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to say, to the spirits in prison, who had been disobedient while Noah was constructing the ark. These spirits were those of the antediluvians who had refused to heed Noali's predictions of the deluge. These facts, with the emended Greek text, must forever set at nought the scheme of exegesis here being considered.
Another theory of our text, adopted especially by many Universalist critics, regards the spirits in prison, not as the men of Noah's time, but as the Gentiles, or Jews and Gentiles, to whom the Apostles preached through the spirit of Christ bestowed upon them. The prison (puhaxn) is understood of those bound in the darkness of sin and error, yet still abiding in the flesh. But the same facts before urged apply as well to this exegesis: 1st, The preaching is done by Christ in his own person, and not a word is said about the Apostles ; 2d, The preaching is done by Christ, only after being put to death on the cross, and being made alive as a spirit, or in liis own spirit; 3d, It was as a spirit after death that he preached to spirits, and not to living inen in the flesh; 4th, The distinction between men in the flesh and spirits not in the body, is emphatic and constantly kept up throughout the passage. Thus it is only by pure assumption, without a shadow of prouf exc.pt preconceived ideas, that the literal sense of St. Peter's language is set aside. The identification of those whom the Apostle meant by “the spirits in prison," is too direct and plain for a school-boy to mistake in reference to it. They were those who had been formerly disobedient, namely, during the days that Noah was building the ark. They were thus the contemporaries of Noah ; not the Gentiles, nor Jews and Gentiles of the Apostolic period. Nor were they the liv. ing men of Noal's time ; for the preaching to them took place only after Christ's death on the cross, when they had been dead for ages. As to the nature of the prison in which, as spirits, they were confined, we need not refer to the Greek superstitions concerning Hades for an explanation. They were held in the darkness of sin and error, like men in the flesh, in the same moral condition. If φυλακή can apply to
the living men of the Apostle's time, so to the spirits of men who lived in Noah's time. No Greek superstitions need be called to our aid here, for St. Peter wholly eschews them.
No other exegesis of this passage than those already reviewed, has the shadow of a claim to recognition as opposed to a literal interpretation. Thus we may adopt here the language of Dean Alford, as follows:
“ From all, then, which has been said, it will be gathered that with the great majority of commentators, ancient and modern, I understand these words to say that our Lord, in his disembodied state did go to the place of detention of de. parted spirits, and did there announce his work of redemption, preach salvation, in fact, to the disembodied spirits of those who refused to obey the voice of God when the judgment of the flood was hanging over them.” 3
The author, as we shall see, by no means limits Christ's preaching, after his death, to those spirits who had lived in Noah's times. To the same effect as the foregoing extract, is the language of Dr. Wordsworth, who fully agrees with Alford's exegesis of our passage, although, with singular inconsistency, he attempts to avoid the literal sense of the parallel text in the fourth chapter 4
III. The Text 1 Peter iv. 5, 6; The Gospel Preached to the Dead in General.
It should be remarked here that in the clause " is ready to judge the living and the dead” (vs. 5), the term for "dead" is rezpoús, accusative, while in the clause, “ To this end was the gospel preached also to the dead (vs. 6), we have for the original vexpois, dative ; and the particle connecting these two clauses is yão, “ for,” which opens the sixth verse, showing its dependence upon, and logical connection with, the 5th verse. This conducts us to the very judicious remarks by Alsord, in his notes on the sixth verse :
“ In examining into the meaning of this very difficult verse, one thing may be laid down at the outset, as certain on any sure principles of exegesis, and thereby a whole class of in.
3 Gr. Test. Notes, in loc. 4 Gr. Test. Notes, in loc. Lange, also, as will be seen, supports the literal exegesis of this passage.
In one pas.
terpretations removed out of our way. Seeing that yáo binds verses 5 and 6 logically together, and that xai vexpois (vs. 6) distinctly takes up the vexpoús before (vs. 5) in this logical connection, all interpretations must be false which do not give vezoois in verse 6 the same meaning as vergoús in verse 5 ; i. e., that of dead men, literally and simply so-called, men who have died and are in their graves. This at once rids us of all the commentators who interpret this second vexpois of the dead in trespasses and sins" (in loc.).
All orthodox critics admit that in vs. 5 the living and the dead are literally such ; and that all the living and all the dead were to be judged. This is obviously the correct view, 1st, Because Christ's judgment is always represented as absolutely universal, including the entire human race. Hence, this judgment must include all the dead as well as all the living, literally so termed. Hence, also, the language o! St. Paul : “Jesus Christ, who is about to judge (rov uellortos xoivelv) the living and the dead ” (2 Tim. iv. 1). sage we read, “ who is ready to judge,” in the other, “ who is about to judge.” The event was near at hand, and included the whole race of man, being contemporary with Christ's parousia, or mediatorial reign. The fifth rerse of our text, then, includes in its reference all the living and all the dead, literally so considered. The same is true of the sixth verse, on which Alford remarks again :
" A second principle which we may lay down is this : that vexpois in verse 6 must be kept as wide in its reference as vexooús in verse 5, i. e., that it must not be interpreted as applying merely to the blasphemers of the Christians or merely to the spirits in prison of ch. iii. 19, but must be treated as a general assertion in the literal meaning of vexpois. The want of the article does not justify any limitation of this word: for the article is also wanting before vexonús in verse 5, which indisputably is universal in its reference” (Notes, in loc.).
Such conscientionis freedom and independence, as well as strict integrity to truth, in an orthodox critic, as the foregoing extracts exhibit, cannot fail to excite the adıniration of every free, honest, and earnest seeker after truth. But to continue
our researches upon the text before us, let us attempt to confirin the two positions assumed by Alford, rainely, that the term dead in verses 5 and 6 is to be taken in its literal sense, and as including all the dead in its reference. The sixtlı verse places the dead to whom the gospel was preached in direct coutrast to men in the flesh, after the manner of whom the dead are to be judged. But for the purpose of exhibiting the absurdity to which it leads, let it be assumed, following the views of our writers usually heretofore, that the dead in verse 6 are the dead in trespasses and sins, being men living in the flesh. Then we paraphrase this verse in a manner consistently with the assumption, thus: For to this end was the gospel preached also to the dead in trespasses and sins, yet living in the flesh ; that they might be judged according to God in the spirit ; in other words, That sinful men in the flesh might be judged according to men in the flesh. As will be seen, thus interpreted, no one can make sense out of the passage. To predicate an intelligent idea of it, we must admit the contrast intended, between men living in the flesh, or body, and the dead who, as spirits, live according to God. But the underlying idea of the entire passage, including the two verses, is this; the Apostle assumes that it would be injustice to judge by the gospel those millions of the dead who never heard of Christ nor of the gospel. If, then, the dead were to be judged, the gospel must first be preached to them. Again, since Christ and his gospel are the only means of salvation, those millions of the dead who had never heard of either, must have both preached to them, or they could never be saved. This is the saine question as that concerning the heathen of the present age, and, indeed, of all past ages. Without Christ and the gospel, they can never be saved; yet they die without ever hearing of either. Thus, in order to their salvation, or that they may be judged and live the divine life in the spirit, it is necessary for the dead to have the yospel preached to them. That Universalist critics should refuse to accept this philosophy, so clearly embodied in St. Peter's language literally understood, seems to us passing strange. If they believe Christ and the gospel necessary to salvation, how do they expect those to be saved who never heard of either while living, unless both are proclaimed to them after death?
Incident to Christ's work of universal salvation was the necessity of his universal judgment, both of the living and the dead. For this purpose, then, the gospel was preached to the dead, namely: 1st, That they might be justly judged, the same as men in the flesh who had heard the gospel ; 2d, That they might live the divine life in the spirit. The last clause in verse 6 has been usually interpreted by orthodox critics in a moral sense, that is to say, the words “but live according to God in the spirit,” have been explained as “ conformably to the will of God in the spirit," etc.5
But our exposition of the passages before us would be defec. tive without the powerful support of Dr. Lange, who most ably and exhaustively maintains their literal sense, and concludes as follows:
Holy Scripture nowhere teaches the eternal damnation of those who died as heathens or non-Christians; it rather inti. mates in many passages that forgiveness may be possible beyond the grave, and refers the final decision not to death, but to the day of Christ. (Acts xvii. 32; 2 Tim. i. 12; iv. 8; 1 John iv. 17.) But in our passage (1 Peter iv. 6), as in ch. iii. 19, 20, Peter by divine illumination clearly affirms that the ways of God's salvation do not terminate with the earthly life, and that the gospel is preached beyond the grave to those who have departed from this life without a knowledge of the same (Notes, in loc.).
The following extract is then given, as cited by Gerlach, relative to the doctrine of the primitive church :
Gerlach cites a passage from John of Damascus, in which the doctrine of the ancient church on the subject of Christ's descent into Hades, is summed up as follows: His glorified soul descends into Hades, in order that like as the Sun of Righteousness did rise to men on earth, so in like manner he might shine on those who under the earth sit in darkness and
6 See Robinson Gr. Lex. N. T. sub. xatà. 11. 4. Cf. Wordsworth, in loc. Barnes. Notes in loc., etc.