Tuesday, May 06, 2008

1 Peter 1:1-2

I'm working my way through 1 Peter at the moment, and it's a real eye opener.

Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου Γαλατίας Καππαδοκίας Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρός ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη

These opening verses have generated further discussion since the release of John H. Elliott, “A Home for the Homeless: A Social-Scientific Criticism of 1 Peter, Its Situation and Strategy”, 1990. (Wipf and Stock, 2005). {Keith Jagger provides a succinct review.} Basically, concerning the opening verses, Elliott argues that words like paroikoi (2:11), paroikia (1:17), and, parepidēmoi (1:1; 2:11) alert us to the social reality of the audience.
The latter (parepidēmoi ) has been translated as “exiles”[1], “sojourners”[2], “strangers in the world”[3], “foreigners”[4], “resident aliens”[5], “visiting strangers”[6] and “scattered people”[7]. Finding an adequate way of translating these terms is difficult for much debate and discussion has arisen due to their natural referents. The two important questions here are:
  1. Are these terms metaphors for the community, or are they legal terms suggesting a definite people group?
  2. Do they refer to people that held this status before becoming followers of Jesus, or as a result of following Jesus and becoming part of the Christian community?
  • And finally, does it have to be either/or or is it possible that writing to such a large group of people would probably entail a mixture of the above views?
Despite the concerns raised by some commentators, Elliott does not deny the metaphorical/religious sense of these terms (pg. 48-49). Apparently Torrey Seland's article "παροικoς καὶ παρεπιδήμος: Proselyte Characterizations in 1 Peter?" BBR 11 (2001): 239-68, is the article to read that offers criticisms of Elliott's view. But a trip to the library will have to wait until next week sometime [unless someone has a digital copy?].
For now it is enough to note that the opening verse of Peter are very important in understanding the entire ethos and message of 1 Peter, something I did not realise until closer inspection.
[1] NRSV
[2] Witherington, 1-2 Peter, pg. 63; Senior, “1 Peter”, pg. 25; Selwyn, The First Epistle of Peter, 118.
[3] NIV, Green, 1 Peter, pg. 14; Michaels, 1 Peter, pg. 3.
[4] Jobes, 1 Peter, pg. 58, Goppelt, A Commentary on 1 Peter, pg. 61
[5] Boring, 1 Peter, pg. 54
[6] Elliott, A Home for the Homeless, pg. 47
[7] Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude, pg. 39.

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