-- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 43:3 (Sep 2000)
Author: Anonymous

Silvanus Was Not Peter’s Secretary:
Theological Bias In Interpreting
διὰ Σιλουανοῦἕγραψα In 1 Peter 5:12

E. Randolph Richardsa

In 1 Pet 5:12 we find the phrase “I am writing through Silvanus” (γράφω 1 διὰ Σιλουανοῦ). This passing remark by Peter has garnered more than its fair share of attention from scholarship. Many a tall building has been constructed upon this exegetical cornerstone. Yet oddly enough, very little research has been done on this phrase, and certainly not enough to warrant the sweeping historical conclusions usually made about this verse.

The basic formula is (a) a first or second person active form of γράφω with (b) διά and a person or persons. 2 With the active voice, the subject of γράφω is obviously the writer, so “through” must indicate that the writing process was somehow done through the intermediation of the person(s) identified in the διά-clause.

The question for us today concerns not the writer but rather the intermediary indicated in the διά-clause. This question is twofold. The first is an ancient issue: did this formula 3 in Greco-Roman antiquity identify the secretary or the letter-carrier or perhaps both? The second question is a modern issue: do some of us allow an evangelical agenda to prejudice our reading of this formula?

It is often judged that this expression identifies Silvanus as the secretary who was used to write down 1 Peter. The NIV seems to want to leave this as an option: “With the help of Silvanus … I have written to you,” as does the TEV: “I write you this brief letter with the help of Silas.” Other translations are equally vague, for example, the Jerusalem Bible: “I write these few words to you through Silvanus” or the NEB: “I write you this brief appeal through Silvanus” or the RSV and KJV: “By Silvanus … I have written briefly.”

Others believe that this formula identifies the person who carried the letter. This is the clear meaning of the Living Bible: “I am sending this note to you through the courtesy of Silvanus” or the Phillip’s rendering: “I am sending this short letter by Silvanus.” To make t...

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