18 Οἱ οἰκέται ὑποτασσόμενοι ἐν παντὶ φόβῳ τοῖς δεσπόταις,
οὐ μόνον τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἐπιεικέσιν
ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς σκολιοῖς.
19 τοῦτο γὰρ χάρις
εἰ διὰ συνείδησιν θεοῦ ὑποφέρει τις λύπας πάσχων ἀδίκως·
20 ποῖον γὰρ κλέος
καὶ κολαφιζόμενοι ὑπομενεῖτε;
ἀλλʼ εἰ ἀγαθοποιοῦντες καὶ πάσχοντες ὑπομενεῖτε,
τοῦτο χάρις παρὰ θεῷ.
21 εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ ἐκλήθητε,
ὅτι καὶ Χριστὸς ἔπαθεν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν,
ὑμῖν ὑπολιμπάνων ὑπογραμμὸν
ἵνα ἐπακολουθήσητε τοῖς ἴχνεσιν αὐτοῦ·
22 ὃς ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν
οὐδὲ εὑρέθη δόλος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ·
23 ὃς λοιδορούμενος οὐκ ἀντελοιδόρει,
πάσχων οὐκ ἠπείλει,
παρεδίδου δὲ τῷ κρίνοντι δικαίως·
24 ὃς τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν αὐτὸς ἀνήνεγκεν
ἐν τῷ σώματι αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον,
ἵνα ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀπογενόμενοι
τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ ζήσωμεν·
οὗ τῷ μώλωπι ἰάθητε.
25 ἦτε γὰρ ὡς πρόβατα πλανώμενοι,
ἀλλὰ ἐπεστράφητε νῦν ἐπὶ τὸν ποιμένα
καὶ ἐπίσκοπον τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν.
v19 χάρις / χάρις παρὰ τῷ θεῷ / χάρις θεοῦ / χάρις θεῷ
It seems relatively clear that the alternatives are scribal expansions to clarify the meaning of χάρις, which by itself has reasonably strong mss support.
θεοῦ / ἀγαθήν / ἁγαθὴν θεοῦ / θεοῦ ἀγαθήν
The reading as stands has strong textual support, but the meaning of the phrase is unclear. ἀγαθήν may have been substituted to clarify the phrase, with the last two variants explicable and conflations of the two.
v21 ἔπαθεν / ἀπέθανεν
Again there is strong textual support for the former. The latter may be understood as (a) naturally understanding the ‘suffering’ on view as death, (b) influence from the variant at 3:18.
v21 ὑμῶν ὑμῖν / ἡμῶν ὑμῖν / ἡμῶν ἡμῖν
While ὑμεῖς and ἡμεῖς are, understandably, often interchanged at some points, here the external evidence favours the reading as stands. Perhaps a desire to be more universal in scope prompted alteration to the alternatives.
v25 πλανώμενοι / πλανώμενα
The former would be masculine in agreement with the subject of ἦτε, the latter agrees with πρόβατα and more likely to have arisen from influence of that word.
Servants, be subject in all reverence to your masters, not only to those that are good and forbearing, but also to the harsh. For this is grace, if on account of conciousness of God someone endure, suffering unjustly. For what kind of credit is it, if sinning you then endure being beaten? But if, doing good, you also suffer and endure, this is grace before God.
For you were called to this:
Because Christ also suffered for you
Leaving behind an example for you
So that you might follow his footsteps
Who did not commit sin,
Nor was deceit found in his mouth,
Who, being reviled, did not revile back,
Suffering, did not threaten,
But entrusted [himself] to the one that judges justly
Who himself bore our sins
In his body on the tree
So that dying to sins
We might live to righteousness,
By whose wound you are healed.
For you were as sheep gone astray,
But now you have returned to the Shepherd
And Overseer of your souls
Jobes very helpfully contextualises the next portion of Peter’s epistle against “hosehold codes”, as found in Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Plutarch, Seneca, and Dio Chrystostom. The main commonality of all household codes in Graeco-Roman literature is that there is an ordering to households that is universal and moral and the basis for society. This kind of household code does not emerge in Jewish writings until Judaism starts to engage with Hellenism. Peter and Paul, in writing to audiences who would be familiar with household codes, engage the form but without simply endorsing the status quo. Their codes show both moral and theological innovation. It is no surprise that Peter should engage in writing such a code since the function of a household code is to orient someone to how to fulfil their socio-political role, and Peter’s audience are persons doubly-dislocated as foreigners and as Christians whom he wishes to instruct in socio-political life. Furthermore, the position of Christianity as an emergent religion within the Graeco-Roman context would be judged in part by how conformist it was to sociological norms.
The very first point of note, then, is that Peter does not begin with an address to masters. Indeed, slaves were often not addressed as moral agents in household codes at all. Slaves were addressed through masters, as being incapable of deliberative thinking (per Aristotle), while wives had the rational capability but lacked the authority (see Balch 1981, p34-35). Peter begins with addressing slaves directly, as moral agents. Furthermore, the way Peter puts slaves first in his treatment, in conjunction with the content that follows, makes the slave paradigmatic for Christian moral social life. Secondly, the very fact that Peter addresses slaves and gives them religious-moral instruction represents the rejection of the view that slaves must, facto servitudine ipso, serve the gods of their master. For a slave or a wife to worship gods other than the master’s is socially subversive, if not rebellious.
Verse 18 enjoins that slaves “be subject” to their masters, “in all fear/reverence”. The later is virtually an adverbial phrase in function, and forms a key concept in the following two units. Again Peter employs a participle with an implied imperative. Actually there is quite some debate about whether they are ‘imperatival participles’ or ‘periphrastic participles with an implied imperative of εἰμί’. For my part it seems simpler to read them as the later, though we must always be attentive to whether a participle stands in this kind of independent usage, or is in fact subordinate to another verb (e.g. it can be argued that they are participles extending the meaning of ‘be subject’ back in 2:13).
Furthermore in this verse the principle is laid down that ethical behaviour is not motivated by the moral standing or behaviour of the other party. In Peter’s view it is, a priori, irrelevant whether one’s master is good and kind or wicked, the command is the same.
The following verse lays out the theological rationale that makes, for a slave, reverent submission to a wicked master sensical: it is a grace. Specifically unjust suffering that is endured “on account of a consciousness of God” is a grace. There is considerable overlap between the idea of “consciousness of God” and “a good conscience” here, as Elliot says “consciousness” in this kind of context includes “sensitivity to the divine will concerning conduct”. In conjunction with verse 20, “grace” must be understood to mean something like “a thing that finds favour in the eyes of God”. Indeed, verse 20 simply elaborates the meaning of v19 – there is nothing profitable or worthwhile about suffering for doing evil, but doing good and suffering because of it, this is worth something before God.
In my translation I set off verse 21 through 25, though strictly speaking it is not poetry. One might also prefer to start the unit at ὅτι. However its structure, theology, and patterning betray a theological unity centred on the paradigm of Christ as the Suffering Servant that informs Peter’s socio-political ethic. This is part and parcel of the way Peter is treating the slave as the paradigm for all Christians – Christ as Slave is the model.
This whole passage is also tightly structured around quotation and allusion from Isaiah 53. Again, Jobes rightly notes that Peter alone explicitly applies and utilises Isaiah 53 to Christ and his Passion. Other quotations in the NT are oblique, refer to Christian mission and service, Paul’s ministry, but not directly to Jesus himself.
Verse 21 connects the two sections: you were called to this. “This” refers back to the suffering unjustly for doing good that is the ethical instruction in v19-20. The sense of call here is bound up with chapter 1, God’s calling of his people. Christ’s example is the primary reason given for why this is what believers are called to. Specifically Christ suffered “for you”. The second half of verse 21 may be epexegetical, describing how Christ’s death was “for you”, but we might also read it as more generally adverbial, describing the fact that attendant to Christ’s death he left an example in that death. The word choice here is vivid, with v21c using ὑπογραμμόν to indicate an example, something to be ‘traced over’, while v21d uses the image of footsteps to be walked in.
Verse 22 is the first of four relative clauses that describe Christ. It comprises a fairly direct quotation from Isaiah 53:9. The first is a more comprehensive statement of Christ’s sinlessness in deed, while “no deceit was found in his mouth” focuses attention on verbal practice. As in the next verse, speech is highlighted as part of this pattern.
In verse 23 we have allusions to Isaiah, in the form of did not revile back, did not threaten (Isaiah 53:7c-d), entrusted (Isa 53:6c, 12), the one who judges justly (Isa 53:8a). Goppelt (1993) points out how this corresponds to the narrative in Mark: verbal abuse by the Sanhedrin, ridicule by Roman guards, derision by the crucified thief (Mark 14:65, 15:12-20, 15:29-32); silent acceptance of injustice (Mark 14:61, 15:5); the entrustment of judgment to God (Mark 14:62). The emphasis on Jesus’ verbal action continues, and here is placed on non-retaliation in the face of suffering, but instead continuing trust. It is God’s character as impartial judge, and the certainty of future just judgment that provides the theological rationale for not only Jesus’ steadfast enduring of unjust suffering, but believers in the same pattern.
The start of v24 conflates αὐτὸς ... ἀνήνεγκεν (Isa 53:12 LXX) with τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν (53:4 LXX). “Our sins” replaces “the sins of many”, personalising the reference to the Christian believers. Here, Peter makes the first direct interpretation of Isaiah 53 in terms of substitutionary atonement. This atoning act is further qualified by “in his body” and “on the tree”. The former qualification makes very clear that the incarnate death is in view, while the latter is an allusion (without doubt, in my view) to Deuteronomy 21:23 (cf. usage of ξύλον across the NT and LXX). Furthermore the atoning quality of Jesus’ death is given a purpose clause, “so that dying to sins we might live to righteousness”. Peter grounds moral transformation and ethical imperative in Christ’s death.
The final relative clause ends v24, quoting Isa 53:5d LXX but altering “we” to “you”, following Peter’s fairly consistent usage of 2nd person plurals, and possibly emphasising the inclusion of his readers as those covered by the Servant’s redemptive death. The singular of “wound” here follows the LXX and the MT.
Verse 25 continues the thought of Isaiah 53:5 with 53:6a though again changing 1st person to 2nd person. The mention of Shepherd evokes Isa 40:10-11 LXX while the combination of Shepherd and Overseer occurs in Ezekiel 34:11-13 LXX, especially in reference to the Diaspora. The whole passage of Ezekiel prophesies both the Davidic King and the Lord himself as the future Shepherd, typical metaphor for king, of God’s people. The combination of Davidic Messiah and God in the figure of Jesus alongside the identification of believers as the regathered sheep of Israel completes the recapitulation of this passage. Other aspects of the servant songs in Isaiah can be interpreted corporately of Israel, an interpretation that concords with the general pattern of Christ as Israel and representative of Israel, now typologically applied to the church who are to follow in Christ’s pattern. It should not be missed that the primary locus of imitation of Christ in Peter is Christ’s suffering. In the face of suffering believers are not to derive the lesson of God’s abandonment, but rather that suffering unjustly on account of fidelity to the unjustly Suffering Servant is a sign of election.
Overall I consider this one of the strongest, theologically richest portions of the letter. Peter is the only NT author to provide extensive use of Isaiah 53 in direct relation to the atonement, and does so here in a way that makes Christ’s death not only the paradigm of atonement, but the pattern of Christian ethical imitation (v21). Christian ethics is founded upon and patterned after the atoning death of Christ.
And on a personal note, I am fond of rendering verse 25 as Pastor and Bishop, to remind us that Christ, more than any human leader, fulfils those roles first and foremost.