Lesson 3 of 6
In Progress

Background of 1 Peter

rev. by Kristofer Phan Coffman (04/2023)

As the first Jesus followers filtered out of Judaea and into the greater Mediterranean world, the Roman province of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) became a hotbed of church growth. The letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians were all directed to communities of this province, as were the “seven letters to the churches” in Revelation (Revelation 2-3). In the salutation to the letter, the author of 1 Peter names almost all of these locations as recipients (see 1:1-2). Early in the second century, the Roman governor of the provinces of Pontus and Bithynia (both named in 1 Peter) would write a letter to the emperor Trajan in which he expressed concern about the growth of the movement that he labeled “Christians,” the first pagan reference to Christianity.

The letter of 1 Peter is written in this atmosphere of growth and self-definition and is especially aimed at followers of Jesus who wondered what their new religious commitment meant for their relationship to their families and communities. While there has sometimes been the temptation to think in terms of large groups (“Jews,” “Gentiles,” “Romans”), it is important to remember that religious issues were primarily centered on the family. New followers of Jesus would have questioned how they related to their old family traditions and religious practices. In response, the author of 1 Peter offers his readers an alternative vision of their family history. 

For those who grew up in diasporan Jewish traditions, the author of 1 Peter affirms their place in the promises of God to Israel. For Romans, he paints a picture of a new people, incorporated into the promises of God from time immemorial. The author of 1 Peter urges the followers of Jesus to engage in their society and to be better citizens than they were before their conversion, so that their good conduct will be noticed and the truth of their faith will be demonstrated. The author does not claim that this will be easy, but it is necessary for obedience to the God who is the creator and redeemer of all people and societies. God has called these scattered followers of Christ to proclaim the mighty acts of God and the primary arena for this proclamation is their everyday lives.