Re: 1 Peter 2:19

From: Maurice A. O'Sullivan (
Date: Wed Jun 09 1999 - 10:00:04 EDT

At 15:08 08/06/99 -0600, you wrote:
>I've been working on 1 Peter 2:18-20 and have run into the difficult
>phrase in 2:19: DIA SUNEIDHSIN QEOU. My question is twofold:
>(1) First, how should SUNEIDESIN QEOU be understood?
>Most often in the NT, the word SUNEIDHSIS refers to the conscience as a
>source of moral awareness. Consequently, this phrase is sometimes
>rendered "because of a [good] conscience toward God." The problem with
>that rendering, however, is that the word "good" does not appear in most
>manuscripts and it seems awkward or implausible to render the genitive
>QEOU as "toward" or "with reference to God."
>SUNEIDHSIS can also be rendered as "consciousness," as several
>commentaries suggest. Such a translation fits better with the genitive:
>"because of consciousness of God." On the whole, the two translations
>are not that distant in meaning: being conscious of God (i.e., aware of
>His presence, His standards, His evaluation) will lead the believer to
>strive for a good conscience before Him.
>(2) My second question concerns the function of the prepositional phrase.
> Most often, the passage has been taken to mean that the believer who is
>suffering endures his sorrows patiently because he is conscious of God
>(or has a good conscience toward God) and because he knows that God is
>the ultimate and righteous judge, and so forth.
>Some (e.g., Goppelt, Van Houwelingen) understand DIA SUNEIDHSIS QEOU to
>be the *basis* or *origin* of the unjust suffering. "Christians have to
>suffer above all on account of their conscience which is trained on God
>and remains bound to him," Van Houwelingen says, citing Goppelt.
There's quite an amount of material on this:

No less than 5 pages in:
Spicq, Ceslas. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament. 3 vols. Peabody,
Mass: Hendrickson, 1996

and 3 columns in the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament.

If you have not got access to either, get back to me and I'll see if I can
condense, especially Spicq, who covers the history of the word
comprehensively -- in a nutshell he describes it as being part of the
vocabulary of the Christian community.

It is this communitarian aspect ( Christain/Gentile group conflict ) which
comes across in:
Elliott, John H. A Home for the Homeless . A Sociological Exegesis of 1
Peter, 1 Peter, Its Situation and Strategy . London: SCM Press. 1982

Of all three references in 1 P. he writes;
"it has a collective, transpersonal goal; doing the will of God with good
conscience ( 2:19; 3:16,21 ) so that ultimately the chief purpose of human
existence will be revealed, namely the universal glorification of God (
2:12; 4:11 )"

Hope this helps -- but _do_ try to read Spicq on this topic.


Maurice A. O'Sullivan [ Bray, Ireland ]

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