Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Book Notes
ITS GENUINENESS is attested by II Peter 3:1. On the authority of Second Peter, see the Introduction. Also by POLYCARP (in EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 4.14]), who, in writing to the Philippians, quotes many passages: in the second chapter he quotes I Peter 1:13, I Peter 1:21; I Peter 3:9; in the fifth chapter, I Peter 2:11. EUSEBIUS says of PAPIAS [Ecclesiastical History, 3.39] that he, too, quotes Peter's First Epistle. IRENÆUS [Against Heresies, 4.9.2] expressly mentions it; and in [4.16.5], I Peter 2:16. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [Miscellanies, 1.3, p. 544], quotes I Peter 2:11-12, I Peter 2:15-16; and [p. 562], I Peter 1:21-22; and [4, p. 584], I Peter 3:14-17; and [p. 585], I Peter 4:12-14. ORIGEN (in EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 6.25]) mentions this Epistle; in [Homily 7, on Joshua, vol. 2, p. 63], he mentions both Epistles; and [Commentary on Psalm 3 and on John], he mentions I Peter 3:18-21. TERTULLIAN [Antidote to the Scorpion's Sting, 12], quotes expressly I Peter 2:20-21; and [Antidote to the Scorpion's Sting, 14], I Peter 2:13, I Peter 2:17. EUSEBIUS states it as the opinion of those before him that this was among the universally acknowledged Epistles. The Peschito Syriac Version contains it. The fragment of the canon called MURATORI'S omits it. Excepting this, and the Paulician heretics, who rejected it, all ancient testimony is on its side. The internal evidence is equally strong. The author calls himself the apostle Peter, I Peter 1:1, and "a witness of Christ's sufferings," and an "elder," I Peter 5:1. The energy of the style harmonizes with the warmth of Peter's character; and, as ERASMUS says, this Epistle is full of apostolic dignity and authority and is worthy of the leader among the apostles.
PETER'S PERSONAL HISTORY.—Simon, Or Simeon, was a native of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, son of Jonas or John. With his father and his brother Andrew he carried on trade as a fisherman at Capernaum, his subsequent place of abode. He was a married man, and tradition represents his wife's name as Concordia or Perpetua. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA says that she suffered martyrdom, her husband encouraging her to be faithful unto death, "Remember, dear, our Lord." His wife's mother was restored from a fever by Christ. He was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew, who had been a disciple of John the Baptist, but was pointed to the Saviour as "the Lamb of God" by his master (John 1:29). Jesus, on first beholding him, gave him the name by which chiefly he is known, indicative of his subsequent character and work in the Church, "Peter" (Greek) or "Cephas" (Aramaic), a stone (Matthew 4:18). He did not join our Lord finally until a subsequent period. The leading incidents in his apostolic life are well known: his walking on the troubled waters to meet Jesus, but sinking through doubting (Matthew 14:30); his bold and clear acknowledgment of the divine person and office of Jesus (Matthew 16:16; Mark 8:29; John 11:27), notwithstanding the difficulties in the way of such belief, whence he was then also designated as the stone, or rock (Matthew 16:18); but his rebuke of his Lord when announcing what was so unpalatable to carnal prejudices, Christ's coming passion and death (Matthew 16:22); his passing from one extreme to the opposite, in reference to Christ's offer to wash his feet (John 13:8-9); his self-confident assertion that he would never forsake his Lord, whatever others might do (Matthew 26:33), followed by his base denial of Christ thrice with curses (Matthew 26:75); his deep penitence; Christ's full forgiveness and prophecy of his faithfulness unto death, after he had received from him a profession of "love" as often repeated as his previous denial (John 21:15-17). These incidents illustrate his character as zealous, pious, and ardently attached to the Lord, but at the same time impulsive in feeling, rather than calmly and continuously steadfast. Prompt in action and ready to avow his convictions boldly, he was hasty in judgment, precipitate, and too self-confident in the assertion of his own steadfastness; the result was that, though he abounded in animal courage, his moral courage was too easily overcome by fear of man's opinion. A wonderful change was wrought in him by his restoration after his fall, through the grace of his risen Lord. His zeal and ardor became sanctified, being chastened by a spirit of unaffected humility. His love to the Lord was, if possible, increased, while his mode of manifesting it now was in doing and suffering for His name, rather than in loud protestations. Thus, when imprisoned and tried before the Sanhedrim for preaching Christ, he boldly avowed his determination to continue to do so. He is well called "the mouth of the apostles." His faithfulness led to his apprehension by Herod Agrippa, with a view to his execution, from which, however, he was delivered by the angel of the Lord.
After the ascension he took the lead in the Church; and on the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he exercised the designed power of "the keys" of Christ's kingdom, by opening the door of the Church, in preaching, for the admission of thousands of Israelites; and still more so in opening (in obedience to a special revelation) an entrance to the "devout" (that is, Jewish proselyte from heathendom) Gentile, Cornelius: the forerunner of the harvest gathered in from idolatrous Gentiles at Antioch. This explains in what sense Christ used as to him the words, "Upon this rock I will build my Church" (Matthew 16:18), namely, on the preaching of Christ, the true "Rock," by connection with whom only he was given the designation: a title shared in common on the same grounds by the rest of the apostles, as the first founders of the Church on Christ, "the chief corner-stone" (Ephesians 2:20). A name is often given in Hebrew, not that the person is actually the thing itself, but has some special relation to it; as Elijah means Mighty Jehovah, so Simon is called Peter "the rock," not that he is so, save by connection with Jesus, the only true Rock (Isaiah 28:16; I Corinthians 3:11). As subsequently he identified himself with "Satan," and is therefore called so (Matthew 16:23), in the same way, by his clear confession of Christ, the Rock, he became identified with Him, and is accordingly so called (Matthew 16:18). It is certain that there is no instance on record of Peter's having ever claimed or exercised supremacy; on the contrary, he is represented as sent by the apostles at Jerusalem to confirm the Samaritans baptized by Philip the deacon; again at the council of Jerusalem, not he, but James the president, or leading bishop in the Church of that city, pronounced the authoritative decision: Acts 15:19, "My sentence is," etc. A kind of primacy, doubtless (though certainly not supremacy), was given him on the ground of his age, and prominent earnestness, and boldness in taking the lead on many important occasions. Hence he is called "first" in enumerating the apostles. Hence, too, arise the phrases, "Peter and the Eleven," "Peter and the rest of the apostles"; and Paul, in going up to Jerusalem after his conversion, went to see Peter in particular.
Once only he again betrayed the same spirit of vacillation through fear of man's reproach which had caused his denial of his Lord. Though at the Jerusalem council he advocated the exemption of Gentile converts from the ceremonial observances of the law, yet he, after having associated in closest intercourse with the Gentiles at Antioch, withdrew from them, through dread of the prejudices of his Jewish brethren who came from James, and timidly dissembled his conviction of the religious equality of Jew and Gentile; for this Paul openly withstood and rebuked him: a plain refutation of his alleged supremacy and infallibility (except where specially inspired, as in writing his Epistles). In all other cases he showed himself to be, indeed, as Paul calls him, "a pillar" (Galatians 2:9). Subsequently we find him in "Babylon," whence he wrote this First Epistle to the Israelite believers of the dispersion, and the Gentile Christians united in Christ, in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
JEROME [On Illustrious Men, 1] states that "Peter, after having been bishop of Antioch, and after having preached to the believers of the circumcision in Pontus, etc. [plainly inferred from I Peter 1:1], in the second year of Claudius went to Rome to refute Simon Magus, and for twenty-five years there held the episcopal chair, down to the last year of Nero, that is, the fourteenth, by whom he was crucified with his head downwards, declaring himself unworthy to be crucified as his Lord, and was buried in the Vatican, near the triumphal way." EUSEBIUS [Chronicles, Anno 3], also asserts his episcopate at Antioch; his assertion that Peter founded that Church contradicts Acts 11:19-22. His journey to Rome to oppose Simon Magus arose from JUSTIN'S story of the statue found at Rome (really the statue of the Sabine god, Semo Sanctus, or Hercules, mistaken as if Simon Magus were worshipped by that name, "Simoni Deo Sancto"; found in the Tiber in 1574, or on an island in the Tiber in 1662), combined with the account in Acts 8:9-24. The twenty-five years' bishopric is chronologically impossible, as it would make Peter, at the interview with Paul at Antioch, to have been then for some years bishop of Rome! His crucifixion is certain from Christ's prophecy, John 21:18-19. DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH (in EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 2.25]) asserted in an epistle to the Romans, that Paul and Peter planted both the Roman and Corinthian churches, and endured martyrdom in Italy at the same time. So TERTULLIAN [Against Marcion, 4.5, and The Prescription Against Heretics, 36, 38]. Also Caius, the presbyter of Rome, in EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 2.25] asserts that some memorials of their martyrdom were to be seen at Rome on the road to Ostia. So EUSEBIUS [Ecclesiastical History, 2.25, and Demonstration of the Gospel, 3.116]. So LACTANTIUS [Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died, 2]. Many of the details are palpably false; whether the whole be so or not is dubious, considering the tendency to concentrate at Rome events of interest [ALFORD]. What is certain is, that Peter was not there before the writing of the Epistle to the Romans (A.D. 58), otherwise he would have been mentioned in it; nor during Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, otherwise he would have been mentioned in some one of Paul's many other Epistles written from Rome; nor during Paul's second imprisonment, at least when he was writing the Second Epistle to Timothy, just before his martyrdom. He may have gone to Rome after Paul's death, and, as common tradition represents, been imprisoned in the Mamertine dungeon, and crucified on the Janiculum, on the eminence of St. Pietro in Montorio, and his remains deposited under the great altar in the center of the famous basilica of St. Peter. AMBROSE [Epistles, 33 (Edition Paris, 1586), p. 1022] relates that St. Peter, not long before his death, being overcome by the solicitations of his fellow Christians to save himself, was fleeing from Rome when he was met by our Lord, and on asking, "Lord, whither goest Thou?" received the answer, "I go to be crucified afresh." On this he returned and joyfully went to martyrdom. The church called "Domine quo vadis" on the Appian Way, commemorates the legend. It is not unlikely that the whole tradition is built on the connection which existed between Paul and Peter. As Paul, "the apostle of the uncircumcision," wrote Epistles to Galatia, Ephesus, and Colosse, and to Philemon at Colosse, making the Gentile Christians the persons prominently addressed, and the Jewish Christians subordinately so; so, vice versa, Peter, "the apostle of the circumcision," addressed the same churches, the Jewish Christians in them primarily, and the Gentile Christians also, secondarily.
TO WHOM HE ADDRESSES THIS EPISTLE.—The heading, I Peter 1:1, "to the elect strangers (spiritually pilgrims) of the dispersion" (Greek), clearly marks the Christians of the Jewish dispersion as prominently addressed, but still including also Gentile Christians as grafted into the Christian Jewish stock by adoption and faith, and so being part of the true Israel. I Peter 1:14; I Peter 2:9-10; I Peter 3:6; I Peter 4:3 clearly prove this. Thus he, the apostle of the circumcision, sought to unite in one Christ Jew and Gentile, promoting thereby the same work and doctrine as Paul the apostle of the uncircumcision. The provinces are named by Peter in the heading in the order proceeding from northeast to south and west. Pontus was the country of the Christian Jew Aquila. To Galatia Paul paid two visits, founding and confirming churches. Crescens, his companion, went there about the time of Paul's last imprisonment, just before his martyrdom. Ancyra was subsequently its ecclesiastical metropolis. Men of Cappadocia, as well as of "Pontus" and "Asia," were among the hearers of Peter's effective sermon on the Pentecost whereon the Spirit decended on the Church; these probably brought home to their native land the first tidings of the Gospel. Proconsular "Asia" included Mysia, Lydia, Caria, Phrygia, Pisidia, and Lyaconia. In Lycaonia were the churches of Iconium, founded by Paul and Barnabas; of Lystra, Timothy's birthplace, where Paul was stoned at the instigation of the Jews; and of Derbe, the birthplace of Gaius, or Caius. In Pisidia was Antioch, where Paul was the instrument of converting many, but was driven out by the Jews. In Caria was Miletus, containing doubtless a Christian Church. In Phrygia, Paul preached both times when visiting Galatia in its neighborhood, and in it were the churches of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse, of which last Church Philemon and Onesimus were members, and Archippus and Epaphras leaders. In Lydia was the Philadelphian Church, favorably noticed in Revelation 3:7, etc.; that of Sardis, the capital, and of Thyatira, and of Ephesus, founded by Paul, and a scene of the labors of Aquila and Priscilla and Apollos, and subsequently of more than two whole years' labor of Paul again, and subsequently censured for falling from its first love in Revelation 2:4. Smyrna of Ionia was in the same quarter, and as one of the seven churches receives unqualified praise. In Mysia was Pergamos. Troas, too, is known as the scene of Paul's preaching and raising Eutychus to life (Acts 20:6-10), and of his subsequently staying for a time with Carpus (II Timothy 4:13). Of "Bithynia," no Church is expressly named in Scripture elsewhere. When Paul at an earlier period "assayed to go into Bithynia" (Acts 16:7), the Spirit suffered him not. But afterwards, we infer from I Peter 1:1, the Spirit did impart the Gospel to that country, possibly by Peter's ministry, In government, these several churches, it appears from this Epistle (I Peter 5:1-2, "Feed," etc.), were much in the same states as when Paul addressed the Ephesian "elders" at Miletus (Acts 20:17, Acts 20:28, "feed") in very similar language; elders or presbyter-bishops ruled, while the apostles exercised the general superintendence. They were exposed to persecutions, though apparently not systematic, but rather annoyances and reproach arising from their not joining their heathen neighbors in riotous living, into which, however, some of them were in danger of falling. The evils which existed among themselves, and which are therefore reproved, were ambition and lucre-seeking on the part of the presbyters (I Peter 5:2-3), evil thoughts and words among the members in general, and a want of sympathy and generosity towards one another.
HIS OBJECT seems to be, by the prospect of their heavenly portion and by Christ's example, to afford consolation to the persecuted, and prepare them for a greater approaching ordeal, and to exhort all, husbands, wives, servants, presbyters, and people, to a due discharge of relative duties, so as to give no handle to the enemy to reproach Christianity, but rather to win them to it, and so to establish them in "the true grace of God wherein they stand" (I Peter 5:12). However, see on I Peter 5:12, on the oldest reading. ALFORD rightly argues that "exhorting and testifying" there, refer to Peter's exhortations throughout the Epistle grounded on testimony which he bears to the Gospel truth, already well known to his readers by the teaching of Paul in those churches. They were already introduced "into" (so the Greek, I Peter 5:12) this grace of God as their safe standing-ground. Compare I Corinthians 15:1, "I declare unto you the Gospel wherein ye stand." Therefore he does not, in this Epistle, set forth a complete statement of this Gospel doctrine of grace, but falls back on it as already known. Compare I Peter 1:8, I Peter 1:18, "ye know"; I Peter 3:15; II Peter 3:1. Not that Peter servilely copies the style and mode of teaching of Paul, but as an independent witness in his own style attests the same truths. We may divide the Epistle into: (I) The inscription (I Peter 1:1-2). (II) The stirring-up of a pure feeling in believers as born again of God. By the motive of hope to which God has regenerated us (I Peter 1:3-12); bringing forth the fruit of faith, considering the costly price paid for our redemption from sin (I Peter 1:14-21). Being purified by the Spirit unto love of the brethren as begotten of God's eternal word, as spiritual priest-kings, to whom alone Christ is precious (I Peter 1:22; I Peter 2:10); after Christ's example in suffering, maintaining a good conversation in every relation (I Peter 2:10; I Peter 3:14), and a good profession of faith as having in view Christ's once-offered sacrifice, and His future coming to judgment (I Peter 3:15; I Peter 4:11); and exhibiting patience in adversity, as looking for future glorification with Christ, (1) in general as Christians, I Peter 4:12-19; (2) each in his own sphere, I Peter 5:1-11. "The title "Beloved" marks the separation of the second part from the first, I Peter 2:11; and of the third part from the second, I Peter 4:12" [BENGEL]. (III). The conclusion.
TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING.—It was plainly before the open and systematic persecution of the later years of Nero had begun. That this Epistle was written after Paul's Epistles, even those written during his imprisonment at Rome, ending in AD 63, appears from the acquaintance which Peter in this Epistle shows he has with them. Compare I Peter 2:13 with I Timothy 2:2-4; I Peter 2:18 with Ephesians 6:5; I Peter 1:2 with Ephesians 1:4-7; I Peter 1:3 with Ephesians 1:3; I Peter 1:14 with Romans 12:2; I Peter 2:6-10 with Romans 9:32-33; I Peter 2:13 with Romans 13:1-4; I Peter 2:16 with Galatians 5:13; I Peter 2:18 with Ephesians 6:5; I Peter 3:1 with Ephesians 5:22; I Peter 3:9 with Romans 12:17; I Peter 4:9 with Philippians 2:14; Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2; I Peter 4:10 with Romans 12:6-8; I Peter 5:1 with Romans 8:18; I Peter 5:5 with Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3, Philippians 2:5-8; I Peter 5:8 with I Thessalonians 5:6; I Peter 5:14 with I Corinthians 16:20. Moreover, in I Peter 5:13, Mark is mentioned as with Peter in Babylon. This must have been after Colossians 4:10 (A.D. 61-63), when Mark was with Paul at Rome, but intending to go to Asia Minor. Again, in II Timothy 4:11 (A.D. 67 or 68), Mark was in or near Ephesus, in Asia Minor, and Timothy is told to bring him to Rome. So that it is likely it was after this, namely, after Paul's martyrdom, that Mark joined Peter, and consequently that this Epistle was written. It is not likely that Peter would have entrenched on Paul's field of labor, the churches of Asia Minor, during Paul's lifetime. The death of the apostle of the uncircumcision, and the consequent need of someone to follow up his teachings, probably gave occasion to the testimony given by Peter to the same churches, collectively addressed, in behalf of the same truth. The relation in which the Pauline Gentile churches stood towards the apostles at Jerusalem favors this view. Even the Gentile Christians would naturally look to the spiritual fathers of the Church at Jerusalem, the center whence the Gospel had emanated to them, for counsel wherewith to meet the pretensions of Judaizing Christians and heretics; and Peter, always prominent among the apostles in Jerusalem, would even when elsewhere feel a deep interest in them, especially when they were by death bereft of Paul's guidance. BIRKS [Horæ Evangelicæ] suggests that false teachers may have appealed from Paul's doctrine to that of James and Peter. Peter then would naturally write to confirm the doctrines of grace and tacitly show there was no difference between his teaching and Paul's. BIRKS prefers dating the Epistle AD 58, after Paul's second visit to Galatia, when Silvanus was with him, and so could not have been with Peter (A.D. 54), and before his imprisonment at Rome, when Mark was with him, and so could not have been with Peter (A.D. 62); perhaps when Paul was detained at Cæsarea, and so debarred from personal intercourse with those churches. I prefer the view previously stated. This sets aside the tradition that Paul and Peter suffered martyrdom together at Rome. ORIGEN'S and EUSEBIUS' statement that Peter visited the churches of Asia in person seems very probable.
The PLACE OF WRITING was doubtless Babylon on the Euphrates (I Peter 5:13). It is most improbable that in the midst of writing matter-of-fact communications and salutations in a remarkably plain Epistle, the symbolical language of prophecy (namely, "Babylon" for Rome) should be used. JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 15.2.2; 3.1] states that there was a great multitude of Jews in the Chaldean Babylon; it is therefore likely that "the apostle of the circumcision" (Galatians 2:7-8) would at some time or other visit them. Some have maintained that the Babylon meant was in Egypt because Mark preached in and around Alexandria after Peter's death, and therefore it is likely he did so along with that apostle in the same region previously. But no mention elsewhere in Scripture is made of this Egyptian Babylon, but only of the Chaldean one. And though towards the close of Caligula's reign a persecution drove the Jews thence to Seleucia, and a plague five years after still further thinned their numbers, yet this does not preclude their return and multiplication during the twenty years that elapsed between the plague and the writing of the Epistle. Moreover, the order in which the countries are enumerated, from northeast to south and west, is such as would be adopted by one writing from the Oriental Babylon on the Euphrates, not from Egypt or Rome. Indeed, COSMAS INDICOPLEUSTES, in the sixth century, understood the Babylon meant to be outside the Roman empire. Silvanus, Paul's companion, became subsequently Peter's, and was the carrier of this Epistle.
STYLE.—Fervor and practical truth, rather than logical reasoning, are the characteristics, of this Epistle, as they were of its energetic, warm-hearted writer. His familiarity with Paul's Epistles shown in the language accords with what we should expect from the fact of Paul's having "communicated the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles" (as revealed specially to him) to Peter among others "of reputation" (Galatians 2:2). Individualities occur, such as baptism, "the answer of a good conscience toward God" (I Peter 3:21); "consciousness of God" (Greek), I Peter 2:19, as a motive for enduring sufferings; "living hope" (I Peter 1:3); "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (I Peter 1:4); "kiss of charity" (I Peter 5:14). Christ is viewed less in relation to His past sufferings than as at present exalted and hereafter to be manifested in all His majesty. Glory and hope are prominent features in this Epistle (I Peter 1:8), so much so that WEISS entitles him "the apostle of hope." The realization of future bliss as near causes him to regard believers as but "strangers" and "sojourners" here. Chastened fervor, deep humility, and ardent love appear, just as we should expect from one who had been so graciously restored after his grievous fall. "Being converted," he truly does "strengthen his brethren." His fervor shows itself in often repeating the same thought in similar words.
In some passages he shows familiarity with the Epistle of James, the apostle of special weight with the Jewish legalizing party, whose inspiration he thus confirms (compare I Peter 1:6-7 with James 1:2-3; I Peter 1:24 with James 1:10; I Peter 2:1 with James 1:21; I Peter 4:8 with James 5:20, both quoting Proverbs 10:12; Proverbs 5:5 with James 4:6, both quoting Proverbs 3:34). In most of these cases Old Testament quotations are the common ground of both. "Strong susceptibility to outward impressions, liveliness of feeling, dexterity in handling subjects, dispose natures like that of Peter to repeat afresh the thoughts of others" [STEIGER].
The diction of this Epistle and of his speeches in Acts is very similar: an undesigned coincidence, and so a mark of genuineness (compare I Peter 2:7 with Acts 4:11; I Peter 1:12 with Acts 5:32; I Peter 2:24 with Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; I Peter 5:1 with Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; I Peter 1:10 with Acts 3:18; Acts 10:43; I Peter 1:21 with Acts 3:15; Acts 10:40; I Peter 4:5 with Acts 10:42; I Peter 2:24 with Acts 3:19, Acts 3:26).
There is, too, a recurrence to the language of the Lord at the last interview after His resurrection, recorded in John 21:15-23. Compare "the Shepherd . . . of . . . souls," I Peter 2:25; "Feed the flock of God," "the chief Shepherd," I Peter 5:2, I Peter 5:4, with John 21:15-17; "Feed My lambs . . . sheep"; also "Whom . . . ye love," I Peter 1:8; I Peter 2:7, with John 21:15-17; "lovest thou Me?" and II Peter 1:14, with John 21:18-19. WIESINGER well says, "He who in loving impatience cast himself into the sea to meet the Lord, is also the man who most earnestly testifies to the hope of His return; he who dated his own faith from the sufferings of his Master, is never weary in holding up the suffering form of the Lord before his readers to comfort and stimulate them; he before whom the death of a martyr is in assured expectation, is the man who, in the greatest variety of aspects, sets forth the duty, as well as the consolation, of suffering for Christ; as a rock of the Church he grounds his readers against the storm of present tribulation on the true Rock of ages."