Strangers to Family: Diaspora and 1 Peter’s Invention of God’s Household

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Strangers to Family: Diaspora and 1 Peter’s Invention of God’s Household
by Shively T. J. Smith

In Strangers to Family Shively Smith reads the Letter of 1 Peter through a new model of diaspora. Smith illuminates this peculiarly Petrine understanding of diaspora by situating it among three other select perspectives from extant Hellenist Jewish writings: the Daniel court tales, the Letter of Aristeas, and Philo’s works.

While 1 Peter tends to be taken as representative of how diaspora was understood in Hellenistic Jewish and early Christian circles, Smith demonstrates that 1 Peter actually reverses the most fundamental meaning of diaspora as conceived by its literary peers. Instead of connoting the scattering of a people with a common territorial origin, for 1 Peter, diaspora constitutes an “already-scattered-people” who share a common, communal, celestial destination.

Smith’s discovery of a distinctive instantiation of diaspora in 1 Peter capitalizes on her careful comparative historical, literary, and theological analysis of diaspora constructions found in Hellenistic Jewish writings. Her reading of 1 Peter thus challenges the use of the exile and wandering as master concepts to read 1 Peter, reconsiders the conceptual significance of diaspora in 1 Peter and in the entire New Testament canon, and liberates 1 Peter from being interpreted solely through the rubrics of either the stranger-homelessness model or household codes. First Peter does not recycle standard diasporic identity, but is, as Strangers to Family demonstrates, an epistle that represents the earliest Christian construction of diaspora as a way of life.

For more information regarding Strangers to Family, visit the book’s page on MUSE.

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