2008 The Catholic Epistles

Session 1

David G. Horrell (Exeter University)

The Themes of 1 Peter: Insights from the Earliest Manuscripts

Recent developments in textual criticism have encouraged NT scholars to regard the various NT manuscripts not merely as sources of variant readings to enable a reconstruction of the original text but as interpretative renderings with their own intrinsic interest and as important material evidence for early Christianity. Taking up this cue, this paper examines what the earliest two manuscripts of 1 Peter indicate about the status of this writing, and what early readers took to be its key themes, given the other texts with which it is bound. Some long rejected ideas about 1 Peter’s character and themes need to be revisited in the light of this early manuscript evidence.

Stephen Ayodeji A. Fagbemi

Born Again Not of Perishable Seed: the Word of God and Its Salvific Significance in 1 Peter

The First Epistle of Peter is mostly believed to be a practical or pastoral rather than a theological epistle, not least because of its overt parenetic outlook. But a careful examination indicates its concern about theology and praxis. This is particularly evident in its underlying theology of the word of God as playing a significant role in the work of salvation. What is the role of the word of God in the salvation and daily life of the believers in 1 Peter? This paper seeks to examine the meaning and significance of the imperishable and abiding word of God in 1 Peter with special reference to its role in the work of salvation and the sustenance of the elect. It will further examine how this might inform an understanding of the purpose of Christian parenesis in 1 Peter.

Session 2

Tomas Bokedal (University of Aberdeen)

Canonical Reception of 2 Peter

2 Peter is one of approximately seven so called antilegomena in the New Testament. It might even be the book whose place in the NT seems most difficult to justify for New Testament scholars. It is only towards the late second/early third century that we hear about 2 Peter in extant writings, such as the indirect reference by Eusebius, who claims that Clement of Alexandria wrote commentaries on all New Testament/biblical books, including those disputed. Except for Origens’s use of 2 Peter, is Clement the earliest reference to the letter we have, and should it be taken as such, or could we even trace earlier knowledge in the second or first centuries? In this paper I discuss these isagogical aspects followed up by the early history of reception of 2 Peter. I am then addressing the issue of canonicity in this connection by reflecting on the notion of Wirkungsgeschichte and the suggestion, posed by some scholars, to somehow exclude this and some other texts from the Christian canon. In a final paragraph I try to spot a few aspects of the canonical function of 2 Peter within the New Testament.

Mark D. Mathews (Durham University)

The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude Examined Against an Analogy of the Synoptic Gospels

Distinct from previous studies of the literary relationship between 2 Peter and Jude, this essay proposes an examination of the parallel passages based on Greek grammar and style in light of the linguistic argument for Markan priority in the Synoptic tradition. One of the strongest defences for Markan priority is the linguistic argument. Evidence has been put forth that demonstrates Matthew and Luke’s corrections to Mark’s poor grammar and style indicating the direction of literary dependence between these documents. On the one hand, 2 Peter also demonstrates what could be considered poor Greek grammar and an impoverished style. On the other hand, Jude's Greek is considerably better and his letter is tightly structured. If the argument from grammar argues so strongly for Markan priority, what does this have to say about 2 Peter and Jude? This essay applies the same criteria to the parallel passages of these two documents to determine the possibility of the priority of 2 Peter. Issues of authenticity and authorship are not addressed as these are the very arguments that cloud an objective comparison of the parallel passages. It is hoped that by removing the study of literary dependence from discussions concerning authorship that a more objective position might be advanced.

Session 3

Kelly Liebengood (University of St Andrews)

'Don't be like your fathers': reassessing the ethnic identity of 1 Peter's 'elect sojourners'

Initially, 1 Peter appears to be addressed to Jewish Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (1.1, 17). Several references in the letter, however, seem to nullify this initial impression: the audience is said to have been redeemed from the futile way of life handed down to them from their fathers (1 Pet 1.18); they are urged, as a result of their redemption, to put their faith and hope in God (1 Pet 1.21); and finally, they are seen to have once participated in ‘licentious living, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry’(1 Pet 4.2-3). Most scholars agree that these references are decisive in concluding that 1 Peter was written to a predominantly Gentile audience.

For at least two generations 1 Peter scholarship has operated on this assumption, which has had not only a profound impact on the way the letter has been interpreted, but also has set the agenda for consequent research in 1 Peter.

In this paper I will focus particularly on the common assertion that 1 Pet 1.18, 21 and 4.2-3 ‘could hardly have been addressed to any but Gentiles’ (Selwyn). A fresh examination of both archeological and literary evidence will demonstrate (a) a long-standing tradition within Judaism of repudiating the futile ways of the fathers, and (b) a significant degree of Jewish assimilation in Asia Minor. In light of this evidence, I will argue that 1 Peter is best regarded as a letter principally written to Jewish Christians. This conclusion has some significant implications for how the letter is interpreted, which will be explored briefly.

Strive for Peace and Holiness: The Intextual Journey from Genesis to Hebrews, via Hosea and Philo

Hebrews 12:14-17, exhorts the congregation to pursue peace and holiness, and avoid the apostasy of Esau. Scholars have approached the interpretive problems that are generated by the passage in a variety of ways but without adequate success. At issue is the relationship of the pericope to its surrounding passages, elucidating who the μετα παντων of Heb 12:14a were and defining the role of Esau. Considering the manner in which the author employs the OT in his exhortations, the solution is likely to be derived from identifying the intertextual allusions and echoes resonating in its background.

This paper proposes that themes from the Jacob-Esau saga and their interpretations by the OT prophets, and Philo echo in the background of the passage. Hebrews has interpreted episodes in the exile of Jacob to Mesopotamia and return to Bethel as prefiguring not only Israel’s migration to the Promise but also the migration of the people of God to Mount Zion. Believers who apostatize will be following the bad example of Esau. This interpretation has the advantages of fitting into the socio-historical context behind Hebrews, accords with the argument of Heb 12 and provides an objective basis for explaining who the μετα παντων were.