How do we know Peter wrote 1 Peter?
That may seem like a tedious question, but since we live in an age where the Bible is so often questioned and discredited, I think it is worthwhile and instructive to briefly explain how we know this letter is really from Peter.
How We Know
First, Peter signs it. Verse one: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:1a). In our world, if someone’s name is on a book, that is pretty much the end of the story. We typically have no reason to question the authorship. To have the same level of credulity for this letter is not irresponsible or particularly odd.
Second, the content of this letter is consistent with what we know of Peter. In 1 Peter 5:1, the author refers to having been a witness to the sufferings of Jesus. He also mentions Mark (1 Peter 5:13), a known associate of Peter. And there are no historical or theological anachronisms.
Third, we have extra-biblical confirmation. We have other church writings within the first century referencing this source, such as the writings of Clement of Rome (Clowney, 1989). Although Clement does not cite the author, his quotation of the letter means the it was written early. We then have in the second century Irenaeus explicitly confirming the letter is from Peter (Clowney, 1989). There was no controversy or debate in the early church as to its authorship (Blomberg).
Fourth and finally, we know there were other instances where the church rejected writings falsely attributed to Peter (Clowney, 1989), and so we know the church was not ignorant or blindly accepting anything that claimed to be from Peter.
Objections to Petrine Authorship
Now, again, because we do live in an age of skepticism, I want to briefly mention the objections to Petrine authorship, because, as is so often the case, when you dig into the details, the case is weak. So, what are the arguments of people who say you can’t trust the bible or believe Peter wrote this?
The Greek is too good. They say Peter couldn’t of written this because the Greek is too good. Well, that is subjective in the first place, but Peter is from bilingual Galilee, so there is no reason why he could not be fluent in Greek (Schriener, 2003), and of course, he could have had someone edit his grammar. Not to mention, this letter is several decades into Peter’s ministry, and so it is reasonable to suppose he could have become quite polished in Greek, like any pastor might improve their Greek over time (Stein).
Too Pauline. They say the theology in the letter sounds a lot like Paul. Now, if they had the same Rabbi (Jesus) and came from the same religious tradition (Christianity), why wouldn’t that be the case?
Not Eyewitness Enough. They say the letter doesn’t contain what you would expect from an eyewitness disciple. Really? As one commentator points out (Schreiner, 2003), this is an argument purely from psychology (not facts-driven). How can anyone know what an eyewitness should think or write?
No State-Sponsored Persecutions Yet. They say the state-sponsored persecutions that Peter references in the letter do not occur until after his death. This is correct. The problem is Peter never says the trials and sufferings are statewide or state-sponsored. All the references to trials and sufferings in this letter are general and are totally consistent with the level of persecution we know to have existed at this time (Schreiner, 2003). Furthermore, Peter still gives the government the benefit of the doubt (1 Peter 2:14), which would actually further confirm the letter was written in Peter’s lifetime prior to any state-sponsored persecutions (Blomberg).
So, do you see? We have every reasonable reason to agree with the early church that Peter did in fact write this letter. Someone might try to dismiss the authenticity of the letter with some vague allusions to “problems with Petrine authorship,” but when you dig into the details of the arguments, you realize how flimsy they are.
So who wrote this letter from Peter? Peter.
Clowney, E. P. (1989). The Message of 1 Peter. IVP Academic.
Schreiner, T. R. (2003). The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Holman Reference.