Commentary on 1 Peter 5:12-14

Notes (NET Translation)

5:12 Through Silvanus, whom I know to be a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, in order to encourage you and testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.

Silvanus/Silas was often Paul’s partner in ministry (Acts 15:22-34; 16:19-29; 17:4-15; 18:5; 2 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1). In Acts 15:23 he carried a letter from Jerusalem to Antioch. The phrase “through Silvanus” indicates that he also carried this letter to the churches of Asia Minor.  The phrase does not mean that Silvanus helped compose the letter (Jobes loc. 4952ff., Schreiner 248-249). It would be a little strange for Silvanus to commend himself as a “faithful brother” (Elliott 875).

Some have objected that neither Silvanus nor any other single messenger is likely to have delivered the epistle to all the churches throughout the five provinces mentioned in 1:1. It is not necessary to the hypothesis to assume that this was the case. Silvanus could simply have carried the letter to its port of entry, probably either Amisus or Amastris on the Black Sea, and been officially welcomed there and at a few other congregations in the vicinity. His personal greetings from Peter would then have been conveyed by word of mouth from congregation to congregation through the provinces along with the letter itself. This would help to explain Cyrpian’s otherwise odd references to “The Epistle of Peter to Pontus” (Testimonia 37, 39) or “to the people in Pontus” (Testimonia 36). (Michaels 307)

Because Silvanus is mentioned by name but with no other information, it would seem that Peter’s readers must have known who he was. However, Peter’s affirmation that the apostle regards Silvanus as a faithful brother may hint of something that would make such an affirmation advisable, especially if Silvanus is carrying the letter. This suggests that even if the recipients were familiar with Silvanus by reputation, they did not know him personally.(Jobes loc. 4980-4983)

The exhortations in the letter itself are the “true grace of God.”

In this verse the author succinctly condenses the heart of his message: those who have been reborn to new life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and incorporated into the family of faith are what they are by the grace of God. Until their final salvation, they must now live in and through this grace as the graced people of God. Their challenge is to stand fast in the divine grace that shapes their past, their present, and their future. (Elliott 880)

5:13 The church in Babylon, chosen together with you, greets you, and so does Mark, my son.

The Greek literally reads “she who is in Babylon.” However, the NET is correct in that “she” refers to the Christian community in “Babylon” (2 Jn 1, 13). In other writings the church is Christ’s bride (Eph 5:22-33; Rev 19:7-9).

There is virtually unanimous agreement among modern interpreters that the referent of “Babylon” is actually Rome. There is less agreement about the significance of this symbol. The reference to Babylon is sometimes offered as evidence for dating 1 Peter to after AD 70, for it was after the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem that subversive apocalyptic writings, such as John’s Revelation in the NT, adopted “Babylon” as a code word for Rome. However, this sense cannot be assumed for its occurrence here because the genre of 1 Peter is not apocalyptic and the letter contains nothing overtly subversive about the Roman state (in fact, quite the contrary)

Given the several echoes of the greeting of 1:1-2 found here, the reference to Babylon is clearly to be read in parallel with “Diaspora” in 1:1, a pairing not typically found in apocalyptic where Babylon appears as the great evil city. Nothing is said of Babylon’s evil in 1 Peter, leading Michaels to observe that the only thing wrong with Babylon is that it is not home. Along the same lines, Davids writes, “So Rome equals Babylon becomes a … symbol for the capital of the place of exile away from the true inheritance in heaven.” Most likely “Babylon” forms an inclusio with “Diaspora” in the opening verse and thus functions “to identify both the author and his Christian community as sharing with the readers such exile status”.

As Kelly astutely observes, if the reference to Babylon functions merely as an inclusio with Diaspora to frame the book in exile language, it is less clear that Babylon is “intended to designate any specific locality at all.” He cites the “waters of Babylon” in Ps. 137:1 as a similar reference that Jews of the Diaspora could identify as whatever place in the world they happened to live. The reference to Babylon here might function similarly. In that case, “there would thus be no reference to Rome or any other place in this verse,” though Rome might otherwise have been known to be the location of Peter. Thiede argues similarly that Babylon here and the expression in Acts 12:17 that Peter left Jerusalem “for another place” are both allusions to being in a state of exile and neither is intended to specify location. The latter phrase, Thiede argues, is an echo of Ezek. 12:3 LXX, the only other place in the biblical corpus where the phrase eis heteron topon is used in reference to going into the Babylonian exile. It may be that Rome as the location of the composition of 1 Peter leans much more heavily on tradition than on exegesis.

If so, in 1 Pet. 5:13 Peter is simply sending greetings from the Christian community from wherever he writes, and from his associate Mark. But even if Acts 12:17 is intended only to say that Peter was driven into exile away from Jerusalem, Rome cannot be ruled out as the destination to which he fled. The reference could be intended as a comparison. Just as God’s people had been driven out of Jerusalem and sent into exile in Babylon, the capital city of their oppressors centuries before, Peter himself has been driven from Jerusalem by the Roman powers and is sojourning in exile in the capital city of his oppressors. (Jobes loc. 5002-5022; cf. Michaels 310-311)

I think Jobes’ makes a decent point that the way the word “Babylon” is used does not require that 1 Peter was written after AD 70. However, the evidence outside of the letter is strong and unanimous that 1 Peter was written in the city of Rome (Elliott 882-887).

“Mark” is John Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:4, 13; 15:35-39; Col 4:10; 2 Tim 5:11; Phlm 24). Eusebius notes that Mark wrote under Peter’s influence (Hist. eccl. 2.15.1-2; 3.39.15; 6.25.5). Mark is not Peter’s biological son. The term designates the fatherly love Peter had for the younger Mark. He may have been mentioned because he was known to some of the recipients of this letter (Col 4:10; Phlm 24; 2 Tim 4:11).

5:14 Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Paul enjoins a holy kiss (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26). The kiss represents a physical manifestation of the affection Christians are to have for each other. In the Greco-Roman world a kiss was usually shared among family members, therefore its inclusion here highlights the familial nature of the Christian community (Michaels 313).

Closing the letter with a peace wish is significant. Believers in the Petrine churches were buffeted by trials and persecutions. The stress of life was significant. What believers need in such a situation is God’s peace and strength, a peace that will enable them to stand (5:12) amidst the pressures of the present evil age. Such peace will fortify believers so they can endure opposition and persevere to the end, so that they will receive an eschatological reward. (Schreiner 252)

The survival of the Christian community attests to the letter’s success, a success repeated whenever Christians find, in threatening times, comfort and peace in its words. (Achtemeier 356)

Bibliography

Achtemeier, Paul J. 1 Peter. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996.

Elliott, John Hall. 1 Peter. Yale University Press, 2007.

Jobes, Karen. 1 Peter. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2005.

Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1 Peter. Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003.

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One thought on “Commentary on 1 Peter 5:12-14

  1. Pingback: Authorship, Date, and Provenance of 1 Peter | Biblical Scholarship

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