Good Works in 1 Peter: Negotiating Social Conflict & Christian Identity in the Greco-Roman World

Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament No. 337


By: Travis B. Williams
January 2015
Mohr Siebeck
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9783161532511
425 Pages
$257.50 Hardcover


In scholarship on 1 Peter, most interpreters understand the letter’s call to “do good” as an admonition to behave in a manner which was consistent with popular standards of conduct. As such, many contend that the Petrine readers could expect their “good works” to be favorably acknowledged by Greco-Roman society. This fact is significant considering that good works are one of the primary paraenetic themes in the epistle, providing the readers with a strategic plan of response for the conflict in which they are engaged. For many years, this consensus reading of good works has shaped and directed investigations of the letter’s social strategy. Travis B. Williams’ goal is to challenge the modern consensus regarding the meaning and function of good works in 1 Peter in order to thereby provide a fresh reading of the letter’s social strategy.

Drawing on recent insights from postcolonial theory and social psychology the author demonstrates that the exhortation to “do good” envisages a pattern of conduct which stands opposed to popular values. The Petrine author appropriates terminology that was commonly associated with wealth and social privilege and reinscribes it with a new meaning in order to provide his marginalized readers with an alternative vision of reality, one in which the honor and approval so valued in society is finally available to them. The good works theme thus articulates a competing discourse which challenges dominant social structures and the hegemonic ideology which underlies them.