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1 Peter

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Estimated Range of Dating: 80-110 A.D.

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Paul J. Achtemeier writes: "The letter, therefore, beginning with a carefully crafted exordium whose purpose was to win the attention of the audience, followed by a series of topical discussions and concluding with a peroration, shows elements of judicial and epideictic structures, but seems to reflect most closely the deliberative rhetoric of its Hellenistic age. Whether or nto the author set out deliberatively to craft a letter that included such elements of formal Hellenistic rhetoric is difficult to say, although it would be equally difficult to deny him all acquaintance with formal rhetoric in light of the shape of the letter itself." (A Commentary on First Peter, p. 6)

Eric Eve writes: "Despite 1 Pet 1:1, the author is unlikely to have been the apostle Peter. The cultured Greek of the epistle makes it perhaps the most literary composition in the NT. The apostle Peter probably knew some Greek, but 1 Peter does not look like the product of an unlettered (Acts 4:13) Galilean fisherman. It employs a sophisticated vocabulary incorporating several NT hapax legomena, and its author appears to have some command of the techniques of Hellenistic rhetoric. He is also intimately acquainted with the OT in the LXX, whereas we should have expected the Galilean Peter to have been more familiar with an Aramaic Targum or the Hebrew." (The Oxford Bible Commentary, p. 1263)

Donald Guthrie objects that Peter would have made use of the LXX when addressing himself to Gentiles. But the problem is not simply that of citation from the Greek Septuagint but also that of the unconsious influence that follows from regular familiarity with the text. Paul J. Achtemeier writes: "The intimate acquaintance of our author with the Greek language is shown by the text of the OT which the author quotes and to which he alludes frequently: it is the LXX rather than the MT. Direct quotation is limited to two instances (gegraptai, 1:16; en grafh, 2:6), and there the text is rather clearly the LXX (1:16 from Lev 19:2; 2:6 from Isa 40:6-8, though with modifications); additional clear examples of quotation would include Isa 40:6-8 at 1:24-25 and Ps 33:13-17 (MT Ps 34) at 3:10-12, in both instances with modifications. In addition to quotations, allusions to the OT that contain LXX language occur in such places as 2:3, 7, 9-10, 22-25; 3:14; 4:14; 5:8, indicating that the author was saturated with the language of the Greek Bible. The absence of influence from the language of the Hebrew Bible or the Targumim on the one hand, and the clear influence of the LXX on the other, show that the author was at home in Greek rather than Semitic culture, and such is likely not to have been the case with Simon Peter." (A Commentary on First Peter, pp. 6-7)

W. G. Kümmel writes: "I Pet presupposes the Pauline theology. This is true not only in the general sense that the Jewish-Christian readers, the 'people of God' (2:10), are no longer concerned about the problem of the fulfillment of the Law, but also in the special sense that, as in Paul, the death of Jesus has atoned for the sins of Christians and has accomplished justification (1:18 f; 2:24). Christians are to suffer with Christ (4:13; 5:1), obedience to the civil authorities is demanded (2:14 f), and the Pauline formula en xristw is encountered (3:16; 5:10, 14). The frequently advanced proposal that I Pet is literarily dependent on Rom (and Eph) is improbable because the linguistic contacts can be explained on the basis of a common catechetical tradition. But there can be no doubt that the author of I Pet stands in the line of succession of Pauline theology, and that is scarcely conceivable for Peter, who at the time of Gal 2:11 was able in only a very unsure way to follow the Pauline basic principle of freedom from the Law for Gentile Christians." (Introduction to the New Testament, p. 424)

Donald Guthrie writes: "There has been such widespread assumption that Peter's epistle is but an echo of Paulinism that it is refreshing to find an increasing tendency to mark the individual contribution of Peter in the field of New Testament theology. There is both an absence of such Pauline doctrines as justification, law, the new Adam, and the flesh, and the presence of highly characteristic methods in Peter's own presentation, such as his copious use of Old Testament citations and moral codes, his church-consciousness, historic consciousness and Christ-consciousness. Peter's teaching cannot be systematized into a theological school of thought, but there is enough distinctiveness about it to differentiate it from Paul's approach. The most notable contribution is the doctrine of Christ's descent into Hades, which in its focus upon the resurrection of Christ stands in direct relationship to Peter's emphasis on the resurrection in the early Acts speeches. As an eyewitness of the risen Christ Peter would never forget the profound impression which that stupendous event made upon his mind, and the doctrine of the descent, however obscure it is to modern minds, would surely be more natural as a part of primitive reflection upon the significance of the resurrection than as a later development, or as a peculiar fancy of a pseudonymous author." (New Testament Introduction)

Eric Eve writes: "It is not clear that similarities between 1 Peter and, for example, Romans and Ephesians require literary dependence, but at first sight the letter does have a deutero-Pauline feel. Yet many distinctive elements of Pauline theology (e.g. justification by faith) are entirely absent from 1 Peter, and even where characteristic Pauline expressions, such as 'in Christ' are employed, they are hardly used in a distinctively Pauline manner (see 1 Pet 5:14). The epistle also shows some affinities with non-Pauline writings such as James, Hebrews, and 1 Clement. This suggests either that all these writings are drawing on common traditions, or that at least some of them were sufficiently well known to our author to have influenced his language (in favour of literary dependence, see Beare 1970; in favour of common catechetical and liturgical traditions, see Selwyn 1958; Achtemeier 1996). Knowledge of any of these writings would point to a date later than the apostle Peter is meant to have perished, in the Neronian persecutation (c. 66 CE). Indeed, the thought and tenor of the epistle would seem to place it towards the end of the first century" (The Oxford Bible Commentary, p. 1263)

W. G. Kümmel writes: "Many scholars have sought to weaken both these arguments on the ground that 5:12 dia eigouanou umin. . . egraqa assumes that Silvanus is the real author to whom Peter gave the responsibility for the actual writing. Some think that they can prove that clearly common elements in language exist between I and II Thess, I Pet, and Acts 15:29, which indicates a common authorship by Silvanus. But these linguistic contacts are much too insignificant for much weight to be attached to them, and furthermore the distinction in style between I and II Thess and I Pet is important. No one has yet proved that grafw dia tinos can mean to authorize someone else to compose a piece of writing. Furthermore, if this were the case, then Peter would not be the real author of I Pet in any sense." (Introduction to the New Testament, p. 424)

Indeed, other occurences of the phrase in Acts 15:23, the letters of Ignatius (Rom. 10:1; Phil. 11:2; Smyr. 12:1; Pol. 8:1), the letter of Polycarp to the Philippians 14:1, Martyrdom of Polycarp 20, and the subscripts at the end of letters by Paul (in the Byzantine text tradition) confirm that the Greek is used of the carrier of the letter. Wayne Grudem adds: "Moreover, the fact that Peter calls Silvanus a faithful brother as I regard him, argues strongly for Silvanus as the bearer (note Paul's similar commendation of the bearers of his lettersin 1 Cor. 16:10-11; Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9; Tit. 3:12-13). And though Tertius mentions himself in Rom. 16:22, no New Testament author ever explicitly mentions or commends an amanuensis elsewhere." (1 Peter, p. 24)

Grudem avoids the conclusion that Peter did not write the letter by pointing out that Greek (koine Greek) was used in Palestine to facilitate trade and by speculating that the apostle made an extraordinary development in his Greek literary skills during his missionary career, without a formal education, citing John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim's Progress) and Joseph Conrad (author of Lord Jim).

Paul J. Achtemeier writes: "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." (A Commentary on First Peter, pp. 4-5)

J. R. Michaels writes: "The notion that Peter had help in the composition of this letter does not stand or fall with the theory about Silvanus. If 1 Peter is, as it appears to be, an encyclical on behalf of the church at Rome ('Babylon') to a wide circle of churches on the frontiers of the Roman Empire in five provinces of Asia Minor ('Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,' 1 Pet 1:2), then the author would likely have had scribal help with vocabulary and style, and his helpers would likely have remained anonymous." (Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments, art. "1 Peter")

Daniel Wallace also suggests Peter's use of an anonymous scribe, indeed a companion of Paul, nominating Luke as one candidate. While it may be impossible to disprove such an idea, Eric Eve writes: "One cannot save Petrine authorship by arguing that Peter employed a secretary. If one argues that this secretary was Silvanus, the travelling companion of Paul (e.g. Selwyn 1958) or an anonymous amanuensis of the Roman church (Michaels 1988) the letter then becomes the product not of Peter, but of the secretary, since it is the latter's language that the epistle exhibits (see Beare 1970)." (The Oxford Bible Commentary, p. 1263)

W. G. Kümmel writes: "I Pet 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." (Introduction to the New Testament, p. 424)

Donald Guthrie writes: "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." (New Testament Introduction)

Paul J. Achtemeier writes: "An argument often cited against the authenticity of 1 Peter is the lack of personal reminiscences from the life of Jesus, something one would surely expect in a letter from one who had accompanied him from Galilean ministry to resurrection. In defense of Petrine authorship, a variety of indications have been cited taht are held to represent such reminiscences. For example, the alteration of first and second person in 1:3-9 is claimed to show that while the readers have not seen Jesus (v. 6), the author (by implication) has (v. 3). Again, the reference to 'witness' in 5:1 is taken to mean Peter is calling himself an eyewitness to the passion of Jesus, a witness reflected supremely in 2:22-25. The difficulty with finding assurances of the report of an eyewitness is that these verses are patently drawn from Isaiah 53, and hence may owe more to the author's demonstrable reliance on the OT, and even to a notion of the fulfillment of prophecy by Jesus, than to the reminiscences of an eyewitness." (A Commentary on First Peter, p. 9)

Udo Schnelle writes: "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." (The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, p. 400)

Donald Guthrie writes: "That Peter would not describe himself as a fellow-elder . . . is by no means as self-evident as has been supposed. Quite apart from the fact that the term 'elder' seems to have been used as late as the time of Papias as a description of apostles, and therefore could not have been regarded in the primitive church as an inferior title, the context almost demands such a description for the exhortation of the elders to have its fullest effect. It could be seen as an expression of modesty on the writer's part. It is even more an evidence of his sympathy with his readers." (New Testament Introduction)

W. G. Kümmel writes: "The situation of persecution of those addressed can be understood only as occurring at the beginning stages of civil persecution (see pp. 418 f). According to the unanimous tradition of the early church, the first persecution of Christians on more than a merely local basis (cf. 5:9) took place under Domitian. But that, of course, takes us beyond the life-span of Peter." (Introduction to the New Testament, p. 424)

Raymond Brown writes: "If one thinks the work is pseudonymous and written about 90, the references could be to imperial harassment in Domitian's time . . . A more recent tendency has been to refer I Pet's suffering/trial language not to imperial persecution but to local hostility wherein non-Christians spoke badly of Christians, treating them as evildoers (2:12), defaming their conduct (3:16), vilifying them (4:4), and insulting them because of their belief in Christ (4:14). Christians would have constituted a new cult, exclusive and, to outside eyes, secretive and subversive—suspect of immorality or even of atheism because they did not participate in the public cult and thus insulted the gods. On the one hand, 'trial by fire' (4:12) might seem overly hyperbolic for such treatment; on the other hand, this explanation accounts very well for the atmosphere of alienation that pervades the letter. The strong stress on the dignity of Christians and their status would be meant to encourage a group being ostracized by their countrymen, a group that can be addressed as homeless and sojourners (2:11; also 1:1,17). They are like Israel in the exodus on the road to the Promised Land; they should not look back to their former status as did the Israelites (1:14), but press on to their imperishable inheritance (1:4). Although they may have been accepted by their neighbors before, they were then 'no people' in God's eyes and had not received God's mercy (2:10 echoing Hos 1:9, 1:6); now they are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people (I Pet 2:9)." (An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 713-714)

It is generally agreed that "Babylon" in 1 Peter 5:13 is a cipher for the city of Rome. The great city in Mesopotamia was no longer such in the first century. Diodorus of Sicily (56-36 BCE) writes: "As for the palaces and the other buildings, time has either entirely effaced them or left them in ruins; and in fact of Babylon itself but a small part is inhabited at this time, and most of the area within its walls is given over to agriculture." (2.9.9) Strabo, who died in 19 CE, writes: "The greater part of Babylon is so deserted that one would not hesitate to say . . . 'The Great City is a great desert'." (Geography 16.1.5) Also, no church other than Rome was claimed in ancient times to be the resting place of Peter. The Sibylline Oracles (5.143-168; 5.434), the Apocalypse of Baruch (10:1-3; 11:1; 67:7), 4 Ezra (3:1, 28, 31), and Revelation (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2-21) also refer to Rome as "Babylon." There was a reason for connecting the Babylonian and Roman empires, as Norman Perrin writes, "Rome is called Babylon because her forces, like those of Babylon at an earlier time, destroyed the temple and Jerusalem" (Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom, p. 58).

Udo Schnelle writes: "1 Peter contains no direct information about its place of origin. However, both the list of addressees in 1 Pet. 1.1 and the adoption of material that has been shaped in the Pauline tradition point to Asia Minor as a possible setting for its composition. Moreoever, the specific admonition and encouragement offered by 1 Peter presuppose that thea author knew the actual situation of the churches in Asia Minor very well. Ont he other hand, the letter presents itself as having been sent from Rome, as indicated by the expression aspazetai umas h en babulwni suneklekth (your sister [church] in Babylon sends you greetings) in 1 Peter 5.13. After 70 CE Babylon was used as a code name for Rome (cf. Rev. 14.8; 16.19; 17.5; 18.2, 20, 21), a clear signal for the initiated reader. In addition, the fact taht the Petrine-Pauline tradition was located in Rome (cf. 1 Clem. 5.4; IgnRom. 4.3) and the points of contact between 1 Peter and 1 Clement are other indications that the world capital was the point of origin for 1 Peter. For all that, 'Babylon' in 1 Pet. 5.13 still documents only 'that 1 Peter wants to present itself as having been written in Rome, and does not necessarily prove that it was in fact written there.' In a pseudepigraphical writing, the location as well as the author can be fictive. And finally, why would the author use a pseudepigraphical name, if the letter were in fact written in Rome? While a firm decision is not possible, it seems to me that the list of addrsesees speaks more for Asia Minor than for Rome as the place of origin. In addition, the history of the reception of 1 Peter needs to be considered: it was first known in the East (cf. Polycarp Phil. 1.3; 2.1-2; 5.3, 7.2, 8.1-2, 10.2; Papias), where the description of Babylon as Rome also originated." (The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, pp. 401-402)

Eric Eve writes: "To be sure, once doubt is cast on the authorship, doubt may also be cast on the identification of Rome ('Babylon') as the place of origin, since this could be part of the mechanism of pseudepigraphy. But the affinities of 1 Peter with 1 Clement, together with its possible echoes of Romans, tip the balance in favour of a Roman provenance for this letter." (The Oxford Bible Commentary, p. 1264)

John H. Elliott writes: "An attempt to link 1 Peter and the Christian suffering it describes to a general persecution of Christianity initiated by Rome (Beare 1970: 28-38; Windisch-Preisker Katholischen Briefe HNT, 76-77) has justifiably been rejected by the majority of scholars. 1 Peter speaks of Christians suffering 'throughout the world' (5:9) but the first general imperial persecution of Christianity did not occur until 251 C.E. under Decius. Earlier anti-Christian actions under Nero in 64-65 (Tac. Annals 15:44; Suet. Ner. 16:2), possibly Domitian in 93-96 (Suet. Dom. 10-17), and Trajan (Pliny Ep. 10:96-97) were limited in scope to Rome or Pontus and were the product of sporadic local incidents rather than of universal legal proscription. Nor is a state persecution envisioned where respect for the emperor and civil law is enjoined (2:13-17) and a positive outcome of good behavior is anticipated (2:11-12; 3:13-17). The nature of the hostility encountered—verbal abuse and reproach (2:12, 3:16, 4:14), curiosity concerning Christian hope (3:15), anger at the severance of former social ties (4:4)—likewise makes the theory of a state-sponsored persecution both improbable and unnecessary. Details of the situation point rather to social polarization and conflict which was local, disorganized and unofficial in character (Selwyn 1947; van Unnik IDB 3: 758-66; Reicke James, Peter, Jude AB; Kelly Peter HNTC; Best 1 Peter NCBC; Goppelt Petrusbrief MeyerK; Elliott 1981; Brox Petrusbrief EKKNT). As strangers and aliens belonging to a novel cult and exclusive minority actively seeking adherents, these Christians were the victims of the harassment and discrimination regularly experienced by those suspected of posing a disruptive threat to local peace and prosperity." (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, art. "First Epistle of Peter")

Kümmel comments on provenance and dating: "If by 'Babylon' (5:13) is meant Rome (see p. 422), then I Pet could well have been written in Rome, where presumably Peter died, and where early on appeal was made to his authority (I Clem 5:3 f). The fact that I Pet was known in the East as early as the time of Polycarp (Phil 1:3; 8:1; 10:2) and Papias, whereas in the West it is missing from the Muratorian Canon (though cited by Irenaeus and Tertullian), shows only that it was from the churches in the East that I Pet became known but proves nothing concerning its place of writing. The reign of Domitian should probably be taken as the time of writing, since the mention of the persecution 'as Christians' (4:16) is not sufficient ground for going down as late as the beginning of the second century or even to the time of the persecution under Trajan. 90-95 is therefore the most probable time of writing." (Introduction to the New Testament, p. 424)

John H. Elliott writes: "The vast scope of the letter's address (four provinces comprising ca. 129,000 sq. mi. and two provinces not reached by Paul [Bithynia-Pontus and Cappadocia]) requires the allowance of sufficient time for the spread of Christianity in this area subsequent to the mission of Paul. Moreover, the sequence of provinces given in 1:1 may reflect not only the intended route of the letter but also the alteration of these provincial boundaries undertaken by Vespasian in 72 c.e. (Elliott 1981: 60). Distance from the Pauline period and the early 60s is also indicated by the growth and coalescence of diverse traditions reflected in 1 Peter and the shift from an internal Jewish debate over the Mosaic law to a struggle of believers now labeled as 'Christians' with an alien and hostile society. An accompanying shift in political perspective from the positive view of Roman government expressed in Rom 13 to the neutral stance of 1 Peter (2:13-17) would be a consequence of Nero's pogrom against the Christians of Rome, including Peter (65-67 C.E.), as viewed from the distance of a decade or more. Though no longer under imperial attack, Christians had learned a sobering lesson about esteeming Roman officials as 'ministers of God' (Rom 13:6). . . . On the other hand, a date of composition no later than the early 90s is also likely. By the time of Revelation (ca. 95) the situation of Christianity in Asia, one of the provinces also addressed in 1 Peter, had worsened. In contrast to the conditions and political perspective reflected in 1 Peter, many believers had suffered martyrs' deaths (Rev 2:13; 6:9-10; 16:6; 18:24; 19:2) and the attitude toward Rome had changed to a thoroughly negative one (chaps. 12-18). Likewise, in Pontus, another province addressed in 1 Peter, Christian defections had begun by the mid 90s (Pliny, Ep. 10.96) and in Rome Domitian's 'reign of terror' (93-96) was underway. 1 Peter reflects none of these later developments; its situation rather presupposes an earlier Flavian period marked by a relative tranquility which encompassed imperial-Christian relations as well (Magie 1950: 566-92)." (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, art. "First Epistle of Peter")

Raymond Brown writes: "At the upper end of the possible chronological scale I Pet is cited by or known to several early-2d century witnesses, e.g., II Pet 3:1, Polycarp's Philippians, and Papias (EH 3.19.17), and thus a date after 100 is unlikely. At the lower end of the scale, we need to posit a date after Peter reached Rome. Since there is no reference to Peter in the letter Paul wrote to Rome in 58, presumably I Pet could not have been written before the early 60s. If Peter wrote the letter, the possible range would be 60-65. If the letter is pseudonymous, written by a disciple, the range would be 70-100. One might doubt that the respect for the emperor inculcated in 2:13,17 would have been likely during the time of Nero's persecution which began after the fire of 64 (he was assassinated in 68) or in the final years of Domitian's reign (81-96), after the revolt of 89, when he let loose his hostility toward those of suspicious outlook (p. 807 below). Thus the two ranges can be reduced to 60-63 and 70-90. Pastoral care for Asia Minor exercised from Rome would be more intelligible after 70. Similarly the use of 'Babylon' as a name for Rome makes better sense after 70, when the Romans had destroyed the second Temple (n. 22 above); all the other attestations of this symbolic use of the name occur in the post-70 period. The best parallels to the church structure portrayed in I Pet 5:1-4 are found in works written after 70. All this tilts the scales in favor of 70-90, which now seems to be the majority scholarly view." (An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 721-722)

John H. Elliott writes: "These various factors taken together make it likely that 1 Peter was written from Rome sometime during the years 73 to 92 C.E. Consistent with this period of the Church's situation and theological development are further features of the letter such as the rudimentary mode of organization (4:10-11) and presbyteral leadership (5:1-5); the emergence of the household as ecclesial model (Mark, Luke-Acts, Colossians, Ephesians, Hebrews); a 'servant' christology (Mark, Luke-Acts) which was later abandoned; a christological motivation of moral conduct (contrast later appeals to apostolic authority in Jude, 2 Peter and Pastorals); absence of contention over gnosis and heresy; and a still lively apocalyptic eschatological orientation." (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, art. "First Epistle of Peter")

If the letter is authentic, it was written between 60 and 66 C.E., with most who consider it authentic favoring the period before Nero's pogrom against the Christians. If the letter is inauthentic, it was likely written between 70 and 90 C.E., as argued by Elliott and Brown above. But some scholars such as W. G. Kümmel suggest the end of Domitian's reign (90-96 C.E.), contemporary with Revelation's supposed date (a time of persecution), while others such as N. Perrin believe it was written under Trajan (because Pliny's letter attests to persecution against Christians in Asia Minor then). In reply, the majority of scholars contend that the Christians being addressed were not enduring widespread persecution under Roman authority but rather harassment and ostracization by their neighbors.


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