THE FIRST LETTER OF PETER



 

1. Who wrote the First Letter of Peter?

1.1. Internal evidence

1.1.1. Who was the author of 1 Peter, according to 1 Pet 1:1?

The author of 1 Peter was "Peter, the apostle of the Lord."  This can be none other than Simon Peter.

Peter's given name was Simeon / Simon, the name of the patriarch. Jesus gave Peter the "nickname" of "Rock" (Aramaic: kyp'; Greek: Kêphas = Petros) (see Matt 16:18; John 1:42). Peter's "nickname" comes into English as Peter. In his letters, Paul refers to Peter not only as Petros (Gal 2:7, 8) but more frequently as Kêphas (1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14), indicating that Peter was known as Kêphas even among Greek speaking believers. Peter apparently prefers to use the Greek Petros, as does the rest of the New Testament.

1.1.2. In contrast to his intended readers, in 1 Pet 1:8, the author of 1 Peter implies that he was an eyewitness of Jesus' life and ministry: "Whom [Christ] not having seen, you love." This, of course, is consistent with Petrine authorship.

1.1.3. There are some similarities of ideas and expression between 1 Peter and Peter's speeches in the Book of Acts. In the passages listed below, describe the similarities between Peter's speeches in the Book of Acts and 1 Peter.

A. Acts 4:11 = 1 Pet 2:4

Christ as the rejected stone (Ps 118:22)

B. Acts 1:22; 5:32; 10:39 = 1 Pet 5:1

Eyewitness of Christ

C. Acts 10:34; 1 Pet 1:17

God as no respecter of persons

D. Acts 10:42; 1 Pet 4:5

God as judge of the living and the dead

E. Acts 15:9; 1 Pet 1:22

The cleansing of the heart

How do you account for your findings based on what you have concluded about the authorship of the 1 Peter?

The similarity is explained by postulating that the same source—Peter—stands behind both 1 Peter and the speeches attributed to him in the Book of Acts.

1.1.4. Some scholars point to indicators from 1 Peter itself that cast doubt upon its Petrine authorship.

A. The author of 1 Peter says in 1 Pet 5:1 that he was a witness of Christ's sufferings. Peter, along with all the other disciples, except John, the son of Zebedee, fled when Jesus was arrested [Mark 14:50 = Matt 26:56].) So, if one interprets being a witness of Christ's sufferings as meaning being present for every part of Jesus' arrest, trial and crucifixion, Peter would not qualify. (Actually, by this criterion, no one would qualify as an eyewitness.) It is then argued that the real author of 1 Peter has made an error in trying to pass himself off as Peter, who would have known better than to call himself an eyewitness of Christ's sufferings. What Luke records in Luke 22:54b, 61, however, must be taken into account: Luke writes that Peter followed Jesus at a distance and witnessed his crucifixion from afar. Thus, when he calls himself an eyewitness of Christ's suffering, Peter probably means that he was present in Jerusalem and aware of what was happening to Jesus and from a distance was a witness of some of these events, as Luke indicates (see also John 18:10-27). In addition, it is arguable that Peter was an eyewitness of Jesus' suffering in Gethsemane, for which he was present (Mark 14:32-42 = Matt 26:36-46).

B. Some have objected to Petrine authorship on the grounds that, since the author refers to himself in 1 Pet 5:1 as an elder (a "fellow-elder," in fact) he could not be the apostle Peter. The assumption is that these offices are mutually exclusive. The real Peter would surely have known that an apostle could not be an elder, but perhaps not the pseudonymous author. There is evidence to suggest, however, that in the early church the offices of apostle and elder were not mutually exclusive. Eusebius quoted Papias as saying: "I inquired into the words of the elders, what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples had said..." (H.E. 3. 39. 4). What relevance does this datum have for the question of whether the apostle Peter could be the author of 1 Peter?

Since the offices were not mutually exclusive, Peter could refer to himself as both an apostle and an elder. Thus, he could have written 1 Peter. 

C. Some also have objected to Petrine authorship because the quality of the Greek of 1 Peter is too good to have been written by a Galilean Jew whose first language was not Greek and who did not have the benefit of a Hellenistic education (see Acts 4:13). In addition, the author betrays an intimate acquaintance with the Septuagint (LXX), a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible; of sixty-two hapaxlegomena in 1 Peter, thirty-four are found in the LXX. The objections to Petrine authorship based on the quality of the Greek and the author's acquaintance with the LXX, however, can be set aside, if Peter did not write the letter alone. If the tradition about his use of an interpreter or translator (hermêneutês) is correct, it is probable that Peter needed help in writing letters in Greek (H.E. 3.39.15; see also Clement of Alexandria, who identifies a certain Glaucias as Peter's interpreter in Strom. 7.17). In 1 Pet 5:12, Peter admits "Through Silvanus...I wrote" (dia Silvanou...egrapsa). The phrase "to write through..." is an idiom used to express the idea that a particular person is the bearer of a letter (see Acts 15:23; other possible examples of the same use of the idiom include Ep. Pol. 14; Ign. Rom. 10.1; Smyrn. 12.1; Phld. 11.2). This means that Silvanus (Silas) was the one who carried 1 Peter to its destination. (Paul mentions Silvanus as one of his associates during his second missionary journey and as co-author of 1 and 2 Thessalonians [1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1; 2 Cor 1:19]; this Silvanus is the Silas mentioned numerous times in Acts 15:40-18:5.) It is also possible that Silvanus played a role in the composition of the letter, and perhaps functioned as Peter's amanuensis. Peter's use of the idiom "to write through..." may also imply that Silvanus assumed an auxiliary role in the composition of 1 Peter. Evidence for this is the fact Dionysius of Corinth refers to the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians as "written to you through Clement" (humin dia Klêmentos grapheisan), meaning that Clement assumed the role of writing on behalf of the Roman church to the Corinthian church (H.E. 4.23.11). It is conceivable that Silvanus assumed the same mediatorial role on behalf of Peter. Indeed, that Peter even bothers to state that he "wrote through Silvanus" suggests Silvanus is more than just the letter carrier, because the recipients would not need to be told this once Silvanus had delivered the letter. It seems that Peter's aim was to reassure his readers of Silvanus' trustworthiness ("whom I consider to be a trustworthy brother") because of the significant contribution that he made to the composition of 1 Peter. How might 1 Pet 5:12 allow you to set aside the objections to Petrine authorship based on the quality of the Greek and the author's acquaintance with the LXX?

These objections can be set aside if Silvanus assisted Peter in the composition of 1 Peter and was even Peter's amanuensis. The high quality of the Greek and the intimate acquaintance with the Septuagint may be attributable to him.

D. It is sometimes claimed that the apostle Peter could not have written 1 Peter because there are no references to Jesus' life and teaching in the letter, but only to his suffering (4:1, 13). Such an objection wrongly assumes, however, that an eyewitness of Jesus' life and resurrection, as Peter was, would necessarily have included references to Jesus' life and teaching.

1.2. External Evidence

1.2.1. There are likely allusions to 1 Peter in the apostolic fathers, indicating its authority in the early church. The clearest and most indisputable are those of Polycarp in his Letter to the Philippians (see, for example: 1.3 = 1 Pet 1:8, 12; 2.1 = 1 Pet 1:13, 21; 2.2 = 1 Pet 3:9; 5.3 = 1 Pet 2:11; 6.3 = 1 Pet 3:18; 7.2 = 1 Pet 4:7; 8.1-2 = 1 Pet 2:21). Although Polycarp never identifies his source, Eusebius says explicitly that Polycarp quotes from 1 Peter (H.E. 4.14.9). Also, according to Eusebius, Papias knew and quoted from 1 Peter in his work, which no longer exists except as quotations in other works (H.E. 3.39.17). Other, less certain allusions are found in Clement of Rome’s Letter to the Corinthians (2.2 = 1 Pet 4:19; 2.4 = 1 Pet 2:17; 5:9; 7.2-4 = 1 Pet 1:18-19; 3:20; 9.4 = 1 Pet 3:20; 16.17 = 1 Pet 2:21; 30.2 = 1 Pet 5:5; 49.5 = 1 Pet 4:8; 59.2 = 1 Pet 2:9, 15); Ignatius' writings (Eph. 5.2-3 = 1 Pet 5:2-3; Magn. 13.2 = 1 Pet 5:5; Pol. 4.3 = 1 Pet 2:16, the Letter of Barnabas (4.11-12 = 1 Pet 1:17; 5.5-6 = 1 Pet 1:10-11; 16.10 = 1 Pet 2:5; 21.9 = 1 Pet 5:10); and the Shepherd of Hermas (Vis. 3:5 = 1 Pet 2:5; 4.3.4. = 1 Pet 1:7; Sim. 9.28.5 = 1 Pet 4:15; Mand. 8.10 = 1 Pet 4:9; 3:4; 2:17/5:9; 2:14. How does the fact that the First Letter of Peter had this kind of authority in the early church confirm Petrine authorship?

The letter’s authority in the early church implies that it was written by an authoritative figure, such as Peter.

B. By the time of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen and Clement of Alexandria in the second century, 1 Peter was cited as being written by Peter (see Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 4.9.2; 4.16.5; 5.12.2). In addition, Eusebius does not include it in the list of the antilegomena, the "disputed works": "Of Peter, one epistle, that which is called his first is admitted, and the ancient elders used this in their writings as unquestioned" (H.E. 3.3.1). It is absent, however, from the Muratorian canon, which is probably due to the fact that the text is not in tact, being mutilated at the beginning and the end. What do you conclude from these data about the authorship of  the First Letter of Peter?

The data converge to the conclusion that Peter wrote 1 Peter.

1.3. Considering all the evidence, what do you conclude about the authorship of 1 Peter?

All the evidence points to the conclusion that the apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter.

1.4. Peter in the New Testament

Peter (Kephas), whose given name was Simon or Simeon, was originally from the Galilean town of Bethsaida (John 1:42, 44). His father was Jonas (Matt 16:17; John 1:42), and before his call Peter works as a fisherman with his brother Andrew (Mark 1:16). At the time that Jesus begins his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, Peter is married and lives in Capernaum (Luke 4:31, 38). Peter is one of the first disciples to be called by Jesus (Mark 1:16-18; Matt 4:18-19; Luke 5:1-9). Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (Mark 8:29; Matt 16:16; Luke 9:20), and Jesus rebukes him for suggesting that his divine destiny is not to die (Mark 8:31-33; Matt 16:21-23). Peter attempts to walk on the water but begins to sink for lack of faith (Matt 14:28-33). He appears in other gospel traditions (Matt 17:24-25; 26:35; Mark 14:27-29; Luke 22:33; John 1:40-42; 6:68-69; 13:6; 18:10). With James and John, Peter is part of the innermost circle of disciples. They alone among the disciples enter into the house of Jairus (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51) and are present on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2; Matt 17:1; Luke 9:28). Peter, James and John go with Jesus into Gethsemane where Jesus prays at night just before his arrest (Mark 14:33; Matt 26:37). Peter is given authority over the church: "I also say to you that you are Kephas, and upon this rock (kephas) I will build my church....I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven" (Matt 16:18-19). Nevertheless, Peter denies Jesus three times during the latter's trial and execution (Mark 14; Matt 26; Luke 22; John 18). He repents of his threefold denial of Jesus and is restored to his former position (John 21:15-17).

After Jesus' ascension, Peter is the leader of the disciples; he directs the process whereby a replacement for Judas is chosen (Acts 1: 15-26). A summary of Peter's discourse on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit is given to the church is provided in Acts 2:14-36. Peter tells his hearers that they must repent and be baptized (Acts 2:37-40). In the name of Jesus, Peter heals a lame man in the Temple and on the basis of this miracle preaches to those in attendance (Acts 3:1-26). Because of this John and he are brought before the Sanhedrin, on which occasion he proclaims the message about Jesus to the Jewish council; the pair is beaten, warned and released (Acts 4:1-31). In accordance with the authority given to him, Peter pronounces judgment against Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-16). After Stephen's martyrdom, the apostles send Peter and John to Samaria to investigate the fact that the Samaritans have believed in Jesus; they lay hands on the Samaritan believers who then receive the Spirit. Peter then has a confrontation with Simon the magician, who attempts to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-24). Peter travels to Lydda, where he heals the paralyzed Aeneas in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:32-35); he then goes to Joppa where he raises Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead (Acts 9:36-42). He stays in Joppa for a time with Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43). Later Peter has a vision the purpose of which is to teach him the gentiles can become believers without first becoming Jews. At the same time, Cornelius, a Roman centurion, is instructed by an angel to send for Peter to come to Caesarea; when Peter comes and speaks to them about Jesus the Holy Spirit falls upon the gentiles gathered there to hear him (Acts 10:1-48). Peter is present for Jerusalem council, when he speaks on behalf of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15). According to Paul, Peter is in Antioch probably before the Jerusalem council, and is rebuked by Paul for his inconsistency (Gal 2:11-14). Peter is arrested by King Agrippa I, along with James, the brother of John; although James is executed, Peter escapes miraculously with the assistance of an angel. After his escape from prison, Peter leaves Jerusalem (Acts 12:1-17). Paul alludes to the fact that Peter has worked in various places outside of Palestine (1 Cor 9: 5). Peter eventually ends up in Rome, where early church tradition claims that he dies during Nero's persecution of the church (Eusebius, H.E. 2.25; 3.1).


2. To whom was the First Letter of Peter written?

2.1. What does 1 Pet 1:1 indicate about the intended readers of 1 Peter?

1 Pet 1:1 indicates that the intended readers of 1 Peter were "God's elect...dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." The letter was not written for a specific church but was a circular letter intended for the churches in these regions.

2.2. Since the Romans united these two regions into one administrative unity, called Bithynia, the fact that Peter identifies Bithynia and Pontus as two distinct regions implies that he was using these terms in the more popular sense rather than in the official Roman sense. The other places identified—Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia—were not only names of Roman provinces, but also pre-Roman geographical designations, not always identical in contour with the first-century Roman provinces. If Peter is using non-Roman geographical names, however, it is strange that he does not mention Phrygia or Pisidia.

2.3. What do 1 Pet 1:14; 1:18; 2:9b-10; 4:3-4 indicate about the religious background of the intended readers of 1 Peter?

These passages indicate that the intended readers are gentiles converted from paganism. To exhort the readers not to conform to their "former desires in ignorance" implies that they are gentiles, because it would be inappropriate to say that a Jew lived in ignorance. Likewise, to say that the readers have been redeemed from "the futile way of life handed down from their forefathers" is true of gentile converts, not Jewish. To say that the readers were "called out of darkness" and were once "not a people" but are now "the people of God" (see Hosea 2:23) describes gentile believers. Finally, for Peter to say that his intended readers used to live as gentiles, in all manner of gross sins, implies that the readers come from a non-Jewish background, for Jews could not be so described.

2.4. How do you interpret Peter's reference to the intended readers as the "exiles of the dispersion" (1 Pet 1:1) and his exhortation to his readers to behave honorably among the "gentiles" (1 Pet 2:12) in light of the above conclusion (2.3.)? (Compare 1 Pet 1:1 to 1 Pet 1:17; 2:11 and 1 Pet 2:12 to 1 Pet 2:9-10.)

The more natural interpretation of Peter's use of the phrase "exiles of the dispersion" would be to Jews living outside of Palestine. But, since references to the religious past of the intended readers imply that they are gentiles, Peter is probably using this phrase figuratively to mean that Christians are exiles dispersed in the world (see 1 Pet 1:17; 2:11). Having left their pagan past, Peter's gentile readers are, in a sense, exiles from the pagan world. In addition, by the term gentiles (1 Pet 2:12), Peter must mean non-Christians, especially as he conceives believers—including gentiles—as constituting the new Israel (1 Pet 2:9-10).

2.5. Eusebius quotes from Origen to the effect that Peter went to Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia and Asia, and preached the gospel to diasporan Jews residing in those places; afterwards he came to Rome where he was crucified upside down (H.E. 3.1.2). He repeats this view somewhat later as fact (H.E. 3.4.2). (There are several other statements in the church fathers to this effect.) Peter's work among the Jews is implicitly contrasted with Paul's work among gentiles in the same regions. If it is true that he evangelized Jews in these places, it is understandable that Peter would write a letter to them. In this case, the intended readers of 1 Peter are not gentiles but Jews. It is possible, however, that it was merely inferred that Peter preached to Jews in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia and Asia from the fact that he wrote to “exiles of the dispersion” who resided in these places (1 Pet 1:1). In fact, from what he writes in 1 Pet 1:12, it seems that Peter did not first evangelize the intended readers of 1 Peter. His statement, "the things that have now been announced to you through those who evangelized you" implies that Peter is writing to churches that he did not found. Besides, as already indicated, the readers seem to be gentiles and not Jews.

2.6. What do 1 Pet 1:6-7; 2:18-20; 3:14, 17; 4:12-19 indicate about the present situation of the intended readers?

These passages indicate that the intended readers of 1 Peter are suffering in some capacity for their faith. Peter says that his intended readers "have suffered many kinds of trials" (1:6), "have suffered unjustly" (2:19) and "have endured suffering for doing good" (2:20). They "suffer for what is right" (3:14) and "suffer for doing good" (3:17). Finally, the readers are undergoing "a fiery trial" (4:12), "are insulted because of the name of Christ" (4:14) and "suffer as a Christian" (4:16). This suffering, according to Peter, is "according to the will of God" (4:19).


3. Where was the First Letter of Peter written?

Since dating the letter is dependent on knowing where Peter was when he wrote, it is advisable to begin with determining the place of composition of 1 Peter.

3.1. What does 1 Pet 5:13 indicate about the place of composition of 1 Peter?

It indicates that 1 Peter was written in Babylon.

3.2. The term "Babylon" could be interpreted literally as the city in Mesopotamia (or the Babylon in Egypt), or it could be a cipher, a symbolic name, for another city. In this regard, the following data must be considered.

3.2.1. There is no indication that Peter was ever in Babylon.

3.2.2. The Book of Revelation appears to use the term "Babylon" as a cipher for Rome (Rev 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). This symbolic use of the term "Babylon" occurs in other texts roughly contemporary with 1 Peter (2 Bar. 10:1-2; 11:1; 67:7; 4 Ezra 3:1-2, 28, 31; Sib. Or. 5.143, 158-59).

3.2.3. In the Book of Acts, Peter is associated with Jerusalem, and the post-biblical tradition places him in Rome at the end of his life.

From the preceding data, what do you conclude about what Peter intended to signify by "Babylon"?  Where was Peter when he wrote 1 Peter?

Peter probably used Babylon as a cipher for Rome. Peter must have been in Rome when he wrote 1 Peter.

3.3. The conclusion that Peter wrote 1 Peter in Rome, which he referred to as "Babylon" is confirmed by Clement of Alexandria, as quoted by Eusebius: "He also says that Peter mentions Mark in his first letter and that he composed this in Rome itself, referring to the city metaphorically as Babylon in the words 'The elect one in Babylon greets you, and Mark, my son'" (H.E. 2.15).

3.4. From the connotations of the word Babylon in the Old Testament what was Peter communicating by referring to Rome as Babylon?

Rome, like Babylon, was the center of opposition to God on the earth, the political force oppressing God's people.
 

4. When was the First Letter of Peter written?

4.1. Peter wrote 1 Peter from Rome. If it can be determined when Peter was in Rome, then a possible range of dates, at least, for 1 Peter can be determined. Peter was in Jerusalem until the martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee in 44, at which time he left the city (Acts 12:17). Peter was in Antioch either before or after Paul's first missionary journey (Gal 2:11-16), and was in Jerusalem for the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) c. 48-50. After this event, nothing is known of Peter's life from the New Testament, except that he made his way to Rome where he wrote 1 Peter. Church tradition, however, states that Peter went to Rome during the second year of the reign of Claudius after having been bishop of the church at Antioch and having traveled through Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia and Asia preaching to diasporan Jews there. Jerome, for instance, writes, "Simon Peter, the son of John, from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee, brother of Andrew the apostle, and himself chief of the apostles, after having been bishop of the church of Antioch and having preached to the Dispersion—the believers in circumcision, in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia—pushed on to Rome in the second year of Claudius to overthrow Simon Magus, and held the sacerdotal chair there for twenty-five years until the last, that is the fourteenth, year of Nero" (De vir. ill. 1; see also Eusebius, Chron.; H.E. 3.1.2 [Origen]; 3.4.2). Epiphanius, however, places the death of Peter in the twelfth year of Nero's reign (Adv. Haer. 27.6). (Eusebius also quotes from Dionysius bishop of Corinth to the effect that Peter also spent some time in Corinth; this may explain the Kephas faction in the Corinthian church [1 Cor 1:12]) [H.E. 2.25.8].) It is unclear how reliable the tradition of Peter's twenty-five year residence in Rome is. But, if true, when could Peter have written 1 Peter?

If the tradition of Peter's twenty-five year residence in Rome is true, Peter could have written 1 Peter any time during his twenty-five year residence in Rome.

4.2. It is significant that that Paul sends no greeting to Peter in his Letter to the Romans, nor makes any reference to Peter in his prison letters, written from Rome. What may this suggest about the duration of Peter's residence in Rome and the date of the composition of 1 Peter?

It is difficult to explain why Paul would not send a greeting to Peter in his Letter to the Romans and why he would make no reference to Peter when writing from Rome. The most obvious explanation is that Peter was not in Rome during these two periods of time. It is possible that Peter did not arrive in Rome until after Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment, in which case, Peter could not have written 1 Peter until 56-62.

4.3. At the time that Peter wrote 1 Peter, Silvanus (Silas) was with Peter in Rome when he wrote 1 Peter. Silvanus was sent with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch as a representative of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:22, 27, 32) and accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40; 16:19, 25, 29; 17:4, 10, 14, 15; 18:5; 2 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1). The last known location of Silvanus was with Paul in Corinth c. 50-53 (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor 1:19). What does Silvanus' earlier association with Paul suggest about the date of the composition of 1 Peter?

Silvanus' earlier association with Paul suggests that he only becomes associated with Peter after Paul's second missionary journey. Exactly, what Silvanus did after he was in Corinth with Paul c. 50-53 is not known, but at some point after that he met up with Peter in Rome.

4.4. The nature of the persecution that Peter's intended readers were experiencing probably requires a date for 1 Peter just before the outbreak of the Neronic persecution. The fire in Rome began on July 19, 64, and burned most of the city. Because suspicion initially fell on him, Nero blamed the Christians in the city for the fire; thus, began a persecution of the church (Tacitus, Ann. 15.44; Suetonius, Nero 16; 1 Clem. 6). How soon after the fire the persecution began is unknown, but enough time is required for suspicions about Nero to arise and for Nero to decide to use the Christians as scapegoats; thus the persecution probably began in 65. Prior to being blamed for setting the fire, it is obvious that Christians were already generally despised and mistrusted by the Romans. Suetonius calls Christianity "a new and evil superstition" (superstitio nova ac malefica) (Nero 16) and Tacitus says that it is "a destructive superstition" (exitiabilis superstitio) (Ann. 15.44). The charge of arson was merely a pretense to persecute an already unpopular religious sect, infamous for its antisocial attitude (odium humani generis) (Tacitus, Ann. 15.44). It is likely that the hostility experienced by Christians in Rome extended beyond Rome to the provinces. At least, this would explain the fact the intended readers of 1 Peter were undergoing persecution. There is no indication, however, that the readers were the objects of an official persecution, for there are no references to any type of judicial proceeding, confiscation of property, imprisonment or execution; rather the persecution appears to be informal and unofficial, consisting of slander, social exclusion and even mob-violence. Thus, it is probable that Peter was writing before the Neronic persecution in 65. The readers were experiencing the same hostility that the Roman Christians were experiencing, a hostility that that would soon be exploited by Nero and break out into an official persecution after the fire in Rome in 64. What is being assumed, of course, is that Nero's persecution extended beyond Rome to the provinces; without this assumption, the argument from the informal and unofficial nature of the persecution in 1 Peter has no weight, because Nero's persecution could have been in full swing in Rome but not in the provinces. In addition, Peter's positive assessment of the role of government seems also to require a date for the composition of 1 Peter before the onset of Nero's persecution, for surely Peter would not speak in such glowing terms about Roman justice in the midst of persecution (1 Pet 2:13-17)


5. What is the First Letter of Peter?

5.1. Outline of the First Letter of Peter

A. 1:1-2

This represents the salutation of the letter.

B. 1:3-5:11

This represents the main body of the letter.

1. 1:3-2:10

In this section, Peter describes the nature of salvation and gives exhortations.

a. 1:3-9

Peter says that God has provided believers new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has given them an inheritance, and protects them for a salvation to be revealed at the end.  Suffering is only temporary, and has a refining effect.

b. 1:10-12

Peter teaches that the prophets foretold this salvation by the Holy Spirit, who testified of Christ's sufferings and glory.

c. 1:13-17

Peter exhorts his readers based on his exposition of the nature of salvation to be holy and to separate themselves from their former desires.  He reminds them that God judges each person's works with impartiality.

d. 1:18-21

Peter reminds his readers of their new life situation.  They were ransomed from empty ways inherited from their forefathers by the blood of Christ, the lamb without spot or blemish, destined to be such from the foundation of the world.  They have come to trust God and have a hope set on God.

e. 1:22-2:3

Peter offers a mixture of exhortation and exposition on the nature of salvation.  Because they have purified their souls by obedience to the truth, Peter admonishes his readers to love one another. Since they have been born again through the imperishable word of God, they should be like newborn babies, desiring the spiritual milk.

f. 2:4-10

Peter explains Jesus as the rejected cornerstone, interpreting Isa 28:16 and Ps 118:22; he applies terms used of Israel to the church: chosen race (Isa 43:20 [see Deut 7:6; 10:15]); royal priesthood (Exod 19:6 LXX 23:22); holy nation (Exod 19:6; LXX 23:22).

2. 2:11-3:12

In this section, Peter turns to more practical matters.  He gives practical instruction to his readers.

a. 2:11-12

Peter instructs his readers to live among their non-Christian compatriots in holiness, so that the latter would glorify God on their account.

b. 2:13-17

Peter instructs his readers to submit to every civil authority, and love the brotherhood and fear God.

c. 2:18-3:7

Peter teaches concerning relationships within the household.  Slaves should be obedient to masters; wives should submit to their husbands, not adorning themselves outwardly; husbands should be considerate to their wives.  Peter explains that, if they suffer for doing good, his readers are following the example of Christ, who suffered and bore their sins on the tree (cross), in order that they may die to sin and live for righteousness.  In 2:21-25 he digresses on Christ's suffering which he interprets in light of the Servant Songs.  Peter alludes to Isa 53 in his description of Christ's work by affirming that by Christ's injuries "we are healed" (Isa 53:5) and in describing his readers as formerly like sheep who have gone astray (Isa 53:6).

d. 3:8-12

Peter explains that within the church there should be unity and that there is to be no taking of revenge.  He quotes Ps 34 to prove that blessing comes to those who do this.

3. 3:13-4:19

Peter deals with the issue of his readers' suffering.

a. 3:13-17

He says that those who suffer wrongly are blessed; they are not to fear and not to sin when suffering.  He also tells them always to be ready to give an answer to those who ask about their hope.

b. 3:18-22

Peter explains to his readers that Christ died for sins to bring them to God.  He then says that Christ preached to imprisoned spirits who disobeyed in pre-flood times.  He speaks of the saving effect of baptism, prefigured by the flood, as a pledge of a good conscience before God.  Baptism saves by the resurrection of Jesus, who has gone into heaven, is at the right hand of God, over all spiritual beings.

c. 4:1-6

Peter says that Christ's suffering is an example to those who suffer in the flesh.  The Christian does not live for fulfillment of sinful desires, as his readers used to do.

d. 4:7-11

Peter exhorts his readers in various ways in light of the nearness of the coming judgment.

e. 4:12-19

Peter encourages his readers not to be surprised at their sufferings, but to rejoice that they are participating in the sufferings of Christ.

4. 5:1-11

Peter gives miscellaneous exhortations to his readers.  He encourages them to resist temptation of the devil in their suffering.

C. 5:12-14

This represents the conclusion of the letter, including greetings and a benediction.

5.2. Peter quotes or alludes to the Old Testament extensively in 1 Peter. How does Peter use the following Old Testament passages?

A. 1 Pet 1:16 = Lev 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7

Peter quotes from the Torah about the necessity of Israel's being holy and applies this to his readers.

B. 1 Pet 1:24 = Isa 40:6-8

Peter quotes Isaiah to make the general point that human beings fade into insignificance in comparison to God.

C. 1 Pet 2:6 = Isa 28:16 (see Rom 9:33)

Peter quotes a "stone" passage from Isaiah, interpreting it messianically as applying to Jesus. The meaning of the corner stone in Isaiah 28:16 is unclear.

D. 1 Pet 2:7 = Ps 118:22 (see Mark 12:10 = Matt 21:42 = Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11)

Peter quotes another "stone" passage, interpreting it messianically as applying to Jesus. Originally the rejected stone in Ps 118:22 referred to the author's own rejection.

E. 1 Pet 2:8 = Isa 8:14 (see 9:33)

Peter quotes a third "stone" passage, interpreting it messianically as applying to Jesus. The original application of the image of the stone that causes people to stumble and the rock that makes them fall is Yahweh, who will be such to "both houses of Israel."

F. 1 Pet 2:10 = Hosea 2:23 (see Rom 9:25)

Quoting part of Hosea 2:23, Peter refers to his gentile readers as once "not a people," but now "the people of God." Like Paul, he is interpreting Hosea 2:23 as referring to the inclusion of gentiles as the people of God, Israel.

G. 1 Pet 2:9 = Isa 43:20 (Deut 7:6; 10:15); Exod 19:5-6 (Isa 61:6)

Peter applies titles given to Israel to his readers, implying that they are Israel. He calls them “a chosen people,” a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation” and “a people belonging to God.”

H. 1 Pet 2:22 = Isa 53:9

Peter interprets the Servant in Isa 53 as Jesus.

I. 1 Pet 3:6 = Gen 18:12

Peter uses Sara as a model for the women among his readers.

J. 1 Pet 3:10-12 = Ps 34:12-16

Peter quotes a statement of general truth from Ps 34.

K. 1 Pet 4:18 = Prov 11:31

Peter quotes a statement of general truth from Prov 11:31.


6. Why was the First Letter of Peter written?

6.1. Based on what Peter writes in 1 Pet 5:12, what was his purpose in writing the letter?

Peter says that he wrote briefly to his readers encouraging them and bearing witness to the fact that what he has written is the true grace of God. This latter statement seems to mean that Peter aimed to provide his readers with a true explanation of how God has made his grace available to human beings.

6.2. Based on the intended readership of 1 Peter and its contents, why do you think Peter wrote the letter?

Peter wrote the letter as a circular letter, designed to encourage gentiles in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia to persevere in spite of suffering through persecution. Peter also sought to give some practical instruction.

 

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