The Greek article usually has minimal influence on the interpretation of a passage, but sometimes its presence is quite meaningful. 1 Peter 4:14 is one of those times. It is debated, however, and our goal in this short blog post is to consider the best interpretation of the passage.
The broader passage is referring to Christians experiencing suffering for Christ. In my own outline of the passage, I suggest that Peter indicates three things to avoid and three things to pursue in suffering.
When they suffer, they must not:
- Be surprised (v. 12)
- Be the source (v. 15)
- Be ashamed (v. 16)
When they suffer, they must:
- Rejoice (v. 13)
- Recognize the Blessing (v. 14)
- Glorify God (v. 16)
The controversial section we are considering comes in verse 14. There Peter is telling the readers that they must recognize in their suffering a blessing from God. In fact, our phrase provides the grounds for why they must recognize a blessing in suffering: “because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (ESV).
The interpretive debate centers on the inclusion of two articles, one before “of Glory” and one before “the Spirit of God” (τὸ τῆς δόξης καὶ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πνεῦμα ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἀναπαύεται). If these referred to the same entity, then one would expect only one article governing the two descriptions.
If the article were not present, the passage would not be controversial, and the καί would be taken as explicative (“even”) rather than conjunctive (“and”). This is the way most modern translations take the phrase (ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB). But the presence of the article opens two other options: 1) this is a hendiadys, where two distinct phrases are to be understood as one. Accordingly, this would be translated, “The Spirit of the glorious God.”
Another alternative is to understand the phrase to refer to two objects. First, the Spirit of God refers to the Holy Spirit. What then does the “of Glory” refer to? Notice that the word “Spirit” does not occur in this noun phrase. The translations that include it draw it from the later phrase “Spirit of God.” The inclusion of “Spirit” is logical, for since Peter did not include a head noun, we should expect it to be implied somewhere in the close context.
In my estimation, a third interpretation is most likely. On this reading, the neuter article refers to the eschatological glory just mentioned in the prior verse. This makes great sense of both the syntax of the phrase, as well as the broader context. Accordingly, Peter is saying that the readers should know that when they suffer for Christ they can have confidence that the eschatological glory they look forward to is reserved for them. In the same way, their experience of suffering gives them confidence that they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.
The article is often overlooked, yet if we believe in the inspiration of even the smallest elements of the text, then we should pay attention. In this context, Peter uses it to highlight that he is not talking about the Spirit in two ways, but he is speaking of two separate objects. Determining that object provides confidence in the face of coming temporal judgment. Though men may speak evil of you and may take from you earthly glory, your heavenly Father thinks well of you and has already apportioned you eschatological glory.