Unger's Bible Dictionary: First Peter



PETER, FIRST EPISTLE OF. One of the general, or catholic, epistles written by the apostle Peter.


Purpose and Message. This is a letter of hope in the midst of suffering and testing. Peter was writing to "those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Peter 1:1). The keynote of the book is suffering and glory. About seven words of suffering occur in it. The sufferings of Christ are used as an example (1:11; 2:21; 4:1-2; 5:1). Suffering is to be looked for (4:12); it represents the will of God (4:19); it is to be borne patiently (2:23; 3:9); rejoicingly (4:13); others were suffering (5:9); suffering has value (1:6-7; 2:19-20; 4:14). The practical note dominates the epistle rather than the doctrinal.


Occasion and Date. The epistle is probably to be dated around A.D. 65 AD, and the Neronian persecutions apparently furnish its background. The provinces of Asia also mistreated their Christian citizens and residents. The apostle shows acquaintance with early epistles such as James, 1 Thessalonians, Romans, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians. Accordingly it was most probably written after the prison epistles. Many commentators consider the "Babylon" of 1 Peter 5:13 to have reference to the literal Babylon of the Euphrates (see Calvin, Alford, Mayor, Moorehead). The majority of writers, however, make it a symbolic reference to Rome, but Alford thinks "we are not to find an allegoric meaning in a proper name thus simply used in the midst of simple matter-of-fact sayings" (Greek Testament, 4:129).


Authorship. The early church presented almost unanimous agreement on the Petrine authorship. No other book has stronger attestation of authenticity than 1 Peter. Second Peter 1 Peter 3:1 is the earliest acknowledgment of the first epistle. The book seems to be alluded to in the epistle of Barnabas and in Clement's epistle to the Corinthians. Polycarp quotes it in his epistle to the Philippians. Irenaeus is the first to quote it by name. Internal evidence likewise agrees with the external. The writer calls himself Peter (1:1). He was a witness of the sufferings of Christ (5:1). The vocabulary reminds us of the Peter of the gospels and the Acts. There is a similarity between Peter's speeches in the Acts and his words in the epistle (cf. Acts 10:34 with 1 Peter 1:17; Acts 2:32-36; 10:40-41 with 1 Peter 1:21; Acts 4:10-11 with 1 Peter 2:7-8).


BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Brown, Expository Discourses in the First Epistle of the Apostle Peter, 3 vols. (n.d.); C. Bigg, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, International Critical Commentary (1903); A. M. Stibbs and A. F. Walls, The First Epistle General of Peter, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1960); E. G. Selwyn, First Epistle of St. Peter (1961); J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude, Harper New Testament Commentaries (1969); J. H. Jowett, The Epistles of St. Peter (1970); E. Best, I Peter, New Century Bible (1971); R. Leighton, Commentary on First Peter (1972); J. Lillie, Lectures on the First and Second Epistles of Peter (1978); F. J. A. Hort, Expository and Exegetical Studies (1980).

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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New Testament Books and Authors The Book of Matthew The Book of Mark The Book of Luke The Book of John The Book of Acts The Book of Romans The Book of 1 Corinthians The Book of 2 Corinthians The Book of Galatians The Book of Ephesians The Book of Philippians The Book of Colossians The Book of 1 Thessalonians The Book of 2 Thessalonians The Book of 1 Timothy The Book of 2 Timothy The Book of Titus The Book of Philemon The Book of Hebrews The Book of James The Book of 1 Peter The Book of 2 Peter The Book of 1 John The Book of 2 John The Book of 3 John The Book of Jude The Book of Revelation Books of the New Testament The New Testament

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