"Saint Peter" c 1616/1618 by Studio of Sir Peter Paul Rubens.
This will be my first post of many in the study of the Book of 1st Peter.
I will be taking my notes from various sources including Dr. Wayne Grudem's commentary on 1st Peter, the Holman Study Bible, various sources and comments from noted theologians found on the Internet and last, but not least, my Senior Pastor, Jamie Rasmussen (Scottsdale Bible Church) who today started a new series on the book of 1st Peter.
Please read on to see my notes introducing the Book of 1st Peter as well as some critical background information...
The Apostle Peter is widely held as the author (with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) of this text. The first verse starts out, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ". The Book of 1st Peter also falls into what are called the General Epistles because they are not addressed to specific churches or individuals. It might also better be called one of the "Non-Pauline" Epistles (not written by Paul).
Place of Writing
This is somewhat confusing as Peter in his farewell section of the letter speaks of "She who is at Babylon". Dr. Grudem points out that this imagery is referring to Rome as the Book of Revelation refers several times to Rome as Babylon. Besides, by this time the actual city of Babylon is but a deserted collection of ruins in the desert.
Date of Writing
Somewhere around AD 62-64.
Audience and Destination
The letter was addressed to believers living in the Asia Minor provinces of Rome. This would be the northern half of modern Turkey. These particular groups of Christians were most likely Gentiles interspersed with converted Jews.
Click the painting above for a larger version and notice the human torches on the right hand side of the painting. These torches were made from the bodies of Christians!
This period is, in all likelihood, the first official persecution of Christians by Rome. The madman Nero was the Emperor of Rome at this time. This was the time period of The Great Fire of Rome where Nero supposedly played his fiddle while Rome burned.
Roman historian Tacitus describes the scene this way:
"Neither human resources, nor imperial generosity, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated the sinister suspicion that the fire had been deliberately started. To stop the rumor, Nero, made scapegoats--and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius' reign by the Procurator of Judaea, Pontius Pilatus (who was actually a Praefectus, not a Procurator). But in spite of this temporary setback, the deadly superstition had broken out again, not just in Judaea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital. First, Nero had the self-admitted Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned--not so much for starting fires as because of their hatred for the human race. Their deaths were made amusing. Dressed in wild animals' skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be set on fire after dark as illumination.... Despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man's brutality rather than to the national interest."
Clearly, this was a horrific time for the early Christian church.
There are generally speaking five themes that permeate this text:
It serves us well to understand the historical backdrop to this text. The church was under unspeakable persecution. Lets keep this in mind as we journey together the God-breathed doctrines and life-applications from the Apostle Peter.