Wednesday, August 20, 2014

1 Peter 4:12-19 Exegetical Notes

Text

12 Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ ξενίζεσθε τῇ ἐν ὑμῖν πυρώσει πρὸς πειρασμὸν ὑμῖν γινομένῃ ὡς ξένου ὑμῖν συμβαίνοντος, 13 ἀλλὰ καθὸ κοινωνεῖτε τοῖς τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθήμασιν χαίρετε, ἵνα καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ χαρῆτε ἀγαλλιώμενοι. 14 εἰ ὀνειδίζεσθε ἐν ὀνόματι Χριστοῦ, μακάριοι, ὅτι τὸ τῆς δόξης καὶ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πνεῦμα ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἀναπαύεται. 15 μὴ γάρ τις ὑμῶν πασχέτω ὡς φονεὺς κλέπτης κακοποιὸς ὡς ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος· 16 εἰ δὲ ὡς Χριστιανός, μὴ αἰσχυνέσθω, δοξαζέτω δὲ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ. 17 ὅτι καιρὸς τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα ἀπὸ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ θεοῦ· εἰ δὲ πρῶτον ἀφʼ ἡμῶν, τί τὸ τέλος τῶν ἀπειθούντων τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίῳ; 18 καὶ εἰ δίκαιος μόλις σῴζεται, ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλὸς ποῦ φανεῖται; 19 ὥστε καὶ οἱ πάσχοντες κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ πιστῷ κτίστῃ παρατιθέσθωσαν τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν ἐν ἀγαθοποιΐᾳ.

Critical

v14 δόξης καὶ το τοῦ θεοῦ / δόξης καὶ δυνάμεως τοῦ θεοῦ ὄνομα καί / δόξης καὶ δυνάμεως καὶ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ
The shorter reading to be preferred, being also in a range of important witnesses
v14 ἀναπαύεται / ἐπαναπαύεται / ἀναπέπαυται / ἐπαναπέπαυται
As per Metzger, the perfect and compound forms of the verb are likely developmens of ἀναπαύεται

Translation

Beloved ones, do not be surprised at the fiery-ordeal among you that occurs for testing you as if something strange happening to you, but insofar as you share in the sufferings of the Christ, rejoice, so that in the revelation of his glory you might exultingly rejoice. If you are reviled in the name of Christ, [you are] blessed, because the spirit of Glory and of God rests upon you. For let no one of you suffer as a murderer or thief or evil-doer or even as a busybody; but if as a Christian, let them not be ashamed, but let them gloriy God in this name. Because the time to begin judgement from the household of God [is here]; but if first from us, what will be the end for those disobeying the gospel of God? and if the righteous is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear? So let even those suffering according to the will of God entrust their souls, in doing good, to the faithful Creator.

Commentary

I take it that the opening ἀγαπητοί signals the opening of the closing section of the letter, as Peter uses a vocative to address his readers. However the content of this section is still tied to the major themes of the letter, as he immediately tells the readers not to be surprised at suffering. The choice of πυρώσις in v12 echoes, though distantly, the mention of fire in 1:7. Peter has already laid out a case for why the righteous may anticipate suffering in this life, but the injunction not to be surprised at it marks a profoundly different note. For believers, suffering is ‘normalised’ in this life, though not ‘fatalised’. That is, suffering is not merely a distortion of the way things are, to which we will return to shortly. Rather, suffering is a profound distortion of the way things ought to be, but one which continually characterises this present age. For the believer, that suffering (ought to) occur as a consequence of righteous living, rather than unrighteous. While Peter writes in a socio-historical context of opposition to the Christian faith, we should not lose sight that such a context is directly applicable to parts of the world today, in ways that it may not be for one’s own context.

In verse 13 Peter gives a contrasting perspective on suffering – not as something to be (merely) lamented or avoided, but in its occurrence it is in fact an occasion for rejoicing. How so? Insofar as it is suffering for Christ, it is fellowship in Christ’s sufferings. This connects with 3:14, the statement that such suffering is a mark of blessedness. It is a mark of identification with Christ, of fidelity to God in the face of suffering, as an evidence or proof of the believer’s allegiance.

In this sense, the blessedness of suffering has a future, eschatological focus, as seen in the purpose clause in v13, with its “in the revelation of his glory”. Whatever joy believers have now, in suffering, is proleptic for the eschatological joy they will have in the vindication of that faith in the manifestation of the object and source of that faith.

Verse 14 more directly echoes 3:14, though ‘suffering’ is replaced more directly by “reviled in the name of Christ”. Suffering itself is not blessedness, Peter does not teach that suffering is some kind of moral or natural good. Rather, Peter provides a causal reason here for that blessedness, the presence of “The Spirit of Glory and of God”. This is probably an allusion to Isa 11:2 LXX (καὶ ἀναπαύσεται ἐπʼ αὐτὸν πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ, πνεῦμα σοφίας καὶ συνέσεως, πνεῦμα βουλῆς καὶ ἰσχύος, πνεῦμα γνώσεως καὶ εὐσεβείας). In light of Peter’s earlier teaching, the choice to suffer rather than sin testifies to the believer that God is not absent, but rather must indeed be present, since this is the word of the Spirit.
In verse 15 Peter clarifies what kind of suffering is in view. Not all suffering is a sign of blessedness or mark of glory. It should not be as a sinner, characterised by a list of four particular criminals, “murderer”, “thief”, “evildoer”, “busybody”. The last term is set off and has a much lesser “gravity” as compared to murdering. Why does Peter include it? Perhaps because Peter’s point is that even seemingly innocuous forms of immoral behaviour can lead to suffering, and are not negligible. Perhaps meddling is a problem among his audience. Elliott describes the kind of behaviour on view, “Censuring the behaviour of outsiders on the basis of claims to a higher morality, interfering with family relationships, fomenting domestic discontent and discord, or tactless attempts at conversion” (Elliott 2000, p788). Certainly plenty of that has been done in the name of piety, good cause, and ‘not to be nosy but….’

The contrast statement in verse 16 is simply “as a Christian”. The term appears only thrice in the NT (Acts 11:26, 26:28). Peter’s initial point is very simple, the only crime that Christians should be punished for is “being an adherent of Christ”. However that manifests, whether legally or socially, in behaviour or in identity, there should be no hint of immorality that leads to censure or punishment, that kind of behaviour does not bring glory to God or indicate his favour. Those who do suffer, on account of being Christians, ought themselves not be ashamed, but rather themselves offer glory to God. Against the prevailing society’s way of calculating honour, in which being a Christian is itself a source of shame, Peter presents an alternate honour-shame reality, in which that shame is inverted as a source of honour and glory.

Verse 17 provides a ground for the attitude believers should have, as described in verse 16. Peter states that it is now time for judgment to begin, and to being with “the house of God”. This language picks up the thought of chapter 2, especially vv4-5. This thought ought to be read, theologically against the broader NT canon, in which there is both the assurance of no condemnation (e.g. Romans 8:1) but rather salvation, alongside the reality of some kind of judgment that involves believers (e.g. Romans 14:10).

Schutter argues that Ezekiel 9:5-6 LXX is the primary background, whereas Johnson argues for Zech 13:9 and Mal 3:1-3. However each of these passages proclaims God’s judgment on his people for covenant violation. Peter’s point is not this, since he is writing in the context of assuring believers for their covenant faithfulness. Their suffering is a sign of righteousness and God’s presence, rather than their sin and God’s abandonment. Rather we should take τό κρίμα more as “the process of discrimination and judgment”, which is enacted in history through the opposition of outsiders to believers, as part of the testing and refining of “us” (ἀφἡμῶν). This testing and discrimination is part and parcel of the eschatological event of God’s judgment, and completes the thought that begins in 1:5, an articulation of the theology that not only explains suffering for Christ, but gives the resources and exhortation to endure and persevere under it, in light of (a) what Christ has done and (b) what God will do.

In contrast to this, Peter asks the genuinely rhetorical question, “What will be the outcome for those disobedient to the gospel of God?” For them, Peter leaves unspoken the judgment to come. Instead, in v18, Peter repeats the contrast, saying that the righteous is saved “with difficulty”. What kind of difficulty does Peter imagine? This is not a soteriological statement, but one related to Christian perseverance. In the face of sustained opposition from the world, faithful endurance is difficult. The verse is a quotation from Proverbs 11:31 LXX, 31 εἰ μὲν δίκαιος μόλις σῴζεται, ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλὸς ποῦ φανεῖται; And so the second part of it again raises the question of the non-believer, without definite answer. Peter on the one hand contrasts believers’ present suffering with future vindication, and merely suggests that for unbelievers, the judgment to come will be worse by far than the believers’ present sufferings.


Finally in verse 19 Peter gives the result of all this: believers should entrust themselves to God. They should do so, even if suffering (taking the participle in a concessive manner). They should do so because such suffering is “according to God’s will”. They should do so as to the God who is the “faithful Creator”. This verse echoes again the paradigmatic nature of Christ’s suffering, seen in 2:21-23, especially verse 23.    I take “according to God’s will” here in the sense of “will of command” rather than “will of decree” (to use traditional categories), related to Peter’s teaching that such suffering is the consequence for obedience to God’s revealed will. Lastly, how is such trust expressed? The final phrase explains, “in doing good”. Perservering faith in the face of hostility expresses its ongoing fidelity to God by continuing to do what is good. It is the choice to continue to suffer rather than sin.

No comments: