Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Some Musings on I Peter 1:3-5

I have been enjoying reading I Peter. Just after his greeting in verses one and two Peter offers the expected blessings/thanksgiving section of his epistle. He writes just a single sentence that is packed with thankfulness and praise to God.

Several books could be written about each phrase and how they connect with each other. However, to the apostle, it seems that these things were so closely related that they form almost a single semantic meaning. The rich meaning seems to flow from his pen like sound waves from a well tuned piano. In the same way the simple sound waves from a piano form a complex chord that is received by the average ear as a single sound, Peter’s words and phrase form a single semantic chord that sings praise to God and brings peace to the soul.

Ευλογητος ο θεος και πατηρ του κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου

The main verb in the first clause is the implied verb to be – “Blessed is/be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The phrase is also a good non-Christological example of the Granville Sharpe Rule. God and Father form an article-noun-και-noun construction. It meets each of the four criteria.

1. The nouns are personal
2. they are not proper names
3. they are both in the same case and
4. They are singular.

Therefore they have the same referent. That is, as the context bears out, God and Father are the same person.

Next Peter goes on to describe this God and Father. He uses an article with a participle to further describe God, but between the article and its participle he adds a prepositional phrase.

ο κατα το πολυ αυτου ελεος αναγενιησας ημας

The participle is active in voice and aorist in time and aspect. Most of the time it is translated passive in meaning. If we first translate the article with the participle we understand Peter to mean something like God is the “One who re-birthed us”. He is the one who acted in such a way to cause our rebirth. The participle has a pronoun, “us”, as its object.

In between the article and the noun, Peter includes a prepositional phrase. The phrase is “according to his great mercy”, however the placement of the phrase is such that it is very closely tied to the article and the participle. Since it is in located in between the article and the participle, it seems that in Peters mind the idea that God is the one who re-birthed us and that this re-birthing is a result of His great mercy are so closely tied together that they almost form a single semantic unit. How does one translate this into English? I don’t know. But it is comforting to know that the God and Father of Jesus is the same merciful God who has caused our rebirth.

Following are four prepositional phrases that build one upon the other. The first prepositional phrase explains the goal of us being born again. The second phrase explains how the first was accomplished. The third phrase presents the second goal of our salvation and the rest of the sentence expands on that goal.

εις ελπιδα ζωσαν

The first phrase says that He reborn us again to a living hope. The next prepositional phrase explains how this new hope is possible.

δι αναστασεως Ιησου Χριστου εκ νεκρων

This living hope is only possible through the resurrection. The resurrection is further defined by a genitive of possession. This is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is further defined by the prepositional phrase “from the dead.” In other words, we have a living hope because Christ is living right now. Christ is living now because He was raised from the dead. Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ we would have no hope.

The fourth prepositional phrase states the second purpose of our salvation.

εις κληρονομιαν αφθαρτον και αμιαντον και αμαραντον

He caused us to be born again so that we will have an inheritance. The inheritance is then defined by three adjectives in the accusative case. This inheritance is imperishable, unstained and unfading.

The next participial phrase explains more about the inheritance.

τετηρμενην εν ουρανοις εις υμας

The participle is a perfect passive. That must have been written as a perfect on purpose. The preparation of the inheritance is complete. Our complete inheritance is sitting in heaving waiting for us right now. So in a sense it is also part of our hope. We have hope in a future imperishable, unstained and unfading inheritance that we will receive in heaven. Following are two prepositional phrases that tell us location and purpose. The prepared inheritance is in heaven right now and is for us.

Next we have another article – prepositional phrase – participle construction.

τους εν δυναμει Θεου φρουρουμενους δια πιστεως

The participle is present, active, accusative, masculine and singular. The masculine, singular connects it with the previous prepositional phrase. It agrees with “us” in gender and number. So the inheritance was prepared for us – the ones who…..If we further translate the article and participle we must try to bring out the imperfective aspect of the present tense. We are the ones who are being protected. Next, again we have in imbedded prepositional phrase by the power of God. Therefore for the fact that we are defined as a people begin protected by the power of God forms a very close semantic unit. Finally, Peter tacks on the prepositional phrase through faith.

Note the contrast between the perfect participle the inheritance has been prepared (perfect tense/aspect) and we are being protected (present tense/imperfective aspect).
Finally, this salvation, which is our inheritance, is prepared to be revealed in the last time.

εις σωτηριαν ετοιμην απακαλυφθηναι εν καιρω εσχατω

So who is our God? He is not only the Father of Jesus Christ

· He is the one who has caused us to be born again.
· He has prepared an inheritance for us.
· He is our current protector – through faith.
· Our final salvation/inheritance is prepared to be fully revealed in the last time.

Peter says all this in one sentence. It is true that grammar can be useful in study of the scriptures.