The Books of the New Testament
by Leighton Pullan
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We may therefore rest content with this literal meaning. But we must maintain it with reserve in view of the fact that St. Peter applies the word "dispersion" to the new and ideal Israel. And we must beware of arguing that the word "synagogue" (ii. 2) proves that the readers were necessarily Jews. The word "synagogue" was for a long time occasionally applied to the Gentile Christian congregations, as we find in the Shepherd of Hermas[3] (A.D. 140) and Theophilus[4] (A.D. 180).

[Sidenote: When and where written.]

We have already seen that Palestine is the most likely place, and as St. James lived at Jerusalem, the Epistle was probably written there. The date has always been a hopeless problem to those who reject the authenticity of the Epistle. That it was written by a heretic in Palestine about A.D. 70, or by a Catholic at Rome about A.D. 90, or that it represents a "Catholicized Paulinism" of A.D. 140, or that it is a patchwork of homilies written soon after A.D. 120, are guesses which have been made but not substantiated. The fact that it was written before A.D. 62 is {231} self-evident if we admit that it was written by St. James. But it is also corroborated by the fact that 1 Peter, written about A.D. 64, seems to show a knowledge of this Epistle. Far more complicated is the question as to whether St. James shows any knowledge of St. Paul's Epistles. He insists so pointedly on the need of being justified by works that some writers have thought that he is attacking St. Paul's doctrine of justification by faith. The idea must be dismissed. Such a masterly writer would not have attacked what an apostle did not really hold. St. James, in attacking a theory of justification by faith, is condemning a faith which means only orthodox intellectual assent. St. Paul, in defending his doctrine of justification by faith, is upholding a faith which implies energetic and loving service. The two doctrines simply supplement one another. When Luther called the Epistle to the Galatians his "wife" and called the Epistle of St. James an "Epistle of straw," he simply showed that he understood neither. St. James is not only not criticizing St. Paul; he is perhaps not even criticizing a popular perversion of St. Paul's doctrine. The question of the justification of Abraham was a favourite subject of discussion among the Jews, and the teaching of our Lord had shown the superiority of a living faith over dead works. There is no difficulty in supposing that some Jewish believers were confused with regard to these great matters before they had read a word of St. Paul's letters. And to such men the Epistle of St. James might be of the highest value.

In spite of this, there often seems to be a verbal connection between this Epistle and those of St. Paul. The connection is admitted by critics of the most different schools. Moreover, some are of opinion that there is a connection between James and the Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. xi. These connections have been exaggerated, but they are hard to deny. Now, if St. James had borrowed from any of these Epistles, it would be very difficult for us to account for the extreme simplicity of his {232} doctrine. On the other hand, there is no difficulty in the fact that they put his words in a more elaborate setting. And as St. Paul's opponents declared that they were backed by St. James, we may be sure that St. Paul would eagerly read anything written by St. James. We may therefore place this Epistle earlier than St. Paul's Epistles to Corinth and Rome, and perhaps earlier than any of his extant Epistles.

It is sometimes objected to this that it is "grotesque" to suppose that St. James would have originated the practice of writing religious Epistles. It is said that the practice must have been begun by an apostle of supreme originality, and one who travelled widely, therefore by St. Paul. But we have no means of deciding the question. And as St. Paul may have written Epistles before he wrote those now extant, we may still hold that St. Paul began the practice, and that this Epistle is nevertheless older than the works of St. Paul which we now possess. We can, therefore, see no good reason for denying that this Epistle is as early as A.D. 50.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The Epistle is intensely practical, and though it is in no sense anti-doctrinal, it does not discuss doctrine. The evils against which it contends all concern conduct. The good which it recommends is persistent well-doing in accordance with the new moral law of Christianity. The sole validity of the law of love (ii. 8), the gift of a new birth by the word of truth, making us heirs of God (i. 18; ii. 5), the mention of the author's servitude to Christ (i. 1), and the ascription of divine power to His name (v. 14), show conclusively that the writing is not, as some say, of Jewish origin. The tone is austere, and the Epistle contains no word of praise for the readers.

A strong argument in favour of the genuineness of the Epistle is furnished by the numerous parallels which it presents to the Synoptic Gospels. These parallels are not quotations from the Gospels, but they show that the writer was saturated with the kind of teaching which the Gospels record. The {233} connection with the Sermon on the Mount as recorded by St. Matthew is particularly plain. Among the numerous proofs of this connection we must content ourselves with noticing the agreement as to the spiritual view of the Law (Jas. i. 25; ii. 8, 12, 13; Matt. v. 17-44), the blessings of adversity (Jas. i. 2, 13; ii. 5; v. 7, 8; Matt. v. 3-12), the dangers of wealth (Jas. i. 10, 11; ii. 6, 7; iv. 13-16; v. 1-6; Matt. vi. 19-21, 24-34), the true nature of prayer (Jas. i. 5-8; iv. 3; v. 13-18; Matt. vi. 6-13), the necessity of forgiving others (Jas. ii. 13; Matt. vi. 14, 15), the tree known by its fruits (Jas. iii. 11, 12; Matt. vii. 16-20), the prohibition of oaths (Jas. v. 12; Matt. v. 34-37), the Judge before the door (Jas. v. 9; Matt. xxiv. 33). Many other coincidences can be found. The "perfect law" upheld by St. James, a law both "free" and "royal," irresistibly reminds us of the legislation of the Messianic King in our first Gospel.

In v. 14-16 we have a direction given with regard to the anointing of the sick by the presbyters of the Church. This rite, perverted by the Gnostics in the 2nd century, survived that perversion. The first full directions for it in a Catholic document are in the prayers of Bishop Sarapion of Thmuis in Egypt, about A.D. 350. In the Eastern Church the oil used for this purpose may be consecrated by presbyters, contrary to the usual practice of the West, which requires it to be consecrated by a bishop.



Salutation (i. 1).

Human trial and the wisdom which enables us to profit by it, a warning against double-mindedness, Christianity exalts the lowly, riches are transitory, trial brings blessing, trial due to lust is not a trial from God but from self, God is the Source of all our good (i. 2-18).

We must receive the divine word with humility and act upon it, kindness and purity are the best ceremonial (i. 19-27).

Christian behaviour towards rich and poor to be based on the royal law of love; violation of that law is a breach of God's command, which embraces motive as well as action (ii. 1-13).

Intellectual faith is no substitute for godly works, Abraham and Rahab were justified by works (ii. 13-26).

The responsibility of teaching, the difficulty and importance of controlling the tongue (iii. 1-12).

Christian wisdom contrasted with the animal wisdom of faction (iii. 13-18).

The cause of quarrelling is selfish desire, which infects even your prayers, the adultery of a soul which indulges in worldliness and pride, cease from finding fault, worldliness is shown in business plans made without reference to God (iv.).

Luxurious wealth denounced, it is the rich who have persecuted the righteous, patience is commended (v. 1-11).

Swear not, prayer and praise, the anointing of the sick with prayer, mutual confession of sins and prayer, the blessing on those who convert a sinner (v. 12-20).

[1] Quoted by Eusebius, H. E. ii. 23.

[2] Trypho. 126.

[3] Mand. xi. 9.

[4] Ad Autol. i. 14.




[Sidenote: The Author.]

The author describes himself as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" (i. 1). Few books of the New Testament are so well attested as this Epistle.

The external evidence for its authenticity is strong, and stronger than that for any other Catholic Epistle except 1 John. It seems to be quoted in Didache, i. 4. The letter of Polycarp written about A.D. 110 shows a complete familiarity with 1 Peter. He evidently regarded it as a letter of the highest authority. His contemporary Papias was acquainted with it, and so far as we can determine from Eusebius, he referred to it directly as the work of St. Peter. The Epistle of Barnabas, the date of which is uncertain, but which is probably as old as A.D. 98 or even older, quotes 1 Pet. ii. 5. Again, it seems certain that the Epistle is quoted, though not by name, in the Epistle of Clement of Rome, A.D. 95. It is quite unnecessary for us to point to important references in writers of the latter part of the 2nd century and onwards. An Epistle which has the triple support of Clement, Polycarp, and Papias is, so far as external evidence is concerned, beyond the reach of any sober criticism.

The apostle was first called "Simon, the son of John" (according to the correct reading in John xxi. 15, 16, 17), and was a fisherman of Bethsaida. He was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew, and, like him, had been a disciple of John the Baptist. Our Lord at once discerned his capacity, and gave {236} him the surname of Cephas (Aramaic) or Peter (Greek), signifying a rock or stone. Peter was the first disciple to confess the Messiahship of our Lord, and was rewarded by the promise of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. xvi. 13-19). With John and James he was admitted to a peculiarly close relationship with Jesus (Mark v. 37; Matt. xvii. 1; xxvi. 37; cf. Mark iii. 16, 17). He thrice denied that he was a disciple of Jesus on the night when Jesus was tried and condemned. He bitterly repented, and on the third day after the Crucifixion he, again in the company of John, hastened to the sepulchre and found it empty. He was permitted several times to see the risen Lord, who cancelled his threefold denial by graciously drawing from him a threefold confession of his love, and commanded him to feed His lambs and His sheep. Our Lord also predicted his martyrdom (John xx. and xxi.; Luke xxiv. 33, 34; 1 Cor. xv. 5).

In Acts St. Peter appears as the leader of the Church. At the election of Matthias in place of Judas, at the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, at the admission of the Gentiles in the person of Cornelius and his family to the privileges of the new covenant, at the emancipation of the Gentile Christians from the Jewish ceremonial law at the Council of Jerusalem, St. Peter is foremost (Acts i. 15-26; ii. 1-42; x.; xv. 6-11). Soon after the Council St. Peter was at Antioch, and weakly "dissembled" by disguising his belief in the truth that the Gentile Christians were on the same spiritual level as the Jewish Christians. He was rebuked by St. Paul (Gal. ii. 11-14).

He does not seem to have laboured in Rome until near the end of his life. The Roman tradition that he was bishop of that city for twenty-five years is almost certainly a legend, based on the fact that twenty-five years elapsed between the year when the apostles were believed to have temporarily left Jerusalem (twelve years after the Crucifixion) and the date of his martyrdom. There is, however, no ground for disputing the fact that {237} he died at Rome during the Neronian persecution. There are several reasons for thinking that he survived St. Paul for a short period, though St. Augustine asserts that he was martyred before St. Paul. He was crucified near the middle of the circus of Nero, on a spot afterwards marked by a "chapel of the crucifixion." He was buried nigh at hand. His tomb, probably in the form of a cella or open apse, is mentioned by Caius of Rome about A.D. 200. A huge basilica was built over it by the Emperor Constantine, and remained until it was replaced in the 16th century by the present St. Peter's. In spite of his unique position, St. Peter in 1 Pet. v. 1 speaks of himself as a "presbyter," as St. John does in 2 John 1 and 3 John 1 (compare also 1 Tim. iv. 14, where St. Paul reckons himself as a member of the "presbytery"). At this period, and for many years later, the word "presbyter" was vague enough to be applied to the highest officers of the Church.

The internal evidence afforded by the Epistle is in harmony with St. Peter's experience. (1) The writer claims to have been "a witness of the sufferings of Christ" (v. 1), and contrasts himself and his readers in saying (i. 8), "Whom not having seen ye love." (2) He lays stress upon the pastoral aspect of our Lord's work (ii. 25; v. 2-4), as though writing under a sense of the special pastoral charge given to him by our Lord. (3) His injunction, "all of you gird yourselves with humility"—literally, "put on humility like a slave's apron"—seems to be a reminiscence of the action of our Lord that astonished St. Peter when "He took a towel and girded Himself" at the Last Supper. (4) There are points of resemblance between the Epistle and the speeches delivered by St. Peter in Acts. (5) The appeal to Old Testament predictions of Christ's sufferings (1 Pet. i. 11; Acts iii. 18), the reference to the stone that was rejected by the builders (1 Pet. ii. 7, 8; Acts iv. 11), the description of the cross as the "tree" (1 Pet. ii. 24; Acts v. 30), are coincidences which suggest a common authorship while they seem too small to be designed. (6) The graphic and {238} pictorial style of the Epistle bears resemblance to the style of Mark, which is based on St. Peter's preaching. We may mention the word "put to silence" (ii. 15)—literally, "muzzle"—which St. Mark (i. 25; iv. 39) applies to the subduing of an unclean spirit and the stilling of a rough sea.

Against the authenticity of the Epistle it is sometimes said that it is improbable that St. Peter, whose mission was to the Jews, would address Churches in which St. Paul had laboured, and which were largely composed of Gentiles. But in no case could such action on the part of St. Peter be thought incredible. And if St. Peter survived St. Paul, as he very probably did, it would be particularly fitting for him to write to them after St. Paul's martyrdom. Many critics have been inclined to pronounce the Epistle spurious on the ground that it seems to be so strongly influenced by St. Paul's teaching as to represent St. Paul's own school of thought. We find, as in St. Paul's writings, the phrase "in Christ" (iii. 16; v. 10, 14), and the second advent of Christ called by the name "revelation" (i. 7, 13; iv. 13). Moreover, there are numerous verses which can be compared with verses in St. Paul's Epistles, particularly in Romans and Ephesians.[1] We must not fail to notice in passing, that if this Epistle, which manifestly belongs to the 1st century, does actually quote Ephesians, as some affirm, the authenticity of Ephesians is thereby very strongly corroborated. But in any case the similarity between the Epistle and St. Paul's writings cannot be reasonably urged against its genuineness. The once popular theory that St. Paul held a fundamentally different conception of Christianity from that held by St. Peter has completely broken down. There is not a shred of evidence for believing that the semi-Christian Jews who lived in Palestine in the 2nd century represented St. Peter's {239} type of Christianity, or that the teaching of St. Peter excluded the deep teaching of St. Paul. He was susceptible to external influences, and he may have caught the tone of St. Paul while living in a community which St. Paul had so profoundly influenced. This tone seems to mark 1 Peter.

But a further point must be mentioned in this connection. Modern writers have too readily adopted the habit of labelling certain expressions and doctrines as Pauline and assuming that St. Paul originated them. No doubt the apostle of the Gentiles possessed a mind as original as it was fertile. But it is at least reasonable to suppose that a common creed and a common training produced similar habits of thought in many cultivated and eager minds. St. Paul himself frequently writes as if his readers, even those who had not seen his face, were quite familiar with a treasury of words and ideas which he employs. We cannot legitimately argue that he was the first and only coiner of such words and ideas. For instance, the phrase "in Christ," which we have quoted above, is often said to have been directly borrowed from St. Paul. But the idea of abiding in Christ is implied in Matt. and Mark, and expounded in John. It reaches back to the Old Testament idea of abiding "in God" (Ps. lvi. 4; lxii. 7; Isa. xlv. 25). It would be quite natural in any Christian who had adequately realized the truth of the Incarnation. We can therefore repudiate without hesitation the assertion that the writer is more affected "by the teaching of Paul than of Jesus." The imagery employed by the writer is of a distinctive character. It is almost entirely derived from the Old Testament, and is narrower in its range than that of St. Paul. The figures are drawn from birth and family life (i. 3, 14, 17, 22; ii. 2), nomadic life (i. 1, 17; ii. 11), temple and worship (ii. 3; iii. 15), building (ii. 4), fields and pastoral life (i. 4; v. 2, 8), military life (i. 5; ii. 11, iv. 1), painting (ii. 21), working in metals (i. 7; iv. 12). Some of these figures suggest that the author was a Jew by birth, and also that he was not a mere copyist of St. Paul.


Again, we must notice that 1 Peter shows a dependence upon James.[2] While we therefore grant that the author of this Epistle seems to have made use of St. Paul's writings, we must be prepared to grant that he also made use of a document written by one who has been frequently declared by modern critics to have been antagonistic to St. Paul. A tradition found as early as Origen, and in itself extremely probable, represents St. Peter as having organized the Church at Antioch, and St. Peter probably became acquainted with the Epistle of St. James while at Antioch and before his arrival at Rome. In any case, the author shows himself by no means exclusively indebted to St. Paul, and the candid student must therefore admit that it is unreasonable to discredit this Epistle on the ground that it represents St. Peter as preaching "Paulinism."

It is also asserted that the Greek is too flowing to have been written by St. Peter, especially if Papias is right in saying that St. Peter required the services of St. Mark as "interpreter." The style of the Greek is, indeed, good. It contains a considerable number of classical Greek words, though it is also saturated with the language of the Septuagint. It is simple, correct, and impressive. But the large extent to which Greek was spoken in Palestine, and the fact that it was the language of Antioch, make it quite possible that St. Peter obtained a considerable mastery over Greek. We cannot attach a quite definite meaning to the word "interpreter." It need not imply that St. Peter always, or even at any time in his later life, required his Aramaic to be translated into Greek. It is not unusual for a clever modern missionary to lecture and write in correct Chinese after a very few years of practice, and there would be nothing strange if St. Peter soon acquired a comparatively easy language such as Hellenistic Greek. It is therefore quite unnecessary for {241} some half-hearted apologists to suggest that the Epistle was mainly or entirely written for St. Peter by his secretary, Silvanus (1 Pet. v. 12). The expression and connection of the ideas contained in it are far too natural and easy for us to think that two hands were concerned in its composition, and the tone of authority used in v. 1 can only be explained on the theory that St. Peter or a forger wrote the Epistle. The language of ch. v. is most easily explained by the theory that Silvanus, a trusted friend and delegate of St. Peter, carried the letter. The letter was purposely made short (v. 12) because its lessons were to be enforced by Silvanus.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

"To the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." Considerable difficulty is attached to this address. At first sight it seems to mean those Christians of Asia Minor north of the Taurus mountains who had been converted from Judaism. But there are some verses in the Epistle which seem to imply that the readers had been pagans. These verses are i. 14; ii. 9, 10; iii. 6; iv. 3. They suggest that the readers had led a licentious heathen life, and had been only recently admitted to any covenant with God. The bearing of some of them is a little uncertain. For instance, ii. 10 says that the converts in time past "were no people, but now are the people of God"—the same verse that St. Paul in Rom. ix. 25 applies to the calling of the Gentiles. This verse is thought to furnish a strong argument for those scholars who hold that the Epistle is addressed to Gentiles, and that "sojourners of the Dispersion" must be taken in a figurative sense, meaning Christians who are exiled from the heavenly Canaan. But as the verse is from Hos. i. 10, and is applied by Hosea himself to the Jews, it is certainly possible to hold that St. Peter also applies it to Jews. In this case the word "Dispersion" would retain its literal meaning, and the Epistle would be written to converts from Judaism. But the reference to "idolatries" in iv. 3 cannot be applied to Jews. And it {242} would be quite unnatural for St. Peter to speak about the heathen thinking it "strange" that converted Jews refused to join in their idolatrous excesses. The word "you" in i. 12 suggests that the readers belonged to a different race from the Hebrew prophets. Finally, the phrase "elect of the Dispersion" must be compared with "in Babylon, elect" (v. 13). Like the name "Babylon" for Rome, the word "Dispersion" is a Jewish phrase taken over by the Christian Church. We agree, then, with St. Jerome and St. Augustine in holding that this Epistle was written to Gentiles.

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

The Epistle says, "She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you" (v. 13). This means the Church in Rome. The name "Babylon" is applied to Rome in the Revelation, and from an early period the Christians would naturally be inclined to give this name to a city which had become, like Babylon of old, the centre of worldliness and oppression. It is practically certain that St. Peter spent his last days in Rome. Moreover, St. Mark was with St. Peter when this Epistle was written (v. 13), and from 2 Tim. iv. 11 we know that St. Mark was invited to Rome about A.D. 64. It is most improbable that "Babylon" signifies either the Babylon near Cairo, or the great city on the Euphrates. Three facts enable us to determine the date: (1) The presence of Mark in Rome. (2) The fact that St. Peter appears never to have been in Rome when Colossians was written in A.D. 60—so that the Epistle cannot be earlier than A.D. 60. (3) The allusion in iv. 13-15 to the fact that Christians are already punished for being named Christians. In the period described in Acts they are not yet punished merely for being Christians, but for specific crimes alleged against them by their opponents. It is often asserted that this Epistle must be later than the time of Nero, on the ground that it was after Nero's time that the name Christian ensured the legal condemnation of any one who bore it. But this assertion is not supported by the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius. Their words support the contention {243} that the kind of persecution mentioned in this Epistle began under Nero in A.D. 64. When the Epistle was written this persecution had probably begun, but it had not yet assumed its most savage form.[3] (4) St. Peter himself suffered under Nero, not later than A.D. 67. We may therefore confidently date the Epistle about A.D. 64.

It appears from v. 12 that in writing this Epistle St. Peter was assisted by "Silvanus, our faithful brother," as an amanuensis. He is probably the "Silas" (another form of the same name) mentioned in Acts xv. 22, 32, 40, and the Silvanus in 1 Thess. i. 1; 2 Thess. i. 1, 2 Cor. i. 19.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

This Epistle is highly practical, and though it is rich in doctrinal elements, it endeavours to instruct the readers in conduct rather than doctrine. The two key-words of the Epistle are suffering and hope, and the sufferings of Christ and the glories which crowned them furnish St. Peter with encouragement. Though he writes in plain sympathy with the liberal Christianity of St. Paul, his language throughout bears the impress of the Old Testament. Christ is the "lamb" (i. 19) and the "corner-stone" (ii. 6); Christians are the "elect race" (ii. 9) and the "royal priesthood" (ii. 9). Without discussing the problems raised by God's predestination of the Jews, he says that they were "appointed" unto stumbling, and their stumbling seems to be regarded as the punishment which God attached to their disobedience.

The fact that in i. 2 the names of the Three Persons of the Trinity are given in an order which does not correspond with the order of their revelation in the history of religion, indicates that they are regarded as coequal. We may note that in iv. 19 the Father is called "faithful Creator," a unique expression. The teaching about the work of Christ is full. He is often {244} simply called "Christ" without the name "Jesus." He is called "Lord," and His special divine Sonship is implied (i. 3). The real existence of our Lord before His birth on earth is also implied. It has been said that i. 20 signifies that He was only known to the Father as destined to exist in the future. This interpretation is excluded by i. 11, which shows that His Spirit inspired the prophets before His birth. It is still more definitely excluded by iii. 18, 19. Here it is shown that His personality resided neither in His flesh, nor in His human spirit clothed "in which" He preached to the dead. This spirit was therefore taken by a personality which existed previous to the creation of the spirit. The Atonement is prominent. Christ's death is both an example and a redemption which procured God's grace. He died "for the unrighteous." He carried our sins in His body to the cross (ii. 24). The Resurrection is one of the "glories" which followed His sufferings (i. 11). It is a unique motive to our faith (i. 21), and the cause of the efficacy of our baptism (iii. 21). The Ascension is the fact which guarantees to us the present rule of Christ (iii. 22). In iv. 6 we have an important statement with regard to the dead, which must be studied in relation to iii. 18-20. The purpose of Christ's preaching to those who died before the gospel came was that though judged they yet might live. Blessings which they had not known on earth were offered to them by the dead but living Christ.

The practical side of the Epistle is simple but solemn. It deals with the privileges (i. 3-ii. 10), duties (ii. 11-iv. 11), and trials (iv. 12-v. 11) of the brethren. It seems to be written with the hope that the Christians may perhaps disarm persecution if they abstain from vainly attempting to set every one to rights and are scrupulously loyal to the Government (ii. 14-17).



Salutation (i. 1, 2).

The joy of salvation, a joy which springs from faith; this salvation was foretold by the prophets: the fruits of salvation, seriousness, love towards others, growth, the privilege of being built upon Christ: Christians are the true Israel (i. 3-ii. 10).

The Christian brotherhood and its duties, submission to civil magistrates, slaves must obey even unreasonable masters, wives if good and gentle may win their husbands, husbands must reverence their wives: kindness must be the Christian's rule, there must be no return of evil for evil; suffering, if wrongfully endured, has its reward. Christ's sufferings issued in blessing, in His ministerial journey to Hades and His triumphant journey into heaven: Christ our Example, our rule is the will of God: Christian life must be guided in view of the approaching end of all things, each of our gifts is to be used for the good of the whole Church (ii. 11-iv. 11).

The trials of the brethren, trust in God in the midst of suffering, rejoice in your participation in Christ's suffering, bear the reproach that fell on Him, to suffer as a Christian is cause for thanksgiving, suffering to be expected, judgment is beginning: the relation of pastors and people, the presbyters not to act as slaves, hirelings, or tyrants: final counsels to humility and firmness (iv. 12-v. 11).

Commendation of the bearer, and salutations (v. 12-14).

[1] Compare 1 Pet. i. 14 with Rom. xii. 2; 1 Pet. i. 21 with Rom. iv. 24; 1 Pet. ii. 5 with Rom. xii. 1; 1 Pet. ii. 6, 7 with Rom. ix. 33; 1 Pet. ii. 10 with Rom. ix. 25, 26; 1 Pet. ii. 18 with Eph. vi. 5; 1 Pet. iii. 1 with Eph. v. 22; 1 Pet. v. 5 with Eph. v. 21.

[2] Compare 1 Pet. i. 1 with Jas. i. 1; 1 Pet. i. 6 f. with Jas. i. 2 f., 12; 1 Pet. i. 23 with Jas. i. 18; 1 Pet. ii. 1 with Jas. i. 21; 1 Pet. ii. 11 with Jas. iv. 1; 1 Pet. v. 6 with Jas. iv. 7, 10; 1 Pet. v. 9 with Jas. iv. 7; and the quotation in 1 Pet. v. 5 with Jas. iv. 6.

[3] For the persecution and its bearing on the date of this Epistle, see Leighton Pullan, History of Early Christianity, p. 105 ff. (Service and Paton, 1898).




[Sidenote: The Author.]

The difficulties which are connected with the authorship of this Epistle are greater than those connected with the authorship of any other book of the New Testament. A multitude of objections have been raised against its genuineness, and it has been pronounced spurious by a considerable number even of Christian writers. But while fully admitting that the problem is complicated, we can lawfully simplify it by at once dismissing some of the weaker objections. For instance, the statement that 2 Peter quotes from Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, who died c. A.D. 103, is utterly unproved. Again, the often-repeated statement that the doctrine of man being made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet. i. 4) is a doctrine which was not taught until after the apostolic age, is unwarrantable, unless we repudiate wholesale many books of the New Testament which we have every reason to regard as apostolic. For the indwelling of the Father in Christ and in the believer through Christ is implied by St. Paul, St. John, St. James, and St. Peter. The writer, in laying stress upon the importance of spiritual knowledge, is once more in agreement with St. Paul and St. John. He plainly does not mean mere intellectual knowledge, and the doctrine which he teaches is of a very simple kind. The slight reference made to the Redemption (ii. 1) and the silence manifested as to the Resurrection cannot be considered so crucial as some scholars believe them to be. Readers of the First Epistle could hardly fail to have these {247} facts printed in their very souls. They would not require to have them repeated in a second letter.

The language of the Epistle, especially in the verses which do not depend upon Jude, shows several small coincidences with 1 Peter and with the speeches of St. Peter in Acts. We may compare the phrases in 2 Pet. ii. 15 with Acts i. 18, and 2 Pet. iii. 10 with Acts ii. 19, and

Compare 2 Pet. i. 7 with 1 Pet. i. 22, iii. 8. " " i. 19, 20 " " i. 10-12. " " ii. 1 " " i. 18 " " iii. 6 " " iii. 20. " " iii. 14 " " i. 19.

The writer abstains from copying the designation of the apostle contained in 1 Peter, and does not record the words spoken from heaven at the Transfiguration exactly as they are reported in the Gospels. In both these points a forger would very probably have acted otherwise.

On the whole, the words employed in 2 Peter seem indecisive with regard to the authorship. There is sufficient variation to allow us to believe that it was written or not written by the apostle. One of the most remarkable words in 2 Peter is that employed in i. 16 for an "eye-witness." It is a word used in the Greek heathen mysteries, and some critics think that such a word would not have been used by an orthodox writer until an age when the Church had learnt to borrow Greek religious terms from the Gnostic heretics. It is a sufficient proof of the weakness of this argument that the Greek verb derived from this noun is found in 1 Pet. ii. 12. It is, however, fair to say that the style of 2 Peter is less simple and less closely connected with the Old Testament than that of 1 Peter.

More serious objections are (1) the lack of external evidence in the writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries; (2) the internal evidence that the Epistle is based upon Jude, and perhaps on the Apocalypse of Peter.


Eusebius is evidently in doubt about it. He says, "We have not indeed received it by tradition to be in the Canon, yet as it appeared useful to many, it was studiously read with the other Scriptures." [1] It is not mentioned by Irenaeus, nor is it in the list given in the Muratorian Fragment. But it seems to have been commented on by Clement of Alexandria, though it is not quoted in his extant works. Origen does mention it in his original Greek works, but in a manner which shows that it was disputed in his time. In Rufinus' Latin translation of Origen there are several quotations from 2 Peter, but against this fact it is sometimes urged that Rufinus emended Origen, and that we cannot be absolutely certain that these quotations are genuine. The Epistle seems to have been known to Origen's great contemporary Hippolytus (Refut. ix. 7; x. 20 and elsewhere). There are, moreover, passages in still earlier writers which are perhaps based on 2 Peter. These are in Clement of Rome, A.D. 95, Justin Martyr, A.D. 152, and the document which is wrongly called the Second Epistle of Clement, and is really a Roman homily of about A.D. 140. The evidence of these passages is not positive, but if even one of them is quoted from 2 Peter, it becomes quite impossible to assign 2 Peter to A.D. 150-170, which is the date most favoured by those who deny its authenticity. Nor is the omission of any mention of it in Irenaeus and the Muratorian Fragment a very destructive fact. The Muratorian Fragment is only a fragment, and does not mention 1 Peter, and there is no passage in Irenaeus quoted from James. Yet it is certain that those two Epistles belong to the apostolic age. The fact is that such a very large amount of the literature of the 2nd century has been destroyed, that it is always precarious to argue from omissions in the books which are still extant. Therefore, although the evidence of writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries is certainly meagre in the case of 2 Peter, we cannot argue that comparative lack of evidence means positively hostile evidence. A {249} notable step towards the determination of the problem will be made if scholars eventually agree to assign a very early date to the two great Egyptian versions of the New Testament. Both these versions contain 2 Peter.

As to the connection between 2 Peter and Jude, it may be regarded as certain that either they both depend on some previous document, or that one of them depends on the other.

Compare Jude 6 with 2 Pet. ii. 4. " " 7 " " ii. 6. " " 8 " " ii. 10. " " 10 " " ii. 12. " " 11 " " ii. 15. " " 12, 13 " " ii. 13, 17. " " 16 " " ii. 18. " " 17, 18 " " iii. 1-3.

An examination of these passages seems to prove that 1 Peter borrows from Jude and not Jude from 2 Peter.[2] In Jude the connection of ideas seems more simple and direct. Various verses in 2 Peter become more intelligible in the light thrown upon them by the corresponding verses in Jude. Thus Jude 10 alludes to the immorality which explains why the heretics are called "animals to be destroyed" in 2 Pet. ii. 12. Jude 13, by calling the heretics "wandering stars," explains why "darkness" is said to be "reserved" for them in 2 Pet. ii. 17. Between 2 Pet. ii. 17 and 18 there is no direct allusion to Enoch as in Jude 14, but some of the material taken from the Book of Enoch still remains.

It will be observed that this connection with Jude is confined to 2 Pet. ii. 1-iii. 7. Now, this passage must have been either inserted in some ancient manuscript of this Epistle, or it was originally part of the Epistle. If it has been inserted, the question of the authenticity of the rest of the Epistle obviously remains {250} untouched. But if it originally formed part of the Epistle, as appears to be the case, can we regard this as a conclusive proof that St. Peter did not write it? Surely not.[3] The fact that St. Luke inserts most of the Gospel of St. Mark is not considered to be any argument against the authenticity of St. Luke's work. Both in the Old Testament and the New we are occasionally confronted by the same phenomenon. Writers repeat what has been said by other writers when their words appear to them to be the best possible words for enforcing a particular lesson.

The question of the authenticity of 2 Peter has lately become still further complicated. There has recently been discovered part of the Apocalypse of Peter mentioned in the Muratorian Fragment. This Apocalypse is usually thought to have been forged in Egypt in the first half of the 2nd century. It presents certain points of resemblance with 2 Peter. These points of resemblance affect the first chapter of 2 Peter as well as the second chapter. They therefore furnish an argument against the theory that ch. ii. is a late interpolation into a genuine Epistle, and they suggest that the Epistle is either wholly genuine or wholly forged. But the solution of the problem is not so easy as it seems to many scholars. If we could positively say that the Apocalypse was written in the 2nd century, and positively say that 2 Peter borrows from it, the question would be settled once for all. But this is the very thing which we cannot do with confidence. Some critics of great ability hold it certain that 2 Peter was forged by some one who borrowed from the Apocalypse. Some think that the same writer forged them both. Others think that the Apocalypse is partly derived from 2 Peter. They can strongly support their view by the fact that when Christians were familiar with both writings, it was decided to reject the Apocalypse and {251} keep the Epistle. Lastly, it might be reasonably held that the coincidences in both writings are due to the use of one earlier document or a common stock of ideas and phrases. The popularity of Apocalyptic literature at the beginning of the Christian era makes this theory credible.

We may sum up the evidence for and against 2 Peter as follows:—

1. The external evidence is meagre.

2. The internal evidence is perplexing, and may reasonably be considered adverse.

On the other hand:—

1. The external evidence is not definitely adverse.

2. No convincing reason can be assigned for forging such an Epistle. The critics who believe it to be forged, hold that it was written in Egypt in order to oppose the Gnosticism of c. A.D. 150 or 160. But the Gnosticism rebuked in 2 Peter cannot definitely be assigned to the 2nd century. And it is very difficult to say that the heresy rebuked in 2 Peter belongs to the 2nd century without also maintaining that the heresy rebuked in Jude belongs to the 2nd century.[4] Yet several facts in Jude point so decidedly to the 1st century that some of the ablest writers who deny the authenticity of 2 Peter strongly assert the genuineness of Jude.

We can only conclude by doubting whether we know more about the problem of 2 Peter than the Church of the 3rd and 4th centuries knew. Perhaps we do not know nearly as much. And under these circumstances we cannot effectively criticize the judgment of the Church which decided to admit 2 Peter into the Canon.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

To the same readers as the First Epistle (iii. 1).

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

It was probably written in Rome, and some of the earliest references to it are by writers who lived in Rome. {252} Justin Martyr lived in Rome, and if the references in Justin Martyr and other writers before Hippolytus be considered doubtful, Hippolytus is a Roman witness of the first importance.

The date is perhaps between A.D. 63 and 67. If it were later than 70, we might reasonably expect to find a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem after the allusion to God's retribution on the people of Sodom and other malefactors of old times. The errors which are denounced are akin to those which are denounced in 1 and 2 Timothy. The allusion to St. Paul's Epistles in iii. 16 suggests that some collection of these Epistles already existed, and that St. Paul was already dead. It has been urged against the genuineness of the Epistle that it includes the Pauline Epistles in Scripture (iii. 16), and that this would have been impossible in the apostolic age. But the statement need not necessarily mean more than that the Epistles were on the margin of a Canon which was in process of formation. There is good reason for believing that the Pauline Epistles occupied this position at a time when men who had known some of the apostles were still living, and perhaps earlier. The manner in which St. Peter has made use of St. Paul's work in his First Epistle, makes it quite possible for us to think that he believed in the peculiar inspiration of his great comrade. And it is an interesting fact that the Syriac Doctrine of Addai in speaking of the Epistles of St. Paul, adds, "which Simon Peter sent us from the city of Rome."

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The key-word to the Epistle is not hope, as in 1 Peter, but knowledge (i. 3, 8; ii. 20). We find, as in 1 Peter, a fondness or the word "glory." But in 1 Peter glory seems to be represented as given to Christ after His sufferings, and promised to Christians in the future after their sufferings (1 Pet. i. 11; iv. 13; v. 1). Here glory is rather spoken of as manifested in all the new dispensation, and especially at the Transfiguration (i. 3, 17). The apostle {253} appeals to the fact that he witnessed the Transfiguration as a guarantee of his prophecy of the second "coming" of Christ. He finds another warrant in the prophecies of the Old Testament, and asserts that prophecy is not a matter for a man's own private unaided interpretation, inasmuch as it was an utterance prompted by the Holy Spirit (i. 19-21).

This description of true religious knowledge is followed by an arraignment of false prophets and speculative heresy. It is possible that the teaching of definitely false doctrine was already combined with previously existing immoral practice. The verse (ii. 1) in which the writer speaks of false teachers, refers to the rise of these heretics as future. But in other verses of the chapter the "self-willed" teachers are spoken of as already active. We gather from iii. 16 that the licence which is so sternly rebuked was a system in which St. Paul's doctrine of justification by faith was represented as a justification of vile indulgence. Although this part of the Epistle is a paraphrase of Jude, it is not a mere reproduction. A new feature in 2 Peter is that the heretics were sceptical concerning the second coming of Christ (iii. 4). They argued that since the death of "the fathers," i.e. the first followers of Christ, the world continued as before. St. Peter urges that the deluge came, though its coming was doubted, and also that it must be remembered that the Lord does not reckon time as men do. A period which is long to us is not long to Him. The day of the Lord will come suddenly "as a thief in the night," and in view of judgment the readers are exhorted to holiness and patience.



Salutation, a list of Christian graces which are to be successively blended with faith, a reminder of the truth of Christianity as testified by the words of God at the Transfiguration, and by the light of prophecy (i.).

Denunciation of the false teachers who are guilty of gross sin and blindly follow their lower instincts (ii.).

Allusion to the former letter, rebuke of those who disbelieve in the last judgment, the coming of the day of the Lord and the destruction of the world, exhortations to holiness, diligence needed, the long-suffering of Christ witnessed to by Paul, growth in grace (iii.).

[1] H. E. iii. 3.

[2] The priority of 2 Peter is strongly defended by Spitta, in his Der Zweite Brief d. Petrus, 1885.

[3] This is very clearly stated by Dr. G. B. Stevens in his valuable Theology of the New Testament, although he decides against the genuineness of 2 Peter.

[4] This is done by Harnack, who places Jude between A.D. 100 and 130.





[Sidenote: The Author.]

The authenticity of this Epistle is bound up with the authenticity of St. John's Gospel. Like the Gospel, it does not contain any statement as to the name of the author. Like the Gospel, it is attributed by a very ancient tradition to the nearest friend of Jesus Christ. The external evidence is particularly good. We learn from the unimpeachable testimony of Eusebius[1] that it was used by Papias, who was a disciple of St. John. Polycarp, another disciple of St. John, directly quotes 1 John iv. 3 in his still extant letter. It is quoted by Irenaeus, the pupil of Polycarp, and was recognized as genuine in widely distant Churches at the close of the 2nd century.

The internal evidence shows that the writer claims to be an eye-witness and intimate personal friend of Jesus Christ (i. 1-3).[2] And this eye-witness must be St. John, if the fourth Gospel was written by St. John. The style is similar, and the ideas are the same. It is true that Christ is not called our "propitiation" in the Gospel as in this Epistle (ii. 2; iv. 10), that in the Gospel there is no mention of "antichrists" (as in {256} ii. 8), and that the word "Paraclete" is in the Gospel applied to the Holy Ghost, while it is here applied to our Lord (ii. 1). But the idea of propitiation is expressed in the description of our Lord as "the Lamb of God" (John i. 29), the mention of antichrists is uncalled for in the Gospel, and by naming the Holy Ghost "another Paraclete" our Lord gave St. John the best possible reason for calling Christ Himself by the same title. The description of our Lord as "the only begotten Son" (iv. 9) is an important point of contact with John i. 14, 18. The language about "light" and "darkness," "God" and "the world," the "new commandment," the "love" of God, being "born of God," "eternal life," "abiding in Christ," recalls the Gospel at every turn.

The Epistle, however, does contain some phrases and ideas which are not to be found in the Gospel. Such are "love perfected," "a sin unto death," "the lust of the eyes," "to come in the flesh," "to walk in the light," "to do lawlessness," "to be from above." Yet they fit quite naturally with the language and theology of the Gospel. Therefore there does not seem to be any sufficient reason for holding that it was the work of another writer. F. C. Baur and Hilgenfeld thought it to be the work of a second forger of that mysterious band to which they attributed such versatility and success. And several more recent critics who have denied the authenticity of the Gospel, have maintained with Baur that the Epistle is the work of a second forger. But these negations have led to no assured result. They are seen to be fruitless as soon as we realize that these critics have been quite unable to agree whether the Epistle was composed before the Gospel or after it. Some consider that it was a theological balloon sent to try the credulity of Christian readers before the Gospel was despatched. Others consider that there are "overwhelming indications" to prove that the Epistle is only a poor imitation of the Gospel. Renan and Davidson favoured the former view, F. C. Baur and C. Weizsaecker the latter. At the present time the majority {257} of critics, both Christian and non-Christian, believe that it was written by the writer of the fourth Gospel.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

It seems to be a pastoral letter addressed to all the members of the apostle's flock, intended therefore for the Christians of Asia in and around Ephesus. It is a strange fact that St. Augustine, in quoting iii. 2, describes the passage as "said by John in his Epistle to the Parthians." This statement is a riddle which no commentator has been able to answer satisfactorily. As the Eastern Churches had little or no knowledge of this title, we are compelled to regard it as a mistake. It may have arisen from some scribe failing to read a partially illegible manuscript in which St. John may have been given the title of parthenos or virgin. But it is most likely that it arose from a confusion with the Second Epistle, which was thought in the time of Clement of Alexandria to be addressed to parthenoi or virgins. The absence of quotations from the Old Testament, and the command "guard yourselves from idols" (v. 21), solemnly given at the very end of the Epistle, suggest that the recipients of the letter were converts from heathenism. The Christians of Ephesus, the mother-city of Asiatic idolatry, were peculiarly in need of such an exhortation.

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

We can hardly doubt that it was written at Ephesus, where the apostle spent his last years. The assertion that St. John did not live at Ephesus is in direct contradiction with the best and earliest traditions. But it has been repeated at intervals during the last sixty years by several critics, who found that they would be compelled to admit the genuineness of the Revelation if they granted that St. John lived at Ephesus, where the Revelation was evidently published.[3] Against such criticism we can confidently marshal the express and independent statements of Apollonius of Ephesus (A.D. 196), Polycrates of Ephesus (A.D. 190), {258} Irenaeus of Lyons (A.D. 185), Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 190), Tertullian of Carthage (A.D. 200), not to mention some valuable indirect evidence of earlier date. If we are to reject such evidence as this, the science of history must be laid in the tomb.

The question as to the exact date is very important for those who believe that the Epistle was not written by the author of the Gospel. They are involved in the most intricate questions about the reproduction of the Gospel in the Epistle or of the Epistle in the Gospel. For those who do not believe in a diversity of authorship the problem is far less vital. The apostle was evidently advanced in years. He includes all his people under the affectionate name "my little children" (ii. 1). On the whole, it seems probable that it was written rather later than the Gospel. This is suggested by the teaching about the second coming of Christ. Both in the Gospel and in the Epistle we find mentioned or implied a present and a future passing from death to life, and a spiritual presence of Christ now and another hereafter. But in the Epistle it is the future coming of Christ which is more prominent (ii. 28; iii. 2; iv. 17). In the Revelation, A.D. 96, it is still more prominent. The Epistle suggests that St. John's readers were already acquainted with the discourses in his Gospel. The heresy described, and the fact that the heretics are already outside the Church, point to a comparatively late date. We can hardly place it before A.D. 85.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

This Epistle contains no reference to any outward dangers. Domitian's persecution had not yet affected the Church, and the controversy with Judaism had closed. There is no trace of any conflict between Jew and Gentile, and St. John, in asserting the truth of the incarnation of the Son of God, is not opposing any heresy resembling that of those semi-Christian Jews of the 2nd century who declared Christ to be merely the best of men. He is combating a form of error taught by Cerinthus, who said that {259} Jesus was a man born of Joseph and Mary, and that on this man there descended a divine element named Christ, who left him before the crucifixion. Thus Christ never suffered, though the Jesus who seemed to be Christ did suffer. In face of these false views St. John asserts the truth. He asserts that One who is both Jesus and Christ came in the flesh (iv. 2), and that He came, that is, was manifested as Christ, both in the water of His baptism and the blood of His cross (v. 6). By this blood He cleanses man from sin (i. 7). We may be sure of His help, for He lives as our Advocate with the Father. To deny that Jesus is the Christ is to deny the Father, to deny God altogether (ii. 22; iv. 3). St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp inveigh in similar language against the Docetists, who flourished between A.D. 110 and 120. It is important to notice that St. John's opponents do not appear to have been Antinomian in conduct. He says, "Every one that doeth sin, doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness" (iii. 4). If he had been blaming Antinomianism it would have been more natural to say, "Every one that doeth lawlessness, doeth also sin."

The main theme of the Epistle is not controversial. It is to show that in faith and love is the guarantee of our fellowship with God and of our salvation. Since this fellowship implies that He abides in us, it may be recognized by His Spirit being in us (iii. 24). This Spirit is distinguished from the spirit of error by the confession of Christ; so to hear the apostle's teaching about Christ is a sign of the presence of God within us. The moral and the religious life are summed up in the words "God" and "Love," and those who love one another are born of God. Love in action corresponds with a confession of the incarnation in the intellect (iv. 7-12). It is wholly incompatible with sin (iii. 6), and is therefore righteous towards God and man. Every one who, as a child of God, hopes to grow like God, purifies himself as Christ is pure. He cannot love the world, which is a system of selfishness. St. John speaks of the possibility of committing a "sin unto death." This {260} is an old Jewish expression for a sin deserving natural death. But the apostle lifts the phrase to a higher level and slightly alters it. His words literally mean "a sin tending unto death." It is any sin which by its very nature excludes a man from fellowship with Christians. It is a sin which requires chastisement before forgiveness, and St. John does not enjoin, though he does not forbid, prayer for those whose sin makes them unable to share in the privileges of the common life of the Church.

Behind the practical teaching of the Epistle lies that great conception of the Father which the writer had gained from intercourse with the only-begotten Son. God is Love (iv. 8, 16), and has given us the greatest of all gifts (iv. 9); God is Light (i. 5), and dispels all moral darkness (i. 6); God is Life (v. 20), imparting His own existence to man (iii. 9); God is Father (ii. 1; iii. 1)—though our relationship with Him is forfeited by sin, perfect and fearless intimacy may be gained through Christ (iv. 15, 18).


A promise to impart knowledge of the incarnate Word; God is Light, fellowship with God and forgiveness of sin (i.).

Christ our propitiation, love of our brother a necessary condition of walking in the light, messages to children, fathers, young men, the love of the world, Antichrist and the denial of Christ, abiding in the Son and in the Father (ii.).

The love of God in calling us His children, the manifestation of Christ to take away sin, love of our brother the sign that we are spiritually changed, to believe in Christ and love one another the commandment of God (iii.).

Acknowledgment of the incarnation is the test of spirits, to love one another is to be like God, perfect love loses fear (iv.).

Faith in the incarnation overcomes the world, the three {261} witnesses to the incarnation, eternal life possessed if we have the Son, prayer, freedom from sin, knowledge through Jesus, who is the true God and eternal life (v.).


[Sidenote: The Author.]

The writer does not insert his name in the Epistle, but simply describes himself as "the elder." Some writers have therefore supposed that it was written by the presbyter named John, who lived at Ephesus about the close of the apostolic age. But Irenaeus, who was not likely to be mistaken in such a matter, certainly regarded it as the work of the apostle, and the Muratorian Fragment apparently so regards it. Clement of Alexandria was certainly acquainted with more than one Epistle by St. John, and a Latin translation of his Hypotyposes definitely says, "the Second Epistle of John, written to virgins, is very simple." Moreover, the title "elder" or "presbyter" is by no means incompatible with apostolic authorship. St. Peter in 1 Pet. v. 1 expressly describes himself by this title, nor does the title appear to have become confined to the presbyters or priests of the Church until about A.D. 200. The similarity to the First Epistle is strong, seven of the thirteen verses having parallels in the First Epistle. If the Epistle were a forgery, it is probable that the writer would have claimed to be an apostle in unmistakable language. And if the author were not a forger, but the presbyter who was for some years a contemporary of the apostle, it is hardly likely that he would have been content to write this diminutive letter, which does little more than sum up part of the First Epistle. The language of the Second Epistle bears almost the same relation to that of the first as the first bears to that of the Gospel. There is a fundamental likeness combined with a few fresh expressions, such as "walk according to," "coming in the flesh" instead of "come in the flesh," "to have God."


[Sidenote: To whom written.]

"Unto the elect lady and her children." The interpretation of these words is a notorious difficulty. At first sight the "lady" would be supposed to be a private individual. But if so, why is not the individual's name mentioned, like the name of the recipient of the Third Epistle? Perhaps it is mentioned, for the words translated "the elect lady" may mean "the elect Kyria." The "house" of the lady (ver. 10) also suggests that the lady is an individual. On the other hand, it has been supposed that the lady is a symbolical name for a local Church. In favour of this interpretation is the fact that the writer speaks, not only of the children of the lady who are with her, but also of others whom he has met (ver. 4), and in a manner which suggests a large number of persons. The same interpretation can be put upon the "elect sister" mentioned in the last verse of the Epistle. Writers of deserved repute accept this symbolical interpretation. But when a literal meaning and a symbolical meaning are supported by equally good arguments, it seems prudent to accept the simpler, i.e. the literal interpretation. It is hard to believe that St. Jerome and Hilgenfeld are right in thinking that it is addressed to the whole Catholic Church. This is surely excluded by the mention of an "elect sister."

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

Probably from Ephesus, and the contents suggest that it was written later than the first Epistle.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The letter contains an affectionate expression of happiness due to the steadfast Christianity of the children of the "elect lady." But its main object is to utter a warning against the deceivers who deny that Christ is "come in the flesh." These deceivers were evidently Docetists. In order to appreciate the necessity for such a warning we must remember the extraordinary attraction which many persons who liked a dilettante Christianity found in the theory that Christ was a divine Spirit who clothed Himself with flesh in which He did not suffer. At the close of the apostolic age, and {263} for many generations afterwards, orthodox Christianity was often regarded as too materialistic for advanced thinkers. They endeavoured to make Christianity keep pace with the times by infusing into it the decadent Greek or Oriental mysticism which depreciated our human body.


Salutation, thanksgiving for certain of the elect lady's children, reminder of the commandments to love and obey, the deceivers who deny the incarnation not to be welcomed; the writer, expecting to visit his correspondents, closes his letter.


[Sidenote: The Author.]

It is generally admitted, both by those who deny and those who accept the authenticity of the works of St. John, that this Epistle was written by the author of 2 John. It presents several close parallels both with 2 John and with the Gospel. Its obviously private character accounts for the fact that it is seldom quoted in early literature. It is found in the Old Latin version of the New Testament, though not in the Muratorian Fragment. It was known to Origen and Dionysius of Alexandria. Eusebius places it among the Antilegomena (H. E. iii. 25), but it was generally accepted in the 4th century.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

"Unto Gaius the beloved." The name was a common one, being a form of the Latin "Caius." There is no reason for identifying this Gaius with one of the persons of the same name who are mentioned as living in Corinth, Macedonia, and Derbe respectively, all of whom may have been dead at the late period when this letter was written. The Gaius of this Epistle was evidently a faithful and hospitable Christian. Baur displayed more than even his {264} usual powers of invention by suggesting that Gaius was a Montanist of the latter part of the 2nd century, and "Diotrephes" a symbolical name for one of the Catholic bishops of Rome opposed to Montanism.

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

Probably at Ephesus; subsequently to the First Epistle, and probably very soon after the Second.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

This little letter gives us a few brief glimpses of the life of the Church near the end of the 1st century. The purpose of the letter is to commend a Christian of good character, named Demetrius, to the hospitable care of Gaius. It appears, therefore, to be one of those "letters of commendation" which are mentioned by St. Paul in 2 Cor. iii. 1, and were common in later times. By the side of this pleasantness there is distress. Connected with the Church to which Gaius belongs there is an ambitious schismatic named Diotrephes, who refuses to admit the authority of the apostle. The fact that he was guilty of casting the friends of the apostle out of the Church (ver. 10), suggests that Diotrephes was at least a presbyter, and perhaps a bishop appointed by the apostle. We are told by Clement of Alexandria that St. John appointed bishops in Asia, and there is no reason for doubting that episcopacy dates back to this period. The apostle evidently intends to punish Diotrephes for his malice when he visits the district again. It is just possible that the letter to the Church (ver. 9) which Diotrephes repudiated is our "Second Epistle" of St. John. This theory will win acceptance with some of those who think that the Second Epistle was not written to an individual, but to a Church.


Salutations to Gaius, congratulations that he is walking in the truth, his hospitality to travelling Christians, the tyranny of Diotrephes, recommendation of Demetrius, personal matters.

[1] H. E. iii. 39.

[2] It is impossible to accept the recent Rationalist hypothesis that these words were written by a pious Christian who had not seen Jesus, but wished to emphasize the truth that the historical Church was intimately connected with the historical Jesus.

[3] Among these critics must be numbered Luetzelberger (1840), Keim (1867), Bousset (1899).




[Sidenote: The Author.]

"Judas, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." We can be sure that the James here mentioned is the James who acted as the first bishop of the Church at Jerusalem. The author's designation of himself would not be intelligible unless he meant that he was related to a very prominent man of that name. The writer cannot be the Apostle Jude. He does not claim to be an apostle, and he seems indirectly to repudiate the authority of an apostle by describing himself only in relation to his brother and by referring to "the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" in a manner which seems to distinguish them for himself. If the Apostle Jude was the son of James (as many scholars think), this Jude was clearly another man. If the Apostle was the brother of James (as the English Authorised Version holds), then his identification with this Jude is still doubtful.

Jude was a son of St. Joseph. At first he did not believe in our Lord (John vii. 5), but was convinced by the Resurrection (Acts i. 14). He was married (1 Cor. ix. 5). Hegesippus, a writer of the 2nd century, tells us that two of his grandsons were taken before the Emperor Domitian as being of the royal house of David, and therefore dangerous to the empire.[1] He found them to be poor rough-handed men, and dismissed them with good-humoured contempt when they described the kingdom of Christ as heavenly. Philip of Side, about 425, says {266} that Hegesippus gave the names of these two men as Zocer and James.

The Epistle was known to Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, and is in the Muratorian Fragment.

The chief objections to the authenticity of this Epistle fall under three heads. It is said that (a) a late date is indicated by the allusion to the teaching of the apostles in ver. 17. But the allusion seems to correspond exactly with a late date in the apostolic age, for vers. 17 and 18 assume that the readers remember what the apostles had said. It is said that (b) the phrase in ver. 3, "the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints," indicates that a definite body of doctrine was recognized by the Christians of the period, and that the Christians of the apostolic age did not use the word "faith" in this sense. But it is not difficult to suppose that the word would be soon extended from the act of believing to the facts believed. And in such early passages as Gal. i. 23 and Rom. x. 8 we find the word closely approximating to the latter sense. It is said that (c) the heresy which is described is a heresy of the 2nd century, and implies a definite Gnostic system. But the fact that the Epistle does not describe such a definite system is convincingly shown by the inability of certain critics to determine who the heretics are. The Balaamites of Asia Minor, the Carpocratians of Egypt, and some obscure sects of Syria, are all suggested. There is no evidence to show that the errors here described could not have grown up in apostolic times, and the Epistles of St. Paul contain several passages which point to similar perversions of Christianity. The word "sensual" in ver. 19 was an insulting term applied to ordinary Christians by the Gnostics of the 2nd century, but St. Jude's use of it betrays no consciousness of this later application.

The style of the letter makes it practically certain that it was written by some one who had been a Jew. The Greek is forcible. It shows a considerable knowledge of Greek words, {267} including various poetical and archaic expressions. But the manner is stiff, and the sentences are linked together with difficulty. Several phrases come from the Septuagint, some of them being taken from the Book of Wisdom. It is probable that the author was acquainted with the Hebrew Old Testament, as ver. 12 (from Ezek. xxxiv. 2) and ver. 22 f. (from Zech. iii. 2 f.) suggest this.

[Sidenote: To whom written.]

The Epistle is simply addressed "to them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ." It seems that these Christians must have been natives of Palestine or Syria. They had been personally instructed by the apostles (ver. 17), which makes this region probable. No place seems more likely than Antioch and its neighbourhood. The libertinism which was endangering the Church would not be likely to arise except in a district where the Christians were in close contact with heathenism. Extreme critics now usually maintain that it was written either in Asia or in Egypt. If written in Asia, it can hardly have been written by the Lord's brother, as we know that his descendants lived in Palestine. If written in Egypt, it can hardly belong to the age of the apostles. These two sceptical theories as to the place where the Epistle was written contradict one another effectively.

[Sidenote: Where and when written.]

The style and contents of the letter show that it was probably written in Palestine and at Jerusalem. The date is probably soon after the martyrdom of St. James in A.D. 62. St. Jude was dead before his grandsons had their interview with Domitian. The Epistle must therefore be before A.D. 81.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

The Epistle is remarkable as containing references to two Jewish books of an apocalyptic character which are not mentioned in the Old Testament. This caused some writers in early days to hesitate to ascribe the Epistle to a brother of St. James, and in recent times the same argument has been revived in a new {268} form. But these quotations seem quite compatible with a belief in the genuineness of the Epistle. The books quoted were in existence in the apostolic age, and would be likely to be valued by a devout Jew. In ver. 9 there is reference to Michael, which Origen says was derived from the Assumption of Moses, a Jewish work written at the beginning of the Christian era. In 2 Pet. ii. 11 the allusion to Michael is so modified, that the origin of the reference is no longer obvious. In vers. 4, 6, and 14, there are quotations from the Book of Enoch, a Jewish book composed of sections written at various dates, the latest being written in the century before Christ.

The purpose of the Epistle is to warn the Church against certain depravers of God's grace who denied "our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (ver. 4). The author sees fit to remind his readers of ancient examples of unfaithfulness and impurity, and shows that they must be compassionate towards the wavering, and try to save the worst by a desperate effort. It is plain that the false teachers were guilty of gross and unnatural vice, that they were greedy, and destitute of godly fear. They also, like the evil Christians at Corinth, brought discredit upon the Agape (ver. 12), a social meal which the Christians were first wont to partake of before the Eucharist, and at a later date after the Eucharist. The licence which is rebuked by St. Jude probably arose from a perversion of the doctrine of justification by faith which had been taught by our Lord. Christians who had been taught that they could be saved without observing the Jewish ceremonial law, imagined that they could be saved without any self-discipline or self-restraint. Many parallels to such errors have been found in modern times, the worst example being that afforded by the Anabaptists, who arose in Germany at the time of the Reformation. It is worth noticing that, in spite of the untheological character of this Epistle, the writer shows his belief in the Holy Trinity by the manner in which he refers to the Father {269} and Jesus Christ (ver. 1) and the Holy Ghost (ver. 20). The Epistle gives no encouragement to the theory that the first Jewish Christians were Unitarians.


Salutation and charge to maintain "the faith" (1-4). Warnings from the punishment of the Israelites, of the angels, of Sodom and Gomorrha (5-7).

Railing at dignities rebuked (8-10).

Denunciation of those who imitate Cain (murder), Balaam (encouragement of impurity), Korah (schism), and spoil the Agape (11-13).

These sectaries foretold by Enoch (14-16).

And by the apostles (17-19).

Duty of edifying believers, and saving sinners (20-23).

Doxology (24, 25).

[1] Eusebius, H. E. iii. 20.




[Sidenote: The Author.]

Like the First Epistle of St. John, the Revelation has particularly strong external evidence in its favour. About A.D. 150 Justin Martyr speaks of it as the work of "John, one of the apostles of Christ," in his dialogue held with Trypho, a Jew, at Ephesus, where St. John had lived. Still earlier, Papias looked upon the book as "inspired," and "bore testimony to its genuineness." Irenaeus, the pupil of Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, quotes it as written by "John, the disciple of the Lord." About A.D. 170 Melito of Sardis, one of the places to which part of the book was specially addressed, wrote a commentary upon it. It was accepted by the Churches of Vienne and Lyons in Gaul in A.D. 177, for they wrote of it as "Scripture" in their letter to the Christians of Asia Minor. Near the same date the Muratorian Fragment mentions it twice. It will be observed that this evidence is not only good, but it is also mostly drawn from sources which were most closely connected with St. John. The evidence of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons would be important, even if it stood alone. For these Greek-speaking Churches were allied with the Church of Ephesus, and were not likely to be mistaken about this question. And the evidence of Irenaeus and Melito is still more weighty.

Strange to say, the belief in the authenticity of the Revelation began to waver as time went on. We need pay little heed to the sect known as the Alogi, who attributed both St. John's {271} Gospel and the Revelation to Cerinthus, because they disliked the doctrine of the Logos contained in these two books. They were too ignorant to have been influenced by any real critical knowledge. But it is an important fact that about A.D. 248 Dionysius of Alexandria stated that it was probably written by John the Presbyter, and that the great Eusebius seems at one time to have been inclined to accept the opinion of Dionysius.[1] So far as we can discover, Dionysius founded his opinion solely on the difference of style which can be observed as separating the Revelation from the Gospel. He does not seem to have been in possession of any facts which gave historical support to his theory. Nevertheless, we can legitimately think that there was another reason which induced orthodox Christians to regard the Revelation with less confidence. The Montanist sect, which arose in the latter half of the 2nd century and became powerful in Asia Minor and North Africa, taught an extravagant doctrine about the millennium when Christ would return to reign on earth. This doctrine was partly founded on Rev. xx., and was supported by pretended prophecies. It caused orthodox Christians to be more suspicious about the statements of Christian prophets, and probably made them less anxious to translate and circulate the Revelation. This hesitation was soon overruled, and Eusebius, in spite of his own slight doubts, reckons it as received among the undisputed books of the Canon. This was c. A.D. 320.

In modern times the controversy about the authorship has been revived. About one hundred years ago a school of critics took up the argument of Dionysius. They urged that the Gospel and the Revelation must have been written by two different authors, the Revelation being much more Hebrew in style than the Gospel. The argument was elaborated by F. C. Baur and the Tuebingen School. As they were determined to deny the genuineness of the Gospel which so clearly teaches {272} that Jesus is God, they tried to discredit the Gospel by insisting upon the authenticity of the Revelation. The successors of these critics soon found themselves on the horns of a dilemma. A closer examination of the Revelation made it clearer that on many important points the theology of the Revelation is the same as that of the Gospel. If they admit that St. John wrote both the books or one of them, they will be forced to admit that the apostle taught definite orthodox Christian theology.[2] If, on the other hand, they affirm that both the books were written by John the Presbyter, they will shatter the old argument that diversity of style proves diversity of authorship. It will therefore surprise no one to learn that they are now engaged in continuous disputes with regard to the identity of the author, and the materials, Jewish or otherwise, which he is supposed to have used in compiling his book. At the present time the writers who hold the Revelation to have been written by various authors, are divided into no less than four camps, while the rationalists who hold that it was written by one author cannot agree who that author was. It is extremely significant that, in spite of his conviction that the book was not all written at the same date, the critic who is now by far the ablest opponent of orthodox Christianity, holds that the Revelation was (i.) published in the time of Domitian, as the tradition of the Church affirms; (ii.) published by the author of the fourth Gospel, though not by the real St. John.[3]

It must be admitted that the style of the book is more Hebrew and less Greek than that of the Gospel. But some arguments may be reasonably alleged against the theory that {273} this proves the Revelation to be by a different author. The difference in the scope and origin of the two books account in a large measure for the differences of vocabulary and style. No book in the New Testament is so steeped as the Revelation in the imagery of the Old Testament; Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah are constantly used. The thoroughness with which their spirit has been assimilated, and their ideas combined by the writer, would create a Hebrew tendency in his language. Whether St. John made use of the material furnished by non-canonical apocalypses is uncertain. If he did, their style would also influence him in the same way. We must also beware of exaggerating the contrast in style which does exist between the Gospel and the Revelation. The Gospel is not always in correct Greek, and never shows a thorough mastery of that language. But the Revelation is certainly in much rougher Greek. The writer uses the nominative case for the accusative (vii. 9; xiv. 6); similar instances are in iii. 12; xiv. 12. This rugged usage is introduced with magnificent, and perhaps intentional, effect in i. 4, where the author emphasizes the eternity of God by using an entirely ungrammatical construction.[4] Apart from the question of grammar, the language of the Apocalypse shows a remarkable affinity with St. John's Gospel. We may observe the use of such words as "witness," "true," "tabernacle," "have part," "keep the word," and "overcome."

The theology of the two books is in close agreement. This can easily be shown in the case of the doctrine of Christ's Person. He is called the "Lamb" [5] in the Gospel (i. 29, 36) and in the Revelation (v. 6, 8, 12, etc.). He is called the "Word" in the Gospel (i. 1, etc.) and in the Revelation (xix. 13). He is taught to be eternal and divine. He is "the Alpha and {274} the Omega, the first and the last" (xxii. 13; cf. Isa. xliv. 6). He shares the throne of God (xxii. 1, 3); He determines who shall be released from the realm of death (i. 18); He joins in the judgment (vi. 16); He is worshipped by the elders and the angels (v. 8, 11). He is the Bridegroom of the Church (xix. 7; xxi. 2, cf. John iii. 29). The attitude towards Judaism is the same as that in the Gospel. The Jews who oppose Jesus are strongly denounced (iii. 9), and though the Church is a new Jerusalem, it is composed of people gathered out of every nation (vii. 9). The necessity of good works is strenuously upheld (ii. 5, 19); but they are not works of rabbinical righteousness, but works of Jesus (ii. 26), and the "righteous acts of the saints" (xix. 8) are based on "the faith of Jesus" (xiv. 12). Salvation is the free gift of Christ (xxi. 6; xxii. 17). The saints who overcome, conquer not by relying upon their own righteousness, but "because of the blood of the Lamb" (xii. 11).

In the Revelation (ii. 17) Jesus promises to believers "the hidden manna;" in the Gospel, referring also to the manna, He promises "the true bread from heaven" (John vi. 32). In the Revelation (xxii. 17) Jesus says, "Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely;" in the Gospel He says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink" (John vii. 37). If, then, the Revelation is full of Hebrew expressions, it is essentially and profoundly Christian, and linked with the other Johannine books by the closest kinship. The theology and the style of the Revelation are the same throughout.[6] We can therefore reject without hesitation the recent hypothesis that it is one large Jewish work with numerous Christian interpolations. The difficulty of supposing that the book was ever a purely Jewish Apocalypse {275} can quickly be realized by any one who undertakes to strike out all the Christian allusions in the book.

The author states that he is John, in the strongest fashion both in the beginning and end (i. 4, 9; xxii. 8), and his attitude towards the seven Churches is inexplicable unless the writer held a position of the highest ecclesiastical importance.

[Sidenote: For whom written.]

Plainly for the whole Church, as represented by "the seven Churches which are in Asia" (i. 4).

[Sidenote: Date.]

From i. 9 we learn that the revelation was made to John when he "was in the isle that is called Patmos" (in the Aegean Sea) "for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." Irenaeus expressly says that the date of this banishment was at the end of the reign of Domitian (Emperor 81-96 A.D.), and therefore he says it was almost within his own generation. On the other hand, some modern writers have assigned part or the whole of the book to the time of Nero (54-68), or a little later. But though some parts of it seem earlier than Domitian, the final form of the book is unquestionably late. A late date is indicated by the corruptions existing in some of the Churches addressed, by the expression "the Lord's day" (i. 10) instead of the older expression "first day of the week," by the strong opposition to Judaism which is called the "synagogue of Satan" (ii. 9; iii. 9), and above all by the attitude of the writer towards Rome. The imperial rule is no longer regarded with the tolerance which we find in Acts and in St. Paul's Epistles. It is no longer the "restraining" and protecting power. It is denounced as cruel and aggressive, and not only is the worship offered to the Roman emperor mentioned as widespread, but also the worship offered to Rome. The city is called the Great Harlot, because in prophetical language idolatry is described as an act of fornication, being a violation of the pure love which should be felt by man towards his Creator. The worship of Rome does not seem to have become common in {276} Asia until late in the 1st century, and it is not even mentioned once in Acts.

The destruction of Jerusalem is definitely mentioned in xi. 2, where the earthly Jerusalem is symbolized as the "court which is without the temple," the temple which the prophet measures being the heavenly temple only (xi. 19). This chapter seems to imply that Jerusalem is already destroyed, and is founded on Ezek. xl., when the prophet measures the ideal city, not the city which had been destroyed previously. We are therefore pointed to a date later than A.D. 70. The same seems to be suggested by xiii. 1 and xvii. 10. For the beast in xiii. 1 is the pagan Roman State as typified by Nero, and so is the number 666 in xiii. 18; for if the words Nero Caesar are written in Hebrew letters, and the numerical values of the letters are added together, the result is 666. In xvii. 8 Nero is described as dead, and in xvii. 10 Vespasian is the sixth emperor, Titus the seventh, and the eighth, in xvii. 11, is Domitian, who plays the Satanic part of Nero. The sixth emperor is described as still living, and we therefore seem compelled to assign part of this passage to Vespasian's reign. Nevertheless, there is abundant internal evidence for thinking that the book was not completed until the time of Domitian. It is worth noting that Domitian exacted a more extravagant worship of his own person than any previous emperor, and that his policy therefore made the publication of the book doubly appropriate.

[Sidenote: Character and Contents.]

There were a number of Jewish books called by the name of Revelation or Apocalypse (i.e. revelation or unveiling). In the Old Testament an Apocalypse is to be found in the second part of Daniel, and there is a fine short Apocalypse in Isa. xxiv.-xxvii., where we find striking passages relating to the resurrection and eternal life. The Book of Enoch and the Apocalypse of Baruch are later examples of this class of literature. These books were generally written with the special purpose of giving encouragement to the {277} servants of God in times of distress and persecution. The Revelation of St. John was written under similar circumstances, but is by far the most sublime of these writings. The interpretation of the Revelation appears to have always been a standing difficulty, in spite of the fact that there has been no age of the Christian Church which has not been able to draw consolation and vigour from its beautiful pages, all illuminated as they are with glowing pictures. The question as to whether different portions of the book were written at different dates, and afterwards edited in one volume by the writer, does not necessarily interfere with the interpretation. For the book is one work, the materials have been fitted into one structure.

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