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19 He went in the spiritual realm[a] and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison[b] 20 because of their disobedience of long ago.[c] For during the time of Noah God patiently waited while the ark was being prepared, but only a few were brought safely through the floodwaters: a total of eight souls. 21 This was a prophetic picture[d] of the immersion that now saves you—not a bathing of the physical body but rather the response of a good conscience before God[e] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

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  1. 1 Peter 3:19 Or “through the [Holy] Spirit.”
  2. 1 Peter 3:19 The Aramaic can be translated Sheol (“Hades”).
  3. 1 Peter 3:20 The early church fathers cited this passage, along with others, in the belief that Jesus “descended into hell” (e.g., the Apostles’ Creed, although the earliest versions of it do not include the words “descended into hell”). In this context, between his death and resurrection, Jesus is said to have gone into the underworld and preached (the victory of the cross) to the spirits (fallen angels) who are bound. See also Gen. 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4. However, Augustine, Aquinas, and others argue that the proclamation Jesus made was through Noah by the Holy Spirit to the people of Noah’s day who were disobedient. Nearly every scholar concludes that this passage in 1 Peter is one of the most difficult in the New Testament to interpret.
  4. 1 Peter 3:21 The Greek word antitypos means “a picture,” “a type,” “a symbol,” “a pattern,” or “a counterpart.”
  5. 1 Peter 3:21 Or “by the response of a good conscience.” The word often translated “conscience” (syneidēsis) actually means “a joint knowing,” “a virtuous co-knowledge,” or “co-perception.”