V. Conclusion and Greetings (5:12–14)
12 By means of Silvanus, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written you briefly, encouraging you and declaring to you that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen along with you, sends you greetings, as does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace be with all of you who are in Christ.
12 The letter is finished. What remains is for our author to add the appropriate conclusion and greetings, which he does in three brief verses. The normal Greek letter simply ended with a short closing word, perhaps preceded by such items as (1) an oath, (2) a health wish, (3) a purpose statement, and (4) a mention of who was carrying the letter, 1 but the NT writers (especially Paul, although that may only appear to be the case because we have so many of his letters and relatively few of those of other writers) have expanded this into a relatively lengthy conclusion. It was normal for these church letters to include (1) greetings (rare in Greek letters, but more common in oriental ones and valued in the church as a means of strengthening interchurch unity: 2 Cor. 13:12; Phil. 4:22; 2 John 13), (2) some comment about the messenger (Rom. 16:1; 1 Cor. 16:17; 2 Cor. 8:17; Eph. 6:21; Phil. 2:25; Col. 4:7–8; Philem. 11–12), (3) a statement as to the purpose of the letter (Gal. 6:11–17; 1 Tim. 6:20–21; Philem. 21–22; Heb. 13:22; Jas. 5:19–20; 1 John 5:21), and (4) a blessing or prayer as the concluding line (Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 6:18; Eph. 6:24; Phil. 4:23; Col. 4:18; Heb. 13:25). It was also normal for the author to take the pen from the scribe at this point and write the conclusion (although not necessarily the greetings if they were extended) in his own hand, as likely happens here (Gal. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:17). However, despite structural parallels our letter shows no literary dependence on Pauline formulas (as the differences will show), but rather a general similarity to Paul’s letters as well as to other NT letters.
The first item in the conclusion is the reference to Silvanus. By this is surely meant that Silvanus whom we first meet in Jerusalem in Acts 15:22, 27, 32–33 as a prophet and trusted minister in the church; sensitive diplomatic missions were not entrusted to novices. While in Antioch he was chosen by Paul as a coworker to replace Barnabas (which again speaks eloquently about his qualities; Acts 15:40), and he is mentioned repeatedly during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:19, 25, 29; 17:4, 10, 14–15; 18:5). Paul naturally refers to him in his letters to the churches they founded together (2 Cor. 1:19; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1).
The reference to Silvanus or Silas (the shorter form of his name) means one of three things: (1) he is the carrier of the letter (Acts 15:23, where there is no sense that both Judas and Silas wrote the short letter, but that they were delivering it; cf. Ignatius, Rom. 10:1; Phld. 11:2; Smyrn. 12:1; Polycarp, Phil. 14:1), (2) he is the secretary or amanuensis who wrote the letter by dictation (Rom. 16:22), or (3) he is responsible for writing the letter on behalf of someone else (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 4.23.11, quotes Dionysius of Corinth who uses the same grammatical structure used here to refer to Clement’s writing on behalf of the Roman church in A.D. 96). The reference to writing “briefly” would seem to make the first option less likely as the intention of “by means of Silvanus” (although it is still possible that Silvanus carried the letter without that fact being mentioned), for it appears to make the sentence refer to the process of writing itself. 2 The second option is possible, but given his need to go on to name Silvanus “a faithful brother” and Silvanus’s coworker (perhaps coapostle) status with Paul noted above, it would seem unlikely that he was a mere scribe. Thus this option merges into the third. Silvanus is being cited as the real author of the letter per se, although the thoughts behind it are those of Simon Peter (see Introduction).
Since this is the case, it was quite necessary to go on and endorse Silvanus and thus to assure the readers of the value of his work. The phrase “whom I regard” is not an expression of doubt (e.g., implying “Others may not, but I at least regard him …”), but a positive endorsement that puts Peter’s full authority behind the commendation (as in Rom. 3:28; 8:18; 2 Cor. 11:5; cf. 2 Cor. 8:23, which accomplishes the same function in different words). The endorsement reads: “faithful brother.” The quality of faithfulness is particularly significant here, for surely only a faithful person should be entrusted with writing on one’s behalf (1 Cor. 4:17 [of Timothy]; Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7 [of Tychicus]; Col. 1:7 [of Epaphras]; Col. 4:9 [of Onesimus]). It assures the readers that what Silvanus has written accurately portrays Peter. The term “brother” can apply to any Christian, but since Peter has avoided it up to now (although he has used related words) it is likely that it is used in its secondary sense of “colleague” or “fellow-worker” (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; 2:13; Eph. 6:21; Col. 1:1; 4:7; Philem. 1), identifying Silvanus as a sharer in Peter’s ministry as he had been in Paul’s. 3
Peter goes on to mention that he had written “briefly.” While 1 Peter at 105 verses is not a long letter as NT letters go, it is certainly not short, although given its subject it is succinct. When one realizes that Hebrews can make the same claim (13:22), it becomes clear that this statement is not meant as a description of fact but as a formal statement of politeness, for letters were supposed to be brief. 4
With that polite statement Peter goes on to give his purpose for writing. It is first of all to encourage them. Twice before he has used this term (2:11; 5:1), each time opening a section of ethical exhortation or parenesis (a normal use of the term elsewhere in the NT as well, e.g. Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 1:10; 4:16; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 4:2). His encouragement, then, is to live rightly even under the situation of persecution.
Secondly, his purpose is to declare “to you that this is the true grace of God.” The word “declaring” means “to attest” or “to witness,” and is found only here in the NT. 5 What is attested in this letter is simply that “this is the true grace of God.” But what does “this” refer to? Three suggestions have been made. First, Peter has spoken of God’s grace three times (1:13; 5:5, 10), and these statements include both the future reward at the coming of Christ (1:13; 3:7; 5:10) and God’s present relationship to them (5:5; cf. 1:10; 4:10, 14), which is a foretaste of the future (1:6; 2:10). Thus while their present situation may not feel like grace from God, when looked at from the proper perspective they are indeed receiving that grace. 6
Second, others believe that “this” refers to the suffering itself, both actual and potential, which the Christians are experiencing. Thus the very thing that the believers look on as evil is actually part of God’s manifold grace (4:10). 7
Third, “this” may refer to the letter as a whole. In other words, Peter is saying, “I’ve written to you a short letter to encourage you and to testify to you that this teaching is really [i.e., “true”] a gift [“grace”] from God.” 8
In fact, the first and third of these explanations are not far apart, while the second is less likely due to the reasons cited above in the note. The intention of the letter itself is to give eschatological perspective to their suffering, that is, to point out the grace of God they will receive and even now are receiving, and thus encourage them to keep on in their trust in God (which is the use of grace to which the first position pointed). But since the phrase appears immediately after the commendation of Silvanus, most likely it refers to the letter as a whole, not to specific references to grace within it. Either way, the clause points to the encouraging fact that God is not absent from their suffering, but values it and rewards it.
This leads to a simple exhortation: “Stand fast in it.” 9 Now is not the time to give up, but rather the time to stand fast in faith (as they have been exhorted to stand against the devil, 5:9) and hold on to what they already have, that is, God’s grace. This is the major purpose toward which the whole letter is directed.
13 Having summarized his letter, our author now moves on to give the customary greetings. In the interest of tying the church together, it was natural to send along the greetings of the church where the author was located, naming specific house church leaders if they would be known to the recipients (e.g., Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 16:19–20) or sending general greetings if no one in the church was known to those in the receiving church. Peter chooses the latter course, “She who is in Babylon, chosen along with you, sends you greetings.” While some older commentators have argued that “she” was Peter’s wife, who did apparently travel with Peter (1 Cor. 9:5; cf. Matt. 8:14), it is highly unlikely that he would not have named her had she been well enough known to the Christians in Asia Minor to send greetings, nor is it likely that she rather than Peter would be linked to “Babylon.” Rather, as is the case in 2 John 1, 13, the “lady” in question is “Ekklesia,” the church. 10 She is indeed “chosen along with you” (a compound word in Greek used only here in the NT), 11 for as the Christians in Asia Minor were “chosen,” “called,” or “elect” (1:1, 15; 2:9, 21; 3:9; 5:10), so were the Christians in “Babylon”; they share something (cf. 5:9 where he links the churches in suffering as well).
But where is the church and why use the term “Babylon”? Three locations have been proposed. First, some argue that Babylon is in Egypt, for Strabo (Geog. 17.1 and 30) and Josephus (Ant. 2.15.1) mention a Roman garrison by that name in Egypt near Old Cairo and church tradition connects John Mark to the founding of the Egyptian church (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.16 and 24). But tradition does not connect Peter to Egypt (in fact, Eusebius in the same section places Peter in Rome), and Mark is linked to Alexandria, not to places further south. Furthermore, it would seem unlikely that an author would use without further explanation the name given by a military garrison to a place, so we can safely dismiss this possibility.
Naturally it is possible that “Babylon” might mean the city by that name in Mesopotamia. Had Peter been traveling earlier in the century, that would have been possible, but during the reign of Claudius the Jewish community left Babylon for Seleucia (Josephus, Ant. 18.9.8–9), and that was about the same time that Peter had to leave Jerusalem due to the persecution of Herod Agrippa I. Furthermore, Babylon was in decline generally during the first century so that by 115 Trajan would find it a ghost town (Dio Cassius, Hist. 68.30). Finally, there is no Syrian tradition of Peter’s having traveled in the Mesopotamian area. Thus it is highly unlikely that Peter would ever have been in Babylon at the same time as Silvanus (who, we know, traveled in Asia Minor and Greece with Paul).
That leaves Rome as the only viable option. That Rome was referred to as Babylon in both Jewish and Christian sources is known. In the Christian tradition “Babylon” in Rev. 14:8; 17:5, 18; 18:2 refers to Rome. In the Jewish tradition Sib. Or. 5:143, 159 (both with references to Nero) and 2 Bar. 11:1; 67:7 (with a reference to Vespasian), as well as later rabbinic writings (far too late for our purposes), refer to Rome under the name Babylon. While 1 Peter is likely earlier than any of these references (unless one connects Revelation to the Neronian persecution), they all build on OT imagery. Babylon is the place of exile (Ps. 137; Isa. 43:14 in context with 5–6) and it is a wicked and haughty city (Isa. 13; Jer. 50–51; Dan. 5:17–31). In Revelation it is also the place of persecution (Rev. 17:5–6, although this is also implied in the images of slaughter in the OT passages). All these meanings would be appropriate for 1 Peter. Our author is concerned with holiness (1:15–16), so Rome would surely impress him as the center of the evil in the world (cf. Rev. 18). He is also concerned with persecution, and the Neronian persecution came from and centered on Rome (the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudius may also have been viewed by Christians as persecution). Finally, the theme of exile runs throughout the book (1:1, 17; 2:11; implied in passages that refer to their cultural estrangement), so Rome equals Babylon becomes a beautiful symbol for the capital of the place of exile away from the true inheritance in heaven. Peter can say some positive things about government (2:13–17), but they are restrained and balanced by the view that that same government is the capital of evil. By referring to this reality, he again underlines his solidarity with the suffering Christians of Asia Minor. 12
Greetings are also sent from “Mark, my son.” This, of course, is John Mark, whose house was apparently a main meeting place for Peter (Acts 12:12–17; perhaps Peter normally lived there or meetings of the church leadership were held there). He had traveled with Paul and then abandoned the mission (Acts 12:25; 13:13). Later he apparently had a change of heart that convinced his relative Barnabas, but not Paul (Acts 15:36–39), although the latter eventually came to value him highly since he was with him during his Roman imprisonment (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11). It was natural, then, for him also to become a close associate of Peter (whom he must have known well in Jerusalem) when Peter came to Rome, as Eusebius indicates (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.15; this would be especially appropriate if Paul had already been martyred).
Mark is referred to as “my son.” Since Mark was from Jerusalem rather than Galilee, he was not Peter’s physical son, and there is no reason to believe that he was converted by Peter and thus his son in that sense (1 Cor. 4:15; Gal. 4:19; Philem. 10). Nor is the metaphor being used in Paul’s sense of parental care (1 Thess. 2:11–12). Rather, we have here the loving relationship between an older Christian and a younger, perhaps in terms of teacher-disciple (a usage for which Matt. 12:27 and Acts 23:6 give some evidence in Jewish circles), but at least in terms of respected senior—respectful junior. 13 This does not mean that Mark was not a minister in his own right, but that in relation to Peter he took a junior role, just as in that culture an otherwise adult son would defer to his physical father as long as the latter lived. Although we know of no trip of Mark to Asia Minor, Peter obviously expected him to be known by name in the churches there, whether or not he was personally known. 14
14 The greetings by those in Rome are finished. They had reached out through the letter to touch the believers in Asia Minor. Now that the letter was ended, it was appropriate for the readers to greet one another in their customary way, with “the kiss of love.” Paul mentions the “holy kiss” at the end of four of his epistles (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26), evidently expecting that it would follow in the service in which the letter was read. Peter uses the less formal “kiss of love,” which expresses the meaning of the act. 15 In the ancient world kisses were normally exchanged among family members (parents and children; brothers and sisters; servants and masters) and at times between rulers and their clients. The erotic kiss is secondary and not stressed in the literature. The familial kiss probably forms the background to the NT practice, for all fellow-Christians were considered brothers and sisters. This affectionate kissing was normally on the cheeks, forehead, or hands. We can assume such to be the practice here. While we are not sure when in the service it was done, it is probable that it was a mark of greeting (Luke 7:45; 15:20) or parting (Acts 20:37), stemming from its apparent use among Jesus’ band of disciples (Mark 14:44–45 and parallels; it is unknown in the synagogue), although it is possible that it already had a more formal place in the service just before the eucharist, signifying the reconciliation among the “family” of God. 16 In calling it the “kiss of love” Peter not only brings out the meaning of kiss (“kiss,” philēma in Greek, comes from phileō, a verb indicating familial and friendly as opposed to erotic love), but also expresses the proper relationship among the members of the Christian community (“love” here is the typical Christian term for love, agapē, used also in 1:22; 4:8).
The greetings finished, our author ends with a simple blessing. 17 Rather than Paul’s usual prayer for grace (Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 6:18; also at the end of the nine other letters in the Pauline corpus; Peter mentioned grace in 5:12), this one is for peace (3 John 15; Paul also can use peace, Rom. 15:33; 2 Cor. 13:11; Gal. 6:16; Eph. 6:23; 2 Thess. 3:16, but none of these is the final blessing). By this blessing he probably means the same as the Hebrew wish šālōm, the fullness of health and good relationships both among them and with God. It matches his wish in 1:2 and fits well in their troubled situation. This peace is for “all of you who are in Christ”—not assuming that some of them are not in Christ, but that it is for them because they are in Christ. Their good lifestyle (3:16), their future hope (5:10), and their present peace are all due to their relationship with Christ, their identification with him. Their peace, then, is not the peace of this world, but the blessings of the coming age and its ruler, experienced in his “family” in foretaste in this life.
1 Cf. L. Goppelt, Der erste Petrusbrief (Göttingen, 1978), pp. 345–46; F. O. Francis, “The Form and Function of the Opening and Closing Paragraphs of James and I John,” ZNW 61 (1970), 110–26.
2 Contra J. R. Michaels, 1 Peter (Waco, TX, 1988), pp. 306–307, who argues that διὰ Σιλουανοῦ does refer to Silvanus as the bearer of the letter. He does not deal with the Rom. 16:22 passage where the scribe, not the bearer, is referred to in the closing (although using another phrase) and overlooks the fact that while διὰ Κλήμεντος γράφειν in the Eusebius passage refers to the author and not the scribe, it certainly does not refer to the bearer of the epistle. Thus his argument is not convincing. Nor is he convincing when he argues that Silvanus could have been named as the bearer but still only have carried that letter to its port of entry into Pontus, citing Cyprian, Test. 37.39 as evidence for this. Were the churches in that vast area so unified that they would trust word-of-mouth from Pontus (“Silvanus brought this to us”) any more than word-of-mouth from Rome (“Peter sent this”)? Surely the bearer was expected to make the whole circuit, and that was the very reason for describing the circuit.
3 This usage is not unlike the use of intonation or adjectives to designate certain people in the Christian Brethren as “leading brothers” or in the Quakers as “weighty friends,” since both groups, like the early church, lack official terms for service outside the local church. Within the churches in our letter “elder” was a current title. But the NT never introduces a person to another church as “an elder of the church in x,” so the title was apparently not used in interchurch communication, but was a functional distinction within the local church.
5 Ἐπιμαρτυρῶν is not emphatic, but it does assert the truth more strongly than a simple verb of saying. Cf. H. Strathmann, “ἐπιμαρτυρέω,” TDNT, IV, 508.
7 N. Brox, Der erste Petrusbrief (Zürich, 1986), pp. 244–45. He cites the phrase τοῦτο χάρις παρὰ θεῷ in 2:19–20 in support. Unfortunately that differs from the χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ here in that in the earlier passage it refers to human actions that God looks on positively and this verse refers to grace that God grants. That ταύτην is feminine does not mean that it must refer to the feminine χάρις found earlier, for the feminine pronoun may agree with the predicate noun rather than its antecedent (BDF, p. 73 [#132 (1)]).
8 C. Bigg, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude (Edinburgh, 1910), p. 196; J. R. Michaels, 1 Peter, pp. 309–10. Michaels notes that while attraction to the predicate noun is enough to explain the feminine gender, there may be an understood ἐπιστολή contributing to the choice of that gender.
9 The phrase εἰς ἣν στῆτε is textually fairly certain, although many of the later manuscripts assimilate it to Rom. 5:2; 2 Cor. 1:24, reading ἑστήκατε, “in which you stand.” But at the same time it is grammatically difficult. First, one would expect an explanation of what “this” is, which the alteration does by making the clause relative, but that explanation is never given as the text stands. This leads some scholars (e.g., M. Zerwick and M. Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament [Rome, 1979], p. 716) to argue that what Peter indeed wrote is in the text, but he intended the other. Second, this is the only place in the NT epistles where one has a clear example of εἰς being used for ἐν, although this confusion is relatively common in Koine Greek. The unusual grammar here may suggest that either the author was getting tired toward the end of the letter, as the grammatical problems in 5:8 and 9 might indicate, or that indeed another person has penned this conclusion. In either case, it is not surprising to find an imperative as the concluding main idea of a letter; cf. 1 John 5:21 or Jas. 5:13–20.
11 If one interpreted the feminine referent to be Peter’s wife, then συνεκλεκτή would mean “chosen along with me.” The participle itself simply means “chosen along with.” N. Brox, Der erste Petrusbrief, p. 247, points out that Peter likes compound terms like this one that pair with simple terms (“chosen” [1:1] and “chosen with” [5:13]; “inheritance” [1:4] and “coheir” [3:7; cf. 3:9]; “elder” [5:1] and “fellow-elder” [5:1]).
12 K. Heussi, Die römische Petrustradition in kritischer Sicht (Tübingen, 1955), and M.-É. Boismard, “Une liturgie baptismale dans la Prima Petri,” RB 63 (1956), 182–208, argue that since Babylon is symbolic, it could mean simply the world as a place of exile rather than a specific place. This is unlikely because of the close connection between Babylon and Rome in both Jewish and Christian tradition and the nature of greetings in NT letters, which come from specific individuals in known places. L. Goppelt, Der erste Petrusbrief, p. 352, argues that Peter’s generally positive view of government means that not the exile aspect, but the image of Rome as the world power of the end time and its tendencies toward persecution and pressure to conform are the issue. Given the OT references to Babylon as a place of exile along with Peter’s use of the term, it is hard to see why one should exclude it, although neither should one use it to exclude the apocalyptic associations that Goppelt underlines. Since he has only a single brief reference to such a rich image, one must assume that our author likely intends to pull in the full breadth of its meaning; at least he does not exclude any part of it. Finally, we agree with Goppelt that Babylon is a symbol, not a code name, for it is hard to imagine a Roman official reading 1 Peter, and if so, finding something offensive in it other than the Christianity for which Peter already had a public reputation.
13 L. Goppelt, Der erste Petrusbrief, pp. 352–53, argues for the teacher-disciple relationship on the basis of Jewish materials. But the evidence is rabbinic and thus too late in date to be decisive for the first century. Nor do the NT citations mandate this interpretation, although they allow it. Paul uses τέκνον in this sense in 1 Cor. 1:17; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; it is Peter’s use of υἱός in the singular in this sense (it appears in the plural in the examples cited in the text) that causes the problems.
14 Col. 4:10 and Philem. 24 show that Mark was known in Colosse; 2 Tim. 4:11 assumes that he is known in Ephesus. Both of these cities were in the province of Asia. The tradition that Mark was with Peter in Rome was known to Papias and to a “presbyter” who preceded him (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.15.1 and 3.39.15).
15 J. R. Michaels, 1 Peter, p. 313, suggests that Paul speaks of a “holy kiss” “to accent sexual purity in the expression of love in Christian congregations.” That may be so, but we have no evidence that “holy kiss” was not the normal expression in his churches for the act of greeting.
16 G. Stählin, “φιλέω,” TDNT, IX, 118–24, 138–46. The evidence connecting the kiss to the eucharist is clear for the second century (Justin, Apol. 1.65), but inconclusive for the first; cf. the argument that 1 Cor. 16:22 is intended to introduce the eucharist. Given our scanty knowledge about liturgical practices of the first century, we would be going beyond the evidence to either assert or deny the kiss’s presence in connection with the eucharist. R. Banks, Going to Church in the First Century (Chipping Norton, NSW, Australia, 1980), pp. 12–15, 39, presents a picture of the use of the kiss in greeting and parting.
17 J. D. Quinn, “Notes on the Text of P72,” p. 246, observes that P72 lacks the blessing, and so did its exemplar. He argues that the blessing was something customarily added to the end of sermons in the church and thus crept into most manuscripts of 1 Peter. However, none of the epistles using greeting formulas ends with them. They all add a closing blessing or benediction. Thus before concluding that P72 preserves the original text, one must explain why Peter did not follow normal letter form, but ended so abruptly. The alternative is to conclude that the scribe of P72 or one of his predecessors had an exemplar with a damaged end.