Reviews of

Ecclesiology and the Scriptural Narrative of 1 Peter

In 1 Peter, Intertextuality, Katie Marcar, Patrick T. EGAN, Pickwick on February 9, 2017 at 2:00 pm

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2017.02.04 | Patrick T. Egan. Ecclesiology and the Scriptural Narrative of 1 Peter. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2016. 273 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4982-2467-3.

Reviewed by Katie Marcar, Otago University.

Many thanks to Pickwick Publications for providing a review copy.

In Ecclesiology and the Scriptural Narrative of 1 Peter, Patrick T. Egan’s goal is “to account for all the uses of Scripture in 1 Peter in a comprehensive manner” (x). After some preliminary remarks (Ch. 1), Egan examines the hermeneutical statement in 1 Pet 1:10-12 (Ch. 2). He argues that the author (for simplicity hereafter, Peter) deploys a distinctly Christian, ecclesiologically-driven hermeneutic in which the narrative of Isaiah plays an important role. This narrative shapes the church’s understanding of Christ. In so doing, it also shapes the self-understanding of the church, since she, by virtue of being in Christ, is then an active participant in the Isaianic narrative of divine restoration (215). Because this narrative is about Christ, it is also about the Church. Egan then uses these hermeneutical insights to argue that all of the letter’s quotations and allusions are governed by this ecclesiocentric focus (Chs. 3-6). He ends the volume with a brief Conclusion (Ch. 7).

In Chapter 1, Egan places his work in relation to recent work on the use of scripture in the New Testament in general, 1 Peter in particular, as well as the use of Isaiah in Paul. Egan addresses prerequisite matters such as the author’s Vorlage, literacy, audience competence, the definition of quotations and allusions, and which generic categories are useful (or not) for studying intertextuality. Egan’s work demonstrates awareness of the important methodological issues and makes well-reasoned judgments in these matters. One of the work’s strengths is Egan’s close attention to text-critical matters. Another strength is his decision to study quotations and allusions together (8-9). Combined with these critical matters is a recognition that previous attempts to account for Peter’s use of scripture were only partially successful. Drawing on Richard Hays’ work on the narrative dynamics at work in Paul, Egan argues that a similar dynamic is at work in 1 Peter.

Chapter 2 is the book’s theological core. First Peter 1:10-12 loosely structures this chapter by both allowing Egan to read the text closely and to engage with relevant issues as they arise. Thus, the prophets referred to are the Old Testament prophets who looked forward, albeit in a veiled, limited way, to the time when Christ would be fully revealed. To unpack this further, Egan argues that the phrases “spirit of Christ” (πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ) and “sufferings of Christ” (τὰ εἰς Χριστὸν παθήματα) in 1:12 must be understood together. Based on a similar construction in 1:10, Egan argues that the rare construction of an εἰς phrase within a noun construction should be translated “the sufferings that were Christ’s.” Therefore, the best way to understand is πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ “is that the pre-incarnate Christ is speaking through the prophets” (53). Thus, it is the pre-existent Christ who “pre-witnesses” to the prophets (53). Egan then does some theological heavy-lifting.

In the New Testament, Peter makes the unparalleled claim that it is the pre-existent Christ who is the means of revelation. The two-fold work of Christ, namely his suffering and glory, is also the content of revelation (53-54). This is the first occurrence of the important sufferings and glory motif. Elsewhere, believers are included in this pattern (60-63; cf. 1 Pet 4:13; 5:1, 10). Egan thus argues that while christology has rightly been recognized as crucial, the closely related emphasis on ecclesiology has not enjoyed the same recognition. Yet the letter’s “ecclesiology is frequently an extension of christology” (55; see 1 Pet 2:4-8, 21-25).

For Egan, the sufferings and glory motif in 1 Peter is deeply influenced by Isaiah, especially the servant songs in Isaiah 40-53 (63-75). While the identity of the servant(s?) is controversial, Isaiah 40-48 seems to depict the servant as corporate Israel, while Isaiah 49 shows the servant as an individual who shoulders the work Israel was called, but failed, to do (64-66). The individual’s suffering is extensively developed in Isaiah 53. The early church, including Peter, understood the servant as Christ (67). Through him, the church identifies with the Isaianic servants, especially in their suffering, exile, restoration, and glory. Just as the narratives of the singular and plural servants are intertwined in Isaiah, so are the narratives of Christ and the church in 1 Peter. Because Christ is the central character in both the Isaianic narrative and the experience of the church, he is the link by which the church appropriates the Isaianic narratives to themselves.

The following chapters (Chs. 3-6) investigate all the letter’s quotations and allusions with an eye towards the results of the previous chapter. Since these chapters have thematic continuity, I will treat them together here.

Overall, these chapters are marked by careful engagement with text-critical issues and reasoned evaluations of Peter’s use of scripture. Several themes emerge. First, there is great benefit to studying allusions and quotations together, since the allusions often work in conjunction with the quotations, often by anticipating later developments. For example, Egan argues that 1 Pet 1:18-19 plays with the phraseology of Isa 52:3 (80-84). By anticipating the further development of the Isaianic servant in 1 Pet 2:22-25, Peter reads Isaiah and Leviticus together and “connects the sin offering of Leviticus to Christ by means of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53” (84). This is a good example of the author’s use of anticipation, whereby Petrine language anticipates his later use of scripture: for example, Psalm 33 in 1 Pet 2:13-17 (125-127; cf. 1 Pet 3:10-12) and the use of key terms in 1 Pet 2:21-25, 132). This is often done with keywords: for example, λίθος in 2:4-8; δοῦλος in 2:16 drawing on the Isaianic Servant Songs (125, 128-129), ἀγαθοποιέω, πάσχω, and ἁμαρτία in 2:21-25 and 3:10-12 (130-142), and letter’s complex use of φόβος/φοβέομαι from Isa 8:13; 40:9; 43:5; 51:12-13; Ps 33:10, 17-18 in 1 Pet 3:6, 14-15, cf. 1 Pet 2:17, 19 (170-171). Another theme is the diminishing use of quotation formals and formal signals as the letter progresses (125, 189, 222-224). Through these chapters, Egan also demonstrates the interconnectedness of christology and ecclesiology in the letter’s use of scripture.

The book ends with a short conclusion in which Egan traces how Peter teaches his recipients to define themselves by, and participate in, the scriptural narrative expressed namely, though not exclusively, by Isaiah (Ch. 7). Egan also concludes that there is a high degree of correspondence between the Greek Vorlage and 1 Peter, with Petrine variants probably arising from the fluid textual tradition rather than with Peter (219-222). Finally, Egan gestures towards areas of further study, such as the implication of these conclusions for the letter’s rhetorical strategy, structure, and modern hermeneutics (225).

Overall, Egan’s argument is coherent and convincing. The writing is clear and the book is guided by a focused sense of purpose. Egan has persuasively argued for the interconnectedness of christology and ecclesiology, which coherently accounts for the letter’s overall use of scripture. The attention to textual matters and literary features such as quotation formulas, markers, link words, and anticipatory use of key terminology support this theological analysis and make a valuable contribution to scholarship. The sustained emphasis on the importance of Isaiah for 1 Peter is also fascinating and broadly convincing, especially as it comes at a time when facets of Pauline studies are engaged in similar projects.

Katie Marcar
Otago University
katie.girsch [at] otago.ac.nz

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