Date of Award
Doctor of Theology
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Doctor of Theology, ThD
Robert M. Johnston
Ivan T. Blazen
Gerhard F. Hasel
Problem. The phrase "because Christ also suffered for you" in 1 Peter 2:21b has been interpreted to suggest the vicarious death of Christ. The problem posed by this understanding results from the comparison made between Christ and the slaves who are invited to follow Christ's example. Therefore this study sought to determine the function of Christ's suffering in 1 Peter 2:21b and the nature of the example left to the slaves.
Method. The Greek grammar and literary style of the pericope were analyzed; documents that discussed the slave-master relationship in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. were studied; and books, articles, and dissertations on the pericope and the subject of Christ's suffering were examined. Conclusions were reached from this historical, linguists, and theological investigation.
Results. The research indicated that the comparison, just as Christ so also the slave, refers to "doing good," a Greek term meaning "to bring a benefit to someone." Of the five options available to slaves who suffered unjustly in the First Century, enduring unjust punishment rather than running away from it was the only Christian alternative. Thus to submit was a reference to maintain impeccable civic behavior by remaining with cruel master. Such submission is nevertheless doing good and benefits not the masters but the believing community in two ways: (1) The charges of slander and sedition against the church would be reduced and (2) the cohesiveness and solidarity within the church would be maintained. Therefore Christ's suffering (for you) in vs. 21b does not refer to Christ's death but instead promises God's blessing on and acceptance of the one who suffers unjustly and endures for others. Christ's suffering unjustly is the ultimate example to illustrate the concept of suffering for the benefit of others.
Conclusion. The "call" to the slaves was to "doing good" even if the doing good resulted in unjust suffering. Therefore, there is no basis in 1 Peter 2:21b for the conclusion that the ideal behavior expected of the followers of Christ was martyrdom.
Bible. Peter, 1st, 2:21 --Criticism, interpretation, etc, Jesus Christ --Passion
Jones-Haldeman, Madelynn, "The Function of Christ's Suffering in I Peter 2:21" (1988). Dissertations. 60.
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