By John Litteral
Recently I wrote an article on Romans 13:1-7 titled “Is Romans chapter 13 a forgery.” In the passage in 1 Peter 2:13-25, there is a similarity to chapter 13 of Romans concerning how we should submit to government authority.
My goal was to determine through investigation whether there was a possibility that the “powers that be” such as the Flavians and Piso family of the Roman Empire, or perhaps some other Satanic agent, may have added that section into the Scriptures through a scribal copyist. One thing for sure is that it is provable that there are many additions and omissions found in the ancient Bible manuscripts, sometimes just a word or phrase, but there are also whole sections that have been added or omitted by scribes, such as Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11, sections that were not written by the authors of those books but were added later by a scribe.
In my investigation into Romans 13:1-7, I found that that section is found in the oldest Bible manuscript, that being P46 which dates sometime between 175-225AD. As for Romans 13, there have been some who think that the Romans 13 passage could have been added during the Council of Nicaea, but ancient Bible manuscript P46 proves that that is not the case since that manuscript that has the Romans passage was copied at least one-hundred years prior to the Council of Nicaea. But the problem with manuscript evidence is that there is no manuscript that has Romans chapter 13 that has been discovered that is any older than P46, which means that there is almost a one-hundred-and-fifty-year gap between the time that Paul wrote Romans, which is estimated to be around 57AD, to the date of the manuscript P46. I also investigated witnesses of the Early Church Fathers, and I found that that didn’t prove much either, since the oldest concrete witness was Irenaeus of Lyons, which is in the same timeline as P46. There was another witness that possibly cross-referenced the Roman 13 passage, that being the Martyrdom of Polycarp, and the oldest date for that witness is 155AD. But one factor that almost nobody mentions concerning the reliability of the witness of the Early Church Fathers, as far as textual criticism goes, is that the writings of the Early Church Fathers have a similar textual reliability issue as the Bible does, and that is the writings of the Church Fathers are copies with manuscript traditions and variants. So, when someone refers to a Church Father as being a witness of a citation of Scripture for textual criticism purposes, it needs to be understood that there are no autographed writings just like there is no autographed writings of the Biblical authors.
Now, looking at the passage of 1 Peter 2:13-25, the key verses have some troubling authoritarian sympathizing content…
13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for [b]vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. 18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.
This is in harmony with the Romans 13 passage and depending upon how statist-minded that a Christian is depends upon how they interpret this passage. Some so-called Christians use these passages to defend their government-worshiping political views. Some Christians who have a sense for liberty and freedom will often dance around these passages and be like, “I know the text says that, but it really means this.”
As for a free-thinking Christian like myself, I prefer to say that those texts are not consistent with the teachings of Christ, and that these are either authoritarian inserts, or if Paul and Peter actually did write it, then they were wrong in their assertions. I have no problems questioning the judgment of the authors of the Bible. The idea that every word in the Bible is as if it came straight out of the mouth of God is a concept that is projected upon the Bible, but this is nothing more than a man-made doctrine, and it is unnecessary. This concept has led Christians to believing that they have to apply everything in the Bible to their philosophical and religious positions, and this has led to the adoption of racist views, pacifism, inferiority of women, unnecessarily strict and severe codes of conduct of every kind, petty division amongst believers, etc. And then you have the case like mentioned above where there are absurd assertions made in the Bible, which leads those who can think critically, therefore have to do all sorts of spinning the context and interpretative acrobatics in order to justify and make the passage applicable in a sensible and practical way. A free-thinking Christian does not feel the need to do all of that, because right is right and wrong is wrong.
Now let’s put the passage of 1 Peter 2:13-18 through the same test that I did for the Romans chapter 13 passage. When I consulted the oldest ancient Bible manuscript for the 1 Peter passage, I found that the manuscript is P72. According to the scholar Kurt Aland, P72 dates between the 3rd or 4th century. So this manuscript is not as old as the P46 manuscript that was mentioned above, therefore there’s a large gap of time between the time that Peter wrote this epistle (62-64AD) to P72 that dates no earlier than 200AD. This means that there is a possibility that the “powers that be” could have inserted those authoritarian provisions to “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors.” As for citations from patristic sources, this is similar to that of the Romans passage. The oldest citations that I found was from Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian of Carthage, who were contemporaries, and would have made these citations around 200AD.
I have come to the same conclusion that I did concerning the Romans 13:1-17 passage. Either the authoritarian supporting assertions were not originally written by Peter himself and was added later by those who desired to manipulate Christians to allow the Satanic authorities of the Roman Empire to dictate their lives and to give up their individual sovereignty, or Peter was simply wrong and was a statist.