INTRODUCTION TO 1 PETER
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Before analyzing the test of any book of the Bible, it is well to learn the historical background.
Also, it is best to make a "skyscraper" view of its general contents. Accordingly, this introduction is divided into two parts: background and survey
- Author. The letter starts out stating that Peter wrote the letter. His parents called him Simon. Jesus renamed him Peter (though at times he still called him Simon after that). The style and grammar of the letter matches Peter's style and grimmer in his speeches as recorded in the gospels and Acts. The fact that Paul and Peter were well acquainted is evident in some of the context of this letter. Many of the early church fathers and historians agree that Peter wrote this letter including 1 Clement (95 A.D.), Polycarp (John's disciple), Irenaeus (140-203 A.D.), Tertullian (150-222 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (155-215), Origen (185-253), and Eusebius (fourth century). It is probable that Peter dictated it to Silas (5:12) who penned it; thus accounting for the proper Greek grammar in the letter. (The Greek grammar Peter's second letter is not a accurate.)
Peter was from Bethsaida, a village on the north-eastern tip of the Sea of Galilee (John 1:44) and moved to Capernaum a few miles from Bethsaida. (Matthew 8:5, 8:14) He was married and a fisherman when he first met Jesus. Andrew, Peter's brother introduced him to Jesus when they were by the Jordan River where John the Baptist was conducting his ministry. (John 1:41-42) Shortly after this, Simon returned to his fishing job at the Sea of Galilee. While fishing one day Jesus joined him, performed a miracle, and invited Simon to be a "fisher of men". (Matthew 4:18-20) Peter followed Jesus from that point on for just over three years.
Jesus chose Peter as one of his twelve apostles and at times was given special treatment along with James and John. Peter's name is always given first in lists. (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13)
Peter was an eye witness of Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. When the Holy Spirit came with power during Pentecost, Peter preached to Jews from all over the Roman world including the cities mentioned in this letter. (Acts 2:5-11) From Pentecost Peter became one of the main speakers and church elders in Jerusalem. Due to persecution he left Jerusalem and traveled throughout Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. During this time the Lord revealed to Peter that the Gentiles were to be equals with Jews in Jesus' church and kingdom. Eventually Peter traveled to Syria, Minor Asia, and Rome. Peter was killed in Rome at the end of Nero's reign.
- Date Written. Peter wrote this letter in or shortly before 68 A.D. just a few years before Titus, the Roman general destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Peter mentions persecutions in 4:14-16 and 5:8-9. These were the persecutions under Nero (reign from 54-68 A.D.) who hated Christians and Jews. Nero burned Rome in 64 A.D. blaming Christians for it which spurred on a great persecuted and martyrdom of many Christians. Paul spend his second imprisonment in Rome during this time. Peter was martyred during Nero's reign of terror in Rome.
- Addressee. Peter wrote this letter to Christians who were living in cities in Asia Minor according to 1:1. The congregations there consisted of Jews (some converted during Pentecost) and Gentiles.
- Place of Writing. Peter states in 5:13 that he was in Babylon when he wrote this letter. People have suggested that this was one of four places:
- Egyptian Babylon (a military post) seems unlikely since the only way he would have been in that small outpost was as a prisoner because of Nero's orders to imprison and kill Christians.
- Jerusalem which seems unlikely since Peter (nor any of the prophets or apostles) called Jerusalem as such. Also Hebrews which was written at the same time seems to tell the remaining Christians there to leave Jerusalem. (Hebrew 13:12-14)
- Mesopotamian Babylon seems somewhat likely. However, he would have been outside of the persecution of Nero (or any other known persecution at the time). During Nero's persecution of Christians Peter was martyred in Rome. Old Testament Babylon did not exist at this time. However, there was a very small city called Babylon on the Euphrates near the Old Testament Babylon and there does seem to have been a congregation there that consisted of Jews and Gentiles. If Peter was there it would have took a while for him to hear of the persecution in Asia Minor, and he would have to travel back to Rome in time to be killed by Nero.
- Rome seems more likely because John also calls Rome Babylon in Revelation 17:9-10. It's true that Revelation was written almost thirty years later; but this does not mean Christians didn't begin calling Rome Babylon before Revelation was written.
- Historical Background. Ever since Jesus ascended Christians have been persecuted by people of the world; both from Jews and Gentiles. Sometimes individuals were persecuted. Sometimes several in one congregation. Up until the time of this writing the greatest persecution against Christians started in Jerusalem when Stephen was stoned by zealot Jews. (Acts 6:8, 7:57) Saul, who became Paul lead the persecutions (Acts 8:1-3) until he meet the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:31) Like that one, the persecutions were often of short term. When this letter was written the persecution against Christians increased greatly with Nero, the Roman Emperor. He burned Rome and blamed Christians for starting it. In various places all over the Roman empire selfish and corrupt politicians used the opportunity started by Nero to further their selfish plans and wills. The Christians Peter was writing to were in one of these areas. Letters between Nero and the governor of Bithynia still exist where they discussed the subject. The governor asked Nero if it was fine and good to arrest, jail, and kill Christians. Nero replied saying the governor could do whatever he wanted to do with the Christians in his territory. The persecution spread to the surrounding Roman provinces. When Peter heard about this he wrote this letter to encourage the Christians in the area. During Nero's persecution Paul was imprisoned and Peter was martyred.
- SURVEY AND PURPOSE
- Survey Peter wrote about Christian life, duty. suffering, and persecution.
- Purpose Peter wrote to encourage Christians and testify that this is the true grace of God. (5:12)
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