2 Peter’s Canon

I really want to do some work on intentional canonization by John, but will have to do other things first. Anyway, in the meantime, I just wanted to point out that 2 Peter (c. 100 CE) has a canon, or a set of works deemed authoritative. What are they?

  • 2 Peter 1.16-21 defends at least one Gospel (Compare Matthew 17.1-5, Luke 9.31-2. As far as Mark, I would need to dig deeper for intertextual clues)
  • 2 Peter 3.1 defends 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter 3.15-6 defends the writings of Paul.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Yes, there are problems with an early dating of 2 Peter

And no, it did not come from a “post-modern” scholar but from St. Jerome:

“He [Peter] wrote two letters, which are called general, the second of which, on account of its difference from the first in style, is considered by many not to be by him” (De vir. ill. 1; see Ep. Hedib. 120 Quaest. 11).

There are plenty of reasons not to accept 2 Peter as authentic to a pre-68 authorship. The archaeological evidence of both text and tradition display a letter written in the early to mid-second century. Both Origen and Eusebius expressed doubts as to the authorship and these were long before the days of German critical scholars.

See more here but it does not mean I endorse all of the statements found therein.

Did (2nd) Peter expect a Stoicist end of the world?

First, read this post.

Second, understand that I think that Frank Viola‘s Pagan Christianity isn’t the best book to read, considering that it has it’s own issues, one of them, is that it doesn’t investigate the various believes in the New Testament and early Church, which they would consider pagan.

Stoicism. It was prevalent in the time in which Christianity was birthed. It is in the DNA if you will.

Part of that, I believe, is found in 2 Peter’s cosmology,

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! (2Pe 3:10-12 NASB)

A lot of things there, ain’t there.

I’m not going to post a lot because I don’t want too, but this has come up in my work on Lucan’s cosmic dissolution, which is not really a dissolution, but a world changing event which obliterates one world (or one political state) and recreates another (or another political state).

If you read Book II of Lucan and Theologia Graeca by Cornutus (and some Plutarch) and you will get the idea that heat (one of the elements) will be used to melt away the bonds of the universe. The same cosmology is present, especially when after the destruction of the cosmos, a new cosmos will appear. Same thing the Stoics believed.

Good stuff.

Let’s discuss.

Confirmation of Peter’s ἔξοδον, and Mark’s late date, in Irenaeus

I can’t find the Greek text, and I really don’t want to spend any more time on it, but this is what we hear Irenaeus say:

“And after their [Peter's and Paul's] departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter”

Several scholars suggest that the word here translated as departure, ἔξοδος, simple means that Peter and Paul left Rome, only to return later and die. By rights, they may be correct to some extent, unless we can supply a better lexicographical meeting. There is a canonical source which does provide us with some suggestion that Irenaeus meant death, and further, that this word is in fact a very Christian understanding of death.

I mean, sure, there is Luke 9.31,

οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ, ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.

But, that doesn’t really go well. Luke-Acts is connected to Exodus, and the use of the word here is only a hallmark of the author’s internal theology. We need something else… Something which connects Peter to this particular word and concept.

σπουδάσω δὲ καὶ ἑκάστοτε ἔχειν ὑμᾶς μετὰ τὴν ἐμὴν ἔξοδον τὴν τούτων μνήμην ποιεῖσθαι. (2Pe 1:15 BGT)

If you follow Bauckham, and to some extent Witherington, then 2nd Peter can be dated between 90 and 100 CE. If you follow some scholars, we can date it to 160. Origen has issues with it, but there is some hints at it in earlier (than 160) works. But, what comes first? If you are going to make a letter look authentic, you need to borrow from existing phrases. That argument is not to be balanced here.

On the other hand, regardless of the date, we can assume that one author is in the other author’s audience. 2 Peter used the word to signify death, or rather, the Christian notion of departing this world for the next.

Get my book sometime early next year. Boom. This is important.

The Cosmological Worldview of 2 Peter, Creation ≠ World

English: Farmer Noah (Mosaic in Basilica di Sa...

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A friend was reading my recent paper arguing for creation ex deo, which cough cough to the friendly publishers who read this book and maybe would like to see it, and suggested that ex nihilo is not supported by the author of 2nd Peter. Admittedly, as scholars have argued, ex nihilo is not really prohibited by Scripture, but is not required either. So, I was reading 2nd Peter to find out what my friend was talking about. First, this verse:

and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2Pe 2:5 NAU)

Now, this image which is presented here connects to cosmology and eschatology easily enough. First, we know that God didn’t destroy the world with the flood, just you, know, covered it up with fake dinosaur bones or something. Second, we know that when God does destroy the world and will only do so once, we all go to heaven. Right?

Aρχαίου κόσμου, or ancient cosmos, seems to be something Peter focuses on. In the next chapter,

and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. (2Pe 3:4-6 NAU)

Okay, so this is how I read this part… notice that Peter has twice maintained that the world has been destroyed and notes that Creation comes after the destruction of the world. The World, or cosmic order, can be destroyed and recreated, and was not created out of nothing. Creation, then, is something different. Further, the world was formed out of water and by water, which is the image we see in Genesis 1, with water being related to chaos. Further, connecting this back to Noah’s flood, which makes several appearances in 2nd Peter, chaos once again reigned upon the earth until God once again recreated the world. Now, for those who would like to argue that Creation here is related to Adamic accounts, I note that Peter uses the word, ‘fathers’, indicating not Adam (Adam and Steve?) but instead the Patriarchs which Peter connects to Creation. The Patriarchs, are, of course, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For support that the word here points to the Patriarchs, I note that both Paul and the author of Hebrews uses it.

So, boom. Creation is an ordering of God’s plan, a dispensation or economy, where as the world is a cosmic order, neither of which point to the rock floating in space.

Discuss amongst yourselves and help me.

(and HT to a friend, whom, for fear of embarrassment to him, I will let remain nameless, but has my deepest thanks for his responses to my paper.)

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Scratchpad: Final NT 1 Paper – 1 Peter 2.1-10 (Part 3)

Are we still that community?

Early Christian interpretation of 1 Peter begins with Hermas. Hermas was connected to the church at Rome, or at least Tradition tells us this. In this, he would have no doubt had a long standing access to Peter’s letter. While this may not be an exact interpretation of 1 Peter 3.18-4.6, Hermes most diffidently has a certain strain of Tradition in mind which may help us understand how the early Church thought of the ‘preaching to the dead.’ In 16:5-7 we find a description of the Harrowing of Hell in which Christ (and by Hermas’ account, the Apostles) rescued from the hand of death those disobedient souls in prison. This is not the only section from the Shepherd which we find a connection to the Petrine epistle. In 2.4-9, we find the Shepherd speaking about stones building together a tower, which is of course later interpreted to mean the Church. What is seen is that the community to which Peter wrote received his letter and no doubt, even today, we can see the effects of that suffering community obeying his charges to them to remain strong and to be built up as living stones.

Today, however, we have allowed ourselves to be fractured over various things which we insist are doctrinal and thus Apostolic. Peter’s letter, unlike Paul, was not to correct doctrinal matters, but to encourage the saints to suffer the insults of being outside the power structures of the Imperial world and thereby reveal the Glory of God through Jesus Christ. The Church today has taken generally one of two paths. It either renounces power or it tries to take power. But Peter is advocating a third way. In modern times, the Ugandan martyr Bishop Janani Luwum spoke of the sanctification of power which recognized that his people suffered because they had chosen to remain outside the ‘public and political sphere[1]’. He labored intensely to be a positive Christian voice, even to dictators, to inform them of where the Church stood on the matters which related to the governing of the people. In doing so, through coups and other forms of violence, Bishop Luwum eventually lost his life at the hand of a governmental assassin. He served as a true priest, while today his theological descendants are attempting to serve as kings in forcing conservative (American) theology upon Ugandans. He whispered in the ears of tyrants to bring good to his people but they and so many in the West use the name of Christ to shout down the message of God.

A priest is not of the ruling class, but a priest is one which brings the sacrifices of the people to God. Peter was not advocating an attempt and capturing the culture for Christ, or in today’s terms, cultural warfare, but was advocating that they become the Priests in an order already secured for them by the victory of Christ who suffered as they did. Today, we are at a crossroads in the West, wherein we see the effects of a powerless Church who for so long sought to engage in physical warfare, dependent upon laws and other instruments of a human’s mind; and yet, I find that there is hope in the word of the Petrine epistle, even for the West. Even today, we find that those who are engaging in prophetic movements are suffering at the hands of Imperial powers, albeit these powers are doctrinal or hierarchal and often times, Christian. Those we are seeking different aspects of Christianity, of the witness of Christ are coming under attacks, with their name and honor being challenged and even denied, because they are trying to live God’s call. I think of Liberals and Conservatives, Pentecostals and Emergent, and even Catholics and Mainline Protestants who are experiencing change and yet, in this apocalyptic atmosphere must endure suffering at the hands of their brothers and sisters who resist the humble and give a special place to the proud.

In regards to the use of Scripture, I think that Peter’s example is one which must be heeded to. I find so many using the text to justify their doctrines and their beliefs, and yet, not being guided, shaped or molded by the text. While it may be a fine line, the difference is one which allows the Text to be used, and the other which allows one to be used by the Text. Peter wasn’t proof-texting, but was using Scripture, something it was obvious that both he and his audience would know well enough, to show the community what they were to become. I would much rather a Christianity which allowed itself to be guided by Scripture, allowing Scripture to set the bench mark, than a Christianity which uses certain passages, here or there, to justify their actions.

A Christian reader who has endured a transition of faith and the subsequent suffering forced upon them by their former associates and the lack of a solid foundation will find hope in the words of this epistle, even today. It is the quintessential ‘catholic’ epistle in that it is for all Christians, at all times, to teach them to use Scripture, to endure, to love, and to not seek socio-political powers, but to assume what has already been given to them, and to develop their heavenly citizenship as the Temple of God wherein they act as Priests by the extension of honor of Christ. Further, if we were to take it at its word, it is from the hand of one who witnessed the sufferings of Christ first hand, who is waiting to share in the revealed glory, and sits in the heart of the beast. Can we find no better encouragement then that?


[1] Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Clouds of Witness, Christian Voices from Africa and Asia, Downers Grove, 2011, p113-114

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Scratchpad: Final NT 1 Paper – 1 Peter 2.1-10 (Part 2)

Peter denies Christ. Houbraken. In the Bowyer ...

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The Homeless’ (New) Temple, 1 Peter 2.1-10

Peter tells his audience to endure suffering, gives the example of Christ as one who endured suffering, and tells them of their reward (and possible detriment in failing to stand the test) but in this section, the audience is affirmed in their position, and it is one which turns Roman social structure upside down. In 2.1-3, which is part of the literary unit of the previous chapter, we are given a miniature vice list for the people to avoid. In 2.4-5, we find not just a comparison between Christ and the community, but an extension of who Christ is to the community, as if he was extending his position to the community through their shared suffering. I would identify this with early baptismal traditions, especially when comparing this particular passage with Romans 6.1-7 and in particular 1 Peter 1.1 (putting away) with Romans 13.12, Colossians 3.9 and other such passages in speaking of putting away old things in exchange for the new. This idea of transference of position, or perhaps the granting of position and status, looms in 1 Peter. Moving into 1 Peter 2.6-10 we find not the typical justification of the Christian community by using the Scriptures (such as Matthew’s use in prophetic fulfillment) but the use of Scripture as a guiding factor for the community as it prepares to assume, fully, the status already given to it by Christ. For Peter, the Scriptures must be read through the lens of Christ to guide the community into forming what we would later call the Church but what he may have seen as being guided into the ideal community.

In 1 Peter 2.1-3 the author, in continuing the thought separated by a later invention of chapters and verses, calls the community to a standard which would prohibit their reward and harm their newly assigned position. Peter is concerned not so much with the spiritual maturity as some commentators would note (cf ESV Study Bible), but with maintaining the ability to retain the position. For example, the Levites were born Levites, but to maintain their priestly status, they were given certain qualifications[1] which they had to meet. The same is being said here to the effect that while they are now priests, they must put away these internal blemishes in order to be effectually made priests. These vices were πᾶσαν κακίαν καὶ πάντα δόλον καὶ ὑποκρίσεις καὶ φθόνους καὶ πάσας καταλαλιάς (1 Peter 2:1 BGT) with ‘all’ being applied to evil, deceit to which has coupled the like-minded words of hypocrisy and envy all of which include the notion of being an individual who is situationally based, and slander. Peter urges the community, since they have responded to truth and love (1.22-25), and thus been purified for the coming positions, to continue growing into their newness (as indicated at the baptismal language of ‘putting away.’)

1 Peter 1.22-2.3 is in an elliptical pattern in that it starts with the assumption of having been purified, goes through the next necessary steps, and ends with 2.3 which is an allusion to Psalm 34.8 in which the Psalmist declares that one should taste the Lord and see that he is good (NET; the LXX has χρηστὸς which is no doubt Peter’s source). But what is tasted? Having the ‘spiritual milk of the word of God’ so close to the tasting of the Lord draws our attention, but doesn’t fully settle the question. Two paths are set forth and both are easily argued. In one, the word of God (which rarely if ever applies to the whole of Scripture, as many take it to mean now) is to be tasted, while in the other, it is the milk, or sustaining life force from the Lord. It is only answered in noting that with Peter, the salvic moment is already past, so it is better to read this portion of the epistle as “Long for the pure milk, since you have already tasted the Lord and found him kind/good.” Since this allusion is to Psalm 34.8, the reader must keep this entire psalm in mind.

In doing so, we find that David is said to have written the psalm after his escape, but pretending to be insane, from King Abimelech. Psalm 34 is a psalm which is pertinent to the community, and again, while not serving as a proof-text in the style of the Evangelists, serves as a guide in how the community is to respond to their oppressors. In reading the psalm, we find that it could be used on the occasion of the weak escaping the powerful. We find an overall connection between the psalm and Peter’s letter in 34.6, 8, and 10 as well as other verses. It is no doubt then that Peter is trying to convey the same sense of excitement over the poor man’s escape from the rich oppressor by the redeeming (34.22) help of God. Further, the word translated as ‘taste’ is generally applied only to foods, but in the Psalm and in Peter, it is God who is said to be tasted. We may assume then that the situations produced such an experience which can only be said to be experiencing the very presence of God himself and in such a way as to enliven, and embolden David, and in Peter’s hope, the community which is suffering. Therefore, Peter is calling to mind the past experience of God’s goodness, and urging them to grow more in to salvation which is the word of God.

In 2.4-5 we find the turning point in the argument of the passage. The audience has thus for been told what has happened (the salvic moment) and what was expected of them (growth and maturity), but now they are given their position and will be told what this means (2.6-10). In this brief section, Peter begins to call attention to the role of the new community, and that as the Temple of God, but in doing so, their position must be assigned to them. Positions, honor, and hierarchy were important to Roman society, but as Christians (a name which was not glorious but one of ridicule), they were experiencing the treatment due to a lower class. Yet, Peter is telling them that society and culture cannot give them a position of honor, but that this comes through Christ who was God’s ‘choicest’. Now, it is said that the community shares in the position of Christ due to the extension (2.10) of mercy. Quoting Isaiah 28.16 several times in this passage, Peter is guiding the Christological thought of the community and preparing them for their ecclesiological service. Christ is said to be the living stone in verse 4 while the community are also living stones in verse 5. Christ was rejected, which is detailed throughout the Christological passages in Peter, and so too the community of believers whose suffering is the occasion of the letter. Further, in verse 5, the community is reminded that their ‘spiritual sacrifices’ (2.5 NASB) are now acceptable through Christ, allowing again, the application of Christ’s honor to the people.

In 2.6-10, Peter is attempting a theological reflection upon 2.4-5 but with the focus on the community in that we have now a focus on ecclesiology rather than Christology. Does Peter break with the tradition of applying Isaiah 28.16 to Christ? We find that Paul uses it in Romans 9.33 and the Evangelist is using it in Mark 12.10-11 to refer to Christ. Yet, Peter seems to apply it to the suffering community. This would not be out of the ordinary for Peter to use Scripture as experiential model for the believers to follow. However, like the transference of ‘living stones’ from Christ to the community, we can find the allowance in this passage to transfer the application of ‘cornerstone’ from Christ to the community without either breaking with tradition or assuming a low Christology. Beale notes that has at various times had different interpretations, such as the ‘temple, the Davidic monarchy, the remnant, Zion, faith, (and) the Messiah’[2] has been applied to Isaiah 28.16. As this is the case (Beale goes on to quote Qumran and other ancient sources), then using this passage to apply to both Jesus and the community would not be breaking with Jewish Tradition.

Isaiah 28.16 is not alone in being quoted in this brief passage. Peter quotes as well from Exodus 19.5-6, Psalm 118.22, Isaiah 8.14 as well as Hosea 1.10 and 2.23. Peter is following an interpretive principle called gezerah shavah[3] which allows for words to be connected to create and overall thought from selected texts. In doing so, Peter proves again that he is not merely proof-texting (or speaking to a primarily Gentile audience, as such a technique would be lost on them), but that he is using Scripture to guide, or prod, his audience into action. The verses which are used form a cohesive thought which allows the audience to understand that because Christ is, they are. If we were to take this passage (2.6-10) and apply it to Christ, we see that he is the living stone which is the cornerstone, reject by men, but chosen by God. Because he was chosen by God, and is found valuable, Christ now occupies the place of power, sitting at God’s right hand. Further, he is precious, valuable, and the stumbling stone. If we apply this passage to the community, following the example set in 2.4-5, we find that the community are all these things, but that to them Peter appends that they are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and the people which are God’s own possession called out of darkness to praise God (Isaiah 60.21; 61.3; Jeremiah 13.11).

This passage forms the core of the argument for 1 Peter. The occasion of the letter is to encourage those who are suffering for being a Christian (4.16). Throughout the short work, Peter quotes from the Scriptures of his ancestors in an effort to move the community to an ecclesiological goal while reading the them through a Christological lens, and it is no more evident than in this passage. Beginning with the acknowledgement of the already salvic moment, Peter is encouraging them to move to a realized life which places them outside of their socio-political structures of honor, duty, and other forms of Imperial power centers. Their status is not assigned to them because of their birth or their race, but because of their new birth and their chosen status, but more than that, they are given honor above all in the empire because their assignment of status comes by extension of who they are, and that is, they are those who have been given mercy by Christ who has attained for them honor. Because of whom they now are, due to an event that already occurred; they are being built into a new Temple of God which allows for the full mental (theological) investment of Temple ideology into this passage. Peter is not merely commending to them some notion of Imperial honor, but moving them from merely relying upon a Christological hope to forming an ecclesiological reality wherein they, this community, is assuming a special status among humanity, and that of the royal priesthood and a holy nation, bringing to mind all of the promises made both to the Levites in particular and the nation of Israel in general.


[1] Numbers 18.1-8; Exodus 28.1 cf Lev. 21.17-23

[2] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 1025 (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).

[3] Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament, 1 Pe 2:7 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993).

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Scratchpad: Final NT 1 Paper – 1 Peter 2.1-10 (Part 1)

St. Peter Denying Christ, by Gustave Doré

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The goal of the assignment was to write 5 pages on your overall view of Peter, 5 pages on your selected passage and then 5 pages of theological reflection. When writing this paper, I did so in 11pt font. I like that font because it looks neater, and frankly, I think 12pt font is for those who cannot fill up a page with good thoughts. The professor has this 15 page rule (I understand it. I don’t like it, but I understand it). So when I blew up the font to 12pt, I was 14.75 pages – up from 13.25. So I rushed a final paragraph, had my wife edit it and sent it on its way.

So, this is the rough draft. I am not happy with it because I ran out of time. I wrote it in 8 hours, but I had about 8 weeks to do it in. I’m  a slacker.

Part’s 2 and 3 will follow this post in short order.

_____

1 Peter is about the holiness of life lead in Christ, but as Barth noted[1], holiness is not holiness if it is only in itself; instead, the author of 1 Peter is calling for his audience to seek a place during their persecution and suffering to be a part of God’s graciousness in effecting a New Creation, in that they reject the Roman notions of honor and duty and instead assume their birthright of being a kingdom of priests, holy and wholly devoted to God in Christ. It is difficult for the Western Christian to fully grasp the sitz im leben of 1 Peter as often times we rest upon miniscule controversies which we, through our traditions and interpretations, have created, especially around such ideas as the role of the wife (3.1-6). Modern, Western readers, seem to be ignoring the suffering of the community and how that might factor into a proper reading, or they place their own current political sufferings as similar to that of the community. In getting lost in the forest which we have grown around 1 Peter, we fail to see the tree of life which Peter is planting in the garden of his reader’s minds, which is that the only honor, politics, and future which his community has need of, is that of Christ and Christ alone.

This Epistle is written from Babylon (5.13), identified as the City of Rome, to those who are ‘temporarily residing abroad (1.1 NET) in Roman provinces. It is this light that causes us to read the letter in light of Imperial policies and contemporary culture, which was one of honor, duty, and assigned roles as well as a culture which was hesitant to allow a new religion, which only later came to be call Christianity, which looked to overthrown cultural boundaries. This letter takes on the form which is calling for encouragement instead of providing correction. Peter’s intent is not to lay out doctrine, but to call his readers to remain steadfast as a Chosen People (1.2; 2.9) so that as the End nears (4.7), the Glory of God in Christ may be revealed through them (4.13). It also serves as a warning not to falter and to remember that a position in life (5.5), in society, matters not to the one who has all Glory and Power (4.11).

Peter is writing to a people who have not a home. They are exiles and alien in the Roman province while he himself is but an alien (an immigrant from Palestine) in the most powerful city on earth. These homeless, then, are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, who can trace their roots to the prophets and no need of the justification of existence save that of the death of Christ who preceded them in their sufferings. If we were to read this from the perspective of the audience, we might would note that Peter signs the letter, so to speak, as he sat in the City of Rome, under the Imperial eye but that his audience is homeless. Peter’s residence is of importance in reading the letter just as his audience’s is in that he is reminding them that his community is in mortal danger as well, so that he is not just united to them as a pastor, but as a fellow sufferer for Christ. Peter’s position also serves to stand as a symbol that the believing community is not to withdraw from society and culture, not to renounce the world, but to sanctify it by their suffering and remain within the social constructs around them. This may well feed into the modern argument of a personal versus private faith and if so, Peter was answering his community that in the Grace of God, they were serving (as a Wesleyan may put it) as an instrument of God’s grace which goes before and therefore, separation or exclusion was the answer, that they must suffer persecution for the name of Christ so that Christ may be glorified.

1 Peter, for such a short book, makes substantial use of the ‘Old Testament’ which should not be unexpected as Peter is writing to a community with a majority of Jewish believers in Christ. This is easily recognized by the fact that the use of ‘Gentile’ is retained in speaking to people outside of the receptive community (2.12; 4.3; although Green[2] suggests that Gentiles were included in the letter especially in light of Peter’s use of anti-pagan words and phrases in 1.14, 18; 2.10, 25; 4.3-4). In several instances formulas are used, such as dioti gegraptai, dioti periechei en graphē, dioti, and gar, but about 20 quotations aren’t introduced; however, because those quotations are lengthy, the readers no doubt would have recognized the Scripture. Several authors further see a great deal of allusions in 1 Peter (Osborne (1981: 65) counts thirty-one; Schutter (1989: 43) has forty-one). The author makes regular use, which is not uncommon for the New Testament authors, of Isaiah and Psalms. Achtemeier (1996: 12–13) suggests that the citations/allusions used by the author is not as proof-text but as illustrative points, giving a facet of how New Testament authors used Old Testament Scripture. This clearly indicates that Peter didn’t see a break with his Jewish tradition, but instead saw his community as a continuation of the Israel of Scripture, which would not be outside mainstream New Testament thought. This view, that the present community was the continuation of God’s covenant with Israel was not uncommon, even for isolationist groups such as those at Qumran.

Of special consideration to the following exegesis is the Petrine Christology. As with the rest of the epistle, Peter’s view of Christ is centered on the passion of Christ. Although there is not a developed doctrine of Christ,[3] we are still able to draw from three passages (1.18-21; 2.22-25; 3.18-4.6) Peter’s view of Christ. Since 1931, when Gustaf Aulén issued his work on the study of the ancient atonement theory of Christus Victor, New Testament readers have been given a new lease on reading ancient cosmology alongside the text and in examining Peter’s Christology, we arrive at Aulén’s configuration of Christus Victor. In 1.18-22 Christ is the spotless lamb that has redeemed (NASB) those previously engaged in idol worship. The focus here is the redemptive power of Christ made possible through his suffering and it is this suffering which has already brought about their liberation. Peter, in this passage, is still well within the Jewish notion of Ideal Preexistence[4] (v20) with Christ being foreknown but now revealed during this last times.

In 2.4, Christ is set as the example for the community which is further detailed in 2.22-25. In this latter passage, Christ is the sinless sacrifice (cf Isaiah 53) which serves the broader reason of redemption. It is here that we see again the connection between suffering and God’s grace. Christ suffered so that believers were already made a part of the community and could now ‘cease from sinning and love for righteousness (2.24 NET). It is not that Christ suffered, but that he prevailed in his suffering which is the key to understanding this epistle. Neither is it a sacrifice which brings about the liberation of the believer, but the victory of Lordship over even the dead, which is what we have in 3.18-4.6.

It is in this passage which we see the sacrifice of Christ become what we might subscribe to as the Christus Victor model. Here, we are told that Christ has turned his face against those who do evil (3.12), and that by our suffering we are bringing glory to God through Christ. Further, we are told that Christ suffered once to bring us to God (3.17), that the loss of life was countered by the victory in the resurrection. Not only is the audience now able to live righteously, but Christ in defeating death, went to the spirits in prison and preached to them what we can only assume the gospel of liberation. In what is classically called the Harrowing of Hell and celebrated in some forms of the Apostles’ Creed, Christ is seen as rescuing from the prison of disobedience even those who had refused God in life. Once this battle was won, Christ assumed his position as victor over the angels, authorities and powers which are now subject to him. Peter goes further to state that as Christ suffered we must also suffer a part from the hedonistic and pagan lifestyle of the culture. Here, I focus on the ‘wanton idolatries’ (4.3 NET) which Christ defeated and now Peter is calling for his community to resist. He tells his community that the victor Christ will not judge and that this is the reason that the Gospel was preached to those who are now dead. Early Christian interpretation (Hermes Similitudes 9.16.5-6; Melito of Sardis On the Passion 102) provides us with the understanding that Peter is telling his audience that Christ has triumphed over the powers and authorities, even those who are causing them to suffer, even to the point which Christ has exercised Lordship over all things, even the dead. It is then the revelation of this power brought about through suffering, makes both the beginning and the end of the community.

Throughout 1 Peter, the author is addressing a community undergoing persecution, and while no direct examples are given, we may assume that they are living as exiles from the social structure which surrounds them. While it may be of a scholarly pursuit to examine which persecution 1 Peter was addressing, instead, I believe that Peter is not addressing one particular persecution, such as the one brought on by Nero, but a general suffering brought on by being a believer in Christ and suffering as a Christian. This suffering is due to the believers having left their previous socio-political structure behind which included idol worship, a common enemy to the early believers in the Roman Empire (1.18; 2.1, 11; 3.1-6; 4.3). We find that this suffering is part of the current age and must take place, but through this suffering the community of Messiah-believers become more like Christ and will participate in his victory.

However, throughout 1 Peter, the author uses Christ as the supreme example of the glory revealed through suffering. The audience is reminded that their reward is reserved in heaven for after the trial (1.4) which will be over when Christ is revealed (1.7, 13). It was this Christ who, through Peter’s Christology, suffered and died and was then resurrected serving first as the sacrifice who redeemed the community, already a past redemption, and then as the Eternal Evangelist who preached to the spirits and the dead who had served only disobedience to further extend his Lordship over all Creation, even now reigning over the angels, the powers, and the authorities. They are reminded as well that the ‘eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous’ but that his ‘face is against those who do evil’ (3.12 NET). Further, it is the suffering through Christ which first liberated the community, and now, it is the service to God to suffer and thus glorify Christ. The community is then promised to be exulted in due time (5.6). It is here that we find the connection to Christ as well. Whereas Christ suffered and was glorified, the community is now called to suffer. Whereas Christ was exulted, the community will be exulted. Whereas Christ is the chief cornerstone, so too is the community living stones, ready to be built up together to be God’s home.


[1] Barth, “Christian’s Place,” p.276

[2] Joel B. Green, The Two Horizons New Testament Comment, 1 Peter, Grand Rapids, MI, 2007: 5-6)

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, vol. 16, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, New Testament Commentary, 13 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001).

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Early Christian Interpretation of 1 Peter 3.18-4.6

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Hermes was connected to church at Rome, or at least Tradition tells us this. In this, he would have no doubt had a long standing access to Peter’s letter. While this may not be an exact interpretation of 1 Peter 3.18-4.6, Hermes most diffidently has a certain strain of Tradition in mind which may help us understand how the early Church thought of the ‘preaching to the dead.’

“Why, sir,” I asked, “did the forty stones also ascend with them out of the pit, having already received the seal?”

“Because,” he said, “these apostles and teachers who preached the name of the Son of God, after falling asleep in the power and faith of the Son of God, preached it not only to those who were asleep, but themselves also gave them the seal of the preaching. Accordingly they descended with them into the water, and again ascended.|But these descended alive and rose up again alive; whereas they who had previously fallen asleep descended dead, but rose up again alive By these, then, were they quickened and made to know the name of the Son of God. For this reason also did they ascend with them, and were fitted along with them into the building of the tower, and, untouched by the chisel, were built in along with them. For they slept in righteousness and in great purity, but only they had not this seal. You have accordingly the explanation of these also.” (HSI 16:5-7 APE)

This is describing the Harrowing of Hell in which Christ (and by Hermes account, the Apostles) rescued from the hand of death those disobedient souls in prison.

Further, there is this notion from the 2nd century Gospel of Peter:

X. 38 opened and both of the young men entered in. When therefore those soldiers saw that, they waked up the centurion and the elders (for they also were there keeping 39 watch); and while they were yet telling them the things which they had seen, they saw again three men come out of the sepulchre, and two of them sustaining the other (lit. the 40 one), and a cross following, after them. And of the two they saw that their heads reached unto heaven, but of him that 41 was led by them that it overpassed the heavens. And they 42 heard a voice out of the heavens saying: Hast thou (or Thou hast) preached unto them that sleep And an answer was heard from the cross, saying: Yea.

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Can we use 1 Peter 2.6-8 to translate Matthew 28.18-19?

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No doubt, you’ve read of my struggles with Matthew 16.18-19 (here as well). For my final exegesis paper in my NT class, I am working on 1 Peter 2.1-10, which deals the Church being living Stones, just as Christ is the Living Stone.

So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” (1Pe 2:1-10 NLT)

If we take the traditional Petrine Authorship, might we infer then some historical reality to the words of Christ to Peter in Matthew?

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mat 16:18-19 NRS)

I have to wonder if Peter then wasn’t taking what happened as Caesarea and interpreting it to his audience?

Willing pondering such things, I recalled the Shepherd’s vision of the stones and the tower. If you recall, the Shepherd (a better name of a Pastor, in my humbly, browncoat, opinion) was a brother of one of the Bishop’s of Rome.

His vision is this:

And then she again took hold of me by the hand, and raised me, and made me sit on the seat to the left; and lifting up a splendid rod, she said to me, “Do you see something great?” And I say, “Lady, I see nothing.” She said to me, “Lo! do you not see opposite to you a great tower, built upon the waters, of splendid square stones?”

For the tower was built square by those six young men who had come with her. But myriads of men were carrying stones to it, some dragging them from the depths, others removing them from the land, and they handed them to these six young men.

They were taking them and building; and those of the stones that were dragged out of the depths, they placed in the building just as they were: for they were polished and fitted exactly into the other stones, and became so united one with another that the lines of juncture could not be perceived.

And in this way the building of the tower looked as if it were made out of one stone. Those stones, however, which were taken from the earth suffered a different fate; for the young men rejected some of them, some they fitted into the building, and some they cut down, and cast far away from the tower.

Many other stones, however, lay around the tower, and the young men did not use them in building; for some of them were rough, others had cracks in them, others had been made too short, and others were white and round, but did not fit into the building of the tower.

Moreover, I saw other stones thrown far away from the tower, and falling into the public road; yet they did not remain on the road, but were rolled into a pathless place. And I saw others falling into the fire and burning, others falling close to the water, and yet not capable of being rolled into the water, though they wished to be rolled down, and to enter the water. (HV3 2:4-9 APE)

Throughout the rest of the book, the vision is interpreted.

Anyway, just some thoughts on later interpretations of Christ’s words as He looked at the Gates of Hell. Or, are they later interpretations….

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Scratchpad: Exiles and Witness

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It is the end of the semester and frankly, I am tired, so I might not be giving my best. The question was about taking a passage from 1st Peter and speaking to the notion of exile/stranger and witness:

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I wish to explore this passage (1 Peter 3:1-7) further, at a later date, but I find that the use of the ‘weak vessel’ of the woman and the towering effects of the husband is a rhetorical device used to call attention that in a society where women were considered a not-man, the woman could still be warriors for God in winning (leading?) their husbands to Christ. The weakness of the earlier Messiah-believing community is primarily one (at least for these examples) one of position. They were still Jews, and in synagogues, but because they were no longer ‘orthodox’ they were second. To the Romans, they seemed to believe in a new god so that their religion was seen as inauthentic.  Along with other economic factors, the early Community of Christ-followers were outcasts and thus unprotected by many social structures, including the law.

In this passage, I find that the woman is acknowledged to be of a different social class than her husband, but even in that condition, as a not-man, she would through being obedient (to the social structures) win her husband to Christ. She is a stranger to the higher social structure which gave her added protection under the law and indeed, was the weaker vessel, but she had the power to be the ultimate victor.

The witness of the weak, of the outcasts, of the socially derided, was promised to eventually turn the tide of the persecution and overtake those who were stronger. It was their witness in suffering which allowed their strength to become known and thus reveal Christ.

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