Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writing Through Silvanus

Who was Peter’s secretary? Silvanus (I Peter 5:12)

Many have concluded that Silvanus served as Peter’s secretary during the composition of I Peter. Silvanus is thought to be interchangeable with Paul’s companion Silas as Paul’s letters refer to a Silvanus (II Corinthians 1:19; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:1) and Silas and Silvanus are the Greek and Latin forms of same name respectively. In fact, some translations (MSG, NIV, NLT) of I Peter 5:12 simply forego the name Silas in favor of Silvanus.

Secretary may not an entirely accurate job title in this case. The text reads “through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly...” (I Peter 5:12, NASB). Many scholars have concluded that writing “through” Silvanus signifies that he was the served as courier as Silas had done previously (Acts 15:23). Some argue that given the vast regions to which the epistle was addressed (I Peter 1:1), this interpretation is improbable.

It is equally likely that Silvanus served as Peter’s scribe, known as an amanuensis. Paul also incorporated an amanuensis (Romans 16:22). A modern equivalent might be the stenographer. Supporters of this view argue that Silvanus, as amanuensis, likely had great influence on the structure and configuration of the writing as Peter presumably had very little education as a fisherman (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11).

How much leeway did an amanuensis have? How much of himself did he pour into the manuscript? Does it matter who performed the actual penning of the Biblical letters? Why? Why not?

Writing “through” Silvanus is ambiguous. Perhaps it should be. The process by which the Holy Writ was written is mystery. The real issue is not who formulated the documents but rather who inspired them.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” - II Timothy 3:16, NASB)

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