Christ Preaching To The Spirits In Prison -- By: James B. Miles

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 019:73 (Jan 1862)
Article: Christ Preaching To The Spirits In Prison
Author: James B. Miles


Christ Preaching To The Spirits In Prison1

Rev. James B. Miles

This passage translated in the English authorized version stands: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit; by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.”

Before entering upon a criticism on this text of scripture, we are constrained to remark that among obscure passages we think this may be set down as locus vexativissimus, or the place of all most difficult of satisfactory interpretation. In regard to it, pertinent are the remarks of Camerarius, a devout and learned man,and friend of Melanchthon: “Est hic unus ex iis locis sacrarum literarum, de quibus pietas religiosa quaerere amplius et dubitare quid dicatur, sine reprehensione: et de quibus diversae etiam sententiae admitti posse videantur, dummodo non detorqueatur κανὼν τοῦ τὸ

αὐτὸ φρονεῖν, id est religiosa de fide consensio, neque aberretur ἀπὸ τῆς ἀναλογίας τῆς πίστεως.” This is, indeed, one of those places of the sacred scriptures concerning which it is devout piety to prosecute investigation, and to be in doubt what to say without blame, and concerning which even different opinions seem to be admissible, provided the canon of being like minded, that is, religious agreement in the faith, is not wrested, and we do not deviate from the analogy of the faith. It is hardly to be thought strange that the fiery Luther, baffled by the difficulties of this text, breaks out: “By this penalty, so terrible, the apostle Peter seems also moved that, not otherwise than as a fanatic, he speaks such words as not even at this day are able to be understood by us.” Of this passage the learned Dr. Brown of Edinburgh cogently says: “The observation of the apostle Peter respecting his beloved brother Paul is applicable to himself. In his Epistles there are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and the unstable wrest to their own destruction, and this is one of them. Few passages have received a greater variety of interpretation; and he would prove more satisfactorily his self-confidence than his wisdom, who should assert that his interpretation was undoubtedly the true one.” But our task has not been simplified, but rendered tenfold more perplexing by this very variety of interpretation. The remark of that profound biblical scholar and holy man, Archbishop Leighton, seems to us quite just. “This place is somewhat obscure in itse...

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