International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
PETER, APOCALYPSE OF
See APOCRYPHAL GOSPELS, II, 4; LITERATURE, SUB-APOSTOLIC (Introduction).
PETER, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO
See APOCRYPHAL GOSPELS; LITERATURE, SUB-APOSTOLIC.
pe'-ter, si'-mon): 1. Name and Early Career
2. First Appearance in Gospel History
(1) First Period
(2) Second Period
(1) First Epistle
(2) Second Epistle
(1) Messianic Teaching
(4) Future Life
(5) Holy Scripture
(6) Apostasy and Judgment
(7) Second Coming of Christ
The data for this article are found chiefly in the four Gospels; in Acts 1-15; in Galatians 1 and 2; and in the two Epistles of Peter.
1. Name and Early Career:
Simon (or Simeon) was the original name of Peter, the son of Jonas (or John), and brother of Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, as Peter also may have been. A fisherman by occupation, he was an inhabitant of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, though subsequently he dwelt with his family at Capernaum (Matthew 4:18; Matthew 8:14; Matthew 10:2; Matthew 16:16, 17; 17:25 Mark 1:16, 29, 30, 36 Luke 5:3, 4, 5, 8, 10; Luke 22:31; Luke 24:34 John 1:40-44).
2. First Appearance in Gospel History:
His first appearance in Gospel history is in John 1:35-42, when Andrew, having discovered Jesus to be the Messiah, "first findeth his own brother Simon," and "brought him unto Jesus"; on which occasion it was that the latter, beholding him, said, "Thou shalt be called Cephas," an Aramaic surname whose Greek synonym is Petros, or Peter, meaning "a rock" or "stone" At this time also he received his first call to the discipleship of Jesus, although, in common with that of others of the Twelve, this call was twice repeated. See Matthew 4:19 Mark 1:17 Luke 5:3 for the second call, and Matthew 10:2 Mark 3:14, 16 Luke 6:13, 14 for the third. Some interpret the second as that when he was chosen to be a constant companion of Jesus, and the third when he was at length selected as an apostle.
The life-story of Peter falls into two parts: first, from his call to the ascension of Christ; secondly, from that event to the close of his earthly career.
(1) First Period:
The first period again may be conveniently divided into the events prior to the Passion of Christ and those following. There are about ten of the former: the healing of his wife's mother at Capernaum (Matthew 8:14); the great draught of fishes, and its effect in his self-abasement and surrender of his all to Jesus (Luke 5:1-11); his call to the apostolic office and his spiritual equipment therefor (Matthew 10:2); his attachment to his Master, as shown in his attempt to walk upon the waves (Matthew 14:28); the same attachment as shown at a certain crisis, in his inquiry "Lord, to whom shall we go?" (John 6:68); his noble confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, and, alas, the rebuke that followed it (Matthew 16:13-23); the exalted privileges he enjoyed with James and John as witness of the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37) and the transfiguration of his Lord (Matthew 17:1-5); and finally, the incident of the tribute money, found only in Matthew 17:24.
The events beginning at the Passion are more easily recalled, because to so large an extent are they found in all the Gospels and about in the same order. They commence with the washing of his feet by the Master at the time of the last Passover, and the two mistakes he made as to the spiritual import of that act (John 13:1-10); the first of his presumptuous boastings as to the strength of his devotion to his Master, and the warning of the latter as to Satan's prospective assault upon him (Luke 22:31-34), twice repeated before the betrayal in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:31-35); the admission to the garden to behold the Saviour's deepest distress, the charge to watch and pray, and the failure to do so through sleepiness (Matthew 26:36-46); the mistaken courage in severing the ear of Malchus (John 18:10-12); the forsaking of his Lord while the latter was being led away as a prisoner, his following Him afar off, his admission into the high priest's palace, his denial "before them all," his confirmation of it by an oath, his remembrance of the warning when "the Lord turned and looked upon Peter," and his tears of bitterness as he went out (Matthew 26:56-58 Mark 14:66-72 Luke 22:54-62 John 18:15-27).
It will be seen that the story of Peter's fall is thus related by all the evangelists, but, to quote another, "None have described it in a more heinous light, than Mark; and if, as is generally supposed, that Gospel was reviewed by Peter himself and even written under his direction this circumstance may be considered as an evidence of his integrity and sincere contrition."
Nothing more is heard of Peter until the morning of the resurrection, when, on the first tidings of the event, he runs with John to see the tomb (John 20:1-10); his name is especially mentioned to the women by the angel (Mark 16:7); and on the same day he sees Jesus alive before any of the rest of the Twelve (Luke 24:34 1 Corinthians 15:5). Subsequently, at the Sea of Tiberias, Peter is given an opportunity for a threefold confession of Jesus whom he had thrice denied, and is once more assigned to the apostolic office; a prediction follows as to the kind of death he should die, and also a command to follow his Lord (John 21).
(2) Second Period:
The second period, from the ascension of Christ to the conversion of Paul, is more briefly sketched. After the ascension, of which Peter was doubtless a witness, he "stood up in the midst of the brethren" in the upper room in Jerusalem to counsel the choice of a successor to Judas (Acts 1:15-26). On the day of Pentecost he preaches the first gospel sermon (Acts 2), and later, in company with John, instrumentally heals the lame man, addresses the people in the Temple, is arrested, defends himself before the Sanhedrin and returns to his "own company" (Acts 3; Acts 4). He is again arrested and beaten (Acts 5); after a time he is sent by the church at Jerusalem to communicate the Holy Spirit to the disciples at Samaria (Acts 8). Returning to Jerusalem (where presumably Paul visits him, Galatians 1:18), he afterward journeys "throughout all parts," heals Aeneas at Lydda, raises Dorcas from the dead at Joppa, sees a vision upon the housetop which influences him to preach the gospel to the Gentile centurion at Caesarea, and explains this action before "the apostles and the brethren that were in Judea" (Acts 9:32-41; Acts 11; chapter 11).
After a while another persecution arose against the church, and Herod Agrippa, having put James to death, imprisons Peter with the thought of executing him also. Prayer is made by the church on his behalf, however, and miraculous deliverance is given him (Acts 12). Retiring for a while from public attention, he once more comes before us in the church council at Jerusalem, when the question is to be settled as to whether works are needful to salvation, adding his testimony to that of Paul and Barnabas in favor of justification by faith only (Acts 15).
Subsequently, he is found at Antioch, and having fellowship with GentileChristians until "that certain came from James," when "he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision," for which dissembling Paul "resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned" (Galatians 2:11-14).
Little more is authentically known of Peter, except that he traveled more or less extensively, being accompanied by his wife (1 Corinthians 9:5), and that he wrote two epistles, the second of which was penned as he approached the end of his life (2 Peter 1:12-15).
The tradition is that he died a martyr at Rome about 67 A.D., when about 75 years old. His Lord and Master had predicted a violent death for him (John 21:18, 19), which it is thought came to pass by crucifixion under Nero. It is said that at his own desire he was crucified head downward, feeling himself unworthy to resemble his Master in his death.
It should be observed, however, that the tradition that he visited Rome is only tradition and nothing more, resting as it does partly upon a miscalculation of some of the early Fathers, "who assume that he went to Rome in 42 A.D., immediately after his deliverance from prison" (compare Acts 11:17). Schaff says this "is irreconcilable with the silence of Scripture, and even with the mere fact of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, written in 58, since the latter says not a word of Peter's previous labors in that city, and he himself never built on other men's foundations" (Romans 15:20 2 Corinthians 10:15, 16).
The character of Peter is transparent and easily analyzed, and it is doubtless true that no other "in Scriptural history is drawn for us more clearly or strongly." He has been styled the prince of the apostles, and, indeed, seems to have been their leader on every occasion. He is always named first in every list of them, and was their common spokesman. He was hopeful, bold, confident, courageous, frank, impulsive, energetic, vigorous, strong, and loving, and faithful to his Master notwithstanding his defection prior to the crucifixion. It is true that he was liable to change and inconsistency, and because of his peculiar temperament he sometimes appeared forward and rash. Yet, as another says, "His virtues and faults had their common root in his enthusiastic disposition," and the latter were at length overruled by divine grace into the most beautiful humility and meekness, as evinced in his two Epistles.
The leadership above referred to, however, should not lead to the supposition that he possessed any supremacy over the other apostles, of which there is no proof. Such supremacy was never conferred upon him by his Master, it was never claimed by himself, and was never conceded by his associates. See in this Connection Matthew 23:8-12 Acts 15:13, 14 2 Corinthians 12:11; Galatians 2:11.
It is true that when Christ referred to the meaning of his name (Matthew 16:18), He said, "Upon this rock I will build my church," but He did not intend to teach that His church would be built upon Peter, but upon Himself as confessed by Peter in Matthew 16:16. Peter is careful to affirm this in the first of his two Epistles (1 Peter 2:4-9). Moreover, when Christ said, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven," etc. (Matthew 16:19), He invested him with no power not possessed in common with his brethren, since they also afterward received the same commission (Matthew 18:18 John 20:23). A key is a badge of power or authority, and, as many Protestant commentators have pointed out, to quote the language of one of them, "the apostolic history explains and limits this trust, for it was Peter who opened the door of the gospel to Israel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-42) and to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:34-46)." Some, however, regard this authority as identical with the great commission (Matthew 28:19).
See KEYS, POWER OF THE.
The two Epistles of Peter were written presumably late in life, as appears especially of the Second (2 Peter 1:12-15). Both were addressed to the same class of persons, chiefly Jewish Christians scattered abroad in the different provinces of Asia Minor, among whom Paul and his associates had planted the gospel (1 Peter 1:1, 2 2 Peter 3:1). The First was written at Babylon (1 Peter 5:13), doubtless the famous Babylon on the Euphrates, which, though destroyed as a great capital, was still inhabited by a small colony of people, principally Jews (see Weiss, Introduction, II, 150).
See also PETER, THE FIRST EPISTLE OF.
(1) First Epistle.
The theme of the First Epistle seems to be the living hope to which the Christian has been begotten, and the obligations it lays upon him. The living hope is expounded in the earlier part of 1 Peter 1:1-13, where the obligations begin to be stated, the first group including hope, godly fear, love to the brethren, and praise (1:13-2:10).
The writer drops his pen at this point, to take it up again to address those who were suffering persecution for righteousness' sake, upon whom two more obligations are impressed, submission to authority, and testimony to Christ (1 Peter 2:11-4:6). The third group which concludes the book begins here, dealing with such themes as spiritual hospitality in the use of heavenly gifts, patience in suffering, fidelity in service, and humility in ministering to one another. The letter was Sent to the churches "by Silvanus, our faithful brother," the author affirming that his object in writing was to exhort and testify concerning "the true grace of God" (1 Peter 5:12).
The genuineness of this First Epistle has never been doubted, except of course by those who in these latter days have doubted everything, but the same cannot be said of the Second. It is not known to whom the latter was entrusted; as a matter of fact it found no place in the catalogues of the New Testament Scriptures of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The first church employing it was at Alexandria, but subsequently the church at large became satisfied from internal evidence of its genuineness and inspiration, and when the Canon was pronounced complete in the 4th century, it was without hesitancy received.
(2) Second Epistle.
The Second Epistle claims to have been written by Peter (2 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1, 2), to doubt which would start more serious difficulties than can be alleged against its genuineness, either because of its late admission to the Canon or its supposed diversity of style from Peter's early writing.
See PETER, THE SECOND EPISTLE OF.
His object is the same in both Epistles, to "stir up your sincere mind by putting you in remembrance" (2 Peter 3:1). Like Paul in his Second Epistle to Timothy, he foresees the apostasy in which the professing church will end, the difference being that Paul speaks of it in its last stage when the laity have become infected (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:3, 4), while Peter sees it in its origin as traceable to false teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3, 15-19). As in the First Epistle he wrote to exhort and to testify, so here it is rather to caution and warn. This warning was, as a whole, against falling from grace (2 Peter 3:17, 18), the enforcement of which warning is contained in 2 Peter 1:2-11, the ground of it in 1:12-21, and the occasion of it in the last two chapters. To speak only of the occasion: This, as was stated, was the presence of false teachers (2:1), whose eminent success is predicted (2:2), whose punishment is certain and dreadful (2:3-9), and whose description follows (2:10-22). The character of their false teaching (2 Peter 3) forms one of the most interesting and important features of the Epistle, focusing as it does on the Second Coming of Christ.
The theology of Peter offers an interesting field of study because of what may be styled its freshness and variety in comparison with that of Paul and John, who are the great theologians of the New Testament.
(1) Messianic Teaching.
In the first place, Peter is unique in his Messianic teaching as indicated in the first part of the Acts, where he is the chief personage, and where for the most part his ministry is confined to Jerusalem and the Jews. The latter, already in covenant relations with Yahweh, had sinned in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, and Peter's preaching was directed to that point, demanding repentance or a change of mind about Him. The apparent failure of the Old Testament promises concerning the Davidic kingdom (Isaiah 11:10-12 Jeremiah 23:5-8 Ezekiel 37:21-28) was explained by the promise that the kingdom would be set up at the return of Christ (Acts 2:25-31; Acts 15:14-16); which return, personal and corporeal, and for that purpose, is presented as only awaiting their national repentance (Acts 3:19-26). See Scofield, Reference Bible, at the places named.
But Peter's special ministry to the circumcision is by no means in conflict with that of Paul to the Gentiles, as demonstrated at the point of transition in Acts 10. Up until this time the gospel had been offered to the Jews only, but now they have rejected it in the national sense, and "the normal order for the present Christian age" is reached (Acts 13:44-48). Accordingly, we find Peter, side by side with Paul, affirming the great doctrine of justification by faith only, in the words, "We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we (Jews) shall be saved, even as they (Gentiles)" (Acts 15:11 the King James Version). Moreover, it is clear from Peter's Second Epistle (2 Peter 1:1) that his conception of justification from the divine as well as the human side is identical with that of Paul, since he speaks of justifying faith as terminating on the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. As we understand it, this is not the righteousness which God is, but the righteousness which God gives (compare Romans 1:16, 17; Romans 3:21-25 2 Corinthians 5:20, 21).
Passing from his oral to his written utterances, Peter is particularly rich in his allusions to the redemptive work of Christ. Limiting ourselves to his First Epistle, the election of the individual believer is seen to be the result of the sprinkling of Christ's blood (1 Peter 1:1); his obedience and godly fear are inspired by the sacrifice of the "lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:17-20 the King James Version). But most interesting are the manner and the connection in which these sublime truths are sometimes set before the reader. For example, an exhortation to submission on the part of household slaves is the occasion for perhaps the most concise and yet comprehensive interpretation of Christ's vicarious sufferings anywhere in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:18-25, especially the last two verses; compare also in its context 1 Peter 3:18-22).
(4) Future Life.
Next to the redemptive work of Christ, the Petrine teaching about the future life claims attention. The believer has been begotten again unto "a lively (or living) hope" (1 Peter 1:3); which is "an inheritance" "reserved in heaven" (1 Peter 1:4); and associated with "praise, and glory and honor at the revelation (Second Coming) of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7, 13; 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:4, 10 2 Peter 1:11, 16; 2 Peter 3:13, etc.). This "hope" or "inheritance" is so real and so precious as to cause rejoicing even in times of heaviness and trial (1 Peter 1:6); to stimulate to holiness of living (1 Peter 1:13-16); to patience in persecution (1 Peter 4:12, 13); fidelity in service (1 Peter 5:1-4); stedfastness against temptation (5:8-10); and growth in grace (2 Peter 1:10, 11). It is a further peculiarity that the apostle always throws the thought of the present suffering forward into the light of the future glory. It is not as though there were merely an allotment of suffering here, and an allotment of glory by and by, with no relation or connection between the two, but the one is seen to be incident to the other (compare 1 Peter 1:7, 11; 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1 2 Peter 3:12, 13). It is this circumstance, added to others, that gives Peter the title of the apostle of hope, as Paul has been called the apostle of faith, and John the apostle of love.
(5) Holy Scripture.
Considering their limitations as to space, Peter's Epistles are notable for the emphasis they lay upon the character and authority of the Holy Scriptures. 1 Peter 1:10-12 teaches a threefold relation of the Holy Spirit to the Holy Word as its Author, its Revealer, and its Teacher or Preacher. The same chapter (1:22-25) speaks of its life-giving and purifying power as well as its eternal duration. 1 Peter 2 opens with a declaration of its vital relation to the Christian's spiritual growth. In 4:11, it is shown to be the staple of the Christian's ministry. Practically the whole of the Second Epistle is taken up with the subject. Through the "exceeding great and precious promises" of that Word, Christians become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4 the King James Version); that they may be kept "always in remembrance" is Peter's object in writing (2 Peter 1:12-15 the King James Version); the facts of that Word rest on the testimony of eyewitnesses (2 Peter 1:16-18); its origin is altogether divine (2 Peter 1:20, 21); which is as true of the New Testament as of the Old Testament (2 Peter 3:2); including the Epistles of Paul (2 Peter 3:15, 16).
(6) Apostasy and Judgment.
This appreciation of the living Word of God finds an antithesis in the solemn warning against apostate teachers and teaching forming the substance of 2 Peter 2 and 3. The theology here is of judgment. It is swift and "lingereth not" (2:1-3); the Judge is He who "spared not" in olden time (2:4-7); His delay expresses mercy, but He "will come as a thief" (3:9, 10); the heavens "shall pass away," the earth and its works shall be burned up (3:10); "What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness?" (3:11).
(7) Second Coming of Christ.
Peter's theology concerning judgment is a further illustration of the Messianic character of his instruction. For example, the Second Coming of Christ of which he speaks in the closing chapter of the Second Epistle is not that aspect of it associated with the translation of His church, and of which Paul treats (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), but that pertaining to Israel and the day of Yahweh spoken of by the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 2:12-22 Revelation 19:11-21, etc.).
The history of Peter is treated more or less at length in the introductions to the commentaries on his Epistles, and in works on the life of Christ. But particular reference is made to the following: E. W. Farrar, Early Days of Christianity, London, 1882; J. S. Howson, Studies in the Life of Peter, London, 1883; H. A. Birks, Life and Character of Peter, London, 1887; W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, London, 1893; Mason Gallagher, Was Peter Ever at Rome? Philadelphia, 1895; A. C. McGiffert, The Apostolic Age, New York, 1897; W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Apostle Peter, London, 1904; G. Matheson, Representative Men of the New Testament, London, 1905; A. J. Southhouse, The Making of Simon Peter) New York, 1906; A. C. Gaebtelein, The Gospel of Matthew, New York, 1907; The Acts of the Apostles, New York, 1912; Edmundson, Church in Rome in the 1st Century, 1913; Smith, The Days of His Flesh, New York, 1911.
On theology of Peter, consult the subject in works on Systematic or Biblical, Theology, and see also R. W. Dale The Atonement, 97-148. London 1875: C. A. Briggs, Messiah of the Apostles, 21-41, New York, 1895; Scofield, Reference Bible, where pertinent.
Among commentaries on 1 and 2 Peter may be mentioned: Brown, 3 volumes, Edinburgh, 1848-56; Demarest, 2 volumes, New York, 1851-65; Leighton, republished, Philadelphia, 1864; Lillie, New York, 1869; G. F. C. Fronmuller, in Lange's Comm., English translation, New York, 1874; Plumptre, Cambridge Bible, 1883; Spitta, Der zweite Brief des Petrus, Halle, 1885; F. B. Meyer, London, 1890; Lumby, Expositor's Bible, London, 1894; J. H. Jowett, London, 1905; Bigg, ICC, 1901.
James M. Gray
PETER, THE FIRST EPISTLE OF
I. CANONICITY OF 1 PETER
1. External Evidence
2. Internal Evidence
II. THE ADDRESS
III. PLACE AND TIME OF COMPOSITION
1. Babylon: Which?
2. Babylon Not Rome
2. Example of Christ
3. Relation to State
V. CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES OF THE EPISTLE
1. Freedom in Structure
4. Testimony of Prophets
(2) Spirit of Christ
(3) Prophetic Study
5. The Christian Brotherhood
6. Spirits in Prison
Simon Peter was a native of Galilee. He was brought to the Saviour early in His ministry by his brother Andrew (John 1:40, 41). His call to the office of apostle is recorded in Matthew 10:1-4 Mark 3:13-16.
He occupied a distinguished place among the Lord's disciples. In the four lists of the apostles found in the New Testament his name stands first (Matthew 10:2-4 Mark 3:16-19 Luke 6:14-16 Acts 1:13). He is the chief figure in the first twelve chapters of the Acts. It is Peter that preaches the first Christian sermon (Acts 2), he that opens the door of the gospel to the Gentileworld in the house of the Roman soldier, Cornelius, and has the exquisite delight of witnessing scenes closely akin to those of Pentecost at Jerusalem (Acts 10:44-47). It was given him to pronounce the solemn sentence on the guilty pair, Ananias and Sapphira, and to rebuke in the power of the Spirit the profane Simon Magus (Acts 5:1-11; Acts 8:18-23). In these and the like instances Peter exhibited the authority with which Christ had invested him (Matthew 16:19)-an authority bestowed upon all the disciples (John 20:22, 23)-the power to bind and to loose.
Two Epistles are ascribed to Peter. Of the Second doubt and uncertainty have existed from the early ages to the present. The genuineness and authenticity of the First are above suspicion.
I. Canonicity of 1 Peter.
1. External Evidence:
The proof of its integrity and trustworthiness is ample and altogether satisfactory. It falls into parts: external and internal. The historical attestation to its authority as an apostolic document is abundant. Polycarp, disciple of the apostle John, martyed in 156 A.D. at 86 or more years of age, refers to the Epistle in unmistakable terms. Irenaeus, a man who may well be said to represent both the East and the West, who was a disciple of Polycarp, quotes it copiously, we are assured. Clement of Alexandria, born circa 150 A.D., died circa 216 A.D., cites it many times in his Stromata, one passage (1 Peter 4:8) being quoted five times by actual count. "The testimony of the early-church is summed up by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, xxiii, 3). He places it among those writings about which no question was ever raised, no doubt ever entertained by any portion of the catholic church" (Professor Lumby in Bible Comm.).
2. Internal Evidence:
The internal evidence in favor of the Epistle is as conclusive as the external. The writer is well acquainted with our Lord's teaching, and he makes use of it to illustrate and enforce his own. The references he makes to that teaching are many, and they include the four Gospels. He is familiar likewise with the Epistles, particularly James, Romans, and Ephesians. But what is especially noteworthy is the fact that 1 Peter in thought and language stands in close relation with the apostle's discourses as recorded in Acts. By comparing 1 Peter 1:17 with Acts 10:34 1 Peter 1:21 with Acts 2:32-36 and 10:40, 41; 1 Peter 2:7, 8 with Acts 4:10, 11 1 Peter 2:17 with Acts 10:28, and 1 Peter 3:18 with Acts 3:14, one will perceive how close the parallel between the two is. The inference from these facts appears legitimate, namely, 1 Peter in diction and thought belongs to the same period of time and moves in the same circle of truth as do the other writings of the New Testament. The writer was an apostle, and he was Simon Peter.
II. The Address.
Peter writes to the "elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion." James employs the term "Dispersion" to designate believing Hebrews of the Twelve Tribes who lived outside the land (James 1:1). The Jews included in it the whole body of Israelites scattered among the Gentilenations (John 7:35). But we must not conclude from this that the Epistle is directed to Christian Jews alone. Gentile believers are by no means excluded, as 1 Peter 1:14, 18, 20; 1 Peter 2:10; 1 Peter 3:6; 1 Peter 4:3, 4 abundantly attest. Indeed, the Gentile element in the churches of Asia Minor largely predominated at the time. The term "sojourners" represents a people away from home, strangers in a strange land; the word is translated "pilgrims" in 2:11 and Hebrews 11:13 NAME? Galatians 2:7, 8), he did not neglect the more numerous Gentileconverts, and to these he speaks as earnestly as to the others; and these also were "sojourners."
Three of the four provinces Peter mentions, namely, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Asia, had representatives at the memorable Pentecost in Jerua (Acts 2:9 1 Peter 1:1). Many of these "sojourners of the Dispersion" may have believed the message of the apostle and accepted salvation through Jesus Christ, and returned home to tell the good news to their neighbors and friends. This would form a strong bond of union between them and Peter, and would open the way for him to address them in the familiar and tender manner of the Epistle.
Silvanus appears to have been the bearer of the letter to the Christians of Asia Minor: "By Silvanus, our faithful brother, as I account him, I have written unto you briefly" (1 Peter 5:12). It is an assumption to assert from these words that Silvanus was employed in the composition of the letter. The statement denotes rather the bearer than the writer or secretary. Silvanus was Paul's companion in the ministry to the Asiatic churches, and since we do not read of him as going with Paul to Jerusalem or to Rome, it is probable he returned from Corinth (Acts 18:5) to Asia Minor and labored there. He and Peter met, where no one knows, though not a few think in Rome; as likely a guess perhaps is in Palestine. At any rate, Silvanus gave Peter an account of the conditions in the provinces, the afflictions and persecutions of believers, and the deep need they had for sympathy and counsel. He would, accordingly, be of the greatest assistance to the apostle. This seems to account for the peculiarity of language which Peter uses: "By Silvanus, our faithful brother, I have written unto you," as if he had some share in furnishing the contents of the Epistle.
III. Place and Time of Composition.
1. Babylon: Which?:
According to 1 Peter 5:13 the Epistle was written in Babylon. But what place is meant? Two cities having this name were known in apostolic times. One was in Egypt, probably on or near the present site of Cairo, and we are told that it was a "city of no small importance." Epiphanius calls it "great Babylon" (Zahn). The absence, however, of all tradition that would tend to identify this place with the Babylon of the Epistle seems to shut it out of the problem. Babylon on the Euphrates is regarded by many as the place here designated. Jews in considerable numbers still dwelt in Babylon, notwithstanding the massacre of thousands in the reign of Claudius and the flight of multitudes into other countries. There is much to be said in favor of this city as the place meant, and yet the absence of tradition in its support is a very serious difficulty. A third view regards it as symbolical of Rome. Roman Catholics thus interpret it, and not a few Protestants so understand it. Tradition which runs back into the first half of the 2nd century appears to favor it, though much uncertainty and obscurity still surround the earliest ages of our era, in spite of the unwearied researches of modern scholars. Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, who lived in the first half of the 2nd century, appears to have had no doubt that Peter was martyred in Rome, and that the Babylon of the Epistle designates the Imperial City. There are very serious objections to this interpretation. One is, that it is totally out of keeping with Peter's manner of writing. Preeminently he is direct and matter-of-fact in his style. The metaphorical language he employs is mostly drawn from the Old Testament, or, if from himself, it is so common of use as to be well understood by all readers. It is altogether improbable that this man, plain of speech almost to bluntness, should interject in the midst of his personal explanations and final salutations such a mystical epithet with no hint of what he means by it, or why he employs such a mode of speech.
2. Babylon Not Rome:
Besides, there is no evidence that Rome was called Babylon by the Christians until the Book of Revelation was published, i.e. circa 90-96 A.D. But if 1 Peter is dependent on the Apocalypse for this name of Babylon as Rome, Peter could not have been its author, for he died years before that date. The Epistle was written about 64 A.D., at the time when persecutions under the infamous Nero were raging, at which time also the apostle himself bore his witness and went to his heavenly home, even as his Master had forewarned him (John 21:18, 19). While not unmindful of the great difficulties that beset the view, nevertheless we are reclined to the opinion that the Babylon of 1 Peter 5:13 is the ancient city on the Euphrates.
The apostle had more than one object in view when he addressed the "elect" in Asia Minor. The Lord Jesus had charged him, "Feed my lambs" "Tend my sheep"-"Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). His two Epistles certify how faithfully he obeyed the charge. With loving and tender hand he feeds the lambs and tends the whole flock, warns against foes, guards from danger, and leads them into green pastures and beside still waters. He reminds them of the glorious inheritance they are to possess (1 Peter 1:3-9); he exhorts them to walk in the footsteps of the uncomplaining Christ (1 Peter 2:20-25); to be compassionate, loving, tender-hearted, humble-minded, and circumspect in their passage through this unfriendly world (1 Peter 3:8-12). He sums up the main duties of Christian life in the short but pregnant sentences, "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17). But his supreme object is to comfort and encourage them amid the persecutions and the sufferings to which they were unjustly subjected, and to fortify them against the heavier trials that were impending.
From the beginning the Christian church was the object of suspicion and of hatred, and many of its adherents had suffered even unto death at the hands of both hostile Jews and fanatical Gentiles. But these afflictions were generally local and sporadic. There were churches of large membership and wide influence which were unmolested (1 Corinthians 4:8-10), and which seem to have been able to get fair treatment in heathen courts (1 Corinthians 6:1-6). But the condition brought to view in 1 Peter is altogether different. Trials and afflictions of the severest sort assail them, and an enmity and hostility, bent on their destruction, pursue them with tireless energy. The whole Christian body shared in the persecutions (5:9). The trial was a surprise (4:12), both in its intensity, for Peter calls it "fiery," and for its unexpectedness. The apostle represents it as a savage beast of prey, a roaring lion, prowling about them to seize and devour (5:8, 9).
A variety of charges were brought against the Christians, but they were calumnies and slanders, without any foundation in fact. They were spoken against as evil-doers (1 Peter 2:12 kakopoion; malefici, Tacitus calls them). Their adversaries railed against them (1 Peter 3:9); reviled them (1 Peter 3:16); spake evil of them (1 Peter 4:4); reproached them for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:14). These are ugly epithets. They show how bitter was the hatred and how intense the hostility felt by the heathen toward the Christians who dwelt among them. If there had been any justification for such antagonism in the character and the conduct of Christ's people, if they were evil-doers, "haters of the human race," to be classed with thieves and murderers and meddlers in other men's matters (1 Peter 4:14-16), as they were accused of being and doing, we could understand the fierce opposition which assailed them and the savage purpose to suppress them altogether, but the only ground for the enmity felt against them was the refusal of the Christians to join their heathen neighbors in their idolatries, their feasts, winebibbings, revelings, carousings, lasciviousness and lusts in which once they freely shared (1 Peter 4:2-4). The Asian saints had renounced all such wicked practices, had separated themselves from their old companions in riotous living and revolting debaucheries; they were witnesses against their immoralities, and hence, became the objects of intense dislike and persecuting animosity. Peter bears testimony to the high character, the purity of life and the self-sacrificing devotion of these believers. In all Asia Minor no better company of men and women could be found than these disciples of Jesus Christ; none more submissive to constituted authority, none more ready to help their fellow-men in their distress and trouble. The head and front of their offending was their separation from the ungodly world about them, and their solemn witness against the awful sins done daily before their eyes.
2. Example of Christ:
How mightily does the apostle minister to his suffering friends! He bids them remember the uncomplaining Christ when He was unjustly afflicted by cruel men (1 Peter 2:19-25). He tells them how they may effectively put to silence their accusers, and refute the calumnies and the slanders that are so cruelly circulated against them, namely, by living such pure and godly lives, by being so meek, docile, patient, stedfast, true and faithful to God, that none can credit the false accusations (1 Peter 2:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-17; 3:8, 9, 13-17; 5:6-11).
3. Relation to State:
There is little or no evidence in the Epistle that the persecutions were inflicted by imperial authority or that the state was dealing with the Christians as enemies who were dangerous to the peace of society. In the provinces to which the letter was sent there seems to have been complete absence of formal trial and punishment through the courts. Peter does not speak of Iegal proceedings against the Christians by the magistrates. On the contrary, he urges them to be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well (1 Peter 2:13). They are to honor all men, to honor the king (1 Peter 2:17). This submission would scarcely be pressed if the state had already proscribed Christianity and decreed its total suppression. This the imperial government did later on, but there is no evidence furnished by the apostle that in 64 A.D.-the date of the Epistle-the government formally denounced Christians and determined to annihilate them.
Peter exhorts his fellow-believers to silence their persecutors by their upright conduct (1 Peter 2:15); they are thus to put them to shame who falsely accuse them (1 Peter 3:16); and they are not to combat evil with evil nor answer reviling with reviling, but contrariwise with blessing (1 Peter 3:9). The antagonism here indicated obviously springs from the heathen populace; there is no hint of arraignment before magistrates or subjection to legal proceedings. It is unbelievers who revile and slander and denounce the people of God in the provinces.
Everything in the Epistle points to the time of Nero, 64 A.D., and not to the time of Domitian or Trajan, or even Titus. In Rome vast multitudes of Christians were put to death in the most brutal fashion, so Tacitus relates, but the historian asserts that there was a sinister report to the effect that Nero himself instigated the burning of the city (July 19, 64), and "he (Nero) falsely diverted the charge on to a set of people to whom the vulgar gave the name of Christians (or Chrestians), and who were detested for the abominations which they perpetrated." SeeNERO. Certain facts are clear from Tacitus' statements, namely, that at the time the Christians were well known as a distinct sect; and that they were subjected to the dreadful sufferings inflicted upon them because they were Christians; and the persecutions at the time were instigated by the fear and the brutality of the tyrant. Peter likewise recognizes the fact that believers were disliked and calumniated by their heathen neighbors for the same reason-they were Christians: "If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye" (1 Peter 4:14); "But if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name" (1 Peter 4:16). But the imperial government at the time does not appear to have taken formal action for the overthrow of Christianity as a system inimical to the empire. Of course, where direct charges of a criminal nature were made against Christians, judicial inquiry into them would be instituted. But in the Epistle what believers had to endure and suffer were the detraction, the vituperation, the opprobrium and the vile and malignant slanders with which the heathen assailed them.
V. Characteristic Features of the Epistle.
It has certain very distinct marks, some of which may be noticed.
1. Freedom in Structure:
It does not observe a close logical sequence in its structure, as those of Paul so prominently display. There is truth in Dean Alford's statement, although perhaps he pushes it rather far: "The link between one idea and another is found, not in any progress of unfolding thought or argument, but in the last word of the foregoing sentence which is taken up and followed out in the new one" (see 1 Peter 1:5, 6, 7, 9, 10, etc.). This peculiarity, however, does not interfere with the unity of the epistle, it rather adds to it, and it gives to it a vividness which it otherwise might not possess.
It is the epistle of hope. How much it makes of this prime grace! Peter seems never to grow weary of describing it and exalting its radiant beauty and desirableness. He calls it a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). It is born by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and it calmly awaits the glorious inheritance that soon will be enjoyed. It is a hope that will be perfected at the advent of Christ (1 Peter 1:13), and it is set on God, hence, cannot fail (1 Peter 1:21). With sickly, dying hope we are quite familiar. The device which a certain state (South Carolina) has inscribed on its Great Seal is, dum spiro spero ("while I live I hope"). Such a hope may serve for a commonwealth whose existence is limited to this world, but a man needs something more enduring, something imperishable. "It is a fearful thing when a man and his hopes die together" (Leighton). A Christian can confidently write, "when I am dying I hope," for his is a living hope that fills and thrills the future with a blessed reality.
The Christian's glorious inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5) is depicted in one of the most comprehensive and suggestive descriptions of the believer's heritage found in the Bible. It is declared to be "incorruptible." The word points to its substance. It is imperishable. In it there is no element of decay. It holds in its heart no germ of death. Like its author, the living God, it is unchangeable and eternal. It is "undefiled." It is not stained by sin nor polluted by crime, either in its acquisition or its possession. Human heritages generally are marred by human wrongs. There is hardly an acre of soil that is not tainted by fraud or violence. The coin that passes from hand to hand is in many instances soiled by guilt. But this of Peter is absolutely pure and holy. It "fadeth not away." It never withers. Ages do not impair its beauty or dim its luster. Its bloom will remain fresh, its fragrance undiminished, forever. Thus our inheritance "is glorious in these respects: it is in its substance, incorruptible: in its purity, undefiled: in beauty, unfading" (Alford).
Now why does the apostle in the very opening of his Epistle give so lofty a place to the saints' inheritance? He does so in order to comfort and encourage his fellow-believers with the consolations of the Lord Himself, that they may bear stedfastly their manifold sufferings and triumph over their weighty afflictions. Hence, he writes: "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith.... may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-9). He lifts their thoughts and their gaze up far above the troubles and distresses around them to Him whose they are, whom they serve, who will by and by crown them with immortal bliss.
4. Testimony of Prophets:
The prophets and their study are described in 1 Peter 1:10, 11: "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you," etc. With Peter and his fellow-apostles the testimony of the prophets was authoritative and final. Where they had a clear word from the Old Testament Scriptures, they felt that every question was settled and controversy was at an end.
The burden of the prophetic communications was salvation. The prophets spoke on many subjects; they had to exhort, rebuke and entreat their wayward contemporaries; to denounce sin, to announce judgment on the guilty and to recall them to repentance and reformation. But ever and anon their vision was filled with the future and its blessedness, their voices would swell with rapture as they saw and foretold the great salvation to be brought to the world and the grace that would then so copiously go out unto men; for the Messiah was to appear and to suffer, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
(2) Spirit of Christ.
The prophet's messages were the messages of the Spirit of Christ. It was He who testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow. The prophets always disclaim any part in the origination of their messages. They affirm in the most positive and solemn manner that their predictions are not their own, but God's. Hence, they are called the Lord's "spokesmen," the Lord's "mouth" (Exodus 4:15, 16; Exodus 7:1, 2 2 Peter 1:21).
(3) Prophetic Study.
They "sought and searched diligently." These terms are strong and emphatic. They pored over the predictions which the Spirit had revealed through themselves; they scrutinized them with eager and prolonged inquiry. Two points engaged their attention: "What time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto." The first "what" relates to the time of the Messiah's advent; the second "what" to the events and circumstances which would attend His appearing-a fruitful theme, one that engages the inquiry of nobler students-"which things angels desire to look into."
5. The Christian Brotherhood:
The Christian brotherhood is described in 1 Peter 2:9, 10: "But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." The brotherhood is the new Israel. The apostle describes it in terms which were applied to the old Israel, but which include more than the ancient Israel ever realized. The exalted conception is by one who was a strict Jew, the apostle of the circumcision, and who held somewhat closely to the Mosaic institutions to the end of his life. All the more significant on this account is his testimony. The descriptive titles which he here gathers together and places on the brow of the Christian brotherhood are of the most illustrious sort. A distinguished man, a noble, a general, a statesman, will sometimes appear in public with his breast covered with resplendent decorations which mark his rank or his achievements. But such distinctions sink into insignificance alongside of this dazzling cluster. This is the heavenly nobility, the royal family of the Lord of glory, decorated with badges brighter far than ever glittered on the breast of king or emperor. But even in this instance Peter reminds Christians of the glorious destiny awaiting them that they may be strengthened and stimulated to stedfastness and loyalty in the midst of the trials and afflictions to which they are subjected (1 Peter 2:11, 12)
6. Spirits in Prison:
A study of 1 Peter 3:18-20 -"preached unto the spirits in prison"-should here follow in the present cursory review of the characteristic features of the Epistle, but anything like an adequate examination of this difficult passage would require more space than could be given it. Suf 1 Peter 3:19 is in all probability correct, according to which a preaching of Christ at the time of the Flood is referred to, i.e. a preaching through Noah, so that Noah is here represented as a preacher of righteousness, as in 2 Peter 2:5."
SeePRISON, SPIRITS IN.
A very general analysis of the Epistle is the following:
(1) Christian privileges, 1 Peter 1-2:10.
(2) Christian duties, 1 Peter 2:11-4:11.
(3) Persecutions and trials, 1 Peter 4:12-5:11.
(4) Personal matters and salutations, 1 Peter 5:12-14.
The chief doctrines of Christianity are found in 1 Peter. The vicarious suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ (2:24; 3:18); the new birth (1:3, 13); redemption by the blood of Christ (1:18, 19), faith, hope, patient endurance under unjust suffering, and holiness of life, are all pressed upon Christians with great earnestness and force.
Bible Dicts., DB, HDB, Davis, DB, EB, Sch-Herz, volume VIII; Intros: Westcott, Salmon, Zahn; Vincent, Word Studies; Commentaries: Bible Commentary, Cambridge Bible for Schools; Lillie, Jameson, Fausett and Brown, Alford, Bigg, Mayor (on 2 Peter), Johnstone (homiletical), New York, 1888; Hort, 1 Peter 1:1-2:17, New York, 1898.
William G. Moorehead
PETER, THE SECOND EPISTLE OF
I. EXTERNAL EVIDENCE IN FAVOR OF ITS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
1. Ancient Opinion
2. Modern Opinion
3. Dr. Chase's View
II. INTERNAL EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF ITS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
1. Style and Diction
2. Reason of Dissimilarities
3. Claim to Petrine Authorship
4. Christian Earnestness
5. Relation to Apostles
6. Autobiographical Allusions
7. Quoted by Jude
III. DOCTRINAL TEACHINGS OF THE EPISTLE
1. Saving Knowledge
(3) Inerrancy of Sources
2. The Three Worlds
(1) The Old World
(2) The Present World
(3) The New World
The Second Epistle of Peter comes to us with less historical support of its genuineness than any other book of the New Testament. In consequence, its right to a place in the Canon is seriously doubted by some and denied by others. There are those who confidently assign it to the Apostolic age and to the apostle whose name it bears in the New Testament, while there are those who as confidently assign it to post-apostolic times, and repudiate its Petrine authorship. It is not the aim of this article to trace the history of the two opinions indicated above, nor to cite largely the arguments employed in the defense of the Epistle, or those in opposition to it; nor to attempt to settle a question which for more than a thousand years the wisest and best men of the Christian church have been unable to settle. Such a procedure would in this case be the height of presumption. What is here attempted is to point out as briefly as may be some of the reasons for doubting its canonicity, on the one hand, and those in its support, on the other.
I. External Evidence in Favor of Its Apostolic Authority.
1. Ancient Opinion:
It must be admitted at the very outset that the evidence is meager. The first writer who mentions it by name is Origen (circa 240 A.D.). In his homily on Josh, he speaks of the two Epistles of Peter. In another place he quotes 2 Peter 1:4: "partakers of the divine nature," and gives it the name of Scripture. But Origen is careful to say that its authority was questioned: "Peter has left one acknowledged Epistle, and perhaps a second, for this is contested." Eusebins, bishop of Caesarea, regarded it with even more suspicion than did Origen, and accordingly he placed it among the disputed books (Antilegomena). Jerome knew the scruples which many entertained touching the Epistle, but notwithstanding, he included it in his Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) Version. The main reason for Jerome's uncertainty about it he states to be "difference of style from 1 Peter." He accounts for the difference by supposing that the apostle "made use of two different interpreters." As great teachers and scholars as Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, e.g. Athanasius, Augustine, Epiphanius, Rufinus and Cyril, received it as genuine. At the Reformation Erasmus rejected 2 Peter; Luther seems to have had no doubt of its genuineness; while Calvin felt some hesitancy because of the "discrepancies between it and the First." In the 4th century, two church councils (Laodicea, circa 372, and Carthage, 397) formally recognized it and placed it in the Canon as equal in authority with the other books of the New Testament.
2. Modern Opinion:
The opinion of modern scholars as to references in post-apostolic literature to 2 Peter is not only divided, but in many instances antagonistic. Salmon, Warfield, Zahn and others strongly hold that such references are to be found in the writings of the 2nd century, perhaps in one or two documents of the 1st. They insist with abundant proof in support of their contention that Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Didache, and Clement of Rome, were all acquainted with the Epistle and made allusions to it in their writings. Weighing as honestly and as thoroughly as one can the citations made from that literature, one is strongly disposed to accept the evidence as legitimate and conclusive.
3. Dr. Chase's View:
On the other side, Professor Chase (HDB) has subjected all such references and allusions in the primitive writings to a very keen and searching criticism, and it must be frankly confessed that he has reduced the strength of the evidence and argument very greatly. But Professor Chase himself, from the remains of the ancient literature, and from the internal evidence of the Epistle itself, arrives at the conclusion that 2 Peter is not at all an apostolic document, that it certainly was not written by Peter, nor in the 1st century of our era, but about the middle of the 2nd century, say 150 A.D. If this view is accepted, we must pronounce the Epistle a forgery, pseudonymous and pseudepigraphic, with no more right to be in the New Testament than has the Apocalypse of Peter or the romance of the Shepherd of Hermas.
II. Internal Evidence in Support of Its Apostolic Authority.
1. Style and Diction:
At first sight, this seems to be not altogether reassuring, but looking deeper into the letter itself we arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. Difference of style between the two Epistles attributed to Peter is given as one prominent reason for questioning the validity of the Second. It is mainly if not entirely on this ground that Jerome, Calvin and others hesitated to receive it. It is noteworthy that in the earlier times objections were not urged because of its relation to Jude-its borrowing from Jude, as is often charged in our days. Its alleged dissimilarity to 1 Peter in diction, structure, and measurably in its contents, explains why it was discredited. Admitting that there is substantial ground for this criticism, nevertheless there are not a few instances in which words rarely found in the other Biblical books are common to the two Epistles. Some examples are given in proof: "precious" (1 Peter 1:7, 19 2 Peter 1:1) (a compound), occurring often in Rev, not often in other books; "virtue" (1 Peter 2:9, the King James Version margin; 2 Peter 1:3), found elsewhere only in Philippians 4:8; "supply" (1 Peter 4:11 2 Peter 1:5), rare in other books; "love of brethren" (1 Peter 1:22 2 Peter 1:7 margin), only in three places besides; "behold" (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:2 (verbal form); 2 Peter 1:16) (eyewitnesses), not found elsewhere in the New Testament; "without blemish," "without spot" (1 Peter 1:19 2 Peter 3:14) (order of words reversed); also positive side (2 Peter 2:13), "spots and blemishes"; the words do not occur elsewhere; "ungodly" (1 Peter 4:18 2 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 3:7) occurs in but three other places, except Jude, which has it three times.
2. Reason of Dissimilarities:
Besides, there are many striking similarities in thought and diction in the two Epistles. Two instances are given. In the First the saved are described as the "elect" (1 Peter 1:1), and as "called" (1 Peter 2:21). In the Second, the two great truths are brought together (2 Peter 1:10). Likewise, in both stress is laid upon prophecy (1 Peter 1:10-12 2 Peter 1:19-21). Now, all this tends to prove that the writer of the Second Epistle was well acquainted with the peculiarity of diction employed in the First, and that he made use purposely of its uncommon terms, or, if the Second was written by another than the apostle, he succeeded surprisingly well in imitating his style. The latter alternative does not merit discussion. The differences arise mainly out of the subjects treated in the two, and the design which the writer seems to have kept constantly in view. In the First, he sought to comfort, strengthen and sustain his persecuted brethren; this is his supreme aim. In the Second he is anxious to warn and to shield those whom he addresses as to impending dangers more disastrous and more to be feared than the sufferings inflicted by a hostile world. In the First, judgment had begun at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17, 18), and believers were to arm, not to resist their persecutors, but for martyrdom (1 Peter 4:1). But in the Second, a very different condition of things is brought to view. Ungodly men holding degrading principles and practicing shocking immoralities were threatening to invade the Christian brotherhood. Evil of a most vicious sort was detected by the watchful eye of the writer, and he knew full well that if suffered to continue and grow, as assuredly it would, utter ruin for the cause he loved would ensue. Therefore he forewarns and denounces the tendency with the spirit and energy of a prophet of God.
3. Claim to Petrine Authorship:
2 Peter opens with the positive statement of Peter's authorship: "Simon ["Symeon," Nestle, Weymouth] Peter, a servant.... of Jesus Christ." The insertion of "Symeon," the old Hebrew name, in the forefront of the document is significant. If a forger had been writing in Peter's name he would have begun his letter almost certainly by copying the First Epistle and simply written, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ." Note also that "servant" is introduced into the Second Epistle, but absent from the First. He designates himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. "Although several pseudonymous writings appear in early Christian literature, there is no Christian document of value written by a forger who uses the name of an apostle" (Dods, SBD). If this important statement is accepted at its full worth, it goes far to settle the question of authorship. Both "servant" and "apostle" appear in the opening sentence, and the writer claims both for himself.
4. Christian Earnestness:
Furthermore, the writer is distinctively a Christian; he addresses those who "have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1). His is the same precious faith which all the saints enjoy; his also the exceeding great and precious promises of God, and he expects with all other believers to be made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3, 4). Is it at all probable that one with such a faith and such expectations would deliberately forge the name of Simon Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ? The writer is unsparing in his denunciations of false teachers, corrupters of others, and perverters of the truth. He instances the fall of the angels, the destruction of Sodom, the rebuke of Balaam, as examples of the doom of those who know the truth and yet live in shameful sin and crime. Would a Christian and servant of Jesus Christ be at all likely to commit in the most flagrant manner the things he so vehemently condemns? If the writer was not the apostle Peter, he was a false teacher, a corrupter of others, and a hypocrite, which seems incredible to us.
5. Relation of Apostles:
Moreover, he associates himself with the other apostles (2 Peter 3:2), is in full sympathy with Paul and is acquainted with Paul's Epistles (2 Peter 3:15, 16), and he holds and teaches the same fundamental truth. An apostolic spirit breathes through this document such as is generally absent from spurious writings and such as a forger does not exhibit. He is anxiously concerned for the purity of the faith and for the holiness and fidelity of believers. He exhorts them to give "diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight," and that they "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:14, 18). All this and much more of like devout teaching is apostolic in tone and betokens genuineness and reality.
6. Autobiographical Allusions:
Still further, the writer appeals to certain facts in the life of Peter that are almost autobiographical. For example, he speaks of "putting off of my tabernacle.... even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me" (2 Peter 1:13, 14). The reference undoubtedly is to John 13:36; John 21:18, 19. He claims to have been a witness of the Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-18). He indirectly claims the inspiration without which true prophecy is impossible (2 Peter 1:19-21). He asserts that this is his "second epistle" (2 Peter 3:1). This testimony on the part of the writer is personal, emphatic and direct. It reads much like Peter's plain way of speaking of himself at the Council of Jerusalem, "Ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe" (Acts 15:7).
7. Quoted by Jude:
Once more, Jude appears to quote from 2 Peter (see JUDE). The question of the priority of the two Epistles is by no means settled. Many recent writers give the precedence to Jude, others to Peter. One of the highest authority, by Zahn (New Testament, II, 238;), argues with great force in support of the view that Peter's is the older and that Jude cites from it. The arguments in favor of this latter belief are here only summarized:
(1) Jude cites from writings other than Scripture, as the apocryphal Book of Enoch and perhaps also from the Assumption of Moses. Peter scarcely quotes from any source. The former would be more likely to cite 2 Peter 2-3:3 than the latter from Jude 1:4-16. The resemblance between these two sections of the Epistles is so close that one must have drawn both thoughts and language from the other, or both availed themselves of the same documentary source. Of this latter supposition antiquity furnishes no hint. The differences are as marked as the resemblances, and hence, the one who cites from the other is no servile copyist. The real difference between the two is that between prediction and fulfillment.
(2) Peter predicts the advent of the "false teachers" (2 Peter 2:1). His principal verbs are in the future tense (2 Peter 2:1, 2, 3, 12, 13). He employs the present tense indeed in describing the character and the conduct of the libertines (2 Peter 2:17, 18), but their presence and their disastrous teaching he puts in the future (2 Peter 2:13, 14). The deadly germs were there when he wrote, the rank growth would speedily follow. Jude, on the contrary, throughout his short letter, speaks of the same corrupters as already come; his objects are present, they are in the midst of the people of God and actively doing their deadly work.
(3) Jude twice refers to certain sources of information touching these enemies, with which his readers were acquainted and which were designed to warn them of the danger and keep them from betrayal. The two sources were
(a) a writing that spoke of "ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ," 1:4;
(b) the prediction of Peter that "in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts" (2 Peter 3:3). Jude urges his readers to remember the words which the apostles of Christ had before spoken, and then he cites this prediction of Peter in almost the exact terms: "In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their ungodly lusts." He applies the prediction to the libertines then and there practicing their unholy deeds: "These are they, who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit." The conclusion is inevitable. Jude quotes from Peter.
(4) Chronology gives the priority to Peter. The apostle died between 63-67 A.D., probably in 64 A.D. The vast majority of recent interpreters date the Epistle of Jude at 75-80 A.D. There is no doubt but that it was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 A.D. Accordingly, it is later than Peter's death by from 5 to 10 years. Jude quoted from 2 Peter. This being so, it follows that his Epistle endorses that of Peter as being apostolic and likewise canonical, for he recognizes Peter as an apostle and gifted with the prophetic spirit.
SeeJUDE; PETER (SIMON).
III. Doctrinal Teachings of the Epistle.
Only some of the more important features of the Epistle are here noticed. If all were treated as they deserve to be, this article would expand into the proportions of a commentary.
1. Saving Knowledge:
The key-word of 1 Peter is Hope; of 2 Peter Knowledge. The apostle gives to this gift of grace a prominent place (1:2, 3, 5, 6, 8; 2:20, 21; 3:18). The term he uses is largely in the intensified form, namely, "full knowledge"; that is, knowledge that rests on fact, knowledge that comes to the believer as something supernatural, as being communicated by the Spirit of God, and therefore is true and complete. The grace and peace Peter asks for the saints should issue in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, who has granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him (1:2, 3).
The basis of saving knowledge rests on the "exceeding great and precious promises" which He has made us, and which become ours by faith in Him. It leads us into acquaintance with the righteousness of God, into the realization of our calling as saints, and of the glorious destiny that awaits them who know and trust God (2 Peter 1:2-4 the King James Version).
The growth in true knowledge (2 Peter 1:5-11): "In your faith supply virtue," etc. He does not ask that faith be supplied, that these believers already had. But starting with faith as the foundation of all, let the other excellencies and virtues be richly and abundantly furnished. The original word for "supply" is derived from the Greek "chorus," in behalf of the members of which the manager supplied all the equipments needed. And Peter appropriating that fact urges Christians to give all diligence to furnish themselves with the gifts and grace he mentions, which are far more needful to the Christian than were the equipments for the ancient chorus.
What a magnificent cluster Peter here gives! Each springs out of the other; each is strengthened by the other. "In your faith supply virtue," or fortitude, manliness; and let virtue supply "knowledge." Knowledge by itself tends to puff up. But tempered by the others, by self-control, by patience, by godliness, by love, it becomes one of the most essential and powerful forces in the Christian character. Paul begins his list of the "fruits of the Spirit" with love (Galatians 5:22); Peter ends his with love. It is like a chain, each link holds fast to its fellow and is a part of the whole. It matters little at which end of the chain we begin to count, for the links form a unity, and to touch one is to touch all. God freely gives what we need and all we need; we are to "add all diligence" to supply the need richly.
(3) Inerrancy of Sources:
Inerrancy of the sources of saving knowledge (2 Peter 1:16-21). The apostle rests his teaching on two trustworthy facts:
(a) the fact and meaning of the Saviour's Transfiguration;
(b) the fact of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Taken together these two facts invest his teaching with infallible certainty. "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." Pagan mythology, so widely prevailing at the time in Asia Minor, indeed over the whole heathen world, was composed of "myths" (Peter's word) skillfully framed and poetically embellished. Jewish cabalism, and the wild vagaries springing up in the Christian brotherhood itself had no place in the gospel message nor in apostolic teaching. What Peter and his fellow-disciples taught was the very truth of God, for at the Transfiguration they saw the outshining glory of the Son of God, they heard the Divine Voice, they beheld the two visitants from the unseen world, Moses and Elijah. Of the majestic scene they were eyewitnesses. Peter adds, "And we have the word of prophecy made more sure." The Transfiguration has confirmed what the prophets say touching the future and God's purpose to fill the earth with His glory; every word He has spoken is to be made good.
Moreover, the apostle appeals to the inspiration of the prophets in confirmation of his teaching: "No prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit." He recognizes this as primary truth, that prophecy is not of one's own origination, nor is it to be tied up to the times of the prophet. The prophecy was brought to him, as it is brought to us. Peter and his fellow-believers did not follow "cunningly devised fables"; they were borne along in their prophetic utterances by the Spirit.
2. The Three Worlds:
Of course in 2 Peter 3:5-13, where the three worlds are spoken of, three globes are not meant, but three vast epochs, three enormous periods in earth's history. The apostle divides its history into three clearly defined sections, and mentions some of the characteristic features of each.
(1) The Old World.
"The world that then was" (2 Peter 3:6): this is his first world. It is the antediluvian world that is meant, the world which the Flood overwhelmed. Scoffers in Peter's time asked, no doubt with a sneer, "Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4). This is a surprisingly modern inquiry. Mockers then as now appealed to the continuity of natural processes, and to the inviolability of Nature's laws. Nature keeps her track with unwavering precision. There is no sign of any change; no catastrophe is likely, is possible. The promise of His coming fails. Peter reminds the skeptics that a mighty cataclysm did once overwhelm the world. The Flood drowned every living thing, save those sheltered within the ark. As this is a historical fact, the query of the mockers is foolish.
(2) The Present World.
Peter's second world is "the heavens that now are, and the earth" (2 Peter 3:7). It is the present order of things in sky and earth that is meant. He asserts that this world is "stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." The margin reads, "stored with fire," i.e., it contains within itself the agency by which it may be consumed. The world that now is, is held in strict custody, reserved, not for a second deluge, but for fire. The advent of Christ and the judgment are associated in Scripture with fire: "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him" (Psalm 50:3 the King James Version; compare Isaiah 66:15, 16 Daniel 7:10, 11). Nor is the New Testament silent on this point: "the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire" (2 Thessalonians 1:7).
Ample materials are stored up in the earth for its consumption by fire. The oils and the gases so inflammable and destructive in their energy can, when it may please God to release these forces, speedily reduce the present order of things to ashes. Peter's language does not signify earth's annihilation, nor its dissolution as an organic body, nor the end of time. He speaks of cosmical convulsions and physical revolutions of both sky and earth, such as shall transform the planet into something glorious and beautiful.
(3) The New World.
The third world is this: "But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). This is Paradise restored. We have sure ground for the expectancy; the last two chapters of Re contain the prophetic fulfillment: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more." The accomplishment of these sublime predictions will involve a fundamental change in the constitution of the globe. Life would be impossible if the sea was no more. But He who made the world can surely recreate it, clearing it of every vestige of sin and misery and imperfection, fitting it for the dwelling of perfect beings and of His supreme glory. Immanuel will dwell with the holy inhabitants of the new earth and in the new Jerusalem which is to descend into the glorified planet. John is bidden, "Write, for the predictions are faithful and true; they shall not fail to come to pass."
"Earth, thou grain of sand on the shore of the Universe of God,
On thee has the Lord a great work to complete."
Seeat end of PETER, THE FIRST EPISTLE OF; PETER (SIMON).
William G. Moorehead
PETER, EPISTLES OF
see PETER, THE FIRST EPISTLE OF; PETER, THE SECOND EPISTLE OF
See PETER, SIMON.