Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jesus as Israel, and the Subjective Genitive in 1 Peter 1.2

In relevant part, 1 Peter 1.1-2 reads, "To those . . . who are chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood."

While rejecting the option because she hears an OT echo (from the sprinkling of blood and vow of obedience in Ex 24.6-8 - more on that below), in an endnote in her recent commentary on 1 Peter, Karen Jobes notes that some commentators have translated the last clause, "that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood," as a subjective genitive.

If construed that way, the last clause would basically read something like this (and please keep in mind that I'm completely spit-balling it here): "on account of the obedience of Jesus Christ and the sprinkling of blood."

So the whole passage would read something like this:

To those . . . who are chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, on account of the obedience of Jesus Christ and the sprinkling of his blood."

One reason I like this is that it maintains what appears to be a developing trinitarian parallel, focusing, in turn, on the action of the Father, Spirit, and then the Son.

We are chosen:

[1] by the foreknowledge of God the Father,
[2] by the sanctifying work of the Spirit,
[3] by the obedience and sprinkled blood of Jesus Christ.

Turning [3] into "our obedience" leaves the trinitarian development incomplete, by turning from the work of the Father and the Spirit, then inserting human obedience.

Most translations have Peter talking about human obedience and the sprinkled blood of Christ. But Karen Jobes points out that that doesn't really work, linguistically. The "obedience" and the "sprinkled blood" have the same referents. So we can't really shift from "human obedience" to "Jesus' blood" in translating the last clause.

Karen Jobes makes the two parts of the clause consistent by having the "obedience" and the "sprinkled blood" both refer to what has happened to us as humans in Jesus Christ -- that is, we are chosen by the Father and sanctified by the Spirit in order to obey and to be sprinkled with Jesus' blood.

As I mentioned above, her reason for preferring this is that she thinks Peter is alluding to the covenant ceremony in Ex 24.6-8, where "obedience" and "sprinkled blood" is also mentioned.

I don't disagree. But instead of having us humans standing in and replicating a covenant that humans have proven we cannot keep (Acts 15.10), I would have Jesus standing there as the true Israel (Mt 2.15), fulfilling the vow of obedience for us, but also the one whose blood is sprinkled.

The big point is that I don't see that we have the option of merely replicating the covenant ceremony in Exodus. Israel failed once to perform the words of the covenant, and humanity will fail again if all that happens is that different people stand in for Israel and enter the covenant in the same way.

But what we must fail to do, Jesus, the new humanity, succeeds in doing. So humanity's action is Jesus' action. Then we, the old humanity, become new, by being united with Jesus, the new Adam, in baptism. So the obedience and the sprinkled blood are Jesus'. These then are given to us through Christ in baptism.

Reading 1 Peter 1.2 that way (assuming it works linguistically), preserves what I take to be the trinitarian development in the verse -- and on Jesus' obedient life -- as well as the OT allusion.

3 Comments:

Blogger Wayne said...

That's the direction I took it last year when I preached through 1 Peter. While I found myself steering away from Karen Job's commentary on occasion, I found it to be a very stimulating commentary.

June 17, 2008 8:30 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I think that Karen Jobe's commentary is very well written, providing a nice balance between language issues and theological issues. I've enjoyed reading through it -- which I can say about few commentaries.

My only complaint so far is the one alluded to in the post: While I commend her from wanting to hear OT echoes in the text, she's a little too "straight-lined" in her understanding of covenantal development for my taste. As I result, she misses what I take to be some important Christological moves in the text, such as the one discussed in the post.

June 17, 2008 2:45 PM  
Blogger CPA said...

Good reading. It's always amazing how much trinitarian language there is in the Epistles, and how seeing it is key to interpretation.

June 21, 2008 1:00 PM  

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