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Silvanus and Mark in 1 Peter

In 1 Peter 5:12-13, greetings are sent from Silvanus and Mark. The idiomatic expression dia Silouanou… egrapsa (“through Silvanus . . . I wrote”) may signal that Silvanus hand-delivered the letter (cf. Ignatius, Smyrn. 12.1; Phld. 11.1; Magn. 15.1; Rom. 10.1), while the reference to “my son” Mark indicates that he had a close bond with Peter. What is striking is that both Mark (Philemon 1:23; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37-39) and Silas/Silvanus (2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Acts 15:40; 16:19, 25, 29; 17:4, 10, 14, 15; 18:5) are generally associated with Paul rather than Peter in the New Testament. I wanted to test out the following hypothesis in my first book The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century.

  1. In the earliest textual evidence, Mark and Silvanus were among Paul’s co-workers, even though Mark (and Barnabas) may have had a temporary falling out with Paul over the terms of his Gentile mission.
  2. 1 Peter aims to promote a united Christian front in the face of external societal pressure and draws on both Jewish and Pauline traditions. Thus, the function of including the names of two of Paul’s co-workers in a letter attributed to Peter was to demonstrate Christian unity.
  3. The circulation of 1 Peter throughout Asia Minor lead to traditions developing the relationship between Mark and Peter that we find in Papias of Hierapolis’ Exegesis of the Logia of the Lord (in Ecclesiastical History 3.39.15) and Acts (12:5). Both Papias and Luke-Acts seem to take a somewhat critical stance towards the rhetorical arrangement of Mark’s Gospel (cf. Luke 1:1-4), despite its indirect apostolic authorship, which perhaps might explain the ambivalent portrayal of (John) Mark in Acts.

However, there are major differences between Papias, Luke-Acts, and 1 Peter that must be accounted for. Both 1 Peter and Acts encourages the “elders” to shepherd the flock in their care (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28), but Acts seems to differentiate the “elders” from the apostles/James and does not narrate Peter’s ministry in Rome (cf. Acts 12:17). While 1 Peter presents Peter as the writer of an epistle, Acts 4:13 has the religious authorities dismiss Peter as illiterate (agrammatos) and Papias envisions Peter needing Mark’s assistance as an “interpreter” or translator who transcribed his preaching. Moreover, while both 1 Peter and Acts have Silas/Silvanus involved in handling a circular letter stamped with apostolic authority (cf. Acts 15:22, 27), Acts does not closely attach him to Peter and includes him as merely one of four individuals delivering the letter with the apostolic decree. Thus, if I were to revise my proposal, I still think the earliest evidence presents Mark and Silvanus as Jewish missionaries who were primarily associated with Paul, though they may have also acted as a bridge between the Jerusalem Pillars and Paul in the same way that Barnabas did. If Mark was someone who did act as an intermediary between the Jerusalem Church and Paul, perhaps that is the reason why Mark is increasingly associated with the leading Apostle Peter at a secondary stage. 1 Peter, Acts, and Papias each further develop this tradition for their own theological ends listed in points 2 and 3 above.

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