Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 5.12-14

1 Peter 5.12-14

[12] With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. [13] She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. [14] Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

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COMMENTARY: And so we come to the end of 1 Peter. There is very little to say here about concluding salutations and benedictions, and Calvin deals with it in a page and a half of what is mostly repeating and elaborating what Peter himself says.

There is one interesting point, however. A feminine nominative appears in verse 13, denoted simply as ‘she’ in the TNIV translation given above. When I first glanced at this passage, I thought nothing of it. Then, I noticed that Calvin discusses it for about half of this concluding section. Apparently, this had generally been understood in the exegetical tradition before Calvin as denoting a church – called the bride of Christ, hence the feminine; called ‘elect’ or ‘chosen,’ hence the ecclesial referent. I’m prepared to accept this argument, and so was Calvin.

Furthermore, however, the reference to ‘Babylon’ was widely taken as an allusion to the city of Rome, and this Calvin refused to countenance. This might first strike one as odd, since the Reformers had the well-known habit of calling the pope ‘antichrist’ and the Roman church the ‘whore of Babylon.’ On the latter point, think of Luther’s The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. Still, the point that Roman exegetes got out of so identifying this allusion is that it allowed them to place Peter in Rome, and thus undergird the primacy of the pope. As Calvin explains, “This comment the Papists gladly lay hold on, that Peter may appear to have presided over the Church of Rome: nor does the infamy of the name [Babylon] deter them, provided they can pretend to the title of an apostolic seat; nor do they care for Christ, provided Peter be left to them. Moreover, let them only retain the name of Peter’s chair, and they will not refuse to set Rome in the infernal regions” (154).

Aside from thinking that all this is clearly made up, Calvin disputes Eusebius and Jerome concerning Peter and Mark’s biographies. His conclusion, “Since, then, Peter had Mark as his companion when he wrote this Epistle [WTM note: see verse 13], it is very probably that he was at Babylon: and this was in accordance with his calling; for we know that he was appointed an apostle especially to the Jews. He therefore visited chiefly those parts where there was the greatest number of that nation” (155).

Well, there you have it. As the final page reads, “END OF THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER.” Together, we have made it through 155 pages of Calvin’s commentaries and, hopefully, benefited from engaging Scripture with him. Let’s keep it up!

2 comments:

dguretzki said...

Travis, thanks for your work on this. Unfortunately, I got in on the fun a bit late in the project. Are you going to carry on with a new book?

WTM said...

David,

Thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear what you think about some of this material, but I don't expect you to read the backlog by any means! But, I do plan to continue with another book. Right now I'm thinking Micah, but don't hold me to that.