« PreviousContinue »
Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” This would seem to include the Christians dwelling in those very provinces where St. Paul and his companions had founded churches.
2. But it has been attempted, both in ancient days and in modern, to limit this address to the Jewish Christians resident in those provinces.
3. Still, there is nothing in the words to warrant such a limitation. The term “ sojourners” is sufficiently explained in the Epistle itself, in ch. ii. 11, as used in a spiritual sense, strangers and pilgrims on earth: and the term “ dispersion” following may well designate the ingrafting of Gentile converts into, and their forming a part of, God's covenant people, who already, according to the flesh, were thus dispersed.
4. With this view well-known facts, both external to the Epistle and belonging to it, agree. These churches, as we learn from the Acts, were composed mainly of Gentile converts: and it would be unreasonable to suppose that St. Peter, with his views on the Christian relation of Jew and Gentile, as shewn in Acts xi. and xv., should have selected out only the Jewish portion of those churches to address in his Epistle. Rather, if one object of the letter were that which I have endeavoured to establish in § v., would he be anxious to mingle together Jew and Gentile in the blessings and obligations of their common faith, and though himself the Apostle of the circumcision, to help on the work and doctrines of the great Apostle of the uncircumcision.
5. And this is further evident from many passages in the Epistle itself. Such is the “not being conformed to the former lusts in your ignorance” (ch. i. 14), words which would hardly be addressed to Jews exclusively, cf. Eph. ii. 1 ff., where the Jews are indeed included in “we all,” but Gentiles are mainly addressed : such “ those who once were not a people, but are now the people of God” (ii. 10) ?, as compared with ver. 9, “ who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light," and with Rom. ix. 25: such the words, " whose (Sarah's) children ye have become” (iii. 6), implying adoption into the (spiritual) family of Abraham : such the words, “ for the time past may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, walking in .... abominable idolatries” (iv. 3), which words are addressed to the readers, and not to be supplied with “us :" and seem decisive as to Gentiles in the main, and not Jews, being
? It has been argued that this passage, being originally written by Hosea of the rejected people of God, must be so understood here. But this is mere arbitrary assertion. The context here must determine in what sense the Apostle adopts the words of the Prophet: and I have no hesitation in saying with Augustine and Bede, “this was once spoken by Hosea of the ancient people of God, and is now rightly used by Peter to the Gentiles.” The express citation of the same passage by St. Paul in Rom. ix. 25, as applying to Gentiles, should have prevented Weiss at all events from speaking here with his usual overweening positiveness.
designated. The expressiou of ch. i. 18, “not with corruptible things, silver or gold, were ye redeemed out of your foolish behaviour handed down from your fathers,” may seem ambiguous, and has in fact been quoted on both sides : but it seems to me to point the same way as those others : the Apostle would hardly have characterized all that the Jew left to become a Christian by such a name.
6. Steiger has given a list of such churches as would be comprehended under the address in ch. i. 1, Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia. The provinces here named proceed in order from N.E. to S. and W.: a circumstance which will be of some interest in our enquiry as to the place of writing. The first of them, Pontus, stretched from Colchis and Lesser Armenia to the mouth of the river Halys, and was rich both in soil and in commercial towns. It was the country of the Christian Jew Aquila. Next comes Galatia, to which St. Paul paid two visits (Acts xvi. 6, Gal. iv. 13 ff. : Acts xviii. 23, xix. 1 ff.), founding and con firming churches. After him, his companion Crescens went on a mission there (2 Tim. iv. 10). Its ecclesiastical metropolis was in after time Ancyra. Further particulars respecting it will be found in the Introduction to the Epistle to the Galatians, $ ii.
7. Next in order comes CAPPADOCIA, south but returning somewhat to the E., where in after times the towns of Nyssa and Cæsarea gave the church a Gregory and a Basil, and whence (see Acts ii. 9) Jews came up to the feasts in Jerusalem, who might well have carried back the knowledge of Christianity, and have founded churches. Next, going southward and westward, we have proconsular Asia, including Mysia, Lydia, Caria, Phrygia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia,-containing the churches of Iconium where Paul and Barnabas preached (Acts xiv. 1 ff.), Lystra, the birthplace of Timotheus, where St. Paul was stoned by the Jews (Acts xiv. 8—19, xvi. 1, 2; 2 Tim. iii. 11),-Derbe, the birthplace of Caius, where many were made disciples (Acts xiv. 20 f.; xx. 4), Antioch in Pisidia, where St. Paul converted many Gentiles, but was driven out by the Jews (Acts xiii. 14 ff., 48 ff.): returned however, and confirmed the churches (ib. xiv. 21—23),—then Miletus, on the Carian coast, where from Acts xx. 17, 2 Tim. iv. 20, there must have been Christian brethren,- Phrygia, where St. Paul preached on both his journeys to Galatia (Acts xvi. 6, xviii. 23),—then along the banks of the Lycus, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossæ, celebrated Christian ehurches, to which he wrote his Colossian Epistle, whose leaders Archippus and Epaphras,-whose member Onesimus are well known to us (Col. i. 7, iv. 9, 12 f., 17; Philem. 2, 10),—where erroneous doctrines and lukewarmness in the faith soon became prevalent (Col. ii., Rev. iii. 14-22).
3 See below, S iv. par. 17.
8. Then passing westward, we find in Lydia at the foot of the Tmolus, Philadelphia, known to us favourably from Rev. iii. 7 ff., and Sardis the capital (Rev. iii. 1 ff.), and Thyatira, blamed in Rev. ii. 18 ff. as too favourably inclined towards false teachers : then on the coast the famous Ephesus, where first St. Paul (Acts xviii. 19), then perhaps Aquila and Priscilla, then Apollos (Acts xviii. 24-28), taught, then St. Paul returned and remained“ a whole three years” building up the church with such success (Acts xx. 17 : xix. 1 ff., 8—10, 17),- a church well known and loved by every Christian reader of the Epistle to the Ephesians, but grieved over when we read (Rev. ii. 4) that it had deserted its first love. Then northwards we have Smyrna, known favourably to us from Rev. ii. 8 ff., and in Mysia, Pergamus (Rev. ii. 12 ff.); and lastly Alexandria Troas, whence St. Paul was summoned over by a vision to preach in Europe, where afterwards he preached, and raised Eutychus to life (Acts xx. 6 ff., 2 Cor. ii. 12), and where he was on a subsequent occasion entertained by Carpus (2 Tim. iv. 13).
This closes the list of churches known to us, BITHYNIA containing none whose names are handed down in Scripture.
9. The enquiry as to the then state of these Christian congregations is one which must be here conducted simply on grounds furnished by the Epistle itself. Its effect on the conclusion to which we must come as to the date of the Epistle will be dealt with in a subsequent section.
10. From the Epistle itself then we gather, that in external form and government they were much in the same state as when St. Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders at Miletus in Acts xx. Here (ch. v. 1 ff.), as there, the elders are exhorted to tend the church or flock of God : and no other officers in either place appear.
11. It was manifestly during a time of persecution that the Apostle thus addressed them. His expressions, especially those in ch. iii. 17, iv. 12—19, can hardly be interpreted of the general liability of Christians to persecutions, but must necessarily be understood of some trial of that kind then pressing on them *.
12. It would seem by ch. iv. 4, 5, that some of these trials had befallen the Christians on account of their separating themselves from the licentious shows and amusements of the heathen. And the same passage will shew that it was from heathens, rather than from unbelieving Jews, that the trials carne.
13. We may gather, from hints dropped in the course of the Epistle, that there were in the internal state of the churches some tendencies which required repression, as e. g., the disposition to become identified with the heathen way of living (ch. ii. 11, 12, 16 al.),—that to greed and
4 The bearing of this consideration on the date of the Epistle is treated below, şiv.
ambition and self-exaltation on the part of the presbyters (v. 2, 3),—that to evil thoughts and evil words towards one another (ii. 1; iii. 8–12;
TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING.
1. The former of these enquiries is very closely connected with that of the last section. Many Commentators have fancied that the state of the readers implied in the Epistle points at the persecution under Nero as the time when it was written: others, that the persecution under Trajan is rather indicated. But to both of these it has been sufficiently replied, that the passages relied on do not warrant either inference: that the defence (apology) to be rendered (ch. iii. 15), is not necessarily, nor indeed well can be at all, a public defence in court, seeing that they are to be ready to make it “to every one that asketh,” &c.: that the suffering as evil doers cannot be well connected with the expression malefactors in Tacitus, because in the Epistle the readers are exhorted to live down the ill repute, which, had it consisted in the mere name of Christian, they could not have been. Again it is answered that we have no proof of the Neronian persecution having extended itself into the Asiatic provinces.
2. On the whole it seems to me that we are not justified in connecting the Epistle with either of these persecutions, but are rather to take its notices as pointing to a time when a general dislike of the Christians was beginning to pass into active tyranny, and in some cases into infliction of capital punishment. As Davidson remarks,“ The trials were not yet excessive. They were alarming in the future. A severe time was approaching. Judgment was soon to begin at the house of God. The terrible persecutions and sufferings which the Christians were about to endure, were impending."
3. These remarks are favoured by the tone in which suffering is spoken of, as by no means a matter of course : not sure, nor even likely, to follow upon a harmless Christian life: compare ch. iii. 13, 14, where, by “ who shall harm you if ye be imitators of that which is good ?" it seems as if the good liver was in general likely to be let alone ; and by what follows, “but even if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye,” it is implied that in some exceptional cases, Christians might be hunted out by zealous enemies and made to suffer quoad Christians.
4. So that I should be disposed, judging from the internal notices given of the state of the readers, to place the writing of the Epistle during the later years of Nero, but before the persecution related by Tacitus broke out. The “hatred of all mankind” which justified that victimizing of the Christians, was gathering and producing its
anticipatory fruits here and there, wherever circumstances were favourable.
5. And with this agree the personal notices in our Epistle, and inferences to be gathered from it. We must conclude from passages in it that St. Peter was acquainted with the Epistles of St. Paul; not only with his earlier ones, but with those written during his first Roman imprisonment'. If now St. Paul was set free from that imprisonment in the year 63 (see Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles, $ ii. 24), this Epistle cannot well have been written before the end of
6. Another personal notice also agrees with this date. By ch. v. 13 we find that Mark was, at the time of its writing, with the Apostle in Babylon, which I here by anticipation assume to be the well-known city in Chaldea. Now from Coloss. iv. 10, we learn that Mark was at the time of writing that Epistle (61–63) with St. Paul in Rome, but intending to journey into Asia Minor : and from 2 Tim. iv. 11 (67 or 68), we find that he was in Asia Minor, and was to be brought with Timotheus to Rome. Now one of two contingencies is possible. Mark may either have spent some of the interval between these two notices with St. Peter in Babylon, or have betaken himself to that Apostle after the death of St. Paul.
7. Of these two alternatives, it is urged by the advocates of the usual view taken of our Epistle that the latter is the more probable. This Epistle is addressed to churches mostly founded by St. Paul : is it probable that St. Peter would have thus addressed them during the great Apostle's lifetime? When we consider St. Paul's own rule, of not encroaching on other men's labours (Rom. xv. 20), and put together with it the fact of the compact made between the two Apostles as related in Gal. ii. 9, it seems difficult to imagine that such an Epistle should have been written before St. Paul was withdrawn from his labours; which latter took place only at his death. That event, and the strengthening of the influences adverse to St. Paul's doctrine consequent on it, might well agree with the testimony to that doctrine which we find in this Epistle, and especially in ch. v. 12.
8. According to this view, we must place the Epistle late in the second apostolic period. We have seen in the Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles, that it is not easy to assign a date for the death of St. Paul before the last year of Nero, i. e. 67 to 68. If we suffer ourselves to be guided by these considerations, we should say, that in the latter part of that year, or the beginning of the next, our Epistle may have been written.
9. But these considerations, forcible as they seem, bring us into a
5 See this shewn below, $ vi. par. 2 note.