|Noah Webster's Dictionary|
(n.) The act of discomfiting, or the state of being discomfited; rout; overthrow; defeat; frustration; confusion and dejection.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
dis-kum'-fit, dis-kum'-fi-tur (hum, mehumah): These words are now obsolete or at least obsolescent and are confined in Biblical literature wholly to the Old Testament. The meaning in general is "to annoy," "harass," "confuse," "rout" and "destroy." The most common usage is that based upon the root meaning, "to trouble" or "annoy," sometimes to the point of destruction (Joshua 10:10 Judges 4:15 1 Samuel 7:10 2 Samuel 22:15).
The King James Version errs in the translation in Isaiah 31:8, where the meaning is obviously "to become subject to task work" or "to place a burden upon one." There seems also to be an unwarranted use of the word in Numbers 14:45, where it means rather "to bruise" or "strike." The purest use is perhaps in 1 Samuel 14:20, where the statement is made that "every man's sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture."
Walter G. Clippinger
PETER, THE FIRST EPISTLE OF
I. CANONICITY OF 1 PETER
1. External Evidence
2. Internal Evidence
II. THE ADDRESS
III. PLACE AND TIME OF COMPOSITION
1. Babylon: Which?
2. Babylon Not Rome
2. Example of Christ
3. Relation to State
V. CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES OF THE EPISTLE
1. Freedom in Structure
4. Testimony of Prophets
(2) Spirit of Christ
(3) Prophetic Study
5. The Christian Brotherhood
6. Spirits in Prison
Simon Peter was a native of Galilee. He was brought to the Saviour early in His ministry by his brother Andrew (John 1:40, 41). His call to the office of apostle is recorded in Matthew 10:1-4 Mark 3:13-16.
He occupied a distinguished place among the Lord's disciples. In the four lists of the apostles found in the New Testament his name stands first (Matthew 10:2-4 Mark 3:16-19 Luke 6:14-16 Acts 1:13). He is the chief figure in the first twelve chapters of the Acts. It is Peter that preaches the first Christian sermon (Acts 2), he that opens the door of the gospel to the Gentileworld in the house of the Roman soldier, Cornelius, and has the exquisite delight of witnessing scenes closely akin to those of Pentecost at Jerusalem (Acts 10:44-47). It was given him to pronounce the solemn sentence on the guilty pair, Ananias and Sapphira, and to rebuke in the power of the Spirit the profane Simon Magus (Acts 5:1-11; Acts 8:18-23). In these and the like instances Peter exhibited the authority with which Christ had invested him (Matthew 16:19)-an authority bestowed upon all the disciples (John 20:22, 23)-the power to bind and to loose.
Two Epistles are ascribed to Peter. Of the Second doubt and uncertainty have existed from the early ages to the present. The genuineness and authenticity of the First are above suspicion.
I. Canonicity of 1 Peter.
1. External Evidence:
The proof of its integrity and trustworthiness is ample and altogether satisfactory. It falls into parts: external and internal. The historical attestation to its authority as an apostolic document is abundant. Polycarp, disciple of the apostle John, martyed in 156 A.D. at 86 or more years of age, refers to the Epistle in unmistakable terms. Irenaeus, a man who may well be said to represent both the East and the West, who was a disciple of Polycarp, quotes it copiously, we are assured. Clement of Alexandria, born circa 150 A.D., died circa 216 A.D., cites it many times in his Stromata, one passage (1 Peter 4:8) being quoted five times by actual count. "The testimony of the early-church is summed up by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, xxiii, 3). He places it among those writings about which no question was ever raised, no doubt ever entertained by any portion of the catholic church" (Professor Lumby in Bible Comm.).
2. Internal Evidence:
The internal evidence in favor of the Epistle is as conclusive as the external. The writer is well acquainted with our Lord's teaching, and he makes use of it to illustrate and enforce his own. The references he makes to that teaching are many, and they include the four Gospels. He is familiar likewise with the Epistles, particularly James, Romans, and Ephesians. But what is especially noteworthy is the fact that 1 Peter in thought and language stands in close relation with the apostle's discourses as recorded in Acts. By comparing 1 Peter 1:17 with Acts 10:34 1 Peter 1:21 with Acts 2:32-36 and 10:40, 41; 1 Peter 2:7, 8 with Acts 4:10, 11 1 Peter 2:17 with Acts 10:28, and 1 Peter 3:18 with Acts 3:14, one will perceive how close the parallel between the two is. The inference from these facts appears legitimate, namely, 1 Peter in diction and thought belongs to the same period of time and moves in the same circle of truth as do the other writings of the New Testament. The writer was an apostle, and he was Simon Peter.
II. The Address.
Peter writes to the "elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion." James employs the term "Dispersion" to designate believing Hebrews of the Twelve Tribes who lived outside the land (James 1:1). The Jews included in it the whole body of Israelites scattered among the Gentilenations (John 7:35). But we must not conclude from this that the Epistle is directed to Christian Jews alone. Gentile believers are by no means excluded, as 1 Peter 1:14, 18, 20; 1 Peter 2:10; 1 Peter 3:6; 1 Peter 4:3, 4 abundantly attest. Indeed, the Gentile element in the churches of Asia Minor largely predominated at the time. The term "sojourners" represents a people away from home, strangers in a strange land; the word is translated "pilgrims" in 2:11 and Hebrews 11:13 NAME? Galatians 2:7, 8), he did not neglect the more numerous Gentileconverts, and to these he speaks as earnestly as to the others; and these also were "sojourners."
Three of the four provinces Peter mentions, namely, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Asia, had representatives at the memorable Pentecost in Jerua (Acts 2:9 1 Peter 1:1). Many of these "sojourners of the Dispersion" may have believed the message of the apostle and accepted salvation through Jesus Christ, and returned home to tell the good news to their neighbors and friends. This would form a strong bond of union between them and Peter, and would open the way for him to address them in the familiar and tender manner of the Epistle.
Silvanus appears to have been the bearer of the letter to the Christians of Asia Minor: "By Silvanus, our faithful brother, as I account him, I have written unto you briefly" (1 Peter 5:12). It is an assumption to assert from these words that Silvanus was employed in the composition of the letter. The statement denotes rather the bearer than the writer or secretary. Silvanus was Paul's companion in the ministry to the Asiatic churches, and since we do not read of him as going with Paul to Jerusalem or to Rome, it is probable he returned from Corinth (Acts 18:5) to Asia Minor and labored there. He and Peter met, where no one knows, though not a few think in Rome; as likely a guess perhaps is in Palestine. At any rate, Silvanus gave Peter an account of the conditions in the provinces, the afflictions and persecutions of believers, and the deep need they had for sympathy and counsel. He would, accordingly, be of the greatest assistance to the apostle. This seems to account for the peculiarity of language which Peter uses: "By Silvanus, our faithful brother, I have written unto you," as if he had some share in furnishing the contents of the Epistle.
III. Place and Time of Composition.
1. Babylon: Which?:
According to 1 Peter 5:13 the Epistle was written in Babylon. But what place is meant? Two cities having this name were known in apostolic times. One was in Egypt, probably on or near the present site of Cairo, and we are told that it was a "city of no small importance." Epiphanius calls it "great Babylon" (Zahn). The absence, however, of all tradition that would tend to identify this place with the Babylon of the Epistle seems to shut it out of the problem. Babylon on the Euphrates is regarded by many as the place here designated. Jews in considerable numbers still dwelt in Babylon, notwithstanding the massacre of thousands in the reign of Claudius and the flight of multitudes into other countries. There is much to be said in favor of this city as the place meant, and yet the absence of tradition in its support is a very serious difficulty. A third view regards it as symbolical of Rome. Roman Catholics thus interpret it, and not a few Protestants so understand it. Tradition which runs back into the first half of the 2nd century appears to favor it, though much uncertainty and obscurity still surround the earliest ages of our era, in spite of the unwearied researches of modern scholars. Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, who lived in the first half of the 2nd century, appears to have had no doubt that Peter was martyred in Rome, and that the Babylon of the Epistle designates the Imperial City. There are very serious objections to this interpretation. One is, that it is totally out of keeping with Peter's manner of writing. Preeminently he is direct and matter-of-fact in his style. The metaphorical language he employs is mostly drawn from the Old Testament, or, if from himself, it is so common of use as to be well understood by all readers. It is altogether improbable that this man, plain of speech almost to bluntness, should interject in the midst of his personal explanations and final salutations such a mystical epithet with no hint of what he means by it, or why he employs such a mode of speech.
2. Babylon Not Rome:
Besides, there is no evidence that Rome was called Babylon by the Christians until the Book of Revelation was published, i.e. circa 90-96 A.D. But if 1 Peter is dependent on the Apocalypse for this name of Babylon as Rome, Peter could not have been its author, for he died years before that date. The Epistle was written about 64 A.D., at the time when persecutions under the infamous Nero were raging, at which time also the apostle himself bore his witness and went to his heavenly home, even as his Master had forewarned him (John 21:18, 19). While not unmindful of the great difficulties that beset the view, nevertheless we are reclined to the opinion that the Babylon of 1 Peter 5:13 is the ancient city on the Euphrates.
The apostle had more than one object in view when he addressed the "elect" in Asia Minor. The Lord Jesus had charged him, "Feed my lambs" "Tend my sheep"-"Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). His two Epistles certify how faithfully he obeyed the charge. With loving and tender hand he feeds the lambs and tends the whole flock, warns against foes, guards from danger, and leads them into green pastures and beside still waters. He reminds them of the glorious inheritance they are to possess (1 Peter 1:3-9); he exhorts them to walk in the footsteps of the uncomplaining Christ (1 Peter 2:20-25); to be compassionate, loving, tender-hearted, humble-minded, and circumspect in their passage through this unfriendly world (1 Peter 3:8-12). He sums up the main duties of Christian life in the short but pregnant sentences, "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17). But his supreme object is to comfort and encourage them amid the persecutions and the sufferings to which they were unjustly subjected, and to fortify them against the heavier trials that were impending.
From the beginning the Christian church was the object of suspicion and of hatred, and many of its adherents had suffered even unto death at the hands of both hostile Jews and fanatical Gentiles. But these afflictions were generally local and sporadic. There were churches of large membership and wide influence which were unmolested (1 Corinthians 4:8-10), and which seem to have been able to get fair treatment in heathen courts (1 Corinthians 6:1-6). But the condition brought to view in 1 Peter is altogether different. Trials and afflictions of the severest sort assail them, and an enmity and hostility, bent on their destruction, pursue them with tireless energy. The whole Christian body shared in the persecutions (5:9). The trial was a surprise (4:12), both in its intensity, for Peter calls it "fiery," and for its unexpectedness. The apostle represents it as a savage beast of prey, a roaring lion, prowling about them to seize and devour (5:8, 9).
A variety of charges were brought against the Christians, but they were calumnies and slanders, without any foundation in fact. They were spoken against as evil-doers (1 Peter 2:12 kakopoion; malefici, Tacitus calls them). Their adversaries railed against them (1 Peter 3:9); reviled them (1 Peter 3:16); spake evil of them (1 Peter 4:4); reproached them for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:14). These are ugly epithets. They show how bitter was the hatred and how intense the hostility felt by the heathen toward the Christians who dwelt among them. If there had been any justification for such antagonism in the character and the conduct of Christ's people, if they were evil-doers, "haters of the human race," to be classed with thieves and murderers and meddlers in other men's matters (1 Peter 4:14-16), as they were accused of being and doing, we could understand the fierce opposition which assailed them and the savage purpose to suppress them altogether, but the only ground for the enmity felt against them was the refusal of the Christians to join their heathen neighbors in their idolatries, their feasts, winebibbings, revelings, carousings, lasciviousness and lusts in which once they freely shared (1 Peter 4:2-4). The Asian saints had renounced all such wicked practices, had separated themselves from their old companions in riotous living and revolting debaucheries; they were witnesses against their immoralities, and hence, became the objects of intense dislike and persecuting animosity. Peter bears testimony to the high character, the purity of life and the self-sacrificing devotion of these believers. In all Asia Minor no better company of men and women could be found than these disciples of Jesus Christ; none more submissive to constituted authority, none more ready to help their fellow-men in their distress and trouble. The head and front of their offending was their separation from the ungodly world about them, and their solemn witness against the awful sins done daily before their eyes.
2. Example of Christ:
How mightily does the apostle minister to his suffering friends! He bids them remember the uncomplaining Christ when He was unjustly afflicted by cruel men (1 Peter 2:19-25). He tells them how they may effectively put to silence their accusers, and refute the calumnies and the slanders that are so cruelly circulated against them, namely, by living such pure and godly lives, by being so meek, docile, patient, stedfast, true and faithful to God, that none can credit the false accusations (1 Peter 2:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-17; 3:8, 9, 13-17; 5:6-11).
3. Relation to State:
There is little or no evidence in the Epistle that the persecutions were inflicted by imperial authority or that the state was dealing with the Christians as enemies who were dangerous to the peace of society. In the provinces to which the letter was sent there seems to have been complete absence of formal trial and punishment through the courts. Peter does not speak of Iegal proceedings against the Christians by the magistrates. On the contrary, he urges them to be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well (1 Peter 2:13). They are to honor all men, to honor the king (1 Peter 2:17). This submission would scarcely be pressed if the state had already proscribed Christianity and decreed its total suppression. This the imperial government did later on, but there is no evidence furnished by the apostle that in 64 A.D.-the date of the Epistle-the government formally denounced Christians and determined to annihilate them.
Peter exhorts his fellow-believers to silence their persecutors by their upright conduct (1 Peter 2:15); they are thus to put them to shame who falsely accuse them (1 Peter 3:16); and they are not to combat evil with evil nor answer reviling with reviling, but contrariwise with blessing (1 Peter 3:9). The antagonism here indicated obviously springs from the heathen populace; there is no hint of arraignment before magistrates or subjection to legal proceedings. It is unbelievers who revile and slander and denounce the people of God in the provinces.
Everything in the Epistle points to the time of Nero, 64 A.D., and not to the time of Domitian or Trajan, or even Titus. In Rome vast multitudes of Christians were put to death in the most brutal fashion, so Tacitus relates, but the historian asserts that there was a sinister report to the effect that Nero himself instigated the burning of the city (July 19, 64), and "he (Nero) falsely diverted the charge on to a set of people to whom the vulgar gave the name of Christians (or Chrestians), and who were detested for the abominations which they perpetrated." SeeNERO. Certain facts are clear from Tacitus' statements, namely, that at the time the Christians were well known as a distinct sect; and that they were subjected to the dreadful sufferings inflicted upon them because they were Christians; and the persecutions at the time were instigated by the fear and the brutality of the tyrant. Peter likewise recognizes the fact that believers were disliked and calumniated by their heathen neighbors for the same reason-they were Christians: "If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye" (1 Peter 4:14); "But if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name" (1 Peter 4:16). But the imperial government at the time does not appear to have taken formal action for the overthrow of Christianity as a system inimical to the empire. Of course, where direct charges of a criminal nature were made against Christians, judicial inquiry into them would be instituted. But in the Epistle what believers had to endure and suffer were the detraction, the vituperation, the opprobrium and the vile and malignant slanders with which the heathen assailed them.
V. Characteristic Features of the Epistle.
It has certain very distinct marks, some of which may be noticed.
1. Freedom in Structure:
It does not observe a close logical sequence in its structure, as those of Paul so prominently display. There is truth in Dean Alford's statement, although perhaps he pushes it rather far: "The link between one idea and another is found, not in any progress of unfolding thought or argument, but in the last word of the foregoing sentence which is taken up and followed out in the new one" (see 1 Peter 1:5, 6, 7, 9, 10, etc.). This peculiarity, however, does not interfere with the unity of the epistle, it rather adds to it, and it gives to it a vividness which it otherwise might not possess.
It is the epistle of hope. How much it makes of this prime grace! Peter seems never to grow weary of describing it and exalting its radiant beauty and desirableness. He calls it a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). It is born by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and it calmly awaits the glorious inheritance that soon will be enjoyed. It is a hope that will be perfected at the advent of Christ (1 Peter 1:13), and it is set on God, hence, cannot fail (1 Peter 1:21). With sickly, dying hope we are quite familiar. The device which a certain state (South Carolina) has inscribed on its Great Seal is, dum spiro spero ("while I live I hope"). Such a hope may serve for a commonwealth whose existence is limited to this world, but a man needs something more enduring, something imperishable. "It is a fearful thing when a man and his hopes die together" (Leighton). A Christian can confidently write, "when I am dying I hope," for his is a living hope that fills and thrills the future with a blessed reality.
The Christian's glorious inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5) is depicted in one of the most comprehensive and suggestive descriptions of the believer's heritage found in the Bible. It is declared to be "incorruptible." The word points to its substance. It is imperishable. In it there is no element of decay. It holds in its heart no germ of death. Like its author, the living God, it is unchangeable and eternal. It is "undefiled." It is not stained by sin nor polluted by crime, either in its acquisition or its possession. Human heritages generally are marred by human wrongs. There is hardly an acre of soil that is not tainted by fraud or violence. The coin that passes from hand to hand is in many instances soiled by guilt. But this of Peter is absolutely pure and holy. It "fadeth not away." It never withers. Ages do not impair its beauty or dim its luster. Its bloom will remain fresh, its fragrance undiminished, forever. Thus our inheritance "is glorious in these respects: it is in its substance, incorruptible: in its purity, undefiled: in beauty, unfading" (Alford).
Now why does the apostle in the very opening of his Epistle give so lofty a place to the saints' inheritance? He does so in order to comfort and encourage his fellow-believers with the consolations of the Lord Himself, that they may bear stedfastly their manifold sufferings and triumph over their weighty afflictions. Hence, he writes: "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith.... may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-9). He lifts their thoughts and their gaze up far above the troubles and distresses around them to Him whose they are, whom they serve, who will by and by crown them with immortal bliss.
4. Testimony of Prophets:
The prophets and their study are described in 1 Peter 1:10, 11: "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you," etc. With Peter and his fellow-apostles the testimony of the prophets was authoritative and final. Where they had a clear word from the Old Testament Scriptures, they felt that every question was settled and controversy was at an end.
The burden of the prophetic communications was salvation. The prophets spoke on many subjects; they had to exhort, rebuke and entreat their wayward contemporaries; to denounce sin, to announce judgment on the guilty and to recall them to repentance and reformation. But ever and anon their vision was filled with the future and its blessedness, their voices would swell with rapture as they saw and foretold the great salvation to be brought to the world and the grace that would then so copiously go out unto men; for the Messiah was to appear and to suffer, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
(2) Spirit of Christ.
The prophet's messages were the messages of the Spirit of Christ. It was He who testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow. The prophets always disclaim any part in the origination of their messages. They affirm in the most positive and solemn manner that their predictions are not their own, but God's. Hence, they are called the Lord's "spokesmen," the Lord's "mouth" (Exodus 4:15, 16; Exodus 7:1, 2 2 Peter 1:21).
(3) Prophetic Study.
They "sought and searched diligently." These terms are strong and emphatic. They pored over the predictions which the Spirit had revealed through themselves; they scrutinized them with eager and prolonged inquiry. Two points engaged their attention: "What time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto." The first "what" relates to the time of the Messiah's advent; the second "what" to the events and circumstances which would attend His appearing-a fruitful theme, one that engages the inquiry of nobler students-"which things angels desire to look into."
5. The Christian Brotherhood:
The Christian brotherhood is described in 1 Peter 2:9, 10: "But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." The brotherhood is the new Israel. The apostle describes it in terms which were applied to the old Israel, but which include more than the ancient Israel ever realized. The exalted conception is by one who was a strict Jew, the apostle of the circumcision, and who held somewhat closely to the Mosaic institutions to the end of his life. All the more significant on this account is his testimony. The descriptive titles which he here gathers together and places on the brow of the Christian brotherhood are of the most illustrious sort. A distinguished man, a noble, a general, a statesman, will sometimes appear in public with his breast covered with resplendent decorations which mark his rank or his achievements. But such distinctions sink into insignificance alongside of this dazzling cluster. This is the heavenly nobility, the royal family of the Lord of glory, decorated with badges brighter far than ever glittered on the breast of king or emperor. But even in this instance Peter reminds Christians of the glorious destiny awaiting them that they may be strengthened and stimulated to stedfastness and loyalty in the midst of the trials and afflictions to which they are subjected (1 Peter 2:11, 12)
6. Spirits in Prison:
A study of 1 Peter 3:18-20 -"preached unto the spirits in prison"-should here follow in the present cursory review of the characteristic features of the Epistle, but anything like an adequate examination of this difficult passage would require more space than could be given it. Suf 1 Peter 3:19 is in all probability correct, according to which a preaching of Christ at the time of the Flood is referred to, i.e. a preaching through Noah, so that Noah is here represented as a preacher of righteousness, as in 2 Peter 2:5."
SeePRISON, SPIRITS IN.
A very general analysis of the Epistle is the following:
(1) Christian privileges, 1 Peter 1-2:10.
(2) Christian duties, 1 Peter 2:11-4:11.
(3) Persecutions and trials, 1 Peter 4:12-5:11.
(4) Personal matters and salutations, 1 Peter 5:12-14.
The chief doctrines of Christianity are found in 1 Peter. The vicarious suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ (2:24; 3:18); the new birth (1:3, 13); redemption by the blood of Christ (1:18, 19), faith, hope, patient endurance under unjust suffering, and holiness of life, are all pressed upon Christians with great earnestness and force.
Bible Dicts., DB, HDB, Davis, DB, EB, Sch-Herz, volume VIII; Intros: Westcott, Salmon, Zahn; Vincent, Word Studies; Commentaries: Bible Commentary, Cambridge Bible for Schools; Lillie, Jameson, Fausett and Brown, Alford, Bigg, Mayor (on 2 Peter), Johnstone (homiletical), New York, 1888; Hort, 1 Peter 1:1-2:17, New York, 1898.
William G. Moorehead
PETER, THE SECOND EPISTLE OF
I. EXTERNAL EVIDENCE IN FAVOR OF ITS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
1. Ancient Opinion
2. Modern Opinion
3. Dr. Chase's View
II. INTERNAL EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF ITS APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
1. Style and Diction
2. Reason of Dissimilarities
3. Claim to Petrine Authorship
4. Christian Earnestness
5. Relation to Apostles
6. Autobiographical Allusions
7. Quoted by Jude
III. DOCTRINAL TEACHINGS OF THE EPISTLE
1. Saving Knowledge
(3) Inerrancy of Sources
2. The Three Worlds
(1) The Old World
(2) The Present World
(3) The New World
The Second Epistle of Peter comes to us with less historical support of its genuineness than any other book of the New Testament. In consequence, its right to a place in the Canon is seriously doubted by some and denied by others. There are those who confidently assign it to the Apostolic age and to the apostle whose name it bears in the New Testament, while there are those who as confidently assign it to post-apostolic times, and repudiate its Petrine authorship. It is not the aim of this article to trace the history of the two opinions indicated above, nor to cite largely the arguments employed in the defense of the Epistle, or those in opposition to it; nor to attempt to settle a question which for more than a thousand years the wisest and best men of the Christian church have been unable to settle. Such a procedure would in this case be the height of presumption. What is here attempted is to point out as briefly as may be some of the reasons for doubting its canonicity, on the one hand, and those in its support, on the other.
I. External Evidence in Favor of Its Apostolic Authority.
1. Ancient Opinion:
It must be admitted at the very outset that the evidence is meager. The first writer who mentions it by name is Origen (circa 240 A.D.). In his homily on Josh, he speaks of the two Epistles of Peter. In another place he quotes 2 Peter 1:4: "partakers of the divine nature," and gives it the name of Scripture. But Origen is careful to say that its authority was questioned: "Peter has left one acknowledged Epistle, and perhaps a second, for this is contested." Eusebins, bishop of Caesarea, regarded it with even more suspicion than did Origen, and accordingly he placed it among the disputed books (Antilegomena). Jerome knew the scruples which many entertained touching the Epistle, but notwithstanding, he included it in his Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) Version. The main reason for Jerome's uncertainty about it he states to be "difference of style from 1 Peter." He accounts for the difference by supposing that the apostle "made use of two different interpreters." As great teachers and scholars as Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, e.g. Athanasius, Augustine, Epiphanius, Rufinus and Cyril, received it as genuine. At the Reformation Erasmus rejected 2 Peter; Luther seems to have had no doubt of its genuineness; while Calvin felt some hesitancy because of the "discrepancies between it and the First." In the 4th century, two church councils (Laodicea, circa 372, and Carthage, 397) formally recognized it and placed it in the Canon as equal in authority with the other books of the New Testament.
2. Modern Opinion:
The opinion of modern scholars as to references in post-apostolic literature to 2 Peter is not only divided, but in many instances antagonistic. Salmon, Warfield, Zahn and others strongly hold that such references are to be found in the writings of the 2nd century, perhaps in one or two documents of the 1st. They insist with abundant proof in support of their contention that Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Didache, and Clement of Rome, were all acquainted with the Epistle and made allusions to it in their writings. Weighing as honestly and as thoroughly as one can the citations made from that literature, one is strongly disposed to accept the evidence as legitimate and conclusive.
3. Dr. Chase's View:
On the other side, Professor Chase (HDB) has subjected all such references and allusions in the primitive writings to a very keen and searching criticism, and it must be frankly confessed that he has reduced the strength of the evidence and argument very greatly. But Professor Chase himself, from the remains of the ancient literature, and from the internal evidence of the Epistle itself, arrives at the conclusion that 2 Peter is not at all an apostolic document, that it certainly was not written by Peter, nor in the 1st century of our era, but about the middle of the 2nd century, say 150 A.D. If this view is accepted, we must pronounce the Epistle a forgery, pseudonymous and pseudepigraphic, with no more right to be in the New Testament than has the Apocalypse of Peter or the romance of the Shepherd of Hermas.
II. Internal Evidence in Support of Its Apostolic Authority.
1. Style and Diction:
At first sight, this seems to be not altogether reassuring, but looking deeper into the letter itself we arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. Difference of style between the two Epistles attributed to Peter is given as one prominent reason for questioning the validity of the Second. It is mainly if not entirely on this ground that Jerome, Calvin and others hesitated to receive it. It is noteworthy that in the earlier times objections were not urged because of its relation to Jude-its borrowing from Jude, as is often charged in our days. Its alleged dissimilarity to 1 Peter in diction, structure, and measurably in its contents, explains why it was discredited. Admitting that there is substantial ground for this criticism, nevertheless there are not a few instances in which words rarely found in the other Biblical books are common to the two Epistles. Some examples are given in proof: "precious" (1 Peter 1:7, 19 2 Peter 1:1) (a compound), occurring often in Rev, not often in other books; "virtue" (1 Peter 2:9, the King James Version margin; 2 Peter 1:3), found elsewhere only in Philippians 4:8; "supply" (1 Peter 4:11 2 Peter 1:5), rare in other books; "love of brethren" (1 Peter 1:22 2 Peter 1:7 margin), only in three places besides; "behold" (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:2 (verbal form); 2 Peter 1:16) (eyewitnesses), not found elsewhere in the New Testament; "without blemish," "without spot" (1 Peter 1:19 2 Peter 3:14) (order of words reversed); also positive side (2 Peter 2:13), "spots and blemishes"; the words do not occur elsewhere; "ungodly" (1 Peter 4:18 2 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 3:7) occurs in but three other places, except Jude, which has it three times.
2. Reason of Dissimilarities:
Besides, there are many striking similarities in thought and diction in the two Epistles. Two instances are given. In the First the saved are described as the "elect" (1 Peter 1:1), and as "called" (1 Peter 2:21). In the Second, the two great truths are brought together (2 Peter 1:10). Likewise, in both stress is laid upon prophecy (1 Peter 1:10-12 2 Peter 1:19-21). Now, all this tends to prove that the writer of the Second Epistle was well acquainted with the peculiarity of diction employed in the First, and that he made use purposely of its uncommon terms, or, if the Second was written by another than the apostle, he succeeded surprisingly well in imitating his style. The latter alternative does not merit discussion. The differences arise mainly out of the subjects treated in the two, and the design which the writer seems to have kept constantly in view. In the First, he sought to comfort, strengthen and sustain his persecuted brethren; this is his supreme aim. In the Second he is anxious to warn and to shield those whom he addresses as to impending dangers more disastrous and more to be feared than the sufferings inflicted by a hostile world. In the First, judgment had begun at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17, 18), and believers were to arm, not to resist their persecutors, but for martyrdom (1 Peter 4:1). But in the Second, a very different condition of things is brought to view. Ungodly men holding degrading principles and practicing shocking immoralities were threatening to invade the Christian brotherhood. Evil of a most vicious sort was detected by the watchful eye of the writer, and he knew full well that if suffered to continue and grow, as assuredly it would, utter ruin for the cause he loved would ensue. Therefore he forewarns and denounces the tendency with the spirit and energy of a prophet of God.
3. Claim to Petrine Authorship:
2 Peter opens with the positive statement of Peter's authorship: "Simon ["Symeon," Nestle, Weymouth] Peter, a servant.... of Jesus Christ." The insertion of "Symeon," the old Hebrew name, in the forefront of the document is significant. If a forger had been writing in Peter's name he would have begun his letter almost certainly by copying the First Epistle and simply written, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ." Note also that "servant" is introduced into the Second Epistle, but absent from the First. He designates himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. "Although several pseudonymous writings appear in early Christian literature, there is no Christian document of value written by a forger who uses the name of an apostle" (Dods, SBD). If this important statement is accepted at its full worth, it goes far to settle the question of authorship. Both "servant" and "apostle" appear in the opening sentence, and the writer claims both for himself.
4. Christian Earnestness:
Furthermore, the writer is distinctively a Christian; he addresses those who "have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1). His is the same precious faith which all the saints enjoy; his also the exceeding great and precious promises of God, and he expects with all other believers to be made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3, 4). Is it at all probable that one with such a faith and such expectations would deliberately forge the name of Simon Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ? The writer is unsparing in his denunciations of false teachers, corrupters of others, and perverters of the truth. He instances the fall of the angels, the destruction of Sodom, the rebuke of Balaam, as examples of the doom of those who know the truth and yet live in shameful sin and crime. Would a Christian and servant of Jesus Christ be at all likely to commit in the most flagrant manner the things he so vehemently condemns? If the writer was not the apostle Peter, he was a false teacher, a corrupter of others, and a hypocrite, which seems incredible to us.
5. Relation of Apostles:
Moreover, he associates himself with the other apostles (2 Peter 3:2), is in full sympathy with Paul and is acquainted with Paul's Epistles (2 Peter 3:15, 16), and he holds and teaches the same fundamental truth. An apostolic spirit breathes through this document such as is generally absent from spurious writings and such as a forger does not exhibit. He is anxiously concerned for the purity of the faith and for the holiness and fidelity of believers. He exhorts them to give "diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight," and that they "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:14, 18). All this and much more of like devout teaching is apostolic in tone and betokens genuineness and reality.
6. Autobiographical Allusions:
Still further, the writer appeals to certain facts in the life of Peter that are almost autobiographical. For example, he speaks of "putting off of my tabernacle.... even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me" (2 Peter 1:13, 14). The reference undoubtedly is to John 13:36; John 21:18, 19. He claims to have been a witness of the Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-18). He indirectly claims the inspiration without which true prophecy is impossible (2 Peter 1:19-21). He asserts that this is his "second epistle" (2 Peter 3:1). This testimony on the part of the writer is personal, emphatic and direct. It reads much like Peter's plain way of speaking of himself at the Council of Jerusalem, "Ye know that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe" (Acts 15:7).
7. Quoted by Jude:
Once more, Jude appears to quote from 2 Peter (see JUDE). The question of the priority of the two Epistles is by no means settled. Many recent writers give the precedence to Jude, others to Peter. One of the highest authority, by Zahn (New Testament, II, 238;), argues with great force in support of the view that Peter's is the older and that Jude cites from it. The arguments in favor of this latter belief are here only summarized:
(1) Jude cites from writings other than Scripture, as the apocryphal Book of Enoch and perhaps also from the Assumption of Moses. Peter scarcely quotes from any source. The former would be more likely to cite 2 Peter 2-3:3 than the latter from Jude 1:4-16. The resemblance between these two sections of the Epistles is so close that one must have drawn both thoughts and language from the other, or both availed themselves of the same documentary source. Of this latter supposition antiquity furnishes no hint. The differences are as marked as the resemblances, and hence, the one who cites from the other is no servile copyist. The real difference between the two is that between prediction and fulfillment.
(2) Peter predicts the advent of the "false teachers" (2 Peter 2:1). His principal verbs are in the future tense (2 Peter 2:1, 2, 3, 12, 13). He employs the present tense indeed in describing the character and the conduct of the libertines (2 Peter 2:17, 18), but their presence and their disastrous teaching he puts in the future (2 Peter 2:13, 14). The deadly germs were there when he wrote, the rank growth would speedily follow. Jude, on the contrary, throughout his short letter, speaks of the same corrupters as already come; his objects are present, they are in the midst of the people of God and actively doing their deadly work.
(3) Jude twice refers to certain sources of information touching these enemies, with which his readers were acquainted and which were designed to warn them of the danger and keep them from betrayal. The two sources were
(a) a writing that spoke of "ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ," 1:4;
(b) the prediction of Peter that "in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts" (2 Peter 3:3). Jude urges his readers to remember the words which the apostles of Christ had before spoken, and then he cites this prediction of Peter in almost the exact terms: "In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their ungodly lusts." He applies the prediction to the libertines then and there practicing their unholy deeds: "These are they, who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit." The conclusion is inevitable. Jude quotes from Peter.
(4) Chronology gives the priority to Peter. The apostle died between 63-67 A.D., probably in 64 A.D. The vast majority of recent interpreters date the Epistle of Jude at 75-80 A.D. There is no doubt but that it was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 A.D. Accordingly, it is later than Peter's death by from 5 to 10 years. Jude quoted from 2 Peter. This being so, it follows that his Epistle endorses that of Peter as being apostolic and likewise canonical, for he recognizes Peter as an apostle and gifted with the prophetic spirit.
SeeJUDE; PETER (SIMON).
III. Doctrinal Teachings of the Epistle.
Only some of the more important features of the Epistle are here noticed. If all were treated as they deserve to be, this article would expand into the proportions of a commentary.
1. Saving Knowledge:
The key-word of 1 Peter is Hope; of 2 Peter Knowledge. The apostle gives to this gift of grace a prominent place (1:2, 3, 5, 6, 8; 2:20, 21; 3:18). The term he uses is largely in the intensified form, namely, "full knowledge"; that is, knowledge that rests on fact, knowledge that comes to the believer as something supernatural, as being communicated by the Spirit of God, and therefore is true and complete. The grace and peace Peter asks for the saints should issue in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, who has granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him (1:2, 3).
The basis of saving knowledge rests on the "exceeding great and precious promises" which He has made us, and which become ours by faith in Him. It leads us into acquaintance with the righteousness of God, into the realization of our calling as saints, and of the glorious destiny that awaits them who know and trust God (2 Peter 1:2-4 the King James Version).
The growth in true knowledge (2 Peter 1:5-11): "In your faith supply virtue," etc. He does not ask that faith be supplied, that these believers already had. But starting with faith as the foundation of all, let the other excellencies and virtues be richly and abundantly furnished. The original word for "supply" is derived from the Greek "chorus," in behalf of the members of which the manager supplied all the equipments needed. And Peter appropriating that fact urges Christians to give all diligence to furnish themselves with the gifts and grace he mentions, which are far more needful to the Christian than were the equipments for the ancient chorus.
What a magnificent cluster Peter here gives! Each springs out of the other; each is strengthened by the other. "In your faith supply virtue," or fortitude, manliness; and let virtue supply "knowledge." Knowledge by itself tends to puff up. But tempered by the others, by self-control, by patience, by godliness, by love, it becomes one of the most essential and powerful forces in the Christian character. Paul begins his list of the "fruits of the Spirit" with love (Galatians 5:22); Peter ends his with love. It is like a chain, each link holds fast to its fellow and is a part of the whole. It matters little at which end of the chain we begin to count, for the links form a unity, and to touch one is to touch all. God freely gives what we need and all we need; we are to "add all diligence" to supply the need richly.
(3) Inerrancy of Sources:
Inerrancy of the sources of saving knowledge (2 Peter 1:16-21). The apostle rests his teaching on two trustworthy facts:
(a) the fact and meaning of the Saviour's Transfiguration;
(b) the fact of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Taken together these two facts invest his teaching with infallible certainty. "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." Pagan mythology, so widely prevailing at the time in Asia Minor, indeed over the whole heathen world, was composed of "myths" (Peter's word) skillfully framed and poetically embellished. Jewish cabalism, and the wild vagaries springing up in the Christian brotherhood itself had no place in the gospel message nor in apostolic teaching. What Peter and his fellow-disciples taught was the very truth of God, for at the Transfiguration they saw the outshining glory of the Son of God, they heard the Divine Voice, they beheld the two visitants from the unseen world, Moses and Elijah. Of the majestic scene they were eyewitnesses. Peter adds, "And we have the word of prophecy made more sure." The Transfiguration has confirmed what the prophets say touching the future and God's purpose to fill the earth with His glory; every word He has spoken is to be made good.
Moreover, the apostle appeals to the inspiration of the prophets in confirmation of his teaching: "No prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit." He recognizes this as primary truth, that prophecy is not of one's own origination, nor is it to be tied up to the times of the prophet. The prophecy was brought to him, as it is brought to us. Peter and his fellow-believers did not follow "cunningly devised fables"; they were borne along in their prophetic utterances by the Spirit.
2. The Three Worlds:
Of course in 2 Peter 3:5-13, where the three worlds are spoken of, three globes are not meant, but three vast epochs, three enormous periods in earth's history. The apostle divides its history into three clearly defined sections, and mentions some of the characteristic features of each.
(1) The Old World.
"The world that then was" (2 Peter 3:6): this is his first world. It is the antediluvian world that is meant, the world which the Flood overwhelmed. Scoffers in Peter's time asked, no doubt with a sneer, "Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4). This is a surprisingly modern inquiry. Mockers then as now appealed to the continuity of natural processes, and to the inviolability of Nature's laws. Nature keeps her track with unwavering precision. There is no sign of any change; no catastrophe is likely, is possible. The promise of His coming fails. Peter reminds the skeptics that a mighty cataclysm did once overwhelm the world. The Flood drowned every living thing, save those sheltered within the ark. As this is a historical fact, the query of the mockers is foolish.
(2) The Present World.
Peter's second world is "the heavens that now are, and the earth" (2 Peter 3:7). It is the present order of things in sky and earth that is meant. He asserts that this world is "stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." The margin reads, "stored with fire," i.e., it contains within itself the agency by which it may be consumed. The world that now is, is held in strict custody, reserved, not for a second deluge, but for fire. The advent of Christ and the judgment are associated in Scripture with fire: "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him" (Psalm 50:3 the King James Version; compare Isaiah 66:15, 16 Daniel 7:10, 11). Nor is the New Testament silent on this point: "the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire" (2 Thessalonians 1:7).
Ample materials are stored up in the earth for its consumption by fire. The oils and the gases so inflammable and destructive in their energy can, when it may please God to release these forces, speedily reduce the present order of things to ashes. Peter's language does not signify earth's annihilation, nor its dissolution as an organic body, nor the end of time. He speaks of cosmical convulsions and physical revolutions of both sky and earth, such as shall transform the planet into something glorious and beautiful.
(3) The New World.
The third world is this: "But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). This is Paradise restored. We have sure ground for the expectancy; the last two chapters of Re contain the prophetic fulfillment: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more." The accomplishment of these sublime predictions will involve a fundamental change in the constitution of the globe. Life would be impossible if the sea was no more. But He who made the world can surely recreate it, clearing it of every vestige of sin and misery and imperfection, fitting it for the dwelling of perfect beings and of His supreme glory. Immanuel will dwell with the holy inhabitants of the new earth and in the new Jerusalem which is to descend into the glorified planet. John is bidden, "Write, for the predictions are faithful and true; they shall not fail to come to pass."
"Earth, thou grain of sand on the shore of the Universe of God,
On thee has the Lord a great work to complete."
Seeat end of PETER, THE FIRST EPISTLE OF; PETER (SIMON).
William G. Moorehead
PHILEMON, EPISTLE TO
This most beautiful of all Paul's Epistles, and the most intensely human, is one of the so-called Captivity Epistles of which Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians are the others. Of these four PHILIPPIANS (which see) stands apart, and was written more probably after the other three. These are mutually interdependent, sent by the same bearer to churches of the same district, and under similar conditions.
1. Place of Writing:
There is some diversity of opinion as to the place from which the apostle wrote these letters. Certain scholars (Reuss, Schenkel, Weiss, Holtzmann, Hilgenfeld, Hausrath and Meyer) have urged Caesarea in opposition to the traditional place, Rome. The arguments advanced are first that Onesimus would have been more likely to have escaped to Caesarea than to Rome, as it is nearer Colosse than Rome is, to which we may reply that, though Caesarea is nearer, his chance of escape would have been far greater in the capital than in the provincial city. Again it is said that as Onesimus is not commended in Ephesians, he had already been left behind at Colosse; against which there are advanced the precarious value of an argument from silence, and the fact that this argument assumes a particular course which the bearers of the letters would follow, namely, through Colosse to Ephesus. A more forcible argument is that which is based on the apostle's expected visit. In Philippians 2:24 we read that he expected to go to Macedonia on his release; in Philemon 1:22 we find that he expected to go to Colosse. On the basis of this latter reference it is assumed that he was to the south of Colosse when writing and so at Caesarea. But it is quite as probable that he would go to Colosse through Philippi as the reverse; and it is quite possible that even if he had intended to go direct to Colosse when he wrote to Philemon, events may have come about to cause him to change his plans. The last argument, based on the omission of any reference to the earthquake of which Tacitus (Ann. xiv.27) and Eusebius (Chron., O1, 207) write, is of force as opposed to the Roman origin of the letters only on the assumption that these writers both refer to the same event (by no means sure) and that the epistles. were written after that event, and that it was necessary that Paul should have mentioned it. If the early chronology be accepted it falls entirely, as Tacitus' earlier date would be after the epistles. were written. In addition we have the further facts, favorable to Rome, that Paul had no such freedom in Cuesarea as he is represented in these epistles as enjoying; that no mention is made of Philip who was in Caesarea and a most important member of that community (Acts 21:8), and finally that there is no probability that so large a body of disciples and companions could have gathered about the apostle in his earlier and more strict imprisonment, at Caesarea. We may therefore conclude that the Captivity Epistles were written from Rome, and not from Caesarea.
The external evidence for the epistle is less extensive than that of some of the other epp., but it is abundantly strong. The play on the word Onesimus which Paul himself uses (Philemon 1:11) is found in Ignatius, Ephesians, ii. This may not mean necessarily a literary connection, but it suggests this. The epistle is known to Tertullian, and through him we know that Marcion accepted it (Adv. Marc., v.21). It is in the list in the Muratorian Fragment (p. 106, l. 27), and is quoted by Origen as Pauline (Hom. in Jer., 19) and placed by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, xxv) among the acknowledged books.
It has twice been the object of attack. In the 4th and 5th centuries it was opposed as unworthy of Paul's mind and as of no value for edification. This attack was met successfully by Jerome (Commentary on Philemon, praef.), Chrysostom (Argum. in Philem) and Theodore of Mopsuestia (Spicil. in Solesm, I, 149), and the epistle. was finally established in its earlier firm position. The later attack by Baur was inspired by his desire to break down the corroborative value of Phm to the other Captivity Epistles, and has been characterized by Weiss as one of Baur's worst blunders. The suggestions that it is interpolated (Holtzmann), or allegorical (Weizsacker and Pfleiderer), or based on the letter of Pliny (Ep. IX, 21) to Sabinianus (Steck), are interesting examples of the vagaries of their authors, but "deserve only to be mentioned" (Zahn). In its language, style and argument the letter is clearly Pauline.
The date will, as is the case with the other Captivity Epistles, depend on the chronology. If the earlier scheme be followed it may be dated about 58, if the later about 63, or 64.
The apostle writes in his own and Timothy's name to his friend PHILEMON (which see) in behalf of Onesimus, a runaway slave of the latter. Beginning with his usual thanksgiving, here awakened by the report of Philemon's hospitality, he intercedes for his `son begotten in his bonds' (Philemon 1:10), Onesimus, who though he is Philemon's runaway slave is now "a brother." It is on this ground that the apostle pleads, urging his own age, and friendship for Philemon, and his present bonds. He pleads, however, without belittling Onesimus' wrongdoing, but assuming himself the financial responsibility for the amount of his theft. At the same time the apostle quietly refers to what Philemon really owes him as his father in Christ, and begs that he will not disappoint him in his expectation. He closes with the suggestion that he hopes soon to visit him, and with greetings from his companions in Rome.
The charm and beauty of this epistle have been universally recognized. Its value to us as giving a glimpse of Paul's attitude toward slavery and his intimacy with a man like Philemon cannot be over-estimated. One of the chief elements of value in it is the picture it gives us of a Christian home in the apostolic days; the father and mother well known for their hospitality, the son a man of position and importance in the church, the coming and going of the Christian brethren, and the life of the brotherhood centering about this household.
Lightfoot, Colossians and Philemon; Vincent, "Philippians" and "Philemon" (ICC); yon Soden, Hand Commentar; Alexander, in Speaker's Commentary.
Charles Smith Lewis
PHILIPPIANS, THE EPISTLE TO THE
I. PAUL AND THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI
II. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI
III. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EPISTLE
1. A Letter
2. A Letter of Love
3. A Letter of Joy
4. Importance Theologically
IV. GENUINENESS OF THE EPISTLE
V. PLACE, DATE AND OCCASION OF WRITING
VI. CONTENTS OF THE EPISTLE
I. Paul and the Church at Philippi.
Paul was on his second missionary journey in the year 52 A.D. He felt that he was strangely thwarted in many of his plans. He had had a most distressing illness in Galatia. The Spirit would not permit him to preach in Asia, and when he essayed to enter Bithynia the Spirit again would not suffer it. Baffled and perplexed, the apostle with his two companions, Silas and Timothy, went on to the seacoast and stopped in Troas. Here at last his leading became clear. A vision of a man from Macedonia convinced him that it was the will of God that he should preach in the western continent of Europe. The way was opened at once. The winds were favorable. In two days he came to Neapolis. At once he took the broad paved way of the Via Egnatia up to the mountain pass and down on the other side to Philippi, a journey of some 8 miles. There was no synagogue at Philippi, but a little company of Jews gathered for Sabbath worship at "a place of prayer" (proseuche, Acts 16:13), about a mile to the West of the city gate on the shore of the river Gangites (see PROSEUCHA). Paul and his companions talked to the women gathered there, and Lydia was converted. Later, a maid with the spirit of divination was exorcised. Paul and Silas were scourged and thrown into prison, an earthquake set them free, the jailer became a believer, the magistrates repented their treatment of men who were Roman citizens and besought them to leave the city (Acts 16:6-40). Paul had had his first experience of a Roman scourging and of lying in the stocks of a Roman prison here at Philippi, yet he went on his way rejoicing, for a company of disciples had been formed, and he had won the devotion of loyal and loving hearts for himself and his Master (see PHILIPPI). That was worth all the persecution and the pain. The Christians at Philippi seem to have been Paul's favorites among all his converts. He never lost any opportunity of visiting them and refreshing his spirit with their presence in the after-years. Six years later he was resident in Ephesus, and having sent Titus to Corinth with a letter to the Corinthians and being in doubt as to the spirit in which it would be received, he appointed a meeting with Titus in Macedonia, and probably spent the anxious days of his waiting at Philippi. If he met Titus there, he may have written 2 Corinthians in that city (2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6). Paul returned to Ephesus, and after the riot in that city he went over again into Macedonia and made his third visit to Philippi. He probably promised the Philippians at this time that he would return to Philippi to celebrate the Easter week with his beloved converts there. He went on into Greece, but in 3 months he was back again, at the festival of the resurrection in the year 58 A.D. (Acts 20:2, 6). We read in 1 Timothy 1:3 that Paul visited Macedonia after the Roman imprisonment. He enjoyed himself among the Philippians. They were Christians after his own heart. He thanks God for their fellowship from the first day until now (Philippians 1:5). He declares that they are his beloved who have always obeyed, not in his presence only, but much more in his absence (Philippians 2:12). With fond repetition he addresses them as his brethren, beloved and longed for, his joy and crown, his beloved (Philippians 4:1). This was Paul's favorite church, and we can gather from the epistle good reason for this fact.
II. Characteristics of the Church at Philippi.
(1) It seems to be the least Jewish of all the Pauline churches. There were few Jews in Philippi. No Hebrew names are found in the list of converts in this church mentioned in the New Testament. The Jewish opponents of Paul seem never to have established themselves in this community.
(2) Women seem to be unusually prominent in the history of this church, and this is consistent with what we know concerning the position accorded to woman in Macedonian society. Lydia brings her whole family with her into the church. She must have been a very influential woman, and her own fervor and devotion and generosity and hospitality seem to have been contagious and to have become characteristic of the whole Christian community. Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned in the epistle, two women who were fellow-laborers with Paul in the gospel, for both of whom he has great respect, of both of whom he is sure that their names are written in the book of life, but who seem to have differed with each other in some matter of opinion. Paul exhorts them to be of the same mind in the Lord (Philippians 4:2). The prominence of women in the congregation at Philippi or the dominance of Lydia's influence among them may account for the fact that they seem to have been more mindful of Paul's comfort than any of his other converts were. They raised money for Paul's support and forwarded it to him again and again. They were anxious that he should have all that was needful. They were willing to give of their time and their means to that end. There seem to have been no theological differences in their company. That may testify to the fact that the most of them were women.
(3) There were splendid men in the church membership too. Some of them were Macedonians and some of them were Roman veterans.
Hausrath declares that the Macedonians represented the "noblest and soundest part of the ancient world..... Here was none of the shuffling and the indecision of the Asiatics, none of the irritable vanity and the uncertain levity of the Greek communities..... They were men of sterner mold than could be fouund in Asia Minor or languorous Syria. The material was harder to work in, and offered more stubborn resistance; but the work, once done, endured. A new Macedonian phalanx was formed here, a phalanx of Pauline Christians..... Manliness, loyalty, firmness, their characteristics in general history, are equally their characteristics in the history of the Christian church..... They were always true to Paul, always obedient, always helpful" (Time of the Apostles, III, 203-4).
Paul rejoiced in them. They were spirits congenial with his own. The Roman veterans had been trained in the Roman wars to hardness and discipline and loyalty. They were Roman citizens and proud of the fact. In the epistle Paul exhorts them to behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27), and he reminds them that though they were proud of their Roman citizenship, as was he, they all had become members of a heavenly commonwealth, citizenship in which was a much greater boon than even the jus Italicum had been. In Philippians 3:20 Paul states the fact again, "Our citizenship is in heaven"; and he goes on to remind them that their King is seated there upon the throne and that He is coming again to establish a glorious empire, for He has power to subject all things unto Himself.
It is to these old soldiers and athletes that Paul addresses his military and gymnastic figures of speech. He informs them that the whole praetorian guard had heard of the gospel through his imprisonment at Rome (Philippians 1:13). He sends them greeting from the saints that are in Caesar's household (Philippians 4:22). He prays that he may hear of them that they stand fast like an immovable phalanx, with one soul striving athletically for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). He knows that they will be fearless and brave, in nothing affrighted by the adversaries (Philippians 1:28). He speaks of his own experience as a wrestling-match, a conflict or contest (Philippians 1:30). He joys in the sacrifice and service of their faith (Philippians 2:17). He calls Epaphroditus not only his fellow-worker but his fellow-soldier (Philippians 2:25). He likens the Christian life to a race in which he presses on toward the goal unto the prize (Philippians 3:14). He asks the Philippians to keep even, soldierly step with him in the Christian walk (Philippians 3:16). These metaphors have their appeal to an athletic and military race, and they bear their testimony to the high regard which Paul had for this type of Christianity and for those in whose lives it was displayed. We do not know the names of many of these men, for only Clement and Epaphroditus are mentioned here; but we gather much concerning their spirit from this epistle, and we are as sure as Paul himself that their names are all written in the book of life (Philippians 4:3).
(4) If the constituent elements of the church at Philippi fairly represented the various elements of the population of the city, they must have been cosmopolitan in character. Philippi was an old Macedonian city which had been turned into a Roman colony. It was both Greek and Roman in its characteristics. Christianity had been introduced here by two Jews, who were Roman citizens, and a Jewish son of a Gentile father. In the account given of the rounding of the church in Acts 16 three converts are mentioned, and one is a Jewish proselyte from Asia, one a native Greek, and one a Roman official. The later converts doubtless represented the same diversity of nationality and the same differences in social position. Yet, apart from those two good women, Euodia and Syntyche, they were all of one mind in the Lord. It is a remarkable proof of the fact that in Christ all racial and social conditions may be brought into harmony and made to live together in peace. (5) They were a very liberal people. They gave themselves to the Lord and to Paul (2 Corinthians 8:5), and whenever they could help Paul or further the work of the gospel they gave gladly and willingly and up to the limit of their resources; and then they hypothecated their credit and gave beyond their power (2 Corinthians 8:3). Even Paul was astonished at their giving. He declares that they gave out of much affliction and deep poverty, that they abounded in their bounty, and that they were rich only in their liberality (2 Corinthians 8:2).
Surely these are unusual encomiums. The Philippians must have been a very unusual people. If the depth of one's consecration and the reality of one's religion are to be measured by the extent to which they affect the disposition of one's material possessions, if one measure of Christian love is to be found in Christian giving, then the Philippians may well stand supreme among the saints in the Pauline churches. Paul seems to have loved them most. He loved them enough to allow them to contribute toward his support. Elsewhere he refused any help of this sort, and stedfastly adhered to his plan of self-support while he was preaching the gospel. He made the single exception in the case of the Philippians. He must have been sure of their affection and of their confidence. Four times they gave Paul pecuniary aid. Twice they sent him their contributions just after he had left them and gone on to Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15, 16). When Paul had proceeded to Corinth and was in want during his ministry there his heart was gladdened by the visitation of brethren from Philippi, who supplied the measure of his want (2 Corinthians 11:8, 9). It was not a first enthusiasm, forgotten as soon as the engaging personality of the apostle was removed from their sight. It was not merely a personal attachment that prompted their gifts. They gave to their own dear apostle, but only that he might minister to others as he had ministered to them. He was their living link with the work in the mission field.
Eleven years passed by, and the Philippians heard that Paul was in prison at Rome and again in need of their help. Eleven years are enough to make quite radical changes in a church membership, but there seems to have been no change in the loyalty or the liberality of the Philippian church in that time. The Philippians hastened to send Epaphroditus to Rome with their contributions and their greetings. It was like a bouquet of fresh flowers in the prison cell. Paul writes this epistle to thank them that their thought for him had blossomed afresh at the first opportunity they had had (Philippians 4:10). No wonder that Paul loved them and was proud of them and made their earnestness and sincerity and affection the standard of comparison with the love of others (2 Corinthians 8:8).
III. Characteristics of the Epistle.
1. A Letter:
It is a letter. It is not a treatise, as Romana, Hebrews, and 1 John are. It is not an encyclical full of general observations and exhortations capable of application at any time and anywhere, as the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle of James and the Epistles of Peter are. It is a simple letter to personal friends. It has no theological discussions and no rigid outline and no formal development. It rambles along just as any real letter would with personal news and personal feelings and outbursts of personal affection between tried friends. It is the most spontaneous and unaffected of the Pauline Epistles. It is more epistolary than any of the others addressed to the churches.
2. A Letter of Love:
It is a letter of love. All of the other epistles have mixed feelings manifest in them. Sometimes a feeling of grief and of indignation is dominant, as in 2 Corinthians. Sometimes the uppermost desire of Paul in his writing seems to be the establishment of the truth against the assault of its foes, as in Galatians and Romans. Always more or less fault is suggested in the recipients of the warnings and the exhortations Paul feels compelled to write to them. In Philippi alone there is no fault to be found. The only suggestion of such a thing is in the reference to the difference of opinion between Euodia and Syntyche, and while Paul thinks this ought to be harmonized, he does not seem to consider it any very serious menace to the peace of the church. Aside from this Paul has nothing but praise for his beloved brethren and prayer that their love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9). He is full of thankfulness upon all his remembrance of them (Philippians 1:3). He rejoices in the privilege of being offered upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (Philippians 2:17). The church at Philippi may not have been conspicuous in charisms as the church at Corinth was, but it had the fruits of the Spirit in rich measure. Paul seems to think that it needed only to rejoice in its spiritual possessions and to grow in grace and in the mind of Christ. His heart is full of gratitude and love as he writes. He rejoices as he thinks of them. His peace and his hope are triumphant over present affliction and the prospect of persecution and death. If this is his last will and testament to his beloved church, as Holtzmann calls it, he has nothing to bequeath them but his unqualified benediction. Having loved them from the first, he loves them to the end.
3. A Letter of Joy:
It is a letter of joy. It was Bengel who said, Summa epistolae: gaudeo, gaudete, "The sum of the epistle is, I rejoice; rejoice ye." Paul was a man whose spirits were undaunted in any circumstances. He might be scourged in one city and stoned in another and imprisoned in a third and left for dead in a fourth, but as long as he retained consciousness and as soon as he regained conscioushess he rejoiced. Nothing could dampen his ardor. Nothing could disturb his peace. In Philippi he had been scourged and cast into the inner prison and his feet had been made fast in the stocks, but at midnight he and Silas were singing hymns of praise to God. He is in prison now in Rome, but he is still rejoicing. Some men would have been discouraged in such circumstances. Wherever Paul had gone his preaching had been despised, and he had been persecuted. The Jews had slandered him and harassed him, and so many of his converts had proved to be fickle and false. The years had gone by and the breach between him and his brethren had widened rather than lessened, and at last they had succeeded in getting him into prison and keeping him there for years. Prison life is never pleasant, and it was far less so in that ancient day than it is now.
Paul was such an ardent spirit. It was more difficult for him to be confined than it would be for a more indolent man; He was a world-missionary, a restless cosmopolite ranging up and down through the continents with the message of the Christ. It was like putting an eagle into a cage to put him into prison. Many eagles mope and die in imprisonment. Paul was not moping. He was writing this Epistle to the Philippians and saying to them, "The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel.... therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1:12, 18). His enemies were free to do and to say hat they pleased, and they were making the most of the opportunity. He could no longer thwart or hinder them. Some men would have broken out into loud lamentations and complaints. Some men would have worried about the conditions and would have become nervous about the outcome of the cause. The faith of even John the Baptist failed in prison. He could not believe that things were going right if he were not there to attend to them. Paul's faith never wavered. His hope never waned. His joy was inexhaustible and perennial. He was never anxious. Did he hear the sentry's step pacing up and down the corridor before his prison door? It reminded him of the peace of God which passeth all understanding, guarding his heart and his thoughts in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7), standing sentry there night and day. The keynote of this epistle is "Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
Paul is old and worn and in prison, but some 20 times in the course of this short letter to the Philippians he uses the words, joy, rejoice, peace, content, and thanksgiving. It is a letter full of love and full of joy.
4. Importance Theologically:
It is of great importance theologically. It is one of the paradoxes to which we become almost accustomed in Paul's writings that this simplest of his letters, most epistolary and most personal throughout should yet contain the fullest and most important putting of theology of the incarnation and exaltation that came from his pen. He has only a practical end in view. He is exhorting the Philippians to humility, and he says to them, Have the mind which was in Christ who emptied himself and then was exalted (Philippians 2:5-11). It is the most theological passage in the epistle. It is one of the most doctrinally important in the New Testament. It is Paul's final contribution to the solution of the great mystery of the coming of the Saviour and the economy of salvation. It is his last word, at any length, on this subject. He states plainly the fact of the kenosis, the morale of the redemption, the certainty of the exaltation, and the sure hope of the universal adoration in the end. The most vital truths of Christology are here clearly stated and definitely formulated for all time. Jesus was a real man, not grasping at any of the attributes of Deity which would be inconsistent with real and true humanity, but in whole-hearted surrender of sacrifice submitting to all the disabilities and limitations necessary to the incarnate conditions. He was equal with God, but He emptied Himself of the omnipotence and the omniscience and the omnipresence of His pre-incarnate state, and was found in form as a man, a genuine man obedient to God in all His life. He always maintained that attitude toward God which we ought to maintain and which we can maintain in our humanity, in which He was on an equality with us. We ought to have the mind which was in Christ. He humbled Himself and became obedient. He was obedient through life and obedient unto death, yea, even unto the death of the cross. It is a great passage, setting forth profoundest truths in the tersest manner. It is the crowning revelation concerning Jesus in the Pauline Epistles. It represents Paul's most mature thought upon this theme.
IV. Genuineness of the Epistle.
The genuineness of the epistle is very generally admitted today. It was in the Canon of Marcion. Its name occurs in the list on the Muratorian Fragment. It is found in both the Peshitta and the Old Latin versions. It is mentioned by Polycarp and quoted in the letter of the churches of Lyons and Vienne, in the Epistle of Diognetus, and in the writings of Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria. Baur made a determined attack upon its authenticity. He declared that it was not doctrinal and polemical like the other Pauline Epistles, but that it was full of shallow imitations of these. He said it had no apparent motive and no connected argument and no depth of thought. He questioned some of the historical data and suspected Gnostic influence in certain passages. Bleek said of Baur's arguments that they were partly derived from a perverted interpretation of certain passages in the epistle; they partly rested upon arbitrary istorical presuppositions; and some of them were really so weak that it was hard to believe that he could have attached any importance to them himself. It is not surprising that few critics have been found willing to follow Baur's leadership at this point. Biederman, Kneucker, Hinsch, Hitzig, Hoekstra, and Holsten may be mentioned among them. The genuineness of the epistle has been defended by Weizsacker, Weiss, Pfleiderer, Julicher, Klopper, Schenkel, Reuss, Hilgenfeld, Harnack, Holtzmann, Mangold, Lipsius, Renan, Godet, Zahn, Davidson, Lightfoot, Farrar, McGiffert, and practically all of the English writers on the subject. Weizsacker says that the reasons for attributing the epistle to the apostle Paul are "overwhelming." McGiffert declares: "It is simply inconceivable that anyone else would or could have produced in his name a letter in which no doctrinal or ecclesiastical motive can be discovered, and in which the personal element so largely predominates and the character of the man and the apostle is revealed with so great vividness and fidelity. The epistle deserves to rank alongside of Galatians, Corinthians, and Romans as an undoubted product of Paul's pen, and as a coordinate standard by which to test the genuineness of other and less certain writings" (The Apostolic Age, 393). This is the practically unanimous conclusion of modern scholarship.
V. Place, Date, and Occasion of Writing.
This is one of the prison epistles (see PHILEMON). Paul makes frequent reference to his bonds (Philippians 1:7, 13, 14, 17). He was for 2 years a prisoner in Caesarea (Acts 24:27). Paulus and others have thought that the epistle was written during this imprisonment; but the references to the praetorian guard and the members of Caesar's household have led most critics to conclude that the Roman imprisonment was the one to which the epistle refers. Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians were also written during the Roman imprisonment, and these three form a group by themselves. Philippians is evidently separated from them by some interval. Was it written earlier or later than they? Bleek, Lightfoot, Sanday, Herr, Beet and others think that the Epistle to the Philippians was written first. We prefer, however, to agree with Zahn, Ramsay, Findlay, Shaw, Vincent, Julicher, Holtzmann, Weiss, Godet, and others, who argue for the writing of Philippians toward the close of the Roman imprisonment.
Their reasons are as follows:
(1) We know that some considerable time must have elapsed after Paul's arrival at Rome before he could have written this epistle; for the news of his arrival had been carried to Philippi and a contribution to his needs had been raised among his friends there, and Epaphroditus had carried it to Rome. In Rome, Epaphroditus had become seriously sick and the news of this sickness had been carried back to Philippi and the Philippians had sent back a message of sympathy to him. At least four trios between Rome and philippi are thus indicated, and there are intervals of greater or less length between them. The distance between the two cities was some 700 miles. Communication was easy by the Appian Way and Trajan's Way to Brundusium and across the narrow straits there to the Egnatian Way, which led directly to Philippi. There were many making the trip at all times, but the journey would occupy a month at least, and the four journeys suggested in the epistle were not in direct succession.
(2) Paul says that through him Christ had become known throughout the whole praetorian guard (Philippians 1:13). It must have taken some time for this to become possible.
(3) The conditions outside the prison, where Christ was being preached, by some in a spirit of love, and by others in a spirit of faction, cannot be located in the earliest months of Paul's sojourn in Rome (Philippians 1:15-17). They must belong to a time when Christianity had developed in the city and parties had been formed in the church.
(4) Luke was well known at Philippi. Yet he sends no salutation to the Philippians in this epistle. He would surely have done so if he had been with Paul at the time of its writing. He was with the apostle when he wrote to the Colossians, and so was Demas (Colossians 4:14). In this epistle Paul promises to send Timothy to Philippi, and says, "I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state" (Philippians 2:20). This must mean that Aristarchus, Demas and Luke were all gone. They had all been with him when he wrote the other epistles
(5) His condition as a prisoner seems to have changed for the worse. He had enjoyed comparative liberty for the first 2 years of his imprisonment at Rome, living in his own hired house and accessible to all his friends. He had now been removed, possibly to the guardroom of the praetorian cohort. Here he was in more rigorous confinement, in want and alone.
(6) Paul writes as if he thought that his case would be decided soon (Philippians 2:23, 14). He seems to be facing his final trial. He is not sure of its outcome. He may die a martyr's death, but he expects to be acquitted and then to be at liberty to do further missionary work. This was not his immediate expectation when he wrote the other epistles., and therefore they would seem to be earlier than this.
(7) The epistle is addressed to all the saints in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1). These official titles do not occur in any earlier epistles, but they are found in the Pastoral Epistles, which were written still later. Therefore they link the Epistle to the Philippians with the later rather than the earlier epistles
From these indications we conclude that this is the last of Paul's Epistles to the churches. Hilgenfeld calls this the swan song of the great apostle. In it Paul has written his last exhortations and warnings, his last hopes and prayers for his converts to the Christian faith. Its date must be somewhere toward the close of the Roman imprisonment, in the year 63 or 64 A.D. Epaphroditus had brought the contribution of the Philippians to Paul in Rome. He had plunged into the work there in rather reckless fashion, risking his life and contracting a malarial fever or some other serious sickness; but his life had been spared in answer to the prayers of Paul and his friends. Now Paul sends him back to Philippi, though he knows that he will be very lonely without him; and he sends with him this letter of acknowledgment of their gift, filled with commendation and encouragement, gratitude and love.
VI. Contents of the Epistle.
The epistle is not capable of any logical analysis. Its succession of thought may be represented as follows:
(1) Address (Philippians 1:1, 2).
(2) Thanksgiving and prayer (Philippians 1:3-11): Paul is thankful for their fellowship and confident of their perfection. He longs for them and prays that their love may be wise to discriminate among the most excellent things and that they may be able to choose the very best, until they are filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and the praise of God.
(3) Information concerning his own experience (Philippians 1:12-30):
(a) His evangelism (Philippians 1:12-14): Everything had turned out well. Paul is in prison, but he has been indefatigable in his evangelism. He has been chained to a soldier, but that has given him many an opportunity for personal and private and prolonged conversation. When the people have gathered to hear, the guard has listened perforce; and when the crowd was gone, more than once the soldier has seemed curious and interested and they have talked on about the Christ. Paul has told his experience over and over to these men, and his story has been carried through the whole camp.
(b) His tolerance (Philippians 1:15-18): Not only has the gospel found unexpected furtherance inside the prison walls, but through the whole city the brethren have been emboldened by Paul's success to preach Christ, some through faction and envy and strife, and some through love. Paul rejoices that Christ is preached, whether by his enemies or by his friends.
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Discomfiture (6 Occurrences)
Deuteronomy 7:23 But Jehovah thy God will deliver them up before thee, and will discomfit them with a great discomfiture, until they be destroyed. (ASV JPS)
Deuteronomy 28:20 Jehovah will send upon thee cursing, discomfiture, and rebuke, in all that thou puttest thy hand unto to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the evil of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. (ASV JPS)
1 Samuel 5:9 And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of Jehovah was against the city with a very great discomfiture: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great; and tumors brake out upon them. (ASV JPS)
1 Samuel 5:11 They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and they said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to its own place, that is slay us not, and our people. For there was a deadly discomfiture throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. (ASV JPS)
1 Samuel 14:20 And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man's sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture. (KJV JPS ASV WBS)
Isaiah 22:5 For it is a day of discomfiture, and of treading down, and of perplexity, from the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, in the valley of vision; a breaking down of the walls, and a crying to the mountains. (ASV)