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1 Peter 1:11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
11 searching for what time or what particular time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point to as it testified beforehand about the sufferings of Christ and the glories after these things.
Searching for what. That is, examining their own predictions carefully to ascertain what they meant. They studied them as we do the predictions that others have made, and though the prophets were the medium through which the truth was made known, yet their own predictions became a subject of careful investigation to themselves. The expression here used in the original, rendered ‘what,’ (εἰς τίνα) literally, ‘unto what,’ may mean, so far as the Greek is concerned, either ‘what time,’ or ‘what people,’ or ‘what person;’ that is, regarding what person the prophecies were really uttered. The latter, it seems to me, is the correct interpretation, meaning that they inquired concerning him, who he would be, what would be his character, and what would be the nature of the work he would perform. There can be no doubt that they understood that their predictions related to the Messiah, but still, it is not improper to suppose that it was with them an interesting inquiry about what sort of person he would be and what would be the nature of the work which he would perform. This interpretation of the phrase εἰς τίνα (unto what or whom) should be observed, however, is not that which is commonly given of the passage. Bloomfield, Rosenmüller, Doddridge, Whitby, Benson, and Grotius suppose it to refer to time, meaning that they inquired at what time or when these things would occur. Macknight thinks it refers to people, (λαον) meaning that they diligently inquired what people would put him to death. But the most obvious interpretation is that which I have suggested above, meaning that they made a particular inquiry to whom their prophecies related—what was his rank and character, and what was to be the nature of his work. What would be a more natural inquiry for them than this? What would be more important? And how interesting is the thought that when Isaiah, for example, had given utterance to the sublime predictions which we now have of the Messiah in his prophecies, he sat himself down with the spirit of a little child to learn by prayer and study, what was fully implied in the amazing words which the Spirit had taught him to record! How much mystery might seem still to hang around the subject! And how intent would such a mind be to know what the full import of those words was!
Or what particular time. This phrase, in Greek (ποῖον καιρὸν), would properly relate, not to the exact time when these things would occur, but to the character or condition of the age when they would take place; perhaps referring to the state of the world at that period, the preparation to receive the gospel, and the probable manner in which the great message would be received. Perhaps, however, the inquiry in their minds pertained to the time when the predictions would be fulfilled, as well as to the world’s condition when the event takes place. The meaning of the Greek phrase would not exclude this latter sense. There are not infrequent indications of time in the prophets (comp. Dan. 9:24, seq.), and these indications were of so clear a character that when the Savior actually appeared, there was a general expectation that the event would then occur. See Notes on Matt. 2:2.
The Spirit of Christ which was in them. This does not prove that they knew that this was the Spirit of Christ but is only a declaration of Peter that it was actually so. It is not probable that the prophets distinctly understood that the Spirit of inspiration, by which they were led to foretell future events, was peculiarly the Spirit of Christ. They understood that they were inspired, but there is no intimation, with which I am acquainted, in their writings, that they regarded themselves as inspired by the Messiah. It was not improper, however, for Peter to say that the Spirit by which they were influenced was in fact the Spirit of Christ, so called because that Spirit which suggested these future events to them was given as the great Medium of all revealed truth to the world. Comp. Heb. 1:3; John 1:9; 14:16, 26; 16:7; Isa. 49:6. It is clear from this passage (1) that Christ must have had an existence before his incarnation; and (2) that he must have understood then what would occur to him when he should become incarnate; that is, it must have been arranged or determined beforehand.
Did point to as it testified beforehand about the sufferings of Christ. As Isaiah, chap. 53; Daniel, chap. 9:25–27. They saw clearly that the Messiah was to suffer; and doubtless, this was the common doctrine of the prophets and the common expectation of the pious part of the Jewish nation. Yet it is not necessary to suppose that they had clear apprehensions of his sufferings or were able to reconcile all that was said on that subject with what was said of his glory and his triumphs. There was much about those sufferings which they wished to learn, as there is much still that we desire to know. We have no reason to suppose that there were any views of the sufferings of the Messiah communicated to the prophets except what we now have in the Old Testament. To see the force of what Peter says, we ought to imagine what would be our views of him if all that we have known of Christ as history were obliterated, and we had only the knowledge which we could derive from the Old Testament. As has been already intimated, they probably studied their own predictions, just as we would study them if we had not the advantage of applying to them the facts which have actually occurred.
And the glories after these things. That is, they saw that there would be glory which would be the result of his sufferings, but they did not clearly see what it would be. They had some knowledge that he would be raised from the dead, (Psa. 16:8–11; Comp. Acts 2:25–28;) they knew that he would ‘see of the travail of his soul, and would be satisfied,’ (Isa. 53:11;) they had some large views of the effects of the gospel on the nations of the earth, Isa. 11; 25:7, 8; 60; 65. But there were many things respecting his glorification which it cannot be supposed they clearly understood, and it is reasonable to presume that they made the comparatively few and obscure intimations in their own writings in relation to this, the subject of profound and prayerful inquiry.
By Albert Barnes