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THE FIRST ÉPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER.”
THERE is abundant evidence to prove that this epistle was written by the apostle whose name it bears. Hardly any book of the New Testament is better supported by external evidence, while internally it bears in many of its features the stamp of Peter's mind, and the traces of his experience, as these are represented to us in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts.
From these sources we learn that the apostle was originally called “
Simon the son of John,” and that he was a fisherman of Bethsaida before he attached himself to Jesus. With his brother Andrew, who brought him to Jesus, he was a disciple of John the Baptist before finding the Messiah. At His very first interview with the new disciple, Jesus discerned his great capacity for rendering service to His cause, and gave him a prophetic token of the part he was to play in the early history of His Church by conferring on him the new name of Cephas (in Greek, Peter, meaning rock or stone). The significance of the name was more fully unfolded at a later time, on the occasion of Peter's great
1 Clement of Rome and Hermas seem to have known it; Polycarp frequently quotes from it; Papias used it, as Eusebius tells us (who included it among the undisputed Books of the New Testament); it is recognised by Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian; it has a place in the oldest Versions (although not in the Muratorian Canon); and it is referred to in 2 Peter (iii. 1), whose antiquity is acknowledged even by those who deny its genuineness.
2 John i. 40-42:
"One of the two that heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He findeth first his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, Christ). He brought him unto Jesus. Jesus looked upon him, and said, 'Thou art Simon the son of John: thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)."
confession of Jesus as the Christ. Like John and James, Peter was admitted to a closer fellowship with his Master than the rest of the disciples. In company with John he was a witness of Christ's trial in the high priest's palace, where he fell into the threefold denial of his Master-to be bitterly repented of immediately afterwards.3 On the third day after the crucifixion the same disciples went together early in the morning to the tomb and found it empty, as Mary Magdalene had told them. The new faith which then sprang up in Peter's heart was confirmed by several interviews granted to him by the risen Christ, who gave him a new commission, thrice uttered, to devote himself to the interests of his Master's flock, and predicted that he would die a martyr's death.4
In the Book of Acts we find Peter acting as the leader and spokesman of the early Church at several crises in its history, viz., the election of an apostle in place of the betrayer; the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; the admission of the Gentiles, in the person of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, to the communion of the Church ; and the emancipation of the Gentile converts from the bondage of the Jewish law at the Council of 1 Matt. xvi. 13-19 :
Now when Jesus to follow with him, save Peter, and came into the parts of Cæsarea Philippi, James, and John the brother of James.” he asked his disciples, saying, Who do Matt. xvii. 1, 2: “And after six days men say that the Son of man is? And Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, they said, Some say John the Baptist ; and John his brother, and bringeth some, Elijah : and others, Jeremiah, or them up into a high mountain apart : one of the prophets. He saith unto and he was transfigured before them : them, But who say ye that I am ? And and his face did shine as the
and Simon Peter answered and said, Thou his garments became white as the art the Christ, the Son of the living God. light.” Matt. xxvi. 37 (in Gethsemane): And Jesus answered and said unto him, " And he took with him Peter and the Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah : for two sons of Zebedee, and began to be flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto sorrowful and sore troubled"; cf. Mark thee, but my Father which is in heaven. iii. 14, 17: And he appointed twelve, And I also say unto thee, that thou art that they might be with him, and that Peter, and upon this rock I will build he might send them forth to preach, my church ; and the gates of Hades and James the son of Zebedee, shall not prevail against it. I will give and John the brother of James; and unto thee the keys of the kingdom of them he surnamed Boanerges, which is, heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt Sons of thunder.” bind on earth shall be bound in heaven : 3 Matt. xxvi. 69-75; Mark xiv. 66-72; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth Luke xxii. 54-62; John xviii. 15-27. shall be loosed in heaven."
4 John xx. 1-10, 19; Luke xxiv. 33, 34 ; 2 Mark v. 37 (Raising of Jaïrus' 1 Cor. xv. 5; John xxi. daughter): “ And he suffered no man
Jerusalem (about 50 A.D.). It appears that some time afterwards Peter was guilty of vacillation in his relations with Gentile Christians at Antioch — reminding us of his earlier weakness,—which called forth a public remonstrance from the apostle of the Gentiles.2
Regarding Peter's subsequent life, scarcely any information is furnished by the New Testament; but there is an ancient and general tradition that he suffered martyrdom at Rome. Many legends have gathered round his imprisonment, death, and burial. The lack of evidence for these need not prevent us from acquiescing in the general belief of the early Church that it was at Rome Peter suffered the death by martyrdom which had been predicted by his Lord. This is contradicted by no other ancient tradition of the Church, and we have some confirmation of it in this epistle (see pp. 235-7).
In illustration of the remark already made as to the harmony of this epistle with Peter's experience and character, we may note the following points.
(1) The writer claims to have been “a witness of the sufferings of Christ," and retains a vivid impression of them, as shown in his description of Christ's patience, and the frequency of his allusions to the subject.4 (2) He gives prominence
1 Acts i. 15-26 ; ii. 1-42; X. ; xv. 6-11.
2 Gal. ii. 11-14: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles : but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision,” &c.
3“ While the tradition that St. Peter perished in Rome is strong and early, the tradition about the date of his death is not so clear. The earliest authority for the date is Origen, who places his martyrdom under Nero before that of Paul. Tertullian also seems in one passage to assign it to the time of Nero; but in another passage he mentions the tradition of the Roman Church that Clement was ordained by St. Peter. The latter passage is the strongest evidence which we possess on the point, and it clearly proves that the Roman tradi
tion during the latter part of the second century placed the martyrdom much later than the time of Nero. The tradition that he lived for a long time in Rome is also strong, and as Dr Harnack justly says, 'it is difficult to suppose
that so large a body of tradition has no foundation in fact.' But conclusive reasons show that he cannot have been in Rome long before the Neronian persecution; and therefore a long residence there is impossible, unless he lived to a much later date.”—Prof. Ramsay.
47.1: “The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed "; ii. 20-24 : “ For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For hereunto
to Christ's resurrection, and represents it as the source of a new and living hope, which had been precisely Peter's experience. (3) He dwells upon the pastoral aspect of Christ's ministry as if under an abiding sense of the responsibility laid upon him by his Master's threefold charge to act the part of a shepherd to his flock. (4) He enlarges on the idea embodied in Peter's name, representing the Church, as “a spiritual house " composed of living stones, with Christ Himself as the chief corner-stone—an idea to which Peter had given expression in his address to the Sanhedrim, after the example of his Lord—both quoting from the Old Testament.3 (5) His injunction to his readers, “all of you gird yourselves with humility” (liter
were ye called : because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth : who, when he was reviled, re, viled not again ; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously : who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed."
li. 3, 4, 21: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who through him are believers in God, which raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God”; iii. 21, 22 : " Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ ; who is on the right hand of God, having gone into heaven; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him."
• For ye were going astray like sheep; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls”; V. 2-4: “Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight,
not of constraint, but willingly, according unto God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away." John xxi. 15-17 : “Feed my lambs.
Tend my sheep. . . . Feed my sheep."
3 ii. 4-8: “a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious : And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For you therefore which believe is the preciousness : but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner ; and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence ; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient : whereunto also they were appointed"; Acts iv. II: “He is the stone which was set at nought of you the builders, which was made the head of the corner"; Matt. xxi. 42: “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner: This was from the Lord, And it is marvellous in our eyes ?"
2 ji. 25:
ally, "put on humility like a slave's apron,"l) sounds like a reminiscence of the Saviour's action which so astonished Peter when "he took a towel, and girded himself” in order to wash His disciples' feet, saying, when He had finished, “I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you.”? (6) His language in the epistle, "And if ye call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear," bears a strong resemblance to Peter's words at Cæsarea, “ Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons : but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him.”3 (7) In his exhortation to his readers to “be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake," we have probably the reproduction of the lesson taught to Peter by his Lord with regard to the payment of the tribute money.4
In the last-mentioned passage, as in many others, we can discern traces of the same graphic and pictorial style as we have seen to be characteristic of the Gospel of Mark, which there is reason to believe is largely a record of Peter's preaching. Such are the expressions, “not using your freedom for a cloke of wickedness,” the word translated “cloke" being peculiar to Peter (only used here), and meaning a veil or covering ; 5 "ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men,” the word rendered “put to silence” meaning, in a literal sense, to muzzle (as a dog), and being only
1ν. 5: την ταπεινοφροσύνην έγκομβώσασθε. .
John xiii. 2-17. 3 i. 17; Acts x. 34, 35.
4 ii. 13-16: “Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be 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. For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloke of wickedness, but as bondservants of God”; Matt. xvii. 24-27 :
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the half-shekel
came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay the half-shekel? He saith, Yea. And when he came into the house, Jesus spake first to him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon ? the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute ? from their sons or from strangers ? And when he said, From strangers, Jesus said unto him, Therefore the sons are free. But, lest we cause them to stumble, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth thou shalt find a shekel : that take, and give unto them for me and thee."
5 ii. 16-επικάλυμμα.