The marginal status of first-century Christians in Asia Minor

It is easy for us to neglect the social setting of the original audience of the New Testament. IN the following I want to cite two good quotes from Joel Green’s commentary on 1 Peter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), pp. 196, 197.

Here Joel Green describes the social setting of 1 Peter, and helps us to understand the marginal status of first-century Christians in Asia Minor – and what it meant to them as they sought to live out the gospel in their daily life.

Status situation is reflected in the style of life expected of those who “belong,” the restrictions applied to the “inner group” with respect to social interchange with those within and outside the status circle. Status honor is a register that accounts for wealth, particularly esteeming landed wealth over earned riches, but also other factors, such as family heritage, ethnicity, and gender. In the present case [ie. in the case of the Christians in 1 Peter], the pivotal factor is none of these. Rather, these are people whose commitments to the lordship of Jesus Christ have led to transformed dispositions and behaviors that place them on the margins of respectable society. Their allegiance to Christ has won for them animosity, scorn, and vilification. Their lack of acculturation to prevailing social values marked them as misfits worthy of contempt…

The consequence is that believers, whether male or female, slave or free, rich or poor, eke out their lives on the margins of respectable society. If they were honorable males, they are dishonored. If they were free, they now have all the access to power and privilege of a slave. If they had wealth, it does them little good in the marketplace of prestige and is likely short-lived, since, although the right kind of wealth might buy status in Roman antiquity, carrying the la­bel of an atheist or other socioreligious deviant is an easy ticket to downward mobility, economically speaking.

What does it mean to us who live in the 21st century?

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