Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Emotional Physiology and Consolatory Etiquette: Reading the Present Indicative with Future Reference in the Eschatological Statement in 1 Peter 1:6

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Emotional Physiology and Consolatory Etiquette: Reading the Present Indicative with Future Reference in the Eschatological Statement in 1 Peter 1:6

Article excerpt

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In an article I published in 1992, I took sides in the exegetical debate over the temporal reference of the verb ?γαλλι?σθε in 1 Pet 1:6, which reads: ?ν ? ?γαλλι?σθε, ?λ?γον ?ρτι ε? δ?ον [?στ?ν] λυπηθ?ντες ?ν ποικ?λοις πειρασµο?ς ("at which [time] you [will] rejoice although now for a little while, if it is necessary, you are grieved by manifold trials").1 This verb is clearly present tense in form, but I argued in that article for reading this verb in reference to future time.2 Even though I considered my arguments to be compelling, some subsequent commentaries, including those by Paul J. Achtemeier, Mark Dubis, Karen H. Jobes, and Reinhard Feldmeier nevertheless continue to read ?γαλλι?σθε in reference to present time.3 Rather than restating the arguments from my initial article, I present here a brief history of this debate and then critique two assumptions required by a present temporal reading of ?γαλλι?σθε that are incompatible with ancient physiology and consolatory etiquette, theory, and practice.

I. History of the Debate

Ancient Greek interpreters consistently understand ?γαλλι?σθε in 1 Pet 1:6 as future. In a passage where he proposes that the one who remains until the end will be saved, for example, Origen quotes 1 Pet 1:6-7 but uses the future ?γαλλι?σεσθε ("you will rejoice") rather than the present (Mart. 39).4 Origen's change in tense may mean that the manuscript he is using has the future. Since no surviving manuscript of 1 Peter has the future, however, it more likely means that Origen understands the present as a future, as do subsequent Greek commentators. Oecumenius and Theophylact comment, " 'In the last time, you will rejoice [?γαλλι?σεσθε)]' the ?γαλλι?σθε has been received for a future circumstance rather than a present circumstance."5 To support their future reading of the present, these commentators cite John 17:11 and 16:33, where affliction is the lot of this world but affliction will be turned into rejoicing in the future.6

Similar to the Greek commentary tradition, Latin commentators also understand ?γαλλι?σθε in reference to a future rejoicing. The Venerable Bede translates and comments, "In which you will exult [exultabitis].... When he [Peter] says, 'in which,' he refers to that time when a prepared salvation will be revealed and will be given to those who are worthy."7 Didymus Alexandrinus, Eusebius Hieronymus, Pseudo-Hilarius, and Martinus all interpret ?γαλλι?σθε with the Latin future verb exultabitis ("you will rejoice), as do almost all Latin commentators.8 Explaining the Latin translations and quotations of 1 Pet 1:6, Walter Thiele notes, "The future in 1:6 is easily understood after 1:5."9 Thus, the ancient Greek and Latin commentary traditions understand ?ν καιρ? ?σχ?τ? ("at the end time") at the end of 1 Pet 1:5 to be the antecedent of ?ν ? ("at which [end time]") at the beginning of 1 Pet 1:6 and then take the present ?γαλλι?σθε as a reference to the future.10

This understanding of ?ν ? designating the end-time and ?γαλλι?σθε as having future reference dominates the interpretation of 1 Pet 1:6 until the Reformation, when John Calvin proposes a present tense reading of this verb.11 Calvin's proposal is later defended by Conrad Horneius, who argues:

The ancient translator has the future tense, "in which you will rejoice." ... But they translated it in that way primarily because they referred the phrase ?ν ?, in which, taken independently, to the final day and secondarily because this phrase seemed to have some appearance of incompatibility; you are rejoicing although you are grieved by sadness.... But it is more correct that the present tense be retained, which has been received in the manuscripts, for the ?ν ? refers to everything that precedes.12

Horneius acknowledges that the tradition he receives understands ?γαλλι?σθε in 1 Pet 1:6 as a reference to the future. Nevertheless, he follows Calvin by taking exception to the ancient reading of a future reference for this verb. …

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