A New Version of 1 Peter, or, “A Letter from the Rock (1 of 2)” in Asp’s Suggested Paraphrase (ASP)

Jesus gave twelve men an extra-special, up-close-and-personal, all-access look into his life and ministry. They became known as his “disciples” (followers) or “apostles” (emissaries). Of these twelve, three seemed to be extra-close — in on some moments like the Transfiguration and Jesus’s special prayer vigil at Gethsemane, which the other nine didn’t get to directly witness. And of those three men in Jesus’s “inner circle,” there was one who seemed to be the closest of the close. He even got a special nickname from Jesus: “The Rock,” which seemed to speak to his importance as a foundational figure in the early church. Most English translations of the Bible have stuck with the transliteration “Peter,” from the Greek “Πέτρος” (Petros), which is in turn a transliteration from the Aramaic “Κηφᾶς” (Cephas) — but they all basically mean “the Rock.” No matter what one calls him, though, the Rock is one of my favorite figures from the New Testament narratives. He wore his emotions on his shirtsleeves. He made grand promises, and he had epic failures. The Gospels and the Book of Acts consistently render him as a living, vibrant, three-dimensional figure who ends up being entirely sympathetic and relatable. And he really did end up being a foundational figure in the early church.

So, it’s been exciting to study the writings of the Rock more closely over these past four months. He wrote two letters that have been canonized in Scripture. And I started my sturdy of his writings with his first letter. Anyway, I can now humbly present “A Letter from the Rock (1 of 2)” as the seventh book in what I’m calling Asp’s Suggested Paraphrase of the Bible — or “The ASP” or short. As noted previously, going with a name like “The ASP” is tongue-in-cheek. I really don’t want to take myself too seriously. But I have put a lot of time, study, and heart into this translation project.

I followed a very similar process for the book that’s been historically called “1 Peter” that I followed for Philippians1 Thessalonians2 ThessaloniansColossians, James, and Mark. I started with the original text in Greek and made my own word-for-word translation. Then I used study resources to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Eventually, I established a literal translation that didn’t read very smoothly. After that, I created my own idiomatic translation (or paraphrase) of the text, often while referencing other translations. I leaned especially on the English Standard Version, the New Living Translation, and the New International Version. To further polish my first-draft translation, I brought in a few other translations and commentaries (especially to work out the tricky sections). And after one final read-through, to check for readability and cadence, I created the time-stamped PDF.

My ASP is far from perfect. In fact, I reserve the right to edit, update, and amend my version of “A Letter from the Rock (1 of 2)” as my knowledge of Greek, my relationship with God, and my general life of faith might dictate in the years to come. But for whatever it’s worth, you are welcome to download this version of “A Letter from the Rock (1 of 2)” (or go ahead and call it “1 Peter” if you prefer), for your own study and enjoyment:

With each of these translations that I’ve posted here on my website, I’ve included a few little notes on what I learned in the process of translation. I don’t know if any of the insight feels game-changing or earth-shattering. But for whatever it’s worth, here are some things I noticed about — and some favorite excerpts from — my translation of this Letter from the Rock (1 of 2):

  • I love the way that the Rock’s character shines through in his letter. It’s almost like he’s writing to himself, or perhaps to a younger version of himself. The 13th and 14th verses of the first chapter are a great example of this: “So gear up. Get your heads clear. Prepare yourselves for a lifetime of hope in the grace that’s coming to you guys when Jesus Christ gets his grand entrance. In the meantime, keep listening closely to your Heavenly Father, not letting yourselves revert to your previous state of ignorance and depraved desires.”
  • As with other parts of the New Testament that I’ve translated, I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s important to figure out effective ways to highlight the plural “you” instead of the singular “you” in our translations of the Bible. We American Christians, in particular, are too self-centered, too individualistic. Almost every mention of the word “you” in this Letter from the Rock (and Colossians, Philippians, James, and 1-2 Thessalonians) is plural! The process of sanctification (becoming more holy) doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sanctification is a communal process! I know that my use of “you guys” and “you all” and “all of you” get to be a little bit clunky. Still, I think it’s one of the most important things that these translation projects have revealed to me.
  • Chapter 1, Verse 22 speaks directly to this communal aspect of the Christian life: “Your souls are being purified through your cooperation with the truth, living in a community of genuine familial love. So keep leaning into that. Love each other with all your hearts.
  • Even before this translation project, one of my favorite sections from the Rock’s first letter to the the 1st Century Church was the last two verses of the first chapter: “So remember that old refrain: // Everything that is flesh and blood is as temporary as the grasses // And all the glory that comes from this flesh-and-blood existence is like the wildflowers blooming among the grasses. // The grasses wither up, // And the wildflowers wilt and drop to the ground. // But the message of the Lord isn’t going anywhere. Ever.” What I really appreciated through this translation project, though, was the way that these amazing insights are directly and sequentially linked to the core message of the Christian faith in the end of verse 25: “And this is the very same message — the Good News — that’s been shared with you guys.
  • The Rock really loves to quote the Old Testament of the Bible! He works in more quotes than any of the other New Testament writers I’ve studied — and I’ve appreciated the way that this also matches up with the speeches that he gave in the Book of Acts. Four out of the five chapters of this letter include Old Testament quotations, and Chapter 2 includes several.
  • This Letter from the Rock provides some really powerful encouragement for our current cultural moment, where society is shifting more and more towards a Post-Christian context. Chapter 2, verses 11 and 12 seem like a particularly appropriate exhortation: “I love you guys. And I want to urge you all to stay far away from all of the sinful desires that wage war against your soul, even if this means that you’ve got to live like refugees and immigrants. The world is watching your every action, so lean into God’s goodness.
  • The end of Chapter 2 and the beginning of Chapter 3 provide some particularly tricky space for cultural translation, as well as linguistic translation: women’s roles in marriage, men’s roles in marriage, and slaves’ roles in society. I think I played the marriage roles pretty straight, drawing as directly from the Greek as possible. The biggest risk I took in cultural translation was the letter’s handling of the economic instrument of slavery. Instead of “You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect,” I translated the Greek both linguistically and culturally to say, “Those of you from the working class must cooperate with the people in power, recognizing their authority.” Is this helpful, or is this harmful? I’d be curious to hear others’ thoughts on this.
  • Chapter 4 speaks to the passions of the heart, and I love the way that this connects so personally with the author and his life experiences. The Rock was a passionate person, and somehow my translation of this section really helped me to see the way that his life experiences informed his writing: “Human obsessions aren’t your guiding principles any more; God’s will is your priority for the rest of the time that you guys have on Earth.
  • Chapter 5 includes some of my favorite verses from the Bible. Especially the instructions to “older Christians” (often alternately translated as “elders”) in verses 1-4 and exhortations for the anxious in verse 7.

Anyway, I’d love to hear any reflections you might have, if you give the ASP a read. Whether you’re a Greek expert or not, I really believe it will be helpful to get other perspectives. With the caveat that I reserve the right to edit, update, and amend my version of “A Letter from the Rock (1 of 2)” as my knowledge of Greek, my relationship with God, and my general life of faith might dictate in the years to come — I’m excited to put this out there.

May God bless the reading of His Word!

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