Hints of the Trinity in 1 Peter
We begin a study of 1 Peter today, looking specifically at chapter 1. 1 Peter is an intriguing text that is featured during this Easter season. I've been posting lectionary reflections throughout the season, and there is much to ponder here. While the letter claims to be authored by the Apostle Peter there are a number of reasons to question that claim. At the end of the day, I'm not sure that matters. If, as most scholars assume, the letter dates to around 90 CE, then Peter would have long met his death in Rome under Nero. But that's not why I'm posting here.
What caught my eye, being that I have a Trinitarian bent, is the opening claim made by the author of the letter in verse 2:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Note that Peter speaks of God the Father who has chosen and destined those who have received the letter. They are sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ with whose blood they have been sprinkled. While it's too early in the development of the Christian faith for a fully developed Trinitarian theology to emerge, formulas like this are found throughout the New Testament. They are the building blocks, you might say of the doctrine of the Trinity. It's worth noting that in the rest of chapter one we see references that expand on this original formula. Then there is the intriguing statement in verse 20, that suggests that the mission of Jesus goes back to the foundations of the world, suggesting pre-existence. All of this suggests a form of divine agency. Again, I'm not arguing that Peter had a full understanding of the Trinity, but it is at least suggestive that early Christians posited the idea of Jesus' divine identity and that this gave room for later developments. Joel Green has quite a bit to say about this in his Two Horizon's commentary on 1 Peter. I won't share too much, but this summation is worth considering:
In his references to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the apostle articulates the single aim of God, the certain identity of the path from suffering to glory as the "true grace of God" (5:12), the way of Christ as the hermeneutical perspective by which to render meaningful the paradoxical lives of "chosen strangers in the world," the mediation of God's salvation (past, present, and future) through Christ and the Spirit, the unbroken narrative of God's redemptive work, and the enormity of the divine resources brought to bear on behalf of persons suffering on account of their allegiance to Christ. [Joel B. Green. 1 Peter (Two Horizons New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 2839-2843). Kindle Edition.]
Green notes here the divine commitment to redemption. As I read the letter we call 1 Pewter, the vision at times seems narrower than the one I've embraced. But, whether we read this in a way that suggests that God chooses some and not others, or we read it more broadly, the point is that God is engaged with the world through the work of the Spirit and of Christ.
I titled this as hints of the Trinity for a reason. That's because here is a hint to be explored and pondered to see where it might lead.