First Epistle of Peter

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1 Peter


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The First Epistle of Peter is a book of the New Testament. It was written by the apostle Peter to the early church.

Read Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary on the First Epistle of Peter



The author of this epistle identifies himself as Peter. This has lead to a strong tradition of Petrine authorship until recent times. Modern scholarship has called Petrine authorship of the epistle into question, making the argument that the epistle is actually pseudonymous. German scholarship is the strongest supporter of the idea of pseudonymnity.

Arguments for pseudonymnity

  1. The book has too many Pauline ideas to be Petrine.
  2. Paul evangelized parts of the area where the letter was sent; Peter would be infringing on Paul's church plants by sending an epistle to the area.
  3. There are no personal accounts of Jesus' life as might be expected in an authentic Petrine epistle.

    "1 Peter contains no evidence at all of familiarity with the earthly Jesus, his life, his teaching, and his death, but makes reference only in a general way to the 'sufferings' of Christ. It is scarcely conceivable that Peter would neither have sought to strengthen his authority by referring to his personal connections with Jesus nor have referred to the example of Jesus in some way." (W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 424)

  4. The greek literary style used in 1 Peter is beyond what some believe a common fisherman could have written.

    "The type of Greek found in 1 Peter reveals that whether or not the author was born a Greek, he had enjoyed some level of formal education, if not an 'advanced' education in rhetoric or philosophy, at least a 'middle' education that would have included, along with geometry, arithmetic, and music, a reading of such classical authors as Homer. While one may surely presume some facility in Greek even among Palestinian fishermen in the first century who lacked formal education, the kind of Greek found in this epistle was probably beyond such a person, and hence the language was in all likelihood not given its present form by Simon Peter." (Paul J. Achtemeier, A Commentary on First Peter, pp. 4-5)

  5. The persecution discussed in 1 Peter could not have taken place until after Peter's death historically.
  6. The author describes himself as sumpresbuteros (fellow elder), a "title that appeared late in the development of early Christian ecclesiology."

    "In 1 Pet. 1.1 the author describes himself as apostolos (apostle), but in 1 Pet. 5.1 as sumpresbuteros (fellow elder). One who was a member of the original circle of the Twelve, an apostle, the one to whom the risen Jesus first appeared, need hardly have resorted to this title that appeared late in the development of early Christian ecclesiology." (Udo Schnelle, The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, p. 400)

Rejoinders to arguments for pseudonymnity

The pro-Petrine authorship section of scholarship responds accordingly:

  1. Peter was close to Paul in much of his theology.
  2. Although Paul may have evangelized parts of the area where the epistle was sent Peter also evangelized some of the area.
  3. Peter may not have felt the need to include personal accounts of Jesus' life in this epistle for various reasons. One possible reason is that he had already given much information regarding Jesus' life to Mark who would later write the Gospel that bears his name.

    "It is further maintained that an apostolic author such as Peter would have reflected in his writing far more reminiscences of his personal contacts with Jesus, and of his knowledge of the sayings of his Master. But this objection cannot be regarded as serious since the presence of such reminiscences in the case of 2 Peter is regarded by some as an objection against apostolic authorship, and there is no sure canon of criticism which can pronounce on the validity of either." (Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction)

  4. It is entirely possible that Peter could have learned a great deal about Greek literary styles during his travels. In addition he lived his early life in the town of Bethsaida which was granted city status under Phillip the Tetrarch. Phillip was a known hellenizer and Bethsaida most likely had a large greek speaking population (Thiede).
  5. It is completely possible that Peter could have been speaking of smaller persecutions in the area he was sending his epistle. Alternatively he might have been referring to the Neronian persecution that eventually took his life.
  6. Peter did not need to describe himself as an apostle. The argument regarding Peter's statement in 5:1 is not conclusive. In fact, the term elder may well have been used as a description of the apostles during Papias' time (c. AD 60-135).

Scholarship is quite split over this issue. Those who rule out Petrine authorship turn to the idea that one of Peter's disciples penned the words using his mentor's name. Most likely this author drew from his or her own memory of things that Peter had said, or perhaps from some type of written source material. Those who favor Petrine authorship have no such theories regarding the authorship of the epistle.

Place of Writing

In spite of the dispute within scholarship concerning the author of 1 Peter there is general concensus as to the place of writing. Because of an internal reference to "Babylon" in 5:13 most scholars agree that the epistle was written from the city of Rome. Some do hold that the other was referring to the literal Babylon and still others believe that Babylon referred to a spiritual type of exile. However, the concensus of scholars seems to be that Babylon was a type of codename for Rome.

Date of Composition

Dating the First Epistle of Peter is a difficult task for scholars. One of the largest reasons for this is the question as to whether the persecution that the author refers to was a local persecution in Asia Minor, or a an empire wide persecution. The way one dates the epistle often has direct connection to a person's stance on authorship.

Those who favor Petrine authorship date the epistle sometime shortly before Peter's martyrdom which could have taken place as lates as AD 68. The pro-Petrine group sets a date as early as AD 63-64. This is because the reference to Silvanus at the end of the epistle seems to indicate a date following Paul's arrival in Rome, though this is by no means a certainty.

Those who favor a Pseudonymous author date the epistle broadly as between AD 57 and 96. A more specific, and slightly more widely held range, is AD 72-92. The reasons for this dating follow:

  • A certain amount of time was required for the spread of Christianity after the mission work of Paul.
  • The sequence of provincial boundaries mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1 was set up by Emperor Vespasian in AD 72.
  • A certain distance from the Pauline period is assumed because of the lack of debates over the Mosaic law and the switch to struggling as a Christian.

Original Recipients

The original recipients of this epistle lived in Asia Minor, specifcally its eastern and central regions as well as the regions bordering the black sea. Some scholars believe that the introduction to First Peter indicates Jewish recipients since the Jews viewed themselves as God's elect. However most scholars agree that the original recipients included a large, if not exclusively, Gentile element. The letter may well have been a circular letter that was sent to the first church on the list, where it was copied, and sent on to the next. Regardless, it appears that the recipients were undergoing some type of persecution that had caused them to consider abandoning The Way and returning to their former lifestyles.



The follow are useful resources for information about 1 Peter

  • Simon Peter: From Galilee to Rome by Carsten P. Thiede
  • The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 5 by Ed Davis
  • IVP Dictionary of the Later NT and its Developments edited by Ralph Martin and Peter H. Davids
  • IVP New Testament Commentary: 1 Peter by Howard Marshall



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