Many of the New Testament letters, found in the second half of the New Testament, have many scholars wondering if the writers at the beginning of the letters actually wrote them.
It’s a strange scholarly problem, built upon various wonderings and thoughts from the texts themselves. Asking these sorts of questions opens up an entire criticism of the New Testament, that makes one wonder how, exactly, did any of these books get to be a part of the bible we now hold.
I won’t defend any of that here. Some of those theories have some merit, I think, at least in wondering who wrote what. Many of these theories are based upon latter church fathers, as early as the end of the first century, who begin to refer to some of these letters, either through various quotations, or by seeming to validate the authors listed in those letters, by using their written name.
So, which church father, who quoted or referred to various letters, lends a huge amount of credibility to this sort of problem.
So that’s where we find ourselves, today, in the reading of 1 Peter. The very first suggestion, it seems, is that, through the research of various commentaries and scholars, most are quick to say that actually naming Peter, as the author, is tougher than it looks. The style of the letter is eloquent Greek, which, to many, is an indication that a simple, unlearned man could not have used such the Greek language in such a beautiful, eloquent way. That’s a weak argument, though.
If the earliest date for the writing of 1 Peter is around 62 AD, then at least thirty years had passed between the reference to Peter being unlearned in Acts 4:13, and the writing of this letter.
I think thirty years is a pretty substantial amount of time to get a little smarter, don’t you think? Or, for that matter, isn’t it natural to suppose that any person could write any letter in any style he wanted?
But why am I sharing all of this with you?
Here we are, on day 79, through 90 straight days of reading the New Testament, and writing some brief thoughts here, on this site. The material written in 1 Peter is by no means new. There are no new theological advancements. 1 Peter was written, too, to the first church plants outside of Jerusalem. They had heard all of this before, by way of Paul’s visitations, and the letter he wrote to the Galatians.
What struck me, today, was the very first phrase of the very first verse. Here it is:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ … (1 Peter 1:1a; NIV84)
What at first appears to be a foregone conclusion is actually quite moving. Powerful. And, as they say, “it will preach.”
Before I go any further, though, I want to tell you that I do, think, that Peter wrote this letter. All of the arguments to the contrary just aren’t compelling enough. Peter, probably in Rome, maybe even in prison, wrote this, maybe even a year before he was executed.
So, back to the first verse.
Peter writes his name. Which really wasn’t his name at all.
Given the name Simon at birth, he was a fisherman. Old enough to be married. Trying to make a living. Rough. Impulsive. Yet recognized by Jesus as a man who could lead.
And so, in a marked conversation, Jesus referred to Simon as Cephas, because Peter, without batting an eye, looked at Jesus and said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God” (Mark 16).
Do you realize how scandalous this could have been? For Peter to remark to a man of flesh and blood that he was, in fact, the son of God, was huge. And he did so without a doubt.
Because of his boldness, Jesus then saidthat “Upon this rock, I will build my church.”
And from that point forward, Simon was known as Peter. The rock.
So thirty years later, after this relationship and the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Peter referred to himself as Peter. Not Simon.
He was the man Jesus claimed him to be.
Because when Jesus changes a person, that person is truly changed.