The first epistle of st. Peter 1: 1-2: 17


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with Introductory Lecture, Commentary, and Additional Notes
F. J. A. HORT, D.D., D.C.L., LL.D.
Sometime Hulsean Professor and

Lady Margaret’s Reader in Divinity, University of Cambridge


Bonamy Price

Professor of Political Economy, University of Oxford

Formerly Master of The Twenty, Rugby School

In Gratitude for

Teachings of Exactness and of Reality

In Language, In History, and Through and Above Both, In Theology

I. 1 Pet. 1:1-2:10

:1f. Salutation

:3-12. Thanksgiving for the Christian hope in the midst of trials, that hope being the fulfilment of prophetic expectations

:13-2:10. Exhortation to obedience in conformity to the grandeur of the Christian hope and the privileges of the Christian commonwealth

II. 1 Pet. 2:11-4:11

:11f. Exhortation to purity of motive, and so to purity of life in the presence of the heathen (a kind of general heading to the section)

:13-3:12. Definite relative duties, in civic society, of servants and masters, of wives and husbands, the section concluding with the universal bond of the Christian mind, and the Divine promise respecting it
I. The Names of St. Peter

II. The Biblical Terms for Sojourning

III. The Provinces of Asia Minor Included in St. Peter’s Address


The Notes contained in this volume are a fragment of a Commentary on the New Testament which was definitely planned in 1860. For some time Dr Lightfoot, Dr Hort and myself had discussed the question in various forms; and in the spring of that year a scheme for the distribution of the Books was adopted which guided in a great degree our later work. The Epistles of St Paul were assigned to Dr Lightfoot: the Synoptic Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles of St James, St Peter and St Jude to Dr Hort: the Gospel and Epistles of St John fell to me. Two books were not finally assigned, the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse. Dr Lightfoot was unwilling to undertake the former, nor could I undertake the latter. There was hope for a time that Dr Benson would have dealt with the Epistle to the Hebrews, and he has in fact left an exposition of the Apocalypse which will I trust be published before long.

No detailed method was adopted for the execution of the work; but we were fully agreed on general principles. It seemed to us that the New Testament should ‘be interpreted as any other book,’ with loyal obedience to the strictest rules of criticism, to the most exact scholarship, and to the frankest historical inquiry. So only, we believed, could the unique character of the Scriptures be rightly appreciated as ‘containing all things necessary to salvation.’ There were natural differences between us in the application of our principles: one looked primarily to the vivid realisation of the original meaning of the text, another to the determination of the elements of philosophical theology which it contained, another to the correspondences of different parts of the apostolic records which suggest the fulness of the vital harmony by which they are united. But varieties of temperament never led to the least departure from the common endeavour to interpret the text with scrupulous and unprejudiced fidelity without any assumption or any reserve. This, we held, was required by the divine claims of the Books themselves. “‘A number there are’ says Hooker ‘who think they cannot admire as they ought the power of the word of God, if in things divine they should attribute any force to man’s reason.’ The circumstances which called forth this remark contrast strangely with the main controversies of the present day; but the caution is equally needed. The abnegation of reason is not the evidence of faith, but the confession of despair. Reason and reverence are natural allies, though untoward circumstances may sometimes interpose and divorce them.” The records, we held, bring us into fellowship with the living Lord. “Though the Gospel is capable of doctrinal exposition, though it is eminently fertile in moral results, yet its substance is neither a dogmatic system nor an ethical code, but a Person and a Life.”

As soon as the plan was formed Dr Hort began to work at the Synoptic Gospels. Interesting discussions arose as to questions which would require to be dealt with in the Introduction, and the rough list which Dr Hort gives in a letter of December 11th 1860 shews the large view which he took of the task committed to him. Afterwards a joint volume of Essays suggested by ‘Essays and Reviews’ was considered as preparatory to the Commentary, but the plan fell through under the pressure of other engagements.

Before very long Dr Hort turned from the Synoptic Gospels to the Catholic Epistles. In 1862 he was ‘not without hopes of getting [a volume containing St James, St Peter, and St Jude] to press before the end of [the] next year.’ The work on St James was pressed on through serious interruptions. In 1864 he writes: ‘by way of work I do nothing but St James and N.T. text’; and a little later, ‘whenever I have leisure, I sit down to St James, where I now feel myself really afloat. Some sixty pages are actually written.’ He purposed at that time to publish this Epistle in a separate volume, with a series of illustrative Essays of which he fixed the subjects provisionally. St James was one of the first subjects on which he lectured at Cambridge. And Dr J. B. Mayor expressed in the dedication to him of his own edition of the Epistle, which appeared shortly after Dr Hort’s death, with what high expectation the completion of his St James was looked for.

As Hulsean Professor Dr Hort lectured on 1 Peter in the Easter Terms of 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1887 and in the October Term of 1882: as Lady Margaret’s Professor in the Easter Term of 1892, the last course of Lectures which he delivered. The present volume contains the portions of these Lectures which were either fully or approximately prepared for the press. And while the fragment cannot but cause the keenest regret as being only a fragment, yet it is sufficiently varied in its contents to give an adequate view of Dr Hort’s method, and to indicate and justify lines of inquiry which may be pursued fruitfully, and, as I trust, to remove some misunderstandings of passages in his other books.

The first characteristic of Dr Hort as an interpreter which will strike his readers is, I think, his remarkable power of setting aside all traditional opinion in examining the text before him. He takes nothing for granted. He regards no traditional view as valid through long acceptance. He approaches each record, each phrase, as if it came to him directly from its author. He asks at once naturally and without effort ‘What did the words mean to him who wrote them and to those who first received them?’ In this there was no disparagement of the results of Christian life and thought. Few indeed studied more widely and carefully the biblical writings of all ages than Dr Hort himself; but he felt that, if we are to comprehend truly the message which the N.T. enshrines, we must go back and dismiss as far as possible all the associations which have gathered round familiar phrases. The result is a singular freshness and originality of treatment, which conveys to the student a vivid sense of the reality of the record. We are taken beyond formulated dogma and ecclesiastical organisation to contemplate the first action of the divine life through which in due time both were determined; and discern how both were shaped through a growth, answering to a vital law operating freely from within and not regulated by rules imposed from without.

2. Closely connected with this independent directness of interpretation is the keen historical insight with which Dr Hort marks the characteristic lessons of minute details. In a few sentences (pp. 4, 5) he places St Peter in his true relation to St Paul, and traces with subtle care the influence of the Epistles to the Romans and to the Ephesians on 1 Peter. Thus the spiritual forces of the Apostolic age are shewn in their actual working; and even more remarkable are the signs which he notices of the influence of the Lord’s words upon Christian language (e.g. p. 18 a; 78 a). Such breadth and minuteness of view, free from every prepossession, gives special weight to his judgment on the genuineness of books which have been questioned (e.g. p. 6 the Pastoral Epistles); and to his sharp condemnation of ‘the dream of a Christianity without Judaism’...which, ‘though it could make appeal to a genuine zeal for the purity of the Gospel, was in effect an abnegation of Apostolic Christianity’ (p. 57 b).

3. Unwearied thoroughness was a necessary condition of this type of study. In enumerating the questions which required to be dealt with as preparatory to the proposed Commentary Dr Hort set down: ‘The principles of N.T. lexicography, especially the deduction of theological terms from O.T. usage, usually through the medium of the LXX.’; and ‘generally the principle that the N.T. is written in terms of the O.T.’ In correspondence with these theses, the Notes are a treasury of historical philology. Almost every page gives examples of the gradual fashioning of some word for its use in the N.T., and records both parallelisms with the LXX. and differences from it, guarding alike the independence of the Apostolic writers and their obligations to an earlier generation.

4. Independence, insight, thoroughness, were all subsidiary to the endeavour to shew through Apostolic teaching the coherence of all revelation and of all life. It was not enough, as Dr Hort felt, to realise most clearly and to express most freely what the Gospel was to the first disciples. This was not a result to rest in, but the necessary preparation for determining the universal meaning of a message given under local and temporal conditions. When Prof. Bonamy Price says of Dr Arnold that he had ‘a vision of the eternal principles by which [God’s moral government] is guided, and such a profound understanding of their application, as to be able to set forth [His] manifold wisdom, as manifested at divers times, and under circumstances of the most opposite kind,’ he describes a special gift of Dr Hort. The view of prophecy which he gives in the notes on 1 Pet. 1:11 f. offers under several aspects an excellent illustration of the use which he makes of it; nor is it less characteristic that he dwells on the significance of the conception of the Christian Church as the true Israel by which all the Apostles were united (pp. 7, 16, 116).

5. The dominant interest of Dr Hort in interpretation was, in a word, not philological or historical, but theological. When Dr Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Galatians appeared, he noticed as ‘the weakest point of the book’ that ‘doctrinal questions were almost wholly avoided,’ being ‘kept for Romans.’ For himself the main question always was how the truths with which each Apostolic writer dealt entered into his own soul and life, and so how we can represent them in terms of our own age and how they affect us.

When I endeavour to characterise Dr Hort as an interpreter of the New Testament, I need hardly say that I am not thinking only of this finished fragment of his work, but much more of the experiences of an uninterrupted friendship of more than forty years, during half of which time we were engaged together on the revision of the Authorised Version of the New Testament and of 2 Maccabees and Wisdom. What this friendship was to me generally I have sought to tell elsewhere: here I touch on it only so far as it enabled me to know something of Dr Hort’s mind and method in dealing with Holy Scripture. In the course of our work problems of every kind necessarily came before us. Principles and the application of principles were keenly discussed. It could not but happen that we finally differed in some of our conclusions; but I can say without reserve that I always found Dr Hort’s suggestions, even when at first sight they seemed to be strange and almost paradoxical, fertile in materials for serious consideration. He seemed to take account of all the facts in every case and to watch jealously lest any element in it should be overlooked. The fulness of the truth was the one aim which he pursued, in the certain conviction that the most absolute fairness in intellectual inquiry is a condition of obtaining the deepest spiritual lessons. He never for a moment either overrated or disparaged criticism; but he welcomed it as an indispensable handmaid to theology, remembering that doctrine is not the standard of interpretation but a result of it. The written words were for him a way leading to the Word Himself, in whom he found ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’

Students of the Notes—and they require patient and reflective study—will recognise even within their narrow limits the traits which I have sketched; and I cannot but hope that the firm and reasoned faith, both in the records of revelation and in the work of the Christian Society as the organ of the Holy Spirit, of one whose ‘open eyes desired the truth’ and whose frank sympathy with every form of research was beyond question, will reassure many who are perplexed by the difficulties of partial knowledge. If only we can contemplate the unity of life, past, present and future, in Christ, we shall be enabled to see the Light in which Dr Hort lived and know that it is Divine.

Auckland Castle,

July 23, 1898.
To understand a book rightly, we want to know who wrote it, for what readers it was written, for what purposes, and under what circumstances; also, in reference to a book of the Bible, the history of its acceptance in the Christian Church.

Many of these particulars in regard to this special Epistle must be passed over. A few words, however, must be said on authorship, time, occasion, circumstances, and readers, all these points being closely connected together.

I. Ancient tradition uniformly attributes the Epistle to St Peter, in accordance with the first words, but is silent as to time and circumstances. These have to be gathered from internal evidence and from a comparison of this with other books of the New Testament.

The clearest point is that it was written during a time of rising persecution to men suffering under it, and this persecution must apparently have been of wide extent, covering at least a great part of Asia Minor.

Now what persecution can this have been? Here we have to bear in mind the extreme slenderness and incompleteness of all our knowledge about early persecutions. It is quite possible, nay one may even say probable, that we have no other record of those particular troubles which called forth our Epistle. But it would be rash to neglect the other alternative, the alternative usually taken for granted, that we have here to do with one of the great and famous persecutions.

The first great persecution of which we have any direct account extant is that of Nero, which seems to have at least begun in 64 A.D. The next is that of Domitian a generation later, about 95 A.D. The third, that in Bithynia under Trajan, as spoken of in Pliny’s letter, seventeen years later in 112 A.D. Later persecutions need not be enumerated. Now if St Peter be the author of this Epistle, the persecution referred to (if it be one of those known to us) must be the first, or be closely connected with the first.

The chief arguments urged against this conclusion are:

(1) that the persecution of Nero’s reign was confined to Rome;

(2) that the Epistle represents men as suffering as Christians and not merely as evildoers, and that the name Christian is late and the legal prohibition of Christianity unknown before Trajan.

If these considerations were well founded in themselves, they would undoubtedly be strong arguments for a late date.

But (1) though it is true that our very scanty information about the Neronian persecution (chiefly in connexion with the burning of the city mentioned by Tacitus) is confined to Rome, the Apocalypse, which there are strong reasons for placing not long after Nero’s death, proves the existence of persecutions in Asia Minor and implies that they were on a wide scale and under the authority of the central (“Babylonian”) power. And it is only likely that what was begun at Rome in connexion with the fire spread through the provinces, till it culminated in the state of things implied in the Apocalypse.

(2) Pliny’s letter, when carefully examined, implies distinctly that already before his time it was illegal to be a Christian, i.e. not simply to belong to a secret association, but eo nomine to be a Christian. This implies a previous and apparently long previous enactment, such as would naturally be associated with a great persecution and one bearing the character rather of that which began with Nero than of that which is connected with Domitian.

But further, there is nothing in our Epistle which makes it indispensable to believe that when it was written it was already illegal to be a Christian. Its language is satisfied if the Christian name was of itself liable to give rise to contumely and ill usage; and this might well be the case through popular suspiciousness and malevolence, apart from any legal disability, more especially if it were the policy of the Jews then, as it certainly was before and after, to stir up the heathen against the Christians. Under such circumstances as these, persecution might evidently arise in Asia Minor before the outburst under Nero at Rome as well as after it.

As regards the name Cristianov", G5985, confined in the New Testament to 1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 11:26; 26:28, and there found only as used by others than Christians, there is no tangible ground for distrusting the accuracy of Acts, or for assigning to the name a late origin. There is also no foundation for the allegation that at that early time Christianity and Judaism were too much confused together by the heathen to allow so discriminating a persecution as our Epistle implies. On this subject it is enough to refer to Lightfoot, Philippians, pp. 23ff. [See also Lightfoot, Ignatius, i. pp. 400ff.]

We have then got thus far, (1) that the persecution begun by Nero or a secondary persecution arising from that would account for the language used, and that this falls within St Peter’s life; (2) that, as a second possible alternative, there is no reason why Asia Minor should not have had persecutions of its own, independent of any known persecution bearing an emperor’s name, and perhaps even a little earlier than Nero’s persecution; and that the language of our Epistle might well apply to such persecutions. In favour of the second of these alternatives against the first is the language of the Epistle about the emperor (basileuv", G995) and his officers (1 Pet. 2:13 ff.).

The next points of importance concern the relation of 1 Peter to St Paul and his writings.

There are here two questions, one affecting doctrinal character and language, the other chronological order.

(1) In reference to doctrinal character and language as bearing on authorship, an important school of critics maintains that 1 Peter is so Pauline in character that St Peter cannot have written it.

Here all turns on the assumption that St Peter was a bigoted adherent of a purely Jewish form of Christianity, and permanently and in principle opposed to St Paul. This view starts from a misunderstanding of the temporary estrangement recorded in Gal. 2. It must be sufficient to refer to Lightfoot on Gal. 2 and to his essay on “St Paul and the Three.”

The truth is that, though there was doubtless a certain difference of point of view, and though very possibly St Peter would not naturally appropriate the whole range of St Paul’s thoughts and language, there is no evidence or probability that he would dissent from the general strain of St Paul’s teaching, much less stand in any sort of antagonism to him.

This Epistle is certainly full of Pauline language and ideas; but it also differs from St Paul’s writings both positively and negatively, i.e. both in the addition of fresh elements and in the omission of Pauline elements.

In a word, it agrees with the position of St Peter as represented in the Acts, and that representation is consistent with all known evidence and probability, and may safely be trusted.

(2) The presence of Pauline matter in this Epistle raises the question—how did it come there?

One very able and intelligent living critic, who has studied this Epistle with especial care, B. Weiss, maintains that it was written at a very early time, and that St Paul borrowed largely from it, and in this opinion he has lately been followed by , to whom he had entrusted the revision of Huther’s Commentary in the Meyer series. It would be wasting time however to discuss this paradox. Doubtless, as almost everyone else agrees, St Peter, not St Paul, is the borrower.

By far the clearest cases of coincidence of language with 1 Peter are in Romans, written about 58 A.D. The use made of other Pauline Epistles, with one exception, is, to say the least, much slighter, if indeed it can safely be affirmed at all. The one exception, a remarkable one, is Ephesians. Here the connexion, though very close, does not lie on the surface. It is shown more by identities of thought and similarity in the structure of the two Epistles as wholes than by identities of phrase.

If Ephesians were written, as some suppose, not by St Paul but by a later writer in his name, this connexion would complicate the question as to 1 Peter. But Ephesians is, I fully believe, genuine; and, if so, its probable date is about 62 A.D., being written during St Paul’s Roman captivity. Hence this gives us the earliest possible date for 1 Peter.

One more Epistle has to be named, that of St James, as having been used by St Peter in this Epistle. Now St James’ martyrdom probably belongs likewise to 62, and his Epistle to a time not long before. Here therefore we get substantially the same result, and it will be seen that at 62 we are very near 64, the year when Nero’s persecution broke out at Rome.

II. So much for the time. What then of the place at which the Epistle was written? That is, who, or what, is meant by hJ ejn Babulw'ni suneklekthv in 1 Pet. 5:13? Is Babylon proper meant, or Rome, for the obscure Babylons may be safely neglected?

There is not time to discuss the details of this question. I will only say that the probabilities seem to me to preponderate greatly in favour of Rome. Two popular arguments however against this view must just be noticed.

(1) It is improbable, some urge, that the name Babylon would be used in a figurative sense in sober prose, as distinguished from the apocalyptic visions of St John. But there is no reason to think that the image was peculiar to St John. It would follow very naturally from any reflection on the part played by Babylon in Daniel and other prophetic books, when once the Roman Empire, as embodied in its rulers, began to rise in hostility towards the infant Church, if indeed it was not already in Jewish use. The enigmatic designation may have been chosen prudentially.

(2) It is alleged that the order of the regions of Asia Minor in 1:1 starts from the side of Babylon, not of Rome. This argument is examined in the note in loco and in the Additional Note.

But if the Epistle was written from Rome, its silence about St Paul is certainly a remarkable fact; so remarkable that some have been led by it to conclude that, if written there and then, it could not have been written by St Peter. But our knowledge of the events of that whole time is far too limited to justify any such conclusion. The Epistle either might be written during that absence of St Paul from Rome which must have preceded the writing of the Pastoral Epistles, if (as I believe) they are genuine, or it might be written when he had already suffered martyrdom; for though there is good reason to believe that both apostles did really suffer martyrdom at Rome, there is also good reason to believe that they did not suffer on the same occasion; and the silence of our Epistle would be intelligible enough if the sad tidings of St Paul’s death had been already made known to the Asiatic Christians by their Roman brethren or by St Peter himself. Moreover if, according to the most natural interpretation of 1 Pet. 5:12, Silvanus was the bearer of the Epistle, St Peter may well have left all personal matters for him to set forth orally. At all events it is not necessary to decide positively between these alternatives. It is enough to see that both are compatible with St Peter’s authorship.

III. Lastly, to whom was the Epistle addressed?

It is much disputed whether these Christian converts had been Jews or heathen. The natural inference from the language used is, I think, that the greater part of them had been heathen, while it is also morally certain that in many places the nucleus of the Christian congregation would be derived from the Jewish congregation, to which it was St Paul’s habit to preach first. But this is a secondary matter compared with a right understanding of the manner in which St Peter applies to the whole body of the Asiatic Churches, Gentiles and Jews alike, the language which in the Old Testament describes the prerogatives of God’s ancient people. The truth is that St Peter, as doubtless every other apostle, regarded the Christian Church as first and foremost the true Israel of God, the one legitimate heir of the promises made to Israel, the one community which by receiving Israel’s Messiah had remained true to Israel’s covenant, while the unbelieving Jews in refusing their Messiah had in effect apostatised from Israel. This point of view was not in the least weakened by the admission of Gentile Christians in any number or proportion. In St Paul’s words they were but branches grafted in upon the one ancient olive tree of God.

This is the true key to most of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament generally, and it has especially to be remembered in this Epistle.

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