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Friday, July 09, 2010

Disobedient Spirits

Having gathered together from various libraries some of the best exegetical works on First Peter I have set out to do a fresh study of the epistle. Twenty years ago I stumbled across a copy of Bo Ivar Reicke’s dissertation on the notorious crux 1Peter 3:19ff [1] and found it a fascinating study. In more recent years some new commentaries have been published on 1Peter, for example Karen Jobes 1Peter BECNT 2005 and J.H. Elliott 1Peter AB 2000.

K. Jobes in regard to authorship, addresses in some detail the question of “good Greek”, that is language too refined by some hypothetical set of standards to be the work of a Galilean fisherman. Jobes’ sets out to measure (quantify) the quality of the Greek by looking for problems of interlingual interference from semitic idioms. I am not convinced that “good Greek” can be reduced to a set of attributes which can be counted and weighed. Beyond that, it seems that “good Greek” is not the absence of interference from another language. “Good Greek” is something positive. For example, hyperbaton or discontinuous syntax is an attribute of exalted style in Greek classics.

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.

In the process of looking for hyperbaton in 1Peter, I ran across a syntax question in 1Peter 3:19-20a, the anarthrous participle ἀπειθήσασίν at the beginning of verse 20. Henry Alford and J.H. Elliott both mention the participle and note that it is dependent on τοῖς … πνεύμασιν but they do not comment on the “missing” article. Turning to the grammars, 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”.

Looking for an alternative, I tired to read τοῖς … ἀπειθήσασίν as a constituent and understand πνεύμασιν in an adjectival mode, somewhat far fetched, but I was looking for article hyperbaton with the articles removed by various distances from their substantives. J.H. Elliott (1Pt AB p66) lists 23 examples in 1Peter [2] the longest is 1Pet 3:3 ὁ … κόσμος

1Pet. 3:3 ὧν ἔστω οὐχ ὁ ἔξωθεν ἐμπλοκῆς τριχῶν καὶ περιθέσεως χρυσίων ἢ ἐνδύσεως ἱματίων κόσμος

So with that in mind I tried to join τοῖς … ἀπειθήσασίν. But the punctuation in the UBSGNT3, NA27 and Robinson-Pierpont didn’t support this, with a comma before ἀπειθήσασίν (H. Alford has no comma), also the presence of the adverb ποτε suggests the beginning of a new clause and the substantive πνεύμασιν was right there close at hand. So the best approach was to follow Henry Alford, J.H. Elliott and others in reading ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε as a subordinate clause dependent on τοῖς … πνεύμασιν.

[1] Bo Reicke, The Disobedient Spirits and Christian Baptism a Study of 1 Pet. III. 19 and Its Context 1946

[2] article hyperbaton in 1Peter, J.H. Elliott (1Pet AB p66): 1Peter 1:10,11a,11b,14,17,21, 2:9,15, 3:1, 2, 3, 15, 16, 4:2, 4, 8, 12, 13, 14, 5:1, 4, 9, 10.

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