"Crucible" index "a good conscience's appeal to God, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ" Enquiries welcome 

THE APPEAL OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE - 1 Peter 3:21

THE CONTEXT

1 Peter 3:21, 22 (AV) "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:  Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

THEOLOGY'S EFFECT ON THE TRANSLATION and THE TRANSLATION  ANALYSED

Translating the Greek of "but the answer of a good conscience toward God," has vexed many translators. This could be due to the fact that being human - translators are iinfluenced by their theology to the extent that it creeps into their translations. Is the passage difficult to translate? The following analysis of the Greek shows that it is not:-

suneidhsewV {OF A CONSCIENCE / A CONSCIENCE'S - genitive case} agayhV {GOOD} eperwthma {JUDICIAL APPEAL} eiV {TO [intensive]} qeon {GOD} di {FOR / BECAUSE OF} anastasewV {RESURRECTION} ihsou {OF JESUS} cristou {CHRIST}

The word eperwthma signifies an appeal for clemency based on mitigating circumstances, as in a court of law. Vine's "Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words" reference at the end of the definitions for the word "Answer" has:-

<< Note: Eperotema, 1 Pet.3:21, is not, as in the A.V., "an answer." It was used by the Greeks in a legal sense, as a demand or appeal. . . . >>

The passage is saying that baptism is a good conscience's judicial appeal to God for clemency, the resurrection of Jesus Christ being the grounds for clemency.

Why do many translators not use "appeal" for the Greek word eperwthma. It could be because they have difficulty with the concept that baptism is for the remission of sins. The NIV, for example, gives the strained translation -"the pledge (or response) of a good conscience towards God." not even acknowledging that the word could mean "appeal". Compare this with the renderings given below, taken from "The New Testament from 26 Translations" [Zondervan Press] :-

<<  the answer of a good conscience toward God - AV
... the craving for a conscience right with God - Gdspd
... the prayer for a clean conscience before God - Mof
... the request unto God for a good conscience - Rhm
... an appeal to God for a clear conscience - RSV
... it means the ability to face God with a clear conscience - Phi >>

From which it appears that the translators who differed from the AV had no difficulty associating, being reconciled to God, with the act of baptism. However they should not have used the word "for" as in "for a conscience" etc.].

The Revised Version ( AD 1881 ) and the American Standard Version ( AD 1900 ) are closer to the original having :-

<< the interrogation (or inquiry or appeal ) of a good conscience toward God >>

Though the AV and NIV reject the obvious meaning of the word eperwthma (which is - a judicial appeal) they are correct in the rendering "of a good conscience". The Greek word suneidhsewV (meaning - of a good conscience / a good conscience's) is in the genitive case. The genetive case denotes possession or source. For example :-

"house of John" means John's house. John possesses the house.
  and
"the love of God" means the love that emanates from God. God is the source of the love.

In 1 Peter 3:21, the appeal emanates from the good conscience - of a good conscience. The good conscience makes the appeal.

A good modern translation would be "a good conscience's judicial appeal to God for clemency, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ", so it is the good conscience which is making the appeal and the appeal is for clemency - i.e. for forgiveness of sins (see notes on Acts 2:38)

The good conscience precedes baptism and precedes forgiveness of sins. Some would have difficulty with this and would prefer to translate it "an appeal to God for a good conscience" but that is a strained use of the genetive case. Their difficulty could be because they equate forgiveness of sins with having a good conscience and having become a Christian. However Paul considered his conscience to be good even before he became a Christian, even when he was persecuting Christians.

<< And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.>> Acts 23:1

Evidently one can have a good conscience before being a Christian and even be in the wrong and be unforgiven. On the other hand, a conscience which refuses to repent cannot be a good conscience. There is no such thing as an unrepentant Christian.

CONCLUSION

A correct rendering of 1 Peter 3:21  would be :-

" . . . immersion (in water)NOTE 1 now saves us - not removing dirt from the flesh - but a good conscience's judicial appeal to God (for clemency), because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ "

Peter is saying that baptism is the point at which the repentant person appeals for forgiveness. After his experience on the road to Damascus, not having eaten for three days, Paul was told "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." [Acts 22:16]. Baptism is the time to appeal to the Lord.

We  should strive to enlighten, where we can, those who do not understand that baptism is to be the witting act of the appeal for sins to be forgiven.

The basis for mitigation is - The Lord Jesus' resurrection proves that he is the Messiah, the son of God.

<< and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead >> Romans 1:4 (AV).

His resurrection justifies our trust in God and that the Lord Jesus' died for our sins to be forgiven.

<< Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.>> Romans 4:25 (AV).


NOTE 1. "immersion/submersion" is the proper meaning of the Greek word which is usually transliterated "baptism".

 "Crucible" index See also: A GLARING ERROR OF INTERPRETATION of Acts 2:38 ! and 'For the forgiveness of sins' means 'For the forgiveness of sins' !