predicate or attributive participle?
A.T. Robertson (p778) suggests that the lack of the article might make ἀπειθήσασίν “predicate” and claims that the presence of an article would completely change the meaning. N. Turner, Syntax p153 states that the missing article is “unclassical”.
1Pet. 3:19 ἐν ᾧ καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν, 20 ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε ὅτε ἀπεξεδέχετο ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ μακροθυμία ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ εἰς ἣν ὀλίγοι, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί, διεσώθησαν δι᾿ ὕδατος.
I must confess that I find the terminology of traditional grammars confusing at times. When I read 1Peter 3:19-20 the participle ἀπειθήσασίν in 20a seems natural enough but I did notice the lack of an article, which sent me looking back to τοῖς … πνεύμασιν to evaluate the possibility that τοῖς might belong to ἀπειθήσασίν. Now, having ruled out that analysis, it seems that the participle ἀπειθήσασίν is telling us something about τοῖς … πνεύμασιν. In other words, ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε ὅτε … introduces a little story about τοῖς … πνεύμασιν. If that is what A.T. Robertson (p778) means by “predicate” then all is well but I don’t have much confidence in my understanding of Robertson’s framework.
What is a predicate participle?
It appears that once again the language of the traditional grammars has lead to confusion. I looked once again at H.W. Smyth, R.J. Young, Dana & Mantey and Burton to see how they were using the qualifier predicate in relation to participles. It seems that predicate when it is used alone means that a participle makes a predication about its substantive. But circumstantial participles are also called predicate and they function as adverbs, qualifying the action of the main verb. D.B. Monro (Homeric Dialect #243) " ... the participle qualifies or forms part of the predication ..." and on page 210 Monro states:"... a Participle construed in 'Apposition' to a Noun in an oblique Case may imply a predication ... ". In our example the participle ἀπειθήσασίν in 20a predicates something about the indirect object τοῖς … πνεύμασιν.
The participle ἀπειθήσασίν in 20a does not cause problems reading, the sense is clear enough. The confusion arises in trying to determine which label to use from the traditional framework. If we can live without the labels perhaps we are better off.