Understanding the lives of individuals in the first century gives greater understanding to the passages of scripture to modern interpreters. Through the use of socio-rhetorical criticism, biblical interpreters are able to understand the values, convictions and beliefs behind the words of scripture (Robbins, 1996, p. 1) by studying the various textures of a text. The primary focus of socio-rhetorical criticism is the words themselves and their usage before focusing on meaning, which allows the interpreter to move away from preconceived understandings (Robbins, p.1). One texture that looks past the text itself and proves to be very valuable is the social and cultural texture. This texture delves into the world the people in a text live within and how their interactions bring understanding to the passages read (Robbins, p. 71).
Through a social and cultural texture analysis of 1 Peter, deeper understanding can be gained regarding the call to holiness that permeates throughout 1 Peter. At the time of the writing of 1 Peter, the early church was scattered throughout, called the dispersion (1 Peter 1:1) which usually referred to Jews living outside of Palestine, but Peter uses it to describe Christians through the Asia Minor area (Utley, 2000, p. 212). This brought different levels of persecution throughout the region, primarily in the form of insult and ridicule (Faulhaber, 2007, p.140).
Peter calls the readers of his letter to what is known as challenge and response in the social and cultural texture. He calls them to face their persecution by living a virtuous lifestyle, which is the best response to the shaming tactics they were facing (Faulhaber, 2007, p. 141). Rather than retaliation, he calls them to turn away from their former ignorance (vs. 14) and reflect the holiness of their God (vs. 16) who gave them salvation.
Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: study Bible: English standard version (ESV text ed.). Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles.
Faulhaber, J. (2007). The Role of Tribulation and Virtue in Creativity: A Sacred Texture Analysis of 1 Peter. Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, 1(2), 135–147.
Robbins, V. K. (1996). Exploring the texture of texts: a guide to socio-rhetorical interpretation. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International.
Utley, R. J. (2000). The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter (Vol. 2). Marshall, Texas: bible Lessons International.