1 Peter

Article excerpt

1 Peter. By Paul J. Achtemeier. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996, xxxvi + 423 pp., $50.00.

This Paul J. Achtemeier's long-awaited magnum opus does not disappoint. It may soon prove to be the definitive work on that letter. The author fulfills the purpose of the Hermeneia series (to provide a grammatical-historical commentary for the serious student of the Bible) as well as his own purpose: To furnish the materials for informed exegetical decisions that respect the work of other interpreters as well as to provide "an encounter" with the letter (p. xv). Achtemeier's commentary is a model of fair and balanced treatment of the primary and secondary literature.

The audience of the commentary is scholars, graduate students and pastors (who have kept up on their Greek!). Little is to be found in the way of devotional or homiletical suggestions, but the exegesis builds a solid foundation for their development by the user. The format consists of an introduction to 1 Peter, a commentary that follows the outline of the ancient letter-form and bibliography (22 pp., doublecolumned), along with indexes.

According to Achtemeier, 1 Peter is a pseudonymous letter, written between 80 and 100 CE from Rome. The missive embodies traditions historically associated with Peter. Its recipients are mixed Jewish-Gentile congregations in Asia Minor whose members represent a broad spectrum of social and economic characteristics. Suffering is a prominent theme in the letter, and the purpose of the communication is to strengthen its recipients during their present suffering. The glorious future that awaits them has already begun to transform their oppressed state into one of victory (cf. 1 Pet 4:13). The nature of suffering in 1 Peter is not of an official and universal imperial persecution. Slanderous harassment that is local and unofficial is the kind of suffering that the readers undergo (although they may encounter occasional legal intervention). The readiness to present a defense (arokoyia) in 1 Pet 3:15 is likely a preparation to give account to informal demands of inquirers during daily social intercourse.

The major strengths of the commentary are its interaction with all points of scholarly discussion of 1 Peter and the author's own exegetical conclusions. I find particularly informative Achtemeier's discussion of the social background of the audience for 1 Peter. His insights on slavery and the place of women in the ancient world make 1 Pet 2:18-25 and 3:1-6 more understandable respectively. Since John H. Elliott's monumental A Home for the Homeless (1981), the meanings of ("resident alien," 2:11) and ("visiting stranger," 1:1, 2:11) have been debated. Contra Elliott, Achtemeier believes that these terms refer not to socio-political dispossession and estrangement of believers before and after conversion. …