Why Christmas Tress?

"The first National Christmas Tree,"...
Image via Wikipedia

Last week I posted on the supposed connection of the Christmas tree with Christianity where some members of the local public were enraged that a Christmas tree, created for a competition, was crafted using tins of alcoholic beverages. Though I do not think that those participants were promoting beer but most alcoholic tin cans are green so that might have been the logical explanation. To me it’s still quite a fuss for these people to complain about it.

Anyways, Christianity Today has a piece on the historical background on how the Christmas tree came to pass. I mean, this thing does have a history! I guess it’s a good piece to read for those who are adamant that the Christmas Tree has connections with the Christian religion. I’d rather read this than someone arguing that some are impaling the Christian symbol.

Reading through the article it does indicate to Asians that the tree is a Western conception, which now finds its way to Asian adoption. It has no biblical roots whatsoever. The article mentions that it was during

“…the Renaissance are there clear records of trees being used as a symbol of Christmas—beginning in Latvia in 1510 and Strasbourg in 1521.”

The most likely historical theory dates the introduction of the Christmas tree with “medieval plays” where it symbolized the Garden of Eden depicted as the “paradise tree.” Further on in the 17th and 18th century saw the rise of the practice as well as the decorations that people use now to decorate the tree. See for example this excerpt

“Alongside the tree often stood wooden “pyramids”—stacks of shelves bearing candles, sometimes one for each family member. Eventually these pyramids of candles were placed on the tree, the ancestors of our modern Christmas tree lights and ornaments.”

But there have been some concern by clergy which they saw it a distraction to the “true evergreen tree, Jesus Christ.”

As for the practice of giving gifts which is also acquainted with the Christmas tree, the practice, according to the article, was that of the Romans. Again we see here that practices connected with the Christmas tree was of Western invention, albeit, a social practice which Christians have Christianized to conform as a Christian practice.

Moving along historical lines as well, this practice followed through to the “New World in the early 1800s” where the practice oriented towards a family themed perspective to replace older and more alcohol fueled Christmas tradition, particularly in America by their leaders. But as the real symbolism revels itself, the tree and the gifts are traced to Jesus, as the article states in the conclusion of the article.

Reading through, though the practice has no biblical significance, whatever is Christian about the Christmas tree comes into contact with the Christian faith via symbolism, which works as a bridge to explain something greater. In that way, the Christmas tree in itself has no significance, only how people have tried to symbolize it to mean something spiritual. In that manner I’m not so much in opposition towards the practice. It’s ok if people want to continue in that tradition. It only gets ugly if the Christmas tree becomes something we can’t do out with. So whatever other people want to do with it, let them. We don’t have a monopoly on it. But when it comes to contaminating the meaning of Jesus, that’s when we have to somehow put our foot down in healthy explanation.

Gordon Fee Interview on His Revelation Commentary

Gordon Fee, who is one of the most respected NT scholar has written a commentary on Revelation which is due this year. Judging from the interview, the book looks like a must have for those who are grappling with the letter. I’m sure I’ll be saving money for this one because Revelation is one of the hardest book to read and understand. I remember when I was 17 and read Revelation in its entirety, I was mesmerized mainly because of the imagery and it apocalyptic nature. Nevertheless I didn’t understand a thing about it.

To listen or watch the Interview click this link here.

Some notes I took from listening through:

It is important to know the kind of genre or literature that one is reading in the bible, in this case Revelation. The bible made with numberings tend to be a hindrance to reading the bible. People then tend to focus more on a minute detail of the whole message of the book.

According to Fee, Revelation is a unique book in the bible. The last few parts of Daniel has some commonality with Revelation but that is about it. Revelation is the best and greatest book among the other intertestamental material (books that were written between the OT and NT). It was a common type of literature among its readers in that time.

Revelation is a subversive material, where it states that “God is in charge of the universe and not the Roman Empire.”

Revelation is a letter written to the seven churches during that time. It was written in a time where these churches were headed for a terrible holocaust. John (the writer) sees that the martyrdom of Antipas of Pergamum, the harbinger, who John sees as the one who ticks the terrible times that the Christians were to go through. Fee cites the catacombs as a clear example of this.

Revelation is subversive literature and the lessons that can be gained for the book is that it shows us our history. How God is at work even in the times of great distress. In understanding Revelation we are to understand the letter in how its readers would have understood it. This then would bring guidance to how we are to draw lessons from it.

Revelation, according to Fee is mainly about, the 1st Cen. Church that was headed for a dreadful 2nd Cen. holocaust. But God is in control. The task for Christians (then and now) is to be a faithful witness to Christ, where some who, after they have done so may not live long after that.

Well, that’s about as much as I took note of but that’s not even half of what was said in the interview. Listening to this has aroused my interest in reading Revelation again.

Judah and Tamar Genesis 38:1-30 (In Historical and Cultural Context)

Judah And Tamar Genesis 38:1-30 (In Historical and Cultural Context)

Introduction

This passage has been constantly laden with questions because the passage seems to be obscure in nature. Obscure because it seems to disrupt the flow of Joseph’s narrative account in 37:1-36 and 39:1ff. A further indication of its obscurity is the scandalous acts imbedded in the text and narrative that simply pique a sense of embarrassment for the modern reader. An example of this irony is further justified, taking note of a paper written by Prof. Yairah Amit where he states that;

“When the story of Joseph is studied, chapter 38 is skipped for three reasons. Firstly, because of the whiff of the erotic; secondly, because it is not an integral part of the plot of Joseph story; and thirdly, because this way teachers do not have to confront the problematic levirate law. In other words, skipping this chapter serves conservative or orthodox interests.”[1]

Although the quotation above depicts Jewish ways of encountering the text, Christians on the other hand have mangled Chapter 38 reading it from a New Testament lens. For example, treating the passage on grounds of sexual sins. This further minimizes the intended meaning of the text.

One particular problem to understanding the text has to deal with the reader’s knowledge of the historical and cultural context. Good knowledge of this might curb some of the misunderstanding as well as misguided readings of the text. This paper therefore wants to concentrate on giving some description on the historical and cultural context of Judah and Tamar’s story.

Based on Genesis chapter 38 there are three historical and cultural areas that will be discussed. They are (1) Marriage customs, which will be dealt on three areas that will be explained later, (2) the significance of the pledge which Tamar required from Judah and (3) prostitution. Shedding light on these particular historical and cultural data would eventually give a more proper understanding of how one will read and understand the message of the text.

1. Marriage Customs

Marriage practices and customs in ancient times vary on a stark contrast with modern ways and practices. Because of this texts such as that of Genesis 38 if read with modern lenses would deter meaning from what the text wants to convey. So because of that it is good for us to know something concerning marriage customs during that time. There are three aspects on marriage that will be discussed here namely (a) the Levirate Law, (b) women and their treatment and (c) widowhood.

a. Levirate law

For one not familiar to the historical context of marriage in the OT times the thought of Onan (being directed by his father, Judah) having sexual relations with his deceased brother’s wife sounds repulsively disgusting. The practice is not something that our present culture understands. In ancient times such a practice is known as levirate marriage. Deuteronomy 25:5-10 is a further development of the practice spelled out for the Israelites. Levirate law is explained as,

“The law states that if brothers live together, and if one of them is married and dies without children, one of the surviving brothers is to marry or take her as his wife and father a child with her. The child born of this levirate relationship (levir is Latin for “brother-in-law”) carries on the name of his deceased father and eventually inherits the family estate.”[2]

Adding to the explanation above, Bruce K. Walkey’s explanation graphically notes that the seed springing from the levirate practice was to “give the deceased social immortality” and such practice was “continued into the time of Jesus (Matt. 22:23-30; Mark 12:18-25; Luke 20:27-35).”[3] The purpose of Levirate marriage as explained above has to do with continuing the line of the deceased brother where as implied here is that the name of the deceased “may not be blotted out of Israel.”[4]

b. Women and their treatment

The next area that we need to look at is on widowhood in historical context. But before we can move to that let us look at how women were treated during that time and specifically in the context of marriage.

The domain of the home was generally “entrusted” [5] to wives where they were to “to uphold the honor of the household through their chaste behavior and correctness.”[6] But in areas of property and social issues such as testifying in court their influence was neglected[7].It is further explained that that the rights of the woman is “further clarified”[8] only until the marriage is consummated. Without consummation,

“…her rights to compensation in the event of divorce, her right to property as a widow and, for that matter, the right to marry the man with whom she had originally been contracted were not officially set until intercourse had taken place. By consummating the marriage, both parties fulfilled the oral arrangements and legal technicalities that had been set by their representatives. They had therefore changed their legal status and their social standing within the community. In addition, the wife now lived under her husband’s name and benefitted from his protection and social standing.”[9]

Thus, on the onset above, marriage was seen as vital as well as a virtue, not unlike how our present society sees it. Another striking note of how marriage is perceived in ancient times is to understand what was deemed important to people of that day. One of the primary purposes of marriage in biblical times was for propagation or in other words to “produce an heir.”[10]Because of the importance placed on inheritance, without an heir, there is seen a “disruption in the generational inheritance pattern that left no one to care for the couple in their old age.”[11] With this in mind it gives the reader of Genesis 38 valuable insights on the situation that Tamar was going through without a husband.

c. Widowhood

Now we arrive at the discussion on widowhood. Taking the case of Tamar in Chapter 38, an undeniable fact lays for our contention; Tamar is left a widow because of Er death and in looking at the historical context during that time widows were facing difficult living conditions because of this.

One of the “major cause of female insecurity,” contends Daniel I Block was “widowhood”[12] 71. Several factors contribute to this as Block observes. Woman “tended to outlive their husbands”[13] and this situation is heightened by the reality of war. Second, due to the nature of family life in OT times where “marriages were patrilocal”[14], the husband’s death threatened her standing amidst the household, and on this onset, the levirate law which was actually “designed to give the widow with a second husband” was more concerned for the “need to preserve the male line and the patrimonial estate.”[15]

Widows were supposedly cared by the family of the deceased husband. In the case of Tamar, when her husband died she was therefore under their authority “since marriage for women in that day meant being passed from the control of their fathers and brothers of their husbands and father-in-laws”[16] But if ties with his family were not on good terms the widow would face severe consequences. Block explains this

“If these kinship ties were lacking, or if the men of her husband’s clan refused to support her, without the economic and physical protection of her husband she was vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and sometimes even murder.”[17]

Such were the conditions face by a widow, so in the case of Tamar she was put in a difficult position when her husband died and thus the further treatment of her by Er’s family.

2. What is the Significance of pledges? (Gen 38:17)

The pledge was common practice in Israel but as Hamilton notes, a “pledge to a prostitute is unique to Gen 38:17-18”[18] With that case in mind we shall see the significance of pledges as well as seek to understand the what was consisted of the materials found in this passage.

First, let us seek some explanation concerning the seal. Seals were “made of metal and stone” and was often “worn on a cord around the neck”[19]. Waltkey explains its usage, that when “it is rolled across soft clay, such as the legitimating clay seal on a document”[20] serves as an impression designating who the owner is. Skilled craftsmanship might be deployed to create such detailed work as references in Exod. 28:11, 21, 36; 39:6, 14, 30 suggests.[21]

Secondly let us seek some explanation concerning the staff. According to scholars, staffs belonging to persons during that time were deeply personal as they bear the “mark of ownership”[22] or as a means of “identification”[23] of the owner. Names were found “incised” on the scepter head “throughout the ancient Near East.”[24]

Knowing how deeply personal these belongings had, the implications thus becomes clear upon the purposes of why Tamar held on these things. It was not in accordance to their value but it was value in whom they belonged to because “the pledge…because it bound Judah quite personally”[25] to Tamar.

3. Prostitution

To tackle the task of understanding prostitution during that time there are two specific areas which we will thus explore following some of the verses in Judah and Tamar’s narrative. The two areas will be dress codes ascribed to prostitutes and punishment. The term verb for the words prostitution of harlotry in the Hebrew “refers to all forms of illicit sex between a man and a woman”[26] whether professional in nature, marital unfaithfulness or sex offered freely outside marriage[27]. In the Pentateuch harlotry is a “term of contempt”[28]. Following Canaanite culture there was close connection between fertility of the land and cult prostitution. The practice is explained as;

“Devotees of the mother goddess Ishtar or Anat would reside at or near shrines and would dress in a veil, as the symbolic bride of the god Baal or El. Men would visit the shrine and use the services of the cult prostitutes prior to planting their fields or during other important seasons such as shearing or the period of lambing.”[29]

The men’s act of sexual relation with the prostitute in paying homage to the gods in reenactment is to “insure fertility and prosperity for their fields and herds.”[30]

On prostitutes dressing with particular interest especially where it mentions that Tamar “covered herself with a veil” in verse 14, some commentators have argued that Tamar was not dressing intending to show herself as a prostitute. The idea of ascribing prostitution with the mere notion of one veiling herself which Hamilton in his commentary goes into detail in explaining this, but as for the purpose of this paper we will not go in detail. Hamilton states that “there is little evidence that prostitutes in Canaan wore veils”[31]. This designation follows suit because according to the text Tamar is assumed by Judah to be a normal prostitute and not a shrine prostitute as verse 21. Hamilton and Waltkey come to the same conclusions on the purpose of veiling in the case of Tamar was not to dress the part but for the fact to hide her identity[32]. But with that in mind I the best way to explain these views in coherence is what Waltkey states here that whether “dressed as a shrine prostitute or not, she is playing the part of the whore.”[33]

Focusing now on punishment accorded to prostitution it is explained that the practice was “generally punished by stoning to death”[34] and this is taken from Deuteronomy 22:23-24. Taking into consideration Tamar’s case in which the sentence pronounced by Judah on her “death by fire is exceptional”[35]. That particular sentence is found in the instance where “a daughter of a priest engages in harlotry and in cases of incest (Lev 20:14).”[36] This sentence might be due to “reflect Tamar’s alleged display of unbridled sexual passion”[37] but also on the onset it might well reflect Judah’s spur of the moment indignation on what he heard and not to the actual “juridical enforcement for sin relating to sexual behavior.” [38]

Conclusion

After exploring the historical and cultural leanings of Genesis 38 and deciphering meaning from them one gets a good platform to begin proper understanding from the text to inform correct understanding that one can abstract from the pages. As seen from the discoveries above, historical and cultural investigation dispels the interpreter from raising baseless issues from the text and in that sense frees him or her to see what the text has to say and convey.



[1]Amit, Yairah, The Case of Judah and Tamar in the Contemporary Israeli Context: Relevant Interpolation. http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:8MMcil9lW5YJ:home.medewerker.uva.nl/a.brenner/bestanden/Amit.doc+judah+and+tamar+historical+background&cd=74&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=my. (Accessed September 2009)

[2] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995) pg 439

[3] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) pg 510

[4] Westermann, Claus. Genesis 37-50: A Commentary. (Minneaolis: Augburg, 1982, 1986) pg 52

[5] Alexander, T. Desmond; Baker, David W. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003) pg 294

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid pg 295

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Campbell, Ken M (Ed.). Marriage and Family in the Biblical World.(Downers Grove: IVP, 2003)  pg 71

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Garland, David E; Garland, Diana R. Flawed Families of the Bible. (Grand Rapids: Brazo Press, 2007) pg 111

[17] Campbell, Ken M (Ed.). Marriage and Family in the Biblical World. Pg 71

[18] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 444

[19] Ibid

[20] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. pg 513

[21] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 444

[22] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. pg 513

[23] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg444

[24] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. Pg 513

[25] Rad, Gerhad Von. Genesis: A Commentary. (Bloomsbury Street: SCM, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1970) pg 355

[26] Alexander, T. Desmond; Baker, David W. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IVP. 2003) pg 749

[27] Ibid

[28] Ibid

[29] Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor H.; Chavalas, Mark W., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) c2000.

[30] Ibid

[31] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 441

[32] See Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. pg 512; Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 442-443

[33] Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. pg 512

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid

[36] Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor H.; Chavalas, Mark W., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press) c2000.

[37] Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. pg 449

[38] Ibid pg 449

Bibliography:

Alexander, T. Desmond; Baker, David W. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IVP. 2003)

Campbell, Ken M. Marriage and Family in the Biblical World.(Downers Grove, IVP. 2003)

Garland, David E; Garland, Diana R. Flawed Families of the Bible. (Grand Rapids, Brazo Press 2007)

Hamilton, Victor P. The New International Commentary on The Old Testament: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans. 1995)

Rad, Gerhad Von. Genesis: A Commentary. (Bloomsbury Street: SCM 1961, 1963, 1966, 1970)

Waltkey, Bruce K; Fredricks, Cathi J. Genesis: A Commentary. (Grand Rapids, Zondervan. 2001)

Westermann, Claus. Genesis 37-50: A Commentary. (Minneaolis, Augburg. 1982, 1986)

Electronic Resources:

Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor H.; Chavalas, Mark W. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP. c2000.) CD-ROM

Amit, Yairah, The Case of Judah and Tamar in the Contemporary Israeli Context: Relevant Interpolation. http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:8MMcil9lW5YJ:home.medewerker.uva.nl/a.brenner/bestanden/Amit.doc+judah+and+tamar+historical+background&cd=74&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=my. (Accessed September 2009)

1 Peter (Part 3):How Themes in Part 1 Co-relate to Part 2

Short paragraph on each category in Part 1 based on Part 2.

Peter presents a strong case of them in understanding who they are in Jesus. Terms such as being chosen v.1, set apart v.2, show mercy, having new birth (v.23 as well) and a living hope v.3, haring an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading v.4 where God protects it v.5 and being ransomed v.18 all points to a wonderful picture that anchors their faith in what they have in Jesus. Peter reshapes their identity by pointing them to what God has done for them in Jesus. This in turn will be the basis on which Peter will draw out how their living should be. Peter here deals with stating a strong soteriological understanding that will have a purpose to navigate how it is for them to live.

According to the way Peter puts it in his letter here salvation is a future event. Peter states that inheritance (1:5), the salvation of the soul (1:9) and receiving boundless joy (4:3) are blessings received in the future. He used such terms as “revealed in the last time” (1:5), “receiving the end result of your faith” (1:9) and “when his glory is revealed” (4:13) all hold to an indication that salvation is received in its fullness at the coming of Christ. It could be that Peter addressed this in order to anchor the faith of his readers so that they remain steadfast in their trials. A future filled with hope awaits, their way of life is not lived in vain but awaits the fullness of their salvation at the end. Peter exhorts them to keep on living their life of faith reminding them that it is not finished until Christ returns and this is when their salvation will be realized fully.

Predominantly, some of terms found in 1 Peter 2:4-10 such as being a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession comes from Exodus 19:5-6. These terms were central to Israel in understanding that they were the elect of God. Peter wrote to his readers to remind them of who they were, the elect of God using language equivalent to language of Israel. Knowing that they were the elect with them the understanding that in the midst of their trials they had a foundation and trust to hold onto. It became their foundation for ethic as well.

The suffering and persecution they faced was not something out of the ordinary for a Christian but Peter tells them that there will be consequences of following Jesus even on the onset of doing good. Their sufferings have eschatological dimensions in which sees hope, vindication and commendation at the coming of Christ in 1:6-7. Their suffering for doing good is commendable to God and that it shows their relational connection (4:14). This could also be a way of missions as well, where the non-believers might be won over by their life example in the midst of their suffering. Jesus sets for them an example to follow in suffering and this becomes a pattern in which they follow. Implicitly, it also becomes a source of encouragement in that Jesus also suffered like them. After all in the end God is the judge of how one lives (3:9-12, 4:5) and so their life should follow the pattern based on who God is (1:16) and the example he laid out for them in Jesus to follow.

Christian behaviour of loving one another, considerate, being like-minded or submissive all fall out of a response of what God had done for them (mainly seen in 1:1-12). Since they were already persecuted from their society or maybe even their families, the community of believers now has become their family and Peter’s exhortation’s for them in how they live together becomes all the more important. An implication of how they behave and relate to one another can also be seen in the form of witness. Their unity in their belief and life will be a witness to those outside the church.

Christians living among their pagan neighbours were to exemplify God’s character and nature (1:16).This is basically in how they relate and in what Christians shun from their old practices. It is through this example that they will eventually communicate the message of their faith by how they live. This will open up conversations on what they believe but in relating this Christians are called to share their faith with respect. The terms that Peter applied to the believers to whom he wrote reminded them of who they were and in whom they belonged to. This would become their anchor of hope and encouragement in the pagan society where they were socially marginalized. It gave them a sense of belonging. It also reminded them that although they were living in the midst of society, they were also foreigners and exiles. They belonged to God, in a way that their way of life and how they live are governed by him and not the social norms of the world they were living in. Their identity gave them an ethics of how to live.

1 Peter (Part 2): Audience and Situation

To whom did Peter write this epistle and what was their situation?

Peter has been attested by some to have written his letter to Jewish Christians. Evidence of this can be seen in several verses that carry with them terms and ideas pertaining to Jewish terminology and understanding (1:1, 1:4). In 2:9-10 where words such as “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own…” all have point to a direction they were Jews. But on the contrary there are strong arguments against that. Evidence for this can be seen in 1:14 or 1:18 where they indicate that they were not speaking not of Jews. Even stronger in 4:3-4 Peter speaks of the previous way of life they used to live and their change ways in that they do not practice what they did before after their conversion. With all these considerations at hand we could come to a conclusion that the readers were predominantly Gentile but this is not to exclude Jews who were addressed by Peter in the terms of “oikos” in the Greek which refers them to household communities.

They were comprised of people of the lower classes. Example of this can be found in 2:18ff where it does not indicate ethical practices of masters but only slaves. A theological intent can be discerned in that Peter was concerned with people in subordinate roles.

It can be noted from reading through 1 Peter that the theme of suffering. There were two other known state persecutions that were Nero in AD 64 in Rome and Domitian in AD 95 in Asia Minor where both are not possible in support of state charged persecution. Another indication comes from positive overtones of the government in 1 Pet 2:13-17. They were more likely being victimized by their pagan neighbours. This happened because they did not participate in pagan religious practices and they withdrew from their past life. These steps they took were considered improper, that is to leave the religion of their ancestors. Therefore Peter used terms like aliens and exiles based on the nature of their persecution.

1 Peter (Part 1) Important Themes of the Epistle

a) List all the terms in Chapter 1 that describe what God has done for the believer in the present.

– Chosen v.1
– Set apart v.2
– Show mercy, New birth, living hope v.3
– Inheritance imperishable, undefiled and unfading v.4
– God protects inheritance v.5
– Ransomed v.18
– Born anew v.23

b) Describe all blessings associated with Christ’s return (the revelation of Christ). When is “salvation” in 1 Peter?

– Inheritance that can never perish is kept by God until coming of salvation at the last day 1:5
– Salvation of your soul (receiving the end result of faith) 1:9
– Receive boundless joy 4:13 (rejoice when his glory is revealed)
– Elders/ overseers who are faithful will receive a crown of glory that never fades 5:4
In these references “salvation” for Peter comes later, awaiting the arrival of Christ. Ideas flowing in this manner arises from the mention that believers will receive their inheritance at the last day (1:5), “that they are receiving” (1:9) which indicates the ongoing receiving, boundless joy arising when Jesus’ glory is revealed (4:13) and that elders will receive a crown of glory when the Chief shepherd arrives (5:4). These references indicate a future disposal of blessings.

c) List all the terms that Peter uses in 2:4-10 to describe the church. Where are these terms from and to whom did they apply.

Terms used:
– Chosen by God, precious to him v.4
– Living stones, holy priesthood v.5
– A chosen people, a royal priesthood, A holy nation, God’s special possession, Called out of darkness v.9
– The people of God, Those who receive mercy v.10
Where are these terms from?

It is apparent that these tones have a large connection to the Old Testament designation towards Israel. The call to be “living stones built into a spiritual house” has the idea that Peter is drawing understanding from the OT e.g. 1 Kings 5:5 and Is 56:7. The word use on house which is ‘oikos’ is referred to Jerusalem temple. Holy priesthood is echoed from Ex 19:6; 23:22; Is 61.6. “A chosen people” Is 43:20. Royal Priesthood and holy nation: Ex 19:6 and 23:22. “God’s special possession”: Ex 19:5 Is 43:21 Mal 3:17. In v.10 Peter borrows words from Hosea 1:6, 9; 2:1, 23.
To whom did they apply? These terms apply to the believers whom Peter was addressing who were predominantly Gentile and some Jewish Christian church/ community.

d) List all the references to suffering/ persecution throughout the epistle, and restate in your own words the point(s) made by each reference.

References:
– 1:6-7: Peter calls the believers to rejoice because of what he said in v3-5 but now they are facing trials which are for the testing of their faith which will show that they are genuine in what they believe. This will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus comes.
– 2:12: The call to be witnesses by way of life in society, though accusations may come. This may turn for their salvation in which they witness their good life and they will give glory to God when he comes.
– 2:18-25: Out of Fearing God, slaves to show unconditional submission to their masters. Suffering unjustly is commendable rather than being in the wrong. God approves of this (God’s favour). Jesus becomes the example to follow in this scenario.
– 3:9-12: Don’t take revenge but bless instead. This is because then God will be attentive to our prayers on the basis of our speech and life.
– 3:13-14: Blessed to suffer for doing right.
– 3:16-18: Way of life that follows Christ distils slanderous remarks from outsiders. Jesus is given as an example to follow.
– 4:1-6: Jesus is our example in that we prepare to suffer like he did if need be so. The ones who suffer have no desire for sin but focus to God. God will judge us according to how we live.
– 4:12-19: Suffering happens and Peter tells them that not to be surprised when it comes. Suffering somehow shows that God’s Spirit rests on you and that we rejoice that we carry his name.
– 5:8-11: Be prepared, resisting the devil by standing firm and standing together with other Christians who are sojourner of the same condition they were going through.

e) How should believers behave towards one another?

– 1:22 To love without hypocrisy and truly from the heart
– 2:17 Love for fellow believer
– 3:1-6 wives are called to submit to their husbands, this is by way they live (gentle and quiet spirit v.4) following the way OT women did.
– 3:7 Husbands to be considerate with their wives treating them with respect
– 3:8 call to be like minded, sympathetic, loving each other, being compassionate and humble.
– 4:8 love each other deeply
– 4:9 offer hospitality willingly
– 4:10-11 edify each other by ministering to one another so Christ will be praised
– 5:2-4 Elders are called to be shepherds of the flock, willingly, eager to serve and being examples to them.
– 5:5 Younger people are to submit to elders in humility to one another
– 5:14 Greet each other warmly (holy kiss)

f) How should believers relate to the non-Christian pagan society? What are the terms that Peter uses to describe the status of believers within such a society?

How they are to relate to their society:
– Living good lives amongst them 2:12
– Submit to human authority, do good, live in freedom but not to cover up evil, 2:13-16
– Respect others, honor the emperor 2:17
– Slaves are to submit to their good and bad masters 2:18
– Wives are to submit to their unbelieving partners in their behaviour 3:6
– Don’t tread the route of revenge but rather bless those who insult them 3:9, 13-14
– Ready to explain the faith to others if they ask with gentleness and respect 3:15
– Don’t participate with them in their pagan way of life which they used to live in before 4:3-4

Terms Peter used to describe status of believers within the society:
– 1:1 God’s elect and exiles
– 1:10-12 They were privileged
– 1:17 Foreigners
– 1:23 Born again
– 2:5 Living stones, built into spiritual house, holy priesthood
– 2:9 Chosen people, royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession
– 2:10 The people of God, those who receive mercy
– 2:11 Foreigners and exiles
– 3:9 Those who inherit the blessing
– 4:14 Blessed
– 4:16 Those who bear his name if one suffers for his name sake/ Christian
– 4:17 God’s household
– 5:14 Those who are in Christ