The First Epistle of Peter

Papers at Society of Biblical Literature challenge current understanding

The First Epistle of Peter was the focus of a session at the Society of Biblical Literature currently being held in New Orleans.  One of the presenters, Kelly Liebengood of University of St. Andrews, Scotland,  highlighted the current consensus the Peter was written to a gentile audience.  But listening to the other speakers created a dilemma.  If written to a gentile audience, then it demanded of them an intensive education of the Old Testament, or as they were known then, the Holy Scriptures. The epistle is laden with references, quotes, and illusions from those Scriptures. 
Such a possibility is not unreasonable. Paul expected his audience in Corinth who were largely gentile to know the examples and accounts from the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).  The scriptures were, he stated written for our edification.  He had spent some 18 months in Corinth on one occasion prior to this letter and that would have been a useful period in which to give the Corinthians an understanding of the Scriptures.  James in his conclusion to the Jerusalem Conference recorded in Acts 15, makes a statement that is hardly ever treated with due respect.  He spoke about how Moses is taught in the Synagogues every Sabbath (Acts 15:21).  This was more a throw away comment based on the reality of widespread distribution of synagogues in the Roman world, but rather an instruction to the gentiles as to where to begin the education process required of them if they were to be part of the household of faith.

On the other hand, if the audience was Jewish, as our speaker wanted to suggest, it creates a challenge for Christians today (See here also).  To understand the whole purposes of Christ’s life and death and the way of life the followers of Christ are called to live, demanded an in depth appreciation of the existing scriptures. What Peter records is not strictly something fresh that he has created himself, but something that is based upon a considerable appreciation of the Scriptures.  We lose sight today that at the time this epistle was written that the New Testament did not exist.  The early church drew its inspiration and sense of identity simply from the Holy Scriptures as taught by the Apostles.

Today we have largely forgotten that fact. The Holy Scriptures have been given a second class status by most Christian groups. However, we at First Followers believe that such an appreciation is the only proper way in which to understand the New Testament and the behavior of the early church. 


Tags: Old Testament, Early Church, Holy Scriptures, Peter, SBL

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