Lectionary Year A
May 5, 2002
1 Peter 3:13-22



This text reminds me of Paul's arguing with himself, re: salvation for the Jews in Romans 9-11. 1 Peter seems to be trying to get some sense out of suffering for the sake of righteousness and suffering for something less than righteousness, but what might prove to be more popular indoor sport than even trying to do right. Then, perhaps 2 or even 3 changes of subjects creep into the argument. They are, of course, a mention of the Christ event, the reference to Jesus' going to proclaim the gospel to those disobedient previously and then, the citing Noah and the time of the ark building. Surely, these changes in subject will prove upon further study to be relevant to the bigger picture of this pericope. It is anything but a "simple narrative". It is a complex attempt, maybe in early, rough draft format, to get at a huge truth of some kind. Let's start now looking for that bigger picture. There are as many phrases of good news in this paragraph as there are phrases of response to that gospel. Some of the response statements caution against improper response and/or emphasize proper response, e.g., verse 15f's admonition to make defenses with gentleness and respect. Lots of material here, which can be mostly catalogued under Gospel and Response.


This text resembles 2:22-24, a part of our lection for the fourth Sunday of Easter. Is the question with which verse 13 begins this text, as rhetorical as it appears? Does the term "zelotai" seek to get the attention of some of those fanatical liberationalists of the first century?
Doesn't verse 15b begin another topic and therefore warrant a period after the words, "your hearts", as does the NRSV?
This passage addresses the maligned & the molested. Who, how, why, when, where were they maligned? Does this epistle assume we will be maligned? Who does the putting to shame those who abuse those who engage in good conduct for Christ?
Well, is suffering God's will (verse17)?
Does the first pronoun in verse 19 refer to the Spirit mentioned at the end of verse 18? Are verses 19f really as interruptory of the text as they seem upon first reading in English? And, are they speaking to the same subject or different ones? The study note in Oxford's NRSV Study Bible verses 19f says "may mean that Christ announced his completed work in the realm of the dead to those who in Noah's day had been disobedient (compare 4:6)." Is that the only possibility of interpreting Jesus' going to "prison"? The pronouns referring to those this pericope addresses are in the plural.


As a theologian, I find the references to the Christ Event quite dynamic in virtually every passage from 1 Peter we've studied since Easter. Yet, in beginning to sense the plights of those originally addressed by these paragraphs, I get a sense of what contemporary human predicaments today these verses might address.
As an organizationalist, I am tempted to re-arrange these sentences into a logical system, more decipherable by the modern American intellect. Perhaps by the time we get to a smoother translation, it will clear up some of the difficult vocabulary and/or grammar. If I were to try it here, it might read something like this - Good News = Christ deserves to be sanctified, He suffered & died for us, His resurrection appeals for good conscience & righteous behavior; therein we find response = prepare to give account, do it gently & respectfully, do good, it might be commensurate with God's will, fear not anyone who might threaten to abuse you, for God's dynamic Sovereignty will win out, as in the time between Jesus' burial & resurrection concerning those who disobeyed previously.

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