Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Whose obedience? 1 Peter 1:2

I was reading in my Greek New Testament when I came across 1 Peter 1:2. Now, the Greek reads as follows:

κατα προγνωσιν θεου πατρος εν αγιασμω πνευματος εις υπακοην και ραντισμος αιματος Ιησου Χριστου χαρισ υμιν και ειρηνη πληθυνθειη
The NASB translation:

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

I don't mean to be nitpicky, but I think the NASB has it wrong and there may be significant theological ideas that can come about with a (perhaps) more accurate rendering. The idea of obedience in the NASB is ours alone ("to obey Jesus Christ"), whereas I think the Greek is indicating that the obedience is both ours and Jesus'. I realize that υπακοην is singular, but I think instead of that being an argument against the idea of a mass obedience, it argues for the singularity of the ultimate obedience. According to Peter, it was Jesus' obedience which brings about the blood with which believers are sprinkled in order to be sanctified by the spirit. I think that there's a larger theology at hand than what the NASB lets on. I believe it's by "getting into" this obedience, by becoming joint members in the obedience of Christ, that Christian salvation is brought about.

The Apostle Paul reiterates this position in the well-known Philippians 2:5-8 where Paul states that Jesus was "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." See also Romans 5:19 where Paul writes that "through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous." It seems there's a Biblical precedent for Jesus' obedience being essential to salvation. This seems like an obvious statement, but I mean to say that obedience is often secondary, if not wholly forgotten in salvation-speak. I think most modern English translations are guilty of this in respect to 1 Peter 1:2.

Thus, my translation is as follows:
According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctification of the Spirit, into the obedience and sprinkling of Jesus Christ's blood, your grace and peace multiply.

Theology aside, this seems to make more literary sense. Perhaps it's my Protestant tendency to want the text to be neatly subdivided (so that we can get our 3 points and a poem for a sermon), but I think the text identifies three persons who are acting in different ways for salvation. The NASB (and most English translations that I've read) are spot-on as far as the Father's foreknowledge and the Spirit's sanctification, but they miss the point about the third person. It's not about the blood, it's about the obedience.

So, in my mind the verse is broken down into four parts:
a. The foreknowledge of God the Father
b. The sanctification of the Spirit
c. The obedience of Christ and his blood through which we are obedient and are sprinkled with to bring about B according to A
d. The blessing that comes about from this sanctification through obedience


Stephen Hebert said...

Interesting idea.

Check your Gk. You have παντισμος which should be ραντισμον I believe.

Josh McManaway said...

Indeed! Thanks. I think what I probably did was saw ρ, which I saw as "P" in English, then thought of "P"'s Greek equivalent.

The Nonsensical Habits of Josh McManaway's Greek - I smell a new dissertation idea.

Thanks again!