Peter, first epistle of

The twenty-first book of the NT. An epistle of great beauty dealing with baptism and suffering, with appropriate ethical exhortations to different classes of converts. Some think it may have originated as a homily at Easter, the time for baptisms, in Rome, which is concealed under ‘Babylon’ in 1 Pet. 5:13 (cf. Rev. 17:5–6). Then, with an introduction (1:1–2) and conclusion (5:12–14), it served as a letter to encourage Christians possibly facing oppression (4:12). They are marginalized citizens, mere ‘resident aliens’ (Greek, paroikoi) in Asia Minor. Their conversion to Christianity has evidently increased the local hostility towards them. They have become a sect with a culture which separates them from the surrounding society. Members of the Church belong to an alternative family (1 Pet. 4:17), though they are warned not to withhold their proper duties to the State (1 Pet. 2:17). By their example they will win over unbelievers (2:11–12). Authorship by Peter depends on the view taken of the reference in 4:15–16 to being a Christian. Some scholars regard this reference as so like circumstances detailed in correspondence between the younger Pliny and the emperor Trajan that it must belong to the early part of the 2nd cent. The language about being reborn (1:3) is similar to the propaganda of the pagan mysteries, which could also imply a 2nd-cent. date. Other scholars defend the Petrine authorship of the letter. They point out that it may owe its felicitous style to the literary ability of Silvanus the amanuensis (5:12). The references to persecution seem to denote the hostility of neighbours and families (3:6) rather than official imperial policy.

Dictionary of the Bible.

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