General Epistles

Sept 15, 1999

I Peter

Is the Apostle Peter the real author of I Peter? The first verse of I Peter announces in that the apostle Peter is the author. If he is the real author, then why does the letter look so much like a Pauline epistle?

It is possible that Peter told his scribe the content of the message, and then allowed the scribe to use whatever style he wished. It is likely that the scribe was Silas, one of Paul's close friends, so he was very familiar with Paul's style. Whatever the case of I Peter's authorship, the content is worthy of the cannon.

In order to understand the book, fist it is necessary to understand it the way the original readers understood it. The question then arises: who were the people who received I Peter? Peter describes his readers as "resident aliens" or exiles. This gives a hint to who they may have been, but it is debated what the word aliens or exiles actually means in the Greek. The Greek word for exiles was used in each time period differently. Sometimes it was used for the Jews, living in a place that was not there home. Other times it was used to show that you were simply not a citizen of Rome.

The words aliens could also be in a spiritual sense, they are not of earth, but in earth, as Paul wrote.

The best way to understand how the readers were strangers is in the political-legal sense. They were resident aliens living in Asia Minor. Often it is very hard for the translator to know exactly which word, or group of words best fit the Greek in any certain language.

When the translator used "earthly" or "worldly" instead of "exiles" or "resident aliens", the meaning of the text is changed. That interpretation ignores their vital political and social currency. (Only the book of Hebrew stresses the fact that heaven is our true home.) Translating the words so loosely also assumes that the text is speaking about the worldly home verses heavenly home. "The details of social alienation are consistent with, and illustrate their position of actually being visitors in Asia Minor society."

It is much better to translate the Greek word as "resident aliens or exiles. The reader's strangeness is social and not spiritual. People around them were not Christians. According to the text, they even persecuted Christians. It is also likely that the readers were not citizens of Rome, and therefor technically aliens.

The word did more than label them as different socially, but it also made the distinction between the godly and the ungodly.

The truth of the matter is that there is not any real true one-word translation of the Greek word. None of the words simply mean exiled person or earthly strangers. The best any translator can do, is find the closest words to the true meaning.

I Peter is "both a reflection and a response to the interaction of the early Christian movement and its social environment" The people to whom it was written were strangers to others.

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