An Intro to 1 Peter...
On March 30th we will be starting a daily Bible study in the letter to 1 Peter. This blog aims to give a brief introduction to the epistle.
1 Peter is a letter to written to the people of God who are dispersed across the Roman Empire, in particular that part which makes up most of modern Turkey, north of the Taurus mountain chain. They are followers of Jesus Christ, believers who were both formerly Jews or gentiles spread out across the land and who find themselves in a hostile environment.
Eusebius, an early church historian, suggested that it was the part that Peter himself had evangelised, as opposed to southern Turkey where Paul had his ministry (places such as Laodicea, Colossae and Ephesus). While that is not widely attested to, this letter is to those north of a line, south of which Paul had a very powerful ministry and to where he wrote many of our New Testament letters.
Scholars generally agree (there are always a few exceptions!) that Peter’s first epistle was written in the early 60s AD, in other words about 30 years after Jesus ascended to the Father and the first Pentecost.
The letter is written in excellent Greek, and although Peter is described in Acts 4:13 as an “unschooled, ordinary man”, living in first Century Israel would mean familiarity not only with Aramaic and Hebrew, but also Greek, the commercial and international language of the day. The quality of the Greek is probably down to his amanuensis, Silas (1 Peter 5:12). The name Silas is also spelt as Silvanus in the Greek (a bit like Bob and Robert in English!).
At this time in the first century the Roman Empire ruled the world under the leadership of the tyrant Emperor Nero, who took great delight in the persecution of followers of Jesus Christ. His brutality is widely reported.
In 1 Peter 5:13 Peter talks of the “sister church in Babylon” sending greetings, indicating he was at this time not in Babylon, but Rome, Babylon being the term used to represent that city in Revelation and other Jewish writings of the period. Remember, Babylon was the capital city of an earlier ungodly empire where people were taken as captives in the first great dispersion of the Jewish people in 586BC.
There are many themes covered in this letter to the church, a church spread far and wide because of that evil empire. The key theme, however, is one of standing firm in the faith in the face of suffering (covered in every chapter).
Other themes include a call to holiness, submission to those in authority, Christ’s example and the conduct of believers. Indeed, it is such a rich epistle we will be only covering a very small number of verses each day.
You can find further background on the epistle at these websites, as well as in commentaries available in the traditional way – in books! Note that commentators do vary, and read them with an open mind – you may find you disagree with some of their interpretations or comments – but they all are or were disciples of Jesus Christ filled with his Spirit, so each have gems to share with us:
https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/1-peter-1.html - Spurgeon’s verse by verse commentary on 1 Peter
https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/1-peter/1.html - Matthew Henry’s Commentary
https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=wes&b=60&c=1 – John Wesley’s explanatory notes on the text