Book Review: Dennis Edwards on 1 Peter

Dennis Edwards
1 Peter (SGBC)
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.
Available at Amazon.com

Reviewed by Mark Simon

Dennis Edwards’ 1 Peter commentary is an encouraging and pastorally astute treatment of the letter. In common with the other Story of God Bible Commentaries, the discussion of each passage is structured around three standard headings: Listen to the Story, Explain the Story, and Live the Story. In ‘Listen to the Story’, the NIV text is followed by a few cross-reference passages spanning both Old and New Testaments, that provide canonical context. The explanation section delves into word meanings, historical context, relevant biblical texts that likely influenced Peter and succinct summaries of major options in interpretation. The ‘Live the Story’ section addresses contemporary application. The commentary is aimed at pastors, Sunday school teachers and lay people, and each section generally runs to about 10 pages – long enough to develop the key explanations and application, but brief enough that useful nuggets of application aren’t swamped by detail.

One of the strengths of the commentary is the way Edwards incorporates the richness of the Old Testament background to many passages in 1 Peter without getting bogged down in the process. At the start of each section, immediately following the NIV text of the passage, is a list of related passages from both Testaments which connect the passage to the broader ‘Story of God’. All the explanatory sections introduce helpful intertextual context (for example, Ex 19 and Hos 1-2 for 1 Pet 2:10; Isa 53 for 1 Pet 2:18-25; Gen 6 and 1 Enoch for 1 Pet 3:19). In the ‘Explain the Text’ section, Edwards draws out the implications of 1 Peter’s use of OT images for God’s people in their original OT context, then moves to the lessons for Peter’s first century Christian audience, before extending that to contemporary Christian readers. His approach to ethics is accordingly strongly anchored in the experience of God’s people throughout biblical history. On a number of occasions he draws on the work of Miroslav Volf to ground his ethical reasoning (for example, in discussing the role of religion in the public sphere on p.155).

A particularly admirable feature of the commentary is the ‘Live the Story’ application section. Drawing on his years of experience as pastor and church planter, many of the comments connect well with contemporary life in western societies. He is sensitive to the social environment and pressures affecting contemporary Christians. For instance, he discusses the quest for status (p.93; commenting on 2:4-10); the hermeneutical challenges of applying the household codes with their regulation of slavery and a patriarchal culture to modern family and society (p.135-137 regarding 3:1-7); and issues of pride and humility (p.208-11 regarding 5:1-11).

In his application comments Edwards draws examples from a wide range of literary, religious and historical sources, including the American Civil Rights Movement, recent movies, alcohol consumption in US history, corporate leadership and the influence of megachurch pastors. The major theological themes of 1 Peter as identified by Edwards are suffering, holiness and salvation. Edwards has produced a very readable, engaging commentary for popular use, which is up-to-date and pastorally attuned to life in modern western societies.

Mark Simon is PhD Student at Ridley college investigating missional hermeneutics.

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