Facts and summary
1 Peter is the twenty-first book of the Christian New Testament. The authorship of the book is traditionally understood to be the Apostle Peter and is dated to the early 60's A.D. It was written "Babylon" (5:13), which could refer to Egyptian Babylon, Mesopotamian Babylon, or Jerusalem, but many identify it with Rome. The letter is five chapters long and is often associated in the New Testament with 2 Peter. The original recipients were Jewish and Gentile Christians in Asia Minor (1:1) and it's purpose is to encourage believers to continue in the Christian life.
1 Peter is attested by 2 Peter 3:1. Polycarp (in Eusebius 4:14); who in writing to the Philippians (Phil. 2) quotes 1 Pet. 1:13,21; 3:9; in Phil. 5; 1 Pet. 2:11. Eusebius (H. E. 3:39) says of Papins that he too quotes 1 Peter. Irenaeus (Haer. 4:9, section 2) expressly mentions it; in 4:16, section 5, 1 Pet. 2:16. Clement of Alexandria. (Strom. 1:3, 544) quotes 1 Pet. 2:11,12,15,16; and p. 562, 1 Pet. 1:21,22; and in 4:584, 1 Pet. 3:14-17; and p. 585, 1 Pet. 4:12-14. Origen (in Eusebius H. E. 6:25) mentions it; in Homily 7 on Josh. (vol. 2:63), both epistles; and in Commentary on Psalms and John 1 Pet. 3:18-21. Tertullian (Scorp. 12) quotes 1 Pet. 2:20,21; and in 14 1 Pet. 2:13,17.
1 Pet. 1:1: "to the elect strangers (pilgrims spiritually) of the dispersion," namely, Jewish Christians primarily. 1 Pet. 1:14. 2:9,10; 4:3, prove that Gentile Christians, as grafted into the Christian Jewish stock and so becoming of the true Israel, are secondarily addressed. Thus the apostle of the circumcision seconded the apostle of the uncircumcision in uniting Jew and Gentile in the one Christ. Peter enumerates the provinces in the order from N.E, to S. and W. Pontus was the country of the Christian Jew Aquila.
Paul twice visited Galatia, founding and confirming churches. Crescens, his companion, went there just before Paul's last imprisonment (2 Tim. 4:10). Men of Cappadocia, as well as of "Pontus" and "Asia" (including Mysia, Lydia, Curia, Phrygia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia), were among Peter's hearers on Pentecost; these brought home to their native lands the first tidings of the gospel. In Lycaonia were the churches of Iconium, founded by Paul and Barnabas; of Lystra, Timothy's birthplace, where Paul was stoned; and of Derbe, the birthplace of Gains or Caius.
In Pisidia was Antioch, where Paul preached (Acts 13) so effectively, but from which he was driven out by the Jews. In Caria was Miletus, where Paul convened the Ephesian elders. In Phrygia Paul preached when visiting twice the neighbouring Galatia. The churches of Laodicea were Hierapolis and Colesse (having as members Philemon and Onesimus, and leaders Archippus and Epaphras). In Lydia was the Philadelphian church favorably noticed Rev. 3:7; that of Sardis the capital; Thyatira; and Ephesus, founded by Paul, laboured in by Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos, and Paul for three years, censured for leaving its first love (Rev. 2:4).
Smyrna received unqualified praise. In Mysia was Pergamos. Troas was the scene of Paul's preaching, raising Eutychus, and staying with Carpus long subsequently. Into Bithynia when Paul "assayed to go" the Spirit suffered him not; afterward the Spirit imparted to Bithynia the gospel, as 1 Pet. 1:1 implies, probably through Peter. These churches were in much the same state (1 Pet. 5:1,2 "feed") as when Paul addressed the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:17,28, "feed"). Presbyter bishops ruled, Peter exercising a general superintendence.
The persecutions to which they were exposed were annoyances and reproach for Christ's sake, because of their nut joining pagan neighbors in riotous living; so they needed warning lest they should fall. Ambition and lucre seeking are the evil tendencies against Which Peter warns the presbyters (1 Pet. 5:2,3), evil thoughts and words, and a lack of mutual sympathy among the members.
By the heavenly prospect before them, and by Christ the example, Peter consoles the partially persecuted, and prepares them for a severer ordeal coming. He exhorts all, husbands, wives, servants, elders, and people, by discharging relative duties to give the foe no handle for reproaching Christianity, rather to attract them to it; so Peter seeks to establish them in "the true grace of God wherein they stand "; but the Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and Sinaiticus manuscripts read "stand ye," imperatively (1 Pet. 5:12), "Grace" is the keynote of Paul's doctrine which Peter confirms (Eph. 2:5,8; Rom. 5:2).
He "exhorts and testifies" in this epistle on the ground of the gospel truths already well known to his readers by Pupil's teaching in those churches. He does not state the details of gospel grace, but takes them for granted (1 Pet. 1:8,18; 3:15; 2 Pet. 3:1).
(I) Inscription (1 Pet. 1:2). (II) Stirs up believers' pure feeling, as born again of God, by the motive of hope to which God has regenerated us (1 Pet. 1:3-12), to bring forth faith's holy fruits, seeing that Christ redeemed us from sin at so costly a price (1 Pet. 1:13-21). Purified by the Spirit unto love of the brethren, as begotten of God's abiding word, spiritual priest-kings, to whom alone Christ is precious (1 Pet. 1:22--2:10).
As Paul is the apostle of faith and John of love, so Peter of hope. After Christ's example in suffering, maintain a good "conversation" (conduct) in every relation (1 Pet. 2:11--3:14), and a good "profession" of faith, having in view Christ's once offered sacrifice and His future coming to judgment (1 Pet. 3:15--4:11); showing patience in adversity, as looking for future glorification with Christ (1) in general as Christians (1 Pet. 4:12-19), (2) each in his own relation (1 Pet. 5:1-11). "Beloved" separates the second part from the first (1 Pet. 2:11), and the third from the second (1 Pet. 4:12). (III) The conclusion.
Time and place of writing. It was before the systematic persecution of Christians in Nero's later years. The acquaintance evidenced with Paul's epistles written previous to or during his first imprisonment at Rome (ending A.D. 63) shows it was after them. Compare 1 Pet. 2:13 with Rom. 13; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5; 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:4-7; 1 Pet. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:14; Rom. 12:2; 1 Pet. 2:6-10; Rom. 9:32,33; 1 Pet. 2:13; Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:16; Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5; 1 Pet. 3:1; Eph. 5:22; 1 Pet. 3:9; Rom. 12:17; 1 Pet. 4:9; Rom. 12:13; Phil. 2:14; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:10; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Pet. 5:1; Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 5:5; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3-8; 1 Pet. 5:8; 1 Thes. 5:6; 1 Pet. 5:14; 1 Cor. 16:20.
In 1 Pet. 5:13 Mark is mentioned as at Babylon; this must have been after Col. 4:10 (A.D. 61-63), when Mark was with Paul at Rome but intending to go to Asia. It was either when he went to Colosse that he proceeded to Peter, thence to Ephesus, from whence (2 Tim. 4:11) Paul tells Timothy to bring him to Rome (A.D. 67 or 68); or after Paul's second imprisonment and death Peter testified to the same churches, those of Asia Minor, following up Paul's teachings.
This is more likely, for Peter would hardly trench on Paul's field of labour during Paul's life. The Gentile as well as the Hebrew Christians would after Paul's removal naturally look to Peter and the spiritual fathers of the Jerusalem church for counsel wherewith to meet Judaizing Christians and heretics; false teachers may have appealed from Paul to James and Peter. Therefore Peter confirms Paul and shows there is no difference between their teachings. Origen's and Eusebius' statement that Peter visited the Asiatic churches in person seems probable.
Peter wrote from Babylon (1 Pet. 5:13). He would never use a mystical name for Rome, found only in prophecy, in a matter of fact letter amidst ordinary salutations. The apostle of the circumcision would naturally be at Chaldaean Babylon where was "a great multitude of Jews" (Josephus, Ant. 15:2, section 2; 3, section 1). Cosmas Indicopleustes (sixth century) understood the Babylon to be outside the Roman empire. The order in which Peter enumerates the countries, from N.E. to S. and W., is such as one writing from Babylon would adopt. Silvanus, Paul's companion, subsequently Peter's, carried the epistle.
Fervor and practical exhortation characterize this epistle, as was to be expected from the warm hearted writer. The logical reasoning of Paul is not here; but Paul's gospel, as communicated to Peter by Paul (Gal. 1:18; 2:2), is evidently before Peter's mind. Characteristic of Peter are the phrases "baptism ... the answer of a good conscience toward God" (1 Pet. 3:21); "consciousness of God" (1 Pet. 2:19 Greek), i.e. conscientiousness, a motive for enduring sufferings; "living hope" (1 Pet. 1:3); "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 1:4); "kiss of charity" (1 Pet. 5:14).
Christ is viewed more in His present exaltation and coming manifestation in glory than in His past suffering. Glory and hope are prominent. Future bliss being near, believers are but "strangers" and "sojourners" here. Chastened fervor, deep humility, and ardent love breathe throughout. Exuberant feeling causes the same thought to be often repeated. He naturally quotes the epistle of James as having most weight with the Jewish party to whom especially he ministered. He thus confirms James' inspired writings: compare 1 Pet. 1:6,7; James 1:2,3; 1 Pet. 1:24.
James 1:10; 1 Pet. 2:1; James 1:21; 1 Pet. 4:8; James 5:20; Prov. 10:12; 1 Pet. 5:5; James 4:6; Prov. 3:34. Old Testament quotations are the common ground of both. Susceptibility to outward impressions, liveliness of feeling, and dexterity in handling subjects, disposed him to repeat others' thoughts.
His speeches in the independent history, Acts, accord with his language in his epistles, an undesigned coincidence and mark of truth: 1 Pet. 2:7, "the stone ... disallowed," Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 1:12, "preached ... with the Holy Spirit," Acts 5:32; 1 Pet. 2:24, "bare our sins ... on the tree," Acts 5:30; 10:39; 1 Pet. 5:1, "witness of the sufferings of Christ," Acts 2:32; 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10, "the prophets ... of the grace," Acts 3:18; 10:43; 1 Pet. 1:21, "God raised Him from the dead," Acts 3:15; 10:40; 1 Pet. 4:5, "Him ... ready to judge," Acts 10:42; 1 Pet. 2:24, "that we being dead to sins," Acts 3:19,26. Also he alludes often to Christ's language, John 21:15-19: "Shepherd of souls," 1 Pet. 2:25; "feed the flock of God ... the chief Shepherd," 1 Pet. 5:2,4; "whom ye love," 1 Pet. 1:8; 2:7; also 2 Pet. 1:14, "shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me."
He who in loving impatience cast himself into the sea to meet the Lord is also the man who most earnestly testifies to the hope of His return; he before whom a martyr's death is in assured expectation is the man who in greatest variety of aspects sets forth the duty, as well as the consolation, of suffering for Christ. As a rock of the church he grounds his readers against the storm of tribulation on the true Rock of ages. (Wiesinger.)