First Peter claims to be written by the apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ earliest disciples. This has been the traditional belief of the church as well until relatively recent times. Many scholars today will deny that Peter is the author of this letter, believing that it was written by one of his followers, or by another person who attached Peter’s name to it to give it authority.
The primary reason many doubt the authorship of the epistle is because of the style of Greek that it was written in. This is not something that is obvious from reading the English translation. But the Greek used in this letter is some of the best found in the New Testament. Is it possible that an unlearned (Acts 4:13) fisherman from Galilee could have such a command of the Greek language?
But Peter is from Galilee, a very Hellenized part of the Jewish homeland. It would actually be unusual if he did not grow up speaking Greek in addition to Aramaic. The style of Greek might be surprising, but it is possible that he was just good with languages. Another possibility is that he used a scribe to write the letter for him. One who was able to smooth out the rough edges of Peter’s dictation. 1 Peter 5:12 actually lends credence to this when he identifies Silas as one who had helped him with the letter.
All in all, I see no reason to doubt that Peter wrote this letter. The church, from very early on, attributed it to him. And surely they would have recognized this as a forgery and rejected it if, indeed, Peter had not written it. Authorship was important to them.
This letter is addressed to believers who are scattered throughout what is now Turkey. Peter does not directly address them as either Jews or Gentiles. However, some of the things that he says to them seem to imply a primarily Gentile audience.
Peter addresses his readers as God’s elect, chosen by the foreknowledge of God (1 Pet. 1:1-2). The word ‘foreknowledge’ used here simply means knowing beforehand. This is an aspect of God’s omniscience, he knows everything that can be known, including the future. Some hold that God can only know the future if he has previously decreed all that is in that future, making foreknowledge synonymous with foreordination. I think it best, though, to leave this as simply foreknowledge without placing limits on how God foreknew.
Peter also addresses his audience as strangers and aliens (1:1; 2:11). As believers, we are now a part of the kingdom of heaven. While we still dwell on the earth and are expected to be in submission to our human governments, we are no longer of the earth. We are only aliens living here until we are called home. And that status should impact the way we live, as well as how we might expect others to treat us.
Date of Writing
If this letter is indeed written by Peter, then it must have been composed prior to his death sometime in the mid-’60s. Peter’s frequent references to suffering have led some to push the date out much later, along with changing the author, so that it coincides with one of the later periods of widespread persecution of Christians. But there is really no need to do that. Acts records that persecution of believers was common from the very beginning. It is likely that wherever Christians were, some persecution followed.
The suffering of believers is a common topic in this letter. From the number of times Peter mentions suffering, it would appear that those he addresses were experiencing some persecution in their lives. Peter writes to them to encourage them in that suffering. And he also reminds them of the suffering of Christ on their behalf.
This letter contains instructions for living holy lives in a pagan world and under human government. Peter also gives some specific instructions to slaves, wives, husbands, elders, and to younger men. Throughout, Peter writes to encourage believers in their life in Christ, and in their life together. This is a very practical letter that should be useful to believers of all ages and circumstances.
One interesting, and important, aspect of the introduction to this letter is its reference to the persons of the Trinity. The Trinity is never mentioned explicitly in the Bible. But passages like this were instrumental in the development of this doctrine. This is one of only a handful of passages in the Bible that explicitly mention all three members of the Trinity together. Matthew 28:19, John 14:26, and 2 Corinthians 13:14 also provide explicit mention of the members of the Trinity.
But Peter does more than just mention them together in one verse. He also identifies the role each of them plays in our redemption. Caution should be exercised in attempting to make these exclusive roles, however. God is not divisible; the triune God is one in essence and purpose. Everything that God does, it involves all of him, not just a part.
But Peter says that believers have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of the Father. It is the Father who is executing his plan for creation. We have been, and are being, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Spirit to bring us into conformity with God’s purpose for us. And we have been sprinkled by the blood of Christ. It is his atoning death on the cross that enables our relationship with God.
- 1 Peter: An Introduction
- 1 Peter: Because of His Great Mercy (1:3-5)
- 1 Peter: Glorious Joy, In All Kinds of Trials (1:6-9)
- 1 Peter: The Mystery of Salvation (1:10-12)
- 1 Peter: Be Holy In All You Do (1:13-16)
- 1 Peter: Living as an Alien, a Foreigner in this World (1:17-21)
- 1 Peter: Love One Another Deeply, From the Heart (1:22-2:3)
- 1 Peter: A Chosen People, A Royal Priesthood (2:4-5; 9-10)
- 1 Peter: A Chosen and Precious Cornerstone (2:6-8)
- 1 Peter: Living As Foreigners and Exiles (2:11-17)
- 1 Peter: Responding To Suffering (2:18-25)
- 1 Peter: Instruction for Wives and Husbands (3:1-7)
- 1 Peter: Christian Ethical Behavior (3:8-12)
- 1 Peter: Revere Christ in Your Suffering (3:13-18)
- 1 Peter: Imprisoned Spirits and Baptism (3:19-22)
- 1 Peter: Don’t Surrender to the World’s Influence (4:1-6)
- 1 Peter: Life in the Church: to Love and to Serve (4:7-11)
- 1 Peter: Being a Shepherd, a Rewarding Task (5:1-4)
- 1 Peter: Humble Yourself Under the Hand of God (5:5-11)