1 and 2 Peter

Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics

1 and 2 Peter

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Traditionally ascribed to the apostle Peter, 1 Peter's authorship has been seriously questioned in modern New Testament scholarship. The Greek of the letter is very good, and it seems unlikely that an Aramaic-speaking Galilean fisherman could have written it. Much of the thought in the letter is Pauline (note the Pauline phrase ‘in Christ’ in 3: 16; 5: 10, 14). Nothing in the letter suggests the writer was acquainted with the historical Jesus. If it were by Peter, it would have to be from c.60 ce, for tradition has it that Peter died in the sixties in Rome. If the letter has been influenced by Paul, then it would make more sense to date it a generation later, to the end of the first century. The focus on persecution is so general that it could as easily reflect events of the period of the emperor Domitian as of Nero. In stylistic and literary terms 1 Peter is one of the finest pieces of writing in the New Testament. 1 Peter is mostly about Christian conduct, stressing the need for submissiveness among Christians and being prepared to suffer because ‘Christ also suffered for us’ (2: 21; cf. 4: 13). The first part combines theology with an overview of the Christian communities scattered through Asia Minor: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1: 3–5). Images of building, similar to the figures used in Ephesians and Colossians, develop the notion of these ‘strangers and pilgrims’ as ‘the people of God’ (2: 4–11): ‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ … But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (2: 5, 9). The whole of 2: 4–11 is an intensely intertextual piece of writing, constituting a mosaic of quotations (Exod. 19: 5–6; Isa. 8: 14–15; 28: 16; Hos. 2: 23; Ps. 118: 22), showing how the New Testament writers saw in the Greek Bible an account of themselves. Echoes of Isa. 53 play a leading part in 2: 22–5. Note 2: 25, where Christ is described as ‘the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls’: this is, of course, contra Tyndale, an ideological translation of episkopos; ‘overseer’ would be a more neutrally accurate word.

Chapter.  1458 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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