Is First Peter a Fraud!

I have posted the following lengthy response, to my nephew, on the front page of this blog, moving it from the Forums page, because it is just to interesting and important to remain buried at the end of a long and yet fascinating debate between myself and my young nephew, Philip.  He has made some very strong claims over the past months and I have tried to deal with them fairly and thoroughly.  To this day I have learned much and have become even more certain the Bible is God’s word.   Philip has challenged me and pushed me to wipe away cobwebs and open new doors that have expanded my understanding of the wondrous way God works in time and space toward his sovereign plan for his glory. He has presented arguments which, if they were valid, could destroy trust in scripture. I believe that the argumentation he has given can shake the faith of many a young or poorly informed believer as well as challenge many elders in the church to provide a good answer.  Nevertheless they are all answerable and I have tried to present good responses.  You may read the whole on the Forums page.

Philip’s Statements against 1Peter being by Peter

August 29, 2013:  Peter was never written by Peter, even according to 1 Peter 5:12

October 1, 2013:  Peter is said by some not to have been written by Peter; Silvanus was the writer, therefore a fraud. (This was my restatement to him of my understanding of his view.  He agreed it was accurate.)

February 13,2014:  The language, dating, style, and structure lead most scholars to agree that 1 Peter was not written by Peter. I doubt you would find a scholar who didn’t agree that the author would have needed advanced knowledge of Greek and Philosophy. However, there are multiple reasons biblical scholars reject the claimed authorship of 1 Peter.

• An Aramaic speaking fisherman would not have the sort of education to use advanced Greek language and philosophy.
• The Christian persecution started long after peter died according to Graham Stanton.
• David Bartlett argues 1 Peter depends on the complete works of Paul and would have more likely been written by Paul.
• Some see the writing is as more similar to Mark.
• Some say Silvanus may have been the secretary and have written it because he would have known Greek.
• Bart Ehrmann thinks it was more likely written in dedication to Peter.

The authorship is still in contention and no Christian scholars are certain who wrote it. Wouldn’t God want to make all issues relating to the Bible obvious and easily verifiable no matter how far in the past it was written?

 

My Response

I will start with your concluding statement on 1Peter, “The authorship is still in contention and no Christian scholars are certain who wrote it.”  Is this summary statement true or careless?  In my text An Introduction to the New Testament, D.A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo, p 641; they give this quote from J. Ramsey Michaels, “Aside from the four Gospels and the letters of Paul, the external attestation for 1 Peter is as strong or stronger, than that for any other NT book.” [Michaels, 1 Peter, xxxiv]  and Drs. Carson and Moo later share their view, “The case against Petrine authorship is therefore not at all a strong one.  We agree with I. Howard Marshall that “if there ever was a weak case for pseudonymity, surely it is in respect to this letter.” [I. Howard Marshall, 1 Peter (Leicester: IVP, 1991), 21] Only the issue of language stands in the way of authenticity; and this problem is far outweighed by the problem of thinking that a pseudonymous letter would have been written and accepted in the early church.”  So the statement “no Christian scholars are certain who wrote it” is a rash exaggeration.

I will address the issues in this order, the Greek of 1Peter, the persecution dating, then relationship to Paul.

GREEK

“The Greek of the letter is smooth and competent, with rhetorical flourishes.  Indeed, along with Hebrews and Luke-Acts, it is some of the best Greek in the New Testament.  An older generation of scholarship tended to insist that Peter, a fisherman from Galilee labeled “unschooled” …in Acts 4:13, would hardly have known Greek at all.” [An Introduction to the New Testament, Carson & Moo, p642]  They continue on telling how we now know that Greek was widely used in Palestine and the Western Roman Empire as a trade language.  I enjoy a contemporary form of this with my old French friend who converses freely in French, Basque, Spanish, and English or my Spanish friends from Spain who converse freely in Spanish, Basque and English not to mention myself who gets along in English and Spanish.  Of all those I just mentioned I am the only one with a university education and I have the worst Spanish of them all.  These uneducated men have learned their trade languages as certainly Peter did.

But to the high quality of Greek used in 1Peter, quality equal to Dr. Luke, what can we say?  After much technical reading I will give only a very brief summation here.  I must point out that you have previously made a rash exaggeration when you said, “how Peter was never written by Peter, even according to 1Peter 5:12” and when I later restated what I understood your claim to be, “Peter is said by some not to have been written by Peter; Silvanus was the writer, therefore a fraud” you agreed this was an accurate summary of your view.  Your last statement on this subject was, “Some say Silvanus may have been the secretary and have written it because he would have known Greek.”  Apparently you have surrendered your former unsustainable view and corrected it to make Silvanus an amanuensis and not the actual author of the text.  This change in your view removes this argument from the side against Peter being the author and moves it to my side of Peter being the author.  I am glad to see the concession no matter how understated it was.

Returning to a summary of possible reasons for the elevated Greek of 1Peter it is easily understood that Peter could have used an amanuensis who may have been Silvanus or someone else.  According to the statement in 5:12 Silvanus may have simply been the carrier of the letter to the church.  The use of an amanuensis was common in those days so an educated individual may have been the case here but not the only option.

It is still possible that Peter wrote the letter.  Formal education would not have been the only way for him to have improved his Greek.  He had left fishing behind and become a teacher in the church from Jerusalem even to Rome.  To assume his ability in the language would have remained at the level of a trade language is uncalled for.  Certainly many scholarly writers have come from humble beginnings and never had formal schooling just like Peter.  Peter  had many years to improve his Greek in his service to the church.

Therefore I see no reason to say Peter did not write 1Peter based on the Greek.

PERSECUTION

Now let’s turn to the Persecution.  You said, “The Christian persecution started long after peter died according to Graham Stanton.”  I will now cite the primary passage on persecution in First Peter.  We must keep in mind the backdrop of hardship in the church revealed in this letter.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.  What was the suffering the church was undergoing?  I again turn to Carson and Moo, “…we can set out the possibilities under three basic headings: a general official persecution, a local official persecution, or a local unofficial persecution.” D.A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction To The New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan) 2005, p. 639

Carson and Moo point out that the persecutions of Nero, Domitian, and Trajan do not fit the idea of a world wide persecution.  The persecution could have been local and official but what in this passage (5:9) or the entirety of 1Peter would require that this is an official persecution?  Nothing in the text requires this.  As Carson and Moo put it, “What is implied, rather, is the hostility Christians were known to have faced from the general Roman population.  By refusing to engage in the quasi-religious customs surrounding the official Roman governmental structures, by resolutely setting themselves against some of the immoral practices prevalent at the time, and by meeting so often to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Christians were regarded with suspicion and hostility.”  Ibid; 639

This general persecution by the populace fits very well with the references to suffering by Peter.  “With very few dissenting voices, most recent scholars on 1Peter agree that this is the kind of suffering the readers of the letter were experiencing.”  Ibid; 639  Notice this is the view of, “most recent scholars”.  So the issue of the author being someone other than Peter because of the dating of an official Roman persecution is not actually an issue.

RELATIONSHIP TO PAUL

Let’s turn to this statement, “David Bartlett argues 1 Peter depends on the complete works of Paul and would have more likely been written by Paul.”  Before I go to the scholars I want to note an obvious issue here.  IF this letter depended on the complete works of Paul, and it is then assumed that Paul wrote it, then, I must ask, why did Paul, write it and then attribute it to Peter?  The church was against pseudepigraphical writing and so was Paul, “we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us,” followed by, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.” see also 1Cor. 16.21; Col. 4.18; Philem. 19.  I will address the issue of pseudepigraphical letters when we look at 2Peter but in light of Paul’s own stand against fraudulent letters there is no reason to conjecture that he wrote this letter.  With Paul’s and the church’s animosity to pseudepigraphal literature what possible imagined circumstance could cause us to believe that Paul would go against all his belief and teaching on falsifying a letter from an apostle and then falsify this letter by attributing it to Peter?  Such an idea would require a conspiracy theory on par with the moon landing hoax conspiracy.

Furthermore the method of argument is unlike Paul.  Carson and Moo write, “Unlike Paul, who often develops a theological point before applying it, Peter mixes imperative and indicative almost from the beginning of the letter.” (Ibid. p636)

Finally, if, and you have given me no clear argument from Bartlett, he is contending that the theology of 1 Peter is derived from each and every one of Paul’s letters then he has a great deal to prove and apparently such a theory did not stand the test of time.  “It was virtually a consensus forty years ago that 1Peter knew and used certain Pauline epistles, especially Romans and Ephesians.  But most modern scholars now insist that the similarities are due not to literary dependence but to common use of early Christian tradition.”  (Ibid. p640)  Therefore the idea that Paul wrote 1Peter and that 1Peter depended on ALL of the Pauline epistles in the New Testament are both refuted.

Lastly, as to, “Some see the writing is as more similar to Mark.” I can only ask how does this statement apply to Peter being or not being the author of 1Peter?  In fact on its face it makes no sense, “more similar to Mark” than what?  Peter is more similar to Mark than Peter is to Peter?  When I think about it if 1Peter is similar to Mark, in spite of the advanced Greek, then I guess it just goes to show that an uncle can write at least as well as his nephew.  ( :

 



[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (1 Pe 5:9). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Th 2:1–2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Th 3:17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.