1 Peter 3:18-22 is arguably one of the most discussed and problematic passages in the New Testament (NT). The scripture has attracted the attention of scholars, thereby resulting in the development of varied interpretations. A careful analysis of this passage reveals that one can understand it from different perspectives. For example, a reader is most likely to conclude from this scripture that people have immortal souls. In other words, a person has another opportunity for salvation after death. The other possible interpretation of this passage is that Jesus went to hell and came up again. Since there is no extensive consensus on the correct interpretation of this scripture, it is relatively difficult for one to precisely determine the appropriate interpretation of the passage. The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-22, focusing on specific hermeneutical elements.
The first aspect that will be discussed in this exposition relates to the historical background of 1 Peter 3:18-22. Noticeably, it is suggested that the entire of 1 Peter is a baptismal hymn that places much emphasis on describing the concept of salvation. Therefore, the historical background of 1 Peter 3:18-22 has to be traced back to Paul’s view about the idea of salvation. A critical evaluation of this passage reveals that Paul sought to label suffering as the primary focus and salvation from condemnation as the underlying cause of the hardships experienced by Christians as well as its definitive purpose. It is worth noting that at the time Paul was writing the I Peter, many Christians were facing persecution and trials due to their belief system. Consequently, anyone who followed Christ was psychologically prepared to die for Christ.
The second element that will be examined in this essay about 1 Peter 3:18-22 is the literary context. In verse 18, the speaker refers to the anguish, death, and resurrection of Jesus. On the other hand, the speaker alludes to the ascension and resurrection of Jesus in verse 22. Therefore, it is correct to conclude these two verses constitute a parenthesis in which Paul inserted one section into another part. A further in-depth evaluation of verse 18 indicates that the speaker focused on describing the earthly life of Jesus, whereas verses 21 and 22 emphasize explaining the heavenly aspect. In verses 19-20, the insertion mentions the proclamation of Jesus, while verse 21 alludes to baptism. Markedly, this scripture, as a whole, tells believers that Christ has saved them from sin, and He is now in control of their lives. Therefore, Christians should not be worried or lose hope in their faith, despite the suffering.
Further critical analysis of 1 Peter 3:18-22 indicates that the speaker used early Christian and Jewish literature to discuss the aspect of salvation. It is apparent from this passage that there are at least three pieces of evidence that connect its original Christian writings, and about the identification of the people who receive the proclamation of Christ. In particular, these proofs are the spirits, imprisonment of spirits, and the individuals who were categorized as sinners during the days of the era. It is imperative to note that the descriptions provided in the foregoing discussion do not accurately identify the receivers of Christ’s proclamation. One could argue that the “spirits” described in this passage refer to what arises from giants. In contrast, imprisonment is defined as the punishment that is usually linked with the “fallen angels.” Therefore, it is crucial to synthesize and review the applicable traditions from early Christian and Jewish literature. It is clear from the foregoing expository analysis of 1 Peter 3:18-22 that the speaker employs several literary devices to explain how suffering is a condition for salvation.
Hanson, Anthony. “Salvation Proclaimed: I Peter 3:18-22.” Expository Times, vol. 93, no. 4 (1982).
 Anthony Hanson, “Salvation Proclaimed: I Peter 3:18-22,” Expository Times, 93, no. 4 (1982).