Wednesday, April 29, 2020

1 Peter 2:19-25

This passage occurs in the RCL year A during the Easter season, most recently May 3.  
Summary: Because this is paired with the Good Shepherd and Psalm 23 passage, I cannot see many people preaching on this.  It is also problematic in that the pericope is really part of instructions for slaves to obey their masters (and citizens their king).  While this makes a fascinating side point -- Christianity has thrived in a wide variety of economic and political arrangements -- it probably gives the preacher pause before commending these words for everyone. 

All of those warnings aside, here is a draft post on this passage:

Key words
χαρις ("grace", 2:19 and 20)  This word typically means grace.  Most translators struggle with this.  The literal translation would be "This is grace, if you suffer..."  Does Peter mean grace is the suffering itself or means to endure the suffering?  It is very hard to say that grace is receiving a beating from your master (vs 20).  I understand why the translators do not want to call this grace!  The NET Bible offers the following comment:
“For this [is] favor/grace with God,” used as a metonymy as in vs. 19 of that which pleases him, which he looks on with favor (cf. BDAG 1079 s.v. χάρις 2)."  (A metonymy means a word substituting for another set of words.)

I struggle with this, not simply because of the slave-master connotation, but because of the idea that our suffering pleases God.  I call to mind Psalm 56:8
"You have kept count of my tossings;  put my tears in your bottle.  Are they not in your record?"

So I strongly disagree with the idea that God is pleased with unjust suffering, but we read on!
υποφερει (2:19) vs αναφερει (2:24)  We are to bear suffering (carry-down, literally); Jesus bears out sins (carry-up).  It is interesting to think about the two images here, of carrying down vs carrying up.
Note: In vs 24 this αναφερει appears in its aorist form ανηνεγκεν, which makes it difficult to see!)

πασχων (participle form of πασχω, meaning "suffer", 2:19, 20, 21 and 23)  The word here for suffer is the same that we use to describe the suffering of Christ (passion!).  Peter here links, correlates, if not equates our suffering with that of Christ.

υπογραμμον (from υπογραμμος, meaning "example", 2:21)  This word originally meant a list of all the letters in a language so you could start to learn it.  This is fascinating then, that suffering is the alphabet of Christian faith.

παραδιδου (παραδιδωμι, meaning "hand over," 2:23)  Typically we think of Jesus being handed over to the chief priests, etc.  Peter suggests that Jesus handed himself over to the true judge!

απογενομενοι (participle form of "die", 2:24) What I want to point out here is that this participle is in the nominative case, which means it refers to the subject of the sentence, which is us.  We still die.  Christ's death is for us, but it ultimately we must also die to sin. Also there is nothing subjective about this verb.  "In order that dying to sin, we began to live."  The word for live here (ζησωμεν) is in the subjunctive voice, which might leave the English reader thinking there is uncertainty.  No!  The subjunctive voice is used automatically in Greek within the ινα clause.  There is an if-then; the if is Jesus death (which happened), not our compliance!

επισκοπος ("overseers", 2:25) The word here for overseer comes into English as "Episcopal"  Can you imagine reading that in church: "Jesus is the Episcopal of your soul!"  "Epi" means over; "scope" means see.

ψυχων (from ψυχη, meaning "soul", 2:25)  Just a friendly reminder that in the Jewish mind (of which Peter or any of his students would come from), soul is not the wispy part of your body that lives on after you die.  Here are the verses that talk about a soul in 1 Peter:
  • 1 Peter 1:8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
  • 1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.
  • 1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.
  • 1 Peter 2:25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
  • 1 Peter 3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
  • 1 Peter 4:19 Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God's will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.
On the one hand, the soul can refer to the whole person (3:20); it can also refer to the 'part' of the person opposed to the sinful flesh (2:11).  Worth some more reflection!!  Overall, it refers to the moral core of a person.  This soul is not like the body in that it transcends pain and pleasure, but I would not describe it as having transcended the physical reality of the body.  More to consider...on this passage I doubt any of us will ever preach on!!

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