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- 1 Peter
by Henry Alford
THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER
1. THE First Epistle of St. Peter was universally acknowledged by the ancient church as a part of the Christian Scriptures. The earliest testimony in its favour is found in the Second Epistle of Peter (James 3:1), a document which, even if we were to concede its spuriousness as an Apostolic Epistle, yet cannot be removed far in date from the age of the Apostles.
2. The second witness is POLYCARP: of whom Eusebius writes (H. E. iv. 14)—
ὁ μέν τοι πολυκαρπος ἐν τῇ δηλωθείσῃ πρὸς φιλιππησίους (pp. 1005 ff. ed. Migne) αὐτοῦ γραφῇ φερομένῃ εἰς δεῦρο κέχρηταί τισι μαρτυρίαις ἀπὸ τῆς πέτρου προτέρας ἐπιστολῆς.
These μαρτυρίαι are too numerous to be cited at length. In ch. 2, he cites 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 1:21; 1 Peter 3:9; in ch. 5., 1 Peter 2:11; in ch. 6, 1 Peter 4:7; in ch. 8., 1 Peter 2:21-24; in ch. 10., 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 2:12. Eusebius also says of PAPIAS (H. E. iii. 39)—
κέχρηται δʼ ὁ αὐτὸς μαρτυρίαις ἀπὸ τῆς ἰωάννου προτέρας ἐπιστολῆς, καὶ τῆς πέτρου ὁμοίως.
3. None of the above testimonies from Polycarp mention the Epistle expressly; but IRENÆU(125) does so, more than once: e. g. Hær. iv. 9. 2, p. 238:—
“Et Petrus ait in Epistola sua, Quem non videntes diligitis, inquit, in quem nunc non videntes credidistis, gaudebitis gaudio inenarrabili (1 Peter 1:8).”
And again, ib. iv. 16. 5, p. 247:—
“Et propter hoc Petrus ait, Non velamentum malitiæ habere nos libertatem, sed ad probationem et manifestationem fidei (1 Peter 2:16).”
4. CLEMENT of ALEXANDRIA also quotes it expressly, Strom. iii. 11 (75), p. 544 Potter:—
διὸ καὶ ὁ θαυμάσιος πέτρος φησίν, αγαπητοί, παρακαλῶ ὡς παροίκους κ. τ. λ. (1 Peter 2:11 f., 15 f.).
And again, ib. 18 (110), p. 562:—
καὶ ὁ πέτρος ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ τὰ ὅμοια λέγει, ὥστε τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν καὶ τὴν ἐλπίδα κ. τ. λ. (1 Peter 1:21 f.: and 14–16).
And iv. 7 (47), p. 584:—
ἀλλʼ εἰ καὶ πάσχομεν διὰ δικαιοσύνην, μακάριοι, φησὶν ὁ πέτρος· τὸν δὲ φόβον αὐτῶν μὴ φοβήθητε, κ. τ. λ. (1 Peter 3:14-17).
And again [ib. 48], p. 585:—
μὴ ξενίζεσθε τοίνυν, ὁ πέτρος λέγει, κ. τ. λ. (1 Peter 4:12-14).
And ib. 20 (131), p. 622:—
ὁ πέτρος ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ φησίν, ὀλίγον ἄρτι εἰ δέον κ. τ. λ. (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Also in his Pædag. i. 6 (44), p. 124:—
διὰ τοῦτο φησὶ καὶ πέτρος, ἀποθέμενοι οὖν κ. τ. λ. (1 Peter 2:1-3).
And ib. 3. 11 (74), p. 296, with φησὶν ὁ πέτρος, he quotes 1 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 3:8 ff.; and ib. 12 (85), p. 303, with the same formula, 1 Peter 1:17-19; 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Peter 3:13.
5. Besides these express citations, he several times quotes without mentioning the name, as 1 Peter 4:8 in Strom. i. [27 (173)] p. 423; 1 Pet. 1:32 in Quis Div. Serv. (23) p. 948; 1 Peter 2:9-10 in Protrept. 4 (59), p. 52; 1 Peter 2:12, as τοῦτο τὸ εἰρημένον ἁγίως, in Pæd. iii. [11 (53)] p. 285.
6. It is to be noted likewise that the heretic Theodotus, in the tract commonly printed among the works of Clement of Alexandria, twice expressly quotes our Epistle (§ 12, p. 961): εἰς ἃ ἐπιθυμοῦσιν ἄγγελοι παρακύψαι, ὁ πέτρος φησίν (1 Peter 1:12), and ib., κατὰ τὸν ἀπόστολον τιμίῳ καὶ ἀμώμῳ καὶ ἀσπίλῳ αἵματι ἐλυτρώθημεν (1 Peter 1:19).
7. ORIGEN bears, expressly and often, the same testimony. In the passage on the canon, reported by Eusebius H. E. vi. 25, he says—
πέτρος δέ, ἐφʼ ᾧ οἰκοδομεῖται ἡ χριστοῦ ἐκκλησία ἧς πύλαι ᾅδου οὐ κατισχύσουσι, μίαν ἐπιστολὴν ὁμολογουμένην καταλέλοιπεν· ἔστω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν· ἀμφιβάλλεται γὰρ.
Again in Homil. 7 in Josuam, vol. ii. p. 412:—
“Petrus etiam duabus epistolarum suarum personabat tubis.”
And in his Comm. on Psalms 3, vol. ii. p. 553:—
κατὰ τὰ λεγόμενα ἐν τῇ καθολικῇ ἐπιστολῇ παρὰ τῳ πέτρῳ· ἐν ῳ δὲ τοῖς κ. τ. λ. (1 Peter 3:19).
And in his Comm. on John, tom. vi. 18, vol. iv. p. 135:—
καὶ περὶ τῆς ἐν φυλακῇ πορείας μετὰ πνεύματος παρὰ τῷ πέτρῳ ἐν τῇ καθολικῇ ἐπιστολῇ· θανατωθεὶς γάρ φησι σαρκί, ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ κ. τ. λ. (1 Peter 3:18-21).
Many other places have been collected by Mayerhoff and others, in which Origen quotes our Epistle.
8. TERTULLIAN testifies to the same point. Thus, Scorp. c. 12, vol. ii. p. 146:—
“Petrus quidem ad Ponticos quanta enim inquit gloria, si non ut delinquentes puniamini, sustinetis! Hæc enim gratia est, in hoc et vocati estis” &c. (1 Peter 2:20 f.).
And ib. c. 14, p. 150:—
“Condixerat scilicet Petrus, regem quidem honorandum” (1 Peter 2:17).
9. The opinion of Eusebius, as gathered from those before him, is given in his H. E. iii. 3—
πέτρου μὲν οὖν ἐπιστολὴ μία ἡ λεγομένη αὐτοῦ προτέρα, ἀνωμολόγηται· ταύτῃ δὲ καὶ οἱ πάλαι πρεσβύτεροι ὡς ἀναμφιλέκτῳ ἐν τοῖς σφῶν αὐτῶν κατακέχρηνται συγγράμμασι.
100. This Epistle is also found in the Peschito version, which contains three only of the Catholic Epistles. It is true, it is not mentioned in the fragment on the canon known by the name of Muratori. But the passage is one not easily understood:—
“Epistola sane Judæ et superscripti Johannis duas in catholica habentur. Et sapientia ab amicis Salomonis in honorem ipsius scripta. Apocalypsis etiam Johannis et Petri tantum recipimus, quam quidam ex nostris legi in ecclesia nolunt.”
The simplest interpretation of which latter sentence is, “We receive also only the Apocalypses of John and Peter, which (latter) some of our brethren refuse to have read in the church(126).”
11. It is inferred from a passage of Leontius of Byzantium (+ cir. 610) that Theodore of Mopsuestia rejected the Epistle: but the inference is not a safe one, the words being too general to warrant it: “ob quam causam, ut arbitror, ipsam epistolam Jacobi et alias deinceps catholicas abrogat et antiquat.”
12. It is said, in a passage of Petrus Siculus, that the Paulicians rejected it: “Binas vero catholicas.… Petri principis apostolorum, pessime adversus illum affecti, … non admittunt.”
13. So that, with these one or two insignificant exceptions, we have the united testimony of antiquity in its favour. It would be superfluous to go on citing later testimonies on the same side.
14. The first doubt in modern times was thrown on its authenticity by Cludius, in his Uransichten des Christenthums, on the ground that its thoughts and expressions are too like those of St. Paul, to have been written by the Apostle whose name it bears.
15. This was taken up by Eichhorn and expanded into the hypothesis, that some one wrote the Epistle who had been long with St. Paul, and had adopted his ideas and phrases: and as this will not fit St. Peter, he supposes that St. Peter found the material, but it was worked up by John Mark. This hypothesis is rejected by Bertholdt, but taken up in another form: viz. by adopting the idea hinted at by Jerome and formally announced by Baronius, that the Epistle was originally written in Hebrew (so Baronius), or Aramaic, and rendered into Greek by Mark (so Baronius) or Silvanus. But, as Huther well remarks, this hypothesis is as arbitrary as the other: and the whole diction of the Epistle and its modes of citation protest against its being thought a translation.
16. De Wette finds reason to doubt the genuineness, but on grounds entirely derived from the Epistle itself. He thinks it too deficient in originality, and too much made up of reminiscences from other Epistles. This ground of objection will be examined, and found untenable, in treating of the character and style of the Epistle.
17. It was to be supposed, that the Tübingen school, as represented by Baur and Schwegler, would repudiate this, as they have done so many other Epistles. The arguments on which the latter of these founds his rejection are worth enumerating, admitting as most of them do, of a ready and satisfactory answer. They are(127)—
(1) The want of any definite external occasion, and the generality of the contents and purpose. But it may be replied, it is surely too much to expect that an Apostle should be confined to writing to those churches with which he has been externally connected, and in which an assignable cause for his writing has arisen: and besides, it will be found below, in treating on the occasion and object of the Epistle, that these, though of a general nature, are perfectly and satisfactorily assignable.
(2) The want of a marked individual character both in composition and in theology. But on the one hand this is not conceded in toto, and on the other it is manifestly unreasonable to require that in one man’s writing it should be so plainly notable as in that of another: in St. Peter, as in St. Paul and St. John.
(3) The want of close connexion and evolution of thought. But, it may be answered, the purpose and character of the Epistle itself forbids us to require such a connexion: and we may notice that even in St. Paul’s Epistles Schwegler professes not to be able to find it(128).
(4) The impossibility that St. Peter, labouring in the far East, could have become acquainted with the later Epistles of St. Paul so soon (assuming their genuineness) after their composition. But, it is replied, there is no trace in our Epistle of acquaintance with the latest, viz. that to Titus, 2 Timotheus. The only possible difficulty is the apparent (?) acquaintance with 1 Timotheus: but this may have come to St. Peter through John Mark.
(5) The impossibility, on the assumption of the Epistle being written in Babylon (see below, § iv., on the time and place of writing), of bringing together the Neronian persecution which is alluded to in it, and the death of St. Peter by martyrdom, during that very persecution. But it is a pure assumption that the persecution alluded to in the Epistle is that under Nero; and another, that the Apostle suffered martyrdom under Nero at that time.
18. It is also not without interest, to discuss the reasons which Schwegler adduces for believing the Epistle to be a production of the post-apostolic age under Trajan. They are (1) the tranquil unimpassioned tone of the Epistle, contrasted with the effect on the Christians of the Neronian persecution: (2) the circumstance that under the Neronian persecution the Christians were involved in a charge of a definite crime, viz. the setting fire to the city, whereas in our Epistle they suffer as χριστιανοί, on account of the general suspicion of a bad life ( ὡς κακοποιοί): (3) the improbability that the Neronian persecution extended beyond Rome: (4) the assumption in the Epistle of regular legal processes, whereas the persecution under Nero was more of a tumultuary act: (5) the state of Christianity in Asia Minor as depicted by the Epistle, answering to that which we find in the letter of Pliny to Trajan.
19. But to these reasons it has been well replied by Huther (1) that the tranquillity of tone is no less remarkable as under the later persecution than under the earlier, and that any other tone would have been unworthy of an Apostle: (2) the suffering of Christians, as Christians, did not begin in Trajan’s persecution, but was common to the earlier ones likewise: (3) even if the Neronian persecution did not extend beyond Rome, the Christians in the provinces were always liable to be persecuted owing to the same popular hatred: (4) there is in reality no trace of judicial proceedings in our Epistle: (5) the features of persecution in the Epistle do not agree with those in Pliny’s letter: there, the Christians are formally put to death as such: here, we have no trace of such a sentence being carried out against them.
20. The hypothesis of Schwegler, that the purpose of the Epistle is to be detected in ch. James 5:12, as one of reconciliation of the teachings of St. Peter and St. Paul by some disciple of the former who was inclined also to the latter, is well treated by Huther as entirely destitute of foundation.
21. So that, whether we consider external evidence, or the futility of internal objections, we can have no hesitation in accepting the Epistle as the undoubted work of the Apostle whose name it bears.
1. The Apostle Peter, properly called Simon or Simeon (Acts 15:14; 2 Peter 1:1), was born at Bethsaida on the sea of Galilee (John 1:45), the son of one Jonas (Matthew 16:17) or John (John 1:43; John 21:15), with whom, and with his brother Andrew, he carried on the trade of a fisherman at Capernaum, where he afterwards lived (Matthew 8:14; Matthew 4:18 (129): Luke 5:3), with his wife’s mother, being a married man(130) (1 Corinthians 9:5).
2. He became very early a disciple of our Lord, being brought to Him by his brother Andrew, who was a disciple of John the Baptist, and had followed Jesus on hearing him designated by his master as the Lamb of God (John 1:35-43). It was on this occasion that Jesus, looking on him and foreseeing his disposition and worth in the work of His Kingdom, gave him the name κηφᾶς (Aram. כֵּיפָא), in Greek πέτρος, a stone or Rock (John 1:43 &c.: Mark 3:16). He does not however appear to have attached himself finally to our Lord till after two, or perhaps more, summons to do so (cf. John, l.c.: Matthew 4:18 (131) Mark: Luke 5:1 ff. and notes), but to have carried on his fishing trade at intervals.
3. It would be beside the present purpose to follow St. Peter through the well-known incidents of his apostolic life. His forwardness in reply and profession of warm affection, his thorough appreciation of our Lord’s high Office and Person, the glorious promise made to him as the Rock of the Church on that account (Matthew 16:16 and note), his rashness, and over-confidence in himself, issuing in his triple denial of Christ and his bitter repentance, his reassurance by the gentle but searching words of his risen Master (John 21:15 ff.),—these are familiar to every Christian child: nor is there any one of the leading characters in the gospel history which makes so deep an impression on the heart and affections of the young and susceptible. The weakness, and the strength, of our human love for Christ, are both mercifully provided for in the character of the greatest of the Twelve.
4. After the Ascension, we find St. Peter at once taking the lead in the Christian body (Acts 1:15 ff.), and on the descent of the Holy Spirit, he, to whom were given the keys of Christ’s kingdom,—who was to be the stone on which the church was to be built, first receives into the door of the church, and builds up on his own holy faith, three thousand of Israel (Acts 2:14-41): and on another occasion soon following, some thousands more (Acts 4:4).
5. This prominence of St. Peter in the church continues, till by his specially directed ministry the door into the privileges of the gospel covenant is opened also to the Gentiles, by the baptism of Cornelius and his party (Acts 10). But he was not to be the Apostle of the Gentiles: and by this very procedure, the way was being made plain for the ministry of another who was now ripening for the work in the retirement of his home at Tarsus.
6. From this time onward, the prominence of St. Peter wanes behind that of St. Paul. The “first to the Jew” was rapidly coming to its conclusion: and the great spreading of the feast to the Gentile world was henceforward to occupy the earnest attention of the apostolic missionaries, as it has done the pages of the inspired record. Only once or twice, besides the notices to be gathered from this Epistle itself, do we gain a glimpse of St. Peter after this time. In the apostolic council in Acts 15 we find him consistently carrying out the part which had been divinely assigned him in the admission of the Gentiles into the church; and earnestly supporting the freedom of the Gentile converts from the observance of the Mosaic law.
7. This is the last notice which we have of him, or indeed of any of the Twelve, in the Acts. But from Galatians 2:11, we learn a circumstance which is singularly in keeping with St. Peter’s former character: that when at Antioch, in all probability not long after the apostolic council, he was practising the freedom which he had defended there, but being afraid of certain who came from James, he withdrew himself and separated from the Gentile converts, thereby incurring a severe rebuke from St. Paul (ib. Galatians 2:14-21).
8. From this time, we depend on such scanty hints as the Epistles furnish, and upon ecclesiastical tradition, for further notices of St. Peter. We may indeed, from 1 Corinthians 9:5, infer that he travelled about on the missionary work, and took his wife with him: but in what part of the Roman empire, we know not. If the Babylon of ch. James 5:13 is to be taken literally, he passed the boundaries of that empire into Parthia.
9. The best text, and starting-point, for treating of the traditions respecting St. Peter, is the account given by Jerome, after others, De Scriptor. Ecclesiastes 1, vol. ii. p. 827:—
“Simon Petrus.… princeps Apostolorum, post episcopatum Antiochensis ecclesiæ et prædicationem dispersionis eorum qui de circumcisione crediderant, in Ponto, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia et Bithynia, secundo Claudii anno ad expugnandum Simonem Magum Romam pergit, ibique viginti quinque annis cathedram sacerdotalem tenuit, usque ad ultimum annum Neronis, id est, decimum quartum. A quo et affixus cruci martyrio coronatus est, capite ad terram verso et in sublime pedibus elevatis, asserens se indignum qui sic crucifigeretur ut dominus suus. Sepultus Romæ in Vaticano juxta viam triumphalem totius urbis veneratione celebratur.”
10. In this account, according to Huther, we have the following doubtful particulars:—
(1) The episcopate of St. Peter at Antioch. This is reported also by Euseb. (Chron. A.D. 40), who makes St. Peter found the church at Antioch, in contradiction to Acts 11:19-22.
(3) His journey to Rome to oppose Simon Magus: which, as Eus. (Chron.) appeals to Justin Martyr for it, appears to be founded on Justin’s story of the statue found at Rome, see note on Acts 8:10; which is now known to have been a statue of the Sabine god Semo Sancus.
(4) The twenty-five years’ bishopric of St. Peter at Rome. This has been minutely examined by Wieseler, and shewn on chronological grounds to have been impossible, and to be inconsistent with Galatians 2:7-9, according to which Peter, who by this hypothesis had been then for many years bishop of Rome, and continued so for many years after, was to go to the circumcision as their Apostle.
(5) The peculiar manner of his crucifixion, which seems to have been an idea arising from Origen’s expression (Eus. H. E. iii. 1), ἀνεσκολοπίσθη κατὰ κεφαλῆς. This expression, it has been suggested, might import no more than capital punishment. But surely this cannot be, in connexion with ἀνεσκολοπίσθη; the words must be taken literally, as qualifying the verb, which is already sufficiently definite of itself. Besides which, the words following in Origen are entirely against such a supposition; οὕτως αὐτὸς ἀξιώσας παθεῖν: for it would deprive them of all meaning.
11. The residuum from this passage, which is worth our consideration and elucidation, is, the death of the Apostle by martyrdom, and that in Rome. This seems to be the concurrent testimony of Christian antiquity. I subjoin the principal testimonies.
12. First we have John 21:19, which, whether a notice inserted after the fact, and referring to it, or an authoritative exposition of our Lord’s words to Peter, equally point to the fact as having been, or about to be accomplished.
13. Clement of Rome, Ephesians 1. ad Corinth. c. 5, p. 217, says—
(… ὁ πέτρ) ος διὰ ζῆλον ἄδικον οὐχ ( ἕνα οὐ) δὲ δύο ἀλλὰ πλείους ἤνεγκεν πόνους, καὶ οὕτω μαρτυρ ( ήσας) ἐπορεύθη εἰς ὀφειλ ( όμενον) τόπον τῆς δόξης.
Here indeed there is no mention of Rome: but the close juxta-position of the celebrated passage about St. Paul (cited in Vol. III. Prolegg., ch. 7 § ii. 20) seems to point to that city as the place of Peter’s martyrdom. Besides, I would suggest that these words, ἐπορεύθη εἰς.… τόπον τ. δ., are a reminiscence of Acts 12:17, καὶ ἐξελθὼν ἐπορεύθη εἰς ἕτερον τόπον, which by the advocates of the twenty-five years’ Roman bishopric was interpreted to mean Rome.
14. Dionysius of Corinth is cited by Eusebius, H. E. ii. 25, as saying in an Epistle to the Romans—
15. Tertullian, Contra Marcion. iv. 5, vol. ii. p. 366, says—
“Romani … quibus evangelium et Petrus et Paulus sanguine quoque suo signatum reliquerunt.”
And, Præscript. Hær. c. 36, ib. p. 49—
“Si autem Italiæ adjaces, habes Romam, unde nobis quoque auctoritas præsto est. Ista quam felix ecelesia, cui totam doctrinam apostoli cum sanguine suo profuderunt, ubi Petrus passioni dominicæ adæquatur, ubi Paulus Joannis exitu coronatur, ubi apostolus Joannes, posteaquam in oleum igneum demersus nihil passus est, in insulam relegatur.”
16. Caius the presbyter of Rome, in Eus. H. E. ii. 25, is reported as saying—
ἐγὼ δὲ τὰ τρόπαια τῶν ἀποστόλων ἔχω δεῖξαι· ἐὰν γὰρ θελήσῃς ἀπελθεῖν ἐπὶ τὸν βατικανὸν ἢ ἐπὶ τὴν ὁδὸν τὴν ὠστίαν, εὑρήσεις τὰ τρόπαια τῶν ταύτην ἰδρυσαμένων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν.
This passage can mean nothing else than that Peter and Paul suffered at Rome, and that either their graves or some memorials of their martyrdom were to be seen on the spot.
17. To these testimonies we may add that of Eusebius himself, who says (H. E. ii. 25)—
ταύτῃ γοῦν οὗτος θεόμαχος (Nero) ἐν τοῖς μάλιστα πρῶτος ἀνακηρυχθείς, ἐπὶ τὰς κατὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων ἐπήρθη σφαγάς. παῦλος δὴ οὖν ἐπʼ αὐτῆς ῥώμης κεφαλὴν ἀποτμηθῆναι, καὶ πέτρος ὡσαύτως ἀνασκολοπισθῆναι κατʼ αὐτὸν ἱστοροῦνται.
And in his Demonstratio Evang. iii. 5, vol. iv. p. 116—
καὶ πέτρος δὲ ἐπὶ ῥώμης κατὰ κεφαλῆς σταυροῦται, παῦλος δὲ ἀποτέμνεται.
18. And that of Lactantius (De Mortibus Persecutorum, c. 2, vol. ii. p. 195 f., ed Migne):—
“Cumque jam Nero imperaret, Petrus Romam advenit, et editis quibusdam miraculis, quæ virtute ipsius Dei data sibi ab eo potestate faciebat, convertit multos ad justitiam, Deoque templum fidele et stabile collocavit. Qua re ad Neronem delata, quum animad-verteret non modo Romæ sed ubique quotidie magnam multitudinem deficere a cultu idolorum, et ad religionem novam damnata vetustate transire, ut erat exsecrabilis ac nocens tyrannus, prosilivit ad excidendum cœleste templum, delendamque justitiam: et primus omnium persecutus Dei servos, Petrum cruci adfixit, et Paulum interfecit.”
19. In this report later testimonies concur.
In forming an estimate of its trustworthiness, some discrimination is necessary. The whole of that which relates to the earlier visits under Claudius, and the controversy with Simon Magus, fails us, as inconsistent with what we know, or are obliged to infer, from Scripture itself. This being so, is the rest, including the martyrdom at Rome, so connected with this fabulous matter, that it stands or falls with it? When we find in this, as in other matters, that the very earliest Christian writers might and did fall into historical errors which we can now plainly detect and put aside,—when we find so prevalent a tendency even in early times to concentrate events and memorials of interest at Rome, how much are we to adopt, how much to reject, of this testimony to St. Peter’s martyrdom there?
20. These are questions which it would far exceed the limits of these Prolegomena to discuss, and which moreover do not immediately belong even to collateral considerations regarding our Epistle. They have been very copiously treated, and it seems almost impossible to arrive at even reasonable probability in our ultimate decision upon them. Their own data are perplexing, and still more perplexing matters have been mixed up with them. On the one hand, ancient tradition is almost unanimous: on the other, it witnesses to particulars in which even its earliest and most considerable testimonies must be put aside as inconsistent with known fact. Then again we have on the one hand the patent and unscrupulous perversion of fact to serve a purpose, which has ever been the characteristic of the church of Rome, in her desperate shifts to establish a succession to the fabulous primacy of St. Peter, and on the other the exaggerated partisanship of Protestant writers, with whom the shortest way to save a fact or an interpretation from abuse has been to demolish it.
21. So that on the whole it seems safest to suspend the judgment with regard to the question of St. Peter’s presence and martyrdom at Rome. That he was not there before the date of the Epistle to the Romans (cir. A.D. 58), we are sure: that he was not there during any part of St. Paul’s imprisonment there, we may with certainty infer: that the two apostles did not together found the churches of Corinth and Rome, we may venture safely to affirm: that St. Peter ever was, in any sense like that usually given to the word, Bishop of Rome, is we believe an idea abhorrent from Scripture and from the facts of primitive apostolic history. But that St. Peter travelled to Rome during the persecution under Nero, and there suffered martyrdom with, or nearly at the same time with, St. Paul, is a tradition which does not interfere with any known facts of Scripture or early history, and one which we have no means of disproving, as we have no interest in disproving it.
22. It may be permitted us on this point, until the day when all shall be known, to follow the cherished associations of all Christendom—to trace still in the Mamertine prison and the Vatican the last days on earth of him to whom was committed especially the feeding of the flock of God: to “witness beside the Appian way the scene of the most beautiful of ecclesiastical legends(134), which records his last vision of his crucified Lord: to overlook from the supposed spot of his death(135) the city of the seven hills: to believe that his last remains repose under the glory of St. Peter’s dome(136).”
23. The matters relating to the above questions will be found in Winer, Realwörterbuch, art. Petrus: in Wieseler, Chronologic des Apostolischen Zeitalters, pp. 553–593: Neander, Pflanzung u. Leitung u.s.w., ii. p. 514 ff.: Gieseler, Kirchengeschichte, i. 1, p. 101 ff.: Davidson, Introd. to N. T. vol. iii. pp. 357 ff. The Roman Catholic side is stated and defended by Baronius, Annals, on A.D. 44–46, 56, 69: and of late by Windischmann, Vindiciæ Petrinæ, Ratisb. 1836.
FOR WHAT READERS IT WAS WRITTEN
1. The inscription of the letter itself has on this point an apparent precision: ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς πόντου, γαλατίας, καππαδοκίας, ἀσίας, καὶ βιθυνίας. This would seem to include the Christians dwelling in those very provinces where St. Paul and his companions had founded churches.
2. But it has been attempted, both in ancient days and in modern, to limit this address to the Jewish Christians resident in those provinces. This has been done by Eusebius, Didymus, Epiphanius, Jerome, Œcumenius, Theophylact: and by Erasmus, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, Augusti, Hug, Bertholdt, Pott, Weiss, al.
3. Still, there is nothing in the words to warrant such a limitation. The παρεπιδήμοις is sufficiently explained in the Epistle itself, in ch. James 2:11, as used in a spiritual sense, strangers and pilgrims on earth: and the διασπορᾶς following may well designate the ingrafting of Gentile converts into, and their forming a part of, God’s covenant people, who already, according to the flesh, were thus dispersed.
4. With this view well-known facts, both external to the Epistle and belonging to it, agree. These churches, as we learn from the Acts, were composed mainly of Gentile converts: and it would be unreasonable to suppose that St. Peter, with his views on the Christian relation of Jew and Gentile, as shewn in Acts 11, 15, should have selected out only the Jewish portion of those churches to address in his Epistle. Rather, if one object of the letter were that which I have endeavoured to establish in § v., would he be anxious to mingle together Jew and Gentile in the blessings and obligations of their common faith, and though himself the Apostle of the circumcision, to help on the work and doctrines of the great Apostle of the uncircumcision.
5. And this is further evident from many passages in the Epistle itself. Such is the μὴ συνσχηματιζόμενοι ταῖς πρότερον ἐν τῇ ἀγνοίᾳ ὑμῶν ἐπιθυμίαις (ch. James 1:14), words which would hardly be addressed to Jews exclusively, cf. Ephesians 2:1 ff., where the Jews are indeed included in ἡμεῖς πάντες, but Gentiles are mainly addressed: such the οἱ ποτὲ οὐ λαός, νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ (James 2:10)(137), as compared with James 2:9, τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν αὐτοῦ φῶς, and with Romans 9:25; such the ἧς ( σάῤῥας) ἐγενήθητε τέκνα (James 3:6), implying adoption into the (spiritual) family of Abraham: such the ἀρκετὸς γὰρ ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος τὸ βούλημυα τῶν ἐθνῶν κατειργάσθαι πεπορευμένους ἐν.… ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρείαις (James 4:3), which words are addressed to the readers, and not to be supplied with ἡμῖν: and seem decisive as to Gentiles in the main, and not Jews, being designated. The expression of ch. James 1:18, οὐ φθαρτοῖς, ἀργυρίῳ ἢ χρυσίῳ, ἐλυτρώθητε ἐκ τῆς ματαίας ὑμῶν ἀναστροφῆς πατροπαραδότου, may seem ambiguous, and has in fact been quoted on both sides: but it seems to me to point the same way as those others: the Apostle would hardly have characterized all that the Jew left to become a Christian by such a name(138).
6. Steiger, in his Einleitung, § 6, has given a list of such churches as would be comprehended under the address in ch. James 1:1, πόντου, γαλατίας, καππαδοκίας, ἀσίας, καὶ βιθυνίας. The provinces here named proceed in order from N.E. to S. and W.: a circumstance which will be of some interest in our enquiry as to the place of writing(139). The first of them, PONTUS, stretched from Colchis and Lesser Armenia to the mouth of the river Halys, and was rich both in soil and in commercial towns. It was the country of the Christian Jew Aquila. Next comes GALATIA, to which St. Paul paid two visits (Acts 16:6 and Galatians 4:13 ff.: Acts 18:23; Acts 19:1 ff.), founding and confirming churches. After him, his companion Crescens went on a mission there (2 Timothy 4:10). Its ecclesiastical metropolis was in after time Ancyra. Further particulars respecting it will be found in the Prolegg. to Vol. III. ch. 1. § ii.
7. Next in order comes CAPPADOCIA, south but returning somewhat to the E., where in after times the towns of Nyssa and Cæsarea gave the church a Gregory and a Basil, and whence (see Acts 2:9, and Josephus, Ant. xvi. 6) Jews came up to the feasts in Jerusalem, who might well have carried back the knowledge of Christianity, and have founded churches. Next, going southward and westward, we have proconsular ASIA, including Mysia, Lydia, Caria, Phrygia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia,—containing the churches of Iconium where Paul and Barnabas preached (Acts 14:1 ff.), Lystra, the birthplace of Timotheus, where St. Paul was stoned by the Jews (Acts 14:8-19; Acts 16:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:11),—Derbe, the birthplace of Caius, where many were made disciples (Acts 14:20 f.; Acts 20:4),—Antioch in Pisidia, where St. Paul converted many Gentiles, but was driven out by the Jews (Acts 13:14 ff., Acts 13:48 ff.): returned however, and confirmed the churches (Acts 14:21-23),—then Miletus, on the Carian coast, where from Acts 20:17 and 2 Timothy 4:20, there must have been Christian brethren,—Phrygia, where St. Paul preached on both his journeys to Galatia (Acts 16:6; Acts 18:23),—then along the banks of the Lycus, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossæ, celebrated Christian churches, to which he wrote his Colossian Epistle, whose leaders Archippus and Epaphras, whose member Onesimus, are well known to us (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:9; Colossians 4:12 f., 17: Philemon 1:2; Philemon 1:10),—where erroneous doctrines and lukewarmness in the faith soon became prevalent (Colossians 2; Revelation 3:14-22).
8. Then passing westward, we find in Lydia at the foot of the Tmolus, Philadelphia, known to us favourably from Revelation 3:7 ff., and Sardis the capital (Revelation 3:1 ff.), and Thyatira, blamed in Revelation 2:18 ff. as too favourably inclined towards false teachers: then on the coast the famous Ephesus, where first St. Paul (Acts 18:19), then perhaps Aquila and Priscilla, then Apollos (Acts 18:24-28), taught, then St. Paul returned and remained τριετίαν ὅλην building up the church with such success (Acts 20:17; Acts 19:1 ff., Acts 20:8-10; Acts 20:17), a church well known and loved by every Christian reader of the Epistle to the Ephesians, but grieved over when we read (Revelation 2:4) that it had deserted its first love. Then northwards we have Smyrna, known favourably to us from Revelation 2:8 ff., and in Mysia, Pergamus (Revelation 2:12 ff.); and lastly Alexandria Troas, whence St. Paul was summoned over by a vision to preach in Europe, where afterwards he preached, and raised Eutychus to life (Acts 20:6 ff.: 2 Corinthians 2:12), and where he was on a subsequent occasion entertained by Carpus (2 Timothy 4:13).
This closes the list of churches known to us, BITHYNIA containing none whose names are handed down in Scripture.
9. The enquiry as to the then state of these Christian congregations is one which must be here conducted simply on grounds furnished by the Epistle itself. Its effect on the conclusion to which we must come as to the date of the Epistle will be dealt with in a subsequent section.
10. From the Epistle itself then we gather, that in external form and government they were much in the same state as when St. Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders at Miletus in Acts 20. Here (ch. James 5:1 ff.), as there, the elders ( πρεσβύτεροι) are exhorted to tend ( ποιμαίνειν) the church or flock of God: and no other officers in either place appear.
11. It was manifestly during a time of persecution that the Apostle thus addressed them. His expressions, especially those in ch. James 3:17 and James 4:12-17, can hardly be interpreted of the general liability of Christians to persecutions, but must necessarily be understood of some trial of that kind then pressing on them(140).
12. It would seem by ch. James 4:4-5, that some of these trials had befallen the Christians on account of their separating themselves from the licentious shows and amusements of the heathen. And the same passage will shew that it was from heathens, rather than from unbelieving Jews, that the trials came.
13. We may gather, from hints dropped in the course of the Epistle, that there were in the internal state of the churches some tendencies which required repression, as e. g. the disposition to become identified with the heathen way of living (ch. James 2:11-12; James 2:16 al.),—that to greed and ambition and self-exaltation on the part of the presbyters (James 5:2-3),—that to evil thoughts and evil words towards one another (James 2:1; James 3:8-12; James 4:9).
TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING
1. The former of these enquiries is very closely connected with that of the last section. Many Commentators have fancied that the state of the readers implied in the Epistle, points at the persecution under Nero as the time when it was written(141): others that the persecution under Trajan is rather indicated(142). But to both of these it has been sufficiently replied(143), that the passages relied on do not warrant either inference: that the ἀπολογία to be rendered (ch. James 3:15), is not necessarily, nor indeed well can be at all, a public defence in court, seeing that they are to be ready to make it παντὶ τῷ αἰτοῦντι κ. τ. λ.: that the suffering as κακοποιοί cannot well be connected with the malefici of Tacitus, because in the Epistle the readers are exhorted to live down the ill repute, which, had it consisted in the mere name of Christian, they could not have been. Again it is answered that we have no proof of the Neronian persecution having extended itself into the Asiatic provinces.
2. On the whole it seems to me that we are not justified in connecting the Epistle with either of these persecutions, but are rather to take its notices as pointing to a time when a general dislike of the Christians was beginning to pass into active tyranny, and in some cases into infliction of capital punishment. As Davidson remarks (vol. iii. p. 375), “the trials were not yet excessive. They were alarming in the future. A severe time was approaching. Judgment was soon to begin at the house of God. The terrible persecutions and sufferings which the Christians were about to endure, were impending.”
3. These remarks are favoured by the tone in which suffering is spoken of, as by no means a matter of course: not sure, nor even likely, to follow upon a harmless Christian life: cf. ch. James 3:13-14, where, by τίς ὁ κακώσων ὑμᾶς ἐὰν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ζηλωταὶ γένησθε; it seems as if the good liver was in general likely to be let alone; and by what follows, ἀλλʼ εἰ καὶ πάσχοιτε διὰ δικαιοσύνην, μακάριοι, it is implied that in some exceptional cases, Christians might be hunted out by zealous enemies and made to suffer quoad Christians.
4. So that I should be disposed, judging from the internal notices given of the state of the readers, to place the writing of the Epistle during the latter years of Nero, but before the persecution related by Tacitus, Ann. xiv., broke out. The “odium generis humani” which justified that victimizing of the Christians, was gathering, and producing its anticipatory fruits here and there, wherever circumstances were favourable.
5. And with this agree the personal notices in our Epistle, and inferences to be gathered from it. We must conclude from passages in it that St. Peter was acquainted with the Epistles of St. Paul; not only with his earlier ones, but with those written during his first Roman imprisonment(144). If now St. Paul was set free from that imprisonment in the year 63 (see Prolegg. to the Pastoral Epistles, Vol. III. § ii. 24), this Epistle cannot well have been written before the end of that year.
6. Another personal notice also agrees with this date. By ch. James 5:13 we find that Mark was, at the time of its writing, with the Apostle in Babylon, which I here by anticipation assume to be the well-known city in Chaldea. Now from Coloss. James 4:10, we learn that Mark was at the time of writing that Epistle (61–63) with St. Paul in Rome, but intending to journey into Asia Minor: and from 2 Timothy 4:11 (67 or 68), we find that he was in Asia Minor, and was to be brought with Timotheus to Rome. Now one of two contingencies is possible. Mark may either have spent some of the interval between these two notices with St. Peter in Babylon, or have betaken himself to that Apostle after the death of St. Paul.
7. Of these two alternatives, it is urged by the advocates of the usual view taken of our Epistle, the latter is the more probable. This Epistle is addressed to churches mostly founded by St. Paul: is it probable that St. Peter would have thus addressed them during the great Apostle’s lifetime? When we consider St. Paul’s own rule, of not encroaching on other men’s labours (Romans 15:20), and put together with it the fact of the compact made between the two Apostles as related in Galatians 2:9, it seems difficult to imagine that such an Epistle should have been written before St. Paul was withdrawn from his labours; which latter took place only at his death. That event, and the strengthening of the influences adverse to St. Paul’s doctrine consequent on it, might well agree with the testimony to that doctrine which we find in this Epistle, and especially in ch. James 5:12.
8. According to this view, we must place the Epistle late in the second apostolic period. We have seen in the Prolegomena to the Pastoral Epistles, that it is not easy to assign a date for the death of St. Paul before the last year of Nero, i. e. 67 to 68. If we suffer ourselves to be guided by these considerations, we should say, that in the latter part of that year, or the beginning of the next, our Epistle may have been written.
9. But these considerations, forcible as they seem, bring us into a greater difficulty than that of believing the Epistle to have been written during St. Paul’s lifetime. They leave absolutely no room for the journey of St. Peter to, and martyrdom at, Rome: none for the writing of the second Epistle, which clearly must not be rejected on such grounds alone. We must therefore adopt the other alternative, and suppose the writing to have taken place during a temporary withdrawal of the great Apostle to some other and distant scene of missionary action between the year 63 and 67.
10. Next as to the place, whence it was written. If words are to be taken literally, this is pointed out with sufficient plainness in the Epistle itself (ch. James 5:13), where we read ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἡ ἐν βαβυλῶνι συνεκλεκτή, as being BABYLON.
And there does not appear to be any reason to depart from the prima facie impression given by this notice, that St. Peter was at that time dwelling and working at the renowned Babylon on the Euphrates.
11. It is true, that from very early times the name has suggested other interpretations. Eusebius (H. E. ii. 15) quotes with a φασίν, and alleges for it generally the authority of Papias and Clement of Alexandria in the Hypotyposeis, τοῦ ΄άρκου μνημονεύειν τὸν πέτρον ἐν τῇ προτέρᾳ ἐπιστολῇ, ἣν καὶ συντάξαι φασὶν ἐπʼ αὐτῆς ῥώμης, σημαίνειν τε τοῦτʼ αὐτὸν τὴν πόλιν τροπικώτερον βαβυλῶνα προσειπόντα, κ. τ. λ. And so also Œc. in loc., assigning however a very insufficient reason: βαβυλῶνα τὴν ῥὼμην διὰ τὸ περιφανὲς καλεῖ, ὃ καὶ βαβυλὼν πολλῷ χρόνῳ ἔσχηκε. And Jerome, Catal. Script. Ecclesiastes 8, vol. ii. p. 843: “Meminit hujus Marci et Petrus in Epistola prima, sub nomine Babylonis figuraliter Romam significans.” And on Isaiah 47, vol. iv. p. 549: “Licet ex eo quod juxta LXX scriptum est, θύγατερ βαβυλῶνος, … non ipsam Babylonem quidam, sed Romanam urbem interpretentur, quæ in Apocalypsi Joannis et in Epistola Petri Babylon specialiter appellatur.” So also Isidore of Seville, as alleged by Davidson, p. 362. And this has been a very general opinion among not only Roman Catholic but also other Commentators. It is held by Grotius, Lardner, Cave, Whitby, Macknight, Hales, Cludius, Mynster, Windischmann, al.: and recently Wiesinger.
12. But there seems to be no other defence for this interpretation than that of prescription. And it is now pretty generally recognized among Commentators that we are not to find an allegorical meaning in a proper name thus simply used in the midst of simple and matter-of-fact sayings. The personal notice too, conveyed in ἡ συνεκλωκτή, will hardly bear the violence which many have attempted to put upon it, in supplying ἐκκλησία (see digest in loc.). No such word has been mentioned: nor is the Epistle addressed ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς διασπορᾶς, κ. τ. λ., but ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς, κ. τ. λ. And as those are individual Christians, so it is but reasonable to believe that ἡ συνεκλεκτή is an individual also, the term being strictly correlative with that other: and if an individual, then that ἀδελφὴ γυνή whom, as we know from 1 Corinthians 9:5, St. Peter περιῆγεν in his missionary journeys.
13. And this being so, I can see no objection arising from the ἐν βαβυλῶνι(145) being inserted. The Apostle, in ch. James 1:1, had seen fit to localize the Christians whom he was addressing: and he now sends them greeting from one whom indeed he does not name, but designates by an expression also local. To the elect Christians of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, he sends greeting from their sister, an elect Christian woman in Babylon. There might obviously be a reason why he should thus designate her, rather than by her name and relation to himself: but no reason whatever why he should go out of his way to make an enigma for all future readers, if he meant the Church at Rome by these words
14. But even when we have taken the words literally, we have not yet got their full solution. Some contend, that an insignificant fort in Egypt, called Babylon(146), is intended. This appears to be the tradition of the Coptic church, and it is supported by Le Clerc, Mill, Pearson, Calov., Pott, Burton, and Greswell. The ground seems mainly to be this; that as it is believed that St. Mark preached, after St. Peter’s death, in Alexandria and the parts adjacent, so it is likely that those same parts should have been the scene of his former labours with the Apostle.
15. Others again have supposed it to be Ctesiphon on the Tigris, the winter residence of the Parthian kings; or Seleucia, both of which seem to have borne the name of Babylon after the declension of the older and more famous city. So (as regards Seleucia) Michaelis, who however adduces no proof that it was thus called in the apostolic age.
16. With regard to the probability, or otherwise, of St. Peter having laboured in the Assyrian Babylon at this time, we may notice, that that city in its decayed state, and its neighbourhood, were inhabited by Jews, long after other inhabitants had deserted it: that, which is sufficient for us, Josephus and Philo describe it as thus inhabited in their time(147). It is true that in the last years of Caligula, who died in A.D. 41, there was a persecution of the Jews there(148), in consequence of which very many of them migrated to the new and rising Seleucia; and five years after, a plague further diminished their number. But this does not preclude their increase or return during the twenty years, at least, which intervened between that plague and the writing of our Epistle.
17. It is some corroboration of the view that our Epistle was written from the Assyrian Babylon to find, that the countries mentioned in the address are enumerated, not as a person in Rome or in Egypt would enumerate them, but in an order proceeding, as has already been noticed, from East to West and South: and also to find that Cosmas Indico-pleustes, in the sixth century, quotes the conclusion of our Epistle “as a proof of the early progress of the Christian religion without the bounds of the Roman Empire: by which therefore we perceive that by Babylon he did not understand Rome(149).”
18. With regard to any journey of St. Peter to Babylon, as recorded or implied by antiquity, we are quite unfurnished with any other evidence than that deduced from the passage under consideration. And the difficulties which beset the conjunction of the various notices respecting our Apostle remain much the same in amount, whichever way we attempt their solution: whether by forcing the ἐν βαβυλῶνι to some far-fetched and improbable sense, as has been very generally done, or with Weiss and others assigning an early date to our Epistle, contrary to the plain sense of his own words and the common-sense inferences from the indications furnished by it. That St. Peter wrote this Epistle to churches in Asia Minor mainly consisting of Gentile converts: that those churches had been previously the scene of the labours of St. Paul and his companions: that he wrote from Babylon in Assyria, and at a time subsequent to St. Paul’s missionary agency: these are points which can hardly be controverted, consistently with the plain acceptation of language in its obvious and ordinary meaning. That the same Apostle visited Rome and suffered martyrdom there, we would fain believe as the testimony of Christian antiquity. It is difficult to believe it: difficult to assign the time so as to satisfy its requisitions: but in the uncertainty which rests over all the later movements of the great Apostles, it would be presumption for us to pronounce it impossible. There may be means of reconciling the two beliefs, of which we are not aware. And since this may be so, we are not unreasonable in retaining both, both being reasonably attested.
19. One personal notice has not been mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs, viz. that of Silvanus having been the bearer of the Epistle (ch. James 5:12). And the reason for its omission has been, that it is far too uncertain to found any argument on as to date or locality. Even assuming him to be the same person as the Silas of Acts 15:22; Acts 15:32; Acts 15:40; Acts 16:19; Acts 16:25; Acts 17:4; Acts 17:10; Acts 17:14; Acts 18:5, or the Silvanus of 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:19,—we know absolutely nothing of his history subsequently to that period of his companionship with St. Paul, and all that is founded on any filling up of the gap in his history can only tend to mislead, by giving to baseless conjecture the value of real fact.
ITS OBJECT AND CONTENTS
1. The object of the Epistle is plainly enough announced by the Apostle himself at its conclusion:
διὰ σιλουανοῦ.… διʼ ὀλίγων ἔγραψα, παρακαλῶν καὶ ἐπιμαρτυρῶν ταύτην εἶναι ἀληθῆ χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς ἣν στῆτε.
2. But this apparently simple declaration is not easy to track to its meaning in detail. The παρακαλῶν portion of it involves no difficulty. The frequent exhortations in the Epistle, arising out of present circumstances, are too evident to be missed as being referred to by this word. And when we come to the ἐπιμαρτυρῶν portion, our difficulty is not indeed to find matter in the Epistle to which this may refer, but to identify the ταύτην, to which, as being the ἀληθὴς χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ, the Apostle’s testimony is given. The ἐπιμαρτυρίαι in the Epistle are plainly those constant references of practice to Christian doctrine, with which every exhortation terminates: being sometimes O. T. citations, sometimes remindings of facts in the evangelic history, sometimes assertions of the great hope which is reserved for God’s elect.
3. Here there can be but little doubt: παράκλησις and ἐπιμαρτυρία alternate with and interpenetrate one another throughout the whole(150). It is only when we come to assign a meaning to the ταύτην, further specified as it is by the εἰς ἣν στῆτε, that the real definition of the object of the Epistle comes before us, and with it, all its uncertainty and difficulty. What is this grace of God in which the readers were to stand—or rather, on account of the εἰς ἣν στ., into which they had been introduced as their safe standing-ground? Obviously in the answer to this question is contained the Apostle’s motive for writing.
4. And as obviously, this answer is not to be found within the limits of the Epistle itself. For no such complete setting forth of Christian doctrine is found in it, as might be referred to in such terms: only a continual reminding, an ἐπιμαρτυρία, a bearing testimony to something previously known, received, and stood in, with such expressions as εἰδότες ὅτι, and such assertions as ὃν οὐκ ἰδόντες ἀγαπᾶτε, and frequent repetitions of ὅτι, and γάρ, as falling back on previously known truths.
5. And this is further shewn by the εἰς ἣν στῆτε, referring to a body of doctrinal teaching in which the readers had been grounded. Compare the parallel, which surely is not fortuitous, in 1 Corinthians 15:1; τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε,—and our assurance that such a reference is intended will be further confirmed.
6. But to what body of doctrine does the Apostle refer? Clearly not to one imparted by himself. There is not the remotest hint in the Epistle of his ever having been among the ἐκλεκτοὶ παρεπίδημοι whom he addresses. As clearly again, not to one fortuitously picked up here and there: the allusions are too marked, the terms used throughout the Epistle too definite for this to be the case. It was not merely the Pentecostal message in its simplicity which these readers had received, nor are they to be sought in the earlier and less definite times of Christian teaching,—nor was the object of writing only general edification: there had been a previous building of them up, a general type of Christian doctrine delivered to them: and it was to confirm this mainly that the Apostle writes to them, exhorting them to holy practice, and “stirring up their pure minds by way of remembrance.”
7. It is hardly needful, after what has been already said respecting the churches addressed, to repeat, that this body of Christian teaching I believe to have been that delivered to them by St. Paul and his companions, and still taught among them after his decease by those who had heard him and were watering where he had planted. All the acuteness of such writers as Weiss, who maintain the negative to this, has only the more convinced me that the view is the right and only tenable one.
8. That St. Peter follows out the object not in a spirit dependent on St. Paul’s teaching; that he uses, not the expressions and thoughts of that Apostle, but his own, is no more than we should expect from his standing, and personal characteristics; and is not for a moment to be adduced as against the view here maintained, that his object was to build up and establish those churches which had been founded and fostered under the Apostle of the Gentiles, This will be further elucidated in the next section.
9. The contents of the Epistle are summarily but lucidly given by Steiger, Einleitung, p. 27; which he prefaces by this remark: “It is not easy to give a logically arranged table of the contents, in a case where the Writer himself does not lay down an abstract division of his subject with a main and subordinate plan, but goes from one idea to another, not indeed with violent transitions, but still not according to logical connexion, only according to that of the subjects themselves. Besides, the changes are in general so imperceptibly made, that we can hardly tell when we are approaching them.”
10. He then gives the following table:
|Address to the elect of the triune God||James 1:1-2.|
|Preciousness of that mercy of God which has thus chosen them to salvation||James 1:3-5;|
|manifested even in their temporal trials||James 1:6-9.|
|Salvation of which prophets spoke, and which angels desire to look into||James 1:10-12.|
|Therefore, the duty of enduring hope, and of holiness in the fear of God||James 1:13-17 :|
|(considering the precious blood paid as the price of their ransom)||James 1:18-21;|
|and of self-purification (as begotten of God’s eternal word)||James 1:22-25;|
|and of growth in the Truth||James 2:1-3;|
|and of building up on Christ as a spiritual priesthood||James 2:4-5|
|Who is to the faithful precious, but to the disobedient a stone of stumbling||James 2:6-10.|
|The duty of pure conversation among the heathen||James 2:11-12;|
|of obedience to authorities||James 2:13-17;|
|to masters, even when innocently suffering at their hands||James 2:18-20|
|(for such is the calling of those, for whom Christ suffered innocently)||James 2:21-25|
|to husbands||James 3:1-6.|
|(reciprocal duty of husbands)||James 3:7|
|of all, to one another, being kind and gentle; and even to enemies||James 3:8-17 :|
|for Christ so suffered and so lives, for the living and the dead||James 3:18-18 :|
|and through His Resurrection and exaltation saves us by Baptism||ST 3:20–22.|
|Thus then die to sin and live to God, for Christ is ready to judge all||James 4:1-7|
|watching, edifying one another, and glorifying God||James 4:8-11|
|submitting to trial as the proof of your participaion in Christ’s sufferings||James 4:12-17.|
|Elders, tend His flock, for His sake||James 5:1-4|
|younger, be subject: all, be humble||James 5:5-6|
|full of trust: watchful: resisting the devil.||James 5:7-9 :|
|and may He who has graciously called you, after short suffering, strengthen and bless you||James 5:10-11.|
|The bearer and aim of the Epistle: salutations; concluding blessing||James 5:12-14.|
CHARACTER AND STYLE
1. Some Commentators(151) who have impugned the genuineness of our Epistle, have objected to it a want of distinctive character, and have alleged that it is less the work of an individual mind than a series of compilations from the work of others, mainly St. Paul and St. James.
2. This however has been distinctly, and as it seems to me successfully denied by others, and especially by Weiss in his work on the Epistle. It is hardly possible for an unprejudiced person to help tracing in the character of it marks of individuality, and a peculiar type of apprehension of Christian doctrine. That St. Peter was well acquainted with St. Paul’s teaching is certain, not from this Epistle only, but from the latter Apostle’s own declaration in Galatians 2:2, where he says, ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ κηρύσσω ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, κατʼ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, of whom St. Peter certainly was one. That he had seen, and was familiar with, many of St. Paul’s Epistles, is equally undeniable(152). The coincidences in peculiar expression and sequence of thoughts are too marked to be accounted for by any participation in common forms of teaching and thinking, even had this latter been the case, which it was not. The coincidences now before us are of an entirely different nature from those in the Epistle to the Hebrews, with the exception perhaps of that one where an O. T. citation is apparently taken from the Epistle to the Romans.
3. If we seek for tokens of individual character and independence, we shall find them at every turn. Such are, for instance, the designation of the whole Christian revelation as χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ, and treatment of it as such, which prevails throughout the Epistle. Cf. ch. James 1:3, where it is described as the power of regeneration: James 1:10, where it is the salvation promised by the prophets: James 2:19, where it breaks forth even in sufferings: James 4:10, where it is distributed in spiritual gifts: James 5:10, where it is the pledge of continued divine help: James 3:7, where it is itself the inheritance of life: James 1:13, where it is the material of the revelation of Christ at His coming. And connected with this same, is the way in which 1) God’s acts of grace are ever brought forward: e. g. James 1:20, His fore-ordination of Christ: James 5:10, James 1:15, James 2:9, His call of His people: James 1:3; James 1:23, His new-begetting of them by His word through Christ’s Resurrection: James 4:14, the resting of His Spirit on them: James 4:11, James 1:5, James 5:6; James 5:10, His care for them in ministering strength to them, and guarding them by His power to salvation: and 2) the connexion between God and His people insisted on: e. g., James 2:9-10; James 4:17, James 5:2, generally: ST 3:21, where Baptism is ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν: James 2:19, where συνείδησις θεοῦ, an expression no where else found, is a motive for enduring sufferings: James 4:11, where His glory is the ultimate motive of Christian action.
4. And in accordance with this constant setting forth of the reciprocal relation of God and His people, we find our Blessed Lord ever introduced as the Mediator: e. g. of things objective, as James 1:3, of Regeneration; ST 3:21, of Baptism: of things subjective, as James 1:21, of faith and hope; James 2:5, of acceptable works for God; James 4:11, of the power to glorify God. The central point of this mediatorial work is His Resurrection, James 1:3, ST 3:21; in subordination to which the other facts of Redemption are introduced, even where they occur without any necessary reference to it, as e. g., James 1:11; James 1:19-21; James 3:18; James 2:24-25. And those particulars of Christ’s agency are principally brought forward, which are connected with the Resurrection: e. g., His preaching to the imprisoned spirits, ST 3:19 ff.; His Ascension, ST 3:22; His lordship over His people, James 2:25; His future Revelation 1:7; Revelation 1:13, and that with judgment, James 4:5. Every where it is less the historical Christ, than the exalted Christ of the present and of the future, that is before the Apostle; the Eternal One, James 1:11; James 2:25. Even where His sufferings are mentioned, it is ever χριστός or ὁ χριστός: not so much the humiliated One, as the glorified and anointed One of God, James 2:21; James 3:18 f.; James 4:1; James 4:13. And this, partly because their present belief on Him, not their past experience or knowledge of Him, is that which is emphasized, James 1:8; partly for the reason next to be noticed.
5. Another original and peculiar feature of our Epistle is, its constant reference and forward look to the future. This has been indeed by some exaggerated: as, e. g., Mayerhoff. Huther and Luthardt (Das Johan. Evang. p. 110) have considered hope as the central idea and subject of the Epistle: and Weiss adopts for St. Peter the title of the Apostle of hope. But the fact itself is not to be denied. Wherever we consult the Epistle, it is always the future to which the exhortations point: whether we regard the sufferings of Christ Himself, as pointing on to future glory, James 1:11; James 4:13; or those of His followers, James 1:6-7; James 1:9. Salvation itself is τὸ τέλος τῆς πίστεως, James 1:9; is the object of living (James 1:3) and certain (James 1:13) hope, James 1:3; James 1:13; James 1:21; James 3:15. The same expectation appears as expressed in τιμή, James 2:7; ζωή, James 3:10 (cf. James 1:3); δόξα, James 5:4; James 5:10; and as a constantly present motive, James 2:2; James 5:4. The nearness of this future blessedness throws the present life into the background, so that God’s people are πάροικοι and παρεπίδημοι, James 1:1; James 1:17; James 2:11. This is ever before the Apostle; both in reference to his readers, James 4:13, and to himself, James 5:1.
6. Brückner, from whom in the main the foregoing remarks have been adopted, and who goes much further into detail in following out the same, lays stress on several interesting points of individual peculiarity, even where the modes of speech of St. Paul appear to be adopted by St. Peter; e. g., in the comparison of our ch. James 2:24 with Romans 6:8-14, where St. Paul’s ζῇν τῷ θεῷ would have been equally available for St. Peter, who uses ζῇν τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ, which on account of the close comparison with Christ in St. Paul, would not have been so apposite for him: where again the ἀποθνήσκειν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ of St. Paul is not adopted by St. Peter, though quite as well adapted to his purpose as ἀπογίνεσθαι τῇ ἁμ., which he has used. In St. Paul, the death to sin is more a consequence of our union with Christ: in St. Peter, of Christ’s having done away sin. The latter, as in other places, approaches nearer to St. John’s form of thought and diction.
7. He shews the same with regard to the idea of the Christian calling of God: to that of ἐλπίς; of ὑπακοή; of Christian liberty, as in the one Apostle (Galatians 5:13) the ἀφορμή, in the other the ἐπικάλυμμα of sin (ch. James 2:16), and besides found in James 1:25; James 2:12, and in John 8:36; to that of the χαρίσματα; of the Christian reward; and several other cases which at first sight seem alike. In all these there is reason to believe that our Apostle, though speaking sometimes exceedingly like St. Paul and possibly from reminiscence of his Epistles, yet drew from another fountain within himself, and had a treasure of spiritual knowledge and holy inspiration distinct from that of St. Paul, incorporated with his own individual habits of thought.
8. And this is confirmed by observing, that it is not with St. Paul only that such affinities are found, but as before observed, with St. John, and with other of the N. T. writers(153): and by seeing, that in many expressions St. Peter stands quite alone(154). Add to which, that in several glimpses, which in the course of treatment of other subjects he gives us, of things mysterious and unknown, we evidently see that such revelations come from a storehouse of divine knowledge, which could reveal much more, had it seemed good to Him by whom the hand and thoughts of the Apostle were guided(155).
9. As regards the style of our Epistle it has an unmistakeable and distinctive character of its own(156), arising very much from the mixed nature of the contents, and the fervid and at the same time practical rather than dialectical spirit of its Writer. There is in it no logical inference, properly so called: no evolving of one thought from another. The word οὖν occurs only in connexion with imperatives introducing practical inference: ὅτι and διότι only as substantiating motives to Christian practice by Scripture citation or by sacred facts: γάρ mostly in similar connexions. The link between one idea and another is found not in any progress of unfolding thought or argument, but in the last word of the foregoing sentence, which is taken up and followed out in the new one(157).
10. It has been noticed that the same thought is often repeated again and in nearly the same words(158). This is consistent with the fervid and earnest spirit of the Apostle: which however, as might be expected from what we know of him, was chastened by a sense of his own weakness and need of divine upholding grace. There is no Epistle in the sacred Canon, the language and spirit of which come more directly home to the personal trials and wants and weaknesses of the Christian life. Its affectionate warnings and strong consolation have ever been treasured up close to the hearts of the weary and heavy-laden but onward-pressing servants of God. The mind of our Father towards us, the aspect of our Blessed Lord as presented to us, the preparation by sufferings for our heavenly inheritance, all these as here set forth, are peculiarly lovely and encouraging. And the motives to holy purity spring direct out of the simple and childlike recognition of the will of our Heavenly Father to bring us to His glory.
11. All who have worthily commented on the Epistle have spoken in similar strains of its character and style. “Mirabilis est gravitas et alacritas Petrini sermonis, lectorem suavissime retinens,” says Bengel. “Habet hæc Epistola τὸ σφοδρόν conveniens ingenio principis Apostolorum,” says Grotius. And Erasmus calls it “Epistolam profecto dignam Apostolorum principe, plenam auctoritatis et dignitatis apostolicæ, verbis parcam, sententiis differtam, &c.” And recently Wiesinger sums up thus his characteristic of the Epistle: “Certainly, it entirely agrees in tone and feeling with what we have before said of the character of the Apostle. His warm self-devotion to the Lord, his practical piety and his active disposition, are all reflected in it. How full is his heart of the hope of the revelation of the Lord! With what earnestness does he exhort his readers to lift their eyes above the sufferings of the present to this future glory, and in hope of it to stand firm against all temptation! He who in loving impatience cast himself into the sea to meet the Lord, is also the man who most earnestly testifies to the hope of His return:—he who dated his own faith from the sufferings of his Master, is never weary in holding up the suffering form of the Lord before the eyes of his readers to comfort and stimulate them:—he before whom the death of a martyr is in assured expectation, is the man who most thoroughly, and in the greatest variety of aspects, sets forth the duty and the power, as well as the consolation, of suffering for Christ. If we had not known from whom the Epistle comes, we must have said, It must be a Rock of the church (ein Felfenmann) who thus writes: a man whose own soul rests on the living Rock, and who here, with the strength of his testimony, takes in hand to secure the souls of others, and against the harassing storm of present tribulation to ground them on the true Rock of ages(159).” The whole may be summed up by saying, that the entire Epistle is the following out of our Lord’s command to its Writer, καὶ σὺ ποτὲ ἐπιστρέψας στήριξον τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου(160).
It will be observed that I have throughout this chapter abstained from introducing considerations and comparisons of the Second Epistle of St. Peter. I have done this, because I wished to keep the first Epistle clear of all the doubt and difficulty which surround the treatment of the other, which I have reserved entire for the following chapter.
Eve of Ascension