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Following in His Steps: Suffering, Community, and Christology in 1 PeterSteven Richard Bechtler
A work of historical criticism informed by the social sciences, this book provides an analysis of the interrelationships among 1 Peter’s symbolic construction of Christian communal identity; its statements about suffering, honor, and shame; and its depiction of Christ. The work explains how 1 Peter’s references to the suffering and glorification of Christ functioned as responses to the suffering of the communities addressed. The Berger and Luckmann theory of the sociology of knowledge provides a framework for the study, showing ways in which early Christian experiences of revilement and shame, together with 1 Peter’s christological contextualization of those experiences, served to construct a Christian communal identity closely linked to suffering. Bechtler argues this identity is conceived as neither assimilationist nor conversionist but as liminal, participating to some extent but not completely in the larger society. Within this liminal community alternative ways of calculating honor and shame emerge, based on the correspondence between Christ’s suffering and glorification and the suffering and vindication of his followers. Within their symbolically constructed liminal communities, Christians find their honor upheld by the God who glorified Christ in consequence of his suffering. Scholars and students of New Testament studies and early Christianity will find this a valuable contribution to understanding early Christian communal identity.