The first epistle of st. Peter 1: 1-2: 17



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23. ajnagegennhmevnoi, having been begotten anew] The word carries us back to ajnagennhvsa" in 1 Pet. 1:3. This is the only other place in the N.T. (or indeed the Greek Bible) where it occurs, unless indeed we count the Western reading of John 3:5. The idea of the word corresponds to the idea involved in St Paul’s phrase “a new creation,” the being started afresh, as it were, under new conditions of existence within and without, a new outlook and new view of all things around. This new creation was further a birth to a new Divine sonship, and it was precisely this new sonship which constituted those to whom St Peter wrote brothers in the new sense, and so made ajgavph, G27, towards each other to be filadelfiva, G5789. The master principle of this new life is love; and therefore the most pertinent exhortation to love was an appeal to the very nature of the new life. Thus in Ephesians the detailed precepts for the exercise of love in Eph. 4:25-5:2 are directly founded on the teaching about the new man created after (i.e. in the image of) God in 4:17-24. Compare also 1 John 4:7, 8, pa'" oJ ajgapw'n ejk tou' qeou' gegevnnhtai k.t.l. The meaning is not so much “born anew” as “begotten anew”: that is, the use of the passive brings before us not merely the fact of the new birth but its origination in the Father’s act.

oujk ejk spora'" fqarth'" ajlla; ajfqartou', not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible] St Peter goes on to make a further appeal to the source of the new state of existence. It was oujk ejk spora'" fqarth'" ajlla; ajfqavrtou. It is a disputed question whether sporav, G5076, means, as usual, “sowing,” or concretely “seed.” In the one case we have to join the substantive with adjectives not strictly congruous with it, in the other to give it an unusual sense. It seems best to adopt the latter alternative, but not as though sporav, G5076, meant exactly the same as spevrma, G5065, or even spovro", G5078; it is used rather in a quasi-collective sense, in accordance with a frequent use of abstract substantives. Philo, De praem. et poen., 2 (ii.410) in like manner says, th;n dj ajnagkaiotavthn spora;n ejpiskeptevon, h}n oJ poihth;" ajretwvsh/ cwvra/ katevspeire, logikh'/ yuch'/. Tauvth" dj oJ prw'to" spovro" ejsti;n ejlpiv", and presently to hope he adds repentance and righteousness, evidently as various spovroi making up the one sporav, G5076. Here there can be no idea of separate seeds, but the word may be chosen to express a seed which, though in one sense sown once for all, was also imparted by a continuous and perpetual sowing. This sense agrees well with what follows. The new life of the Christians was being constantly renewed from its original source, a living stream from the living God. Cf. Ep. ad Diogn. App. 11, Ou|to" oJ ajpj ajrch'", oJ kaino;" fanei;" kai; palaio;" euJreqeiv", kai; pavntote nevo" ejn aJgivwn kardivai" gennwvmeno". The nearest parallel to the phrase on its positive side, ajnagegennhmevnoi...ejk spora'"...ajfqavrtou, is St John’s remarkable language (1 John 3:9) pa'" oJ gegennhmevno" ejk tou' qeou' aJmartivan ouj poiei', o{ti spevrma aujtou' ejn aujtw'/ mevnei. God is represented as implanting in man somewhat of His own nature, making human nature in a true sense not godlike merely, but derivatively divine.

dia; lovgou zw'nto" qeou' kai; mevnonto", through the word of God, who liveth and abideth] The Syrian text adds eij" to;n aijw'na from 1 Pet. 1:25. The order gives no help towards deciding whether zw'nto" and mevnonto" belong to lovgou or to qeou'. In either case zw'nto" is the primary attribute, mevnonto" the accessory. It is now commonly said that the context is decisive for lovgou, partly on the ground that dia; lovgou zw'nto" answers well to ejk spora'" ajfqavrtou, partly because the following quotation contains the words to; rJh'ma Kurivou mevnei eij" to;n aijw'na. On the other hand Dan. 6:26 supplies us with the peculiar combination of mevnwn and zw'n with qeov", G2536, —aujto;" gavr ejstin qeo;" mevnwn kai; zw'n eij" genea;" genew'n e{w" tou' aijw'no". This might no doubt be an accidental coincidence; and we cannot lay much stress on the absence of a similar combination with lovgo", G3364, elsewhere, since in this connexion lovgo" zw'n would not be an unnatural phrase (it occurs later, Heb. 4:12; and cf. Deut. 32:47 LXX. John 6:63; Acts 7:38), and mevnwn might come from 1 Pet. 1:25 (cf. Ps. 118:89 diamevnei). But the presumption suggested by the coincidence is confirmed on the whole by the sense. The contrast to oujk ejk spora'" fqarth'" is rather enhanced than weakened by referring the abidingness of the new life at once to its highest source, not to the intermediate channel. The very presence of the word zw'nto" may remind us that the lovgo", G3364, or speech of God, here referred to as the instrument of a regeneration, cannot be a merely concrete word spoken once for all and then owing its permanence to memory, record, or perpetual validity. It is in effect God Himself speaking, speaking not once only, but with renewed utterance, kindling life not by a recollection but by a present power. On the whole then St Peter seems to have meant “by a word of a living and abiding God.”

What then is the “word” meant? The peculiar phrase ajnagegennhmevnoi...dia; lovgou cannot but remind us of James 1:18, boulhqei;" ajpekuvhsen hJma'" lovgw/ ajlhqeiva", eij" to; ei\nai hJma'" ajparchvn tina tw'n aujtou' (or eJautou', G1571) ktismavtwn, a passage which was probably in St Peter’s mind. It does not follow however that they had the same meaning, and St Peter here throws more light on St James than vice versa. St James is apparently speaking of the original creation of man, which, in virtue of its special circumstances and of the Divine image, was not a creation only but, by a Divine begetting, a word or utterance of God entering into man and making him capable of apprehending truth. St Peter on the other hand speaks not directly of mankind but of Christians, and not directly of the original Divine birth but of the Divine new birth. The link between them is the idea that the new birth is a restoration of that which was at the beginning, so that the true Christian, and he alone, is the true man. Each view is complementary to the other and needs the other, and it is doubtless the Divine word uttered in Christ that suggested to St James the in itself paradoxical phrase lovgw/ ajlhqeiva" in reference to the creation of man.

In interpreting St Peter we have no right to limit lovgo", G3364, to the particular tidings preached by those to whom the Asiatics owed their conversion; this is expressed by rJh'ma, G4839, as we shall see presently. It is God’s whole utterance of Himself in His incarnate Son, the written or spoken record of this utterance or of any part of it being a word only in a secondary sense. Through whatsoever channel the knowledge of what had come to pass in Judaea reached the hearts of the Asiatics, it was through the new voice speaking from heaven by these media that they awoke into a new life.

The true relation between the two clauses oujk ejk spora'" k.t.l. and dia; lovgou k.t.l. is best understood by taking them as parallel to each other, and expressing the same fundamental truth by different images. Virtually then sporav, G5076, and lovgo", G3364, are the same thing seen in different lights. Lovgo" is of course not used in the sense which it ultimately reaches in St John. Its use here follows that of the later parts of the O.T. (as Ps. 106:20; 147:15, 18), out of which arose the more concrete use which we find in the Targums, and so that of St John and also of Philo (cf. Westcott, Introd. to St John’s Gospel, pp. xvi.—xviii.). It thus illustrates St John’s sense, and shews how naturally it arose, though not itself to be confounded with it.

What now is the connexion of the whole verse with what precedes? Evidently it supplies the reason or ground for the exhortation in 1 Pet. 1:22; but how this lastingness of the source of the new life was to be so taken is not obvious. The answer lies, I believe, chiefly in the true force of ejktenw'", G1757. All genuine love is a principle and is founded on the perception of a permanent relation, as opposed to the self-pleasing casual and short-lived impulses which have but an imperfect right to the name of love. jEktenw'" expresses the manifested character of such a genuine love: it is steady and unremitting. The birth from above is the only consistent and rational justification of such a love; and the everflowing stream of life from above, from the living and abiding God, at once demands this character in love and renders it possible. It is the life of God in man which raises the love of man for man to its highest power. Nay, St John goes a step further, and teaches us that any love which we are enabled to shew is at last God’s love received “in us” and reflected from us (1 John 4:7, 16, 19; cf. 3:15). If He were only an abiding essence, but not Himself a living God, we could not speak of Him as loving. The two adjectives together mark the steadfastness of Christian love as a reflexion of that which we are taught to recognise in Himself.

24. diovti, G1484, because] The full form of the causal o{ti, G4022, has been already used by St Peter in introducing a quotation in 1 Pet. 1:16, and is again used for the same purpose in 2:6. The Apostle here quotes II Isa. 40:6-8.

In the quotation three unimportant variations of reading may be noted. An early, probably Alexandrian, text wrongly omits wJ", G6055, before covrto", G5965, in accordance with the LXX. For aujth'" after dovxa, G1518, the Syrian text substitutes ajnqrwvpou, again with the leading LXX. texts. And both this and an earlier, probably Alexandrian, text add aujtou' after a[nqo", G470, doubtless to bring out explicitly here the sense of a[nqo" covrtou just above. The true text of St Peter follows generally the LXX. and agrees with it in omitting vs. 7b of the Hebrew text. The differences are three, the addition of wJ", G6055, the substitution of aujth'" (as in the Hebrew) for ajnqrwvpou, as already mentioned, and the substitution of Kurivou for tou' qeou' hJmw'n. It is however by no means certain that St Peter did not find all these changes already made in the text of the LXX. which he used. In quoting Isaiah Cyprian and one or two other Latin Fathers, who used a translation of the LXX. have ejus [not to cite Orig. De Orat. xvii. (i.226), who does not distinctly say whence he quotes]; there is still more authority (cursives and Fathers) for Kurivou; perhaps even a little for wJ", G6055.

What however is the special force of this full quotation here? Phrases out of the first four lines are used by St James (James 1:10, 11) with obvious appropriateness, while he passes over the last contrasted line, which is on the other hand to St Peter the saying to which all else leads up. But why does St Peter quote more than that one last line? If, as is often tacitly assumed, the whole purpose of the quotation is to find Scriptural authority for attributing lastingness to the Divine word spoken of in 1 Pet. 1:23, it is incredible that he should have cumbered his quotation with such irrelevant matter as vs. 24 then would be. We can hardly find an answer then without bearing in mind, not a single phrase, but the whole passage. But first we must look at the quotation. The words themselves we shall have to consider presently; but to understand their full force we must notice the associations belonging to their original context. The words come from the opening of the second great division of the book which bears Isaiah’s name, the part of the O.T. which has preeminently the character of a Gospel. The prophecy begins with the message of pardon and restoration to captive and exiled Israel; it goes on to the voice proclaiming the preparation of a way for Jehovah’s return to His land through the wilderness, the revealing of His glory, and the seeing of it by all flesh together; thirdly, it speaks of a voice bidding the prophet cry, and giving him for his theme the perishableness of all flesh even as grass, nay, of the very people; but setting against this the abidingness of Jehovah’s word, and therefore the sureness of His promise. The work spoken of, as coming to pass in virtue of this word of Jehovah, was to be in effect an ajnagevnnhsi", the awaking of a new life: compare what is said of the word in Isa. 55:10, 11.

The application of these thoughts to St Peter’s subject is not difficult. Human life, as seen on its purely natural side, is to him as the grass, with a life and brightness of its own, but all momentary and transient. The “seed” from which it springs is corruptible (ejk spora'" fqarth'"). Its fitting embodiment is that manner of living which the Asiatic Christians had inherited from their heathen forefathers, and which he has just called “vain,” “futile” (1 Pet. 1:18 th'" mataiva" uJmw'n ajnastrofh'" patroparadovtou). To this perishableness of the attractive world around them, and of that in themselves which sought satisfaction in that world, he opposes the new and ever springing life into which they had been born by hearing and receiving a word of the living God, and the sure promise which it contained.

pa'sa savrx, all flesh] The Hebrew has the article here, probably referring back to the previous verse, which has no article; just as the article in Gen. 7:15, the only other place where it occurs in this phrase, probably refers back to 6:19. The LXX. drops it, and as St Peter does not quote the preceding verse it would have no force here. The force of savrx, G4922, in this O.T. phrase has nothing to do with uncleanness or any kind of evil, but consists in weakness and helplessness (cf. Ps. 77:39). The phrase itself “all flesh” has a curious distribution; Gen., the story of the Flood (Gen. 6-9); the phrase “God of the spirits of all flesh” (Num. 16:22; 27:16), and three other verses of the Pentateuch [Lev. 17:14; Num. 18:15; Deut. 5:26], Job2, Psalms3, Joel1, and a few places in the later prophets. It denotes sometimes all mankind, sometimes (chiefly in the Pentateuch) all mankind and the animal creation together. In the prophets it usually refers chiefly to mankind as external to Israel. These various shades of meaning all meet in the heathen world as it would appear to St Peter.

wJ" covrto", is as grass] The inserted wJ", G6055, merely softens the strong Hebrew phrase by marking it expressly as an image. Covrto" is the most common word for grass in the LXX.

kai; pa'sa dovxa aujth'", and all the glory thereof] Dovxa stands here in the LXX. for ds,j&,, H2876, which everywhere else means mercy, grace in the ethical sense; compare the double sense of ˆje, H2834. The other Greek translators have e[leo", G1799: but doubtless the LXX. is substantially right, though the Hebrew implies rather winningness, attractiveness, and the Greek rather splendour and that which invites admiration. In Isa. 28:1, 4 we have similar language. The significance of the word here in either modification of sense consists in the attractiveness and pride which made heathen life in Greek cities of that time a real temptation to men wavering in their spiritual allegiance.

wJ" a[nqo" covrtou, as the flower of grass] Covrtou was here introduced by the LXX. the Hebrew having “the field” (which the LXX. retains in the parallel passage Ps. 102:15 (103:15)). Doubtless not the inconspicuous flowers of the grasses are meant, but the bright flowers which grow among the grass and seem to the eye to belong to it.

ejxhravnqh oJ covrto", the grass withereth] This verb, the virtually constant and the exact rendering of vbey:, H3312, expresses the drying up of the juices of the grass, and of the freshness which is fed by them. Such, St Peter means, would soon be found the drying up of the life which seemed to animate the heathen mode of existence.

kai; to; a[nqo" ejxevpesen, and the flower wasteth] The Hebrew lben:, H5570, expresses not falling off, but fading or wasting, specially of leaves, sometimes (as here and Isa. 28:1, 4 (see above)) of flowers. It has great variety of rendering in the LXX. In Job 14:2; 15:33 ejkpivptw, G1738, (rendering two other Hebrew words) means to fall off, and so it possibly does here. But both pivptw, G4406, and ejkpivptw, G1738, have in ordinary Greek so much of the general sense of failure or waste (cf. Sir. 31:7) that no more may be intended than fading away. As the grass was like the heathen life itself, so the flower of grass was the bright bloom of attractiveness or glory which it wore to those who did not look beyond the present moment. To see the full force of the image we must remember the brilliancy of the flowers which shine among the thin short-lived grass of spring in the Levant, such as anemones, tulips, and poppies. “Of all the ordinary aspects of the country” of Palestine, says Stanley (Sinai and Palestine, p. 139, cf. p. 99), “this blaze of scarlet colour is perhaps the most peculiar.”

The Greek tense (ejxhravnqh, ejxevpesen) is the literal translation of the Hebrew perfect (or preterite), which here is the “perfect of experience,” used in comparisons respecting that which has been often observed. This literal rendering happens to be also good idiomatic Greek for the same sense, viz. the gnomic aorist (, G. G. § 386, 7, 8; Goodwin, Moods and Tenses, § 30). In the N.T. there is apparently no trace of this aorist except in James 1:11, where language is borrowed from the same verse of Isaiah, and less distinctly in James 1:24.

25. to; de; rJh'ma Kurivou, But the word of the Lord] The substitution of Kurivou for tou' qeou' hJmw'n hardly affects the sense. Kurivou without the article must be taken, as in most cases, for Jehovah, i.e. the God of Israel, “our God.” The word is the word of promise, the declaration that God has not forgotten His people, but is coming to their deliverance, while on the other hand the deliverance can take full effect only by their hearkening to the word and obeying it.

mevnei eij" to;n aijw'na, abideth for ever] The Hebrew ( µWqy:from µWq, H7756) is even stronger, “standeth (or shall stand) for ever.” Thus the same verb with hJ boulhv is rendered sthvsetai Isa. 46:10, and meivnh/, menei' 7:7; 32:8. The tense is perhaps the future (menei' rather than mevnei), as one or two Latin fathers have it in Isaiah.

tou'to dev ejstin to; rJh'ma to; eujaggelisqe;n eij" uJma'", And this is the word of good tidings which was preached (reaching even) to you] These last four words, as the aorist shews, unquestionably refer back to the time when the Gospel was preached to the Asiatics, and thus became the beginning of a new life by the thoughts and feelings which it awoke within them. Eij" uJma'" has exactly the same force as in 1 Pet. 1:4, 10; not by any means equivalent to uJmi'n, but expressing at once destination for the Asiatic Gentiles and the fact that the Gospel reached even to them.

Eujaggelisqevn is an allusion to the fact that the Christian message was distinctly called by our Lord Himself “The Gospel,” but an allusion only. It links together what there was in common between this distinctive Gospel and the word to which Isaiah refers, for his next verse (Isa. 40:9) contains the verb twice over. The sense is not “the word of the Gospel which was proclaimed,” but “the word which with its good tidings was proclaimed,” or, as R.V. paraphrases it, “the word of good tidings which was preached.” St Peter then must by no means be understood as saying that what Isaiah meant by the word of Jehovah was the historical Gospel of Jesus Christ which should be proclaimed centuries later: this would have been a difficult doctrine indeed. What he does mean is rather to carry back the Gospel than to carry forward the ancient word. The Gospel was in its essence that one Word or utterance of God which was from of old and shall abide for ever, the declaration of an unchangeable purpose formed before the world began.

It will be observed that in 1 Pet. 1:23 St Peter says dia; lovgou, and then in support appeals to a passage of the LXX. which contains rJh'ma, G4839, which word again he himself appropriates in his own final comment. Yet it would be a mistake to suppose that he uses the words indifferently. The LXX. is somewhat loose in its choice between them, using here and in many other places rJh'ma, G4839, to render rb;D:, H1821, when we might have expected lovgo", G3364; and it seems most probable that here St Peter first, when (in 1 Pet. 1:23) he wrote independently, chose out the best word, though he subsequently (in vs. 25) accepted the other from the LXX. The difference of these words is fundamentally this, that rJh'ma, G4839, is the concrete expression of lovgo", G3364. Lovgo" is speech in relation to the speaker, and so to the meaning in his mind which he wishes to convey: rJh'ma, G4839, is the definite articulate word or words as uttered by the tongue or written by the pen. This fundamental difference often resolves itself into the relation of whole and parts, or of what is generic and what is individual: the one speech is expressed by a plurality of successive words or sayings, and in one sense is made up of them. So Philo Leg. All. iii.61 (i.122) on Deut. 8:3, to; me;n ga;r stovma suvmbolon tou' lovgou, to; de; rJh'ma mevro" aujtou': trevfetai de; tw'n me;n teleiotevrwn hJ yuch; o{lw/ tw'/ lovgw/, ajgaphvsaimen dj a]n hJmei'" eij kai; mevrei trafeivhmen aujtou'. Here too the fundamental difference can be traced, though it is not conspicuous. In relation to the birth into a new life St Peter uses that term which carries us nearest to the original Divine source, and most nearly stands for God Himself speaking: on the other hand, in 1 Pet. 1:25 he is able to adopt rJh'ma, G4839, with the greater fitness because it well suits the Gospel message as a definite expression, and as the most definite expression, of the one abiding Word of God. Compare the difficult passage Acts 10:36 ff., with its lovgon in vs. 36 (from Ps. 107:20) followed by its rJh'ma, G4839, in Acts 10:37 f. for the sum of the events of Gospel history.


1 Pet. 2:1. With this chapter we begin, not indeed a new section, but a new portion of the section which reaches from 1 Pet. 1:13 to 2:10. The four verses 1:22-25 are in one sense a sequel to what precedes, in another parenthetical. They have expounded the intimate necessity by which a true obedient holiness towards God involves earnestness and sincerity of mutual love among those to whom God has revealed Himself. St Peter now returns to the main stream of his exhortation, and passes back, through a word of teaching as to the true kind of food to be desired for the heart and mind, to themes more closely concerned with the direct relation of the Christians to God, in connexion with what in 1 Pet. 1:13 he had called “the grace brought to them in the unveiling of Jesus Christ.”

jApoqevmenoi ou\n, Putting away therefore] “Therefore,” i.e. because this sincerity and this strenuousness of love are involved in the new life imparted by the word of the living and abiding God.

ajpoqevmenoi need not, and probably here does not, definitely mean, stripping off as clothing. It is applied to any kind of rejection, specially of what is in any way connected with the person, body or mind, whether clothing, or the hair (shaved by certain priests, Plut. ii.352 C D: cf. 42 B, ei[ ti tw'n ojclhrw'n ajpoteqeimevnh kai; perittw'n ejlafrotevra gevgone kai; hJdivwn ªhJ yuchvº, the metaphor being taken from a man leaving the barber), or a mental quality (ib. 60 E, ajpoqevsqai t. pollh;n ejpieivkeian kai; t. a[kairon e[leon kai; ajsuvmforon), anger, indolence, falsehood, pride, enmity. In the N.T. its use here may be compared with that in four passages of St Paul, at least three of which evidently do imply that the figure is taken from clothing (Rom. 13:12, ajpoqwvmeqa ta; e[rga tou' skovtou" contrasted with ejnduswvmeqa ta; o{pla t. fwtov": Eph. 4:22, ajpoqevsqai uJma'"...to;n palaio;n a[nqrwpon contrasted with ejnduvsasqai to;n kaino;n a[nqrwpon and vs. 25 dio; ajpoqevmenoi to; yeu'do": Col. 3:5 ff. (the nearest to this), nekrwvsate ta; mevlh ta; ejpi; th'" gh'", porneivan k.t.l....ejn oi|" kai; uJmei'"...nuni; de; ajpovqesqe kai; uJmei'" ta; pavnta, ojrghvn k.t.l. followed by ajpekdusavmenoi to;n palaio;n a[nqrwpon...kai; ejndusavmenoi to;n nevon k.t.l.): note also James 1:21 dio; ajpoqevmenoi pa'san rJuparivan kai; perisseivan kakiva", a passage which, as we shall see, is closely connected with this, the idea there being rather of purging away defilements and excrescences; compare also the substantive ajpovqesi", G629, in 1 Pet. 3:21 (ouj sarko;" ajpovqesi" rJuvpou). Here we may take it in perfect generality as “putting away” (R.V.).




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