Monday, February 10, 2014

1 Peter 1:3-12 Exegetical Notes

My apologies, today's is quite long.

Text

3 Εὐλογητὸς θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, κατὰ τὸ πολὺ αὐτοῦ ἔλεος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς εἰς ἐλπίδα ζῶσαν διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν, 4 εἰς κληρονομίαν ἄφθαρτον καὶ ἀμίαντον καὶ ἀμάραντον, τετηρημένην ἐν οὐρανοῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς 5 τοὺς ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ φρουρουμένους διὰ πίστεως εἰς σωτηρίαν ἑτοίμην ἀποκαλυφθῆναι ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ. 6 ἐν ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὀλίγον ἄρτι εἰ δέον λυπηθέντες ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς, 7 ἵνα τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως πολυτιμότερον χρυσίου τοῦ ἀπολλυμένου διὰ πυρὸς δὲ δοκιμαζομένου εὑρεθῇ εἰς ἔπαινον καὶ δόξαν καὶ τιμὴν ἐν ἀποκαλύψει Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 8 ὃν οὐκ ἰδόντες ἀγαπᾶτε, εἰς ὃν ἄρτι μὴ ὁρῶντες πιστεύοντες δὲ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε χαρᾷ ἀνεκλαλήτῳ καὶ δεδοξασμένῃ, 9 κομιζόμενοι τὸ τέλος τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν σωτηρίαν ψυχῶν.
10 Περὶ ἧς σωτηρίας ἐξεζήτησαν καὶ ἐξηραύνησαν προφῆται οἱ περὶ τῆς εἰς ὑμᾶς χάριτος προφητεύσαντες, 11 ἐραυνῶντες εἰς τίνα ποῖον καιρὸν ἐδήλου τὸ ἐν αὐτοῖς πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ προμαρτυρόμενον τὰ εἰς Χριστὸν παθήματα καὶ τὰς μετὰ ταῦτα δόξας· 12 οἷς ἀπεκαλύφθη ὅτι οὐχ ἑαυτοῖς ὑμῖν δὲ διηκόνουν αὐτά, νῦν ἀνηγγέλη ὑμῖν διὰ τῶν εὐαγγελισαμένων ὑμᾶς πνεύματι ἁγίῳ ἀποσταλέντι ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ, εἰς ἐπιθυμοῦσιν ἄγγελοι παρακύψαι.

Critical

v7 A variant exists of δόκιμον in P72,  23 56 69 206 429. The reading as stands is well-attested and in Koine equivalent in meaning to δόκιμον.
v8 ἰδοντες is replaced by εἰδότες in some manuscripts. The former is well-attested.
v9 A small number of texts have ἡμῶν for ὑμῶν, and a smaller number omit the word. Phonic similarity between η and υ would explain the variation, and the 2nd person seems to fit the context of the passage
v12 ἐν πνεύματι vs. πνεύματι. The presence of the preposition conforms with Petrine usage and overall NT usage, however important MSS lack it (P72 A B Ψ 33). The addition of the preposition might therefore be explained by a desire to conform to more usual usage. This, plus external evidence, suggests to me that the lack of preposition is more likely original.

Translation

Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy caused us to be reborn into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance, imperishable and undefiled and unfading, guarded in the heavens for you, [those] guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation prepared to be manifested at the last time. In which you rejoice, [even] if now, for a little while, suffering in variegated trials be necessary, so that the provenness of your faith, much-more precious than gold that is destroyed though tested through fire, might be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Whom, not having seen you love, in whom, though not seeing now, trusting you rejoice with inexpressible and glory-filled joy, receiving the goal of your faith, [the] rescue of [your] souls.
Concerning which rescue the prophets who concerning the grace unto you [were] prophesying, searched and inquired, investigating what person or which time the spirit of Christ in them was indicating, fore-testifying the sufferings for Christ and the glories with them; to whom it was revealed that not themselves but you they were ministering these things, which now has been proclaimed to you through those preaching the gospel to you by the Holy Spirt sent from heaven, into which things angels desired to look.

Commentary

It is incredibly difficult to maintain the stylistic complexity of this dense benediction in any English translation, because of the clausal arrangement, use of grammatical agreements that cannot be clearly preserved in translation, and the very long sentences. I suspect the translation offered above, in my idiosyncracies, may be more confusing than most standard ones!

Verse 3 introduces, after the initial address, the first major unit of the letter. It consists, similar to Pauline letters, a benedictory prayer, although the format here is less personalised and less rogational than Paul. Instead we begin with ‘Blessed be...’, an echo of Psalm 34:1 (LXX 33). It is a stock Jewish phrase, but overladen now with distinctly Christian elements, since this God is ‘the father of our Lord Jesus Christ’. If we follow a rhetorical analysis than v3ff forms an exordium, except instead of praise directed at the audience, it is directed at God. Indeed, to ‘bless’ God typically refers to praising him for his blessedness, since the meaning of ‘bless’, in terms of ‘invoke God’s favourable word upon’ cannot, theologically speaking, function reflexively upon God himself.

As the blessing is directed towards God as Father, so the focus continues in the appositional pseudo-relative clause. “According to his great mercy” may be read as an echo of mercy qua Old Testament חֶסֶד  (ḥesed). Here the prepositional phrase functions adverbially to modify “having caused to be born again”. This participle, found only elsewhere in 1:23, is not best traced to mystery religions, but following Gundry, to Jesus’ teaching as evidenced in John 3. In this sense it is rebirth as “entrance into a new order of existence” (Hort), as well as adoption by the Father.

This rebirth is laid out in two parallel εἰς clauses. The first is the “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. Death is the end of all hope, and the resurrection of Jesus from, not just ‘death’ (abstractly), but among the dead, is the means by which believers are also brought from death to life, and so are re-born into a new life, and so a new hope, a living hope, the hope of life. The ‘stock phrasing’ of “through the resurrection…dead” should not cause us to miss its profound theology: Jesus’ resurrection is not accidental to the salvific efficacy of the cross, it is integral and instrumental to believers’ transference from death to life.

The second εἰς clause leads off verse 4, and complements “hope” with “inheritance”, sealing the dual idea of rebirth into a new order (resurrection) and new family (adoption). This inheritance is described by three alpha privatives, “imperishable, undefiled, unfading”, which stand in stark contrast to the audience’s social setting where they are likely refugees with little ‘inheritance’ and so no earthly treasures to speak of.
Those three adjectives are all 1-1 declensions, but they are followed by a fourth adjectival modifier, a perfect passive participle. The inheritance is “guarded”. Its security is grounded in the location of its guarding – heaven, even as it is guaranteed that it is “for you”. Verse 5 then leads off with another phrase, this time expanding on the ὑμᾶς at the end of 4! This is why the sentence is so long, as clause after clause modifies, expounds and explains the previous clauses, all of which is dependent upon ‘Blessed be God, the Father….”
Anyway, complementing the security of the inheritance is the description of Peter’s audience as also those guarded by the power of God. This is a powerful reminder for believers feeling threatened and insecure in the world, that the ultimate source of security here is God’s power, active and instrumental in preserving them. Specifically it preserves them “through faith”, here we see that God’s work is done instrumentally through their own trust in God, and “for rescue”. The outcome of God’s guardianship and of their trust is ultimate rescue, a salvation already prepared, and yet still to come – “to be revealed at the last time.”

The end of verse 5 is a good enough place to punctuate a sentence, though the ἐν which leads of verse 6 is just another way to construct a further qualifying clause, and yet what does the “in which” actually refer to? It cannot refer back to the salvation, or the inheritance, or even the hope, and so must either directly refer to “the last time” immediately preceding (so Martin), or else be personalised and extended all the way back to Christ (so Hort) or God (Du Toit). But extending the antecedent to so far back is unlikely, and so with the majority it should be taken as referring to the whole subject of discourse in vv3-5.

Is the verb “you rejoice” imperative or indicative? Martin argues that an imperative is unlikely in the opening of the letter, and I concur on this point. Although I am not sure that Thurén’s argument about ambiguity is sustainable on a linguistic level, there is a sense in which presenting this as an imperative (you do, in fact, rejoice) provides a counter-factual imperative on a discourse level (for those who aren't rejoicing, the statement that they are rejoicing creates a disharmony between speaker and audience that functions paranetically to encourage them to indeed rejoice).

So what do these believers rejoice in? Their salvation and security, the work of God in them, and its secured outcome. This attitude or action of rejoicing is then contrasted with their present reality – suffering. Their suffering is “now” – a present but passing one; it is “a little while” – temporally limited; it appears to be “necessary” – part and parcel of what it means to trust in Christ, and it occurs “in variegated trials”. There is no universal situation on view here, but the varied circumstances of a number of believers who may be suffering to greater or lesser degrees in diversified ways.

The purpose clause introduced by ἵνα gives a goal for the suffering, “the proving of your faith”. However this involves a fairly long descriptive phrase before we meet the subjunctive verb, “might be found”. Peter constructs a comparison, “(much) more precious than gold, that perishes, though it is proven by fire”. The main link is between δοκίμιον and δοκμαζομένου, both items undergo a process of refinement or purification that proves their genuineness through something difficult (fire/suffering). In the case of gold, though, it is still ἀπολλυμένου, still a material object that is temporally limited. Peter’s assurance is that their faith is both more valuable than gold, and that being proven by suffering it is more enduring than gold.
This provenness or genuineness is to be found “unto”, or more commonly “to result in”, as the three nouns governed by the εἰς indicate a further goal or end-point of their proven faith: praise, glory, and honour. When will this occur? “At the revelation of Jesus Christ”, a temporal reference to the eschatological return of Christ that matches “in the last time” in v5. Whose ‘praise, glory, and honour’ – the believers’ or God’s? Jobes points out that in 2:9, 12, 4:11, God receives praise and glory because of believers’ behaviour, and the same thought may well be present here, though we should not rule out the possibility that Peter is encouraging them with the hope of eschatological reward in these words, since the overall thrust is that their suffering is not in vain for themselves as much as for God.

Just as “Jesus Christ” at the end of v3a lead off into a series of clauses, so too the mention of Jesus Christ here leads off into a series of clauses that runs through to the end of v12. We are offered a pair of contrasting ‘though, yet’ clauses:

               Whom, not (having) seen, you love
               In whom, now not seeing, trusting

The shift from the aorist ἰδόντες to the present ὁρῶντες must be held to hold some significance in the context. Considering the first part, Peter draws attention to the fact that they love Jesus Christ, even though they did not see him. Parallel to this, though also at the present time they still do not see him, they trust in him, and since they trust, they rejoice. Although “love” is an indicative verb and “trust” is a participle, they form a better pair here, with the “trust” leading into the action of “you rejoice”, which echoes back to the opening of v6 creating an inclusio. The rest of this verse and the next qualifies and describes this act of rejoicing. It is “with an inexpressible and filled-with-glory joy”, and they are “obtaining the goal of [their] faith”. Even if v7 speaks of God’s praise and glory, here the emphasis is on believers’ obtaining the final outcome of their faith despite trials and in contrast to their non-eye-witness experience of Jesus. What is that final outcome? “the rescue of [their] souls”. “Rescue” here is ‘salvation’ but it is difficult to render σωτηρία in any neutral way. Especially as ψυχῶν means ‘souls’ in the sense of ‘integrated living beings’ as in the phrase “save our souls”, not necessarily in a spiritualised sense of “the salvation of the spirit-portion of our being”. What Peter envisions as the outcome of their faith is nothing less than the rescue of their whole beings, effected by the resurrection of Jesus from among the dead, a reality in which they now rejoice, despite present sufferings, and a reality that awaits a final consummation.

Verse 10 opens with “concerning which salvation” providing yet another linking device. It is helpful to maintain a strictly Greek word-order in thinking through this verse. We are introduced to the topic, ‘which salvation’, and the next piece of information is “they searched and inquired”. The presence of the two verbs, both compounded with ἐκ, gives some sense of serious and searching inquiry. Naturally we are wondering who did this investigation, and the next piece of information answers it, οἱ, but what follows is a typical nested clause:

               { οἱ ( περὶ τῆς [ εἰς ὑμᾶς ] χάριτος ) προφητεύσαντες }

In English we must straighten this out into follow-on units: {those prophesying (about the grace [that is for you])}. As vv11 and 12 will make clear, Peter has in mind the OT prophets, whom he here describes as prophesying about the grace that is for you. The message of the OT, and its final target, do not fully resolve in the OT itself, but in Peter’s addressees (NT believers) and by theological extension New Covenant believers today.

v11 opens with a participle that is functionally adverbial, describing their inquiry in terms of two questions: εἰς τίνα and ποῖον καιρόν. These two questions are further explicated as what “the spirit of Christ in them, foretelling the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories, was making clear.” It is an interesting use of εἰς here to attach the sufferings to Christ. It has engendered debate about whether the prophets in view are the OT prophets and so predicting Christ’s sufferings, or the sufferings of his people for him, and so NT prophets of some kind. Jobes offers up 2 Cor 1:11, 11:3, and comparison with 1 Pet 1:10, as well as 4:14, 5:1, to argue for the sense of Christ’s sufferings, with εἰς indicating the recipient of the head noun, with a verbal idea implied. This supports the view that OT Prophets are in view.

What exactly were the prophets inquiring into? This question hinges on how εἰς τίνα is understood. Is it, qua F.F. Bruce, referring to a person (so masc. acc. interrog. pronoun), or else as a interrogative adjective redundantly complementing ποῖον and agreeing with καιρόν? The effect would then be “what time, or what sort of time” moving from a specific to more generalised question. Kilpatrick argues that in the NT corpus forms of τίς are overwhelmingly pronouns, not adjectives (adjectives less than 20 out of more than 1000). A third option is that τίνα be parsed as nt. pl. acc. interrog. pronoun, ‘what things’. In my translation I have followed the minority option of taking it as a pronoun, but I think the question remains open.

Verse 13 unexpected to us by now, begins with a relative pronoun referring back to the prophets. Here Peter solidifies the thrust of though in vv10-12, that the OT Prophets played an anticipatory role, and that the coming of Christ and all it entails is an extension, not a rejection or disjunction, with the OT faith. Peter says plains that it was revealed to the prophets that they were serving not themselves, but “you”. Their ministry was prospective. The inclusion of αὐτά at the end of the first clause gives a direct object to their service, understood as the things they prophesied, and this objective content forms the antecedent to the relative clause which follows. There is historical continuity here ‘what the prophets ministered (was the same that) was preached to you’, and Peter highlights the superiority of their position, as also in the final clause since angels, like the prophets, “longed to look into these things”. Neither prophets nor angels knew this message in fullness, but only in part and in prospect.

Thus Peter completes this very first portion of his letter, reminding and assuring his readers of their particular and blessed place in the economy of God, which has to do with the salvation not only revealed, but effected, in these days, and proclaimed to them, in which they have believed, and in enduring in their faith through trials, will receive the outcome of that faith, salvation and inheritance. These are reasons indeed to say, “Blessed be God”.


Alternate Translation

Revised for better readability.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

This God, according to his abundant mercy, caused us to be reborn into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, reborn into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, an inheritance guarded in the heavens for you, who are also guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation prepared to be manifested at the last time.

In all of this you rejoice, although now it is necessary to suffer in various trials for a little while, so that the provenness of your faith, which is more precious than gold that is destroyed though it is tested through fire, might be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Though you did not see him, you love him, and though you do not now see him, you trust in him and so rejoice with wordless and glorious joy, as you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your lives.

The prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and inquired, investigating what person or what kind of time the spirit of Christ in them was indicating, as it fore-told the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to themthat they were ministering these things not for temselves, but for you. Those things, which angels desired to look into, have now been proclaimed to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirt sent from heaven.

2 comments:

Heinrich said...

Thanks for continuing these notes. In my own reading, I had been skipping right to the inheritance as a focus. After reading your notes, I see the hope and inheritance as complementing each other. Do you think Peter wants us to see the "living hope" as a present reality and the "inheritance" as a future one?

Seumas Macdonald said...

I suppose that I would say "living hope" is a present reality, because hope is by nature something present that is future oriented. So I would not want to drive a sharp division between present and future. Instead, I think Peter is tying future and present together so that the objects of hope (future things) are sources of present encouragement because of their security.