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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

1 Peter

- 1 Peter

by Heinrich Meyer
























I N revising this Commentary on the Epistles of Peter for the present fourth edition, the work which I had chiefly to consider and subject to a careful examination was the Exposition of the Epistles by von Hofmann. This accordingly I did.

Von Hofmann often seeks to surmount the exegetical difficulties presented in the epistles by a new exposition, and, of course, no exception can be taken to this; but it is to be regretted that the interpretations are not unfrequently of so artificial a nature, that they cannot stand the test of an unprejudiced examination, and are consequently little calculated to promote the true understanding of the text.

As regards the origin of the Second Epistle, my renewed investigations have produced no result other than that which I had formerly obtained. I can only repeat what I said in the preface to the third edition of this Commentary: “If I should be blamed for giving, in this edition also, no decisive and final answer to the question as to the origin of Second Peter, I will say at the outset, that it seems to me more correct to pronounce a non liquet , than to cut the knot by arbitrary assertions and acute appearances of argument.”

Although this Commentary on the whole has preserved its former character, yet it has been subjected to many changes in particulars, which I hope may be regarded as improvements.

I would only add, that in the critical remarks it is principally Tischendorf’s Recension that has been kept in view. Tisch. 7 refers to the editio septima critica minor , 1859; Tisch. 8, to his editio octava major , 1869. Where the two editions agree in a reading, Tisch. simply is put.






T HE apostle’s real name was Σίμων (according to another pronunciation Συμεών , Acts 15:14 ; 2 Peter 1:1 ). A native of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee (John 1:45 ), he dwelt afterwards in Capernaum (Luke 4:31 ; Luke 4:38 ), where he was married (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:5 ), and where his mother-in-law lived. In the tradition, his wife is called at one time Concordia, at another Perpetua, and is said (Clem. Alex. Strom . 7) to have suffered martyrdom before him. Along with his father Jonas (Matthew 16:17 ; called Ἰωάννης also, John 1:43 ; John 21:15 ) and his brother Andrew, he was by occupation a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. When the Baptist began his ministry at the Jordan, the two brothers resorted to him. On John’s testimony Andrew, and through his instrumentality Peter, attached themselves to Jesus, who gave to the latter the name full of promise, Cephas. From that time forth Peter, and along with him Andrew, remained a disciple of Christ. After he had accompanied Jesus as there is no reason to doubt on the journeys recorded by John, chaps. John 2:2 to John 4:43 , we find him, it is true, again engaged in his earthly calling; but from this there is no reason for concluding that he had forsaken Jesus, who Himself was then living in Capernaum, Matthew 4:13 ; Matthew 4:18 . At that time he received his call to enter on the service of Christ. On the occasion of the miraculous draught of fishes he was impressed powerfully, and as he never before had been, by the revelation of his Master’s glory; to his words: ἔξελθε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ , the reply is given: ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσζωγρῶν . [1] Received afterwards into the number of the apostles, he forthwith gained a prominent place among them. Not only was he one of the three who stood in most trusted fellowship with Jesus, but on himself pronouncing in his own name and in that of his fellows the decisive confession: σὺ εἶΧριστός , ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ (cf. John 6:67 ff.), Jesus confirmed the name formerly given to him, and added the promise: ἘΠῚ ΤΑΎΤῌ Τῇ ΠΈΤΡᾼ ΟἸΚΟΔΟΜΉΣΩ ΜΟΥ ΤῊΝ ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑΝ ΚΑῚ ΔΏΣΩ ΣΟῚ ΤᾺς ΚΛΕῖς Τῆς ΒΑΣΙΛΕΊΑς ΤῶΝ ΟὐΡΑΝῶΝ . Thus a primacy was lent to him which is in harmony with the word of Christ later on: ΣΤΉΡΙΖΟΝ ΤΟῪς ἈΔΕΛΦΟΎς ΣΟΥ (Luke 22:32 ), and the charge of the Risen One: ΒΌΣΚΕ ΤᾺ ἈΡΝΊΑ ΜΟΥ (John 21:15-17 ). And for such a calling Peter was peculiarly fitted, by the energy prompting to decisive action, which formed an essential feature of his character; though not until his natural man had been purified and sanctified by the Spirit of the Lord. For, on the one hand, his resolute character betrayed him more than once into vaingloriousness, self-will, and unthinking zeal; and, on the other, he was wanting in the patience and even firmness which might have been expected from him who was surnamed the Rock. Whilst, too, he pressed on swiftly to the end he had in view, as if to take it by storm, confronted with danger he was seized of a sudden with faint-heartedness; his nature was suited more to quick action than to patient suffering. As proofs of this may be taken his walking on the sea and his sudden fear (Matthew 14:28-31 ), his rebuke of Christ (Matthew 16:22 ), his question as to the sufficient measure of forgiveness (Matthew 18:21 ), his inquiring what reward they, the disciples, would have, in that they had forsaken all for Christ’s sake (Matthew 19:27 ). In still more marked lines does the picture of his distinctive character stand out in the background of Christ’s passion, when he first in vain self-confidence promises to the Lord that he would never forsake Him, but would go with Him even unto death, and then on the Mount of Olives is unable to watch with Him; he wishes, thereupon, to save his Master with the sword, and follows Him even to the court of the high priest, but in sudden cowardice denies Him before the men-servants and maids, and as quickly, feeling the whole weight of his guilt, leaves the judgment-hall in tears. On account of these unquestionably serious vacillations in feeling and conduct, he nevertheless cannot be accused of indecision of character. If he showed himself weak on particular occasions, this was the result partly of his sanguine temperament, in which action instantaneously followed on excited feeling, and partly of his great self-confidence, into which he was betrayed by the consciousness of his own strength. The denial of Christ led to his inward purification; all the more that after His resurrection Christ revealed Himself to Peter first among the apostles. And so to the thrice repeated question of the Lord, if he loved Him more than the others, he returned the answer, humble yet full of faith: “Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”

[1] That Luke (1 Peter 5:1 ff.) and Matthew (1 Peter 4:18 ff.) relate the same fact, admits of no doubt; not only are the scenes and the persons identical, but the words in Matthew: ποιήσω ὑμᾶς ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων , agree in sense with those in Luke addressed specially to Peter. Neither is there any inward difference (cf. Meyer on Luke 5:1 ff.), for the “point” of Matthew’s narrative is not the mere injunction and promise, as in Luke’s it is not the “miracle of the draught of fishes,” but the call to become fishers of men. Nor does Luke contradict himself, for what is related in 1 Peter 5:8 does not prove that previous to this Peter had had no experience of miracles, since that which produced the impression on Peter related by Luke was not necessarily the first miracle he witnessed.

After the ascension of Christ, Peter appears standing at the head of the apostles, for it is at his advice that their number is again increased to twelve. After the descent of the Spirit, however, he becomes in reality the Rock, as Christ had ordained him; henceforth the direction and furtherance of the church rests chiefly in his hand. It was his sermon the first apostolic sermon by means of which, on the day of Pentecost, three thousand were added to the church of God; and if afterwards he laboured at first in connection with John, it was yet himself who was the real actor (Acts 3:1 , Acts 3:4 ff., Acts 3:11 ff.). He healed the lame man, addressed the people, and on both apostles being brought before the ecclesiastical authorities, it was he who was the speaker. He had to execute judgment on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10 ); and when the whole of the apostles were summoned to appear before the Sanhedrim, it is he, too, who in the name of all testifies for Christ. Again, in Samaria, whither he went along with John to continue the work begun by Philip, John appears beside him only as an accompanying fellow-worker.

During the time that the churches had rest after the conversion of Paul, Peter journeyed throughout the districts of Palestine bordering on the Mediterranean Sea; in Lydda he healed Aeneas (Acts 9:32 ff.), and raised up Tabitha in Joppa (Acts 9:36 ff.).

In accordance with the position assigned to him by Christ, he was permitted by God to bring into the church the first-fruits of heathenism; for although Paul was destined to be the Apostle of the Gentiles, it was still Peter who should first preach the gospel to the heathen and administer the ordinance of baptism, that thus also he might retain the primacy and be the Rock of the Church.

During the persecution raised shortly before his death by Herod Agrippa I., Peter was cast into prison. After his miraculous release he quitted Jerusalem [2] for a time, but later on again returned thither. The last circumstance which the Acts of the Apostles relates of him is his justification of Paul at the so-called convention of apostles in Jerusalem.

[2] We are not told where Peter went; Acts 12:17 only says: ἐπορεύθη εἰς ἕτερον τόπον . The statement of several Fathers, that Peter then betook himself to Rome, and there founded the Christian church, has, without sufficient warrant, been accepted by Thiersch ( die Kirche im apost. Zeitalter , p. 96 ff.). This is decidedly opposed not only by the Epistle to the Romans, but also by the indefinite expression employed here. Ewald also ( Geschichte des Volkes Israel , VI. p. 618 ff.) thinks “that the old legend as to Peter’s sojourn in Rome during the reign of Claudius, and his meeting here with Simon the magician, was not altogether without foundation,” but that the Christian church in Rome had then already been established. But it is not credible, either that if Peter had visited the church in Rome, Paul should not have made the slightest allusion to the fact in his Epistle to the Romans, or that Peter should have gone to Rome with the intention of there, as in Samaria, opposing Simon; cf. Hofmann, p. 203 ff.

The labours of Paul among the heathen, and the reception of believing Gentiles into the Christian church, occasioned the first division amongst the Christians. What position did Peter then take up? After what he himself had witnessed at the conversion of Cornelius, he could not make common cause with the judaistically-minded Christians; in the proceedings at Jerusalem, too, he placed himself decidedly on the side of Paul, and spoke against the subjugation of the heathen to the law. It was then, on Peter formally recognising the grace given by the Lord to Paul, that an agreement was come to, that Paul and Barnabas should labour among the Gentiles, whilst he himself, along with John and James, should devote themselves to the Jews (Galatians 2:9 ) the field of missionary enterprise being in this way divided among them.

In thus limiting his activity to the Jewish people, Peter detracted in no way from his primacy; for this, which had never in any sense been absolute, remained intact, as is evident from the circumstance that Paul took especial care to assure himself of Peter’s consent, and acknowledged his foremost position among the apostles (cf. Galatians 2:7-8 ).

That Peter, with all his recognition of Paul’s principles, was wholly unfit to undertake the direction of missions to the Gentiles, is proved by his conduct at Antioch, for which he was called to account by Paul. He was not wanting, it is true, in a right perception of the relation in which the gospel stood to the law, so that without any misgivings he entered into complete fellowship with the Gentile-Christians; [3] still, as regarded his own conduct, this perception was not vivid enough to preserve him from the hypocrisy which drew forth Paul’s rebuke (Galatians 2:12 ). For, when “certain came” to Antioch “from James,” Peter withdrew himself from them, fearing those of the circumcision, doubtless because he did not wish to appear in the light of a transgressor of the law. How dangerous his example was, became evident even then; and it is clear further that the Jewish-Christians hostilely disposed to the heathen-converts were only too ready to appeal to the example of Peter in their opposition to Paul. From this, however, it must not be concluded that there was any want of harmony in principle between Paul and Peter, and that by the δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ καὶ Βαρνάβᾳ κοινωνίας is to be understood a mere “temporary truce,” which they had concluded with each other in a purely external manner, and whilst holding fast their internal differences. [4]

[3] As in Galatians 2:2 ; Galatians 2:8-9 ; Galatians 2:15 , τὰ ἔθνη means not Gentile-Christians, but Gentiles, Paul seems, by the expression in ver. 12: μετὰ τῶν ἐθνῶν συνήσθιεν , to have meant heathens also. But even if they were only Gentile-Christians with whom Peter ate, it is not their Christianity, but their Gentile nationality and customs, as distinguishing them from the Jews, which Paul has here in his eye.

[4] The Tübingen school confessedly considers the first apostles, and Peter in particular, to have been narrow Judaists, and accordingly ascribes to them precisely those views which Paul so decidedly combats in those of his epistles which are undoubtedly genuine. Though compelled to admit that it was not the first apostles themselves who opposed Paul and his gospel at Corinth and elsewhere, Pfleiderer ( der Judaismus , p. 299), nevertheless, maintains that they supported those who did so. He explains Peter’s conduct in Antioch (p. 296) in this way: that the apostle, in order to please the heathen-Christians, adopted there a mode of life freer than was really permissible from his dogmatic standpoint. The fact, on the contrary, was that his mode of life was stricter than was consistent with his principles, for which reason Paul accused him of ὑπόκρισις . It is more than singular that Pfleiderer should so entirely overlook the dishonour thus brought upon Paul by maintaining that the first apostles preached a different gospel from that which he taught. For how could Paul, without grossly violating his own conscience, accept the δεξιὰ κοινωνίας offered him by James, Peter, and John, if his ἀνάθεμα ἔστω (Galatians 1:7-8 ) was applicable to each of them as the preacher of a ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον ?

As to where and with what result Peter worked after Paul commenced his labours, all precise and reliable information is wanting; from 1 Corinthians 9:5 it follows only that he made missionary journeys to various regions. If by Babylon (chap. 1 Peter 5:13 ) that city itself and not Rome is to be understood, he must have been at the time our epistle was written in Babylon, whence by means of this letter he extended his influence to the churches of Asia Minor, which, in part at least, had been founded by Paul.

The account which the Fathers give of the life of the apostle is pervaded by many mythical traits. The more important his position, the more natural it was for a one-sided Judaeo-Christianity, as well as for the Catholic Church, to draw by invention, intentional or unintentional, the picture of the apostle’s labours in their own interests. Without any sifting of the legendary elements, Hieronymus describes the subsequent life of Peter in the following manner: “Simon Petrus princeps apostolorum post episcopatum Antiochensis ecclesiae et praedicationem dispersionis eorum, qui de circumcisione crediderant, in Ponto, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia et Bithynia secundo Claudii imperatoris anno ad expugnandum Simonum 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 Romae in Vaticano juxta viam triumphalem totius orbis veneratione celebratur” ( De scriptor. eccl. cap. i. de Petro).

In this narrative the following particulars are mythical: (1) The episcopate of Peter in the church at Antioch; the saying, too, of Eusebius ( Chronicum ad annum , iii.), that Peter founded the church at Antioch, must be considered apocryphal, as contradicting Acts 11:19-22 . (2) His personal activity in the regions of Asia Minor; this is doubtless mentioned already by Origen as probable; [5] but it must be regarded simply as an inference from 1 Peter 1:1 , as even Windischmann ( Vindiciae Pet. § 112 f.) admits. (3) His journey to Rome for the purpose of combating Simon Magus. [6] This story is based on a passage in Justin’s Apologia maj. c. 26, which speaks of a statue in Rome with the following inscription: ΣΙΜΩΝΙ ΔΕΩ ΣΑΓΚΤΩ , which, however, has been discovered to be the dedication not to that Simon, but to the Sabine god Semo Sanctus. (4) The twenty-five years’ residence of Peter in Rome (cf. on this Wieseler’s Chronol. des apostol. Zeitalters , p. 571 ff.). Perhaps also (5) the peculiar manner of his crucifixion, which has been recorded by Origen already (in Euseb. H. E. iii. 1 Peter 1 : ἀνεσκολοπίσθη κατὰ κεφαλῆς ); the motive given for it by Hieronymus must certainly be looked upon as an arbitrary addition. As indisputable fact, there remains, in the first instance, only the martyrdom of the apostle, which is corroborated by the unanimous testimony of antiquity, and especially by John 21:19 ; [7] the residence in Rome appears more open to doubt, still the reasons which can be urged against it are not sufficient to prove the purely legendary character of the tradition. Although Clemens Rom. ( Ep. ad Corinth . c. 5) does not say that Peter suffered martyrdom in Rome, yet Dionysius of Corinth (Euseb. H. E. ii. 25), Irenaeus ( adv. Haer. iii. 1), Tertullian ( contra Marc. iv. 5, and de praescript. adv. haeret. c. 36), and Origen (Euseb. H. E. iii. 1) do; and so early as by the presbyter Cajus mention is made of the τρόπαια of the two apostles Peter and Paul. Doubtless these testimonies are mixed up with many inexact and inaccurate particulars; but this does not justify doubt as to the truth of the circumstance to which Ignatius seems to refer in the words: ΟὐΧ Ὡς ΠΈΤΡΟς ΚΑῚ ΠΑῦΛΟς ΔΙΑΤΆΣΣΟΜΑΙ ( Ep. ad Rom . c. 4). It is less certain that Peter was in Rome at the same time with Paul; nor, as Wieseler wrongly asserts, are all the witnesses of the second century who speak of the martyrdom of Peter in Rome guarantees for it. For, with the exception of the author of the Praedicatio Pauli , whose testimony is uncertain, not one of these witnesses speaks of a meeting and a conjoint labour of the two apostles in Rome, although all relate that both of them in Rome had a part in founding the church, and that they suffered martyrdom there. Even the circumstance mentioned by Dionysius of Corinth (Euseb. H. E . ii. 25): ἐμαρτύρησαν κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν καιρόν , [8] does not prove that at any previous time they had lived together; for this expression allows, as Wieseler himself grants, the possibility of a period of time provided it be not too long having elapsed between the deaths of the two apostles. “What remains then as the kernel of ecclesiastical tradition is this: that towards the end of his life Peter came to Rome, that he there laboured for the propagation of the gospel, and that he suffered martyrdom under Nero” (Wiesinger; cf. also Bleek, Introd. to N. T . p. 563 ff. [E. T. II. 157 ff.]). As, then, the Epistle of Peter is addressed to Pauline churches ( i.e. those churches which were either founded by Paul himself, or had sprung from such as had been so founded), and as Peter could hardly feel himself called upon during Paul’s lifetime to interfere with the latter’s field of missionary operations, it is not at all improbable that he suffered martyrdom later than Paul. This is supported by the circumstance that after Paul’s death, and then only, was the fitting time for him to labour in Rome. Had Peter been there earlier, some trace surely of his presence would have been found in Paul’s epistles written from Rome. If, then, Paul suffered martyrdom at the earliest in the year 64, the death of Peter must have taken place in the time between 65 67 A.D. [9]

[5] Euseb. H. E . iii. 1 Peter 1 : Πέτρος ἐν Πόντῳ κ . τ . λ . κεκηρυχέναι τοῖς ἐν διασπορᾷ Ἰουδαίοις ἔοικεν .

[6] The stories about Peter and Simon M. in the Clementine Homilies are mere legendary formations. Even Ewald’s opinion, that Peter, after his release, went to Rome for a short time, in order there to oppose Simon M.; that, on his return to Jerusalem, he had visited the districts in the north-east, and there founded the churches to which he later addressed this epistle, is too destitute of secure historical foundation to be regarded as correct.

[7] The explanation given in this verse of the prophecy contained in ver. 18 is indisputably correct. Mayerhoff is wrong in calling it in question ( Einl. in d. Petr. Schriften , p. 87) by applying Christ’s words to Peter, not to the martyrdom he was about to suffer, but to the apostle himself, as destined to be the leader of the church: “He explains to Peter the necessity of a ministry of this kind, by pointing out to him that active support of the needy is a duty imposed by love to Christ.” Meyer gives the right explanation of this passage. Cf. in loc .

[8] The words of Dionysius: καὶ γὰρ ἄμφω καὶ εἰς τὴν ἡμετέραν Κόρινθον φυτεύσαντες ἡμᾶς ἐδίδαξαν , ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ εἰς τὴν Ἰταλίαν ὁμόσε διδάξαντες ἐμαρτύρησαν κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν καιρόν , admit on the whole of but a doubtful inference, the more so that what is said here of Peter’s labour in Corinth appears to have arisen only from the fact that there was at an early period in Corinth a party calling itself by Peter’s name. A legend such as this could originate all the more easily from the endeavour to bring the two apostles as near as possible to each other; the κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν καιρόν may also have arisen from that endeavour.

[9] According to Ewald, Peter suffered martyrdom before Paul that is to say, during the persecutions of the Christians by Nero, A.D. 64, whilst Paul, having been released from his Roman captivity, was in Spain.


[10] The epistle is one of those termed already by Origen, the seven ἐπιστολαὶ καθολικαί ; for the meaning of the designation, cf. Introd. to the N. T ., and Herzog’s Encyclopädie , VII. p. 497 ff. The most probable view is this: that when the Pauline Epistles were classified together as a whole, the other epistles of the N. T. canon were united together under the title of catholic epistles, because they were not addressed to individual churches or particular persons, but as circular letters to Christendom generally, or to a somewhat extensive system of churches, just as Origen termed the apostolic epistle, Acts 15:22 , an ἐπιστολὴ καθολική . The objection may doubtless be raised to this view, that the Epistle to the Hebrews should be included among these, whilst Second and Third John should be excluded from them. But the addition of the former to the Pauline Epistles is explained by its having been believed to have been by Paul; and the inclusion of the latter among the catholic epistles, by the circumstance that, having in later times only come to be regarded as canonical, they were added on to the much more important First Epistle of John. Hofmann’s opinion, “that the seven epistles have the above designation because they are writings neither arising from nor pertaining to any personal relation of the writer to those whom he addresses,” is contradicted by the term itself, since the expression καθολικός contains not the slightest allusion to a relation subsisting between the writer and those to whom he writes.

The contents of the epistle are in the order of thought as follows: First of all, thanksgiving to God for the hope of the eternal inheritance in heaven, of which the Christians had been made partakers, of which they can with joy be certain, although for a time here they have to suffer tribulation, and of which the glory is so great that the prophets diligently searched after it, and the angels desired to behold it. This is followed by a series of exhortations, which may be divided into three classes. The first class (1 Peter 1:13 to 1 Peter 2:10 ) is linked on to the thought of the glory promised to the Christians, and has sanctification in general as its object. Foremost and as a starting-point stands the summons to a full hope of the future grace ( τελείως ἐλπίσατε ); then follows the exhortation to an holy walk ( ἅγιοι γενήθητε ) in the fear of God the impartial judge, based on a conscious knowledge of the redemption wrought by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:14-21 ); then, to a pure and unfeigned love of the brethren ( ἀλλήλους ἀγαπήσατε ), as became those who were born of incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:15-25 ); and lastly, laying aside all κακία , to desire the pure milk, and firmly cleaving to Christ, as living stones to build themselves up more and more to the spiritual house, in accordance with their calling as Christians ( τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα ἐπιποθήσατε · … ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε ), 1 Peter 2:1-10 .

The second series of exhortations (1 Peter 2:11 to 1 Peter 4:6 ), which are of a special nature, is in connection with the position of the Christians in the world ( παρακαλῶ ὡς παροίκους καὶ παρεπιδήμους · … τὴν ἀναστροφὴν ὑμῶν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἔχοντες , 1 Peter 2:11-12 ), and has reference (1) To the relation to civil authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17 ); (2) To the particular relations of domestic life: ( a ) exhortation to the slaves ( οἱ οἰκέται ὑποτασσόμενοιτοῖς δεσπόταις , 1 Peter 2:18-25 ) to obedience towards their masters in patient endurance, even of unjust suffering, based on a reference to the sufferings of Christ; ( b ) exhortation to the women to be subject unto their husbands, and to an holy walk, with reference to the godly women of the O. T., especially Sarah, 1 Peter 3:1-6 ; ( c ) exhortation to the men to a discreet treatment of their wives; (3) To the relation to the world persecuting the church; after a short exhortation to unity and love (1 Peter 3:8 ), the apostle exhorts not to return evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9-14 ); with meekness to give a reason for their own hope (1 Peter 3:15 ), and in the midst of suffering to give proof of faithful submission to the divine will (1 Peter 3:16-17 ). These exhortations are based on a reference to Christ, who through suffering entered into His glory (1 Peter 3:18-22 ), and who by His death appeals to believers not to continue their former life, but to lead a new one, even though they should be reviled for it. Lastly, the apostle reminds his readers of the future judgment of Christ (1 Peter 4:1-6 ).

The third class of exhortations (1 Peter 4:7 to 1 Peter 5:9 ) has special reference to life in the church, and is connected with the thought of the nearness of the end of all things (1 Peter 4:7 ). The several particulars to which prominence is given are: soberness unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7 ), ardent love towards each other (1 Peter 4:8 ), hospitality (1 Peter 4:9 ), a faithful administration of spiritual gifts for the general good (1 Peter 4:10-11 ), joyful bearing of the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:12-19 ). Hereupon follows an exhortation to the elders to guide the church in a right manner, reference being made to the reward which awaits them (1 Peter 5:1-4 ); then a command to the younger to submit themselves to the elder (1 Peter 5:5 ); on this, admonitions to all to an humble behaviour towards each other, and to humiliation before God (1 Peter 5:6-7 ); lastly, a summons to watchfulness against the temptations of the devil (1 Peter 5:8-9 ).

The epistle concludes with the benediction and a doxology (1 Peter 5:10-11 ), an observation on this epistle itself (1 Peter 5:12 ), and sundry commissions (1 Peter 5:13-14 ).

The aim of this epistle is stated by the apostle himself (1 Peter 5:12 ) in the words: ἔγραψα παρακαλῶν καὶ ἐπιμαρτυρῶν ταύτην εἶναι ἀληθῆ χάριν τοῦ Θεοῦ , εἰςἑστήκατε . Accordingly he proposed a παρακαλών and an ἐπιμαρτυρῶν , both in close connection with each other, as the immediate juxtaposition of the ideas shows. The occasion of them lay in this, that the readers, as professing Christians, had to endure severe afflictions through the slanders of the heathen. In view of the dangers lying therein, the apostle was careful, on the one hand, to exhort them to patience, by directing their minds to the future κληρονομία , as also to the continuance in holiness, and to a conduct towards each other and towards the heathen such as would lead the latter to see how groundless their manders were; and, on the other hand, that his exhortation slight not be without a firm basis, to assure them that a state of suffering was the true divine state of grace. Accordingly the epistle bears neither a polemical nor a doctrinal, but an entirely hortatory character. No doubt dogmatic ideas are interwoven in some passages; these, however, are never treated doctrinally, but are always made subservient to the purpose of exhortation.


Schott regards this epistle as, in the first instance, a letter of consolation , in which the readers are calmed and comforted, on the one hand, with respect “to the accusations of the heathen, that they as matter of principle denied a moral basis to social life;” and, on the other, as regards their fears, lest the fact of God’s permitting persecutions should be a proof to them that they were without the “complete moral certainty of their salvation in Christ.” In opposition to this, it is to be remarked that Peter uses παρακαλεῖν only in the sense of “to exhort,” and that even if the apostle in the treatment of his subject does introduce some words of comfort, the whole epistle cannot on that account be styled a letter of consolation, the less so that these very words are always made subservient to purposes of exhortation; cf. Weiss, die petrin. Frage , p. 631 f.

Several interpreters assume from ἐπιμαρτυρῶν κ . τ . λ ., that Peter composed his hortatory epistle with the intention also of formally confirming the preaching of the gospel, aforetime addressed to his readers. Wiesinger says: “Peter in his epistle to Pauline churches has impressed the seal of his testimony on the gospel as preached by Paul.” Weiss, while questioning this, in that he does not consider the church to have been Pauline, nevertheless asserts that “the apostle wished by his apostolic testimony to confirm the preaching already delivered to the readers,” and for this reason precisely, “that it had not yet been proclaimed to them by an apostle.” But although in 1 Peter 1:12 ; 1 Peter 1:25 we have it attested, that the true gospel is preached unto them, and in 1 Peter 5:12 , that thus they are made partakers of the very grace of God, still this testimony is not made in such a form as to warrant the conclusion that the Apostle Peter considered it necessary to confirm by his apostolic authority the preaching by which the readers had been converted; nor does it imply that the readers had begun to doubt of its truth, because it had come to them directly or indirectly from Paul, or even from one who was no apostle. The double testimony is rather to be explained simply thus: the apostle was desirous of preserving his readers from the danger to which they were exposed, by the trials that had befallen them, of entertaining doubts as to their state of grace, and of confirming them in the confident trust in the grace of which they had been made partakers, apart altogether from the person by whom the gospel had been preached to them.

Hofmann, while justly recognising the hortatory character of the epistle, thinks that Peter’s intention in it was “to secure the fruits of Paul’s labours in a way possible only to the Apostle of the Circumcision.” But in the epistle there is not the smallest hint of any such intention, nor is there any mention made of a difference between the Apostle of the Gentiles and the Apostle of the Circumcision. Besides, if such were his intention, it is impossible to understand how Peter could have written a hortatory epistle of such length. This same objection may be urged against Bleek’s idea, that the sole occasion of the epistle was the journey of Silvanus to Asia Minor.

Pfleiderer (as above, p. 419) correctly gives the design of the letter thus: “an exhortation to patience and perseverance under severe persecution from without, as also to a blameless life, by means of which the Christian church might avoid every occasion for a justifiable persecution.”

On Schwegler’s hypothesis, that the letter was written with the design of effecting a compromise between the followers of Paul and those of Peter, see § 4, Introd. Ewald’s view, that this circular letter was composed chiefly with the design “of teaching the true relation to all heathen and heathen rulers,” is refuted by the contents themselves, which go far beyond this.

The peculiar character of the epistle is due as much to the individuality of its author as to its own hortatory tendency; but not to this, that its author preached a Christianity different from that of the other apostles, that is to say, a narrow Jewish Christianity. The Christianity of Peter, in its subjective as in its objective side, is the same as that of Paul and John. As regards the objective side, there are no conceptions of the person of Christ here expressed lower than in the other books of the N. T. Weiss, who draws a distinction between the historical and the speculative methods of viewing the person of Christ in the N. T., is no doubt of opinion that only the former of these is to be found here, and that therefore Peter’s conception is, in this respect, only a preliminary step to those of Paul and John. But although Peter does not speak of the pre-existence of Christ in so many words, yet the significance which, according to him, Christ had for the realization of the eternal purposes of God toward humanity (1 Peter 1:2-3 ; 1 Peter 1:7-8 ; 1 Peter 1:10-12 ; 1Pe 1:18-20 , 1 Peter 2:4-10 ; 1 Peter 2:21-25 , 1 Peter 3:18 to 1 Peter 4:6 , 1 Peter 4:13-14 , 1 Peter 5:4 ; 1 Peter 5:10 ), goes to prove that he did not regard Christ “as a mere man,” distinguished from other men only in that “He was anointed by God at His baptism with the Holy Spirit, and thus equipped for the office of Messiah.” Besides, however, there are not wanting hints which point to a higher conception than this. If Christ be not called υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ , God is spoken of directly as πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (chap. 1 Peter 1:3 ; 1 Peter 1:2 ); and the name κύριος , which Peter, according to the O. T. usage, frequently applies to God, is by him attributed without any explanation to Christ also. Again, if the Trinity, to which reference is made in chap. 1 Peter 1:2 , be only the economical Trinity, still in it Christ is placed in such a relation to God “as could absolutely never, and especially never in the domain of Old Testament faith, be applied to a mere human instrument” (Jul. Köstlin). Still further, in chap. 1 Peter 1:20 , προεγνωσμένου πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου , where even Weiss is forced to find an idea expressed beyond any that can be explained on the “historic principle,” though it be true that here it is not as Schumann ( die Lehre v. d. Person Christi , p. 449) assumes the real, but only, in the first instance, the ideal pre-existence that is affirmed, yet this very ideal pre-existence undeniably points beyond the simple humanity of Christ. It is, too, a mere makeshift for Weiss to assert that the idea was formed in Peter’s mind, from the circumstance only, that Christ had already been predicted by the prophets, for πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου plainly goes far beyond this. And lastly, even if Weiss’ interpretation of τὸπνεῦμα Χριστοῦ , chap. 1 Peter 1:11 (see Comment. in loc .), were admissible, it would also follow, from the very fact that Peter spoke of the working of God’s Spirit in the prophets, according to its indwelling in Christ, that he had a conception of Christ’s nature higher than any Weiss would allow him to have had.

Peter’s estimate also of the work of Christ , as of His person , is in no way different from that of the other apostles. For him, too, it is the death and resurrection of Christ which lays the foundation of man’s salvation, the communication of the Spirit of the glorified Christ by which that salvation is appropriated by man, and the second coming of Christ by which it is completed. No doubt Weiss thinks that Peter attributes to the blood of Christ a redemptive, but not an expiatory power, and that certainly the idea of sacrifice is foreign to him, if that of substitution be not; but this opinion can be justified only by a misconception of the particular points in the passages in question (1 Peter 1:18-19 , 1 Peter 2:24 , 1 Peter 3:18 ).

With respect to the subjective side of Christianity, Peter has in reference to it also no peculiar teaching. According to him, it is again faith which is made the condition of a participation in the salvation of Christ; cf. 1 Peter 1:5 ; 1Pe 1:7-9 ; 1 Peter 1:21 , 1 Peter 2:7 (1 Peter 4:13 ), 1 Peter 5:9 . True, the πίστις of Peter is not characterized as specifically Christian by any adjunct such as εἰς Χριστόν ; but that none other than a faith on Christ can be meant is evident, partly from the reference to the redeeming death of Christ which pervades the whole epistle, and partly from the circumstance, that when God is spoken of as the object of faith (1 Peter 1:21 ), the phrase: τὸν ἐγείραντα αὐτὸν ( Χριστὸν ) ἐκ νεκρῶν καὶ δόξαν αὐτῷ δόντα (comp. Romans 4:24 ), is added to Θεόν by way of nearer definition. It can with no justification be asserted that faith according to Peter is, on the one hand, only the trust in God based on the miracle of the resurrection, and on the other simply the recognition of the Messianic dignity of Christ, and that accordingly he does not, like Paul, make reference to the atonement accomplished by the blood of Christ. For, precisely because Peter regards the death of Christ as the ground of salvation, it is plainly impossible that he should think of this faith by which redemption is obtained, without reference to the death of Christ and its effects. Weiss, though he admits that this faith, according to the view taken of it not merely by Paul and John, but also by Peter, introduces into real community of life with Christ, does so only under this restriction, that Peter’s conception is based entirely on the utterances of Christ, and has not as yet been worked into didactic shape; as if the living faith were not necessarily conscious of community of life with Christ, and as if the matter contained in an epistle written with the view of imparting instruction must of necessity be brought into didactic form. If, according to Peter, the life of faith be, from its earliest commencement, a life of obedience, there is taught in this nothing different from what Paul more than once affirms (Romans 6:17 ; Romans 15:18 ; Romans 16:19-20 ; 2 Corinthians 10:15 ); but that Peter “makes the idea of obedience so prominent, that faith as the fundamental condition of the possession of salvation retires completely into the background ” (Weiss), is an unfounded assertion.

Since, then, the epistle is written with the design παρακαλεῖν the Christians, who were enduring affliction for their faith’s sake, the reference to a future and complete salvation

κληρονομία , σωτηρία , δόξα , χάρις ζωής forms, along with the exhortation to a pious Christian walk of life, a chief feature in it, and it is therefore quite natural that the ἐλπίς should appear as the centre of its apostolic παράκλησις (chap. 1 Peter 1:3 ; 1 Peter 1:13 ; 1Pe 1:21 , 1 Peter 3:5 ; 1Pe 3:9 ; 1 Peter 3:15 , 1 Peter 4:13 , 1Pe 5:1 ; 1 Peter 5:4 ; 1 Peter 5:10 ). But although it is peculiar to Peter to gaze on the future completion of salvation with a hope that stretched away beyond the present possession of it, yet we must not on that account seek to draw a distinction between him as the apostle of hope and Paul as the apostle of faith ; and still less, with Weiss, attribute to him a different conception of doctrine in that, whilst according to Paul hope is only a single constituent of faith, Peter saw in faith only “the preliminary step to hope.”


Whilst Weiss considers the doctrinal conception in the epistle as a preliminary step to Paulinism, Pfleiderer, on the other hand, characterizes it as “a Paulinism popularised, and thereby rendered weak and insipid.” In reference to this, the following remarks must be made: (1) Pfleiderer indeed admits that the emphasis laid on the death of Christ as the means of our redemption is a genuinely Pauline feature; at the same time, however, he is of opinion that the death of Christ must be taken here as referring not, as with Paul, to the expiation of the guilt of sin, but only to the removal of a life of sin, and that its redemptory effects can only be considered as morally communicated, in order that it may as a powerful example bring about the resolution to an obedient imitation of Christ. But this is clearly incorrect, for it is apparent from an unprejudiced perusal of the passages in question that redemption from the guilt of sin is viewed as the primary effect of Christ’s death, though there is undoubtedly also reference to its final aim in delivering from the power of sin. How can redemption from a life of sin be conceived of without the forgiveness of sin? The very expression ῥαντισμὸς αἵματος Ἰ . Χ . (1 Peter 1:2 ) is a proof that our author regarded the forgiveness of sin as the effect of the blood of Christ. The idea that man must earn pardon for himself by his own obedient following of Christ, is totally foreign to this epistle. (2) If Pfleiderer asserts that here we have faith presented in an aspect different from that of Paul, inasmuch as its object is not Christ the historical Redeemer from sin, but Christ the Glorified One, it must be urged in reply, that Christian faith, in the nature of it, has reference at once to the abased and to the exalted Christ, to the former because He is exalted, to the latter in that He was made low, and that in this passage also between Paul and the writer of this epistle there was no difference and could be none. (3) In opposition to Pfleiderer’s assertion, that obedience also has for each of the two a different import, inasmuch as, while Paul considers moral obedience to be the fruit of faith, the author of this epistle looks on morality as a particular element of faith itself, it must be remarked, that if obedience be the fruit of faith, it must in germ be contained in faith, that is, be an element of faith. (4) With respect to the πνεῦμα , Pfleiderer admits that it is for both in every way the life-principle of Christianity, only he finds it worthy of notice that in this epistle the communication of the Spirit is not made to stand in any way connected with baptism. But it is clearly a quite unjustifiable demand, that this relation should find expression in the single passage in which reference is made to baptism.

No doubt it cannot be denied that the several particulars of Christian faith, knowledge, and life have received from Paul a fuller development, and as a consequence a clearer definition, than in our epistle; but this can be accounted for as much by the individuality of the two apostles as by the purely hortatory character of this epistle, and is no evidence of the correctness of Pfleiderer’s view.

Hofmann justly remarks: “The epistle contains nothing by which its author can be recognised as the advocate of an … insipid Paulinism, and nothing either which betrays his dependence on Pauline forms of thought.”

The peculiar character of the epistle, by which it is distinguished from the writings of Paul and John, has its origin not in any doctrinal difference, but on the one hand in the individuality of its author, and on the other in its own practical design. Peter does not mean to teach , he is anxious rather to exhort in accordance with his practical mind, [11] as far removed from the dialectic bent of Paul as from the intuitive of John.

The epistle bears further a characteristic impress in the O. T. modes of thought and expression peculiar to it. [12] In none of the writings of the N. T. do we find, comparatively speaking, so numerous quotations from and references to the O. T. (comp. chap. 1Pe 1:16 ; 1 Peter 1:24-25 , 1 Peter 2:3-4 ; 1Pe 2:6-7 ; 1 Peter 2:9-10 ; 1 Peter 2:22-24 , 1 Peter 3:10-14 , 1Pe 4:8 ; 1 Peter 4:17-18 , 1 Peter 5:5 ; 1 Peter 5:7 ). But more than this, the author lives and moves so much in O. T. conceptions, that he expresses his thoughts by preference in O. T. language. When he wishes to set forth the dignity of the Christian church, or to make reference to the future salvation of believers, or to exhort to a walk becoming Christians, he does so for the most part in the manner peculiar to the O. T. Even when he speaks of the death of Christ as the ground of salvation, it is in O. T. language that he lays stress on its significance. And all this without so much as hinting at the specific difference between the O. and N. T. So that all the ideas, more especially, which are in Paul rooted in the clear consciousness of the difference between the two economies: δικαιοῦσθαι ἐκ τῆς πίστεως , υἱοθεσία , the relation of affection between God and Christians as His children, [13] etc., occupy here an entirely subordinate position. Nevertheless the tone of the whole epistle is decidedly Christian, not only in that it is inspired by that spirit to which Christ referred when He said to James and John: “Know ye not what spirit ye are of?” but because there is to be found in it no trace of Mosaic legality, or of the national narrowness peculiar to the Jewish people. The Christian church is a γένος ἐκλεκτόν just in that it is Christian, and not in any way because the greater part of it belongs to the nation of Israel, “into which the others have only been ingrafted.” The Mosaic law is not so much as mentioned, nor does the expression νόμος once occur. No doubt it is strongly insisted upon that Christians should live an holy life; but the obligation is deduced not from any law, but from the fact that they are redeemed from their ματαία ἀναστροφή by the τίμιον αἷμα of Christ, and are born again of seed incorruptible, while, as the means through which they are to procure their sanctification, the πνεῦμα is mentioned, not the legal letter (a γράμμα ). From this it follows that the name “Apostle of the Circumcision” (Weiss), given to Peter, is inappropriate, if it be understood in a sense different from that in Galatians 2:7-8 . It can nowhere be proved from his epistle that circumcision had for Peter any significance whatever for the Christian life. Rather is he penetrated by O. T. ideas only in so far as they obtain their true fulfilment in Christianity, and no allusion whatever is made to those of them which had already found their realization in Christ.

Further, the epistle bears a peculiar character from the traces in it which prove the author to have been an eye-witness and an ear-witness of Christ. Not only does the apostle style himself μάρτυς τῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθημάτων , but the way in which he discourses of the sufferings and glory of Christ is a proof that he speaks from a personal experience, the power of which he himself had directly felt. Nor this alone. Oftentimes in his expressions the very words he had heard from Christ are re-echoed, and hence the many points of accord, especially with the discourses of Christ as these are contained in the synoptic Gospels; cf. chap. 1 Peter 1:4 with Matthew 25:34 ; Matthew 1:8 with John 20:23 ; John 1:10 ff. with Luke 10:24 ; Luke 1:13 with Luke 12:35 ; Luke 2:12 with Matthew 5:10 ; Matthew 2:17 with Matthew 22:21 ; Matthew 3:13-15 with Matthew 10:28 ; Matthew 5:10-11 ; Matthew 4:13-14 , with Matthew 5:12 ; Matthew 5:3 with Matthew 20:25-26 ; Matthew 5:6 with Matthew 23:12 . [14]

[11] Strangely enough, Hofmann takes offence at what is here said, although he himself describes “Peter’s mind as one which directly apprehended the duty of the moment, as the moment presented it, and set about fulfilling it by word and deed without circumlocution or hesitation,” proof evidently of a practical mind.

[12] According to Hofmann, it is not the conception, but the manner of expression, that is that of the O. T.; but is not expression determined by conception?

[13] This, too, Hofmann questions, assigning as his reason chap. 1 Peter 1:17 ; but the expression Father is applied to God in the O. T. also (Isaiah 63:16 ; Jeremiah 31:9 ), without the relation of child being conceived in the same way as it is by Paul.

[14] Hofmann, indeed, disputes that there is here any allusion to the words of Christ; he admits, however, that it is possible that “the expression used by our Lord, Matthew 5:16 , was present to the mind of the apostle when writing 1 Peter 2:12 ;’ and he says: “the ὃν οὐκ ἰδόντες ἀναπᾶτε shows clearly enough that it is written by one who has seen the Lord.” Hofmann is wrong in denying that the words μάρτυς τῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθημάτων , 1 Peter 5:1 , bear the meaning here presupposed. See Hofmann in loc .

Lastly, the epistle shows an unmistakeable kinship with various writings of the N. T. Did this consist merely in the occurrence here and there of single cognate thoughts, conceptions, or expressions, there would still be no proof of interdependence. In the whole of the N. T. writings there is contained a gospel substantially one and the same, and there must have prevailed in the intercourse of believers with one another every allowance being made for diversity in the individual a common mode of thought and expression, which had its origin chiefly in the writings of the O. T. But the affinity which is apparent between the Epistle of Peter and several of the Epistles of Paul and the Epistle of James, goes far beyond this. Among Paul’s writings there are several passages in the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians to which Peter’s epistle stands in a relation of dependence. Almost all the thoughts in Romans 12:13 are to be found repeated in the Epistle of Peter, only here they are scattered throughout the whole letter; and not detached thoughts alone, but whole trains of thought, in which there is a similarity of expression even in what is of secondary moment; cf. from Romans 12:0 , Romans 12:1 with 1 Peter 2:5 , Romans 12:2 with 1 Peter 1:14 , Romans 12:3-8 with 1 Peter 4:10 , Romans 12:9 with 1 Peter 1:22 , Romans 12:10 with 1 Peter 2:17 , Romans 12:13 with 1 Peter 4:9 , more especially Romans 12:14-19 with 1 Peter 3:8-12 ; and from chap. 13, Romans 13:1-7 with 1 Peter 2:13-14 (see on this Weiss, p. 406 ff.). But echoes of other passages in Romans are to be found; cf. Pet. 1 Peter 1:21 with Romans 4:24 ; Pet. 1 Peter 2:24 with Romans 6:18 ; Pet. 1 Peter 3:22 with Romans 8:34 ; Pet. 1 Peter 4:1-2 with Romans 6:7 (here it is not the clauses only which correspond: ὁ παθὼν κ . τ . λ . and ὁ ἀποθανὼν κ . τ . λ ., but the subsequent thought of Peter: εἰς τὸ μηκέτι ἀνθρώπων κ . τ . λ ., answers to the previous idea of Paul: τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν κ . τ . λ .); Pet. 1 Peter 5:1 with Romans 8:18 ; particularly striking is the agreement between Pet. 1 Peter 2:6 and Romans 9:33 (Romans 10:11 ).

The kinship between the Epistle of Peter and that to the Ephesians is based not on single passages only, but at the same time on the composition of the two writings. If our epistle be in superscription and introduction similar to the epistles of Paul, it bears a peculiar resemblance to that to the Ephesians, inasmuch as the thanks expressed in the latter have reference not to the particular circumstances of a special church, but to the common salvation of which the Christians had been made partakers; the formula of thanksgiving, too, is in both literally the same: εὐλογητὸςΘεὸς κ . τ . λ . (thus 2 Cor.). The contents, too, of the epistles present many points of similarity both in the general exhortations to a walk in love towards each other, humility, and meekness, and a renunciation of their former heathenish life in fleshly passions and lusts, and in the special exhortations with respect to domestic relations; further, in the summons to resist the devil, and lastly, in the concluding wish of peace. The following particular passages may be compared with each other: Pet. 1 Peter 1:1 ( ἐκλεκτοῖςκατὰ πρόγνωσιν Θεοῦἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος ) and Ephesians 1:4 ( ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶςπρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου , εἶναι ἡμ . ἁγίους ); Pet. 1 Peter 1:5 and Ephesians 1:19 ; Pet. 1 Peter 1:14 and Ephesians 2:3 ; Pet. 1 Peter 1:18 and Ephesians 4:17 ; Pet. 1 Peter 2:4-5 and Ephesians 2:20-22 ; Pet. 1 Peter 2:18 and Ephesians 6:5 ; Pet. 1 Peter 3:1 and Ephesians 5:22 ; Pet. 1 Peter 3:18 ( προσάγειν ) and Ephesians 2:18 ; Ephesians 3:12 ( προσαγωγή ); Pet. 1 Peter 3:22 and Ephesians 1:20-21 ; Pet. 1 Peter 5:8-9 and Ephesians 6:10 ff. It is also worthy of special remark that in both epistles the goal of the Christian is indicated by the word κληρονομία , and that in both the angel world is represented as standing in a relation to Christ’s work of redemption; cf. Pet. 1 Peter 1:12 and Ephesians 3:10 ; Peter seems to make reference also to Ephesians 4:8-10 .

The similarity between particular passages of Peter’s epistle and Paul’s other epistles is not of such a nature as to warrant the conclusion that there is a dependence of the former on the latter. If, e.g. , Pet. 1 Peter 3:2 , etc., and 1 Timothy 2:9 treat of the ornaments of women, and the order in which the particular objects are brought forward be in both cases the same, this may doubtless be a merely accidental circumstance. Besides, the nomenclature varies.

On the other hand, the agreement between particular passages in the Epistles of James and Peter is of such a kind that it cannot be regarded as accidental; see Pet. 1 Peter 1:6-7 and James 1:2-3 (comp. ἀγαλλιᾶσθε and χάραν ἡγήσασθ ; λυπηθέντες ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς and ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσετε ποικίλοις , and in both passages the identical τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως ); further, Pet. 1 Peter 2:1 and James 1:21 (there: ἀποθέμενοι πᾶσαν κακίαν ; here: ἀποθέμενοι πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν καὶ περισσείαν κακίας ; there: τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα ἐπιποθήσατε ; here, the not very dissimilar thought: δέξασθε τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον ; there, the aim: ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ αὐξηθῆτε εἰς σωτηίαν ; here, the similar thought in the participial clause: τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν ); lastly, Pet. 1 Peter 5:5-9 and James 4:6-7 ; James 4:10 , where in both passages there is the same quotation from the O. T., then the exhortation to humble submission to God, and thereon the summons to withstand the devil; besides this, Pet. 1 Peter 5:6 is almost identical with James 4:10 . [15]

[15] Although several of the citations from the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, and from that of James, might lead to the supposition that the passages in question in Peter’s epistle are not dependent on them (cf. Hofmann, p. 206 ff.), yet, as is fully recognised by Hofmann, that in no way alters the matter itself.

The dependence of Peter’s epistle on the writings already mentioned, whilst it is acknowledged by almost all interpreters (in recent times more especially by Wiesinger, Schott, and Hofmann; in like manner, too, by Ewald, Reuss, Bleek; Guericke’s opinion is doubtful), is denied by Mayerhoff, Rauch, and Brückner. Brückner, while admitting that there still remains the general impression of so many echoes, which always seems to point back to the dependence of Peter’s epistles, is nevertheless of opinion that the similarity can be explained simply from the circumstance that cognate ideas in the minds of the apostles called for cognate terms, especially if there be taken into account the power of primitive Christian tradition on early Christian style, and the prevalent modes of expression which had arisen out of conceptions formed under the influence of the Old Covenant. This result, however, he obtains in the following way:

He resolves the similar thoughts into their several elements; and having directed special attention to these, he lays particular stress on the differences he discovers. This process of separation is of necessity misleading, and if it be not employed, the similarity is so great that there can be no doubt as to the dependence of the one composition on the other. Weiss has demonstrated this at full length with respect to the relation between the Epistle of Peter and those to the Romans (chaps. 12 and 13) and Ephesians. He is wrong, however, when he says that the dependence is on the side of Paul, and not on that of Peter. With regard to Romans 12:13 , it must be remembered (1) That it is entirely improbable that Paul should, quite contrary to his usual custom, have been at the trouble to collect the thoughts here arranged from an epistle where they occur in a quite different connection; whilst there is in itself nothing improbable in the supposition, if he were acquainted with the Epistle to the Romans, and more especially the above chapters, that Peter wrote under the influence of Paul’s expression in the different passages of his epistle, where the course of his own thoughts suggested to him the same ideas. (2) That the views of Weiss necessarily lead to a depreciation of the literary capability of Paul. Weiss himself says that Paul’s dependence on Peter caused him to place in chap. Romans 12:6-7 , διακονία , in the narrower sense, which is “ evidently jarring ,” between the three spiritual gifts; to introduce in Romans 12:11 , “ without any purpose ,” the exhortation τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες ; to put the thought in Romans 12:15 in the wrong place ; and in Romans 12:16 to interpolate the idea quite inappropriately. [16] As to the Epistle to the Ephesians, it must be remarked (1) That no foreign influence can be recognised in it, when compared with the other Pauline Epistles. Its dissimilarity is to be explained from its own individual tendency as a circular letter. (2) That the special peculiarities by which this Epistle is distinguished from the other letters of Paul, even from that to the Colossians, have nothing whatsoever in common with the Epistle of Peter. In addition to this, let it be noted that the independence of Paul, which is apparent in every one of his epistles, stands in sharpest contradiction with the assumption that the apostle was indebted to those passages in Peter’s epistle; whilst, on the other hand, the leaning which Peter had to the O. T. and to the words of Christ, shows that to allow his mode of expression to be shaped by the influence of another was in no way opposed to the peculiar character of his mind, but entirely in harmony with it, as part of a nature “easily determined, receptive, and peculiarly open to personal impressions,” Schott.

[16] Since Weiss himself uses the expressions above quoted, the accusation that he detracts from Paul’s independence is certainly not without justification. If he complain that even in this commentary regard is not paid to “the general considerations” (pp. 403 406 in der Petrin. Lehrbegriff ), we must observe in reply, that general possibilities do not issue in much, more especially when concrete circumstances prevent that being regarded as a reality which is in itself possible.


Weiss, in his essay entitled Die Petrinische Frage , written for the purpose of defending his views on the dependence of the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, against objections raised to them, substantially repeats what he had formerly said, and hardly adduces anything new. In denying that there subsists any relation of dependence between Romans 6:7 and Pet. 1 Peter 4:12 , and between Romans 6:2 ; Romans 6:18 and Pet. 1 Peter 2:24 , Weiss overlooks the fact that the resemblance rests not alone on the two expressions ὁ ἀποθανών and ὁ παθὼν σαρκί , and that his interpretation of ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀπογενόμενοι is an erroneous one. A more minute examination of the several clauses of chaps. 12 and 13 of Romans can result merely in the conclusion, that it is not in itself impossible that this epistle was conceived under the influence of Peter’s letter. But the priority of the latter is not thereby proved. The hortatory design of this epistle explains why it is that Peter has confined himself to these two chapters, and why in his composition are to be found none “of the developments of Christian doctrinal conceptions peculiar to Paul.” Besides, it must be noted that although Peter says nothing of the relation of the νόμος and the ἔργα τοῦ νόμου , he is completely at one with Paul in the fundamental conception that sinful man can obtain salvation only through faith in Christ.

With respect to the affinity between the Epistle of Peter and that to the Ephesians, Weiss himself admits that “evidence for the originality of the Petrine passages can be led with still less strictness from a comparison of details.” Weiss wrongly affirms that the Epistle to the Ephesians is related to that of Peter precisely in those very points which distinguish it from the rest of Paul’s writings. For the peculiar and distinctive character of the Epistle to the Ephesians does not consist only in that it is a circular letter (an assertion which, however, is decidedly denied by many critics, and particularly by Meyer; see his commentary, Einl. § 1), and that its commencement is of an import more general than that of the other Pauline Epistles, but more especially in the whole diction, which, in the rich fulness of its expression, bears an impress different from the rest of the apostle’s writings. That this peculiarity, however, cannot be traced to a knowledge on the apostle’s part of Peter’s epistle, needs not to be proved. When Weiss finds it a characteristic of the Epistle to the Ephesians that its “ethical exhortation culminates in advices for the several stations of life,” he must have forgotten that exactly the same is the case with the Epistle to the Colossians, which plainly was not written under the influence of Peter’s epistle.

The dependence of this epistle on Paul and James is not, as Schott assumes, to be attributed to Peter’s intention to show the agreement of his doctrine with that of these two men. For it is precisely their doctrinal peculiarities which are not echoed in the related passages; and altogether a doctrinal intent is nowhere discernible. It must therefore be assumed that Peter, from his familiarity with these epistles, was so penetrated by their prevailing modes of thought and expression, and the connection of their ideas, that recollections of these, although not unconsciously still involuntarily, [17] became interwoven with his style. Such reminiscences, too, would press themselves upon his mind the more readily in the case of the Epistle to the Ephesians, that it was addressed to the same churches in Asia Minor which Peter felt himself urged to confirm and strengthen in their state of grace. [18]

[17] Schott’s opinion is far-fetched, that Peter’s continual references to the Pauline Epistles arose from his tender anxiety lest he should add to “the disquiet and apprehension of his readers, by giving any direct expression to his apostolic individuality, unknown as it was to them.” He thinks that for this reason Peter had, “without mentioning his intention, unnoticed, and as it were by chance, here and there, sometimes more distinctly and sometimes less so, allowed his readers to hear the well-known voice of their real pastor.”

[18] Hofmann goes too far in maintaining that Peter “purposely” connected his epistle with that to the Ephesians, making the opening passages of the former thus similar to those of the latter, “in order that from the commencement his heathen readers must perceive his intention, and recognise the harmony subsisting between that which was written by the Apostle of the Circumcision and that formerly penned by the Apostle of the Heathen.” This assertion arises from the mistaken views which Hofmann has formed as to the design of the epistle.

With all this dependence, however, the epistle has still its peculiar impress different from that of the epistles of Paul and James. Although it abound in conceptions which are common to all the apostles, there are yet to be found in it not only particular expressions and terms, but also many ideas, which are foreign to the other writings of the N. T. Thus it is distinctive of this epistle, that the work of salvation is characterized as something after which the prophets searched, and into which the angels desired to look (1 Peter 1:10-12 ); that the Christians are called πάροικοι καὶ παρεπίδημοι (1 Peter 2:11 ); that the exhortation to an holy walk is based on this, that thereby the heathen would recognise the groundlessness of their accusations (1 Peter 2:12 , 1 Peter 3:16 ); and that the endurance of wrong is termed a χάρις . Further, peculiar to this epistle are: the exhibition of Christ’s sufferings as a type of their own sufferings for the faith’s sake (1 Peter 2:21 ff.); the idea that Christ has preached to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19 , 1 Peter 4:6 ); the consolation drawn from the similarity of the affliction of the Christian brethren (1 Peter 5:9 ); Sarah, in her subjection to Abraham, held up to women as an example (1 Peter 3:6 ); the comparison drawn between baptism and the flood, and the designation of the former as συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα (1 Peter 3:21 ); the thought that the sufferings of Christ form the beginning of judgment (1 Peter 4:12 ); the exhortation to the elders (1 Peter 5:1-3 ); the term ἀρχιποιμήν as (1 Peter 5:4 ) applied to Christ, etc. It cannot justly be urged against this epistle that it is wanting in logical development of thought. Since the epistle bears an hortatory character, there is nothing to excite surprise when the author makes a transition from more general to more special precepts, and again from more special to more general, and when he, as the spirit moves him, builds now one exhortation, now another, on this or on that fact of redemption, finding here again occasion for fresh admonitions. But that with all this there is no want of a definite train of thought, is proved by the above summary of contents. The style does not abound in aphorisms, like that of the discourses of Jesus and the Epistle of James, but is distinguished by thoughts connected by means of participles, relative pronouns, copulative particles, as in the Pauline Epistles. A peculiarity, too, is to be found in the frequent condensation of several conceptions into a substantival or adjectival idea by means of the definite article (chap. 1Pe 1:3 ; 1 Peter 1:5 ; 1 Peter 1:10 ; 1 Peter 1:12-15 ; 1 Peter 1:17 , etc.); further, the frequent use of the particle ὡς (chap. 1Pe 1:14 ; 1 Peter 1:19 , 1 Peter 2:1 ; 1 Peter 2:5 ; 1 Peter 2:16 , 1 Peter 4:10-11 ; 1 Peter 4:15-16 , 1 Peter 5:3 ); lastly, the construction of the participle, both with an imperative either preceding (1 Peter 1:13-14 ; 1 Peter 1:22 , 1Pe 2:1 ; 1 Peter 2:4 ; 1 Peter 2:16 ) or following it (1 Peter 1:18 ; 1 Peter 1:23 , 1Pe 2:1-2 ; 1 Peter 2:5 ; 1 Peter 2:7 ), as also its employment in an absolute and independent way, without being joined to a particular finite verb ( 1Pe 2:18 , 1 Peter 3:1 ; 1Pe 3:7 ; 1 Peter 3:9 ; 1 Peter 3:16 , 1 Peter 4:8 ).

Whilst de Wette looks on the epistle as hardly worthy of an apostle, others praise, and rightly too, the freshness and vividness of its style, [19] its “richness in Christian doctrine,” and the “noble artlessness which feels itself satisfied and blessed in the simple and believing reception, and calm and quiet possession, of the facts of a divinely given salvation” (Schott).

[19] Grotius: habet haec epistola to τὸ σφοδρόν , conveniens ingenio principis apostolorum. Bengel: mirabilis est gravitas et alacritas Petrini sermonis lectorem suavissime retinens.


Whilst the epistle itself gives no precise information as to who the readers addressed are, its superscription shows them to have been Christians in Asia Minor, more especially those in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia (by which term proconsular Asia is to be understood), and Bithynia; that is to say, the Christians in regions where Paul and his companions, according to his epistles and the Acts of the Apostles, had first preached the gospel and founded the Christian church.

In ancient times the prevalent view was that the epistle was addressed to Jewish-Christians . This opinion was entertained by Eusebius, Didymus, Epiphanius, Hieronymus, Oecumenius, Theophylactus; and among more recent authors, by Erasmus, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, Augusti, Hug, Bertholdt, Pott, and others. Several interpreters, like Wolf, Gerhard, Jachmann, etc., have modified this view, in so far that they hold the epistle to have been written principally (principaliter) no doubt for Jewish-Christians, but in a certain sense (quodammodo) for Gentile-Christians also (fidei interna ac loci externa unitate illis conjunctos). This is the position taken up by Weiss. He assumes that the majority of church members were Jewish-Christians, and that these were regarded by Peter as the real body of the congregations; for this reason, and not thinking of the admixture of heathen which had everywhere taken place, the apostle addresses the Jewish-Christians only . Weiss’ view is very closely bound up with his opinion, that the churches in question had already been founded before the missionary journey of Paul to Asia Minor, by Jews of that region who had been converted at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost or subsequently to it. This assertion, however, is not only without any foundation whatsoever in history, but is opposed to all that is told us of the Apostle Paul’s labours in Asia Minor, in his epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles, inasmuch as there is in neither the smallest hint that when he commenced his work there, a Christian church was in existence anywhere in that land. It is surely inconceivable that Paul should have pursued his missionary work in that region without in any way taking notice of the church already established there, and all the more so if that church had by that time risen to such importance as to draw on itself the persecuting hate of the heathen .

The proofs adduced by Weiss, that the epistle was addressed to Jewish-Christian churches, are as follow: 1. The designation of the readers in the superscription of the letter; 2. The style of expression so strongly based on the O. T.; 3. The occurrence of several passages, namely: chaps. 1 Peter 1:14 ; 1 Peter 1:18 , 1Pe 2:9-10 , 1 Peter 3:6 , 1 Peter 4:3 , which point apparently to Gentile, but in reality to Jewish-Christians as readers. The first proof falls to the ground when the expression ἐκλεκτοὶ παρεπίδημοι διασπορᾶς Πόντου κ . τ . λ . is correctly understood (see comment. to 1 Peter 1:1 ). With regard to the second proof, however, it must be noted that the references to the O. T. were for Gentile-Christians (who of course cannot be conceived of without some acquaintance with the O. T.) not less intelligible than for Jewish-Christians. Paul himself makes frequent enough allusion to the O. T. in his epistles addressed to Gentile-Christians (cf. e.g. 1Co 1:19 ; 1 Corinthians 1:31 ; 1 Corinthians 2:9 ; 1Co 2:16 ; 1 Corinthians 3:19-20 , etc.). [20]

With respect to the third proof, the previous condition of the readers in the passages quoted is not in appearance only, but as a matter of fact, characterized as heathenish, and that not positively simply, but negatively also. For in these verses there is not the faintest intimation that the readers before their conversion had stood, as Israelites, in the covenant relation to God to which Paul invariably makes reference when he speaks to Jews or of them. The whole character of the epistle speaks not against , but much more in favour of the assumption that the churches here addressed, at least the larger part of them, were composed not of Jewish, but of Gentile-Christians. In favour, too, of this view, is the circumstance that these same churches are represented as suffering persecution, not at the hands of the Jews, but of the heathen; which goes to show that the latter did not regard these Christians merely as a sect within Judaism, as would naturally have been the case had they been formerly Jews, or for the most part Jews. The persecuting zeal of the heathen was directed against it only when Christianity began to draw its professors no longer from Judaism chiefly, but from heathendom; and it was not Jewish, but Gentile-Christian churches which were the objects of detestation. Justly, then, did Augustine ( contra Faustum , 12:89) already, and Cassiodorus ( de instit. div. lit. ii. p. 516) later on, Luther and Wetstein, and in recent times Steiger, de Wette, Brückner, Mayerhoff, Wiesinger, Schott, Hofmann, as also Neander, Guericke, Reuss, Lechler, Schaff, Jul. Köstlin, Bleek, and others, pronounce in favour of the opinion that the churches in question must be held to have been composed of Gentile-Christians. The hypothesis of Benson, Michaelis, Credner, and some others, that this epistle is designed for such Gentile-Christians as had before their conversion to Christianity been “Proselytes of the Gate,” is evidently a purely arbitrary one.

[20] Weiss wrongly tries ( die Petrin. Frage , p. 623) to neutralize the evidential value of this remark, by saying “that it does not touch the very pith of his argument, which consists in this, that Peter expressly quotes the O. T., as Paul does only in 1 Peter 1:16 , 1 Peter 2:6 .” For, on the one hand, Paul, too, employs O. T. expressions and phrases without adding γέγραπται or the like, e.g. in the passage above quoted, 1 Corinthians 2:16 . On the other hand, the O. T. expressions employed by Peter without the formula of quotation, are of such a kind as to have been intelligible to the Christians as such, irrespective of whether they formerly had been heathens or Jews; nor do they by any means “presuppose so intimate a knowledge of the O. T. as is conceivable only in those who had formerly been Jews.” With regard to their acquaintance with the O. T., cf. Meyer on Romans 7:1 , where Paul speaks of the Christians, without exception, as γινώσκοντες νόμον .

As to their condition , we gather from the epistle for the most part only, that the churches were at that time exposed to many persecutions at the hands of the heathen, which, however, consisted more in contumelies and revilings than in actual ill-treatment. That these manifold persecutions were instituted by the state cannot, with Hug, Mayerhoff, and Neander, be concluded from the expressions ἀπολογία and κακοποιός in 1 Peter 3:15-16 . Schott’s conjecture, that they were connected with those which arose under Nero, is refuted on the one hand by their character as described in the epistle, and on the other by the testimony of history, which confines the Neronic persecution solely to Rome. A too gloomy picture of the moral condition of the readers must not be drawn from the exhortations given to them relative to the persecutions, although it is not incredible that the shortcomings brought here and there to light by the persecutions may have induced the apostle to compose this epistle; open blame is nevertheless not expressed. Nor is there anything to indicate that the church was disturbed by heretical tendencies, or opposing parties of Jewish and Gentile-Christians.

The notion that Peter was personally acquainted with his readers, is opposed as much by the want of any personal relations on his part to his readers, as by the distinction he makes between himself and those who had proclaimed the gospel to them.

Only one passage (1 Peter 5:13 ) has reference to the place where the epistle was composed. From the circumstance that Peter sends greetings from the church (not from his wife) in Babylon, it may correctly be inferred that during the composition of the epistle he was in that city. But whether by Babylon is to be understood the Babylon properly so called, on the banks of the Euphrates, or Rome rather, the capital of the world, is a question by no means settled as yet (cf. on this the remarks to the passage). It is not at all improbable in itself that Peter was for a time in Babylon proper, and laboured there as an apostle, the less so that from of old, in that very city, there were large Jewish communities, which stood in intimate connection with Jerusalem.

In order to settle more precisely the time of the composition , it must be observed principally (1) That the epistle is directed to Pauline churches; (2) That it presupposes the acquaintance of its author with the Epistle to the Ephesians. If these two points, above proved to be correct, are established, the epistle can neither, as Weiss assumes, have been composed at the beginning of Paul’s third missionary journey, nor, as Brückner conjectures, at the end of it; its origin must be relegated rather to a later date. Assuming that the Epistle to the Ephesians was written by Paul during his captivity at Rome, Wieseler would place the composition of our epistle in the latter part of that captivity. But the following facts militate against this; on the one hand, that the persecutions of the Christians in the provinces of Asia Minor, which occasioned this letter of Peter, are mentioned neither in the Epistle to the Ephesians nor in that to the Colossians; and, on the other, that in the former there is no reference to those false teachers whose appearance these epistles presuppose. Peter, too, if he had composed his epistle at that time, would certainly not have left the imprisonment of Paul unnoticed, the more especially that he was writing to a Pauline church. The letter can have been composed, then, only after the two years’ imprisonment of Paul in Rome. Ewald and Hofmann are of opinion that it was written immediately after his release from captivity. But it is more than improbable that an epistle addressed to a Pauline church was composed when Paul was still alive and engaged in work. If such had been the case, Peter would certainly not have omitted to specify the relation in which he stood to Paul, and the motive which induced him to write to a Pauline church, since by so doing he was evidently encroaching by his apostolic labours on the missionary territory of Paul. [21] Accordingly, it must be assumed that the epistle was not written until after Paul had been removed by martyrdom from the field of apostolic labour, and withal at a time when this fact had become known to the churches, otherwise Peter could not have passed it over in silence. We must agree, then, with those critics who place the composition of the epistle in the closing years of Peter’s lifetime, at the earliest in the year 66 (as Reuss, Bleek, Wiesinger, Schott). If Peter died under Nero, that is, about the year 67 A.D., the period which extends from the Neronic persecution of the Christians and the death of Paul especially as he suffered martyrdom soon after the conflagration in Rome, 64 A.D. to the time when this epistle was composed, is long enough to allow of it seeming natural that Peter in his epistle should leave those two events unnoticed. [22]

[21] Hofmann’s remark is singular: that those only were guilty of an interference who attempted to turn away from Paul the Gentile-Christian churches founded by him, and that Peter would only have been guilty of an encroachment if he had aimed at forming a number of Gentile-Christian churches.

[22] The opposite view (Hofmann’s), that the epistle was written between the autumn of the year 63 and that of 64, is based on assumptions, the correctness of which cannot be proved. Hofmann supposes that immediately after Paul’s release Peter undertook the journey from Jerusalem to Rome, passing through Asia Minor by way of Ephesus, withal “in order that he might restrain those whose enmity towards Paul threatened to produce a dissension which would have been specially injurious to the church of the world’s capital;” further, that during this journey he became acquainted with the Epistle to the Ephesians, with which he “purposely” connected his own; and that he took Mark, who was with him when he composed his epistle, away with him from Ephesus, “because, that of all the Jewish converts who, without belonging to the company of the apostle of the Gentiles, were preaching Christ in Rome at the time of Paul’s imprisonment, he was perhaps the only one whose conduct towards Peter was influenced by love instead of by jealousy and enmity;” that, immediately upon his arrival at Rome, he wrote his epistle. All these suppositions are purely fictions, nor can the slightest trace of them be found in the Epistle of Peter.

All that we learn from the epistle as to the circumstances in which the churches in question were placed, and in particular, respecting the persecutions to which they were exposed, is in harmony with this date. For although the Christians had to suffer persecution even during the time of Paul’s missionary labours (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 ; 1Th 2:14 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:4 , etc.), yet this was by no means so generally the case a statement Hofmann unjustly calls in question as our epistle seems to presuppose, but took place for the most part then only when the heathen were instigated by the Jews (Acts 17:5 ; Acts 18:12 ), or by particular individuals to whose interests Christianity was opposed (cf. Acts 16:16 ff; Acts 19:23 ff.). And albeit Tacitus records that the Christians, even so early as the burning of Rome, were the “odium humani generis” and “per flagitia invisi,” they could have begun to be so only after Christianity had shown itself a power capable of advancing on heathendom and convulsing it. This it became only in consequence of Paul’s missionary labour; and Weiss is not justified in taking advantage of the fact to support his views as to the early date of composition. On the other hand, the epistle shows that, at the time of its origin, the hostility of the Gentiles towards Christianity had not risen to such a height that the heathen authorities sought to suppress that religion as a religio nova fraught with danger to the state, but had confined itself as yet to slanders and the like, to which the heathen population were incited for the reasons given in chap. 4 All this, in like manner, harmonizes with the date above mentioned. Weiss concludes that the epistle belongs to a time considerably earlier, from the following circumstances: “that these sufferings were for the Christians still something new, at which they wondered;” and “that to the heathen it was a thing novel and strange that the Christians should renounce their vicious life;” and from this also, that “the apostle still expresses the naïve (!) hope that the heathen, on becoming better acquainted with the holy walk of the Christians, would cease from their enmity, as having arisen from ignorance.” The conclusion, however, is unwarranted, the more so that, on the views above expressed as to the origin of the churches of Asia Minor and the date of the epistle’s composition, the time during which the churches had existed was even shorter than on the theory supported by Weiss; according to the latter, they had already been in existence for about twenty years; according to the former, for only about fifteen. Under these circumstances, which he has omitted to take into account, Weiss can naturally draw nothing favourable to his own opinions from the expression occurring in chap. 1 Peter 2:2 : ἀρτιγέννητα βρέφη . The mention, too, of the νεώτεροι , in contrast to the πρεσβύτεροι (chap. 1 Peter 5:5 ), is not evidence that the epistle was composed at an earlier date, for there is no proof that such νεώτεροι were no longer to be found in the churches of Asia Minor, say, ten years after the time mentioned by Weiss. But the chief reason which Weiss adduces as proof that the churches in question were not Gentile-Christian, but Judaeo-Christian communities which had already been in existence before the apostolic career of Paul, and that Peter’s epistle had been written before the literary labours of the former had commenced, is his own affirmation, that the doctrinal system of Peter’s epistle “is preparatory to that of Paul.” This assertion, in itself erroneous and opposed to the real state of the case (cf. more particularly Jul. Köstlin, “Einheit und Mannigfaltigkeit in d. neutest. Lehre,” in the Jahrb. für deutsche Theologie , 1858), can be brought as evidence of the early composition of the epistle, the less that it in no way admits of proof that Paul became acquainted with the opinions of Peter by means only of this epistle, and that Peter afterwards renounced his own system for that of Paul. From the presence of Silvanus and Mark with Peter at the time he composed this epistle, nothing with any exactitude can be concluded, since the former is mentioned in Acts 18:5 as the companion of Paul; the latter, although he was in Rome (Colossians 4:10 ) during Paul’s first imprisonment, and during the second (2 Timothy 4:11 ) in Asia Minor, may have been with Peter at any other time.


The epistle is one of the writings of the N. T. the authenticity of which is most clearly established from antiquity. Although in the works of the Apostolic Fathers, Clemens Romanus, Barnabas, and Ignatius, there are no formal citations from the epistle, but only echoes of it, the direct reference of which cannot with certainty be established, still, on the other hand, it is undeniable, not only that it is mentioned in the so-called Second Epistle of Peter, but that Polycarp also quotes verbatim several passages from it, thus justifying the remark of Eusebius ( H. E . iv. 14), that Polycarp had already made use of it; we have it likewise on the testimony of Eusebius that Papias did the same in his work, λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξεγήσεις . Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clemens Alex., Origen, Cyprian, quote passages from the epistle with direct reference to it by name, and that without the smallest hint that there had ever a doubt been entertained as to its genuineness. It is found also in the older Peschito , which contains only the three catholic epistles. Eusebius justly, then, numbers it with the Homologumena. In the so-called Muratorian Canon our epistle is doubtless not definitely quoted, but the passage to which reference is made is not of such a nature that it can be used to impugn the authenticity of the epistle. [23] The words of Leontius of Byzantium do not prove that Theodoret of Mopsuestia disbelieved in its genuineness ( contr. Nestor, et Eutych. iii. 14), on which Theodorus: “ob quam causam, ut arbitror, ipsam epistolam Jacobi et alias deinceps aliorum catholicas abrogat et antiquat.” The fact, however, that the Paulicians, according to the testimony of Petrus Siculus ( Hist. Manich . p. 17), rejected it, plainly does not affect the question.

[23] The passage runs thus: Epistola sane Judae et superscripti Johannis duas in catholica habentur. Et sapientia ab amicis Salomonis in honorem ipsius scripta. Apocalypsis etiam Johannis et Petri tantum recipimus, quam quidem ex nostris legi in ecclesia nolunt. Hug, who looks upon the whole document as a translation from the Greek, puts a full stop after Johannis, and connects the words Apocalypsis etiam Johannis with what precedes; he regards tantum as a misunderstood translation of μόνην , and quam quidem (or quidam) = ἧς παρέξ τινες . Guericke agrees with Hug, only with this difference, that instead of ἧς παρέξ τινες , he considers ἥν τινες to be the original text. Wieseler likewise unites the first words with the preceding passage, and then reads: quem quidam, so that the sense is: “Of Peter also we accept as much (as of John, who was previously mentioned, i.e. two epistles and an Apocalypse), which some amongst us would not allow to be read in the church.” Dietlein’s conjecture and explanation is still simpler ( die kath. Briefe , Th. I. p. 47). According to it, instead of Apocalypsis, there should be “Apocalypses,” and the passage would be translated: “Furthermore, of Apocalypses we accept only those of John and Peter, which (latter) some amongst us would not allow to be read in the church.” Thiersch’s change of “tantum” into “unam epistolam,” and of the words “quam quidem” into “alteram quidam,” is rather too bold. According to Hofmann, the epistle is not alluded to in the Fragment; he, like Hug, accepts an original Greek document, and takes the first half of the passage to say of the Epistle of Jude, and of the two as stated in the superscription by John (consequently the first is not included, for it has no superscription), that they are valued in the church as utterances of wisdom written by friends of Solomon ( i.e. Christ) to his honour; in the second part of the passage he understands the writer to say: we so far accept the revelations both of John and Peter, as, indeed, some of us will not allow them to be read in the church.

In more recent times, Cludius ( Uransichten des Christenthums ) was the first to deny the epistle’s genuineness on grounds, however, entirely insufficient, the weightiest of them being, that in thought and expression it bears a too great similarity to the Pauline Epistles ever to have been composed by Peter. This is what brought Eichhorn to the hypothesis that the epistle was written by some one who had for a long time been connected with Paul, and had consequently adopted his current ideas and phrases. But as this cannot be applicable to Peter, and yet as all worth must not be denied to ecclesiastical tradition, Eichhorn goes further, and concludes that Peter supplied the material, but that Mark worked it up into the epistle before us. [24] Bertholdt, while justly rejecting this hypothesis, has defended the opinion hinted at already by Hieronymus, and more definitely expressed by Baronius, that the epistle was not originally written in Greek (but in Aramaic; according to Baronius, in Hebrew), and translated by an interpreter (Baronius holds by Mark, Bertholdt by Silvanus) into Greek. But this hypothesis is not less arbitrary than that of Eichhorn; for, on the one hand, it is an assertion incapable of proof that Peter could not have been familiar with the Greek language; and, on the other, as much the entire diction of the epistle as the harmony with the corresponding passages in the epistles of Paul and James, and the whole manner of quotation from the O. T., are evidence against any other than a Greek original. De Wette speaks with some vacillation as to the genuineness. [25] He recognises, indeed, the weight of the external testimony, and thinks it would be hazardous in the face of it to condemn the epistle as spurious; yet still he is of opinion that its character is evidence rather against than for its genuineness, especially on account of its want of distinctive features, and the reminiscences of the epistles already repeatedly mentioned. In reply, it must be urged that the epistle is in no wise wanting in individual impress, and that the writings referred to, if Peter had read and become familiar with them, might have left such an impression on him that echoes of them should be discernible without this in any way interfering with a free and independent development of thought, or standing in contradiction to the personal and apostolic character of the composition. That the Tübingen school should hold this epistle to be spurious, was of course to be expected from its views respecting the apostolic and post-apostolic age. [26] The reasons which Schwegler urges against the genuineness are the following: (1) The want of any definite external occasion, and the general character of its contents and aim.

But such a want is not apparent, and the general character is to be explained, partly by the fact that the apostle was personally unacquainted with the members of the church, and partly by the designation of the epistle as a circular letter. (2) The want of any literary or theological character bearing the impress of individuality.

It has, however, been shown in § 2, that in the epistle there is no want of individuality; but that this must necessarily be as sharply defined as in Paul and John, is an unwarrantable demand. (3) The want of any inner connection of thought.

But the tendency of the epistle is opposed to any such “firm, definite progression of thought” as Schwegler demands, and as is to be found in the Pauline Epistles. (4) It was impossible that Peter, while labouring in the far East at a time and in a region destitute of any means of literary communication, could have had in his hand the later epistles of Paul supposing these to be genuine so short a time after their composition.

But in Peter’s epistle there are no echoes of the latest of Paul’s epistles. It cannot be denied that between the composition of this epistle and that to the Ephesians, a period of time elapsed sufficiently long to allow of the possibility of Peter’s having become acquainted with the latter; nor will it be disputed that even before his residence in Babylon Peter might have known it. (5) The impossibility on the assumption of its having been composed in Babylon of harmonizing the Neronic persecution, presupposed in the epistle, with the martyrdom of Peter in Rome during that persecution.

But the supposition that the persecution here referred to was the Neronic, finds no support in the epistle; nor is it by any means a necessary assumption for “the friends of the conservative school of historians, and a positive criticism,” that the persecution referred to be the Neronic.

For his theory, that the epistle was written in post-apostolic times, and withal under Trajan, Schwegler chiefly depends (here Pfleiderer agrees with him) on this, that the persecution presupposed in the epistle is not the Neronic, but the Trajanic; and for the truth of his assertion he brings the following proofs: (1) The calm, unimpassioned tone of the epistle as contrasted with the impression which the Neronic persecution made upon the Christians. (2) Under Nero the Christians were persecuted, inasmuch as they were accused of participation in fire-raising, that is to say, on account of a definite crime; but at the time of this letter they suffered persecution as Christians ( Ὡς ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΟΊ ), on whom suspicion was sought to be thrown on account of their general behaviour ( Ὡς ΚΑΚΟΠΟΙΟΊ ). (3) It is incapable of proof, and incredible, that the Neronic persecution extended beyond Rome. (4) The epistle takes for granted investigations, with regular trial and under legal forms; whilst the Neronic persecution was a tumultuary act of popular law. (5) The position of Christianity in Asia Minor, presupposed in the epistle, corresponds with the description of it given in Pliny’s letter to Trajan.

Of all these, however, this one point alone must be conceded, that the persecution referred to cannot be regarded as due directly to the burning of Rome all the other assertions being based simply on arbitrary assumptions or on false interpretations. [27] It is also entirely out of place for Schwegler to understand the formula of salutation (1 Peter 5:12 ) symbolically, so as to find in it the expression of the later church tradition “as to the presence of Peter in Rome, along with his ἑρμενευτής Mark,” and to assert that 1 Peter 5:2 points to an ecclesiastico-political constitution(!) which had overspread the whole of Christendom, and to the sway of hierarchical tendencies(!) which had already forced their way into it. Schwegler sees the real design of the epistle expressed in the passage 1 Peter 5:12 , according to which “it is simply the attempt on the part of one of Paul’s followers to reconcile the two opposing schools of Peter and Paul, by putting into the mouth of Peter, as testimony to the orthodoxy of his fellow-apostle Paul, a somewhat Petrine-coloured presentation of the Pauline system.” Schwegler seeks to establish this hypothesis, which even Pfleiderer calls in question, thus: that, on the one hand, in the epistle are to be found “almost all the chief conceptions and fundamental ideas” of Paul; on the other, the latter’s doctrine of justification is wanting, and thoughts, views, and expressions occur which are peculiar to Petrinism. It is not to be denied that Schwegler, in carrying out his idea, has sought out every point which could in any way be used in its favour; his labour, however, has been in vain the untenableness of the hypothesis being too apparent. For if the maintenance of the churches in the gospel preached to them be a matter obviously near to the apostle’s heart, yet in its whole composition there is no justification for the assertion that the epistle has for its aim a conciliatory design which is nowhere apparent in it. How strange that the matter of chief moment should be, not the exhortations of which the epistle is composed, but something entirely different nowhere expressed in it, not even in 1 Peter 5:5 ! How can a Paulinism be conceived of from which the very pith is wanting, the doctrine of justification by faith, with its characteristic terminology: δικαιοσύνη and ΔΙΚΑΙΟῦΣΘΑΙ ? Precisely the absence of this doctrine, and the other points which Schwegler brings forward as evidence of a Petrine colouring, show that the epistle cannot have been composed by one who belonged to the school of Paul, but must be the production of Peter, or of one of his disciples. [28] Lastly, opposed to Schwegler’s hypothesis as to the post-apostolic origin of the epistle, is the circumstance that it is hardly conceivable how a forger should have attempted to palm off on definitely formed churches , some fifty years after his death, a letter professing to have been written by Peter, in which they are comforted in their present affliction; and that he should have been so successful, that the fraud was detected by no one in the churches (comp. against Schwegler, in particular Brückner, Introd. § 5 a ).

Although the characteristic traits which Krummacher ( Evangel. Kirchenzeitung , 1829, No. 49), and after him Guericke, brings as proof of the genuineness, namely, “the manner of exhortation, so human and evangelical, so strong and gentle; the urgent directions to stedfastness of faith in lowliness and patience, with reference to the example and the glory of Christ; the urgent appeals to more watchfulness and sobriety the higher their calling as believers; the repeated summonses to humility; the way in which the general aim is kept in view; the clearness, precision, and emphatic character of the style,” these characteristic features, although in themselves they do not prove Peter to have been the author of the epistle, still show that it breathes an apostolic spirit such as is not peculiar to post-apostolic writings, and that in its inward structure there is nothing to justify a doubt as to its genuineness.

[24] Ewald’s assertion is no less arbitrary, that Peter, not being able to speak and write Greek fluently, employed Silvanus to write the epistle.

[25] Reuss, too ( Gesch. d. heil. Schriften N. T. ), while no doubt recognising that the tradition of the church from the earliest times unanimously pronounces Peter to be the author, still thinks that there is much in the epistle (more especially its dependence on the Pauline Epistles already mentioned, without any understanding of the system of Paul) which appears strange as coming from Peter. He himself, however, attempts to refute his own objections, though without being able to make up his mind to acknowledge decidedly the authenticity of the epistle.

[26] Pfleiderer’s opinion, that the Apostle Peter was in favour of a Judaic Christianity, whilst the epistle expresses a feeble and insipid Paulinisra peculiar to later times (see on this § 2, p. 16 f.), must necessarily lead him to deny the authenticity also.

[27] In opposition to Schwegler, it must be remarked (1) The passionless tone would remain equally admirable in the Trajanic persecution as under that of Nero; any other style would have been hardly becoming an apostle. (2) From the first, and not under Trajan alone, the Christians had to suffer from the very fact of their being Christians. (3) Although the persecution of Nero, i.e. the one which he himself instituted, did not extend beyond Rome, still in his day the Christians might, through the hatred of the people, have had to endure persecution in the provinces as well. (4) No mention is made in our epistle of any judicial persecution of the Christians according to legal form. (5) The description given in Pliny’s letter does not prove that the persecution mentioned here was that under Trajan; in the latter, the Christians were punished formally with death ; whilst there is nothing in our epistle to show that such took place in the former.

[28] Namely, the great stress laid on καλὰ ἔργα , on ἀγαθὴ ἀναστροφή , on ἀγάπη (!), on ἀγαθοποιεῖν , on ἐλπίς , as a dogmatic fundamental idea synonymous with πίστις ; the symbolizing of the Jewish temple and sacrificial services; the conception of Christians as the true Messianic people; the introduction into the new covenant of the idea of the O. T. priesthood; the expression διασπορά in the superscription.

Πέτρου ἐπιστολὴ α [29]

[29] Buttmann has retained the Rec. ἡμῖν δέ , after B, as he asserts. De Wette holds the Rec. to be the original reading, it being natural that the apostle should include himself, and οἷς rather than ἃ … ὑμῖν would be expected after ὑμῖν ; Brückner justly gives preference to the opposing testimony.

Instead of this superscription, which A C א have, B reads Πέτρου αʹ ; in some min. it is: Πέτρου καθολικὴ πρώτη ἐπιστολή , and in G: ἐπιστολὴ καθολικὴ α [30] τοῦ ἁγίου καὶ πανευφήμου ἀποστόλου Πέτρου .

[30] Buttmann has retained the Rec. ἡμῖν δέ , after B, as he asserts. De Wette holds the Rec. to be the original reading, it being natural that the apostle should include himself, and οἷς rather than ἃ … ὑμῖν would be expected after ὑμῖν ; Brückner justly gives preference to the opposing testimony.