B.C. Askins

The Man With the Golden Gun

Archive for the tag “intertextuality”

The Greek Text of James’ Epistle with Dale C. Allison, Jr. (1:1)

I’m going to begin (and hope one day to conclude) a series working slowly through the Greek text of James’ Epistle alongside Dale C. Allison, Jr.’s International Critical Commentary. It will not be an exhaustive series, but will include quotes, notes, and anything else I consider of interest as I work through the two texts, paying special attention to any points of intertextuality raised, as this is a personal research interest. I would like to thank Bloomsbury for providing a review copy of Allison’s text for this series.

Foregoing comment on the introductory background section of Allison’s commentary, we begin with 1:1, Salutation and Address.

Ἰάκωβος θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος ταῖς δώδεκα φυλαῖς ταῖς
ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ χαίρειν.

(James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes that are in the diaspora: Greetings.)

Allison agrees with the “common opinion” (114) of critical scholarship that the epistle is pseudepigraphal, noting that it was most common among pre-modern interpreters to attribute the letter’s authorship to James “the Just,” the brother of Jesus.

He takes the letter to be addressed to Jews, whether Christian or not – a minority report in contemporary and historical scholarship. Possibly, his audience includes Christian and unconverted Jews; Manton compares James’ epistle to the Sermon on the Mount, wherein Christ teaches his disciples directly, but allows the large crowds to overhear.

It’s interesting to note the clash between James’ introduction of himself as a δοῦλος (slave) of the Lord Jesus and Jesus’ own teaching to his disciples in John 15:15: “No longer do I call you slaves (δούλους).” If one accepts the author as the brother of Christ, then this introduction strongly illustrates the economics of the kingdom of heaven, where the way up is down and the first shall be last. Rather than claiming authority from natural fraternity, James prefers to address his audience as a humble slave – emulating Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve (Mt 20:28). The structure of the greeting could be hinting at James’ knowledge of Paul, conflating a traditional Jewish title (δοῦλος θεοῦ) with the Pauline δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, though this far from establishes such a link.

Most interestingly, Allison highlights the faintest possibility of an echo of Isa 49:5-6 (LXX) in 1:1, as the texts share common references to Ἰάκωβος, δοῦλος, κυρίου, φυλαῖς, and διασπορᾷ. The connection is tenuous, based merely upon a shared lexicon (Beale/Carson make no mention of the allusion in their Commentary on the NT Use of the OT), but could be worth further consideration, nonetheless.

Given that ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ (in the dispersion) addresses all the Jews within a given geographically dispersed locale (Allison maintains the metaphorical/typological reading of δώδεκα φυλαῖς [twelve tribes] as a reference to the church is tenuous at best, for linguistic reasons, i.e. a letter addressed to “the Jews” is most likely intended for “the Jews”), and James’ eschatological situatedness at the end of the Jewish age (the old covenant era), “it may be that James presents itself as… an attempt to encourage and stir up the dispersed tribes to repent in preparation for the approaching day of judgment. Such a reading coheres with the possible allusion to LXX Isa 49.5-6, for that passage envisages the eschatological restoration of the entire Jewish people.” (133)

G.K. Beale in his Handbook on NT Use of the OT gives a nine-step method for interpreting NT quotes from or allusions to the OT. Regarding allusions, he states: “The telltale key to discerning an allusion is that of recognizing an incomparable or unique parallel in wording , syntax, concept, or cluster of motifs in the same order or structure… it remains possible that fewer than three words or even an idea may be an allusion.” (31)

Given these rather broad parameters, a thorough consideration of 1:1 as an allusion to Isa 49:5-6 would then involve:

1. Identify the OT reference. [Is it a quotation or allusion? If it is an allusion it must fit the criteria above.]
2. Analyze the broad NT context where the OT reference occurs.
3. Analyze the OT context both broadly and immediately, especially interpreting the paragraph in which the quotation or allusion occurs.
4. Survey the use of the OT text in early and late Judaism that might be of relevance to the NT appropriation of the OT text.
5. Compare the texts: NT, LXX, MT, and targums, early Jewish citations (DSS, the Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, etc.)
6. Analyze the author’s textual use of the OT.
7. Analyze the author’s interpretive use of the OT.
8. Analyze the author’s theological use of the OT.
9. Analyze the author’s rhetorical use of the OT.

Such a thorough analysis is far beyond the scope of my intent in this brief blog post, but may be a task I would return to at a later date (Jacobean condition). However, I would briefly highlight that Isa 49:5-6 is within a commonly referenced section of Isaiah (cf. quote in Acts 13:47, allusion in Lk 2:32, Acts 1:8) and James incorporates several clearer intertextual links to Isaiah throughout his epistle (1:15, 2:6-8, 3:6, 5:1).

If such an allusion could be established, what would be its significance? As quoted above, the eschatological significance of James’ epistle would be immediately present to his audience. Further, this might potentially imply the significance of his letter for the Gentiles whom he does not address explicitly, but who are mentioned in Isa 49:6c: “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” We might even see in this allusion a cryptic reference to James’ (in Greek Jacob’s) own testimony as one who rejected Christ until after his resurrection, but now serves as his slave, gathering Israel to the Lord: “And now the Lord says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength” (Isa 49:5). These are merely suggestions for consideration and should be taken with a grain of salt, as I’ve not even begun anything like the exegetical spadework necessary to establish either of them.

Finally, χαίρειν (greetings) creates a paranomasic “catchword association” with χαρὰν (joy), transitioning to 1:2 using a common linguistic device found throughout the epistle. This is an important device, frequently overlooked because it is often forgotten that the early epistles were commonly read aloud within the congregations. Morphology directly corresponds to phonology.


Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:13-17: Verses 14b-15

3:14b-15, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

Peter then cites Is 8:12-13, with the only significant change from verse 12 in the LXX being his substitution of the plural auton for the singular autou and some difficulty has attended whether to understand this construction as an objective or subjective genitive. The discussion is complicated by the fact that the Hebrew appears to be consistent with a subjective genitive (“do not fear what the people fear”), while the LXX uses an objective genitive (“do not fear him,” referring to the king of Assyria). A similar construction can be found in 1 Pet 3:6 (“not fearing any fear”), which reflects a common Hebrew idiom, the cognate accusative. (14) Either translation can be understood in consonance with the overall theology of 1 Peter, and there is no consensus among the variety of English translations. The near context of the verse leads me to tentatively conclude that an objective genitive is the correct translation, given the references to slanderers and revilers in 3:16. Believers ought not to fear their interlocutors and persecutors. (15)

In any event, Peter’s second prohibition meide taraxtheite (“neither should you be troubled”) immediately reinforces the fact that Christians should not fear anything when under persecution, neither their persecutors (objective genitive) nor what they fear (subjective genitive). The double prohibition of not fearing nor being troubled emphasizes the Christian’s responsibility, effectively, to be fearless in suffering. This is consistent with 1 Peter’s overarching theme of fearing only God. This fearlessness is to be accomplished first by honoring Christ the Lord as holy (kyrion de ton Xriston hagiasate).

It is fascinating to note that immediately after echoing the beatitudes, wherein Christ subtly implies identification between himself and righteousness, Peter similarly implies identification between Christ and Yahweh in his quotation of Is 8:13. (16) Where the LXX of Is 8:13 uses the reflexive pronoun (“sanctify the Lord himself,” kyrion auton hagiasate), Peter inserts ton Xriston, freely identifying Christ with Yahweh. The substitution of ton Xriston for auton can be construed predicatively (“sanctify Christ as Lord”) or appositionally (“sanctify the Lord, namely, Christ”). It appears to be predicative, since the presence of the article makes an appositional translation awkward, as generally both nouns would be either arthrous or anarthrous in that case. (17) The meaning of the phrase is not significantly affected by either construal. (18)

Peter’s theme of the fear of God is explicitly directed toward Christ the Lord, whose righteousness is our example in his endurance of persecution, and whose holiness is our only cause for fear even in the midst of persecution. The sanctifying of Christ as Lord in our hearts means recognizing that Christ, not one’s persecutors, is sovereignly controlling and evaluating all events, as verse 12 said: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” The inward fear of Christ drives out all other fears and drives saints down to their knees in prayer. The fearlessness commanded in 14b is accomplished by sanctifying Christ the Lord in our hearts – out of which the mouth speaks, always ready to give a defense of the hope found in Christ.

The sanctifying of Christ in the heart is demonstrated by “always being ready” (hetoimoi aei) (19) to present a defense (apologian) of our hope to anyone. This comports with Peter’s theme of “eschatological readiness,” wherein he has also declared that salvation is “ready” (hetoimein) to be revealed in the last time (1:5), and Christ stands “ready” (hetoimos) to judge the living and the dead (4:5). (20) Our constant readiness to defend our hope in Christ parallels Christ’s constant readiness in the revelation of salvation and judgment – indeed, our defense may be the very means by which Christ reveals both salvation and judgment to our audience.

The use of apologian is often in reference to a formal defense, as in a court of law responding to specific charges. However, that this defense is made to “anyone” (panti) leads most commentators to recognize a primarily informal setting is in mind here. Achtemeier is representative:

While one cannot rule out all reference to judicial proceedings, the likelihood is therefore that the author has more informal social intercourse in mind as the context here. The implication would then be that Christians must take any such request as seriously as they would the requirement in a court of law to answer to formal charges. (21)

The “hope which is in you” (en humin elpidos) harkens directly back to sanctifying Christ the Lord “in your hearts,” (en tais kardiais) so that giving a reason (logon) for this hope is to declare the Lordship of Christ.

Giving a reason must be done with gentleness (prauteitos) and fear (phobou). Phobou is often translated with reference to the believer’s human inquirers (“respect” NIV, ESV, NET, TEV, NLT); however, given Peter’s frequent use of this lexeme throughout the letter, it would seem more consistent with the theme of fearing only God to translate it as “reverence” (RSV, NRSV). (22) By linking prauteitos with phobou, Peter appears to be commending to his audience a humble “attitude toward others that is rooted in one’s attitude toward God.” (23) Gentleness and reverence are simply and clearly consistent with the humbling proclamation of the hope found in Christ’s Lordship. Any other attitude would be sinfully inconsistent.

(14) Wayne A. Grudem, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: 1 Peter, An Introduction and Commentary. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 160.

(15) Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 108-109 has a helpful discussion, though I draw the opposite conclusion from him based upon the evidence which he presents.

(16) It appears that even Jesus’ rhetorical and pedagogical styles left an impression upon Peter.

(17) Contrastingly, Dubis asserts, “Arguments against (an appositional) interpretation on the basis of the arthrous nature of ton Xriston and the anarthrous nature of kyrion… are complicated by the fact that kyrios in the LXX routinely translates the anarthrous tetragrammaton from the Hebrew.” Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 110.

(18) Paul J. Achtemeier, Hermeneia: 1 Peter, A Commentary on First Peter. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 232. Also Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 173.

(19) “The NIV understandably turns the adjective ‘prepared’ (hetoimoi) into an imperative, ‘be prepared,’ for something needs to be supplied to make the construction sensible. Technically speaking, perhaps, a participle (ontes) links this phrase to the main verb above (‘set apart,’ hagaisate).” Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 174.

(20) J. Ramsey Michaels, Word Biblical Commentary: 1 Peter (Waco: Word Publishers, Inc., 1988), 188.

(21) Paul J. Achtemeier, Hermeneia: 1 Peter, A Commentary on First Peter. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 233.

(22) Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 112.

(23) Karen H. Jobes, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: 1 Peter. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 231.

Exegesis of 1 Peter 3:13-17: Verse 14a

3:14a, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.”

The contrastive conjunction alla introduces a clarifying qualification on verse 13, which recognizes that there are exceptions to the general rule that Christians will not suffer if they do that which is right. (7) Indeed, even in these times of suffering the author asserts that they are blessed.

The future tense of the participle is probably functioning much like the subjunctive here, (8) and in conjunction with the optative mood of the verb in the contrastive parallelism it may function to anchor the optative as more than a bare possibility for many believers. (9) “Peter was not teaching that suffering is rare, only that it is not perpetual.” (10) This interpretation is reinforced by Peter’s use of ei kai which can describe a condition which is either already fulfilled or is likely to be fulfilled. (11) It is also helpful to remember that this epistle was written to a diverse audience throughout several geographic locations, so the optative mood allows both for the transitory nature of suffering in the life of the church, as well as the diverse circumstances of the various churches being addressed.

Peter’s use of makarioi clearly echoes the eighth and ninth makarisms (or beatitudes) of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (12)

This echo is worth considering in some detail. Of specific value in the current context is the parallelism found between the two beatitudes: the ninth beatitude amplifies and personalizes the eighth. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of (heneken) righteousness’ sake… Blessed are you when others… persecute you… because of (heneken) my account.” (13) In this parallel Christ subtly identifies himself as righteousness, since persecution because of righteousness is persecution because of Christ. In the same way, Peter declares that his readers are blessed when they suffer on account of righteousness, which is suffering on Christ’s account. After presenting a quote on righteous living from one of the psalms which prophesied about Christ’s crucifixion (Ps 34) in verses 10-12, Peter echoes Jesus’ own teaching on a righteous response to suffering and persecution (Mt 5:10-11) in verse 14a. A further echo to the same beatitudes is made in verse 16 when Peter refers to “those who revile your good behavior in Christ.”

The echoes of this beatitude in verses 14 and 16 appear to be intertextually emphasizing the divine righteousness of Christ, particularly in response to his own persecution, while contextually drawing central attention to the admonition enclosed between them in verse 15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.”

Associating blessing with suffering is initially counterintuitive, but when the church endures suffering righteously, believers receive the blessing of experiencing unity with Christ, which is the greatest sign of God’s favor, providing evidence of salvation and presenting an experiential basis for the hope referenced in verse 15.

(7) Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 107.

(8) Brian Vickers, “1 Peter” (classroom lecture, 22760-Greek Exegesis: 1 Peter, Spring 2012).

(9) “The risk, always imminent but… most of the time a threat rather than an actuality, is itself sufficient to explain the optative.” Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2010), 107. Cf. 2 Tim 3:12.

(10) Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 171.

(11) Paul J. Achtemeier, Hermeneia: 1 Peter, A Commentary on First Peter. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 230.

(12) The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), 810.  All subsequent references to Scripture will be taken from this version unless otherwise noted by the author.

(13) The italic font is emphasizing the specific amplification and personalization within the parallelism.

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