Summary: Introduction to First Peter Expositions
Introduction to First Peter
The Apostle Peter is the author of this letter, with an estimated writing date of around AD 64 – 65. Several pieces of evidence support this belief, starting with the introduction of the letter. It says, “Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:1). He introduces himself in the very beginning of the letter, which was common practice in ancient times even as it is today. There is also other internal evidence in the epistle of Petrine authorship. We see Peter call himself a “witness of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Pet 5:1), which clearly is true of the Apostle Peter, as seen in the Gospels. The author also uses phrases that would seem to reflect Peter’s correspondence with Christ. For instance, Peter calls for the elders of the congregations to “be shepherds of God’s flock” (1 Pet 5:2). This certainly is reminiscent of Peter’s restoration after denying his Lord. Christ repeatedly said to Peter “tend my sheep” and “feed my lambs” (John 21). Peter now says the same to the elders of the churches.
Also, Peter calls each believer “living stones” being built into a spiritual house for God (1 Pet 2:5). We see this clearly in the fact that Peter’s original name was Simon but Christ called him Peter, which means “stone” or “rock.” Christ also told Peter that on this “rock” he would build his church (Matt 16:18). In addition, we see Peter’s warning to these churches to be self-controlled and alert for the devil is roaming around like a lion seeking whom he could devour (1 Pet 5:8). This cannot but conjure up the picture of Christ warning Peter about how Satan had asked to sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31). Again, Peter speaks to the churches in a similar manner to how Christ spoke to him. Throughout the letter, the experiences of the Apostle Peter radiate, therefore, confirming his authorship.
Who was Peter? Obviously, Peter was one of the original disciples who was called to follow Christ during his early ministry (Mark 1:16, 17), and later on, he was called to be one of the twelve Apostles (Matt 10:12). There is ample evidence that suggests that Peter was actually the head of the twelve. In each of the list of Apostles, he is always placed first, which showed his importance (Matt 10, Mark 3, Luke 6, Acts 1). The Gospel writers focused on Peter throughout the narratives, as there is more material written about him than anybody else besides Christ. Also in the book of Acts, we see his importance in the establishment of the church. He leads the Apostles in the selection of the replacement for Judas (Acts 1) and he preaches several sermons that led to the salvation of thousands (Acts 2, 3 and 4).
God also gave him the vision that led to the salvation of Cornelius and the welcoming of Gentiles into the church (Acts 10 and 11). He is the prominent figure in Acts until the commissioning of the Apostle Paul in Acts 13. Tradition says that soon after the writing of this letter, Peter was crucified in Rome around AD 67 or 68. His wife was crucified before him, and he encouraged her with the words, “Remember the Lord.” After the crucifixion of his wife, he begged to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy to die in the same manner of his Lord, and his request was granted.
There are those from liberal traditions who have tried to cast doubt upon Petrine authorship. One of the primary reasons is because of the high level of classical Greek in which the letter is written. Is it possible for a fishermen who was called “unlearned” (Acts 4:13) by the Pharisees to be able to speak and write in such high-level Greek?
There are several ways one could respond to this. The first is the fact that Peter being called “unlearned” does not mean that he was illiterate or unable to write in high-level Greek. Being called “unlearned” simply meant that he had never been trained in an official rabbinical school. It is very probable because of Hellenization (the influence of Greek culture) that Peter did speak Greek as a second language behind Aramaic. Also, since Peter had been preaching and serving in missions for over thirty years by this time, he had probably grown in his understanding of Greek because of his teaching ministry. Finally, in chapter 5, it is possible that Peter is saying that Silas (or Silvanus, depending on the version) was his scribe. We see this in 1 Peter 5:12, “With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”