Friday, January 24, 2014

1 Peter 1:1-2 Exegetical Notes


Text

1.1 Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου, Γαλατίας, Καππαδοκίας, Ἀσίας, καὶ Βιθυνίας, 2 κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρός, ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος, εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη.

Critical

There are no significant critical issues in this section.

Translation

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ
To the elect, sojourners, in the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Kappadokia, Asia and Bithynia, [elect] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the consecration of the Spirit, for obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ – May grace and peace be multiplied unto you.

Commentary

The opening of the letter offers three discrete units. Firstly, the identification of the sender, then the addressees, and lastly an initial greeting wish.

The author is unambiguously described as ‘Peter’, followed by ‘apostle of Jesus Christ’. Whatever debates about authenticity and pseudonyms might follow, the letter presents itself as written by Peter the apostle, and would have been read as such. The spectrum of opinion on authorship ranges from direct authorship by Peter, Peter working with an amanuensis, an amanuensis completing a letter from Peter’s thoughts shortly post-death, to the work of a Petrine community writing sometime between 75 and 95 AD. I will delay a full examination of these issues until the end of the letter, but merely note four issues of challenge: (1) the quality of the Greek, (2) a social setting later than Peter’s lifetime, (3) dependence upon ‘Deuteropauline’ books (an argument dependent upon both literary connections and the assessment and dating of those books, (4) the Christianisation into remote Asia Minor.

The addressees are ‘the called’, a term that picks up Old Testament covenantal ideas about election. This is coupled immediately with ‘sojourners of the diaspora’, again echoing two very Jewish concepts; in regards to ‘sojourners’ or ‘foreigners’, I understand the term to have a concrete meaning first – these believers are indeed temporary (if extended) dwellers in a place that is not their home, and in which they are not citizens. The term is not primarily metaphorical first, and its metaphorical resonance is built on the concrete social setting. We will consider further the use of the term in 2:11. The use of ‘Diaspora’ echoes the experience of the Jews living outside Palestine since the Babylonian exile. This is reinforced by the inclusio formed with ‘Babylon’ in 5:13.

If ‘foreigners’ is concrete, is ‘diaspora’ concrete too, in the sense that Peter’s readers are Jewish-background believers? The problem with this view is that Jewish residents of Asia Minor had been there long enough to no longer be ‘sojourners’. I take the view that within the re-mythologised (I use the sense without any negative connotation) use of Babylon imagery and metaphor of the early Christians, and in connection with 5:13, that Rome is the agent of dispersion, and that Peter’s addressees are a new ‘diaspora’ of Christian believers.

Their geography situates them across the majority of Asia Minor, listing 5 Roman provinces covering the bulk of the West and North. These regions are remote and diverse. The assumption that they were evangelised gradually and through native-conversion is one argument against apostolic authorship, since this could hardly have been significantly progressed within Peter’s lifetime. However, if the primary addressees are non-native residents of these areas, forced there from Rome, then this argument is nullified.
In this regard I follow Jobes in locating the social setting of 1 Peter within Roman colonisation and deportation efforts to Asia Minor. They are doubly-so foreigners. Foreigners as non-Roman-citizens who have been transplanted to Asia Minor where they are foreigners, and foreigners as Christians in relation to their world.

Verse 2 resumes the description of ‘the called’, and functions as a long adverbial phrase to the implicit action of being ‘called/elect’. It is broken down into 3 compartments. Firstly, they are called ‘according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’. This will be reinforced in the blessing of v3 and following, but election is grounded in the Father. Secondly ‘by the consecration of the Spirit’. Doctrinally speaking, election is effected by the Spirit is setting apart as holy those who are called; it is the actualisation in salvation history of the eternal decree. Thirdly, it is ‘for obedience and sprinkling [of] the blood of Jesus Christ’. This combination of ‘obedience and sprinkling’ is a hendiadys that takes us back to Exodus 24:3-8 in which the solemnisation or confirmation of the Mosaic covenant is effected by the sprinkling of the blood of sacrifice in conjunction with the people’s self-commitment to obey “All that the Lord has spoken”. In this New Testament register, the called are those called, and sanctified, for the new covenant, formed through Jesus’ blood (metonymous for his sacrificial death) and with the goal or result of obedience. We may further note the Trinitarian structure of salvation laid out here in this triadic description of the elect.
Lastly Peter adopts and adapts an emergent standard Christian greeting. While building upon the Hellenistic model, the combination of ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ echoes Pauline practice, but no specific dependence need be assumed, merely the combination of the Hellenistic usage of χαίρειν shifted into a Christian register, in combination with the adaptation of Hebrew shalom also injected with a Christocentric meaning. Peter’s usage of “be multiplied” in the optative shows that he is not merely dependent upon Pauline patterns. While not too much should be exegeted out of a standard greeting, it does indeed set the tone for his letter – the desire for peace and for grace for his recipients.

4 comments:

Heinrich said...

Thank you for doing these notes. I really enjoyed Galatians and am excited you chose 1 Peter for the next set. I was studying the book last fall and look forward to reading what you post. "Peace to all of you who are in Christ."

Seumas Macdonald said...

You're welcome and I'm glad you enjoyed them. The rate of posts should speed up now as I am back in Mongolia and will be teaching through 1 Peter this semester.

Paul Nitz said...

Seumas, Thanks for these notes.

I'm interested in your thoughts on 1 Peter 1:7 and 4:6.
1:7 - Seems to me that διὰ πυρὸς δὲ δοκιμαζομένου εὑρεθῇ
should go with το δοκίμιον rather than χρυσίου.

4:6
‹✕ ἵνα κριθῶσι μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκὶ ✕›
‹✓ ζῶσι δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι ✓›

I struggle with this couplet. The translations are largely unsatisfying. I think they are all controlled by the thought that κατα must be taken a) in the same sense, and b) with the verb, in each half of the couplet.

Seumas Macdonald said...

Re 1:7, I don't think a syntactical argument will decide it; one has to decide whether the more literal reference to gold being refined by fire is meant, or the slightly metaphorical proving of their faith 'by fire'. I think the former seems a little more likely, and just read the phrase with the closest antecedent. δοκιμαζομένου is a genitive, so I'm not sure I would want to pair it with τὸ δοκίμιον for that reason.

I'll get back to you with some thoughts on 4:6, it is coming up in class next week, so I will be doing some thinking on it over the next few days.