Do you ever come across a snippet of a verse that so captures your thought and heart that you stop everything to stay with it? Maybe you see how it’s translated across multiple Biblical versions. Maybe you simply sit with it for awhile, listening for further inspiration because you know its coming if you’ll be still. You find yourself lifted, filled with a quiet joy of knowing this is true. This happened to me recently while reading 1st Peter.
In an opening section addressing the hope of salvation for believers, the author reminds us that the Good News of the saving grace for all is not from clever men or women but brought by the Holy Spirit. And that this message is so extraordinary that these are even things into which angels long to look (I Pet. 1:12,New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
I love that! It stopped me– which any student who loves the Bible finds increasingly happening. I pay a lot of attention to such moments and try not to read past or through them. Something arrested thought. That’s the gift of the Holy Spirit, still inspiring and transforming us today as in the first century.
Yet just as you’re lifted into this rather charming description of the uniqueness of the Good News, comes this salvo:
Prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control (I Peter 1:. 13, NRSV).
Whoa. What was happening that caused such a warning bell to be sounded? Persecution. Thought to be written in the latter part of the tumultuous first century, Ist Peter is addressed to the many church communities at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, still under the grip of the Roman Empire.
Was the disciple Peter, writing these mainly Gentile communities with a message of encouragement? Loved Bible scholar, C. H. Dodd, explains that although these two brief epistles carry Peter’s name, they were not penned by him. Copyright law not being what it is today, this was a common practice: to ‘borrow’ the name of a more famous disciple in order for your message to be read.
The Greek is too sophisticated and the references make us think it came after Peter’s martyrdom under Nero around 64 CE. Dodd explains, “Like Revelation claimed the authority of a Christian prophet writing in the name of Jesus, so the Roman church wrote in the name of Peter” (“New Testament Studies“, by C.H. Dodd, Manchester University Press, 1953).
And, like the variety of Christians worldwide today, this brief letter speaks to a disparate population in language and custom, but united by Christ’s message of saving grace. The author refers to such a mix as a bold, new people:
“You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession [I Pet. 2:9, New Living Translation (NLT)].
But lest we start thinking much of ourselves, marching orders are immediately delivered.
As a result you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (I Pet. 2:9, NLT).
If this text were a Beethoven symphony, we would have just heard Ludwig’s kettledrums thundering away– just in case we floated off and needed to be roused back to the main point.
There are so many reasons we treasure our Bibles. Moments of study that transport us to the heart of Christ Jesus’ teachings, encourage us to continue on, to be one more in the long chain of faithful followers, and providing the inspiration to do so – this is priceless stuff.