Lectionary Year A
April 21, 2002
1 Peter 2:19-25

Step IV: Broader Context


We are in the earliest centuries of the Common Era. Christians are a minority, a splinter group, someone rightly calls them. They are persecuted and disenfranchised. They are struggling to separate themselves from the Jewish backgrounds from which their faith is emerging as a fulfillment by the Messiah, Christ Jesus. The author(s) seem to appreciate the pressures they face. The message here encourages them to deal with their plights as honestly reflecting God's acceptance of their attempts to behave faithfully and righteously. It speaks using vocabulary familiar to a Jewish background and makes it relevant to their days and times. For example, chapter 2, verses 4-10, especially, updates the covenant the Old Testament initiated and reiterated repeatedly.


Isaiah 40:6-9, quoted in 1 Peter 1:23-25 and the Isaiah 53:5-12 passage mentioned above, cited in chapter 2, verses 22-24, provide basic Old Testament theology of hope. In 1Peter 4:18, we read from Proverbs11:31 a characteristic Petrine rhetorical question of the first order. Judaistic tendencies of obedience without exception are challenged throughout this epistle. For example, chapter 5, verses 3-5 and verses 12f.


Above we questioned whether verse 18 needed to be considered with verses 19-25. Maybe so if verses 19-25 ever mentioned servanthood of any kind. They don't. Ergo, probably the separation of verses 19-25 from the paragraph preceding it, including verse 18, can stand. The Greek speaking Jews would be more likely to include the Jerusalem Christians in addresses they generate then vice versa. However, if 1 Peter comes from Rome and in the second century, the possibility of the Roman based Christians daring to hope to include the Hellenists might seem at least slightly possible. Including references to and Old Testament quotes prefiguring Christ's passion and death deserve attention in discussions of suffering unjustly and/or God's approval. The image of sheep was popular in Jesus' teachings. Therefore, let any who have ears hear and any who have eyes read of it with learnings being the results therefrom. If 1 Peter can be less than certain that hearers and/or readers of this message have returned to the shepherd and guardian of their souls, at least such returnees can be self confident they at least try to do so.

(AJ) Supplemental: For more detailed information on the Context see A Commentary on 1 Peter, pp. 195-216, by Leonhard Goppelt.

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