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Introduction to 1 Peter


Summary of the Book of 1 Peter

This summary of the book of 1 Peter provides information about the title, author(s), date of writing, chronology, theme, theology, outline, a brief overview, and the chapters of the Book of 1 Peter.

Author and Date

The author identifies himself as the apostle Peter (1:1), and the contents and character of the letter support his authorship (see notes on 1:12; 4:13; 5:1-2,5,13). Moreover, the letter reflects the history and terminology of the Gospels and Acts (notably Peter's speeches). Its themes and concepts reflect Peter's experiences and his associations in the period of our Lord's earthly ministry and in the apostolic age. That he was acquainted, e.g., with Paul and his letters is made clear in 2Pe 3:15-16 (see notes there); Gal 1:18; 2:1-21 and elsewhere. Coincidences in thought and expression with Paul's writings are therefore not surprising.

From the beginning, 1 Peter was recognized as authoritative and as the work of the apostle Peter. The earliest reference to it may be 2Pe 3:1 (see note there), where Peter himself refers to a former letter he had written. 1 Clement (a.d. 95) seems to indicate acquaintance with 1 Peter. Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, makes use of 1 Peter in his letter to the Philippians. The author of the Gospel of Truth (140-150) was acquainted with 1 Peter. Eusebius (fourth century) indicated that it was universally received.

The letter was explicitly ascribed to Peter by that group of church fathers whose testimonies appear in the attestation of so many of the genuine NT writings, namely, Irenaeus (a.d. 140-203), Tertullian (150-222), Clement of Alexandria (155-215) and Origen (185-253). It is thus clear that Peter's authorship of the book has early and strong support.

Nevertheless some claim that the idiomatic Greek of this letter is beyond Peter's competence. But in his time Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek were used in the Holy Land, and he may well have been acquainted with more than one language. That he was not a professionally trained scribe (Ac 4:13) does not mean that he was unacquainted with Greek; in fact, as a Galilean fisherman he in all likelihood did use it. Even if he had not known it in the earliest days of the church, he may have acquired it as an important aid to his apostolic ministry in the decades that intervened between then and the writing of 1 Peter.

It is true, however, that the Greek of 1 Peter is good literary Greek, and even though Peter could no doubt speak Greek, as so many in the Mediterranean world could, it is unlikely that he would write such polished Greek. But it is at this point that Peter's remark in 5:12 (see note there) concerning Silas may be significant. Here the apostle claims that he wrote "with the help of" (more lit. "through" or "by means of") Silas. This phrase cannot refer merely to Silas as a letter carrier. Thus Silas was the intermediate agent in writing. Some have claimed that Silas's qualifications for recording Peter's letter in literary Greek are found in Ac 15:22-29. It is known that a secretary in those days often composed documents in good Greek for those who did not have the language facility to do so. Thus in 1 Peter Silas's Greek may be seen, while in 2 Peter it may be Peter's rough Greek that appears.

Some also maintain that the book reflects a situation that did not exist until after Peter's death, suggesting that the persecution referred to in 4:14-16; 5:8-9 is descriptive of Domitian's reign (a.d. 81-96). However, the situation that was developing in Nero's time (54-68) is just as adequately described by those verses.

The book can be satisfactorily dated in the early 60s. It cannot be placed earlier than 60 since it shows familiarity with Paul's Prison Letters (e.g., Colossians and Ephesians, which are to be dated no earlier than 60): Compare 1:1-3 with Eph 1:1-3; 2:18 with Col 3:22; 3:1-6 with Eph 5:22-24. Furthermore, it cannot be dated later than 67/68, since Peter was martyred during Nero's reign.

Place of Writing

In 5:13 Peter indicates that he was "in Babylon" when he wrote 1 Peter. Among the interpretations that have been suggested are that he was writing from (1) Egyptian Babylon, which was a military post, (2) Mesopotamian Babylon, (3) Jerusalem and (4) Rome. Peter may well be using the name Babylon symbolically, as it seems to be used in the book of Revelation (see Rev 14:8; 17:9-10 and notes). Tradition connects him in the latter part of his life with Rome, and certain early writers held that 1 Peter was written there. On the other hand, it is pointed out by some that (1) Babylon is known to have existed in the first century as a small town on the Euphrates; (2) there is no evidence that the term Babylon was used figuratively to refer to Rome until Revelation was written (c. a.d. 95); (3) the context of 5:13 does not appear to be figurative or cryptic.


Although 1 Peter is a short letter, it touches on various doctrines and has much to say about Christian life and duties. It is not surprising that different readers have found it to have different principal themes. For example, it has been characterized as a letter of separation, of suffering and persecution, of suffering and glory, of hope, of pilgrimage, of courage, and as a letter dealing with the true grace of God. Peter says that he has written "encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God" (5:12). This is a definitive general description of the letter, but it does not exclude the recognition of numerous subordinate and contributory themes. The letter includes a series of exhortations (imperatives) that run from 1:13 to 5:11.


I.           Greetings (1:1-2)

  1. Praise to God for His Grace and Salvation (1:3-12)
  2. Exhortations to Holiness of Life (1:13;5:11)
    • The Requirement of Holiness (1:13;2:3)
    • The Position of Believers (2:4-12)
      1. A spiritual house (2:4-8)
      2. A chosen people (2:9-10)
      3. Aliens and strangers (2:11-12)

C.   Submission to Authority (2:13;3:7)

      1. Submission to rulers (2:13-17)
      2. Submission to masters (2:18-20)
      3. Christ's example of submission (2:21-25)
      4. Submission of wives to husbands (3:1-6)
      5. The corresponding duty of husbands (3:7)

D.   Duties of All (3:8-17)

    • Christ's Example (3:18;4:6)
    • Conduct in View of the End of All Things (4:7-11)
    • Conduct of Those Who Suffer for Christ (4:12-19)
    • Conduct of Elders (5:1-4)
    • Conduct of the Young (5:5-11)

                  IV.        The Purpose of the Letter (5:12)

  1. Final Greetings and Benediction (5:13-14)

──New International Version


Introduction to 1 Peter

The same great doctrines, as in St. Paul's epistles, are here applied to same practical purposes. And this epistle is remarkable for the sweetness, gentleness, and humble love, with which it is written. It gives a short, and yet a very clear summary, both of the consolations and the instructions needful for the encouragement and direction of a Christian in his journey to heaven, raising his thoughts and desires to that happiness, and strengthening him against all opposition in the way, both from corruption within, and temptations and afflictions without.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 1 Peter

1 Peter General Review
The apostle Peter, as stated in the salutation (1:1).  Internal evidence
supports Peter as the author, for it was written by one who was "a
witness of the sufferings of Christ" (5:1).  Early sources in church
history that attribute this letter to Peter include Irenaeus (185 A.D.),
Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.), Tertullian (200 A.D.), and Eusebius
(300 A.D.).  Peter was assisted by Silvanus, also known as Silas (5:12),
a well-known prophet and missionary in the early church (cf. Ac 15:
32-34,40; 16:19-25; 17:14) who also joined with Paul in writing some of
his epistles (cf. 1 Th 1:1; 2 Th 1:1).
Peter refers to the recipients of his letter as "pilgrims of the
Dispersion" (1:1).  The term "Dispersion" is found in Jn 7:35 and was
used to describe Israelites who had been "scattered" following the
Assyrian and Babylonian captivities (ca. 700-500 B.C.).  This leads many
to suppose that the epistle was written to Jewish Christians, as was the
case of James' epistle (cf. Ja 1:1).  However, there is indication some
of his readers were Gentile converts who had come to believe in God
through Jesus (cf. 1:21), and that Peter applies the term "dispersion"
to Christians in general, just as he applied other designations to the
church that were formerly applied to the nation of Israel (cf. 2:9-10).
Peter's initial audience were Christian "pilgrims" (cf. 2:11) who were
living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, provinces in
what is now Turkey.  Paul had traveled extensively in some of these
areas (Bithynia a notable exception, cf. Ac 16:7), so the gospel had
been given much opportunity to spread throughout the region.
It is generally accepted that Peter died during the reign of Nero.
Since Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D., the epistle must be dated
before then.  A common view is the epistle was written on the eve of the
Neronian persecution (perhaps alluded to in 4:12-19), placing its
composition around 63-64 A.D.
Peter indicates he wrote from "Babylon" (5:13).  It is questionable
whether he refers to literal Babylon, or is using the name as a code
word for Rome or perhaps even Jerusalem.  Barnes, Lightfoot, and JFB
(Jaimeson, Faussett, Brown) argue that literal Babylon is meant. Others
(such as Kistemaker) point out that Mark (cf. 5:13) had been in Rome
with Paul during his first (Co 4:10) and second (2 Ti 4:11)
imprisonment, and that Peter is linked to Rome by such writers as Papias
(125 A.D.) and Irenaeus (185 A.D.).  While possibly Rome (or even
Jerusalem), I am content to say the epistle was written from Babylon
(letting others debate whether it was literal Babylon or not).
It is apparent from the epistle that Christians in Asia Minor had
experienced persecution (1:6), and more suffering was on the way
(4:12-19).  Throughout the epistle Peter encourages them to remain
steadfast (1:13; 4:16; 5:8,9).  He reminds them of their blessings and
duties that are incumbent upon them as God's "elect" (1:2), "His own
special people" (2:9).  Therefore, Peter writes:
   * To encourage steadfastness in the face of persecution (5:10)
   * To remind them of their special privilege as God's "holy nation"
   * To instruct them as to their proper conduct (2:11-12)
The epistle is filled with practical admonitions concerning their
conduct, especially as sojourners in a hostile land.  They are told how
to behave in the midst of those who speak evil of them, who abuse them,
who do not believe their message, simply because they are Christians.
An appropriate them for this epistle might therefore be:
KEY VERSES:  1 Peter 2:11-12
   "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly
   lusts which war against the soul,  having your conduct honorable
   among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers,
   they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the
   day of visitation."
   1. From Peter, an apostle of Christ (1:1a)
   2. To pilgrims of the Dispersion, God's elect (1:1b-2)
      1. A call to holiness (1:13-21)
      2. A call to brotherly love (1:22-25)
      3. A call to spiritual growth (2:1-10)
   B. IN VIEW OF OUR POSITION (2:11-4:11)
      1. As sojourners (2:11-12)
      2. As citizens (2:13-17)
      3. As servants (2:18-25)
      4. As wives and husbands (3:1-7)
      5. As brethren (3:8-12)
      6. As sufferers for righteousness' sake (3:13-4:6)
      7. As those awaiting the coming of Christ (4:7-11)
      1. To rejoice and glorify God (4:12-17)
      2. To trust in the will of God (4:18-19)
      3. To fulfill our special roles (5:1-5)
         a. The elders' duties as shepherds
         b. The youngers' duties as the flock
      4. To humble ourselves before God (5:6-7)
      5. To resist the devil (5:8-9)
CONCLUSION (5:10-14)
   1. A prayer for God's blessing (5:10-11)
   2. Final greetings and bestowal of peace (5:12-14)
1) To whom was this first epistle of Peter written?  (1:1)
   - To pilgrims of the Dispersion
   - Living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia
2) What internal evidence suggests these "pilgrims" may have included
   Gentile Christians? (1:21)
   - They had come to believe in God through Jesus
3) What country today makes up the region where these Christians lived?
   - Turkey
4) Who assisted Peter in this epistle?  What other name is this person
   called? (5:12)
   - Silvanus; Silas
5) When was this epistle possibly written?
   - 63-64 A.D.
6) Where was Peter when he wrote this epistle? (5:13)
   - Babylon
7) What other places might this city symbolize?
   - Rome, or possibly Jerusalem
8) What threefold purpose did Peter have in writing this epistle?
   - To encourage steadfastness in the face of persecution (5:10)
   - To remind them of their special privilege as God's "holy nation"
   - To instruct them as to their proper conduct (2:11-12)
9) What is suggested as the theme of this epistle?
   - Conduct becoming the people of God
10) What is suggested as the key verses in this epistle?
   - 1 Pe 2:11-12
11) According to the outline offered above, what are two main
    divisions of this epistle?
   - Our salvation in Christ
   - Our duties in Christ


--《Executable Outlines