NOV, 9, 2010


General Epistles Exegetical Paper on 1 Peter 2:11-12


The question concerning the Christian’s relationship to this world has been ongoing since the early Christian centuries. The need for an early mature view of the Christian relation to culture was occasioned by the opposition which the church faced from early on. For example, Tacitus described the Neronic persecution in Rome, “… An arrest was first made of all who confessed; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of arson, as of the general hatred of the human race…” He explained the severe punishments to which the Christians were subjected, and then explained the animus, “Hence even for criminals, who deserved exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”[1] Tacitus interpreted these persecutions of the early Christians as inordinately fierce.

It has often been argued that this sort of persecution acted as the catalyst for the response which 1 Peter gave the churches in Asia minor. However, Nero’s persecution, which Tacitus mentioned, was limited only to Rome. The Churches to whom 1 Peter was addressed were located in Asia Minor. This goes along with the typical hagiography of the early martyrs popularized by Eusebius, and later works like the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Anabaptists and neo-Anabaptists have latched onto texts like these and ran with them in their argument for a separation of the church from the world. This interpretation does not account for that to which Peter called these churches.

Peter called the churches to a pilgrim engagement within, which has a doxologizing effect upon the nations. Peter called upon the called out churches to live as pilgrims in the world, in order to glorify God, by their public and private deportment until the day of the Lord. He reminded them of the hope to which they had been called and persuaded them to carry on in this world in light of that calling. Peter called the churches of Asia Minor to a presence in this world that is faithful to that calling. This essay will seek to interpret 1 Peter 2:11-12 in that light.

The inauguration of the kingdom answers Peter’s apparent contradiction, namely, called out ones living in the world. As we shall see, interpretations of this text which do not account for inaugurated eschatology will be forced to flatten one of these prepositions, “in” or “out,” in order to describe the Christian’s relationship to the current world in which they sojourn. Overemphasis of “in” will lead to a purely internalized individualistic public theology (or lack thereof), such as in 20th century liberalism. “Out” leads to the neo-Anabaptist interpretation of separation into a holy colony. Neither of these account for the text, since Peter used the other-worldliness of the Christian in order to explain the way they then live in the world. The factor which accounts for this is inaugurated eschatology.

History of Interpretation and Cultural Engagement

This passage and others related to life in, and engagement with, this world are understood in two significantly distinct ways since the reformation of the 16th century. The Reformed have classically held to an embrace of this world yet a faithful presence in that same world. The Anabaptists held to an embrace of the kingdom of heaven but not the kingdoms of this world. These are broad brushstrokes, but they shall suffice as the basic distinction as it stands in current scholarship[2]

John Calvin (1509-1564), the magisterial reformer in Geneva, argued from this passage, “Their souls were to be free within from wicked and vicious lusts; and also, that they were to live honestly among men…”[3] The hands-on approach to this world, represented by Reformation theology, should not be confused with radical revolutions, but rather faithful presence. It is hands-on, but let that be qualified as hands-on in a right way. It is hands-on as pilgrims. The basic distinction is that the Reformed have embraced this world as created by God and as the realm in which Christ is building his kingdom by calling people out of the world and sanctifying them. This is tempered by a clear distinction between the future fullness of the Kingdom of God, and the presence of that future in the present world. The Christian is both abstinent from the sins against his Covenant Lord, and engaged positively among the gentile nations.

Many characterizations of the Anabaptists view are that they abstain from sin, but also from the world. This is true, but not complete. There is also a strong victim mentality which fuels their way of engaging this world. Being an exile means that one is part of a colony which works among itself as a separate body from the pagan world. However, though this is true of their rhetoric, the underlying theology is a bit more complex. Anabaptists do indeed engage this world, they just do it in a different way.

The Anabaptist way of engagement is coercive, but by the soft capitol of resentment created by a victim mentality. This comports with historic Anabaptist views of martyrdom. 20th century neo-Anabaptist theologian Ethelbert Stauffer demonstrated profoundly that the theology of the magisterial radicals of the 16th century saw the martyrdom of their members as the most significant way of bringing about the ultimate state in the kingdom of heaven. Martyrdom acted as a baptism by blood, which lead to the coming of the kingdom (in the sense of going to heaven). The narrative created by the martyrs was a rhetoric of resentment against their Roman Catholic opponents and resulted in the motivation of radicals against their enemies.[4]

James Davidson Hunter recently described the Anabaptist method of engaging the world as using the culture transformation methods of the current American political culture, from which they, ironically, claim to be separate. The method is that churches are motivated by a narrative-myth of their plight which is created by their political opponents. This creates resentment toward the political opponent and motivates churches to action. Hunter argues that this method pervades most evangelical and liberal churches as well.[5] So, in their attempt to be out from the world they are unwittingly engaged in it by worldly methods.

Establishing the Text

There are no interesting textual debates in this text accept for the “ἀπέχεσθαι.” Charles Bigg claimed that the “απεχεσθαι” in 1 Peter 2:11 should be understood as an imperative second person plural. Since the manuscript evidence weighs in favor of the imperative, which explains the absence of the accusative pronoun, and the following “ἔχοντες” in verse 12.[6] This makes grammatical sense, but the general way of dealing with manuscript discrepancies is to seek the lectio difficilior (more difficult reading).[7] The real question is if this is a case of the more difficult reading, or a more unlikely reading.

The “ἀπέχεσθαι” is a indirect discourse (Wallace, 605). Further, this is a classical and common phrase (“ἀπέχεσθαι ἐπιθυμιῶν,” appears in Plato).[8] Therefore, the more likely conclusion is that “ἀπέχεσθαι” is the original, because it is possible and is in this marked position. This phrase should then be rendered as a command, indirectly, even though the imperative is not present.Further, a quick glance at “ἀπέχεσθαι” in the New Testament shows that it often occurred in this present middle infinitive (Act 15:20, 29; 1Thess 4:3; 1Tim 4:3; 2Pet 2:11). It usually has basically the same volative meaning in each of these occurrences with “ἐπιθυμιῶν.” It also usually takes an object from which one is called to abstain (e.g. idols, ceremonial unclean things, or lusts). This is enough evidence to say that this usage means an ethical command.

Delineating the Pericope: The Call Applied

Peter called upon the church based on their Christian calling. This calling was the Holy Ghost regenerating and leading these gentiles into living faith and hope (1 Pet 1:1-2:10). The initial vocative use of ᾿Αγαπητοί acts as a clear start of a new thought. It also appears in 1 Peter 4:12, and 2 Peter 3:1, 14, and 17. This formula is not unique to Peter, but also John (1John 2:7; 3:2), and Paul (1Cor 10:15; 15:48, 2Cor 7:21, Phil 2:12; 4:1). This does not mean that this topic is unrelated to the former, but this does constitute a direct address, and specific topic of the book. The beloved is descriptive of the relation, which Peter has with the readers, and is indicative of the bond which has been made between Christ and his disciples. This bond is based on the common salvation (Jude 1:3).   

One commentator called this “the central argumentio” of the book.[9] However, it seems better to use the more general characterization of the imperative which follows the indicative. This is because the later section (2:11ff) is not more important than the former (1:1-2:10). Rather these two are linked to one another as the indicative description of the Christian calling (1:1-2:10), followed by the application of the calling to a pilgrim engagement with the world (2:11ff).

Verse 12 is syntactically dependant on 11. The main verb idea of the sentence is “παρακαλῶ… ἀπέχεσθαι.” The infinitive, “to abstain,” should be taken as indirect discourse.[10] His argument is that the verb of cognition “παρακαλῶ” introduces the imperatival infinitive as the content of that call. It means, “I urge you that you should abstain from fleshy lusts.”[11] Further, this meaning was corroborated by the variant in Papyri 72,  A C L P 33 81 as “απεχεσθε.” This is the imperative of the same root, and shows the way a native reader would likely hear and understand the passage. Verse 12 does not have a main verb. “καταλαλοῦσιν” is subordinate because of the introduction by the prepositional phrase “ἐν ᾧ.” The introduction to the life among the gentiles section of the Epistle is for the purpose of glorification of God. “δοξάσωσιv” is part of the purpose clause marked out by “ἵνα.” These ideas act as elucidations of the main verb idea that Peter calls them to abstain from the lusts of the flesh.

The indicative basis upon which Peter made his application was the calling. God has called his people in predestinating them (1:1, 19-20), in the regeneration of the Holy Ghost (1:3), and by the preached word (1:23-25). All of these nouns and verbs of cognition and speech lead to the “call” which Peter made in 2:11. He called them based upon these indicative, and by his act of calling he described what he was doing and implied the resulting imperative.   

Lauri Thuren argued that these verses move from a general/ambiguous exhortation to holiness into a specific practical explanation of what is expected of the churches.[12] 1:1-2:10 argued for the central massage, namely that since the churches were “called out” (1Pet 1:1), by the preaching of the word made effective by the Spirit (1:23-25), so then the churches were here called to live in light of that calling (1:13-15). Peter said, “I call” (2:11) as they had been called before by the “word proclaimed to them” (1:23). So, Thuren argued that 2:11-12 transitions into the central argument of the Epistle. They act as a summary of what came before, namely the indicative of being called out by the Spirit’s regenerating work (1:1, 23-25). They also act as introductory for that which comes next, namely the life “among the gentiles” (2:12).[13]    

Implications of the Call

There is an apparent contradiction here. Peter called upon the churches to abstain as their means of engagement with the Gentiles. This lead Douglas Harink, in the neo-Anabaptist vein, to argue therefore that the church is a holy colony which should be separate from the world.[14] That from which the church would be abstaining is a will to power, that is, a use of the world’s coercive methods of societal change.[15] Harink’s analysis does not do justice to the argument Peter makes here, and he anachronistically applies modern (Nietzschean) psychological categories to the ancient text.

The contradiction is only apparent. Peter called the churches to abstain from sins, not association with world systems. The Christian calling itself implies the life within this world. This follows from two observations.  

First, Thuren’s analysis of the argument portrayed Peter as persuading his audience by giving advice and command. Her analysis is based on Austin’s speech act theory. The fruit of this analysis is that she demonstrated that Peter called upon the church at the same time as he made an argumentative appeal to the church. However, the argument it subtly veiled in Peter’s speech act. In the plain saying, Peter commanded, “I call … to [imperatival] abstain from the lusts of the flesh” (2:11). In effect, he drew upon two premises. The first premise is that lusts wage war against the soul. The second is that strangers should abstain from desires of the flesh.[16] These two motivations did not call the churches to abstain from the world, but from the lusts of the flesh by two motivations, their pilgrim presence, and the danger to their souls.

Second, the object of abstinence is not the world, but lusts. Therefore the means by which the pilgrim engages this world is by “having good deportment”[17] among the gentiles which is the opposite of lusts. The meaning of this abstinence is from the old nature which still resides in the regenerate, which we shall demonstrate below.

These observations explain the text. It does not make sense for Peter to call the churches to engage the world by not engaging the world. It makes much more sense of the text to say that Peter called upon the church on the basis of the indicative calling of the Holy Ghost to live in this world in a manner worthy of that calling by which they were called.

Engagement as Pilgrims

            2:11-12 is an argument for engagement with the gentile nations based on the Christian calling into newness of life. Peter called them to pilgrim engagement within the world. There are several components to this thesis. First, it is engagement, not disengagement. Second, the question arose: how does one engage the world? The character of the engagement is as a pilgrim. Further it is within the world, and apart from lusts in good deportment.  


            The neo-Anabaptist interpretation fallaciously assumes that they can avoid engagement in the world. To deny engagement is first, to deny the goodness of creation and to deny an embrace of the cultural mandate. Secondly it does not deal with the logic of this text. Peter was not calling the churches to abstain from the world. He was telling them precisely in what manner they ought to live in the world.

            For example, the “ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους” (2:11) acts as a content clause which characterizes the churches. They are not being told, “I call you to be alien and stranger,” they are told “to abstain from fleshly lusts” which wage war against the soul. Alien and stranger is a description of the kind of people they are. Thus they are called to live in this world, i.e. among gentiles; yet as they are, strangers. Engagement with the world is natural and should be embraced, but it should be embraced in the right way.

Why Engage the World?     

In some sense the answer to this question is that Peter assumes that they live on earth (1:5, 7). The character of the engagement is as a pilgrim. The terms “παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους” (sojourners and exiles) describe the churches. Their position as pilgrim is that upon which Peter will build his further command. This is the indicative which moves to the imperative. They should live in such a way tempered by their renewed nature. Paul makes frequent use of the term common wealth and citizenship of the saints (Eph 2:19; Phil 3:20). However, it would be wrong to impute a full Pauline theology here. The meaning of these terms must be developed organically from the Petrine data. Also, there is some difficulty with the rendering of these two terms.

1 Peter 1:17 demonstrated that the churches should conduct themselves with fear as they sojourn on the earth, “ἐν φόβῳ τὸν τῆς παροικίας ὑμῶν χρόνον ἀναστράφητε.” First the deportment of the one who lives this earthly life is again in question, as it is in 2:12. This first term refers to the time (xronos) during which one who lives on the earth. It is rightly rendered by the NASB as “stay on earth” (1:17). The ESV used the term “exile” in 1:17, but as “sojourners” in 2:11. ESV then used the gloss “exiles” for the second term, “παρεπιδήμους” (2:11). This inconsistency does not hold for the NASB. They used the term “alien” to preserve the connotation of one who is from another nation, a foreigner (Acts 7:6, 29; Eph 2:19). This is the usage of the old Greek, which Acts 7:6 and 29 quoted. The connotation of this word in Septuagint and New Testament usages are overwhelmingly in the direction of foreigner from another country; ie. They are “alien.”      

The import of this term is that these churches are part of a distinct commonwealth. They are under Covenant to God. The churches remain citizens of their native lands, yet are also foreign in their ultimate allegiance. They, like the Psalmist (Psa 39:12, Psa 119:19, 54), were to live as they would in their own land, as they would in their native one. Here that native land is in heaven, as 1:17 implied. Calvin commented, “And so he calls them, not because they were banished from their countries and scattered into various parts of the earth, but because the children of God, wherever they may be, are only guests in the world.”[18] So the manner of their engagement with this world as a foreigner implies that they will live in such a way that is ordered by their ultimate allegiance, in heaven.

The second descriptive term may carry a slightly different nuance, but is seems rather that it is a hendiadys with the former. These churches were addressed as “παρεπιδήμους.” 1 Peter 1:1 addressed the churches by this term. In a similar construction as we find here, “foreigners (xenoi) and pilgrims (παρεπιδήμους) appears in Hebrews 11:13. This description appears often in the old Greek. Genesis 23:4 shows that these terms described the sojourning of the

The question is, where is the native land? The Psalmist, the author of Hebrews, and Peter, make clear that it is with the Lord, in heaven (Psa 119:54; Heb 11:13; 1Peter 1:3, 21).

George E. Ladd argued that this theme is an outworking of Peter’s inaugurated eschatology. Though the terms which Paul typically used to describe the inaugurated kingdom are absent, Peter retains the “eschatological tension between the present and the future.”[19] Thought the terminology is not present, certainly the assumption of the presence of the future is. Particularly he argued that the future hope for the Christian who has been born again (1:3-25) is the motivation for enduring sufferings and living a self sacrificial life. The gospel frees the Christian from grabbing all the gusto now to live righteously among the gentiles.[20]

Further Ladd argued that this life of hope is within the world, and apart from lusts in good deportment. Ladd wrote,

“He [Peter] has in mind the degraded, corrupt pagan society in the midst of which Christians find themselves. From licentiousness, drunkenness, revels, and carousing his readers have been delivered, and their friends are surprised that they no longer pursue such sinful practices (4:4). This is the setting for the note of the world denial in Peter; it is not a denial of the world as such, but denial of the evil society whose practices they once shared, and from which they have been ransomed (1:18, 14).  Against this background, Christians are to regard themselves as aliens and exiles in the world (2:11)”[21]

The denial is, according to Ladd, denial of the selfishness of this world which has no hope. Thus the inauguration of the kingdom adds the dynamic of time. The pilgrimage of this world is waiting for the vindication in the hope to come. Pilgrimage carries the English connotations of movement from one place to another. Here the movement is from the inauguration into the consummation of the kingdom (cf Gen 24:10, Heb 11:13). So, Pilgrimage is an appropriate rendering of the meaning of “παρεπιδήμους.” The presence of the future hope gives the Christian both the charge and the basis upon which they are free to live and die in God’s will rather than the lusts of the flesh.   

            Finally, one cannot ignore that the text has an opponent which looms implicitly in the terms, “Which wage war against your soul” (v. 11). There is a danger to the Christian. This should not be construed in terms of gaining and losing election for reprobation. Rather, it should be understood in terms of the inauguration of the kingdom. The Christian is thus called implicitly to persevere. Thuren argued that the text implies this danger. They wage war in how they entice the Christian to fall away.[22] This further comports with Ladd’s thesis that Peter was operating under the assumption of the inaugurated kingdom. Those who are truly partakers of the renewal will and must persevere to the end.

How to Engage?

The engagement is in front of onlookers. Thuren argued that the ancient world would naturally have something analogous to a neighborhood watch program assumed by the hearers. They watched foreigners carefully. She argued the terms “τὴν ἀναστροφὴν… καλήν” refer to this sort of discernment in Hellenistic culture. As God discerned the deportment of the men in their lives on earth (1:14-17), so here the gentiles observe and discern the deportment of the Christian.[23]  In this sense then there is no avoiding this observation aside from departing into ascetic monastic communities. This engagement is passive in the sense that normal life in this world is the venue of the observation.

The way the Christians are to engage actively and positively  is by asbtainign from the lsusts of the flesh. The world is not the thing abstained from, but the fleshly desires are. Calvin argued that these fleshly desires, “τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν,” are not a concupiscent lower nature which needs to be suppressed by the higher faculties of intellect and will. Rather the remaining presence of the old nature is to be denied. It is not all desires, simply fleshly/sinful desires. We agree with his assessment.[24]

The new creation is presently inaugurated, but Peter here also assumes what Ladd called the tensions of the present and future development of the kingdom.[25] Peters usage of the term flesh “σάρξ” in 4:2 also corroborates this view. Peter referred to the remaining time in the flesh. That is, the time remaining while the temptations of the flesh are present. He then goes on to describe the felt force of temptation from their gentile neighbors in verses 3-4. In verse 6 again he used the term flesh to refer to this dual perspective. They are “judged in the flesh as men” (i.e. in the natural unregenerate state) but in the “Spirit” they “live… for God’s will” (v. 6).

Without doing grave damage to the text, this is easily and simply accounted for by a dual perspective of the inaugurated, but not yet consummated new-creation. The engagement which the Christian has is simply to deny the old nature. The sanctification of the Spirit which progresses through the Christian life is precisely what Peter called the churches live out among the nations.

The Glory of God: Sanctification and the Sanctifying Effect Upon the Nations

So far we have argued that the Holy Ghost’s calling implies a pilgrim engagement within, which has a doxological effect upon the nations. Here we come to this concluding component of this thesis, the doxology of the nations. The result of the good deportment of the Christian church among the gentiles works to woo the gentiles to the faith. It goes beyond the text here to suggest that the acts of Christians lead others to saving faith, since it is the word which calls men to faith (1:25-25). Here we do see an effect brought about. That effect is doxology. The nations would no longer slander as evildoers, but will praise God for their neighborly deportment. The effect is that the Christian may live a life is peace among gentiles. However, this resulting sanctification of the Gentiles should not be considered an unnatural result (3:1-3). There are two points to be made under this heading. First, the Christian’s engagement with the world has the sanctifying effect of cause the nations to glorify God. Second, the Christian also must glorify God.

First, there is an effect which the churches have in their engagement with the world. Calvin commented,

“And Peter shows how this would be effected, even that the unbelieving, led by our good works, would become obedient to God, and thus by their own conversion give glory to him; for this is what he intimates by the words, day of his visitation. I know that some refer this to the last coming of Christ; but I take it otherwise, even that God employs the holy and honest life of his people, as a preparation, to bring back the wandering to the right way. For it is the beginning of our conversion, when God is pleased to look on us with paternal eye; but when his face is turned away from us we perish. Hence the day of visitation may justly be said to be the time when he invites himself to us.”[26]

Calvin here argues that the meaning of the day of visitation was the day when god visits his people with saving grace. This seems a bit strained at first glance, however, it makes a great deal of sense of the text.

            Lest one think that all Reformed theologians simple kowtow to Calvin; let us look at the other view. The notable 20th century Biblical Theologian, George Eldon Ladd argued that “the day of visitation” referred to the last coming of Christ. He argued this since Peter uses apocalyptic motivation several times (1:7, 13; 4:13; 5:4) and that the Christian will share in this (5:1, 10). Peter wrote often about this coming consummation as the culmination of the hope (1:3-5), and the goal of the prophetic teaching in the Old Testament (1:9). The already existing hope of glory is presently a reality. This is certainly an important theme in Peter, but it is not the meaning of ἐπισκοπῆς (2:12).[27] He cross referenced this to 4:17, which does not use the term again, nor does it have any phraseological link to the “ἐπισκοπῆς.”

            The ἐπισκοπῆς of the Lord appears in contexts of final judgment, both here and in Luke 19:44. This certainly would seem to be the meaning at first glance, thus visitation would be the correct meaning. Calvin took the view that “ἐπισκοπῆς” was God’s countenance/good favor shown to wayward sinner who must be revived by the Holy Ghost. 

Though this is a very likely interpretation, certainly it is not an open and shut case. Therefore, let us entertain Calvin’s thesis. There are several pieces of evidence. First, the parenthetical statement; second, the resultative use of ek; Third, the usage of the term episcope; and lastly, J.H.A Hart on the phraseological link to Isaiah 52:5, and the conceptual and phraseological link to 3:2, all lead to the conclusion that the visitation is the day of God’s countenance, not judgment.   

First, the parenthetical “ἐν ᾧ καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν” should be understood as the occasion of the good works. “ἐν ᾧ” should be taken temporally, the verb as a historical present, and “ὡς κακοποιῶν” is the charge which they brought against the churches. This slander sets up the need for the glory which they render to God later in the verse. This parenthetical statement could then mean “In the time when they slandered you as evil doers” and sets up the conversion to later glorifying God at the day of his visitation.

Second the ek, preposition here carries the meaning of a reason/rationale for the future glory they will render (Louw and Nida, 89.25). The thing which God uses to bring about the glory from the nations if the witness born to the new life in the churches. Exactly what role good deportment plays is ambiguous, for the churches were brought into the hope of the calling by the preached word (1:23-25). It would be wrong to replace that proclamation of the word with simply good works. Works are silent speeches, but they never give the words which must be believed in and of themselves. This will have to be left ambiguous at this point since the text does not explain how it is that deportment leads to the outcome.

Third, the term ἐπισκοπῆςdoes not necessarily denote judgment. The substantive adjective appears twice, Luke 19:44, and 1 Peter 2:11 (in the semantic field of referring to the verbal idea of judgment). However the verbal cognate “ἐπισκέπτομαι” appears 13 times in the New Testament in 11 verses. This verbs never has the connotation of judgment, but has the fields of visiting friends (Jas 1:27, Act 15:36; 7:23; Matt 25:36, 43), to set someone as overseer (Act 6:3), or visiting in salvation/God countenancing his people (Acts 15:14, Luke 7:16; 1:68, 78; Heb 2:6). The verb cognate could thus connote the verbal idea of countenancing (positive) just as easily as it could visitation (negative). This verb refers to God’s care and provision often in the LXX (Exo 3:16; 4:31; 13:19; Ruth 1:6; Psa 8:4). Of course, this is not the adjectival form which appears in 1 Peter 2:12, which may have an idiosyncratic nuance, but the cumulative force of this semantic field of care and countenance rather than judgment should at least imply that the term does not necessarily mean judgment.

J.H.A Hart made the argument from what came above, namely that the old Israel was a failure to be living stones, and the new Israel is to be a holy temple of God. Here Peter continues the same notion that the new is to succeed where the old failed. He noted the similarity to Romans 2:24 as a translation of Isaiah 52:5 “τὸ γὰρ ὄνομα τοῦ Θεοῦ δι᾿ ὑμᾶς βλασφημεῖται ἐν τοῖς θνεσι, καθὼς γέγραπται”[28] 1Peter 2:12 is contrasting the churches with Israel who made Yahweh odious among the nations by their misbehavior. Hart therefore concluded, “The point of these words here is this: you the new Israel must succeed where the old Israel failed, as my name is blasphemed among the gentiles on your account.” He went on, “in order that as a result of your good works they will be initiated into your secrets and come to glorify God in respect to your conduct.”[29]

Phraseological links to other passages with similar teaching also lead to the conclusion that “ἐπισκοπῆς” refers to God’s countenance, not his judgment. First, the similarity to 3:2, which has to do with believer winning unbelievers, shows the effect expected is positive, not shame at the last day. The intended outcome for Peter is the glorification of God. 

Verse 3:2 2:12
  ἐποπτεύσαντες τὴν ἐν φόβῳ ἁγνὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν τὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἔχοντες καλήν, ἵνα, ἐν ᾧ καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν, ἐκ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων ἐποπτεύοντες…


These similarities in 3:1-2 are both phrases and ideas. The phrase repeated are “ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν” (deportment) and the participle “ἐποπτεύοντες” (while they look upon). So, both verses are regarding observers and deportment which is above blame. The idea in 3:1-2 is a variation on the pilgrim theme in 2:12, which acts as an introduction to the whole section 2:11-3:12.  

Second, This passage is similar to Matthew 5:16. The principle is certainly the same. These two passages share near perfect overlap accept for the term “ἐπισκοπῆς.”

Verses 1 Peter 2:12 Matthew 5:16
  τὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἔχοντες καλήν, ἵνα, ἐν ᾧ καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν, ἐκ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων ἐποπτεύοντες δοξάσωσι τὸν Θεὸν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπισκοπῆς. οὕτω λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα καὶ δοξάσωσι τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.


There are similarity between these two passages, although structured and worded differently, is that they are substantially the same. It is doubtful that Peter would introduce a negative meaning to such a recognizable saying of our Lord. It is true that the final judgment will result in a recognition of God’s glory on the day of judgment, but that is simply not the meaning here. These passages both are positive and Proclamatory for the Christian church.


The effect of this passage is not without application to the churches. There are two things to which they must adhere. First, they are to live with good deportment among the gentiles. Second, the churches should also give glory to God. Thuren demonstrated the nature of the argument. If the gentiles are to glorify God then how much more the churches.[30] God should be glorified. Thus the churches should glorify God as a result of their having been revived by the word proclaimed.

With that said, it should be clear that Peter’s message of engagement was not resentment motivated victim mentality, nor was it separate from the world. This is what the Neo Anabaptists misunderstand. Peter told the Christians why and how to engage the world. The reason is the calling. The means is as pilgrims who live in light of that calling. The purpose to which Peter called the Christian was that those nations will not only tolerate, but even doxologize Christians for their righteousness. This is an engagement which seeks to be legitimate, not illegitimate. The moment one assumes the posture of a victim he implies that he is indeed illegitimate in the eyes of the world. The message which Peter had for the churches, grounded in their calling to a living hope, calls the church to live this life without fear or regret of the slander or even death. It was not a victim mentality, but a faith in the truth of the hope of the new creation that was so profound that they were even willing to die for the sake of the calling to which they had been called.   


Bigg, Charles. The Epistles of Saint Peter and Jude. Vol.  of International Critical Commentary. 1901. Repr., Edinburgh, London: T&T Clark, 1975.

Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries. Translated by John Owen. Vol. 22 of Calvin’s Commentaries. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.

Furgeson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. 3rd. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2003.

Harink, Douglas. 1 & 2 Peter. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009.

Hart, J.H.A. The First Epistle General of Peter. Vol. 5 of The Expositor’s Greek Testament. Edited by Nicoll W. Robertson. New york, NY: J.H. Doran, 1910.

Hunter, James Davidson. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianty in the Late Modern World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Edited by Donald Hagner. Rev. Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993.

Stauffer, Ethelbert. “The Anabaptist Theology of Martyrdom.”  19 (1945): 179-214.

Thuren, Lauri. Argument and Theology in 1 Peter. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995.

Wallace, Daniel I. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.

West, Martin L. Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts. Stuttgart, Germany: B.G. Teubner, 1973.



Appendix 1: Translation

There are many wonderful formal and dynamic equivalents to this text. There is no need to duplicate the work done by such scholars. However, part of the stated task of many translations is to leave ambiguity for the sake of interpretation. This is not that goal of this paper. The goal here is to be as interpretative as possible. Therefore, the following translation will make exegetical decisions on word and syntax usage meaning. The words which are translated as part of the text itself will be in normal text, implied meanings (such as antecedents and postcedents, etc) will be placed in italics, and implied theological ideas will be placed in brackets.

Verse GNT Translation
2:11 ᾿Αγαπητοί, παρακαλῶ ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους, ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν σαρκικῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, αἵτινες στρατεύονται κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς, Beloved, I call you, since you are those who live as foreigners and pilgrims, that you should abstain from fleshy lusts of the natural man, which inordinate desires contend against your [renewed] life;
2:12 τὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἔχοντες καλήν, ἵνα, ἐν ᾧ καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν, ἐκ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων ἐποπτεύοντες δοξάσωσι τὸν Θεὸν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπισκοπῆς. Hold to your good deportment in the presence of the gentiles, in order that (though with regard to this deportment they speak against you as if you were evildoers) they may glorify God on the day of his visitation, because they see your good works.


[1] Tacitus, Annals 15:44:2-8, in Everett Furgeson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (3rd; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2003), 593

[2] Ethelbert Stauffer, “The Anabaptist Theology of Martyrdom,” MQR 19 (1945): 179-214

[3] John Calvin, I Peter (vol. 22 of Calvin’s Commentaries; trans. John Owen; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 77

[4] Stauffer, “Martyrdom,” 179-214

[5] James Davidson Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianty in the Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010),

[6] Charles Bigg, The Epistles of Saint Peter and Jude (International Critical Commentary; ICC; 1901; repr., Edinburgh, London: T&T Clark, 1975), 135-136

[7] Martin L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart, Germany: B.G. Teubner, 1973), 51

[8] Bigg, ICC, 136

[9] Thuren, Theological Argument, 131

[10] Daniel I Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996),  605

[11] Daniel I Wallace, Greek Grammar, 605

[12] Lauri Thuren, Argument and Theology in 1 Peter (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 131-132

[13] Thuren, Argument and Theology, 132-133

[14] Douglas Harink, 1 & 2 Peter (BTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009), 74-75

[15] Harink, 1 & 2 Peter, 74

[16] Thuren, Argument and Theology, 133

[17] John Owens’ footnote in Calvin, pg 79

[18] Calvin, I Peter, 77-78

[19] Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 641

[20] Ibid, 643

[21] Loc. 643

[22] Thuren, Theological Argument, 133

[23] Thuren, Theological Argument, 135-136

[24] Calvin, I Peter, 78

[25] Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 642

[26] Calvin, First Peter, 79

[27] George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (ed. Donald Hagner; rev. Edition; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993),  642-43

[28] Isaiah 52:5 read in the LXX “ καὶ νῦν τί ὧδέ ἐστε; τάδε λέγει κύριος. ὅτι ἐλήμφθη ὁ λαός μου δωρεάν, θαυμάζετε καὶ ὀλολύζετε· τάδε λέγει κύριος. δι᾿ ὑμᾶς διὰ παντὸς τὸ ὄνομά μου βλασφημεῖται ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν.” The reference seem to be clear, that Peter is here contrasting the churches with Israel who made Yahweh odious among the nations by their misbehavior.

[29] J.H.A Hart, The First Epistle General of Peter (vol. 5 of The Expositor’s Greek Testament; ed. Nicoll W. Robertson; New york, NY: J.H. Doran, 1910), 59

[30] Thuren, Argument and Theology, 134-135