1 Peter – An Introduction

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The book of 1 Peter; an Introduction.

The book of Peter is the 60th book of the Bible, and it is comprised of 5 chapters of 105 verses. Therefore, it is three verses shorter than the previous book, James. A verse-per-day evaluation of 1 Peter will take a bit over three months to complete.

Peter is the Apostle Peter who was personally called by Jesus. Matthew 4:18 and John 1:40 note that he is Andrew’s brother (another Apostle of the Lord as is seen in Matthew 10:2), and John 1:44 says that Peter and Andrew came from the city of Bethsaida.

Peter is also known as Simon at times. This is known from the time of his first meeting with the Lord which occurred in John 1. In John 1:40, where Andrew was introduced, it is as “Simon Peter’s brother.” In the next verse it notes that Andrew “found his own brother Simon.” But Peter is also known at times as Cephas (kay-fas). On his initial meeting with Jesus, it says –

“Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, ‘You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated, A Stone).” John 1:42

The name Cephas is the Aramaic word for rock. The word “Stone” in that verse is Petros; hence, the name Peter (Cephas) is a name given by the Lord to Simon. He is at times called any of these names, or a combination of them, such as “Simon Peter.”

Interestingly, it is Paul who uses the Aramaic name Cephas eight of the nine times that it is seen in Scripture. Those are noted four times in 1 Corinthians and four times in Galatians. When Paul uses that name, it is to highlight the Jewishness of Peter to make theological points about things. Paul also writes of him using the Greek name Petros two times in Galatians as well. The more common name Peter is used over 150 times in the New Testament.

The combined name Simon Peter is used over 30 times, mostly by John in his gospel, but it is how Peter refers to himself in the first verse of his first epistle. Paying attention to the various ways Peter is addressed will often help the reader understand the surrounding context better.

Though the initial meeting of Jesus and Andrew and Peter is recorded in John 1, the calling of these two brothers to follow Him is found in Matthew 4 while they were fishing in the Galilee.

Peter is known as the apostle to the circumcision, meaning the Jews. This is noted in Galatians 2:7, 8, where Paul says that “they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles).” This does not mean there are two gospels, one for the Jew and one for the Gentile, but that these men were given their main audience for the one gospel to the Jew (Peter) and the Gentile (Paul).

The canonicity of the book of 1 Peter was never in doubt. It was accepted from the beginning as having come from him, and bearing the authority of his apostleship. It is dated from the mid to late 60s.

The Apostle Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So, in a real sense, the letter is, like all of Scripture, written to the people of the world. However, 1 Peter is written specifically to the Hebrew people who were dispersed among the Gentiles in “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1).

Due to its placement after Paul’s letters, and then after the books of Hebrews and James, it is evident based on an evaluation of the structure of the Bible that the Lord intends for this epistle, like Hebrews and James, to be a letter directed to the Hebrew people of the end times as much as it was directed to the early Jewish believers in the Lord. The very structure of the Bible gives us this hint of redemptive history.

The main theme of 1 Peter is “To emphasize the proper attitude and conduct believers are to have when undergoing persecution.” Thus, the main purpose of the epistle is “To encourage believers in the midst of suffering.”

The main presentation of Christ in the epistle is “Jesus Christ, Our Rock.” The naming of Simon as Simon Peter (Petros, the Rock) or Cephas (the Rock) is an ironic development of this lesser “Rock,” meaning Peter, exalting the true Rock, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The letter is addressed from “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13. Though there are various ideas about “which” Babylon is being referred to, the obvious and most likely answer is that he is speaking of Rome in a symbolic way, equating it with Babylon of the past Jewish history. Babylon held sway over Israel before, but at the time that 1 Peter was written, Rome had assumed that role.

Extra-biblical tradition places Peter in Rome in his later life, and there is no reason to assume that he is not referring to Rome in this figurative sense, just as Revelation does in Revelation 14. A study of Daniel 9 also indicates that Rome would be the center of focus again in the end times, corresponding to the theme of Rome as Babylon.

As a short summary of the intent and purpose of the book, we should remember these points: 1) Author: Simon Peter (Cephas), the Apostle to the Lord Jesus; 2) Date: Mid to late 60s; 3) Theme: To emphasize the proper attitude and conduct believers are to have when undergoing persecution; 4) Purpose: To encourage believers in the midst of suffering; 5) Presentation of Christ: Jesus Christ; Our Rock.

Life application: We hope that you will spend the next 105 days of your life learning the book of 1 Peter, one verse at a time. From there, we hope you will apply its truths to your life, molding yourself more each day into being a faithful and wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.

Lord God, what a wonder it is to study in Your word so that we will know Your heart and what You intend for us as we live out our short lives in Your presence. Be with us, and keep us from frittering away our time with worthless pursuit. Rather, may we study Your word, apply it to our lives, and stand approved in Your eyes on the Day when we will be brought before You for an evaluation of the lives we have lived. Amen.

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