Peter After Acts 15

Any “quest for the Historical Peter” faces serious challenges. James Dunn titled his chapter on Peter in his book on the apostolic period “The Voiceless Peter” (Beginning at Jerusalem, chapter, 35). His point is that the book of Acts has little to say about Peter after chapter 12 and there is no historically reliable data which allows us to know much at all about Peter’s ministry after Acts 15. Part of the problem for Dunn is that he does not accept 1 Peter as coming from a historical Peter, although he discusses the locations from 1 Peter 1:1 as possible locations for Peter to have ministered and he uses the reference to Babylon in 5:13 as a in that Peter was in fact in Rome in the early 60’s.

As is usual, the earliest information we have on Peter’s ministry comes from Paul. According to Gal 2, Peter spent some time in Antioch. Based on Paul’s comments in Corinthians, it is usually though that Peter worked in Corinth at some time after Paul founded the church. Peter is mentioned in 1 Corinthians four times, once in the traditional evidence of the resurrection, and twice in the context of factionalism in Corinth (1:12 and 3:22). Lastly, he is mentioned in 1 Cor 9:5 as traveling as an apostle with his wife.

That there was a faction in Corinth that saw Peter as a leader does not mean that Peter ministered in the city. Jews from all over the empire passed through Corinth, as seen by Aquila and Priscilla. If there were factions in Jerusalem (James, Peter, maybe later John), then those factions could be present in Corinth as well.

That there is a group that claims only to follow Christ implies is important since it is obvious that Jesus did not visit Corinth. This faction looked to Jesus as a sole source of authority perhaps because they were followers of Jesus during his ministry and have since relocated to Corinth. The same might be true for those of the Peter faction. They knew Peter from Judea and considered him to be the chosen successor to Jesus, the leader of the Twelve.

More positively, 1 Cor 9:5 does in fact state that Peter traveled, implying that Peter engaged in some sort of mission activity.. The implication is that he traveled with his wife and when he was in a location his needs were covered by the church in which he ministered. This sounds as if Peter traveled to established churches and provided some sort of teaching services, perhaps as a witness of Jesus’ ministry and teaching it was important for him to pass along this tradition to the next generation. This means that it is at least possible that Peter traveled as far as Corinth and taught in one or more of the house churches in that location, but it is not required by Paul’s statements in 1 Cor 1:12.

Peter’s traveling ministry may have been to observe or inspect churches in order to see of they were keeping the traditions as they were handed down to them. Acts 8 is evidence that Peter and John did this, following up on Philip’s ministry in Samaria and dealing with a potential problem, Simon Magus. This also may explain his interest in the Antioch churches as well. The impression we get from the book of Acts is not that Peter is a church planter, but rather a traveling teacher who builds up already-established congregations by ensuring that these churches are teaching the apostolic Faith.

13 thoughts on “Peter After Acts 15

  1. “Part of the problem for Dunn is that he does not accept 1 Peter as coming from a historical Peter, although he discusses the locations from 1 Peter 1:1 as possible locations for Peter to have ministered and he uses the reference to Babylon in 5:13 as a int that Peter was in fact in Rome in the early 60’s.” (P.Long)

    It is interesting that Dunn wouldn’t accept 1 Peter as written, or dictated by Peter. But then again, Dunn says a lot of weird things. I would accept the letter as being written by Peter if only to give us more evidence about what he taught. If he is so voiceless in Acts and Paul it would seem logical that we would look to the book that his name is ascribed to, to find out more about him, or at least what other people thought of him. I think that 1 Peter 1:1 and 5:13 is enough evidence for me that it was written by Peter himself. “While the thought belongs to Peter, the writing in all probability belongs to Silvanus.” (FttE, 89)

    On another note, why is it obvious that he is talking about Rome in 5:13. I realize John refers to Rome as Babylon, but does Peter? Why couldn’t it be Babylon?

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  2. I tend to agree with you Jacob. How can a person speak with such authority on a passage that is so open for interpretation. Although, Silvanus would not be my first choice as author. I do believe that Peter most likely did not travel to Corinth and that the faction that was created was built on previous experience with Peter. He was therefore seen as the successor to Jesus by many people in Corinth. Clearly the Corinthian Church had the most difficulty with being focused on Christ and following Him as their only leader (1 Corinthians 3:3-4). I would much rather give 1 Peter a stamp of pseudonimity and place this one safe. For if the book had secretarial assistance than how can we be sure it was from Silvanus?

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  3. I think that I would tend to agree with the above statements about the book of 1 Peter being written by Peter. I liked the suggestion in FttE about Silvanus being the secretary for Peter. FttE says “while the thought belongs to Peter, the writing in all probability belongs to Silvanus” (FttE 89). It also says in 5:12 “Through Silvanus…I have written briefly”. I also think that while Peter did do a lot of traveling, that he may not have gone to Corinth and that the faction following him was following solely based on the things they had heard about him or that they had read about him.

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  4. I would have to agree also that I think that Peter is the author of I Peter. I have no reason to doubt that. I also think that Peter did a lot of traveling. I do not think that he would have stayed in one city his whole life. If it was through church planting or just checking up on churches, I think that he traveled around and tried to encourage the Christians at those places through whatever means that he thought was necessary.

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  5. Here are some arguments supporting 1 Peter being pseudonymous, some of them mentioned above by P. Long. As of now, I still believe that Peter wrote this epistle, but how would you respond to these arguments?

    1. 1 Peter has too many Pauline ideas to be written by Peter.
    2. Paul evangelized parts of the area where the letter was sent. Peter would be infringing on Paul’s church pants by sending an epistle there.
    3. Peter was very familiar with the life of Jesus, yet 1 Peter contains no personal accounts of Jesus’ life as would be expected.
    4. 1 Peter contains a Greek literary style beyond the ability of a common fisherman.
    5. The persecution discussed in 1 Peter could not have taken place until after Peter’s death historically.
    6. “The author describes himself as sumpresbuteros (fellow elder), a “title that appeared late in the development of early Christian ecclesiology.”

    “In 1 Pet. 1.1 the author describes himself as apostolos (apostle), but in 1 Pet. 5.1 as sumpresbuteros (fellow elder). One who was a member of the original circle of the Twelve, an apostle, the one to whom the risen Jesus first appeared, need hardly have resorted to this title that appeared late in the development of early Christian ecclesiology.” (Udo Schnelle, The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, p. 400)

    These arguments are from: http://www.theopedia.com/First_Epistle_of_Peter

    Just as a side note: Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Cyprian, and Tertullian all supported Simon Peter as being the author of 1 Peter! The authorship had not been questioned until recently!

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    • To begin with, I recognize that these are not questions that Rachel was asking, but I like the idea of responding to them.

      1. Why can’t Peter have Pauline ideas? If Paul was inspired and commissioned by Christ, why can’t other followers of Christ, particularly one who received a vision from God telling him to eat what was considered unclean, have similar ideas when teaching about the same Savior?

      2. Ironically, the first point and the second point kind of contradict each other. If the letter contains a lot of Pauline ideas, Peter would be reinforcing Pauline ideas rather than infringing on Paul’s church plants. Provided Peter doesn’t say anything contrary to Paul, which I don’t think he does, he would not be overstepping his bounds in encouraging the churches there.

      3. This book is clearly and encouraging letter, not a historical one. In 2.21, Peter encourages his readers to follow Christ’s example, and I think that is what the letter was primarily about. Why do specific events from Christ’s life have to be included for it to be a letter from Peter?

      4. That’s why Peter used Silvanus as stated in 5.12.

      5. I don’t know anything about the argument in this question…lol. 🙂

      6. If there are people claiming the authority of Peter, then he was obviously a leader in the church the people respected and listened to. In order to better identify with the leaders in the surrounding churches, what would stop him from identifying himself under the same heading as the leaders in the churches, in this case, ‘elder’?

      Anyways, just thought I would see what people thought of my responses…not exactly scholarly, but those answers are the way my logical mind works.

      P.S. Maybe I’ll even get the coveted response from P. Long… 😉

      BTW…there have been several spelling errors in this weeks posts…lol!

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    • I think these are some pretty tired old arguments, if you ask me (no offense to the Theopedia!)

      #4 assumes Peter was a “common fisherman”, which may not be the case, and seems somewhat prejudiced against the ancient person (and fisherman in general), and displays a woeful lack of understanding of how letters were written int he ancient world. To say “Peter wrote 1 Peter” doe snot mean he put the pen to the page — he dictated it to a scribe (Silvanus) who actually wrote the letter.

      As for #5 (The persecution discussed in 1 Peter could not have taken place until after Peter’s death historically), this is a hard point to speak to since we have no idea what persecution Peter is talking about. If the assumption is that he is talking about Trajan, then it is true, Peter is long dead by that point.

      But it is also true that Jews and Christians both were easy targets (being atheists with strange, secret practices), so occasional, sporadic persecutions, maybe even simply individual denouncements happened all the time in well populated regions.

      So the fifth point here is not specific enough to argue one way or there other.

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      • I think these arguments are rather old also. If we truly believe in some kind of inspiration, a person’s trade would really have no bearing on what writing they wrote down. P Long also makes a good point about how things were written down anyway. Peter could very well have been illiterate. It doesn’t matter though. It was easy back then to hire a scribe to write down your own thoughts and words for you.

        As far as persecution goes. The ‘persecution’ mentioned must have been more minor if we compare it to the kind of persecution Christians would go through further into history. Persecution could have just been some kind of religious prejudice.

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  6. >P.S. Maybe I’ll even get the coveted response from P. Long…

    Not a chance, you used smiley faces.

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  7. These are in response to your arguments for pseudonymonity Rachel.

    1. By now Paul and Peter likely may have met and been familiar with each other’s teaching.

    2. As. Phil Long pointed out “Peter’s traveling ministry may have been to observe or inspect churches in order to see [if] they were keeping the traditions as they were handed down to them.” Back then this was particularly important since most people didn’t know how to read or write even if stuff was written down.

    3. While that may be true, “much of the material in 1 Peter, given the plausibility of the author as an eye-witness to Jesus’ earthly ministry, readily accords with material in the Gospel narratives” (FttE 87).

    4. As suggested in FttE this literary style may have been a result of Peter using an amanuenses, a professional writer/scribe by the name of Silvanus. “While the thought belongs to Peter, the writing in all probability belongs to Silvanus” (FttE 89).

    5. The persecution issue arises out of the late dating some would like to ascribe to the writing of 1 Peter. The kind of persecution that is being discussed is more akin to harassment. I like FttE’s argument against the late dating of 1 Peter. It would be absurd to admonish his readers to be so compliant with “. . . the governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do evil. . .(FttE 93)

    6. The fact that Peter describes himself as a fellow elder may have been in use but not widely used. Peter is simply being humble.

    I also believe Peter wrote 1 Peter for those and other reasons as well.

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    • “I also believe Peter wrote 1 Peter for those and other reasons as well.”
      Me too. None of the arguments for pseudonymonity seemed very valid, I just wanted to post something that would well up a good response.

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