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1 Peter 3:19

ESV in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,
NIV After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—
NASB in which He also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison,
CSB in which he also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison
NLT So he went and preached to the spirits in prison —
KJV By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
NKJV by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison,

What does 1 Peter 3:19 mean?

Peter ended the previous verse with a statement declaring that Jesus was put to death in the flesh "but made alive in the spirit." Over the years, Bible scholars have offered several interpretations of what this might mean.

One view is that the verse is simply describing Jesus' physical resurrection from the dead. Another is that it describes a spiritual resurrection which happened before His physical resurrection on that first Easter Sunday. This suggests that Jesus, in spiritual form, was alive and proclaiming to the "spirits in prison" before returning to physical life. This may mean anything from those who died before Christ's ministry, to fallen angels, and a host of other options. Verse 20 gives more details on this idea.

The bottom line is that we are not entirely sure what this passage is about, and that's okay. As Martin Luther put it in his Commentary on Peter & Jude, "A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means." It is fascinating to study the various explanations offered by Bible scholars, but none of them changes the essential truth that Christ was dead and then made alive, that He suffered for our sake and was then made victorious forever by the power of God.
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