Daily Devotion Text

September 9, 2017

1 Peter 1

By carmenhsu In 1 Peter, Devotion Text with Comments Off on 1 Peter 1

A Study Through the Book of 1 Peter

That this letter was written by the apostle Peter is explicitly affirmed by 1:1 and by the author’s claim to be an “eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ” (5:1). The title of the letter, The First Letter of Peter, functions as early external evidence for the view that the letter was written by Peter. Indeed, in the early church there was no dispute over the authenticity of the letter, for it was regularly ascribed to Peter by the early church fathers.

Some recent scholars maintain that the letter is pseudonymous (falsely ascribed to Peter). Thus some have argued that: (1) the cultivated Greek of the letter could not have been written by a Galilean fisherman like Peter; (2) the theology is too much like Paul’s to be ascribed to Peter; (3) the OT citations come from the Greek OT (Septuagint), but the genuine Peter would have cited the Hebrew OT; (4) the background of the letter reflects the reign of the Roman emperors Domitian (A.D. 81–96) or Trajan (98–117), both of whom reigned after Peter’s death; and (5) the genuine Peter would have referred more to the historical Jesus.

None of these objections are compelling, and there are persuasive reasons for continuing to support Petrine authorship: (1) Peter was a middle-class fisherman who very likely knew Greek from his youth. There is significant evidence that Greek was spoken quite commonly in Galilee. Furthermore, Peter may have used a secretary, namely Silvanus (cf. note on 1 Pet. 5:12), to assist him in composing the letter. (2) Although the common elements in the theology of Peter and Paul should not be exaggerated (for there are distinctive themes in Peter; e.g., the particular emphasis on suffering), it should not be surprising that Peter and Paul shared the same theology. (3) It is hardly unexpected that Peter would cite the Greek OT in writing to Greek readers. (4) There is no clear evidence that the letter was written under the reign of Domitian or Trajan (see Purpose, Occasion, and Background). (5) The reader must be careful of saying what an author “must do”; i.e., although one cannot demand that Peter refer to the historical Jesus in a short letter written for a specific purpose, there is significant evidence that Peter alludes to some of the sayings of Jesus (e.g., Luke 12:35 in 1 Pet. 1:13; Matt. 5:16 in 1 Pet. 2:12; Matt. 5:10 in 1 Pet. 3:14). (6) Finally, there is no historical evidence in early church history that pseudonymous books, especially letters, were accepted as authoritative and inspired. Indeed, writing in someone else’s name was considered deceptive (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2; 3:17). On balance, there are compelling reasons to conclude that the apostle Peter is in fact the author of 1 Peter. [1]

Peter’s primary concern is for truly Christian living in the context of hostility and suffering. The letter moves forward in a kind of elliptical way, embracing first one and then the other of these concerns, returning to them over and over again along the way. At the same time these concerns are placed within the context of Christ’s suffering and resurrection, his suffering offering a pattern for believers as well as saving them, his resurrection giving them hope in the midst of present suffering.

The opening thanksgiving (1:3-12) sets forth the themes: salvation, hope for the future, suffering, genuine faith (= faithful living). The rest of the letter falls into three parts (1:13-2:10; 2:11-4:11; 4:2-5:11), signaled by the address “dear friends” in 2:11 and 4:12 (and the doxology in 4:11). Part I is a call to holy living, with emphasis on their life together as the people of God. Using all kinds of images from the Old Testament, Peter reassures them that they are God’s people by election, whose lives together are to give evidence that they are God’s children and thus declare God’s praises.

Part 2 focuses primarily on their being God’s people for the sake of the pagan world (2:12)—those responsible for their suffering. He begins (2:11-3:7) by urging Christlike submission in specific institutional settings (pagan government [2:13-17]; pagan masters [2:18-25]; pagan husbands [3:1-6]) in which believers may expect to suffer. He then generalizes this appeal to all believers (3:8-4:6), specifically when facing suffering for doing good; again, Christ’s death and resurrection serve as the basis for holiness and hope. He concludes by speaking once more to their life together as God’s people (4:7-11).

In part 3 he puts their suffering into a theological context, while urging the elders to lead the others in properly Christian responses to undeserved suffering, as well as in their relationships to one another. [2]

[1] ESV: Study Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2008. 2401.

[2] Fee, Gordon D, and Douglas K. Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2002. 402-403.

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