The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Oct 13, 2016

Free from the anxiety of politics: reflections on a practical aspect of 1 Peter 2:16

Like many evangelical Christians, I've come to the conclusion that this year's US presidential election offers basically the worst two choices in the history of the country. On the one hand
[warning: tongue in cheek comments to follow, but only slightly tongue in cheek], 
if Trump gets elected we'll be embroiled in a thermonuclear war within the year, and the whole country will go bankrupt (hey, if he can't keep a Casino with his name running, how can he keep the country afloat?); not to mention giving evangelical Christianity a bad testimony due to our traditional support of the Republican party (Jimmy Carter notwithstanding). On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton is elected, folks like me will probably be thrown in jail for not being "progressive" enough in our Christianity (i.e., for daring to suggest that God made only two genders!).

Fortunately, First Peter has the solution. Written to a group of (literal and spiritual) strangers, the Apostle articulates how, in Christ Jesus, we are all part of a "holy nation," a "royal priesthood," etc. (2:9). In other words, the Christian's first and foremost loyalty is to a different nation, not the United States, or New Zealand, or Japan, or anything else.

This theological social-spiritual identity (both "new nation" and "strangers"), then, becomes the basis for ethics in 1 Peter (2:11 through much of the rest of the epistle). Peter urges us to honor all humans, in the process not-so-subtly asserting (in both vv. 13 and 17) that the Emperor himself should be respected only as another human, not as a demi-god, the "savior of the kosmos" that some were heralded as (see Travis Williams, "The Divinity and Humanity of Caesar," ZNW, for further discussion).

I'd like to focus on one fascinating word here: "free" (2:16). I believe Friedrich Schroger, in his book Gemeinde im 1. Petrusbrief ("Church/Community in 1 Peter") absolute nails it with this quote (forgive my rough translation from the German):
"The Christian is 'free' because he expects nothing from Caesar or from the governor, but all from the Lord--not from 'Lord Caesar,' but from 'Lord Christ.' The criteria and requirement for what is here meant as 'freedom' is that one is free from the anxieties of his own salvation, he stands completely in the favor of God, and he is free from anxiety in his interaction with humankind" (pages 147-148).

My Christian friends, Peter's concept of "freedom" does not mean "freedom to vote." Rather, it means "freedom to continue on as God's child and emissary no matter who wins the stinking election!" I.e., we do not depend on any political outcome to keep us free or to ensure are mental well-being. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can threaten our freedom in Jesus Christ--so what's the point in worrying? Have we forgotten that Peter, Mary, Luke, not to mention Jesus himself, lived under a tyrannical empire that routinely crucified its enemies, exposed infants to die on the hilltop, and reveled in such lascivious excess it would make a night in Las Vegas resemble an episode of "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood"? Yet Peter, Mary, and the others remembered something that we've forgotten: it's not our responsibility to change the word [i.e., "America"]; rather, it's our responsibility to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as emissaries of a different, much more sacred, nation! 

Now if, in the process of doing so, we can act as good stewards of our inherited democracy and so influence our nation in order to live "quiet and peaceable lives," so be it. Personally, I doubt either Trump or Clinton will help us achieve that goal, but whatever. The bottom line is, to paraphrase Schroger, no matter who wins, we are still "free" from anxiety; we owe nothing to any president, we still have a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, and we don't need to worry about how to relate to the world around us. Simply be a Christian, a child of the kingdom, and stop worrying about what happens to America. It's not really important in the grand scheme of things (the Lord said, "the nations are as a drop in the bucket," Isaiah 40:15) except to the extent that it helps or hinders the spread of the Gospel (and the Gospel might just as well spread better under more hostile circumstances). 

This also means, since I am "free" from worrying about the outcome of any political election, I am now free to vote my conscience. And contra a blog post I read recently, following my personal conscience means that if I know that my plumber or dentist or whatever was sexually harassing women and bragging about it, my personal conscience would not allow me to give them business no matter how good they were. How much more so with a president? [For the record, I won't judge anybody for voting for Trump! All I'm saying is vote your conscience, especially considering the issue of Christian testimony]

Cited sources:
Schroger, Friedrich. Gemeinde im. 1. Petrusbrief: Untersuchungen zum Selbstverstandnis einer christilichen Gemeinde and er Wende vom 1. zum 2. Jahrhundert. Katholische Theollgie 1. Passau: Passavia Univertatslag, 1981.

Williams, Travis B. "The Divinity and Humanity of Caesar in 1 Peter 2,13--Early Christian Resistance to the Emperor and His Cult." Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft vol. 104 (2014).

See also Paul A. Himes, Foreknowledge and Social Identity in 1 Peter (Eugene, OR: Wipf&Stock, 2014) for further discussion of social-spiritual identity in 1 Peter (chs. 2 and 6). Click here.

Oct 6, 2016

Congrats to Thomas Hudgins, successfully defending his dissertation on the "Complutensian Greek New Testament and the Vatican manuscripts"

For those wondering if there's still room for original scholarship in biblical studies, the answer is a resounding "Yes!", especially when it comes to textual criticism. In light of that, I'd like to congratulate my friend Thomas W. Hudgins (prof at Capital Seminary) for successfully defending his second doctorate, this one under renowned European scholar Antonio Pinero. The title of his dissertation was: "The Greek New Testament of the Complutensian Polyglot: Vatican Manuscripts and the Gospel of Matthew." This is truly a unique contribution to the field, and involved his researching manuscripts that hardly anybody had touched in modern research.

You can read the report of his dissertation defense here.

By the way, you can purchase his first doctoral dissertation, on Luke 6:40 and the Theme of Likeness Education in the New Testament, here. We both had the same doctoral adviser at Southeaster (Dr. David Alan Black), and we both ended up with the same publisher (Wipf&Stock) for our revised dissertations.

Congrats, Thomas! May the Lord continue to bless you, your family, your teaching, and your research!