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Acta Theologica

versão On-line ISSN 2309-9089
versão impressa ISSN 1015-8758

Acta theol. vol.29 no.2 Bloemfontein Dez. 2009

 

The referent of egeusasthe (you have tasted) in 1 Peter 2:3

 

 

Fika J. van Rensburg

 

 


ABSTRACT

In 1 Peter 2:2-3 the addressees are exhorted to "yearn for the unadulterated milk of God's word ... like newborn babies" (). This exhortation is motivated by: "since you have tasted that the Lord is good" (). This article attempts to establish the referent of . Viewed as part of the "rebegetting" and resultant new birth (cf. in 1 Pet 1:3), 1 Peter 2:3 suggests that God has given the "something" to sustain them in their salvation. The paper concludes that the implicit object of is colostrum. The referent then is that God has given the addressees colostrum as part of the beget/rebirth process, to sustain them in their salvation. Having tasted the colostrum they now know that the Lord is good. This experience of the goodness of the Lord becomes the reason why they (must) yearn for (more) milk, so that they can grow up in their salvation.

Keywords: Birth imagery, Soteriology, Milk, Colustrum


Trefwoorde: Geboorte-metafoor, Soteriologie, Melk, Kolostrum


 

 

1. INTRODUCTION

In 1 Peter 2:2 the addressees are exhorted: . .. ("yearn for the unadulterated milk of God's word ... like newborn babies"). This exhortation is motivated in 1:3: ("since you have tasted that the Lord is good"). 1 Peter 2:3 suggests that God has given the "something" to sustain them in their salvation. This article attempts to establish the implicit object of : what is it - in terms of the beget/birth-imagery - that they had tasted? In this way the referent of is to be established.

First the relevant socio-historic context of the addressees of 1 Peter is constructed (2). Then it is explored what the argument of 1 Peter and of the pericope 2:1-3 suggests as the referent of (3). The referents of and in the beget/birth-imagery in 1 Peter is established (4). The author's use of Psalm 34:8 is studied to see what light it sheds on the referent of (5). The implicit object of is established (6). finally the referent of is defined, and it is shown how clarity about the referent of contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the macro argument of 1 Peter (7).

 

2. THE SOCIO-HISTORIC CONTEXT Of THE ADDRESSEES Of 1 PETER

The socio-historic context of the addressees of 1 Peter has been constructed by Van Rensburg (2006:475-481), and this construction is utilized as interpretative framework for the investigation of the referent of in 1 Peter 2:3. This construction boils down to the following:

• 1 Peter is a genuine letter, utilized as a circular letter,1 and exhibiting characteristics of the contemporary Jewish diaspora letter.2

• The self-identification of the author is taken as a matter of fact, as do a number of scholars.3 This viewpoint implies that the letter is to be dated before 70 AD.

• The addressees "represented the broad spectrum of people living in northern Asia Minor" (Achtemeier 1996:57), as indicated in the address of the letter: (1 Pet 1:1).

• The labelling of the addressees4 as (resident foreigners of the Diaspora, 1:1; 2:11) and (visiting foreigners, 2:11) refers to the fact that the addressees were, already before their conversion to the Christian faith, "visiting and resident foreigners" in the literal sociopolitical sense of the words (Elliott 1981:32). Having status in the first century AD already implied hardships (Berger 1953:626). The suffering was not caused by official persecution, but by spontaneous local social ostracism (Elliott 1986:14; Breytenbach 1998:341; Balch 1981:95).

• However, the label does not merely describe their social position; it indicates their previous status as "God-fearers" as well, the and the (Van Unnik 1980:72-74). It is part of the adoption of the honorific titles of the Old Testament people of God, transforming the title into a proud self-identification (cf. feldmeier 1992:104).

• When these foreigners became Christians, it had positive and negative social consequences. On the positive side: they became part of a Christian group and were no longer isolated individuals or small groups. Those who d been God-fearers and could not become full Proselytes, no longer were second class members in the new Christian group.

• The new Christians, however, also had to cope with negative consequences as a result of their new alliance. The unjust suffering which they had to endure as (political) foreigners, became even more severe, since now one more dimension has been added to their "otherness": the fact that they have aligned themselves with an obscure foreign sect. This resulted in further and more intense ostracism and discrimination. These circumstances forced many of them to consider to retaliate the injustices they suffered, or even to forsake their new commitment to the Christian faith.

The author uses the letter to persuade the addressees of their status as saved persons before God, of God's loving care for them, and of Christ's vicarious suffering and subsequent glory and supreme power. All of this is, however, not the purpose for writing; it serves as basis for the actual purpose: ethical exhortations to have a good lifestyle (, 2:12) and to persevere in doing good (, 4:19), even amidst and in spite of their own suffering.

 

3. THE REFERENT OF AS SUGGESTED BY THE ARGUMENT OF 1 PETER AND OF THE PERICOPE 2:1-3

3.1 The macro argument of 1 Peter

The macro argument of the letter has been argued by Van Rensburg (2006: 481-488). The pericope 1:3-12 is the basis for the rest of the letter, with the key-phrase the reassurance in 1:3 of the fact that God has begotten5 the addressees anew: . .. The body of the letter is largely paraenetic, with the pericope 1:3-12 as motivative basis for four inferential exhortations, viz 1:13-25, 2:1-10, 2:11-4:19, and 5:1-11.

This view of the argument of 1 Peter, and specifically the coherence between the letter opening (1:3-12) and the body of the letter, can be represented in the following way:

 

 

3.2 The place and function of 1 Peter 2:1-3 in the argument

The pericope 2:1-10 is introduced by the relation particle , which marks 2:1-10 as "Result".6 Because of its content 2:1-10 is interpreted to be on the same level as 1:13-25, which means that 2:1-10 is a second exhortation that has the fact that God has begotten the addressees anew (1:3) as "Reason". The function of the relation particle is therefore to mark 2:1-10 as "Result" in a "Reason""Result" relation with 1:3-12.

The pericope 2:1-10 can be divided into two sub-pericopes, each with an imperative as main verb, viz (2:2) and (2:5). The asyndeton7 in 2:4ff is interpreted as additive equivalent coordination of 2:4-10 to 2:1-3, implicating the continuance of the of 2:1. The relative pronoun () undergirds the connection. This means that 2:1-3 and 2:4-10 is a double "Result" in a "Reason" "Result relation with 1:3-12.

The inter-relationship of the two sub-pericopes of 2:1-10 can be represented in the following way:

 

 

3.3 The local argument of 2:1-3

To interpret the referent of in 2:3 it is necessary to keep the whole pericope 2:1-3 in scope. The imperative in 2:2 is the main verb governing the whole of 2:1-3. The participal in 2:1 is interpreted as subordinate to as main verb, signalling an activity (the laying aside of the bonds of sin from their past) that must take place simultaneous with the execution of the exhortation to yearn for the milk.9

The following representation of my interpretation of the syntactic structure shows the interrelations on micro level:

 

 

The local argument of 2:1-3 therefore is the following: The basic exhortation is that the addressees should "yearn for the unadulterated milk10 of God's word" (, 2:2b). The way in which this yearning must take place, is "like newborn babies" (, 2:2a), who have been (re)born as a result of having been begotten anew by God. This suggests an expansion of the "new begetting"-metaphor introduced in 1:3 ().11 The argument is: "God has begotten you anew. This resulted in your new birth, and now you are a baby."

The baby will only grow to its full salvific capacity if it gets the right nutrition, and this is the goal with the exhortation to yearn for milk: ("so that by it you may grow up in your salvation," 2:2c). A motivation for this exhortation is given in 2:3: ("since you have tasted that the Lord is good"). This motivation is yet another expansion of the "new begetting" metaphor, utilizing an adaptation from the words of LXX Psalm 34:8. The verb , as will be argued under point 5 and point 6 below, suggests that the newborn suckling baby has tasted "something" that is good, and will therefore want more.

The participial phrase in 2:1 signals an activity (the laying aside of the bonds of sin from their past) that must take place simultaneous with the execution of the exhortation to yearn for the milk. The laying aside of the bonds of sin from their past marks their progress in growing up in their salvation, and it demands a lot of effort and energy. They will only have the necessary energy and stamina when they get the right nutrition ().

This interpretation of the local argument of 2:1-3 can be represented as follows:

Activity to happen simultaneously with the execution of the "yearn for" exhortation

 

 

The referent (within the beget/birth-imagery) of this "something" that the addressees have tasted, must now be established. It is the "something" that they have tasted, that has persuaded them that God is good and motivates them to yearn for the unadulterated milk of God's word. The nutrition they gain from this will provide the stamina and energy needed to grow up in their salvation and have the capability to lay aside all evil-doings (sampled in 2:1).

3.4 The argument of 2:1-3, as embedded within the beget/birth imagery

The intentional function of the exhortation ("yearn for the unadulterated milk of God's word, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation") within the argument of 1 Peter is twofold: (1) to emphasize that their salvation has already been effected, and (2) to persuade them that they have the obligation to grow up in their salvation. If they do not comply, their salvific status is intact, but they will remain babies.

The intentional function of the statement . .. ("like newborn babies ... you have tasted that the Lord is good") within the argument of 1 Peter is that it expands the beget-metaphor while reverting back to it. Viewed as part of the "rebegetting" and resultant new birth, God has given them something to sustain them in their salvation. The taste of this goodness of the Lord is the reason why they must yearn for "the unadulterated milk of God's word", which will make them grow up in their salvation.

To identify the referent of the "something" they have tasted, the following now needs to be done: first (4) the referents of and in the beget/birth-imagery in 1 Peter is investigated, then (5) the author's use of LXX Psalm 34:8 in his argument, and finally (6) what the grammatical object and (7) the referent of is.

 

4. THE REfERENTS Of AND IN THE BEGET/BIRTH-IMAGERY

4.1 The referent of in 1 Peter

The verb is used in the New Testament only in 1 Peter, in 1:3 and 1:23. In the LXX it is not used at all, except for one doubtful variant in Sir Prol. ln. 28 v.l (BAGD ; Michaels 1988:17). To depend on the use of semantic equivalents and etymological derivatives in other books of the New Testament brings with it the danger of illegitimate totality transfer of meaning.12 It is more plausible to establish the referent of by studying its place and function in the rich family imagery in 1 Peter.

In 1 Peter 1:3-5 and in 2:1-3 there are no less than five components of the family imagery: (1:3), / (1:3,23), (1:4), (2:2), and (2:3).13 This suggests (but taken on its own it is not conclusive) that refers to God begetting the addressees anew, a rebegetting that resulted in a new birth. The therefore refers to the starting point of a process by which God has caused the addressees to have re-started their life, this time within an intimate and caring relationship with him.

A search in the TLG produces two relevant occurrences, both concurring with this preliminary conclusion:14

Philo uses the noun once (Aet. 8.9), in the sense of regeneration. After having explained the view of the Stoics on the creation and destruction of the world and that fire is the cause of the corruption of the world, he states: ("from it again a regeneration of t