Friday, 2 May 2008

Letters of St Peter

I realised I'd forgotten to post what I had written on this week's installment of the Bible reading programme (covering all of the books of the Bible excluding the Gospels in a year more or less, following the pattern set by the Matins readings). For the sake of completeness, here it is.

This week’s texts are 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

I have to admit that these are near the top of my favourite books in the Bible. I particularly love the injunction on priorities for our personal formation in 2 Peter 1: 5-7:

“…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

Much of the first letter is a moral exhortation directed to different states of life. The second letter focuses on the Second Coming.

But these two ‘letters’ are important for a number of reasons.

1 Peter contains the charter for apologetics much quoted by the Pope during his US visit (3:15), about being ready to explain the reasons for your faith. It also contains perhaps the most famous quote on spiritual warfare, repeated nightly in Compline: “Be sober, be watchful.Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Although St Peter’s authorship of 2 Peter is sometimes questioned, the internal evidence seems pretty strongly in favour. He insists that his is an eyewitness account (1:16), not mythology. And he has strong things to say about false teachers who lead others into heresy. I have to admit, though, that its his comments on the difficulty of understanding St Paul’s letters that I always enjoy (3:15-16) – if the chief of the Apostle's struggles with them, then so can we!

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