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The opening verse identifies the apostle Peter as the sender of the letter, and the concluding greetings reveal that Silvanus did the actual writing. Peter would have dictated what he wanted the letter to contain, and Silvanus appears to have had the liberty to word the thoughts the apostle expressed, doing so in correct literary style. (1 Peter 1:1; 5:12)
At the time, Peter was in Babylon, which many consider to be a cryptic or code name for Rome. No specifics about any individuals in the letter would have required using a cryptic name in an effort to protect them from possible persecution. Nothing in the context itself explains why Peter, unlike Paul, would have chosen to use the designation Babylon instead of Rome. Moreover, the order in which the regions where the intended recipients of the letter lived reflect what one would expect for an individual who would be located in an eastern region, not a western city. The westernmost Roman provinces (Asia and Bithynia) are referred to last in 1 Peter 1:1.
Many Jews lived in Mesopotamia under Parthian rule. According to Josephus (Antiquities, XV, ii, 1, 2), the high priest Hyrcanus II, whom the Parthians had taken captive, was set free by the Parthian king and given “a habitation at Babylon, where there were Jews in great numbers.” This was about a century before 1 Peter was written. The presence of Jews from Mesopotamia and Parthia for the festival of Pentecost about seven decades after the time Hyrcanus II lived in Babylon suggests that Jews still resided there even though the city itself was in a state of decline. (Acts 2:9) Peter, along with James and the apostle John, had agreed with Paul and Barnabas that he would minister to the Jews. (Galatians 2:7-9) His spending time in Babylon among fellow Jews would have been in line with this decision, and so one could conclude that Peter sent his letter from Babylon in Mesopotamia.
Very ancient tradition, however, does not support this conclusion. Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History (II, xv, 2), wrote, “Peter makes mention of Mark in his first epistle which they say that he wrote in Rome itself, as is indicated by him, when he calls the city, by a figure, Babylon, as he does in the following words,” which are then quoted from 1 Peter 5:13.
Many are inclined to accept the ancient tradition that equates Babylon with Rome, especially in view of what various early writers have said about Babylon in Mesopotamia. According to Pliny the Elder (Natural History, VI, 30), Babylon had “been drained of its population in consequence of its vicinity to Seleucia, founded for that purpose by Nicator.” In his Geography (XVI, i, 5), which he completed early in the first century CE, Strabo wrote that Seleucia “at the present time has become larger than Babylon, whereas the greater part of Babylon is so deserted that one would not hesitate” to apply to it the expression of one of the comic poets, “The great city is a great desert.” These comments about the state of Babylon would seem to suggest that the city could hardly have been a place where Peter would have gone.
If Babylon actually means Rome, the way the regions are listed in 1 Peter 1:1 might be explained as suggesting that a messenger with the letter would have gone to Pontus first, the most distant region, and then traveled through Asia Minor, returning to Rome from Bithynia. Nevertheless, it does seem puzzling that Peter would say “Babylon” instead of “Rome,” as did Paul. Traditional accounts speak of Peter’s martyrdom in Rome but do not make it possible to draw any definitive conclusions about just when he might have arrived. The Scriptural record is completely silent about any activity of Peter in Rome, and he is not mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans.
While ancient accounts indicate that Babylon in Mesopotamia had sunk into obscurity, one cannot be absolutely sure about what the situation may have been about the size of the Jewish population there in every decade before Peter’s death. There are historical indications that part of Babylon was inhabited before and after his time.
According to the Epitome of Dio Cassius (Book LXVIII, 30), Trajan went to Babylon because of the city’s fame and on account of Alexander the Great’s having been there, but he only found “mounds and stones and ruins.” Trajan reportedly offered a sacrifice to the “spirit” of Alexander “in the room where he had died.” This indicates that not all of Babylon lay in ruins and suggests that there were inhabitants who knew about the location of this room.
Josephus relates that Jews living in Mesopotamia, especially those residing in Babylonia, came under intense persecution. This occurred about the middle of the first century CE, and Jews living in the city of Babylon were affected. Although many then fled to Seleucia, others remained. Josephus reports that five years after the major Jewish flight from Babylon, those who stayed in the city experienced a pestilence, prompting more of them to depart. It is not possible, however, to assign specific dates to these developments. (Antiquities, XVIII, ix, 1, 8, 9)
Definitive conclusions about how the designation Babylon is to be understood are not possible, especially since traditional accounts are not always reliable. The important aspect is the message contained in Peter’s letter, and so the place from which the letter may have been sent is really immaterial.
An apostle is one who is sent forth. Peter, as one of the twelve apostles whom Jesus Christ chose, represented him as a witness. In his role as a witness, Peter made known that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, on the basis of faith in him, individuals could be forgiven of their sins and reconciled to his Father. To authenticate his testimony, Peter had been empowered to perform miracles, healing the sick, making the crippled whole, raising the dead, and freeing individuals from demonic possession. (Matthew 10:8; Mark 3:13-16; Acts 3:2-7, 11-16; 5:12-16; 9:32-42) Jesus Christ gave the name “Cephas” or “Peter” (meaning “rock”) to him, revealing his confidence that he, Simon, would prove to be solid like a rock in his faith and a strengthening aid to fellow believers. (1:1; Mark 3:16; John 1:41, 42)
The “elect” are those whom God chose to be his people, for they responded in faith to his Son. In the world, believers were strangers, for theirs was a heavenly inheritance. They lived in widely scattered areas among the masses of unbelievers. Therefore, Peter addressed the “elect” or divinely chosen ones as sojourners or resident aliens “of the dispersion.” The believers to whom he sent his letter resided in five regions of Asia Minor. Pontus was situated along the Black Sea in northern Asia Minor and was bordered by Galatia on the south and Bithynia on the west. Cappadocia bordered Galatia on the east, and the Roman province of Asia lay along the western border of Galatia and extended to the coast. (1:1; see the Notes section.)
The election or choosing of believers is “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” He foreknew or predetermined that there would be humans who would come to be his approved children. In keeping with his predetermined purpose and through the operation of his holy spirit, the chosen ones are “sanctified” or set apart as holy for his use. The objective of the election and sanctification is “for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Numerous translations render the words to indicate that Jesus Christ is the one who is to be obeyed (“to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood” [NRSV]; “for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood” [REB]; “that they might obey Jesus Christ and be cleansed by his blood” [J. B. Phillips]). The Greek text, however, does not specifically link Jesus Christ to the obedience. Peter’s focus had been on what “God the Father” has done for believers, and so it appears preferable to consider God to be the implied object of the obedience. “God wanted you to obey him and to be made clean by the blood of the death of Jesus Christ.” (NCV) Considering the “obedience” to mean obedience to God would also fit Peter’s later admonition for believers to conduct themselves like “obedient children” (literally, “children of obedience”). (1:2, 14)
The “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” could relate to two prominent aspects in the lives of the chosen ones. When individual Israelites became ceremonially unclean, they needed to be sprinkled with the water of cleansing in order to be purified from defilement. (Numbers 19:11-20) At the time the law covenant was inaugurated, Moses sprinkled the Israelites with the blood of sacrificed animals. (Exodus 24:5-8) Therefore, the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” could refer to the purification from sins made possible by his blood and the validating of the new covenant by means of his shed blood. In being sprinkled with the “blood of Jesus Christ,” God’s chosen ones are forgiven of their sins and become beneficiaries of the new covenant. (1:2)
“Favor” or unmerited kindness includes all the divinely granted aid and blessings that believers come to enjoy. “Peace” is the sense of tranquility and well-being that comes from the inward assurance of divine love, concern, and care. Peter’s prayerful desire was for believers to continue to experience “favor and peace” in increased measure. (1:2)
For the “God and [kaí] Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” to be “blessed” would signify that he be magnified and praised for all that he is and has done. The Greek conjunction kaí, often translated “and,” can in certain contexts mean “even.” A number of translators have adopted this significance, choosing not to identify the Father as the God of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (CEV) “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NJB) The context, however, does not require departing from the usual meaning “and” for the conjunction kaí, especially since the Scriptures speak of Jesus as calling his Father “my God.” (1:3; John 20:17; Revelation 3:12)
In his great mercy, God took the initiative to provide the means to deliver humans from their sinful condition, granting all who respond in faith to his Son a newness of life. In being thus generated anew in expression of divine mercy, believers have been forgiven of their sins, passing from a condition of death (the condemnation to which sin leads) to life as God’s approved and beloved children. As a result of their new birth, believers have a “living hope.” This hope may be regarded as “living” because it energizes its possessors, fills them with courage, and holds promise of certain fulfillment. A dead hope would be no hope at all, as it would never be fulfilled and so could only end in disappointment. (1:3; see the Notes section.)
The “living hope” has been made possible “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” His resurrection proved undeniably that his sacrificial death had been accepted by his Father as the means for forgiving humans of their sins and reconciling them to himself as his children. Jesus’ resurrection assured that all of his Father’s promises would be fulfilled, providing a solid basis for the believers’ hope that they will be united with Christ, enjoying an enduring relationship with him and his Father as part of the sinless family of his Father’s children. (1:3)
Believers have been generated anew through the operation of God’s spirit, and this has made it possible for them to embrace the “living hope.” As children of their heavenly Father, they are also heirs. They have been granted a newness of life “for an inheritance,” one that is “imperishable and undefiled and unfading, reserved in the heavens for [them].” Being imperishable, this inheritance cannot be ruined, destroyed, damaged, or corrupted in any way. Unlike inheritances that can be defiled through misuse or attained by base means, this inheritance is free from all impurity. It will never lose its attractiveness like material things that are subject to fading and cease to have their former vibrancy. The inheritance is secure, for it is “reserved in the heavens.” There, in the exalted heavenly realm, God safeguards the inheritance. No one can deprive believers of it, or their share with Jesus Christ in everything that his Father has given him. (1:4; see the Notes section.)
Believers also have the assurance of God’s help in attaining their secure inheritance. They are “safeguarded by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” God’s power is at work for them like a protective fortress. By means of his spirit, he strengthens believers to endure trials and to conduct themselves acceptably to him. This incomprehensibly great power was involved in raising Jesus Christ from the dead and is now at work in believers. (Ephesians 1:19, 20) It is through their faith, or their unqualified trust, in God and Christ that believers have come to benefit from the protective divine power. Their continuing to maintain faith with God’s help assures that they will never be without his strengthening aid. (1:5; see the Notes section.)
The “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” and for which believers are being safeguarded by the “power of God” designates the future deliverance they will experience at the time of Jesus Christ’s return in his exalted position as King of kings and Lord of lords. At that “last time,” the culminating point of the age that had its start when Jesus Christ was on earth, all who defiantly persist in unbelief would face eternal ruin. Believers, however, would escape condemnatory judgment and be delivered from the affliction they had experienced on account of being servants of God and Christ. First those then asleep in death would be resurrected, and the living believers would be changed, making it possible for all of them to be united with Jesus Christ for all eternity as sinless children of his Father. (1:5; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10)
For believers, this sure hope of future salvation and the divine mercy that makes the marvelous deliverance possible provide the basis for rejoicing. During their alien residence in the world, they “for a little while now, if it must be,” are saddened on account of “various trials.” From the standpoint of eternity, any affliction or hardship believers might experience would be for a very short time. Despite their distress, if suffering came to be their lot on account of being disciples of God’s Son, they could rejoice, confident that their future deliverance was certain. They could also find joy in knowing that the trials could result in spiritual benefits for them. (1:6; see the Notes section.)
Trials, when endured in a manner that honors God and Christ, produce a refined faith. These trials can expose weaknesses, making the afflicted believers aware of the need to cooperate with God’s spirit in resisting pride, impatience, a love of pleasure, stubbornness, anger, or a desire for revenge. As a consequence, faith can be strengthened and purified from the stain of undesirable traits and attitudes. The believer can come to rely more fully on God when again faced with suffering. A refined faith is of exceedingly greater value than gold from which fire has removed impurities, for even gold can perish or wear away. Faith that has been purified by trials, on the other hand, is of an enduring quality and does not perish. Therefore, at the revelation of Jesus Christ, or upon his return, this refined faith will be found to result “in praise and glory and honor.” He will then praise or commend those who have allowed their faith to be purified, grant them the “glory” or magnificence of sharing with him in his inheritance as the highly exalted Son of God, and accord them “honor” when acknowledging them as his approved disciples, doing so before his Father and the angels. (1:7; Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; 18:8; see the Notes section.)
Peter had personally seen Jesus Christ at the time he was on earth, but those to whom he sent his letter had not. Though they had never seen the Son of God, they loved him. The message about him, including his dying for them in expression of his love, stirred within them a deep affection for him and moved them to want to be his devoted disciples. Because Jesus was then in the heavenly realm, these believers could not see him but they could have faith in him, trusting him unreservedly. They could have full confidence that all the divine promises would be fulfilled because of what Jesus Christ had done when surrendering his life for them. The reliable testimony that had been given to them about him and which they accepted provided them with the sound basis for rejoicing with a joy so great that it could not be expressed in words. It is a “glorious joy,” one that is suggestive of the excelling joy believers will experience upon being found approved by the Son of God and his Father. (1:8)
This joy relates to their receiving the “end,” goal, culmination, or final outcome of their faith, “the salvation of [their] souls.” The expression “souls” designates the believers in the entirety of their being. They themselves would attain their final salvation as sinless children of God who escaped the ruin of those who chose stubbornly to remain in unbelief. (1:9)
The ancient Hebrew prophets had an intense interest in the promised salvation. They searched and investigated what God’s spirit had revealed to them, wanting to know about the gracious favor or unmerited kindness that, in the future, would be shown to humans, to persons with faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ. The gracious favor that came to be extended to those who put faith in Jesus Christ included forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with his Father as his beloved children. Although not really understanding the message about divine favor that they made known, the prophets carefully reflected on the prophecies about the coming Messiah and what God would accomplish through him. (1:10)
According to the majority of extant manuscripts, the “spirit of Christ” was “in” the prophets. Fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, however, does not include “Christ.” If original, the expression “spirit of Christ” may indicate that the spirit operating in the prophets was the same spirit that Christ imparted to his disciples on the day of Pentecost in the year he rose from the dead. Upon his ascension to heaven, he received the holy spirit from his Father. Therefore, the holy spirit would also be the “spirit of Christ.” (1:11; Acts 2:33)
The prophets eagerly sought to learn just what had been revealed to them through the operation of God’s spirit, investigating “what [tína], or what kind of time,” the spirit’s advance testimony revealed about the “sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” The Greek pronoun tína is masculine and so could designate the one “to whom,” “to what person,” or “to what sort of person” the spirit was pointing. A number of translations convey this meaning. “So they searched to find out exactly who Christ would be and when this would happen.” (CEV) They were “inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated.” (NASB) Other translations have rendered tína as a neuter pronoun and, in conjunction with “what kind of time,” make an application to “time and circumstances” (NAB, REB) “The prophets tried to learn about what the Spirit was showing them, when those things would happen, and what the world would be like at that time.” (NCV) It would appear that the interest of the prophets is more likely to have been on the person of the Messiah or Christ and the time of his appearing rather than on the time of and the conditions existing at his arrival. (1:11)
With God’s spirit operating upon them, the prophets came to know much about the sufferings and the glories of the Messiah. He would be regarded with contempt and rejected. (Isaiah 53:3) A close associate would betray him for thirty pieces of silver. (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12) Accusers would present false testimony against him, but he would remain silent. He would be struck on the cheek, spit upon, reckoned with sinners, be pierced, and die a sacrificial death as a sin bearer. (Isaiah 50:6; 53:3-12; Micah 5:1) His enemies would taunt him, ridiculing his trust in God. (Psalm 22:8) The subsequent glories included his being resurrected from the dead, coming to be at the right hand of God, and being granted the position of king-priest like Melchizedek of ancient Salem. (Psalm 16:8-10; 110:1, 4) As the one with God-given royal authority, he would crush all who defiantly oppose him and then rule over the whole earth. (1:11; Psalm 2:9; 72:7, 8; Zechariah 9:9, 10)
While many details about the Messiah had been disclosed to the prophets, they did not understand how all this would be fulfilled and how, through him, sins would be forgiven and humans would become reconciled to God as part of his family of beloved children. (1:11) They found themselves in a position like Daniel when he said, “I heard, but I did not understand.” (Daniel 12:8)
Through divine revelation, the prophets came to discern that what had been made known to them would benefit those who would be living from the time of Messiah’s or Christ’s arrival and then onward. Those who saw how Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies about him and put faith in him benefited fully from what the prophets had long previously foretold. So it was to them that the prophets ministered. This included the believers to whom Peter wrote concerning the prophets “to whom it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to you [‘to us,’ according to a number of other manuscripts] they were ministering them.” The pronoun “them” pertains to the prophetic matters concerning which the prophets ministered or served. A number of translations make this significance explicit. “It was shown them [the prophets] that their service was not for themselves but for you, when they told about the truths you have now heard.” (NCV) “It was disclosed to them that these matters were not for their benefit but for yours.” (REB) The matters that had been announced to the believers to whom Peter wrote included how Jesus Christ fulfilled the words of the prophets. (1:12; compare Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 13:16-47; 26:22, 23.)
When proclaiming the evangel, Jesus Christ’s disciples were guided and empowered by the “holy spirit sent from heaven.” To those in Asia Minor, they had made known that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that, through him, individuals could be forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God. These were matters into which angels desired to look attentively. The Greek verb referring to the action of angels is parakypto, literally meaning to “bend down beside” or to “bend over,” and is descriptive of the special attention one would give when bending over to take a closer look at something. Angels are not all-knowing. Although not personally involved in God’s means for effecting a reconciliation of sinful humans to himself, they took a keen interest in wanting to know how this would be accomplished. This also revealed to them to an even greater degree the love, mercy, and wisdom of their God and Father, which must have filled them with reverential wonder. (1:12; see the Notes section.)
On account of all that believers had come to enjoy, they should “gird up the loins of [their] mind.” The “girding up of the loins” is a figure of speech based on what a person would do in preparation for manual labor or vigorous activity like running. A man would pull up his robe between his legs and secure it with a girdle, giving him greater freedom of movement. To “gird up the loins of the mind” would indicate to seek to have the mind in a state of preparedness for action, ridding oneself of anything that could hinder one in being properly focused on faithfully serving God and Christ. A number of translators have paraphrased the figurative expression according to its apparent meaning and rendered the next Greek word (népho) to signify “to be alert” or “to have self-control.” “Your minds must therefore be stripped for action and fully alert.” (REB) “So prepare your minds for service and have self-control.” (NCV) The verb népho can denote to be vigilant, watchful, sober, or alert. It is descriptive of one’s being in control of one’s senses, showing reasonableness and self-restraint and avoiding rash words or actions. (1:13)
Punctuation determines whether the Greek adverb teleíos is to be understood as meaning “fully” or “completely” and modifying the verb népho (“be fully alert”; or, “maintain [your] senses completely”) . If regarded as starting a new thought, teleíos could apply to setting the hope fully. This is the meaning numerous translations convey. (1:13) “Set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NAB) “Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (NIV) “Set your hope perfectly, wholly, and unchangeably, without doubt and despondency, upon the grace that is being brought to you upon the occasion of the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Wuest) “Put all your hope in how kind God will be to you when Jesus Christ appears.” (CEV)
As resident aliens scattered among masses of unbelievers in the world, believers face distress. So they need to keep their focus on the gracious favor that will be extended to them at the “revelation of Jesus Christ,” never ceasing to hope in the unmerited kindness they will then be shown. They will be delivered from all the affliction they have experienced and be united with Christ as sinless children of his Father at the time he returns as King of kings and Lord of lords. (1:13)
Confident in becoming recipients of divine favor when Jesus Christ returns with royal power and unparalleled glory or magnificence, believers should be conducting themselves like his Father’s “obedient children,” faithfully adhering to his ways in disposition, word, and deed. This would require that they cease to conform to their former ways, not yielding to the base desires they had during the time of their ignorance. Before they heard the good news about Christ and became believers, they had lived their lives as their passions or desires dictated, often harming themselves or others in their ignorance of God’s ways. (1:14)
Through the proclamation of the message about his Son, God called those to whom Peter sent his letter. They were invited to accept his arrangement for having their sins forgiven and to become members of his beloved family. He is “holy,” pure, untainted by any trace of defilement. In keeping with his holiness, believers, as his children, should be “holy in all [their] conduct.” Peter backed this up with a quotation from Leviticus 19:2 (LXX), “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1:15, 16)
The context in which the quotation from Leviticus appears reveals that holiness or purity should involve all of one’s life. Included are commands relating to respect for parents, compassionate consideration for the poor, the deaf, the blind, and the resident aliens; honesty, truthful speech, high moral standards, and impartiality in rendering judgments. (1:16; Leviticus 19:3-36)
The heavenly Father judges humans impartially (literally, “does not accept faces”) on the basis of their deeds and so does not act according to outward appearances. Believers call upon the heavenly Father when making their petitions in prayer. Recognizing that he has no favorites and will always judge justly or fairly, believers should consider that they are accountable to him. Therefore, during their time as resident aliens in this world, they should conduct themselves “in fear,” or with a wholesome fear or reverence of the heavenly Father, the impartial judge. Believers should want to conduct themselves in a manner that he can look upon as acceptable to him. (1:17)
They were rescued from being dead in trespasses and sins, from a life that reflected the “vain,” empty, or futile conduct that followed the pattern their ancestors had handed down to them. With a price of far greater value than perishable things — silver or gold — they were ransomed, liberated from their sinful condition and the condemnation associated with it. (1:18)
The price for their redemption proved to be beyond any human evaluation. It was the precious blood of Jesus Christ, blood that was like that of a lamb without blemish or defect. (1:19)
“Before the founding of the world,” or from the beginning, Christ was foreknown. God’s purpose had always been for humans to be in a condition of flawless oneness with his Son and so also with himself. So the Son was foreknown from the very beginning as the one who is the focus of his Father’s purpose and activity. The Son’s manifestation came at his Father’s appointed time and marked the start of a new age, with the opportunity opening up to humans everywhere to become part of his Father’s family of approved children. Therefore, Christ could be spoken of as having been manifested or as having appeared at the “last of the times,” or at the end of the ages. (1:20)
Christ’s appearance at the last or end of the times is spoken of as being “for your sake,” that is, for those in Asia Minor to whom the letter was sent and so for all who are believers. With Christ’s coming to the earth, individuals everywhere could benefit from what he accomplished upon surrendering his life in sacrifice. His redemptive work was exclusively for humans. (1:20)
Through Christ, the recipients of Peter’s letter, came to have faith or trust in “God, the one who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that [their] faith and hope would be in God.” The relationship with God as one of faith or trust came into existence “through Christ,” for through him the state of alienation from his Father ended. The redemption from sin and its associated condemnation came about when Jesus Christ surrendered his life for the sinful human family. The surpassing greatness of what the Father, in expression of his unparalleled love for fallen humans, accomplished by means of his Son gives believers the utmost confidence in his love and care for them and assures them that all of his promises will be fulfilled. God raised Christ from the dead and gave him glory by exalting him to the ultimate position of favor (represented by being at his “right hand”) and granting him all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18; Acts 3:13; Philippians 2:9-11) What God did in resurrecting his Son and granting him glory provides the basis for believers to have trust and hope in him as their heavenly Father. They can trust him fully as their Father who deeply loves them and so will never fail to aid and strengthen them in their time of need. Their hope in his promises will never come to disappointment. (1:21)
The “truth” is the message that has Christ as its focus; it is the word of God. Believers obeyed this truth when they accepted Jesus as God’s Son and as the one who died for them. Through this act of responsive obedience, they were forgiven of their sins and so their “souls” or they themselves as persons were purified or cleansed from the stain of their transgressions. As purified persons, they became members of God’s family. This called for them to have genuine affection for fellow children. Their love should be “unhypocritical,” not just a mere expression of the lips but an affection that was evident in deeds reflecting care and compassion. Believers should be loving one another “fervently [ektenós] from the heart,” or from their inmost self. The Greek adverb ektenós incorporates the thought of “extending” or “stretching out” and so, in relation to love, conveys an image of an unlimited affection, one that is intense and constant. (1:22)
Believers have been generated anew or have experienced a new birth. This new birth came about from imperishable or incorruptible seed and not from seed that perishes (as is the case with human seed that starts physical existence but is subject to death). This imperishable seed is the “living and enduring word of God.” It is “through” this imperishable word or message that the new birth came about. This message is identified (in verse 25) as the “evangel” that had been proclaimed to the believers being addressed. (1:23; see the Notes section for another possible meaning.)
When they put faith in the good news about Jesus Christ and accepted his having died for them so that they might be forgiven of their sins, God’s spirit became the controlling power in their lives. Like a seed, the “word” operating in conjunction with the spirit, brought about a newness of life for them. Being “living [energizing and activating, not dead] and enduring,” this word continues to have a powerful effect in the lives of believers, producing permanent changes in them as part of the family of God’s children. As indicated in verse 22, the tangible evidence of the new birth that has come about “through” (or by means of) the “word” is the mutual love that believers have as fellow children of God. (1:23; compare 1 John 3:14.)
The quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8 (LXX) serves to show that the “word” does endure, unlike the “flesh” (transitory human life) that “is like grass, and all of its glory,” beauty, or splendor, like a blossom on a plant. The grass withers, and the wilted flower drops from the stem. “But the word of the Lord [‘our God,’ Hebrew text] endures forever.” These words from Isaiah appear as part of a message of comfort, including the assurance that God would turn his favorable attention to his people and would care for them like a loving shepherd looks after the sheep. (1:24, 25; Isaiah 40:1-6, 10, 11)
In the fullest sense, God turned his favorable attention to his people when he sent his unique Son to the earth. (Luke 1:68-79) Appropriately, therefore, the “word” is identified as the good news that had been declared to the believers in Asia Minor. This good news focused on Jesus Christ and all that his Father accomplished through him. (1:25)
The original reading of fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus for verse 1 includes “and” after “elect” (“to the elect and resident aliens”), but the “and” is missing in all other extant Greek manuscripts.
After the expression “generated anew” (in verse 3), a few manuscripts say “you” instead of “us.” The words “living hope” have the best manuscript support. A few manuscripts say “hope of life.”
In most extant manuscripts, verse 4 concludes with “for you” (literally, “into you”), but a few manuscripts read “for us.”
In verse 5, the reading “power of God” has the best manuscript support. A few manuscripts read “love of God” or “spirit of God.”
Similar thoughts about the beneficial effect of trials (as found in verses 6 and 7) are expressed in the books of Wisdom and Sirach. “For though in the sight of others they [the upright] were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.” (Wisdom 3:4-6, NRSV) “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.” (Sirach 2:1, NRSV) “Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in humiliation. Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him. You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not stray, or else you may fall. You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost.” (Sirach 2:4-8, NRSV)
When referring to salvation (verse 9), most manuscripts either read “your” or “our.” Fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and a few other manuscripts, however, omit the pronoun.
Verse 12 contrasts the past with the present — the testimony of the prophets in earlier times and the full revelation “now” through the proclaiming of the evangel, the good news about Christ and what his sacrificial death accomplished.
In verse 22, numerous manuscripts add “through [the] spirit” after “truth,” but these words are not included in the oldest extant manuscripts. Another difference in manuscript readings is the inclusion or omission of the word for “clean” or “pure” as a modifier for “heart.” A corrected reading of fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus is “true heart.”
Another way in which to understand the reference to the “word” (in verse 23) is that it comes from the “living and enduring [or eternal] God.” (NRSV, footnote) In view of the emphasis thereafter on the enduring nature of the word of God, however, it appears that the more likely application is to the “living and enduring word.”
Although missing in the oldest extant manuscripts in verse 23, many later manuscripts add “into the age,” meaning “forever,” after the Greek word for “abiding” or “enduring.”
In verse 24, the reading “glory of it” has the best manuscript support. Many other manuscripts say, “glory of man,” which is also the reading of Isaiah 40:6 in the extant text of the Septuagint.
“Therefore” (in view of having accepted the word of God and experienced being born anew), believers should rid themselves of “all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all defamation.” In the Greek text, the words for hypocrisy, envy, and defamation are plural, suggestive of the various manifestations of such. “All evil” includes all acts that are harmful to oneself or to others and are contrary to God’s revealed will. “All deceit” designates all crafty or underhanded practices, treachery, cunning, and attempts to take unfair advantage of others. A hypocrite is a person who plays a part, hiding his real intent or true identity as if wearing a mask. Expressed as a plural, hypocrisy would embrace all forms of dissembling, putting on a pretense, and hiding one’s real purpose or motivation. Envy, in its various manifestations, involves looking with displeasure at what others may have or what they are able to enjoy and wanting as one’s own that which one begrudges being the possession of others. Defamation, speaking evil of others, or slander stem from the same malicious disposition as envy. All these traits are contrary to the kind of love that should exist among children of God in their interactions with one another and with unbelievers. (2:1; see the Notes section.)
For believers to grow spiritually, they must free themselves from such corrupt behavior that contributes to disunity and conflict. Only when love and peace exist can there be progress in living the kind of life that should characterize God’s obedient children. With undesirable traits put away, believers should, “like newborn infants, long for the true [logikós], unadulterated [ádolos] milk that by it [they] might grow into salvation.” Not all believers in Asia Minor were new believers. So it does not appear that they are being addressed as newborn infants. Instead, the emphasis seems to be on their being like newborn infants who are eager for milk, the liquid nourishment that fully satisfies their need for food and is essential for their growth. (2:2)
Like such infants, believers should long for the “milk” or teaching that is required for spiritual well-being and development. The Greek words that describe this milk are logikós and ádolos. Logikós denotes that which is logical, rational, genuine, or true. Numerous translation render the word as “spiritual” (the opposite of literal). Ádolos signifies that which is without deceit, pure, or unadulterated. Earlier, in this letter, the evangel or good news about Christ was identified as the living and enduring word of God. (1:25) So it would seem that the “true, unadulterated milk” designates the trustworthy, pure teaching about Jesus Christ and what his Father has accomplished through him. The word or message from which believers should derive their spiritual sustenance would include everything that Jesus Christ revealed by his words and the example he set in doing his Father’s will. When believers continue to draw their nourishment from the glad tidings about Christ, centering their thoughts on his example and teaching and striving to imitate him, they will “grow into salvation,” that is, attain to the final deliverance from the distress they experience in the world and come to enjoy the total liberation from sin as part of God’s sinless family. (2:2; see the Notes section.)
The Greek word ei with which the sentence that began in verse 1 continues does not appear to have the usual meaning of “if.” This seems apparent from the word for “tasted,” which is the form of the Greek verb geúomai in the aorist tense and indicates a past event. So the preferable meaning for ei would appear to be “since” “for,” or “because.” It would be because of having “tasted” or experienced that the “Lord is kind” that believers should crave the “true, unadulterated milk.” Numerous translations convey this significance (“because you have already examined and seen how good the Lord is” [NCV]; “for surely you have tasted that the Lord is good” [REB]; “for you have tasted that the Lord is good” [NAB]). They had come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as being kind. In expression of his love and compassion, he had surrendered his life for them. So they knew that he was kind and loving, displaying the spirit of a caring friend and not the harsh attitude of a superior. (2:3; Matthew 11:28-30; John 15:12-14; see the Notes section and Psalm 34:8 [33:9, LXX], where, with reference to God, the same thought about tasting is expressed.)
Unlike unbelievers who reject Jesus Christ, choosing to be far from him, believers would seek to continue to draw close to him. Believers would be coming to him, a “living stone, rejected by men, but chosen [and] precious to God.” They initially came to him upon accepting him as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and his sacrificial death for them. As believers, they continue to come to him, looking to him for his aid and guidance. He is a “living stone,” not a common stone that has no life-sustaining properties. The Lord Jesus Christ is like the rock from which the Israelites miraculously were provided with life-sustaining water during their time in the wilderness. From him, everything that is essential for eternal life, the life of an enduring relationship with him and his Father, is available. (2:4; Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11; John 4:14; 6:35-37; 7:37, 38; 1 Corinthians 10:4)
The ultimate rejection came when the leading men in the Jewish nation condemned him to death. To God, however, he is “chosen” and “precious.” His Father, according to his predetermined purpose, chose the Son to redeem humans from sin and condemnation and to reconcile them to himself. The Father revealed just how precious his Son is to him when he resurrected him and exalted him as King of kings and Lord of lords with all authority in heaven and on earth. (2:4)
Believers are at one with Jesus Christ and so are sharers in his life, for they enjoy a newness of life on account of their faith in him. As he is the “living stone,” they are “living stones” (forgiven of their sins and so having been liberated from the condemnation to which sin leads, namely, death). They are built on him, being aligned with him as the foundation stone, to form a “spiritual house,” to serve as a “holy priesthood.” In their priestly capacity, they offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Seemingly, the entire community of believers is being likened to a “house” or building, with all within this community being priests. The sacrifices they offer are “spiritual,” not like the animal and grain offerings that were then presented at the temple in Jerusalem. These spiritual sacrifices include prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and all the deeds that contribute to the physical and spiritual well-being of others and are an expression of love and concern for those in need. (2:5; Psalm 50:14; 107:22; 141:2; Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15, 16; see the Notes section.)
On the basis of their faith in Jesus Christ and his having died for them, believers are in an approved condition before his Father and so can present acceptable spiritual sacrifices to him. On their own merit, this would not be possible. It is only “through Jesus Christ” that their spiritual offerings become acceptable. (2:5)
The quotation from Isaiah 28:16 is an abbreviated version of the extant Septuagint text and supports that Jesus Christ is indeed the “stone.” This quotation is introduced with the words, “For it is found in scripture.” Then follows the quotation, “Look! I am laying in Zion a cornerstone, chosen, precious; and the one believing on it [the cornerstone] will not be put to shame.” God laid the cornerstone in Zion. He did so when sending his Son to the earth as the Messiah, Christ, or the Anointed One (the king who was promised to come), and Jesus Christ presented himself as king when he rode into Zion or Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt. It was then that he could have been accepted by all as the precious cornerstone that was rightfully the object of faith, confidence, or trust. All who put their trust in Jesus Christ as the sure foundation for their entire life, looking to him for aid, guidance, and the sure fulfillment of their God-given hope, will never experience the shame or disappointment of those who find the object of their confidence to be undependable. In the Greek text, there are two different words for “not,” emphasizing that shame would by no means be something believers would experience because of having put their trust in Jesus Christ as the precious cornerstone. God chose his Son to be the dependable “stone,” the “cornerstone” occupying the foremost position in relation to all the other “stones” that would be brought into harmony with and conformity to him. Moreover, Jesus Christ is very precious to his Father, having proved himself flawless under the severest of tests. (2:6)
Believers are in full agreement with God’s evaluation of his Son. To all who put faith in Jesus Christ, he is “precious,” deserving to be accorded the highest honor for what he has done for them when surrendering his life. When the prominent ones in the Jewish nation refused to put faith in him and plotted to have him killed, they proved themselves to be the “builders” who rejected this stone (as expressed in Psalm 118:22 [117:22, LXX]). But their efforts did not prevent his Father from raising him from the dead and highly exalting him with all authority in heaven and on earth, making him the “head of the corner” or the most important stone (either the cornerstone or the head stone). (2:7)
To those who rejected Christ, treating him like a stone that was unfit for their purposes, he came to be (as indicated in Isaiah 8:14) a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offense [or, ‘a rock that causes falling’].” He is like a rock or obstacle in the way of those who persist in unbelief, a rock they cannot avoid encountering, causing them to stumble or to fall to their injury. On account of their “being disobedient to the word,” or their refusing to accept the message about Christ, “they stumble,” their unbelief preventing them from being forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God as his beloved children. Deliberate persistence in unbelief would finally mean a fall resulting in perpetual ruin for them. (2:8)
The words “for which also they were put” are probably to be understood to mean that God established that, to all who would remain disobedient or refuse to believe, the “stone” would be one that causes stumbling or falling. Translators have variously rendered the concluding part of verse 8. “This is the fate appointed for them.” (REB) “They stumble because they do not obey what God says, which is what God planned to happen to them.” (NCV) “It was the fate in store for them.” (NJB) “Yes, they stumble at the Word of God for in their hearts they are unwilling to obey it — which makes stumbling a foregone conclusion.” (J. B. Phillips)
Believers, however, have come to enjoy unparalleled dignity. As a community, they are a “chosen race,” or the people whom God has chosen as his own. Believers constitute a “royal priesthood.” Their royal or kingly status may indicate that they would be sharing with Christ in his rule or that, by reason of their relationship with him as the King of kings, they are part of the royal family. Their whole life is one devoted to serving God and so the community of believers forms a priesthood. They are a “holy nation,” a people forgiven of their sins and purified on the basis of their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for them. Having been bought with Jesus’ precious blood, they are his Father’s property and, for this reason, may be called “people for [his] possession.” Believers are uniquely God’s own people. (2:9)
The honorable status that has been granted them as an expression of God’s unmerited favor is one of service. Believers are to “proclaim the virtues [or, ‘wonderful acts’] of the one who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Their responsibility is to make known to others all that God has done and has proved himself to be, particularly in connection with his Son. (2:9)
Before coming to be believers, they had been in darkness, without enlightenment and the light of God’s favor. They were dead in sins and, like persons groping in the dark, lacked dependable guidance and reliable aid. Upon putting faith in Jesus Christ, they came to enjoy God’s marvelous light. No longer were they in a helpless state and ignorant of God’s ways. Their life came to have purpose as his beloved children, forgiven of their sins and enjoying a newness of life (comparable to being raised from the dead). They ceased to be part of a world that found itself in darkness under the dominion of the powers of darkness and with no hope of liberation from this bondage. (2:9)
The contrast to their past condition is apparently drawn from the prophetic words of Hosea (1:6, 9; 2:1, 23, LXX), “Once [you were] not a people, but now [you are] God’s people; [you were] not granted mercy, but now [you] have been granted mercy.” At the time of their being in a state of alienation from God, they were not his people. Nor were they then recipients of his mercy. Upon becoming believers, they were shown unparalleled compassion, being forgiven of their sins and coming to enjoy God’s loving care, guidance, and aid. (2:10)
Peter addressed believers as “beloved ones,” for they were fellow children of God. He admonished them as “strangers and resident aliens” to abstain from “fleshly desires.” They found themselves in the position of strangers and resident aliens among the masses who lived their lives out of harmony with God’s ways. Although believers had been forgiven of their sins and enjoyed an approved standing with God, they were not liberated from their sinful human nature that gave rise to desires which were contrary to a life as his obedient children. Their fleshly desires were comparable to an army that warred “against the soul,” trying to get control of the soul or the entire person and exerting intense pressure to be satisfied. With the aid of and their active cooperation with God’s spirit, believers could resist succumbing to these fleshly desires. (2:11)
As strangers and resident aliens among the nations, believers needed to conduct themselves in a good or exemplary manner. They were often the object of misrepresentation or unfavorable talk because of standing out as different from the people among whom they lived. Their good works, which included rendering compassionate aid to needy ones, and their praiseworthy conduct as honest, reliable, truthful, and caring persons would serve to counteract the misrepresentations of those who maligned them as evildoers. When seeing their good works, persons who had misrepresented believers could come to recognize that they had been wrong when they spoke against them and might be motivated to become believers. This could result in such former detractors being among those who would “glorify God in the day of visitation.” To “glorify God” would mean to praise him for who he is and for everything that he has done. The “day of visitation” designates the future time when God would judge, doing so by means of his Son. (2:12; Acts 17:30, 31)
Each of the various governing authorities existing in society is a “human creation.” Believers should be showing proper regard for the humanly created positions ruling authorities occupy, submitting to persons who exercised authority over them. Believers should not be a disruptive element in the existing social order that contributes to a measure of stability in the world. Their submission to governing authorities is “because of the Lord,” or out of regard for the Lord Jesus Christ whom they want to represent in the best way possible. If they rebelled against duly constituted authority or conducted themselves in violent or disrespectful ways, they would bring reproach on the Son of God and his Father. In the Greco-Roman world, the king or emperor as sovereign occupied the supreme position. (2:13)
To administer affairs in the empire, the emperor appointed governors and sent them to the various regions under his dominion. As his representatives, governors could inflict punishment on wrongdoers and could praise, commend, or honor persons who merited such for doing what was considered to be good or laudable. (2:14)
God’s will for believers is that they be submissive to the authorities over them and maintain exemplary conduct. Their doing what is good can serve to silence the misrepresentations of senseless people who, in their ignorance, malign them. The respectful and laudable conduct of believers would expose the slanderous talk as being false. (2:15)
Believers are free, having been liberated from enslavement to sin and the condemnatory judgment it merits. The marvelous freedom they enjoy as God’s approved children, however, is not to be abused and used as a cover for badness. Instead, proper use of freedom requires conduct that is consistent with their being “slaves of God,” fully submitting themselves to his will and conforming to his upright ways. (2:16; see the Notes section.)
In their interactions with others, believers were to honor all persons, according them the dignity and respect that is owing to members of the human family. For the “brotherhood,” the community of fellow children of God, they were to show love, the deep affection that exists in caring families. In keeping with his high station, the king or emperor had the right to be honored. When showing honor to him, believers would have done so in harmony with their superior obligation to God and Christ. (2:17)
The Greek word oikétes designates a house slave or a personal servant in the household. Believers who were such slaves were to be submissive to their masters “in all fear,” meaning with due apprehension of not wanting to displease them. It would have been easier for house servants to subject themselves to good and kindly, forbearing, humane, or reasonable masters. They were, however, also to submit themselves to the authority of masters who were harsh, unfair, or unscrupulous, patiently enduring mistreatment without lashing out and continuing to fulfill their duties conscientiously. (2:18)
Harsh masters might have made demands with which believing slaves would not have been able to comply with a good conscience. Their refusal to engage in dishonest or corrupt activity for their masters may have led to suffering for them. In that case, they could have drawn comfort from the fact that their enduring unjust suffering because of wanting to preserve a good conscience before God would be divinely favored. (2:19; see the Notes section.)
The answer to the rhetorical question is that there would be no merit in a servant’s enduring a beating for wrongdoing. But if believers suffered when doing what is good or right and endured the mistreatment in a noble manner, God would regard this with favor. (2:20; see the Notes section.)
“For to this you were called,” that is, called to a life of patiently enduring suffering for doing what is right, or of acting according to a godly conscience. Translators have variously rendered the introductory words. (2:21) “It is your vocation.” (REB) “After all, God chose you to suffer.” (CEV) “Indeed this is part of your calling.” (J. B. Phillips) “This is what you were called to do.” (NCV)
That the calling or invitation to be God’s approved people included having to endure suffering for doing what is right can be seen from what happened to Jesus Christ. He suffered mistreatment and, ultimately, an agonizing death by crucifixion, leaving believers an example of faithful endurance. As his disciples, they are to follow in his footsteps. (2:21; see the Notes section.)
Jesus Christ had done nothing to deserve being hit with fists, slapped, spit on, scourged, and subjected to a painful execution by crucifixion. He had remained without sin and no deceitful word ever came from his mouth. (2:22; compare Isaiah 53:9.)
When he was abused or slandered as one who was in league with the demons and as an imposter, a lawbreaker, and a blasphemer, he did not retaliate and revile those who insulted him. He did not threaten those who made him suffer but entrusted himself “to the one who judges righteously” or justly. He did not seek to avenge himself but confidently looked to his Father, the Supreme Judge, to right all matters. (2:23)
Jesus Christ took upon himself the full consequences for human sin so as to die for sinners, though he himself was without sin. In his own body, he bore our sins “on the timber [xylon].” The Greek term xylon basically means “wood” or “tree,” and refers to the implement on which the Son of God was crucified. Nailed to the timber, he bore the burden of our sins, making forgiveness possible on the basis of faith in the atoning value of his sacrificial death for us. Therefore, believers should no longer be living a life of sin but should “live to righteousness,” conducting themselves uprightly or in a manner that is consistent with their having been forgiven of their sins and having become members of God’s beloved family. (2:24)
By the “wound” (probably meaning the entire crucifixion process) inflicted on Jesus Christ, healing came to the believers. The healing that those addressed in Peter’s letter and all other believers experienced was a healing from the deadly sickness of human sinfulness, for they ceased to be at enmity with God as condemned sinners. (2:24)
Formerly, believers had been like sheep that had gone astray. Without an approved relationship with God, they did not have his aid and guidance. So, like lost sheep, they found themselves in a pitiable and helpless state, pursuing a course in life that seemed hopeless and often proved to be injurious. Because of what Jesus Christ did in sacrificing his life for the human family, all who put faith in him ceased to be like straying sheep. They have been reconciled to God and have come under his loving care and protection. So they have returned to God, “the shepherd and guardian of [their] souls.” In this case, “soul” can mean either the whole person or the individual’s life. “Now you have returned to the one who is your shepherd and protector.” (CEV) Doch jetzt seid ihr zu dem zurückgekehrt, der als euer Hirte und Beschützer über euch [footnote, über eure Seelen; über euer Leben] wacht. But now you have returned to him who watches over you [footnote, over your souls; over your life] as your shepherd and protector. (German, Neue Genfer Übersetzung) Like a shepherd, God will not fail to look after the interests of his sheep, his people, and will safeguard them. Moreover, believers have the care and help of his Son, the “chief shepherd.” (2:25; 5:4)
In fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, the word for “envies” (phthónous), in verse 1, is “murders” (phonous). The omission of the second letter theta (th) appears to be a copyist’s error.
The word logikós is derived from lógos, meaning “word.” On this basis, a number of translations read “milk of the word.” (Darby, NASB, NKJV) The inclusion of the words “into salvation” (in verse 2) has the best manuscript support. There are, however, numerous manuscripts that omit these words.
In verse 3 of fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, a corrector changed ei (“if”) to eíper, meaning “if indeed,” and so is more emphatic than ei. This reading is also found in numerous other manuscripts.
Certain translations, in verse 3, render the Greek word ei as “if” (“if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” [NRSV]; “at any rate if you have tasted that the Lord is good” [NJB]; “so you will, if you have already tasted the goodness of the Lord” [J. B. Phillips]). Rendering ei as “if” can either mean that one’s having tasted the kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ is a condition for growing to salvation or that this is a condition for having a longing for the “true, unadulterated milk.”
In verse 5, the inclusion of the word eis, meaning “into,” before “holy priesthood” has the support of the oldest extant manuscripts. Many other manuscripts omit eis. This may have been an intentional omission to indicate that believers are already a holy priesthood and are not in the process of becoming such (being built up into a holy priesthood).
A number of manuscripts (in verse 16) read “friends of God,” not “slaves of God.”
Verse 19 could be literally rendered, “For this [is] favor, if someone because of conscience of God endures pains, suffering unjustly.” After “favor” (cháris), a number of manuscripts add pará to theó, which may be translated “in the sight of God” and would indicate that a slave’s enduring unjust treatment in a manner that honored God would gain his favorable recognition. The manuscript reading that is best supported, however, does not include this addition. A number of translations, therefore, represent the individual’s being able to endure unjust treatment as the “grace” or “favor” or as an evidence thereof. “It is a sign of grace if, because God is in his thoughts, someone endures the pain of undeserved suffering.” (REB) “For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace.” (NAB)
Also in verse 19, the more difficult reading “through [that is, ‘because of’] conscience of God” (diá syneídesin theoú) has good manuscript support. Certain manuscripts read “good conscience” (instead of “conscience of God”), “good conscience of God” (syneídesin agathén theoú) or “conscience of [the] good God” (syneídesin theoú agathén).
The expression “conscience of God” likely applies to the individual’s preserving a good conscience before God. “A man does something valuable when he endures pain, as in the sight of God, though he knows he is suffering unjustly.” (J. B. Phillips) “God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him.” (CEV) A number of translations paraphrase the verse to refer to being conscious or aware of God or to having him in one’s thoughts. “You see, there is merit if, in awareness of God, you put up with the pains of undeserved punishment.” (NJB) “A person might have to suffer even when it is unfair, but if he thinks of God and stands the pain, God is pleased.” (NCV) “For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.” (NRSV)
In verse 20, there is no verb linked to “favor” or “grace,” and the context does not establish a definitive meaning for the wording of the Greek text (toutó cháris pará theó), which could be rendered, “this favor — in the sight of God.” Translations convey varying meanings (“this is a grace before God” [NAB]; “that is a sign of grace in the sight of God” [REB]; “God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him” (CEV); “you have God’s approval” [NRSV]; “then God is pleased” [NCV]; “you are doing something worthwhile in God’s sight” [J. B. Phillips]).
The best-supported reading in verse 21 is “for you; to you” (“Christ suffered for you; to you he left an example”). Other manuscripts say “for you; to us,” “for us; to you,” or “for us; “to us.”
“Likewise,” or in a manner similar to the way believers were to subject themselves to governmental authorities and slaves to their masters, wives were to be submissive to their “own husbands.” In Greek, the term anér designates both a “man” and a “husband,” and so the addition of “own” makes it clear that a husband is meant. For a believing wife, her submission to her husband is governed by her relationship to God and Christ and the associated obligation to be exemplary in disposition, word, and deed. (3:1)
In the case of unbelieving husbands, the exemplary conduct of their wives could be instrumental in having them cease to be disobedient “to the word.” Without a “word,” or without the use of persuasive words or argumentation, the praiseworthy conduct of believing wives could help their husbands to put faith in the “word” or the message about Christ and become his disciples. (3:1) When unbelieving husbands are able to see with their own eyes that their wives have high regard (literally, “fear”) for them and are chaste or morally pure in their behavior, this can be more persuasive than many words in revealing the true worth of accepting the message about Christ and acting on it in faith. (3:2)
Believing wives were not to be focused on showy externals — adornment, impressive braiding of the hair, wearing of gold ornaments or garments that would attract the attention of others. (3:3) Instead, they were to be concerned about their inner selves (the “hidden person of the heart”). Unlike fine attire that wears out in time, the beauty of the inner person that is reflected in the display of a “gentle” or unassuming and “quiet” or calm spirit or disposition never loses its attractiveness. It proves to be incorruptible adornment. Moreover, a woman’s gentle and calm spirit is of excelling value in God’s sight. (3:4; see the Notes section.)
Anciently, “holy women” who “hoped in God” adorned themselves with a gentle and calm disposition and were submissive to “their own husbands.” These women are referred to as “holy” on account of their living a life that was focused on being pleasing to God. They trusted in God, confident that hope based on his word of promise would be fulfilled. (3:5)
One of these “holy” or God-fearing women was Sarah. She “obeyed” her husband Abraham or subjected herself to his authority, leaving behind the more settled life in Ur and, for many years until her death, sharing with him a nomadic existence as a resident alien in the land of Canaan. Sarah had high regard for Abraham, “calling him lord.” The Genesis account contains only one reference to Sarah’s expressing herself in this way. She did so to herself and not in the hearing of others, indicating that she truly had the highest regard for her husband and his position as the head of the household that included hundreds of servants. The fact that Sarah referred to Abraham as lord in her own thoughts indicates that this must have been her regular practice and a reflection of her true feelings. Believing women prove themselves to be “daughters” of Sarah (praiseworthy godly women like Sarah) when they manifest the same disposition, doing what is good or upright and not giving in to any fear. They should not be terrified or become alarmed about any possible insult or hostility they might face because of being disciples of Jesus Christ. (3:6; Genesis 18:12, LXX)
With reference to the role of husbands, the adverb homoíos, meaning “likewise,” indicates that husbands have obligations to fulfill in their relationship to their wives, just as wives are duty-bound to their husbands by reason of the marriage. Believing husbands are to live with their wives in a manner that accords with “knowledge.” This knowledge could include a husband’s full awareness of his wife’s capabilities, limitations, and likes and dislikes. In this context, knowledge would especially pertain to a husband’s recognition of his marital responsibilities as a servant of God and Christ, displaying the kind of love for his wife as Christ has for the community of believers and for which he surrendered his life. (3:7; Ephesians 5:25)
Believing husbands should accord honor to their wives, treating them in a dignified manner. The description of women as “weaker” vessels may relate to their not being as strong physically as men commonly are. So, in treating his wife honorably, a believing husband would be considerate of her limitations. To interpret the reference to a wife’s being a “weaker vessel” to include mental and moral inferiority would not fit the tenor of the directive for husbands to honor their wives. (3:7)
Moreover, believing husbands were to keep in mind that their wives had the same standing before God as they did, for their wives were co-heirs of the gracious “favor of life.” Believers, both men and women, have been granted a newness of life on the basis of their faith in Christ and his having surrendered his life for them. Their enjoyment of this newness of life as persons forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God as his beloved children is an expression of divine favor or unmerited kindness. The honor a believing husband would show to his wife would reflect his regard for her as a fellow child of God. This is essential so that a husband’s prayers would not be hindered but would continue to receive God’s favorable attention. A failure to honor his wife would make a believing husband guilty of dishonoring one of God’s beloved children. (3:7; see the Notes section.)
In their interactions with one another and unbelievers, believers have obligations besides being submissive to those who may have authority over them. These obligations are introduced with the expression tó dé télos, meaning “but finally” (literally, “but the end”) and apply to “all” believers. (3:8)
For believers to be “like-minded” requires avoiding whatever might give rise to disunity and bitter controversy. A harmonious spirit can be preserved when believers keep in mind that fellow believers are members of God’s beloved family and persons for whom Christ died. Their having sympathy or fellow feeling would especially be needed when others are suffering hardship or mistreatment for the sake of Christ. (Compare Hebrews 10:32-34.) As members of the family of God’s children, believers should have love for one another as evident from their being forgiving, not harboring grudges, and being responsive to the needy ones among them. They should be compassionate, having strong feelings for those who may be suffering and being eager to do everything within their power to assist them. The Greek word for “compassionate” is eúsplanchnos and, literally, signifies “good bowels” and, by extension, the tender feelings that were associated with the inward parts. Being “humble-minded” would include being willing to serve others, putting their interests ahead of one’s own. It is the opposite of having an exalted view of oneself and wanting to be served instead of seeking to be active in serving. (3:8; see the Notes section.)
In the world, believers often faced misrepresentation and abuse. They were not to retaliate, seeking to “return evil for evil or reviling for reviling.” Instead of attempting to get even for the injury that may have been done to them or countering insults by lashing out with abusive words, believers are called upon to bless. This does not mean that they would be commending those who treat them hatefully, but they would wish them well (not ill), sincerely desiring that they might change and come to be part of God’s family. (3:9)
The calling of God is not one to a life characterized by a desire for retaliation but a life of love, compassion, and concern for others. So believers have been called to bless, to desire good for fellow humans. Their being true to their calling would result in inheriting a blessing or being the recipient of God’s favor and approval. (3:9)
The quotation from Psalm 34:12-16 (33:13-17, LXX) supports the admonition not to retaliate and, aside from minor differences, corresponds to the reading of the extant Septuagint text. Loving life can denote having an appreciation for life, seeking to have a meaningful life that is more than mere existence and is focused on God and doing his will. Wanting to see or experience “good days” could relate to enjoying a purposeful life with his blessing. (3:10; see the Notes section.)
The individual who loves life and wants to see good days should cease from using his tongue to express “evil” and from speaking “deceit” with his lips. “Evil” would include cursing, slander, and abusive or degrading speech. Examples of deceit or treachery would be using flattery designed to entrap others, speaking half truths or lies, deliberately withholding vital information for the purpose of causing others to draw wrong conclusions, or in any other way misrepresenting matters. (3:10)
Besides keeping the tongue in check, all who love life should turn away from “evil,” or everything that is morally corrupt and harmful to themselves and others. They should “do good” or whatever is kind, loving, and compassionate, maintaining exemplary conduct. To seek peace would mean to follow a course of life that contributes to maintaining a good relationship with God and fellow humans. Peace would be the goal that is earnestly pursued, shunning quarrels, strife, haughtiness, and anything else that can destroy a state of tranquility. (3:11)
One’s shunning bad and doing good is governed by an awareness of God in all affairs of life, “for the eyes of the Lord” (YHWH, according to the Hebrew text) are “upon the righteous and his ears [are attentive] to their supplication.” This indicates that he watches over the upright and is fully aware of their situation. They can be confident that he will aid them in their time of need, and their petitions in times of distress or adversity will not be in vain. (3:12)
“But the face of the Lord” (YHWH, according to the Hebrew text) is “against evildoers.” This means that God himself is opposed to those who engage in corrupt practices and that he will hold an accounting against them. (3:12; see the Notes section.)
The rhetorical question that follows serves to encourage pursuing a divinely approved course. “Who is the one who will injure you if you become zealous for what is good?” Under ordinary circumstances, no one would seek to hurt individuals because they are outstandingly helpful, kind, generous, considerate, and compassionate in their interactions with others. In view of the fact that believers often were the objects of mistreatment and misrepresentation, the question is more likely to denote whether anyone would be able to cause one real harm. The implied answer would be that no one could inflict permanent injury, for God is the one who will right all matters. (3:13)
If it should happen that believers suffer on account of righteousness or for having done what is right or divinely approved, they would be “fortunate” (makários). The Greek adjective makários describes an enviable state of well-being, happiness, or blessedness. Believers who patiently endure insult or abuse can have an inner joy and contentment because of having preserved a good conscience and knowing that their conduct is pleasing to God and Christ. (3:14)
The possibility of suffering for the right reasons, however, should not occasion fear. “But their fear you should not fear, nor be troubled.” “Their fear” may denote the fear of hostile unbelievers because of the hateful things they might say or do. “Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them.” (NAB) Another possibility is that believers were not to be afraid of what unbelievers feared. “Do not fear what they fear.” (NRSV) Unbelievers would have sought to resort to any means possible to avoid being subjected to mockery and mistreatment. Moreover, without a hope in the resurrection, they would have feared the possibility of having to face a violent death. The basic thought is that believers were not to give in to fear or be thrown into a state of inner turmoil on account of becoming objects of hostility. (3:14)
When subjected to unjust treatment, sinful humans often look for opportunities to retaliate. Believers, however, were to “sanctify Christ as Lord in [their] hearts.” This would mean that, regardless of the circumstances, they, in their “hearts” or their inner selves, should accord Christ the honor as their Lord, letting his example and teaching govern their attitude and every aspect of their lives. Instead of yielding to fear and holding back from speaking up about their faith, believers were to be ready to make a defense (apología) before, or to provide an explanation to, anyone who might ask for an expression “about the hope in [them].” The Greek term apología can designate either a defense (as one might make before an official) or, in a more general sense, a reply given to an inquiry. (3:15; see the Notes section.)
A believer’s hope centers on God and Christ and includes confidence in the certainty of becoming a recipient of all the privileges and blessings that have been made possible through Christ and his laying down his life for humankind. This hope is “in” believers, for it fills them and is firmly established in their inmost selves. (3:15)
When making a defense about their hope or responding to any inquiry regarding it, believers should do so “with gentleness and fear.” This would mean that their expressions would need to be made in a calm or courteous and respectful manner, not in a belligerent and arrogant way. Believers should be concerned about preserving a good conscience before God and fellow humans. Then, when insulted or maligned, they would be able to make the error of those who mistreated them evident. Persons guilty of having abused them for their “good conduct in Christ” might be put to shame. The exemplary conduct of believers as persons “in” or at one with Christ might make those who had spoken against them come to realize that they had seriously wronged them. (3:16)
It is better for one to suffer for doing good, “if the will of God desires it,” than for engaging in corrupt practices. Wrongdoing would merit punishment, and a believer’s failure to act uprightly would result in bringing reproach on God and Christ. The reference to the “will of God” does not mean that he wants believers to experience affliction. He may allow this to take place, and so it would be an expression of his permissive will. Whenever that might be the case, believers have the opportunity to demonstrate by their patient endurance the high value they place on being loyal disciples of God’s Son. Observers would be able to see the remarkable strength their faith has made possible. (3:17)
Believers are thus honored to be like their Lord Jesus Christ. As the sinless one, he suffered, not for his own sins, but for the sins of others once for all. He, the “righteous one” who lived a sinless life and perfectly reflected his Father’s purity in every way, endured insult, abuse, and a painful death for the “unrighteous,” for sinful humans. His patient endurance of affliction served to bring humans to God. Through his excruciating death, Jesus Christ provided the means for humans to have their sins forgiven and to be reconciled to his Father as members of his family. He was “put to death in the flesh” but restored to life in the “spirit.” Jesus Christ died while in the flesh, but he was raised to life, not in the flesh as a man, but in possession of life suited for the spiritual realm. In his glorified body, the Son of God is no longer subject to the limitations and weaknesses of the human body of flesh and blood. The contrasting parallel between flesh and spirit points to the distinct difference between Christ’s nature as a man on earth and his nature as the immortal Son of God with life-giving power. (3:18; see the Notes section.)
In the spirit, Jesus Christ preached to the “spirits in prison.” This preaching is directly linked to his having been made alive in the spirit and so occurring after his resurrection. The “spirits in prison” are identified as having been disobedient in the days of Noah. The Genesis account (6:1-4) and comments in 2 Peter 2:4, 5, and Jude 6 indicate that “sons of God” or angels disobeyed by leaving their heavenly estate and taking up life as men with women on earth. Ancient Jewish writings that appear to have been regarded as authoritative in the first century CE and earlier do refer to these disobedient angels as spirits and indicate them to be in a state of confinement. In view of Jesus Christ’s triumph over the powers of darkness by reason of his faithfulness to the death, he would have been in a position to express the ultimate judgments against the “spirits in prison.” (3:19, 20; see the Notes section for additional details.)
In the days of Noah, God waited patiently, apparently with reference to executing judgment against the ungodly and did so until the construction of the ark for the preservation of human and animal life had been completed. A few humans, “eight souls” (Noah, his wife, their three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives), passed safely “through the water” of the deluge. (3:20; see the Notes section.)
The saving of eight humans as they passed “through the water” inside the ark is called an “antitype” (or a correspondency) of baptism, which is “now saving” believers “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism is not the “removal of the filth of the flesh.” Its purpose is not to effect a ceremonial cleansing from impurity as did the water of cleansing according to the provision set forth in the law of Moses. (Numbers 19:13-19) Baptism may be understood to be a “request” (eperótema) directed to God for a “good” or a clean conscience. It is the individual’s tangible outward expression of having repented from sins and put faith or trust in Christ and his sacrifice as God’s means for forgiveness of sins. The baptismal act may be regarded as a petition for the repentance to be accepted and the good conscience or the divinely approved standing to be granted. (3:21)
While the Greek word eperótema can designate an appeal or a request, it could also be understood to be a pledge made to God, a pledge or promise to be faithful and which the one getting baptized makes with a good conscience. Another possible significance is that the appeal to God originates from a good conscience. (3:21) These meanings are found in a number of translations. “Baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.” (NIV) “It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now — not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience given to God.” (NJB) “Baptism is not the washing away of bodily impurities but the appeal made to God from a good conscience.” (REB)
That the Son of God is intimately involved in salvation or the deliverance from sin and the condemnation to which sin leads is indicated by the words “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The resurrection confirmed that God had accepted his Son’s sacrificial death as the means by which humans could be forgiven of their sins and be saved from the associated condemnatory judgment. (3:21)
Subsequent to his resurrection, Jesus Christ entered heaven and is now at his Father’s right hand, representative of the position of the greatest honor, favor, and intimacy that he has been granted. In his highly exalted state of unparalleled honor or dignity, the Son of God has authority over all in heaven and on earth. “Angels and authorities and powers are subject to him,” for he is the King of kings and Lord of lords. His exaltation was made possible through the resurrection and also verified that the Father had accepted his Son’s sacrifice for humans, making it possible for them to be freed from sins and condemnation. (3:22)
In the Greco-Roman world, highly respected women would have identified with the admonition (in verse 4) about attire and adornment. In the first century CE, the Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca, in a personal letter to his mother, praised her for not being impressed by jewels or pearls and for refusing to wear immodest clothing that would have “exposed no greater nakedness” upon being removed. He added, “your only ornament, the kind of beauty that time does not tarnish, is the great honor of modesty.”
A work attributed to a female Pythagorean philosopher of the fourth or third century BCE states that a woman should not wear transparent, ornate or silk clothes, but should dress modestly in white. Thus she would not appear overdressed or as a woman given to luxury and would avoid making other women envious. She should not adorn herself with gold or emeralds, for these are costly and manifest arrogance toward women of limited means.
The Jewish philosopher Philo (c. 20 BCE to c. 50 CE) drew a distinction between the public sphere of men and the private sphere of women, and he indicated that a respectable woman would not want to be seen “going about like a woman who walks the streets in the sight of other men.” (Special Laws, III, 169-171)
The Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch (c. 46 to c. 120 CE), in his Advice to Bride and Groom, observed that a wife should not “rely on her dowry or birth or beauty, but on things in which she gains the greatest hold on her husband, namely conversation, character, and comradeship, which she must render not perverse or vexatious day by day, but accommodating, inoffensive, and agreeable.” (141B) He referred to Crates who used to say, “adornment is that which adorns,” and that which adorns a woman makes her more decorous. This “is not gold or precious stones or scarlet,” but it is “whatever invests her with that something which betokens dignity, good behavior, and modesty.” (141E)
In verse 7, fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and a number of other manuscripts include the word poikíles, meaning “varied,” “diversified,” or “manifold,” before “favor of life.”
The reading “humble-minded” (a form of tapeinóphron), in verse 8, has the support of the oldest extant manuscripts and also others. Many later manuscripts say “well-disposed” or “friendly” (a form of philóphron). A number of manuscripts contain both Greek words.
According to the Septuagint the words quoted in verse 10 are in the form of a question, “Who is [the] man desiring life, loving to see good days?”
In verse 12, a number of manuscripts continue the quotation, adding regarding the evildoers, “to destroy them from the earth.”
According to the oldest manuscript evidence, “Christ” is the Lord mentioned in verse 15. Numerous later manuscripts, however, read “God” instead of “Christ.”
Various manuscript readings exist for verse 18, with certain ones indicating that Jesus “died” for sins and others saying that he “suffered” for sins. Other differences include the use of first person plural (“we” or “our”) and second person plural (“you” or “your”).
It appears that the expression “spirits in prison” (verse 19) is to be understood against the background of what is preserved in ancient sources, particularly 1 Enoch. There is evidence that this book was regarded as authoritative in the first century CE and earlier, as well as in later times. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are twenty manuscripts of parts of 1 Enoch. Early Christian writers, including Irenaeus (in the second century CE), made use of this book. At the present time, however, only the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) accept 1 Enoch as part of the Scriptures.
In 1 Enoch 15:3-8, the angels who had “left the high, holy, and eternal heaven” and had taken wives for themselves from the “daughters of men” are called “spirits,” and their offspring, the giants, are referred to as having been “produced from the spirits and flesh.” According to chapter 12, verses 4 and 5, Enoch had the commission to declare judgment against the disobedient spirits, the “watchers of heaven” who had left the “high heaven.” The judgment message included, “You shall have no peace nor forgiveness of sin.” With apparent reference to this point in 1 Enoch, Irenaeus (Against Heresies, IV, 16, 2) wrote, “Enoch, too, pleasing God, without circumcision, discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man.”
In 2 Enoch, thought to date from late in the first century CE, disobedient angels are depicted as being in confinement in the “second heaven.” They are said to be in a condition of “darkness, greater than earthly darkness” and “awaiting the great and boundless judgment.” (7:1)
One papyrus manuscript from about 300 CE (P72) omits the word “eight” in verse 20.
In the “flesh,” or as a human in a body of flesh, Christ suffered. Therefore, his disciples must likewise expect to be afflicted and should “arm” or prepare themselves with the same disposition he manifested when mistreated. Believers who suffer as did Jesus Christ for being loyal to him and his Father demonstrate that they have stopped living a life of sin. Their not continuing to sin as do persons who have no regard for God and Christ is the reason for their suffering as objects of the world’s hostility. (4:1; see the Notes section.)
When desisting from sin, the believer reveals that he is determined to live the remainder of his life “in the flesh,” no longer for the “desires of men, but for God’s will.” From the time of becoming Christ’s disciples, believers should be making it their aim to live the rest of their life on earth in harmony with God’s will and not according to the desires of men. The “desires of men” are the passions and cravings of sinful humans, desires that are out of harmony with the revealed will of God. (4:2)
The time that preceded their putting faith in Christ had been long enough for believers to have acted according to the “will of the nations,” or to have engaged in the base and corrupt practices characteristic of persons who are given to excesses and who lack moral restraint. When they had no relationship to God and his Son, they had lived in unbridled or licentious ways, yielded to wrong desires or lusts, indulged in drinking wine to an excess, participated in excessive feasting or revelries and drinking parties or carouses, and lawless, wanton, or unholy idolatries. The festivities associated with certain deities included unrestrained drinking, feasting, and sexual immorality. God-dishonoring practices were very much a part of social life in the Greco-Roman world. (4:3) The Jewish philosopher Philo (c. 20 BCE to c. 50 CE), in his treatise against Flaccus (136), included the comment, “There are a vast number of parties in the city [Alexandria, Egypt] whose association is founded in no one good principle, but who are united by wine, and drunkenness, and revelry, and the offspring of those indulgencies, insolence.”
Persons among whom believers resided thought it strange that they had ceased “running” or sharing with them in their life of debauchery or dissipation and, therefore, began to “blaspheme,” vilify, or speak abusively of them. (4:4) These puzzled maligners, however, would have to render an account for their abusive words. They would have to face God’s appointed judge, Jesus Christ, who stands “ready to judge the living and the dead.” (4:5; compare John 5:22, 23; 2 Timothy 4:1; see the Notes section.)
On the basis of passages in books other than 1 Peter, the “dead” to whom the evangel was proclaimed may designate persons who were “dead” on account of being sinners and so facing the condemnation to which sin leads. On becoming believers, they ceased to be dead in trespasses and passed from a state of death into life. (John 5:24, 25; Ephesians 2:4, 5; Colossians 2:13; 1 John 3:14) Because all humans must give an account to the one who will be judging the living and the dead, those dead in sins were granted the opportunity to hear the glad tidings and to avail themselves of the divine provision to be judged favorably. “According to men,” they might be judged with reference “to the flesh, but, according to God, they might live to the spirit.” (4:6)
No one is specifically identified as doing the judging with reference “to the flesh.” It could be those who wrongly judge believers from the outward appearance, and so the judgment would be “according to men,” or would be based on faulty human evaluation. Many have understood the expression “according to men” to mean that the judgment of those to whom the good news was declared is like that of all other humans insofar as the flesh or the physical organism is concerned. They die. To live “according to God to the spirit” could mean to live as he would want believers to live, guided by his spirit and in harmony with his will. (4:6)
Among the various interpretations relating to the identity of the dead are those that are based on the belief that rational spirits of the dead were in Hades, either in the favorable position of “Abraham’s bosom” or in a place of torment. (See the consideration of Luke 16:19-31 at http://wernerbiblecommentary.org/?q=node/414.) There also have been those who equated the preaching to the dead to relate to that directed to the “spirits in prison” or to the spirits of those who perished in the flood. This view has little to commend it, for the word for “declare the evangel” in verse 6 of chapter 4 is a form of the verb euangelízo, which incorporates the noun meaning “evangel,” “good news,” or “glad tidings.” Good news was not proclaimed to the disobedient angels.
In verse 5, the mention of the dead applies to persons who are literally dead. For this reason, many believe that, in the next verse, one should likewise consider the reference to the dead to designate dead persons. This, however, is not necessarily the case. In John chapter 5, verses 24 and 25, Jesus spoke of those who passed from death to life upon heeding his word and believing the Father who had sent him. The “dead” who would hear Jesus’ words were living persons, but were dead in sin. Thereafter the Son of God commented about those who were actually in the tombs but would be resurrected. (John 5:28, 29)
Nevertheless, numerous translations convey meanings that indicate the preaching to have been to those who were actually dead or to believers who had died since hearing the good news about Christ. This application to the literal dead has also resulted in a variety of renderings about living “to the spirit.” (4:6)
“That’s why the good news was preached even to people who are now dead. Human judges said they were guilty as far as their bodies were concerned. But God set their spirits free to live as he wanted them to.” (NIRV) “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” (TNIV) “For also to the dead the message of salvation was declared. What they had done brought them — as to all humans — death. Their body had died, but God wanted that their spirit would live eternally.” (Denn auch den Toten ist die Botschaft der Rettung verkündet worden. Was sie getan hatten, brachte ihnen — wie allen Menschen — den Tod. Ihr Körper war gestorben, aber Gott wollte, dass ihr Geist ewig lebt. [German, Hoffung für Alle]). “Therefore the message was even preached to the deceased, so that, although their body was punished with death, they could nevertheless have eternal life in the spirit.” (Deshalb wurde die Botschaft sogar den Verstorbenen gepredigt, damit sie — obwohl ihr Körper mit dem Tod bestraft wurde — trotzdem im Geist ewiges Leben haben können. [German, Neues Leben]). “Therefore, it was namely also not in vain that the evangel was proclaimed to those of us who had died meanwhile. It was proclaimed to them, that now, according to God’s plan, they can lead a life in the spirit, even if they — as pertains to their earthly life — must die according to God’s judgment, as is the case with all humans.” (Deswegen war es nämlich auch nicht umsonst, dass denen von uns, die inzwischen gestorben sind, das Evangelium verkündet wurde. Es wurde ihnen verkündet, damit sie jetzt nach Gottes Plan ein Leben im Geist führen können, auch wenn sie — was ihr irdisches Leben betrifft — nach Gottes Urteil sterben mussten, wie das bei allen Menschen der Fall ist [German, Neue Genfer Übersetzung]).
Believers do not know just when Jesus Christ will return with power and splendor as King of kings and Lord of lords. So they need to live in expectation of the climax of the age and what that would mean for them. It is with a sense of immediacy and with confidence in the certainty of the coming “end of all things” that believers perceive this end as having drawn near. The realization that it could come at any time has a direct bearing on how they should be living their lives. They should be sensible, sound in mind, or use good judgment in conducting their affairs of life, maintaining their focus on being in an approved condition before God and Christ. This would require that they be diligent about working to care for their needs, not becoming idlers because of a distorted view about the nearness of the end. (4:7; compare 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12.)
Moreover, their living with the realization that the “end of all things has drawn near” would call for being sober, alert, watchful, or vigilant, not succumbing to a state of drowsiness when it comes to discharging their responsibilities as disciples of Jesus Christ. This would include responding compassionately to the needs of others. (4:7)
When believers live their lives in a manner that reflects sound judgment and sobriety or alertness, they are serious about praying because of recognizing their continued need for aid and guidance. A literal rendering of the admonition would be, “Be sensible, therefore, and be sober for prayers.” The expression “for prayers” (literally, “into prayers”) appears to denote that being sensible and sober or alert are prerequisites for acceptable prayer. (4:7) Translators have variously rendered the admonition. “Therefore to help you to pray you must lead self-controlled and sober lives.” (REB) “So think clearly and control yourselves so you will be able to pray.” (NCV) “So be serious and be sensible enough to pray.” (CEV) “You must be the boss over your mind. Keep awake so you can pray.” (NLB) “Therefore be sober-minded and temperate, so that you may give yourselves to prayer.” (Weymouth) “Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (NIV) “Therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.” (NRSV)
“Above all,” or of greatest importance, believers needed to have love for one another, a love that was not restricted but all-embracing and constant (ektenés). The Greek word ektenés conveys the thought of being earnest, fervent, or unwavering. Individually, believers are subject to human failings. So within the community of believers, all need to be forbearing and willing to forgive transgressions. Love makes this possible, “for love covers many sins.” When sins are forgiven, they are covered or completely banished from sight. (4:8; compare Proverbs 10:12.)
In Greek, the word for being hospitable (philóxenos) denotes having love or affection for strangers. So the hospitable person recognizes a stranger as someone in need of being welcomed and responds in a loving manner. Not infrequently believers suffered from persecution, being deprived of their homes and possessions. Other adversities also plunged individuals into poverty. Additionally, there were believers who traveled to different locations, often as representatives of congregations. Some were apostles of congregations, and others represented apostles. Fellow believers would open their homes to needy ones and those who came from other areas, providing them with food and lodging. For those who extended hospitality, this could have resulted in their being inconvenienced or experiencing a measure of stress. Therefore, believers were admonished to be hospitable “without grumbling,” not complaining about what might be perceived as an imposition or a burden. (4:9)
The community of believers is a household or a family of faith. Within that household, individuals have specific gifts or endowments. Each possessor of a gift is said to have received it. So the gift is an endowment from God. Its possessor had the obligation to use it to serve fellow members in the household of faith, doing so as would “good stewards of the varied favor of God.” The variety of gifts that God has granted are an expression of his gracious favor or unmerited kindness, and so the proper use of the specific gift would have been in keeping with the position of a steward, a servant entrusted with responsibilities to be discharged for the benefit of the household of which he himself was a member. (4:10)
If the gift proved to be “speaking,” teaching, encouraging, admonishing, or consoling, the speaking was to be done in a way that revealed God as its source. The individual should have spoken in a manner appropriate for one who was speaking the words of God and so functioning merely as his serviceable instrument. If one’s gift was to minister or to render service to fellow believers in response to their needs, this was to be done with full reliance on God to supply the essential strength for fulfilling the required tasks. (4:11)
In keeping with this admonition, the possessors of the gifts would have minimized their own role so that God might be “glorified in everything through Jesus Christ.” All the credit for activity that benefited the community of believers would have been given to God. This would have been done “through Jesus Christ,” for believers are his disciples and look to him for guidance and aid in discharging the trust that has been committed to them. The Father is the one who granted the capacity and the strength for individuals to serve. Rightly, then, to him is to be ascribed “the glory [honor or praise] and might [as the ultimate source of strength] for ever and ever [literally, ‘into the ages of the ages’]. Amen [So be it].” (4:11)
In the Greco-Roman world, numerous gods and goddesses were worshiped, and the established rituals associated with these deities did not result in persecution to those who engaged in them. Those who became disciples of Jesus Christ, however, found themselves in the position of persons who were no longer accepted in the community as they had been when they practiced their previous forms of worship. So it must have been puzzling to them that their having adopted a way of life that was based on love for others made them objects of hatred. Peter commented on this, directing his words to fellow believers as “beloved ones.” He told them not to consider it strange that a trial as by fire (literally, a “fire toward trial” or “test”) had occurred among them, that a “strange thing” had befallen them. (4:12)
Translators have variously rendered the expression “fire toward trial” as “fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you” (NRSV), “fiery ordeal which has come to test you” (REB), “fiery ordeals which come to test your faith” (J. B. Phillips), “terrible trouble which now comes to test you” (NCV), “testing that is like walking through fire” (CEV), and “a trial by fire” (NAB). The suffering of believers seemingly proved to be like a refiner’s fire that tested their faith in and devotion to God and Christ. Like the fire of a refiner, the distress and hardships served to purify them, contributing to their having a stronger faith, greater sympathy for others who suffer and a better understanding of their plight, and an enhanced appreciation of the importance of relying on God and Christ for strength to endure and for the help that comes to them by means of the holy spirit. Believers were suffering for what was right and good, making their painful ordeals seem strange to them. Still, the trials were to be expected, for they were living among those who were in a state of alienation from God. (4:12)
Instead of becoming despondent on account of the distress and hardship they were facing, believers could rejoice in being able to share in the “sufferings of the Christ.” This could mean that, by enduring affliction for living a life that honored God, they were undergoing the same kind of sufferings that Christ did and so were sharing with him in the same experience. Another possible meaning is that Christ regards the suffering of his disciples as his own, making the painful experiences of believers a participation in Christ’s suffering. The rejoicing of his disciples would be because of the honor associated with being a participant in his sufferings, the sufferings of their Lord who died for them. (4:13)
Faithful endurance of suffering for being devoted to God and Christ would also result in future rejoicing. At the “revelation of the glory” of the Son of God, his disciples would have reason to rejoice exultingly. This revelation designates the time when Jesus Christ is to return in all his glory or splendor as the King of kings and Lord of Lords and when believers are to be united with him, to enjoy a never-ending relationship with him and his Father as sinless persons. The realization of their God-given hope will then result in unparalleled rejoicing. (4:13)
In view of the honor of being able to share in the sufferings of the Christ and in the incomprehensibly great future joy at the time when he returns in glory, believers have good reason to consider themselves fortunate when they are reproached, reviled, maligned, or vilified for “the name of Christ.” They can be “happy” or experience an inner sense of joy and well-being because of suffering for his name, that is, for suffering because of being identified as belonging to him. Additionally, believers can have a sense of joy and well-being because, when they suffer for belonging to Christ, “the [spirit] of glory, the spirit of God” (or “God’s spirit of glory”) is resting upon them. While humans alienated from God treat them with contempt, persecuted believers are honored by having his spirit upon them, aiding them to endure and to manifest the patient endurance that brings praise to him and his Son. If they were not divinely approved, God’s spirit would not be upon them. So, with the spirit “of glory” resting upon them, they are identified as divinely approved and thus the reproach they bear is transformed into glory, splendor, honor, or dignity. (4:14)
In order to continue to have God’s spirit resting upon them, individual believers need to be determined not to suffer for the wrong reasons, for being a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler in the affairs of others (allotriepískopos). The Greek designation allortiepískopos is a compound that could mean an “overseer of what belongs to someone else” and so could apply to a busybody or a person who meddles in the affairs of others. Some have concluded that the Greek term here must denote a more serious wrong, one comparable to the others that are mentioned. Possibilities that have been suggested are “one who hides stolen property,” a “spy,” or an “informer.” Translators have variously rendered the Greek word as “intriguer” (NAB), “mischief maker” (NRSV), “informer” (NJB), “spy” (J. B. Phillips), “busybody” (CEV), and “meddling in other people’s business.” (REB) There is a possibility that “busybody” or “meddler” is the intended significance. Believers, based on what they had come to know about right conduct, may have been tempted to tell others how they should be running their affairs. Their doing so could easily have angered those who disapproved of their unsolicited advice or their censures, resulting in abusive or even violent responses. Regardless of how a particular word may be understood, the basic thought is that believers should not be conducting themselves in a manner that would merit disapproval or punishment. (4:15)
If, however, believers suffered as “Christians,” persons who belonged to Christ as his followers, they “should not be ashamed but glorify God in this name.” When subjected to suffering for belonging to Christ, believers glorify God or honor him by maintaining their faith and patiently enduring the affliction while relying on him to strengthen and sustain them by means of his spirit. There is no reason for shame because of being called “Christian” or being identified with Christ. While unbelievers may have used the designation when speaking contemptuously of believers, the believer, as a person to whom the name Christian was applied, could glorify or honor God. (4:16)
It appears that the suffering of believers is viewed as pointing to the certainty of deliverance for them, the deliverance or salvation being expressed in terms of imminence. Therefore, the “time for the judgment to begin with the house of God” seems to be spoken of as being at hand. Although not in the Greek text, the verb in the present tense is implied (“for [it is] the time”). Judgment can have both a favorable and an unfavorable outcome. For faithful members of the “house” or “household of God,” the time for judgment would be a time for being united with Christ as God’s approved children. Any among them who proved to be unfaithful would be judged adversely. Since the judgment first starts with believers, what would be the “end of those who disobey the evangel of God?” The “evangel of God” is the good news about Christ, and is the message that has God as the ultimate source. One’s disobeying the good news constitutes rejecting its source, God, and so merits his adverse judgment. Accordingly, for the disobedient ones, the end or outcome would be condemnation. (4:17)
Evidently because of the afflictions and hardships believers experience, they, as upright ones, are referred to as being saved with difficulty. Their ultimate salvation, complete deliverance from sin, requires vigorous exertion in conducting themselves in a divinely approved manner in whatever circumstances they might find themselves, always relying on God and Christ for strength to endure trials. This raises the question, “Where will the impious and sinner appear?” The answer to this rhetorical question is that godless ones and those who live a life of sin will not make a favorable appearance before God. (4:18; see Proverbs 11:31, where the identical thought is expressed in the Septuagint.)
In view of the certainty of the impartial judgment of all, suffering believers need to be concerned about enduring faithfully and continuing to conduct themselves in a divinely approved manner. To this end, they need God’s help. So, while experiencing suffering “according to the will of God,” or because he may permit it, the afflicted believers need to commit “their souls,” or themselves, to him, the “faithful Creator,” while continuing to do what is good. As the “faithful Creator,” God is completely dependable and will never fail to strengthen and sustain his people in their time of distress. Believers commit themselves to him when they confidently look to him for aid, continuing to petition him in faith to help them in their time of need and to avoid yielding to any desire to repay evil to those responsible for causing them pain. (4:19)
With reference to Christ’s suffering (in verse 1), numerous manuscripts add either “for us” or “for you.”
In verse 5, the one to whom the account is to be given is not specifically identified. There is a possibility that God is here being referred to as the ultimate judge who will be acting through his Son, the judge whom he has appointed.
Many manuscripts, in verse 14, add “and power” after “glory.” Then, at the end of this verse, numerous manuscripts add, “indeed according to them, he is blasphemed; but according to you, he is glorified.”
Elders, capable men by reason of their age, experience, and exemplary conduct, looked after the welfare of fellow believers and taught the word of God. Peter directed his admonition to them as a “fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ.” He thus identified himself as serving in the same capacity and as being fully aware of their weighty responsibilities. His calling attention to his having been a witness of Christ’s suffering added solemnity to the exhortation and would have reminded the elders that they also would undergo suffering as they ministered to fellow believers and might even face death for their faithful service. (5:1; see the Notes section.)
Peter spoke confidently about being a sharer in the “glory about to be revealed.” This revelation would occur when Jesus Christ returns as the King of kings and Lord of lords in glory or royal dignity. Not knowing just when this would be, Peter referred to it with a sense of immediacy, saying regarding it, “about to be revealed.” He did not doubt the certainty of Jesus Christ’s return. Sharing in Christ’s glory would mean being united with him as sinless members of his Father’s family of approved children. (5:1)
Peter then continued with the admonition directed to fellow elders. (5:1) Like faithful shepherds, elders were to care for the “flock of God,” looking out for the welfare of fellow believers. The believers in the various towns and cities of Asia Minor to whom Peter’s letter had been sent belonged to God, for they had been purchased with the priceless blood of his unique Son. This called for the elders to treat fellow believers as persons who were precious to God. (5:2; see the Notes section.)
In carrying out their function of oversight, they were not to do so as would persons who are forced to perform a task, but they were to do so “willingly” as would eager volunteers. Numerous manuscripts add, “according to God.” This may mean that the willing service of the elders would be performed in a manner that God approved. Translations that include a rendering for “according to God” variously read, “as God would have you do it” (NRSV), “in order to please God” (CEV), and “as God would have it” (NAB, REB). In the community of believers, elders were to guard against using their position for “dishonest gain.” The Greek adverb aischrokerdós is descriptive of someone who would be shamelessly greedy for gain or material profit. A desire for such gain would be the very opposite of what the apostle Paul said to fellow elders about his own service, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions.” (Acts 20:33, 34, NRSV) Instead of seeking gain, elders were to minister to the needs of others eagerly. Exemplary elders would be givers, not takers. They would be deeply concerned about the welfare of fellow believers. (5:2)
The community of believers is referred to as “portions” (the plural of kléros). This could mean that the “flock of God” as a whole is considered as consisting of parts or portions in the various towns and cities where believers lived, and that the elders in those respective places had a portion or an allotment of the flock to care for. The term kléros has been rendered “those allotted to your charge” (NASB), “people you are responsible for” (NCV), “sphere of responsibility” (Verantwortungsbereich, German Gute Nachricht Bibel), “assigned portion” (Zugewiesene, Schlachter’s German translation). Elders were not to lord over those whom they served, assuming the role of masters over them and issuing commands, but they were to lead by being examples to God’s flock. (5:3; see the Notes section.)
The “chief shepherd” is Jesus Christ. At the time he appears or returns as the highly exalted King and Judge, elders who had faithfully served in looking after the welfare of fellow believers would receive the “unfading crown of glory.” This “crown” would denote Christ’s approval for their having discharged their responsibilities in faithfulness. They, like other devoted believers, would be rewarded with the enjoyment of life in the sinless state and share in all the divinely promised benefits and blessings. Unlike the victory wreaths consisting of leaves and with which athletes were crowned, the crown faithful elders would receive does not fade or wilt. They would be granted Christ’s approval and eternal life, the real life distinguished by the enjoyment of a never-ending relationship with him and his Father. (5:4)
The introductory “likewise” (homoíos) resumes the previous discussion about subjection. Just as subjection was involved in the relationship of believers to governmental authority, house servants to their masters, wives to their husbands, so younger men were to submit to older men, showing respect for them (as they would their own fathers) and listening to their sound admonition. (1 Timothy 5:1) The Greek term for those who served as elders in the community of believers and for older men is the same. The specific reference to “younger men” would suggest that the older men were older ones in the common sense of the word. (5:5)
Peter followed up his exhortation to younger men with admonition applicable to all believers. As part of the family of God’s beloved children, all believers should clothe (enkombóomai) themselves with humility or lowliness. The Greek term enkombóomai is a compound that includes the word kómbos, meaning “band,” and so refers to something that one ties on. With humility fastened to themselves, believers would be willing to serve one another, doing everything possible to respond to needs. Thus they would be conducting themselves in harmony with Proverbs 3:34 (LXX), God “opposes the haughty, but grants favor to the lowly.” To extend his gracious favor or his unmerited kindness, which includes his aid and guidance, God turns his attention to the lowly who seek his help and who are willing to serve others. He stands in opposition to all who arrogantly lift themselves above others and want to dominate and to be served. (5:5)
“Therefore,” or because God opposes the haughty, believers should want to humble themselves under his “mighty hand.” This would mean submitting to whatever may take place by his permission, manifesting patience when experiencing distress or hardship. Then the very “hand” under which believers humble themselves will, “in time,” exalt them. Exaltation would include being honored as God’s approved servants who have faithfully endured trials. (5:6; see the Notes section.)
When faced with affliction or hardships, believers need to cast their “anxiety,” care, or concern on God, not giving in to unsettling worry but trusting in his loving concern and the strengthening aid he provides by means of his spirit. Never will our heavenly Father fail to sustain and strengthen us in our times of difficulty, for he cares for us. (5:7)
Committing one’s concerns and cares to God does not mean becoming complacent or indifferent, but involves active cooperation with the guidance he provides through his spirit. This is essential because the adversary, the devil, is prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking victims. So there continues to be a need for one to be “sober” or alert and “vigilant” or watchful, not permitting the adversary to find an opening for leading one into a path contrary to God’s will. (5:8; see the Notes section.)
Believers need to resist the devil, remaining firm in the faith. This requires that they not give in to any doubts about God’s love and concern for them and his desire to sustain and strengthen them by means of his spirit. Peter reminded those to whom he wrote to recognize that the entire community of believers, the whole “brotherhood” in the world, experienced the “same sufferings.” All the other believers faced affliction on account of being disciples of Jesus Christ. They suffered for the right reasons. The awareness that their circumstances were not unique would have aided believers in Asia Minor to remain loyal to God and Christ, confident that they would be divinely aided to endure whatever trials might come their way. (5:9)
All suffering would prove to be temporary. Especially in relation to eternity, the time of distress would be but a “little while.” The “God of all favor, who called [believers] to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus” would “restore [katartízo], support [sterízo], strengthen [sthenóo], and establish [themelióo] them after the short time of suffering had passed. (5:10; see the Notes section.)
The heavenly Father is the “God of all favor,” for he is the source of all the gracious favor or unmerited kindness in the form of guidance and aid that believers need. The greatest expression of his gracious favor was sending his Son to the earth, making it possible for humans to be forgiven of their sins and reconciled to him as beloved children. God did the calling or inviting through the proclamation of the good news about his Son, which message included how humans can become his approved children. Believers were called to be sharers in “his eternal glory.” This glory would be enjoyed in the never-ending sinless state as persons perfectly reflecting the image of God, or the glorious person who he is in love, justice, and all his other admirable attributes. The “glory” is “in Christ Jesus,” for it is by coming to be at one with him that believers become sharers in it. (5:10)
God will cause all the suffering that believers may experience to work out for their good. The Greek word katartízo can mean “restore,” “make complete,” or “prepare.” In this context, it could relate to being restored or made whole as would be a person who is trained to function well for a particular purpose. Sterízo conveys the sense of supporting, confirming, establishing, or making firm or unmovable. Sthenóo denotes “to make strong” or “to strengthen.” In its basic sense, themelióo relates to laying a foundation and so can refer to establishing or providing a sure basis. All four Greek terms make it clear that God will act to aid believers to be fully approved after all their trials have passed. (5:10)
Restoring or making whole, supporting or making firm, strengthening, and establishing require power or might. God is the ultimate source of strength, and it is ascribed to him in the prayerful expression, “To him [be] the might forever [literally, ‘into the ages’]. Amen [So be it].” (5:11; see the Notes section.)
Peter did not personally write the letter. He did so “through Silvanus the faithful brother.” Silvanus is the same as Silas, the Christian prophet who accompanied the apostle Paul. This was after Paul and Barnabas parted ways subsequent to a dispute about having Mark as a traveling companion. (Acts 15:22-40; 18:5; 2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1) Like Paul, Silvanus (Silas) was a Roman citizen. (Acts 16:19-37) Peter’s considering Silvanus as a “faithful brother” may be understood to mean that he regarded him as completely trustworthy or dependable. Another possibility would be that Silvanus was a man of faith, fully devoted to God and Christ. (5:12)
The letter is comparatively short, and Peter spoke of having written through Silvanus “through few,” that is, with a few words or with a few lines. Peter expressed his purpose for writing to have been to provide encouragement, consolation, or exhortation and to testify that “this is the true favor of God, in which [believers should] stand.” The reference to “this” being “the true favor of God” may be variously understood. If the “this” relates specifically to the letter, it could apply to the matters about which he wrote and which were designed to encourage and strengthen them to endure their suffering in faithfulness to the end. Another possibility is that the affliction believers were experiencing constituted an expression of God’s true favor because of the benefits that would follow. It could also be that the focus is on the message that had been proclaimed to them about Jesus Christ and the significance of his sacrificial death, and that Peter added his confirmatory witness to this incomprehensibly great expression of God’s true favor. It is in the true favor of God that believers needed to stand firmly, not wavering in their confidence in his love and concern for them. (5:12)
The letter closes with greetings from “the [one] in Babylon, a fellow chosen [one], and Mark,” whom Peter called “my son.” The “fellow chosen one” in Babylon is in the feminine gender, and this is why some have thought Peter was speaking of his wife, but this would be a very unusual way of including his wife’s greetings and does not seem to be a likely explanation. The one in Babylon is generally understood to mean the community of believers, which community (in a collective sense) would be a fellow chosen one (called by God to be his own). Many translations make this significance explicit (“greetings from your sister church in Babylon” [REB]; “greetings from the Lord’s followers in Babylon” [CEV]; “the church in Babylon, who was chosen like you” [NCV]). In view of his close association with the younger man Mark (the cousin of Barnabas and the son of Mary who had a home in Jerusalem), Peter referred to him affectionately as “my son.” (5:13; Acts 12:12; Colossians 4:10; see the Notes section and the introductory material for 1 Peter about the identity of Babylon.)
The kiss with which believers were to greet one another is, according to many manuscripts, a “kiss of love” or a “loving kiss.” This kiss would be an expression of their love for one another as members of the same family of God’s children. (5:14; see the Notes section.)
“Peace” is the sense of calmness and tranquility that comes from knowing that one can rest assured of divine compassionate care, concern, and aid. The letter concludes with the prayerful wish that “all” who are “in Christ,” or at one with him as members of his body, have this peace. (5:14; see the Notes section.)
In verse 1, numerous manuscripts include “therefore” (oun) after “elders.” The connection with the preceding discussion is not readily apparent. Possibly the thought is that elders need to keep in mind their accountability to God and Christ when carrying out their responsibilities. As members of God’s household, they are included among those with whom the judgment begins. (4:17)
In verse 2, the Greek verb for “overseeing” (a form of episkopéo) is missing in fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and a number of other manuscripts.
All of verse 3 is missing in fourth-century Codex Vaticanus.
Numerous manuscripts (in verse 6) add episkopés after “time,” thus identifying the time as being one for visitation.
With reference to what the devil is seeking (verse 8), manuscript readings differ (“someone to devour”; “whom he should devour”; “to devour”). According to studies of lions conducted in recent years, one reason male lions roar is to identify ownership of their territory, and they will aggressively confront, drive out, or attack any intruding roaring male challenger. So a roaring lion can be a potential threat, and that is always true of the adversary, the devil.
In verse 10, the object of the call is either “you” or “us,” depending on which manuscript reading is being followed. The reading “you” has the best manuscript support. Also in verse 10, numerous manuscripts do not include “Jesus” after “Christ.” Another variant in this verse is the omission of either sthenósei (“strengthen”) or themeliósei (“found” or “establish”).
In verse 11, numerous manuscripts include the word dóxa (“glory”) before or after krátos (“might”). While some manuscripts, including P72 (c. 300 CE) and fourth century Codex Vaticanus, read “into the ages” or “forever,” many other manuscripts read “into the ages of the ages” or “forever and ever.”
In verse 13, one eleventh-century manuscript (2138) and a few others read “Rome” instead of “Babylon,” reflecting an interpretive scribal alteration.
Instead of “kiss of love” (in verse 14), a few later manuscripts read “holy kiss.”
The concluding prayerful expression that starts with “peace” is missing in P72 (c. 300 CE). “Amen” (“so be it”) appears at the conclusion of many manuscripts.