Summary: A general introduction to the book of First Peter
August 29, 2004
First Church of the Brethren
H. Kevin Derr
“Introduction to 1 Peter & the Greeting”
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We at times expect the documents of the Bible, in particular the NT to exist almost as a work isolated from all the rest. However, there is a great interdependence on one another than we often assume. For example, the book we know as 1st Peter, is dependent on the materials that we know as the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew or the “Sermon of the Plain” in Luke, but not in the form we know them in Matthew and Luke, but they all draw on the same primary source, the sayings of Jesus. It is not surprising, when you consider, 1 Peter, is attributed to the Apostle Peter, and Peter was with Jesus when he spoke and taught. There are questions about the dating of this letter, that range from the mid 60’s to the 80’s. Tradition holds that Peter was martyred in or about 65 AD, so if you date this letter later than 65 it makes it difficult for Peter to write the letter. However, there are many scholars who for the last one hundred years or so have been questioning the tradition. Much of this is do to the fact that the earliest accounts of the end of Peter’s life do not seem to suggest that he was killed, rather that he had died of old age, which allows for a much later dating of this letter. Much of what had been solidly established is now in question, and strong arguments are being made for this to be an authentic letter from Peter.
This letter is written in the style of a Jewish Diaspora letter. The author sounds as if he is writing to a primarily Jewish audience, but may well be writing to predominantly Gentile church. As you noticed from the locations mentioned the churches in question are located in Asia Minor, a place where Paul had done extensive mission work, are these Pauline churches now under the leadership of Peter, it is possible, especially if Paul is executed prior to Peter. Peter is likely writing from Rome, though he names it as Babylon. This suggests a time either prior to or just after the beginning of the persecution under Nero, or just after Nero reign ends.