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- 1 Peter
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.
General Editor: J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.,
Dean of Peterborough
The General Epistles of
St Peter & St Jude,
with notes and introduction
E. H. Plumptre, D.D.,
dean of wells
edited for the syndics of the university press.
At the University Press.
[ All Rights reserved .]
BY THE GENERAL EDITOR
The General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.
Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.
Chapter I . The training of the Disciple
Chapter II . The work of the Apostle
Chapter III . The traditions of the Church
Chapter IV . The First Epistle:
(1) The readers of the Epistle
(2) The time and place of the Epistle
(3) Analysis of Contents
Chapter V . The Second Epistle:
(1) Question of authorship
(2) Occasion and date
(3) Analysis of Contents
Chapter VI . The Life of St Jude
Chapter VII . The Epistle of St Jude
* * * The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener’s Cambridge Paragraph Bible . A few variations from the ordinary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the use of italics, will be noticed. For the principles adopted by Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Introduction to the Paragraph Bible , published by the Cambridge University Press.
the training of the disciple
i. The early years of the Apostle whose writings are now before us appear to have been passed in the village of Bethsaida (= Fishtown , or more literally Home of Fish ), on the West coast of the Sea of Galilee, not far from Chorazin and Capernaum (John 1:44 ). Its exact position cannot be determined with any certainty, but it has been identified with the modern ’Ain et Tabigah , and must be distinguished from the town of the same name on the North-Eastern shore of the Lake, which, after it had been enlarged and rebuilt by Philip the Tetrarch, was known as Bethsaida Julias, the latter name having been 1 1 The distinctness of the two places is seen in the record of the feeding of the Five Thousand, which took place near the Eastern Bethsaida (Luke 9:10 17), and was followed by the passage of the disciples across the lake to that on the Western shore. (Mark 6:45.) given to it in honour of the daughter of the Emperor Augustus.
Among the fishermen from whose occupation the town derived its name was one who bore the name either of Jona (John 1:42 ; Matthew 16:17 ) or Joannes (in the best MSS. of John 21:15-17 ), as being a Grecised reproduction of the old Hebrew Jochanan, or Jehohanan (1 Chronicles 6:9 , 1 Chronicles 6:10 ), and conveying, like its Greek equivalents, Theodorus or Dorotheus, the meaning of “the gift of God.” An uncertain tradition (Coteler, Constt. Apost . ii. 63) gives his mother’s name also as Joanna. It is probable, but not certain, from the priority given to his name in all lists of the disciples, that the Apostle was their first-born son. The name which they gave him, Symeon (Acts 15:14 ; 2 Peter 1:1 ), commonly appearing, like his father’s, in an abbreviated form, as Simon, had been made popular by the achievements of the captain of the Maccabean house who had borne it (1 Macc. 5:17), and by the virtues of Simon the Priest (Ecclus. 50:1 20), and not to go further than the records of the New Testament, appears there as borne by Simon, or Symeon, the brother of the Lord (Matthew 13:55 ; Mark 6:3 ), Simon the Canaanite (Matthew 10:4 ; Mark 3:18 ), known also by the Greek equivalent of that name, Zelotes (Luke 6:15 ; Acts 1:13 ), Simon of Cyrene (Matthew 27:32 ; Mark 15:21 ; Luke 23:26 ), Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6 ; Mark 14:3 ; John 12:1 ), Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:40 ), Simon the Tanner (Acts 10:6-32 ), and Simon the Sorcerer of Samaria (Acts 8:9 ). The fact that his brother, probably his younger brother, bore the Greek name of Andreas, is significant, like that of Philippos, borne by another native of Bethsaida (John 1:44 ), as indicating the prevalence of that language along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and as making it probable that a certain colloquial familiarity with it was common both to the sons of Jona and the other disciples as to our Lord Himself.
The date of the Apostle’s birth cannot be fixed with certainty, but as we find him married and probably with children (comp. Matthew 19:29 ), about the year a.d. 27 or 28, we may fairly assume that his life ran parallel in its earlier years to that of our Lord and the Baptist. He was not sent to study the law or the traditions of the elders at the feet of Gamaliel or any other Rabbi of the Schools of Jerusalem, and when he appeared before the Sanhedrin was looked on as an “unlettered layman” ( ἰδιώτης καὶ ἀγράμματος , Acts 4:13 ). This did not imply, however, an entire absence of education. Well-nigh every Jewish Synagogue had a school attached to it, and there, as well as in the Sabbath services, the young Symeon may have learnt, like Timotheus, to know the Holy Writings daily (2 Timothy 3:15 ). He was destined, however, to follow what had probably been his father’s calling. The absence of any mention of that father in the Gospel history suggests the inference that the two brothers had been left orphans at a comparatively early age, and had begun their career as fishermen under the protection of Zebedæus and his wife Salome (Matthew 27:56 ; Mark 15:40 , Mark 16:1 ), with whose sons, James and John ( Joannes and Jacôbus ), we find them in partnership, himself also probably of Bethsaida or of some neighbouring village. Zebedæus appears to have been a man of some wealth. He had his “hired servants” to assist his sons and their partners (Mark 1:20 ). His wife ministered to the Lord out of her “substance” (Luke 8:3 ). One of their sons was known (if we adopt the commonly received identification of the “other disciple” of John 18:15 ) to the high-priest Caiaphas. We cannot think, looking back from the standpoint of their later history, without a deep interest, of the companionship thus brought about, the interchange of devout hopes, the union in fervent prayers, which bound together the sons of Zebedee and those of Jona in a life-long friendship. In their early youth they must have felt the influence of the agitation caused by the revolt of Judas of Galilee (a.d. 6), waking, as it did, Messianic expectations which it could not satisfy, and have been thus led to study the writings of Moses and the prophets for the outlines of a truer and nobler ideal (John 1:41 ). If the child is “father of the man” we cannot doubt that they were even then, before the preaching of the Baptist, among those who “looked for the consolation of Israel” and “waited” for its “redemption” (Luke 2:25-38 ). John was apparently the youngest of the three friends, and, as will be seen in many instances as we proceed, the affection which bound him to Simon, each with elements of character that were complementary of those possessed by the other, was of a singularly enduring and endearing nature.
When the Gospel history opens Peter was living not at Bethsaida but at Capernaum, with his wife and his wife’s mother (Matthew 8:14 ; Mark 1:29 ; Luke 4:38 ). That he had children is, perhaps, implied in the language addressed to him by our Lord in Matthew 19:29 , but if so, nothing is known of them. Of his wife too but little is known, but there are traces of her living with him during his work as an Apostle (1 Corinthians 9:5 ; and probably 1 Peter 5:13 ), and an interesting and not incredible tradition makes her the companion of his martyrdom.
The preaching of the Baptist drew three at least of the friends to take their place among the multitudes who came to him on the banks of the Jordan confessing their sins. Two of the four, Andrew and John, were present when he pointed to One whom they knew as Jesus, the son of the carpenter of Nazareth, as He returned from the Temptation in the Wilderness, with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36 ). Their belief in their teacher led them to follow Him who was thus designated, and the interview which followed, the “gracious words” that came from His lips (Luke 4:22 ), the authority with which He spoke (Matthew 7:29 ), induced them, prior to any attestation of His claim by signs and wonders, to accept Him as the long-expected Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed of the Lord. Each apparently started in quest, the one of his brother and the other of his friend, to whom they knew that the tidings would be welcome, and Andrew was the first to find him and to bring him to the Teacher whom they had thus owned. As he drew near, the Rabbi whom he was henceforth to know as his Lord and Master, looked on him, and, as reading the latent possibilities of his character and determining his future work, addressed him in words which gave him the name that was afterwards to supersede that which he had received in infancy, “Thou art Simon, the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas” (John 1:40-42 ). The use of the Aramaic form seems to imply that the Lord spoke to him in that language, but the familiarity of the Galileans with Greek made the equivalent Peter the more familiar name, even during our Lord’s ministry and still more afterwards 1 1 “Cephas,” however, appears to have retained its hold, as “Symeon” did, on the Church of Jerusalem, and was therefore adopted by those who looked to him as their leader in the parties at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12), and is used of him by St Paul in writing to that Church (1 Cor. 9:5, 15:5). The Hebrew word, which meets us in Job 30:6, Jer. 4:29, has the meaning of a projecting cliff or rock, and has affinities in non-Semitic languages, as in Sanscrit kap-ala , Greek κεφ αλη, Latin caput , German Kopf and Gibfel . . It is probable that, as in the changes of name in the Old Testament, Abram into Abraham (Genesis 17:5 ), Jacob into Israel (Genesis 32:28 ), both names were significant. He had been Simeon, a hearer only (comp. Genesis 29:33 ), knowing God as “by the hearing of the ear” (Job 42:5 ), Bar-Jona, the “son of Jehovah’s Grace:” now he was to be as a “rock-man,” a “stone” in the Temple of God, built up with other living stones (so he came afterwards to understand the mystic meanings of the name) upon Him who now spoke to him as the true rock, the firm and sure foundation (1 Peter 2:4 , 1 Peter 2:5 ). (See Watkins’ Note on John 1:42 , in Bishop Ellicott’s New Testament Commentary .)
To the company of the four friends thus united in the fellowship of a new faith were added two others, probably already within the circle of companionship, Philip, of the same town as the sons of Jona, and his friend Nathanael or Bartholomew of Cana 1 1 The assumption of identity rests on the facts (1) that the name Nathanael does not appear in the Synoptic Gospels nor Bartholomew in St John; (2) that the names of Philip and Bartholomew appear in the list of the Twelve in Matt. 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:14 in close combination, as if there were some special bonds of intimacy uniting them; (3) that Bar-tholomæus is, like Bar-jona and Bar-timæus, an obvious patronymic. . With them we may believe, though he is not specially named, Peter was present at the marriage feast of Cana (John 2:2 ), at the Passover feast in Jerusalem that followed shortly on it (John 2:17 ), and in Judæa (John 3:22 ), and in the journey through Samaria (John 4:8 ). There is no trace, however, of their presence in the next visit of the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem at the unnamed feast of John 5:1 , and it was probably during His absence from Galilee on that occasion and because of it, that the four partners returned to their old calling on the Sea of Galilee, not that their faith in Him had grown weaker, but that they waited till He should declare Himself. In the meantime He went from Jerusalem to Nazareth (Luke 4:14 ), and from Nazareth to Capernaum (Luke 4:31 ), which was now the home of one of them, and possibly of all four. They had been fishing during the night, and without success. Their boats were drawn up to the shore that they might rest for the day. Two, Simeon and Andrew, were making a final attempt with the net, which they cast more cautiously into the water near the shore. The others were cleaning and mending their nets on the assumption that the day’s work was over. The Teacher stepped into Peter’s boat and taught the people, preaching, we may believe, the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness. Then followed the command to put out once again for another venture, and the draught of a great multitude of fishes, in which he could but see the working of a supernatural power; and the awe-stricken disciple, penetrated with a deeper consciousness of his own evil than he had felt even under the preaching of the Baptist, threw himself at the feet of Jesus with the cry, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” It was met, as all utterances of true repentance are met, with the assuring words, “Fear not;” with the announcement of a new life-work which was to take the place of the old, and of which that older work was to be as a parable full of meaning, “From henceforth thou shalt catch men.” He and his friends were to be “fishers of men” in the world’s stormy seas (Matthew 4:18-22 ; Mark 1:16-20 ; Luke 5:1-11 ) 1 1 I have written on the assumption that the three Evangelists report the same incident. If the variations in St Luke’s record lead to the conclusion that he speaks of a different call, we must infer that the disciples again returned to their employment after that narrated by the other Evangelists. . From that time he forsook all and followed Christ.
It was in almost immediate sequence to the call that the house in which he and Andrew and his wife and her mother dwelt was honoured by the presence of his Lord, and he witnessed, in the healing of the last-named and of many others, the “signs and wonders” to which he appeals in Acts 2:22 as an attestation that Jesus of Nazareth was “a man approved of God.” He and they learnt also what was the secret of that power to heal, how the life of daily ministration was sustained by the night of secret communing with God (Mark 1:35-39 ). The work to which he had been called went on. As contemplating a wider extension which should, symbolically at least, include all the families of Israel, the Twelve were chosen, after another night spent by the Lord Jesus on the mountain height in solitary prayer (Mark 3:13 ; Luke 6:12 ); and, if we may take the unvarying order of the names in all the four lists given in the New Testament as indicating an actual priority, the son of Jona found himself chosen as the Coryphæus of the chosen band who were, though not as yet sent forth, chosen for the office of Envoys or Apostles of the King of Israel (Mark 3:7-19 ). Confining our attention to the facts in which his name appears associated with some characteristic word or act, we note his presence with the two sons of Zebedee in the death-chamber of the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37 ; Luke 8:51 ); the mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, not as yet to the Gentiles or the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5 ), in which, as the Apostles were sent two and two together (Mark 6:7 ), it is natural to infer from their earlier and later companionship (John 20:3 , John 20:21 :7, John 20:20 ; Acts 3:1 , Acts 8:14 ) that he was associated with the beloved disciple; the intensity of faith which led him, after the feeding of the Five Thousand, when he saw his Lord’s form drawing near the boat, walking in the darkness of the stormy night on the water of the sea of Galilee, to trust himself, at his Lord’s bidding, to the tempestuous waves; the weakness of that faith which shewed itself when he began to sink and called forth the cry “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:28-33 ). The memory of that deliverance was, we may believe, still fresh in his mind when, after the hard sayings in the synagogue at Capernaum which had repelled many of the disciples, he met his Lord’s appeal, “Will ye also go away?” with the question, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”, with the confession “Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have known that Thou art the Holy One of God 1 1 I follow the reading of the better MSS. rather than that of the Received Text. ” (John 6:66-71 ). The signs and wonders that followed, the healing of the Syro-Phœnician maiden (Matthew 15:21-28 ; Mark 7:24-30 ), of the blind man in the Apostle’s own city of Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26 ), the feeding of the four thousand (Matthew 15:32-38 ; Mark 8:1-9 ), deepened the faith which had been thus uttered. The disciples had been led beyond the limits of the chosen land, and of their usual work as preachers, through the regions of Tyre and Sidon, through the latter city itself (Mark 7:31 in the best MSS.), and were returning by the slopes of Hermon to the district round Cæsarea Philippi. The question was put to them by their Lord, as if to test what they thought of the floating rumours that had met their ears in every town and village, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” They reproduced those rumours. Some said that He was John the Baptist, and some that He was Elias, and some that He was Jeremiah, and some, more vaguely, that one of the old Prophets was risen from the dead. It was given to Peter to make, in answer to the question that followed, “But whom say ye that I am?”, a fuller confession of his faith than had yet been uttered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-19 ).
The words that followed on that confession have been the battlefield of endless controversies between Romish and Protestant theologians. To discuss these lies outside our scope, but the promise thus made to him is too closely connected with the development of the Apostle’s spiritual life, and, it may be added, with that spiritual life as seen in the teaching of the Epistle, to be altogether passed over. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven.” The words reminded him of the manner in which he had been received on his first call to the discipleship. Now, as then, it was not through any merely human influence (“flesh and blood”), the testimony of the Baptist, or his brother, or his friends, that he had been led to this confession. The “Father in Heaven,” to whom his Master had taught him to pray (Matthew 6:9 ), had brought that direct immediate conviction to his soul. One who had the “words of eternal life” could not be other than the Christ in all the fulness of the significance which that title had acquired.
And now he was to see the meaning of the new name Cephas, or Petros, that had been then given him. He was a stone , one with that rock with which he was now joined by an indissoluble union. As with the like utterance in John 2:0 , “Destroy this temple,” the words were either left to interpret themselves to the minds that thought over them, or were emphasized by tone or gesture. On that rock the new Society, the Ecclesia, the congregation of the faithful was to be built. As the rock-built castle of the Tetrarch Philip, which was then in view, might seem able to defy the legions of an earthly army, so of that Ecclesia it should be true that the gates of Hell, the forces of the unseen powers of Hades and of Death, should not prevail against it. And now, too, he was told that he was qualified for his admission to the office of a Scribe, instructed to the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:52 ). The keys of that kingdom were to be given to him, as the keys of the treasures of the house of the Interpreter were given to the Jewish Scribe when he was admitted as a teacher of the Law. His power to bind and to loose, to declare this or that to be lawful or unlawful, obligatory or optional, was to be not less, but more authoritative than that of Hillel, or Shammai, or Gamaliel; for while their interpretations rested on conflicting, uncertain, and often ambiguous traditions, his would come from the insight given to him by the Father of lights, and so whatsoever he should bind on earth should be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever he should loose on earth should be loosed in Heaven (Matthew 16:19 ).
I have given what seems the most natural explanation of the memorable promise. There is not the shadow of a doubt that the distinction between πέτρος and πέτρα is such as has been indicated above 1 1 See Liddell and Scott, s. v. πέτρος. . If we turn to the Apostle’s own language we find that he reproduced the leading thought of the words in his First Epistle. The disciples of Christ are as “living stones” built upon the chief corner-stone, and that corner-stone, in its unity, is identified with the “rock” on which the Church is built, though it is a rock of offence to those who stumble on it in their disobedience (1 Peter 2:4-8 ). And if he interpreted one part of the promise in his written teaching, he no less clearly interpreted the other by his spoken words in the case of Cornelius. It had been held unlawful by the Jewish Scribes for a Jew to feed with a man uncircumcised, or even to enter into his house. God had taught him, again we note the revelation that came not by “flesh and blood,” but from his Father in Heaven, not to call any man common or unclean. Hillel and Shammai had “bound.” It was given to him to “loose,” and to declare that the restriction on which they laid stress had passed away for ever. The interpretation which has assumed (1) that the promise made the Apostle himself the “rock” on which the Church was built, (2) that it conveyed to him a permanent supremacy and infallible authority, (3) that the supremacy and infallibility were both transmitted by him to his successors, (4) that those successors are to be found in the Bishops of Rome and in them only, hardly deserves a notice, except as an instance of a fantastic development worthy of the foremost place in any exhibition of the monstrosities of exegesis.
How little the promise conveyed a personal freedom from error was seen but a few hours, or days, after it had been given. His Lord, as if recognising that he had reached a stage of spiritual education in which the mystery of victory won by suffering, and life rising out of death, might be made known to him and his fellow-disciples, had spoken to them of His coming sufferings. The eager, impetuous love of the disciple repelled the very thought with an indignant horror, and seems to have looked on the words as the utterance of a morbid depression, “God be gracious to thee, Lord. This shall not be to thee.” It would not do for the other disciples and for the people to hear such disheartening words. The over-bold remonstrance drew from his Lord’s lips a rebuke which has no parallel to its severity in the whole course of our Lord’s ministry. He heard the very words which he then knew, or afterwards learnt, had been addressed to the Tempter, when he too suggested that the crown of the King was to be obtained without the cross, not by obedience to the Father’s will, but by doing homage to the Power of evil. He had made himself as the rock of offence, a stumbling-block in the King’s path. His mind was set, not on the things of God, but on the things of men; “Flesh and blood” were regaining their power over him (Matthew 16:22 , Matthew 16:23 ). He needed to be taught that the condition of discipleship was that he must be prepared to deny himself and take up the cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24 .)
It would seem as if the next stage in the spiritual education of the Apostle came to strengthen the faith which had shewn itself so unstable and lacking in discernment. On the high mountain, which could scarcely be other than one of the peaks of Hermon, he and the two brother Apostles who with him were the chosen of the chosen ones, saw the vision of the excellent glory, and heard the forms in which they recognised the Law-giver and the Tishbite speak of the “decease” which their Lord should accomplish in Jerusalem, and the voice which came from Heaven confirming the confession of his faith, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” The moment was one of ecstasy and rapture, and partly, therefore, one of a dream-like want of calm and reflective thought. He was heavy with sleep, and when he looked up and saw the bright forms in the act of departing, he sought to perpetuate that which was in its very nature but a transient manifestation. It was “good” for them to be there and thus. Would it not be well that Moses and Elijah should remain as witnesses to the Christ, and in their own persons take part in the establishment of His Kingdom; to set up three tabernacles, to which men might go, as the Israelites had gone of old to that in which Moses had communed with the Lord of Israel? He knew not what he said, and the Voice from the clouds, with its emphatic “Hear him,” taught him that the work of Moses and Elijah belonged to the past, and not to the present or the future (Matthew 17:1-13 ; Mark 9:2-13 ; Luke 9:28-36 ). Assuming the genuineness of the Second Epistle which bears his name, it bears testimony to the indelible impression which that vision left upon his mind. It taught him, as he looked back on it, that he had not followed “cunningly-devised fables.” He looked on it as an initiation into the higher mysteries of the Kingdom, as a pledge and earnest of the glory to be revealed hereafter. He learnt to think of his own death as being, like his Lord’s, but a “decease” or “departure,” not a destruction, or suspension, of the energies of life; of his own body as being, also like his Lord’s, a “tabernacle” sanctified by the indwelling presence of the Eternal Spirit (see notes on 2 Peter 1:16-21 ).
The next incident in which St Peter’s name is brought before us presents a strange contrast to that which we have just been dwelling on. We are no longer on the “holy mount,” but in the house at Capernaum. The question which presents itself is not as to the glory of the Kingdom, but the payment of the didrachma or Temple-rate (the half-shekel of Exodus 30:13 ) to its official collector. In answer to their question whether his Master would pay that rate, the disciple had given an unthinking answer in the affirmative. As the sequel shews, he was not wrong in so speaking, but he had not reflected on the nature of the payment, or on his Master’s relation to the claim. He had not learnt the lesson that the children are free from the tribute which is taken as from strangers, that a compulsory payment to the Temple was at variance with the freedom of the new Kingdom, that the Lord of the Temple was of all those children the last from whom it could be claimed. That truth was one, which conveyed for the present in parables and dark sayings, was to sink into his heart as a new germ of thought. In the meantime, as the payment came under the head of “things indifferent” enforced by a legitimate authority, it was right to avoid the “offence” which would have been caused by a premature assertion either of the general principle, or of the special ground on which the Son of Man might have claimed exemption (Matthew 17:24-27 ). Taking this as the true reading of the teaching thus impressed on his mind, it is not too bold to trace its after influence in the disciple’s own precepts to all who were placed in a like conflict between their own sense of the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, and their duty to earthly rulers, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.… As free, yet not using your freedom for a cloke of baseness, but as the servants of God” (see notes on 1 Peter 2:13-16 ).
He had been taught to think of himself as connected with the Ecclesia, the Church, the Congregation, which Christ came to build on Himself as the one foundation. He was now to be taught what were the laws that were to govern that Society. Offences must need come. How were they to be dealt with? First, he was told, by personal, secret, loving remonstrance, then by a reference to two or three impartial and disinterested friends as arbitrators, then, if this failed, by the action of the Society as such, “If he neglect to hear them, tell it to the Church, and if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as the heathen man and the publican” (Matthew 18:17 ). Its decision on what was right or wrong in such cases (it was assumed, of course, that the decision was not at variance with the Divine law), was to be a new example of the power to bind and loose of which he had heard before, exercised in this case collectively, as before individually. The power, whatever might be its nature or limits, was not his alone, but was extended to the whole society, of which he was but an individual member. The whole line of thought was clearly new to the disciple’s mind. He mused on the responsibilities of which it spoke, and wanted further guidance. What was the limit of the forgiveness of personal wrongs? When was this to cease, and the judicial discipline of the Ecclesia to come into operation? He was disposed, after the manner of Jewish casuists, perhaps with the recollection of the “seven times” of Proverbs 24:16 , of the “three” and the “four transgressions” of Amos 1:3 , floating in his thoughts, to fix a quantitative, numerical standard, “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him: until seven times?” Again he was led onward, first by the direct answer, “I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven,” and then by the memorable parable of the Two Debtors, to see that no such quantitative measurement was applicable to the conditions of the case, that there is no fixed limit to the forgiveness of personal wrong, that that forgiveness must be in the heart of the members or representatives of the Ecclesia, even when they inflict their punishment, or exclude the offender from their fellowship. Their aim in all such discipline is to be that of “gaining” the brother whom they are compelled to condemn (Matthew 18:15 ). They are not even, in that case, to despair of his restoration. Though he may be to them as a heathen and a publican, they are to deal with him, not as the Scribes and Pharisees dealt with those who were so named, but after the pattern of Christ’s dealing. Is it too much to think that we may trace the reflex of the lesson so learnt in the mingling of sternness and pity in the words spoken to the Sorcerer of Samaria, “Repent therefore, if haply the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.… Thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:22 , Acts 8:23 ), in the counsel which he gives to the Christians to whom he writes to cherish in themselves that “fervent love” which “shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 )? May we not venture to surmise even that he must have been reminded of the method of procedure thus set forth, when he himself came under its operation, when private remonstrance failed, and his brother Apostle had to tell his fault to the Church and become the mouth-piece of its judgment (Galatians 2:11-14 )? If this were so, it offers an adequate explanation of his frank acceptance of the rebuke, and how it was that St Paul also “gained his brother” by his righteous boldness.
Confining ourselves, as before, to incidents in which St Peter’s name is mentioned, but not forgetting that he probably bore a leading part also in the words and acts with which the disciples were collectively connected, we note, as next in order, the question which he put after he had witnessed the failure of a bright promise in the young ruler who had great possessions, and had heard his Lord’s warnings against the hindrances which wealth presented to any true entrance into the kingdom of God. He and his brother disciples look back on the day when they had abandoned their little stock-in-trade of boats and nets, their home and its settled life, and they seem to themselves entitled to some special reward. They state their claim and ask their question: “Lo, we have left all and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matthew 19:16-27 .) The answer comes to them in words spoken as with a sad, serious irony, as being all that they were then able to receive, and waiting for the interpretation of experience, that their true meaning might be read clearly. Those who had “left house or wife (here we trace, probably, a special reference to the questioner), or brethren, or parents (here a special reference to the sons of Zebedee), or children,” should “receive a hundredfold more in this present time.” With this, indicating, as by one master-touch, that the picture drawn was not to be taken as implying a time of earthly prosperity and success, we find added in the report, which we may legitimately connect more closely than the other with St Peter’s recollections, the significant words “with persecutions” (Mark 10:30 ). New homes there might be, but they were to be homes for the hunted exile; new kindred and friends in the fellowship of Christ, but they were to be given to those who had found that a man’s foes were those of his own household. To this, in St Matthew’s report (19:28) there was added the promise, mysterious and symbolical in its language, that the questioner and his fellow disciples “in the regeneration, when the Son of Man should sit on the throne of His glory,” should share that glory with Him, and themselves “also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Here also we trace the impression left by the words in the later utterances of the disciple. That “regeneration,” not of the individual soul only, but of the whole order of the universe, what was it but the “restitution of all things” which appears in St Peter’s speech in Acts 3:21 , the “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” of 1 Peter 1:5 , the “new heavens and new earth” of 2 Peter 3:13 ? That promise of a kingly throne, do we not find its echoes in the “crown of glory which fadeth not away” of 1 Peter 5:4 , in the belief that he too would be “a sharer in the glory that was about to be revealed” (1 Peter 1:5 )?
The next stage in the special education of the disciple meets us when the two sons of Jona and of Zebedee were with their Lord on the Mount of Olives. They had heard the words which must have dashed to the ground many of the hopes they had cherished when they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear, and told them as they looked with admiration on the stately buildings of the Temple that “not one stone should remain upon another which should not be broken down” (Mark 13:2 ; Matthew 24:2 ; Luke 21:6 ). They came with their questions privately, as if half shrinking from the disclosure to others of what they yet longed to know themselves. “Tell us what shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?” They heard the great prophetic discourse which prepared them for a time of war and pestilence and earthquakes and tribulations, which told them that the Gospel must first be proclaimed to all the Heathen as well as to Israel (Matthew 24:14 ), which gave them mysterious hints (these also to be interpreted by experience) as to the signs that were to precede the destruction of the holy city, which left them with no clearly marked note of time as to the interval which was to elapse between that destruction and the glorious Advent. Of that teaching we find traces alike in the certain expectation in 1 Peter 1:13 , of the “revelation of Jesus Christ;” in the prominence given in 1 Peter 3:20 ; 2 Peter 2:5 , 2 Peter 2:3 :6, 2 Peter 2:7 , to the “days of Noah,” of which he had then heard as analogous to the days of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:37 ); in the belief that the day of the Lord would come “as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10 ); that “the heavens themselves” should pass away (2 Peter 3:10 ); and in the patient faith which saw in the delay of that Coming only a proof of the long-suffering of God, with whom “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ).
It is not without significance, as indicating the apparent purpose to bring the two friends into closest companionship at a time when one was soon to stand in need of the comfort and sympathy of the other, that Peter and John were sent together to prepare the room in which the disciples were to eat their last Passover with their Lord before He suffered (Luke 22:8 ). We can picture to ourselves how they would commune together of all that they had seen and heard during the excitement of the previous days, with what vague expectations of suffering and of glory they would be looking forward to that Paschal meal. Peter’s acts and words at that Last Supper were eminently characteristic. There had been a dispute among the disciples which of them should be accounted greatest, in which we can scarcely doubt that his claims were questioned, and, perhaps, also asserted. Again they heard the warning which told them that all such disputes were unseemly and out of harmony for those who were all alike called to eat at their Master’s table and sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:30 ). Words were followed by acts. The disciple saw his Master take on Himself the garb and the office of a menial slave. Girded with the towel of such a slave, holding the basin which was provided for the customary ablutions of the feast, He went from one disciple to another and washed the feet which had been soiled in the dusty roads and streets that led from Olivet to that upper chamber in Jerusalem. He came, apparently, to Peter last, and was met by words which recall to our memory the confession of his sinfulness in Luke 5:8 . The Apostle shrank from allowing Him whom he had confessed as the Son of God to perform for him that humiliating office. Others might accept it, but not he. Not even the warning words, “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter,” restrained him from following up his first question of surprise, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” with the peremptory refusal, “Thou shalt not wash my feet while the world lasts.” The symbolical, we may almost say the sacramental, character of the Act was suggested in words the meaning of which he was to learn by the light of what followed, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” And then, in the characteristic vehemence of one who sought above all things to avoid contact with any thing “common or unclean” (Acts 10:14 ), he went beyond the offered act, and, here again “not knowing what he said,” asked that hands and head might share in that washing on which so much depended, and was met by the assurance that as having been plunged in the cleansing waters of Baptism (afterwards he might come to see the cleansing in the blood of Christ), he needed only that washing of the feet which represented the daily renewal of the soul from its daily stains, and would then be “clean every whit” (John 13:1-16 ). I do not think it is fanciful to see something like an allusive reference even to the outward incidents of this history in the remarkable word ( ἐγκομβώσασθε ) which St Peter uses when he exhorts those to whom he writes to be “clothed with humility,” to gird themselves with that lowliness as his Lord had girded Himself with the towel on that night of sorrow (1 Peter 5:5 ); or to its inner meaning in his declaration at the Council of Jerusalem, that the true purity is that which comes by faith (Acts 15:9 ); or his teaching in 1 Peter 3:21 , that the true idea of baptism (the “washing” of him who has bathed in the laver of regeneration, Titus 3:5 ) is more than the putting away of the filth of the flesh, and involves the answer (better, perhaps, the question and answer ) of a good conscience towards God. The question put by Peter when he heard the words which struck terror into the hearts of the disciples, “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me,” and beckoning to the disciple whom Jesus loved, whispered to him that he should ask of whom He spake, is from our present point of view chiefly interesting as a token of the confidential intimacy between the two friends. What followed brought out at once the characteristic impulsiveness and weakness of the chief of the Apostles. He heard words hardly less appalling than those which had struck him with dismay, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night,” and he rejected with indignant haste the thought that those words could ever be true of him, “Though all men should be offended in thee, yet will I never be offended.” Startled by the mysterious words, “Whither I go ye cannot come;” he asked the question, “Lord, whither goest thou?” And the answer is as mysterious as before, “Whither I go ye cannot follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards.” It seems to him that this implies a renewed doubt as to his steadfastness, and he asks yet again “Why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.” He was met (it is not easy to determine the exact sequence of the words recorded by the several Evangelists) by a whispered warning which told him that an hour of trial was near at hand, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you” (the whole company of the disciples) “as wheat:” followed by the tender loving assurance, “but I have prayed for thee , that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” It did but lead to reiterated protestations, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, to prison and to death.” And then, as if to fix the sense of his infirmity indelibly on his mind by predicting the very form it would take, he heard his own words repeated as with a sad irony, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow before thou shalt thrice deny me.” The confident assurance, however, was not yet gone, and the warning voice did but call out a fresh burst of loud-spoken zeal, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” Looking to the fact that he must, in all probability, as he afterwards used his weapon, have been one of the disciples who displayed the two swords they had brought with them in answer to the Lord’s prophetic intimation that a time was coming when, from their earthly stand-point, the sword would at once be needed and be useless, it seems likely that he was eager to shew his prowess in defending his Master against the anticipated attack. (Matthew 26:31-35 ; Mark 14:2-31 ; Luke 22:31-38 ; John 13:36-38 .)
Here again we trace the effect of that crisis of his life in the teaching of his epistle. He had been taught by that terrible experience that the “adversary, the devil, goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” that it was necessary therefore to “be sober and to watch, so as to resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8 , 1 Peter 5:9 ).
The night went on. The disciples listened, we may believe, with but little understanding, to the manifold promise of the other Comforter or Advocate, who was to take their Lord’s place when He should have departed from them, to the great prayer of intercession which, as the true High Priest, He offered for His people (John 14 17). They crossed the brook Kidron, they followed Him to the Mount of Olives; they entered the garden of Gethsemane, weary, exhausted, stunned with the agitation and sorrow of the night. Once again the three, Peter, James and John were chosen from the rest as for a special nearness of companionship. Eight remained with their Lord’s warning words, “Pray ye that ye enter not into temptation,” falling on their ears, but heard as in a weary dream. They, the three, were taken with Him a few steps further, and saw and heard something, even in their drowsy exhaustion, of the mysterious hour of agony, the prostrate form, the cry “Abba, Father,” the prayer “Let this cup pass away from me.” The very intensity of their sorrow added to their weariness and they fell asleep. It is not without significance that when the Christ came to them, and spoke in tones half of sorrow and half of wonder, He addressed Himself primarily to Peter, “Simon, sleepest thou? Could’st thou not watch with me one hour?” Yet with the reproach were mingled words of gentlest sympathy. The Master recognised at once the strength and weakness of the disciple’s character, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Eager, zealous, noble impulses were there, but they were lacking in stability. The lower nature could not sustain them. It gave way under the pressure, and brought them down with it in its fall. Sleep came on again, even after these stirring words, and it was broken only by the tread of the crowd and the glare of torches and lamps and the clashing of weapons. A strange impetuous impulse came upon the ardent disciple as he shook off his slumbers, perhaps, not unconnected with the words which he had just heard. The time had come when he could shew that though the spirit was eager, the flesh was not weak. Might he not now draw one of those two swords of which his Lord had said that they were “enough”! He did draw it. The one drop of blood shed in a conflict with earthly weapons on behalf of Christ was shed by Peter, and for this he gained not the praise and glowing thanks on which he had counted, but words of rebuke and caution “Put up thy sword into its place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” He was taught the lesson which his self-styled successors have but too often forgotten that it was not by such weapons that the cause of Christ and His kingdom was to be defended. (Matthew 26:36-46 ; Mark 14:32-42 ; Luke 22:40-46 .)
We need not follow in detail all the incidents of that terrible night and the early dawn that followed. Not one of all the Eleven had the courage to go with their Lord to prison and to death. Two of them, however, were drawn partly, we may believe, by the love which, in spite of their lack of courage, was not extinct, partly by an eager anxious curiosity “to see the end,” to follow the procession as it wound its way down the slopes of the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron, within the city gates, into the court of the High Priest’s palace. And these two were they whom we have seen as all along associated by ties of closest friendship, Simon the son of Jona, and John the son of Zebedee. The latter had, in this instance, advantages which the former lacked. Possibly a slightly higher social status and culture, possibly some distant relationship, possibly again some casual contact in previous visits to Jerusalem had made him personally acquainted with Caiaphas or Annas. He entered the courtyard himself; he gained the right of entry for his friend, and the Galilean fisherman, after a hasty denial, as he entered, that he had been a disciple of Jesus, found himself in the crowd of soldiers and of servants, male and female, who were gathering round the charcoal fire. Questions were naturally asked as to who the stranger was. His provincial intonation betrayed that he was a Galilean. The light of the fire shewed to the soldiers the same features that they had seen by moonlight in the momentary scuffle, in which the High Priest’s servant had lost his ear. The disciple, wearied and stunned with sorrow, could not bear the torrent of interrogation that fell upon him. The hasty words of denial escaped his lips, and he shifted his position, leaving the blazing fire for the comparative darkness of the porch. But there also he was pursued. Once and again, now with the aggravation of an oath rashly uttered, he asserted that he was not a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, that he was altogether a stranger to him. On three several occasions, therefore, but with manifold variations and reiterations of denial in each, he had fulfilled his Lord’s warning prediction. And then the cock crew, and that prediction smote upon his memory. Had it been left to do its work alone, it might well have driven him to a despair like that of Judas. As it was, the moment coincided with that in which Jesus was led from the room in which Annas had held his preliminary enquiry to the court in which the Sanhedrin was sitting, and “the Lord turned and looked on Peter” with a glance, we may well believe, of ineffable sadness and compassion. The heart of the disciple was stirred to its inmost depths, and he threw himself on the ground (I follow the most natural interpretation of Mark 14:72 ) and burst into a flood of bitter and repentant tears. (Matthew 26:69-75 ; Mark 14:66-72 ; Luke 22:54-62 ; John 18:15-27 .)
We cannot read his Epistles without seeing that what the Apostle then witnessed left on him an ineffaceable impression. He had been an “eye-witness” of the sufferings of the Christ (1 Peter 5:1 ). He knew of those “buffetings” in the High Priest’s palace which the sinless One had borne with such silent patience (1 Peter 2:19-23 ). He had found healing for his own soul in those livid marks which the scourge had then inflicted. He had felt that he too was a sheep that had gone astray, and that he had been brought back to the fold by Him who was the true Shepherd and Protector of his soul (1 Peter 2:24 , 1 Peter 2:25 ). He had been taught by the terrible experience of his own weakness in “denying the Lord who had bought him” (2 Peter 2:1 ), the intensity of that sin when it was not the momentary failure of faith and courage, but the persistent apostasy of a life. He had learnt too that a “haughty spirit goeth before a fall,” that “God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5 ).
The records of the Evangelists leave the hours that followed, as far as Peter is concerned, under the veil of silence. We may infer from the fact that St John stood by the cross, and that he did not, that he had not the heart to look on the sufferings of the Master he had so deeply wronged, and that the day which followed was spent by him in the silent agony of contrition, in the birth-throes of a new life rising out of death. It is significant, however, that when he next appears, it is in company with the beloved disciple. It is no strained inference from that fact that he had sought him out as one to whom he could pour the grief and penitence of his soul without fear of being reproached or repelled. As if they had kept a vigil of sorrow and prayer together on the night that followed the Sabbath, they left their lodging in Jerusalem early on the next day’s dawn, and went outside the gates of the city to the garden or orchard where, as St John knew, the body of their Lord had been entombed in the rock-hewn sepulchre (John 20:3 ). It is clear that they went in the expectation of finding the body there, with the purpose, perhaps, of taking part in the funereal honours which they must have known that the two Maries and Salome (the mother of the beloved disciple), were about to pay to it, in completion of the hasty embalmment which had followed on the Crucifixion (Luke 14:1 ). Their eagerness was shewn by the swiftness with which they ran. John was the first to reach the sepulchre and to see that it was empty, and that the winding-sheet and bandages were lying apart in the recess. Peter followed and looked in. The body was not there, and then a new faith and hope sprang up in their hearts. Words to which they had given little heed at the time came back to their memory (Matthew 17:9 , Matthew 17:20 :19; Mark 9:9 , Mark 9:10 :34; Luke 18:33 ), and they now believed in their fulfilment. That faith was confirmed by sight in a manifestation which is not fully recorded in the Gospels but was received in the general traditions of the Church. The risen Lord “had appeared to Simon,” “was seen by Cephas” (Luke 24:34 ; 1 Corinthians 15:5 ). The absence of any further record suggests the inference that it was but as the vision of a moment, with few words or none, but, we may believe, with a look as full of pardoning pity as that which had fallen on him as he sat in the gate-way of the High Priest’s palace. It follows from this that we must separate the two Apostles from the rest of the disciples, who could not bring themselves to receive the report of the Resurrection brought back by the two Maries and Salome. On the evening of that day, Peter shared with the others in the joy of hearing the familiar words of blessing “Peace be unto you,” in the breath that must have thrilled through every nerve of their spiritual life, in the words which gave them the new mysterious power, not only as before, “to bind and to loose,” to distinguish, i.e . what was or was not binding in the precepts of the Law, but to deal with those who had transgressed the great commandments by “forgiving” or “retaining” sins according as the prophetic insight which they would receive by the gift of the Spirit, enabled them to discern penitence from impenitence in the heart of the offender (John 20:22 , John 20:23 ). Of the deliberate exercise of that power by Peter we have examples in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10 ), of Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:20 , Acts 8:21 ), in his condemnation of the false teachers of 2 Peter 2:12 . Less direct traces of it are found in his proclamation of the forgiveness of sins as following on repentance and faith and baptism, in Acts 2:38 , Acts 3:19 , in the stress which he lays on the truth that Love is the great absolver, covering the multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8 ).
The week that followed was spent, we may believe, as other devout Jews spent it, in the solemnities of the seven days of the great Paschal feast, probably in the services of the Temple, in recalling their Lord’s words, in prayer and meditation, in searching the Scriptures with the new light thrown on them by the fact that their Lord had risen from the dead. The disciples, however, felt that they were now marked men in the midst of an unfriendly crowd. At the end of the week, as at the beginning, they were still meeting, most probably in the upper chamber belonging to one who was in secret a disciple, which had received them when they ate their last Passover, and were taught from henceforth to break bread and to drink wine as a memorial of their Lord. And “the doors were shut for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19 , John 20:26 ). We can scarcely doubt that they were obeying that command, when for one brief moment they saw the beloved Form once more, and heard the words which rebuked the incredulity of Thomas, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believed.” Of those we have an echo not to be mistaken in the words of 1 Peter 1:8 , “Whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing , ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
The Feast was over, and the disciples, having no call to any immediate work at Jerusalem, returned with the other pilgrims to Galilee. Their Lord had indeed bidden them so to return, and had, in a message sent specially, held out the hope to Peter that He would meet them there (Mark 16:7 ; Matthew 28:7 ). There seemed no reason why they should not fill up the interval of expectation by honest labour, and they returned to the work of their earlier calling on the Sea of Tiberias. Peter and Thomas and Nathanael and James and John and two other unnamed disciples were together, we may believe, in Capernaum or Bethsaida. An impulse came to Peter, not unconnected, it may be, with the many memories of the scene and the act, which led him to propose, as the sun was setting, that they should go out together in the boat and fish. Was he expecting once again to see that form of the Son of Man walking on the waters? Did he hope to shew that his faith and love were stronger than they had been of old? The night passed, the dawn was breaking. The morning mists were hanging over the shore. They saw the dim outline of a man’s figure on the beach. They heard a voice, as of a passing traveller, hailing them in the familiar phrase which was used in speaking to those of their class, “Ho, lads, have you any food with you?” A command, given in reply to their negative answer, that they should cast the net to the right of the boat, did not suggest any other thought than that they were listening to the counsel of one more conversant than themselves with that region of the lake, who knew better where the fishes used to swarm in shoals. But when the nets were filled, so that they found it hard to draw them up, the disciple whom Jesus loved, recalling how once before they had taken such a draught of fishes after a night of fruitless toil, whispered to his friends that the stranger was none other than the Lord. The more impetuous Peter, as soon as he heard the words, girding his fisher’s tunic round his loins, flung himself into the water, swam the two hundred cubits that lay between him and the shore, and reached his Master’s feet. He and the other disciples drew the net to shore, counted the fish they had taken, and at His command prepared their simple meal with the wood fire which He had kindled on the beach. Few words passed between them, but once again, as before, when the Five Thousand and the Four had been fed by Him, it was He who gave them the bread and the fish which formed their repast. The meal was over, and then he heard the question, addressed to him as like words had been addressed before (John 1:42 ; Matthew 16:17 ), by his earlier and earthly name, “Simon, son of Joannes (I give the reading of the best MSS.), lovest thou me more than these love me?” The question sounded to him almost like a reproach. It recalled the hour when he had boasted that he did love Him more, that though all others might deny Him, he would not deny, but was ready to go with Him to prison and to death. He made answer as in the fulness of the heart, changing the word which had been used, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” as friend loves friend, as the scholar should love the Master 1 1 I have endeavoured to express by a paraphrase the undoubted distinction between ἀγαπῶ and φιλῶ, between βόσκω and ποιμαίνω. , and he was told how he was to shew that affection by the words “Feed my lambs.” The question was put again, and answered as before, followed by the command pointing to a higher and a wider work, “Be the shepherd of my sheep.” Yet a third time came the question, Peter’s own word being now taken up by his Lord, as though his previous declaration had still left some lingering doubt, and, pained by the distrust which the words seemed to imply, there was something of impatient protest in his third answer,” Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” And still there came the same command, varied in its form, “Feed my sheep:” lambs and sheep alike ( προβάτια in its diminutive force seems chosen to include both) were to be committed to his care. And then, as if to comfort him for the pain of the previous moment, he heard the prophetic words which shewed him that the Master, who “knew all things,” had, in very deed, read the secrets of his soul, and now saw there the love which would endure through many long years of labour, and would make him faithful unto death, “Verily, verily, I say to thee, when thou wast younger thou wast wont to gird thyself, and didst walk whither thou wouldest, but when thou shalt be old, another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” The beloved disciple, who survived his friend many years, lived to record how these words had been fulfilled by the death by which Peter had glorified God. But for Peter himself, the first thought on hearing of his own future, was the strong desire to know his friend’s also. Should they, whose friendship hitherto had been “lovely and pleasant” in its purity, be divided or united in their death? “Lord, and what shall this man do?” His desire was not to be gratified. He was to use the present and to leave the future in the Father’s hands, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:0 )
Here, again, the feelings to which the words gave rise have left manifold traces in the Apostle’s writings. As age was creeping on him, he remembered that the Lord Jesus Christ had shewed him that the putting off of the tabernacle of his flesh would not be by the slow decline of old age, but be quick and sudden in its character (see note on 2 Peter 1:14 ). His charge to his fellow-workers in the ministry of the Gospel is that they too should be “shepherds of the flock,” eager and ready as he himself had been in the service of Him who was the chief shepherd and guardian of their souls (1 Peter 5:2 , 1 Peter 2:25 ).
The incident thus recalled is the last in which the name of Peter meets us in the Gospel records. We can only recall to mind that he was probably among the five hundred brethren who, drawn together, we may believe, by his witness to the Resurrection, from Capernaum and Bethsaida and Cana and Chorazin (the nucleus of the Galilean Churches which appear in Acts 9:31 ), were permitted, as the Eleven had been, to see for a few moments the visible presence of their risen Lord; that he was a sharer in the mission which sent them to teach, not Israel only, but all the nations of the heathen world, and to baptize them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that to him also was given the promise of signs that should attest his mission, casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents (Matthew 28:16-20 ; Mark 16:17 , Mark 16:18 ). Four weeks passed away, and then they went up to Jerusalem, and met together as before. Once more they saw Him, and now the meeting was a longer one. Resuming His old character and work as a Teacher, a Rabbi instructing His scholars in the house of the Interpreter, He led them through Law and Prophecy and Psalm, and taught them to understand the meanings which had before been hidden, when they witnessed of Himself (Luke 24:44 , Luke 24:45 ). They learnt from Him what was to be the outline of their future teaching, how they were to preach “repentance and remission of sins to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” how He would send to them the promise of His Father, how they were to remain in the city, filled though it was with their foes, until that promise was fulfilled, and they should be endued, before not many days had passed, “with power from on high.”
And then they took the self-same path, probably about the self-same hour, as that which they had trodden on the unforgotten night of sorrow, down to the valley of the Kidron, and up the slopes of Olivet, and past Gethsemane, till they came to Bethany. They had one more question to ask. He had one last word to speak. They wished, as before, to know whether the kingdom of God should immediately appear (Luke 19:11 ), whether at that time He would restore again the Kingdom to Israel. They heard words, the last they were ever to hear from those divine lips, that it was not given to them to know the times and the seasons which the Father had fixed by His own supreme authority. In due course that restitution, not of Israel only but of the universe 1 1 The thoughtful student of the Acts cannot fail to recognise the connexion of thought between the ἀποκαθιστάνεις of 1:6, and the ἀποκατάστασις πάντων of 3:21. , should come. Their task in the meantime was clear, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high, and ye shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” And then all was over. “He was parted from them, and was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” Two forms like those which the Maries had seen in the sepulchre stood by them, and bade them stand no longer gazing up into Heaven. As surely as they had seen Him go into Heaven, so surely should they see Him come again. Sorrowfully and silently, yet full of an exceeding joy, the Eleven retraced their steps to the upper chamber in Jerusalem. For Peter, as for the others, it was true that the training of the disciple was over, that the work of the Apostle was to begin (Acts 1:1-12 ).
life of st peter. the work of the apostle
No thoughtful reader can pass from the study of the Gospels to that of the Acts, without being struck with the different type of character presented to us in connexion with the name of Simon Peter. The impulsive, wayward, unsteadfast disciple, uttering only a few hasty questions and passionate ejaculations, has become the ruler of a community, able to address the multitude and the Sanhedrin in well-ordered and elaborate harangues. The change is all the more noticeable from the fact that we cannot account for it by the hypothesis of a mere difference of authorship. For the writer of the Acts was also the writer of a Gospel, and the difference is not less striking when we compare the one history with the other, than it is when we take St Matthew’s or St Mark’s Gospel as a standard of comparison with the Acts. Something, doubtless, is due to the writer’s aim and the standpoint from which he wrote; something also to the difference between the writer’s informants in the two cases. It was in part, at least, his purpose to present St Peter to his Italian friend Theophilus as the head of a large and influential section of the Church, representing that section not in the spirit of party, but in that of a wise and dignified moderation, aiming at unity and peace. In collecting materials for his two histories he would be dependent for the first on reports which came, directly or indirectly, from Galilean disciples, who had known Simon Bar-jona in the days of our Lord’s ministry, whose memory was stored with what we should call the anecdotes of that period of his life. In gathering information for the second, his facts would come mainly from the members of the Church at Jerusalem to whom Peter had been a familiar name as one held in honour and esteem, almost indeed in awe (Acts 5:13-15 ). The impression thus formed would tend, in the nature of things, to give a shade of colour to the writer’s representations. What he heard now from one hearer and now from another of the Apostle’s speeches would have to be set in order and reproduced with something of the writer’s own skill and in his own phraseology.
There is, however, a deeper ground of difference, and this is found in the real change that had passed over St Peter’s character. That night of cowardice and denial, that terrible experience of his own weakness, that look which drew forth the bitter tears of repentance, was, as his Lord’s words had indicated (Luke 22:32 ), as truly the hour of his conversion as the vision on the road to Damascus was the conversion of St Paul. The new man was then born in him to a conscious life. It was strengthened, almost as soon as it was born, by the special powers of the Pentecostal gift. Assuming, even on merely human grounds, that St Luke aimed at reproducing faithfully what he had heard of the two periods of St Peter’s life, the difference between them cannot be regarded otherwise than as at once a proof and a measure of the transforming power of the grace of God. Simon Bar-jona is become more fully than he had ever been till now, the Cephas, the Peter, of his Lord’s prophetic designation. It is significant that, except in the history of Cornelius (Acts 10:5 , Acts 10:32 ) and in the speech of James the Lord’s brother (Acts 15:14 ) the name Simon drops entirely into the back-ground, and he is known as Peter only.
It was, we may believe, due in part to the influence of the beloved disciple, in part to that of the words spoken by the Christ in John 20:21-23 21:John 20:15-23 , that the authority of the Apostle suffered no diminution in consequence of his grievous fall, that no one ever reproached him with having denied his Lord. That that denial found a place in every Gospel record, may be accepted as a proof that he in his turn had no wish to hush it up or veil it in obscurity. It was for him, we may well believe, what a different yet analogous experience was to St Paul, a standing proof of the mercy of God and the power of His grace, that he had risen after so great a fall.
There is a significant calmness in the first act that followed on the Ascension. The disciples, male and female, who formed the nucleus of the future Church, one hundred and twenty in number, were met together. They were addressed for the first time as a community by one to whom they looked as their natural leader. The place left vacant by the death of Judas had to be filled up in order that the Apostles might once again meet Israel as the representatives of the twelve-tribed people. The treachery of the Apostle had to be placed in such a light, that men might see that while it was from one point of view the frustration of a Divine calling, it was, from another, the working out of a Divine purpose. He shewed that he had not studied in vain in his Master’s school of prophetic interpretation. The Scriptures that spoke of the righteous sufferer as the victim of a base treachery (Psalms 69:25 , Psalms 109:8 ) required to be fulfilled in the case of the ideal sufferer. The disciple who was to be chosen to fill the vacant place must be qualified to be, as the Eleven were, a witness of the Resurrection. In the prayer that precedes the final choice referred to Christ as “knowing the hearts of all men” (Acts 1:24 ) we have a point of contact, with almost the last words of the disciple recorded in the Gospels “Lord, thou knowest all things” (John 21:17 ), with the subsequent speech of the Apostle when he appealed, at the council in Jerusalem, to “God which knoweth the hearts of all men” (Acts 15:8 ).
The company were gathered together as before, presumably the hundred and twenty, (but possibly, as some have thought, the Twelve only), who had been mentioned in Acts 1:15 . They were in an attitude of intense spiritual expectation, waiting till they should be “endued with power from on high.” Day by day the streets of the city were more thickly thronged with pilgrims from all parts of the world to keep the coming Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, of Ingathering, of Leviticus 23:15 ; Deuteronomy 16:9 . It was a day connected in Jewish tradition with one great revelation, with the utterance of the great Ten Words, or Laws, on Sinai. The night before the Pentecost was specially appropriated in Jewish usage, for a solemn thanksgiving for that revelation of the Divine Will (Schöttgen, Hor. Hebr . on Acts 2:1 ). At such a moment prayer would naturally be more earnest and intense than ever. Their Lord’s words “How much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Luke 11:13 ) would be ringing, as it were, in the ears of Peter and his brother Apostles.
And so the promise was fulfilled. They looked and saw, as it were, a shower of tongues of fire hovering over them, so distributed (this and not “cloven” is the meaning of the Greek word) that none was left without his portion of the lambent flame. They heard the sound, not now of the whispered, hushed breath, which had before been the outward symbol of the Spirit’s silent working (John 20:22 ), but the sound of a rushing mighty wind sweeping round and over them. And this outward wonder was but the token of a sudden startling change in their spiritual consciousness. They burst into an ecstasy of adoration such as they had never known before. Blessings, praises, doxologies, such as they may have listened to before as they stood in the courts of the Temple, and heard the devotions of the pilgrims from many lands, but had never till then attempted to join in, now burst from their lips with a marvellous fluency. They were conscious of new sympathies with those worshippers from afar. They called on them to join in their hymns of praise as they told of the great deeds that God had wrought for them. The “utterance” would seem to have been different in character from that of ordinary speech, and was not used as an instrument of teaching. The analogies to which St Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 13:1 , 14:7, 1 Corinthians 13:8 , suggest the thought that the words of ecstatic adoration were uttered in the tones of praise, and that what the multitude heard was of the nature of a jubilant chant 1 1 It would be out of place here to enter at any length into a discussion as to the nature of the Gift of Tongues, and I content myself with referring to the Article on that subject in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible . . Some, as they listened, asked seriously what was the meaning of this unlooked-for rapture. Some, looking at the outward manifestations of a mood so different from the cold level of ordinary worshippers, rushed to the cynical conclusion that the men who thus spoke were “full of new wine,” and knew not what they did 1 1 It may be noted as an interesting coincidence, that St Paul contrasts what we may venture to call the two forms of stimulation. “Be not drunk with wine, … but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). . (Acts 2:1-13 .)
When the sign and wonder had done its work of drawing together a crowd of eager listeners, answering in this respect to the account which St Paul gives of the end for which the gift of Tongues had been bestowed (1 Corinthians 14:22 , 1 Corinthians 14:23 ), St Peter rose, as the acknowledged leader of the company, and speaking, either in the Aramaic which was the common speech of Jerusalem, or, as seems more probable, in the Greek with which, as a Galilean, he was probably familiar, and which was the natural medium of communication with the Hellenistic Jews of the dispersion, appeared in his new character. The “prophetic word” was now in him, and he had been taught to understand that word as it had been uttered by the older prophets. (Comp. 2 Peter 1:19-21 .) With a courage which presented an almost miraculous contrast to his recent cowardice he pressed home upon the consciences of rulers and of people the sin of which they had been guilty in condemning and crucifying Him who was indeed their Lord. He bore his witness that that Lord had been raised from the dead, because it was not possible that He should be holden by the bands of death, or that the Holy One should see corruption and be left in Hades. He called them to repentance and baptism. He proclaimed to them the remission of sins and promised that they too should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. We may trace the lessons taught by that day’s experience in the words in which he speaks, at the close of his life, of the Spirit’s work. For him the “prophetic word,” as a living and abiding power, was more even than the “excellent” glory which he had seen on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:19 ). He had learnt that prophecy did not come at any time by the will of man, but that holy men of God spoke, as he himself had spoken, their human consciousness co-operating but not originating, as they were “borne on” (the very word used of the “ rushing mighty wind”) by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21 ). The large increase in the number of the disciples that followed, the necessity for organising and guiding the life of a large community, must have called for and developed other spiritual gifts, such as those of the “helps” and “governments” of 1 Corinthians 12:28 , of a more permanent character. The Galilean fisherman became, in one sense, the originator of the polity and ritual of the Church, “binding” and “loosing” according to the wisdom given to him. There was, however, no abrupt break in the outward continuity of his life. The old habit of devotion still continued, and the accustomed Services of the Temple in which his Master had delighted, and which He had twice striven to restore to their ancient purity (John 2:14-16 , Matthew 21:12 ) still saw him among the crowd of worshippers. Nor was the old friendship with the son of Zebedee to whom he had turned in the bitterness of his repentant sorrow, less intimate than before. “Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1 ). The healing of the cripple at the gate of the Temple that is called Beautiful, shewed that the power which his Lord had given him to cure diseases was not diminished. He had learnt that it was not by “silver or gold” that the wants of men, whether bodily or spiritual, were to be removed, but by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who had healed the cripple at Bethesda (John 5:2 , John 5:14 ) and who was present to heal now, just as he afterwards taught that it was not “by silver and gold” that men were ransomed from the power of an evil life, but by “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18 , 1 Peter 1:19 ). In speaking of that work of healing he disclaimed its being due to any power or piety of his own. It was the work of “the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob” (we note the disciple’s use of the self-same name as that with which his Master had rebuked the unbelief of the Sadducean priesthood (Matthew 22:32 )), who had thus “glorified His Son Jesus,” as He had before glorified Him in the days of His ministry (John 5:20 , John 12:28 ) by like works of healing. Once again he pressed home upon the people who had been drawn together by the report of the miracle thus wrought their guilt in denying the Holy One and the Just (comp. 1 Peter 3:18 , for a like use of the same epithet), and preferring to him such an one as Barabbas, and he spoke to them, in the power of his new “prophetic word” of the “times of refreshing” which were at hand for those who sought them and might be hastened by repentance, of the “restitution of all things” which lay in a distant future which he would not venture to define. St Luke’s report of his words is, it will be noted, in exact agreement with his own later teaching when he urges the believers in Christ to “look for and hasten the coming of the day of God,” and declares that he and they are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:12 , 2 Peter 3:13 ). In both passages we find an echo of the words which had been heard only by Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, “Elias truly shall come first and shall restore all things” (Matthew 17:11 ). In this expectation he saw himself in harmony with the long line of prophets who had spoken of these things (Comp. 2 Peter 3:2 ).
The faithful witness thus borne led to its natural results. The two disciples were brought before the Sadducean priests who could not endure the testimony thus given to the Resurrection of the Christ, and now the courage of Peter did not fail him, and he was ready to go even to prison, and, it might be, to death for his Lord’s sake (Luke 22:33 ). When he was brought on the following day before the Court that had tried and condemned his Lord, he was strengthened by a new consciousness that the Spirit which he had received was speaking through him. Now he understood what it was not to “take anxious thought” or to “premeditate” when brought face to face even with the rulers of his people (Matthew 10:19 ). And with a boldness which may well have startled them he reproduces the very words which, when they came from our Lord’s lips, had roused the very frenzy of hatred. The chief priests and Pharisees heard once more that “the stone which the builders rejected had become the head of the corner” and that they were the builders on whom lay the guilt of that rejection. (Acts 4:11 .Matthew 21:42 .) That imagery, so closely connected with his own name, was fixed on his memory to the end (1 Peter 2:7 ) That they heard such a rebuke from these peasants of Galilee, “unlearned and ignorant men” who filled no office and had never sat at the feet of any Rabbi in Jerusalem, amazed them. Who were these speakers? They looked and recognised the features of the only two disciples who had entered the High Priest’s palace on the morning of the crucifixion (John 18:15 ) and whom they may then probably have seen there. In their amazement they took what seemed to them a middle course. They could not deny the miracle; they would not punish the Apostles. It would be enough to threaten them, and command silence for the future as far as the hated name of Jesus was concerned. They find what must have seemed to them a resolute defiance. Those disciples had a duty imposed on them and from that duty they could not shrink. It was not right to hearken unto men more than unto God (Acts 4:19 , Acts 4:20 ). They left the Judgment Hall with the full assertion of their freedom, and when they rejoined the company of the disciples, and told what had happened to them, they burst out into what St Luke records as the Church’s first hymn of praise, an echo, as it were, of the Pentecostal chant, a “spiritual song” (Ephesians 5:19 ; Colossians 3:16 ) in the sense of being the unpremeditated utterance of the Spirit that gave them the new “tongues” which were the instruments of a new power of exulting joy and praise. In the hymn itself we note some interesting coincidences. The “Lord” with which it opens, is not the ordinary Kyrios , but the Despotes which we find in 2 Peter 2:1 . The “child Jesus” is none other than the “servant of the Lord” of the later prophecies of Isaiah (42:1, 52:13), whom the Apostle had now learnt to identify both in his sufferings and his glory with the Lord whom he served. His view of the relations between man’s freedom and God’s foreordaining purpose is the same as that expressed in his earlier speeches in the Acts (1:16, 2:23, 4:28) and in his latest utterance in his Epistles (1 Peter 2:8 ).
The history of Ananias and Sapphira need not be further dwelt on than as indicating the power to forgive or retain sins which Peter exercised in the full consciousness of its reality, when the pardon or condemnation expressed the insight into character which he had received through the illumination of the Spirit (John 20:23 ). The punishment which he was the agent in inflicting was necessary to preserve the infant community from that greed of gain which had led Judas to his destruction. How far that punishment extended, it was not for him, nor is it for us to say. It is enough to note that the dominant idea of all such punishments as exercised by the Apostles was that the offender was “delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the Spirit might be saved in the day of the the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5 ), that he himself, in dwelling on the marvellous mercies of the Father of all spirits, speaks of those who “are judged according to men in the flesh” and yet “live to God in the Spirit” (1 Peter 4:6 ). The natural result of the punishment thus inflicted was seen in a new awe and reverence of which the Apostle was the object. The Eastern portico of the Temple, known as Solomon’s, as containing, it was believed, part of the original structure of the first Temple, in which he had of old walked with his Master as He taught (John 10:23 ), was now, for a time, almost, as it were, appropriated to him and his brother Apostles, by a common consent, which the priests and Levites did not dare to resist, as a place where they might meet and teach the people (Acts 5:12 ). The very “shadow of Peter” became, as the hem of Christ’s garment had been, a means of healing to those who brought with them the intensity of faith which, in its turn, brought them within the range of the divine power to heal.
This expansion of influence brought on the next stage of persecution. Threats, it seemed, were not enough, and more stringent measures had to be taken. Once again the Apostles (now, it would seem, the whole company of the Twelve) were called before the tribunal of the Sadducean priesthood, and were committed to the dungeon of the public prison. Released by an angel of the Lord, they appeared in the Temple carrying on the work of teaching. Summoned once more before the Council, Peter, as the spokesman of the rest, proclaimed his steadfast adherence to the rule that it was right to obey God rather than man, and so to bear their witness that Jesus had risen from the dead. The prudent advice of Gamaliel, as representing the more moderate section of the Pharisees, prevailed for the time, but though acquitted of the charge of blasphemy, they were dealt with as disturbers of the Temple, and suffered the Jewish penalty of being beaten with rods (Acts 5:17-42 ).
Peter’s wisdom and moderation were as conspicuous in the next stage of the Church’s growth as his courage and prophetic power had been hitherto. The distribution of alms to the distressed widows of the community was the occasion of serious difficulties. He and the rest of the Twelve were Galileans, but the Hellenistic or Greek-speaking Jews had now become an important section, and they thought themselves passed over in favour of the Hebrews, with whom the Galilean Apostles were supposed to have greater sympathy. The difficulty was met by no assertion of supremacy, but by a wise and generous concession. The multitude of the disciples were to elect seven officers for this special purpose; the Apostles would confine themselves to the higher work of teaching and of prayer. The Greek names of the seven who were elected make it probable that they were chosen as representing the several sections of the Hellenistic Jews of the dispersion (Acts 6:1-7 ).
With the character and work of Stephen, and with the persecution of which he was the object we are not now concerned, except so far as the latter indicates that his teaching presented features that roused a hostility which had not been caused by the preaching of St Peter, and that the hostility came from a different quarter. The persecutors of the Apostle had been the Sadducees, who hated him for the witness which he bore to the resurrection of Jesus. He had been protected by the temporizing policy of the more moderate section of the Pharisees represented by Gamaliel. In the case of Stephen we have a coalition between the more violent section of those Pharisees headed by Gamaliel’s pupil and the Sadducean priesthood. And the charges against him, interpreted by the tenor of his own apologia , shew why this was so. He had dwelt more than the Twelve had done, on the wider thoughts which in the teaching of our Lord had been presented as in their germinal state and had been developed by the teaching of the Spirit. That the Temple was to pass away, that its sacrifices had ceased to have any value for the deliverance of man’s soul from the power or penalty of evil, that the customs which Moses had delivered, the whole body of outward ceremonial ordinances, were about to pass away before the coming of a better order, this Stephen saw more clearly and proclaimed more earnestly than Peter had as yet done (Acts 6:13 , Acts 6:14 ). And therefore it was that while the storm of persecution fell on him and the whole body of believers, specially, it is obvious, on his six colleagues and those who followed his teaching, the Twelve were able to remain at Jerusalem and carried on their work without further molestation. They were not again exposed to the fiery trial of persecution till they had taken one or two decisive steps in the path in which Stephen had led the way.
The first of those steps was brought about by a fellow-worker of Stephen’s, like in character and feeling. Though the Twelve had been told that they were to be witnesses for their Lord in Samaria as well as in Jerusalem and Judæa (Acts 1:8 ), they had as yet acted as if the rule given on their first mission were still binding, and had not entered into “any city of the Samaritans” (Matthew 10:5 ). Philip, forced to leave Jerusalem by the hostility of both the ruling parties, found a refuge in the unnamed city of Samaria, probably, i.e. in Sychar. The way had been prepared for him, and for his teaching, partly by the announcement of the Christ to the woman of Samaria, and through her, to her people, that the Mountain of Gerizim and the Temple at Jerusalem were alike among the things that were decaying and waxing old, and were ready to vanish away (John 4:21-24 ), partly by the counterfeit of Divine Truth preached by the teacher who, as Simon the Sorcerer, became in the next century the hero of the romance of heresy. The Apostles in Jerusalem welcomed the tidings that the Samaritans had received the Gospel, and the two friends Peter and John were sent to confirm their faith by imparting to them, through the laying on of hands, the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had not been in that region since one of them had desired to call down fire from heaven on those who would not receive his Master (Luke 9:54 ). Now he had learnt what manner of Spirit claimed him as its own, and came to give them that Spirit whose mighty presence was as a baptism of fire. Then for the first time, though, if we follow the traditions of the second century, by no means for the last, the two Simons stood face to face in all the contrast of their characters, the one true, faithful, impetuous; the other greedy of gain and trading on the credulity of his followers (Acts 8:9-24 ). In him, accompanied as he was, by his mistress Helena, it is not difficult to believe, he saw the typical representative of the false teachers whom he paints in such dark colours in his second Epistle as “having eyes full of an adulteress and that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls, having a heart exercised with covetous practices” (see Notes on 2 Peter 2:12-14 ). In the boast of Simon that he was “the great power of God” (Acts 8:9 , Acts 8:10 ) we recognise the “great swelling words of vanity” of 2 Peter 2:18 ; in the sentence passed on the sorcerer, “Thy money go with thee to destruction” (Acts 8:20 ), we have the foreshadowing of the final doom of those “who shall utterly perish in their own corruption” (2 Peter 2:12 ). The very word which describes the state of those who had forsaken the right way (2 Peter 2:15 ) is that which he had used of Simon, “Thy heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:21 ). It had been better for him, as for them, “not to have known the way of righteousness,” and his latter end, like theirs, was worse than the beginning (2 Peter 2:20 )
The two Apostles continued their mission work in Samaria and returned to Jerusalem. When they reached it they found that the storm of persecution had ceased. It may be that they heard that a strange change had come over him, the zealot of Tarsus, who had been so prominent as its leader. Soon the minds of their countrymen were agitated by a danger from another quarter. The Emperor Caius (more commonly known by his nickname of Caligula) was bent on anticipating, while yet alive, the apotheosis which had been decreed by the obsequious Senate to his predecessors on their death, and had given orders that his statue, in colossal proportions, should be set up in the Temple at Jerusalem. He was deterred from the insane project by the remonstrances of his friend Agrippa (grandson of Herod the Great and brother of the Herodias of the Gospel history), whom he had made King of Judæa, and of Petronius, the Governor of Syria, but while the alarm lasted, it absorbed the attention of the people, and so far was favourable to the silent growth of the Churches of Judæa and Galilee and Samaria “in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:31 , Joseph. Ant . xviii. 8).
In the meantime, some three years after the death of Stephen, the Apostle met for the first time the teacher whose name was in after ages and in many ways to be closely associated with his own. Saul of Tarsus came from Damascus to Jerusalem with the express purpose of conferring with Peter (Galatians 1:18 ), and communicating to him the new phase of truth which had been revealed to him, as Peter’s had been of old, not by flesh and blood, but by his Father in Heaven (Galatians 1:11 , Galatians 1:12 ), as to the unity of mankind in Christ, and the breaking down of the wall of partition that divided Jew from Gentile. The visit was, however, but a short and hurried one. Peter and James the brother of the Lord were the only two representatives of the Church of Jerusalem whom the new preacher saw (Galatians 1:19 ). They shrank at first from receiving him as remembering his old hostility, and when they yielded to the witness which Barnabas, probably as having been his friend in past years, bore to his sincerity, it was as yet, it may be, without the full unreserved confidence which is the condition of a free interchange of thoughts (Acts 9:21 ). Enough, however, had been done, to sow the seeds of new thoughts, to wake questions which were in due course to receive a solution, to quicken the expectations of the Apostle as to the time and manner when the Gentiles should be admitted to the Kingdom.
The mission work of Peter led him from Jerusalem towards the West. At Lydda, and in the region known as the Saron (= the woodland, or, as we might say, the Weald), Churches were founded or were strengthened. At Joppa, even prior to his arrival, there was a Christian Church, with its organised charity, its widows and its sisterhood of workers. Dorcas, or Tabitha (the double form of the name indicates the union of Hellenistic and Hebrew believers there) had probably points of contact with the Jews of the Western dispersion 1 1 It is not without interest to note that the name Dorcas appears in the Columbarium of Livia at Rome as belonging to an Ornatrix (= lady’s maid, or, perhaps, needle-woman) of the Empress’s household. . The town, as the chief centre of trade for the south of Palestine, must have been as full of motley groups of sailors and traders as Tyre or Sidon. As he looked out from the harbour on the waters of the Great Sea, the question must have been in his mind, when and how the Isles of the Gentiles, the Isles of Chittim, should acknowledge Christ as their Lord. In taking up his abode with “one Simon a tanner,” whom we can scarcely think of as other than a fellow-disciple, there was at least one step towards breaking down the traditions of the elders, for from the stand-point of those traditions, the trade was one which brought with it an immediate and inevitable uncleanness (Acts 9:32-43 ).
Solitude, prayer, fasting, the natural resource of a spirit under the pressure of such thoughts became for him the channel of a new revelation. The hunger of the body became a parable of the hunger of the soul. The “all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts and creeping things” were symbols of the Gentile nations, whom he had hitherto looked on as common and unclean. He might afterwards learn to see that in their coming down from Heaven and being taken up to it again, there was shadowed forth the truth that Humanity had been redeemed in the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Ascension. The command, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat,” was soon interpreted by events (Acts 10:1-18 ). He was not to let any previous scruples as to what was common or unclean hinder him from seeing in the Gentiles those who might satisfy, even as they were, his yearning for the extension of his Master’s kingdom. He was taught where to find the other sheep which were not of the fold of Israel, whom also it was his to feed (John 10:16 , John 21:15-17 ). Incidentally we may note as characteristic of the man, the impetuous “Not so, Lord,” reminding us of his “Thou shalt never wash my feet” (John 13:8 ), the threefold repetition of the whole vision reminding us at once of the threefold denial, and the threefold question and command of John 21:15-17 . He was not slow to understand and act on the meaning of the symbolic vision as it was interpreted by the sequence of events. He too had learnt to “honour all men” (1 Peter 2:17 ) and to see that in the Kingdom of God a “respect of persons” based on distinctions of race was as contrary to the mind of Christ as that based on distinctions of wealth or rank (James 2:1-4 ), and so had to supply, as it were, another minor premiss to St James’s general principle. He had been taught that “in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him” (Acts 10:34 , Acts 10:35 ). He had been led almost to the very platform of St Paul, that “circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing,” but that “faith working by love” is all in all (Galatians 5:6 ). When the gift of the Spirit, the new exulting and enthusiastic joy fell upon the friends of Cornelius, anticipating in this case the outward baptism which usually preceded it, he was ready with the question to which there could be but one answer, “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptised, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:44-48 .) Traces of the teaching of those eventful days meet us at every stage in his Epistles. “The Gospel,” he tells his readers, “had been preached to them with the witness of the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven” (1 Peter 1:12 ). He reminds them that “the Father without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work” (1 Peter 1:17 ), that purification of the soul comes by “obeying the truth through the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:22 ). During the remainder of that visit to Cæsarea, he lived as freely as St Paul afterwards did, in the house of an uncircumcised Gentile.
On his return to Jerusalem he was confronted by the hostility of those who were now recognised as the party of the Circumcision, insisting on its indispensable necessity. The mere statement of the fact that he had gone in to men uncircumcised and had eaten with them seemed to them at first enough. Their deference for his personal authority and for the vision that had come to him from God, made them withdraw their objection for the time, and the great bulk of the party, represented, we may believe, by James the brother of the Lord, glorified God for thus giving to the Gentiles repentance unto life (Acts 11:1-18 ). Afterwards, it would seem, the ultra-zealots of the section came to persuade themselves that the case of Cornelius was altogether exceptional and was an exception that proved the rule.
It seems probable, though not absolutely certain, that Peter shared in the joy of the Church of Jerusalem when tidings came that Gentiles had been admitted to baptism at Antioch as they had been at Cæsarea, and in the action which gave Barnabas a special mission to guide and organise the community that had thus been formed (Acts 11:22 ). If he remained at Jerusalem after Agabus had predicted the famine which in the early years of Claudius (a.d. 41 3) pressed on the Church there, he must have rejoiced in the proof given of the love and pity of the Gentiles in the contribution sent for their relief from the Christians of Antioch by the hand of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:27-30 ) The stress laid on the fact that this was sent to the “elders,” and the absence of any reference to this visit in St Paul’s review of his conferences with St Peter (Galatians 1:18 ) are, however, all but decisive in favour of the inference that he was at the time engaged in some unrecorded mission work away from Jerusalem.
The arrival of the new king Agrippa, and the rigorous measures which he took, in order to court the favour of priests and people, against the Church at Jerusalem, drew the Apostle back to the post of danger. James the son of Zebedee, the companion of his early years, was put to death, the protomartyr of the Apostolic company. He himself was thrown into prison as sentenced to a like doom when the Passover, then impending, should be over. From that doom he was rescued, as before, by the intervention of an angel of the Lord, and he, for whom the Church was praying in the house of Mary, the kinswoman of Barnabas, and mother of John surnamed Mark (both probably converted by his preaching, 1 Peter 5:13 ), suddenly appeared in the midst of them. It was, however, necessary for his safety to leave Jerusalem, and leaving the Church in the charge of James the brother of the Lord, he went as St Luke records to “another place” (Acts 12:1-17 ). Where this was we have no data for determining, probably Lydda or Joppa, or some other town in Judæa where he would be welcomed and protected. The assumption that the “other place” was Rome and that this was the beginning of his twenty-five years Episcopate, though adopted by many Roman Catholic writers, scarcely calls for a serious refutation.
From this time forth, however, the Acts of the Apostles become more and more exclusively the Acts of St Paul alone, and five or six years pass over during which we have no record of St Peter’s work. James, the brother of the Lord, assumed more and more the position of the Bishop of the Church at Jerusalem. Peter, and probably John also, may have been employed in exercising their Apostolic office in the other Churches of Judæa. The revival of the question as to the conditions on which Gentile converts were to be admitted into the Church, which arose first at Antioch, and was referred for settlement to the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem, at all events drew him back to that city. The part he took in the discussion which took place in the Synod or Conference that was thus held was consistent at once with the lessons impressed on him by the history of Cornelius, and with the later teaching of his Epistles (Acts 15:1-11 ). His position, however, was distinctly that of a debater, not of a judge. Though his position gives him a natural authority, there is no assumption of primacy, still less of an unerring power to judge. He reasons from past experience as the witness of a divine purpose. He dwells on the fact that true purity belonged to the heart, and not to the flesh, and was wrought not by circumcision and the law of ordinances, but by faith. As if reminding them of the words of the Master whom they all owned as Lord, he tells them that they are putting an intolerable yoke, a yoke which even they and their fathers had found intolerable, on the neck of the Gentile converts (Acts 15:10 , Matthew 23:4 ) instead of His easy yoke (Matthew 11:30 ). In words which have in them the very tones and accents of St Paul’s teaching he declares that his hopes of salvation rest on “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” and on that alone (Acts 15:7-11 ). St Paul’s report of what passed, as it were, behind the scenes, in connexion with this debate throws light on its course and on its result 1 1 I assume, with the great majority of commentators, that St Paul refers in Gal. 2:1 to the visit of Acts 15, and not, as some few have thought, to that of Acts 18:22. . On arriving at Jerusalem he sought for a private conference with the acknowledged leaders, those who were known as the “pillars” of the Church at Jerusalem. To them he set forth in its fulness the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles, and they, as indeed the Epistles of St Peter and St John shew beyond the shadow of a doubt, accepted that Gospel without reserve. On that point he would not leave room for the shadow of an uncertainty. It was agreed either that the Apostles of Circumcision should support St Paul in his firm resolve to resist the Pharisee section of the Church in their efforts to compel him to circumcise Titus, whom he had brought to Jerusalem apparently as a representative instance of what a Gentile convert could be in purity and holiness, or else that Titus should accept the sign of the covenant of Israel as a voluntary act for the sake of peace, and not as yielding to compulsion, or regarding it as the indispensable condition of his admission into fellowship with the Church of Christ 2 2 I state the two alternative views which have been taken of the somewhat ambiguous language of Gal. 2:3 (“not even Titus … was compelled to be circumcised”), but the former seems to me every way the most probable. . In that conference, however, St Paul asserted his independence as a teacher. He had nothing to learn from Peter and James and John. They had, perhaps, something to learn from him, and they learnt it willingly. They were content to give to him and to Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, and to accept a partition treaty of the wide field of mission labour, they confining themselves to the Circumcision while he and his fellow-worker went as before to the Gentiles. It was further settled as a means of uniting the two sections of the Church that he should continue his work of collecting alms for the suffering disciples at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-10 ). The whole programme of the public conference was thus, apparently, arranged beforehand, and when James proposed that the so-called precepts of Noah, abstinence from “things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication,” which had hitherto been considered sufficient for the “proselytes of the gate” in their status of incomplete union with Israel, should now be accepted as enough for the complete union of Gentile converts who were baptized, with the true Israel of God, St Paul accepted the proposal readily and without reserve (Acts 15:13-30 ). It was for him, however, distinctly of the nature of a temporary concordat . He never appealed to its restrictive authority, though he published and rested on its concessions. He preferred, as in the long discussion of the question in 1 Cor. 8 10, to argue the lawfulness of eating, or not eating, things that had been sacrificed to idols on entirely independent grounds.
As far as the writer of the Acts is concerned, we entirely lose sight of St Peter after the Council of Jerusalem, and the New Testament gives us but the scantiest information as to the fourteen or fifteen years that followed before his death. The one distinct fact of which we get a glimpse is a somewhat painful one. He went down to Antioch at some uncertain interval after the Council in Jerusalem, and for a time acted in the full spirit of the words he had then spoken, and as he had acted in the case of Cornelius, eating and drinking with the Gentiles, both in their common meals, and in their Agapae and the more sacred “breaking of bread.” Some of the circumcision party, however, came down from Jerusalem, and claiming (probably, as before, without ground) to speak in the name of James, protested against his action. This, they seem to have said, was going beyond the terms of the Concordat. They were willing to leave the Gentiles in the undisturbed exercise of their freedom, but they did not care to see their own Apostle of the Circumcision renounce the traditions of the elders, and no longer walk after the customs. The old weakness of nature which had shewed itself in the high-priest’s palace displayed itself yet once more. He yielded to the pressure from without and took up a position of invidious separation from the Gentiles. In doing so he both shut them out from free and complete communion, and he tacitly condemned St Paul, who continued to do the very thing from which he had thus withdrawn. What made the matter worse was that Barnabas also was persuaded to follow his example. The current of public feeling, at least among the Gentile Christians, was strongly roused against him, and of that feeling the Apostle of the Gentiles made himself the mouthpiece and rebuked the chief of the Apostles sternly for his vacillating inconsistency (Galatians 2:11-14 ). The abrupt and fragmentary account of the matter which St Paul gives hinders us from knowing how St Peter received the rebuke there given. We may well believe, however, that he accepted it with all the frankness of a noble and generous nature. His name might be used by embittered partisans and set up in rivalry against St Paul, but Cephas himself was never a member of the Cephas party at Corinth or elsewhere. Not a trace of bitterness is found in his Epistles, and to a large extent, as the notes will shew, they reproduce St Paul’s teaching as freely as they do that of St James or St John. Writing to those who owed their knowledge of the Gospel mainly to St Paul and his companions, he testifies that they are standing “in the true grace of God” (1 Peter 5:12 ), that they already know the things of which he puts them in remembrance and are “established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12 ). Paul is with him his “beloved brother,” and he recognises the wisdom that had been given him (2 Peter 3:15 ). He becomes a diligent student of the Epistles that contain that wisdom, and places them on the same level of authority as the other Scriptures, though he finds in them some things hard to be understood and open to misconstruction (2 Peter 3:16 ).
After the scene at Antioch the Epistles that bear his name are our only source of information as to the later years of St Peter. It may be inferred from them that his work as an Apostle took him eastward to the city on the Euphrates, which was near the site and had inherited the name of the ancient Babylon; that Mark, his early convert, had joined him after working with Barnabas and visiting St Paul at Rome (1 Peter 5:13 , Colossians 4:10 ), that Silvanus, also the friend and fellow-worker of both Apostles, had come to him from the Asiatic Churches, and had reported the sufferings to which they were exposed. With less certainty we may infer that now, as before (1 Corinthians 9:5 ), his wife shared his journeys and his labours. (See note on 1 Peter 5:13 .) When he wrote his second Epistle it was with the foreboding that the sudden and violent death of which his Lord had told him was not far off and that it was necessary to make provision for it by taking steps for perpetuating the teaching which hitherto had been chiefly oral (2 Peter 1:15 ).
Here, as far as the New Testament is concerned, our knowledge of St Peter ends. It remains for us to examine the mass of traditions and legends which have gathered round the close of his life and to ascertain, as far as we can, what fragments of definite historical fact can be disengaged from them. The silence of Scripture is, however, not without its significance as bearing on the claims which have been asserted by the Roman Church as resting on the name of Peter. Was it likely, we may ask, if her theory were true, if the whole well-being of the Church were identified with its submission to the Bishop of Rome and his successors, as inheriting his primacy, supremacy, infallibility, that not one word in the Canonical Books of Scripture should even suggest the thought that he had ever been at Rome?
life of st peter. the traditions and legends of the church
It will be convenient, I think, to give in the first place the “Legend of St Peter” in the form in which it has been received at Rome for some thousand years or more 1 1 I take Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints as representing the Roman tradition in a fairly authoritative form, quoting other authorities as occasion may require. , and then to enquire how far it contains any elements that may fairly be treated as historical. It may be premised that its chronology is based on the assumption that the Crucifixion took place a.d. 29.
In a.d. 33 St Peter, it is said, left Jerusalem for Antioch and founded the Church there, and after staying for seven years, appointed Euodius, or, according to another version, Ignatius, as his successor. During this period, however, he travelled on his Apostolic work, and so chanced to be at Jerusalem when St Paul came there from Damascus in a.d. 37 (Galatians 1:18 ). His wife travelled with him, but they lived together as bound by a vow of perpetual continence, and his daily diet was limited to a small quantity of lupines or other vegetables. During this period also he preached the Gospel to the Churches to whom his first Epistle is addressed, i.e. he reached the Northern and Western shores of the Black Sea. In a.d. 40 after the death of James the son of Zebedee (according to one form of the legend, after that of the Mother of the Lord, for which they had waited), the Twelve Apostles separated. Each contributed an Article of the Creed, St Peter giving the first, as their future bond of union, and as they divided the provinces of the Empire between them, he chose Rome, and accordingly made his way there, and became the founder and first Bishop of its Church. He reached the imperial city in a.d. 40, and returned to Jerusalem in time to share in the persecution under Herod Agrippa. On his miraculous deliverance from prison he returned to Rome, and this accordingly was the “other place” of Acts 12:17 . The decree of Claudius, however, drove him and the other Jews from Rome in a.d. 49, and so, returning to Jerusalem, he was present at the Council held there in a.d. 51. During his stay at Rome he became acquainted with Philo, the Jew of Alexandria, and converted him to the faith in Christ. On leaving Jerusalem after the Council he revisited Antioch, and there encountered St Paul’s rebuke, either (as Augustine thought) accepting it meekly, or (as Jerome held) arranging the whole scene beforehand with his brother Apostle so that the lesson might be more vividly and dramatically impressed on the minds of the spectators. His Epistles, before he left or after his return to Rome, were written about this time (a.d. 45 55), and the Babylon from which he wrote was not the city on the Euphrates but the capital of the Empire under its mystical, symbolic name. On his return his work took a wider range. He had before lived among his own people in the Transtiberine quarter of the city appropriated to the Jews. Now he was received into the house of the Senator Pudens on the Viminal Hill, and baptized him and his two daughters Praxedis and Pudentiana. Two churches in that quarter dedicated to them as S. Prassede and S. Pudenziana preserve the memory of this tradition, and the substructures of the latter are identified with the house in which the Apostle lived for many years. At Rome, however, he encountered once more his old foe and rival, Simon the sorcerer of Samaria. According to the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions (apocryphal Ebionite books of the second century) they had met and disputed in the meantime at Cæsarea, at Tyre, at Sidon and at Berytus. Simon, worsted in all these conflicts, found his way to Rome and gained by his magic arts the favour of the Emperor Nero. The years passed on, and Peter was still at Rome when tidings reached him that his brother Apostle, whom he had not met since their dispute at Antioch, had landed at Puteoli. The Roman Christians who met St Paul at Appii Forum and the Three Taverns were sent by Peter. They worked together as friends and brothers. He preached the Gospel over all Italy and other provinces of the West. Together or separately they became the founders of the British Church. They were together when Simon the Sorcerer, as if counterfeiting an Ascension like that of Christ, declared to the Emperor that he would fly up towards Heaven, and by their united prayers they defeated the demons who were helping the impostor, and so he fell to the ground and came to a shameful end. It was partly in consequence of this, as well as to turn aside the suspicion of being implicated in the great fire of Rome, that Nero began his persecution of the Christians. The disciples urged Peter to flee, and he left the city by the Appian Way. A little way beyond the Porta Capena (now the Porta S. Sebastiano ), the modern Church known as “ Domine quo vadis? ” records the vision that turned him back. He saw his Master’s form and he asked, “Lord, whither goest Thou?” and from His lips there came the words “I go to Rome to be crucified yet again.” The Apostle felt the rebuke, turned his steps back, and was soon afterwards taken and thrown into the Tullianum, or Mamertine prison. There, in what is now the crypt-like chapel of S. Pietro in Carcere , he converted his gaolers, and a spring of fresh water burst out of the ground that he might baptize them. The day of execution came and the two Apostles were led out of the city on the Ostian Way. A small Oratory marks the place where they bade each other their last farewell. St Paul was led on to the spot now known as the Tre Fontane and beheaded. St Peter, whose wife had suffered martyrdom before him, and had been strengthened by his exhortations, was taken to the height of the Janiculum or Transtiberine region, and on the spot now marked by a small circular chapel in the churchyard of S. Pietro in Montorio , suffered the punishment which the Romans inflicted on slaves and outlaws and barbarians, and was nailed to the cross. He desired, in the intensity of his humility, something that would make his death more ignominious and shameful than his Master’s, and at his own request he was crucified head downwards. So at last he gained the Martyr’s crown, and ended the twenty-five years of his Episcopate, those “years of St Peter” which by a singular chance have never been equalled by any of his successors, till the fisherman’s ring was worn and the chair of Peter filled by a Pontiff (Pius IX.) who arrogated to himself more dogmatically than any who preceded him had done, the full inheritance of the Apostle’s supremacy and infallibility. When all was over, the body was interred in the Catacombs outside the city on the Appian Way, probably in those known as the Catacombs of S. Callistus. After they had remained there for a year and a half, they were removed, probably by Jewish converts who inhabited the Transtiberine region to which the ground belonged, to the Ager Vaticanus. In the crypt of the “Confession” of the stately Temple which bears his name, and in which we find the remains of the older Basilica erected in his honour by Constantine, the tomb of the Apostle still attracts the reverence of the faithful, and they pass from it to the marble chair in which he is reported to have sat.
We ask as we read this elaborate narrative on what evidence does it rest. The silence of Scripture, though it cannot, of course, prove that it is baseless, is at least a presumption that it is so, and requires to be balanced by proportionately weighty proof. It is not in the nature of things probable that neither St Luke, in a history which ends in Rome, nor St Paul, in the Epistles which he writes both to and from that city, should have given the slightest hint as to such events as these, had they really come within their knowledge, and that they should have occurred and not come within their knowledge is, it may be said, simply incredible. The conjecture that the “other place” of Acts 12:17 was Rome, is against all the probabilities of the case, and the assumption that the Apostle anticipates the mystic and apocalyptic application of the name of Babylon cannot be said to rest on any adequate grounds, though it is not absolutely incredible (see notes on 1 Peter 5:13 ).
Turning to evidence outside the books of the New Testament it is unsatisfactory, to say the least, that the statements become fuller and more definite in proportion as we recede from the time when the events are said to have occurred. Clement of Rome (i. 5) speaks of Peter as having “borne his witness and gone to the place of glory that was due to him,” but though he speaks of Paul’s labours as having carried him to the “furthest bounds of the West,” and of his “having borne his witness before the prefects (or rulers),” is silent as to the extent of Peter’s labours or the scene of his death. It may be conceded, however, that this would not be an unnatural way of referring to the event if he assumed it to be as well known to his readers as it was to himself. Ignatius writing to the Romans (c. 4) says incidentally “I do not command you, as Peter and Paul might do,” but it is a precarious inference from this that he names them because they had suffered martyrdom at Rome. Papias (circ. a.d. 150) is referred to but not quoted, by Eusebius ( H. E . ii. 15) as stating that Peter’s teaching was the basis of St Mark’s Gospel, and that it was written for the disciples at Rome. Clement of Alexandria (to whom Eusebius also refers as an authority for the same statement) names Peter’s parting counsel to his wife but says nothing as to the time or place of their martyrdom ( Strom . vii. 11). The earliest statement with any approach to definiteness is that of Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth (quoted by Eusebius ( H. E . ii. 25), in his letter to the Roman Church in which he speaks of it as having, as the Corinthians had, a common interest in the teaching both of Peter and of Paul. “Both came to our Corinth and planted us as a Church there, both taught in Italy, and bore their witness at the same time.” Irenæus, in like manner (iii. 1. 3), speaks of the Church at Rome as having been founded by both Apostles and of both taking part in the appointment of Linus. Caius a presbyter of Rome (circ. a.d. 210) is quoted by Eusebius as speaking of the monuments ( τροπαῖα ) of the Apostles as being one in the Vatican and the other on the Ostian Way, which agrees with the popular tradition. Tertullian (circ. a.d. 210, de Praescr . c. 36) assumes as a known fact that Peter and Paul had both suffered at Rome. He also assumes that St John had been there and had escaped unhurt from a caldron of boiling oil. In a passage not found in his extant writings but quoted by Eusebius ( H. E . ii. 25) he, like Caius, appeals to the inscription on their tombs ( coemeteria ) as shewing the manner of their deaths. Origen and Cyprian are silent on the matter. The “ Domine quo vadis? ” story appears first in Ambrose ( Serm . 68, but it is doubtful whether it is really by Ambrose and is not included in the Benedictine edition of his works).
The most that can be said of this evidence is that it leaves it fairly probable that St Peter ended his life at Rome. Of the twenty-five years of his Episcopate and of his having thus been the first of the long line of Pontiffs there is not the shadow of any evidence till we come to Eusebius himself, who states ( H. E . ii. 14) that Peter followed Simon Magus to Rome in the reign of Claudius (a.d. 41) and there defeated him. He does not give the details of the defeat but wraps them in a vague rhetoric. The true sources of the Petrine legend are accordingly not to be found in the early Fathers of the Church, nor in any local tradition of an earlier date than the latter part of the second century. We find their starting-point, however, elsewhere, in the elaborate Apocrypha of the Ebionite heretics, the successors of the Judaising, Cephas-party of the Apostolic age. There, in the Clementine Homilies , we find him journeying to Cæsarea and Tyre and Sidon and Byblus and Tripolis and Laodicea and Antioch, and at well-nigh every place entering into elaborate discussions with Simon the Sorcerer. There, in the romance known as the Recognitions (practically a replica of the Homilies ), we have Simon’s journey to Rome (iii. 74, 75) and Peter’s intention to follow on his track and defeat him. In the still later Acts of Peter and Paul , the narrative opens with Peter’s residence at Rome, tells how he sent messengers to meet Paul, and gives in full the legend of Simon’s flight and fall, of Peter’s downward crucifixion, of the Domine quo vadis vision, of the burial in the Vatican, near the spot where naval combats used to be exhibited. It is, of course, difficult to say how far the last-named book embodied and embellished a pre-existent tradition, how far it was the basis of a new tradition, but it is not without significance that the claims of the Bishops of Rome as heirs of the supremacy of Peter, and the legends on which those claims rest, are an inheritance not from the authentic teaching of the Apostles or the Apostolic Church, but from the Ebionite heretics whom she condemned.
the first epistle of st peter
A glance at the map of Asia Minor will shew that the provinces which are named in the first verse of the Epistle occupied the greater part of the region popularly so described, leaving out only the Southern provinces of Cilicia, Pamphylia, Pisidia and Lycia. Pontus had not come within the recorded work of St Paul or any of the Apostles, but there are indications that it had attracted a considerable Jewish population. Jews of Pontus were present at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9 ). Aquila the tent-maker came from that country (Acts 18:2 ). So also did the Aquila (probably identical with Onkelos) the translator of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Polemon, its titular king, married the Berenice of Acts 25:23 , the sister of Herod Agrippa II., and became a proselyte to Judaism by accepting the badge of circumcision (Jos. Ant . xx. 7). How the Gospel had been preached there we can only conjecture. It may have been carried by the unknown pilgrims from Jerusalem. Aquila or Paul may have embraced it in their mission work during the two years in which the latter made Ephesus the centre of his activity, or Luke, whom we find at Troas doing the work of an Evangelist in Acts 16:8-10 , may have included it in the sphere of his labours. The fact that Marcion, the heretic of the second century, confined his recognition of the Gospel history to a mutilated text of St Luke (Tertull. adv. Marcion . iv. 2), gives a certain confirmation to the last conjecture which is wanting for the other. Of Galatia we know, of course, much more. Most students of the New Testament are now familiar with the story of the settlement of the Gauls in that region in the 2nd century b. c., of their adoption of the orgiastic cultus of Cybele, the earth-goddess, with her eunuch priests, of the illness which led St Paul to prolong his stay among them (Galatians 4:13 ), of their loving and loyal devotion to him, of the impetuosity and fickleness which they inherited from their Keltic forefathers (Galatians 1:6 ), of the success of the Judaizing teachers in bewitching and perverting them (Galatians 3:1 ), of St Paul’s indignant, sorrowful, tenderly passionate Epistle to them. We have, however, to remember that it was not to these, the Galatians properly so called, that St Peter wrote, but to those of the Dispersion who were sojourning among them (1 Peter 1:1 ). They also, however, probably received the Gospel from St Paul, and as being Jews were less likely to be the object of the proselytising intrigues of the Judaizers. Of Cappadocia we again note that it had sent pilgrims to the Pentecostal feast of Acts 2:9 . The Jewish settlers whom they represented had probably been brought into the region after the removal by Antiochus the Great of two thousand families from Mesopotamia and Babylon to Phrygia. The Western region of the province bordered so closely on Lycaonia that Lystra and Derbe were sometimes reckoned as belonging to it, and the Gospel may have penetrated to it from those cities. Little as it is prominent in the New Testament records, it numbered among its cities many that were afterwards famous in the history of the Church, Tyana the birthplace of the impostor Apollonius, and Nyssa the see of Gregory, and Cæsarea, that of his brother Basil, and Nazianzus, of the other Gregory.
The name of Asia, the proconsular province of that name, of which Ephesus was the capital, recalls to our memory the history of St Paul’s three years work there (Acts 20:31 ). The Churches there must have been planted by him and his companions Aquila and Priscilla, and Apollos also had been active as a preacher (Acts 18:24 ). The Temple of Artemis made it one of the head-quarters of heathen worship. The Jews of Ephesus were among St Paul’s bitterest enemies. Among the believers in that city, however, among the elders who were his fellow-workers he had found those on whom his thoughts dwelt with the most entire thankfulness and satisfaction. He had not shrunk from declaring to them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27 ). They were able to understand his knowledge in the mystery of God (Ephesians 3:4 ).
We have no record of any work of St Paul’s in Bithynia, but we know that when he was on his second mission journey his thoughts had turned to it as a promising field for his labours (Acts 16:7 ), and that but for the overpowering intimations in which he recognised the guidance of the Spirit of God, he would have turned his footsteps thither. What has been said above as to the probability of St Luke having extended his labours as a preacher of the Gospel from Troas to Pontus holds good also of this nearer region. The report made by Pliny in his official letter, as Proconsul of Bithynia, to the Emperor Trajan (circ. a.d. 110) shews that it must have manifested a singular receptivity for the Truth. He describes ( Epp . x. 96) multitudes, both men and women, of every age and rank, as embracing the new religion, the temples almost deserted, and the market for sacrifices finding scarcely a single purchaser.
We are able without much risk of error to determine both the occasion and the date of the First Epistle which St Peter addressed to the Jewish Christians of these Churches. Silvanus had come to him bringing tidings that they were exposed to a fiery trial of persecution (1 Peter 4:12 ). They were accused of being evil-doers, preaching revolutionary doctrines (1 Peter 2:15 , 1 Peter 2:16 ) The very name of Christian then, as afterwards under Pliny’s régime , exposed them to odium and outrage (1 Peter 4:16 ). The teachers to whom they owed so much, Paul and Aquila and Luke, were no longer with them. The state of things described in the First, and yet more in the Second Epistle, exactly answers to that which we find in St Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, and we can scarcely be wrong in assigning them to the same period. When a wave of fanatic hatred directed against the name of Christian was flowing well-nigh over the length and breadth of the Empire, rulers in the provinces were but too likely to follow the example which Nero had set them in the capital. The Apostle felt that he could not withhold his words of comfort and counsel from those who were thus suffering, and though, in scrupulous conformity with the partition treaty to which St Paul refers in Galatians 2:9 , he addresses himself primarily, if not exclusively, to those who looked to him as the Apostle of the Circumcision, we may well believe that he did not shut out the Gentiles from his thoughts and prayers. The absence of any messages sent by name to those to whom he writes favours, though it does not prove, the conclusion that he had not known them personally. In the stress laid on their being in “the true grace of God” (1 Peter 5:12 ), in the admission that they had known all that he had to teach them (2 Peter 1:12 ), in the tribute borne to the wisdom of his beloved brother Paul (2 Peter 3:15 , 2 Peter 3:16 ), yet more in the reproduction, which can hardly have been other than deliberate, of St Paul’s most characteristic thoughts and phrases, we trace an almost anxious desire to shew that he and the Apostle of the Gentiles were still of one mind and heart in the fellowship of the Truth. As far as the First Epistle is concerned it does not appear that he was cognisant of any controversies or heresies that called for special warnings and reproofs. Possibly the storm of persecution had driven the false teachers who shrank from martyrdom into holes and corners. Possibly Silvanus had dwelt, naturally enough, on the more immediate and threatening dangers and had left the others untold.
As a preparation for the study of the Epistle, it will be well to give a brief analysis of its contents, tracing the sequence of its thoughts. The reader who has followed that analysis will be prepared for two or three other lines of enquiry, the results of which will, it is believed, be in many ways interesting and suggestive. We have seen that the influences which were chiefly at work in fashioning St Peter’s character were (1) the teaching of our Lord as recorded in the Gospels, (2) his association with St James, the brother of the Lord, in the superintendence of the Church of the Circumcision, (3) his friendship with St John, (4) his knowledge of St Paul’s teaching as communicated orally or embodied in his Epistles. It is believed that a careful study of the two Epistles now before us will shew that they present many traces, sometimes in their thoughts, sometimes in their words and phrases, of each of these influences. For a fuller examination of the parallelisms that thus present themselves, the reader is referred to the foregoing life of the Apostle and to the notes. It will be enough in this place to present the results in a tabulated form so that he may follow up the line of enquiry for himself.
A. Analysis of the First Epistle of St Peter
Chap. 1. The Apostle salutes the sojourners of the “dispersion” of the Asiatic Churches (1, 2) and blesses God for His mercies to them (3, 4). The joy and salvation which spring from these more than balance their afflictions (5 9). Of that salvation prophets and angels sought to know, yet knew not fully (10 12). Looking to it, men should learn to be patient and holy (13 17), leading the life of those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ (18 21), but from their faith and hope should spring the love which belongs to the life of those who are regenerated by the indwelling Word of God (22 25).
Chap. 2. As thus begotten again, they should lead the lives of new-born babes in their simplicity and innocence (1 3), coming to the Lord as the living stone on which they who believe are built up (4 6), while it is a stone of stumbling to those who believe not (7 9). They are a royal priesthood and the people of God, and their lives as subjects under rulers, slaves under masters, should be such as to refute all slanders (9 18). In all their sufferings they should follow in the footsteps of the patience and meekness of Christ, the shepherd of their souls (19 25).
Chap. 3. The duty of submission involved in the relations of society extends to wives as well as subjects and slaves. Christian wives must seek to win their heathen or Jewish husbands, not by argument, but by their life (1 6). Husbands in their turn must remember that authority implies the duty of protection (7). For all alike there are the broad rules of holy living, such as Christ had taught (8 11). Those who so live may trust in God’s protection, and their highest blessedness will come through suffering wrongfully (12 14). They will know how to defend themselves, but their best defence will be the silent witness of their lives (15, 16). The suffering of Christ might teach them that death might be but the entrance to a wider sphere of activity. He had preached to those who had perished in the Flood (18 20). In that flood, the washing of the world from its pollutions, they might see the type of the baptism which was to them, when united with the faith of a good conscience, the means of salvation (21). They also, though they might suffer, would share in his Resurrection and Ascension (22).
Chap. 4. But Christ suffered that we, suffering with Him, might cease from sin and live to God (1, 2). The evil past must be left behind, even though men wonder at us and accuse us (3, 4). We and they shall stand hereafter before the Judge whose righteousness and mercy were shewn in a Gospel preached to the dead as well as to the living, in judgments that led to life (5, 6). Looking to that judgment as not far off, men should love one another, and use all gifts they have received from God as faithful stewards (7 11). If in the meantime there comes a fiery trial, that should be cause of joy. To suffer as a Christian was a thing to thank God for (12 16). Not even the righteous could be saved easily, but what then would be the end of the unrighteous? In that thought, the sufferers might commend their souls to God (17 19).
Chap. 5. From the body of believers at large the Apostle turns to men who like himself are office-bearers, elders or bishops, and exhorts them to feed the flock, and so to do their work that they may receive a crown of glory from the Chief Shepherd (1 4). The younger in age or office are, in like manner, to be subject to the elder, mutual subjection being the very law of the Church’s life. Not the haughty, but the lowly, are exalted by the hand of God. All anxious care about work or position may be left in His hands (5 7). Yet the absence of care is not to lead to carelessness. Christians need to watch, for the great Enemy is watching for them (8, 9). In view of their conflict with him or his agents, the Apostle ends with a prayer for their preservation and perfectness (10), and ends with commending Silvanus to them, and sending salutations from Marcus and a female disciple at Babylon.
B. Comparison of the First Epistle of St Peter with our Lord’s Teaching
1 Pet. 1:2 “the elect” Mark 13:21 , Mark 13:22 ; John 13:18 , John 15:16 3 “hath begotten us again” John 3:5 8 “ye see him not, yet believing” John 20:29 13 “gird up the loins of your mind” Luke 12:33 16 “be ye holy; for I am holy” Matthew 5:48 1:17 “without respect of persons” Matthew 22:16 18 “redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ” Matthew 20:28 ; Mark 10:45 “received by tradition of your fathers” Matthew 15:2-6 ; Mark 7:3-13 19 “blood of Christ as of a lamb” John 1:29 20 “before the foundation of the world” Matthew 25:34 ; Luke 11:50 22 “love one another” John 15:12 2:4 “a stone disallowed …” Matthew 21:42-44 5 “built up a spiritual house” Matthew 16:18 12 “speak against you as evil doers” John 18:30 “the day of visitation” Luke 19:44 15 “put to silence” ( φιμοῦν ) Mark 1:25 , Mark 4:39 16 “as free” John 8:32 19 “this is thankworthy” ( χάρις ) Luke 6:32 “suffering wrongfully” Matthew 5:39 21 “that ye should follow his steps” Matthew 10:38 , Matthew 10:16 :24; Luke 14:27 23 “when he was reviled …” Matthew 26:63 , Matthew 27:14 24 “by whose stripes” Matthew 27:26 ; Mark 15:15 25 “as sheep going astray” Matthew 9:36 , Matthew 9:18 :12, Matthew 9:13 “the Shepherd of your souls” John 10:16 3:1 “may be won” ( κερδηθήσωνται ) Matthew 18:15 9 “not rendering evil for evil” Matthew 5:39 14 “if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake” Matthew 5:10 16 “they … who falsely accuse” ( ἐπηρεάζοντες ) Matthew 5:44 ; Luke 6:28 20 “waited in the days of Noe” Matthew 24:37 , Matthew 24:38 “wherein few … were saved” Luke 13:23 4:5 “who shall give account” Luke 16:2 7 “the end of all things is at hand” Matthew 24:6-14 8 “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” Luke 7:47 10 “as good stewards” Luke 12:42 , Luke 16:1-12 11 “that God in all things may be glorified” Matthew 5:16 13 “but rejoice” Matthew 5:12 4:14 “if ye be reproached … happy are ye” Matthew 5:10 18 “if the righteous scarcely be saved” Matthew 24:22 19 “commit the keeping of their souls” Luke 23:46 5:2 “feed the flock of God” John 21:16 3 “neither as being lords over God’s heritage” Matthew 20:25 ; Mark 10:42 5 “likewise, ye younger” Luke 22:26 7 “casting all your care upon him” Matthew 6:25 , Matthew 6:28 8 “your adversary ( ἀντιδικος ) the devil” Matthew 5:25 10 “settle you” ( θεμελιόα ) Matthew 7:25 ; Luke 6:48 C. Comparison of the First Epistle of St Peter with the Epistle of St James
1 Pet. 1:1 “the strangers scattered throughout …” James 1:1 3 “hath begotten us again” 23 “born again … by the word of God” 1:18 6 “through manifold temptations” 1:2 7 “the trial of your faith” 1:3 12 “the angels desire to look into” ( παρακύπτειν ) 1:25 17 “without respect of persons” 2:1 4 22 “ye have purified your souls” 4:8 24 “the grass withereth” 1:10, 11 2:1 “laying aside all malice” 1:21 4:8 “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” 5:20 5:5 “God resisteth the proud” 4:6 6 “humble yourselves therefore …” 4:10 9 “whom resist stedfast in the faith” 4:7 D. Comparison of the First Epistle of St Peter with the Epistles and Revelation of St John
1 Pet. 1:2, 19 “the blood of Jesus Christ” 1 John 1:7 22 “ye have purified your souls” 3:3 “see that ye love one another” 4:11, 12 2:9 “a royal priesthood” Revelation 1:6 , Revelation 5:10 E. Comparison of the First Epistle of St Peter with the Epistles of St Paul and the Epistle to the Hebrews
1 Pet. 1:2 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” Colossians 3:12 ; Romans 8:29 “through sanctification” Romans 6:19 , Romans 6:22 “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus” Romans 3:25 ; Hebrews 9:13 “grace unto you, and peace” Romans 1:7 ; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 1:3 and other Epistles 3 “blessed be the God and Father” 2 Corinthians 1:3 ; Ephesians 1:3 “hath begotten us again” Titus 3:5 4 “an inheritance incorruptible” Acts 20:32 ; Colossians 3:24 ; 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Corinthians 9:25 5 “kept by the power of God” Philippians 4:7 “salvation ready to be revealed” Romans 13:11 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:8 7 “gold … tried with fire” 1 Corinthians 3:13 “honour and glory” Romans 2:7 , Romans 2:10 ; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 1:17 8 “joy unspeakable” Romans 8:26 ; 2 Corinthians 12:4; 2 Corinthians 12:4 11 “what, or what manner of time” 1 Thessalonians 5:1 13 “gird up the loins of your mind” Ephesians 6:14 “be sober” 1 Thessalonians 5:6 , 1 Thessalonians 5:8 14 “obedient children (literally, children of obedience )” Ephesians 5:6 “not fashioning yourselves” Romans 12:2 1:18 “your vain conversation” Galatians 1:13 ; Ephesians 4:22 “received by tradition from your fathers” Galatians 1:14 20 “before the foundation of the world” Ephesians 1:4 22 “unfeigned love” 1 Timothy 1:5 2:2 “the sincere milk of the word” 1 Corinthians 10:3 ; Hebrews 5:12 “sincere (literally, unadulterated )” 2 Corinthians 2:17 , 2 Corinthians 4:2 5 “spiritual sacrifices” Romans 12:1 “acceptable to God” Romans 15:16 , Romans 15:31 ; 2 Corinthians 6:2; 2 Corinthians 6:2 6 “a chief corner stone” Ephesians 2:20 8 “a stone of stumbling” Romans 9:33 9 “a peculiar people” Ephesians 1:4 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:14 “called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” Acts 26:18 ; Romans 13:12 10 “in time past were not a people” Romans 9:25 11 “lusts, which war against the soul” Romans 7:23 13 “submit yourselves to every ordinance” Romans 13:1 13 “the king as supreme” Romans 13:1 16 “as free” Romans 6:16 ; 1 Corinthians 7:22; 1 Corinthians 7:22 18 “servants, be subject” Ephesians 6:5 , Ephesians 6:8 ; Colossians 3:22 ; 1 Timothy 6:1; 1 Timothy 6:1 , 1 Timothy 6:2 24 “being dead to sins” Romans 6:2 , Romans 6:11 ; Galatians 2:19 3:1 “likewise, ye wives …” Ephesians 5:22 , Ephesians 5:24 ; Colossians 3:18 “be won by” ( κερδηθήσωντσι ) 1 Corinthians 9:19 , 1 Corinthians 9:20 3 “plaiting the hair” 1 Timothy 2:9 4 “the hidden man” Romans 7:22 ; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 4:16 ; Ephesians 3:16 6 “whose daughters ye are” Romans 4:11 , Romans 4:12 7 “the weaker vessel” 1 Thessalonians 4:4 8 “pitiful” ( εὕσπλαγχνοι ) Ephesians 4:32 9 “not rendering evil for evil” Romans 12:17 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:16 13 “who is he that will harm you” Romans 8:33 “followers ( μιμηταὶ ) of that which is good” 1 Corinthians 4:16 ; Ephesians 5:1 3:16 “having a good conscience” Acts 23:1 , Acts 23:24 :16; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 1:19 18 “the just for the unjust” Romans 5:6 “in the flesh … by the Spirit” Romans 1:3 , Romans 1:4 ; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 3:16 21 “baptism … by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” Romans 6:4 , Romans 6:5 22 “who is gone into heaven” 1 Timothy 3:16 ; Ephesians 2:6 “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” Ephesians 1:21 ; Colossians 1:16 , Colossians 1:2 :15; Philippians 2:10 4:1 “he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin” Romans 6:7-11 2 “the will of God” 1 Thessalonians 4:3 3 “the time past of our life may suffice” Romans 13:11 , Romans 13:12 4 “the same excess of riot” ( ἀσωτία ) Ephesians 5:18 ; Titus 1:6 5 “who shall give account” 1 Corinthians 4:5 6 “judged according to men in the flesh … live according to God” 1 Corinthians 5:5 , 1 Corinthians 11:32 7 “the end of all things is at hand” 1 Timothy 4:1 ; Romans 13:12 ; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Corinthians 15:51 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 9 “use hospitality” Romans 12:13 ; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 3:2 10 “as every man hath received the gift” Romans 12:6 ; 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:4 , 1 Corinthians 12:28 11 “as the oracles of God” Romans 3:2 “which God giveth” ( χορηγεῖ ) 2 Corinthians 9:10 “that God in all things may be glorified” 1 Corinthians 10:31 13 “partakers of Christ’s sufferings” Colossians 1:24 5:1 “elders ( πρεσβύτεροι ) … taking the Acts 20:17 , Acts 20:28 ; Titus 1:5 , 2 oversight ( ἐπισκοποῦντες )” 7 3 “ensamples ( τύποι ) to the flock” 2 Thessalonians 3:9 ; Philippians 3:17 8 “be sober, be vigilant” 1 Thessalonians 5:6 10 “make you perfect” 1 Corinthians 1:10 “stablish” 2 Thessalonians 2:17 F. Comparison of the First Epistle of St Peter with his Teaching as Recorded in the Acts
1 Pet. 1:17 “without respect of persons” Acts 10:34 20 “foreordained” 2:23, 3:13 “manifested in these last times” 2:17 21 “God, that raised him up from the dead” 2:32 36, 3:15, 4:10 2:4 “a living stone, disallowed” 4:11 8 “whereunto also they were appointed” 1:16 17 “honour all men” 10:28 3:18 “Christ … the just” 3:14 The above parallelisms are, it will be seen, sometimes in thought, sometimes (and here the Greek, for the most part, makes the coincidence clearer) in the use of unusual or characteristic words. It does not follow, of course, that the agreement implies derivation in each single instance. What does follow may, it is believed, be thus briefly stated.
(1) They shew, and this is my main object in bringing them together in this tabulated form, that the Epistle ascribed to St Peter indicates the presence of elements of thought corresponding to the influences which we know to have been working on him in the several stages of his life.
(2) They shew that by far the most dominant of these influences had been the personal teaching of our Lord, and the personal or written teaching of St Paul. The mind of St Peter is, as it were, saturated with thoughts and phrases derived from the two sources, and thus over and above the direct references to each, they furnish an indirect proof of the genuineness of the documents in which we now find them, sc. the Gospels and the Epistles of St Paul.
(3) They prove, in regard to the last-named writings, that the idea of an antagonism between St Peter and St Paul, in which some historical critics have found the secret of the development of the Apostolic Church, is singularly at variance with facts, if we admit the genuineness of the First Epistle that bears the name of the former. The wretched caricature of an Apostle, a thing of shreds and patches, which struts and fumes through the Ebionite romances known as the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions , would not have been likely to write with thoughts and phrases essentially Pauline flowing from his pen at every turn.
External Evidence. It remains in conclusion to state briefly the external evidence for the reception of the First Epistle of St Peter into the New Testament Canon. The internal has it is believed, been already stated with adequate fulness.
(1) The Second Epistle, even were we to assume its spuriousness, bears witness to the existence of a Letter already extant and of so much authority as to tempt a pseudonymous writer to mask himself as following it up by a second.
(2) Polycarp quotes the Epistle frequently, though he does not name it ( Phil . c. ii. v. vi. viii.), and Eusebius ( H. E . iii. 39) says that Papias did the same. Irenæus (iv. 9. 2; 16. 5) both quotes and names, as also does Clement of Alexandria ( Strom . iii. p. 544, 584, 585). Origen (Euseb. H. E . vi. 25) quotes it frequently and speaks of both Epistles, acknowledging, however, that they stand on a different footing as regards authority, and that the second was much questioned. Tertullian ( Scorp . c. 12, 13) quotes and names it. It is found, though the second is not found, in the Peschito or early Syriac version. The only fact of any weight on the other side is that it is not named in the Muratorian Fragment. From the time of Tertullian the authority of the Epistle, it need hardly be said, has remained unquestioned, till within the last century, when it has been attacked by some German critics, De Wette, Baur. Schwegler, on purely subjective and, it is believed, quite inadequate grounds.
the second epistle of st peter
The Second Epistle ascribed to St Peter comes before us, as far as external evidence is concerned, somewhat heavily weighted. Origen (circ. a.d. 230) is the earliest writer who names it, and in doing so, he admits that its authority was questioned. “Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, has left us one Epistle generally accepted ( ὁμολογουμένην ), and if you will, a Second, for this is questioned.” (Euseb. H. E . vi. 25.) In addition to this he often quotes the First Epistle as “ the Catholic Epistle.” It had not made its way to greater acceptance when the Peschito Syriac Version of the New Testament was made, nor when the Muratorian Canon was drawn up, and finds no place in either of them. The latter, however, it should be noted, does not take in even the First Epistle, and so far leaves the two standing as on the same footing. In Eusebius we find traces of a transition stage, but the old doubts still continued, and obviously, as far as his own mind was concerned, preponderated. “We” he says “have not received that which is current as the Second Epistle as having a place in the Canon, but as it seemed to many to be edifying, it was studied with the other Scriptures.” Afterwards he speaks of knowing only one genuine Epistle among the so-called writings of Peter ( H. E . iii. 3), and again classes the so-called Second Epistle with the Epistles of St James and Jude, as “questioned ( ἀντιλεγόμενα ) but yet acknowledged by most people” ( H. E . iii. 25). Jerome ( Script. Eccl . i) reproduces the same balanced state of feeling. The Second Epistle was “rejected by very many on account of its difference in style.” He, however, included it in his Latin Version, known as the Vulgate, and this probably helped to determine its acceptance by the Western Church. Doubts lingered in Asia Minor and Syria, and were expressed by Gregory of Nazianzus and Theodore of Mopsuestia. These, however, gradually gave way, and the Epistle appeared in the Philoxenian or later Syriac version, and was received into the Canon by the Councils of Laodicea (a.d. 372) and Carthage (a.d. 397).
On the other side we have what may possibly be allusive references to the Epistle, or even quotations from it, though it is not named. Barnabas, or the Epistle that bears his name (c. xv.), brings in the thought that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8 ), but then this was but a reproduction of the Jewish thought of a Millennial Sabbath of a thousand years, and does not prove that he derived it from our Epistle. Justin ( Dial. c. Tryph . c. 89) quotes the same words, but it is, of course, uncertain from what source he drew them, and the same holds good of their citation by Irenæus (v. 23, 28). Theophilus of Antioch in speaking of “men of God as borne on by the Spirit and so becoming prophets” ( ad Autol . ii. 2), of the Word or Logos of God as a “lamp shining in a narrow dwelling” (ii. 1), reminds us so closely of 2 Peter 1:18-21 , that it is difficult to believe that he was not acquainted with the Epistle. Origen (in works, however, of which we have only Rufinus’s Latin translation) once and again quotes the Epistle as Peter’s: “Peter speaks through the two trumpets of his Epistles” ( Hom . iv. in Josh .); “Peter says, Ye have been made partakers of the Divine Nature” ( Hom . iv. in Levit .).
As far as evidence from without goes then the case does not go beyond a fair measure of proof that the Epistle was known and read in the second century, but that in spite of its manifest claim to be by the Apostle, it was not generally accepted.
We turn to the internal evidence, and here again there is, at first sight, an impression unfavourable to its genuineness. The opening description which the writer gives of himself is different from that of the First Epistle. So also is the general style of language and tenor of thought. It dwells less on the Pauline thoughts of redemption, election, grace, salvation, less on the trials of persecution, and the necessity of patience, and not without a certain tone of agitation, and a fulness of rhetorical amplification, speaks at length of the dangers of false teachers (c. 2) and the mocking taunts of scoffers at the delay of the Lord’s coming (c. 3). There is, it has been said, an ostentation in the reference to the Transfiguration (1:16), in the patronising tone in which the writer speaks of St Paul (3:15, 16), which is not in harmony with the naturalness and simplicity of the First Epistle.
It remains to be seen, however, how far a more thorough examination of the Epistle confirms or balances these conclusions. And here we have to deal with a large number of circumstantial details, each of them, it may be, comparatively inconclusive in itself, and yet tending, in their accumulated weight, to turn the scale of evidence.
(1) It is not probable that a pseudonymous writer would have begun his work by the use of the name “Symeon,” which at once presented a startling variation from the opening of the First Epistle.
(2) In spite of the admitted difference of style, there are not a few instances in which words comparatively unfamiliar in other books are common to the two Epistles.
2 Pet. 1:1 “precious” ( τίμιος ) 1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Peter 1:19 2 “grace and peace be multiplied” 1:2 3 praises ( ἀρετὰς ) virtue ( ἀρετὴ ) 2:9 5 “add” ( ἐπιχορηγήσατε ) 4:11 7 “love of the brethren” ( φιλαδελφία ) 1:22, 3:8 10 “calling and election” 1:2, 2:21 16 “eyewitnesses” ( ἐπόπται ) 2:12 19, 20 Stress laid on Prophecy. 1:10 12 2:1 “the Lord that bought them” ( ἀγοράσαντα ) 1:18 2 “lasciviousness” ( ἀσέλγεια ) 4:3 5 Reference to history of Noah. 3:20 14 “cursed children” (literally, “children of a curse”) 1:14 3:5 History of Deluge again. 1 Peter 3:20 14 “without spot or blemish” 1:19 15 St Paul’s teaching recognised. 5:12 (3) On comparing the Second Epistle with the same New Testament writings with which the First Epistle has been compared, it will be seen that here also we have like points of contact and resemblance. These we give, as before, in a tabulated form.
A. Comparison of the Second Epistle of St Peter with St Paul’s Epistles
2 Pet. 1:2 “knowledge” ( ἐπίγνωσις ) Romans 1:28 , Romans 3:20 et al. 3 “godliness” ( εὐσέβεια ) 1 Timothy 2:2 , 1 Timothy 3:16 6 “temperance” ( ἐγκράτεια ) Galatians 5:23 11 “an entrance” ( εἴσοδος ) 1 Thessalonians 1:9 , 1 Thessalonians 2:1 13 “tabernacle” ( σκήνωμα ) 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 16 “fables” ( μῦθοι ) 1 Timothy 1:4 , 1 Timothy 2:7 17 “honour and glory” ( τιμὴ καὶ δόξα ) Romans 2:7 21 “men of God” 1 Timothy 6:11 2:1 “privily shall bring in” ( παρεισάξουσιν ) Galatians 2:4 “heresies” 1 Corinthians 11:19 3 “covetousness” ( πλεονεξία ) as characterising the false teachers. 1 Timothy 6:5 ; Titus 1:11 12 “perish in their own corruption” 1 Corinthians 3:17 13 “riot in the daytime” Romans 13:13 19 “promise them liberty” 1 Corinthians 10:29 ; Galatians 5:13 “servants of corruption” Romans 6:16 , Romans 8:21 3:1 “your pure ( εἰλικρινεῖς ) minds” Philippians 1:10 2 “prophets” and “apostles” Ephesians 2:20 , Ephesians 3:5 4 “since the fathers fell asleep” 1 Corinthians 11:30 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:15 7 “reserved ( τεθησαυρισμένοι ) unto fire” Romans 2:5 9 “doth not will that any should perish” 1 Timothy 2:4 15 “the long-suffering of God” Romans 2:4 , Romans 9:22 B. Comparison of the Second Epistle of St Peter with the Gospels
2 Pet. 1:13 “tabernacle” Matthew 17:4 14 “as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me” John 21:18 15 “decease” ( ἔξοδος ) Luke 9:31 17 The “voice from heaven” Matthew 17:5 19 “a light shining” ( λύχνος φαίνων ) John 5:35 2:5 Reference to Deluge and the Cities of the Plain. Matthew 24:37 ; Luke 17:26-30 9 “under punishment” ( κολαζομένους ) Matthew 25:46 17 “clouds that are carried with a tempest” ( λαίλαψ ) Mark 4:37 19 “servants of corruption” John 8:34 20 “the latter end ( τὰ ἔσχατα ) is worse with them than the beginning ( τῶν πρώτων )” Matthew 12:45 22 Juxtaposition of swine and dogs. Matthew 7:6 3:10 “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” Matthew 24:43 C. Comparison of the Second Epistle of St Peter with the Epistle of st James
2 Pet. 1:9 “is blind … hath forgotten” ( λήθην λαβών ) James 1:23 , James 1:24 2:14 “beguiling” ( δελεάζοντες ) 1:14 D. Comparison of the Second Epistle of St Peter with the Acts of the Apostles
2 Pet. 1:7 “godliness” ( εὐσέβεια ) Acts 3:12 17 “when there came ( φερομένης ) such a voice” 2:2 21 “as they were moved ( φερόμενοι ) by the Holy Ghost” 2:1 “denying the Lord ( δεσπότην ) that bought them” Acts 4:24 13 “to riot in the day time” 2:15 I give these of course, in each case, with a valeat quantum , and do not say that, even taken collectively, they amount to a proof of identity of authorship. It will, however, I think, be admitted that they at least shew that the Second Epistle that bears St Peter’s name comes from one who lived at the same time and in the same atmosphere of thought as the First, that he was familiar with the same writings and used the same words and phrases. I am unwilling to lay stress on the bare fact that the writer affirms that he was a witness of the Transfiguration and heard the voice from heaven (2 Peter 1:16 , 2 Peter 1:17 ); for that, on the assumption of personated authorship, would be part of the personation. But it is, I think, a matter for consideration that here also, in this dwelling on personal reminiscences of the Gospel history, the writer of the Second Epistle stands on the same footing as the writer of the First. For he too speaks of his position as “a witness of the sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 5:1 ), and paints the scene of those sufferings (1 Peter 2:21-24 ) no less vividly than the writer of the Second Epistle paints that of the glory of the Transfiguration. And there is, it may be added, a kind of naturalness, almost if not altogether beyond the reach of art, in the way in which, by a subtle yet perfectly intelligible association of ideas, the recollection of that scene leads to thoughts and words like the “tabernacle” and “decease,” which had actually been associated with it. There is, if I mistake not, a like naturalness in the reference to our Lord’s prediction of the manner of the Apostle’s death (John 21:18 ) (not recorded, it will be remembered, in any of the first three Gospels), in 2 Peter 1:14 , as compared with the exhortation in 1 Peter 5:2 , which reproduces the command to “feed the flock of God,” which must have been associated inseparably with that prediction in the Apostle’s memory (John 21:15-17 ).
It remains to enquire whether the admitted difference in thought and style can be adequately explained on the hypothesis of identity of authorship. I venture to think that that explanation is found in the singular parallelism between the second chapter of this Epistle and the Epistle of St Jude. That parallelism is so striking that it is impossible to resist the conclusion that one writer used the materials furnished him by the other, or that both derived them from some common source. Reserving the discussion of these alternatives for the Introduction to the Epistle of St Jude , I will assume here that the latter Epistle was the earlier of the two. What the facts before us suggest is then as follows. The First Epistle had been written and sent off by Silvanus. When he wrote it the Apostle was thinking chiefly of the persecutions which were pressing on the Asiatic Churches, and he dwells naturally on the truths which were the ground of hope and comfort for the sufferers, on the conduct which would be the best apologia when they stood before the tribunal of the magistrate or in the forum domesticum of the family, face to face with their accusers. Soon afterwards, other tidings come, which are more alarming and speak of other dangers. He hears of teachers like those described in the Pastoral Epistles, “departing from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, having their conscience seared as with a redhot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1 , 1 Timothy 4:2 ), destitute of the truth, looking on the profession of godliness as a means of making money (1 Timothy 6:5 ), covetous, boasters, proud, without natural affection, … “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-7 ), boasting of “a science ( gnosis ) falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20 ). In addition to these there are mockers both within and without the Church, who, holding that the Resurrection is past already (2 Timothy 2:18 ), held also as a natural consequence that there was to be no Second Advent of the Lord to judge the quick and the dead (2 Peter 3:1-4 ), and scoffed at the promise of His coming. The Epistle of St Jude is placed in his hands as giving a description of these teachers. It is not an improbable supposition that it may have been sent to him by James, the brother of the Lord, with whom, as his brother Apostle of the Circumcision, he would naturally be in communication, or even that Jude himself may have been the bearer of his own letter. He is, if one may venture so to speak, startled and horror-stricken at the picture thus brought before him. He must write once more to the Asiatic Churches, warning them against this new form of evil, and throwing all the weight of his authority into the scale of those who were contending for the faith, for purity, for holiness, for the hope of the Resurrection to eternal life. It would not be enough merely to pass on the letter of St Jude. His own name was better known, and would carry greater weight with it. It is a small point, but one which, as far as it goes, falls in with the view thus suggested, that the form of the Apostle’s name in the Second Epistle (Symeon) is that which appears in the record in Acts 15:14 , as used by St James and current in the Church of Jerusalem. If the disciple who brought the letter of St Jude came from that Church, and was employed by St Peter as an amanuensis, what was more natural than that he should employ that form?
The manner in which the writer of the Second Epistle deals with that of St Jude is in exact agreement with this hypothesis, and the hypothesis explains phenomena that would otherwise present considerable difficulty. He adapts it, as it were, to the use not only of the Hellenistic Jews, but of the proselytes from Heathenism, and even the uncircumcised converts, whom he was anxious to reach. He will not put a stumbling-block in their way, by referring to the tradition of the nature of the fall of the angels as being like in kind to the sin of the Cities of the Plain, which was found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, and was not found (except in a passage very variously interpreted, Genesis 6:4 ) in any Canonical Scripture. For a like reason, he turns from the tradition or legend of the dispute of Michael and Satan about the body of Moses (Jude, verse 9), and so generalises the statement that it more naturally refers to the history of Joshua the son of Jozedek, in Zechariah 3:1-5 , and does not reproduce the quotation from the Book of Enoch (Jude, verse 14), which might have seemed so well suited to his purpose. With the characteristic tendency, shewn in the First Epistle, to dwell on the history of Noah, he adds that to the list of St Jude’s warning examples (2 Peter 2:5 ). He expands the few words in which St Jude speaks of the “mockers” of the last days (Jude, verse 18), so as to bring before his readers the special form of mockery of which he had heard as current among them (2 Peter 3:1-10 ).
On these grounds then, (1) of an adequate amount of agreement as to thought and language between the two Epistles, and (2) of an adequate explanation of the differences that must be admitted to present themselves on a comparison, I am disposed to think that there is enough to turn the scale in favour of the later acceptance of the Second Epistle by the Church at large, as against the earlier doubts. It may be added finally, that these doubts themselves, and the consequent delay in the acceptance, were what might have been expected under the circumstances of the case. A time of persecution necessarily interrupted the free communication of one Church with another. It was not easy for an encyclical letter to be read publicly in the meetings of the Churches to which it was addressed, when those meetings could not be held without the danger of violence and outrage. Nor must we forget that the false teachers who were condemned by the Epistle had an interest in suppressing it as far as that suppression lay within their power. They would disclaim its authority. It would not be strange that they should throw doubts on its authorship, and that those doubts should gain a certain degree of currency and be reproduced even by those who had not the same motive for suggesting them.
It remains that we should give a short outline of the contents of the Epistle.
Analysis of the Second Epistle of St Peter
Chap. 1. The Apostle addresses those in the Asiatic Churches who were sharers with him in the same precious faith (1, 2). On the strength of God’s gracious gifts to them, he calls on them to go on, in the might of God’s promises and their fellowship in the Divine Nature, from one grace of character to another (3 7). Such progress is the condition of knowledge. Without it there is mental blindness and short-sightedness (8, 9), and they cannot make their calling and election sure (10, 11). The sense of this dependence of knowledge on practice makes the writer anxious to remind them of what they already knew. Life was passing away, and the end would come quickly; and therefore he would not delay to provide for his departure (12 15). He could speak with full confidence, for he had seen the excellent glory and heard the voice from Heaven on the Holy Mount (16 18). But even a surer attestation than that was to be found in the abiding presence of the Prophetic Word, the same now as it was of old, making the words of the men of God not their own words, but those of the Holy Ghost (19 21).
Chap. 2. As there had been false prophets before, so are there false teachers now, denying the Lord that bought them, making proselytes as a means of gain (1 3). The history of the past shews that God’s judgment is against such men. They shall perish as the angels that sinned did; as did the world of the ungodly in the Flood; as did the cities of the Plain (4 8). Yet in each of these cases those that remained faithful were saved, and so shall it be now (9). The vices that most characterised these false teachers were their impurity, their self-assertion, their railing, their wanton and luxurious living, their covetousness (10 4), reproducing in all these points the character of Balaam (15, 16). Waterless wells and tempest-driven clouds, these were the fit symbols of these boasters of liberty who were slaves of corruption (17 19). Whatever knowledge they had once had of Christ did but aggravate their guilt, and their last days were worse than the first. It had been better for them never to have known the truth than to have known it and then returned, like the unclean beasts of the proverb, to their uncleanness (20 22).
Chap. 3. The Apostle, reminding his readers of his previous letter, bids them keep in remembrance what they had heard from the Apostles and prophets of the Church as to the Coming of the Lord (1, 2). They would meet scoffers who taunted them with the delay of that Coming (3, 4). They would do well to remember that the world had perished once before by water (5, 6), and therefore that it was not impossible that it might be destroyed hereafter by fire (5 7). Whatever delay there might be was but the proof of the long-suffering of God, with whom a thousand years were as one day, giving men more time for repentance (8, 9). Sooner or later the end will come, but it will not be one of mere destruction, but will usher in the new heaven and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (10 13). With this in view, men should seek for fitness for that new world. Their own teacher, Paul, whom the writer owns as a beloved brother, would tell them that the long-suffering of God was leading them to repentance (14, 15). If they found some things hard to be understood in his Epistles, they must remember this was the case also with the other Scriptures, which, like his writings, were liable to perversion (16). Lastly, the writer ends, as he began, by calling on his readers to grow in grace and knowledge.
introduction to the epistle of st jude
I. The Writer . The writer of the Epistle describes himself in a manner altogether exceptional in the Epistles of the New Testament. He is “the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ and the brother of James .” The use of the former term would be, as we find from St Paul’s description of himself in Philippians 1:1 and St Peter’s in 2 Peter 1:1 , compatible with his holding the position of an Apostle, but there is, to say the least, a primâ facie improbability in the thought that one who could claim attention on the higher ground of being an Apostle of Christ should claim it on the lower ground of being the “brother of James,” whoever that James might be.
This antecedent probability may perhaps seem, at first, to be balanced by the fact that in our English version, a “Judas the brother of James” appears in the lists of the Twelve Apostles in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 . It has, however, to be noted that the word “brother” is, as the italics shew, interpolated by the translators, and that the Greek combination would, according to the rule followed in all other cases, be naturally rendered as “Judas, the son of James” ( Ἰούδας Ἰακώβου ), the relationship of brotherhood being elsewhere indicated by the use of the proper word ( ἀδελφός ). It may safely be said that this would have been the rendering here, had not the translators been led by the impression made on them by the opening words of this Epistle, and the desire to bring St Luke’s list of the Twelve into harmony with them 1 1 It may be well to note the fact, as this suggestion may seem to some readers a somewhat startling proposal, that it has the sanction of two, at least, of the earlier English versions. Tyndale (1534) and Cranmer (1539) both give “Judas, James’ sonne.” Wyclif and the Rhemish version simply reproduce the Greek, “Judas of James.” The Geneva gives “Judas, James’ brother .” Luther, too, gives “Judas, Jakobi Sohn,” and is followed by Bengel and Meyer. . So far therefore the description “Judas the brother of James” is adverse to the view that we have before us the writing of an Apostle. There were, however, two bearing the names of Judas and James, or Jacobus, of whose relationship as brothers there is not the shadow of a doubt. “James and Joses and Judas and Simon” are named in Mark 6:3 as the brethren of our Lord. The first-named, and therefore probably the eldest of the four, came into prominence in the history of the Apostolic Church, as in Galatians 1:19 , and an almost uniform tradition identifies him with the James who presides in the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:0 and who receives St Paul with much kindness in Acts 21:18-25 . Assuming him to be in some sense the Lord’s brother, it follows that Judas shared that distinction, and it has been shewn, it is believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there is no adequate ground for identifying them with James the son of Alphæus, and Judas, the son (or brother?) of James in the company of the Twelve.
It would scarcely be suitable, here, to re-open the discussion which the reader will find in the Introduction to the Commentary on the Epistle of St James in this series, as to the precise relationship of “the brethren of the Lord.” It will be enough to state that of the three alternative hypotheses, (1) that the brethren were the children of Joseph and Mary, (2) that they were the children of the sister of the Virgin and of Clopas (assumed by some to be identical with Alphæus), and (3) that they were the children of Joseph by a former marriage, possibly of the levirate character, the last seems to commend itself as most probable in itself, best fitting in with all the data of the case, and best supported also by external testimony. On this view, Judas must have been born some few years before b.c. 4, and, if we are right in assigning his Epistle to nearly the same date as those of St Peter, he must have been not far from seventy at the time of writing it. There is, perhaps, no writer in the New Testament of whose life and character we know so little. We can but picture to ourselves, as in the case of his brother James, the life of the home at Nazareth, the incredulous wonder with which they saw Him whom they had known for so many years in the daily intercourse of home-life, appear first in the character of a teacher, and then of a prophet, and then of the long-expected Christ. So it was that they sought to stay His work (Matthew 12:46 , Mark 3:31-35 , Luke 8:19-21 ), and were yet in the position of those who believed not when they went up to the Feast of Tabernacles six months before the close of our Lord’s Ministry (John 7:5 ). They were, however, converted to a full acceptance of His claims between the Crucifixion and the Ascension; probably, we may believe, by His appearance to James after the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7 ), or by their sharing in the manifestation which was made to five hundred brethren at once (1 Corinthians 15:6 ).
Beyond this we know absolutely nothing. Tradition is absolutely silent, and his name does not appear even in the legends of the Apocryphal Gospels. One conjecture may, however, be mentioned, as having at least some show of probability. The names of Joses and Judas appear in the history of the Apostolic Church on two memorable occasions. In the first, “Joses (or Joseph), who is called Barsabas” and distinguished by the further name of Justus, was put forward by the hundred and twenty brethren who were assembled after the Ascension as a candidate for the vacant Apostleship (Acts 1:23 ), and it seems not improbable, looking to the position subsequently occupied by James the brother of the Lord, that he also may have been one of the brethren, who was able to bear his witness of the fact of the Resurrection. If the name Barsabas were simply a patronymic, it would, of course, be fatal to this hypothesis. The analogy of Barnabas however (Acts 4:36 ) makes it not unlikely that it may be an epithet descriptive of character. Of five possible meanings, “son of conversion,” “son of quiet,” “son of an oath,” “son of an old man,” “son of wisdom,” the elder Lightfoot (on Acts 1:23 ) gives the preference to the last. Accepting this, we have two noticeable points of agreement with James the brother of the Lord. Both are characterised by their love of wisdom, both are known as being conspicuously “just,” or righteous. That St Luke should give the Latin and not the Greek form of that epithet suggests the inference that this character was recognised by Latin-speaking disciples, the “strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,” at Jerusalem (Acts 2:10 ).
In the second instance, we have “Judas surnamed Barsabas” mentioned as a prophet, who was sent with Silas to Antioch as the bearer of the encyclical letter which conveyed the decree of the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22 , Acts 15:32 ). He and his companion are described as “chief men” ( ἄνδρες ἡγούμενοι ) 1 1 The description is, I think, fatal to the view, which the elder Lightfoot and some others have adopted, that Joses and Judas Barsabas were sons of Alphæus, and that the latter was therefore an Apostle. The assumption of one writer that Sabas was a contracted form of Zebedæus, and that they were therefore brothers of the Apostles James and John, scarcely calls for more than a passing mention. among the brethren. After his visit to Antioch, where he and Silas exhorted the brethren with “many words,” he returned to Jerusalem: we hear no more of him.
The hypothesis with which we are now dealing has at all events the merit of fitting in with these facts, and throwing light both on them and on the character of the Epistle. It explains the prominence of this Judas in the Church at Jerusalem, and the tone of authority in which he writes, and his selection by his brother James to be the bearer of the letter to the Church of Antioch. It gives a more definite application to St Peter’s reference to the commandment of the prophets and Apostles (2 Peter 3:2 ) and explains his own reference to Apostles only and not to prophets (Jude, verse 17). If we were to assume that he was with St Peter at the time when the Second Epistle was written, it would explain the use of the exceptional form of Symeon as in the speech of James in Acts 15:14 .
The silence which rests over the name of Judas, the writer of the Epistle, is, however, in itself significant. It indicates a life passed in comparative quiescence, like that of his brother, the Bishop of Jerusalem. The story told by Hegesippus (Euseb. H. E . iii. 18) that the grandchildren of Judas who “after the flesh was called the brother of the Lord” were sought out by the delatores or informers, under Domitian, and brought before the Emperor, who was disturbed by fear of the “coming” of the Christ, and were dismissed by him when they shewed him their hands hardened with labour and told him the tale of their inheritance of poverty, indicates a humble, but not an ascetic life, and agrees with the statement of St Paul that the brethren of the Lord were married (1 Corinthians 9:5 ). Reading between the lines of the Epistle, we can trace something of the character of the man. We miss the serene calmness which distinguishes the teaching of his brother, but its absence is adequately explained by the later date of the Epistle, by the presence of new dangers, by the burning indignation roused by the sensual impurities of the false teachers with whom he had to do. What strikes us most, in some sense, as an unexpected difficulty, is the reference to narratives and prophecies which we find nowhere in the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament and which are found in spurious and unauthentic Apocrypha. Had he read, we ask, the Book of Enoch , and the Assumption of Moses , or some similar book? (See notes on Jude verses 9 and 14.) It can scarcely be doubted that, but for antecedent prepossessions in favour of an arbitrary à priori theory of inspiration, we should answer this question in the affirmative. We can scarcely think it probable that he and his fellow-workers read no books but those included in the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament. The Epistle of St James shews, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was familiar with the Wisdom of Solomon , and the Ecclesiasticus of the Son of Sirach. (See Introduction to St James , p. 33.) St Paul, in mentioning Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8 ), clearly refers to some other history of Moses than that which we find in the Pentateuch. And if we once admit the possibility of an acquaintance with the then current literature of Palestine, we know that such books as those referred to may well have been within his reach, and, if so, it was not strange that he should use them, without critically examining their historical trustworthiness, as furnishing illustrations that gave point and force to his counsels. The false teachers against whom he wrote were, we know, characterised largely by their fondness for “Jewish fables” (Titus 1:14 ), and the allusive references to books with which they were familiar were therefore of the nature of an argumentum ad hominem . He fought them, as it were, with their own weapons.
II. Relation of the Epistle of St Jude to the Second Epistle of St Peter
The parallelism between 2 Peter 2:0 and the Epistle of St Jude lies on the surface. There is sufficient resemblance to make it certain that one writer knew the work of the other, sufficient difference to shew that he exercised a certain measure of independence in dealing with the materials thus placed within his reach. The following considerations lead, it is believed, to the inference that St Jude’s Epistle was the earlier of the two.
(1) It was more likely that St Peter should incorporate the contents of a short Epistle like that of St Jude, in the longer one which he was writing, than that St Jude, with the whole of St Peter’s Second Epistle before him, should have confined himself to one section of it only.
(2) It was more probable that St Peter, in reproducing St Jude, should, as stated above, have thought it expedient to omit this or that passage which might seem to him likely to take their place among things “hard to be understood” or prove stumbling-blocks to the weak, than that Jude should have added these elements to what he found written by St Peter.
What has been suggested above (p. 80) seems the probable explanation of the likeness between the two Epistles. That of Jude was brought to St Peter, was, perhaps, placed in his hands by the writer himself. It brought before him a new form of evil; and he did not hesitate, using possibly St Jude’s help as an amanuensis, to write to those of the dispersion whom Jude also had addressed. It seems, on the whole, probable from the absence of any mention of individual Churches, that the Epistle of the latter was addressed, like that of his brother, to the whole body of “the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad” (James 1:1 ).
III. History of the Epistle of St Jude
What has been said of the Second Epistle of St Peter holds good, with one remarkable exception, of the Epistle of St Jude. It is not mentioned or quoted by any of the Apostolic Fathers, Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, nor in the Epistle of Barnabas nor the “Shepherd” of Hermas, nor in Irenæus, nor the fragments of Papias. Clement of Alexandria is the first Father who quotes and names it ( Paedag . iii. 8, Strom , iii. 2). He is followed by Origen, who in his Commentary on Matthew 13:55 , Matthew 13:56 , speaks of Jude as having written an Epistle “of but few verses yet full of mighty words of heavenly wisdom,” and quotes it elsewhere, though in one passage with a doubt as to its reception ( Comm. on Matthew 22:23; Matthew 22:23 ). Tertullian (circ. a. d. 210) quotes it ( de Hab. Mul . i. 3) as the work of an Apostle. It is wanting in the Peschito, or Syriac Version (a sufficient indication, as has been remarked 1 1 Canon Venables in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible , Art. Jude, Epistle of . , of its not being by the Apostle Judas, who, under the name of Thaddeus, was the traditional Evangelist of Edessa); and when we come to the fourth century, Eusebius ( H. E . iii. 25) places it among the Antilegomena or disputed books, and Jerome mentions ( Cat. Script. Eccles .) that although then received, it had been rejected by many on account of its quoting the Apocryphal Book of Enoch.
The singular exception above referred to is that of the Muratorian Fragment (circ. a.d. 170), which, though omitting all mention of the Epistles of St James and St Peter, distinctly recognises that of St Jude. No satisfactory explanation has as yet been given of the omission of the former, but the very absence of any mention of them renders the fact of the latter being named a more decisive proof that the Epistle now before us was recognised as Canonical in the middle of the second century.
Analysis of the Epistle of St Jude
The writer addresses himself at large to all who were consecrated and called as God’s people (1, 2). He states that he had been moved to write to them, urging them to contend for the faith, by the dangers of the time (3). Ungodly men are turning the grace of God into lasciviousness (4). Believers should therefore remember that no privileges, however great, exempt them from the danger of falling, as the Israelites fell after leaving Egypt, as the angels and the cities of the Plain had fallen (5 7). The sins of the false teachers were like theirs and worse, as sins against nature, sins after the pattern of those of Cain, and Balaam, and Korah (8 11). They mingled in the Agapae with impure purposes: all images of natural disorder, rainless clouds, withering trees, wandering stars, were realised in their lives (12, 13). Truly had Enoch prophesied that the Lord would come to judge such as these, murmurers, self-willed, and covetous (14, 15). From that picture of evil the writer turns to warn his readers against another hardly less threatening danger from the mockers of the last days, sensual and schismatic (17 19). In contrast with both these classes, they were to build themselves up in faith and prayer and love (20 22). They must not shrink from rebuking those that needed rebuke, but they must deal with each case on its own merits, with greater or less severity (22, 23). The writer ends with an ascription of praise to God as their protector and preserver from all the dangers that threatened them.
the Sixth Week after Easter