This blog continues my new project of translation of the first letter of Peter, with a short commentary.
Chapter 1 from verse 3
Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Messiah, by whose large mercy we have been reborn into a lively hope, through the raising up of Jesus Messiah from the dead; and into an inheritance which is uncorrupted, undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for you, who are being protected by God’s power, through faithfulness, for a rescue ready to be revealed in the end time.
THE EMPEROR DOMITIAN 81-96 CE
Wrongly accused of ordering persecution of Christians
I’m not sure if I want the above translation as a final version – it requires careful reading- but I’ve left it unrevised so as to highlight the carefully articulated syntax used by the author: he wants to place his concepts in the right order and the right relationships. His praise of God begins with God’s MERCY which creates HOPE by RAISING JESUS. The hope is of AN INHERITANCE (a word associated with God’s promises from Abraham onwards, now referring to resurrection life) which will be given to those who are FAITHFUL in the end time. Meanwhile they are PROTECTED by God’s power, albeit they may have to suffer, as the author warns later. This sequence of God’s goodness works through a REBIRTH of believers’ lives.
As he makes clear, God does not protect his people from the evils of the world – perhaps this was already clear through active persecution by the authorities. Perhaps their worldly common sense was already suggesting that following Jesus was a bad deal. Only those who are reborn, whose “spirits are made holy” can recognise God’s mercy and trust in the heavenly inheritance. The author makes no attempt to soften the demands of the gospel, which is very much focused on the resurrection of Jesus. The substance of the inheritance is left undefined at this point.
You find joy in this inheritance, even if for a short time you must be grieved by various harsh tests, so that the proof of your faith, more precious than perishable gold tested in fire, may be discovered – to your praise, glory and honour when Jesus Messiah is revealed. You love him although you have not seen him; and still without seeing him you put your trust in him, with joy beyond speech, a glorious joy, as you receive the result of your faithfulness: the rescue of your souls.
I am finding this author quite difficult to translate; firstly because of the the careful way in which he articulates his sentences in Greek, which is hard to reproduce in contemporary English; and secondly because of his frequent use of adjectives and adjectival phrases, which sound slightly fussy in English. But it’s always good to be reminded that it is an alien document, from another time and place, which only becomes contemporary when we make an effort to imagine its author and addressees.
“You must be grieved” the author uses the Greek verb “dei” which points to a necessity. Whether God commands this or permits this, it is a necessity which can’t be avoided. There is no argument here about why bad things happen to good people; they do happen, and are a severe test of faith in God. The author encourages the members of the messianic assemblies to bring to this test their love of Jesus, their fellow victim, a love which gives them an improbable joy, because it assures them that they will share in Jesus’ victory over suffering and death. Their souls, their animate beings, will be rescued rather than lost.
There is also evident here an instance of the Bible’s lack of embarrassment about rewards for faithful behaviour: those who endure faithfully will be rewarded by praise, glory and honour, by Jesus!