This is true grace of God: the shaping of social behavioural instructions by theology in 1 Peter
Sun, Wai Lan Joyce
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This thesis investigates the shaping of Christian social behavioural instructions by the author’s theological vision in 1 Peter. The notion that these instructions are de facto derived from the author’s theological conviction as his ultimate concern is more often assumed or neglected, than seriously considered in Petrine scholarship. This thesis aims at adding one more dimension to scholars’ discussion by seeking an empathic understanding of the Petrine mode of Christian social engagement from “an insider” perspective of the author’s own theological vision as his primary concern. Besides paying attention to the more obvious meaning and the literary features of the text, historical data of the socio-political background of 1 Peter are also employed as an entrance to understand imaginatively the author’s vision and the implications of his social ethics. In the exegetical study of the Petrine text with particular reference to the author’s extensive use of Old Testament language, Jesus Christ is shown to be underscored in 1 Peter as the Jewish expected Messiah but who has submitted to human suffering as a resident-alien on the cross. Christians are also perceived as “elect exiles of Diaspora” on earth inheriting the self-understanding and eschatological hope of the Jewish Diaspora. The Petrine social strategy of “differentiated resistance” is thus understood as a token of Christians’ solidarity with the Messiah Christ and a congruent behavioural expression of their identity as “elect exiles of Diaspora”. “Ultimate allegiance to God” is seen to be the overriding boundary of Christians’ accommodation to the pagan culture to ensure their remaining in the grace/salvation of God. In the historical study of the Jewish Diaspora’s social engagement, it is demonstrated that the Petrine appropriation to Christians of Jewish self-definitions includes the Jewish social strategy in the Diaspora which also reflected a form of “differentiated resistance”. Theological conviction as the primary consideration of the early Christians when formulating their social strategies is then further demonstrated by the comparison of 1 Peter with Revelation and the Epistle to Diognetus. The thesis concludes with a reflection on the continuing significance of 1 Peter to Christians’ social engagement in the modern world and on the possible cooperation between the theological approach and socio-historical approach to investigate biblical texts.