Refined by Fire: Paraenetic Literary Strategies in 1 Peter -- By: J. de Waal Dryden

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 55:2 (NA 2004)
Article: Refined by Fire: Paraenetic Literary Strategies in 1 Peter
Author: J. de Waal Dryden

Refined by Fire:
Paraenetic Literary Strategies in 1 Peter

J. de Waal Dryden

This thesis seeks to address the long-standing question of the overarching agenda of the author of 1 Peter.1 The search for a unifying purpose behind the epistle has proved a surprisingly difficult problem in the history of Petrine research. Traditionally many biblical interpreters have argued that the author’s agenda is consolation, training the eyes of these suffering Christians heavenward to embrace a hope of glory that outweighs the pain of their present circumstances. More recently others have argued the author’s aim is to shore up the corporate identity of these churches to combat temptations to cultural isolation and/or assimilation. While both these proposals recognize real authorial concerns, neither is sufficient to explain the agenda of the epistle as a whole. Consolation is, in reality, only a minor theme in the epistle; and the concern for corporate identity, while real, is only one component in the author’s overall agenda.

The present study aims to show that the author’s overarching concern, in response to the persecutions faced by these young churches, is with the formation of Christian character, which is chiefly evidenced in growing active dependence upon God and growing moral integrity. The author’s seemingly paradoxical response to the sufferings of his addressees is the repeated command to ‘do good’. In this, the author reveals that his deepest concern is with the moral challenges that arise out of the pain of social ostracism. Temptations to retaliation, assimilation or isolation threaten Christian convictions and praxis, and the author’s aim in confronting these temptations is to encourage these Christians to maintain their distinctive lifestyle, from which their persecutions arise, and in so doing to facilitate Christian character formation. This accounts for the author’s primarily practical

bent in calling these churches to maintain their righteous conduct in the midst of persecutions. The author, of course, seeks to strengthen their faith in and allegiance to God through reminders of his grace to them, but he recognizes that it is only faith in practice that will produce a character that has been refined by the fire of adversity. In this he seeks to turn persecution into an opportunity for growth in Christian character instead of an occasion for despondency. Only a recognition of this character forming agenda has the ability to provide an overriding and unifying agenda to the diverse materials contained in 1 Peter.

This line of interpretation also has the advantage of placing 1 Peter ...

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