INTRODUCTION

The First Epistle of Peter, usually referred to simply as First Peter and often written 1 Peter, is a book of the New Testament.

The author presents himself as Peter the Apostle, and the epistle was traditionally held to have been written during his time as bishop of Rome or Bishop of Antioch, though neither title is used in the epistle.

The letter is addressed to various churches in Asia Minor suffering religious persecution.

The Petrine author writes of his addressees undergoing “various trials” (1 Peter 1:6), being “tested by fire” (1:7), maligned “as evildoers” (2:12) and suffering “for doing good” (3:17).

Based on such internal evidence, biblical scholar John Elliott summarizes the addressees’ situation as one marked by undeserved suffering.

Verse (3:19), "Spirits in prison", is a continuing theme in Christianity, and one considered by most theologians to be enigmatic and difficult to interpret.

A number of verses in the epistle contain possible clues about the reasons Christians experienced opposition.

Exhortations to live blameless lives (2:15; 3:9, 13, 16) may suggest that the Christian addressees were accused of immoral behavior, and exhortations to civil obedience (2:13–17) perhaps imply that they were accused of disloyalty to governing powers.

However, scholars differ on the nature of persecution inflicted on the addressees of 1 Peter.

Some read the epistle to be describing persecution in the form of social discrimination, while some read them to be official persecution.

 

AUTHORSHIP

The authorship of 1 Peter has traditionally been attributed to the Apostle Peter because it bears his name and identifies him as its author (1:1).

Although the text identifies Peter as its author, the language, dating, style, and structure of this letter have led many scholars to conclude that this letter is pseudonymous.

Many scholars are convinced that Peter was not the author of this letter because the author had to have a formal education in rhetoric/philosophy and an advanced knowledge of the Greek language.

Graham Stanton rejects Petrine authorship because 1 Peter was most likely written during the reign of Domitian in AD 81, which is when he believes widespread Christian persecution began, which is long after the death of Peter.

Current scholarship has abandoned the persecution argument because the described persecution within the work does not necessitate a time period outside of the period of Peter.

Many scholars also doubt Petrine authorship because they are convinced that 1 Peter is dependent on the Pauline epistles and thus was written after Paul the Apostle’s ministry because it shares many of the same motifs espoused in Ephesians, Colossians, and the Pastoral Epistles.

Others argue that it makes little sense to ascribe the work to Peter when it could have been ascribed to Paul.

One theory used to support Petrine authorship of 1 Peter is the "secretarial hypothesis", which suggests that 1 Peter was dictated by Peter and was written in Greek by his secretary, Silvanus (5:12).

John Elliot, however, suggests that the notion of Silvanus as secretary or author or drafter of 1 Peter represents little more than a counsel of despair and introduces more problems than it solves because the Greek rendition of 5:12 suggests that Silvanus was not the secretary, but the courier/bearer of 1 Peter, and some see Mark as a contributive amanuensis in the composition and writing of the work.

On the one hand, some scholars such as Bart D. Ehrman are convinced that the language, dating, literary style, and structure of this text makes it implausible to conclude that 1 Peter was written by Peter; according to these scholars, it is more likely that 1 Peter is a pseudonymous letter, written later by one of the disciples of Peter in his honor.

On the other hand, some scholars argue that there is not enough evidence to conclude that Peter did not write 1 Peter.

For instance, there are similarities between 1 Peter and Peter's speeches in the Biblical book of Acts, and the earliest attestation of Peter's authorship comes from 2 Peter (AD 60–160) and the letters of Clement (AD 70-140).

Ultimately, the authorship of 1 Peter remains contested.

 

AUDIENCE

1 Peter is addressed to the “elect resident aliens” scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.

The five areas listed in 1:1 as the geographical location of the first readers were Roman provinces in Asia Minor.

The order in which the provinces are listed may reflect the route to be taken by the messenger who delivered the circular letter.

The recipients of this letter are referred to in 1:1 as “exiles of the Dispersion.”

In 1:17, they are urged to “live in reverent fear during the time of your exile".

The social makeup of the addressees of 1 Peter is debatable because some scholars interpret “strangers” (1:1) as Christians longing for their home in heaven, some interpret it as literal “strangers”, or as an Old Testament adaptation applied to Christian believers.

While the new Christians have encountered oppression and hostility from locals, Peter advises them to maintain loyalty to both their religion and the Roman Empire (1 Peter 2:17).

The author counsels (1) to steadfastness and perseverance under persecution (1–2:10); (2) to the practical duties of a holy life (2:11–3:13); (3) he adduces the example of Christ and other motives to patience and holiness (3:14–4:19); and (4) concludes with counsels to pastors and people (chap. 5).

 

OUTLINE

David Bartlett lists the following outline to structure the literary divisions of 1 Peter.

  • Greeting (1:1–2)
  • Praise to God (1:3–12)
  • God's Holy People (1:13–2:10)
  • Life in Exile (2:11–4:11)
  • Steadfast in Faith (4:12–5:11)
  • Final Greeting (5:12–14)

 

SOCIAL DISCRIMINATION OF CHRISTIANS

Some scholars believe that the sufferings the epistle's addressees were experiencing were social in nature, specifically in the form of verbal derision.

Internal evidence for this includes the use of words like “malign” (2:12; 3:16), and “reviled” (4:14).

Biblical scholar John Elliott notes that the author explicitly urges the addressees to respect authority (2:13) and even honor the emperor (2:17), strongly suggesting that they were unlikely to be suffering from official Roman persecution.

It is significant to him that the author notes that “your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering” (5:9), indicating suffering that is worldwide in scope.

Elliott sees this as grounds to reject the idea that the epistle refers to official persecution, because the first worldwide persecution of Christians officially meted by Rome did not occur until the persecution initiated by Decius in AD 250.

 

OFFICIAL PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

On the other hand, scholars who support the official persecution theory take the exhortation to defend one's faith (3:15) as a reference to official court proceedings.

They believe that these persecutions involved court trials before Roman authorities, and even executions.

One common supposition is that 1 Peter was written during the reign of Domitian (AD 81–96).

Domitian's aggressive claim to divinity would have been rejected and resisted by Christians.

Biblical scholar Paul Achtemeier believes that persecution of Christians by Domitian would have been in character, but points out that there is no evidence of official policy targeted specifically at Christians.

If Christians were persecuted, it is likely to have been part of Domitian’s larger policy suppressing all opposition to his self-proclaimed divinity.

There are other scholars who explicitly dispute the idea of contextualizing 1 Peter within Domitian’s reign.

Duane Warden believes that Domitian’s unpopularity even among Romans renders it highly unlikely that his actions would have great influence in the provinces, especially those under the direct supervision of the senate such as Asia (one of the provinces 1 Peter is addressed to).

Also often advanced as a possible context for 1 Peter is the trials and executions of Christians in the Roman province of Bithynia-Pontus under Pliny the Younger.

Scholars who support this theory believe that a famous letter from Pliny to Emperor Trajan concerning the delation of Christians reflects the situation faced by the addressees of this epistle.

In Pliny's letter, written in AD 112, he asks Trajan if the accused Christians brought before him should be punished based on the name ‘Christian’ alone, or for crimes associated with the name.

For biblical scholar John Knox, the use of the word “name” in 4:14–16 is the “crucial point of contact” with that in Pliny’s letter.

In addition, many scholars in support of this theory believe that there is content within 1 Peter that directly mirrors the situation as portrayed in Pliny’s letter.

For instance, they interpret the exhortation to defend one’s faith “with gentleness and reverence” in 3:15–16 as a response to Pliny executing Christians for the obstinate manner in which they professed to be Christians.

Generally, this theory is rejected mainly by scholars who read the suffering in 1 Peter to be caused by social, rather than official, discrimination.

 

THE HARROWING OF HELL

The author refers to Jesus, after his death, proclaiming to spirits in prison (3:18–20).

This passage, and a few others (such as Matthew 27:52 and Luke 23:43), are the basis of the traditional Christian belief in the descent of Christ into hell, or the harrowing of hell.

Though interpretations vary, some theologians see this passage as referring to Jesus, after his death, going to a place (neither heaven nor hell in the ultimate sense) where the souls of pre-Christian people waited for the Gospel.

The first creeds to mention the harrowing of hell were Arian formularies of Sirmium (359), Nike (360), and Constantinople (360).

It spread through the west and later appeared in the Apostles' Creed".

CHAPTER 1

TO THE ELECT

1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

 

THE GOD AND FATHER OF JESUS CHRIST

1:3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

 

RESURRECTION: THE HOLY INHERITANCE

1:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

 

FAITH REFINED UNTIL THE APOCALYPSE OF JESUS

1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

1:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see [him] not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

1:9 Receiving the end of your faith, [even] the salvation of [your] souls.

1:10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace [that should come] unto you:

1:11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

 

ALL PROPHECY GIVEN FOR THE SAKE OF THE ELECT

1:12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

 

STRENGTHEN YOURSELVES FOR THE APOCALYPSE OF JESUS CHRIST

1:13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

1:14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:

1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning [here] in fear:

1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers;

1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

1:21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, [see that ye] love one another with a pure heart fervently:

 

TO BE BORN AGAIN AT THE RESURRECTION

1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

1:24 For all flesh [is] as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

1:25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

CHAPTER 2

RID YOURSELVES OF THE RELIGIONS OF MEN

2:1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

2:3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord [is] gracious.

 

THE CORNERSTONE OF THE TEMPLE

2:4 To whom coming, [as unto] a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, [and] precious,

2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

2:6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

2:7 Unto you therefore which believe [he is] precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

2:8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [even to them] which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

 

THE VERY ELECT

2:9 But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

2:10 Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

THE WITNESS OF THE ELECT

2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by [your] good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

 

BEHAVE UPRIGHT

2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

2:14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

2:15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

2:16 As free, and not using [your] liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

2:17 Honour all [men.] Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

2:18 Servants, [be] subject to [your] masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

 

BE PATIENT WHEN WRONGLY ACCUSED

2:19 For this [is] thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

2:20 For what glory [is it,] if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer [for it,] ye take it patiently, this [is] acceptable with God.

2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

2:22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

2:23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed [himself] to him that judgeth righteously:

 

HEALED BY CHRIST'S WOUNDS

2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

CHAPTER 3

WIVES BE THE EXAMPLE TO YOUR HUSBANDS

3:1 Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;

3:2 While they behold your chaste conversation [coupled] with fear.

3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

3:4 But [let it be] the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, [even the ornament] of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

3:5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

3:6 Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

 

HUSBANDS BE THE EXAMPLE TO YOUR WIVES

3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with [them] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

 

BE EXAMPLES OF GOD'S LOVE TO ALL

3:8 Finally, [be ye] all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, [be] pitiful, [be] courteous:

3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

3:10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

3:11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

 

GOD IS AWARE OF ALL

3:12 For the eyes of the Lord [are] over the righteous, and his ears [are open] unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord [is] against them that do evil.

3:13 And who [is] he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

 

SUFFERING FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE

3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy [are ye:] and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

3:16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

3:17 For [it is] better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

 

CHRIST EVEN PREACHED TO THE FALLEN ANGELS IN PRISON

3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

3:21 The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

CHAPTER 4

SERVING THE WILL OF GOD

4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

4:2 That he no longer should live the rest of [his] time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

4:3 For the time past of [our] life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

 

DISREGARD THE MOCKING ONES

4:4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with [them] to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of [you:]

4:5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

 

THE GOSPEL IS THE WITNESS TO THE DYING WORLD

4:6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

 

BE GRACIOUS

4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

4:9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

4:10 As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

 

SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD

4:11 If any man speak, [let him speak] as the oracles of God; if any man minister, [let him do it] as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

DO NOT FEAR THE TRIBULATION

4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye;] for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

 

DO NOT SIN

4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.

4:16 Yet if [any man suffer] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

 

JUDGMENT AND WRATH BEGIN IN THE CHURCHES

4:17 For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God?

4:18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls [to him] in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

CHAPTER 5

UNTIL THE APOCALYPSE OF JESUS CHRIST

5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof,] not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

5:3 Neither as being lords over [God's] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

5:9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle [you.]

5:11 To him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

 

WRITTEN TO THE CHURCH WHICH STANDS AT BABYLON

5:12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.

5:13 The [church that is] at Babylon, elected together with [you,] saluteth you; and [so doth] Marcus my son.

5:14 Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace [be] with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.