Style Differences of 1 and 2 Peter

Jerome (On Illustrious Men 1) writing about 400 C.E. noted that some Christians of his day rejected the epistle of 2 Peter as canonical due to its difference in style with 1 Peter. This discrepancy of manner may be accounted for if a co-author of 1 Peter is recognized. The Second Epistle of Peter is probably Peter’s native style while his first letter was written with Silvanus (Silas) who was a Prophet but not an Apostle. Peter, no doubt, wanted to certify the letter as authoritative to his readers when saying: “I have written to you briefly, in order to encourage you and testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” (1Pet. 5.12b NET). In the first part of verse 12, Peter says: Through Silvanus, whom I know to be a faithful brother. I present arguments below as to why we may view this clause as indicating that Silas helped to produce 1 Peter.

1. Often, it was not necessary to certify the bearer (messenger) of a letter since he could be verified relatively easily in person. The letter spoke for itself and the messenger was in hand to question the source, or veracity, if doubtful. Therefore, by using the clause “through Silas,” Peter is not certifying him as a mere messenger nor of his amanuenses who would only transcribe Peter’s words.

2. Peter uses “faithful brother.” So, if the message arrived, there would be no need to indicate the messenger as being “faithful” to the recipients. Forgery or alteration was not really a danger since at that time any alteration of the writing was fairly obvious. They could question the messenger if they suspected forgery but the contents do not suggest it. It was a godly composition after all and no nefarious gain can be imagined. Therefore, the reference to “faithful brother” may suggest compositional assistance.

3. That Silas was a chosen delegate of the Apostles and a leader gives him credibility as a sub-author with Peter later when writing his first letter: Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to send men chosen from among them, Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, leaders among the brothers, to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 15.22 NET)

4. Silas was a Prophet who encouraged Antiochans of Acts 15:  Both Judas and Silas, who were prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with a long speech (vs.32 NET). Since he was influential and knowledgeable, he makes a good candidate for helping to construct letters of encouragement to the recipients of 1 Peter.

5. His suffering in ministry along with Paul in the Philippian jail (see Acts 16) adds further credibility as one to help Peter write his letter. The recipients themselves were facing severe trials and Silas’ experience from his previous suffering of persecution could help them.

6. He proclaimed the gospel along with Paul and Timothy in Corinth and Paul mentions him in his second letter (2 Cor. 1.19). It is obvious that his preaching carried weight in the Corinthians’ minds is why Paul refers to him.

7. It seems that Silas may have helped Paul (along with Timothy) write both 1&2 Thessalonians since these letters list all three individuals as their author. Timothy and Silas were not just helpers assisting Paul but workers in their own right.

8. It could be that Silas had better phrasing than Peter is why Peter said “through (dia) Silvanus” (1 Pet. 5.12a). Since Silas had the gift of prophecy and is seen in numerous instances as preaching and encouraging, Silas probably phrased the letter with Peter producing the main ideas he intended to convey to the hearers.

9. Peter’s main ministry was to Jews (Gal. 2.8). Obviously, there is a certain style of address when speaking to a discrete audience, and Peter’s speeches of Acts 1&2 would have resonated well with Palestinian Jews since Peter was one.

10. The recipients seem to be primarily Hellenistic Jews of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. They are addressed with the Greek term diaspora in 1.1 indicating Jews who were primarily exiled from Palestine many years previous. These were Jews who, over the centuries, kept distinct in their Jewishness yet lived in Greek culture and reconciled both to varying degrees. Perhaps Silas was a Hellenistic Jew since Paul earlier took him on his return journey to encourage the churches. It would be more natural for the recipients to be encouraged in a Hellenistic style, phrasing, or logic than to receive Peter’s word’s, a lifelong Palestinian Jew.

11. Regional rivalries operated in the ancient world like in ours.

  • Acts 2.7 notes a regional distinction: Galileans.
  • Acts 6.1 indicates two Christian camps: Hebraic and Hellenistic (all Christians were Jews at this time).
  • The recipients had their own culture of various competitive games.

Perhaps Silas could have encouraged the hearers more effectively by his intimate knowledge of their culture than a Galilean fisherman named Peter. Who, nevertheless, was an apostle of the Lord, and, would confirm that their suffering served a greater purpose.