Since the recipients experienced hostility from their neighbors, in the previous passage Peter urged them to endure suffering for doing good (1 Pet 3:14–17). By holding firm under trial, they would receive honor in the age to come, just as God vindicated Jesus after his crucifixion. Persisting in faith leads to victory.
Most scholars agree that the apostle utilized traditional material when preparing 1 Peter 3:18–22. In particular, they cite three past tense participles in the passive voice in 1 Pet 3:18, 22: “he was put to death” (thanatōtheis); “he was made alive” (zōopoiētheis) and “having been subjected” (hypotagentōn).
However, whether that material took the form of a hymn or a creed remains under discussion. Although this passage is extremely complex, recognizing its major points provides us with guidance.
First, Jesus suffered for unrighteous people to bring Christians to God. Second, the power of the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. Then, Christ proclaimed his victory to evil spirits. Finally, Jesus ascended to the Father and has placed all demonic forces under his power.
Due to the controversial nature of this passage, we will examine and critique various views in a similar format to the treatment of the sons of the gods (Gen 6:1–4). Thankfully, there is a way through the morass of difficulties.
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a) Read 1 Pet 3:18–22. What was the purpose of this letter? Why do most scholars believe that this passage was originally a hymn or creed? How does focusing upon what happened to Jesus encourage you to persist through trials or persecution?
[Related posts include Death in the Flesh but Life in the Spirit (1 Pet 3:18); Interpretive Issues in 1 Pet 3:19–20; Early Church Fathers’ View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Augustine’s View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; The Apostles’ Creed and 1 Pet 3:19–20; John Calvin’s View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Ancient Jewish View Applied to 1 Pet 3:19–20; Modern Scholars’ View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Summary of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Salvation through Water (1 Pet 3:20); An Appeal to God (1 Pet 3:21); and Seated at God’s Right Hand (1 Pet 3:22)]
[Sons of God or Sons of the Gods? (Gen 6:1–2); Descendants of Seth as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Fallen Angels as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Kings as Sons of the Gods (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Taking Wives for Themselves (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Nephilim in the Land (Gen 6:4); Specifications for an Ark (Gen 6:14–16); A Deluge to Ruin All Flesh (Gen 6:17); God Establishes a Covenant (Gen 6:18); God Remembered Noah (Gen 8:1); Jesus, Remember Me (Luke 23:39–43); Our Certificate of Debt (Col 2:13–14); and Exegesis and Hermeneutics]
[Click here to go to Chapter 8: Safely Through (Gen 8:1–19)]
John H. Elliott, “Peter, First Epistle of,” ABD 5:269–78, 269.
Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 237–8.
J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 197.
Michaels, 1 Peter, 197.
Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 134–5.
Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 180.