A Sure Guide through the Text
1 Peter: A Commentary on First PeterPaul J. Achtemeier, ed. by Eldon J. Epp. Hermeneia series (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996) 423 pp., $50
Nothing in the world of academic publication is quite like the modern biblical commentary. The seminarian in John Updike’s short story “Lifeguard” tells how “for nine months of the year I pace my pale hands and burning eyes through immense pages of biblical text barnacled with fudging commentary.” Fudging aside, the latest volume in the prestigious Hermeneia series fits the description. It devotes over four hundred double-columned pages of analysis and closely reasoned discussion that covers every paragraph, every sentence, every word of an ancient tract taking up a mere five or six pages in most Bible translations!
Why such intense scrutiny? How can so much be hidden in so little? The answer, of course, is that the small ancient tract—in this instance the First Epistle of Peter—is sacred Scripture to millions of Christians worldwide. No other documents of antiquity have ever been examined with anything like the care and attention to detail given to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and this is especially true of shorter biblical books such as 1 Peter. Yet surprisingly, the impetus for writing scholarly commentaries in the past 30 years or so has come as much from the academic community as from the church.