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.

Jul 8, 2021

Craig Keener's New Commentary on 1 Peter: Initial Impressions

As of June this year, we are all indebted to Craig S. Keener for yet another commentary on a New Testament book. Entitled simply 1 Peter: A Commentary, it is published by Baker Academic and showcases many of Keener's strengths in writing and research. Keener is one of my favorite NT scholars, and though I am an independent Baptist I even benefitted from his book Spirit Hermeneutics while I was working through, for my own benefit (and that of my Hermeneutics class), the role of the Spirit in studying Scripture.

I think what sets this book apart is the incredible detail given to primary and ancient sources, a specialty of Keener's (as those of us who have used his 4-volume  commentary on Acts know). To put this in perspective: the bibliography of primary sources is 23 pages of two columns, and his index of ancient sources, not including Scripture, is a jaw-dropping 61 and a half pages, including everything from Theon of Smyrna to Virgil to Phaedrus to Cicero. 

Also, in the midst of the commentary Keener consistently inserts "A Closer Look" segments that deal with background issues such as "Marriage Expectations in Greco-Roman Antiquity" or "Providence, Fate, and Predestination in Antiquity." Other commentaries have done this on a limited basis, but for Keener this is a main feature of the commentary.

A couple notes on content: Keener competently defends Petrine authorship (pp. 8-25), suggests that in 3:19 the reference is to fallen angels and that ". . . ancient audiences might take for granted that Christ's proclamation to the spirits was not an invitation to repentance, but rather a proclamation  of their complete subjugation" (p. 275), seems to tentatively prefer the view that eperōtēma in 3:21 means "pledge" (p. 283), and states regarding the crux interpretum of 4:17 that "In the OT, God was sometimes more strict with his own people first, since they knew better (Jer. 25:29; Amos 3:2; cf. Isa. 10:12)" and that "Believers may experience even unjust suffering as divine discipline in one sense (cf. Heb. 12:3-11), as something to make them better. But one could be assured that if even the righteous suffer, judgment will come far more harshly on those who disobey the gospel . . . ."

I would also note that a hermeneutical strength of this commentary is Keener's focus on how Peter's original audience would have understood something, based on primary sources from that time period.

The only critiques I have at this point are that Keener's use of primary and/or ancient sources may seem a bit excessive at times (e.g., page 239, where basically half the page consists of footnotes referring to ancient sources), and the "Closer Look" sections, while helpful, have a tendency to crop up in places where they disrupt the commentary on a particular verse. In addition, they can be somewhat lengthy, going on for pages and pages before one returns to the actual commentary.

Nonetheless, this is a milestone for Petrine commentaries. For academics (professors, grad students, and anybody trying to publish anything on 1 Peter), this becomes one of the essential commentaries up there with Paul J. Achtemeier, Karen Jobes,  Leonhard Goppelt, and John H. Elliott, definitely in the "top 5" most important commentaries. For pastoral work, both Jobes' Baker Exegetical Commentary and Wayne Grudem's Tyndale Commentary are more accessible, and thus maintain their position as the two essential commentaries for pastors or Bible-study leaders, in my humble-but-opinionated opinion, though Keener's would still be a very helpful addition to any pastor's library if their budget allows.

Having said all that, full-disclosure, one reason I am excited and positively inclined towards Keener's commentary is because this is the first commentary on 1 Peter to cite some of my own work on 1 Peter. But I trust my readers will forgive that personal bias.


  1. Is his tone irenic and his treatment fair on the egalitarian/complementarian debate?

    1. I believe so, in that he doesn't bash complementarians over the head, nor is he heavy-handed in his discussion. He does state, "Rather than teaching a universal subordination of wives, Peter's exhortation to submission here becomes an expression of mission, of evangelism, in a setting in which verbal evangelism became impossible" (pp. 224-5). That seems to be pretty much as far as he goes for general/practical application. He prefers to focus on background matters (so pages 210-222 is one long background discussion that interprets his commentary on 3:1) rather than get too deep into theological debates that would go beyond 1 Peter.