Sunday, April 06, 2014

1 Peter 1:22-2:3 Exegetical Notes

Text

22 Τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν ἡγνικότες ἐν τῇ ὑπακοῇ τῆς ἀληθείας εἰς φιλαδελφίαν ἀνυπόκριτον ἐκ καρδίας ἀλλήλους ἀγαπήσατε ἐκτενῶς, 23 ἀναγεγεννημένοι οὐκ ἐκ σπορᾶς φθαρτῆς ἀλλὰ ἀφθάρτου, διὰ λόγου ζῶντος θεοῦ καὶ μένοντος· 24 διότι πᾶσα σὰρξ ὡς χόρτος, καὶ πᾶσα δόξα αὐτῆς ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου· ἐξηράνθη χόρτος, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν· 25 τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα κυρίου μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ ῥῆμα τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν εἰς ὑμᾶς.

2.1 Ἀποθέμενοι οὖν πᾶσαν κακίαν καὶ πάντα δόλον καὶ ὑποκρίσεις καὶ φθόνους καὶ πάσας καταλαλιάς, 2 ὡς ἀρτιγέννητα βρέφη τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα ἐπιποθήσατε, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ αὐξηθῆτε εἰς σωτηρίαν, 3 εἰ ἐγεύσασθε ὅτι χρηστὸς κύριος.

 

Critical

v22 ἐκ καθαρᾶς καρδίας / ἐκ καρδίας ἀληθινῆς External evidence seems to favour the former reading, though the adjective is absent from A B vg.
v23 μένοντος (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα) The bracketed phrase is found in the TR, but is likely an assimilation from v25.
1:24 αὐτῆς / ἀνθρώπου The TRs substitutes the latter to conform the text to the LXX of Isa 40:6.
2:2 εἰς σωτηρίαν This is omitted in TR, perhaps due to scribal oversight.
2:3 εἰ / εἵπερ Metzger notes that the latter reading looks like a stylistic improvement, whereas the former has early Alexandrian representation.

Translation

Having consecrated your souls in the obedience of the truth for sincere brotherly-love from the heart love one another fervently, having been born again not from perishable seed but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God; for
               All flesh is as grass
               And all glory as the flower of grass
               The grass withers, and the flower falls
               But the word of the Lord remains forever.
And this is the word, the gospel [that came] to you.
Laying aside therefore every evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, as newborn infants long for the unadulterated genuine milk, so that by it you might increase unto salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Commentary

v22 provides the third major exhortation (1st be holy, 2nd fear God, now 3rd love one another fervently) and is qualified by two participial phrases, “having consecrated your souls...” and “having been born again....” Both of which provide causal grounds for why believers are to exhibit such love. Firstly, believers have ‘consecrated’ themselves, setting themselves apart in voluntary devotion to God, expressed as obedience to the truth, specifically the truth of the gospel.This consecration has as its purpose a new state of being, or moral paradigm, that is ‘sincere brotherly-love’, the kind of community that is to characterise the new covenant.

The second participial phrase again depicts believers as ‘having been born again’, echoing the thought of 1:3. This new birth is qualitatively difference from first birth, as the ‘seed’ is different, not perishable but imperishable. That imperishable seed gives birth to imperishable life, and the ‘what’ of that seed is further elaborated as God’s living and enduring word. We should not miss the theological import here: new birth is accomplished through the Word of God.

In verses 24-25 Peter quotes from the LXX of Isaiah 40:6-8. The context of that passage involves the promises of God in terms of redemption from exile, but in a broader context the latter part of Isaiah is offering eschatological hope and redemption. Peter takes the word of Isaiah, the good news of his day, and identifies it with the word that has come to believers, the good news of Jesus Christ. Peter thus continues to adapt the language of exile, diaspora, and redemption from an Old Testament context to a New. In this manner, he re-applies the message of hope and comfort from Isaiah for believers now experiencing trial and loss.

Specifically, Peter contrasts the weakness of human reality with the abiding reality of the word of God. In the face of the ever-present ‘reality’, the word that God’s word is eternal, abiding, powerful, stands as an encouragement that human temporal realities are indeed temporal.

The structure of 2:1-3 is:

[participial clause] [comparative clause] imperative [purpose clause] [conditional clause]

The participial clause seems to provide both means and pre-requisite to the main imperative verb. Peter relates a list of things that are to be laid aside, as no longer fitting for the believer who has been born again of the living word of God. This clause thus connects to verses 1:22-25, even as it continues to elaborate on the consequences of new birth from 1:3. Besides an all encompassing “every evil”, the focus of immoral behaviour is relational and speech-act-based: deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander”. This provides yet another connection in terms of verse 22’s imperative to love one another.

The comparative clause provides a metaphorical manner in which the imperative is to be fulfilled, “as new born babes”, which matches the semantics of the imperative. It does not necessarily suggest that the addressees are new believers, but rather the manner in which they should crave milk.

The main question in these verses is how to understand λογικόν and what γάλα actually stands for. The dominant interpretive tradition is to understand the metaphor to refer to God’s word, as apostolic preaching or Scripture. Jobes cites Hort on the difficult of this, “The Familiar rendering ‘milk of the word’ is simply impossible” (Hort, 1898). We must ask why Peter did not write τοῦ λόγου in place of the non-synonymous λογικόν. Also how are we to understand the lexical variation between λόγος and ῥῆμα in verse 25? Does Peter’s choice align v2 with 1:23, so that the word is both life-giving and life-sustaining?

There is further difficult in how to translate λογικός at all. “That which pertains to the λόγος” sums it up nicely, but doesn’t read very well in English; “spiritual” is problematically multivalent, “rational” Is another possibility. Jobes highlights Calvin’s interpretation, of the τὸ λογικὸν γάλα as something like ‘the morally transformed way of life that conforms and is true to genuine reality’. Life as reborn people into a new reality thus requires sustenance that matches that new reality. The word of God is that reality and sustenance.
The metaphorical milk is further described as “unadulterated”. Is this in contrast to “adulterated” milk? The context does not point in that direction, as Peter is not primarily laying out a program of “more word ministry, more sermons, more reading, more lessons, more lectures”, so that the contrast is with contaminated/false teaching. Rather milk, at least in the popular mind, is unadulterated.

Skipping over the purpose clause for a moment, Peter ends this section with a strong allusion to Psalm 34:8 (LXX 33:9). The Psalm recurs in this letter in 3:10-12, and is part of the scriptural ‘backdrop’ to the whole letter. The LXX text itself recontextualises the Psalm for the Diaspora setting, e.g., 34:5 ‘from all my fears’ becomes ‘from all my sojournings’ with repointing. Peter makes some minor modifications, changing imperative to indicative, and omitting καὶ ἴδετε. The importance of the quotation is heightened when the second half of Ps 34:8 is brought in,”Happy is the one who hopes in him”. Contextually, because the Christians have experienced God’s goodness, so they can and are to hope fully in Christ. Peter’s addressees have, through the gospel, experienced God’s goodness, and if this is indeed so, they are to continue to consider God the one who gives and sustains new life in the new reality.


For what end? So that they may “increase unto salvation”. Peter’s goal is his reader’s continued growth into maturity, ultimately so that they will continue in the same path that leads to deliverance from the coming wrath.

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