Holy War’ in 1 Peter -- By: Annang Asumang

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 11:1 (Mar 2011)
Article: Holy War’ in 1 Peter
Author: Annang Asumang

Resist him’ (1 Pet 5:9): Holiness and Non-Retaliatory Responses to Unjust Suffering as Holy War’ in 1 Peter

Annang Asumang1


1 Peter exhorts readers to respond to unjust suffering with non-retaliatory righteous behaviour, while looking forward to vindication at the Lord’s return. Although several literary-theological and sociological approaches to the epistle have shed considerable light on this exhortation, a number of interpreters maintain that ultimately, the epistle engenders a paralyzing sense of passive victimhood in believers. This article examines the theological significance of several military metaphors throughout the epistle, to show that the exhortation to resist the devil in the final chapter is a climax to a consistent theme in the epistle, aimed at galvanizing spiritual warriors whose weapons are peaceful non-retaliation, hope, and holiness through Christ’s redemptive work. It also argues that Peter’s approach is in line with the New Testament’s transformation of the holy war motif of the Old Testament. Rather than being paralyzed into helplessness, the first readers of the epistle would have been emboldened by the call to holy resistance.

1. Introduction

1.1. The problem

The recent ‘rehabilitation’ of 1 Peter, the epistle once described as ‘second-class status … exegetical step-child’ (Elliot 1976:243), has shed considerable light on its socio-historical and situational context, as well as Peter’s2 overall pastoral response to the issues that confronted his readers. That the over-riding focus of the epistle was to encourage an appropriate Christian response to persecution is evidenced by the fact that the issue is addressed in each chapter.3 As the epistle describes it, the believers were facing moderate forms of persecution characterized by Various trials’ (1:6), being ‘maligned as evildoers’ (2:12), having to ‘suffer for doing what is right’, and being threatened along with it (3:14), again being ‘maligned’ and ‘abused’ (3:16), having to ‘suffer in the flesh’, i.e. faced corporal punishment of some kind (4:1), verbal abuses (4:4), ‘fiery ordeal’ (4:12), ‘reviled’ and ‘disgraced’ (4:14-16), and miscellaneous unjust sufferings (5:8-9). With this much, interpreters are in agreement.

Interpreters are also broadly in agreement that in a summary, Peter adopts a three prong strategy in this epistle, namely, (a) reshaping the believers’ understanding of their Christian identity as the immediate

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