Study of I Peter


The name Peter is one already familiar to the reader of the historical books of the New Testament. He played a major part in the earthly ministry of our Lord and was the leader of the Jerusalem Church in the first twelve chapters of Acts. A fisherman of Bethsaida, close to the Sea of Galilee in northern Palestine (John 1:44), Peter was the older brother of Andrew. He was first brought to Jesus by his brother (John 1:40-42), and it was prophesied by the Lord at that time that the old, unstable Simon would one day be the new, rock-like peter. He was called from his fishing boat to become a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-18; Luke 5:1-11). Finally, in Mark 3:13-16, he was called and chosen as one of the Twelve to accompany the Lord and to carry on an evangelistic ministry. As one of the inner circle, together with James and John, he accompanied Christ at a number of important events during his life: the raising of Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:54); the Transfiguration scene (Luke 9:28); and on the crucifixion eve in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37). Being overconfident regarding his undying loyalty to his Lord, he soon denied Him (John 13:36-38; 18:15-27), but was afterward graciously restored to fellowship and commissioned to follow and serve Him once again (I Cor. 15:5; John 21:15-19). As the leader of the early Church in Jerusalem, he appears as a fearless preacher, defender, and administrator. That he did learn his lesson is evident from the reading of this letter, as it abounds with references to faithfulness, the care of a shepherd for the sheep, and the responsibilities of the Christian toward his Lord and his fellow Christians. Thus, out of a full life, Peter, now an old man, writes to believers who are beset by trials and sufferings. He had found the Lord sufficient; now he exhorts these people to cast all their anxieties upon Him because He cares for them (cf. 5:7). (Walter M. Dunnett, New Testament Survey, p. 76-77).

Tradition teaches that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome during the persecution under Nero not later than 68 A.D. because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ had died.

65 A.D.

To saved Jews dispersed throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (compare 4:3 with 1:1).

Persecution was becoming commonplace and Peter wrote to instruct Christians how they should react to a hostile world.

Peter's purpose is to exhort the believers to remain steadfast in times of suffering because of their hope in Christ. They are exhorted throughout the epistle to live godly lives knowing that God has a very definite purpose in allowing suffering.

Suffering and glory. Suffering is mentioned 16 times.

Peter uses imperatives (direct commands) about 34 times. They are scattered throughout the book.

I Peter states that it was written from Babylon (5:13). There are three possible interpretations of this location: (1) the historic Babylon in Mesopotamia, where there was a Jewish settlement until much later in the Christian era, and where Peter could well have founded a church; (2) a town in Egypt; and (3) a mystic name for Rome, by which Christians applied to it all the evil connotations that had been historically associated with the Babylon on the Euphrates, and by which they could vent their feelings without being detected.

There is no tradition that Peter had ever been in Babylon in Egypt, nor was it a place of sufficient importance to warrant his attention. Babylon on the Euphrates is a better possibility, since it was the home of many Jewish people from the captivity until the times of the Talmud. There is, however, no evidence that Peter was ever in this region, and though a number of commentators have favored his residence in the region of Babylon, their reasons are not very cogent.

Several facts seemingly lend support to the idea that Babylon meant Rome. John Mark, who was with Peter at the writing of the epistle, was in Rome at the time of Paul's imprisonment (Col. 4:10). The provinces are named in an order which hints that the messenger bearing the letter would make a circuit terminating in the west rather than in the east. If he were making his way back toward the source of the letter, Rome rather than Babylon would be a more logical end for his travels. Uniform patristic evidence places Peter in Rome at the end of his life. For these reasons, it seems wisest to conclude that the epistle was composed in Rome.

If this conclusion is correct, it does not imply that Peter had founded the church at Rome or that he had ministered there for any great length of time. Neither Acts nor Romans gives any hint that Peter had been in Rome prior to A.D. 60. If he did write from Rome, he was probably paying the city a casual visit in much the same way that he had called at Corinth at an earlier date. (All of the above material on "Babylon" is quoted from Merrill C. Tenney, New Testament Survey, p. 348-389.)

The following outline is taken from the New Scofield Reference Bible:

Introduction, 1:1, 2

I. Christian Suffering and Conduct in the Light of Complete Salvation, 1:3 - 2:8

II. Christian Life in View of the Believer's Position and the Vicarious Suffering of Christ, 2:9 - 4:19

III. Christian Service in the Light of the Coming of the Lord, 5:1-9

Conclusion: Benediction and Personal Greetings, 5:10-14