First Epistle of Peter | Free Online Biblical Library

If you like our 14,000 Articles library, you'll love our Courses tailor-made for all stages of church life:

Courses cover a wide range of Bible, Theology and Ministry.

First Epistle of Peter



The author of the document in the NT designated 1 Peter is identified as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus” (1:1). This name occurs frequently in the gospels as the name of one of the twelve apostles. Traditionally and already in the ancient Church, this apostle has been considered the author of 1 Peter. In modern times this identity has been challenged. Principal objections to Petrine authorship have been linguistic, theological, and historical. The style and diction hardly fit the description of the apostle elsewhere. However, if the amanuensisthesis is accepted (see below), this objection is not valid. Some judge that the theology reflects dependence on Paul and hence it is unlikely that the epistle is from the Apostle Peter. There is, however, sufficient uniqueness in 1 Peter in theological concepts to moderate the thesis that Pauline influence is present. The historical setting of the epistle in the time of Nero (at which time Peter and Paul were martyred) is definitely possible—perhaps shortly before the violent outbursts of persecution in the early sixties under Nero. Petrine authorship has been affirmed in modern times by Hort, Selwyn, Walls-Stibbs, Reicke; it has been denied by Dibelius, Goodspeed, and Beare.

The function of amanuenses in ancient correspondence is not fully known, but their use is clearly attested. Silvanus seems to have functioned in this role in the writing of 1 Peter. This is suggested by the wording of 5:12διὰ Σιλουανου̂ ὑμι̂ν...ἔγραψα (“through Silvanus I am writing to you”). An amanuensis apparently exercised considerable freedom in the composition and formation of the document. In Acts 4:13 Peter is described as ἀγράμματος, G63. A recent study of this term in the papyri suggests the meaning “illiterate, unable to write (Gr.).”

H. C. Youtie, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 75 (1971), pp. 161-176. Others suggest the meaning “unlearned in literature or rabbinic writings.” In any case, Peter would need the assistance of an amanuensis who could account for the linguistic qualities of the document.

On the other hand, certain items in the epistle strongly suggest Petrine origin. The emphasis on service and suffering (e.g., 2:18-25) is very reminiscent not only of details in the life of Christ but also of the presentation of these details in the gospel of Mark which was written under the influence of Peter. Cullmann has noted that the Petrine speeches in Acts also emphasize the servant motif.

Peter (ET 1953), pp. 67-69. The sayings and experiences of Christ alluded to in the epistle sound much like those of an eyewitness. All these items point to a definite Petrine derivation.


Tradition places the death of Peter in a.d. 64 during the Neronic persecutions (see Peter). The contents of the first epistle, reflecting impending persecutions, suggest a date shortly before the death of Peter. Peter appears to be in Rome (his arrival could hardly be before the middle fifties and some time must also be allowed for the extensive spread of Christianity suggested by the provinces in which the recipients of 1 Peter lived).


The recipients of 1 Peter lived in five provinces in the northern, central and western parts of Asia Minor (modern Turkey): Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. The NT contains no record of the evangelization of most of this territory. It is possible that Peter may have worked in part of this area during the time between his departure from Jerusalem and arrival in Rome. The people are described as belonging to the Diaspora (διασπορά, G1402). This term in the LXX (cf. John 7:35) describes the dispersion of Jews among the Gentiles. Hence, some have suggested that this term in 1 Peter identifies the recipients as Jewish Christians (e.g., Origen, Greek Fathers, Calvin, Bengel, Weiss). However, such references as “the futile ways inherited from your fathers” (1:18), “once you were no people” (2:10), “among the Gentiles” (2:12) and the catalog of Gentile vices (4:3, 4) can hardly be identified exclusively with Jewish Christians. On the other hand, exclusive identification as Gentiles ignores some of the distinctive Jewish elements (e.g., the use of the OT, the Levitical concept of the Church). Hence, Selwyn’s suggestion that the recipients were “mixed” communities consisting both of Jewish and Gentile Christians

The First Epistle of Peter (1952), p. 44. does justice to the various elements in the epistle. The term Diaspora is used fig. to designate Christians who are scattered in the world far from their heavenly home.

TWNT II, pp. 102-104 (TDNT II, pp. 101-104). This characteristic is also suggested in the designations of the recipients by such terms παρεπίδημοι (“exiles”) (1:1) and πάροικοι (“aliens”) (2:11).

The recipients of this epistle have been suffering various trials and afflictions (1:6) and the possibility of greater and more severe difficulties was very real (3:13-17; 4:12-19). The exact nature of these problems is not known, although there are similarities to those persecutions endured by the early Christians as described in Acts and in some of Paul’s epistles. Selwyn suggests that “the trials besetting the readers of 1 Peter were spasmodic and particular rather than organized on a universal scale, a matter of incidents rather than of policy, at once ubiquitous and incalculable.”

Op. cit., p. 55.

Imperial legislation and organized anti-Christian campaigns by the Romans apparently did not occur before Nero’s outburst in a.d. 64. The unorganized and diverse trials of the recipients of 1 Peter are indicated in 1:6 (“various trials”); 3:14 (“for righteousness’ sake”); 4:12 (“fiery ordeal”) and 4:14 (“reproached for the name of Christ”). In view of the vast territory and varied cultures and religions of the people living in these provinces, it can be concluded that the sufferings endured by the recipients of 1 Peter included a large range of experiences. Peter uses Christ’s suffering as a paradigm for the Christian in his experience (e.g., 2:21).



Grammatically, the epistle contains very good Gr. with a fairly varied vocabulary. Participles occur frequently and often are strung along through the sentence (usually much longer than suggested in the trs.). The author used the independent participle for the imperative a number of times. His striking use of the aorist tense in the imperative strikes a note of immediacy and urgency. His text of the OT appears to be the LXX text tradition. No doubt in some of these features the influence of Silvanus appears.



Outline and significant pericopes and passages in 1 Peter:

Theological significance.

The canonical and theological significance of this epistle relates basically to the theme suggested above—“living hope in the midst of suffering.” The resistance to Christianity as an emerging religious movement gave rise to troubling questions in these churches. What should be the attitude of the Christian to civil authorities who are becoming more and more suspicious about the new movement? Peter answers this question directly in 2:13-17. This passage, along with Romans 13:1-6, has become a locus classicus for Christian citizenship. The key concept is “live as free men...but live as servants of God” (2:16). This relates directly to Peter’s famous dictum before the Sanhedrin, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Another significant theological motif in this epistle is the emphasis on the sovereignty of God. The redemptive work of Jesus was foreordained before the foundation of the world (1:2). The people of God are chosen and destined by God (1:2; 2:9). These past demonstrations of God’s sovereignty are the basis for the living hope which looks with confidence to the future and its glory which the Christian will share (5:1, 10). The Christian sees the resolution of the paradox of rejoicing in suffering in such a hope so firmly anchored in the faithfulness of God. This idea, not inconsonant with the teaching of Paul, receives a significant development and application in 1 Peter.

The distinctive hortatory character of 1 Peter

Tenney has listed 34 different commands in the short epistle (New Testament Survey, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans [1961], pp. 351f.). and its relevant address to the basic problems of Christian living in a sinful and hostile world make this a significant document in the lit. of the Early Church. It has a rightful place in the canon. Its theological contributions, often overshadowed by the Pauline writings, are significant and should not be ignored by the Church.


R. Johnstone, The First Epistle of Peter (1888); W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire (1893), 279-295; J. H. A. Hart, “The First Epistle General of Peter” in Expositor’s Greek Testament, V (n.d.), 1-121; F. H. Chase, “The First Epistle of Peter” in HDB, III (1902), 779a-796a; C. Bigg, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude in ICC (1903); J. Moffatt, The General Epistles: James, Peter, and Jude in The Moffatt Commentary (1928); J. W. C. Wand, The General Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude in The Westminster Commentaries (1934); E. G. Selwyn, The First Epistle of Peter (1952); A. M. Stibbs, Commentary on First Epistle of Peter (1959); J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and Jude (1969).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


1. External Evidence

2. Internal Evidence




1. Babylon: Which?

2. Babylon Not Rome


1. Persecution

2. Example of Christ

3. Relation to State


1. Freedom in Structure

2. Hope

3. Inheritance

4. Testimony of Prophets

(1) Salvation

(2) Spirit of Christ

(3) Prophetic Study

5. The Christian Brotherhood

6. Spirits in Prison



Simon Peter was a native of Galilee. He was brought to the Saviour early in His ministry by his brother Andrew (Joh 1:40,41). His call to the office of apostle is recorded in Mt 10:1-4; Mr 3:13-16.

Two Epistles are ascribed to Peter. Of the Second doubt and uncertainty have existed from the early ages to the present. The genuineness and authenticity of the First are above suspicion.

I. Canonicity of 1 Peter.

1. External Evidence:

The proof of its integrity and trustworthiness is ample and altogether satisfactory. It falls into parts: external and internal. The historical attestation to its authority as an apostolic document is abundant. Polycarp, disciple of the apostle John, martyed in 156 AD at 86 or more years of age, refers to the Epistle in unmistakable terms. Irenaeus, a man who may well be said to represent both the East and the West, who was a disciple of Polycarp, quotes it copiously, we are assured. Clement of Alexandria, born circa 150 AD, died circa 216 AD, cites it many times in his Stromata, one passage (1Pe 4:8) being quoted five times by actual count. "The testimony of the early-church is summed up by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, xxiii, 3). He places it among those writings about which no question was ever raised, no doubt ever entertained by any portion of the catholic church" (Professor Lumby in Bible Comm.).

2. Internal Evidence:

II. The Address.

Three of the four provinces Peter mentions, namely, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Asia, had representatives at the memorable Pentecost in Jerua (Ac 2:9; 1Pe 1:1). Many of these "sojourners of the Dispersion" may have believed the message of the apostle and accepted salvation through Jesus Christ, and returned home to tell the good news to their neighbors and friends. This would form a strong bond of union between them and Peter, and would open the way for him to address them in the familiar and tender manner of the Epistle.


Silvanus appears to have been the bearer of the letter to the Christians of Asia Minor: "By Silvanus, our faithful brother, as I account him, I have written unto you briefly" (1Pe 5:12). It is an assumption to assert from these words that Silvanus was employed in the composition of the letter. The statement denotes rather the bearer than the writer or secretary. Silvanus was Paul’s companion in the ministry to the Asiatic churches, and since we do not read of him as going with Paul to Jerusalem or to Rome, it is probable he returned from Corinth (Ac 18:5) to Asia Minor and labored there. He and Peter met, where no one knows, though not a few think in Rome; as likely a guess perhaps is in Palestine. At any rate, Silvanus gave Peter an account of the conditions in the provinces, the afflictions and persecutions of believers, and the deep need they had for sympathy and counsel. He would, accordingly, be of the greatest assistance to the apostle. This seems to account for the peculiarity of language which Peter uses: "By Silvanus, our faithful brother, I have written unto you," as if he had some share in furnishing the contents of the Epistle.

III. Place and Time of Composition.

1. Babylon: Which?:

According to 1Pe 5:13 the Epistle was written in Babylon. But what place is meant? Two cities having this name were known in apostolic times. One was in Egypt, probably on or near the present site of Cairo, and we are told that it was a "city of no small importance." Epiphanius calls it "great Babylon" (Zahn). The absence, however, of all tradition that would tend to identify this place with the Babylon of the Epistle seems to shut it out of the problem. Babylon on the Euphrates is regarded by many as the place here designated. Jews in considerable numbers still dwelt in Babylon, notwithstanding the massacre of thousands in the reign of Claudius and the flight of multitudes into other countries. There is much to be said in favor of this city as the place meant, and yet the absence of tradition in its support is a very serious difficulty. A third view regards it as symbolical of Rome. Roman Catholics thus interpret it, and not a few Protestants so understand it. Tradition which runs back into the first half of the 2nd century appears to favor it, though much uncertainty and obscurity still surround the earliest ages of our era, in spite of the unwearied researches of modern scholars. Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, who lived in the first half of the 2nd century, appears to have had no doubt that Peter was martyred in Rome, and that the Babylon of the Epistle designates the Imperial City. There are very serious objections to this interpretation. One is, that it is totally out of keeping with Peter’s manner of writing. Preeminently he is direct and matter-of-fact in his style. The metaphorical language he employs is mostly drawn from the Old Testament, or, if from himself, it is so common of use as to be well understood by all readers. It is altogether improbable that this man, plain of speech almost to bluntness, should interject in the midst of his personal explanations and final salutations such a mystical epithet with no hint of what he means by it, or why he employs such a mode of speech.

2. Babylon Not Rome:

Besides, there is no evidence that Rome was called Babylon by the Christians until the Book of Revelation was published, i.e. circa 90-96 AD. But if 1 Peter is dependent on the Apocalypse for this name of Babylon as Rome, Peter could not have been its author, for he died years before that date. The Epistle was written about 64 AD, at the time when persecutions under the infamous Nero were raging, at which time also the apostle himself bore his witness and went to his heavenly home, even as his Master had forewarned him (Joh 21:18,19). While not unmindful of the great difficulties that beset the view, nevertheless we are reclined to the opinion that the Babylon of 1Pe 5:13 is the ancient city on the Euphrates.

See Peter, (SIMON).

IV. Design.

The apostle had more than one object in view when he addressed the "elect" in Asia Minor. The Lord Jesus had charged him, "Feed my lambs" "Tend my sheep"--"Feed my sheep" (Joh 21:15-17). His two Epistles certify how faithfully he obeyed the charge. With loving and tender hand he feeds the lambs and tends the whole flock, warns against foes, guards from danger, and leads them into green pastures and beside still waters. He reminds them of the glorious inheritance they are to possess (1Pe 1:3-9); he exhorts them to walk in the footsteps of the uncomplaining Christ (1Pe 2:20-25); to be compassionate, loving, tender-hearted, humble-minded, and circumspect in their passage through this unfriendly world (1Pe 3:8-12). He sums up the main duties of Christian life in the short but pregnant sentences, "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king" (1Pe 2:17). But his supreme object is to comfort and encourage them amid the persecutions and the sufferings to which they were unjustly subjected, and to fortify them against the heavier trials that were impending.

1. Persecution:

From the beginning the Christian church was the object of suspicion and of hatred, and many of its adherents had suffered even unto death at the hands of both hostile Jews and fanatical Gentiles. But these afflictions were generally local and sporadic. There were churches of large membership and wide influence which were unmolested (1Co 4:8-10), and which seem to have been able to get fair treatment in heathen courts (1Co 6:1-6). But the condition brought to view in 1 Peter is altogether different. Trials and afflictions of the severest sort assail them, and an enmity and hostility, bent on their destruction, pursue them with tireless energy. The whole Christian body shared in the persecutions (5:9). The trial was a surprise (4:12), both in its intensity, for Peter calls it "fiery," and for its unexpectedness. The apostle represents it as a savage beast of prey, a roaring lion, prowling about them to seize and devour (5:8,9).

A variety of charges were brought against the Christians, but they were calumnies and slanders, without any foundation in fact. They were spoken against as evil-doers (1Pe 2:12 kakopoion; malefici, Tacitus calls them). Their adversaries railed against them (1Pe 3:9); reviled them (1Pe 3:16); spake evil of them (1Pe 4:4); reproached them for the name of Christ (1Pe 4:14). These are ugly epithets. They show how bitter was the hatred and how intense the hostility felt by the heathen toward the Christians who dwelt among them. If there had been any justification for such antagonism in the character and the conduct of Christ’s people, if they were evil-doers, "haters of the human race," to be classed with thieves and murderers and meddlers in other men’s matters (1Pe 4:14-16), as they were accused of being and doing, we could understand the fierce opposition which assailed them and the savage purpose to suppress them altogether, but the only ground for the enmity felt against them was the refusal of the Christians to join their heathen neighbors in their idolatries, their feasts, winebibbings, revelings, carousings, lasciviousness and lusts in which once they freely shared (1Pe 4:2-4). The Asian saints had renounced all such wicked practices, had separated themselves from their old companions in riotous living and revolting debaucheries; they were witnesses against their immoralities, and hence, became the objects of intense dislike and persecuting animosity. Peter bears testimony to the high character, the purity of life and the self-sacrificing devotion of these believers. In all Asia Minor no better company of men and women could be found than these disciples of Jesus Christ; none more submissive to constituted authority, none more ready to help their fellow-men in their distress and trouble. The head and front of their offending was their separation from the ungodly world about them, and their solemn witness against the awful sins done daily before their eyes.

2. Example of Christ:

How mightily does the apostle minister to his suffering friends! He bids them remember the uncomplaining Christ when He was unjustly afflicted by cruel men (1Pe 2:19-25). He tells them how they may effectively put to silence their accusers, and refute the calumnies and the slanders that are so cruelly circulated against them, namely, by living such pure and godly lives, by being so meek, docile, patient, stedfast, true and faithful to God, that none can credit the false accusations (1Pe 2:1-5; 2:13-17; 3:8,9,13-17; 5:6-11).

3. Relation to State:

There is little or no evidence in the Epistle that the persecutions were inflicted by imperial authority or that the state was dealing with the Christians as enemies who were dangerous to the peace of society. In the provinces to which the letter was sent there seems to have been complete absence of formal trial and punishment through the courts. Peter does not speak of Iegal proceedings against the Christians by the magistrates. On the contrary, he urges them to be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well (1Pe 2:13). They are to honor all men, to honor the king (1Pe 2:17). This submission would scarcely be pressed if the state had already proscribed Christianity and decreed its total suppression. This the imperial government did later on, but there is no evidence furnished by the apostle that in 64 AD--the date of the Epistle--the government formally denounced Christians and determined to annihilate them.

Peter exhorts his fellow-believers to silence their persecutors by their upright conduct (1Pe 2:15); they are thus to put them to shame who falsely accuse them (1Pe 3:16); and they are not to combat evil with evil nor answer reviling with reviling, but contrariwise with blessing (1Pe 3:9). The antagonism here indicated obviously springs from the heathen populace; there is no hint of arraignment before magistrates or subjection to legal proceedings. It is unbelievers who revile and slander and denounce the people of God in the provinces.

Everything in the Epistle points to the time of Nero, 64 AD, and not to the time of Domitian or Trajan, or even Titus. In Rome vast multitudes of Christians were put to death in the most brutal fashion, so Tacitus relates, but the historian asserts that there was a sinister report to the effect that Nero himself instigated the burning of the city (July 19, 64), and "he (Nero) falsely diverted the charge on to a set of people to whom the vulgar gave the name of Christians (or Chrestians), and who were detested for the abominations which they perpetrated." See Nero. Certain facts are clear from Tacitus’ statements, namely, that at the time the Christians were well known as a distinct sect; and that they were subjected to the dreadful sufferings inflicted upon them because they were Christians; and the persecutions at the time were instigated by the fear and the brutality of the tyrant. Peter likewise recognizes the fact that believers were disliked and calumniated by their heathen neighbors for the same reason--they were Christians: "If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye" (1Pe 4:14); "But if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name" (1Pe 4:16). But the imperial government at the time does not appear to have taken formal action for the overthrow of Christianity as a system inimical to the empire. Of course, where direct charges of a criminal nature were made against Christians, judicial inquiry into them would be instituted. But in the Epistle what believers had to endure and suffer were the detraction, the vituperation, the opprobrium and the vile and malignant slanders with which the heathen assailed them.

V. Characteristic Features of the Epistle.

It has certain very distinct marks, some of which may be noticed.

1. Freedom in Structure:

It does not observe a close logical sequence in its structure, as those of Paul so prominently display. There is truth in Dean Alford’s statement, although perhaps he pushes it rather far: "The link between one idea and another is found, not in any progress of unfolding thought or argument, but in the last word of the foregoing sentence which is taken up and followed out in the new one" (see 1Pe 1:5,6,7,9,10, etc.). This peculiarity, however, does not interfere with the unity of the epistle, it rather adds to it, and it gives to it a vividness which it otherwise might not possess.

2. Hope:

It is the epistle of hope. How much it makes of this prime grace! Peter seems never to grow weary of describing it and exalting its radiant beauty and desirableness. He calls it a living hope (1Pe 1:3). It is born by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and it calmly awaits the glorious inheritance that soon will be enjoyed. It is a hope that will be perfected at the advent of Christ (1Pe 1:13), and it is set on God, hence, cannot fail (1Pe 1:21). With sickly, dying hope we are quite familiar. The device which a certain state (South Carolina) has inscribed on its Great Seal is, dum spiro spero ("while I live I hope"). Such a hope may serve for a commonwealth whose existence is limited to this world, but a man needs something more enduring, something imperishable. "It is a fearful thing when a man and his hopes die together" (Leighton). A Christian can confidently write, "when I am dying I hope," for his is a living hope that fills and thrills the future with a blessed reality.

3. Inheritance:

The Christian’s glorious inheritance (1Pe 1:3-5) is depicted in one of the most comprehensive and suggestive descriptions of the believer’s heritage found in the Bible. It is declared to be "incorruptible." The word points to its substance. It is imperishable. In it there is no element of decay. It holds in its heart no germ of death. Like its author, the living God, it is unchangeable and eternal. It is "undefiled." It is not stained by sin nor polluted by crime, either in its acquisition or its possession. Human heritages generally are marred by human wrongs. There is hardly an acre of soil that is not tainted by fraud or violence. The coin that passes from hand to hand is in many instances soiled by guilt. But this of Peter is absolutely pure and holy. It "fadeth not away." It never withers. Ages do not impair its beauty or dim its luster. Its bloom will remain fresh, its fragrance undiminished, forever. Thus our inheritance "is glorious in these respects: it is in its substance, incorruptible: in its purity, undefiled: in beauty, unfading" (Alford).

Now why does the apostle in the very opening of his Epistle give so lofty a place to the saints’ inheritance? He does so in order to comfort and encourage his fellow-believers with the consolations of the Lord Himself, that they may bear stedfastly their manifold sufferings and triumph over their weighty afflictions. Hence, he writes: "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith .... may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1Pe 1:6-9). He lifts their thoughts and their gaze up far above the troubles and distresses around them to Him whose they are, whom they serve, who will by and by crown them with immortal bliss.

4. Testimony of Prophets:

The prophets and their study are described in 1Pe 1:10,11: "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you," etc. With Peter and his fellow-apostles the testimony of the prophets was authoritative and final. Where they had a clear word from the Old Testament Scriptures, they felt that every question was settled and controversy was at an end.

(1) Salvation.

The burden of the prophetic communications was salvation. The prophets spoke on many subjects; they had to exhort, rebuke and entreat their wayward contemporaries; to denounce sin, to announce judgment on the guilty and to recall them to repentance and reformation. But ever and anon their vision was filled with the future and its blessedness, their voices would swell with rapture as they saw and foretold the great salvation to be brought to the world and the grace that would then so copiously go out unto men; for the Messiah was to appear and to suffer, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.

(2) Spirit of Christ.

The prophet’s messages were the messages of the Spirit of Christ. It was He who testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow. The prophets always disclaim any part in the origination of their messages. They affirm in the most positive and solemn manner that their predictions are not their own, but God’s. Hence, they are called the Lord’s "spokesmen," the Lord’s "mouth" (Ex 4:15,16; 7:1,2; 2Pe 1:21).

(3) Prophetic Study.

They "sought and searched diligently." These terms are strong and emphatic. They pored over the predictions which the Spirit had revealed through themselves; they scrutinized them with eager and prolonged inquiry. Two points engaged their attention: "What time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto." The first "what" relates to the time of the Messiah’s advent; the second "what" to the events and circumstances which would attend His appearing--a fruitful theme, one that engages the inquiry of nobler students--"which things angels desire to look into."

5. The Christian Brotherhood:

The Christian brotherhood is described in 1Pe 2:9,10: "But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." The brotherhood is the new Israel. The apostle describes it in terms which were applied to the old Israel, but which include more than the ancient Israel ever realized. The exalted conception is by one who was a strict Jew, the apostle of the circumcision, and who held somewhat closely to the Mosaic institutions to the end of his life. All the more significant on this account is his testimony. The descriptive titles which he here gathers together and places on the brow of the Christian brotherhood are of the most illustrious sort. A distinguished man, a noble, a general, a statesman, will sometimes appear in public with his breast covered with resplendent decorations which mark his rank or his achievements. But such distinctions sink into insignificance alongside of this dazzling cluster. This is the heavenly nobility, the royal family of the Lord of glory, decorated with badges brighter far than ever glittered on the breast of king or emperor. But even in this instance Peter reminds Christians of the glorious destiny awaiting them that they may be strengthened and stimulated to stedfastness and loyalty in the midst of the trials and afflictions to which they are subjected (1Pe 2:11,12)

6. Spirits in Prison:

A study of 1Pe 3:18-20--"preached unto the spirits in prison"--should here follow in the present cursory review of the characteristic features of the Epistle, but anything like an adequate examination of this difficult passage would require more space than could be given it. Suffice it to quote a sentence from Professor Zahn (New Testament, II, 289) with which the writer agrees: "That interpretation of 1Pe 3:19 is in all probability correct, according to which a preaching of Christ at the time of the Flood is referred to, i.e. a preaching through Noah, so that Noah is here represented as a preacher of righteousness, as in 2Pe 2:5."

See Spirits In Prison.

VI. Analysis.

A very general analysis of the Epistle is the following:

(1) Christian privileges, 1Pe 1-2:10.

(2) Christian duties, 1Pe 2:11-4:11.

(3) Persecutions and trials, 1Pe 4:12-5:11.

(4) Personal matters and salutations, 1Pe 5:12-14.

The chief doctrines of Christianity are found in 1 Peter. The vicarious suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ (2:24; 3:18); the new birth (1:3,13); redemption by the blood of Christ (1:18,19), faith, hope, patient endurance under unjust suffering, and holiness of life, are all pressed upon Christians with great earnestness and force.


Bible Dicts., DB, HDB, Davis, DB, EB, Sch-Herz, volume VIII; Intros: Westcott, Salmon, Zahn; Vincent, Word Studies; Commentaries: Bible Commentary, Cambridge Bible for Schools; Lillie, Jameson, Fausett and Brown, Alford, Bigg, Mayor (on 2 Peter), Johnstone (homiletical), New York, 1888; Hort, 1Pe 1:1-2:17, New York, 1898.

William G. Moorehead