Introduction to 1 Peter
1 Peter Lesson #001
January 22, 2015
We’re starting a new study this evening in 1 Peter. This is a book focusing on our future hope. That is a foundational theme in 1 Peter. The word that is most frequently used in 1 Peter is the word for suffering. So a major theme is how Christians are to face adversity. Not only do we have the key word for suffering used fifteen times in 1 Peter, but there are synonyms. For example you have a verse that says, “When you are reviled, revile not.” That is an instance of adversity or suffering when you face opposition. There are two or three more specific terms for different kinds of adversity so when we get there we will start looking at the key vocabulary in the book. This will really help us understand the focus.
Another key word that is used is the word hope. That’s used several times, but it also connects us to our personal sense of eternal destiny. Other words such as inheritance and heirship are also used in 1 Peter, and that connects us to the same doctrine, our understanding that we’re living today in the light of eternity. God is preparing us today for our future role and our future ministry in the Bride of Christ, ruling and reigning with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom as priests unto God. This is integral.
As we look through this epistle, we will see again and again that the basis for Peter’s exhortation to these believers to face and encounter the adversity they have in life, is to do so in the pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He faced and endured the suffering on the Cross, the just for the unjust. He had complete undeserved suffering on the Cross. Most of us, to one degree or another, have deserved suffering. We’re fallen creatures living in a fallen world. Even if it’s completely undeserved, often our reaction is righteous indignation.
Usually it’s just arrogance on our part. We’re put out. We’re tired of the situation. It irritates us. It’s not our agenda. Yet we need to learn how to look at these speed bumps as not being just speed bumps. These are God’s training tools to mature us and to prepare us for our ultimate destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. Learning how to deal with adversity in life, those unexpected challenges and disasters that come our way, is a critical theme in 1 Peter. This book will focus on a good, solid development of that whole doctrine that I call a personal sense of our eternal destiny.
What we’ll be doing probably the next couple of weeks is just an opening orientation and survey of 1 Peter. Whenever we start a book in the Bible, or anything else you’re reading also, you ought to survey it. If you just go to the store and you buy a book, maybe not a mystery book or such, but a non-fiction book, such as history or something on politics, economics, or theology, you should overview it. You should read the forward, the introduction, and then you should read the conclusion.
In a well written book, the introduction will orient you to what the writer is going to tell you, what he’s emphasizing, and what he thinks is important, and why he thinks it’s important to address the topic he’s addressing. In the conclusion he’s going to come back and tell you what he has told you. He’s going to summarize the key ideas that he thinks he has brought out in the book. The structure and organization of his thought is going to be revealed where? In the table of contents. So you take a look at the table of contents and you skim that. That should give you an idea of the structure of his thinking. You can go through the high points as you go through just to overview it and read some critical sections within the book just to get an idea of where he’s going before you start reading through the book. Sometimes we have to even read a book more than once in order to get it.
I remember years and years ago when I first started reading theology and more advanced ideas in apologetics, I was reading Francis Schaffer. I didn’t have any background in philosophical apologetics. I didn’t have background in a lot of the things he was talking about in the history of ideas. I remember a little bitty book he has in his trilogy, called “The Escape from Reason,” and about the time I got to the conclusion I began to understand the point of what he was talking about. This is only about a 90 page book. I learned from that how to approach reading a book from this perspective.
A book in the Bible really isn’t any different from that. In fact, if you really want to get into our study of 1 Peter, then I encourage you to sit down and read 1 Peter through, several times through the next several weeks. In fact, this applies in many areas or disciplines in life, that as you’re going to read something, the first two or three times you read something, don’t read it as critically as you will down the road. Read it to just get a sense of the flow of the thinking. Read it to get a sense of what’s being said and how it’s structured. If we get too critical in our thinking at the very beginning, then we get bogged down in details so we don’t get a proper overview.
It’s always good to start with that overview. I like to do that when I begin a new series. Tonight, we’re going to start with some of the introductory matters that are typical of any sort of introduction to the Bible and any sort of introduction you come across in a commentary. We probably won’t complete this tonight. We’ll get into that some more next week. Then probably in two weeks from now we’ll do our flyover of the epistle itself before we start getting into some of the specifics. By going through the introductory issues, it’s going to orient us to what some of the problems, some of the pitfalls, and some of the questions and issues are that are going to come along.
In any standard commentary, like the Bible Knowledge commentary, which is a two-volume commentary that was published by Dallas Theological Seminary back in the early 80s, they all start with answering some basic questions. The first is who wrote this particular epistle or book? That may seem rather obvious to you, but it’s not always obvious to some people. Even though you say, of course Peter wrote it, then you have to ask, who is Peter? Who is he related to? Who was Peter’s father? Who was his mother? Who was his brother? Where did Peter live? What was his business? What was his background? What was his training? What happened to Peter? What were the key events in Peter’s life? Those are the things that are important to understand as we come to look at what he wrote. It’s the same for any author. We need to find out how their background and the events in their life shape and influence the things they’re writing.
The second question we need to answer is to whom was the epistle written? To whom was the letter addressed? Part of that includes why it’s being addressed. We’ll see in 1 Peter this is a really important question. The third question is to find out where the writer was when he wrote this. That’s not always important, but it is important in 1 Peter and it helps us understand the answer to the second question about to whom was the epistle written?
Fourth, we need to find out why the epistle was written. Why did Peter write this? Most commentaries ask what was the occasion for the writing of the book. That’s the technical term. What gave rise to the circumstances for Peter to write this and why does he think it’s important? But beyond that, as we address the Scriptures, as students of the Word, we understand the circumstance of the dual-authorship of the Bible. It was written by a human author but also written by God the Holy Spirit. Why is it that God thought this was so important to breathe out this particular epistle?
Why is this so important that this would be included in the canon of Scripture? There are twenty-seven books in the New Testament. Why those books? Paul, we know, wrote two other epistles to the Corinthians. Why weren’t they included in the canon? Why weren’t they inspired as the other epistles he wrote? Probably most of the apostles wrote other things too. We can assume that to be true even though there may not be any hard evidence of that. Why were these books included, and what was the significance?
Another question is when was it written? That also has some relevance in terms of to whom was it written and the third question from when it was written. It also impacts to some degree the interpretation of some passages. Then the last question is, what are the key themes and applications in this particular epistle? So those are just the initial fly-over types of things we need to address whenever we begin a study of any particular book.
When it comes to authorship or who wrote the book, there are two things we go to. The first is what is referred to as external evidence. This is evidence outside of the Bible. If I ask you the question of who wrote 1 Peter and you say Peter, I can ask you why. You say, “Well, in 1 Peter 1:1 it says Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” That’s what is known as internal evidence. It’s inside the Bible.
We’ll just look briefly in the beginning with what external evidence is there, that is evidence outside the Bible from the early post-apostolic writings, or writings in the early Church. One thing that’s interesting is that a lot of time when you sit down and you’re having a conversation with someone who’s not a believer, one of the questions that nearly always comes up is, “Why do you believe the Bible? Why do you believe its claims that it is the Word of God? Why do you really believe the Bible is the Bible?” Many of us will respond to that by saying, “Well, the Bible claims to be the Word of God.” That seems to be sort of a self-referential argument, like you’re arguing in a circle. “I believe the Bible because the Bible says it’s the Word of God. Because the Bible says it’s the Word of God, I believe it’s the Word of God.” Well, what’s the evidence to substantiate that particular claim?
One of the things we’ll see when we talk about the liberal position on authorship, is that 19th century rationalistic Protestant theology came out with a lot of attacks against the Bible. They were not based on Scripture. They were based on their assumptions of how they thought things were. They were not usually based on evidence at all. They claimed the Bible wasn’t written in the 1st century. They say, “A bunch of Galilean fishermen couldn’t have done this. That’s impossible.” See, they’re just reading their presuppositions into the text. They claim these books were really written a hundred to two hundred years after the events, after these legends about Jesus built up. They say, “You really can’t trust the Bible. It was probably written and changed over the years.”
However, a study of textual criticism in the early documents that have been found show that there were very, very few changes. Most of the changes just had to do with spelling changes, word order, and things like that. Very little of these were substantive. In a few places you’ll have words that were left out which was a typical error that would occur in scribal copying. One of the interesting things is that if we look at the external evidence and go back now to look at the incredible amounts of sermons and letters written by early Church leaders between roughly A.D. 70 and 250, especially those early ones written right near the end of the first century into the middle of the second century, we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sermons and what they call lectionaries. A lectionary is a scripture reading that would be read as part of the message on a Sunday morning. We find these things. If you take all those extra-Biblical documents that have quotes from Scripture in them, we can almost put together the entire New Testament, just from those quotes from those early sermons and letters and quotations that we have. That tells us that the Bible was mostly completed by the mid-seventies of the 1st century.
That’s a great thing to understand. I have a couple of unsaved friends who always want to trot out the arguments that the Bible really wasn’t written until two or three hundred years after Jesus, so how can it be trusted? See, that’s the kind of nonsense you hear on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and all of those other channels. I believe the only reason those things exist is as an attack on the Plan of God and on the angelic conflict as an attack on Christianity. All of the other things you look at on those channels that we like to watch, like on American history and the World Wars are nice, but they really exist to promote a lot of anti-Bible propaganda. If you don’t know the facts Biblically you can really get kicked off center by watching those things. Many people have had their faith shipwrecked by watching those shows, thinking they’re a valid explanation.
Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and lived from about A.D. 70 to 156 , was trained by John himself, and he says 1 Peter was written by the Apostle Peter. Clement of Rome who is considered by Roman Catholics to be the first Bishop of Rome after Peter, flourished from about A.D. 88 to 97, and he wrote an epistle and mentions that Peter wrote 1 Peter. Ignatius, who died in A.D. 107, also stated that Peter wrote 1 Peter. These are very early witnesses. Then a little later you have Irenaeus who flourished between A.D. 175 and 195. He also affirmed that Peter wrote 1 Peter. The Epistle of Barnabas which claimed to have been written by Barnabas, the associate of Paul and Mark, was written either late 1st century or early 2nd century. That also affirmed that Peter wrote 1 Peter. Hermes wrote a piece called “The Shepherd of Hermes” which was very well respected in the early Church and read a lot in literature as devotional literature, also affirms that Peter wrote 1 Peter. Clement of Alexandria in the late 2nd century into the early 3rd century also affirmed that Peter wrote 1 Peter. Others were Tertullian in the 2nd century as well as Theophilus who wrote a famous history of the early Church toward the end of the 3rd century, also affirmed that Peter wrote 1 Peter. The wealth of evidence from the early Church is that Peter wrote 1 Peter. There’s no dissenting opinion, so historical evidence confirms it.
Next we look at internal evidence, the evidence from the Bible, whereas Bible believers, we look for our real authority. Our authority isn’t in tradition. Our authority isn’t in history. That is just confirmatory evidence. We really focus on the internal evidence looking at what the text says. So what supports our claim that Peter wrote this? First of all, he identifies himself as Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ right there in the first line of the opening verse.
He also claims within this particular epistle to be an eyewitness of the crucifixion. He says, “The elders among you, I exhort. I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed.” Now that’s in 1 Peter 5:1. It’s a very important statement because Peter was one of three apostles who went up on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord Jesus Christ when His glory was revealed. Remember, Elijah and Moses appeared there.
Peter said, “Oh, isn’t this great? Let’s build a little tabernacle to each one of these guys. One for Jesus. One for Moses and one for Elijah.” As soon as he got that out of his mouth, God the Father corrected him and said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” You don’t elevate a couple of human prophets to the same level as Jesus Christ. Peter wanted to give all of them the same kind of little hut and treat them all as if they were equal. Once again, Peter always ran around putting his foot in his mouth too quickly.
1 Peter 5:1 indicates that the writer of this epistle was an eyewitness of the suffering of Christ and a partaker of the glory. Now there were only three guys who could say that: Peter, James, and John. So that’s a really strong piece of evidence inside the text. There are also statements that are similar to events and instructions that were given to Peter in the gospels. What we have here are specific situations that Peter was involved in in the gospels that are alluded to, or specific passages that are indicated.
For example, in John 21:15-17 which is one of my favorite passages of personal instruction from the Lord Jesus Christ to Peter after Peter had betrayed Him, He appeared to the disciples on the shore of Galilee. This is a great little scene. There’s a little beach there where they believe this took place. It’s called the Springs at Tabgha. This is the place where these warm springs feed into the Sea of Galilee. The vegetation that grows there is a little different from other places, so the fish like to go there and feed off that vegetation.
The disciples were out in a boat fishing near that location, and they were throwing their nets out, but they weren’t catching anything. They went to the “Robby Dean School of fishing”. Everybody else catches, but I don’t even get nibbles. So that night they didn’t get anything, and the Lord showed up and told them, “If you cast your net on the other side you’ll haul in a catch.” They did and that’s when they recognized who He was. Peter just jumped out of the boat and started running up to see the Lord. As usual, he was just over-enthusiastic. The Lord cooked breakfast for them. That must have been a pretty good breakfast!
Then he uses that as an object lesson to challenge Peter. Jesus says, “Simon, do you love me more than these?” Simon said, “Yes, Lord.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Now that’s a different word in verse 15 and verse 17 than the word in verse 16. He repeats this conversation three times and John 21:16 says, “Tend my sheep.” The word there is the Greek word POIMAINO which is the verb form related to the noun to shepherd. It means to feed the sheep. This is the same word that Peter uses in 1 Peter 5:2 when he tells the leaders of a group which he never identifies as a church, “The elders that are among you. I exhort and shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” He uses that same Greek word. That is connected back to a specific event in Peter’s life.
In 1 Peter 5:5, Peter has a great challenge to humility. He says, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourself to your elders. Yes, all of you, be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility. For God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In John 13:13-17 the Lord Jesus Christ taught Peter about cleansing in the whole episode of the washing of the feet. That was to teach the importance of forgiving on another and loving one another. The foundation for being able to do both is genuine humility. So that’s a connection.
Another connection that we have is the use of Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” The Lord Jesus Christ took that verse and He quoted it in Matthew 21:42, and guess who is in the context there? Peter. Jesus said, “Have you never read in the Scriptures that the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone? This is the Lord’s doing; it’s marvelous in our eyes.” What Jesus is doing is applying that verse to Himself, so Peter uses it and again in 1 Peter 2:7 and 8 where he says, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious, but to those who are disobedient the stone which the builders have rejected has become the chief cornerstone, a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” Here he ties this together with some other Old Testament passages.
Another example between 1 Peter and Peter is in Acts 4:10-11. We read, “Let it be known to you all and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead, this is the stone which is rejected by your builders which has become the chief cornerstone.” So all of these verses show an emphasis on this particular verse, and that is something that is relevant to Peter during his time with Christ.
Also we see a similarity between 1 Peter 1:17 when he says, “If you call on the Father who without partiality judges according to each one’s work. God is not a respecter of persons.” Peter said the same thing in Acts 10:34 when he was talking about God’s welcoming Cornelius and the Gentiles into the body of Christ. He said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” This is the same vocabulary, so that again shows a similarity of what we know of Peter from Acts. 1
Peter 1:21 states, “To Him [God the Father] who raised Him [Jesus Christ] from the dead and gave Him glory so that your faith and hope are in God.” This is similar to what Peter says when he emphasizes the death and resurrection of Christ in Acts 2:32-36. We also know that Christ’s death is emphasized by Peter as a part of God’s divinely ordained plan. In 1 Peter 1:3 we read, “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world but was manifest in these last times for you.” And in Acts 2:23 we read, “In Him being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, He was taken by lawless hands and crucified and put to death.” So he emphasizes the death of Christ as part of the foreordained and predetermined plan of God from eternity past. That shows another similarity.
The next one is this emphasis on this phraseology of the “living and the dead”. In 1 Peter 4:5 God is referred to as the “judge of the living and the dead”, and in Acts 10:42 God is “the judge of the living and the dead.” The Old King James called it the “quick and the dead”. Louie L’Amour picked that as the title for one of his great western novels because that has a different nuance when you’re talking about western gunfighters and you talk about the “quick and the dead”. That really is from the King James, and it means those who are alive versus those who are dead. I just thought some of you would enjoy hearing that.
1 Peter 2:24 says, “He, Himself, bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” He uses this unusual word XULON which means wood or tree. This is not a common word, and it is used in 1 Peter 2:24; and Peter uses it in Acts 5:30 and again in verse 39 saying, “Whom they killed by hanging on a tree.” This is an example of how you do this kind of investigation. You see that there are certain stylistic and vocabulary similarities between the writer of 1 Peter and what the Apostle Peter said in other statements. That helps us to understand and give evidence that Peter seems to be the attested writer.
Until you get to the 19th century when all kinds of garbage starts to come into our culture, there’s no alternate for the author of 1 Peter. Then you have the rise of 19th century liberalism. It was the child of the enlightenment. Now remember your history. You have the Renaissance in the southern part of Europe that occurs back in the 1400s to 1500s. In the Renaissance there’s a desire to go back to the ancients, such as the Romans and the Greeks, and a desire to go back to the classical literature. Now this also impacts Christianity because they didn’t just want to go back to Homer and to Livy and to Aristotle and to Plato. The Christians wanted to go back to the original documents of the New Testament. This really impacted northern Europe more than it did southern Europe. Southern Europe stopped at the Renaissance, while northern Europe stopped with the Bible. This set the stage for the Protestant Reformation.
Another thing that was happening was this group that were “peace lovers” coming out of the Middle East and trying to conquer Europe. They’re still trying to do that. They go by the name of Islam. Islam, contrary to all the politicians in the West who are either just idiots or they think we’re idiots, is only a religion of peace for those who are part of the House of Islam. If you’re not part of the House of Islam, you’re part of the house of war, which means you’re the enemy and you need to be either killed or converted. Those are the only two options. They don’t press that until they get to where there’s a certain percentage of Islamists in your culture.
They’re pushing that in Western Europe where they’re making their views known, and that’s why we’re having these terrorist events taking place in Paris and other parts of Europe. We’re going to see more and more of that and it’s probably going to come to a city near you. Houston has, from what I hear from my law enforcement friends, one of the most radicalized Moslem communities. The only hope for this is the gospel. I’ve got to figure out some way we can get involved in doing some kind of Moslem evangelism.
Last week Pat Cate was here. He spoke at a Chafer Seminary conference in 2007. He’s spent most of his career living in Islamist countries. He’s very much involved with evangelism. John took the course. I encouraged him to do that and he was telling me right before class that he’s been going over to a mosque and getting engaged in conversation with Muslims. I’ve also been put in contact with a couple of other groups in Houston that are trying to network among churches ways in which we can figure out how to get involved in communicating gospel to the Islamic community. That’s the only hope.
We can blow them away, but that’s not exactly what Jesus is talking about. We might need to do that on the battlefield, but Houston, so far, is not the battlefield. Back in the 14th century as the Moslem hordes were coming up across the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople, the monks, the Eastern Orthodox monks from all these monasteries in Turkey and in Greece, to some degree, were scared to death. They were gathering up all these old manuscripts that they had, and they were fleeing ahead of the Moslem hordes and taking these treasure troves of ancient manuscripts into Western Europe. All of a sudden people were discovering very ancient copies of the Biblical texts.
There weren’t that many old copies of the New Testament around until that point. That drove people back to this interest in the Biblical text and the Greek text. They started reading the Bible in the original Greek text, and that was very much a part of the factors that led to the Protestant Reformation. You had the Protestant Reformation; and that gave birth because there was a rejection of authority of the Catholic Church. There were always those who took that too far. They not only rejected the authority of the Catholic Church, but they rejected all authority. You see those bumper stickers saying “Question authority” that came out of the 60s. That’s what they were doing. Anything that made an authoritative statement, they were going to question; and that led to the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment was named by the arrogant folks in the Enlightenment, but they rejected the Christians who preceded them and said they weren’t enlightened; so they called that the Dark Ages because they were influenced by Christianity. The Enlightenment sought to find light and enlighten our thinking based on reason and experience or empiricism apart from any source of religious influence or Biblical influence. They said if it came from the Bible it was automatically suspect information, and we’re just going to cut that out. They sought to find a neutral starting point, and that was reason. If it’s rational or can be defended on the basis of empiricism, then they thought they could come to truth.
The basic supposition coming out of the Enlightenment that influenced what became known as Protestant rationalism in the 19th century was anti-supernaturalism. That means that their deeply held conviction was that there really wasn’t a God, and if there were, He couldn’t talk to us anyway, so they believed in a closed universe. That means that God can’t communicate inside the universe. All creation, what they called nature, was closed. It was all in a hermetically-sealed sphere, and God was outside that sphere. They claimed you couldn’t know anything outside the sphere, and God doesn’t communicate inside the sphere.
Their assumption was that God can’t communicate and we can’t know Him, so we have to just start from reason alone. They believed there was no God unless reason alone could prove it, but there are limitations to human reason. Another thing they believed was that God, by definition, could not inspire inerrant Scripture. So they don’t believe in a definition of God that would allow Him to be able to inspire Scripture, if there was a God. Not only do they start off with an assumption that God doesn’t exist, their next assumption is that if He did exist, He couldn’t communicate, or if He could communicate, He couldn’t do it the way Christians say He does it.
They believe that all human authors of Scripture made mistakes, and that no one could possibly write anything without an error because God can’t do that, by their definition. So this is their presupposition. This is what they bring to the table. According to Protestant liberalism, the New Testament was authored between 150 to 300 years after the events described in the Bible. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, according to their beliefs, didn’t write a thing. They were just ignorant Galilean fishermen. These were all cobbled together by different religious leaders 150 to 300 years later based on legend, and they just imposed their own theology onto these legends that came along.
That’s why you had people like Albert Schweitzer at the beginning of the 19th century writing a very famous book, “The Search for the Historical Jesus”. They weren’t looking for the Biblical Jesus because they claimed they had all those layers of legend and religion on top of it. So they felt they had to find the real Jesus who is just barely mentioned in the gospels. All that stuff you read in the gospels, they said, is just theology, and it’s stuff that you can’t know anything about. They believed the testimony of the human authors of Scripture is irrelevant and by definition, is unreliable.
That’s why it’s so hard sometimes to witness and have a conversation with someone who’s been infected by Protestant liberalism. Now that’s not as virulent as it was today, but you have folks who are unbelievers who do hear this.
When I’m talking about the New Testament or Christianity to my Jewish friends, they have memorized, it seems, all the arguments of 19th century liberalism against the divinely inspired text. You hear all these classic arguments from 19th century Protestant liberalism as to why you can’t believe the Bible to tell you anything that’s true. That’s the basic position of theological liberalism, not political liberalism. What do they have in common? They reject divine authority as a starting point and they also elevate human ability to discover truth apart from any information from God. If you want a really good analysis, look at the book, “Conflict of Vision” by Thomas Sowell. Just read his introduction. He explains the fact that the core issue between conservatives and liberals, historically, going back to the 1700s, is that liberals don’t believe that man is inherently flawed. Conservatives believe that man is inherently flawed and evil. Everything flows out of that presupposition.
Okay, moving on. According to the liberals, they came along and said that 1 Peter 1:1-2 and 4:12 down through 5:1 represent later editions of this epistle. They believe there was a core writing that was added to progressively through the early centuries, and eventually they came along and had this writing and decided to take a couple of verses and tack it on to give it authenticity and say it was written by Peter. What’s their evidence? Absolutely none! They have no evidence for that claim whatsoever, other than that it fits their theory. They just want to claim that, to assert this is what happened, but they have no evidence they can come up with to substantiate that particular claim.
Another view they have is that they say it must have been written after Peter’s time since the persecution mentioned is more consistent with that of either Domitian, [Roman Emperor from A.D. 81–96] or Trajan [Emperor from A.D. 98–117]. They’re assuming this, but the reality is that the adversity Peter is mentioning here is pretty general. He’s not stating anything specific that would tie it to any overt opposition or adversity. It’s a general statement about the kind of suffering these believers are facing. The critics are ignoring the Neronian persecution which took place in the 60s which is about the time this epistle was written. They just say, “Oh, this couldn’t fit what happened under Nero, and it’s more consistent with what happens later on.” They insist Peter was dead by then.
The third view that they have is that the Greek in 1Peter is too sophisticated for an uneducated Galilean fisherman. Their evidence for this is that in Acts 4:13, the Sanhedrin says John and Peter are uneducated and untrained. They’re not making that statement as an absolute that they are fools. As far as the members of the Sanhedrin are concerned, they are uneducated because they didn’t go through rabbinical training. They claim they don’t follow the Pharisaical line of reasoning because they didn’t go to an “ivy league school”, but just to a “state university”. They insist they were just uneducated and don’t fit their concept of the intellectual elites. They didn’t go to the highest schools, so therefore they’re uneducated and untrained. That’s their rebuttal.
After thirty years of ministry in a Greek speaking world, Peter certainly would have improved and honed his ability to speak and write in Greek. Peter probably isn’t the only author of the letter because we do know that Sylvanus is mentioned in 1 Peter 5:12 as his amanuensis, which is his secretary or scribe. Sylvanus was a companion of the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys and is mentioned in a number of Paul’s letters. He had also been a member of the Jerusalem church, and he’s mentioned there in Acts 15 as well; so he was a close associate of Peter at this time. According to Acts 16:36-37 he was a close associate of Peter at this time, so he could have cleaned up any rough edges in Peter’s languages. As Peter is the one who is inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter would always be overseeing that process and guaranteeing that what came out as the end result was that which God the Holy Spirit intended. So that answered that particular objection.
The next thing we need to do is find out more about the writer, Peter. Here are a few facts. He’s a Galilean fisherman. He’s also known as Simon, and his Aramean name was Cephas, which means a rock, just as Peter means a rock. In English he would be called Rocky. I always thought because he is the son of Simon bar Jonas that in English his name would be Rocky Johnson. He was born in Bethsaida which is another small village on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. Later he lived in Capernaum. We know pretty much where he lived in Capernaum because now there’s a large Catholic Church built right over where he lived. I think the authentication of that is pretty accurate because there’s attestation of this and graffiti where people would come and venerate that site, going back into the late 1st century. It’s really impressive when you go to Capernaum and see that.
He was married. Jesus healed his mother-in-law. He didn’t have any idea of the Roman Catholic doctrine of celibacy. He’s initially a disciple of John the Baptist, which shows he had a tremendous amount of positive volition and was very interested in spiritual things as a young man, probably as a teen-ager and into his early twenties. He became a leader of the twelve disciples. He’s one of the three that was taken with the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Mount of Transfiguration along with James and John. That is going to be critical here. Peter goes through a certain amount of adversity and hostility in his ministry just as Paul did. What got Peter through? He’s already seen the end game. He was on the Mount of Transfiguration. He saw the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. That motivated him. That strengthened him so that he could go through the rugged times today in light of eternity because he had gained a glimpse of eternity.
That’s what we see running through this whole epistle. If you want to learn how to make it through difficult times living in this trash heap of the devil’s world, then you need to gain a fix on the end game, which is the glory of that which is to come. That word glory is a major word in 1 Peter. As you’re reading 1 Peter over and over again, notice words that are used again and again, like inheritance, hope, saved. These are key words to focus on.
Jesus once called Peter Satan. Now you know you’ve really messed up when Jesus calls you Satan. It was because he opened his mouth too soon and had an ignorant outburst. He was the leader of the early Church. We see this in Acts 1–8. He’s also the apostle to the circumcised. That’s going to be really important to understand. Since he is the apostle to the Jews, how does that impact this epistle? It does. He traveled with his wife. We know that from what Paul says in 1 Corinthians. He traveled to Jewish communities because he’s the apostle to the circumcised. He’s ministering primarily to Jews, but not exclusively, just as Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and was ministering to the Gentiles mostly but not exclusively. He was familiar with Paul’s writings. We learn that from 2 Peter; and he said that Paul wrote quite a few things that were difficult to understand.
He arrived late in Rome. He didn’t found the church in Rome. He is not the first pope. He’s a late-arrival in Rome. He was executed in the Neronian persecution, and he thought it was too much to be crucified right side up like the Lord, so he said, “I can’t be crucified like the Lord.” They crucified him upside-down on the cross. That gives us a little bit of an overview of Peter, and we’ll do more later on.
We looked at the first question, which was who wrote 1 Peter? The second question is to whom was it written? The answers are a) primarily a Jewish audience, or b) primarily a Gentile audience. This is the sticky wicket. We’ll wait until next time to get into that, but I will give you a preview of coming attractions. 99.8% of theologians and commentaries and Bible students over the course of the Church Age say he’s writing to Gentiles. I do not agree at all. That is based on fallacious hermeneutics. If you say he’s writing primarily to a Jewish audience, that has serious ramifications for how you interpret a number of passages, especially 1 Peter 2. There are some knotty little problems there that I haven’t quite worked my way through yet, but hopefully I will by the time we get there. I’m getting close. This is really interesting and fascinating. It’s very clear he wrote to a Jewish audience, just like James does in James 1:1. We’ll get into that as part of our opening, and drill-down into 1 Peter.