Does it matter what ‘Peter’ writes, to whom?
What’s the message, to what context, then and now?
What’s our centre, after the Temple is razed in 70CE?
The ‘Peter’, nicknamed ‘Rocky’ or ‘Kephas’, who was a Galilean fisher recruited by Jesus, would have had a steep learning curve to write the sophisticated Greek of this letter, with lots of words that appear nowhere else in scripture. Perhaps we’ll just say the writer is claiming the heritage and the spirit of that original disciple, as a later Apostle.
This writer claims to address people in the north and west of Turkey, north of Syria, where our eyes often turn in these years of refugees from a proxy war between today’s empires. For them, then, the Romans had dismantled the ‘normal’ of a Greek commercial culture, under Ptolemaic (Egypt based) and Seleucid (Iran based) empires. The proxy war had leveled Jerusalem by 70CE as a symbolic and cultural centre for a scattered Judaism. By 90CE, the rabbis in Jamnia were writing Talmud, confirming which scrolls were Hebrew scripture.
We should be able to identify with these books in Epiphany. Over the past century, the hegemony of European colonial powers was wrecked, and the ‘centre’ of European Protestantism, and the moral stature of Roman Catholicism, if not yet the physical Vatican as threatened in Dan Brown novels, lost. Who and what will provide a new centre? Ideological global movements of communism and capitalism claimed to be heirs, but God knows what’s next: plutocratic transnational neo-liberalism, China’s reinterpretation of technocracy, or perhaps a new Russian federation?
This week, we sail through 1 Peter first. Who are the ‘exiles of the Dispersion’, or as Hart calls them, ‘Sojourners of the Diaspora’? Rather than the genetic descendants of Israel’s tribes scattered by Assyria in 720BCE then Judah exiled to Babylon in 586CE, I imagine ‘Gentiles’ converted to the Judean tradition, being reinterpreted by rabbis in Jamnia who are generating Talmud and inventing post-temple synagogue Judaism, and by Paul and other followers of the disciples and apostles of Jesus. The movements start splitting by 90CE.
Jumping to 2 Peter to end this week, we are not simply reading ‘volume 2’ by the same guy, despite the explicit and traditional claims. It’s a long argument, but scholars place this one well into the 2nd century CE (as late as 150CE). The message is not limited to misogyny and patriarchy. Jude, which we’ll read later, makes most sense as an early draft or source for 2 Peter, with lots of overlap.
For now, that’s my promised 500 word max for notes in a day – but take your time in downloading the audio, and reading the NRSV text to come this week!