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Silvanus (1 Pet)

Role: Literate Worker

Gender: Male

Date: first-second century CE

Place: Unknown; Rome

Language:  Greek

Literary Genre: Letter

Title of Work: 1 Peter

Reference:  1 Cor. 5:12

Original Text:

Διὰ Σιλουανοῦ ὑμῖν τοῦ πιστοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, ὡς λογίζομαι, δι’ ὀλίγων ἔγραψα παρακαλῶν καὶ ἐπιμαρτυρῶν ταύτην εἶναι ἀληθῆ χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς ἣν στῆτε. (1 Pet 5:12)

English Translation:

Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. (1 Pet. 5:12)


Silvanus appears at the end of 1 Peter as a literate worker responsible for the composition of the letter, likely receiving dictation from the person who authored 1 Peter. Alongside Tertius (Rom 16:22), he is a rare example in the New Testament of an enslaved or formerly enslaved literate worker who is explicitly named and acknowledged for their role in the epistolary process. 1 Peter refers to Silvanus as a “faithful brother,” which suggests that he was understood to be a Jesus-follower. Silvanus’s status as an enslaved or formerly enslaved person is unclear, given what little information 1 Peter provides about him.

Silvanus—a name meaning “of the woods” that is also used of a Roman forest deity—was a popular Latin name that was occasionally given to enslaved and formerly enslaved persons (e.g., CIL 2 3336; CIL 8 12607; CIL 9 219).

It is unclear whether the Silvanus named here is meant to be the same Silvanus who functions as Paul’s co-author for 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. To complicate matters further, it is very likely that Peter did not compose 1 Peter; thus, the attribution of the letter’s composition to a certain Silvanus may have been the writer’s attempt to connect their text to the Pauline epistolary tradition.

Keywords: Christian; Literate Worker; Messenger; New Testament; Peter; Secretary

Related Entries: Silvanus (1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1)


Bonar, Chance E. “Coauthorial Attribution in the Teachings of Silvanus (NHC VII,4).” Pages 127–150 in Authorial Fictions and Attributions in the Ancient Mediterranean. Edited by Chance E. Bonar and Julia D. Lindenlaub. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.Reihe. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2024.

Richards, E. Randolph. Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Richards, E. Randolph. “Silvanus Was Not Peter’s Secretary: Theological Bias in Interpreting Σιλουανοῦ . . . ἔγραψα in 1 Peter 5:12.” JETS 43.3 (2000): 417–432.

How to Cite:

Bonar, Chance E. “Silvanus (1 Pet. 5:12).” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR <URL>


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