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Bible Commentaries
1 Peter

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- 1 Peter

by Dr. Robert Utley

INTRODUCTION TO 1 PETER

AUTHORSHIP

A. Internal evidence for the Apostle Peter's authorship

1. specifically stated in 1 Peter 1:1

2. allusions to the words and life experiences of Jesus and the Twelve

a. examples taken from E. G. Selwyn's The First Epistle of St. Peter, 1946

(1) 1 Peter 1:3 John 21:27

(2) 1 Peter 1:7-9 Luke 22:31; Luke 22:31; Mark 8:29

(3) 1 Peter 1:10-12 Luke 24:25ff; Acts 15:14; Acts 15:14ff

(4) 1 Peter 3:15 Mark 14:29, Mark 14:71

(5) 1 Peter 5:2 John 21:15; John 21:15ff

b. examples taken from Alan Stibbbs' The First Epistle General of Peter, 1971

(1) 1 Peter 1:16 Matthew 5:48

(2) 1 Peter 1:17 Matthew 22:16

(3) 1 Peter 1:18 Mark 10:45

(4) 1 Peter 1:22 John 15:12

(5) 1 Peter 2:4 Matthew 21:42; Matthew 21:42ff

(6) 1 Peter 2:19 Luke 6:32; Luke 6:32; Matthew 5:39

(7) 1 Peter 3:9 Matthew 5:39

(8) 1 Peter 3:14 Matthew 5:10

(9) 1 Peter 3:16 Matthew 5:44; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28

(10)1 Peter 3:20; 1 Peter 3:20 Matthew 24:37-38

(11)1 Peter 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11 Matthew 5:16

(12)1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 4:13 Matthew 5:10; Matthew 5:10ff

(13)1 Peter 4:18; 1 Peter 4:18 Matthew 24:22

(14)1 Peter 5:3; 1 Peter 5:3 Matthew 20:25

(15)1 Peter 5:7; 1 Peter 5:7 Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:25ff

3. words and phrases similar to Peter's sermons in Acts

a. 1 Peter 1:20 Acts 2:23

b. 1 Peter 2:7-8 Acts 4:10-11

c. 1 Peter 2:24 Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39 (esp. use of the Greek term xylon for cross)

d. 1 Peter 4:5 Acts 10:45

4. contemporary first century missionary comparisons

a. Silvanus (Silas) 1 Peter 5:12

b. Mark (John Mark) 1 Peter 5:13

B. External evidence for the Apostle Peter's authorship

1. accepted early and widely by the early church

a. similar phrasing, possibly quotes, by Clement of Rome in his Letter to Corinthians (A.D. 95)

b. similar phrasing, possibly quotes, in the Epistle of Barnabas (A.D. 130)

c. alluded to by Papias, the Bishop of Hieropolis (A.D. 140) in a quote from Eusebius' His. Eccl.

d. quoted by Polycarp in his Epistle to the Philippians 8:1, but he does not mention 1 Peter by name (Polycarp died in A.D. 155)

e. quoted by Irenaeus (A.D. 140-203)

f. quoted by Origen (A.D. 185-253). Origen believed that 1 Peter 5:13, where Peter calls Mark "my son" means he wrote Peter's Gospel.

g. quoted by Tertullian (A.D. 150-222)

C. Reasons for questioning the Apostle Peter's authorship

1. it is not listed in the Muratorian Fragment, a list of canonical books compiled in Rome between A.D. 180 and 200

2. the Greek is good, polished Koine Greek, which is surprising from an "uneducated" (a grammatos, cf. Acts 4:13) Galilean fisherman

3. it sounds so much like Paul's writings in Romans and Ephesians

4. its description of persecution described in 1 Peter better fits a later date

a. Domitian (A.D. 81-96)

b. Trajan (A.D. 98-117)

D. Possible answers to modern scholarship concerns

1. The Muratorian Fragment is damaged and missing at least one line of text (cf. B. F. Westcott's A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, 6th ed. p. 289).

2. Peter was not uneducated (cf. Acts 4:13), but merely untrained in a recognized rabbinical school. Apparently most Jews in Galilee were bilingual from birth. The other major issue in this discussion is Peter's use of a scribe. The wording of 1 Peter 5:12 suggests he may have used Silvanus (Silas).

3. Both Peter and Paul often quoted liturgical or training material (catechism documents) common in the early church. They also had some contact with each other through the years (i.e., Acts, Gal. and 2 Peter 3:15-16).

For me the most probable reason for the similarity between Peter and Paul's writing can be explained by Peter's use of Paul's missionary companion Silas (Silvanus) as a scribe.

4. 1 Peter does not necessarily reflect an Empire-wide persecution. Peter's affirmation of believers needing to be subject to government (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-17) would be unusual in a day of official Empire-wide persecution.

Nero's (A.D. 54-68) growing mental illness (e.g. grandiose claims) encouraged local emperor cults, especially in Asia Minor, to instigate local persecutions. 1 Peter fits Nero's day better than Domitian's (A.D. 81-96) or Trajan's day (A.D. 98-117). It is even possible that some of the persecution is coming from Jewish groups as well as local governmental officials or emperor cults.

E. There is nothing in 1 Peter itself which demands a later period or author.

DATE

A. The date is obviously related to authorship.

B. Tradition links Peter's and Paul's deaths in Rome under Nero, probably A.D. 65. If so, then 1 Peter had to have been written about A.D. 63-64.

C. A mid-first century date is probable if 1 Peter is alluded to by Clement of Rome (A.D. 95).

D. A. T. Robertson believes Peter died in A.D. 67-68 and wrote 1 Peter in A.D. 65-66. I think he died in A.D. 64-65 and wrote just before this.

RECIPIENTS

A. Typical of first century letters, the recipients are noted in 1 Peter 1:1 as "those who reside as aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." These Roman provinces (assuming Galatia is northern ethnic Galatia) are located in northern modern Turkey. These areas are apparently places that Paul did not evangelize (cf. Acts 16:6) nor did Peter (cf. 1 Peter 1:12). Possibly these churches originated from Jewish converts who returned home after Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:9-11).

B. Although these churches may have originally been started by Jewish believers at the time of Peter's writing, they were mostly Gentile

1. formerly ignorant of God (1 Peter 1:14)

2. futile ways of life inherited from their forefathers (1 Peter 1:18)

3. now God's people (1 Peter 2:9-10, a play on Hosea 1:9-10; Hosea 2:23)

4. among the Gentiles (1 Peter 2:12)

5. lists of Gentile vices (1 Peter 4:3-4)

C. The book does contain Jewish elements

1. the use of the terms "aliens" and "diaspora" reflect a Jewish setting (cf. John 7:35; Acts 7:6)

2. the use of OT Scriptures

a. Exodus 19:0 (cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9)

b. Isaiah 53:0 (cf. 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 2:25)

However, these examples do not necessarily reflect a Jewish church, but

1. the transfer of OT titles from Israel to the church (i.e., "a kingdom of priests")

a. 1 Peter 2:5

b. 1 Peter 2:9

2. a church training document (i.e., catechism materials for new believers), which employed OT Messianic texts

a. 1 Peter 1:19 Isaiah 53:7 (i.e., Lamb)

b. 1 Peter 2:22 Isaiah 53:5

c. 1 Peter 2:24 Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 53:11, Isaiah 53:12

d. 1 Peter 2:25 Isaiah 53:6

D. Although Peter was called specifically to minister to Jews (cf. Galatians 2:8), he, like Paul, worked with both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Acts 10:0). Cornelius' conversion showed Peter the radical inclusiveness of the gospel! 1 Peter reflects this new realization.

PURPOSE

A. 1 Peter has both a doctrinal and practical aspect. However, as Paul divided his letters into a beginning section on doctrine and a concluding section on application, Peter merges the two. His book is much more difficult to outline. In many ways it reflects a sermon more than a letter.

B. The major issue discussed is suffering and persecution. This is done in two ways.

1. Jesus is presented as the ultimate example of suffering and rejection (cf. 1 Peter 1:11; 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:1, 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1).

2. Jesus' followers are called on to emulate His pattern and attitude (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 2:19; 1 Peter 3:13-17; 1 Peter 4:1, 1 Peter 4:12-19; 1 Peter 5:9-10).

C. In light of the suffering and persecutions so common in the early years of Christianity, it is not surprising how often the Second Coming is mentioned. This book, like most NT writings, is thoroughly eschatological.

GENRE

A. This book has a typical first century Greco-Roman opening and close

1. 1 Peter 1:1-2

a. author

b. recipients

c. prayer

2. 1 Peter 5:12-14

a. closing greetings

(1) from whom

(2) to whom

b. prayer

B. The main body of the letter resembles a sermon more than a letter. Some have assumed it was

1. first a sermon

2. first a baptismal liturgy

3. first pieces of early church catechism material combined

C. The letter seems to close at 1 Peter 4:11 with a doxology, but no Greek manuscript stops at this point. It is possible that 1 Peter 4:12-11 is a purposeful summary of the entire letter.

D. I personally believe that 1 Peter functions as a cyclical letter to churches which Peter did not personally start, much like Paul's Colossians (sent to Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis, cf. Colossians 4:13), but also a general encouragement to believers to watch out for coming problems, much like Paul's Galatian and Ephesian letters.

This cyclical genre explains the lack of a personal opening and closing to the letter. It also explains the lack of specific examples of persecution.

CANONIZATION

A. I include the category of canonization in 1 Peter because the issue is so controversial with 2 Peter.

B. 1 Peter is listed in Eusebius' Eccl. His. 1 Peter 3:3:25, as being part of "the undisputed books." In the ancient church it was never doubted as a true letter from the Apostle Peter.

C. The issue of canonicity is exacerbated because of the number of spurious writings attributed to Peter. The early church never accepted any of these, recognizing only 1 Peter and the disputed 2 Peter as truly from the Apostle.

1. Acts of Peter

2. Acts of Peter and Andrew

3. Acts of Peter and Paul

4. The Passion of Peter and Paul

5. The Acts of Peter and the Twelve

6. Apocalypse of Peter

7. Gospel of Peter

8. Passion of Peter

9. Preaching of Peter

10. Slavonic Acts of Peter

(For a discussion of each of these pseudonymous writings see the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. 4; pp. 721-723, 732-733, 740.) None of these writings supposedly attributed to Peter were even seriously considered to be part of the canon of the NT. This, in and of itself, says much about the inclusion of 1 and 2 Peter.

READING CYCLE ONE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Theme of entire book

2. Type of literature (genre)

READING CYCLE TWO (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book a second time at one sitting. Outline the main subjects and express the subject in a single sentence.

1. Subject of first literary unit

2. Subject of second literary unit

3. Subject of third literary unit

4. Subject of fourth literary unit

5. Etc.

PETER, THE MAN

HIS FAMILY

A. Peter's family lived in Galilee of the Gentiles in the city of Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee (or the Sea of Tiberias cf. John 1:44), but apparently moved to Capernaum at some point (cf. Mark 1:21, Mark 1:29).

B. Peter's father's name was Jonah (cf. Matthew 16:17) or John (cf. John 1:42; John 21:15-17).

C. His given name was Simon (cf. Mark 1:16, Mark 1:29, Mark 1:30, Mark 1:36), which was common in Palestine of the first century. It was the Jewish form of Symeon (cf. Acts 15:14; 2 Peter 1:1), which was the name of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (cf. Genesis 29:33; Exodus 1:1).

Jesus renamed him Peter (Petros, which means "rock," meant to describe his eventual strength and stability) in Matthew 16:18; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; and John 1:42. The Aramaic form is Cephas (cf. John 1:42; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:9, Galatians 2:11, Galatians 2:14). Often in the NT these two names are given together (cf. Matthew 16:16; Luke 5:8; John 1:40; John 6:8, John 6:68; John 13:6, John 13:9, John 13:24, John 13:36; John 18:10, John 18:15, John 18:25; John 20:2, John 20:6; John 21:2-3, John 21:7, John 21:11, John 21:15).

D. Peter's brother's name was Andrew (cf. Mark 1:16). He was a disciple of John the Baptist (cf. John 1:35, John 1:40) and later a believer and follower of Jesus (cf. John 1:36-37). He brought Simon to Jesus (cf. John 1:41). Several months later Jesus confronted them by the Sea of Galilee and called them to be His official full-time disciples (cf. Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18; and Luke 5:1-11).

E. He was married (cf. Mark 1:30; 1 Corinthians 9:5), but there is no mention of children.

HIS OCCUPATION

A. Peter's family owned several fishing boats and even hired servants.

B. Peter's family may have been partners with James, John, and their father, Zebedee (cf. Luke 5:10).

C. Peter briefly returned to fishing after Jesus' death (cf. John 21:0).

HIS PERSONALITY

A. Peter's strengths

1. He was a dedicated follower, but quite impulsive (cf. Mark 9:5; John 13:4-11).

2. He attempted acts of faith, but often failed (e.g. walking on water, cf. Matthew 14:28-31).

3. He was brave and willing to die (cf. Matthew 26:51-52; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10-11).

4. After His resurrection, Jesus addressed him personally as the discredited leader of the Twelve in John 21:0 and provided an opportunity for repentance and restoration to leadership.

B. Peter's weaknesses

1. He had initial tendencies toward Jewish legalism

a. eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-21)

b. food laws (Acts 10:9-16)

2. He, like all the Apostles, did not fully understand Jesus' radical new teachings and their implications

a. Mark 9:5-6

b. John 13:6-11; John 18:10-11

3. He was personally and severely chastised by Jesus (Mark 8:33; Matthew 16:23)

4. He was found sleeping instead of praying in Jesus' great hour of need in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42; Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:40-60)

5. He repeatedly denied knowing Jesus (Mark 14:66-72; Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:56-62; John 18:16-18, John 18:25-27)

HIS LEADERSHIP OF THE APOSTOLIC GROUP

A. There are four lists of the Apostles (cf. Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13). Peter is always listed first. The Twelve were divided into three groups of four. I believe this allowed them to rotate home to check on their families.

B. Peter often serves as the spokesman for the Apostolic group (cf. Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21). These passages have also been used to assert Peter's authority within the group (cf. Matthew 16:18). However, within this very context he is chided by Jesus as a tool of Satan (cf. Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33).

Also, when the disciples are arguing over who is greatest, Peter is not assumed to take that position (cf. Matthew 20:20-28, especially v. 24; Mark 9:33-37; Mark 10:35-45).

C. Peter was not the leader of the Jerusalem church. This fell to James, Jesus' half-brother (cf. Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9, Galatians 2:12).

HIS MINISTRY AFTER JESUS' RESURRECTION

A. Peter's leadership role is clearly seen in the early chapters of Acts

1. He led in the election of Judas' replacement (cf. Acts 1:15-26).

2. He preached the first sermon on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:0).

3. He healed a lame man and preached the second recorded sermon (cf. Acts 3:1-10; Acts 3:11-26).

4. He spoke boldly to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:0.

5. He presided over the church discipline of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:0.

6. He spoke at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:7-11.

7. Several other events and miracles are attributed to him in Acts.

B. Peter, however, did not always embody the gospel's implications

1. He retained an OT mind-set (cf. Galatians 2:11-14).

2. He had to have a special revelation to include Cornelius (cf. Acts 10:0) and other Gentiles.

THE SILENT YEARS

A. There is little or no information about Peter after the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15:0

1. Galatians 1:18

2. Galatians 2:7-21

3. 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:5

B. Early church tradition

1. Peter's being martyred in Rome is mentioned in Clement of Rome's letter to the church at Corinth in A.D. 95.

2. Tertullian (A.D. 150-222) also notes Peter's martyrdom in Rome under Nero (A.D. 54-68).

3. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200) says Peter was killed in Rome.

4. Origen (A.D. 252) says Peter was martyred by crucifixion, head down, in Rome.

 
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