Wednesday, September 03, 2014

1 Peter 5:12-14 Exegetical Notes


12 Διὰ Σιλουανοῦ ὑμῖν τοῦ πιστοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, ὡς λογίζομαι, διʼ ὀλίγων ἔγραψα, παρακαλῶν καὶ ἐπιμαρτυρῶν ταύτην εἶναι ἀληθῆ χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ· εἰς ἣν στῆτε. 13 ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἐν Βαβυλῶνι συνεκλεκτὴ καὶ Μᾶρκος υἱός μου. 14 ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἀγάπης. εἰρήνη ὑμῖν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ.


v 13 Βαβυλῶνι / Ῥώμῃ
The latter reading found only in a few miniscules, and likely secondary

v14 ἀγάπης / ἁγίῳ
The latter likely an accommodation to the familiar expression of Paul

v14 Χριστῷ / Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ / κυίῳ Ἰησοῦ
The shorter reading to be preferred, as also supported by different text-types

v15 ἀμήν / omit
Several texts have a concluding ἀμήν. But this may be understood as a scribal impulse.


Through Silvanus, to you, a faithful brother, as I reckon, I have written briefly, exhorting and attesting this to be the true grace of God: Stand in it. The co-elect in Babylon, and Markus my son, greet you. Greet each other with a holy kiss. Peace to you all that are in Christ.


The text of 5:12-14 parallels the structure of 1:1-2. In both cases it is Peter who sends the letter, there is mention of ‘the chosen’, in chapter 1 it is a reference to the recipients, while in 5 the church wherever Peter is is also ‘chosen’. Chapter 1 addresses the Diaspora, while 5 locates the source as ‘Babylon’, in both cases recontextualises Old Testament references for New Testament contexts, and both provide a greeting of peace.

Two main questions arise, (1) the role of Silvanus, and (2) the meaning of ‘Babylon’.
If the letter is genuinely Peter’s, and if the Greek is ‘too good for him’, then the traditional understanidng is that Silvanus, presumably a Roman citizen, served as amanuensis. However, διά + person is more commonly used of the person who carries the letter, i.e. a courier (so Achtemeir, Cloeney, Grudem, Elliot, inter aliis). Furthermore, in Acts 15:23 a Silvanus acts as a courier for the Apostles’ letter from Jerusalem to Antioch.

However the fact that Silvanus was probably the courier does not rule out he, or Mark, acting as amanuensis. The affirmation of him as a faithful brother may suggest that the recipients knew him by reputation, but not personally.

Silvanus is mentioned in 2 Cor 1:19 as a companion of Paul, is listed as co-author of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and is the Latin version of Silas, who is listed as Paul’s companion in Acts. In Acts 15:22 he is among the trusted leaders of the Jerusalem church, and in 16:37 he holds Roman citizenship.

What about Babylon? Who is “she”? Does it refer to an individual woman, or a collective group? Traditionally two elided nouns have been suggested, ἐκκλησία or ἀδελφότης. While the first is unattested in the context, the second is used in 5:9 and might form a suitable antecedent. The meaning differs little, as it would refer to the Christian community there. Almost all modern interpreters understand ‘Babylon’ to refer to Rome. However, with what significance? We should avoid imputing apocalyptic references such as those found in Revelation, since 1 Peter is not such a book and is not obviously dealing with imperial ideology.

Rather, along the lines of Michaels, Davids, Achtemeier, and Kelly, “Babylon” forms an inclusio with “Diaspora” and indicates “a place of exile”, “not home”. While Rome may indeed by theh place, it is not certain. Peter is in a city of exile, just as much as his readers. Interestingly the Oriental churches have long taken it at face value - that Peter was indeed in Babylon and wrote from there.

However it may be, verse 12b ends with a clear and resounding exhortation: state firm in this truth grace of God. Peter has expounded throughout this letter the grace of God in Christ, and in the light of suffering, Jesus’ victory, and Jesus’ example, believers should stand firm to the end, secure in the vindication of Christ.

v13-14 then end with the final greetings, as we have discussed before.


Thus concludes my exegetical notes on 1 Peter. I hope you have enjoyed reading. 

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