Persecution And The “Adversary” Of 1 Peter 5:8 -- By: Christopher Byrley

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 21:3 (Fall 2017)
Article: Persecution And The “Adversary” Of 1 Peter 5:8
Author: Christopher Byrley

Persecution And The “Adversary” Of 1 Peter 5:8

Christopher Byrley

Christopher Byrley is Associate Pastor of Throne of Grace Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is currently a PhD candidate at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in New Testament. He has served as a contributor to the Lexham Bible Dictionary and the Lexham Theological Workbook.

Electronic Edition Editor’s Note: The edition of this article delivered to us and posted on the SBJT website did not include footnote numbering within the body of the text. So it is impossible to have an appropriate in-text link. Thus all the footnotes are at the end of the article. What they are referring to though will be quite hard to ascertain, as the lack of notation within the text will make the original note location quite hard to determine. We apologize for this, but have no control over it as this was how it was printed and delivered to us electronically.


Of the 105 verses that make up the epistle of 1 Peter, none are quoted more by the early Church Fathers than 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” As a seemingly straightforward encouragement in the face of spiritual warfare, it is not difficult to see why many Christians throughout the history of the church have pointed to this exhortation and the surrounding context in the face of temptation or perceived demonic oppression. As this passage stands at the conclusion of the epistle, however, the reader would expect an exhortation in line with the primary aims of the author. In a letter primarily concerned with encouragement and exhortation to believers in the midst of suffering and persecution, a warning against the chief demonic entity and his desire to “devour” Christians might seem out of place. Indeed, this verse marks the first, and only, mention of the Devil in the entire epistle.

This closing warning is, I suggest, not out of character with the rest of the epistle, but instead offers an insight into the author’s worldview and depiction of the plight of his readers. I will argue that the suffering and persecution envisioned in the letter should be viewed through the Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic tradition of cosmic conflict, wherein earthly events and conflicts are seen as a reflection of heavenly ones. In particular, Peter

pictures the current conflict and persecution of the readers as a necessary and inevitable product and reflection of the cosmic struggle against Satan and the demonic realm. Peter thus not only exhorts hi...

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