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Alternate Lecture on: NT 600 New Testament Survey - The First Letter of Peter

Alternate Lecture on: NT 600 New Testament Survey

The First Letter of Peter

by Timothy Kenney, PhD

Most modern scholars do not think that St. Peter actually wrote the two letters called by his name. They consider the first letter as coming from the end of the first century and the second letter from the first half of the second century. The Tradition of the Church, however, maintains the testimony of the letters themselves, ascribing them to the foremost leader of Christ's apostles writing from "Babylon," which was the early Church's name for Rome, on the eve of his martyrdom there in the latter half of the first century (1 Pet 5:13, 2 Pet 1:14).

The First Letter of St. Peter is a passionate plea to all of "God's People" to be strong in their sufferings in imitation of Christ and together with Him, maintaining "good conduct among the Gentiles," subjecting themselves without malice or vindictiveness to "every human institution for the Lord's sake" (2:11-13). One of the universal or catholic letters, this Epistle is addressed to five early Churches, and, in keeping with his role described in Acts, emphasizes the importance of Baptism. He gives advice to early Christians, husbands and wives, and advice to the persecuted. This letter provides a key reference (1 Peter 3:19) for Christ's descent into hell following his crucifixion (the Greek word 'phylake' means both 'prison' and 'Sheol').

Special instructions to godliness are addressed first to the whole Church which is a "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people" (2:9), and then in turn to the slaves (2:18), to the husbands and wives (3:1-7) and to the presbyters [elders] whom the author, as a "fellow presbyter and a witness of the sufferings of Christ," calls to "tend the flock of God ... not by constraint, but willingly, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not as domineering over those in [their] charge, but being examples to the flock" (5:1-4).

Throughout the letter, the analogy is constantly drawn between the sufferings of Christ and the sufferings of Christians which is for their salvation. The conclusion (5:12-14) is important, for he states he wrote this letter "by Silvanus," the knowledgeable one who accompanied St. Paul. This would explain both the letter's superb Greek as well as the similarity to St. Paul's style of writing.

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An outline is provided below:

1:1-1:2 -------------- Salutation
1:3-1:12 -------------- A Living Hope
1:13-1:25 ----------- A Call to Holy Living

2:1-2:10 ------------ The Living Stone and a Chosen People
2:11-2:17 ------------ Live as Servants of God
2:18-2:25 ------------ The Example of Christ's Suffering

3:1-3:7 -------------- Wives and Husbands
3:8-3:22 ------------- Suffering for Doing Right

4:1-4:11 ------------ Good Stewards of God's Grace
4:12-4:19 ----------- Suffering as a Christian

5:1-5:11 ------------ Tending the Flock of God
5:12-5:14 ---------- Final Greetings and Benediction

We now proceed to the Second Letter of St. Peter in our next article.

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Bibliography:

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