Saturday, May 4, 2013

Critical Commentary on 1 Peter 2:9

1 Peter 2:9
ὑμεῖς[2] δὲ[3]
(a.) γένος ἐκλεκτόν[4], (Isa 43:20)
(b.)βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα[5], (Exd 19:6)
(b.)ἔθνος ἅγιον[6], (Exd 19:6)
(a.)λαὸς[7] εἰς περιποίησιν[8]ὅπως[9] τὰς ἀρετὰς[10] ἐξαγγείλητε[11],[12](Isa 43:21)
 τοῦ ἐκ σκότους[13] ὑμᾶς[14] καλέσαντος[15] εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν[16] αὐτοῦ[17] 

But you (all are) a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for (God’s own) possession, so that you might proclaim the praiseworthy deeds[19] of Him who called you out of darkness into the marvelous light;

Cutting at the Joints
The genres of 1 Peter is an epistle or a letter. 1 Peter 2:9-10 is the dividing point between the first half of 1 Peter about identity of those who are chosen (1 Pet 1:3-2:10). Then it transitions into how those who are in Christ can and should live, because they are a people of God’s own possession. 

Peter is expressing the new reality of what it means to be incorporated into the People of God. First, Peter explains that all believers are chosen and called. Second, this calling comes with the role of being a part of a royal priesthood. Moreover, this is a royal priesthood because it belongs to God, and because each believer is under the headship of Jesus Christ, the King Priest. Christians are also a Holy nation, a people set apart for God and His purposed plan.  Finally, believers belong to God as His very own people. In the end, all of these convey the idea that Christians are chosen and called to participate in God’s salvation history as His royal priest proclaiming praiseworthy deeds.  Therefore, Christians are chosen not just so they can live in communion with God, but to participate in the plan God has for their life as royal priest. 

In this passage, Peter shows that all Christians are called to be priest. Thus, we are all able to participate in the presence and communication with God. How many times do we take this for granted and not pray?  I know many instances in my life where I have not prayed, because it never occurred to me to ask God for help for myself or for others. Finally, I would remind everyone that we are all chosen for a reason to be in this time and place. This is no coincidence, God knew what He was doing; so, it is best that we prayerfully consider what His plan and call is for our lives every day. 

Critical Commentary Notes

[1]There are no relevant textual variants. It also seems that this verse has a chiastic fusion of old testament echos.

[2] “ὑμεῖς”  is a “normative subject of an implied εστε” (Dubis, 56, 2010).

[3] “ὑμεῖς δὲ” introduces the conclusion of section of 1 peter 1:3-2:10.(Feldmeier, 140, 2008), and “δὲ” is a post positive conjunction (Black, 31, 2009). Now, Davids argues that, “ὑμεῖς δὲ”  makes an “emphatic transition” where the Old Testament People of God (Israel) is being replaced with the new people of God (Christians) (Davids, 90-92, 1990). Davids, explains that, “This position is described by transferring the church the titles of Israel in the OT (for the church is the true remnant of Israel…)” (Davids, 90, 1990).  In other words, Davids argues for complete replacement of Israel by the church. A moderate view is expressed by Bigg who conveys the concept that yes the church obtains the titles of Israel, but Israel is not rejected as the People of God. Bigg states, “All the titles are transferred from Israel to the brotherhood. Israel has been purged, not rejected” ( Bigg, 134, 1975).

While, the post positive conjunction “δὲ” is in a position that does make it more emphatic; it is highly improbable, that it is contrasting believers from the people of Israel.  First, this is not a polemic against the nation of Israel (the “Jewish community”); second, “nowhere in 1 Peter are the readers addressed as a new Israel or a new people of God, as to displace the Jewish community” (Michaels, 107, 1988, italics original). Finally, this passages main point is , “neither the differentiation from Israel nor that from society, but the belongingness to God” (Feldmeier, 140-141, 2005).

[4] “γένος ἐκλεκτόν” (a chosen race) is a predicate nominatives (found in verse 9). Moreover, it is an echo of “the LXX Isa 43:20” (Michaels, 108, 1998), and in its original context is referring to the nation of Israel.  Now, “γένος” is “a people of common origin” (Donelson, 66, 2010; Achtemeier, 163, 1996). Grudem argues that, “The word chosen by itself would suggest a sharing in the blessing of God’s ‘chosen people’ in the Old Testament….as well as a sharing in the privileged status of Christ, the ‘chosen’ rock…God has chosen a new race of people, Christians, who have obtained membership in this new ‘chosen’ race” (Grudem, 1988,111). This can also be understood not as a new Israel, but an introduction or incorporation into the people of God. Green explains this concept of being chosen as an “election or introduction into Israel’s story” (Green, 62, 2007).

[5] “βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα”  is a nominative functioning as an appositive phrase that refers back to the “γένος ἐκλεκτόν” or chosen race (Dubis, 56, 2010), and it can be translated as a royal priesthood (LXX) or a kingdom of  priest(MT). This echo is the exact phrase found in the Old Testament LXX (Michaels, 108, 1988), most commentators take “βασίλειον” adverbially (Bigg, 134, 1975; Michaels, 108, 1988; Davids 91, 1990; Marshal, 74, 1991; Schreiner, 114, 2003). Furthermore, NASB, NET, ESV, KJV, NIV and most others translate this phrase as “royal priesthood”. Marshal articulates best why this is the correct translation; he states “the fact that each of the other three phrases here in 1 Peter consist of a noun with an adjective (or adjectival phrase) speaks in favor” of these translations.  Some may take the “βασίλειον” substantially. For example, Earnest best argues that “βασίλειον” could be translated “a body of kings” (Best, 270-293, 1969). This is unlikely, instead “βασίλειος is meant in a rather weaker sense at 1 Pt. 2:9 to signify royal priesthood in the manner in which one speaks of royal service”, not one that is “invested with royal dignity” as is what is understood to be in the LXX (TDNT, Vol 1, 591,1964-).

[6] “ἔθνος ἅγιον” (holy nation) is a “nominative in apposition to βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα” (Dubis, 56, 2010). This is another echo back to Exd 19:6. “ἔθνος”  conveys these concepts, “a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, nation, people” (BDAG, 276,2000). In other words, it is a general designation continuing this corporate idea that is expressed throughout this passage. Meanwhile, “ἅγιον” carries the idea, of something or someone being holy, “sacred” or  “reserved for God and God’s service” (BDAG, 10, 2000). Therefore, it could be understood, though not literally translated as, a nation reserved for God and His service. In other words, this is a nation that is set apart for God and His purposed plan.           

 “λαὸς” (people) is a “nominative in apposition to ἔθνος ἅγιον” (Dubis, 56, 2010),

 “εἰς περιποίησιν” ([of God’s own] possession) is an accusative that conveys purpose (Dubis, 56, 2010), because God is doing the acquiring or possessing of the property (BDAG, 804, 2000). One could also translate understand this as being “destined for vindication,” because “εἰς περιποίησιν” could be considered a synonym for “σωτηρία” (Michaels, 109, 2012). Thus, Michaels is conveying a sense of future salvation.  This is not found in any major translation or in any other commentators (that I have read).  The problem is that this seems to stray away from the main idea of this passage where the people are God’s own possession “created for that very purpose” (Dubis, 56, 2010). On the other hand, the next clause is a purpose clause that talks about God’s virtues or deeds, which in this passage seems to be the calling of a chosen people. Thus, the implications are salvific in the broader context.

[9] “ὅπως” (in order that or so that) is a purpose conjunction (Wallace, 301, 2000), and introduces a purpose phrase (Dubis, 56, 2010).

[10] τὰς ἀρετὰς” (Praiseworthy deeds) is an accusative functioning as a direct object (Wallace, 83, 2000),  to the word verb “ἐξαγγείλητε” (Dubis, 56, 2010). “ἀρετὰς” refers to “a manifestation of divine power” (BDAG, 130, 2000). Dubis explains that this manifestation of divine power is best translated as “praiseworthy deeds” and that it refers “to God’s salvific activity in Christ” (Dubis, 57, 2010).  Luther translates it as “wonderful deeds” and explains it as being, “that the power of God Christ has swallowed up death, devoured hell, and drunk sin to the dregs, and placed us into eternal life. These are such deeds that man cannot understand them, let alone perform them”( Pelikan, 65, 1967).

[11] “ἐξαγγείλητε” (proclamation) is an aorist verb with active voice in the subjunctive mood (Dubis, 57, 2010). The subject of active voice verbs “performs or experiences the action,” (Wallace, 181, 2000). Moreover, aorist tense conveys perfective aspect, and since it is in the subjunctive mood, it conveys a punctilliar action, rather than just a past action of proclamation (Campbell,34-38; 91-92, 2008).

[12] “ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε” is an echo of Isa 43:21b (Michaels, 110, 1988).
[13] “σκότους” (darkness) is a genitive, that conveys the idea of darkness. This darkness can be understood as “ignorance” (Michaels, 111, 1988). The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament seems to agree with this understanding of “σκότους” also; it states,  “The whole range of meaning may be understood in terms of the basic sense: darkness, not in connection with its optical effect, but … as a hindrance to movement and action, to foresight, as the sphere of objective peril and subjective anxiety” (TDNT, Vol 7, 424, 1964-). Thus, it is a “state of spiritual or moral darkness” that can only be removed by God calling us out into the light (BDAG, 932, 2000), and why TDNT argues that darkness implies a destination for hell(TDNT, Vol 7,424,1964-).

[14] “ὑμᾶς” (you)  is an accusative functioning as a direct object (Wallace, 83, 2000) to the verb καλέσαντος (Dubis, 57, 2010).

[15]“ καλέσαντος” (call) is an aorist active participial. It expresses the idea of being chosen for the purpose of accepting or receiving a “special benefit or experience” (BDAG, 503, 2000).

 Adjective that modifies light (

[17] Genitive of source (Dubis, 57, 2010).

 Barbara Aland et al., The Greek New Testament (4th ed.; Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies, 1993), 601.

[19] My translation disagrees with NASB, ESV, but agrees with RSV and NRSV. Martin Luther also understands it this way. (Pelikan, 63, 1967). 

Baur, W., F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Best, Earnest. I Peter II 4-10—A Reconsideration. Novum Testamentum, Vol 11(4), 1969.

Bigg, Charles. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude. The International Critical Commentary. Edenburgh, UK:T & T Clark; 1975.

Black, David Alen. Learn To Read New Testament Greek. 3rd ed. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2009.

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

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Green, Joel. 1 Peter. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Grudem, Wayne, 1 Peter, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries vol 17. Grand Rapids: MI, Eerdmans, 1997. 

Kittel, Gerhard et al.. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-.

Marshal, I. Howard. 1 Peter. The IVP New Testament Commentary series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991.

Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1 Peter. World Biblical Commentary Vol 49. Waco, TX: Word Book Publisher, 1988.

  Pelikan, Jaroslav. American Edition of Luther’s Works: The Catholic Epistles, Vol 30, Saint Louis:MO Concordia publishing house,1967.

Wallace, Dan, The Basics of New Testament Syntax: and Intermediate Greek Grammar. Grand Rapids: MI, Zondervan, 2000.

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