Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 18 – The Letters of Peter & the Letter of Jude)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered the Letters of Peter & the Letter of Jude.

Considering the Letters of Peter & the Letter of Jude

The First Letter of Peter was probably written around AD 90.

Several factors cause scholars to question whether the Apostle Peter was the author. They include the following:

  • The Greek style is fairly sophisticated.
  • The quotes from the Old Testament seem to have been taken from the Septuagint.
  • The issues of faced by these communities seem to be closer to the Ephesians and the Pastoral Letters.
  • The writer seems to have been aware of the Apostle Paul.
  • The social teachings are closer to those in later letters.

It was written to a group of churches in Asia Minor. Although there’s not a formal description within the letter, a couple of passages offer insight into the congregation:

  • 1 Peter 4:3-4: You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.
  • 1 Peter 4:12: Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 

The writer of 1 Peter makes use of the Old Testament.

  • The church and Jesus is compared to Israel.
    • 1 Peter 2:10: Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 
    • 1 Peter 2:22-25: "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
  • Key words from the Old Testament are used to describe Jesus and the church. 
    • 1 Peter 2:4-8: Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: "See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner," and "A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 
    • 1 Peter 2:9-11: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 
  • The author uses references outside the canon. For example, the claim that Jesus preached to those who were "in prison" after the resurrection is based on a quote from 1 Enoch.

In 1 Peter, the life of faith is defined by it's relationship with the world.

  • 1 Peter 2:11: Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.
  • 1 Peter 2:1-3: Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
  • 1 Peter 2:13-15: For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 
  • 1 Peter 3:1-7: Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you. Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers.
  • 1 Peter 5:5-7: In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
  • 1 Peter 2.13-23: For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.

Although it claims to be written by Peter, most consider 2 Peter to be pseudonymous, written between AD 80-90. This is offered for the following reasons:

  • It's a farewell address.
  • 1 and 2 Peter appear to be written to different people.
  • 2 Peter reflects a rich Greek vocabulary.
  • 2 Peter would seem to be written after the apostolic era. 

2 Peter defines the audience.

  • 2 Peter 2:1-2: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 
  •  2 Peter 3:15: and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him

The writer of 2 Peter seeks to accomplish three things:

  • Exhortation to Christian Virtue (2 Peter 1:3–21)
  • Condemnation of the False Teachers (2 Peter 2:1–22)
  • The Delay of the Second Coming (2 Peter 3:1–16)

2 Peter draws on Jude.

  • 2 Peter 2 is very similar to Jude in that both draws on books outside the Old Testament canon. 
    • Jude 9: But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" 
    • Jude 14-15: It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
  • Both focus on false teachers.

Jude was written to circulate among churches, warning against false teachings.

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