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1 Peter Includes an Extremely High Christology

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Essay title: 1 Peter Includes an Extremely High Christology

Question 4 ‘1 Peter includes an extremely high Christology’. Discuss

1 Peter is not a treatise on the divine nature of Jesus. Its primary concern is addressing the suffering of christians in Asia Minor. Much is made of the encouragement for the reader to identify with Jesus in his suffering and exaltation. However, within this addressing of suffering, 1 Peter also includes an extremely high christology that includes Jesus in the God of Israel’s unique divine identity. 1 Peter identifies Jesus with the unique divine name, has Christ speaking God’s eternal word, includes Christ in God’s eschatological role and assigns him divine sovereignty, with the corresponding sovereignty over God’s people.

1 Peter uses passages of scripture that speak of YHWH to describe Jesus Christ.1 In doing so he includes Jesus in God’s unique divine identity. This is described by Richard Bauckham as ‘the highest christology of all’2. YHWH was the name by which the God of Israel, who alone was God, was known3.. 1 Peter twice quotes Isaiah 8, a passage explicitly speaking of YHWH, to speak of Jesus. In Isaiah 8 the prophet is given a message about impending judgement and suffering at the hands of the Assyrians. The prophet Isaiah is told by YHWH ‘do not fear what they fear and do not dread it. The LORD almighty (YHWH) is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear.’ (Isaiah 8:12-13) and to trust him as a sanctuary, even though YHWH will be the stone that causes people to fall. 1 Peter 3:14b-15 tells the christians facing suffering ‘Do not fear what they fear: do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord’ . Here the extremely high christology of identifying Christ with YHWH is useful to 1 Peter’s purpose. For the suffering christians addressed in 1 Peter, it is the Christ who is now to be regarded holy and should be viewed as a sanctuary. It is not that the Christ has replaced God, the readers are also told to fear God in 2:17, but that Christ is somehow included in YHWH.

This uniting of Christ and YHWH is also seen in 1 Peter 2:4-8. Christ is the living stone, rejected but chosen, in verse 4. The writer then uses three passages about stones to interpret one another and Jesus Christ. Psalm 118:22, quoted in 1 Peter 2:7, seems to be speaking of a messianic figure, or possibly of the whole of Israel. Isaiah 28:16, quoted in verse 6, also speaks of a servant of YHWH, again possibly YHWH himself in Isaiah 28:21. The quote from Isaiah 8:14 speaks explicitly of YHWH as the stumbling stone. Yet the writer is comfortable to use all three passages to speak of Jesus as both Christ and God. While some uses of kyrios for Jesus in the New Testament may be ambiguous, in

these quotes the septuagint ‘kyrios’ for YHWH in Isaiah is directly applied to Jesus. This calls into question Davies assertion that ‘There is no transference of divine standing or prerogatives’4. It applies not only God’s ‘divine action in Jesus Christ’5 , but to his divine identity. The many statements about God in 1 Peter that refer to the Father or God, and not Jesus, only show that Jesus was included in the identity of God and did not replace God. A reading of the epistle, (rather than just the ‘hymnic material’ that Richard focuses on6 ) does not allow us to restrict the high christology to that of an exalted human, as both Richard7 and Davies8 do. This in turn calls into question Davies entire theory of a long Christological development from an early low to a late high9 . As noted by Hengel, ‘This development in christology progressed in a very short time’10 . That 1 Peter can use such explicit connections between YHWH and Jesus without argument or explanation implies that an extremely high christology was already present for both the writer and audience of the epistle. 1 Peter displays an extremely high christology that includes Jesus in the identity of YHWH by using that name of Jesus.

The high christology of 1 Peter has God not only speaking about or through Jesus, but in Christ we see the God who speaks. 1 Peter speaks of the ‘Spirit of Christ’ in the prophets making predictions of his own suffering and consequent glories.(1:11) The predictions of the prophets are then connected to the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Spirit.(1:12) While these verses are not a full exploration of the pre-existent nature of Christ and his involvement in creation 11, along with 1:20 they touch on some temporal existence of Christ before his earthly life . The concept of pre-existence is not developed further, possibly because the writer of 1 Peter has ‘ no interest in it’ 12 Of far more importance to the question of high christology is the association of Jesus with the Holy spirit in God’s word. In this passage Jesus is seen not only as the object of God’s proclamation (1:12),

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