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  1. Summary of 1 Peter
  2. Outline of 1 Peter
  3. Background of 1 Peter
  4. Introductory Issues in 1 Peter
  5. Theological Themes in 1 Peter
  • View All Content Related to this Book

Lesson 3 of 5
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Background of 1 Peter

By the last decade of the first century C.E., Christianity had spread throughout much of the Roman Empire–far beyond its origins in Palestine following the crucifixion of Jesus some sixty years earlier. Although Jesus’ earliest followers existed for a while as a Jewish sect, by the time 1 Peter was written Christianity and Judaism had largely gone their separate ways, a development hastened by the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 C.E. While most of the earliest Christians were Jewish, after that time most new converts were Gentiles. Therefore, while this letter mentions many figures from the Old Testament as well as many acts and words of God therein, there is no mention of the Jews as the people of Israel or of the history of relationships and problems between Christians and Jews. The declaration to the letter’s (mostly Gentile) recipients is that they too are inheritors of the Old Testament’s promises. They too are Israel; they too are the elect and God’s own people. As such, they will be at odds with the values, customs, and lifestyles of the non-Christian Gentiles among whom they live. They will be as aliens and strangers, different even from non-Christian members of their families and friends. They probably would have been excluded from many occupations and social occasions as well as scorned and criticized for joining a cult or belonging to a possibly dangerous and unpatriotic sect. In such a situation of being an unwelcome minority, Christians’ natural tendency might have been to withdraw even further from the majority culture, increasing their isolation and arousing additional suspicion. First Peter urges the opposite response: engage in the society and be better than the ordinary citizens, so that good conduct will be noticed and the truth of the readers’ faith will be demonstrated. This will not be easy, but it will be to obey the God who is the creator and redeemer of all people and all societies. God has called these scattered followers of Christ to proclaim the mighty acts of God.

The letter’s opening verse names the Apostle Peter as the author. The closing verses say that he writes “through Silvanus.” The evidence for a later composition (probably in the early 90s) and the letter’s use of themes and expressions from the letters of the Apostle Paul suggest that 1 Peter is a pseudonymous work, written in the tradition of Peter after his death.

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