Notes on 1 Peter 1:2 (part 1)

Apostle_Peter_Georgian_mosaicκατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρός, ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος, εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ·χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη.

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by sanctification by the Spirit into obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. Grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Grammatical, Lexical, and Syntactical Matters:

1. How to determine what the prepositional phrases of 1 Peter 1:2 modify? Comparing commentaries, translations, and other sources shows that interpreters do not agree about what the three prepositional phrases modify. This verse provides an excellent opportunity to review how to determine what prepositional phrases modify in biblical Greek. Prepositional phrases with an article are easier, since the article in front of them will provide clues about what they modify. Most prepositional phrases have no article in front of them. These often modify verbs, but not always. How do we figure out what they modify? Logic. Take each prepositional phrase and look at its contents. What is it describing?

The first prepositional phrase of 1 Peter 1:2 must be modifying something in 1 Peter 1:1. There is no verb in 1:1. Many translations connect it to “elect” or “chosen ones,” which means that they are reading ἐκλεκτοῖς as a substantival adjective (a noun) instead of as an attributive adjective. This approach works for this first prepositional phrase. Logically, “elect” fits with “according to the foreknowledge of God.” The problem is that a second phrase immediately follows the first one, namely, ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος (“by sanctification by the Spirit”). In terms of content, this prepositional phrase does not fit easily with “elect.” So, what is another possibility? It appears more likely that the first two prepositional phrases modify “elect sojourners” in 1:1. They are elect sojourners according to God’s knowledge and they are set apart as elect sojourners when they are sanctified by the Spirit.

What about the third prepositional phrase? Some interpreters think that it should modify the same thing as the previous two. This is probably not right. Instead, it is more likely to modify “sanctification by the Spirit” in the phrase right in front of it. The Spirit’s sanctification of believers is a sanctification into or unto obedience and involves sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ.

2. Two subjective genitives in 1 Peter 1:2. What is a subjective genitive? Take a look at πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ and ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος. Why are θεοῦ and πνεύματος likely to be subjective or objective genitives. Daniel Wallace provides a helpful discussion of these (see Greek Grammar beyond the Basics). These two categories are often overused. They are properly applied to genitive case nouns that modify a noun with an implied verbal idea. Nouns with an implied verbal idea are nouns that are related to a verb, like the nouns here. Foreknowledge (πρόγνωσιν) is related to foreknow and sanctification (ἁγιασμῷ) is related to sanctify. The question is this: Are θεοῦ and πνεύματος the subject of the verbal idea implicit in πρόγνωσιν and ἁγιασμῷ or the object? To figure this out, we are back to logic. Are we thinking that God foreknows (subjective genitive) or that someone foreknows God (objective genitive)? Does the Spirit do the sanctifying (subjective) or is something sanctifying the Spirit (objective)? The answer now seems clear, right?

3. Grammar and syntax for the rest of the verse:
a. Parse πληθυνθείη. What is unusual about this verb?

b. What does Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ modify?

c. Like 1 Peter 1:1, this verse contains an example of apposition. Where?

Coming Up: Theological notes on 1 Peter 1:2

This post is part of a series of posts on 1 Peter. To read the other posts in the series, click here.

Related Resources:

1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text
Mark Dubis, 1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor Handbook of the Greek New Testament)
1 Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text
Greg Forbes, 1 Peter (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament)
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