Lectionary Year A
April 7, 2002
1 Peter 1:3-9
Step II: Disposition
(CB)In this passage there appear to be several genre at work. First, there is the essence of thanksgiving as praise is given to God by what has been/is being accomplished in and through Jesus Christ. Second, the author notes that the church being addressed is a church facing hard times. He or she names the fact that they have suffered various trials. Yet, the passage is a message of hope for this church. The author raises up the importance of the church's faith, how that is important in the days to which it was written, as well as for the days to come. In this way, the message of hope is eschatological: it is hope in both the now and the not yet realized. Finally, along with the eschatological genre, the passage is also one of apocalypse, or revelation. As one is tested by fire, it is hoped that the faith is "more precious than gold" when "Jesus Christ is revealed."
(CA)The genre of 1 Peter is an epistle. It begins with a salutation in verses 1 and 2. Generally in an epistle, the words of thanksgiving follow the salutation. The pericope being examined, Chapter 1 verses 3-9, serves the function of thanksgiving, but in a particular way: verses 3-9 are a prayer of praise to God the Father who, through the resurrected Christ, brings new life and hope to us now and salvation "to be revealed in last time" (v. 5). The pericope is a doxology in function and construction. In the Greek these 7 verses of the pericope (plus verses 10-12) can be read as one sentence with the first words, Euvloghto.j o` qeo.j kai. path.r tou/ kuri,ou h`mw/n VIhsou/ Cristou, "Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," serving as the main clause. The subordinate clauses in the remainder of the pericope define our "inheritance" - "not corrupt, not defiled and not withering" - and assure us that the strength of our faith will sustain us throughout present trials until the end time when we receive salvation of ourselves as living beings. Our faith is strong because God is strong and guards it.
B. Personal Interaction
(CB)What does it mean to say that by God's mercy, we are given "a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?" How does this new birth and living hope help us to deal with the ways of the world?
Just what is our inheritance? It sounds like good stuff, but why is it being kept in heaven when we could use a little bit in the here and now?
How does God protect us? Does our faith really hold up in the time of trial? Why is salvation "ready to be revealed in the last time?" Doesn't resurrection from the dead already speak to this? Are we really saved in the here and now or are we to wait for something better?
How are we to rejoice in the times of trial? How are we to "sing songs of Zion in a foreign land?" It seems to be an age old question. With the revelation of Christ, is it really any easier?
How do we love someone we can't see? How do we have faith in someone we don't know? How do we know we are receiving the outcome of our faith, that is, the salvation of our souls? What does the usage of the participle "receiving" imply? Is it now? Is it future?
What about the double, possible usages of the of the Present Middle Indicative 2nd plural OR Present Middle Imperative 2nd plural usages of "extreme joy" and "love" in verses 6 and 8. Is there more at work than just the one interpretation?
(CA)Until I began to grasp the function of the pericope, my initial questions rested on defining what the author was saying about God and God's role in our lives and about us and our responsibilities.
What is the inheritance kept in heaven for us?
Who are the ones guarded by the power of God through faith?
What is the connection between suffering and rejoicing and faith? Are we being told to forbear through suffering, or does our faith sustain us?
What is verse 7 actually saying? Is God testing the genuineness of our faith or are we being promised glory when Jesus Christ is revealed?
What does it mean that Jesus Christ will be revealed when the first verse tells us that we were born again through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?
In verse 8 what does it mean that we are receiving the confirmation of our faith, the salvation of our selves as living beings?
To help refine my grappling with the meaning of the text, I focused on the tone and the particular words and diction. The adjectives all are positive, reflecting strength and joy - a living hope, an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, the proof or genuineness of one's faith is more valuable than gold. While one may for a little while experience various trials, the nouns surrounding "present trouble" are all uplifting - mercy, hope, praise, glory, and honor. The verbs and verbal nouns all exude positive action - being born again, having been guarded, you greatly rejoice, love, believing, having been glorified, receiving what is promised.
(CB)Most of the questions raised, if not all of them, are highly theological in nature with a resounding relevance for living in today's world. How do we understand and convey God's love of humanity in and through the soteriology of the cross? How is the cross comforting? For example, for purposes of this exercise, I would explore what a "living hope" looked like in the context of the original audience, and consider how that might correlate, to the contemporary audience today. These questions and possible answers might delve into issues of theodicy and would be examined in Steps IV and V. Likewise, I would look to the outer margins of the Nestle-Aland text to explore the other contexts of "living hope," "salvation," and "resurrection" for similar themes and contexts that resonate with this epistle. This would accomplished in Step IV as well.
(CA)The questions raised focus around the nature of the doxology, what it says about God's promises and actions and what it says about our faith in response to the promises. Textual criticism, review of texts referred to in the outer margins of the Greek text, and study of the meanings of some of the Greek words highlighted in the questions should add depth and insight. Of course, verses 3-9 must be examined as part of the whole of 1 Peter - what do they add to its overall meaning, what tone do they set for the remainder of the letter? Examining the Old testament references in the margins and the Hellenistic community and primitive Christianity at the time of the letter will also add depth.
The NRSV footnotes to the pericope refer to Psalm 26. It may be a good conversation partner for further examination, particularly verse 3, "For you steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you."
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