1 Peter 2:4-10 Exegesis

Historical Background and Introductory Issues

The primary historical concerns for exegesis are authorship, date, audience and purpose. An understanding of these four areas is beneficial for a sound exegesis because it allows the exegete to keep the text in its intended context.

Authorship

            The author of the letter is identified as Peter in the letter itself. The letter opens with the words, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles …”[1] For the believer that is assured of God’s perfect revelation in scripture, that would be enough to conclude that Peter wrote the correspondence. However, there are several early citations of the letter as external evidence as well. Polycarp cites from the letter[2], and though he does not mention Peter, it proves that the letter was an early writing. Peter is directly cited as the author of the letter by Irenaeus saying, “Peter says in his Epistle: “Whom, not seeing, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, ye have believed, ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable.”[3] These attestations and the internal autograph make it more than reasonable to conclude that Peter is the author.

Date

            If Peter is accepted as the author, then the date must be prior to his death. Clement speaks of Peter’s death saying, “Peter, … had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him.”[4] Though the date is argued, the context of what Clement is saying places Peter’s death near 64 AD. This is probably why 64 AD is the date that the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible uses.[5] Given the time of travel between the first and second letter, this first letter is certainly before 64 AD. Grudem places it in 62 or 63 AD[6] based on the lack of mention of Peter in Paul’s prison epistles.

Audience

Like Peter’s authorship the letter states who it is written to, “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”[7] The Christians throughout Asia minor are the readers. The word, διασπορᾶς translated dispersion in the ESV, could indicate that Peter was writing to the Jewish believers. However, the letter is not without application to the whole group of believers considering the letter speaks in broad terms about the whole body of Christ. The passage for examination here, 1 Pe 2:4, states “you come to him, a living stone.”[8] The “you” in the text refers to the body of Christ made up of the both Jews and gentiles. Perhaps Peter knew some of the recipients because of his sermon in Acts 2 as there were people from “Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia”[9] among the hearers. Eusebius indicates that “Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia9 to the Jews of the dispersion.”[10]

Purpose

Grudem sums up the purpose very well by saying “to understand the letter was written by Peter to distant Christians in genuine need of its teaching and encouragement.”[11] Matthew Henry, drawing from the theology of the book, states the purpose as “instructions needful for the encouragement and direction of a Christian in his journey to heaven.”[12] Peter is too early on the scene to be addressing gnostic concerns. However, there is one controversy that raged in the early church that Paul seemed to address endlessly and that is the Judaizers. There is no direct evidence the Peter was addressing the Judaizers, but it would have been an issue in the church at the time of writing.

 

 

Tracing of the Passage 1 Peter 2:4-10

 

Explain the Tracing

            4b infers from 4a that Jesus, “him” is chosen and precious in God’s sight. 5a is a result of the statement from 4a to stay in him means to be chosen and precious in God’s sight. 5c infers from 5b that if they are priests, they offer sacrifices to God and 5b-c is the result of 5a; they are priests because they are chosen in him. 6b is the ground for the statement in 6a that the scriptures call Jesus the chosen one. Verse 6 is the ground for the statements in verse 4 and 5, Peter is reinforcing his point with the authority of scripture. 7a is an inference from 6a-b that believers are the receivers of the blessing. 7c is the ground for Peter assertion that unbelievers will not receive the blessing believers will in 7b. 8b infers from the quote in 8a that they do not believe because they are not obedient to God’s word. Verse 8 is support by restatement for the information in verse 7. 7b-8b are support by negative concessive statement for 6a-6b, what happens the obedient believer is contrasted to the unbelieving disobedient person. 9b infers from 9a that if the chosen believers are a priesthood, it is to proclaim the excellencies of God. 10a-10d are negative positive statements that reinforce the transformation of God’s people. 10a-10d are an inference from 9a-b. And finally, 6a-10d are a restatement and refinement of the idea expressed is 4a-5c.

Word Study in the Passage

            In 1 Peter 2:4 the word ἐκλεκτὸν translated chosen in the ESV, appears. This word is important to study because the readers understating of it and how it is used will impact the outcome of the exegesis. Just what is chosen and how is it chosen? Answering those questions can vastly impact the view of the text. The lemma ἐκλεκτός is used 4 times in 2 Peter and each reference is connected to people, or person.

1 Peter 1:1-2: “To those who are elect (ἐκλεκτοῖς) exiles.”[13] Here Peter addresses his letter to the elect. In the sentence Πέτρος (Peter) in the nominative case, he is the subject of the sentence, the elect is in the dative, they are the indirect object. The word πρόγνωσιν translated foreknowledge in the ESV is in the accusative and is the direct object. The foreknowledge of God is the thing that identifies the elect.

1 Peter 2:4: “you … in the sight of God chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν[14]).”[15] There the relationship is reversed. The ἐκλεκτὸν are the accusative and the θεῷ is the dative. This is stating the same relationship in reverse. The elect is identified as having a relation to God’s seeing them.

1 Peter 2:6: “a cornerstone chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν) … whoever believes in him.”[16] The exact same relation exists in verse six. In this case the “him”, is identified in its relation to being the ἐκλεκτὸν. The reader is supposed to understand that the ἐκλεκτὸν is the one they should believe in.

1 Peter 2:9: “you are a chosen (ἐκλεκτὸν) race.” In verse nine the ἐκλεκτόν are now the subject, nominative case, and the object is the περιποίησιν, translated possession in the ESV. The elect here are again identified by being the possession of God.

            In each of these contexts the elect are/is identified in relationship to God. By God’s foreknowledge, in God’s sight, and as God’s possession. The Oxford Press A Greek-English Lexicon gives the definition of ἐκλεκτός as “picked out [or] select,”[17] This rendering is consistent with the usage in 1 Peter. Grudem helps to give a sense of how the word is used throughout the new testament when he says “The word [ἐκλεκτοῖς] in the New Testament (twenty-two times) always refers to persons chosen by God.”[18] That is certainly the sense in which Peter is using it here. One of the best examples of the words being used as Peter does elsewhere in the New Testament is Romans 8:33a “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? (ἐκλεκτῶν)”[19] This is a very strong statement about the elect relating to God as his. This is perfectly consistent with 1 Peter 2:9 where God is the possessor of the ἐκλεκτὸν.

Theological Exegesis and Theological Synthesis

Exegesis

            R.C. Sproul says of this sections that “the letter’s recipients, as Jewish and Gentile Christians, are viewed as exiled Israel—the true Israel—as it continues in Christ and those who identify with Him.”[20] This is exactly Peter’s point and why he quoted Isaiah 28:16 “I am laying in Zion a stone”[21] and applied it to the New Testament believers. The action from the text is in verse 4 and that is, “As you come to him.” The rest of the periscope is explaining through both positive and negative statements what the result of coming to him is and identifying who they are coming to. The him in the text is clearly Christ and he is the chosen and precious. Peter pictures the ones that come to Christ as looking like him; as he is “a living stone” the ones that come to him are “like living stones.” The imagery is of the temple, the believers in Christ have become living temples to God ready to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God”[22] and “proclaim the excellencies of him who called”[23] them. Grudem explains the connection Peter is making with the history of God’s people saying, “[t]he long history of God’s dwelling place among his people finds New Testament fulfilment in the people of God themselves.”[24] The periscope concludes that many “stumble because they disobey the word.”[25] With Peter’s multiple quotes from scripture and this statement about not obeying the word, it is clear he holds the text in high regard.

Synthesis

            Lea explains that this text fits in to the greater conversation of Peter as “[a] description of the people of God.”[26] A good way to see this is to consider the preceding periscope, 1 Peter 1:13-2:3. Lea entitles this previous periscope “[a] demand for holiness.”[27] Notice the words “obedient children” in 1:14 and how that same theme is pictured in of those that “disobey the word” in 2:10. The periscope in 2:4-10 is a foundational concept for the rest of the letter.  A great example of this is 1 Peter 3:7 where Peter says the male, specifically husbands is to “honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.”[28] Peter appeals to the woman being “heirs with you of the grace of life” as the reason to act.  Peter is appealing to the shared nature that is described in 1 Peter 2:9: “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.”[29] Throughout the text Peter will encourage the reader to holiness, practical action, and even to be emotionally motivated “for the Lord’s sake.”[30] That is to say, Peter expects that they will act this way, because they are the Lords “own possession.”[31] To sum all this up in Peter’s words, your bride price is “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot,”[32] so act like it.

 

References

[1]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[2]. Polycarp of Smryna, “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 33.

[3]. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 472.

[4]. Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV, ed. Allan Menzies, trans. John Keith, vol. 9, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897), 230.

[5]. Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. “Mark, Gospel Of.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988. 1401.

[6]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 38.

[7]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[8]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:4.

[9]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 2:9.

[10]. Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 132.

[11]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 43.

[12]. Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 1 Pe 1:1.

[13]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:1.

[14]. All Greek word are referenced from, Aland, Kurt, Barbara Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger. Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

[15]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:4.

[16]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:6.

[17]. Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 512.

[18]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 52.

[19]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:33.

[20]. R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2238.

[21]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:6.

[22]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:5.

[23]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[24]. Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 108.

[25]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:8.

[26]. Lea, Thomas D. 1982. “1 Peter: Outline and Exposition.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 25 (1):. 17.

[27]. Ibid.

[28]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 3:7.

[29]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[30]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:13.

[31]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:9.

[32]. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 1:19.

 

Bibliography

Bray, Gerald, ed. James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Grudem, Wayne A. 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 17. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Lea, Thomas D. 1982. “1 Peter: Outline and Exposition.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 25 (1): 17–45. https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000795026&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones, and Roderick McKenzie. A Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Menzies, Allan, ed. The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV. Vol. 9. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897.

Sproul, R. C., ed. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015.

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.

 

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