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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Peter, First Epistle of
the first of the seven Catholic Epistles of the N.T. In the following account of both epistles of Peter we pass over many particulars which will be found discussed elsewhere. (See PETER)
I. Genuineness and Canonicity. — This epistle found an early place in the canon by universal consent, ranking among the ὁμολογούμενα, or those generally received. The other epistle, by calling itself δευτέρα , refers to it as an earlier document (2 Peter 3:1). Polycarp, in his Epistle to the Philippians, often uses it, quoting many clauses, and some whole verses, as 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 1:21, in 1 Peter 2; 1 Peter 3:9, in 1 Peter 5; 1 Peter 2:11, in 1 Peter 4:7, in chapter 6; and 1 Peter 2:21-24, in chapter 8, etc. It is to be observed, however, that in no case does this father refer to Peter by name, but he simply cites the places as from some document of acknowledged authority; so that Eusebius notes it as characteristic of his epistle that Polycarp used those citations from the First Epistle of Peter as μαρτυρίαι (Hist. Ecclesiastes 4:14). The same lhistorian relates of Papias that in his Λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξηγήσεις he in a similar way used μαρτυρίαι from this epistle (Hist. Eccles. 3:39). Irenoeus quotes it expressly and by name, with the common formula, "Et Petrus ait" (Haeres. 4:9, 2), citing 1 Peter 1:8; using the same quotation similarly introduced in ibid. 1 Peter 5:7; 1 Peter 5:2; and again, " Et propter hoc Petrus ait," citing 1 Peter 2:16; ibid. 1 Peter 4:16, . . Other quotations, without mention of the apostle's name, may be found, ibid. 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 3:9, and 1 Peter 4:2, etc. Quotations abound in Clement of Alexandria, headed with ὁ Πέτρος λέγει, or φησὶν ὁ Πέτρος. These occur both in his Stromata and Pcedag., and need not be specified. Quotations are abundant also in Origen, certifying the authorship by the words παρὰ τῷ Πετρῶ; and, according to Eusebius, he calls this epistle μιαν ἐπιστολὴν ὁμογουμένην (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 6:25). The quotations in Origen's works need not be dwelt upon. In the letter of the churches of Vienne and Lyons, A.D. 177, there is distinct use made of v. 60 Theophilus of Antioch, A.D. 181, quotes these terms of 1 Peter 4:3 — ἀθεμίταις εἰδωλολατρείαις. Tertullian's testimony is quite as distinct. In the short tract Scorpiace this epistle is quoted nine times, the preface in one place being" Petrus quidem ad Ponticos" (Scorp. c. 12), quoting 1 Peter 2:20. Eusebius himself says of it, Πέτρου . . . ἀυωμολόγηται (Hist. Ecclesiastes 3"25). It is also found in the Peshito, which admitted only three of the catholic epistles. See Mayerhoff, Einleitung in die Petrin. Schriften, page 139, etc.
In the canon published by Muratori this epistle is not found. In this fragment occurs the clause, "Apocalypses etiam Johannis et Petri tantum recipimus." Wieseler, laying stress on etiam, would bring out this meaning- in addition to the epistles of Peter and John, we also receive their Revelations; or also of Peter we receive as much as of John, two epistles and an apocalypse. But the interpretation is not admissible. Rather with Bleek may the omission be ascribed to the fragmentary character of the document (Einleit. in das N.T. page 643; Hilgenfeld, Der Canon and die Kritik des N.T. [Halle, 1833], page 43). Other modes of reading and explaining the obscure sentence have been proposed. Hug alters the punctuation, "Apocalypsis etiam Johannis. Et Petri tantum recipimus;" certainly the tantum gives some plausibility to the emendation. Believing that the barbarous Latin is but a version from the Greek, he thus restores the original, καὶ Πέτρου μόνον παραδεχόμεθα , and then asks μόνον to be changed into μονήν — an alteration which of course brings out the conclusion wanted (Einleit. § I). Guericke's effort is not more satisfactory. Thiersch, with more violence, changes tantum into unam epistolam, and quam quidem in the following clause into alteram quidem. This document, so imperfect in form and barbarous in style, is probably indeed a translation from the Greek, and it can have no authority against decided and general testimony (see the canon in Routh's Reliquiae Sacrat, 1:396, edited with notes from Freindaller's Commentatio [Lond. 1862]). Nor is it of any importance whether the words of Leontius imply that this epistle was repudiated by Theodore of Mopsuestia, and if the Paulicians rejected it, Petrus Siculus gives the true reason — they were "pessime adversus illun affecti" — personal prejudice being implied in their very name (Hist. Manich. page 17).
The internal evidence is equally complete. The author calls himself the apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:1), and the whole character of the epistle shows that it proceeds from a writer who possessed great authority among those whom he addresses. The writer describes himself as "an elder," and "a witness of Christ's sufferings" (1 Peter 5:1). The vehemence and energy of the style are altogether appropriate to the warmth and zeal of Peter's character, and every succeeding critic, who has entered into its spirit, has felt impressed with the truth of the observation of Erasmus, "that this epistle is full of apostolical dignity and authority, and worthy of the prince of the apostles."
In later times the genuineness of the epistle has been impugned, as by Cludius in his Uransichten des Christenthums, page 296 (Altona, 1808). He imagined the author to have been a Jewish Christian of Asia Minor, and his general objection was that the similarity in doctrine and style to Paul was too great to warrent the belief of independent authorship. His objections were exposed and answered by Augusti (in a program, Jena, 1808) and by Bertholdt (Eirdeit. volume 6, § 667). Eichhorn, however, took up the theory of Cludius so far as to maintain that as to material Peter is the author, but that Mark is the actual writer. De Wette also throws out similar objections, hinting that the author may have been a follower of Paul who had been brought into close attendance upon Peter. The question has been thoroughly discussed by Hug, Ewald, Bertholdt, Weiss, and other critics. The most striking resemblances are perhaps 1 Peter 1:3 with Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:18 with Ephesians 6:5; Ephesians 3:1 with Ephesians 5:22 and Ephesians 5:5 with Ephesians 5:21; but allusions nearly as distinct are found to the other Pauline epistles (comp. especially 1 Peter 2:13 with 1 Timothy 2:2-4; 1 Peter 1:1 with Ephesians 1:4-7; Ephesians 1:14 with Romans 12:2; Romans 2:1 with Colossians 3:8 and Romans 12:1; Romans 2:6-10 with Romans 9:32; Romans 2:13 with Romans 13:1-4; Romans 2:16 with Galatians 5:13; Galatians 3:9 with Romans 12:17; Romans 4:9 with Philippians 2:14; Philippians 4:10 with Romans 12:6, etc.; Romans 5:1 with Romans 8:18; Romans 5:8 with 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:14 with 1 Corinthians 16:20). While, however, there is a similarity between the thoughts and style of Peter and Paul, there is at the same time a marked individuality, and there are also many special characteristics in this first epistle.
First, as proof of its genuineness, there is a peculiar and natural similarity between this epistle and the speeches of Peter as given in the Acts of the Apostles. Not to mention similarity in mould of doctrine and array of facts, there is resemblance in style. Thus Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39, 1 Peter 2:24, in the allusion to the crucifixion and the use of ξύλον , the tree or cross; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15, 1 Peter 5:1, in the peculiar use of μάρτυς; Acts 3:18; Acts 10:43, 1 Peter 1:10, in the special connection of the old prophets with Christ and his work; Acts 10:42, 1 Peter 4:5, in the striking phrase "judge quick and dead;" Acts 3:16, 1 Peter 1:21, in the clauses ἡ πίστις ἡ δἰαὐτοῦ - τοὺς δἰ αὐτοῦ πιστούς ; and in the mode of quotation (Acts 4:2; 1 Peter 2:7). Certain favorite terms occur also — ἀναστροφή, and ἀγαθοποιεῖν with its cognates and opposites. There are over fifty words peculiar to Peter in this brief document, nearly all of them compounds, as if in his profound anxiety to express his thoughts as he felt them, he had employed the first, and to him at the moment the fittest terms which occurred. He has such phrases as ἐλπὶς ζῶσα, 1 Peter 1:3; συνείδησις θεοῦ, 1 Peter 2:19; ὀσφύες διανοίας , 1:13; φίλημα ἀγάπης, 1 Peter 5:14. The nouns δόξαι , 1 Peter 1:11, and ἀρεταί, 1 Peter 2:9, occur in the plural. He uses εἰς before a personal accusative no less than four times in the first chapter. The article is often separated from its noun, 3:2, 3, 19; 4:2, 5, 8. 12. Peter has also a greater proneness than Paul to repetition-to reproduce the same idea in somewhat similar terms — as if he had felt it needless to search for a mere change of words when a similar thought was waiting for immediate utterance (comp. 1 Peter 1:6-9 with 1 Peter 4:12-13; 1 Peter 2:12 with 1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 4:4; 1 Peter 4:7 with 1 Peter 5:8). There are also in the epistle distinct and original thoughts-special exhibitions of the great facts and truths of the Gospel which the apostle looked at from his own point of view, and applied as he deemed best to a practical purpose. Thus the visit of Christ "to the spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:19); the typical connection of the Deluge with baptism; the desire of the old prophets to study and know the times and the blessings of the Gospel — are not only Petrine in form, but are solitary statements in Scripture. Thus, too, the apostle brings out into peculiar relief regeneration by the "Word of God," the "royal priesthood" of believers, and the qualities of the future "inheritance," etc.
Again, in phrases and ideas which in the main are similar to those of Paul, there is in Peter usually some mark of difference. Where there might have been sameness, the result of imitation, there is only similarity, the token of original thought. For example, Paul says (Romans 6:10-11), ζῆν τῷ θεῷ; Peter says (1 Peter 2:24), ζῆν τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ . The former writes (Romans 6:2), ἀποθνήσκειν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾷ; the latter (1 Peter 2:24), ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀπογίνεσθαι . Besides, as Bruckner remarks, the representation in these last clauses is differentdeath to sin in the passage from Romans being the result of union with the sufferings and death of Christ, while in Peter it is the result of Christ's doing away sin (De Wette, Erkldarung, ed. Bruckner, page 9). So, too, the common contrast in Paul is σάρξ and πνεῦμα, but in Peter πνεῦμα and ψυχή ;ἐκλογή ) is connected in Paul with χάρις, or it stands absolutely; but in Peter it is joined to πρόγνωσις ; government is with the first τοῦ θεοῦ διαταγή (Romans 13:2); but with the second it is ἀνθρωπίνη κτίσις (1 Peter 2:13); the expression with the one is καινὸς ἄνθρωπος (Ephesians 4:24); but with the other ὁ κρυπτὸς ἄνθρωπος (1 Peter 3:4): what is called ἀφορμή in Galatians 5:13 is named ἐπικάλυμμα in 1 Peter 2:16, etc. Now, not to insist longer on this similarity with variance, it may be remarked that for many of the terms employed by them, both apostles had a common source in the Septuagint. The words found there and already hallowed by religious use were free to both of them, and their acquaintance with the Sept. must have tended to produce some resemblance in their own style. Among such terms are ἀγνωσία, ἀσωτία, εὔσπλαγχνος, καταλαλία, ὑπερέχειν, φρουρεῖν, χορηγεῖν (comp. Mayerhoff, Histor.-Krit. Einleitung in d. Petrin. Schriften, page 107 sq.). That two apostles, in teaching the same system of divine truth, should agree in many of their representations. and even in their words, is not to be wondered at, since the terminology must soon have acquired a definite form, and certain expressions must have become current through constant usage. But in cases where such similarity between Peter and Paul occurs, there is ever a difference of view or of connection; and though both may refer to ideas so common as are named by ὑπακοή, δόξα or κληρονομία, there is always something to show Peter's independent use of the terms. One with his "beloved brother Paul" in the general view of the truth, he has something peculiar to himself in the introduction and illustration of it. The Petrine type is as distinct as the Pauline — it bears its own unmistakable style and character. The Galilean fisherman has an individuality quite as recognizable as the pupil of Gamaliel.
Once more, to show how baseless is the objection drawn from Peter's supposed dependence on Paul, it may be added that similarity in some cases may be traced between Peter and John. In many respects Paul and John are utterly unlike, yet Peter occasionally resembles both. though it is not surmised that he was an imitator of the beloved disciple. Such accidental resemblance to two styles of thought so unlike in themselves is surely proof of his independence of both, for he stands midway; as it were, between the objectivity of Paul and the subjectivity of John; inclining sometimes to the one side and sometimes to the other, and occasionally combining both peculiarities of thought. Thus one may compare 1 Peter 1:22 with 1 John 3:3 in the use of ἁγνίζω ; 1 Peter 1:23 with 1 John 3:9 in the similar use of σπορᾶς and σπέρμα, denoting the vital germ out of which regeneration springs; 1 Peter 5:2 with John 10:16 in the use of ποιμήν ; 1 Peter 3:18 and 1 John 3:7 in the application of the epithet δίκαιος to Christ; 1 Peter 3:18, John 1:29, in calling him ἀμνός. Such similarities only prove independent authorship. In the resemblances to James, which are sometimes adduced, the chief similarity consists in the use of Old-Test. quotations. Thus compare 1 Peter 1:6-7 with James 1:2-3; James 1:24 with James 1:10; James 2:1 with James 1:21; James 2:5 with James 4:6; James 4:10; James 4:8 with James 5:20 and James 5:5 with James 4:6. What, then, do these more frequent resemblances to Paul, and the fewer to John and James, prove? Not, with De Wette, the dependence of Peter on Paul; nor, with Weiss, the dependence of Paul on Peter (Der Petrin. Lehrbegriff page 374); but that Peter, in teaching similar truths, occasionally employs similar terms; while the surrounding illustration is so various and significant that such similarity can be called neither tame reiteration nor unconscious reminiscence. With much that is common in creed, there is more that is distinctive in utterance, originating in difference of spiritual temperament, or moulded by the adaptation of truth to the inner or outer condition of the churches for whom this epistle was designed.
On the other hand, the harmony of such teaching with that of Paul is sufficiently obvious. Peter, indeed, dwells more frequently than Paul upon the future manifestation of Christ, upon which he bases nearly all his exhortations to patience, self-control, and the discharge of all Christian duties. Yet there is not a shadow of opposition here; the topic is not neglected by Paul, nor does Peter omit the Pauline argument from Christ's sufferings; still what the Germans call the eschatological element predominates over all others. The apostle's mind is full of one thought, the realization of Messianic hopes. While Paul dwells with most earnestness upon justification by our Lord's death and merits, and concentrates his energies upon the Christian's present struggles, Peter fixes his eye constantly upon the future coming of Christ, the fulfilment of prophecy, the manifestation of the promised kingdom. In this he is the true representative of Israel, moved by those feelings which were best calculated to enable him to do his work as the apostle of the circumcision. Of the three Christian graces, hope is his special theme. He dwells much on good works, but not so much because he sees in them necessary results of faith, or the complement of faith, or outward manifestations of the spirit of love, aspects most prominent in Paul, James, and John, as because he holds them to be tests of the soundness and stability of a faith which rests on the fact of the resurrection, and is directed to the future in the developed form of hope.
But while Peter thus shows himself a genuine Israelite, his teaching, like that of Paul, is directly opposed to Judaizing tendencies. He belongs to the school, or, to speak more correctly, is the leader of the school, which at once vindicates the unity of the Law and the Gospel, and puts the superiority of the latter on its true basis, that of spiritual development. All his practical injunctions are drawn from Christian, not Jewish principles, from the precepts, example, life, death, resurrection, and fiuture coming of Christ. The apostle of the circumcision says not a word in this epistle of the perpetual obligation, the dignity, or even the bearings of the Mosaic law. He is full of the Old Testament; his style and thoughts are charged with its imagery, but he contemplates and applies its teaching in the light of the Gospel; he regards the privileges and glory of the ancient people of God entirely in their spiritual development in the Church of Christ. Only one who had been brought up as a Jew could have had his spirit so impregnated with these thoughts; only one who had been thoroughly emancipated by the Spirit of Christ could have risen so completely above the prejudices of his age and country.
This is a point of great importance, showing how utterly opposed the teaching of the original apostles, whom Peter certainly represents, was to that Judaistic narrowness which speculative rationalism has imputed to all the early followers of Christ, with the exception of Paul. There are in fact more traces of what are called Judaizing views, more of sympathy with national hopes, not to say prejudices, in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, than in this work. In this we see the Jew who has been born again, and exclianged what Peter himself calls the unbearable yoke of the law for the liberty which is in Christ. At the same time it must be admitted that our apostle is far from tracing his principles to their origin, and from drawing out their consequences with the vigor, spiritual discernment, internal sequence of reasoning, and systematic completeness which are characteristic of Paul. A few great facts, broad solid principles on which faith and hope may rest securely, with a spirit; of patience, confidence, and love, suffice for his unspeculative mind. To him objective truth was the main thing; subjective struggles between the intellect and spiritual consciousness, such as we find in Paul, and the intuitions of a spirit absorbed in contemplation like that of John, though not by any means alien to Peter, were in him wholly subordinated to the practical tendencies of a simple and energetic character. It has been observed with truth that both in tone and in form the teaching of Peter bears a peculiarly strong resemblance to that of our Lord, in discourses bearing directly upon practical duties. The great value of the epistle to believers consists in this resemblance; they feel themselves in the hands of a safe guide, of one who will help them to trace the hand of their Master in both dispensations, and to confirm and expand their faith.
But apart from the style and language of the epistle, objections have been brought against it by Schwegler, who alleges the want of special occasion for writing it, and the consequent generality of the contents (Das Nach- apostol. Zeitalt. 2:7). The reply is that the epistle bears upon its front such a purpose as well suits the vocation of an apostle. Nor is there in it, as we have seen, that want of individuality which Schwegler next alleges. It bears upon it the stamp of its author's fervent spirit; nor does its use of Old-Test. imagery and allusions belie his functions as the apostle of the circumcision (Wiesinger, Einl. page 21). If there be the want of close connection of thought, as Schwegler also asserts, is not this want of logical sequence and symmetry quite in keeping with the antecedents of him who had been trained in no school of human learning? Nor is it any real difficulty to say that Peter in the East could not have become acquainted with the later epistles of Paul. For in various ways Peter might have known Paul's epistles; and granting that there is a resemblance to some of the earlier of them, there is little or none to the latest of them. Schwegler holds that the epistle alludes to the persecution under Nero, during which Peter suffered, and that therefore his writing it at Babylon is inconsistent with his martyrdom at the same period at Rome. The objection, however, takes for granted what is denied. It is a sufficient reply to say that the persecution referred to was not, or may not have been, the Neronian persecution, and that the apostle was not put to death at the supposed period of Nero's reign. There is not in the epistle any direct allusion to actual persecution; the ἀπολογία (3:15) is not a formal answer to a public accusation, for it is to be given to every one asking it (Huther, Kritisch-exegetisches Handbuch fiber den 1. Brief des Petrus, Einleit. page 27). The epistle in all its leading features is in unison with what it professes to be an earnest and practical letter from one whose heart was set on the well-being of the churches, one who may have read many of Paul's letters and thanked God for them, and who, in addressing the churches himself, clothes his thoughts in language the readiest and most natural to him, without any timid selection or refusal of words and phrases which others may have used before him.
II. Place and Time. — The place is indicated in 1 Peter 5:13, in the clause ἀζεπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἡ ἐν Βαβυλῶνι συνεκλεκτή . Babylon is named as the place where the apostle was when he wrote the epistle, as he sends this salutation from it, on the part of a woman, as Mayerhoff, Neander, Alford, and others suppose; or on the part of a Church, as is the opinion of the majority. It is remarkable, however, that from early times Babylon has here been taken to signify Rome. This opinion is ascribed by Eusebius on report to Papias and Clement of Alexandria (Hist. Ecclesiastes 2:15). Jerome and (Ecumenius also held it. In later times it has been espoused by Grotius, Cave, Lardner, Hengstenberg,Windischmann,Wiesinger, Baur, Thiersch, Schott (Der 1. Brief Pet. erklart, page 346, Erlangen, 1861), and Hofmann (Schriftb. 1:201). But why discover a mystical sense in a name set down as the place of writing an epistle? There is no more reason for doing this than for assigning a like significance to the geographical names in 1:1. How could his readers discover the Church at Rome to be meant by ἡ συνεκλεκτή in Babylon? And if Babylon do signify a hostile spiritual power, as in the Apocalypse (Revelation 18:21), then it is strange that Catholic critics as a body should adopt such a meaning here, and admit by implication the ascription of this character to their spiritual metropolis. Dr. Brown, of Edinburgh, puts a somewhat parallel case — "Our own city is sometimes called Athens from its situation, and from its being a seat of learning; but it would not do to argue that a letter came from Edinburgh because it is dated from Athens" (Expository Discourses on 1st Peter, 1:548).
Some, again, think that Babylon may mean a place of that name in Egypt. Of this opinion are Le Clerc, Mill, Pearson, Pott, Burton, Greswell, and Hug. Strabo (Geog. 17:1, 30) calls it not a town, but a strong fortress built by refugees from Babylon, and a garrison for one of the three legions guarding Egypt. The opinion that this small encampment is the Babylon of our epistle has certainly little plausibility. It is equally strange to suppose it to be Ctesiphon or Seleucis; and stranger still to imagine that Babylon represents Jerusalem, as is maintained by Cappellus, Spanheim, Hardouin, and Semler. The natural interpretation is to take Babylon as the name of the well-known city. We have indeed no record of any missionary journey of Peter into Chaldaea, for but little of Peter's later life is given us in the New Test. But we know that many Jews inhabited Babylon — ( οὐ γὰρ ὀλίγοι μυριάδες, according to Josephus — and was not such a spot, to a great extent a Jewish colony or settlement, likely to attract the apostle of the circumcision? Lardner's principal argument, that the terms of the injunction to loyal obedience (2:13, 14) imply that Peter was within the bounds of the Roman empire, proves nothing; for as Davidson remarks — "The phrase 'the king,' in a letter written by a person in one country to a person in another, may mean the king either of the person writing, or of him to whom the letter is written." Granting that the Parthian empire had its own government, he is writing to persons in other provinces under Roman jurisdiction, and he enjoins them to obey the emperor as supreme, and the various governors sent by him for purposes of local administration. Moreover as has often been observed, the countries of the persons addressed in the epistle (1 Peter 1:1) are enumerated in the order in which a person writing from Babylon would naturally arrange them, beginning with those lying nearest to him, and passing in circuit to those in the west and the south, at the greatest distance from him. The natural meaning of the designation Babylon is held by Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Lightfoot, Wieseler, Mayerhoff, Bengel, De Wette, Bleek, and perhaps the majority of modern critics.
But if Peter wrote from Babylon on the Euphrates, at what period was the epistle written? The epistle itself contains no materials for fixing a precise date. It does not by its allusions clearly point to the Neronian persecution; it rather speaks of evil and danger suffered now, but with more in prospect. Suffering was endured and was also impending, and yet those who lived a quiet and blameless life might escape it, though certainly trials for righteousness' sake are implied and virtually predicted. About the year 60 the dark elements of Nero's character began to develop themselves, and after this epoch the epistle was written. The churches addressed in it were mostly planted by Paul, and it is therefore thought by some that Paul must have been deceased ere Peter would find it his duty to address them. Paul was plt to death about A.D. 64; but such a date would be too late for our epistle, as time would not, on such a hypothesis, be left for the apostle's going to Rome, according to old tradition, and for his martyrdom in that city. It may be admitted that Peter would not have intruded into Paul's sphere had Paul been free to write to or labor in the provinces specified. Still it may be supposed that Paul may have withdrawn to some more distant field of labor, or may have been suffering imprisonment at Rome. Davidson places the date in 63; Alford between 63 and 67. If the Mark of 5:13 be he of whom Paul speaks as being with him in Rome (Colossians 4:10), then we know that he was purposing an immediate journey to Asia Minor; and we learn from 2 Timothy 4:11 that he had not returned when this last of Paul's epistles was written. It is surely not impossible for him to have gone in this interval to Peter at Babylon; and as he must have personally known the churches addressed by Peter, his salutation was naturally included by the apostle. Silvanus, by whom the epistle was sent-if the same with the Silvanus mentioned in the greetings 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1 seems to have left Paul before the epistles to Corinth were written. He may have in some way become connected with Peter, and, as the Silas of the Acts, he was acquainted with many of the churches to whom this epistle was sent. The terms "a faithful brother as I suppose" (the faithful brother as I reckon) do not imply any doubt of his character, but are only an additional recommendation to one whose companionship with Paul must have been known in the provinces enumerated by Peter.
But Schwegler ascribes the epistle to a later periodto the age of Trajan; and of course denies its apostolic authorship (Nach-apostol. Zeitalter, 2:22). The argulments, however, for so late a date are very inconclusive. He first of all assumes that its language does not tally with the facts of the Neronian persecution, and that the tone is unimpassioned — that Christians were charged with definite crime under Nero — that his persecution did not extend beyond Rome — that it was tumultuary, and not, as this epistle supposes, conducted by regular processes, and that the general condition of believers in Asia Minor, as depicted in the epistle, suits the age of Trajan better than that of Nero. The reply is obvious — that the tranquillity of tone in this epistle would be remarkable under any persecution, for it is that of calm, heroic endurance, which trusts in an unseen arm, and has hopes undimmed by death; that the persecution of Christians simply for the name which they bore was not an irrational ferocity peculiar to Trajan's time; that in the provinces Christians were always exposed to popular fury and irregular magisterial condemnation; that there is no allusion to judicial trial in the epistle, for the word ἀπολογία does not imply it; and that the sufferings of Christians in Asia Minor as referred to or predicted do not agree with the recorded facts in Pliny's letter, for according to it they were by a formal investigation and sentence doomed to death (Huther, Einleit. page 28). The persecutions referred to in this epistle are rather such as Christians have always to encounter in heathen countries from an ignorant mob easily stirred to violence, and where the civil power, though inclined to toleration in theory, is yet swayed by strong prejudices, and prone, from position and policy, to favor and protect the dominant superstition.
Supposing this epistle to have been written at Babylon, it is a probable conjecture that Silvanus, by whom it was transmitted to those churches, had joined Petei after a tour of visitation, either in pursuance of instructions from Paul, then a prisoner at Rome, or in the capacity of a minister of high authority in the Church, and that his account of the condition of the Christians in those districts determined the apostle to write the epistle. From the absence of personal salutations, and other indications, it may perhaps be inferred that Peter had not hitherto visited the churches; but it is certain that he was thoroughly acquainted both with their external circumstances and spiritual state. It is clear that Silvanus is not regarded by Peter as one of his own coadjutors, but as one whose personal character he had sufficient opportunity of appreciating (1 Peter 5:12). Such a testimonial as the apostle gives to the soundness of his faith would of course have the greatest weight with the Asiatic Christians, to whom the epistle appears to have been specially, though not exclusively addressed. The assumption that Silvanus was employed in the composition of the epistle is not borne out by the expression "by Silvanus I have written unto you," such words, according to ancient usage, applying rather to the bearer than to the writer or.amanuensis. Still it is highly probable that Silvanus, considering his rank, character, and special connection with those churches, and with their great apostle and founder, would be consulted by Peter throughout, and that they would together read the epistles of Paul, especially those addressed to the churches in those districts: thus, partly with direct intention, partly it may be unconsciously, a Pauline coloring, amounting in passages to something like a studied imitation of Paul's representations of Christian truth, may have been introduced into the epistle. It has been observed above, (See PETER) that there is good reason to suppose that Peter was in the habit of employing an interpreter; nor is there anything inconsistent with his position or character in the supposition that Silvanus, perhaps also Mark, may have assisted him in giving expression to the thoughts suggested to him by the Holy Spirit. We have thus, at any rate, a not unsatisfactory solution of the difficulty arising from correspondences both of style and modes of thought in the writings of two apostles who differed so widely in gifts and acquirements.
III. Persons for whom the Epistle was intended. — It was addressed to the churches of Asia Minor, which had for the most part been founded by Paul and his companions. From some expressions in the epistle many have thought that it was meant for Jewish Christians. The words of the salutation are — ἑκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου, etc. — "to the elect strangers of the dispersion," etc. Viewed by themselves the words seem to refer to Jews — διασπορά being often employed to designate Jews living out of Palestine. This opinion is held by many of the fathers, as Eusebius, Jerome, and Theophylact, and by Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Hug, and Pott. A modification of this extreme view is maintained by Gerhard. Wolf, Jachmann, and Weiss, viz. that Jewish converts were chiefly regarded in the mass of Gentile believers. The arguments of Weiss need not be repeated, and they are well met by Huther (Einleit. page 21). But there are many things in the epistle quite irreconcilable with the idea of its being meant either solely or principally for Jewish believers. He tells his readers that "sufficient lies the past for them to have wrought out the will of time Gentiles — as indeed ye walked in lasciviousness, wine-bibbing, revellings, drinking-bouts, and forbidden idolatries" — sins all of them, and the last particularly, which specially characterized the heathen world. Similarly does he speak (1 Peter 1:14) of "former lusts in your ignorance;" (1 Peter 3:6), of Sarah, "whose daughters ye have become" — ἐγενήθητε — they being not so by birth or blood. In 1 Peter 2:9-10, they are said to be "called out of darkness," to have been "in time past not a people, but now the people of God." The last words, referring originally to Israel, had already been applied by Paul to Gentile believers in Romans 9:25. The term διασπορά may be used in a spiritual sense, and such a use is war. ranted by other clauses of the epistle — 1 Peter 1:17, " the time of your sojourning;" 1 Peter 2:11, "strangers and pilgrims." Peter, whose prepossessions had been so Jewish, and whose soul moved so much in the sphere of Jewish ideas from his very function as the apostle of the circumcision, instinctively employs national terms in that new and enlarged spiritual meaning which, through their connection with Christianity, they had come to bear. Besides, the history of the origin of these churches in Asia Minor shows that they were composed to a large extent of Gentile believers. Many of them may have been proselytes, though, as Wieseler has shown, it is wrong in Michaelis, Credner, and Neudecker to apply to such exclusively the terms in the address of this epistle. Nor is it at all a likely thing that Peter should have selected one portion of these churches and written alone or mainly to them. The provinces (1 Peter 1:1) included the churches in Galatia which are not named in Acts, as Ancyra and Pessinus, and the other communities in Iconium, Lystra, the Pisidian Antioch, Miletus, Colosse, Laodicea, Philadelphia, Thyatira, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Troas, etc. (Steiger, Einleit. sec. 6). That the persons addressed in the epistle were Gentiles is the view of Augustine, Luther, Wetstein, Steiger, Brickner, Mayerhoff,Wiesinger, Neander, Reuss, Schaff, and Huther. Reuss (page 133) takes πάροικοι and παρεπίδημοι as גוים, Israelites by faith, not by ceremonial observance. See also Weiss, Der Petrinische Lehrbegriff, page 28, n. 2.
IV. Design, Contents, and Characteristics. — The objects of the epistle, as deduced from its contents, coincide with the above assumptions. They were:
1. To comfort and strengthen the Christians in a season of severe trial.
2. To enforce the practical and spiritual duties involved in their calling.
3. To warn them against special temptations attached to their position.
4. To remove all doubt as to the soundness and completeness of the religious system which they had already received.
Such an attestation was especially needed by the Hebrew Christians, who were wont to appeal from Paul's authority to that of the elder apostles, and above all to that of Peter. The last, which is perhaps the very principal object, is kept in view throughout the epistle, and is distinctly stated (1 Peter 5:12).
These objects may come out more clearly in a brief analysis. The epistle begins with salutations and a general description of Christians (1 Peter 1:1-2), followed by a statement of their present privileges and future inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5); the bearings of that statement upon their conduct under persecution (1 Peter 1:6-9); reference, according to the apostle's wont, to prophecies concerning both the sufferings of Christ and the salvation of his people (1 Peter 1:10-12); and exhortations based upon those promises to earnestness, sobriety, hope, obedience, and holiness, as results of knowledge of redemption, of atonement by the blood of Jesus, and of the resurrection, and as proofs of spiritual regeneration by the Word of God. Peculiar stress is laid upon the cardinal graces of faith, hope, and brotherly love, each connected with and resting upon the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:13-25).
Abstinence from the spiritual sins most directly opposed to those graces is then enforced (1 Peter 2:1); spiritual growth is represented as dependent upon the nourishment supplied by the same Word which was the instrument of regeneration (1 Peter 2:2-3); and then, by a change of metaphor, Christians are represented as a spiritual house, collectively and individually as living stones, and royal priests, elect, and brought out of darkness into light (1 Peter 2:4-10). This portion of the epistle is singularly rich in thought and expression, and bears the peculiar impress of the apostle's mind, in which Judaism is spiritualized, and finds its full development in Christ. From this condition of Christians, and more directly from the fact that they are thus separated from the world, pilgrims and sojourners, Peter deduces an entire system of practical and relative duties, self-control, care of reputation, especially for the sake of Gentiles; submission to all constituted authorities; obligations of slaves, urged with remarkable earnestness, and founded upon the example of Christ and his atoning death (1 Peter 2:11-25); and duties of wives and husbands (1 Peter 3:1-7). Then generally all Christian graces are commended, those which pertain to Christian brotherhood, and those which are especially needed in times of persecution, gentleness, forbearance, and submission to injury (1 Peter 3:8-17): all the precepts being based on imitation of Christ, with warnings from the history of the. deluge, and with special reference to the baptismal covenant. In the following chapter (1 Peter 4:1-2) the analogy between the death of Christ and spiritual mortification, a topic much dwelt upon by Paul, is urged with special reference to the sins committed by Christians before conversion, and habitual to the Gentiles.
The doctrine of a future judgment is inculcated, both with reference to their heathen persecutors as a motive for endurance, mind to their own conduct as an incentive to sobriety, watchfulness, fervent charity, liberality in all external acts of kindness, and diligent discharge of all spiritual duties, with a view to the glory of God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:3-11). This epistle appears at the first draught to have terminated here with the doxology, but the thought of the fiery trial to which the Christians were exposed stirs the apostle's heart, and suggests additional exhortations. Christians are taught to rejoice in partaking of Christ's sufferings, being thereby assured of sharing his glory, which even in this life rests upon them, and is especially manifested in their innocence and endurance of persecution: judgment must come first to cleanse the house of God, then to reach the disobedient: suffering according to the will of God, they may commit their souls to him in welldoing as unto a faithful Creator. Faith and hope are equally conspicuous in these exhortations. The apostle then (1 Peter 5:1-4) addresses the presbyters of the churches, warning them as one of their own body, as a witness (parve) of Christ's sufferings, and partaker of future glory, against negligence, covetousness, and love of power; the younger members he exhorts to submission and humility, and concludes this part with a warning against their spiritual enemy, and a solemn and most beautiful prayer to the God of all grace. Lastly, he mentions Silvanus with special commendation, and states very distinctly what we have seen reason to believe was a principal object of the epistle, viz. that the principles inculcated by their former teachers were sound, the true grace of God, to which they are exhorted to adhere.
A salutation from the Church in Babylon and from Mark, with a parting benediction, closes the epistle. A few characteristic features may be more distinctly looked at. The churches addressed were in trialssuch trials as the spirit of that age must necessarily have brought upon them (1 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:12-19). Those trials originated to some extent in their separation from the heathen amusements and dissoluteness in which they had mingled prior to their conversion (1 Peter 4:4-5). They are exhorted to bear suffering patiently, and ever to remember the example, and endure in the spirit, of the Suffering One — the Righteous One who had suffered for them. While affliction would come upon them in the present time, they are ever encouraged to look Nith joyous anticipation to the future. Peter indeed might be called the apostle of hope. Doctrine and consolation alike assume this form. The "inheritance" is future, but its heirs are begotten to a "living hope" (1 Peter 1:3-4). Their tried faith is found unto glory "at the appearance of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7). The "end" of their faith is "salvation" (1 Peter 1:9), and they are to "hope to the end for the grace to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13). Their ruling emotion is therefore "the hope that is in them" (1 Peter 3:15); so much lying over in reserve for them in the future, their time here is only a "sojourning" (1 Peter 1:17); they were merely "strangers and pilgrims" (1 Peter 2:11); nay, "the end of all things is at hand" (1 Peter 4:7). Suffering was now, but joy was to come when his "glory shall be revealed" (1 Peter 5:1). In Christ's own experience as Prototype suffering led to glory (1 Peter 1:11; 1 Peter 4:13); the same connection the apostle applies to himself, and to faithful ministers (1 Peter 5:1-4). There are also allusions to Christ's words, or, rather, reminiscences of them mingle with the apostle's thoughts. Comp. 1 Peter 1:4 with Matthew 25:34; Matthew 1:8 with John 20:29; John 1:10 with Luke 10:24; Luke 1:13 with Luke 12:35; Luke 2:12 with Matthew 5:16; Matthew 3:13-15 with Matthew 5:16; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 5:6 wi
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Peter, First Epistle of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/peter-first-epistle-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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