Category Archives: Peter

is Peter quoting James, James quoting Peter or are both quoting Proverbs…or…

The Church of St. Sophia in Ohrid (1345-1346),...
The Church of St. Sophia in Ohrid (1345-1346), The Repentence of King David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t spend a lot of time in James since it includes very little about people going to hell, but noticed this today:

πρὸ πάντων τὴν εἰς ἑαυτοὺς ἀγάπην ἐκτενῆ ἔχοντες, ὅτι ἀγάπη καλύπτει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν – 1 Peter 4.8

γινωσκέτω ὅτι ὁ ἐπιστρέψας ἁμαρτωλὸν ἐκ πλάνης ὁδοῦ αὐτοῦ σώσει ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἐκ θανάτου καὶ καλύψει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν. – James 5.20

Achtemeier has this…

The most puzzling part of the verse consists in the final four words (ἀγάπη καλύπτει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν). While the notion that love covers sin is common in the Bible and early Christian literature, the closeness of this formulation to the Hebrew of Prov 10:12b* and its almost identical form in Jas 5:20* point to the proverbial status of this phrase, a status probably antedating both uses in the NT.1

Using a certain resource, I found a connection to several Clementine letters.

Blessed were we, dearly beloved, if we should be doing the commandments of God in concord of love, to the end that our sins may through love be forgiven us – 1 Clement 50.5

Now I do not think that I have given any mean counsel respecting continence, and whosoever performeth it shall not repent thereof, but shall save both himself and me his counsellor. For it is no mean reward to convert a wandering and perishing soul, that it may be saved. – 2 Clement 15.1

Almsgiving therefore is a good thing, even as repentance from sin. Fasting is better than prayer, but almsgiving than both. And love covereth a multitude of sins, but prayer out of a good conscience delivereth from death. Blessed is every man that is found full of these. For almsgiving lifteth off the burden of sin – 2 Clement 16.4

and for my friendly gnostic fellow,

All those who anoint themselves with it (.i.e, Truth) take pleasure in it. While those who are anointed are present, | those nearby also profit (from the fragrance). If those anointed with ointment withdraw from them and leave, then those not anointed, who merely stand nearby, still | remain in their bad odor. The Samaritan gave nothing but | wine and oil to the wounded man. It is nothing other than the ointment. It healed the wounds, for “love covers a multitude of sins.”2

In reviewing the ancient instances of this quote – even those making use of James/1 Peter, it looks like it is a recognized proverb (pardon the expression). We shouldn’t think Peter and James are at odds with one another. While James has the reputation of supporting “works righteousness,” I believe they are both saying the same thing. Both are about rescuing the less-than-sober/self-controlled Christian from sins. One calls this love, one calls this repentance. Same thing. Even the Gnostic version alludes to the recapturing of Truth.

So, maybe the early Church didn’t have too divergent a theology at the beginning? And, maybe that theology included the notion that we can aid in (co-responsible for) one another’s journey?

  1. Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter: a Commentary on First Peter (ed. Eldon Jay Epp; Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 295.
  2. Wesley W. Isenberg, “The Gospel of Philip (II, 3),” in The Nag Hammadi Library in English (ed. James M. Robinson; 4th rev. ed.; Leiden; New York: E. J. Brill, 1996), 155.

2 Peter’s Canon

I really want to do some work on intentional canonization by John, but will have to do other things first. Anyway, in the meantime, I just wanted to point out that 2 Peter (c. 100 CE) has a canon, or a set of works deemed authoritative. What are they?

  • 2 Peter 1.16-21 defends at least one Gospel (Compare Matthew 17.1-5, Luke 9.31-2. As far as Mark, I would need to dig deeper for intertextual clues)
  • 2 Peter 3.1 defends 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter 3.15-6 defends the writings of Paul.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Yes, there are problems with an early dating of 2 Peter

And no, it did not come from a “post-modern” scholar but from St. Jerome:

“He [Peter] wrote two letters, which are called general, the second of which, on account of its difference from the first in style, is considered by many not to be by him” (De vir. ill. 1; see Ep. Hedib. 120 Quaest. 11).

There are plenty of reasons not to accept 2 Peter as authentic to a pre-68 authorship. The archaeological evidence of both text and tradition display a letter written in the early to mid-second century. Both Origen and Eusebius expressed doubts as to the authorship and these were long before the days of German critical scholars.

See more here but it does not mean I endorse all of the statements found therein.

Did (2nd) Peter expect a Stoicist end of the world?

First, read this post.

Second, understand that I think that Frank Viola‘s Pagan Christianity isn’t the best book to read, considering that it has it’s own issues, one of them, is that it doesn’t investigate the various believes in the New Testament and early Church, which they would consider pagan.

Stoicism. It was prevalent in the time in which Christianity was birthed. It is in the DNA if you will.

Part of that, I believe, is found in 2 Peter’s cosmology,

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! (2Pe 3:10-12 NASB)

A lot of things there, ain’t there.

I’m not going to post a lot because I don’t want too, but this has come up in my work on Lucan’s cosmic dissolution, which is not really a dissolution, but a world changing event which obliterates one world (or one political state) and recreates another (or another political state).

If you read Book II of Lucan and Theologia Graeca by Cornutus (and some Plutarch) and you will get the idea that heat (one of the elements) will be used to melt away the bonds of the universe. The same cosmology is present, especially when after the destruction of the cosmos, a new cosmos will appear. Same thing the Stoics believed.

Good stuff.

Let’s discuss.

Confirmation of Peter’s ἔξοδον, and Mark’s late date, in Irenaeus

I can’t find the Greek text, and I really don’t want to spend any more time on it, but this is what we hear Irenaeus say:

“And after their [Peter’s and Paul’s] departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter”

Several scholars suggest that the word here translated as departure, ἔξοδος, simple means that Peter and Paul left Rome, only to return later and die. By rights, they may be correct to some extent, unless we can supply a better lexicographical meeting. There is a canonical source which does provide us with some suggestion that Irenaeus meant death, and further, that this word is in fact a very Christian understanding of death.

I mean, sure, there is Luke 9.31,

οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ, ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.

But, that doesn’t really go well. Luke-Acts is connected to Exodus, and the use of the word here is only a hallmark of the author’s internal theology. We need something else… Something which connects Peter to this particular word and concept.

σπουδάσω δὲ καὶ ἑκάστοτε ἔχειν ὑμᾶς μετὰ τὴν ἐμὴν ἔξοδον τὴν τούτων μνήμην ποιεῖσθαι. (2Pe 1:15 BGT)

If you follow Bauckham, and to some extent Witherington, then 2nd Peter can be dated between 90 and 100 CE. If you follow some scholars, we can date it to 160. Origen has issues with it, but there is some hints at it in earlier (than 160) works. But, what comes first? If you are going to make a letter look authentic, you need to borrow from existing phrases. That argument is not to be balanced here.

On the other hand, regardless of the date, we can assume that one author is in the other author’s audience. 2 Peter used the word to signify death, or rather, the Christian notion of departing this world for the next.

Get my book sometime early next year. Boom. This is important.

The Cosmological Worldview of 2 Peter, Creation ≠ World

English: Farmer Noah (Mosaic in Basilica di Sa...
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A friend was reading my recent paper arguing for creation ex deo, which cough cough to the friendly publishers who read this book and maybe would like to see it, and suggested that ex nihilo is not supported by the author of 2nd Peter. Admittedly, as scholars have argued, ex nihilo is not really prohibited by Scripture, but is not required either. So, I was reading 2nd Peter to find out what my friend was talking about. First, this verse:

and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2Pe 2:5 NAU)

Now, this image which is presented here connects to cosmology and eschatology easily enough. First, we know that God didn’t destroy the world with the flood, just you, know, covered it up with fake dinosaur bones or something. Second, we know that when God does destroy the world and will only do so once, we all go to heaven. Right?

Aρχαίου κόσμου, or ancient cosmos, seems to be something Peter focuses on. In the next chapter,

and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. (2Pe 3:4-6 NAU)

Okay, so this is how I read this part… notice that Peter has twice maintained that the world has been destroyed and notes that Creation comes after the destruction of the world. The World, or cosmic order, can be destroyed and recreated, and was not created out of nothing. Creation, then, is something different. Further, the world was formed out of water and by water, which is the image we see in Genesis 1, with water being related to chaos. Further, connecting this back to Noah’s flood, which makes several appearances in 2nd Peter, chaos once again reigned upon the earth until God once again recreated the world. Now, for those who would like to argue that Creation here is related to Adamic accounts, I note that Peter uses the word, ‘fathers’, indicating not Adam (Adam and Steve?) but instead the Patriarchs which Peter connects to Creation. The Patriarchs, are, of course, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For support that the word here points to the Patriarchs, I note that both Paul and the author of Hebrews uses it.

So, boom. Creation is an ordering of God’s plan, a dispensation or economy, where as the world is a cosmic order, neither of which point to the rock floating in space.

Discuss amongst yourselves and help me.

(and HT to a friend, whom, for fear of embarrassment to him, I will let remain nameless, but has my deepest thanks for his responses to my paper.)

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Scratchpad: Final NT 1 Paper – 1 Peter 2.1-10 (Part 3)

Are we still that community?

Early Christian interpretation of 1 Peter begins with Hermas. Hermas was connected to the church at Rome, or at least Tradition tells us this. In this, he would have no doubt had a long standing access to Peter’s letter. While this may not be an exact interpretation of 1 Peter 3.18-4.6, Hermes most diffidently has a certain strain of Tradition in mind which may help us understand how the early Church thought of the ‘preaching to the dead.’ In 16:5-7 we find a description of the Harrowing of Hell in which Christ (and by Hermas’ account, the Apostles) rescued from the hand of death those disobedient souls in prison. This is not the only section from the Shepherd which we find a connection to the Petrine epistle. In 2.4-9, we find the Shepherd speaking about stones building together a tower, which is of course later interpreted to mean the Church. What is seen is that the community to which Peter wrote received his letter and no doubt, even today, we can see the effects of that suffering community obeying his charges to them to remain strong and to be built up as living stones.

Today, however, we have allowed ourselves to be fractured over various things which we insist are doctrinal and thus Apostolic. Peter’s letter, unlike Paul, was not to correct doctrinal matters, but to encourage the saints to suffer the insults of being outside the power structures of the Imperial world and thereby reveal the Glory of God through Jesus Christ. The Church today has taken generally one of two paths. It either renounces power or it tries to take power. But Peter is advocating a third way. In modern times, the Ugandan martyr Bishop Janani Luwum spoke of the sanctification of power which recognized that his people suffered because they had chosen to remain outside the ‘public and political sphere[1]’. He labored intensely to be a positive Christian voice, even to dictators, to inform them of where the Church stood on the matters which related to the governing of the people. In doing so, through coups and other forms of violence, Bishop Luwum eventually lost his life at the hand of a governmental assassin. He served as a true priest, while today his theological descendants are attempting to serve as kings in forcing conservative (American) theology upon Ugandans. He whispered in the ears of tyrants to bring good to his people but they and so many in the West use the name of Christ to shout down the message of God.

A priest is not of the ruling class, but a priest is one which brings the sacrifices of the people to God. Peter was not advocating an attempt and capturing the culture for Christ, or in today’s terms, cultural warfare, but was advocating that they become the Priests in an order already secured for them by the victory of Christ who suffered as they did. Today, we are at a crossroads in the West, wherein we see the effects of a powerless Church who for so long sought to engage in physical warfare, dependent upon laws and other instruments of a human’s mind; and yet, I find that there is hope in the word of the Petrine epistle, even for the West. Even today, we find that those who are engaging in prophetic movements are suffering at the hands of Imperial powers, albeit these powers are doctrinal or hierarchal and often times, Christian. Those we are seeking different aspects of Christianity, of the witness of Christ are coming under attacks, with their name and honor being challenged and even denied, because they are trying to live God’s call. I think of Liberals and Conservatives, Pentecostals and Emergent, and even Catholics and Mainline Protestants who are experiencing change and yet, in this apocalyptic atmosphere must endure suffering at the hands of their brothers and sisters who resist the humble and give a special place to the proud.

In regards to the use of Scripture, I think that Peter’s example is one which must be heeded to. I find so many using the text to justify their doctrines and their beliefs, and yet, not being guided, shaped or molded by the text. While it may be a fine line, the difference is one which allows the Text to be used, and the other which allows one to be used by the Text. Peter wasn’t proof-texting, but was using Scripture, something it was obvious that both he and his audience would know well enough, to show the community what they were to become. I would much rather a Christianity which allowed itself to be guided by Scripture, allowing Scripture to set the bench mark, than a Christianity which uses certain passages, here or there, to justify their actions.

A Christian reader who has endured a transition of faith and the subsequent suffering forced upon them by their former associates and the lack of a solid foundation will find hope in the words of this epistle, even today. It is the quintessential ‘catholic’ epistle in that it is for all Christians, at all times, to teach them to use Scripture, to endure, to love, and to not seek socio-political powers, but to assume what has already been given to them, and to develop their heavenly citizenship as the Temple of God wherein they act as Priests by the extension of honor of Christ. Further, if we were to take it at its word, it is from the hand of one who witnessed the sufferings of Christ first hand, who is waiting to share in the revealed glory, and sits in the heart of the beast. Can we find no better encouragement then that?


[1] Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Clouds of Witness, Christian Voices from Africa and Asia, Downers Grove, 2011, p113-114

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