to the judgment of those who are living on earth at the coming of YHWH and also those who have died and so are resurrected to judgment: OT and NT prophetic reports of this coming judgment indicate that those being alive at the time of judgment are not all in God’s good favor but may well be judged and punished as rebels!

Peter’s phraseology is very similar to that of Paul’s in 1 Cor 5:3-5, where Paul judges the Stepmom-Sleeping Guy (as I like to call him) to whole-ruination of the flesh, handing him over to Satan thereby, so that the SSG’s spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus to come.

When this is combined with an argument from back in 1 Peter 3, on its own exegetical merits, that Christ went in spirit to the jail of spirits rightly slain in flesh and imprisoned for their rebellions, to proclaim something to them with a bearing on their salvation, the probability rises exponentially to a virtual certainty that Peter is talking about the gospel being preached to dead ones in spirit jail here, too. A conclusion strengthened by Peter immediately going on to declare:

4:7a, “Now the completion of all-things has come near.”

The spirits who are still rebelling are not completed yet; they are not yet truly submitted to the Son and in the Son to the Father. But Peter, as quote above 3:22, definitely expects this to happen by the power and authority of Christ.

(Notably, the term for “draw near”, literally “is at hand” (or more literally in choking or grasping range!), is one of the base-roots for eu-angelion! It is also the word often applied to “the kingdom of God” (or in GosMatt to “the kingdom of the heavens” where he is using an Aramaic euphamism for God).)

But none of this solves the riddle yet of what (singularly) is being evangelized in verse 4:6!–nor why it would be put as though the gospel is being proclaimed in or into whatever-this-is.

Looking back through the preceding context, the first singular neuter noun or pronoun is {h(i)ô} back at the beginning of verse 4:4. In one way that doesn’t help much, because that’s simply part of another introductory prepositional phrase, {en h(i)ô} “in which”! But that does suggest a connecting chain of ideas. If we can figure out what “in which” applies to, that would be strong evidence of the same thing also applying to “in(to) this” in verse 6.

4:4 has sometimes been translated “Because of this” or “for this reason” or “this is why”. That translation works well enough: it would refer back to the fact that Peter’s audience (whether Jew or Gentile) used to go do the wanton things the other Gentiles do, thus the pagans now think it strange that the Christians don’t run with them into the same puddles of excess anymore. But such a translation wouldn’t help solve the mystery.

Another older way of translating the term has been something like “wherein” (as the KJV puts it). That’s a little more literal, and so a little more particular, but generally the interpretation of the translation (so to speak) amounts to the same thing as before.

But for testing what the pronoun there (or a direct article “the” being used as a pronoun rather) might be specifically referring to, we may look back farther again. It doesn’t refer to any or all of that colorful list of lusty sins immediately prior, because none of those terms are neuter singular, and the list is itself never described by a term. Unless that term would be “the will of the nations” perhaps, but that seems more of a general thing that leads to such a list as a result.

Yet behold!–“the will” {to thelêma} happens to be singular neuter! And in fact, the only other singular neuter noun preceding this nearby refers to “the will of the God”!

Now, the will of the God hardly needs evangelization. But the will of the nations sure does!

It also fits the intermediate reference to a singular neuter something, too: it is because of the corrupted will of the pagans/nations/Gentiles that such people not only think it strange that Christians (and righteous Jews, one may suppose) don’t run into the same puddles as before, but that such people would also come up with slanders to explain such new behavior rather than being impressed by it!

So just as it is because of the corrupted will of fallen mankind that some such people will insist on inventing infamous falsehoods about those who are seeking to willingly cooperate with the will of God, the corrupted will is what is being evangelized so that even dead people who are certainly to be judged in the flesh (thanks in significant part to results of evil deeds passed down by other persons) may also come to live in the spirit despite having been already judged.

As I had previously argued, if 4:6 is properly translated “for this reason”, this would be no evidence against 4:6 referring to dead people (even those slain in judgment for their crimes) as well as living people being evangelized with serious hope of their salvation. But even if 4:6 is properly interpreted to refer instead to the corrupted will being evangelized, this does not weigh against post-mortem evangelization either. If anything it might weigh at least a little more strongly in favor of it, since when the singular corrupted will (“the will of the nations”) is evangelized for the salvation of plural persons (“also regarding the dead ones”), this would imply total evangelization of all people, those who are alive and those already dead and (in regard to the flesh) already judged–even if, logically and properly, there is more judgment for them on the way so long as they continue in impenitence.

Next up: a local context against this analysis?

**Part 15 (subpart 4 of x): JRP’s Analysis of 1 Peter 4:17-18 **

An argument against my analysis of the relevant 1 Peter texts commonly appealed to from chapters 3 and 4, could be attempted from more extended contexts of 1 Peter (maybe including 2 Peter and/or Jude), or even from more extended contexts in the NT or even the OT; but there would have to be a principle argument provided to explain why one set of testimony should be interpreted in light of the apparently contrasting set instead of vice versa! Although in my experience I have found that several such portions, on their own merits without reference to these verses, do not testify to hopeless punishment (or any inadvertently hopeless fate either).

But since not long afterward Peter reminds his readers (4:17-18) that it is the season of the One (i.e. God) to begin the judgment from the house of God, with indications that have been interpreted as hopeless for some people, I will append this sub-part as a consideration of them.

“And if foremost (chiefly emphatically first) from us, what (is) the completion of the ones being stubborn as to the good news of God? Yet/and/but if the just one hardly is being saved (literally ‘is being saved toil-ly’), where shall the irreverent one and sinner be appearing?”

Obviously these statements are a how-much-more comparison of some kind. Just as obviously, the comparison is one of difficulty and even more difficulty. And just as obviously, the comparison is that even just or fair ones in the house of God are being saved with difficulty (which the adverb {molia} has to mean), so the unjust and ungodly are going to have an even more difficult time!

So it isn’t unreasonable to interpret these verses, in themselves and on the face of it, as indicating that the end-result of at least some people will be hopeless punishment–and even, due to the stress about the difficulty of saving even the few fair people, that a large majority will be too difficult for God to save from their sins (or perhaps that God won’t even try, although not necessarily because it’s too difficult).

A closer consideration however reveals peculiarities.

First, the gist of Peter’s statement indicates that even those people who are already morally good are saved with difficulty. The rhetorical point of including them for comparing those who are morally bad would be lost otherwise. But Peter doesn’t think that God only saves good people. In fact, in other undisputed contexts of the Petrine epistles (including undisputed portions of the disputed verses previously discussed), Peter emphatically affirms that God goes out of His way to save people who are not yet good!

Second, the “just one” is paralleled with “us” who are of “the house of God”. If by “us” Peter means people who are already Christians in the house of God, that would mean God has a hard time saving even Christians He has already saved. A hardshell Arminian might agree with that, the idea being that even a saved Christian may lose salvation from sin to any degree (and be permanently lost); but the logic here would amount to this: that God has a hard time saving even Christians He has already saved, much moreso saving people He has not already saved! It must at least not be impossible despite the harder hardship for God to save those whom He has not already saved, or no one would ever be saved at all!

On the other hand, a Calvinist could interpret “us” and “the just one” as referring to people whom God has originally committed Himself to saving. But then the logic of the passage is broken again: aside from Calvs generally insisting that it is easy for God’s omnipotent sovereignty to save whomever He intends to save (the point of tension being a question of when He does so and the extension of the process which He decides upon for His own sovereign purposes), Peter is talking about judgment beginning with and from the house of God. But in Calv soteriology no one begins in the house of God, nor begins by obeying the Gospel–or they wouldn’t need saving in the first palce! And the elect are not themselves inherently righteous originally; in fact, Calvinists tend to regard any apparent righteousness before being saved as only a Satanic counterfeit.

This leads to the third point, which is that the logic suggests that by “us” and “the house of God” and “the just one”, Peter is talking about religiously Temple-observant Jews who are not yet loyal to Jesus.

This would fit well with a number of other observations (as we’ll soon see); the main problem (as the fourth point) is that it would be an unexpected topical jump! The preceding and subsequent contexts for a long way in either direction are about Christians (“us” and “you”) being exhorted to keep on being righteous even in the various difficulties imposed by suffering. Why would Peter be jumping now to talking about how judgment is starting with Temple Jews and going on to irreverent pagans? Nor can Peter be simply holding such Jews up (whom he would have to be including himself and his readers among as “us”) as an example, contrasted to his audience, of coming hopeless condemnation from God (if these will be hopelessly condemned how much moreso those others): Peter talks about this group being saved (even if that’s difficult), and about this group contrasting with those who do not obey the gospel of God.

Still, the fifth point would be that interpreting “the just one” and “us” who are in “the house of God” as Temple-observant Jews does fit the previous context of talking about evil behavior as applying primarily or at least emblematically to “the nations”. Peter isn’t talking to his congregation about rebel Jews being emblematic of unjust ones; yet that happens, too, many places in the NT and also in the OT for that matter! There is even a famous incident in which Peter was directly involved where a clearly just and fair man, a Jew specifically of the house of God, had trouble entering the kingdom of God.

And this brings us to the seventh and perhaps most important point. I find it interesting that the New American Standard Version translators treat Peter as quoting a scripture from somewhere else, not merely alluding to one–the text of 4:18 is printed in all caps except for the introductory conjunction {kai}. But the two verses they suggest, Proverbs 11:31 and Luke 23:31, clearly aren’t the source of the quotation at all!

There is however an anecdote in the Synoptic Gospels, in material traditionally understood to derive from agreed apostolic preaching (triple Synoptic sourcing, reflecting material the apostles agreed on as being how they would bring the gospel to the world), in which the apostles (probably including Peter but he was at least present to see their amazement) were stunned that a rich young synagogue chief was having difficulty, despite his clear actions indicating he was a fair man who truly cared about justice, entering the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:17-31; Matt 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30)

When this man, whom Jesus was fond of (Mark 10:21) went away grieving, for he was one with much property and could not bring himself to sell it and give it to the poor (although this may be misinterpreting afterward by the disciples, since the synagogue chief would have likely been troubled even more by Jesus effectively putting loyalty to Himself as keeping the first table of the commandments to love God alone and no one else!), Jesus looked around to them:

If it is hard for even those with all the advantages (whether wealthy, healthy synagogue chiefs or Jewish Christians) to enter into the kingdom of God–and Jesus even warned Peter and the other apostles, not long prior to this incident, that they themselves would not by any means be entering into the kingdom unless they changed their prideful attitudes!–the natural reply is that it must be even harder for those who do not have such advantages.

And again, notice how the imagery chosen by Jesus, being nauseous from too much food, fits ironically with Peter’s list of sins from “the will of the pagans” back a few verses earlier in chapter 4!

Readers checking the Gospel references for context may also notice that each Synoptic account features Peter specifically answering Jesus in prideful misunderstanding, that they the apostles have (unlike that rich chief) left everything to follow Jesus. But Jesus answers (Mark 10:30) that while those who do so shall receive back a hundred times now (and eonian life in the age to come), they shall also receive persecutions. Which has been a main theme of Peter’s epistle since back in chapter 3!

Many years later while writing this epistle, Peter (who certainly failed much harder than this, before and afterward!) has enough sense to identify himself and his congregation, “us”, as being among those who can be saved only with difficulty; but if he is only being humble about that in the epistle, why bring up the comparison with pagan behavior?

I suggest that the comparison with pagan behavior makes the most sense in the extended context of Peter’s history (per the Synoptic Gospel accounts), and per the preceding local context of 1 Peter (argued extensively for above, on its own merits), if it is a rabbinic form of allusion to the incident with the rich young synagogue ruler: Peter expects his audience to know the answer to the implied question of “if it is so difficult for people with all the advantages, then how could those other people ever be saved?” to be Christ’s “With mankind it is impossible, but with God all things are possible!”

(Whereas, by contrast, Christianity has traditionally answered the question instead with, “With God it is also impossible!” or else “It is impossible for mankind because God Himself never intended to do so in the first place!”)

And so at last ends my interpretation of immediate and local contexts of 1 Peter 3:19.

Next up: a report and consideration of JPH’s interpretations

Well, I’ve been busy with other projects on site for a while, but I was able to take some time this morning to catch up through the end of JP Holding’s article vs. Post-Mortem Salvation. Readers are encouraged to follow along in a parallel window or tab, via the link reminder in this paragraph: search his text for 1 Peter 3:18 and your browser should take you right to it–or start at the bottom and scroll up about 1/3 of the way. (His preceding discussion is against a Mormon usage of Hebrews 11:39-40, to help reference.)

Note: JPH has no reference to 1 Peter 3 or 4 at all in WIHIGO, my counteranalysis only has to focus on his article linked above.

Part 15 (subpart 5 of 5): JPH’s Analysis of 1 Peter 3-4, and JRP’s rebuttal

I have already responded (back in subpart 1) to JPH’s claim that all Church Fathers only indicate certain OT saints are released from hades by the descent–on the contrary, this super-exclusionary view was a weak minority, although it is true that all Fathers (who wrote about the topic at all) naturally regarded the OT righteous (however far that group extended) to be those released from hades. But as I allowed, that may be neither here nor there.

JPH’s first argument (aside from the possibly trivial but certainly incorrect historical aside) is that the phrase “was made alive in the spirit” indicates the preaching or proclamation must have happened after Christ’s resurrection, not before it. This would make no difference to post-mortem evangelization in principle if true; indeed if anything it would indicate a wider scope for the evangelization as it wouldn’t be limited to merely the day or so when Christ’s body was dead! And personally I can see the force of the rhetorical distinction between being put to death in the flesh and being made alive in the spirit, both of which are actions done to Christ.

However, since the Son is given life in the spirit continually by the Father in any case, whether Incarnate or not, I am obliged by theological coherency to note that the phrasesology doesn’t necessarily point to a raised body; and I am even obliged to note that a raised body isn’t mentioned at all in this phrase!

JPH thinks that comparisons with other scriptures will indicate that this phraseology “clearly” refers to the resurrection. His first comparison, though, from Romans 1:3-4, doesn’t include the phraseology, although it does explicitly mention the resurrection out from the dead ones. Romans 8:11 explicitly talks about bodies being made alive through the Spirit living in us, whereas verse 10 immediately preceding explicitly contrasts people’s spirits still being alive while their bodies are dead! (Admittedly that may mean bodies having death in them while naturally alive, but still the contrast is striking.) 1 Cor 15:45 is written explicitly in a surrounding context regarding a spiritual body and still does not include the same phrasesology. 1 Tim 3:16 speaks of Christ being revealed in the flesh and vindicated by (or in) the Spirit, but doesn’t even clearly refer to the bodily resurrection (since being revealed in the flesh might be a reference to Incarnation), much less use the phraseology in question here at 1 Peter 3.

I’m actually sorry JPH couldn’t come up with a better argument from phraseology usage (or from immediate and/or local context, but he doesn’t even try that) for the phrase to mean bodily resurrection, because I’d actually prefer that–even though that still wouldn’t preclude Christ from preaching to spirits in prison during the interrment. (When Christ says in GosLuke that the crucified rebel will be with Him that day in paradise, the reference culturally must be to the ‘heaven’ side of hades, and the same Gospel reports Jesus indicating that at least communication can be made between the side of hades.) The reference to 2 Kings 5:7 as parallel phraseology via Michaels is helpful and appreciated–although the choice of scripture there is curious as the “making alive” in context only has to do with curing leprosy or could be regarded as bringing life originally. It isn’t about “making alive in the spirit”. (It does however remind me of other scriptures where God talks about how He wounds and heals, kills and brings to life–usually in context of punishing rebels until they repent of their sins after which He will restore them!)

Certainly I agree that the grammar (as I myself argued) indicates that the preaching to the spirits was a direct outcome of Jesus being made alive in spirit, but JPH and/or Michaels is at least mistaken (and maybe begging the question) that the grammar in itself indicates the preaching was “a direct outcome of [Christ’s] resurrection from the dead” per se.

Despite actually wanting the reference to be to Christ having been resurrected from the dead, I can’t in good faith argue (yet) that the phrase clearly means this; and since some opponents of PME (much moreso universalism) appeal to this preaching as only happening during Christ’s interrment, I conservatively allow that the phrasing may only be specifically referring to that.

Which doesn’t mean that Christ was and is logically impotent to continue to do so afterward or even before, nor that Christ must therefore choose not to do so afterward. As I argued from an extensive examination of the preceding context (and the reader will quickly discover I argue far more specifically from surrounding contexts than JPH does), Peter’s point is a reverse how-much-moreso comparison of example: if Christ goes this far for the sake of even these sinners, we ought to be willing to do what little we ourselves can do when being unjustly maligned for the same sake of sinners. The spirits in prison from Noah’s day are brought up as an example of this principle application, so the reference doesn’t have to be merely to them or exclusive of any sinners in hades before or after. (The reader may recall I argue on the grammar that the water of the flood is paralleled typologically to the baptism which saves us spiritually, but you won’t find JPH talking about that. Nor, by the way, does he try to apply his result, that this happened after the resurrection, against post-mortem evantgelization. So he may only regard it as a trivial matter in passing, one way or the other.)

I do at least strongly agree that other references in the scriptures to Jesus being resurrected (including bodily resurrection) tend to indicate this happens by or in the spirit or Spirit, so to the same extent I can strongly sympathize with the suggestiveness of that parallel.

For JPH’s second main argument, he tries to make hay out of the timing of the spirits’ imprisonment. Why exactly the thief on the cross should be brought in as a contrast I don’t know, since Jesus explicitly promises he’ll be with Jesus in paradise, therefore wouldn’t be a stubborn spirit being preached to in any case!

JPH thinks that simply specifying that these are an indicative sample would be begging the question; and admittedly that would be true unless there was an argument built to the effect that Peter was looking for an illustration to a point he was making and so would not need more than an especially interesting sample. Which of course is part of my own analysis for the verses. (JPH mentions no preceding context for the verses in question.)

But it is also quite literally begging the question to ask “Did Christ not also preach to those who lived between Noah and his own time that had died? If so, why does the verse not say so? Why are those of Noah’s time specifically mentioned if this was a message to all who had died prior to Christ?”

JPH will try to anchor this begging of the question from silence by seguing into his third main argument, that the spirits are only the rebel angels who incarnated before the flood, and not also human spirits. This seems to run against JPH’s own expectations that rebel angels are surely permadamned, since Peter talks about how God (even apparently as Christ!) was longsuffering toward them in those days, using a term that (as I noted) is practically everywhere else associated with God’s salvific patience toward someone! (This detail isn’t mentioned by JPH.) Also, the phrase “the spirits who disobeyed” doesn’t logically exclude the inclusion of human sinners: after all, they are now (only) spirits, too.

This is all leading up (somewhat weakly) to a far more interesting and notable argument, namely that Peter had the descent of Enoch from the apocryphal pre-Christian Jewish text 1 Enoch in mind, and was speaking of what Christ factually did using forms of imagery borrowed from 1 Enoch.

This seems to me quite likely, too, especially since Jude in his epistle (which is basically a shorter version of 1 Peter, for whatever reason) directly references an apocryphal Enoch text! (Jude 1:14ff) Strangely, JPH himself doesn’t mention this, but I’m willing to volunteer it to help his case. He also, even more strangely, doesn’t quote 1 Enoch on verses where the rebel angels and their hybrid descendents are told by Enoch that their punishment is hopeless–even though JPH’s express purpose in citing those two verses was to illustrate Enoch telling them “they’re out of luck”, as JPH puts it.

Almost as strangely, JPH argues against Grudem (who recognizes like Augustine that some kind of evangelization is being referred to, and so who also like Augustine figures this therefore cannot refer to a descent into hades but rather to evangelizing only humans before the Flood) that while 1 Enoch refers to human sinners, they aren’t specially connected to the days of Noah but are slated for (JPH’s emphasis) final judgment. How exactly this is supposed to contrast with the rebel spirits JPH has in view is unclear, since elsewhere the Petrine and Jude epistles speak of them and human sinners together awaiting judgment in the Day of YHWH to come. (Not called “final” judgment, by the way.)

It doesn’t seem to occur to JPH that Peter may be speaking of what Christ does factually correctly what Enoch does fictitiously and incorrectly! (Notably Jude doesn’t mention Christ’s descent into hades, and Peter doesn’t specifically cite Enoch as a true prophet.) Granted, once a connection to the apocryphal text is established as plausible (and I acknowledge this), the reasonable first guess would be that Peter means to say the same thing as his text in mind. But if the context of Peter indicates otherwise, and I have argued extensively that it does, then the reasonable first guess ought to be modified to fit the data.

Part of that data, which JPH does not address, involves Christ as/and God being longsuffering over the spirits in view. That’s an important salvific term! Then there’s also the comparison (in Greek) of the water of the Flood to baptism of sinners; and the rhetorical connection of this whole reference in the first place to Peter’s exhortation (which also continues in chapter 4 after this portion) to bear up under unfair persecution as part of an evangelical witness for the sake of those who are doing the persecuting!

JPH mentions none of these; but he does address a further contextual problem with his theory: the fact that the term {ke_russo_} is used to describe what Christ does toward these spirits.

JPH (and his source, Michaels) admits that the term is “often” used in the NT to refer to “either Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God or his disciples’ proclamation of the good news of his death and resurrection.” That’s putting it a little over-mildly, though. At no time in reference to Christ (whether by Christ or by apostles about Christ) is the term used (elsewhere) in the New Testament for anything other than salvific preaching!–often involving direct reference to the Greek word for “gospel”. The reader may satisfy yourself on this point by referring to a concordance; here for convenience is a search report on the term (set to New American Standard but many other translations are available) from the Blue Letter Bible site. Contexts of the verses mentioned should be checked, of course.

Now, admittedly a Calvinist might want to quibble about that, since they would expect the preaching of the gospel generally to sometimes be heard by people whom God never had any intention to even try to save and so who were (and are) never empowered by God to even possibly accept the gospel. But an Arminian like JPH would logically regard any offer of repentance and salvation to be genuinely intended for acceptance; and even on a Calvinistic soteriological interpretation, at no time is the term used in reference to preaching by-or-about Christ specifically to people for whom God has no intention to lead to repentance and salvation–unless this is the sole exception.

Such a sole exception is technically possible, of course, but the argument for it would have to be very strong; and I would say the contextual argument (otherwise unaddressed by JPH) for salvific intention being in view is very strong here instead.

JPH tries to get around this problem by observing that Peter never uses the term himself when referring to preaching of the gospel, preferring instead to use the verbal term “evangelizing” (in English it would read rather strangely, “evangelizing the evangel”, which is why we don’t usually translate it that way). But that would hardly be evidence, unless the argument was also that Peter never “preached” and never expected others to “preach” the gospel!–completely aside from any argument for contextual connections between 1 Peter 3 and 4, where the term “gospel” is certainly used about “dead ones”. (Which JPH will address soon.)

JPH refers to Michaels linking this proclamation to the request of the unclean spirits of Mark 5 for a haven (Mark 5:10, 12) and their inquiry as to whether Jesus had come to torment them “before the time” (Matt. 8:29). But the term “proclamation” was not used by Jesus to them about the hopelessness of their state, here or in any other Gospel scene, and Michaels is left with a mere speculation (although JPH calls it a conclusion) that the proclamation of 1 Peter 3 "“may simply have been that their ‘prison’ or ‘refuge’ was no longer inviolate. They too, like all other powers in the universe, must now submit to his sovereignty (cf. v. 22, ‘angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him’).”

Of course, if they are still rebels then they haven’t really at heart submitted to His sovereignty, which God elsewhere derides as hypocrisy and does not accept as true submission. JPH (and Michaels) would leave them in that state, thus falsifying in spirit what Peter prophecies shall eventually come to pass. More importantly, JPH’s notion of agonistic suffering has nothing even slightly to do with rebel angels even hypocritically and falsely submitting to God, but rather divorces God from having anything to do with rebel souls at all! (Or at least after judgment; but truly submitting to God at judgment would involve repenting of sin, so no true submission has been accomplished there on JPH’s theory, much less afterward.)

My final criticism for this part of his interpretation is that it simply breaks the thematic flow of the preceding context. If JPH is correct, Peter wrote something like this:

Peter has been encouraging his Christian readers to live righteously even if they suffer for it, including the famous verse about being always ready to give a defense {apologian} to every one requesting from us an account about the hope in us with meekness and fear. The meekness and fear apparently apply to our attitude in defending the account of our hope, and is by context intended to imply good behavior on our part such that those who talk as though we are evildoers will be ashamed of having done so. For it is better (3:17), if God so wills it, for us to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. Christ is presented as the example we should follow, Who also suffered, even voluntarily so, for doing good rather than for doing evil, and did so for the sake of the evil ones! By commending Christ to us as our example for patiently suffering unfair treatment from sinners, we’re logically expected to do so with the same intention in mind as Christ: for the sake of the unjust ones, that in being ashamed about their mistreatment and misunderstanding of us they may be led to repent and return to loyalty to God, just as we ourselves did. In fact, Christ our leader and example and Savior, went so far in this that, being caused to die in flesh yet being caused to live in spirit, being gone in spirit He even…

…proclaims to the spirits in jail that they have no haven to hide in anymore, and that they will have to submit to His authority but not really (because that would involve real repentance and restoration by God)?!?

Not even counting other contextual evidence that this was an evangelical mission, JPH’s theory would be presenting Christ as an example for us to follow totally at odds with the evangelical thrust Peter was talking about up to that point.

JPH then moves on to 1 Peter 4:6 and its contexts, sort of.

JPH relies on a translation from the New International Version which, as he admits, includes a word not there in the text, “now”, which makes it seem as though the text is talking about people recently deceased. He’s well aware the word isn’t there in the text, and doesn’t try to argue that it’s implied by the grammar (possibly because he knows that it isn’t); thus the only justification for reading this word and its implications into the text would be if the rest of the text was clearly talking about the gospel being preached to recently departed people and specifically to recently departed Christians–since what JPH is attempting is to interpret the passage so that in effect it reads, “For this reason the gospel has been preached to recently departed Christians * so that they may be judged according to men in regard to the body but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” The idea being that the gospel was preached to recently departed Christians so that they could be killed by sinners and live to God.

The first big problem with this theory is that it requires at least as much “reading in” of the ideology being aimed at as what JPH wants to complain about: so much so that a qualifying term is invented out of nowhere to strengthen the interpretation!

And that term has to be read in explicitly or tacitly, because otherwise the verse would be saying that the gospel was preached (admittedly using the verbal form of “gospel” there, not the usual word for “preaching” or “proclamation” as back in chapter 3) even to the dead ones. This is a fairly proper translation of a phraseology actually in the texts, {eis touto gar kai nekroi euêggelisthê}: “For in this also to dead ones is evangelized”. Something is also evangelized even to dead ones. As I argued from a very close reading of prior contexts, what is evangelized in these dead ones is what was evangelized to every sinner, the will of the Gentiles, in which Peter’s audience also used to walk. But the rhetorical construction of the grammar of the sentence stresses how far this evangelization of the will of the Gentiles goes: even to dead ones.

This is so obviously there in the text that even the NIV still retains the grammar of it in their own interpretative translation; but then it becomes just as obvious that Peter must be talking about an extent of evangelization being appealed to for some purpose: an extent that cannot simply be to recently departed Christians (since of all people those would be most obviously evangelized thus useless for some kind of example of an extent), or even to people currently dead in their sins (so to speak) while alive on this earth (because that’s simply everyone alive until they become a Christian, out of whom Peter’s audience was saved–the group out of which one is saved can hardly be a surprising or rhetorically impressive extent of evangelization!)

There is only one group that contextually fits: sinners, like those slain in the Flood, who are really dead, and whom men (in contrast to God) typically tend to regard as having been judged to ultimate death.

Also worth noting: at no time in his interpetation does JPH even acknowledge the rhetorical appeal evident in “even to those who are dead”, much less account for that in his interpretation.

JPH (and his sources) rightly complain about any PME interpretation here that simply ignores preceding context–which my intepretation certainly does not–but JPH falls into a circular argument: a PME interpretation of 1 Peter 4 is weakened without context from 1 Peter 3 which he things he has now “severed”; but practically all his severing attempt was based on claiming there was no context for 1 Peter 3 to have involved a preaching of the gospel (including supplying an extra-canonical referential context without such a preaching). As I argued there is actually plenty of context for interpreting 1 Peter 3 as involving gospel preaching even without reference to 1 Peter 4; and 1 Peter 4, as I have shown, can stand fairly well by itself as a reference to post-mortem preaching to the dead for salvation. So if they reinforce one another for a PME interpretation it isn’t in a circular fashion, but based on their own independent strengths.

JPH also thinks that the “clause of purpose” at 1 Peter 4:6 somehow “doesn’t fare well with a PME interpretation”, so that PME has to be read into the verse over against literary and social context; but he doesn’t mention any details about this social context, and at least a PME interpretation doesn’t rely on tacitly or explicitly inventing a term to offset a meaning that would be otherwise fairly apparent.

One of JPH’s commentary sources, I. Howard Marshall (for whom I have much respect by the way), thinks the context of 4:5 provides an “insuperable obstacle” because “the point of verse 5 is that persecutors will be condemned at the judgment. A statement that the dead will hear the gospel and live follows on most illogically from this.” But it only follows illogically if condemnation at the judgment is hopeless rather than itself being an opportunity for repentance. Nor is being currently slated for judgment an inherently hopeless state, even if the judgment itself is hopeless–otherwise no one would ever be saved from our sins! For we all stand under judgment until we heed the gospel call and repent.

In other words, even supposing the judgment to come is itself hopeless, all the more reason for the gospel to be preached even to those who are dead, so that even if they have been judged in the body according to men they may still live in the spirit according to God! This is in fact the same rationale for JPH’s own hope that all people are given sufficient opportunity to be saved at the point of death if not before (and not after); the only difference is that Peter would be testifying that the offer is made even to dead persons, too.

Admittedly, the reference to the righteous who seemed to die in the sight of the unwise in The Wisdom of Solomon chapter 3 makes a fine conceptual parallel to JPH’s interpetation attempt. But in the canonical OT it isn’t only the righteous whom God refines like gold in His coming judgment, unto salvation (Mal 3).

JPH has (at the time he wrote this article) heard only one objection to his interpretation, namely that calling Christians “dead ones” (distinct from sinners or from dead people generally, Christian and unchristian alike) would be very peculiar. JPH tries to get around that by appeal for an author to choose his own terminology–which is reasonable so far as it goes, but doesn’t go far against a strong contextual argument that Peter meant what the term usually means: dead sinners or dead people generally! Admittedly, only Paul (and Jesus in GosJohn although JPH has forgotten this) use the term “fallen asleep” to talk about the righteous dead in the NT; I seem to recall that non-Christian Jews used the term that way, too, in contemporary times, but I admit that this doesn’t mean Peter would have to use something softer than the blunt “dead ones” to talk about dead Christians. The rhetorical contrast “also/even to the dead ones” is much more important.

Having said that, it’s still a fact that this term is never used in the NT to refer to dead Christians per se. It’s used to refer to dead people indisriminately, or to sinners (whether literally or figuratively dead), or at least to people who in some way need help because they are dead. At most it is used of Lazarus who is among the dead-ones in hades, although on the paradise side of it with Abraham. It would be very strange (although admittedly not impossible) for Peter himself to refer to Christians who, of all people–even apparently on JPH’s interpretation–ought to be living according to God in the spirit, as “dead ones”, over against all NT testimony of the term’s usage! It’s a lot easier to interpret Peter to mean “even dead sinners” have had the gospel preached to them so that, even though judged in the body according to men, they may be living in the spirit according to God.

JPH concludes his article with the statement, “it is clear that the theories of divine perseverance and PME remain in the realm of speculation for the Christian and anyone else who depends upon the Bible for support.” I hope I have demonstrated from extensive exegetical analysis that those who depend on the Bible for support have at least as strong a reason for their hope in both post-mortem evangelism and in divine perseverance toward salvation for sinners from sin after death, as those who deny the hope of salvation from sin for some people–and even that our apologetics for the hope of our faith (in that other famous phrase from 1 Peter, closely connected in context to the preaching of Christ to spirits in prison) should have this doctrine in view: even the worst sinners can be, have been, and will be evangelized until they truly submit to God in Christ and God is all in all!*

As previously noted, JPH has released his updated version of agonistic theory of eternal conscious suffering post-mortem (“agonistic” being an old term for honor/shame relationships, not referring to “agony” of course), as part of his e-book on Atonement theory, and I’ll be getting to that eventually, too. :slight_smile: But I needed to finish up here first.

Part 15: Analysis of 1 Peter 3-4, postscript addendum

Yesterday, after finishing my critique of JPH’s analysis of 1 Peter 3-4, I unexpectedly ran across another suggestive bit of grammatic evidence, which while I don’t regard it as an absolute lock in favor of post-mortem evangelism there, does lean in the direction not only of PME but successful PME!

Readers may recall back several entries ago when I was discussing the Greek terms of the relevant portions of 1 Peter 3, that I talked about how strange it was for Peter to include two related terms for “when” or “once”, {hote} and {pote}, while referring to the spirits who had once been disobedient. Specifically, the term {hote} was used in talking about how God had once been longsuffering over them, and {pote} was used in talking about how they had once been disobedient.

At the time I simply interpreted that as meaning Peter had to talk about two different topics–the disobedience of the spirits and the longsuffering of God over their disobedience–and chose two different non-interrogative terms for “when” for variety’s sake.

That could still be true, but I learned yesterday while studying something else, that the term {pote} almost always refers to a state of affairs that the speaker either recognizes as being altered or wishes to alter in the future (or expects to have altered in the future).

A concordance search turned up a lot of support for that interpretation–interested readers may look for themselves here at the Blue Letter Bible site, but since {pote} despite being a fairly simply word is relatively rare in the NT I’ll mention the examples here. (Note: this follows UBS/Nestle text based occurences; Textus Receptus based translations, such as the classic King James/Authorized version, may include one more instance of the term.)

In order of their occurrence in the NT:

Luke 22:32 – Jesus looks forward to a time when Peter has not only become disloyal (denying Jesus to save himself) but has afterward become loyal again: “and you, when {pote} you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”.

John 9:13 – after the man born blind has been healed he is called “the man who was {pote} blind”.

Rom 1:10 – Paul has been praying that, by the will of God, he may now {pote} succeed in coming to the Roman congregation. He wants the current state of affairs, where he hasn’t been able to come, to change.

Rom 7:9 – Paul was once alive apart from the Law, but {pote} the commandment came, sin became alive and he died.

Rom 11:30 – For just as Paul’s audience {pote} were disobedient to God but now have been shown mercy and as a result are now obediently loyal to God, so Paul also expects non-Christian Jews currently stumbling over Christ to become obedient someday thanks to the obedience of formerly disobedient persons.

1 Cor 9:7 – Paul rhetorically asks, “who {pote} serves as a soldier at his own expense?” This may seem like an exception to the series of grammatic observations, but the usage of {pote} there is kind of weird anyway: why would Paul be referring to a particular time in this rhetorical question? The New American Standard makes a reasonable guess that Paul means “who at any time serves etc.” But being a wargamer who knows some ancient history, I happen to know that once upon a time Roman soldiers (or officers anyway) did serve at their own expense!–but after the highly important Marian reforms, Rome’s military instituted professional standards and became an officially permanent standing army, upkept by the government! This happened before Paul’s day, and historically it was and remained a huge factor in Imperial life, generally regarded as a major improvement for the safety of the Empire overall and as a major improvement for the lives of soldiers particularly. Contextually this fits very well with Paul’s apologetic appeal about his motives to his critics (probably including his foe the Stepmom-Sleeping Guy) in the Corinthian church: he has a perfect right to financial support from Christian churches, which he illustrates by secular and sacred examples, but he has never required that the Corinthians support him, nor is he writing this in order to ask them to start. A reference to the changes of the Marian reforms in Imperial history, when officers and their troops started being upkept by the government (instead of the officers having to finance both themselves and their troops) makes total sense in that context.

Gal 1:13 – Paul expects the Galatians to have heard about his {pote} manner of life in Judaism, how he used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. Obviously he doesn’t do that anymore.

Gal 1:23 – The people in Jerusalem kept hearing about how Paul who {pote} persecuted them is now preaching the faith which he {pote} tried to destroy.

Eph 2:2-3 – Paul’s Christian audience {pote} walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, etc, and among those people Paul (or the epistle’s author–this is one of the evidences that Paul himself may not have written it) also {pote} lived in the lusts of their flesh, indulging in the desires of their minds and flesh, and were by nature children of wrath and sons of disobedience. But not anymore. (Note: Paul regarded himself as zealous for the Law as a Pharisee of Pharisees, so it would be strange for him to describe himself as formerly being this way.)

Eph 2:11-13 – Paul’s readers in Ephesus should recall that {pote} they were separate from Christ back at that time, and excluded from the commonwealth of Israel etc., but now in Christ Jesus they who {pote} were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Eph 5:8 – Paul’s audience was {pote} darkness, but now they are Light in the Lord, so they should walk as children of Light.

Eph 5:29 – No one {pote} hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church. This seems like an exception to the general usage, but Paul could be speaking about an ironic contrast, especially in relation to previous things he’s said in this epistle: his audience definitely didn’t hate their own flesh but used to indulge their flesh into sin! That’s changed now: they (ideally) don’t do that anymore; instead they should love their flesh in a different way, husbands loving their wives (even with erotic imagery) just as Christ also loves the Church. It would have been better for them to have hated their flesh than to have indulged it in sexual sin; but it’s better still for husbands and wives to love each other, including caring for each other’s bodies in conjugal affection.

Philippians 4:10 – Paul rejoices in the Lord greatly that this congregation has {pote} revived their concern for Paul, although Paul clarifies that he realizes the Philippians were concerned before but lacked opportunity. That has changed: now they have opportunity to express their concern.

Col 1:12 – the Colossians were {pote} alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, but now they have been reconciled by Christ.

Col 3:7 – Paul says the Colossian Christians {pote} walked in and were living in greed, passion, evil desires, and other things which amounted to idolatry; but now (v.8) they have put all those things aside.

1 Thess 2:5 – Paul and his companions never {pote} came to them with flattering speeches nor with a pretext for greed, as the Thessalonians should know. This is an exception which fits the rule: Paul explicitly uses a negative form of the term, {oute pote} (with a post-postive {gar} in between), to emphasize that the situation hasn’t changed. Paul’s continued emphasis, however, including calling God to witness in this same verse, indicates some kind of problem he is trying to address. 2 Thessalonians ends with Paul going out of his way to sign the greeting with his own hand, asking his readers to notice how he writes, which has been reasonably taken as evidence he is trying to combat forgery; so his emphases here in 1 Thess 2 may have the same goal in view.

Titus 3:3 – Paul talks about how he and other Christians were {pote} foolish themselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts, etc. Then they became Christians.

Philemon 1:11 – Onisephorus was {pote} useless to Philemon, but now he is useful both to Phil and to Paul.

Heb 1:5, 13 – To which of the angels did God {pote] say this or that thing? This could be regarded as an exception, since the point is that God did and does say these things to the Son instead of to angels–in that sense the situation hasn’t changed. However, something has changed between the time these were given prophetically and the time of the Hebraist writing: the Incarnation and Ascension of the Son, after which the Father can say even more pertinently, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”, and again “I will be a Father to Him and He shall be a Son to Me”, and “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet”. The Hebraist is first concerned in chapter 1 with establishing the unique divinity of the Son as YHWH; in chapter 2 he’ll start emphasizing the incarnation of the Son as a human man.

So far we can see that with some possible exceptions, the term usually refers very clearly to a situation that has changed or is expected or hoped to change; and even the few exceptions have plausible explanations for why they aren’t or may not be exceptions.

The reader may now notice that most of these come from Paul, and that the most likely set of usages which don’t fit the pattern come from somone, the Herbaist, who may not be Paul; so may reply that perhaps this is only a way Paul (or his various scribes translating in to Greek) likes to write. Maybe other authors, like Peter and/or his scribe (Jude?), would use the term differently.

As it happens, the last times the term occurs in the typical order of the canonical NT, are in the Petrine epistles, of which there are several examples. What then do we find?

1 Pet 2:10 – Peter’s audience {pote} were not a people and had not received mercy, but now they are the people of God and have received mercy.

1 Pet 3:5 – the holy women who hoped in God {pote} used to adorn themselves this way, being submissive to their own husbands. This looks like an exception, until one realizes Peter is talking about women who don’t do that anymore because they died back in OT times! (In fact, they may have even been unclothed for burial, or at least that would be the contemporary expectation of Peter’s Jewish audience.)

2 Pet 1:10 – As long as Peter’s audiences does these things they will never {pote} stumble in the future. The situation won’t change, or hopefully won’t, but Peter uses the negative modifier {oute} with {pote}.

2 Pet 1:21 – for prophecy was not {pote} made by an act of human will. That hasn’t changed, but Peter is using the negative modifier {oute} with {pote} again.

In light of all this we may now consider whether Peter, using {pote} in regard to ancient sinners, who {pote} were disobedient in the days of Noah, means that this situation hasn’t changed now, or that it has now changed, and if so in what way.

Peter doesn’t use the {oute} negative modifier used by other authors, and himself, to indicate the situation has not or will not sometime have changed. It is no longer the days of Noah, but mere passage of time is not what has changed in the other examples. The sinners no longer walk the earth in bodies, but that wasn’t a topic Peter was talking about–which has led to some interpretative confusion about whether he means ancient human sinners, ancient rebel angels, or both or neither!

On the other hand, whenever an author, demonstrably including Peter, uses {pote} in regard to sinners, in every other New Testament occurrence of the term (in that situation) the author is contrasting the way sinners used to behave before they repented and became loyal followers of God.

If Peter is not using {pote} in such a way this time, to talk about the former situation of sinners who have since been led to no longer be sinners, he would be doing so against strongly established usage elsewhere, including in his own texts. Admittedly, the context in those other cases (inlcuding 1 Peter 2:10) makes it very clear the authors are talking about this; the difference would be that Peter isn’t as entirely clear here at 3:20.

But when combined with a strong contextual and grammatic argument from other evidences, I think this observation of very typical (and in one way even otherwise entirely uniform) grammatic usage of the term {pote}, lends its own independent strength to an interpretation, not only of post-mortem evangelism, but even some extent of success achieved already!

(I say “some” because authors, including Peter, also clearly expect at least some human and angelic rebels to still be rebelling up until the judgment of the Day of YHWH to come. But Peter, in these same verses, also clearly expects even rebel angels to submit to God in Christ eventually. This is disputed by no interpreter anywhere; what it means for them to eventually submit is what is disputed.)