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Posts Tagged ‘outline’

Outlining 1 Peter

This post is a practice run at giving a descriptive outline for 1 Peter.  This isn’t an analysis of the grammatical structure or a Semantic Structure Analysis, though I hope I’m not ignoring them.  It’s a simple attempt to understand the flow of 1 Peter and how the parts interrelate.  I stress this is a “practice run” because I’m not entirely convinced of every detail, and as you can see, I’m not making an attempt at outlining every sentence.  Anyway, I’m also giving my rationale so you can understand why I opted for the choices I did.

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Greeting (1:1-2)

Called out of Darkness to be the People of God (1:3-2:10)

Praise God for His salvation (1:3-12)

Live a holy life as one redeemed (1:13-21)

Having been born of God’s eternal word, love one another (1:22-2:3)

God has called you, making you His people (2:4-10)

Living as the People of God in a Hostile World (2:11-4:11)

Submission to others in suffering (2:11-3:12)

Lead others to praise God because of your good deeds (2:11-3:7)

Submit to governing authorities (2:13-17)

Slaves, follow Christ’s example in suffering (2:18-25)

Wives, submit to your husbands (3:1-6)

Husbands, honor your wives (3:7)

Summary: bless others rather than repay evil (3:8-12)

Be blameless in suffering, just as Christ was (3:13-4:11)

You will suffer undeservedly (3:13-17)

Suffer as Christ did, who was victorious (3:18-22)

Suffering is a sign that you are done with your old ways (4:1-6)

Love one another in light of the end of all things (4:7-11)

Suffering in This Life, in Light of the Time to Come (4:12-5:11)

Expect to suffer as Christ did, entrusting your souls to God (4:12-19)

Elders & young men are to live properly, in light of the coming glory (5:1-7)

Stand strong in suffering, for God will uphold you until the end (5:8-11)

Closing (5:12-14)

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So let me make some comments.  The greeting and closing are easy enough to set apart.  That, of course, isn’t to say that they’re unimportant.  One of the difficulties with 1 Peter is that it basically deals with one subject (suffering) throughout the letter, so differentiating sections isn’t always easy.  Basically, you’re dealing with how Peter talks about suffering, not a new topic altogether.  Some letters are relatively easy to outline; 1 Corinthians is a piece of cake.  Others are more difficult; 1 John and James are notoriously tricky (seriously, try to do it sometime).

One thing to note is that you see “dear friends” (TNIV) occur twice in the text, at 2:11 and 4:12.  I’m taking this as a marker of Peter moving on to a slightly different way of handling the topic.  That leaves us with 1:3-2:10 after the greeting and before the first “dear friends.”  I feel good about these 3 main sections in the body of the letter, though how they break down is not as easy to tell.

In my “titles” I tried to be descriptive, summarizing the main point of that section.  I’m not entirely sure I got them all right, or worded them well, but it’s a place to start.  In 1:3-2:10, I broke it down into 4 subsections.  You’ll notice that I indented 1:13-21 and 1:22-2:3 because I wanted to make a point structurally.  I see 1:3-12 and 2:4-10 as “bookending” (or an inclusio) the middle sections.  That is, the bookends focus on what God has done, whereas the middle sections focus on our response.  I don’t think this structure is an accident.

In 2:11-4:11, the beginning is relatively easy to follow.  I think 2:11-12 serves as a “thesis statement” for what is to follow, specifically in 2:13-3:7.  Peter focuses on those under authority and how they should act.  It seems to me that his statement to husbands in 3:7 is not a major focus, evidenced by the short statement to them.  3:8-12 summarizes what comes before, but also provides a transition to what follows.  Instead of focusing on different categories of people (slaves, wives, etc), Peter broadens his focus back to all his readers.  This section includes some of the more confusing portions of the New Testament.  This section ends with an eschatological focus.

This switch back to an eschatological focus provides another transition to our next “dear friends” section beginning in 4:12.  In the first chapter, Peter has a strong emphasis on the coming glory to be revealed, and he returns to this theme again here (4:13; 5:1, 4, 10).  This section is bookended by some quasi-comforting words: some suffering is God’s will (4:19) and Satan is looking to devour you (5:8), but God is the “God of all grace” (5:10) in the midst of all of it.  In the middle of these are Peter’s commands to the elder readers and the younger ones.

So, of the 3 main sections of the body, the 1st and 3rd deal more with an eschatological outlook and with God’s work of salvation (which has both a past and future element that Peter stresses).  The middle section deals a bit more with following Christ as an example of righteous suffering in a hostile world.  As I noted earlier, since there is one main topic of the letter (suffering) there is significant overlap throughout these sections.  But with that said, I think there is a discernable structure.

I’ll stop there.  I’ll give my caveat again- this is a practice run.  I’m not entirely convinced of all of this, and I haven’t checked it with any scholars.  My point in posting this is to show how one can make an attempt to understand the flow of an NT epistle.  Hopefully, in so doing, we can better understand both how Peter encourages his readers in a time of suffering and how we can be encouraged in our own time.

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