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My Commentary on 1 Peter

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This commentary is based on the 1994 edition of the NIV Bible.  The section titles in this commentary correspond to those found in the NIV Bible.   


The 2 letters of Peter were written by Simon Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus.  Jesus also called him Cephus, Aramaic for "stone or rock."  Most of what we know about Peter is found in the 4 gospel accounts, the first 13 chapters of Acts, and a little from what the Apostle Paul says about him.


We know very little about Peterís missionary trips.  In Acts 12:17, after his miraculous escape from prison, Luke says that he went to other places.  We simply donít know where these other places were.  Tradition has it that he ended up in Rome , sometime after Paul came to Rome.  Tradition also has it that he was executed in Rome on a cross.  Some tradition states that he was hung upside down in order not to be killed in the same way Jesus was killed.  It has been said that he did not feel worthy to be executed in the same manner of Jesus.  Catholics believe that his tomb is under Saint Peterís Basilica in Rome to this very day, thus the reason for the church buildingís name


Peter was an unlearned and ignorant fisherman, or so the Jewish establishment of his day thought.  See Acts 4:13.  This has presented problems with some concerning the authorship of first and second Peter.  Some suggest that Peter was not intelligent enough to write such a letter in Greek, but we donít need to worry about this because Peter himself, in 1 Peter 5:12 says that Silas helped him write this letter.  This Silas was the Silas who was friends with Paul and Timothy.  See 1 Corinthians 1:19, 1Thesxsalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1.  Silas knew Greek and probably helped Paul in his writing.


Another thing we need to understand, something many don't really understand, is when the book of Acts states that Peter was uneducated, we must think in terms of theological issues.  The context of the Acts statement concerns Peter's dialogue with the Sanhedrin, the theologians of the day.  Peter and his family were most likely middle class businessmen.  They were fishermen with many ships.  When those in the Sanhedrin said that Peter was uneducated, they were speaking about uneducated in matters of theology and the rabbinical traditions and laws as they were so educated in.  We really can't say that Peter was an uneducated country hick.  He was not a stupid man.   


Peter tells us to whom he wrote his letter in verse 1 of chapter 1.  He wrote his letter to those in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.  In today's world, this would be the North West part of Turkey.   


It's interesting to note that if you read Paul's missionary journey in Acts 17 and 18, the Holy Spirit told him not to go into northern Asia, northern Turkey today.  The Holy Spirit told him to go to Macedonia instead.  See Acts 16:6 to 10.  Much of the above provinces were in the area where Paul was not to go into, maybe, and it's speculation, it was because Peter was there.


Peter says that he wrote this letter from Babylon.  There is a discrepancy between scholars whether the Babylon mentioned in chapter 5 verse 13 was in the city of Babylon , in present day Iraq.  That does not seem likely to me and to most scholars for a number of reasons. 


There was a military post in Egypt at the time of Peter's writing called Babylon as well, but most Bible teachers don't believe Peter was writing from there either.


Many, if not most Bible teachers, believe that Peter was using the word Babylon symbolically to mean Rome.  The idea is that he did not want to say anything that would be taken offensively by the Roman authorities, who were persecuting Christians at the time in Rome. Babylon was often used symbolically of Rome among first century Christians.  Over the centuries, among God's people, as illustrated in the Bible, Babylon is symbolized as the "city of man."      


When it comes to Babylon being used symbolically you can read Revelation 14:8, 16:19, 17:5, 18:2 and 10.  The first mention of Babylon in the Bible is in Genesis 11 and the incident at the Tower of Babel, otherwise known as Babylon.    


No one knows for certain just when Peter wrote his first letter.  Many, if not most, suggest that it might be around 63 AD, or, from 61 to 64 AD.  Some even think slightly before 61 AD. The reason given for this is because of the reference in chapter 1 verse 1 to those who have been scattered.  James, the writer of the letter of James, and the leader of the Jerusalem church is said to have been killed for his faith in 62 AD.  This was the beginning of even greater persecution of Christians, not only by Jews but also by Romans.  This persecution caused yet another round of Christian Jews being driven out of Jerusalem and Judea .  This might be the reference that Peter is speaking about when he uses the word "scattered," thus the date of around 61 to  64 AD.


The Muratorian Fragments (written around 170 to 180 A D) is the earliest list of suggested canonical writings.  It lists 22 out of the 27 New Testament books that are found in our modern cannon of Scripture.   It omits the first letter of Peter in the canon of the Bible.  That being said, we have some pretty early Christian writers who seemed to have quoted from 1 Peter.  Clement of Rome, prior to 100 AD seemed to have alluded to 1 Peter in his letter to the Corinthians.  Polycarp, a disciple of John, wrote in and around 125 A D, directly quoted from 1 Peter 1:8, 1:13, 1:21, 3:22, 5:9)   


In 1 Peter 5:12 we note that Silas, also known as Silvanus, helped Peter write this letter.  This is why some think that Paul might have even written this letter.  Silas did help Paul write some letters.  This only means that the writing style of 1 Peter is similar to the writing style of Paul.  It's just a matter of common sense.  Silas was a Jewish Roman.  We know that he was probably a Roman citizen because Acts 16:37 implies he was illegally arrests.  Silas is probably the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew name Saul.  Silvanus is his Roman name.  It was also one of the names of a Roman god.  Silas was probably a Hellenistic Jew, born and raised somewhere in Asia Minor , Turkey today.             


The theme of this letter concerns the persecution and the suffering of the saints, and how we should live as Christians in the midst of such trials.  The Christians to whom Peter is speaking to were going through a very rough time.  Some were being killed for the faith in Jesus.  I believe what Peter says to these suffering saints is becoming more applicable to Christians in the western world today.  As the west moves away from any Christian influence it once embraced, Christians will suffer from a secular anti-Christ culture more than ever before.  For this reason, we should pay attention to Peter's first letter.  If you study 1 Peter in this light you will certainly gain a much better understanding of what he said.  Understanding the background of any Biblical book always helps you understand what is meant in the book.                        


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