Short letters get worldwide study

Avondale academic’s Bible study and commentary brings greater respect for thinking of early church leader.

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The Adult Sabbath School lesson, written by Avondale Associate Professor Robert McIver.

An Avondale academic’s research for a worldwide study of two Bible books recasts an impetuous disciple as a loving leader of the early Christian church.

Associate Professor Robert McIver is the principal contributor of content for the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide this quarter and author of a companion book. The guide and the book examine 1 and 2 Peter.

Prof McIver enjoyed the challenge of studying the letters partly because few other academics have—more is written about Peter, one of the closest confidants of Jesus, than any other disciple but much less about his letters compared to the letters of Paul, the four Gospels and the Apocalypse of John. 

" . . . there’s wonderful theology in Peter’s letters, as well as helpful practical advice on Christian living."

“I discovered there’s wonderful theology in Peter’s letters, as well as helpful practical advice on Christian living,” said Prof McIver, who is director of the Spirituality and Worship Research Centre at Avondale. The college of higher education supported Assoc. Prof. McIver during his research, which included time at Tyndale House, a centre for biblical research based in Cambridge, England.

Prof McIver says he now has a greater respect for Peter as a thinker and for Jesus as a teacher. “1 and 2 Peter are not the words of an unsophisticated, poorly educated fisherman,” he said. “They’re the words of one who’s been with the Master.”

He also admits to thinking of Peter as “rigid”.

“This impression is probably from Paul’s interaction with Peter. They’re opposites—Paul the modern thinker, Peter the traditionalist who sometimes slips back into his old ways. But Peter writes well, expressing good theology and, above all, conveying the centrality of love that Christians have one for each other.”

The lessons in the guide, called “Feed My Sheep”, provide a daily comment on the text and questions for meditation and discussion. The book considers the historical, social and literary context of the text and the practical application of the theology of the text.

Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide Editor Clifford Goldstein complimented Assoc. Prof. McIver on the quality of his manuscript, which “helped make the letters of Peter come alive.” Goldstein also noted how the letters, even 2000 years after their writing, remain relevant. “It’s amazing how rich these books are, and Rob’s done a great job in bringing that richness out,” he said.

Members of the more than 78,000 Seventh-day Adventist churches worldwide began using the guide and the book this past week (March 25). They will continue using the resources until the end of the quarter (June 23).

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