Preface to the First and Second Epistles of Peter
Dr. Lardner and Professor Michaelis have done much to remove several difficulties connected with the person of St. Peter, the people to whom he wrote, the places of their dispersion, and the time of writing. I shall extract what makes more immediately for my purpose.
"The land of Palestine, says Cave, at and before the coming of our blessed Savior, was distinguished into three several provinces, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. In the upper, called also Galilee of the Gentiles, within the division belonging to the tribe of Naphtali, stood Bethsaida, formerly an obscure and inconsiderable village, till lately re-edified and enlarged by Philip the Tetrarch; and, in honor of Julia, daughter of Augustus, called by him Julias. It was situated upon the banks of the sea of Galilee, called also the lake of Tiberias, and the lake of Gennesareth, which was about forty furlongs in breadth, and a hundred in length; and had a wilderness on the other side called the desert of Bethsaida, whither our Savior used often to retire.
"At this place was born Simon, surnamed Cephas, or Petros, Petrus, Peter, signifying a stone, or fragment of a rock. He was a fisherman upon the forementioned lake or sea, as was also in all probability his father Jonas, Jonah, or John. He had a brother named Andrew: which was the eldest of the two is not certain; for, concerning this, there were different opinions among the ancients. Epiphanius supposed Andrew to be the elder; but, according to Chrysostom, Peter was the first-born. So likewise Bede and Cassian, who even make Peter's age the ground of his precedence among the apostles; and Jerome himself has expressed himself in like manner, saying, 'that the keys were given to all the apostles alike, and the Church was built upon all of them equally; but, for preventing dissension, precedency was given to one. John might have been the person, but he was too young; and Peter was preferred on account of his age.'
"The call of Andrew and Peter to a stated attendance on Jesus is recorded in three evangelists. Their father Jonas seems to have been dead; for there is no mention of him, as there is of Zebedee, when his two sons were called. It is only said of Andrew and Peter that, when Jesus called them, they left their nets and followed him. Follow me, said he, and, I will make you fishers of men.
"Simon Peter was married when called by our Lord to attend upon him; and upon occasion of that alliance, it seems, had removed from Bethsaida to Capernaum, where was his wife's family. Upon her mother our Savior wrought a great miracle of healing. And, I suppose, that when our Lord left Nazareth, and came and dwelled at Capernaum, he made Peter's house the place of his usual abode when he was in those parts. I think we have a proof of it in the history just noticed. When Jesus came out of the synagogue at Capernaum, he entered into Simon's house, Luke 4:38. Compare Mark 1:29, which is well paraphrased by Dr. Clarke: 'Now when Jesus came out of the synagogue, he went home to Peter's house;' and there it was that the people resorted unto him.
"Some time after this, when our Lord had an opportunity of private conversation with the disciples, he inquired of them what men said of him; and then whom they thought him to be. 'Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;' Matthew 16:13-16. So far likewise in Mark 8:27-29, and Luke 9:18-20. Then follows, in Matthew 16:17-19 : 'And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven:' that is, 'it is not a partial affection for me, thy Master, nor a fond and inconsiderate regard for the judgments of others for whom thou hast a respect, that has induced thee to think thus of me; but it is a just persuasion formed in thy mind by observing the great works thou hast seen me do by the power of God in the confirmation of my mission and doctrine.' 'And I say unto thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church - and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' By which many of our interpreters suppose that our Lord promised to Peter that he should have the honor of beginning to preach the Gospel after his resurrection to Jews and Gentiles, and of receiving them into the Church; if so that is personal. Nevertheless, what follows, 'And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven;' this, I say, must have been the privilege of all the apostles, for the like things are expressly said to them, Luke 22:29, Luke 22:30, John 20:21-23. Moreover, all the apostles concurred with Peter in the first preaching both to Jews and Gentiles. As he was president in the college of the apostles, it was very fit, and a thing of course, that he should be primarily concerned in the first opening of things. The confession now particularly before us was made by him; but it was in answer to a question that had been put to all; and he spoke the sense of all the apostles, and in their name. I suppose this to be as true in this instance, as in the other before mentioned, which is in John 6:68, John 6:69. In the account which St. John has given us of our Savior's washing the disciples' feet, Peter's modesty and fervor are conspicuous. When the Jewish officers were about to apprehend our Lord, 'Peter, having a sword, drew it, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut of his right ear.' Our Lord having checked Peter, touched the servant's ear, and healed him. So great is Jesus everywhere! They that laid hold of Jesus led him away to the house of Caiaphas; the rest of the disciples now forsook him and fled; 'but Peter followed him afar off, unto the high priest's palace; and went in and sat with the servants to see the end.' Here Peter thrice disowned his Lord, peremptorily denying that he was one of the disciples, or had any knowledge of him, as related by all the evangelists; for which he soon after humbled himself, and wept bitterly. We do not perceive that Peter followed our Lord any farther; or that he at all attended the crucifixion. It is likely that he was under too much concern of mind to appear in public; and that he chose retirement, as most suitable to his present temper and circumstances.
"On the first day of the week, early in the morning, when Mary Magdalene and other women came to the sepulcher, bringing sweet spices which they had prepared, 'they saw an angel, who said unto them, Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus who was crucified: he is not here, for he is risen: Go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead.' As in Matthew, 'Tell his disciples and Peter.' As in Mark, 'Behold he goeth before you into Galilee.' That was a most gracious disposal of Providence to support the disciples, Peter in particular, in their great affliction.
"Our Lord first showed himself to Mary Magdalene, and afterwards to some other women. On the same day likewise on which he arose from the dead, he showed himself to Peter, though the circumstances of this appearance are nowhere related. And it has been observed, that as Mary Magdalene was the first woman, so Peter was the first man, to whom Jesus showed himself after he was risen from the dead.
"We have nowhere any distinct account of this apostle's travels: he might return to Judea, and stay there a good while after having been at Antioch, at the time spoken of by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians. However, it appears from Epiphanius that Peter was often in the countries of Pontus and Bithynia; and by Eusebius we are assured that Origen, in the third tome of his Exposition of the Book of Genesis, writes to this purpose: 'Peter is supposed to have preached to the Jews of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia; who, at length coming to Rome, was crucified with his head downwards, himself having desired it might be in that manner.' For the time of Peter's coming to Rome, no ancient writer is now more regarded by learned moderns than Lactantius, or whoever is the author of the book of the Deaths of Persecutors; who says that Peter came thither in the time of Nero. However, it appears to me very probable that St. Peter did not come to Rome before the year of Christ 63 or 64, nor till after St. Paul's departure thence at the end of his two years' imprisonment in that city. The books of the New Testament afford a very plausible, if not certain, argument for it. After our Lord's ascension we find Peter, with the rest of the apostles, at Jerusalem. He and John were sent by the apostles from Jerusalem to Samaria, whence they returned to Jerusalem. When Paul came to Jerusalem, three years after his conversion, he found Peter there. Upon occasion of the tranquility of the Churches in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, near the end of the reign of Caligula, Peter left Jerusalem, and visited the Churches in several parts of that country, particularly at Lydda and Joppa, where he tarried many days. Thence he went to Caesarea, by the seaside, where he preached to Cornelius and his company. Thence he returned to Jerusalem, and sometime afterwards was imprisoned there by Herod Agrippa. This brings down the history of our apostle to the year 44. A few years after this he was present at the council of Jerusalem; nor is there any evidence that he came there merely on that occasion. It is more probable that he had not yet been out of Judea: soon after that council he was at Antioch, where he was reproved by St. Paul.
"The books of the New Testament afford no light for determining where Peter was for several years after that. But to me it appears not unlikely that he returned after a short time to Judea from Antioch, and that he stayed in Judea a good while before he went thence any more; and it seems to me that, when he left Judea, he went again to Antioch, the chief city of Syria. Thence he might go to other parts of the continent, particularly Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, which are expressly mentioned in the beginning of his first epistle. In those countries he might stay a good while; and it is very likely that he did so; and that he was well acquainted with the Christians there, to whom he afterwards wrote two epistles. When he left those parts, I think he went to Rome, but not till after Paul had been in that city and was gone from it. Several of St. Paul's epistles furnish out a cogent argument of Peter's absence from Rome for a considerable space of time. St. Paul, in the last chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, written, as we suppose, in the beginning of the year 58, salutes many by name, without mentioning Peter; and the whole tenor of the epistle makes it reasonable to think that the Christians there had not yet had the benefit of the apostle's presence and instructions. During his two years' confinement at Rome, which ended, as we suppose, in the spring of the year 63, St. Paul wrote four or five epistles; those to the Ephesians, the Second Epistle to Timothy, to the Philippians, the Colossians, and Philemon; in none of which is any mention of Peter, nor is any thing said or hinted whence it can be concluded that he had ever been there. I think, therefore, that Peter did not come to Rome before the year 63, or perhaps 64. And, as I suppose, obtained the crown of martyrdom in the year 64 or 65; consequently, St. Peter could not reside very long at Rome before his death.
"Cave likewise, in his life of St. Peter, written in English in 1676, places his death in 64 or 65; nor was his mind much altered when he published his Historia Literaria in 1688; for there also he supposes that St. Peter died a martyr at Rome, in the year of Christ 64, at the beginning of Nero's persecution; and indeed he expresses himself with a great deal of assurance and positiveness. Jerome concludes his article of St. Peter saying, 'He was buried at Rome, in the Vatican, near the triumphal way; and is in veneration all over the world.' "It is not needful to make any remarks upon this tradition; but it is easy to observe it is the general, uncontradicted, disinterested testimony of ancient writers, in the several parts of the world, Greeks, Latins, and Syrians. As our Lord's prediction concerning the death of Peter is recorded in one of the four gospels, it is very likely that Christians would observe the accomplishment of it, which must have been in some place, and about this place there is no difference among Christian writers of ancient times; never any other place was named besides Rome; nor did any other city ever glory in the martyrdom of Peter. There were, in the second and third centuries, disputes between the bishop of Rome and other bishops and Churches about the time of keeping Easter, and about the baptism of heretics; yet none denied the bishop of Rome what they called the chair of Peter. It is not for our honor or interest, either as Christians or Protestants, to deny the truth of events ascertained by early and well attested tradition.
If any make an ill use of such facts, we are not accountable for it. We are not, from the dread of such abuses, to overthrow the credit of all history, the consequences of which would be fatal. Fables and fictions have been mixed with the account of Peter's being at Rome; but they are not in the most early writers, but have been added since: and it is well known that fictions have been joined with histories of the most certain and important facts.1 Peter-1
"Having written the history of the Apostle Peter, I now proceed to his epistles; concerning which three or four things are to be considered by us; their genuineness, the persons to whom they were sent, the place where, and the time when, they were written.
"The first epistle was all along considered, by catholic Christians, as authentic and genuine; this we learn from Eusebius, who says: 'Of the controverted books of the New Testament; yet well known and approved by many, are that called the Epistle of James, and that of Jude, and the second and third of John.' And in another place, 'One epistle of Peter, called the first, is universally received. This the presbyters of ancient times have quoted in their writings as undoubtedly genuine; but that called his second, we have been informed, (by tradition), has not been received as a part of the New Testament; nevertheless, appearing to many to be useful, it has been carefully studied with other scriptures.' By which, I think, we may be assured that a great regard was shown to this epistle by many Christians in the time of our learned ecclesiastical historian. Jerome says, 'Peter wrote two epistles called catholic, the second of which is denied by many to be his, because of the difference of the style from the former.' And Origen before them, in his commentaries upon the gospel of St. Matthew, as cited by Eusebius, says, 'Peter, on whom the Church is built, has left one epistle universally acknowledged: let it be granted that he also wrote a second, for this has been doubted.' "What those learned writers of the third and fourth centuries say of those two epistles, we have found agreeable to the testimony of more ancient writers, whom we have consulted: for the first epistle seems to be referred to by Clement of Rome; it is plainly referred to by Polycarp several times; it is also referred to by the martyrs at Lyons; it was received by Theophilus, bishop of Antioch; it was quoted by Papias; it is quoted in the remaining writings of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian: consequently it was all along received. But we do not perceive the second epistle to be quoted by Papias, nor by Irenaeus, (though in Grabe's edition this epistle is twice quoted), nor Tertullian, nor Cyprian. However, both these epistles were generally received in the fourth and following centuries by all Christians, except the Syrians: for they were received by Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, the council of Laodicea, Epiphanius, Jerome, Rufin, Augustine, and others. "The first epistle being allowed to be St. Peter's, we can argue in favor of the other also, in this manner: It bears in the inscription the name of the same apostle; for so it begins, 'Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.' And in 2 Peter 1:14 are these words: 'Knowing that I must shortly put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ has showed me.'
"The writer of this epistle may have had a particular revelation concerning the time of his death, not long before writing this. But it is probable that here is a reference to our Lord's prediction concerning St. Peter's death, and the manner of it, which are recorded in John 21:18, John 21:19. From 2 Peter 1:16-18, it appears that the writer was one of the disciples who were with Jesus in the mount, when he was transfigured in a glorious manner. This certainly leads us to Peter, who was there, and whose name the epistle bears in the inscription, 2 Peter 3:1 : 'This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance;' plainly referring to the former epistle, which has been always acknowledged to be Peter's. These words are express. But it might have been argued, with some degree of probability, from 2 Peter 1:12, 2 Peter 1:15, that he had before written to the same persons. Once more, 2 Peter 3:15, 2 Peter 3:16, he calls Paul brother, and otherwise so speaks of him and his epistles as must needs be reckoned most suitable to an apostle. The writer, therefore, is the Apostle Peter, whose name the epistle bears in the inscription. We are led here to the observation which Wall placed at the head of his notes upon this second epistle: 'It is,' says he, 'a good proof of the cautiousness of the ancient Christians in receiving any book for canonical, that they not only rejected all those pieces forged by heretics under the name of apostles; but also if any good book, affirmed by some men or some Churches to have been written and sent by some apostle, were offered to them, they would not, till fully satisfied of the fact, receive it into their canon.' He adds: 'There is more hazard in denying this to be Peter's, than in denying some other books to be of that author to whom they are by tradition ascribed. For they, if they be not of that apostle to whom they are imputed, yet may be of some other apostle, or apostolical man; but this author is either the apostle, or else by setting his name, and by other circumstances, he does designedly personate him, which no man of piety and truth would do.' And then he concludes: 'This epistle being written by him but a little before his death, 2 Peter 1:14, and perhaps no more than one copy sent, it might be a good while before a number of copies, well attested, came abroad to the generality of the Christian Churches.'
"Certainly these epistles, and the discourses of Peter, recorded in the Acts, together with the effects of them, are monuments of Divine inspiration, and of the fulfillment of the promise which Christ made to him, when he saw him and his brother Andrew employed in their trade, and casting a net into the sea; Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men, Matthew 4:19.
"Concerning the persons to whom these epistles were sent, there have been different opinions among both ancients and moderns. Mr. Wetstein argues from divers texts that the first epistle was sent to the Gentiles. Mr. Hallett, in his learned introduction to the Epistle to the Hebrews, observes, 'Some go upon the supposition that St. Peter's epistles were written to the Jews, but it seems to me more natural to suppose that they were written to Gentile Christians, if we consider many passages of the epistles themselves:' where he proceeds to allege many passages, and in my opinion, very pertinently; some of which will be also alleged by me by and by.
"To me it seems that St. Peter's epistles were sent to all Christians in general, Jews and Gentiles, living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; the greatest part of whom must have been converted by Paul, and had been before involved in ignorance and sin, as all people in general were till the manifestation of the Gospel of Christ. That St. Peter wrote to all Christians in those countries is apparent, from the valedictory blessing or wish at the end of the epistle, 1 Peter 5:14 : Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Lewis Capellus, who thought that St. Peter's first epistle was written to Jewish believers, allows that the second epistle was written to all Christians in general, and particularly to Gentiles, induced thereto by the comprehensiveness of the address at the beginning of that epistle, To them that have obtained like precious faith with us. He should have concluded as much of the first epistle likewise, for they were both sent to the same people, as is evident from St. Peter's own words, 2 Peter 3:1. Moreover, the inscription of the first epistle seems to be as general as that of the second. Let us observe it distinctly: to the elect, εκλεκτοις, says Wall upon the place: 'He uses the word εκλεκτοι, choice ones, just as St. Paul does the word ἁγιοι, saints, for the word Christians: and as St. Paul directs almost all his epistles to the saints, that is, the Christians of such a place; so St. Peter here, to the elect or choice ones, that is, Christians, sojourning in the dispersions of Pontus, Galatia, and Bithynia. Strangers, παρεπιδημοις· good men, though at home, are strangers, especially if they meet with opposition, trouble, and affliction, as those Christians did to whom St. Peter is here writing; for he speaks of their trials and temptations, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 1:7, and exhorts them, 1 Peter 2:11, as sojourners and strangers, ὡς παροικους και παρεπιδημους, to abstain from fleshly lusts. Says Ecumenius upon 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2 : 'He calls them strangers, either on account of their dispersion, or because all that live religiously are called strangers on this earth; as David also says, 'I am a sojourner with thee, and a stranger, as all my fathers were,' Psalm 39:12. Scattered throughout Pontus, or of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia; so he calls them, not because they had been driven out from their native country, but because he writes to the Christians of divers countries, who also were but a few or a small number in every place where they dwelt. I shall now show that these Christians were, for the most part, of the Gentile stock and original. 1 Peter 1:14 : 'As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.' This might be very pertinently said to men converted from Gentilism to Christianity; but no such thing is ever said by the apostle concerning the Jewish people, who had been favored with Divine revelation, and had the knowledge of the true God. And 1 Peter 1:20, 1 Peter 1:21, he says, that 'through Christ they did now believe in God;' therefore they were not worshippers till they were acquainted with the Christian revelation. In like manner, 1 Peter 2:9, St. Peter speaks of those to whom he writes as having been 'called out of darkness into God's marvelous light.' Moreover, they were not once God's people; 1 Peter 2:10 : 'Which in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.' Words resembling those of St. Paul, Romans 9:24, Romans 9:25, where he is unquestionably speaking of Gentile converts. There are also other expressions which plainly show that these persons had been Gentiles, and had lived in the sins of Gentilism; 1 Peter 1:18 : 'Forasmuch as ye know that ye were redeemed from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers.' And 1 Peter 4:3 : 'For the time past may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles; when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.' St. Peter does not charge himself with such things, but they to whom he writes had been guilty in those respects; and, by way of condescension, and for avoiding offense, and for rendering his argument more effectual, he joins himself with them. And more, when St. Peter represents the dignity of those to whom he writes, upon account of their Christian vocation, 1 Peter 2:9, as 'a chosen generation, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood;' certainly the expressions are most pertinent and emphatical, if understood of such as had been brought from Gentilism to the faith of the Gospel, as indeed they plainly were. For he there says, 'they were to show forth the praises of Him who had called them out of darkness into his marvelous light.' To all which might be added, what was hinted before, that the persons to whom Peter writes were for the most part the Apostle Paul's converts. This must be reckoned probable from the accounts which we have in the Acts of St. Paul's travels and preaching. Whence we know that he had been in Galatia, and the other countries mentioned by St. Peter at the beginning of his first epistle. Moreover he observes, 2 Peter 3:15, that 'his beloved brother Paul had written unto them.' We may reasonably suppose that he thereby intends St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, and Colossians, all in those countries, and for the most part Gentile believers. Nor do I see reason to doubt that if Peter had, before now, seen and read St. Paul's Epistles to Timothy; and if we should add them, as here intended also, it would be no prejudice to our argument. For those epistles likewise were designed for the use and benefit of the Churches in those parts. To me these considerations appear unanswerable; I shall, therefore, take notice of but one objection, which is grounded upon 1 Peter 2:12 : 'Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles; that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.' Upon the first clause in that verse Beza says, that this place alone is sufficient to show that this epistle was sent to Jews. But I think not. From St. Paul may be alleged a text of the like sort, 1 Corinthians 11:32 : 'Give no offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, (και Ἑλλησι), nor to the Church of God.' It might be as well argued from that text that the Corinthians were by descent neither Jews nor Greeks, as from this, that the persons to whom St. Peter wrote were not originally Gentiles. In the text of St. Paul just quoted, by Jews, and Gentiles or Greeks, are intended such as were unbelievers. So it is likewise in the text of St. Peter which we are considering as is apparent from the latter part of the verse above transcribed at large. St. Peter had a right to distinguish those to whom he writes from the Gentile people among whom they lived, as he had at the beginning of the epistle called them elect, or choice ones, and strangers; and they likewise went by the name of Christians, as we perceive from 1 Peter 4:16.
"St. Peter's two epistles, then, were sent to all Christians in general, living in those countries, the greatest part of whom had been converted from Gentilism or heathenism.
"Our next inquiry is concerning where these epistles were written.
"At the end of the first epistle St. Peter says: 'The Church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you;' which text, understood literally, has been thought by some to denote,
1. Babylon in Assyria; or,
2. Babylon in Egypt.
3. By others it is interpreted figuratively, and is supposed to denote Jerusalem; or,
4. Rome. So that there are four opinions concerning the place where this epistle was written.
"If St. Peter had read St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans before he wrote his first epistle, it was written after St. Paul's journey from Corinth to Jerusalem, described in Acts 20, 21; for the Epistle to the Romans was written from Corinth. How much later than the time of this journey the First Epistle of Peter was written it is very difficult, for want of sufficient data, to determine. The epistle itself has hardly any marks which can guide us in deciding the year of its composition; and we know nothing of the history of St. Peter from the time of the apostolic council at Jerusalem, Acts 15., which is the last place where St. Luke mentions him, till his arrival many years afterwards at Rome, where, according to the accounts of ecclesiastical writers, he suffered martyrdom. However, a comparison of the first with the second epistle of St. Peter will enable us to form at least an opinion on this subject. St. Peter says, in his second epistle, 2 Peter 3:1 : Ταυτην ηδη, αγαπητοι, δευτεραν ὑμιν γραφω επιστολην· whence we may conclude that his first epistle was written to the same persons as the second. But if the second epistle was written fifteen or twenty years after the first, they who received the one were not the same persons as they who received the other; and we might rather expect that in this case St. Peter would have called his first epistle an epistle which he had written to their fathers. It appears, then, that the interval between the dates of the two epistles could not have been very long; and as the second epistle was written shortly before St. Peter's death; we may infer that the first epistle was written either not long before, or not long after, the year 60. On the other hand, Lardner assigns this epistle too late a date; for he is of opinion that it was written between 63 and 65. This reason for supposing that it was not written till after 63 is, that an earlier date cannot be assigned for St. Peter's arrival at Rome; and as he takes the word Babylon, whence St. Peter dates his epistle, not in its proper but in a mystical sense, as denoting Rome, he concludes that the epistle was not written before the time above mentioned. But if we take Babylon in its proper sense, the argument not only proves not what Lardner intended, but the very reverse; for if St. Peter's arrival in Rome is to be dated about the year 63, an epistle written by St. Peter, in Babylon, must have a date prior to that year.
"St. Peter, in the close of his epistle, sends a salutation from the Church in Babylon, which, consequently, is the place where he wrote his epistle. But commentators do not agree in regard to the meaning of the word Babylon, some taking it in its literal and proper sense, others giving it a figurative and mystical interpretation. Among the advocates for the latter sense have been men of such learning and abilities, that I was misled by their authority in the younger part of my life to subscribe to it; but at present, as I have more impartially examined the question, it appears to me very extraordinary that, when an apostle dates his epistle from Babylon, it should ever occur to any commentator to ascribe to this work a mystical meaning, instead of taking it in its literal and proper sense. For, in the first century, the ancient Babylon, on the Euphrates, was still in existence; and there was likewise a city on the Tigris, Seleucia, not far distant from the ancient Babylon, to which the name of modern Babylon was given; but through some mistake it has been supposed that the ancient Babylon, in the time of St. Peter, was no longer in being; and in order to furnish a pretense for a mystical interpretation, it has been denied that Seleucia was ever so called.
"It is true that the ancient Babylon, in comparison of its original splendor, might be called in the first century a desolated city; yet it was not wholly a heap of ruins, nor wholly destitute of inhabitants. This appears from the account which Strabo, who lived in the time of Tiberius, has given of it: for he says that Alexander (who died at Babylon, and who intended, if he had lived, to have made it the place of his residence) proposed to rebuild there a pyramid, which was a stadium in length, in breadth, and in height; but that his successors did not put the design into execution: that the Persians destroyed a part of Babylon, and that the Macedonians neglected it; but that Babylon had suffered the most from the building of Seleucia, by Seleucus Nicator, at the distance of three hundred stadia from it, because Seleucia then became the capital of the country, and Babylon was drained of its inhabitants. Strabo then adds: at present Seleucia is greater than Babylon, which last city has been desolated, so that one may say of it, what the comic poet said of Megalopolis in Arcadia: 'A great city is become a great desert.' If this be not sufficient proof that Babylon was still in existence in the first century, the reader may consult Cellarii Geographia, tom. ii., page 747; and Assemani Bibliotheca Orientalis, tom. iii., par. ii., page 7.
"It will be objected, perhaps, that if Babylon still existed in the time of St. Peter, it was yet in such a state of decay that an apostle would hardly have gone to preach the Gospel there. But I can see no reason why he should not; especially as Babylon was at that time so far from being literally destitute of inhabitants that Strabo draws a parallel between this city and Seleucia, saying, at present Babylon is not so great as Seleucia, which was then the capital of the Parthian empire, and, according to Pliny, contained six hundred thousand inhabitants. To conclude therefore that Babylon, whence St. Peter dates this epistle, could not have been the ancient Babylon, because this city was then in a state of decay; and thence to argue that St. Peter used the word mystically to denote Rome, is nearly the same as if, on the receipt of a letter dated from Ghent or Antwerp, in which mention was made of a Christian community there, I concluded that, because these cities are no larger than what they were in the sixteenth century, the writer of the epistle meant a spiritual Ghent or Antwerp, and that the epistle was really written from Amsterdam.
"It is, therefore, at least possible that St. Peter wrote his first epistle in the ancient Babylon, on the Euphrates. But before we conclude that he really did write there, we must first examine whether he did not mean Seleucia on the Tigris, which was sometimes called the modern Babylon. According to Strabo, Seleucia was only three hundred stadia distant from the ancient Babylon; and it was separated by the Tigris from Ctesiphon, the winter residence of the Parthian kings. At present it is not called Bagdad, as some have supposed, which is a very different city; but, in conjunction with Ctesiphon, is named by Syrian and Arabic writers Medinotho, Medain, Madain, under which name it appears in D'Anville's maps in the latitude of 33 7.
"Since then, the name of Babylon was given actually to Seleucia, it is not impossible that St. Peter thus understood the word Babylon, and that his first epistle therefore was written at Seleucia on the Tigris. But I have shown in the preceding part of this section that there is likewise a possibility of its having been written in Babylon, properly so called, or in the ancient Babylon on the Euphrates. The question therefore is, which of these two senses shall we ascribe to the word Babylon? For one of these two we must ascribe to it, unless we give it, without any reason, a mystical interpretation. In the two last editions of this introduction I preferred the former sense; but after a more mature consideration, I think it much more probable, at present, that St. Peter meant the ancient Babylon. It is true that Lucan, Sidonius Apollinaris, and Stephanus Byzantinus, gave the name of Babylon to Seleucia; but the two last of these writers lived so late as the fifth century; and therefore their authority is perhaps not sufficient to prove that Seleucia was called Babylon in the first century. Lucan, indeed, was a contemporary with St. Peter; but then he uses this word in an epic poem, in which a writer is not bound by the same rules as in prose: and it is not improbable that he selected the word Babylon, because, partly, its celebrity added pomp to his diction; and, partly, because neither Ctesiphon nor Seleucia would have suited the verse. The writer of an epistle, on the contrary, can allow himself no such latitude; and perspicuity requires that in the date of his epistle, he should use no other name for the town where he writes than that which properly belongs to it. If, therefore, St. Peter had really written at Seleucia, he would have hardly called this city by the name of Babylon, though this name was sometimes applied to it: consequently, it is most probable that St. Peter wrote his first epistle in ancient Babylon on the Euphrates.
"Before I conclude this section, I must take notice of a passage in Josephus, which not only confutes all notions of a spiritual or mystical Babylon, but throws a great light on our present inquiry; and this passage is of so much the more importance, because Josephus was a historian who lived in the same age with St. Peter; and the passage itself relates to an event which took place thirty-six years before the Christian era, namely, the delivery of Hyrcanus, the Jewish high priest, from imprisonment, by order of Phraates, king of Parthia, with permission to reside in Babylon, where there was a considerable number of Jews. This is recorded by Josephus, Antiq. xv. c. 2, in the following words: Δια τουτο δεσμων μεν αφηκεν, εν Βαβυλωνι δε καταγεσθαι παρειχεν, ενθα και πληθος ην Ιουδαιων. Josephus then adds, that both the Jews in Babylon, and all who dwelt in that country, as far as the Euphrates, respected Hyrcanus, as high priest and king. Now the word Babylon in this passage of Josephus evidently means a city in the east; and it cannot possibly be interpreted in a mystical manner either of Jerusalem or Rome. The only question is, whether he meant the ancient Babylon on the Euphrates, or Seleucia on the Tigris. The former is the most obvious interpretation; and is warranted by the circumstance that, in other places where Josephus speaks of Seleucia on the Tigris, he calls it by its proper name Seleucia.
"The first argument in favor of a mystical and against a literal interpretation of the word Babylon is, that in the whole country of Babylonia there were no Jews in the time of St. Peter; and thence it is inferred that he could not have gone to preach the Gospel there. Now in this argument both the premises and inference are false. The inference is false, because even if there had been no Jews in the whole country of Babylonia, St. Peter might have gone to preach the Gospel there; for he preached to the uncircumcised at Caesarea, and he himself declared that it was ordained by God that the Gentiles, by his mouth, should hear the word of the Gospel and believe. The premises themselves are also totally unfounded; for if we except Palestine, there was no country in the world where the Jews were so numerous and so powerful as in the province of Babylonia, in which they had their two celebrated seats of learning, Nehardea and Susa.
"The second argument in favor of a mystical interpretation of the word Babylon is, that almost all the ancient fathers have explained it in this manner, and have asserted that St. Peter used it to denote Rome. But we must recollect that an assertion of this kind is not testimony to a fact, but a mere matter of opinion, in which the ancients were as liable to mistake as we are. Nor is it true that all the ancient ecclesiastical writers have ascribed to the word Babylon a mystical meaning; for though the Greek and Latin fathers commonly understood Rome, yet the Syriac and Arabic writers understood it literally, as denoting a town in the east; and if we are to be guided by opinion, an oriental writer is surely as good authority, on the present question, as a European.
"The third argument on which Lardner particularly insists is, that, in the accounts which we have on record relative to St. Peter's history, no mention is made of a journey to Babylon. Now this argument would prove nothing, even if our knowledge of St. Peter's life and transactions were more perfect than it really is. Let us suppose an instance of some eminent man in modern times, in the history of whose life no mention is made that, during his travels, he paid a visit to Vienna, but that among his letters to his friends, one of them, not withstanding the silence of his biographer, is dated from Vienna. In this case, unless we had reason to suppose that the whole epistle was a forgery, or that the author had used a false date, we should immediately conclude, on the bare authority of this single epistle, that he had actually been at Vienna; and we should hardly think of a mystical or spiritual Vienna. Lardner himself has argued in this very manner with respect to Paul, though his history is infinitely better known than that of St. Peter, and has inferred from the single passage, Titus 1:5, 'For this cause left I thee in Crete,' that St. Paul made a voyage into Crete in the year 56, though this voyage is mentioned neither by St. Luke nor by any other historian. No reason therefore can be assigned why we should refuse to argue in the same manner with respect to St. Peter. In fact, Lardner's argument could nowhere have been more unfortunately applied than in the present instance.
"From the time of the apostolic council at Jerusalem, in the year 49, at which St. Peter was present, till the time of his (supposed) arrival in Rome, which Lardner acknowledges was not before 63, there is an interval of fourteen years, during which we have no history of him whatsoever. How then can we form a judgment of his transactions during that period except from his own writings? And how can the silence of history, in respect to his journey to Babylon, afford an argument that he was never there, in contradiction to his own epistle, when the fact is, we have no history at all of St. Peter during this period? We cannot therefore talk of its silence in respect to any one particular transaction, since every transaction of St. Peter, throughout the whole of this interval, is unrecorded. Lardner indeed conjectures, as the epistle is addressed to the inhabitants of Pontus, Galatia, Ac., that St. Peter spent a part of his time in these countries, though he denies that St. Peter ever was in Babylon, whence the epistle is dated. Now this mode of arguing is nearly the same as if I concluded, from a letter dated from Vienna, and addressed to a person in Venice, that the writer of that letter had been in Venice, but that he never was at Vienna. Lardner supposes also that St. Peter spent a part of this time in Jerusalem. Now it is impossible for us to determine what stay St. Peter made in Jerusalem after the holding of the apostolic council, or whether he remained there at all; but this I think is certain, that he was not at Jerusalem when St. Paul returned thither for the last time, since St. Luke makes particular mention of St. James, and describes him as the head of the Christian community at Jerusalem, but says nothing of St. Peter, whom he would hardly have passed over in perfect silence if he had been there. Now St. Paul's last visit to Jerusalem happened in the year 60, and since I have shown that the First Epistle of St. Peter was written about this time, it is not at all improbable that St. Peter, who was absent from Jerusalem, was then engaged in preaching the Gospel to the Babylonians.
"The last argument in favor of the opinion that the Babylon where Peter wrote was not Babylon properly so called, is derived from 1 Peter 2:13, where St. Peter commands obedience to the king, and from 1 Peter 2:17, where he says, 'Honor the king.' Hence Lardner concludes that St. Peter must have written in a place which was subject to the same king or emperor as the people to whom he sent the epistle. But these were subject to the Roman emperor, whereas Babylon, with its whole territory, was then subject, not to the Romans, but the Parthians, and therefore, according to Lardner, could not have been the place where St. Peter wrote. Now this argument rests on a supposition which is contradicted by the common usage of every language, the expression, 'the king,' in a letter from a person in one country to a person in another country, may, according to circumstances, denote the king to which the reader is subject as well as the king to which the writer is subject.
"It appears, then, that the arguments which have been alleged to show that St. Peter did not write his first epistle in the country of Babylonia are devoid of foundation, and consequently the notion of a mystical Babylon, as denoting either Jerusalem or Rome, loses its whole support. For in itself the notion is highly improbable, and therefore the bare possibility that St. Peter took a journey to Babylon, properly so called, renders it inadmissible. The plain language of epistolary writing does not admit of the figures of poetry, and, though it would be very allowable, in a poem written in honor of Gottingen, to style it another Athens, yet if a professor of this university should, in a letter written from Gottingen, date it Athens, it would be a greater piece of pedantry than ever was laid to the charge of the learned. In like manner, though a figurative use of the word Babylon is not unsuitable to the animated and poetical language of the Apocalypse, yet St. Peter, in a plain and unadorned epistle, would hardly have called the place where he wrote by any other appellation than that which literally and properly belonged to it."
That many persons both of learning and eminence have been of a different opinion from Professor Michaelis, the intelligent reader is well aware, but Dr. Lardner, of all others, has written most argumentatively in vindication of the mystical Babylon, i.e. Rome, as being the place from which the apostle wrote this epistle. His weightiest arguments however are here answered by Michaelis, and to me it appears that there is a great balance in favor of the opinion that Babylon on the Euphrates is the place intended. The decision of this question, although not an article of faith, is nevertheless of some importance. I am still of opinion that St. Peter did not write from Rome; that he was neither bishop of Rome nor martyred at Rome, in a word, that he never saw Rome.
Of the persons to whom this epistle was directed, and their spiritual state, 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2. He describes their privileges, and thanks God for the grace by which they were preserved faithful in trials and difficulties, 1 Peter 1:3-5. The spiritual benefit they were to receive out of their afflictions, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 1:7. Their love to Christ, 1 Peter 1:8. And the salvation they received through believing, 1 Peter 1:9. This salvation was predicted by the prophets, who only saw it afar off and had only a foretaste of it, 1 Peter 1:10-12. They should take encouragement, and be obedient and holy, 1 Peter 1:13-16. Thy should pray, and deeply consider the price at which they were purchased, that their faith and hope might be in God, 1 Peter 1:17-21. As their souls had been purified by obeying the truth through the Spirit, they should love each other with a pure and fervent love, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 1:23. The frailty of man, and the unchangeableness of God, 1 Peter 1:24, 1 Peter 1:25.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,Peter, an apostle - Simon Peter, called also Kephas: he was a fisherman, son of Jonah, brother of Andrew, and born at Bethsaida; and one of the first disciples of our Lord. See the preface.
The strangers scattered throughout - Jews first, who had believed the Gospel in the different countries here specified; and converted Gentiles also. Though the word strangers may refer to all truly religious people, see Genesis 47:9; Psalm 39:12, in the Septuagint, and Hebrews 11:13, yet the inscription may have a special reference to those who were driven by persecution to seek refuge in those heathen provinces to which the influence of their persecuting brethren did not extend.
Pontus - An ancient kingdom of Asia Minor, originally a part of Cappadocia; bounded on the east by Colchis, on the west by the river Halys, on the north by the Euxine Sea, and on the south by Armenia Minor. This country probably derived its name from the Pontus Euxinus, on which it was partly situated. In the time of the Roman emperors it was divided into three parts:
1. Pontus Cappadocius;
2. Pontus Galaticus; and,
3. Pontus Polemoniacus.
The first extended from the Pontus Polemoniacus to Colchis, having Armenia Minor and the upper stream of the Euphrates for its southern boundary. The second extended from the river Halys to the river Thermodon. The third extended from the river Thermodon to the borders of the Pontus Cappadocius.
Six kings of the name of Mithridates reigned in this kingdom, some of whom are famous in history. The last king of this country was David Comnenus, who was taken prisoner, with all his family, by Mohammed II. in the year 1462, and carried to Constantinople; since which time this country (then called the empire of Trebizond, from Trapezas, a city founded by the Grecians, on the uttermost confines of Pontus) has continued under the degrading power of the Turks.
Galatia - The ancient name of a province of Asia Minor, now called Amasia. It was called also Gallograecia, and Gallia Parva. It was bounded on the east by Cappadocia, on the south by Pamphylia, on the north by the Euxine Sea, and on the west by Bithynia. See the preface to the Epistle to the Galatians.
Cappadocia - An ancient kingdom of Asia, comprehending all the country lying between Mount Taurus and the Euxine Sea.
Asia - This word is taken in different senses: It signifies,
1. One of the three general divisions of our continent, and one of the four of the whole earth. It is separated from Europe by the Mediterranean Sea, the Archipelago, the Black Sea, the Palus Maeolis, the rivers Don and Dwina; and from Africa by the Arabic Gulf, or Red Sea: it is everywhere else surrounded by water. It is situated between latitude 2 and 77 N., and between longitude 26 E. and 170 W.; and is about 7, 583 miles in length, and 5, 200 miles in breadth.
2. Asia Minor, that part of Turkey in Asia, now called Natolia, which comprehends a great number of province situated between the Euxine, Mediterranean, and Archipelago.
3. That province of Asia Minor of which Ephesus was the capital. It appears, says Calmet, that it is in this latter sense that it is used here by St. Peter, because Pontus, Galatia, and Bithynia, are comprised in the provinces of Asia Minor. See Calmet.
Bithynia - An ancient kingdom of Asia, formerly called Mysia, Mygdonia, Bebrycia, and Bithonia. It was bounded on the west by the Bosphorus, Thracius, and part of the Propontis, on the south by the river Rhyndacus, and Mount Olympus, on the north by the Euxine Sea, and on the east by the river Parthenius. This place is in some sort rendered infamous by the conduct of Prusias, one of its kings, who delivered up Hannibal, who had fled to him for protection, into the hands of the Romans. Nicomedes IV. bequeathed it to the Romans; and it is now in the hands of the Turks.
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.Elect according to the foreknowledge of God - If the apostle had directed his letter to persons elected to eternal life, no one, as Drs. Lardner and Macknight properly argue, could have received such a letter, because no one could have been sure of his election in this way till he had arrived in heaven. But the persons to whom the apostle wrote were all, with propriety, said to be elect according to the foreknowledge of God; because, agreeably to the original purpose of God, discovered in the prophetical writings, Jews and Gentiles, indiscriminately, were called to be the visible Church, and entitled to all the privileges of the people of God, on their believing the Gospel. In this sense the word elected is used in other places of Scripture; see 1 Thessalonians 1:4, and the note there.
The Rev. J. Wesley has an excellent note on this passage, which I shall transcribe for the benefit of those of my readers who may not have his works at hand.
"Strictly speaking, there is no foreknowledge, no more than afterknowledge, with God; but all things are known to him as present, from eternity to eternity. Election, in the scriptural sense, is God's doing any thing that our merit or power has no part in. The true predestination or foreappointment of God is,
1. He that believeth shall be saved from the guilt and power of sin.
2. He that endureth to the end shall be saved eternally.
3. They who receive the precious gift of faith thereby become the sons of God; and, being sons, they shall receive the Spirit of holiness, to walk as Christ also walked.
Throughout every part of this appointment of God, promise and duty go hand in hand. All is free gift; and yet, such is the gift, that it depends in the final issue on our future obedience to the heavenly call. But other predestination than this, either to life or death eternal, the Scripture knows not of: moreover,
1. It is cruel respect of persons; an unjust regard of one, and an unjust disregard of another: it is mere creature partiality, and not infinite justice.
2. It is not plain Scripture doctrine, (if true), but rather inconsistent with the express written word that speaks of God's universal offers of grace; his invitations, promises, threatenings, being all general.
3. We are bid to choose life, and reprehended for not doing it.
4. It is inconsistent with a state of probation in those that must be saved, or must be lost.
5. It is of fatal consequence; all men being ready, on very slight grounds, to fancy themselves of the elect number.
But the doctrine of predestination is entirely changed from what it formerly was: now it implies neither faith, peace, nor purity; it is something that will do without them all. Faith is no longer, according to the modern predestination scheme, a Divine evidence of things not seen wrought in the soul by the immediate power of the Holy Ghost; not an evidence at all, but a mere notion: neither is faith made any longer a means of holiness, but something that will do without it. Christ is no more a Savior from sin, but a defense and a countenancer of it. He is no more a fountain of spiritual life in the souls of believers, but leaves his elect inwardly dry, and outwardly unfruitful; and is made little more than a refuge from the image of the heavenly, even from righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Through sanctification of the Spirit - through the renewing and purifying influences of his Spirit on their souls, unto obedience - to engage and enable them to yield themselves up to all holy obedience, the foundation of all which is the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ - the atoning blood of Jesus Christ which was typified by the sprinkling of the blood of sacrifices under the law, in allusion to which it is called the blood of sprinkling.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,Blessed be the God and Father - Ευλογητος ὁ Θεος και Πατηρ· Blessed be God even the Father, or blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The και, and, is omitted by the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, and the Ethiopic. But if we translate και, even, a meaning which it frequently has in the New Testament, then we have a very good sense: Let that God have praise who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who deserves the praise of every human being for his infinite mercy to the world, in its redemption by Christ Jesus.
Begotten us again unto a lively hope - I think the apostle has a reference here to his own case, and that of his fellow apostles, at the time that Christ was taken by the Jews and put to death. Previously to this time they had strong confidence that he was the Messiah, and that it was he who should redeem Israel; but when they found that he actually expired upon the cross, and was buried, they appear to have lost all hope of the great things which before they had in prospect. This is feelingly expressed by the two disciples whom our Lord, after his resurrection, overtook on the road going to Emmaus, see Luke 24:13-24. And the hope, that with them, died with their Master, and seemed to be buried in his grave, was restored by the certainty of his resurrection. From Christ's preaching, miracles, etc., they had a hope of eternal life, and all other blessings promised by him; by his death and burial this hope became nearly, if not altogether, extinct; but by his resurrection the hope was revived. This is very properly expressed here by being begotten again to a living hope, εις ελπιδα ζωσαν·, as some MSS. and versions have it, εις ελπιδα ζωης, to the hope of life; which one copy of the Itala, with Augustine, Gildas, Vigilius of Tapsum, and Cassiodorus, have considered as meaning eternal life, agreeably to the context; and therefore they read vitae aeternae.
The expressions, however, may include more particulars than what are above specified; as none can inherit eternal life except those who are children in the heavenly family, and none are children but those who are born again: then St. Peter may be considered as laying here the foundation of the hope of eternal life in the regeneration of the soul; for none can legally inherit but the children, and none are children of God till they are spiritually begotten and born again.
It is the Gospel alone that gives the well grounded hope of eternal life; and the ground on which this hope rests is the resurrection of Christ himself. The certainty of our Lord's resurrection is the great seal of the Gospel. Without this what is vision, what is prophecy, what is promise, what are even miracles, to that unbelief which is natural to man on such a subject as this? But the resurrection of the human nature of Christ, the incontestable proofs of this resurrection, and the ascension of our nature to heaven in his person, are such evidences of the possibility and certainty of the thing, as for ever to preclude all doubt from the hearts of those who believe in him.
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,To an inheritance - Called an inheritance because it belongs to the children of God. Eternal life cannot be a gift to any but these; for, even in heaven, the lot is dealt out according to law: if children, then heirs; if not children, then not heirs.
Incorruptible - Αφθαρτον· It has no principles of dissolution or decay in it; and, therefore, must be totally different from this earth.
Undefiled - Αμιαντον· Nothing impure can enter it; it not only has no principles or seeds of dissolution in itself, but it can never admit any; therefore its deterioration is impossible.
Fadeth not away - Αμαρνατον· It cannot wither, it is always in bloom; a metaphor taken from those flowers that never lose their hue nor their fragrance. From the Greek αμαραντος we have our flowers called amaranths, because they preserve their hue and odour for a long time.
Reserved in heaven - Such a place as that described above is not to be expected on earth; it is that which was typified by the earthly Canaan, and in reference to which the patriarchs endured all trials and difficulties in this life, as seeing Him who is invisible.
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.Who are kept - Φρουρουμενους· Who are defended as in a fortress or castle. There is a remarkable correspondence between the two verbs used in this sentence: the verb τηρεω, signifies to keep, watch, guard; and τηρησις, is a place of custody or prison. And φρουρεω, from φρουρος, a sentinel, signifies to keep as under a military guard. See on Galatians 3:22, Galatians 3:23. The true disciples of Christ are under the continual watchful care of God, and the inheritance is guarded for them. In some countries military posts are constantly kept on the confines, in order to prevent irruptions from a neighboring people; and, in many cases, heirs, while in their minority, are kept in fortified places under military guards.
By the power of God - Εν δυναμει Θεου· By the mighty and miracle-working power of God; for nothing less is necessary to keep and preserve, in this state of continual trial, a soul from the contagion that is in the world. But this power of God is interested in the behalf of the soul by faith; to believe is our work, the exertion of the almighty power is of God. No persevering without the power, and no power without faith.
Ready to be revealed - Or rather, Prepared to be revealed. The inheritance is prepared for you; but its glories will not be revealed till the last time - till ye have done with life, and passed through your probation, having held fast faith and a good conscience. Some by salvation understand the deliverance of the Christians from the sackage of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish polity being called the last time; others suppose it to refer to the day of judgment, and the glorification of the body and soul in heaven.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:Wherein ye greatly rejoice - Some refer wherein, εν ᾡ, to the salvation mentioned above; others, to the last time, καιρῳ εσχατῳ, in 1 Peter 1:5; others think that it applies to the being kept by the power of God through faith; and others, that it refers to all the preceding advantages and privileges. It was in the present salvation of God that they rejoiced or gloried, though not without having an eye to the great recompense of reward.
Though now for a season - Ολιγον αρτι· A little while yet - during your pilgrimage here below, which is but a point when compared with eternity.
If need be - Ει δεον εστι· If it be necessary - if your situation and circumstances be such that you are exposed to trials and persecutions which you cannot avoid, unless God were to work a miracle for your deliverance, which would not be for your ultimate good, as he purposes to turn all your trials and difficulties to your advantage.
Sometimes there is a kind of necessity that the followers of God should be afflicted; when they have no trials they are apt to get careless, and when they have secular prosperity they are likely to become worldly-minded. "God," said a good man, "can neither trust me with health nor money; therefore I am both poor and afflicted." But the disciples of Christ may be very happy in their souls, though grievously afflicted in their bodies and in their estates. Those to whom St. Peter wrote rejoiced greatly, danced for joy, αγαλλιασθε, while they were grieved, λυπηθεντες, with various trials. The verb λυπεω signifies to grieve, to make sorrowful: perhaps heaviness is not the best rendering of the original word, as this can scarcely ever consist with rejoicing; but to be sorrowful on account of something external to ourselves, and yet exulting in God from a sense of his goodness to us, is quite compatible: so that we may say with St. Paul, always sorrowing, yet still rejoicing.
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold - As by the action of fire gold is separated from all alloy and heterogeneous mixtures, and is proved to be gold by its enduring the action of the fire without losing any thing of its nature, weight, color, or any other property, so genuine faith is proved by adversities, especially such as the primitive Christians were obliged to pass through. For the word was then, "Renounce Jesus and live," "Cleave to him and die;" for every Christian was in continual danger of losing his life. He then who preferred Christianity to his life gave full proof, not only of his own sincerity, but also of the excellency of the principle by which he was influenced; as his religion put him in possession of greater blessings, and more solid comforts, than any thing the earth could afford.
Though it be tried with fire - That is: Though gold will bear the action of the fire for any given time, even millions of years, were they possible, without losing the smallest particle of weight or value, yet even gold, in process of time, will wear away by continual use; and the earth, and all its works, will be burnt up by that supernatural fire whose action nothing can resist. But on that day the faith of Christ's followers will be found brighter, and more glorious. The earth, and universal nature, shall be dissolved; but he who doeth the will of God shall abide for ever, and his faith shall then be found to the praise of God's grace, the honor of Christ, and the glory or glorification of his own soul throughout eternity. God himself will praise such faith, angels and men will hold it in honor, and Christ will crown it with glory. For some remarks on the nature and properties of gold see at the end of the chapter.
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:Whom having not seen, ye love - Those to whom the apostle wrote had never seen Christ in the flesh; and yet, such is the realizing nature of faith, they loved him as strongly as any of his disciples could, to whom he was personally known. For faith in the Lord Jesus brings him into the heart; and by his indwelling all his virtues are proved, and an excellence discovered beyond even that which his disciples beheld, when conversant with him upon earth. In short, there is an equality between believers in the present time, and those who lived in the time of the incarnation; for Christ, to a believing soul, is the same to-day that he was yesterday and will be for ever.
Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable - Ye have unutterable happiness through believing; and ye have the fullest, clearest, strongest evidence of eternal glory. Though they did not see him on earth, and men could not see him in glory, yet by that faith which is the evidence of things not seen, and the subsistence of things hoped for, they had the very highest persuasion of their acceptance with God, their relation to him as their Father, and their sonship with Christ Jesus.
Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.Receiving the end of your faith - Ye are put in possession of the salvation of your souls, which was the thing presented to your faith, when ye were called by the Gospel of Christ. Your faith has had a proper issue, and has been crowned with a proper recompense. The word τελος, end, is often used so as to imply the issue or reward of any labor or action.
Salvation of your souls - The object of the Jewish expectations in their Messiah was the salvation or deliverance of their bodies from a foreign yoke; but the true Messiah came to save the soul from the yoke of the devil and sin. This glorious salvation these believers had already received.
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:Of which salvation the prophets have inquired - The incarnation and suffering of Jesus Christ, and the redemption procured by him for mankind, were made known, in a general way, by the prophets; but they themselves did not know the time when these things were to take place, nor the people among and by whom he was to suffer, etc.; they therefore inquired accurately or earnestly, εξεζητησαν, and searched diligently, εξηρευνησαν, inquiring of others who were then under the same inspiration, and carefully searching the writings of those who had, before their time, spoken of these things. The prophets plainly saw that the grace which was to come under the Messiah's kingdom was vastly superior to any thing that had ever been exhibited under the law; and in consequence they made all possible inquiry, and searched as after grains of gold, hidden among sand or compacted with ore, (for such is the meaning of the original word), in order to ascertain the time, and the signs of that time, in which this wondrous display of God's love and mercy to man was to take place; but all that God thought fit to instruct them in was what is mentioned 1 Peter 1:12.
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.The glory that should follow - Not only the glory of his resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and the effusion of his Spirit; but that grand manifestation of God's infinite love to the world in causing the Gospel of his Son to be everywhere preached, and the glorious moral changes which should take place in the world under that preaching, and the final glorification of all them who had here received the report, and continued faithful unto death. And we may add to this the ineffable glorification of the human nature of Jesus Christ, which, throughout eternity, will be the glorious Head of his glorified body, the Church.
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.Unto whom it was revealed - We may presume that, in a great variety of cases, the prophets did not understand the meaning of their own predictions. They had a general view of God's designs; but of particular circumstances, connected with those great events, they seem to have known nothing, God reserving the explanation of all particulars to the time of the issue of such prophecies. When they wished to find out the times, the seasons, and the circumstances, God gave them to understand that it was not for themselves, but for us, that they did minister the things which are now reported unto us by the preaching of the Gospel. This was all the satisfaction they received in consequence of their earnest searching; and this was sufficient to repress all needless curiosity, and to induce them to rest satisfied that the Judge of all the earth would do right. If all succeeding interpreters of the prophecies had been contented with the same information relative to the predictions still unaccomplished, we should have had fewer books, and more wisdom.
Angels desire to took into - Παρακυψαι· To stoop down to; the posture of those who are earnestly intent on finding out a thing, especially a writing difficult to be read; they bring it to the light, place it so that the rays may fall on it as collectively as possible, and then stoop down in order to examine all the parts, that they may be able to make out the whole. There is evidently an allusion here to the attitude of the cherubim who stood at the ends of the ark of the covenant, in the inner tabernacle, with their eyes turned towards the mercy-seat or propitiatory in a bending posture, as if looking attentively, or, as we term it, poring upon it. Even the holy angels are struck with astonishment at the plan of human redemption, and justly wonder at the incarnation of that infinite object of their adoration. If then these things be objects of deep consideration to the angels of God, how much more so should they be to us; in them angels can have no such interest as human beings have.
We learn from the above that it was the Spirit of Christ in the Jewish prophets that prophesied of Christ; it was that Spirit which revealed him; and it is the same Spirit which takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto us. Christ was never known by prophecy, but through his own Spirit; and he never was known, nor can be known, to the salvation of any soul, but by a revelation of the same Spirit. It is he alone that bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;Gird up the loins of your mind - Take courage from this display of God's love now made known to you; and though you must expect trials, yet fortify your minds with the consideration that he who has given you his Son Jesus will withhold from you no manner of thing that is good. The allusion here is to the long robes of the Asiatics, which, when they were about to perform any active service, they tucked in their girdles: this they did also when they waited on their superiors at meals.
Hope to the end for the grace - Continue to expect all that God has promised, and particularly that utmost salvation, that glorification of body and soul, which ye shall obtain at the revelation of Christ, when he shall come to judge the world.
But if the apostle alludes here to the approaching revelation of Christ to inflict judgment on the Jews for their final rebellion and obstinacy, then the grace, χαριν, benefit, may intend their preservation from the evils that were coming upon that people, and their wonderful escape from Jerusalem at the time that the Roman armies came against it.
As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:Not fashioning yourselves - As the offices of certain persons are known by the garb or livery they wear, so are transgressors: where we see the world's livery we see the world's servants; they fashion or habit themselves according to their lusts, and we may guess that they have a worldly mind by their conformity to worldly fashions.
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;But as he which hath called you - Heathenism scarcely produced a god whose example was not the most abominable; their greatest gods, especially, were paragons of impurity; none of their philosophers could propose the objects of their adoration as objects of imitation. Here Christianity has an infinite advantage over heathenism. God is holy, and he calls upon all who believe in him to imitate his holiness; and the reason why they should be holy is, that God who has called them is holy, 1 Peter 1:15.
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:And if ye call on the Father - Seeing ye invoke the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and your Father through Christ, and profess to be obedient children, and sojourners here below for a short time only, see that ye maintain a godly reverence for this Father, walking in all his testimonies blameless.
Who without respect of persons - God is said to be no respecter of persons for this reason among many others, that, being infinitely righteous, he must be infinitely impartial. He cannot prefer one to another, because he has nothing to hope or fear from any of his creatures. All partialities among men spring from one or other of these two principles, hope or fear; God can feel neither of them, and therefore God can be no respecter of persons. He approves or disapproves of men according to their moral character. He pities all, and provides salvation for all, but he loves those who resemble him in his holiness; and he loves them in proportion to that resemblance, i.e. the more of his image he sees in any, the more he loves him; and e contra. And every man's work will be the evidence of his conformity or nonconformity to God, and according to this evidence will God judge him. Here, then, is no respect of persons; God's judgment will be according to a man's work, and a man's work or conduct will be according to the moral state of his mind. No favouritism can prevail in the day of judgment; nothing will pass there but holiness of heart and life. A righteousness imputed, and not possessed and practiced, will not avail where God judgeth according to every man's work. It would be well if those sinners and spurious believers who fancy themselves safe and complete in the righteousness of Christ, while impure and unholy in themselves, would think of this testimony of the apostle.
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things - To redeem, λυτροω, signifies to procure life for a captive or liberty for a slave by paying a price, and the precious blood of Christ is here stated to be the price at which the souls of both Jews and Gentiles were redeemed; is was a price paid down, and a price which God's righteousness required.
Corruptible things mean here any thing that man usually gives in exchange for another; but the term necessarily includes all created things, as all these are corruptible and perishing. The meaning of the apostle is, evidently, that created things could not purchase the souls of men, else the sacrifice of Christ had not been offered; could any thing less have done, God would not have given up his only-begotten Son. Even silver and gold, the most valuable medium of commerce among men, bear no proportion in their value to the souls of a lost world, for there should be a congruity between the worth of the thing purchased and the valuable consideration which is given for it; and the laws and customs of nations require this: on this ground, perishable things, or things the value of which must be infinitely less than the worth of the souls of men, cannot purchase those souls. Nothing, therefore, but such a ransom price as God provided could be a sufficient ransom, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the world.
Vain conversation - Empty, foolish, and unprofitable conduct, full of vain hopes, vain fears, and vain wishes.
Received by tradition from your fathers - The Jews had innumerable burdens of empty ceremonies and useless ordinances, which they received by tradition from their fathers, rabbins, or doctors. The Gentiles were not less encumbered with such than the Jews; all were wedded to their vanities, because they received them from their forefathers, as they had done from theirs. And this antiquity and tradition have been the ground work of many a vain ceremony and idle pilgrimage, and of numerous doctrines which have nothing to plead in their behalf but this mere antiquity. But such persons seem not to consider that error and sin are nearly coeval with the world itself.
But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:The precious blood of Christ - Τιμιῳ αἱματι· The valuable blood; how valuable neither is nor could be stated.
As of a lamb - Such as was required for a sin-offering to God; and The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Without blemish - In himself, and without spot from the world; being perfectly pure in his soul, and righteous in his life.
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,Who verily was foreordained - Προεγνωσμενου· Foreknown; appointed in the Divine purpose to be sent into the world, because infinitely approved by the Divine justice.
Before the foundation of the world - Before the law was given, or any sacrifice prescribed by it. Its whole sacrificial system was appointed in reference to this foreappointed Lamb, and consequently from him derived all its significance and virtue. The phrase καταβολη κοσμου, foundation of the world, occurs often in the New Testament, and is supposed by some learned men and good critics to signify the commencement of the Jewish state. Perhaps it may have this meaning in Matthew 13:35; Luke 11:50; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26. But if we take it here in its common signification, the creation of universal nature, then it shows that God, foreseeing the fall and ruin of man, appointed the remedy that was to cure the disease. It may here have a reference to the opinion of the Jewish doctors, who maintain that seven things existed before the creation of the world, one of which was the Messiah.
Last times - The Gospel dispensation, called the last times, as we have often seen, because never to be succeeded by any other.
Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.Who by him do believe in God - This is supposed to refer to the Gentiles, who never knew the true God till they heard the preaching of the Gospel: the Jews had known him long before, but the Gentiles had every thing to learn when the first preachers of the Gospel arrived amongst them.
Gave him glory - Raised him to his right hand, where, as a Prince and a Savior, he gives repentance and remission of sins.
That your faith - In the fulfillment of all his promises, and your hope of eternal glory, might be in God, who is unchangeable in his counsels, and infinite in his mercies.
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:Seeing ye have purified your souls - Having purified your souls, in obeying the truth - by believing in Christ Jesus, through the influence and teaching of the Spirit; and giving full proof of it by unfeigned love to the brethren; ye love one another, or ye will love each other, with a pure heart fervently. These persons,
First, heard the truth, that is, the Gospel; thus called in a great variety of places in the New Testament, because it contains The truth without mixture of error, and is the truth and substance of all the preceding dispensations by which it was typified.
Secondly, they obeyed that truth, by believing on Him who came into the world to save sinners.
Thirdly, through this believing on the Son of God, their hearts were purified by the word of truth applied to them by the Holy Spirit.
Fourthly, the love of God being shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, they loved the brethren with pure hearts fervently, εκτενως, intensely or continually; the full proof that their brotherly love was unfeigned, φιλαδελφιαν ανυποκριτον, a fraternal affection without hypocrisy.
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.Being born again - For being born of Abraham's seed will not avail to the entering of the kingdom of heaven.
Not of corruptible seed - By no human generation, or earthly means; but of incorruptible - a Divine and heavenly principle which is not liable to decay, nor to be affected by the changes and chances to which all sublunary things are exposed.
By the word of God - Δια λογου ζωντος Θεου· By the doctrine of the living God, which remaineth for ever; which doctrine shall never change, any more than the source shall whence it proceeds.
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:For all flesh is as grass - Earthly seeds, earthly productions, and earthly generations, shall fail and perish like as the grass and flowers of the field; for the grass withereth, and the flower falleth off, though, in the ensuing spring and summer, they may put forth new verdure and bloom.
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.But the word of the Lord - The doctrine delivered by God concerning Christ endureth for ever, having, at all times and in all seasons, the same excellence and the same efficacy.
And this is the word - Το ῥημα, What is spoken, by the Gospel preached unto you. "This is a quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8, where the preaching of the Gospel is foretold; and recommended from the consideration that every thing which is merely human, and, among the rest, the noblest races of mankind, with all their glory and grandeur, their honor, riches, beauty, strength, and eloquence, as also the arts which men have invented, and the works they have executed, shall decay as the flowers of the field. But the Gospel, called by the prophet the word of the Lord, shall be preached while the world standeth." - Macknight. All human schemes of salvation, and plans for the melioration of the moral state of man, shall come to naught; and the doctrine of Christ crucified, though a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles, shall be alone the power of God for salvation to every soul that believeth.
As the apostle, on 1 Peter 1:7, mentions gold, and gold chemically examined and tried; and as this figure frequently occurs in the sacred writings; I think it necessary to say something here of the nature and properties of that metal.
Gold is defined by chemists to be the most perfect, the most ductile, the most tenacious, and the most unchangeable of all metals. Its specific gravity is about 19.3. A cubic foot of pure gold, cast and not hammered, weighs 1348lbs. In its native state, without mixture, it is yellow, and has no perceptible smell nor taste. When exposed to the action of the fire it becomes red hot before it melts, but in melting suffers no alteration; but if a strong heat be applied while in fusion, it becomes of a beautiful green color. The continual action of any furnace, howsoever long applied, has no effect on any of its properties. It has been kept in a state of fusion for several months, in the furnace of a glass house, without suffering the smallest change. The electric and galvanic fluids inflame and convert it into a purple oxide, which is volatilized in the form of smoke. In the focus of a very powerful burning glass it becomes volatilized, and partially vitrified; so that we may say with the apostle, that, though gold is tried by the fire - abides the action of all culinary fires, howsoever applied, yet it perisheth by the celestial fire and the solar influence; the rays of the sun collected in the focus of a powerful burning glass, and the application of the electric fluid, destroy its color, and alter and impair all its properties. This is but a late discovery; and previously to it a philosopher would have ridiculed St. Peter for saying, gold that perisheth.
Gold is so very tenacious that a piece of it drawn into wire, one-tenth of an inch in diameter, will sustain a weight of 500lbs. without breaking.
One grain of gold may be so extended, by its great malleability, as to be easily divided into two millions of parts; and a cubic inch of gold into nine thousand, five hundred and twenty-three millions, eight hundred and nine thousand, five hundred and twenty-three parts; each of which may be distinctly seen by the naked eye!
A grain and a half of gold may be beaten into leaves of one inch square, which, if intersected by parallel lines, drawn at right angles to each other, and distant only the 100th part of an inch; will produce twenty-five millions of little squares, each of which may be distinctly seen without the help of glasses!
The surface of any given quantity of gold, according to Mr. Magellan, may be extended by the hammer 159,092 times!
Eighty books, or two thousand leaves, of what is called leaf gold, each leaf measuring 3.3 inches square, viz. each leaf containing 10.89 square inches, weigh less than 384 grains; each book, therefore, or twenty-five leaves, is equal to 272.25 inches, and weighs about 4.8 grains; so that each grain of gold will produce 56.718, or nearly fifty-seven square inches!
The thickness of the metal thus extended appears to be no more than the one 282.020th of an inch! One pound, or sixteen ounces of gold, would be sufficient to gild a silver wire, sufficient in length to encompass the whole terraqueous globe, or to extend 25,000 miles!
Notwithstanding this extreme degree of tenuity, or thinness, which some carry much higher, no pore can be discerned in it by the strongest magnifying powers; nor is it pervious to the particles of light, nor can the most subtile fluids pass through it. Its ductility has never yet been carried to the uttermost pitch, and to human art and ingenuity is probably unlimited.
Sulphur, in the state of a sulphuret, dissolves it; tin and lead greatly impair its tenacity; and zinc hardens and renders it very brittle. Copper heightens its color, and renders it harder, without greatly impairing its ductility. It readily unites with iron, which it hardens in a remarkable manner.
The oxigenated muriatic acid, and the nitro-muriatic acid, dissolve gold. In this state it is capable of being applied with great success to the gilding of steel. The process is very simple, and is instantaneously performed, viz.: -
To a solution of gold in the nitro-muriatic acid add about twice the quantity of sulphuric ether. In order to gild either iron or steel, let the metal be well polished, the higher the better: the ether which has taken up the gold may be applied by a camel hair pencil, or small brush; the ether then evaporates, and the gold becomes strongly attached to the surface of the metal. I have seen lancets, penknives, etc., gilded in a moment, by being dipped in this solution. In this manner all kinds of figures, letters, mottoes, etc., may be delineated on steel, by employing a pen or fine brush.
The nitro-muriatic acid, formerly called aqua regia, is formed by adding muriatic acid, vulgarly spirit of salt, to the nitric acid, formerly aqua fortis. Two parts of the muriatic acid to one of the nitric constitute this solvent of gold and platina, which is called the nitro-muriatic acid.
Gold was considered the heaviest of all metals till the year 1748, when the knowledge of platina was brought to Europe by Don Antonio Ulloa: this, if it be a real metal, is the hardest and weightiest of all others. The specific gravity of gold is, as we have seen, 19.3; that of platina is from 20.6 to 23: but gold will ever be the most valuable of all metals, not merely from its scarcity, but from its beautiful color and great ductility, by which it is applicable to so many uses, and its power of preserving its hue and polish without suffering the least tarnish or oxidation from the action of the air.