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- 1 Peter
by Joseph Exell
1. AUTHENTICITY OF THE EPISTLE.
THERE are modern writers who describe the teaching of this Epistle as "an insipid Paulinism." To the believer it is one of the most precious parts of Holy Scripture. It is characterized by a depth of conviction, a vivid realization of the spiritual blessings, the living hope, the abiding joy, which spring from a true faith in Christ; by a firm grasp of the necessity of reality in the Christian life, of resolute self-denial and patient obedience; by a deep and true sympathy with suffering Christians; by a steadfast faith in the Lord's atonement and the power and preciousness of his example; by an earnest presentation of the duties of humility, brotherly love, endurance, trustfulness, perseverance; by a calm and holy wisdom, worthy of the first of the apostles, worthy of him to whom the Lord had given the significant name of Peter, who "seemed to be a pillar" (Galatians 2:9) of the rising Church.
1. Internal Evidence.
The writer describes himself as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ." The Epistle itself bears witness to the truth of the superscription. He places the great word "elect" in the forefront of his Epistle. St. Peter had heard that word three times from the Lord's lips in the solemn prophecy of coming judgment (Mark 13:20, Mark 13:22, Mark 13:27). He was present when Christ pronounced his blessing on those who had not seen, but yet had believed (John 20:29); he almost echoes the Savior's words in 1 Peter 1:8. The Lord had said, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;" St. Peter bids us "gird up the loins of your mind" (1 Peter 1:13). The Lord told his apostles that he came "to give his life a ransom for many;" St. Peter reminds us "that we are redeemed... with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18). The description of Christ in 1 Peter 1:19 as "a Lamb without blemish and without spot," reminds us that Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, who first brought him to Jesus, was one of those two disciples of John the Baptist who heard their master say, "Behold the Lamb of God!" The words ἀγαλλια῀σθε and παρακυìψαι in 1 Peter 1:6 and 12 remind us of Matthew 5:12 and Luke 24:12. The Lord had spoken of the kingdom prepared from "the foundation of the world;" he had said, "This is my commandment, that ye love one another;" St. Peter repeats his Master's words in 1 Peter 1:20, 1 Peter 1:22. The Lord had applied to himself the words of the hundred and eighteenth psalm, the prophecy of the stone which the builders rejected; St. Peter quotes the same psalm in 1 Peter 2:7, and, as if his thoughts went back to that solemn hour when, immediately after his great confession, he incurred through his mistaken affection the Lord's severe rebuke, he reproduces the word which was then applied to himself, σκαìνδαλον, "an offence" (1 Peter 2:8). The Lord had told him that he was Peter, a stone; he had spoken of his Church which he would build upon the rock; St. Peter describes all Christ's faithful people as "living stones, built up a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). The Lord had spoken of "the day of visitation" of Jerusalem (Luke 19:44); St. Peter echoes his words in 1 Peter 2:12. In Mark 1:25 and 4:39 — the Gospel which was in all probability written under St. Peter's direction — we read the remarkable word φιμου῀ν (φιμωìθητι πεφιìμωσο); the apostle uses the same word in 1 Peter 2:15. In 1 Peter 2:19 "this is thankworthy" seems an echo of Luke 6:32, and "suffering wrongfully" of Matthew 5:39. The Lord had said," Then are the children free," and yet had consented to pay the half-shekel for the service of the temple, in accordance with St. Peter's promise; the apostle teaches that Christians are free, and yet that they should submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake. He had seen the Lord Jesus gird himself with a towel, and wash the apostles' feet; he bids his readers gird themselves with humility, to tie it round them like a close-fitting apron (1 Peter 5:5). The Lord had said that he had given the apostles an example (John 13:15); he had again and again bidden them to come after him, to follow him; St. Peter tells us that Christ left "us an example, that ye should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). St. Peter may have seen the mocking and the scourging when the disciple whom Jesus loved took him into the high priest's hall; he speaks of the reviling and the stripes, using a remarkable word (μωìλωψ), which seems to picture the bloody weals rising under the cruel lash. In 1 Peter 2:25 he speaks of "sheep going astray," and of "the Shepherd of your souls," and in 1 Peter 5:4 of the chief Shepherd, as if the Lord's words in Matthew 9:36 and 18:12, 13, and the precious allegory of the Good Shepherd recorded afterwards by St. John, were still fresh in his memory. In 1 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:14 we seem to see two allusions to the sermon on the mount (comp. Matthew 5:39, Matthew 5:10). The Lord had dwelt on the solemn warnings of the Deluge in Matthew 24:37, Matthew 24:38; St. Peter does the same in 1 Peter 3:20, where his statement that only "few were saved" seems also a reminiscence of Luke 13:23. The words, "as good stewards," in 1 Peter 4:10, bring to our thoughts Luke 12:42. In vers. 11, 13, 14 of the same chapter we again see three allusions to the Lord's great sermon (comp. Matthew 5:16, Matthew 5:12, Matthew 5:10); while in Ver. 19, where the apostle bids the suffering Christians to commit (παρατιθεìσθωσαν) the keeping of their souls to God, we seem to hear the Savior's dying words, "Father, into thy hands I commend (παρατιìθεμαι) my spirit." When in 1 Peter 5:2 St. Peter urged the presbyters to "feed the flock of God," he must have had in his thoughts the solemn words addressed to himself by the risen Lord (John 21:16). Ver. 3 of the same chapter, "neither as being lords over God's heritage," reminds us of Matthew 20:25. And in vers. 7, 8, 9 we seem to see reminiscences of the sermon on the mount (comp. Matthew 6:25, Matthew 6:28; Matthew 5:25; and 7:25).
These and other similar coincidences with the Lord's words as reported in the Gospels are so simple and unaffected, they seem to come so naturally to the writer's thoughts, that we are led at once to infer that that writer must be one who, like St. John, could declare to others that which he had heard, which he had seen with his eyes. Some of them point in an especial manner to the Apostle St. Peter as the writer of the Epistle. The argument is strengthened by the resemblances which exist between the language and teaching of the Epistle and the speeches of St. Peter recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The first of those speeches begins with a reference to prophecy (Acts 1:16); the great Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2:0. is full of prophecy; so is the speech in Solomon's porch, reported in Acts 3:0.; in Acts 10:43 St. Peter again refers to the witness of the prophets. This constant appeal to prophecy comes naturally from the mouth of the apostle who took the view of Old Testament prophecy which we have in 1 Peter 1:10-12 of our Epistle. In Ver. 17 of the same chapter St. Peter warns his readers that God judgeth according to every man's work without respect of persons; he had said long before, when he received Cornelius the centurion into the Christian Church, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). In Ver. 20 the word "foreknown" (προεγνωσμεìνον) recalls the expression used by St. Peter on the great Day of Pentecost," The determinate counsel and foreknowledge (προγνωìσει) of God" (Acts 2:23). And in the latter part of the same verse the words, "in these last times," remind us of "the last days," St. Peter's variation of the Prophet Joel's words, in Acts 2:17. In vers. 3, 21, as also in 1 Peter 3:21, St. Peter dwells on the resurrection of Christ as he had done in his speeches (Acts 2:32-36; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10). In 1 Peter 2:4 he quotes Psalms 118:0.; he had used the same quotation in his speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:11). The words, "whereunto also they were appointed," of 1 Peter 2:8 remind us somewhat, of Acts 1:16. The precept, "Honor all men," of 1 Peter 2:17, finds a parallel in Acts 10:28. The somewhat uncommon word used in 1 Peter 2:18, occurs also in St. Peter's speech (Acts 2:40). In the same chapter (Ver. 24) St. Peter speaks of the cross as the tree (τοÌ ξυìλον); he had done so in two of his speeches (Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39). 1 Peter 3:18, where he insists on the righteousness of Christ, brings to our thoughts his words in Acts 3:14. In 1 Peter 4:5 the words, "to judge the quick and the dead," remind us of Acts 10:42. In 1 Peter 5:1 he describes himself as a witness of the life and death of Christ, as he had done in Acts 3:15 and 10:41. He uses the word κλη῀ρος in 1 Peter 5:3 and also in Acts 1:17; Acts 8:21. The words "exhorting and testifying," in 1 Peter 5:12, remind us of the description of St. Peter's addresses in Acts 2:40. St. Peter described the Law as a yoke "which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (Acts 15:10); we notice that he never mentions the Law in his Epistles. There is also a general resemblance in style between the speeches and the Epistles.
St. Peter's style is such as we might expect, full of vivacity, testifying to a strong character, warm affections, and a deep assured conviction. But in the Epistle the original impetuosity and self-confidence of the apostle is seen softened by years, by the lessons of experience, by sustained effort to follow the example of the Savior whom he loved so dearly, by the gracious help of the Holy Spirit, given, as it always is given, in answer to faithful prayer. He speaks with the authority of an apostle, but with the gentleness of one who knew the power of temptation and the difficulty of steadfastness, with the humility of one who well remembered how he himself had fallen. His words are forcible, but simple; he has no trains of reasoning, nothing of the subtle logic of St. Paul, but goes straight to the point. On the other hand, his style is less sententious than that of St. James; his sentences are connected by relatives or particles; in particular the particle ὡς is of very common occurrence; the frequent use of the participle in an imperative sentence should also be noticed (see especially 1 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 4:8). He has a few leading thoughts, which he enforces again and again with intense earnestness. His whole mind is evidently filled with recollections of the Old Testament; he uses its words constantly; often, it seems, almost unconsciously, without marks of quotation — he has by long study so assimilated the sacred words that they have become the natural expression of his thoughts.
2. External Evidence.
The external evidence for the authenticity of the Epistle is very strong. The Second Epistle is allowed, even by those who question its Petrine authorship, to be a writing of the second century, and it bears witness to the First. The earliest Christian writers were not accustomed to quote the books of the New Testament by name, or to reproduce the words with exactness. Hence we do not expect to find formal quotations of our Epistle in the apostolic Fathers. But in Clement of Rome there are more than fifteen references to it; some clear and certain, such as "his marvelous light;" others less marked. In Polycarp's 'Epistle to the Philippians' (and Polycarp was bishop of one of the Churches addressed by St. Peter) there are so many undoubted quotations from this Epistle that the modern assailants of its authenticity have no resource but to attack (without any sufficient grounds) the genuineness of Polycarp's epistle. Eusebius tells us that the Epistle was used by Papias. There are manifest traces of it in the 'Shepherd' of Hermas, in Justin Martyr, and Theophilns of Antioch. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian quote it expressly, often by name. Origen refers to it frequently, and says expressly that it was accepted by all as genuine. Eusebius places it among those canonical Scriptures which are universally acknowledged. It is contained in the Peschito and the Old Latin versions. The Muratorian Canon mentions only an Apocalypse of Peter, "which some will not have read in the Church." But that document is so fragmentary that little weight can be attached to its omission of St. Peter's Epistles.
The genuineness of the Epistle has been questioned by certain modern critics, as Eichhorn, De Wette, Baur, Schwegler, Hilgenfeld, etc., chiefly on the following grounds:
(1) Its resemblance to the Epistles of St. Paul;
(2) its supposed want of originality;
(3) because the description of the persecutions is regarded as indicating a later date;
(4) the supposed absence of a sufficient occasion.
In answer to these objections, it may be urged:
(1) It is true that this Epistle has many points of contact with St. Paul's Epistles, especially the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, as well as with that of St. James. But why should not apostles study the writings of other apostles, as Daniel had studied the writings of other prophets (Daniel 9:2)? St. Luke was acquainted with earlier Christian records. St. Peter, when he wrote (as we fully believe he did write) the Second Epistle, had read the Epistle of St. Jude, as well as several of St. Paul's letters. St. Paul had communicated his gospel to "them which were. of reputation" at Jerusalem. St. Peter, who was one of them, would be sure to take the deepest interest in such writings of St. Paul as might at any time become known to him through Silvanus or any other source; he would be sure to make use of them when writing to Churches which had been founded through the instrumentality of St. Paul. The many admitted coincidences furnish no argument against the genuineness of the Epistle, except to those who, like Baur, regard the Clementine Recognitions and Homilies as giving a true account of the state of things in the early Church, and exaggerate the original differences between the two apostles into an irreconcilable opposition. But it is by no means correct to describe the teaching of this Epistle as "insipid Paulinism." St. Peter's mode of presenting Christian doctrine is not that of St. Paul. He does not insist, as St. Paul does, on the doctrine of justification by faith only; he contemplates the death of Christ from a somewhat different point of view; his teaching on the subject of baptism has not a Pauline coloring. The great truths axe the same; they axe regarded in a somewhat different aspect.
(2) There is no want of originality. The writer is evidently a man of independent thought; he has several conceptions which are specially his own. Such are the Lord's preaching in the spirit-world; the priesthood of all Christians, which is also characteristic of the Revelation of St. John; the view of the Deluge as a figure of Christian baptism; the reference to Sarah as an example to Christian wives; the presentation of ancient prophecy; the interest taken by the angels in the work of redemption; the enforcement of holiness as a means for convincing the heathen. The many words peculiar to the Epistle (there are about sixty such, several of them picturesque and unusual) furnish another indication of originality.
(3) It is true that believers are described as suffering as Christians; but the Epistle does not exhibit any systematic effort of the Roman magistrates to extirpate Christianity. There is no mention of formal trials; for the ἀπολογιìα of 1 Peter 3:15 is not a defense before a court of law, or an apology offered to an emperor or magistrate, but simply an answer such as any true Christian ought to be able to give to those who ask for the reasons of his hope in Christ. Again, there is no evidence in the Epistle of actual martyrdom; the sufferings mentioned in it do not seem to have reached unto death. The apostle even speaks as if blamelessness of life might soften the enemies of the faith (1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 3:16). On the whole, the Epistle indicates, not a systematic persecution like that under Trajan, but such a state of things as might be expected to exist in the provinces after the Neronian persecution of A.D. 64. The fury of that persecution was limited to Rome. The Christians were accused of the definite offence of having caused the great conflagration, and were punished for their supposed guilt. It is morally certain that the outburst of hatred kindled in the imperial city must have spread in various degrees over the provinces, and that Christian provincials, though not formally brought to trial and punished for the crime falsely laid to the charge of their Roman brethren, must have been exposed to many indignities and much suffering from popular violence, and from the tendency of the provincial authorities to follow the example, and the wish to win the favor, of the Roman persecutors.
(4) There was a sufficient occasion. St. Peter had heard of the sufferings of the Christians of Asia Minor, perhaps from Silvanus; it may be also from Mark, who, when St. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Colossiaus, was intending to visit Asia Minor (Colossians 4:10), and may have joined St. Peter at Babylon after fulfilling his design. St. Peter wrote to encourage and comfort his suffering brethren, taking care to recognize and to stamp with his apostolic authority the teaching which they had received from St. Paul (see 1 Peter 1:12, 1 Peter 1:25), and purposely incorporating much of that teaching into his Epistle. Thus the Epistle is not, as some say, an effort of some unknown Christian early in the second century to reconcile the supposed controversies between the Petrine and the Pauline parties, but a spontaneous outflow of St. Peter's sympathy for the suffering Churches.
2. TO WHOM THE EPISTLE IS ADDRESSED.
St. Peter addresses his Epistle to "the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." The question at once arises — Is he writing to all the Christians in those provinces, or to Jewish believers only? St. Peter is regarded as the apostle of the circumcision; there was an understanding (see Galatians 2:9) that James, Cephas; and John, "who seemed to be pillars," should go to the circumcision, and that Paul and Barnabas should go unto the heathen. It has been thought that St. Peter would have been interfering with the province of St. Paul if he had written to the Gentile Christians of the Churches founded by St. Paul or his companions. The words also of the address mean, literally translated, "to the sojourners of the dispersion;" and "the dispersion" (διασποραì) was the name current in Judaea for the Jews who lived outside the limits of the Holy Land. On the other hand, if St. Peter was, as compared with St. Paul, an apostle of the circumcision, yet God had made choice (as he himself said in the council at Jerusalem) that the Gentiles by his mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. "He did eat with the Gentiles" at Antioch, and "lived after the manner of the Gentiles" (Galatians 2:12, Galatians 2:14), although for a time "he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision." St. Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, was wont to offer the gospel first to the Jews, and preached, whenever it was possible, in the synagogues. It is not likely that St. Peter at any time confined his ministrations entirely to the Jews; nor would the supposed interference with St. Paul's field of labor be altogether removed if the Epistle were addressed to Jewish Christians only rather than to the whole Christian population. The word "sojourners" (παρεπιìσημοι) is used metaphorically, in 1 Peter 2:11, for Christians generally; it is probable that in 1 Peter 1:1 St. Peter was adapting Jewish words to Christian thoughts, as he often does, and meant by the "sojourners of the dispersion" all the citizens of the heavenly country who were then sojourning upon earth, dispersed among the unbelievers. It is plain, from the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles, that the Gentile element was predominant in the Churches of Asia Minor; it would be strange if St. Peter had addressed his Epistle exclusively to the small minority. The Epistle itself witnesses to the Catholic character which its title suggests. Though it is saturated with Hebrew thought, and crowded with quotations from the Old Testament, there is no allusion to the Law of Moses; the word does not once occur in it — an omission which would be singular indeed if the Epistle were addressed exclusively to Jewish Christians, but not surprising as coming from one who once described the Law as a yoke "which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (Acts 15:10). Again, such passages as 1 Peter 1:14; 1 Peter 2:10; 1 Peter 4:3, and perhaps also 1 Peter 1:18, could scarcely have been addressed exclusively to Jewish Christians; nor could St. Peter say of Jewish matrons that they became (ἐγενηìθητε) the daughters of Sarah if they did well (1 Peter 3:6). There are no traces at all of a distinction of Jews and Gentiles in the Churches of Asia Minor such that an Epistle could be writer by an apostle to one section of the Church to the exclusion of the other. We conclude, therefore, that the readers contemplated by this, as by all the writings of the New Testament, are Christians generally of whatever origin. "There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision... but Christ is all and in all."
3. PROBABLE DATE.
Though we cannot fix the exact date of the Epistle, there are indications which help us to determine the limits of time within which it must have been written. In the first place, the writer was evidently well acquainted with the Epistle to the Ephesians, which was written about the year 63, towards the end of St. Paul's first Roman imprisonment. St. Peter cannot have written till some little time after that date, for the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians — the former of which was probably a circular letter addressed to several of the Churches of Asia Minor — give no hints of such sufferings as those mentioned by St. Peter. But he must have written before the outbreak of any systematic attempt to crush out Christianity, or any legalized persecution such as that under Trajan. Judgment was about to begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17); for the present there was a possibility that Christians might disarm the fury of their persecutors by an innocent and upright life (1 Peter 3:13); there was room to hope that their good conversation in Christ might shame their accusers (1 Peter 3:16); even that some of those accusers might be won to the faith by beholding the good works of their Christian neighbors. It was still possible to describe the Roman governors as sent "for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well" (1 Peter 2:14). All this seems to point to the time of the Neronian persecution. Before that date, we gather from St. Paul's Epistles, there was no actual persecution in Asia Minor; there are allusions here and there to sufferings (see Galatians 3:4; Galatians 6:12), but apparently not nearly so severe as the sufferings of the Macedonian Christians (see Philippians 1:28, Philippians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:2). Even then, it seems, there were no formal laws against Christianity; probably it had not yet become a religio illicita, though Tertullian, apparently without sufficient evidence, asserts the contrary. The Christians of Rome were accused of burning the city; the fury excited against them doubtless extended to the provinces; the heathen would naturally catch the infection of cruelty from the imperial city; Christians would be accused of disloyalty, of contempt of law, of these supposed crimes that Tacltus lays to their charge ('Ann.,' 15:44). The persecutions would be irregular, intermittent, perhaps illegal, caused rather by tumultuous violence than by formal accusations; but often severe and all the harder to bear because it was the first outburst. Christians regarded persecution as a strange thing (1 Peter 4:12); the Church had to become inured to the fiery trial.
Again, we read in 1 Peter 5:13 that "Marcus my son" was with St. Peter at Babylon. In all probability common opinion is right in identifying this Marcus with the "John whose surname was Mark" of the Acts of the Apostles. Now, we know from Colossians 4:10 that St. Mark was at Rome when St. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Colossians, but was thinking of going into Asia Minor; while St. Paul's Second Epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:11) makes it probable that he was at Ephesus about the year 67. He may, therefore, have spent some portion of the interval between the dates of the two Epistles at Babylon with St. Peter. The alternative hypothesis, that Mark joined St. Peter after the death of St. Paul, is scarcely possible; for St. Peter himself in all probability suffered martyrdom at Rome under the Emperor Nero, and room must be left for the writing of the Second Epistle before his journey to Rome. It seems, therefore, most probable that the First Epistle was written about the year 65.
4. WHERE THE EPISTLE WAS WRITTEN.
From 1 Peter 5:13 we infer that it was written "at Babylon." It has, however, been held by many writers, ancient and modern, that St. Peter is using the word "Babylon" metaphorically, as a cryptograph, and that he was really writing at Rome. This was the opinion, according to Eusebius ('Hist. Eccl.,' II. 15:2), of Papias and Clement of Alexandria. Jerome and OEcumenius took the same view, which was generally accepted up to the time of the Reformation. It is also urged that there is no historical evidence of the existence of a Christian Church at Babylon, and that the large Jewish population which was once settled there, and to which St. Peter, as the apostle of the circumcision, would probably address his ministrations, had been destroyed or had migrated about A.D. 40 (see Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18. 9).
In answer to the last two arguments, it may be urged that the absence of any notice of a Babylonian Church does not prove that the gospel had never been preached at Babylon: St. Peter's preaching may have been unsuccessful there. The apostle did not confine his ministrations to the Jews; he may have preached to Babylonian Gentiles; though, indeed, it is quite possible that many Jews may have returned to Babylon by the time of his visit. It may seem presumptuous to disregard the consent of the older writers; but the really ancient testimony is not very strong; the authorities are but few; the desire to find scriptural evidence of St. Peter's residence at Rome led subsequent writers to follow those few authorities and to exaggerate the weight of their testimony. In a mystical book like the Revelation of St. John, in such works as the Talmud or the Sibylline Oracles, we expect to find words and names used metaphorically. But in the New Testament generally, and more especially in a writing like this First Epistle of St. Peter, remarkable for its simplicity and directness, we see no sufficient reason for supposing that one word is used in a symbolical sense, while all else is plain and literal. Such a use of the word would be unintelligible to the Christians of Asia Minor. Even if we were to accept the earliest date assigned to the Apocalypse, it is very improbable that that book could have been generally known in the Church at the date of St. Peter's Epistle. In that case St. Peter would probably have mentioned it, especially as the seven epistles of Revelations 2. and 3. are addressed to some of the Churches to which he was writing. Neither would there be sufficient reason for using a cryptograph in this Epistle. Babylon is mentioned only once, and that incidentally, in a salutation, with no terms of reproach or condemnation.
There seem therefore, to be no sufficient grounds for importing a figurative meaning into St Peter's words. If he was writing from Rome, it seems strange that he should make no mention of St. Paul, who, if not then present at Rome, was so closely connected with the Roman Church, and so well known to the Christians of Asia Minor; while the order in which the provinces are mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1 furnishes at least some slight support to the hypothesis that the apostle was enumerating them as they would naturally occur, one after another, to a person writing from the East. It is true that we have no historical evidence of a journey to Babylon; but then we have no certain records of the apostle's history after the date of his leaving Antioch (Galatians 2:11). We may, amid the confusion of romance and legend, see sufficient reason for accepting the ancient tradition of his preaching and martyrdom at Rome; but it cannot be said that even this belief rests on sure historical grounds. There was a Babylon in Egypt, a fortress mentioned by Strabo, bk. 17. But if St. Peter had been writing from a place so little known, he would surely have described it as the Egyptian Babylon.
5. OBJECTS OF THE EPISTLE.
St. Peter is often called the apostle of hope. He begins his Epistle with a thanksgiving for the living hope which God, in his abundant mercy, has granted to his chosen. Evidently the grace of hove was a living power in the heart of the apostle; he is constantly dwelling upon it; it occupies that central place in this Epistle which faith has in the writings of St. Paul, and love in those of St. John (see especially 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 1:9, 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 3:9-15; 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:4). Throughout the Epistle his eye seems fixed on the glorious hope which lies before the true Christian; he employs that hope as the principal topic of consolation in the prospect of the afflictions which were coming upon the Church. This is just what we should expect from the sanguine character of the apostle. Indeed, that character was not what it had been when he said to Christ, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" It had been chastened and refined; the old impetuosity and forwardness had been subdued; but there was still the same natural temperament, the same sanguine hope, not now directed to self-exaltation and pre-eminence above his brethren, but guided by the refining influences of the Holy Spirit to dwell on the glorious prospects open to all faithful souls. One object which St. Peter had in view when writing this Epistle was evidently to comfort the Christians of Asia Minor by directing their thoughts away from the sufferings which were gathering round them, to dwell in holy hope apart the inheritance reserved for them in heaven. Another, not the primary object, but secondary and incidental, was to show his entire sympathy with the teaching of his brother apostle. There had been differences between them; those differences may probably have been greatly exaggerated in the apostolic times, as they certainly have been by modern writers. St. Peter seems bent on showing that the two apostles held the one faith.
He fills his Epistle with thoughts apparently taken from St. Paul's Epistles, especially from the Epistle to the Ephesians (which, as a circular letter addressed to several Churches of Asia Minor, must have been well known to his readers) and from the great Epistle to the Romans (also, in the opinion of some scholars, sent with various endings to several Churches, one of which was probably the Church of Ephesus). He shows, too (1 Peter 2:16 compared with Galatians 5:13), that he was acquainted with the Epistle to the Galatians. Writing now to the Churches of Galatia, where St. Paul's authority had been questioned and his teaching controverted, the apostle of the circumcision sides, not with the Judaizers, but with St. Paul. The agreement between the two great apostles is complete. They present the same truths, sometimes with a different coloring, sometimes from different points of view. Their early training, their mental characteristics, their habits of thought, were not the same; but the truths are the same — the writers are in perfect accord with one another. St. Peter had received from the Lord the solemn charge, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." He was converted — his old forwardness, self-reliance, impetuosity, were all subdued, he was not only an apostle, but a saint, sanctified by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. He was now fulfilling the commandment of the Savior; he was strengthening his brethren in the prospect of fiery trial. He had begun his ministry with that great sermon on the Day of Pentecost, when "with many words he did testify and exhort" (Acts 2:40): he does the same now; he writes "exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand [or, 'stand ye fast therein']." This is the great object of his Epistle. It is fall of exhortation — the earnest exhortation of one who knew from his own experience the certainty of the Christian's faith, and the sure unshaken foundation of the Christian's hope. It is full of comfort — the comfort which only a true Christian, rich in faith and rich in love, can give to the suffering. And the apostle bears his testimony, with the full weight of his apostolic authority, with the sure knowledge of an eye-witness who had received his commission from the Savior's lips, who had seen the risen Lord, had witnessed his ascension, had felt the mighty presence of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; he bears his testimony that the teaching which the Christians of Asia Minor had received was the true gospel of God, that the grace which they felt working within them was the true grace of God: he bids them "stand fast therein."
6. ANALYSIS OF THE EPISTLE.
The Epistle begins with doctrine and ends with practice. The first part treats of the privileges of Christians; the second (beginning at 1 Peter 2:11), of the duties which grow out of those privileges. The apostle begins by greeting the "sojourners of the dispersion;" he describes them as elect through the choice of the Father, the sanctification of the Spirit, the redemption of the Son. Next comes the thanksgiving; the apostle blesses God for his mercy shown in the gift of the new birth, and the living hope which issues out of that new birth through the resurrection of Christ from the dead; he dwells upon the glory of the heavenly inheritance which is the object of that hope, and the safety of those who are kept by the power of God for the salvation which is ready to be revealed in the last day. This hope, he says, fills the Christian heart with an abiding joy even amid troubles such as those which were now thickening round the Christians of Asia Minor. Those sufferings were necessary, or they would not have been sent. They would issue in the strengthening and refining of their faith; they would end in praise and honor and glory, when Christ's faithful followers, who now believe though they have not seen, shall see him face to face. Such are even now beginning to receive the salvation of their souls; a salvation so great and blessed that the prophets of old searched diligently into the revelations which anticipated it; that the Holy Ghost was sent down from heaven to give power and wisdom to those who preached it; that the angels in heaven desire to stoop and gaze into the mysteries which surround it. Then follows an exhortation to holiness: their present blessings being so great, the grace that is to be brought to them being so unspeakable, they must be earnest and active, sober and full of abiding hope. They must be holy, because God is holy; they must pass the short time of their sojourning here in fear, because they call on the Father, who judgeth according to every man's work, because they were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. They must love one another from the heart fervently; for unfeigned love is the mark of the children of God who have been born again of the incorruptible seed. That new birth was wrought through the Word of God; that Word liveth and abideth forever; it had been preached to them with its glad tidings. Therefore (1 Peter 2:0.) as newborn babes they must lay aside all that is inconsistent with Christian love, and long for spiritual milk that they may grow thereby. That growth implies union with Christ. They must come to him; he is the living Stone, which men rejected, but which is chosen of God and precious; thus coming, they, as living stones themselves, are built up upon him, the chief Cornerstone. That Stone is laid in Zion; the faith of the believer leads to honor; to the unbelieving, the living Stone must become a stumbling-block and a rock of offence. But believers are not only living stones, built up a spiritual house; they are also a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices; they are now the spiritual Israel, the covenant people of God. Here (1 Peter 2:11) begins the practical part of the Epistle. Men who have these high privileges and these lofty hopes must live as pilgrims and strangers here. They must abstain from fleshly lusts; their life should exhibit a moral beauty which might attract the heathen to follow their example. St. Peter singles out the duty of submission to constituted authority (often in those times a very difficult duty), and draws it out into its details. Subjects should obey their rulers, servants should obey their masters, for the Lord's sake. And when this duty is especially difficult, when Christians are called to suffer for well-doing, they must fix the eye of faith steadfastly on the great Example, and learn of him to suffer, remembering always that by his death he took away our sin, and by his stripes he healed the diseases of our souls (1 Peter 3:0.). Christian wives, too, must obey their husbands; they must be modest and retiring, wearing the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. Christian husbands should give honor to their wives; the weaker vessel should be treated with delicate care, not with roughness. All have their duties one to another; those duties center in brotherly love. Remembering the blessings assured to them, they must bless others; there must be no cursing, no thought of revenge. If they are called to suffer for righteousness' sake, they must think that the eyes of the Lord are upon them, and it may be that their patient and holy endurance will win the souls of their persecutors. It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing; the Lord Christ set the high example — he suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust; he did not render evil for evil; he preached, even in the under-world, to those who once were disobedient; they perished in the waters of the Flood, which was a type of that baptism through which Christians (if they continue in grace, inquiring after God) were to die unto sin. He was now ascended into heaven; all power was his; he could succor those who suffered for him. Therefore (1 Peter 4:0.) they must arm themselves with the holy resolve of Christ; they must take suffering patiently; they must regard it as a means of destroying the power of sin; they must break off altogether their old heathen life, not heeding the taunts or the wonder of men; for believers and unbelievers alike must stand before the judgment-seat of God, whose gospel was preached both to the living and to the dead, that they might be judged in the flesh, but might live in the spirit. In view of the coming judgment, they must watch and pray, and keep their love towards one another intense, and use all such gifts as God had given them to his glory. The apostle returns to the approaching persecution. It would be a fiery trial; but they must not think it strange; like St. Peter and the other apostles, they should rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name of Christ (Acts 5:41). Judgment must begin at the house of God; even the righteous would scarcely be saved: what, then, would be the lot of the unrighteous? Let those who are called to suffer commit their souls to God (1 Peter 5:0.). The apostle proceeds to exhort the presbyters of the Church; they must feed the flock of God, looking for the glory-crown which the chief Shepherd shall give, as their reward. Younger Christians must submit themselves unto the elder; all must be clothed with humility, and cast all anxious care upon God, trusting in his providence. Yet they must also watch, for the evil spirit is ever seeking to destroy them; they must resist him, steadfast in the faith. The Epistle ends with blessing and greetings.
Bengel's 'Gnomon Novi Testamenti;' Luther's 'Exposition of the First Epistle of St. Peter;' the Commentaries of Gerhard, Steiger, Huther, De Wette, Wiesinger, Fronm ller; Archbishop Leighton's 'Commentary;' the notes of Dean Alford, Bishop Wordsworth, Dean Plumptre; those contained in the 'Speaker's Commentary' and in Bishop Ellicott's 'Commentary;' Archdeacon Farrar's 'Early Days of Christianity.'
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29