DID PETER ACTUALLY WRITE 1 PETER?: A Study in 1 Peter

DID PETER ACTUALLY WRITE 1 PETER?: A Study in 1 Peter

In argumentation, there is something called the burden of proof. Practically, this means that if someone presents a clear case, then the critic of that case has the burden of disproving it and dislodging it with a better case for another outcome. It is easy to criticize someone’s position, but unless you’ve got a better idea then that idea should stand. Here’s the case that 1-2 Peter makes for the authorship of Peter:

  • 1 Peter 1:1 – Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Peter 5:1 – …a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ.
  • 2 Peter 1:1 – Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Peter 1:16–18 – For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
  • 2 Peter 3:1 – This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved.
  • 2 Peter 3:15-16 – Our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

If the author is not Peter, then who is the author in light of this impressive list of reasons to believe the simple fact that it’s Peter? Perhaps another author is possible, but who in the world could be considered probable other than Peter? Who else is one of the 12 apostles chosen by Jesus, a well-known early church leader, suffered and served for Christ, were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ earthly ministry, was one of the few people on the Mount of Transfiguration when God the Father spoke from heaven, also wrote 2 Peter in addition to 1 Peter, was close friends with Paul, and had the spiritual authority to confirm Paul’s writings as “Scripture”?

Additionally, Bible commentators who have studied the issue point out that the early church leaders like Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Polycarp, and Irenaeus considered Peter to have been the author of the two books bearing his name. Renowned Bible Commentator F.F. Bruce says, “1 Peter… was never doubted by the early Church.” (1) New Testament scholar D. A. Carson calls Paul Achtemeier’s commentary on 1 Peter “the fullest commentary in English at the exegetical level” and “a masterpiece of careful scholarship.” (2)

The scholar Achtemeier concludes after exhaustive and arguably unprecedented research, “The majority of the evidence, both external and internal, would appear to support the traditional view that Peter the apostle wrote this letter.” (3)

Lastly, the unique claim of the Bible is that its books have dual authorship. In addition to the human author, there is God the Holy Spirit at work in and through the human author empowering them to communicate perfectly. Peter himself acknowledges this fact about Old Testament books written by human authors because of “the Spirit of Christ in them” (1 Peter 1:11) as they “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Peter extends the principle of dual authorship to New Testament books speaking of “Paul” who “wrote to you according to the wisdom given him” by the Holy Spirit in his New Testament “letters” which are divine “Scriptures”. The storyline of the Bible is that brush in the desert does not talk to people, shepherd boys don’t kill warrior giants, raging seas don’t suddenly part for fleeing multitudes, bread does not show up outside a million tents simultaneously year after year every morning, dead people don’t rise, and perfect books don’t get written…unless God shows up. Then, everything changes. If you add the Holy Spirit to the life of Peter, then it’s not hard to believe how he got everything done including writing two books of the Bible.

(1) F. F. Bruce, New International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), 1550.

(2) D. A. Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986/2007), 136.

(3) Peter Achtemeier, 1 Peter (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 35–36.

To download the free e-book ODD LIFE: Good God which is a study in 1 Peter for individuals, groups, and families from Pastor Mark click HERE. To listen to Pastor Mark’s 9 sermons on 1 Peter preached in the summer of 2020, click HERE. These and other resources are made possible by our ministry partners who support Real Faith as a Bible teaching ministry of Mark Driscoll Ministries to whom we say THANK YOU! 

Mark Driscoll
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