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1 Peter by Joel B. Green

1 Peter is one of two letters in the New Testament attributed to the apostle Peter (1Pet 1:1, 1Pet 5:1; see 2Pet 1:1, 2Pet 3:1). Scholars debate whether Peter actually wrote this letter, however. This is primarily because the language and style of 1 Peter represent a higher level of formal education in Greek and rhetoric than what we might expect of a Galilean fisherman. Given Peter’s status as an apostle, though, he could have commissioned a secretary to compose the letter—a common practice in the ancient world. Whether the letter was written by Peter in the early 60s C.E. (that is, before his death) or written in his name later in the first century, the problem it addressed remains the same: Followers of Jesus were being ostracized on account of their faith. How were they to respond?

The author wrote to Christ-followers on the Anatolian Peninsula (modern-day Turkey; 1Pet 1:1) whose commitments to Jesus Christ led to transformed attitudes and behaviors that placed them on the margins of respectable Roman society. They had become the victims of slander, animosity, and scorn. Previously, they had participated in mainstream Greco-Roman society, but at this point they were failing to participate in typical behavior (which the author characterizes as unrestrained wickedness and idolatry—see 1Pet 4:3-4), and they were disloyal to prevailing social values. These behaviors marked them as social misfits to be held in contempt. Accordingly, 1 Peter is concerned above all with issues of Christian identity and behavior in a non-Christian world.

Stated simply, 1 Peter gives its readers a strong sense of membership among God’s people: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1Pet 2:9). For 1 Peter, God’s people think and act differently because they are different. “Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1Pet 1:14-16). And 1 Peter calls its readers to holy lives—lives that give no cause for social friction.

In order to instruct and encourage these followers of Jesus, 1 Peter weaves together three stories: the story of Israel, the story of Jesus Christ, and the story of 1 Peter’s Christian readers. For 1 Peter, the community of Christians, like Israel, must struggle with how to maintain a peculiar identity as God’s people in the midst of unfriendly social forces. They accomplish this by identifying with Christ’s faithful witness in the face of suffering and in his refusal to retaliate against those who mistreated him. The basis of life for 1 Peter’s Christian readers is God’s own gift of the resurrection, or “new birth” (1Pet 1:3). According to the author of 1 Peter, this transformation of the resurrected Jesus from death into life makes sense of the world in tranformative ways and offers hope to the community of believers.

Joel B. Green, "1 Peter", n.p. [cited 22 Mar 2017]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/1-peter

Contributors

Joel B. Green

Joel B. Green
Professor, Fuller Theological Seminary

Joel B. Green is professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of 1 Peter in the Two Horizons Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2007).

Relating to the cultures of Greece or Rome.

Associated with a deity; exhibiting religious importance; set apart from ordinary (i.e. "profane") things.

Worship of a diety or cultural value not associated with the one, true, God.

A collection of first-century Jewish and early Christian writings that, along with the Old Testament, makes up the Christian Bible.

(rhetorical) The art of persuasion in writing and speech.

1Pet 1:1

Salutation
1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

1Pet 5:1

Tending the Flock of God
1Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the ... View more

2Pet 1:1

Salutation
1Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and ... View more

2Pet 3:1

The Promise of the Lord's Coming
1This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding ... View more

1Pet 1:1

Salutation
1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

1Pet 4:3-4

3You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idola ... View more

1Pet 2:9

9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of dar ... View more

1Pet 1:14-16

14Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance.15Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in a ... View more

1Pet 1:3

A Living Hope
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrectio ... View more

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