a1 Department of Theology and Religion, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK email: [email protected]
Recent developments in textual criticism have encouraged NT scholars to regard the various NT manuscripts not merely as sources of variant readings to enable a reconstruction of the original text but as interpretative renderings with their own intrinsic interest and as important material evidence for early Christianity. Taking up this cue, this paper examines what the two (probably) earliest manuscripts of 1 Peter indicate about the status of this writing, and what early readers took to be its key themes, given the other texts with which it is bound. In both cases, and with some striking overlaps, 1 Peter is regarded as a text focused on the Easter themes of the suffering, martyrdom and vindication of Christ, and the related suffering and hope of his faithful people in a hostile world. These two manuscripts also call for some reconsideration of older scholarship, now widely rejected, which saw 1 Peter as a baptismal homily or paschal liturgy. While these remain unconvincing views of 1 Peter's origins, they do rightly identify themes and connections which the earliest editors and readers evidently also perceived.
* I would like to dedicate this essay, first presented as a paper in the month of his retirement after thirty-six years at the University of Exeter, to my colleague Dr Alastair Logan, and to thank him publicly for his warm collegiality (and fruitful discussions of the topic of this paper!). I would also like to thank the following for their very helpful comments and suggestions: Peter Williams, Peter Head, Stuart Macwilliam, Morwenna Ludlow and Lutz Doering. Research for this essay has also been supported by a Small Research Grant from the British Academy, and library facilities in Cambridge and Heidelberg, for which I would also like to express my sincere thanks.