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NT Survey 111 Seminar 18 1 Peter

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                            15th September 2007

New Testament Survey NTES 111

Seminar 18

1 & 2 Epistles of Peter

Part 1 - 1 Peter

1 & 2 Peter

Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago Ch 21

Libronix DLS

Guthrie, Donald  New Testament Introduction  Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed  1990 Ch 21

Thompson Chain Reference Bible  Fifth Improved Edition B.B.Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana 1988

Discuss 1 Peter as the epistle to the ancient Church, its authorship, purpose, destination and date:

As Jensen suggests (p 438), the Lord Himself, without Peter being immediately aware, prophesied that Peter would write to the ancient Church if the phrase “strengthen thy brethren” of Luke 22:32 can be taken broadly to imply that not only would Peter be preaching, testifying, ministering to and edifying his Christian brothers, but he would also be writing to them.  The ancient Church, for the benefit of all Christians including us and under the guidance of God, accepted Peter’s writings into the canon, hence Peter in effect wrote both to the ancient Church and to all churches since.

It is of interest that Peter as a name, unlike James, cannot be confused with any other - there is no other person in the NT of the same name.  Jesus changed Peter’s original name - Simon (a transliteration of the Hebrew ‘Simeon’ meaning “heard”) to Peter.  This name is Greek (meaning ‘rock’ or ‘stone’); he is the son of Jona (= ‘dove’), and the Lord added the Aramaic equivalent to ‘stone’ (ie Cephas) in Jn 1:42.  ‘Simon barJona’ therefore became Peter or Cephas entirely for the Lord’s purposes.  Perhaps Jesus did this to emphasise the analogy of Peter being a ‘rock’ (petros or ‘pebble’) as a faithful preacher of the Lord’s message (petra or ‘monolith’) which would build the ancient Church (Matthew 16:18). 

Perhaps the period occupied by the “ancient” Church could be defined as the period described in Acts (Chh 1-12; 30-47 AD) where Peter is the principal character, shaker and mover and the important questions as to the universality of the Gospel are settled; but this is a circular argument (ie Peter defines the period of the ancient church therefore the ancient church existed at the time of Peter).  “Ancient” might also be defined as that period in the early Church when the Apostles were alive and personally influenced Church doctrine, policy and practice ie up to the end of the first century.

Peter is identified as the writer in 1 Peter 1:1.  He claims to be the apostle of Jesus Christ.  If these facts were not so God would have prevented such lies from being included in His Word.  Secondarily, the ancient Church would not have included his writings in the canon and millions of Christians would have rejected the letter long since.

Jensen in Chart 3 (p 26) notes that 1 and 2 Peter are not included in the Muratorian Canon of 170 AD but as Guthrie notes: “at this point the text of the fragment is open to doubt”.[1]  There is no clear external suggestion that Peter did not write this letter (see Guthrie pp 760-762) and although Guthrie feels bound to examine dissenting views (pp 762-781) he concludes: “that the traditional view which accepts the claims of the epistle to be apostolic is more reasonable than any alternative hypothesis. We may see here a true reflection of the apostle’s experience of Jesus Christ and his lasting contribution to the doctrine of the Christian church. If there is not the depth of the mind of Paul, there is a warm affection which is unmistakable and a deep sympathy with those whom he seeks to help”[2]  which is about as definite as Guthrie allows himself to get.

The destination of this letter is to the northern and eastern parts of modern Turkey that we should perhaps assume were not visited by Paul.  Paul clearly had a significant ministry in the southern and western parts of this territory, which are also broadly included in the destination of this first letter of Peter.  Peter is not addressing specific churches but a scattered group of individuals who he does not name (except for one of them - Sylvanus 1 Peter 5:12 - to whom he has entrusted the letter, and Marcus ‘my son’ who is presumably known to them).  This is different to Paul’s style but just as appropriate.

The individuals in Peter’s mind were saved (“elect” 1:2) and were in these faraway regions (“scattered” 1:1) because of persecution (“strangers” 1:1).  At first glance this would tend to make them Jewish (‘the elect strangers of the diaspora’) but as Jensen points out (p 444) 2:10 and 4:3-4 may include Gentiles.  This is supported by Guthrie (p784).  The “place” that Peter went to after he is miraculously released from Herod’s prison in Acts 12:17 (and basically disappears from the early Church narrative apart from the Jerusalem Council) is not known, although in being shown by God that the Gentiles were to be included in the Gospel, he had travelled extensively in Palestine.

Jensen suggests (p 444) that during the period following the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 (49 AD) Peter evangelises the areas that he addresses in this letter, until the persecution of Nero (who reigned 54-68 AD [Jensen Chart 12 pp 60-61] but who persecuted Christians and Jews largely between 64 [Rome set ablaze] and 67 AD).  This is opposed by the use of the third person in 1 Peter 1:12 which suggests that Peter did not travel there (Guthrie p 786).  When Paul tried to visit these areas he was directly prevented by God from doing so (Acts 16:6ff).  Both Paul and Peter are martyred toward the end of Nero’s persecution, hence 1 and 2 Peter were written before 67 AD.  It does not make sense to me that Peter was crucified upside down as tradition affirms.  Discuss

Jensen puts the probable date of writing at 64 AD, at the beginning of Nero’s persecution.  The place of writing is stated to be Babylon (5:13).  Jensen notes (p 444) that there were two known Babylons at the time (on the Euphrates in Mesopotamia and on the Nile in Egypt).  Peter may have been in either place and it seems more logical to pick the Mesopotamian origin in view of the likely large population of Jews still there after the Captivity 600 years before; Guthrie proposes 5 reasons why he believes this is most unlikely (p 793).  There is no scriptural indication either way.

As with all other conjectures the meaning of ‘Babylon’ has been allegorised, in this case to mean Imperial Rome (Jensen p 445), but this cannot be so if this plain and simple reference is to be taken literally.  In some minds, it is necessary by hook or by crook to have Peter in Rome at some time in his career.

The purpose of writing is gained partly from the issues addressed.  The addressees were experiencing fiery trials of their faith (1:6-7) which included slander (2:12).  State sponsored persecution was in force under the leadership of Nero, especially in those provinces ruled by Romans unsympathetic to Christianity and who were keen to ingratiate themselves with their Emperor.  “At least by the end of the century, in the time when John wrote Revelation, the churches of Asia Minor were undergoing severe persecution. “3a 

Jensen (p 450) states that “the theme of 1 Peter is that of hope in the midst of severe trial”.  Both 1 and 2 Peter present readers with the fact that there is no question that Christians will suffer persecution if they are being true to Christ, but like their Lord, Peter encourages them to stand true and endure in His strength “that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (4:13).  “In this way he shows the indissoluble link between doctrine and practice.”[3]

Peter states his own purpose in 5:12: “By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.”[4]

Articulate the unity, place of writing, literary form and sources of 1 Peter:

            For place of writing see above.

            Guthrie raises the issue of unity only because of the doxology written in 4:11 (which indeed concludes a section) but in my view does not necessarily terminate the letter.  He gives six theories why disunity could be so (pp 788-793) and does not draw his own conclusion.  Jensen does not address this issue at all.  If the letter is the inspired work of God then it all belongs in His Word.


3aIrving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago p 445 footnote 10

The literary form is hortatory, there are connections between this letter and the OT [the lamb (1:19), the whole passage 2:4–10, the parallels with Is 53 in 2:21 ff., Sarah (3:6) and Noah (3:20)][5] , and with some NT books (the most important of these are Romans, Ephesians, Hebrews, James and Acts).[6]  Judaisms with OT and NT quotes are frequent.

The issue of ‘sources’ follows the same pattern as that of ‘unity’ ie Jensen doers not bother with it presumably because he accepts the plenary nature of scripture, takes it literally and believes it.  Guthrie is unable to do these simple things and he spends unnecessary effort chasing red herrings (pp 798-800).


Examine Peter’s greetings 1:1-2:

            See above.

            “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God” gives insight into the doctrine of election, depending on one’s point of view.  In context, Peter is establishing the bases on which his readers are saved given that the rest of the letter will discuss the trials they will be exposed to, impossible to withstand unless each one is truly “sanctified in the Spirit, washed in the blood of Christ and obedient to the heavenly vision” (cf 1:5-9). 

With regard to election and setting aside the extremes of Calvinism and Arminianism, my view is that in this verse Peter is merely explaining that God knew from before the foundation of the world that all those to whom Peter was writing would be Christians, that He therefore cares about them and that they can take comfort from that fact.  If this is not so then God is not God.  The readers are “elect” because once they have received God’s free gift of salvation in Christ they are chosen by God to receive the benefits of being His children, predestined to justification, sanctification and glorification (Rom 8:28-31).


Assess the nature of Christian salvation 1:3-2:10:

            Jensen makes the point that attempting to organise or outline 1 Peter so that all commentators agree on a common approach is not possible.

From Thompson’s marginal outline:

·         1:3-9 Believers’ Hopes, Trials and Joys

o        God keeps the believer through trials, giving a secure, undefiled hope for the future which is “reserved in heaven.”  This is cause for “joy unspeakable and full of glory”, although there is temporary earthly heaviness.  The end result of God’s work in the believing is “receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls”.  Discuss

·         1:10-12 Messianic hope of the prophets

o        The sufferings of the Messiah and the salvation effected by Him were prophesied by the OT prophets (eg Isaiah 53) and that it would come by grace (not by the Law)

o        Those reading this letter are examples of the fulfillment of these prophecies (a privilege in that even the angels do not understand this)

·         1:13-17 Exhortation to holiness

o        God requires the Christian to be holy because He Himself is holy.  Peter explains that the way to be like this is through obedience (to the Word and the power and leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit)

o        The right attitude toward the sins of our past and the hope for the future is of “fear” ie reverential respect for the God who not only requires His standard of holiness to be met but also gives all the means needed to achieve it

·         1:18-21 Cost of redemption

o        The precious blood of Christ

o        Foreordained to be the sacrificial Lamb before the foundation of the world

o        Whose example and way Christians will follow

·         1:22-25 The power and permanence of God’s word

o        Obedience to the word purifies the soul and

o        Allows unfeigned love toward the brethren.

o        The word “liveth and abideth forever”

o        In contrast to the glory of man which fades and withers as the grass

o        This is the word by which the gospel is preached

·         2:1-3 Nourishment of the Word

o        If one is truly saved then we should desire to know and be obedient to the Word like newborn babes in two respects - we know we have to feed to stay alive, and we know we have to have food to grow

o        Achieving this requires the action on our part of putting away all sinfulness

·         2:4-8 Christ the foundation of a spiritual Temple

o        Christ has been chosen of God to be the foundation stone of a spiritual house to which the Christian belongs (the Church?  Discuss )

o        OT prophecy confirms salvation by grace (“he that believeth” v 6) although the analogy is to the foundation of the Temple in Zion

o        But for those who do not believe and are consequently disobedient there is only stumbling over the foundation without becoming an integral part of the building

o        V 8 also demonstrates election - “whereunto also they were appointed”

·         2:9 God’s chosen people

o        A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar (ie obtained, purchased, possessed - see Strong) people…called (part of election) out of darkness into His marvellous light

·         2:10-12 Exhortation to Christian living

o        The saved, through God’s mercy, now have the equipment to live righteously

o        Therefore abstain from sin, be a good testimony to the unsaved such that good works (rather than words) will cause the heathen to glorify God


Examine Christian relationships 2:13-3:12:

·         2:13-17 Citizen’s duties

o        Christians as citizens are to practise civil obedience for kings and governors are put in place by God “for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of them that do well”.  The standard for governors and citizens for ‘good’ and ‘evil’ remains the Word of God.

o        Well-doing of itself is sufficient to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men”

·         2:18-20 Servant’s duties

o        Servants/employees must be subject to their masters with respect for them, including those that are worthy and those that may not be

o        Enduring ‘grief’ in this way brings God’s thanks

o        Making mistakes rightly brings “buffeting” (maltreatment), but doing well in God’s sight may result in the same treatment from an unfair master but “this is acceptable with God”

·         2:21-25 Christ’s example

o        Our forerunner - Christ - suffered for us, “leaving us an example, that (w)e should follow his steps”

o        His standard is impossibly high - no sin, no guile, no tit-for-tat, no threatening, just perfect obedience to His Father

o        Christ deliberately “bare our sins in his own body…that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness”.  Here is the key to performing the impossible task

o        Because of Christ’s work our straying as sheep (I do not understand the appropriateness of this analogy.  We did not stray as sheep, we were dead in sin.  Discuss)  allowed us to personally return to the Keeper of our souls.

·         3:1-6 Wives’ duties

o        The “likewise” in v 1 presumably refers back to the submission required of servants to masters and citizens to the government.  Wives are to show similar subjection - Christianity in action - with the object of winning to salvation unsaved husbands

o        The guidelines for doing this include appropriate appearance which is the outward expression of an inward “meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price”

o        These actions are modelled on those godly women of the OT eg Abraham’s wife Sarah “whose (spiritual) daughters ye are”

·         3:7 Husbands’ duties

o        A husband should live with his wife in Christian spiritual maturity (“knowledge”)

o        Giving ‘proper value’ (“honour”) to his wife

o        Taking into consideration her weaker physical strength

o        In a team effort so that there is no waste and prayer is not hindered

·         3:8-9 A call for bodily unity

o        Referring to the Church as one mind with compassion, love, sympathy, courteousness, giving blessing, without backbiting or slander, for we have inherited much

·         3:10-14 Righteousness tendeth to life

o        Action in righteousness results in loving to live and seeing good days “for the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers”

o        As a consequence there is no one which can do harm to such a person, and there is no cause for fear when suffering comes

o        On the other hand, if one seeks evil and turmoil, the protection and blessing of the Lord is forfeit

·         3:15-17 Testimony and holy living

o        Inner health is expressed in outer righteousness ie when the Lord is sanctified in the heart the resulting meekness and reverence promotes a good testimony whenever a believer is asked for reasons for his faith or actions, promotes a healthy conscience and natural well-doing

o        All of which together will put to shame any false accuser

o        It is better to suffer for well-doing than evil-doing (for this implies that there has been no evil-doing and that God is working through the Christian)

·         3:18-20 The suffering of Christ

o        One sacrifice for all sins

o        The sinless for the sinful

o        That He might bring us to God.

o        He was raised by the Spirit, by Whom “also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison”.  In context these spirits are the disobedient folk judged by God at Noah’s flood ie unsaved.  Therefore the implication is that Jesus preached to those sinners in Hades who are still there.  Exactly when?  Discuss

·         3:21-22 the figure of baptism

o        Further confirmation of faith resulting in obedience and righteousness in Christ

o        The death, burial and resurrection of Christ is a ‘package’ completed by His ascension and current position of authority and power at the right hand of God, the whole of which is pictured by immersion baptism

Summarise Christian suffering and service 3:13-4:19:

·         4:1-6 The spiritual mind subdues the flesh

o        V 1 could be taken to imply that Christ sinned before suffering in the flesh. Obviously not right but what then does this passage mean?  Discuss

o        Also implies that if we suffer in the flesh the result is that we do not sin any more, living instead “to the will of God.”  Also wrong.  Discuss

o        V 3 implies that being a Gentile is automatically to be a sinner.  If 1 Peter is being addressed to Jews then they too before salvation were sinning just like the Gentiles.  V4 notes the change that occurs after salvation when they walk by faith instead. 

o        God judges both the living and the dead - each one giving an account of himself at the time

o        V 6 implies that preaching to the dead - which results in salvation of the dead - causes them to be judged well by other men as they walk by faith, and are no longer under the punitive judgment of God (Great White Throne) but rather approved by God in their physical lives  Discuss

·         4:7-9 The times demand sober living

o        The end of time is near (even when Peter wrote this!).  Does this refer to the shortness of men’s lives?  Discuss

o        As the time is short, live a godly life - with self control, watching for Christ’s return with prayer, have “fervent charity” for this “shall cover a multitude of sins”  Discuss

o        Be hospitable without murmuring or complaining

·         4:10-11 The use of gifts

o        Everyone has at least one spiritual gift

o        Use it to benefit others as a good steward should

o        So that God “may be glorified through Jesus Christ”

·         4:12-16 True attitude in affliction

o        Trials are a normal part of being a (real) Christian and should be accepted as such

o        Going through a trial with Christ brings great joy

o        Being criticised for being a Christian means that “the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you”

o        The result of successfully allowing God to take us through a trial is glory to Him, and He is faithful to do this (v 19)

·         4:17-19 A testing time

o        God’s judgment must first begin at ‘home’ in the Church because if the unsaved see what God has in store for the saved (trials and suffering in many cases) what can they expect to receive from Him as unsaved?

o        If the righteous only just scrape by (by the grace of God), how can the unrighteous expect to get on?


Explain Christian discipleship and Conclusion 5:1-14:

·         5:1-4 The duty of feeding the flock

o        Peter reiterates his credentials - an elder (? relating to his time in the early Jerusalem Church), a witness of the sufferings of Christ “and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed”  (the transfiguration?  Discuss)

o        “Feed” = tend the flock, nourish, govern

o        “oversight” = care for, look after, look out for

o        For the right reasons: must be willing, not in it for the money or the kudos

o        An example that the Lord would want the congregation to follow

o        The reward for doing well is “a crown of glory that fadeth not away”

·         5:5-7 Humility enjoined

o        In the context of Christian submission to one another, the ‘younger’ should submit to the ‘elder’ in humility “for God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble”

o        Humility under God for now will end with God exalting the humble in His time

o        His care for us in this matter is greater than we can imagine

·         5:8-11 Resisting the tempter

o        Self control and vigilance allows us to recognise Satan’s attacks

o        He is a fearsome adversary

o        He afflicts all Christians

o        All Christians have the perfect defence of faith

o        For “the God of all grace….after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you”.

·         5:12-14 Farewell words

o        In contrast with the seriousness of his greeting in 1:1-2, Peter’s conclusion in 5:12-14 is quietly confident of victory in Jesus exemplified by Silvanus, the church at Babylon and Marcus, who are all able to express a greeting with a “kiss of charity” and peace, “testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand”.

o        Peter exhorts Christians to a practical greeting of love (eg in our society a handshake or hug when appropriate)

o        And pronounces a benediction of peace.


[1]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 761 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[2]ibid 781

[3]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 782 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[4]  The Holy Bible : King James Version. electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version. Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[5]Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 795 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).

[6]ibid 796

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