Monday, June 30, 2014

1 Peter 2:18-25 Exegetical Notes

Text

18 Οἱ οἰκέται ὑποτασσόμενοι ἐν παντὶ φόβῳ τοῖς δεσπόταις,
οὐ μόνον τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἐπιεικέσιν
ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς σκολιοῖς.
19 τοῦτο γὰρ χάρις
εἰ διὰ συνείδησιν θεοῦ ὑποφέρει τις λύπας πάσχων ἀδίκως·
20 ποῖον γὰρ κλέος
εἰ ἁμαρτάνοντες
καὶ κολαφιζόμενοι ὑπομενεῖτε;
ἀλλʼ εἰ ἀγαθοποιοῦντες καὶ πάσχοντες ὑπομενεῖτε,
τοῦτο χάρις παρὰ θεῷ.
21 εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ ἐκλήθητε,

ὅτι καὶ Χριστὸς ἔπαθεν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν,
ὑμῖν ὑπολιμπάνων ὑπογραμμὸν
ἵνα ἐπακολουθήσητε τοῖς ἴχνεσιν αὐτοῦ·
22 ὃς ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν
οὐδὲ εὑρέθη δόλος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ·
23 ὃς λοιδορούμενος οὐκ ἀντελοιδόρει,
πάσχων οὐκ ἠπείλει,
παρεδίδου δὲ τῷ κρίνοντι δικαίως·
24 ὃς τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν αὐτὸς ἀνήνεγκεν
ἐν τῷ σώματι αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον,
ἵνα ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀπογενόμενοι
τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ ζήσωμεν·
οὗ τῷ μώλωπι ἰάθητε.
25 ἦτε γὰρ ὡς πρόβατα πλανώμενοι,
ἀλλὰ ἐπεστράφητε νῦν ἐπὶ τὸν ποιμένα
καὶ ἐπίσκοπον τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν

Critical

v19 χάρις / χάρις παρὰ τῷ θεῷ / χάρις θεοῦ / χάρις θεῷ
It seems relatively clear that the alternatives are scribal expansions to clarify the meaning of χάρις, which by itself has reasonably strong mss support.

θεοῦ / ἀγαθήν / ἁγαθὴν θεοῦ / θεοῦ ἀγαθήν
The reading as stands has strong textual support, but the meaning of the phrase is unclear. ἀγαθήν may have been substituted to clarify the phrase, with the last two variants explicable and conflations of the two.

v21 ἔπαθεν / ἀπέθανεν
Again there is strong textual support for the former. The latter may be understood as (a) naturally understanding the ‘suffering’ on view as death, (b) influence from the variant at 3:18.

v21 ὑμῶν ὑμῖν / ἡμῶν ὑμῖν / ἡμῶν ἡμῖν
While ὑμεῖς and ἡμεῖς are, understandably, often interchanged at some points, here the external evidence favours the reading as stands. Perhaps a desire to be more universal in scope prompted alteration to the alternatives.

v25 πλανώμενοι / πλανώμενα
The former would be masculine in agreement with the subject of ἦτε, the latter agrees with πρόβατα and more likely to have arisen from influence of that word.

Translation

Servants, be subject in all reverence to your masters, not only to those that are good and forbearing, but also to the harsh. For this is grace, if on account of conciousness of God someone endure, suffering unjustly. For what kind of credit is it, if sinning you then endure being beaten? But if, doing good, you also suffer and endure, this is grace before God.
For you were called to this:

Because Christ also suffered for you
Leaving behind an example for you
So that you might follow his footsteps
Who did not commit sin,
Nor was deceit found in his mouth,
Who, being reviled, did not revile back,
Suffering, did not threaten,
But entrusted [himself] to the one that judges justly
Who himself bore our sins
In his body on the tree
So that dying to sins
We might live to righteousness,
By whose wound you are healed.
For you were as sheep gone astray,
But now you have returned to the Shepherd
And Overseer of your souls

Commentary

Jobes very helpfully contextualises the next portion of Peter’s epistle against “hosehold codes”, as found in Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Plutarch, Seneca, and Dio Chrystostom. The main commonality of all household codes in Graeco-Roman literature is that there is an ordering to households that is universal and moral and the basis for society. This kind of household code does not emerge in Jewish writings until Judaism starts to engage with Hellenism. Peter and Paul, in writing to audiences who would be familiar with household codes, engage the form but without simply endorsing the status quo. Their codes show both moral and theological innovation. It is no surprise that Peter should engage in writing such a code since the function of a household code is to orient someone to how to fulfil their socio-political role, and Peter’s audience are persons doubly-dislocated as foreigners and as Christians whom he wishes to instruct in socio-political life. Furthermore, the position of Christianity as an emergent religion within the Graeco-Roman context would be judged in part by how conformist it was to sociological norms.

The very first point of note, then, is that Peter does not begin with an address to masters. Indeed, slaves were often not addressed as moral agents in household codes at all. Slaves were addressed through masters, as being incapable of deliberative thinking (per Aristotle), while wives had the rational capability but lacked the authority (see Balch 1981, p34-35). Peter begins with addressing slaves directly, as moral agents. Furthermore, the way Peter puts slaves first in his treatment, in conjunction with the content that follows, makes the slave paradigmatic for Christian moral social life. Secondly, the very fact that Peter addresses slaves and gives them religious-moral instruction represents the rejection of the view that slaves must, facto servitudine ipso, serve the gods of their master. For a slave or a wife to worship gods other than the master’s is socially subversive, if not rebellious.

Verse 18 enjoins that slaves “be subject” to their masters, “in all fear/reverence”. The later is virtually an adverbial phrase in function, and forms a key concept in the following two units. Again Peter employs a participle with an implied imperative. Actually there is quite some debate about whether they are ‘imperatival participles’ or ‘periphrastic participles with an implied imperative of εἰμί’. For my part it seems simpler to read them as the later, though we must always be attentive to whether a participle stands in this kind of independent usage, or is in fact subordinate to another verb (e.g. it can be argued that they are participles extending the meaning of ‘be subject’ back in 2:13).
Furthermore in this verse the principle is laid down that ethical behaviour is not motivated by the moral standing or behaviour of the other party. In Peter’s view it is, a priori, irrelevant whether one’s master is good and kind or wicked, the command is the same.

The following verse lays out the theological rationale that makes, for a slave, reverent submission to a wicked master sensical: it is a grace. Specifically unjust suffering that is endured “on account of a consciousness of God” is a grace. There is considerable overlap between the idea of “consciousness of God” and “a good conscience” here, as Elliot says “consciousness” in this kind of context includes “sensitivity to the divine will concerning conduct”. In conjunction with verse 20, “grace” must be understood to mean something like “a thing that finds favour in the eyes of God”. Indeed, verse 20 simply elaborates the meaning of v19 – there is nothing profitable or worthwhile about suffering for doing evil, but doing good and suffering because of it, this is worth something before God.

In my translation I set off verse 21 through 25, though strictly speaking it is not poetry. One might also prefer to start the unit at ὅτι.  However its structure, theology, and patterning betray a theological unity centred on the paradigm of Christ as the Suffering Servant that informs Peter’s socio-political ethic. This is part and parcel of the way Peter is treating the slave as the paradigm for all Christians – Christ as Slave is the model.

This whole passage is also tightly structured around quotation and allusion from Isaiah 53. Again, Jobes rightly notes that Peter alone explicitly applies and utilises Isaiah 53 to Christ and his Passion. Other quotations in the NT are oblique, refer to Christian mission and service, Paul’s ministry, but not directly to Jesus himself.

Verse 21 connects the two sections: you were called to this. “This” refers back to the suffering unjustly for doing good that is the ethical instruction in v19-20. The sense of call here is bound up with chapter 1, God’s calling of his people. Christ’s example is the primary reason given for why this is what believers are called to. Specifically Christ suffered “for you”. The second half of verse 21 may be epexegetical, describing how Christ’s death was “for you”, but we might also read it as more generally adverbial, describing the fact that attendant to Christ’s death he left an example in that death. The word choice here is vivid, with v21c using ὑπογραμμόν to indicate an example, something to be ‘traced over’, while v21d uses the image of footsteps to be walked in.

Verse 22 is the first of four relative clauses that describe Christ. It comprises a fairly direct quotation from Isaiah 53:9. The first is a more comprehensive statement of Christ’s sinlessness in deed, while “no deceit was found in his mouth” focuses attention on verbal practice. As in the next verse, speech is highlighted as part of this pattern.

In verse 23 we have allusions to Isaiah, in the form of did not revile back, did not threaten (Isaiah 53:7c-d), entrusted (Isa 53:6c, 12), the one who judges justly (Isa 53:8a). Goppelt (1993) points out how this corresponds to the narrative in Mark: verbal abuse by the Sanhedrin, ridicule by Roman guards, derision by the crucified thief (Mark 14:65, 15:12-20, 15:29-32); silent acceptance of injustice (Mark 14:61, 15:5); the entrustment of judgment to God (Mark 14:62). The emphasis on Jesus’ verbal action continues, and here is placed on non-retaliation in the face of suffering, but instead continuing trust. It is God’s character as impartial judge, and the certainty of future just judgment that provides the theological rationale for not only Jesus’ steadfast enduring of unjust suffering, but believers in the same pattern.

The start of v24 conflates αὐτὸς ... ἀνήνεγκεν (Isa 53:12 LXX) with τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν (53:4 LXX). “Our sins” replaces “the sins of many”, personalising the reference to the Christian believers. Here, Peter makes the first direct interpretation of Isaiah 53 in terms of substitutionary atonement. This atoning act is further qualified by “in his body” and “on the tree”. The former qualification makes very clear that the incarnate death is in view, while the latter is an allusion (without doubt, in my view) to Deuteronomy 21:23 (cf. usage of ξύλον across the NT and LXX). Furthermore the atoning quality of Jesus’ death is given a purpose clause, “so that dying to sins we might live to righteousness”. Peter grounds moral transformation and ethical imperative in Christ’s death.
The final relative clause ends v24, quoting Isa 53:5d LXX but altering “we” to “you”, following Peter’s fairly consistent usage of 2nd person plurals, and possibly emphasising the inclusion of his readers as those covered by the Servant’s redemptive death. The singular of “wound” here follows the LXX and the MT.

Verse 25 continues the thought of Isaiah 53:5 with 53:6a though again changing 1st person to 2nd person. The mention of Shepherd evokes Isa 40:10-11 LXX while the combination of Shepherd and Overseer occurs in Ezekiel 34:11-13 LXX, especially in reference to the Diaspora. The whole passage of Ezekiel prophesies both the Davidic King and the Lord himself as the future Shepherd, typical metaphor for king, of God’s people. The combination of Davidic Messiah and God in the figure of Jesus alongside the identification of believers as the regathered sheep of Israel completes the recapitulation of this passage. Other aspects of the servant songs in Isaiah can be interpreted corporately of Israel, an interpretation that concords with the general pattern of Christ as Israel and representative of Israel, now typologically applied to the church who are to follow in Christ’s pattern. It should not be missed that the primary locus of imitation of Christ in Peter is Christ’s suffering. In the face of suffering believers are not to derive the lesson of God’s abandonment, but rather that suffering unjustly on account of fidelity to the unjustly Suffering Servant is a sign of election.

Overall I consider this one of the strongest, theologically richest portions of the letter. Peter is the only NT author to provide extensive use of Isaiah 53 in direct relation to the atonement, and does so here in a way that makes Christ’s death not only the paradigm of atonement, but the pattern of Christian ethical imitation (v21). Christian ethics is founded upon and patterned after the atoning death of Christ.


And on a personal note, I am fond of rendering verse 25 as Pastor and Bishop, to remind us that Christ, more than any human leader, fulfils those roles first and foremost.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review of John Oswalt's The Bible among the Myths

The Bible among the Myths: Unique Revelation or just Ancient Literature by John Oswalt. Published by Zondervan, 2009.

I read this book as part of a broader desire to read and engage with ideas related to contemporary non-evangelical scholarship on the Old Testament. I was hearing a lot of 'scholarly consensus', which to be honest should immediately make you ask the questions, "which scholars?", "what arguments?" Consensus represents a quantity, not a weight, of scholarship. Anyway, particularly I was reading opinions on the idea that monotheism 'evolved' in ancient Israel out of polytheism, and I wanted to read something on the conservative side.

Oswalt's book doesn't, for the most part, engage directly on some of the issues that I was reading about, but actually takes a step back and tackles a broader set of questions about how we read the Old Testament comparatively. In this way it is similar to my other recently reviewed book, "Against the Gods". But whereas the latter is much more focused on reading polemical theology and certain texts,  "The Bible among the Myths" begins by positing the question in terms of "What are the essentials and what are the accidentals of Old Testament religion?" The modern consensus basically argues that the 'essentials' of OT religion are the same as their neighbours, except in a quite late period of development, and that the 'accidentals' are distinct but not important. Oswalt's overall argument is that the 'essentials' are different, while the 'accidentals' are relatively similar. Indeed, the similarities generally serve to highlight those essential differences.

One of the things I appreciated about Oswalt's book was the time spent in the first few chapters (2-4) dealing with competing definitions of Myth, before providing his own analysis of Myth as a "particular way of looking at reality" (loc. 632), charactirsed overall by the concept of continuity between the realms of humanity, nature, and the divine (loc 651). Oswalt then maps out how this main concept of Continuity relates to such things as eternal presentism, 'actualisation of timeless reality', 'blurring of source and manifestation' (and I might add that the basis of all sympathetic magic traditions is obvious here), as well as common features, including polytheism, images of gods, a low view of those gods, the eternity of chaotic matter, etc.. Oswalt then provides a contrasting picture of Biblical thinking, organised around the principle of Transcendence (chapter 4).

When it comes then, to the question sf assessing similarities and differences, in chapter 5, Oswalt then makes the argument that what matters is that there is a signfiicant, fundamental difference that underlies Old Testament religion, and that the similarities are not at that fundamental level. I think this is the point at which Oswalt's thought interacts with, say Currid's work. When one actually does comparative study between Old Testament literature and other Ancient Near Eastern texts, there is a wealth of similarities, but its the differences that are striking. The Creation account of Genesis is missing major components of that Mythic world-view, it doesn't show 'traces' of earlier polytheism, it shows the work of someone composing an anti-polytheistic rejoinder.

In the second portion of the book, Oswalt moves to tackle a second, but related 'meta-question', that of the idea of History. In Oswalt's view, the conception of history as a an organised account of what has happened, centered on human activity, with significance for human life, is seen, and develops out of, the Scriptural texts. Why? because the pre-requisite beliefs that make history 'viable' emerge from the Bible. Namely, believe in human ability to make free and meaningful choices, a belief in observable cause and effect, the objectivity and importance of true facts, that human experience is dynamic, that historical events and relations are significant, rather than the merely 'ideal' world, and that there is an objective ethical reality.

Oswalt supports this view of history as a unique phenomenon or discipline by noting how other types of ANE literature dealt with 'events': "omens, king lists, date formulae, epics, royal annals, and chronicles" (loc 1718). While each of these deals with, to some extent, events and sequencing, they fall a long way short of the idea of 'history'.

In the chapters that follow Oswalt deals more directly with objections to the idea of the Bible being historical. These include philosophical objections as well as historical ones, though this is not really a text on the historical defensibility of the Old Testament. This section leads into chapter 9, which considers 4 alternate 'explanations' for the OT: John Van Seters, Frank Cross, William Dever, and Mark Smith.

I found this section particularly interesting, and lacking. I do not think the deficiency is in the realm of argument, but more of scope and length. These are attempts to explain how Israel ends up with the theology it does, how do we account for the theological outlook of the OT. Briefly, Van Seters proposes that basically most of the 'history of Israel' is a 'historical novel' created fictiously by 'the Yahwist' in the 6th century. Frank Cross argues that the Hebrew Scriptures are a prosification of an earlier, non-extant 'epic history' comparable to Homer. Dever argues that an orthodox, nationalistic, and urban elite created monotheistc Yahwehism and imposed it on a nation that basically practiced Canaanite polytheism. Lastly, Smith argues that the dominance of Yahweh emerges as an evolutionary process from polytheism to henotheism to 'monotheism' in response to the socio-historical challenges that Israel faces during its history.

Oswalt's has already provided his own alternative, so in engaging each of these authors directly, his main question is to ask whether these proposals credibly account for the evidence we have, do they have explanatory power for the documents as they are. I think the weakness of Oswalt's engagement is that each of these authors would contest, with some strength, some of the major elements of Oswalt's own presentation of Transcendence vs. Myth, and so the question of explaining Israel's 'uniqueness' would not arise within their own schemes. Nonetheless, despite these misgivings, I think Oswalt does what needs to be done - asking meta-level questions about these approaches to religious development in Israel, rather than only engaging specific arguments. Indeed, having done some reading in the field, the number of elements that actually need to be discussed in terms of 'evolution' from polytheism to monotheism, the question of Asherah, etc., is less than a dozen.

Overall I appreciated Oswalt's book, and would recommend it to others thinking hard about the field of Old Testament studies and some of the challenges provided by an overwhelmingly 'hostile' sector of non-believing scholarship. It's a reminder that 'consensus of scholars' is, more often than not, a stick to beat outsider views (though, to be fair, sometimes rightly so!); historical and theological studies must, if they are undertaken in earnest, both delve into detail as well as deal with meta-level questions of method, worldview, and presuppositions.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Greek Ørberg, Chapter 11 excerpt

It's always been hard to get good medical help.

δὲ Φίλιππος τοὐς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἀνοίγει καὶ τὸν ἰατρὸν παρεῖναι ὁρᾷ. παῖς, ὃς τὸν ἰατρὸν φοβεῖται, οὐ λόγον ποιεῖν τολμᾷ.

Ἰατρός· στόμα ἀνοίγε, παῖ! γλῶσσαν δείκνυ!

Δορκὰς· τί λέγει ἰατρός;

Ἰφιμεδεία· ἰατρὸς τὸν Φίλιππον τὸ στόμα ἀνοίγειν τε καὶ τὴν γλῶσσαν δεικνύναι κελεύει.

δὲ Φίλιππος τὸ στόμα ἀνοίγει καὶ τῷ ἰατρῷ τὴν γλῶτταν δείκνυσιν. δὲ ἰατρὸς τὴν γλῶτταν αὐτοῦ ἐρυθρὰν οὖσαν ὁρᾷ.

Ἰατρός· γλῶσσα αὐτοῦ ἐρυθρά ἐστιν.

Δορκάς· τί φησίν;

Ἰφιμεδεία· φησὶ τὴν γλῶτταν αὐτοῦ ἐρυθρά εἶναι.

δὲ Ἰαστρὸς ὀδόντας τοῦ Φιλίππου βλέπει καὶ μεταξὺ τῶν λευκῶν ὀδόντων ἕνα μέλαν ὀδόντα ὁρᾷ. οὐχ ὑγιεινός ἐστι ὀδοὺς ὃς μέλα χρῶμα ἔχει.

Ἰατρός· παῖς ὀδόντα ἀσθενῆ ἔχει.

Φίλιππος· δὲ ὀδούς οὐκ ἀλγεῖ, ἄρα ὀδοὺς ἀσθενής οὐκ ἔστιν. δὲ ποὺς ἀλγεῖ... καὶ κεφαλή.
Δορκάς· τί φασίν;

Ἰφιμεδεία· μὲν ἰατρός φησί τὸν Φίλιππον ὀδόντα ἀσθενῆ ἔχειν, δὲ Φίλιππος φησί τὸν ποδὰ καὶ κεφαλὴν ἄλγειν, οὐκ ὀδόντα.

Δημοσθένης· οὐ τὸν ὀδόντα, ἀλλὰ τὸν ποδά μονόν ὑγιάζε, ἰατρέ!

ἰατρὸς τὸν ποδὰ τοῦ Φιλίππου βλέπει καὶ τὸν δακτύλον πρὸς τὸν ποδὰ προστίθησιν· ἰατρὸς τοῦ ποδός ἅπτεται. δὲ παῖς τὸν δακτύλον τοῦ ἰατροῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ ποδός αἰσθάνεται.

Φίλιππος· ! ταταῖ! ποῦς ἀλγεῖ!


Monday, June 23, 2014

1 Peter 2:11-17 Exegetical Notes

Text

11 Ἀγαπητοί,
παρακαλῶ ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους
ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν,
αἵτινες στρατεύονται κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς·
12 τὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἔχοντες καλήν,
ἵνα, ἐν καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν,
ἐκ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων ἐποπτεύοντες
δοξάσωσι τὸν θεὸν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπισκοπῆς.

13 Ὑποτάγητε πάσῃ ἀνθρωπίνῃ κτίσει διὰ τὸν κύριον·
εἴτε βασιλεῖ ὡς ὑπερέχοντι,
14 εἴτε ἡγεμόσιν ὡς διʼ αὐτοῦ πεμπομένοις
εἰς ἐκδίκησιν κακοποιῶν
ἔπαινον δὲ ἀγαθοποιῶν
15 (ὅτι οὕτως ἐστὶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ,
ἀγαθοποιοῦντας φιμοῦν τὴν τῶν ἀφρόνων ἀνθρώπων ἀγνωσίαν
16 ὡς ἐλεύθεροι,
καὶ μὴ ὡς ἐπικάλυμμα ἔχοντες τῆς κακίας τὴν ἐλευθερίαν,
ἀλλʼ ὡς θεοῦ δοῦλοι.

17 πάντας τιμήσατε,
τὴν ἀδελφότητα ἀγαπᾶτε,
τὸν θεὸν φοβεῖσθε,
τὸν βασιλέα τιμᾶτε

Critical

There are no major critical issues in this section.

Translation

Beloved, I exhort you as resident-aliens and sojourning-foreigners to abstain from fleshly passions, which are waging war against the soul; holding a way of life among the nations [that is] good, so that, in that which they slander you as evil-doers, from observing the good deeds they will glory God in the day of visitation.
Submit to every human authority-system on account of the Lord: whether to the emperor, as being in authority, or to governors as those sent out through him for punishment of evil-doers and praise of good-doers. Because in this way it is the will of God that, doing good, you put to silence the ignorance of foolish people, as free persons and not as having a freedom as veil of wickedness, but as slaves of God [thus live]. Honour all, love the brotherhood, fear God, honour the emperor.

Commentary


The direct address of ἀγαπητοί signals a shift in the structure of the letter, and introduces a new discourse block that runs through 2:11-4:11 and contains the major material of the letter. While it would be overstatement to regard 1:3-2:10 as mere ‘preface’, it is this later section that revolves around a central unit of ethical exhortation and instruction, interwoven with a consistent theological theme.

The exhortation is offered to them ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους, which links our thoughts back to 1:1 (παρεπιδήμους) and 1:17 (παροικίας). In my translation I have rendered the terms as ‘resident-aliens’ and ‘sojourning-foreigners’, an attempt to bring out subtle differences between the two terms, if there is any. Both terms are used in parallel in LXX Genesis 23:4, where Abraham self-describes in these terms. The social connotation is of those who permanently, or temporarly, reside in a place and have a position as outsiders, without likelihood of integration. The best modern parallel would be ex-patriates and temporary workers. However Peter’s meaning is overlaid with a theological rationale that sees his addreeses as ‘twice-foreign’; however we read the historical context of his readers, this is treated as an indiciation of their status as foreigners in the world, whose true ‘citizenship’ lies with God. Their foreigness is consequent, ultimately, on their identity as God’s people, not their identity as exiles in Asia Minor.

It is this identity-statement that provides a basis for the exhortation ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν. The sense of ἐπιθυμία is of a strong desire, or a lust for a thing, whether sexual or otherwise. Peter here modifies it with ‘of the flesh’, and his teaching has a typical cast. To abstain from fleshly desires is not, in and of itself, a distinctly Christian ethical teaching. Rather, it is the rationale provided for doing so, as well as the identification of some of those desires, that is unique in this letter. The relative clause portrays such desires as ‘warring against the soul’, though we should be wary of reading a body-soul dichotomy into the text here. Rather the ψυχή may be better understood as the ‘holistic person’.

Verse 12 commences with a participial phrase, which may either be understood as adverbially modifying, and so extending, the sense of ἀπέχεσθαι, or else standing independently with an imperative meaning, as elsewhere in Peter. I am inclined to the former, but the latter is not objectionable. Again we encounter ἀναστροφή, here is is a ‘good way of life’, which is situated ‘among the nations’ (i.e. among the Gentiles). Notable is Peter’s continued adaptation of Jewish vocabulary for Christian purposes, since ‘Gentiles’ here signifiers something like ‘non-believers’ in contrast to Christians.

A good way of life, connected with self-control from fleshly desires, is given a specific purpose in the next clause, which immediately contains a nested relative phrase. Peter recognises that outsiders will, indeed are, speaking against believers, as ‘evil-doers’. While there is some ethical overlap, there is also severe ethical disjunction so that outsiders perceive the believers’ way of life to be deviant, to the extent of slander, accusation, and abuse as ‘evil-doers’. The construction of the relative “in that [thing] which” I read in a strong sense as related to the ‘good deeds’, i.e. it is not so much that believers are exhorted to do good deeds to overcome and outweight their negative social reputation, but that the same deeds may be perceived as evil by outsiders. Their recognition as good, by outsiders, may only be eschatologically realised, as seen in the completion of the purpose clause, “they will glorify God on the day of visitation”. ἐπισκοπῆς is found in the NT in Luke 19:44, seemingly in reference to God in Christ ‘visiting’ in the Incarnation. The sense of ‘visit’ is found in the OT with an interventionist idea of ‘come to bless’ or ‘come in judgment’, and so the meaning here is to Christ’s return, which is both a day of blessing and judgment, depending on one’s status. There is little here to support the idea of some commentators that it refers to the day of salvation in an individual’s life. Rather, even unbelievers will be forced to acknowledge, and thus vindicate, the rightness of the believing community’s way of life, and so glorify God, on the day of judgment.  

On the specific question of ‘doing good’, while term ἀγαθοποιέω may refer to public benefaction, its counterpart κακοποιέω does not seem to, so the weight seems against the idea that Peter envisages his readers taken on active, public roles of civic benefaction. Nevertheless, it is right to see that ‘doing good’ is more than mere observance of law codes, for the mere avoidance of legal trouble is unlikely to draw praise from civic rulers. Peter envisages that believers will be active, indeed take initiative, in doing good to those around them.

The particular focus of Peter’s instruction on a ‘good way of life’ comes into view in v13, with his command to ‘submit’. More interesting than contemporary problems with the idea of submission is Peter’s use of the word κτίσις which is the nominal form related to the verb κτίζω, to create; here I have rendered it as “authority-system”, but it very much retains the idea that such an authority or institution is something that has been brought into existence by an outside agent. Furthermore, Peter gives the reason, “on account of the Lord”. The submission rendered by believers to authorities does not legitimise those authorities, or their claims, nor does it necessarily amount to support for such authorities. Indeed, because submission is rendered on the basis of the the Lord, this in fact relativises and to some extent delegitimises human authorities’ claims to power.

The practical expression of that submission in Peter’s world is to either the emperor (following Greek usage of using βασιλεῦς to refer to the Roman emperor), or to governors, who are seen as agents of the emperor. Peter sees the role of the governors, as agents of the emperor, as bringing punishment to evildoers, reward to good-doers. The thought, though not its expression, bears some parallel to Romans 13:3-4. As in Paul, the idealisation of the role of governing figures does not suggest naïvety on Peter’s part, given the complexity of the theme of suffering for doing good that he will express throughout the letter, and the very social situation of those he writes to us (probably) having been exiled on account of no crime at all.

Again, the rationale for Christian behaviour here is not, ultimately, a calculation of consequences in their relation with governing authorities. Rather in v13 it is expressed as “the will of God”, that by doing good believers will “silence the ignorance of foolish people”. It is thus an act of apologetic, related back to the thought of v12, that motivates persistence in doing good.

Verse 16 then expresses a paradox that lies at the heart of the relation of Christian identity, soteriology, and ethics. The phrases ὡς ἐλεύθεροι... ὡς θεοῦ δοῦλοι encapsulate it nicely. For, in Christ, believers have been made free-persons, they have been set free, regardless of their prior social status. Indeed, even those who were either freedpersons or free persons, had to be set free, while those who are yet, in wordly terms, slaves, are ‘free’ in Christ. While the language of ἐλευθερία is more prevalent in the Pauline epistles, its presence here is noteworthy for dealing in some of the same dynamics. That freedom, and the language drawn from the political sphere, is applied to the ethical sphere as identity informs behaviour. Liberty is not, itself, the motivating factor of the Christian ethos, indeed, Peter specifically warns against using liberty qua licence. To have a right does not call for its execution. Rather, the pattern of behaviour for believers is ὡς θεοῦ δοῦλοι, whether previously or now slaves or free.

The section comes to a close with a brief chiastic summary:
               A             Honour all
               B             Love the brotherhood
               B’           Fear God
               A’           Honour the emperor

In this scheme we note that the middle two terms are distinctly Christian concerns, the outside two more ‘secular’. But alternate formulations are possible, for example the first two and the last two are sets of concerns in tension (‘all’ referring to society, over against the believing community; God over against the Emperor), and so an A, A’, B, B’ formulation may also be apparent. Perhaps there is no specific formulation, but Peter is giving overall instruction for reverent, respectful relations, which encompass all aspects of human existence, and is preparatory for more specific instructions to follow.