Tuesday, 31 December 2019
She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. 1 Peter 5:13
After noting that Silvanus was the one who was with him in the writing of the epistle, Peter now says, “She who is in Babylon.” The word translated as “She” is simply a feminine article, and it is debated who or what is being referred to. It could be a prominent woman, Peter’s wife, or the church. As the address is made to the “pilgrims of the dispersion,” it seems likely that Peter is speaking of the church where he is at. Otherwise, if an individual, it would have to be someone known to every single addressee simply as “she.” It is unlikely that anyone would be in such a position of renown. If it was Peter’s wife, it would be far more likely that he would indicate it as such.
Further, it then says, “who is in Babylon.” This brings in greater need for speculation. Is Peter referring to a literal Babylon, or is he using the term in an allegorical sense. Babylon as a church location is otherwise unknown in the New Testament, and as Rome was a city of great pagan worship and debauchery, and because Rome was the military power which ruled over Israel at the time – just as literal Babylon once ruled over Israel in the past – it is highly likely that Peter is using what had become a commonly used phrase concerning Rome.
An argument against this comes from Professor Salmond, who is then cited by Vincent’s Word Studies. His commentary is a bit long, but worth citing because it is filled with fallacious arguments. A short rebuttal will be inserted and underlined against some of his thoughts –
“In favor of this allegorical interpretation it is urged that there are other occurrences of Babylon in the New Testament as a mystical name for Rome (Revelation 14:8; Revelation 18:2, Revelation 18:10); that it is in the highest degree unlikely that Peter should have made the Assyrian Babylon his residence or missionary centre, especially in view of a statement by Josephus indicating that the Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from that city and neighborhood (Historical writings clearly indicate that literal Babylon had been cleared of Jews by the Romans. The obvious anger over such a thing would then make assigning the term “Babylon” to Rome all the more likely); and that tradition connects Peter with Rome, but not with Babylon (The same writers who hold steadfastly to the traditions of the apostles – such as their types and locations of death – suddenly refuse to hold to the same traditions over this issue? It is almost universally accepted that Peter was in Rome and was eventually martyred in Rome). The fact, however, that the word is mystically used in a mystical book like the Apocalypse – a book, too, which is steeped in the spirit and terminology of the Old Testament – is no argument for the mystical use of the word in writings of a different type (Of course it is, especially when the exact same type of terminology is spoken about concerning Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8. Further, an exacting description of this “Babylon” is given in Revelation 17:9, clearly identifying it as Rome – known as the city of seven hills into antiquity). The allegorical interpretation becomes still less likely when it is observed that other geographical designations in this epistle (1 Peter 1:1) have undoubtedly the literal meaning (This is ridiculous. Every epistle is addressed to real people in real locations. Then, within the epistle, allegorical and metaphorical terminology is used as it seems fit to the author, such as in 1 Corinthians 15:32). The tradition itself, too, is uncertain. The statement in Josephus does not bear all that it is made to bear (It is of the highest convenience to use an ancient writing when it fits one’s presuppositions, and then to disregard it when it doesn’t!). There is no reason to suppose that, at the time when this epistle was written, the city of Rome was currently known among Christians as Babylon (Illogical. If John is writing about Rome in the Revelation, then it is a 100% reason to so suppose). On the contrary, wherever it is mentioned in the New Testament, with the single exception of the Apocalypse (and even there it is distinguished as ‘Babylon, the great’), it gets its usual name, Rome (Fallacy. This is an argument from silence, and has nothing to do with Peter’s intentional use of the word, if he is applying it to Rome. Further, the same could be said of the name “Babylon” as used in Scripture. It is a literal city referred to three times in Matthew and once in Acts 7, but in Acts it cites Amos 5:27, which originally referred to Damascus, not Babylon. Further, the very fact that it says “Great” as a qualifier of “Babylon” demonstrates that something other than the literal Babylon is being referred to there). So far, too, from the Assyrian Babylon being practically in a deserted state at this date, there is very good ground for believing that the Jewish population (not to speak of the heathen) of the city and vicinity was very considerable. For these and other reasons a succession of distinguished interpreters and historians, from Erasmus and Calvin, on to Neander, Weiss, Reuss, Huther, etc., have rightly held by the literal sense (Fallacy. This is an appeal to popularity and an appeal to fame. Just because a group of people, or someone of importance (or some level of fame), holds to a position, it does not make that position correct).”
Unless one has a presupposition that this cannot be Rome which Peter is referring to, it is far more probable that it is – in fact – Rome. The use of “Babylon” in this case is logical, consistent with Revelation which is certainly speaking of Rome, and it is also consistent with the use of other such designations and allegorical statements in the New Testament writings.
Peter, most probably writing from Rome as argued for here, next says, “elect together with you.” Those in “Babylon” are considered elect together with those he is addressing as noted in 1 Peter 1:1. The very fact that Rome is not mentioned in Peter’s initial greeting there further substantiates that he is writing from Rome. Otherwise, he would have certainly included them in his epistle. The omission of such a great body of believers, who are also elect (see Romans 1:7), is improbable at best.
After this, the words “greets you” are given to expand on the words “She who is in Babylon.” It is a way of saying that one church of elect believers is greeting another church of elect believers through the epistle. From there, he ends with, “and so does Mark.”
Here it is certainly referring to John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark. He is the same person who traveled with Paul and Barnabas on missionary journeys. He eventually came to be with Peter during the time of the writing of this letter. In this, the affection Peter had for him is so great that he calls him – as Paul refers to Timothy several times – “my son.” It is a tender note of the love between the two which had grown throughout the years they had been together.
Life application: In the ultimate sense, you too are being greeted in this letter because the letter made its way into the Bible. See, a personal letter from Peter to you from Babylon. Save the stamp, it could be a collector’s item!
Thank You Lord for including each of us who have called on Christ Jesus in the unfolding pages of Your glorious plan for the redeemed of the ages! How precious it is to be one of the elect, holy and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world! Here’s a great “Hallelujah” to You! Amen.