Something interesting wot I learned at BNTC

Just back from BNTC in Durham - 'twas a good one. Funnily enough the 'unorthodox suggestion' which most caught my attention was a paper from a PhD student at St Andrews called Kelly Liebengood. It was about the implied audience of 1 Peter. Almost everyone thinks the implied audience of the epistle were Gentile Jesus-believers. Liebengood is suggesting that they were Jewish Jesus-believers. I thought that his argument was very interesting and his case, at very least, plausible. I love all that iconoclastic stuff!

Now I know that it sounds like an obscure debate of little theological interest but that is not the case. There are some very interesting theological issues raised by such a move. Not least issues relating to my earlier posts on "The Gospel of Israel".

Here is the abstract
Kelly Liebengood (St Andrews)
'"Don't be like your fathers": reassessing the ethnic identity of 1 Peter's "elect sojourners".'
Initially, 1 Peter appears to be addressed to Jewish Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (1.1, 17). Several references in the letter, however, seem to nullify this initial impression: the audience is said to have been redeemed from the futile way of life handed down to them from their fathers (1 Pet 1.18); they are urged, as a result of their redemption, to put their faith and hope in God (1 Pet 1.21); and finally, they are seen to have once participated in ‘licentious living, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry’(1 Pet 4.2-3). Most scholars agree that these references are decisive in concluding that 1 Peter was written to a predominantly Gentile audience.

For at least two generations 1 Peter scholarship has operated on this assumption, which has had not only a profound impact on the way the letter has been interpreted, but also has set the agenda for consequent research in 1 Peter.

In this paper I will focus particularly on the common assertion that 1 Pet 1.18, 21 and 4.2-3 ‘could hardly have been addressed to any but Gentiles’ (Selwyn). A fresh examination of both archeological and literary evidence will demonstrate (a) a long-standing tradition within Judaism of repudiating the futile ways of the fathers, and (b) a significant degree of Jewish assimilation in Asia Minor. In light of this evidence, I will argue that 1 Peter is best regarded as a letter principally written to Jewish Christians. This conclusion has some significant implications for how the letter is interpreted, which will be explored briefly.



I was glad to have had the chance to meet you at the conference, and appreciate your feedback and reflections. I agree, this issue has some big implications not only for how we read 1 Peter, but also for how we understand the church and Israel. More anon!
Yahnatan said…
How can one get a hold of this paper? I'm really interested in reading well as anything else from MR. Liebengood's 1 Peter research...
Anonymous said…
Was great to see you at the BNTC and thanks for the book recommendations! I'm excited too to find that you're blogging!
Matt Finn

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