4 September 2017

1 Peter 1:1-12

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia...”

Psalm: Psalm 73:1-14


Given the sophisticated, literary Greek style of the writing, and apparent references to events that happened after his death (a victim of Roman persecution, in the mid-60s, as far as we know), it is unlikely that Peter himself wrote this letter. It was probably written by one of his later followers, addressed to Jewish Christians, "the exiles of the Dispersion", rather than gentile (non-Jewish) Christians who were followers of Paul. (The Dispersion, or Diaspora was the name given to Greek-speaking Jews who lived 'in exile' around the Roman Empire and beyond.) So this letter, like James and Hebrews (and, indeed, Matthew's Gospel), was written for those who saw the Church as a kind of purified, reformed Judaism, which excluded Gentiles (unless they accepted Jewish traditions). And, like Matthew's Gospel, it was written at a time of intense persecution - probably in the turbulent decades towards the end of the 1st century.

The letter begins with encouragement to hold on to faith in the resurrection of Jesus, and to endure persecution (verse 6) with the promise of his imminent re-appearing to bring to an end the "various trials" they were enduring and the reward of an "inheritance" (v. 4) of "praise and glory and honour"(v. 7). This was a common theme in New Testament writings - 'the End is nigh, so hang in there'. And 1 Peter picks up other themes too, including the one we met yesterday (link)- Jesus as the "Son of Man" who must first suffer before he appears in glory to rescue his followers and rule the earth, an idea based on Daniel and Isaiah ("the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours" (v. 10)). So, although 1 Peter doesn't use the phrase "Son of Man", it is certainly implied by verse 11. For 'Peter' (as we will call the writer of this letter) and his followers, the "gospel" ("good news" (v. 12)) was hidden in the words of the prophets, and now, miraculously, revealed to them.

To Ponder

  • Assuming we are not 1st-century Jewish Christians facing violent persecution, how might we read this letter today, given that it was not addressed to us?
  • For 'Peter', the gospel was the promise of "praise and glory and honour" as a reward for enduring persecution. What does "the gospel" mean to you?
  • Do you think that the prophets of the Old Testament had Jesus in mind when they wrote? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Rhymer

The Revd David Rhymer has done a number of things over the last 40-odd years - including teaching (science), publishing (theology), full-time ministry (Baptist and Methodist) and national Methodist Team work (training & development officer for Cornwall). More recently he has been responsible for a part-time theology degree course at Exeter University, and until 2017, was involved with teaching students preparing for ministry in the south-west.