Cataphoric or Anaphoric? Interpreting εἰς τοῦτο ἐκλήθητε in Light of the Ethics of Jesus

Scholars disagree on how we should interpret εἰς τοῦτο ἐκλήθητε in 1 Peter 3:9 which states, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary bless, for to this you were called (εἰς τοῦτο ἐκλήθητε), that you may obtain a blessing.” Paul J. Achtemeier and Thomas R. Schreiner understand τοῦτο as anaphoric, pointing backwards to εὐλογοῦντες. However, Peter H. Davids and J.N.D Kelly both understand τοῦτο as cataphoric, understanding it to be pointing towards εὐλογίαν κληρονομήσητε. I will seek to introduce another piece of evidence into this conversation—evidence that has been underutilized. While it is grammatically possible for εἰς τοῦτο ἐκλήθητε in 1 Peter 3:9 to be taken as either cataphoric or anaphoric, my thesis suggests an anaphoric understanding is most satisfying based upon the teachings and ethics of Jesus found in the Gospels that echo in this verse.

The primary piece of evidence offered in support of my thesis are the ethics and teachings of Jesus found in Luke 6:27-28, which provide a strong echo in verse 9 making it highly probable that Peter is primarily concerned, like Jesus, about how we treat those who do us harm. Furthermore, I will offer three additional points of supporting evidence to help buttress my thesis: First, the ethics of Jesus are found elsewhere in 1 Peter providing helpful depth and clarity in the interpretation of those passages. Second, intertextual evidence suggests that 3:9 is closely related to 2:21 where εἰς τοῦτο functions anaphorically. Finally, Peter’s use of Psalm 34:12-16 (Psalm 33 LXX) in verses 10-12 is better fitted towards an anaphoric reading.

Beyond helping break the stalemate on how we should interpret εἰς τοῦτο ἐκλήθητε in 1 Peter 3:9, my paper provides an answer to the question: Do the teachings and ethics of Jesus help us interpret the letters of his earliest followers? If my thesis is correct, then perhaps the teachings and ethics of Jesus in the Gospels will receive greater attention in our interpretation of other difficult or grammatically ambiguous texts.

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