A Handbook on the First Letter from Peter


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The First Letter of Peter is one of the most difficult books to translate in the whole New Testament. It is written in very formal Greek. Many of the sentences within the letter are long and complicated, so much so that it is rather difficult to be sure of the logical relationships within a sentence. A good example is 1.3-5, as the rendering in the RSV shows:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Such a long sentence must be broken down into shorter senten¬ces, and the logical relationships between these sentences must be determined before any meaningful translation is possible.

The letter also contains a lot of implicit actors (su¬bjects) and goals (predicates). In the first chapter alone, there are about twenty of these cases. Among these are:
“born anew” (verse 3)
“kept in heaven for you” (verse 4)
“ready to be revealed in the last time” (verse 5)
“the outcome of your faith” (verse 9)
“the revelation of Jesus Christ” (verse 13)
“obedient children” (verse 14)
“you were ransomed” (verse 18)
“He was destined before the foundation of the world” (verse 20)

It is important for the translator to determine the appropriate actors and goals and, where deemed necessary, to make these explicit in the translation.

A further source of difficulty is the presence of many theological and technical terms. In 1.2 alone, the following technical expressions are used: “chosen,” “destined,” “sanctif¬ied,” “sprinkling with his blood,” “grace,” “peace.” In other parts of the letter we find the following additional terms: “faith” (1.5), “a royal priest¬hood” (2.9), “a holy nation” (2.9), “flesh” (4.1, 2), “the living and abiding word of God” (1.23), “holy priesthood” (2.5), “stewards of God’s varied grace” (4.10), “unfading crown of glory” (5.4).

For the translator it is important to understand what these terms mean and to determine their actors and goals where these are left implicit in the text.

Two of the most difficult parts of the whole letter, in so far as interpretation is concerned, are 3.18 20, where Christ is described as preaching to the “spirits in prison,” and 4.6, which talks about the gospel being “preached to the dead.” These are treated rather lengthily in the Handbook proper.

Published 1980 Pages 198

Additional information

Weight N/A
Dimensions 24 × 16.5 × 1 cm

Eugene A. Nida and Daniel C. Arichea




Hardback, Paperback