“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythynia,” 1 Peter 1:1
Prior to the previous century, there was little debate as to the author of this epistle. But then, that could be said about most of the books of the Bible. Before the surge of liberal thinking, most accepted an author’s identity as valid by its placement in the text. Here, for example, the first words of the letter are, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Today, at least three reasons are presented to challenge his authorship. First, someone named Silvanus addresses the readers in the closing verses of the letter. Second, it is argued that the language is too elegant for an unschooled fisherman. Third, the letter’s recipients are inhabitants of Gentile cities whereas Peter’s primary ministry was to the Jews.
The ever-growing attempt to render the Bible as errant and insufficient seems to always side-step a rational approach of interpretation. Can the introduction to the letter be left intact and account for these supposed contentions? Here are possible responses to each. First, it was common for the New Testament letters to be dictated by one party and then written by another. Paul is one example. Second, in copying Peter’s dictation, this Silvanus may have been well-educated to explain the elegant use of language. A better explanation may be that Peter, while a fisherman without formal education, was not unintelligent. There is more than a semblance of intellect in his sermon at Pentecost. Nor can it be dismissed that with the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter is empowered to do things he could not do before. Third, Peter is addressing Jewish believers in these Gentile cities. These are of the Diaspora (exiles of the dispersion). He is writing to those who have fled Jerusalem due to the great persecution by the Emperor of Rome.
A much more efficient method (as Christians) of determining authorship of the letter is to examine the available internal and external evidences. Here is where liberal theology has mucked things up without warrant.
A believer’s view of Scripture determines how it will be interpreted. What I mean is, until recent history, it was a given that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. Scripture was written by men who were moved along by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if the Bible is the Word of God, the internal evidence identifies Peter as the author.
Then, by external evidence, we mean extra-biblical sources. The Church Fathers, those who immediately followed the apostles in the leadership of the early church, unanimously supported Peter’s authorship.
Peter’s first letter is addressed to the “elect exiles of the dispersion.” The Emperor, Claudius, had brought severe persecution against the Jews in Jerusalem. Jesus had warned of this day in Matthew chapter 24. The Jews (believers who listened to Jesus’ instruction) had fled from Israel. The term, “exile,” or “pilgrim,” was a common description of Jews living outside of Israel.
So here is Peter beginning a letter to fellow believers in Jesus Christ. The same Peter who walked on water, made the great confession, and delivered one of the greatest sermons ever preached (Pentecost). The same Peter who spoke on behalf of Satan, and denied his Lord. The same Peter, whose fellowship was restored by the Sea, will now encourage and instruct a persecuted and desperate people to have hope because they are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.”