AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF FIRST PETER
The imprint of Peter upon the early community of Christians was stronger than that of any of the other original Twelve Apostles. He was the most prominent disciple during Jesus' lifetime, and the first twelve chapters of Acts are devoted to his ministry and to that of the church in the East, where he was still the dominant figure. Paul mentioned him in Galatians (Gal.1v18; Gal.2v7-11, 14) and 1 Corinthians (1Cor.1v12; 1Cor.3v22; 1Cor.9v5; 1Cor.15v5), and two New Testament Epistles bear his name.
Peter's first letter is one of the seven general letters and is addressed to the five Roman provinces in Asia Minor north of the Taurus Mountains (what is now modern Turkey). The occasion of writing was persecution in the area, and the letter tries to encourage and equip the readers for the difficult times ahead. There were, as yet, no empire-wide persecutions of Christians until the brutal one under Decius (A.D. 249-51), but temporary local ones could be quite severe. One of the worst persecutions known to have struck the early believers took place early in the second century in Bithynia, one of the provinces to which 1 Peter was written. In a letter sent from Pliny, Governor of Bithynia, to the Roman Emperor, Trajan, in A.D. 112, the official explained that he had been executing people who confessed that they were Christians. Trajan's reply indicated his approval of Pliny's policy but allowed Christians who would renounce their faith and worship Roman gods to go free. Since First Peter was probably written in the A.D. 60's, persecution of the severest kind for its recipients was only a few decades away. Peter used Jesus' own suffering as the cornerstone of his exhortation. Another key concern was that Christians suffer as Christians, not as lawbreakers. In this connection, he produced one of only three instances of the word "Christian" to be found in the New Testament (Ac.11v26; Ac.26v28; 1Pet.4v16). Peter wrote from "Babylon," which was sometimes a code word for Rome (see Rev.14v8; Rev.17v5), so it was probably actually written from Rome.
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