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Peter, the Epistles of

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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FIRST EPISTLE. Genuineness. Attested by 2 Peter 3:1. Polycarp (in Eusebius 4:14); who in writing to the Philippians (Philippians 2) quotes 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 1:21; 1 Peter 3:9; in Philippians 5; 1 Peter 2:11. Eusebius (H. E. 3:39) says of Papins that he too quotes 1 Peter. Irenaeus (Haer. 4:9, section 2) expressly mentions it; in 4:16, section 5, 1 Peter 2:16. Clemens Alex. (Strom. 1:3, 544) quotes 1 Peter 2:11-12; 1 Peter 2:15-16; and p. 562, 1 Peter 1:21-22; and in 4:584, 1 Peter 3:14-17; and p. 585, 1 Peter 4:12-14. Origen (in Eusebius H. E. 6:25) mentions it; in Homily 7 on Joshua (vol. 2:63), both epistles; and in Commentary on Psalms and John 1 Peter 3:18-21. Tertullian (Scorp. 12) quotes 1 Peter 2:20-21; and in 14 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 2:17. Eusebius calls 1 Peter one of "the universally acknowledged epistles.

The Peshito Syriac has it. Muratori's Fragm. of Canon omits it. The Paulicians alone rejected it. The internal evidence for it is strong. The author calls himself the apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:1), "a witness of Christ's sufferings," and "an elder" (1 Peter 5:1). The energetic style accords with Peter's character. Erasmus remarks this epistle is full of apostolical dignity and authority, worthy of the leader among the apostles.

PERSONS ADDRESSED. 1 Peter 1:1; "to the elect strangers (pilgrims spiritually) of the dispersion," namely, Jewish Christians primarily. 1 Peter 1:14. 1 Peter 2:9-10; 1 Peter 4:3, prove that Gentile Christians, as grafted into the Christian Jewish stock and so becoming of the true Israel, are secondarily addressed. Thus the apostle of the circumcision seconded the apostle of the uncircumcision in uniting Jew and Gentile in the one Christ. Peter enumerates the provinces in the order from N.E, to S. and W. Pontus was the country of the Christian Jew Aquila.

Paul twice visited Galatia, founding and confirming churches. Crescens, his companion, went there just before Paul's last imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:10). Men of Cappadocia, as well as of "Pontus" and "Asia" (including Mysia, Lydia, Curia, Phrygia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia), were among Peter's hearers on Pentecost; these brought home to their native lands the first tidings of the gospel. In Lycaonia were the churches of Iconium, founded by Paul and Barnabas; of Lystra, Timothy's birthplace, where Paul was stoned; and of Derbe, the birthplace of Gains or Caius. In Pisidia was Antioch, where Paul preached (Acts 13) so effectively, but from which he was driven out by the Jews. In Caria was Miletus, where Paul convened the Ephesian elders.

In Phrygia Paul preached when visiting twice the neighbouring Galatia. The churches of Laodicea were Hierapolis and Colesse (having as members Philemon and Onesimus, and leaders Archippus and Epaphras). In Lydia was the Philadelphian church favorably noticed Revelation 3:7; that of Sardis the capital; Thyatira; and Ephesus, founded by Paul, laboured in by Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos, and Paul for three years, censured for leaving its first love (Revelation 2:4). Smyrna received unqualified praise. In Mysia was Pergamos. Troas was the scene of Paul's preaching, raising Eutychus, and staying with Carpus long subsequently.

Into Bithynia when Paul "assayed to go" the Spirit suffered him not; afterward the Spirit imparted to Bithynia the gospel, as 1 Peter 1:1 implies, probably through Peter. These churches were in much the same state (1 Peter 5:1-2 "feed") as when Paul addressed the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28, "feed".) Presbyter bishops ruled, Peter exercising a general superintendence. The persecutions to which they were exposed were annoyances and reproach for Christ's sake, because of their nut joining pagan neighbours in riotous living; so they needed warning lest they should fall. Ambition and lucre seeking are the evil tendencies against Which Peter warns the presbyters (1 Peter 5:2-3), evil thoughts and words, and a lack of mutual sympathy among the members.

OBJECT. By the heavenly prospect before them, and by Christ the example, Peter consoles the partially persecuted, and prepares them for a severer ordeal coming. He exhorts all, husbands, wives, servants, elders, and people, by discharging relative duties to give the foe no handle for reproaching Christianity, rather to attract them to it; so Peter seeks to establish them in "the true grace of God wherein they stand "; but the Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and Sinaiticus manuscripts read "stand ye," imperatively (1 Peter 5:12), "Grace" is the keynote of Paul's doctrine which Peter confirms (Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 5:2). He "exhorts and testifies" in this epistle on the ground of the gospel truths already well known to his readers by Pupil's teaching in those churches. He does not state the details of gospel grace, but takes them for granted (1 Peter 1:8; 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 3:1).


(I) Inscription (1 Peter 1:2).

(II) Stirs up believers' pure feeling, as born again of God, by the motive of hope to which God has regenerated us (1 Peter 1:3-12), to bring forth faith's holy fruits, seeing that Christ redeemed us from sin at so costly a price (1 Peter 1:13-21). Purified by the Spirit unto love of the brethren, as begotten of God's abiding word, spiritual priest-kings, to whom alone Christ is precious (1 Peter 1:22-2:10). As Paul is the apostle of faith and John of love, so Peter of hope. After Christ's example in suffering, maintain a good "conversation" (conduct) in every relation (1 Peter 2:11-3:14), and a good "profession" of faith, having in view Christ's once offered sacrifice and His future coming to judgment (1 Peter 3:15-4:11); showing patience in adversity, as looking for future glorification with Christ

(1) in general as Christians (1 Peter 4:12-19),

(2) each in his own relation (1 Peter 5:1-11). "Beloved" separates the second part from the first (1 Peter 2:11), and the third from the second (1 Peter 4:12).

(III) The conclusion. Time and place of writing. It was before the systematic persecution of Christians in Nero's later years. The acquaintance evidenced with Paul's epistles written previous to or during his first imprisonment at Rome (ending A.D. 63) shows it was after them. Compare 1 Peter 2:13 with Romans 13; 1 Peter 2:18; Ephesians 6:5; 1 Peter 1:2; Ephesians 1:4-7; 1 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 2:6-10; Romans 9:32-33; 1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:16; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:18; Ephesians 6:5; 1 Peter 3:1; Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:9; Romans 12:17; 1 Peter 4:9; Romans 12:13; Philippians 2:14; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:10; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 5:1; Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 5:5; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3-8; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 5:14; 1 Corinthians 16:20.

In 1 Peter 5:13 Mark is mentioned as at Babylon; this must have been after Colossians 4:10 (A.D. 61-63), when Mark was with Paul at Rome but intending to go to Asia. It was either when he went to Colosse that he proceeded to Peter, thence to Ephesus, from whence (2 Timothy 4:11) Paul tells Timothy to bring him to Rome (A.D. 67 or 68); or after Paul's second imprisonment and death Peter testified to the same churches, those of Asia Minor, following up Paul's teachings. This is more likely, for Peter would hardly trench on Paul's field of labour during Paul's life. The Gentile as well as the Hebrew Christians would after Paul's removal naturally look to Peter and the spiritual fathers of the Jerusalem church for counsel wherewith to meet Judaizing Christians and heretics; false teachers may have appealed from Paul to James and Peter. Therefore Peter confirms Paul and shows there is no difference between their teachings. Origen's and Eusebius' statement that Peter visited the Asiatic churches in person seems probable.

PLACE. Peter wrote from Babylon (1 Peter 5:13). He would never use a mystical name for Rome, found only in prophecy, in a matter of fact letter amidst ordinary salutations. The apostle of the circumcision would naturally be at Chaldaean Babylon where was "a great multitude of Jews" (Josephus, Ant. 15:2, section 2; 3, section 1). Cosmas Indicopleustes (sixth century) understood the Babylon to be outside the Roman empire. The order in which Peter enumerates the countries, from N.E. to S. and W., is such as one writing from Babylon would adopt. Silvanus, Paul's companion, subsequently Peter's, carried the epistle.

STYLE. Fervor and practical exhortation characterize this epistle, as was to be expected from the warm hearted writer. The logical reasoning of Paul is not here; but Paul's gospel, as communicated to Peter by Paul (Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:2), is evidently before Peter's mind. Characteristic of Peter are the phrases "baptism ... the answer of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:21); "consciousness of God" (1 Peter 2:19 Greek), i.e. conscientiousness, a motive for enduring sufferings; "living hope" (1 Peter 1:3); "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4); "kiss of charity" (1 Peter 5:14). Christ is viewed more in His present exaltation and coming manifestation in glory than in His past suffering. Glory and hope are prominent. Future bliss being near, believers are but "strangers" and "sojourners" here. Chastened fervor, deep humility, and ardent love breathe throughout. Exuberant feeling causes the same thought to be often repeated. He naturally quotes the epistle of James as having most weight with the Jewish party to whom especially he ministered.

He thus confirms James' inspired writings: compare 1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-3; 1 Peter 1:24. James 1:10; 1 Peter 2:1; James 1:21; 1 Peter 4:8; James 5:20; Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34. Old Testament quotations are the common ground of both. Susceptibility to outward impressions, liveliness of feeling, and dexterity in handling subjects, disposed him to repeat others' thoughts. His speeches in the independent history, Acts, accord with his language in his epistles, an undesigned coincidence and mark of truth: 1 Peter 2:7, "the stone ... disallowed," Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 1:12, "preached ... with the Holy Spirit," Acts 5:32; 1 Peter 2:24, "bare our sins ... on the tree," Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; 1 Peter 5:1, "witness of the sufferings of Christ," Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; 1 Peter 1:10, "the prophets ... of the grace," Acts 3:18; Acts 10:43; 1 Peter 1:21, "God raised Him from the dead," Acts 3:15; Acts 10:40; 1 Peter 4:5, "Him ... ready to judge," Acts 10:42; 1 Peter 2:24, "that we being dead to sins," Acts 3:19; Acts 3:26.

Also he alludes often to Christ's language, John 21:15-19; "Shepherd of souls," 1 Peter 2:25; "feed the flock of God ... the chief Shepherd," 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Peter 5:4; "whom ye love," 1 Peter 1:8; 1 Peter 2:7; also 2 Peter 1:14, "shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me." He who in loving impatience cast himself into the sea to meet the Lord is also the man who most earnestly testifies to the hope of His return; he before whom a martyr's death is in assured expectation is the man who in greatest variety of aspects sets forth the duty, as well as the consolation, of suffering for Christ. As a rock of the church he grounds his readers against the storm of tribulation on the true Rock of ages. (Wiesinger.)

SECOND EPISTLE. Authenticity and genuineness. "Simon Peter a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ" stands at its heading. He reminds us at the close of his life that he is the Peter who was originally "Simon" before his call. In 2 Peter 1:16-18 he mentions his presence at the transfiguration, and Christ's prophecy of his death; and 2 Peter 3:15 his brotherhood to his beloved Paul. In 2 Peter 3:1 he identifies himself as author of the former epistle. The second epistle includes in its address the same persons as the first epistle. He presumes their acquaintance with Paul's epistles, by that time acknowledged as Scripture; 2 Peter 3:15, "the longsuffering of God," alluding to Romans 2:4. A late date is implied, just before Peter's death, when Paul's epistles (including Romans) had become generally circulated and accepted as Scripture. The church in the fourth century had, beside the testimony which we have of its acceptante though with doubts by earlier Christians. other external evidence which, under God's guiding Spirit, decided them in accepting it.

If Peter were not the author the epistle would be false, as it expressly claims to be his; then the canon of the council of Laodicea, A.D. 360) (if the 59th article is genuine) and that of Hippo and Carthage (A.D. 393 and 397) would never have accepted it. Its whole tone disproves imposture. The writer writes not of himself, but "moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Shame and suffering were all that was to be gained by a forgery in the first age. There was no temptation then to "pious frauds," as in after ages. A wide gulf separates its New Testament style from the earliest and best of the post apostolic period. "God has allowed a fosse to be drawn by human weakness around the sacred canon, to protect it from all invasion" (Daille). Hermas (Simil. 6:4; 2 Peter 2:13, and Shep. 3:7; 4:3; 2 Peter 2:15; 2 Peter 2:20) quotes its words. Clemens Romans (ad Cor. 7; 9; 10) alludes to its references to Noah's preaching and Lot's deliverance (compare 2 Peter 2:5-7; 2 Peter 2:9). Irenaeous (A.D. 178) and Justin Martyr allude to 2 Peter 3:8.

Hippolytus (de Antichristo) refers to 2 Peter 1:21. But the first writer who expressly names it as "Scripture" is Origen, third century (Hem. on Josh., 4th Hom. on Lev., and 13th on Num.), quoting 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 2:16. In Eusebius H. E. 6:24 he mentions that some doubted the second epistle. Tertullian, Clemens Alex., Cyprian, the Peshito Syriac (the later Syriac has it), and Muratori's Fragm. Canon do not mention it. Firmilian of Cappadocia (Ep. ad Cyprian) says Peter's epistles warn us to avoid heretics; this warning is in the second epistle, not the first. Now Cappadocia (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1) is among the countries addressed; so it is from Cappadocia we get the earliest testimony. Internally it professes Peter is its writer; Christians of the very country to whose custody it was committed confirm this. (See CANON; NEW TESTAMENT.)

Though not of "the universally confessed" (homologoumea ) Scriptures, but of "the disputed" (antilegomena ), 2 Peter is altogether distinct from "the spurious" (notha ); of these there was no dispute, they were universally rejected as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Revelation of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas. Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 348) enumerates seven universal epistles including 2 Peter. So Gregory of Nazianzum (A.D. 389) and Epiphanius (A.D. 367). The oldest Greek manuscripts (fourth century) contain "the disputed Scriptures." Jerome (de Viris Illustr.) guessed from a presumed difference of style that Peter, being unable to write Greek, employed a different Greek translator of his Hebrew dictation in the second epistle from the translator of first epistle. So Mark's Gospel was derived from Peter. Silvanus, the bearer, Paul's companion, may have been employed in the composition, and Peter with him probably read carefully Paul's epistles, from whence arise correspondences of style and thought: as 1 Peter 1:3 with Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 2:18 with Ephesians 6:5; 1 Peter 3:1 with Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 5:5 with Ephesians 5:21.

STYLE AND THOUGHTS. Both epistles contain similar sentiments. Peter looks for the Lord's sudden coming and the end of the world (2 Peter 3:8-10; 1 Peter 4:5). The prophets' inspiration (1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 3:2). New birth by the Divine Word a motive to abstinence from worldly lusts (1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 1:4; also 1 Peter 2:9 margin; 2 Peter 1:3, the rare word "virtue," 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 2:3). The distinctness of style in the two epistles accords with their distinctness of design. Christ's sufferings are prominent in 1 Peter, its design being to encourage Christians under sufferings; His glory in the second epistle, its design being to communicate fuller "knowledge" of Him, as the antidote to the false teaching against which Peter forewarns his readers. So His title as Redeemer, "Christ," is in 1 Peter, "the Lord" in 2 Peter. Hope characterizes 1 Peter, full knowledge 2 Peter. In 2 Peter, where he designs to warn against false teachers, he puts forward his apostolic authority more than in 1 Peter.

So contrast Paul in Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1, with 1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1. Verbal coincidences, marking identity of authorship, occur (1 Peter 1:19 end; 2 Peter 3:14 end; 1 Peter 3:1; 1 Peter 3:5; 2 Peter 2:16; "own," idiot, 2 Peter 3:17). The Greek article omitted 1 Peter 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 2:4-5; 2 Peter 2:7. "Tabernacle," i.e. the body, and "decease" (2 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 1:15) are the very words in Luke's narrative of the transfiguration (Luke 9:31; Luke 9:33), an undesigned coincidence confirming genuineness. The deluge and Noah, the "eighth," saved are referred to in both epistles. The first epistle often quotes Old Testament, the second epistle often (without quoting) refers to it (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 2:5-8; 2 Peter 2:15; 2 Peter 3:5-6; 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:13). So "putting away" (apothesis ) occurs in both (1 Peter 3:21; 2 Peter 1:14).

"Pass the time" (anastrafeste ), 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 4:3 "walked in" (peporeumenois ), 2 Peter 2:10; 2 Peter 3:3. "Called you," 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3. Besides, the verbal coincidences with Peter's speeches in Acts are more in 2 Peter than in 1 Peter; as (lachousin ) "obtained," 2 Peter 1:1, with Acts 1:17; 2 Peter 1:6, "godliness," Acts 3:12 (eusebeia , translated "godliness"); 2 Peter 2:9; Acts 10:2; Acts 10:7, eusebeis in both, "godly"; 2 Peter 2:9, "punished," Acts 4:21 (the only places where kolazomai , is used); 2 Peter 3:10; Acts 2:20, "day of the Lord," peculiar to these two passages and 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Judges 1:17-18 attest its genuineness and inspiration by adopting its words, as received by the churches to whom he wrote: "remember the words ... of the apostles of our Lord Jesus, how they told you there should be mockers in the last time who should walk after their own ungodly lusts" (2 Peter 3:3).

Eleven passages of Jude rest on 2 Peter (Judges 1:2 on 2 Peter 1:2; Judges 1:4 on 2 Peter 2:1; Judges 1:6 on 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:7 on 2 Peter 2:6; Judges 1:8 on 2 Peter 2:10; Judges 1:9 on 2 Peter 2:11; Judges 1:11 on 2 Peter 2:15; Judges 1:12 on 2 Peter 2:17; Judges 1:16 on 2 Peter 2:18; Judges 1:18 on 2 Peter 2:1 and 2 Peter 3:3.) Jude the fuller in these passages is more likely to be later than 2 Peter, which is briefer; not vice versa. Moreover Peter predicts a state of morals which Jude describes as actually existing. The dignity and energy of style accord with the character of Peter.

THE DATE. Probably A.D. 68 or 69, just before Jerusalem's destruction, the typical forerunner of the world's end foretold in 2 Peter 3. The past "wrote" (aorist, 2 Peter 3:15) implies Paul's ministry had ceased, and his epistles now become universally recognized as Scripture; just before Peter's own death. Having no salutations, and being directed to no church or group of churches, it took longer time in being accepted as canonical. This epistle, little known to Gentile converts, being primarily for Jewish Christians who gradually died out, was likely to have been lost to general reception, but for strong external credentials which it must have had, to have secured its recognition. It cannot have been written at Rome, otherwise it would have secured early acceptance. The distant scene of its composition and of its circulation additionally account for its tardy but at last universal acceptance. The definite address of 1 Peter secured its being the earlier recognized.

OBJECT. Twofold (2 Peter 3:17-18): to guard against "the error" of false teachers, and to exhort to growth in "knowledge of our Lord and Saviour." The inspired testimony of apostles and prophets is the ground of this knowledge (2 Peter 1:12-21). The danger arose of old, and will again arise, from false teachers; as Paul also in the same region testified (2 Peter 3:15-16). "The full knowledge of our Lord and Saviour," whereby we know the Father, partake of the divine nature, escape the world's pollutions, and enter Christ's kingdom, is our safeguard. Christ is presented in the aspect of present "power" and future "kingship." "Lord" occurs in 2 Peter instead of "God" in 1 Peter. This contradicts all theories of those who "deny" His "lordship," and "coming again," both which Peter as apostle and eye witness attests; also it counteracts their evil example, blaspheming the truth, despising governments, slaves to covetousness and fleshly filthiness while boasting of Christian freedom, and apostates from the truth. The antidote is the knowledge of Christ as "the way of righteousness."

"The preacher of righteousness," Noah, and "righteous Lot," exemplify the escape of the righteous from the doom of the unrighteous. Balaam illustrates the doom of "unrighteousness," such as characterizes the false teachers. Thus, the epistle is one united whole, the end corresponding to the commencement (2 Peter 3:14; 2 Peter 3:18, compare 2 Peter 1:2; "grace" and "peace" being connected with "the knowledge" of our Savior; 2 Peter 3:17 with 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 3:18 with the fuller 2 Peter 1:5-8; 2 Peter 2:21; 2 Peter 3:13, "righteousness," with 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1 with 2 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 3:2 with 2 Peter 1:19). Carpocratian and Gnostic heresies were as yet only in germ (2 Peter 2:1-2), another proof of its date in apostolic times, not developed as in the post apostolic age. The neglect of the warnings in 1 Peter to circumspectness of walk led to the evils in germ spoken of in 2 Peter as existing already and about to break forth in worse evils. Compare the abuse of "freedom," 1 Peter 2:16, with 2 Peter 2:19; "pride," 1 Peter 5:5-6, with 2 Peter 2:18.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Peter, the Epistles of'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary.​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​p/peter-the-epistles-of.html. 1949.