Lectionary Year A
May 12, 2002
1 Peter 4;12-14, 5:6-11

Broader Context


This lection tells us that the historical context from which it emerged is full of tribulations, some of which can seem strange enough to surprise those affected by them or even those who merely observe them or only hear about them. Some abusers might well revile any adherents to the Christian movement. Suffering is global. It is also, according to 1 Peter, temporary. The image of the devil seems familiar to the author(s) and recipients of this epistle. God seems even more real, at least to the author(s). Christ, too, appears real and, maybe even alive, in the writing. He is portrayed as central to a lot of the assurances, the explanations and the hope. He seems as eternal as God and as full of glory, as well. He suffered and admits fellow sufferers to suffer in His suffering. He has God's kind of glory. God exhibits a mighty hand that can grasp all human anxieties. God summons recipients of this letter to an eternal glory in Christ. God is featured as one who will restore, support, strengthen and establish those who suffer a while. The early Church believed Christ to be the long awaited Messiah of the Jewish faith. Is the Messianic question assumed answered by the time 1 Peter is written?


* Selwyn explains the use of the image of the "fiery ordeal" by citing its rarity in biblical literature and further, notes its appearance in Proverbs 27:21 and Psalm 66:10. Selwyn says, "fire played a large part in Jewish expectations of the end ( cf. Enoch cii. I, cviii. 3, 5, . . ."
* In verse 14's mention of God's glory, Selwyn finds parallels in 1 Kings 8:21, Isaiah 60:1f and 7, and Haggai 2:7, stating "they allude to God's glory rising upon Jerusalem and God's House of Prayer being glorified and full of His glory, which would have been suggested to the minds of Jewish Christian readers." Furthermore, Selwyn finds II Corinthians 3:17f combining glory and spirit, where the spirit transforms people's hearts to be conformed more and more to God's glory. Selwyn also notes that the Jewish rabbis believed God's spirit could rest on people only in joyfulness.
* Old Testament wrongdoers' antics get detailed in 1 Peter, yet, none is named, per se. We find noticeably many parallels in 1 Peter with 1 and 2 Thessalonians, James and some in Hebrews.
* 5:7 quotes Psalm 55:22, "Cast your burdens on the Lord who will sustain you".
* 5:8 reminds us of Ephesians 6:11, which admonishes, "Put on the whole armor of God to be able to stand against the devil".


Perhaps the relatively complex format and the rather sophisticated language of 1 Peter would have arrested the attention of and appealed to the intelligent Hellenists of the earliest centuries of the Common Era. Possibly, the Greek speaking Jews liked the time lapses mentioned in the paragraphs we are considering this week. They apparently were in no hurry to set ethical standards, laws or even didactic methods very high in their lists of priorities. The many occurrences of the word for "glory" in these paragraphs might communicate effectively with the Hellenists. 1 Peter is attempting to replace Hellenistic philosophy that values mere harmony and community with a strong central influence based in Jesus Christ. 4:16's use of the term "Christianoi" shows this emphasis.

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