Monday, July 26, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 12 - When Not If

  Do you remember the first time you prayed in front of people? I’ve shared that my first time was when I was on my college baseball team. I was asked to pray, never even attempting out loud prayers in my life. I had only been a Christian for about two years, so I still wasn’t very developed in a lot of areas. In my panic, I strung together a series of phrases, “Let us be all we can be…so we can just do it.” Things like that. Being around a bunch of guys, when I was done, they all started to laugh, asking me, do you just use the army slogan? Do you just use the Nike slogan?  It was an embarrassing moment in my life and afterwards I started to look into what God desired from us in prayer, so that I could be a better prayer.

And it’s God’s expectation in prayer and other areas of our spiritual development that brings us to back into our Matthew series, where we are going to return to the same passage we did last week, which was Matthew chapter 6 starting in verse 1. The reason for returning to this passage, is because Jesus makes some assumption about our faith walk and he gives us some practical ways to walk it.

And as we get back into our Matthew series let’s see how the first six and a half chapters have gotten us to where we are now. In the first four chapters, we saw the identity of Jesus being revealed. This was done through proclamations, through challenges, and finally through Jesus’ own self-revealing. Then in chapter 5, we saw the standard of God, which is perfection, and how we are called to meet that standard. But when we realize we cannot meet that standard, we come to a place where we can become Jesus’ disciples. A disciple of Jesus is someone who recognizes their inability to attain the standard of God, and therefore must rely on Jesus as their Savior. 

Then last week we talked about how, though the saving work of Jesus in our lives is freely given, our response is still to do good. I heard a great quote this week from Reformer John Calvin, “Faith alone justifies, but the faith which justifies is not alone.” In other words, Jesus’ work of saving those who realize they can’t save themselves is done without our good deeds, but from that saving work of Jesus, good deeds flow out from us as a result.

It’s with this that we return to Matthew chapter 6. This week we are not going to read through the entire twenty-four verses that we did last week, instead I want us to recognize Jesus’ expectations and his applications. 

In verses 2, 5, and 16, Jesus gives us two words that speak to his expectations about our spiritual lives. Jesus says, “when you.” Those two little words carry with them some pretty big expectations. 

When Jesus says, “when you” he’s pointing to two things. First he’s pointing towards future moments. “When” is the time. When this thing occurs is what Jesus is saying. There will be a time or times in the future when, what Jesus is going to point towards, will happen. The second thing Jesus points to, is us, or more specifically his disciples. The “you” is anyone who has accepted Jesus as their Savior. These our those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are peacekeepers, those who are salt and light. So, Jesus is saying, in the times in which my disciples do “x”, that thing Jesus is going to now say, this is what you are to do. 

And so he gives us three examples. “When you given…when you pray…when you fast…”

These are three activities that Jesus expects his disciples to participate in. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus expects his disciples to do many things. The obvious ones are commands that he gives. In John 13:34 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Then there are more subtle ones, like when Jesus says in Luke 22:19, concerning taking communion, “…do this in remembrance of me.”

And one that I think gets past over the a lot, because it’s awkward, is Jesus words after washing his disciples’ feet. In John 13:15, Jesus says, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Jesus has expectations of our spiritual walks, and when we shy away from them, because they are awkward, financially difficult, or we just feel incapable, what we are really doing is saying that I don’t take seriously the expectations of Jesus in my relationship with him. But our awkwardness and inabilities don’t deter Jesus. No, instead we are called to these expectations, and therefore must seek him to work them out in our lives. 

So we must give, we must pray, we must fast, we must commune, we must wash, we must love. Why? Because its within these things that our relationship with God builds and grows as it was always intended to. Fulfilling the expectations of Jesus, by obeying his examples, invigorates our relationship with him.Those thoughts of, I don’t hear God, I don’t feel God, I don’t see God at work, get replaced with a waited anticipation of God’s activity, because we are working out the work he is doing in us. These expectations are not what brings salvation into our lives. That is only done through Jesus free gift of imparting his goodness to us. But what fulfilling these expectations does do, is enliven that salvation work and renews it daily so that we may see what Jesus has done to bring us closer to himself.

And so, in these three expectation examples that Jesus gives, the central one is prayer. This prayer has been called the Lord’s prayer. I myself like to call it the disciples’ prayer. This is because Jesus says in verse 9, “This, then is how you should pray…” This prayer structure is pointed at us. Now we can see this same prayer pattern in Jesus’ and other biblical figures prayers, but here Jesus is saying this is for you, the disciples to know what is expected from you in your prayer life. 

In fact, in Luke’s recognition of a similar prayer, it is the disciples who ask, “Lord teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus responds with, “…When you pray… (Luke 11:1-2)”

This prayer pattern is for us as disciples, and when we recognize what Jesus is expecting from our prayers, praying becomes so much easier. It’s no longer haphazard, like stringing together a bunch of slogans, but has purpose and meaning. So let’s take a brief look at Jesus’ pattern for his disciples’ prayers. The prayer goes,

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 

10  your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 

What do you notice about this first part of the prayer? Who is about? It’s directed at God the Father. This speaks of the intimacy of our prayers. This isn’t to a God out there beyond us; a God who we are clamoring to reach. He is our Father, therefore our prayer needs to be based on this familial relationship with him. 

Yet at the same time, God is holy. The name of God is representative of the totality of who God is. By saying, “hallowed be your name,” Jesus is pointing us towards the holiness of who God is. This is something our cultural tends to miss. The biblical God is both close and separate. He is both the Lover of humanity, and its righteous Judge. Both are true. When we lean to either side we develop a skewed view of who God is. If he is just Father, the one who wraps his arms around us to love us, then we skew his love, because we make accommodations for sinful behavior. On the other hand, if we fall on the other extreme of God’s holiness, then the wrath of God has no quenching, and Jesus’ work becomes a task to be achieved and not a gift to receive. So Jesus teaches us both, “Our Father in heaven, hollowed be your name.” Both of these are wrapped up in worship. Worship is recognition of who God is and what he has done, and giving him praise for it. This first sentence of prayer, is a balanced worship of who God is. The Father who is holy.

From there we get our second line, “…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I don’t know about you, but I tend to be pretty quick in my asking God for things in my prayers. Yet in the second sentence of the prayer, Jesus directs our prayers to seek the will of God in our lives. Everything flows out of God’s will, and if we are his people, then we need to desire his will above all else. I might be struggling with my job and finances, I might be hurting because a loved one is sick, I might be needing some divine intervention right at this moment, but what we need to do is to ask for God’s will to be accomplished in our lives. When we have the accomplishment of God’s will in focus, it does not get ride of our need, but helps us to accept whatever happens in those situations to come. So, we are first to worship and then seek his purpose in our lives.

It is here that we move our attention from the worship of God to our need.

11 Give us today our daily bread. 

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

Daily bread, can be interpreted in a number of ways, but at it’s core, it’s our day to day sustenance. The obvious ones are food, water, and those things that we need in our lives to sustain us physically. And at the same time it is the Word of God, Jesus, which is the bread of life (John 6:35). Jesus is calling us to rely; trust in God to supply that which we need for sustaining our lives, its sustenance for both the physical and spiritual needs. This helps us  to leave behind our wants and cares for the world. When we have this kind of reliance, whatever is given to us, we recognize are gifts from God and we should be content with them.

Next, Jesus goes into a little more detail about our spiritual needs that need to be met, the first being, we need forgiveness from God. There are things that we hold onto, even as believers accepted into the family of God by the free gift that Jesus gives. This is a Psalm 139 attitude, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (v.23-24).”

But this spiritual need extends to our relationships. Following this prayer, Jesus explains that there is a connection between God’s forgiveness and our forgiveness of others. If we are called to the life of God, it’s a life of forgiveness that flows from the throne of God, down to the people of God, out to the world around us. And so far, I believe, this is the hardest part of the expectations of Jesus. This goes back to the anger issue in chapter 5 of Matthew, where Jesus said, “…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift (5:23-24).”

Reconciliation of relationships is key in our relationships with God, and I know it’s hard, but Jesus expects us to extend the forgiveness we have been given to those around us. And when we realize the depth of forgiveness that Jesus has extended to us, “…forgive us our debts…”, we are more open to forgiving others, “…as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

What follows this, is Jesus calling us to another spiritual matter, the spiritual battle. The sentence, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” is a call for God’s strength. His hand in moving us out of those situations that would bring us to encounter evil things. This has a dual function. First it gets our minds on God to be the deliverer, and second it gets us prepared for the coming temptations. This is what Paul talks about in Ephesians 6, about putting on the armor of God. When we are both reliant on God and aware of what is happening around us, the spiritual battle that is inevitable, becomes one where we are prepared for the encounter, rather than becoming a casualty of the conflict. 

Now in our text, this is where it ends. The reason for this is because of textual choices by the translators who are working from manuscripts that are quite old. Yet there are manuscripts that contain the words, “for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” This is what you will find in a King James translation of the Bible, but most all translations have this at least as a footnote.

And I want us to include this sentence here, because it seems to finish Jesus’ thought. We started out with a balanced worship of God, and in these final words, we return to that worship. Like the identity of Jesus’ disciples being sandwiched in who Jesus is, a disciples’ prayer must be sandwiched in the worship of God. God is our Father in heaven, his name is holy, we desire his will to be done here as it is done in heaven. Because everything is God’s, it is his kingdom, and it is by his power that all things are accomplished and it is his glory that we should seek for eternity. 

So at the end of our prayers, we are to worship God, directing our eyes on him and not on ourselves. 

Jesus’ expectant prayers from us, recognizes our physical, relational, and spiritual needs. But these needs are couched in the worship of God. He needs to be our focus in our prayers. Both at the beginning and end of them. And when we do this, we place God in his rightful position in our lives. Our identity, our very being needs to be surrounded by God. 

This takes the burden off of us, because now we rely on him, trusting in his work. 

This is the model by which a disciple of Jesus is to pray. I try to pray like this in my prayers, and you might hear some of these elements. A modern application of this prayer might sound like this: Father, you are great and glorious. You are beyond me, yet you’re right here. I ask that your will be done in my life today, so that others may see your living work and praise you. Lord I have a lot of wants, but strip those away so that I can see clearly what I need from you. Let me trust you that those needs will be met. Lord I thank you for your forgiveness in my life, that I was brought out of death and into your life, help me to forgive others. I struggle with forgiving those that hurt me, help me, then, to know how much I hurt you, so that I can see how deep your forgiveness for me is. And I know that there is a battle around me, and there is a struggle to return to my sinful past, Lord strength me by the Holy Spirit, that when temptation comes, I will respond in the power of the Spirit. You have saved me, and are cleansing me, for you are a loving and holy God. I praise your name, so that others may know you as well. Amen.

This model can take on a number of unique characteristics, because God’s people are unique characters. The model is there, for those that struggle with the words, and those who can apply its intention as an outline for effective praying. 

So my challenge for you this week to is work through this prayer each day. Using it as a guide, pray it everyday this week with different words, but the same structure. If you stumble, praise God that it isn’t required for salvation, but work through it. Prayer is one of those expectations that Jesus has, and through it, we may come closer to him in relationship. 

Let us be a praying people. That the glory of God is lifted up, the needs of ourselves and the people around us are brought before him, and that his worship is sounded from the lips of his people. Amen.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Conquest, Infiltrate, Revolt, or Collapse: How Israel Came to Canaan


In the following paper, I have been assigned the thought-provoking task to briefly explore the hypotheses concerning the arrival of the nation of Israel into the land of Canaan. This brief paper will examine four hypotheses that scholars have wrestled with for the last century. These hypotheses are military conquest, peaceful infiltration, peasant revolt, and societal collapse. The first two hypotheses deal with Israel being an outside force that comes into the land of Canaan. The second two look at Israel as an indigenous population within the land of Canaan. In the following paper, we will briefly explore each hypothesis on its own merits, by looking at how scholars present both archaeological and textual data for their case. We will then conclude by examining both the biblical framework given for Israel’s entrance into Canaan, and which, if any, best matches this biblical framework. At the end of this brief exploration of this topic, the hope is to see how the hypothesis’ of modern scholarly work in light of both textual and archeological evidence and see which one comes closest to the biblical description, or if a modified hypothesis is needed. 

Due to the restrictive nature of the paper and of the subject matter in the following discussion, we will not go to great lengths in dealing with dates and archaeological details. Therefore, the reader is encouraged to supplement their study into such topics by reading the cited sources in this paper. However, one assumption that is made in regards to this paper must be quickly addressed. Due to the limitations, a discussion on dates is beyond this writing. Therefore a date of the 13th century is assumed, with the acknowledgment that scholars dispute this date. Yet, for the purposes of this writing, the assumption is not made lightly but rather to keep simple the exploration of the topic at hand.


The first hypothesis that we will cover is one that has been traditionally put forth. The conquest theory is most associated with the teachings of W.F. Albright and Yigael Yadin. The former from America and the latter from Israel. The conquest hypothesis observes the words and actions given in the biblical account of how the Israelite nation made their way into the land of Canaan. The conquest model puts forth that the Israelites went into Canaan forcibly and conquered the land relatively quickly; this was done through both a southern and northerner campaign. As David Howard rightly points out, “An important backdrop to all the episodes in this section is Deut 20:16– 18.” In passages such as Deuteronomy 20, it seems clear that the Israelites’ movement into Canaan would be one of war and death. In addition to this, early in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 7, we read, “You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” Joseph Coleson puts a point on this understanding that the land of Canaan was to be taken as a sweeping military conquest, “Moreover, in a number of places in the Pentateuch, God seems to command such a total destruction of the population of Canaan.” Paul Benware agrees with this point when he writes, “nations inside of [Israel’s] boundaries were to be totally destroyed, and no treaties or covenants could be made with them.”

In addition to biblical support, proponents of the conquest model point to archaeological evidence to support the theory. As Helene Dallaire observes, “Scholars who support this view point to archaeological data that reveal a thirteenth-century destruction of several cities in Canaan.” Dallaire cite these destroyed cities as Bethal, Debir, Eglon, Hazor, and Lachish. This, then, would make it seem that the conquest model has sturdy footing on both biblical and archeological legs.

Yet, as Dallaire writes, “Scholars who challenge this view raise several objections.” One of these objections is that, “The book of Joshua mentions only two cities that suffered total destruction during the conquest; thus, evidence of a major military conquest is barely evident.” In fact, in his article, “Archaeology and the Israelite’ Conquest,’” William Dever challenges the theory of conquest based on archaeological data. Dever states that “Since the infancy of modern topographical research and archaeology more than a century ago, biblical scholars and archaeologists have sought to locate the numerous cities said to have been taken and to identify 13th-12th century ‘destruction layers’ that might be attributed to incoming Israelites.” Dever goes on to write that, in so far as the archaeological data reveals, “there is no conclusive data to support the notion that Israelites were the agents of destruction.” 

It is here that a problem occurs. It would seem that where proponents see clear evidence in the biblical account of the conquest model, the archaeological data does not line up. Yet, the fault may not lie in the biblical account but rather the interpretation of it. Though a passage like Deuteronomy 20 seems to make it clear that total destruction, an almost cleansing of the land as it were, is what was suppose to happen, other passages reveal that this would not be the case. Exodus 23 gives us insight into how the process of Israel’s movement into the land of Canaan would proceed. The writer of Exodus pens these words, “29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” This reveals that the conquest of Canaan would not necessarily be a glorious campaign where all people are either killed or drive out but would be a gradual generational work. So the conquest model, though trying to keep to the biblical account of a military entrance into the land of Canaan, does not seem to account for factors.

Peaceful Infiltration

The second hypothesis that approaches the topic from an external entrance point of view, is peaceful infiltration. As the conquest view was championed in both America and Israel, the peaceful infiltration theory was being advocated by Albrecht Alt and would be alluring to European scholars. The peaceful infiltration hypothesis purports that there was no military conquest of the land of Canaan by the Israelite nation; instead, the Israelites came into Canaan gradually and peacefully. Concerning the peaceful infiltration hypothesis, which he calls the “Settlement Model,” Howard writes, “the Israelites are seen to have been loosely connected to pastoral nomads from independent tribes who gradually infiltrated Canaan from the desert and settled there in a largely peaceful enterprise. And conflicts with Canaanites were certainly not military in nature but rather natural ones between settled farmers and incoming nomads.”

From an archeological perceptive, the peaceful infiltration theory seems to have some footing. Dever points out that there are several villages in the hill country of Israel, that like those described in the book of Judges. These hill country villages have been dated to Iron Age I. These he believes could be Israelite villages, which would point to a peaceful invasion, rather than a military conquest. Dever concludes that “If that proposition should be sustained by further data, these discoveries would constitute the most significant correlation between archeology and biblical history.”

Yet, Dallaire draws our attention that this peaceful infiltration does not hold to the biblical description of events. True Israel was nomadic before entering Canaan, but as Dallaire recognizes, “[The peaceful infiltration theory] dismisses the archaeological evidence that reveals a sudden increase in population in Canaan during the thirteen-century B.C.” Howard appears to agree with Dallaire when he writes, “This model was based on a traditio-historical approach, which exhibited a thoroughgoing skepticism concerning the accuracy of both the biblical and archaeological records. It was never accepted by those with confidence in either or both of these records, and it has been severely criticized from both directions.”

Though the peaceful infiltration seems to have some merit, the biblical record and archeological deficiency in connecting the Israelites to the land over time seem to bring the theory to a stop. Thus, what seemed at first to have sure footing, turns out to be another theory that cannot account for biblical and archeological evidence. 

 Peasant Revolt

Whereas the first two hypotheses approached the issue by taking into consideration the biblical account of Israel being an outside group entering into the land of Canaan, the following two hypotheses dismiss this approach, opting, instead, to view the Israelites as an indigenous people group already established in the land of Canaan. The first of these two indigenous approaches is the peasant revolt model. Dever describes the peasant revolt as those in the Canaanite community who were nonconforming and did not own or had their land taken from them somehow. These peasants then “colonized new areas in the hinterland and there adopted a less strafed social order better suited to an agrarian economy.” Geroge Mendenhall, the scholar who introduced the peasant revolt hypothesis, gives the reason for the conquest as being the product of religion. “The Hebrew conquest of Palestine took place because a religious movement and motivation created a solidarity around a large group of pre-existent social units, which was able to challenge and defeat the dysfunctional complex of cities which dominated the whole of Palestine and Syria at the end of the Bronze Age.”

Dever claims that this hypothesis seems to be “well attested to” in the archaeological evidence found in the Canaanite regions. Yet, he does admit that the “force presumed to be behind this movement is not susceptible to direct archaeological illumination.” Though Dever does see evidence for this hypothesis in some of the archeological data, the hypothesis is based more on contemporary sociology than in dealing with the biblical text. What can be seen in Mendenhall’s view, from a textual perspective, is that at some point, several ethnic groups came together and began to intermarry. Israelite and Canaanite ethnic groups intermarrying is biblically documented in such passages as Judges 3:5-8, Ezra 9:2, and Hosea 7:8. Therefore, as Howard points out, a proceeding power struggle within the Canaanite cities could have led to the preparation of Israelite victory in Canaan. The power struggle would then lead to the merging of Israel with the other nations, as described throughout the Old Testament.

Societal Collapse

The final hypothesis that will be discussed in this paper, is the second of the two indigenous approaches, the social collapse model. Gordon McConville is a scholar who holds that to Israel being a sub-group that emerged from within Canaan society. “The archaeology, rather, is thought to suggest that Israel was part of the indigenous population, and emerged into a distinct group out of a specific social and cultural context.” From McConville’s writings, he believes Israel gradually came to be as a “distant group” and that the Joshua story is written to given an account of this emergence by attaching religious meaning to it. With the understanding of McConville’s sub-group emergence, we now turn our attention to the final hypothesis, social collapse. Dallaire looks at Dever’s work in Who Were the Early Israelites?, and sees a decline in society. The social collapse is attributed to Egyptian taxes on trade routes and the influx of the Sea People. Due to these factors, an exodus, as it were, occurred. However, this was not the exodus of the biblical text, but rather people feeling from urban areas to the hills. Dever combines the archeology of the Canaanite world with the archeology of the hill country to bring both indigenous hypotheses together.

Dever admits that there must have been some “military action” between the subgroup of Israel and their fellow Canaanites, but nothing on the scale that we see in the book of Joshua. Thus, Dever’s use of the biblical text is limited to helping us identify that there is a people group called Israel. For Dever, this is where textual analysis seems to end. Therefore Dever concludes, “We can only suppose that in the cultural vacuum following the collapse of Canaanite society in the 12 century B.C., there arose in central Palestine a new ethnic consciousness and solidarity, a new polity, a new social order. The emergence of this ethnicity need not have been accompanied by a ’revolt’ at all; it may be viewed rather as simply a normal and even unpredictable historical development in the evolution of complex society.” Dever seems to seek to combine both his and Mendenhall’s hypothesis through the archeological evidence, apart from the biblical text, in what he may describe as the “converging of histories.”

Reconciling the Hypothesis 

Each of the above hypotheses has their own strengths and weaknesses. Out of the four premises reviewed in this paper, the conquest model takes the most strict stance on the biblical text, reading it in a literal military conquest and destruction of the Canaanite land. Yet, the conquest hypothesis seems to falter with the archeological evidence showing that a complete destruction of the people of Canaan did not occur. On the other hand, the peaceful infiltration hypothesis does seem to give us a little more archaeological standing; yet it does not consider the very clear military engagements that the book of Joshua puts forth. The final two hypotheses almost wholly disregard the textual evidence favoring a nearly strict understanding of the archaeological information. The question then becomes, can these hypotheses be reconciled to give both an accurate view of the biblical text and the evidence from archaeology? 

One of the essential steps to understand biblical and archaeological evidence is to step backward. A step back from the text needs to occur, so that a correct reading of the text may occur. As Coleson writes in his commentary, Joshua, “we must begin reading these texts for what they were intended to say, by their own literary and historical canons, and not for what our own unexamined presuppositions have imposed upon them for too long.”

David Howard helps do just that when he writes, “The book’s [Joshua’s] central message—that of Israel’s possession of the promised land in fulfillment of God’s promises—is found in every one of its aspects in the early chapters of the book. The land was God’s gift to his people; he was its legal owner and could give it to whom he willed. He was in process of giving it to the Israelites now (1:2), and yet he had already given it to them (1:3). The already-accomplished nature of the act emphasizes the connections with earlier times and that God had already given Israel legal title to the land (Gen 12:7; 15:18–20; Deut 1:8,21; etc.). Despite the fact that the Israelites were receiving the land as God’s gift, however, they still had to enter into the land and take possession of it as their inheritance. The battles ahead are deemphasized—after all, the Lord would be giving Israel its victories—but Israel’s taking possession and inheriting the land is foreshadowed in the early chapters.”

Understanding that the central message of the Israel’s acquisition of Canaan was God’s gifting the land to Israel through their taking possession of it is an essential detail in converging hypotheses to be more in line with the biblical and archeological text. The biblical text is unambiguous. The Israelites entered into the land through military conquest. Yet, the biblical text also informs us, “10 And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant…” Thus, we see that the intention was never to clear the land of all human influence. Instead, the meaning that is clear from the text, is that there was to be an avoidance of destroying buildings. Avoiding the destruction of all human productions can be seen from the textual evidence; only the cities of Jericho, Ai, and Hazor are said to have been burned when the Israelites entered the land. Here the archeological data intersects with the biblical text. In their commentaries on Joshua, Howard, Longman, and Dillard all show that Jericho fell in the Late Bronze Age. In addition, if the sites of Ai and Hazor are correct, then the excavations of those sites point to the cities being burned in the same period.

The point of the conquest was not to destroy the already established builds and the like, but that this work would take time. Provan, Long, and Longman point out that though the book of Joshua’s first half focuses on the military campaigns of destroying the Canaanites, the uses of words such as “subjugation” and “occupation” are textual clues that let the reader know that the conquest was not going to be swift. This subjugation and occupation would take time and effort and would take, perhaps, generations to accomplish. Richard Hess agrees with this understanding when he writes, “However, it is clear from the text that the extermination of the Canaanites will be a gradual process and this is understood as part of the divine plan for Israel (v. 22).” 

By gathering all of the information from each hypothesis, we can, perhaps, make a better one. In an environment where the land of Canaan was experiencing the taxation of their trade routes by Egypt in the south and the influx of Sea Peoples to the west, a new group known as Israel came into the land of Canaan from the east. The urban centers were not prepared for open war due to unrest from the peasant classes. The Israelites went into the land quickly and became the dominant power. Whereas they were told to clear out the inhabitants of the land, they failed to do so. They were instead intermarrying with the locals and mixing their religions. In this hypothesis, we can see aspects from each of the four discussed models that seek to integrate biblical and archaeological evidence. 


Being roughly thirty-three hundred years detached from the events described in the biblical account, an unambiguous retailing of the historical events surrounding the rise of Israel in Canaan are all but concealed to the modern student. The conquest, peaceful infiltration, peasant revolt, and societal collapse hypotheses seem to see aspects of the tapestry of the historical record. Yet with each additional archaeological discovery and with new insights into the biblical text, a clearer picture of the events of biblical history comes into focus. Scholars will continue to refine their hypothesis through the evidence available and their own worldview, and the discussion will continue. This discussion should point us to diligently seek the truth that the Bible purports, for if the Bible is true, then it contains the very words that point to life. Through the biblical account, a person may trust that what it says happed truly occurred, and that what it says will happen, will someday come to be.


Benware, Paul. Survey of the Old Testament- Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Vol. Revised. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2001).

Coleson, Joseph E., Lawson G. Stone, Jason K. Driesbach, and Philip Wesley Comfort. Joshua. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 2012).

Dallaire, Helene. 2012. Joshua. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic. Intro. Sect. 5c.,shib&db=nlebk&AN=1884503&site=eds-live&scope=site.

George Mendenhall, “Hebrew Conquest of Palestine”; idem, The Tenth Generation: The Origins of the Biblical Tradition: 73-73, quotes in Provan, Ian, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman III. A Biblical History of Israel. 2nd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2015), 192.

Gordon McConville, and Stephen Williams. Joshua. The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).

Howard, David M. Joshua, New American Commentary, vol. 5. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998).

Longman, Tremper, and Raymond B. Dillard. An Introduction to the Old Testament. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).

Provan, Ian, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman III. A Biblical History of Israel. 2nd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2015).

Richard S. Hess. Joshua. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Nottingham: IVP Academic, 2008.

Walton, John H., Mark W. Chavalas, and Victor Harold Matthews. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2000).

William Dever. Anchor Bible Dictionary, “Israel, History of (Archaeology and the “Conquest”)” vol 3. (New York: Doubleday, 1992).

Matthew Series, Week 11 - "See Me!"

  Getting recognized is a satisfying feeling. When you accomplish something, especially if it took a lot of work, it feels good when someone notices it and compliments you on it. On the other side of that, when you do something that takes a lot of work, and no one recognizes it, it can be upsetting.

We as adults have these experiences when we clean the house, and our spouse says thank you. Or when we trim the trees and the neighbor tells us they’re looking good. Whereas adults do things hoping to be recognized, kids call us to recognize them. Daddy look what I can do, as they summersault for the 100th time. Mommy look what I made, as she walks into the kitchen with food everywhere and some burnt pancakes on a plate. 

There is a deep need to be recognized when we do good, and it’s this need to be recognized that brings us back into our Matthew series today, where we’ll be picking up in the Gospel starting in chapter 6 verse 1. And as we open up to Matthew 6:1, lets recap where we are in our summer series. 

For the first eight weeks we returned, time and time again, to the identity of Jesus. We saw people proclaim who Jesus was. We saw challenges against Jesus’ identity. And we saw Jesus’ own revealing of who he was. With Jesus’ identity clear for us, in the first four chapters, we moved our way into Jesus’ first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount.

In the introduction of Jesus’ sermon, we saw that the identity and mission of Jesus’ disciples is couched in Jesus’ identity. Who we are as Christians, must be surrounded by who Jesus is. If we are going to be greatly blessed, and the salt and light of the world, then we must realize that we cannot do anything outside of Jesus. 

With this is mind, we walked through Jesus’ first section, which helps us understand the standard that we are to meet, if we are going to be perfect as God has called us to be. We saw the depth of the standard, and how it is impossible to achieve on our own. Because it is not merely an action based standard, but cuts to the very heart. With this understanding of the impossibility of reaching the standard, the first words of Jesus’ sermon echo, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is these words that remind us that when we recognize the impossibility of reaching the standard, we recognize our own bankruptcy in being righteousness enough for God. Therefore we must rely on him for salvation; which is God imparting his goodness and righteousness to us, through the sacrifice of Jesus.

With that brief reminder of where we’e in Matthew, let’s turn now to Matthew chapter 6, starting in verse 1.

“1 Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10  your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

In Jesus’ sermon, he starts out identifying his disciples and their mission. Then Jesus shows us the depth of the standard that God requires, and by doing so, reminding us that we must be fully reliant on him. But though we are reliant on God for our salvation, we are still called to do good and to walk in righteousness. 

This is why Paul states in Ephesians 2, “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (v.8-10).”

Salvation, God’s imparting his righteousness to us via Jesus’ sacrifice, which is his goodness, is not done through our good deeds or works, but only through his grace. Flowing out of that secured salvation, which is based on God’s goodness, we are to do good.

And in this section we are told how to go about doing good. How to put God’s goodness into action. And what Jesus shows us here is that there are two ways to go about doing good. One comes from a place that desires the recognition that comes from people, and the other is the desire to be recognized by God. 

Jesus wants us to seek the recognition that comes from God, rather than people. To illustrate this, he gives us three examples.

In verses 1-4, he tells us to give to those in need in secret. In verses 5-17, he tells us to pray in secret. Verses 16-18 he tell us to fast in secret. In Jesus’ day, people would sound trumpets, make lofty and flowery prayers, and dress disheveled so that others would look at them and think them more spiritual. This happens today as well. But Jesus is telling his disciples, that’s not his way. His way is to do spiritual things without the desire of being seen by people.

Yet, this seems to contradict what Jesus said in his introduction. Early, in Matthew 5:16, Jesus states, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

So what is it, should we do these things where no one will see, or should we do them where everyone would see? And the answer must follow what Jesus just said in his first section. In the first section we covered last week, everything was a heart issue. Murder isn’t just an action, but it’s holding anger. Adultery isn’t just the act, but the desire of lust. 

Here it’s the same thing. If we giving, praying, fasting, so that others may see us and glorifying God, then we will not boast, or proclaim, or do anything extra, other than simply, giving, praying, and fasting. In this way our good deeds will be seen before people, and they will glorify God and not glorify us.

Yet, if we our boasting about giving, praying, fasting  or any other spiritual activity, so that people will look at us and glorify us, that’s where we run into a problem. We are seeking man’s glory, and not God’s glory. 

A few years back the church was asked to clean up down by Love’s Truck Stop. A dozen or so of us went down and did it. A person pulled over and asked, what group we were with, and one of members said, “With the Alliance Church.” The person replied with something along the lines of, “That’s great, God bless you.” And they left. We took pictures and shared it with our brothers and sisters on Facebook, but never more than that. And even with those pictures, it was always pointing to God for the glory. 

On the other hand, I have seen several times churches share how their feeding people, clothing people, and more, and they’re sharing it on every social media site they can, so that people will see their good deeds. The problem is not the sharing, but rather, when there’s no glory given to God.

I’ve shared this before, but years ago, I read in the newspaper how a church in town was doing something. It was some sort of youth thing, and the paper was saying how great it was that a church was involved with the youth. My sin nature instantly went into overdrive, and I began to think, we work with the teens every week. Our church spends tens of thousands of dollars, on events for the youth of this town. And it’s these people that got the recognition? Maybe I should take pictures and put them in the newspaper every month! 

And that’s one of those times in my life where God checked me, like a hockey player into the glass. It was very clear, that I was not going to do that, because then I would be seeking the praise of people and not him. This is why we don’t put out in the newspaper or social media what we have done. 

We’ll advertise for upcoming events, but we’ll never share, outside the church itself, what we have done. If others share it, that’s fine, but we do not seek the praise of people for doing good, but rather we seek to glorify God.

This is why Jesus then turns our attention to treasure. Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

A lot of times this passage is connecting good deeds with treasure, as if a good deeds are a coin in a treasure chest in heaven. Sort of like a retirement investment. Bigger house in heaven when we’re done, that sort of thing.

But in connection to what we’ve seen, the key isn’t the treasure, but the heart. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In other words, where is our heart? Is it with the praise of people? If it is, then we can go on making a show of our spiritual lives. We can sound the trumpet, putting our good deeds on Facebook for all the world to see. We can have prayers that are full of colorful words and last 15 mins. We can fast and do spiritual things, all the while letting people know how hard we have it. Then we will get what our heart desires, the praise of people. Their praise is our treasure, but that treasure is short lived and will be destroyed. 

On the other hand, if our heart is for the glory of God, then we will give, without the need to have others know. Our prayers will be heartfelt, with words that we might stumble over and might only be a sentence long. Our fasting and other spiritual activities will be done with no show involved, and without people even knowing that we are engaging in them. Our heart, then, is not with people’s praise but with God. Our treasure is secured in heaven where the praise that we were to have received goes to where it’s due, back to God, and we’re delighted in it. 

It’s when we are in a position where we seek the praise of God over our own, that the words of the Bible come alive. James states, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (4:10).” Peter says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (5:6).” And Jesus’ own words later in Matthew, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (23:12).”

Jesus is showing us that we can either have the praise of people, or point others to praise God. If we seek the praise of people, as Jesus says in verse 2 of our passage, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

But if we seek for others to praise God, then the words of Jesus in Revelation 22:12, will excite us, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

God is calling us to seek his eternal rewards, but that means that we cannot seek the finite ones. The glory of God in eternity is a greater treasure, than the temporary praise of people here right now. Yeah, I know, I want to be seen too. I like being told, good job, but I know that those words are fleeting, and it only takes one mess up for the praise of people to turn to venomous gossip. 

My challenge for you this week, is to step back from all of your activities. And ask the question, do I do these for the praise of people, or to point people to praise God? Do I give and tell people about it? Do I pray with flowery words? Do I do spiritual acts, so that others can tell? Do I live my life in a way that seeks to have people congratulate me in my relationship with God? Or do I give when no one is looking? Do I pray with heartfelt words? Do I do spiritual things without anyone noticing? And if they do, do I point them back to God so that he can receive praise?

This week I want to challenge you to go before God and work through the three examples that Jesus gives, and ask God, where is my treasure? Where is my heart? Is it with the praise of man, or with the praise of God? And if you want to go just a little deeper, expand those questions beyond Jesus’ examples to other areas of your life.

Jesus is calling us to seek his approval, his recognition and not the worlds, for it’s in heaven where I treasure is located, Jesus himself. Amen.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Epistle of 1 Peter, An Introduction


In the following paper, I have been assigned the gratifying task to speak briefly on the background information on the epistle known as 1 Peter. In this brief paper, I will explore the epistle’s authorship, date, the location of the writing or provenance, and the original destination it was written to, followed by a look at its purpose, literary plan, and finally, a brief look at its theological themes. Though this will not be an extensive dive into the text, I hope that this cursory examination can give a casual reader of the Bible a sure footing as they read through the epistle.


Let us first look at the authorship of the epistle entitled 1 Peter. The opening verse of the epistle states who the author is, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” From the beginning, the one that claims to be the author states that he is the Apostle Peter. This would be the same apostle that we read of in the Gospels and the book of Acts. In his book, The Message of 1 Peter, Edmund P. Clowney writes, “The address of the letter claims the apostle Peter as the author, a claim that should not be discounted.” Clowney says that the early Church had rejected other works that claimed Peter as the author, yet here they do not. Yet, in David A. deSilva’s work, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation, we are reminded that “the authorship of this letter is a matter of debate.” The reason for this debate, deSilva says, is due to at least six observations: Peter is uneducated, the Septuagint is for Old Testament quotes, no personal experiences with Jesus are shared, there is a close association with Pauline letters, Rome is equated to Babylon comparison that is brought up after Jerusalem destruction in AD 70, and the situations that are addressed in the letter seem to correspond closer to late first and early second century problems in the Church. As Clowney notes in his writing, “The issue of Peter’s proficiency in Greek has been made the key objection to his authorship.” Due to the brevity of this paper, we shall only answer this one argument with one portion of it, pointing the reader to both Clowney and deSilva for a more profound handling of the other responses. As both Clowney and deSilva point out, though Peter was uneducated, he could have learned and grown in his ability to write in the common language of his day over time. Clowney points out that the Greek is not “polished,” and deSilva argues that the writing reveals that the author’s first language “was probably Semitic.”

In her work, “The Syntax of 1 Peter: Just How Good is the Greek?”, Dr. Karen H. Jobes reveals the underlying assumption, especially of those of us in modern-day American culture. Dr. Jobes writes, “There seems to be a presumption that Galilean fisherman were uneducated, and relative to other segments of the population, this assumption is probably more true than not. However, the further assumption that only formally educated people can develop a high level of proficiency in a second language probably rings truer to North Americans, who by-and-large acquire a second language through formal academic courses.” Dr. Jobes goes on to write that there is not enough current information to make a conclusive determination of just how “pervasive” the areas of Palestine were with the Greek language.

Though there are other arguments for and against the Apostle Peter as the author of 1 Peter, a traditional view of the apostle as the epistle’s composer is a strong position until overwhelming evidence is presented to contradict this time honored view. Therefore, for this summary look, we will move forward with the understanding that the epistle of 1 Peter was written by the Apostle Peter, the eyewitness disciple who walked with Jesus in the Gospels.


From the author, we now turn our attention to the date of the writing. Understanding that the Apostle Peter, who answered Jesus’ question of “Who do you say I am,” is, in fact, the author of the epistle, we have already placed the writing within a brief window of time. In his commentary I and II Peter and Jude, Lewis R. Donelson argues for a late date to the letter by pointing to the “Domitian turmoil.” Donelson uses the idea of persecution in 1 Peter (4:12-19) as a reason for connecting the epistle to the “Domitian turmoil.”

As we already established in the above section, there is no reason to reject the Apostle Peter as the author of 1 Peter. Though not writing to counter Donelson, Craig S. Keener puts the “Domitian turmoil” into perspective. Keener writes, “Three basic periods of persecution have been suggested as the background: the time of Trajan (early second century), the time of Domitian…and the time of Nero, which would be the time of Peter’s martyrdom.” Whereas Donelson sees the persecution spoken about in 1 Peter as connecting to Emperor Domitian, we see that there are two other possibilities. One could be under Emperor Trajan, which, as Keener points out, would be even later than the 80s of Donelson, into the early second century. This saw a situation in which Pliny the Younger was punishing Christians in the area of Bithynia under the rule of Roman Emperor Trajan. Though there is persecution going on in this case, in a letter to Pliny, Trajan writes, “For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out.” Through this correspondence, we can see that this type persecution does not seem to be proactive but rather an impassive one. 

Yet, there is another time of “turmoil” that fits within in the time of Peter’s life; this would be under the rule of Emperor Nero. It is from the Roman historian Tacitus’ (c. 55-117 AD) writings that we know that a fire destroyed a large portion of the city of Rome. This fire happened in 64 AD and was rumored to be caused by Nero to rebuild Rome himself. Tacitus writes, “Therefore, in order to abolish that rumor, Nero falsely accused and executed with the most exquisite punishments those people called Christians, who were infamous for their abominations.” The turmoil for the Church following this would have a more significant impact on Christians in Rome and throughout the Roman Empire. Unlike Trajan’s persecution, which was impassive, the persecution of Emperor Nero was aggressive. By taking both the author question and the date of the writing together, we can see that a window of pre-65 AD would be acceptable. DeSilva states that “If Peter substantially wrote the letter, and if the tradition of his martyrdom under Nero is 65-55 CE is correct, a date before that would be required.”

So, though there are arguments for a later date, as is the case with Donelson, a date within the life of the Apostle Peter fits with the turmoil of the time.


With the author and date in focus, we can now turn our attention to the location from which the letter was penned, its provenance. Keener states that “It is widely agreed that ‘Babylon’ (5:13) is a cryptic name for Rome.” Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles agree with Keener’s interpretation, in their book, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament, that Rome is Babylon, by giving two alternatives that would not make sense. In The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, we are told of a Babylon in Mesopotamia and one in Egypt. It is rightly pointed out that at this time, Babylon of Mesopotamian would be “all but deserted” and that the outpost at Babylon of Egypt was “insignificant.” 

If we consider the later writing of the book of Revelation, we can see this connection between Rome and Babylon, which Keener states is “undoubtedly” there. This would then place 1 Peter earlier than Revelation, when taking into account the author and date s discussed above. In addition to this, Keener also points us towards other Jewish works that make this connection. Therefore placing the writing location in Rome would, like its dating, put it in an understandable point in time, due to Peter being in Rome in the 60s, experiencing the turmoil under Emperor Nero. With the author, date, and location in place, this organically leads us into our next topic.


In the opening of the epistle, not only do we see the authorial claim of the Apostle Peter, but we also receive the destination of the letter. The first verse of the 1 Peter reads, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” 

In this verse, Thomas R. Schreiner shares several essential data points in his commentary, I and II Peter, Jude. First, Schreiner points out that Pontus and Bithynia were a single province during the time of the writing. Still, by separating the two, “Peter probably wrote generally, designating a geographical area,” rather than by its shared province name. Schreiner puts this forth because, as he states, if Peter had been writing later, he would probably have included additional cities in the province. Secondly, Schreiner puts forward that the list is “roughly a circle” by which a currier would make his trip. The list ends in Bithynia, which Schreiner writes, “We would expect a person coming from the sea to land in Bithynia first and then go on to Pontus…Perhaps Silvanus planned his visit to conclude in Bithynia so he could sail away to his next destination after completing the journey.”

The physical destination is evident compared to the designated addressees. Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles write, “The more difficult question is, Who were the recipients of the letter?” This is because, within the text (1:1; 2:1), there are hints that the intended audience are Jews in the diaspora. Yet at the same time, other clues (1:18; 4:3) use terminology that, as Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles write, would be “improbable that Peter would have referred to Judaism is this way.” Therefore, the more likely target audience is most likely Gentile Christians that have come out of being like the Gentiles and have become grafted into the people of God. 

With the background information concerning the letter now at the forefront of our attention, we focus on the epistle’s purpose.


The importance of who the letter was written to cannot be understated; this is due to its bearing on the purpose to which it was written. Speaking of text found in 4:19 of 1 Peter, Wayne A. Grudem in his commentary, 1 Peter, writes, “Here are found the themes of suffering..and trust in God…moreover, such trust in God should also be accompanied by obedience, for they should contain to ‘do right.’” The themes that Grudem sights from the epistle speak to a universal application of Peter’s first letter. The themes of suffering and trusting in God both reach back into the Gospels, “In the world you will have tribulation,” “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” And Grudem’s pointing out that trust must be “accompanied by obedience” is keeping with Jesus’ words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Rightly then, Reinhard Feldmeier, noticing the who that the letter is written to, writes, “The reference situation, which doubtless plays a decisive role in 1 Peter, is, then, a general reference: It concerns not an individual Christian community but the situation of the communities in Asia Minor altogether and even beyond this, the situation of all ‘brothers and sisters in the world’ (5:9).”  

This purpose of addressing the realities of following Christ closely in obedience no matter what the situation speaks to the particular events of turmoil that we have previously referenced above and the universal task that Christians are called. Peter sends his letter to strengthen those believers who are about to enter into substantial struggles, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, this letter is given to us in our day to “Stand firm in it,” which is the grace of the true God. 

By looking at the full scope of what we have covered so far in dealing with the author, the date, the epistle’s provenance, destination, and purpose, we will now turn our attention to the literary structure of the writing.

Literary Structure

Lewis Donelson believes that, next to authorship, the literary structure of 1 Peter is “the most persistent debate among readers.” The debate seems one-sided, tilting toward Donelson because Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles write that the opposite is true. “Remarkably, there is a rather large consensus regarding the structure of 1 Peter in recent scholarly work.” When outlining the epistle, Donelson, outlines 1 Peter very closely to how Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles outline the epistle. In fact, in Grudem’s work, we again see an outline that is very similar to the author’s above. All three works roughly divide the epistle into four or five sections depending on where one divides 4:7-19. 

The actual “debate” seems to be, not with the outline, but rather Donelson’s view of 1 Peter’s narrative overall. Whereas Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles view 1 Peter as having a coherent narrative push, Donelson writes, “The narrative disorder of 1 Peter had led many readers to question its literary unity.” Donelson approaches this disunity by considering the arguments of 1 Peter as having two separate sources due to a “shift in tone between 4:11 and 4:12” and “the presence of baptismal imagery.”

Thomas Shreiner takes up these arguments more in-depth in his work on 1 Peter, concluding that “These theories were once quite popular in critical circles, but now most scholars reject them. The disfavor with such theories, which were once embraced by many, reminds us that views that lack persuasion can seem quite compelling for a period of time.” 

Though still believing that 1 Peter is in “disorder,” after evaluating the two arguments, Donelson concludes that “almost all readers of 1 Peter now see the letter as a unified piece.” We can agree with this statement that, though there are scholars out there that still put forth the disunity of 1 Peter, the arguments does not hold when scrutinized. The epistle is indeed unified, and this unification comes around the purpose for which it was written.

Through our brief excursion into the background information, and the purpose and structure of 1 Peter, we can now survey several theological themes from the epistle of 1 Peter.

Theological Themes

Understanding that the Apostle Peter, writing from Rome during the time in which Emperor Nero began a persecution of the Church, we can see a clear theme of encouragement through suffering present itself. Peter calls the readers the “elect”  in the opening verse, pointing them towards the understanding that God has called them to a time such as this. This is followed by Peter focusing the readers’ attention on Christ and the “living hope through the resurrection.” By calling attention to the resurrection, Peter elicits the readers to such words of Christ as, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” The readers have assurance in Christ that even if they were to die from the persecution, that they will eventually face, they have eternal life in Christ through his resurrection. It is in the hope of the resurrection that disciples of Christ overcome fear in facing persecution.

The call to holy living in their spiritual lives, both through obedience to governmental authority and relationships, run through chapters two and three. This holy living is then followed by action. Believers are to act as Christ would, by loving one’s enemies and doing good to those who would persecute you. These actions will keep the reader from being devoured by the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion.” All this culminates in the encouragement to “Stand firm,” in the final greetings of the letter. 

With the understanding of 1 Peter being focused on standing firm in the “context of suffering,” Donelson writes, “Suffering is a testing and refining fire. The purpose of theology in 1 Peter is to offer guidance and assurance in the fact of this test.”

In various moments throughout the Church’s history, this letter has rung true. From the time it was first sent to those Roman provinces, to the times the contemporary Church is facing today. Peter’s inspired words encourage us to stand in the face of persecution because of what Christ has done for us.


By understanding the author, his time, place, audience, and purpose, we can see how God continues to work through his Word today. As those first readers faced down the oncoming persecution in their midsts, we can find solace that by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells God’s people, we too can face what is ahead. We can resist the devouring lion and stand firm in the grace of God, and we too can have the peace of Christ that the Apostle Peter points us towards. This is not due to our strength but by the power of God Almighty. Let us, therefore, thank God for the writing of the Apostle Peter, whom God used to encourage both his fellow believers in his time and those that have come to walk the narrow path in ours.

                                                                                        Sources Cited

Clowney, Edmund P.. The Message of 1 Peter. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England: IVP Academic, 1988.

Crossway Bibles. ESV: The MacArthur Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2010.

deSilva, David A.. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation. Westmont: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Donelson, Lewis R. I and II Peter and Jude. New Testament Library. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.

Feldmeier, Reinhard. The First Letter of Peter: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Translated by Peter H. Davids. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008.

Grudem, Wayne A. 1 Peter. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Nottingham, England: IVP Academic, 2009.


Jobes, Karen H. “The Syntax of 1 Peter: Just How Good is the Greek?” Bulletin for Biblical Research 13, no. 2 (2003): 159–173.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. 2nd ed. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014.

Köstenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016.

“Pliny and Trajan letters,” Accessed June 11, 2021,

Schreiner, Thomas R. I and II Peter, Jude. New American Commentary, vol. 37. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003.

“Tacitus (c. 55 -117 CE): Nero’s persecution of the Christians,” Accessed June 11, 2021,