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1 Peter

 
  Date: 60-65 AD

In his Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond Brown writes that of the seven universal epistles in the New Testament (James, 1-2 Peter, Jude, 1-3 John), 1 Peter has the most possibility of having been written by the person it claims, and not for no reason.

Language

Time and again it has been noted that the language of the first epistle of Peter is in Greek that is too good for a Galilean fisherman. The fact that Greek was fairly widespread in Judea, especially in Galilee which for that cross-cultural demographic was called 'Galilee of the nations' would not explain for Peter to have such a good grasp of Greek. As Raymond Brown notes,
The response that people in business in Galilee, especially on a trade route such as that around Capernaum, learned Greek is irrelevant. They may have picked up enough Greek for commerce but scarcely the ability to write literary Greek.
But the objection that the Greek of 1 Peter rules out Peter as author has long been noted as very weak, seeing the mention of Silvanus as amanuensis:
However, since I Pet 5:12 may indicate that Silvanus (Silas) was an amanuensis (secretary), if he were given considerable freedom and knew Greek well, he could have phrased Peter's thoughts.
Indeed, Silvanus certainly would have been given enough freedom to correctly phrase Peter's thoughts, especially since Peter would not have known Greek very well. Marxsen simply states that Silvanus disposes of this objection. Raymond Brown gives a list of major objections against 1 Peter, and notes that he starts with the weakest. His first on the list is that of language.

Robinson noted that, however, the designation of Silvanus as amanuensis based on the Greek dia Silvanous (5:12) is unfounded and seems to go against the evidence for the meaning of dia :
But the question is, What is the meaning of dia Silovanou ... sgraja? Is Silvanus the carrier or the scribe (and therefore by extension the writer) of the letter? It would be safe to say that he is in any case envisaged as delivering the letter and is commended to the churches for this purpose. But did he also write it at Peter's dictation or behest?

On the analogy of the opening verses of I and II Thessalonians, one might expect Silvanus to have shared in the address if he was part-author, or to have added his own greeting, like Tertius in Rom. 16.22, if he was the amanuensis, though obviously these parallels cannot be pressed. The bearer of Romans is evidently Phoebe, who is similarly commended to the congregation (16.1f.), and it is significant that the subscription added to later manuscripts describes the epistle as sgrafe apo Korinqou dia Foibes. It was her activity, not that of Tertius, that the scribes thought was properly described by the preposition dia. This is one of a number of parallels given by Chase in a careful note on the subject which seems to have been conspicuously ignored (or misinterpreted) by those who have not agreed with its conclusion. The only other example in the New Testament (also as it happens associated with Silvanus) is in Acts 15.23 where graphantes dia cheiros auton must in the context (cf.15.22, 27) refer to the sending of the apostolic letter, via Judas Barsabbas and Silas, and mean, as the neb rightly renders it, 'gave them the letter to deliver'. The same applies to the Epistle of Polycarp 14, 'I write these things to you by (per) Grescens, whom I commended to you recently and now commend to you', and to the only unambiguous instance in the letters of lgnatius: 'I write these things to you from Smyrna by the hand of (dia) the Ephesians who are worthy of all felicitation' (Rom. 10.1). On the other side only two parallels, as far as I know, have been cited. One is the letter from Dionysius of Corinth to the Romans, where he describes I Clement as having been written from the Roman church dia Klementos. But this means not that Clement was the amanuensis of some other author, but the representative of his church. Similarly in the Martyrdom of Polycarp 20 the church in Smyrna writes to the church in Philomelium and elsewhere 'through our brother Marcianus', and he is distinguished from Euarestus who 'wrote the letter' and, like Tertius in this capacity, sends his own greeting. Marcianus again is evidently the spokesman of the church and thus corresponds to Peter rather than Silvanus: he is no one's secretary. So Kummel seems to be right in saying that 'no one has yet proved that grafo dia t inos can mean to authorize someone else to compose a piece of writing'.

Until this can be shown, then to rely upon Silvanus as the real composer of the Greek is extremely hazardous. It could be so. Yet Peter as the author (as the very personal address of 5.1ff. would suggest) must really be prepared to stand on his own feet. The doubts and difficulties will remain, and it seems impossible that they could ever be finally resolved either way. In the last resort I can only say that I find nothing decisive to outweigh the many other considerations to suggest that, whoever actually penned it, the epistle comes from Peter's lifetime and that he is in the fullest sense 'behind' it.
But I can't understand why Robinson can't see from the very examples he quotes above that dia was apparently flexible and could mean for someone to compose a piece of writing. His last example, that of Marcianus, clearly shows that! If Marcianus was the subject of dia yet corresponds to Peter (as he clearly does) then clearly we have two different usages of dia already, since Silvanus certainly did not compose 1 Peter with Peter as amanuensis! Secondly, the fact that Clement represents no other author but only the Roman Church is irrelevant. The statement of Dionysius of Corinth has 1 Clement written by the Roman Church to the Corinthian Church dia Clement, who composed the piece with a freedom even bigger than any Silvanus might have had. Apparently, dia may have designated the author "behind" the writing most of the time, but not necessarily all of the time. Just because later scribes added a subscription in Romans, designating Phoebe (who was only the carrier and not amanuensis) with dia, does not mean that Silvanus could not be both the carrier and amanuensis of 1 Peter, but only that for the scribes, and everyone else, dia meant the carrier most of the time.

Silvanus does not insert any greeting in 1 Peter 1:1ff. as he does in 1 Thessalonians 1:1, but then neither does Tertius, the amanuensis of Romans (Rom. 16:22), place a greeting at the beginning, and is more or less the only one of Paul's secretaries who has such a full greeting. If Silvanus did not have much of a reason to place his greeting in the beginning, there isn't much of a reason for anything beyond 1 Peter 5:12, seeing the parallels in Paul's letters. If anything, Mark could have been Peter's amanuensis (5:13). So quite possibly the only reason Silvanus did this in 1 Thessalonians was because of his closeness to Paul (or the Thessalonian church and he) who preferred to include him in a greeting in the beginning, most likely alongside Timothy, as opposed to the end, which would be for no reason. I don't know how Robinson decided that 1 Peter 1:1ff. implies Peter wrote it without an amanuensis, seeing the Pauline letters that have such an opening with an amanuensis (e.g. Romans 1:1ff.). Moreover, there is nothing in 1 Peter 5:1ff. that is too personal for Silvanus not to have written under Peter's direction. So the objection from language can be said to be completely groundless against authenticity.

Connections to Paul

It's been wondered why Peter would send a letter to the regions named in 1:1 if that was where Paul worked in light of the falling apart Peter and Paul had, recorded in Galatians 2. There is also a lot of theology very near to Paul. But first, it has to be pointed out that since over 150 years ago when Baur first embellished the disagreement between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2, much has been made of the incident. As J.A.T. Robinson says, it was a temporary lapse on the side of Peter, which was apparently not a sign or the beginning of any split between Paul and any other major early Christian figure. The example furthermore shows that Peter did not obey the Judaizers' ideas prior to their arrival in Antioch. For Peter to have been at odds with Paul and his theology due to this is a stretch beyond reality.

This would alleviate the fact that 1 Peter is sent to that region, but it would not explain the connections between the Pauline theology. The problem is not so much one of copying, as no scholar attributes the similarities between the epistle and Paul's letters (especially Romans), but as to why they are there. The common explanation is that someone used the common catechetical tradition. But this really begs to wonder why the forger would insert Pauline material and attribute the letter to Peter. As Marxsen says, without Peter's name, it would be more likely to suspect a disciple of Paul as the author due to the terminology and train of thought. It is like 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians and the Pastorals in that it draws on Pauline theology at a number of points, thus it is in the class of "pseudo-Pauline". It is difficult to see Peter as the author because of this. Not only this, but Silvanus/Silas, who is known to be a traveller and companion of Paul is mentioned as the amanuensis/secretary. Therefore, a forgerer makes less sense behind this than if Peter himself had somehow used Pauline theology to express himself. The usage of the Pauline formula en Christo in 3:16, 5:10, 14 could be due either to Silvanus or again due to the tradition employed (but if Peter had contact with Paul recently as seems to be the case from Silvanus being secretary, then this tradition might be his rephrasing of Paul's phraseology itself! But either way, authorship points toward Peter, as noted above). The fact that the Law's requirements (viz. Judaizers) doesn't seem to be a problem anymore is not very decisive, since it was exactly for this absense that Baur rejected 1 Thessalonians, but if the problem was not really acute at the time of writing (c.60), especially after Paul's mission, and the letter's seeming preoccupation with emphasis on righteous suffering would make this understandable (cf. Philippians 3:1: "It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you", Paul had written to the Philippians countless times against the Judaizers, and the overall situation mentioned above plus perhaps Peter's lack of choice words may have made it a non-issue). In any case, 1 Clement 32 (96) and Ep. of Barnabas 2:4-7 show that the issue of the Law's following was not a dead issue, at least not one for reaffirmation, and its absense of reiteration in 1 Peter can arguably be said to point toward authenticity, but its absense is not problematic, especially if there is nothing else that necessitates forgery, and much more so if there are factors pointing toward the lifetime of Peter. In any case, 3:20-21 touches upon faith vs. works, yet so lightly so as to seem that the debate was heated in the years prior (i.e. Paul in the 50's), since either the subject would have been wholly ignored or fully elaborated upon as we see in the epistles of 70-100 above.

If one wants to say that a forgerer used Paul's letters to write this material, the problem is he would not have employed a common cathechetical tradition only, but would have lifted material from the letters themselves and placed it into 1 Peter. But it makes much more sense for Peter to be writing with that tradition only, having known it from a meeting with Paul, or perhaps through Silvanus, and thus using it, and nothing that is out of the Pauline epistles (such as do the later authors, e.g. 1 Clement, Ignatius, or even if one wants to point out, Ephesians/2 Thessalonians, though these two are not direct copies either)

Other

1. One major objection is that 1 Peter refers to a state persecution of Christians. But the first of these happened under Domitian at the earliest. However, as Raymond Brown writes,
References to a "fiery ordeal" (4:12) and the experience of suffering required of the brotherhood throughout the world (5:9) suggest a universal imperial persecution, and there was none in Peter's lifetime. However, since there was no universal persecution of Christians until the 2d century, this interpretation of the suffering would require a dating too late to be plausible. The passage may mean no more than harassment and the common Christian demand to take up the cross.
In fact, these harassments could have existed at any time during 30-60, not just by the Jews but from Gentiles, as can be seen in Philippians 1:28-30, 1 Thess. 2:14, but in 1 Peter the persecution seems much more acute. This however is not a big problem, since some sort of problems could have arisen, due to a combination of the Jews who could easily charge the Christians of not observing the emperor cult and having another king instead of Caesar (Luke 23:2, Acts 17:7). In fact, the cause and types of sufferings seem to be connected to such agitators as mentioned in 4:4. The note about their brothers having the same sufferings throughout the world (kosmo: Roman empire, cf. Romans 1:8) therefore relates to these same types of local harassments from time to time, with these having become somewhat acute in those areas, hence Peter addressing these multiple (connected) regions. The "fiery ordeal" of 4:12 does not need to mean an intense state-wide persecution, especially in light of 1:1-4:11, and the non-complementary language of 4:12-5:11 if such a persecution were presupposed (e.g. 4:19 presupposes the Christian is very likely to live on after his/her "persecution" and so on). Perrin sees an indication of a state-wide persecution in 5:8 because it mentions one adversary, which all Christians have in common, but as the verse itself states, this is the devil waiting to trick the Christian into sin, not any Roman figure, i.e. the emperor. Grant's supposition that Peter assumed the persecutions on the Roman church in Nero would eventually be imposed on the other churches is certainly possible, but not necessary, and somewhat unlikely given the above (viz. that no state-wide persecution is presupposed by the epistle).

2. Church organization in 5:1 has established presbyters appointed and paid, which would seem to fit 70-100 better than 50-70. Although Raymond Brown calls attention to this seemingly developed church structure, he also points out that the references to varied charisms in 4:10-11 suggest a transitional period (i.e. before 70), and we see that appointment and salary of deacons and so on ocurred in Paul (e.g. 1 Cor.), and so how much more presbyters.

3. The author cites himself as Peter instead of something like Simon Peter/Simon/Cephas. The point of this is that by the last third of the first century and beyond, Peter as the name had full-fledged authority behind it, as can be seen in the various forgeries (e.g. Apocalypse of Peter). But we see the address "Simon Peter" in the spurious Gospel of Peter (Gospel of Peter 60), so this objection is weightless.

4. The lack of personal references to Christ's suffering, especially since the epistle seems preoccupied with this in chapter 4 and 5 seems very odd if Peter, the disciple of Christ, wrote this. But it is much more odd for a forgerer not to include this, rather than for the disciple not to mention specific instances, having already mentioned the suffering of Christ as an example (2:19-23). The fact that the example of the righteous suffering of Christ is not reiterated in 3:13-22 shows that for whatever reason, the author was more preoccupied with the theology of the significance of Christ's death on the cross, and correct Christian living, in this case in the light of persecution. This would seem to fit more with the Apostle than with a forger who would have been more prone to include references to Christ's life. As J.A.T. Robinson put it, in the case of 1 Peter it is held pseudonymous because it lacks eyewitness testimony to the life of Christ, but in 2 Peter it is exactly because of such testimony that it is held spurious. In this case, similarly to the case of the epistle of James, it is more odd for a forgerer to exclude such personal details than it is for Peter.

5. Marxsen maintains that due to the epistle's similarities to Paul, there is no "Petrine" character in any way. But as we have said the dependence is not literary, and what is a "Petrine" character? If the incident in Galatians 2 (which ocurred in 48, not 60) is the exception and not the rule, why couldn't this epistle have been written by Peter's "character"?

6. Marxsen states that the epistle seems written to one church, not many. Although he says that this is natural for 2:18ff. and 3:1ff., 7, 8ff. "if we suppose a baptismal address is being used there", but we also get this impression from chapter 5. But nothing limits chapter 5 to a single church. There are instructions there that would befit one church at a time, but certainly nothing limits it to one church exclusively. It is much more work for a forgerer who states his audience is no one in specific (1:2), to then try and maintain a fiction for a single church, and such a situation could not happen if he did not have any one church in mind, nor do we find that in 1 Peter. But a forgerer who kept in mind an epistle for all Christians under the spurious destination in 1:2 is equally probably from the internal evidence of 1 Peter as is if Peter himself addressed it, if not less so. In sum, no part of 1 Peter limits or seems to limit it to a single church exclusively.

7. Marxsen points out that the address sends the epistle to "the Christians" in Asia Minor and not to any specific church, which begs the question of how the epistle would have been sent to them. But just as the regions are listed, in the same way Peter, who as seems from the epistle was not acquainted with these churches would have probably trusted the letter carrier or someone else to send it to the major church/churches of each region, not knowing them himself. Perhaps this was why Silvanus was chosen as amanuensis, who worked with Paul in this region, and who also is seen in Acts as a letter carrier and spokesman as well (Acts 15:22-23, 27, 30-32).

8. The address of Babylon indicates the persecutions of Rome have made it into a detestable city. But it's not necessary that the persecutions gave it that pseudonym, especially seeing the not-so-acute state of persecution there that the epistle seems to reflect. It could have been a combination of all sorts of sinful practices, including the list mentioned in 4:3.

9. It has been noted that 1 Peter has a few verses that reflect a very developed theology, specifically 3:19 and 4:6, Christ preaching to the dead while being dead, which reflects some legends of the 2nd century. First we could point out that this is nowhere near the embellishments of the 2nd century. Next, 4:6 talks about preaching the gospel to the dead in sin, or Christians who have now died as is clear from the context. 3:19 may be able to be interpreted as Christ having preached to the people of Noah's day through the Spirit, but I think the context implies an actual preaching to the dead "in prison" (Abraham's bosom). But this doesn't really force any late dating (even if 4:6 refers to preaching to the dead), seeing the far more developed parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke (Luke 16:19-31), and Luke was not written after c.85 AD, making 3:19 and 4:6's primitiveness not any later either, and quite possibly from Peter. That it's possible this theology existed from the time of Christ is true as well.

10. The theory that the epistle is a composite would make authorship by the Apostle difficult because he would have written an entire, connected letter/epistle. But this theory is based solely on the persecutions in 1:3-4:11 being future, whereas the ones in 4:12-5:11 being present. But, 1:3-4:11 speaks hypothetically to the Christians, for every one of which persecution is a real possibility, it having happened to some as related with more focus in 4:12-5:11, and this can be seen from the context (e.g. compare 4:12 vs. 4:16,19). It's not the case that in 2:14 only evildoers are punished (whereas see 4:14-15), since in 2:14 the overall justice of good (the Christian) vs. evil (the shameless enemies of the Christian) is relied upon, with the recognition that the state powers might prosecute one who is a Christian for no reason other than the name (see 3:13-14). As Grant notes, the fact that we don't know about persecutions prior to Pliny in 112 means that we simply don't know about Roman policy prior to Pliny, and Pliny himself had not prosecuted Christians before, and was ignorant of Roman policy before him. Being persecuted for simply being a Christian was a very real possibility even in the time of Peter and Paul, seeing not only from Paul's letters but also from the examples given above of the Christian opponents' claims that the Christians had a king other than Caesar.

Arguments for Authenticity

1. It has long been noted that the justice 1 Peter presupposes from the Roman state cannot in any way post-date Nero's persecutions. In 2:13 it asks for respect and obedience to all authorities, from the emperor to the governors who in 2:14-15 are to punish the Christian's enemies through the Christian's good behavior! 4:12-19 hardly presupposes the death of multitudes, 4:1-4 talks about local harassment, and see 3:13: "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?"! 3:14-17 seems to be a judgment not bent on killing the Christian, but punishing/judging. Although the analogous example given is the suffering of Christ (2:23) which did result in death, advice like 1 Peter 2:1-3, 13-25 (see 2:20 for example), 3:8-22 hardly presupposes mass-persecutions as opposed to the occasional death of a Christian, (compare Revelation!) of the kind that occurred in Rome under Nero, and could such advice have been given after Nero? This could not have been written during a period after Nero/Domitian/Trajan which had relatively little persecution, with the occasional imprisonment for the name (seeing that the epistle seems to give advice despite knowing one might suffer and die for only doing what is good), because it seems to presuppose that there was no previous mass-persecutions, as there were in 64 in Rome under Nero. The epistle somewhat seems to reflect an ignorance of that as a possibility.

2. 1 Peter 4:7 clearly expects an imminent parousia, or has phrased it in such a way so as to pre-date the problem of the delayed parousia after 70. This is practically unthinkable for a writing as late as 80-120.

Conclusion

With the above, the best time of composition for 1 Peter seems to be the period 60-65, and since nothing forces us to suppose a forgerer, much less one who successfully passed it while Peter was still alive, by the Apostle Peter.

References

  1. Brown, Raymond, An Introduction to the New Testament, p.718, n.2
  2. ibid., p.718
  3. Marxsen, W., Introduction to the New Testament: An Approach to its Problems, tr. 1970, p.236
  4. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 4.23.11
  5. Robinson, J.A.T., Redating the New Testament
  6. Brown, Op.cit. believes that the regions are not really Paul's, as there is no record of Paul having preached in Pontus, Asia, or Cappadocia, Bythinia being off-limits (Acts), and the Galatia mentioned being the northern part/region, not necessarily the church which Paul founded, but I find that incredible: all of Anatolia would probably be Pauline, so even if this huge speculation can be accepted, it would be irrelevant.
  7. Brown, ibid. p.718
  8. Kümmel, W.G., Introduction to the New Testament, 14th edition, p.298
  9. Brown, Op.cit. pp.718-719
  10. Perrin, Norman, New Testament Introduction, p.257
  11. Grant, Robert M., A Historical Introduction to the New Testament, p.226
  12. Brown, ibid.: "Actually neither the dependence [on Paul's letters] nor the hostility [between Peter and Paul] should be exaggerated..", Kümmel, ibid.: "The repeatedly advocated supposition of a literary dependence of I Peter upon Romans (and Ephesians) is, of course, improbable.." p.297
  13. Marxsen, INT, p.236
  14. Marxsen, ibid., pp.236-237
  15. Grant, Op.cit., p.226
  16. One can suppose all sorts of forgery theories even for the decade 60-70, but these are really much less likely than for Peter himself to have written it if we assume a date of 60-65. In any case, the internal evidence such as the lack of stress on eyewitness, and the closeness to Pauline theology probably tilt it irreversibly away from a forgerer even in 60-70.