Wednesday, July 16, 2014

1 Peter 3:8-12 Exegetical Notes


8 Τὸ δὲ τέλος πάντες ὁμόφρονες, συμπαθεῖς, φιλάδελφοι, εὔσπλαγχνοι, ταπεινόφρονες, 9 μὴ ἀποδιδόντες κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ λοιδορίαν ἀντὶ λοιδορίας τοὐναντίον δὲ εὐλογοῦντες, ὅτι εἰς τοῦτο ἐκλήθητε ἵνα εὐλογίαν κληρονομήσητε. 10 γὰρ θέλων ζωὴν ἀγαπᾶν καὶ ἰδεῖν ἡμέρας ἀγαθὰς παυσάτω τὴν γλῶσσαν ἀπὸ κακοῦ καὶ χείλη τοῦ μὴ λαλῆσαι δόλον, 11 ἐκκλινάτω δὲ ἀπὸ κακοῦ καὶ ποιησάτω ἀγαθόν, ζητησάτω εἰρήνην καὶ διωξάτω αὐτήν· 12 ὅτι ὀφθαλμοὶ κυρίου ἐπὶ δικαίους καὶ ὦτα αὐτοῦ εἰς δέησιν αὐτῶν, πρόσωπον δὲ κυρίου ἐπὶ ποιοῦντας κακά.


v8 ταπεινόφρονες / φιλόφρονες / φιλόφρονες ταπεινόφρονες
Only Textus Receptus and similar have φιλόφρονες. The mss support for ταπεινόφρονες is secure.


Finally all of you, be harmonious, understanding, showing brotherly love, compassionate, and humble, not repaying evil in place of evil or insult in place of insult, but in place of this – blessing, because you were called to this so that you might inherit blessing. For
               He that wishes to love life
               And to see good days
Let him cease his tongue from evil
And lips from speaking deceit,
Let him turn aside from evil and do good
Let him seek peace and pursue it.

the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are toward their prayers,
but the face of the Lord is against those doing evil.


While 2:11-3:7 has formed a discrete set of instructions primarily aimed at 3 distinct groups, the opening of 3:8 addresses all members of the Christian community, and certainly the bulk of them might be aptly described as one of those categories; however the instruction is universal and moves to relate Christian virtues to be seen both internally and externally to the Christian community. Overall, Peter’s initial list of virtues are aimed at community harmony and good relations, internally (harmony, understanding, brotherly love), as well as externally. We may note, as Jobes does, that some of these terms are transferred or utilised primarily in kinship domains. The church forms a new kinship network.

There is, as throughout this letter, expectation of hostility or difficulty from those outside the believing community – that believers will indeed suffer evil or insult. While Peter has addressed this with the exemplar of Christ in chapter 2, he draws back to this theme from a different perspective with the language of call and of blessing, and it transitions into the major theme from this point through until 4:19. In terms of the dynamics of honour-shame relations in the socio-cultural setting, refusing to meet challenges and ‘play the game’ would be both distinctive, as well as emerge as a new way of ‘playing’ the game. [1]

Is the call to ‘return blessing for evil’, or is the call to ‘inherit a blessing’? The occurrence in 4:6 of a similar structure points backwards, then followed by a purpose, while the occurrence in 2:20 likewise refers backwards. However a text of this size hardly provides enough of a sample to draw conclusions of this kind. So the decision is open. However, in my view, deictic markers are generally more likely to be anaphoric than kataphoric, and so the reference is backwards, to “return blessing for evil”. The purpose clause is then the outcome of the way of life that believers are called to; outcome, not reward, as it is inheritance.

What follows as scriptural support is a quotation of LXX Ps 33 (English 34), which we have encountered earlier in 2:3, as well as allusions following on. It is clear that the Psalm provides a basis for both structure and content of Peter’s teaching in this epistle. The text-type is LXX, and the LXX is close to the Hebrew, though Jobes notes that “terrors” (מְגוּרוֹת) was turned into ‘sojournings’ in original reference to David’s time among the Philistines, but very apt to the setting of Peter’s audience.

The citation is LXX Ps 33:13-15 and then 16-17, interrupted by a ὅτι which Peter uses to explicate the first part by way of the second. The application of the Psalm for Peter is very much contrasted with a straightforward ‘reading’, since “life” and “good days” are not what his readers are experiencing, except insofar as they experience the goodness of God and life in him. Indeed, as he earlier made mention to “tasting” that the Lord is Good. Then comes the ethical instruction, which is finally supported by the character of God, who is for the righteous and against the evildoers. The faithfulness and goodness of God is the guarantee and guarantor that ought to motivate believers to continue to turn from evil, and repay evil with good, for however long, in light of the just judge.

[1] I use the language of ‘playing the honour game’ because it matches the reality as well as the literature. But ‘game’ here should not be thought to trivialise the activity. It merely reflects that there were well established social conventions, dynamics, ‘moves’, and ‘goals’, which patterned social life around the gaining/contesting/holding of honour.

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