Introduction to First Peter
Copyright ©2003, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington
The writer of 1 Peter[ 1 ] claims to be "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" (1Pe
1:1). He further asserts he was a "fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of
Christ" (1Pe 5:1). Apparently, he used an amanuensis[ 2 ] by the name of
Silvanus (1Pe 5:12). He calls John Mark "Mark my son"[ 3 ] (1Pe 5:13). To deny
these statements is to impugn the honesty of the writer without any reason to
Peter and his wife[ 4 ] moved into a large house in Capernaum.[ 5 ] Their home
was a very short walk from the beautiful Sea of Galilee. His father was named
John,[ 6 ] with whom he worked as a fisherman along with his brother Andrew.
Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus. Peter was the first apostle chosen and is
always named first[ 7 ] in the lists (see Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lu 6:14-16; Ac
1:13, 14). He was also one of the inner circle of three (see Mk 5:37; 17:1; Mk
9:2; Lu 8:51; 9:28).
Peter was a bold, impulsive, energetic, tender-hearted leader of men. He was
first to confess his faith at Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:16). He was quick to
rebuke Christ after He foretold His crucifixion (Mt 16:22). He insisted he was
willing to go to prison and death for his Lord (Lu 22:34). He spoke for the
twelve apostles during the teaching on the Bread of Life (Joh 6:66-69). He cut
off the ear of Malchus (Joh 18:10). The same night he denied His Lord.
Nevertheless, he was restored and allowed to preached a sermon on Pentecost
(Ac 2:14-40). Later, he raised Dorcas from the dead (see Ac 9:36-41) and
subsequently to the Gentile household of Cornelius (Ac 10, 11). Although he
had moments of vacillation,[ 8 ] he had an absolute trust in Christ.[ 9 ] He had
faults to overcome but he was sharp, perceptive and quick to yield in
obedience to the Lord's will.
The NT gives very little history of him after about 50 AD. Luke's last
mention of him is in Acts 15. In that reference, we see him at Jerusalem as
he stands up to recount the first conversion of Gentiles, contending that the
yoke of the law should not be placed upon their necks (Ac 15:10). After the
close of the book of Acts, Peter is mentioned in Scripture, sometimes as
Cephas, in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Galatians 1:18; 2:9 and 1, 2
- Distressed by various trials (1Pe 1:6).
- Called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you (1Pe 2:21).
- If you should suffer for the sake of righteousness (1Pe 3:14).
- It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right (1Pe 3:17).
- Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you (1Pe 4:12).
- You share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing (1Pe 4:13).
- If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed (1Pe 4:16).
- Let those who suffer . . . entrust souls to a faithful Creator (1Pe 4:19).
- After you have suffered for a little while (1Pe 5:10).
According to tradition, after the Jerusalem meeting mentioned above, Peter
worked and preached among "the Dispersion" and that his wife accompanied
him (see notes on 1Co 9:5; 1Pe 1:1). When he wrote 1 Peter, he was
apparently in "Babylon"[ 10 ] (1Pe 5:13). Is Babylon is the same as Rome?[ 11 ]
If it is, it is arresting that in Paul's prison epistles, there is no mention of them
being imprisoned together as the Catholics claim! Is it possible that the
figurative appellation "Babylon" for Rome was taken up at the very onset of
the Neronian persecution (see footnote; charts PERSECUTION A and B;
WAVES OF PERSECUTION)?
WAVES OF PERSECUTION
- During the reign of Nero (AD 64-68).
- During the reign of Domitian (AD 81-96).
- During the reign of Trajan (AD 98-117).
(S. J. Case, "Peter, Epistles of")
The word "catholic"[ 12 ] is often used as a tag for the six short epistles of
Peter, John and Jude. However, the application of these letters is no more
general than some of the other inspired Scriptures. Although Peter's work was
primarily among Jews (Ga 2:7), "catholic" does describe the universal scope of
his letters. There is no doubt that they are inspired. Their acceptance was
widespread from the very first.
ALLUSIONS BY EARLY WRITERS
- Polycarp's Epistle to Philippians (about 125 AD).
- Epistle of Barnabas (about 80-135 AD).
- Justin Martyr (about 150 AD).
- Early writers, beginning with Irenaeus (about 170 AD) accept it as being from Peter.
Several early writers allude to or quote from 1 Peter (see chart ALLUSIONS
BY EARLY WRITERS). There is a fair amount of external evidence that the
writer was the apostle Peter. Irenaeus[ 13 ] quotes from 1 Peter and attributes
the letter to
the apostle Peter. Tertullian[ 14 ] and Clement of Alexandria[ 15 ] attribute it to
him as well. The Shepherd of Hermas[ 16 ] and the writings of Clement of
Rome[ 17 ] allude to statements of Peter. Polycarp,[ 18 ] Papais[ 19 ] and Justin
Martyr[ 20 ] either quote or allude to Peter's writings. Eusebius claims that
Papias "used witnesses from the first epistle of John and similarly from
Peter"[ 21 ] The apostle calls what is known to us as 2 Peter "the second letter"
(2Pe 3:1). The relationship that letter sustains to 1 Peter demonstrates that
Peter also wrote the first one.
There is no known proof that Peter founded a church of Christ in Rome.
Certainly the Scriptures do not so state. On the other hand, I cannot prove he
did not visit, preach or was imprisoned in that city. Catholics insist it is all
true. Roman persecution began in earnest about AD 64. The trials Peter
mentioned in his first letter may be those. It is estimated that they began two
or three years before his death. It is likely that he wrote the letter between
TO WHOM WRITTEN
The people to whom Peter wrote were mostly Gentiles.[ 22 ] Their ways were
once conformed to lusts in ignorance (1Pe 1:14) which, in some cases, included
malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and evil speaking (see 1Pe 2:1). They had been
redeemed from "aimless conduct" or a "futile way of life" inherited from their
forefathers (1Pe 1:18). Before their conversion to Christ, they "were not a
people" (1Pe 2:10). They lived among Gentiles (1Pe 2:12). They lived like
For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the
Gentiles-- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries,
drinking parties, and abominable idolatries (1Pe 4:3).
As Christians (1Pe 4:16), they lived as aliens in five Roman provinces in Asia
that lay east of the Aegean Sea, south of the Black Sea and north of the
Mediterranean Sea in what we now call northern Turkey (see notes on 1Pe
1:1). They were "elect" or "chosen" (1Pe 1:2). They were no longer lost
sinners, but had been born again unto a living hope (1Pe 1:2). These believers
loved Jesus Christ (1Pe 1:7-9, 21) and each other (1Pe 1:22). In spite of the
fact that they were "like sheep going astray" (1Pe 2:25), they were of "the house
of God" (1Pe 4:17). At the time Peter wrote to them, they were undergoing
a "fiery trial" of persecution (1Pe 4:12). At least some of the churches had
elders (1Pe 5:1).
There is a correspondence between Peter's sermon on Pentecost and the
book of 1 Peter (see charts ACTS AND 1 PETER A and B).
ACTS AND 1 PETER (A)
- Holy Spirit sent upon apostles (Ac 2:2-4; 1Pe 1:12).
- Christ foreknown (Ac 2:23; 1Pe 1:20).
- God raised Christ and gave Him glory (Ac 2:32, 33; 1Pe 1:21).
- Baptism and salvation (Ac 2:38; 10:48; 1Pe 3:21).
ACTS AND 1 PETER (B)
- The stone rejected became head of corner (Ac 4:10, 11; 1Pe 2:7, 8).
- Reviled for Christ (Ac 5:41; 1Pe 4:14).
- God's impartiality (Ac 10:34; 1Pe 1:17).
- Christ to judge living and dead (Ac 10:42; 1Pe 4:5).
Peter wrote in order to encourage Christians during persecution (see charts
PERSECUTION A and B; WAVES OF PERSECUTION). He placed
emphasis upon what could be observed. Some words and phrases that allude
to seeing are the "day of visitation"[ 23 ] (1Pe 2:12) and Christ as "Overseer,"
"Bishop" or "Guardian"[ 24 ] of souls (1Pe 2:25). In his second letter, Peter
speaks of those who are "shortsighted even to blindness" (2Pe 1:9), of what Lot
had been "seeing and hearing" (2Pe 2:8) and of sinful men with "eyes full of
adultery" (2Pe 2:14; see chart OBSERVATION WORDS).
- A salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1Pe 1:5).
- Christ appeared in these last times for the sake of you (1Pe 1:20).
- As they observe your chaste and respectful behavior (1Pe 3:1).
- A witness of the sufferings of Christ (1Pe 5:1).
- When the Chief Shepherd appears (1Pe 5:4).
In line with Peter's keen sense of observation, his language is colorful,
graphic and vivid (see charts PETER'S WORD PICTURES A and B).
PETER'S WORD PICTURES (A)
- Things into which angels long to look [literally, stoop down to gaze intently] (1Pe 1:12).
- Fervently [literally, on the stretch] love one another (1Pe 1:22).
- Put to silence [muzzle] the ignorance of foolish men (1Pe 2:15).
PETER'S WORD PICTURES (B)
- Freedom as a "cloak" or "covering" for evil (1Pe 2:16).
- Masters who are froward, unreasonable [literally, awry or twisted] (1Pe 2:18).
- "Arm" yourselves (1Pe 4:1).
- "Clothe" yourselves with humility (1Pe 5:5).
- "A roaring lion" (1Pe 5:8).
- That you may obey Jesus Christ (1Pe 1:2).
- Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior (1Pe 1:15).
- Long for the pure milk of the word (1Pe 2:1, 2).
- Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution (1Pe 2:13).
- Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps (1Pe 2:21).
Emphasis is placed on responses to God's message (see chart SPIRITUAL
RESPONSES). At the Last Supper, Jesus "rose from supper, and laid aside
His garments, took a towel and girded Himself" (Joh 13:4). There was a
personal conversation with Peter that night (see Joh 13:6-11). After His denial
and restoration by the Savior at the lake of Galilee (see Joh 21), Jesus told
him about his future violent death.
Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself
and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out
your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not
wish (Joh 21:18).
Years later, no doubt recalling Jesus girding Himself with a towel to wash his
feet, Peter wrote, "Gird yourselves with humility" (1Pe 5:5 ASV).
The apostle, in his early days, had a problem accepting non-Jews. It is true
that he took the gospel to Cornelius but later at Antioch he withdrew and
would not eat with Gentiles (Ga 2:12). He eventually completely overcame his
bias. Notice the emphasis upon impartiality in his writings as he says:
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality[ 25 ] judges according
to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay
here in fear (1Pe 1:17).
Evidently, the Dispersion were Gentiles (see TO WHOM WRITTEN above).
Peter exalted Gentiles, saying to them that they "once were not a people but
are now the people of God" (1Pe 2:10; compare 4:3, 4).
Many comforting and challenging doctrinal matters are discussed in 1 Peter
(see chart IMPORTANT MATTERS A and B).
IMPORTANT MATTERS (A)
- Begotten by the word, souls purified by obeying the truth (1Pe 1:22, 23; compare Lu 8:11; Jas 1:18; 1Jo 5:1).
- Lay aside all evil and desire pure milk of word to grow (1Pe 2:1, 2).
- As living stones, built into a dwelling of God, a holy temple (1Pe 2:5).
- All Christians are priests (compare 1Co 3:16; 2Co 6:16).
IMPORTANT MATTERS (B)
- Be ready to answer those who ask a reason of the hope (1Pe 3:15).
- Speak as the word [oracles] of God (1Pe 4:11).
- Be humble (1Pe 5:6).
- Be very watchful because the devil goes about as a roaring lion to devour (1Pe 5:8).
- Resist the devil with "the faith" (1Pe 5:9) using word of God as weapon [sword of the Spirit] (see Eph 5:17).
According to tradition, Peter went to Rome and was executed under Nero.
It is commonly believed his martyrdom occurred about 65-67 AD. I know of
no firm historical evidence to support the story that he was condemned to be
crucified under Nero and that he asked to be crucified head downward because
he thought himself unworthy to be crucified like his Lord. Many think he went
to Rome, wrote his epistles and died there. There is no reason to think that
he was ever Bishop of Rome[ 26 ] or that he ever served as Pope.
1 PETER OUTLINE (A)
- Greetings to dispersion (1Pe 1:1, 2).
- Living hope, sure salvation (1Pe 1:3-25).
- Practical holiness: milk of word, living stones, spiritual priesthood, submit to rulers (1Pe 2:1-20).
- Jesus Christ, our example (1Pe 2:21-25).
- Godly living: wives, husbands, love one another (1Pe 3:1-13).
1 PETER OUTLINE (B)
- Suffering for righteousness (1Pe 3:14-22).
- Spiritual aspect of suffering (4:1-19).
- Exhortation to elders, younger men (5:1-7).
- Resist devil (5:8-11).
- Closing remarks, greetings (5:12-14).
[ 1 ]The basic text in this introduction is the NKJV. Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Alternate phrases
in brackets are from ASV, Darby, ESB, KJV and RSV and occasionally another version. Greek transliteration
follows the BibleSoft method.
[ 2 ]An amanuensis=a secretary.
[ 3 ]Was Peter in Rome when he wrote this letter? Apparently, Mark was with him when he wrote it (1Pe
5:13). Mark had been in Rome during Paul's imprisonment two or three years earlier (Col 4:10), but was about
to head out for Colossae. Paul, about AD 67, again from a Roman prison, asked Timothy to "Get Mark and
bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry" (2Ti 4:11). If we assume 1 Peter was written near the
beginning of the Neronian persecution, about AD 65, there might have been time for Mark to have joined Peter
in literal or figurative Babylon.
[ 4 ]That Peter was married is proved by Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38; 1 Corinthians 9:5.
[ 5 ]Peter was a native of Bethsaida, a town in Galilee (Joh 1:44), but during Christ's Galilean ministry he lived
at Capernaum (Mk 1:21, 29). The house in Capernaum was also called the house of Peter and Andrew (Mk
[ 6 ]Peter was son of John or "Bar-Jonah" or "Barjona" (Mt 16:17; Joh 1:42; 21:15-17).
[ 7 ]Because Peter was named first does not mean he was the first Pope. If the other apostles thought he was
the most prominent, why were they constantly arguing about who would be greatest (see Mt 20:20-28; Mk 9:33,
34; Lu 22:24-27)?
[ 8 ]By "vacillations," reference is made to his Peter's rebuke of the Lord (Mt 16:22), his three denials (Mt
26:7-175; Mk 14:69-72; Lu 22:58-61; Joh 18:25-27) and his refusal to eat with Gentiles at Antioch (Ga 2:11-13).
Prior to his denial of his Lord, Jesus told him, ""When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren" (Lu
22:32). This he did.
[ 9 ]The writer once thought that Peter was giving up his faith in Christ when he said, "I am going fishing" (Joh
21:3). It is not necessary to accuse him of unbelief just because he went fishing. Perhaps the disciples were
hungry. Maybe they were short of money after the crucifixion, being without those "who provided for Him from
their substance" (Lu 8:3). Judas was gone. Where was the money-box (see Joh 13:29)? When he saw the Lord,
there was no hesitancy of unbelief. He jumped right into the water and made for shore to bee with Him (Joh
[ 10 ]Other than the two literal Babylons [an Assyrian refugee camp in Egypt where Cairo is now located and
the other on the Euphrates river], some have proposed figurative interpretations of this term suggesting Rome
[ 11 ]Some interpreters cite Revelation 17:5, 18 as "proof" that Babylon=Rome. It may be possible that
"Babylon" is used figuratively for more than one location.
[ 12 ]Greek KATHOLIKOS universal [no connection with the Catholic Church]. For the most part, these
letters were not addressed to a particular church or individual [except for 2, 3 John], it is not thought that these
letters are now any more "universal" than others. It may be that the word was first tacked on to designate them
as universally accepted by the church as canonical and not heretical. Today, they are no more universally
accepted (canonical) than any other inspired writings.
[ 13 ]Irenaeus [lived about AD 130-216], Against Heresies 4.9.2.
[ 14 ]Tertullian wrote about AD 200.
[ 15 ]Clement of Alexandria wrote about 200 AD, Miscellanies 3.11; Instructor 1.6; Hypotyposes.
[ 16 ]The first part of the Shepherd of Hermas is thought to have been written in the first century, with the
balance being finished during the tenure of his brother Pius as "bishop" of Rome, about AD 150-160.
[ 17 ]Clement of Rome wrote about AD 93-97.
[ 18 ]Polycarp died as a martyr in AD 155. The following quotations of Polycarp are from Barclay 168, 169.
There is little doubt that they are taken directly from 1 Peter. "Wherefore, girding up your loins, serve God in
fear . . . believing on Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory" (To the
Philippians 2.1; compare 1Pe 1:13, 21). "Christ Jesus who bare our sins in His own body on the tree, who did
no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" (Polycarp 8.1; compare 1Pe 2:22, 24). "Having your conversation
blameless among the Gentiles" (Polycarp 10.2; compare 1Pe 2:12).
[ 19 ]Papais wrote between AD 130-140.
[ 20 ]The date of Justin Martyr's death is somewhere about AD 163-165.
[ 21 ]Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.17, written about AD 324.
[ 22 ]Although seemingly addressed primarily to Gentile Christians, the letter has a general application to all
Christians, both Jew and Gentile, then and now.
[ 23 ]Literally, overlooking (Vincent 1.620).
[ 24 ]Literally, overseer (Vincent 1.620).
[ 25 ]Impartially is literally, without acceptance of faces.
[ 26 ]The Catholic claim is that Peter was Bishop of Rome for twenty-five years.
Copyright ©2003, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington,
This material may be copied for personal study only.
It may not be distributed or published in any form whatever
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owner's written permission.
This copyright notice must be included on all copies
The basic text, and all quotations not designated otherwise,
are from the New King James Version, copyrighted ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission. Bracketed alternatives are drawn from various
sources such as the ASV, Darby, KJV and RSV.
Greek transliteration follows the BibleSoft method.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
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