|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:1-9 This epistle is addressed to believers in general, who are strangers in every city or country where they live, and are scattered through the nations. These are to ascribe their salvation to the electing love of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the sanctification of the Holy Ghost; and so to give glory to one God in three Persons, into whose name they had been baptized. Hope, in the world's phrase, refers only to an uncertain good, for all worldly hopes are tottering, built upon sand, and the worldling's hopes of heaven are blind and groundless conjectures. But the hope of the sons of the living God is a living hope; not only as to its object, but as to its effect also. It enlivens and comforts in all distresses, enables to meet and get over all difficulties. Mercy is the spring of all this; yea, great mercy and manifold mercy. And this well-grounded hope of salvation, is an active and living principle of obedience in the soul of the believer. The matter of a Christian's joy, is the remembrance of the happiness laid up for him. It is incorruptible, it cannot come to nothing, it is an estate that cannot be spent. Also undefiled; this signifies its purity and perfection. And it fadeth not; is not sometimes more or less pleasant, but ever the same, still like itself. All possessions here are stained with defects and failings; still something is wanting: fair houses have sad cares flying about the gilded and ceiled roofs; soft beds and full tables, are often with sick bodies and uneasy stomachs. All possessions are stained with sin, either in getting or in using them. How ready we are to turn the things we possess into occasions and instruments of sin, and to think there is no liberty or delight in their use, without abusing them! Worldly possessions are uncertain and soon pass away, like the flowers and plants of the field. That must be of the greatest worth, which is laid up in the highest and best place, in heaven. Happy are those whose hearts the Holy Spirit sets on this inheritance. God not only gives his people grace, but preserves them unto glory. Every believer has always something wherein he may greatly rejoice; it should show itself in the countenance and conduct. The Lord does not willingly afflict, yet his wise love often appoints sharp trials, to show his people their hearts, and to do them good at the latter end. Gold does not increase by trial in the fire, it becomes less; but faith is made firm, and multiplied, by troubles and afflictions. Gold must perish at last, and can only purchase perishing things, while the trial of faith will be found to praise, and honour, and glory. Let this reconcile us to present afflictions. Seek then to believe Christ's excellence in himself, and his love to us; this will kindle such a fire in the heart as will make it rise up in a sacrifice of love to him. And the glory of God and our own happiness are so united, that if we sincerely seek the one now, we shall attain the other when the soul shall no more be subject to evil. The certainty of this hope is as if believers had already received it.
Verse 1. - Peter. It is the Greek form of the name, which the Lord Jesus himself had given to the great apostle; first, by anticipation, in the spirit of prophecy (John 1:42); and again when the prophecy was already in a measure fulfilled, and Simon was proving himself to be indeed a stone, built upon the Rock of Ages, which is Christ (Matthew 16:18). It was his Christian name; he must have prized that name as the gift of Christ, reminding him always, of his confession and of the Savior's promise, urging him to maintain throughout life that rock-like steadfastness which was indeed characteristic of him, but in which he had more than once very sadly failed. The use of the Greek form seems to indicate that the Epistle was originally written in Greek, and gives some slight support to the view that it was addressed to Gentile converts as well as to Hebrew Christians. An apostle of Jesus Christ. He does not add any assertion of the truth of his apostleship, as St. Paul often does; his apostolic dignity had not been questioned; the false brethren, who so often disputed the authority of St. Paul, had never assailed St. Peter. He does not join other names with his own in the address, though he mentions at the close of his Epistle Marcus - probably the John Mark who accompanied St. Paul in his first missionary journey - and Silvanus - probably the Silas of the Acts of the Apostles, and the Silvanus whom St. Paul associates with himself in addressing the Church of the Thessalonians. He describes himself as "an apostle of Jesus Christ." All Christians who knew the gospel history knew that St. Peter was one of the first-called apostles, one of the three who were nearest to the Lord, one who had received the apostolic commission in a marked and special manner direct from Christ. But he calls himself simply an apostle, not the prince of the apostles; he claims no superiority over the rest of the apostolic college. The impulsive forwardness which had once been the prominent defect in his noble character had passed away; he had learned that difficult lesson which the Lord had impressed upon the apostles when he set the little child among them as their example; he was now, in his own words, "clothed with humility." To the strangers scattered; literally, to the elect sojourners of the dispersion of Pontus, etc. "The dispersion" (διασπορά) was the recognized term (comp. James 1:1; John 7:35; 2 Macc. 1:27) for the Jews who were scattered over Gentile countries. The gospel of the circumcision was committed unto Peter (Galatians 2:7); Paul and Barnabas were to go unto the heathen; James, Cephas, and John unto the circumcision (Galatians 2:9). But St. Peter had been taught to call no man common or unclean; he did not forget that God had made choice that the Gentiles by his mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe (Acts 15:7); he can scarcely have intended to maintain in this Epistle that exclusiveness into which he once relapsed, and for which he was rebuked by St. Paul (Galatians 2:11-14). He certainly uses the word here rendered "strangers" (παρεπιδήμοις) metaphorically in 1 Peter 2:11 (comp. Hebrews 11:13);'and we cannot but think that, by "the sojourners of the dispersion," he means, not merely the Jewish Christians of Asia Minor, but all Christian people dispersed among the heathen. We shall see, as we proceed in the study of the Epistle, that the writer contemplates Gentile as well as Jewish readers. Those readers were sojourners for a brief time on earth (perhaps the preposition παρά marks the passing character of their sojourn). "Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come;" they were dispersed here and there among the unbelievers, but they were one body in Christ. Compare Bengel's brief comment, "Advents in terra, in coelo, electis." Throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Bengel says," He mentions the five provinces in the order in which the names naturally occurred to one writing from the East." This is not precisely accurate, for Cappadocia lies to the south-east of Galatia, and Bithynia to the north-east of Proconsular Asia; but yet the general arrangement of the names seems to furnish a slight argument 'in favor of the view that the Babylon from which St. Peter wrote was the famous city on the Euphrates. The Churches of Galatia and Asia (by "Asia" St. Peter means Proconsular Asia, that is Mysia, Lycia, and Carla; Phrygia also was commonly reckoned as belonging to it, but not always, see Acts 2:9, 10) were founded by St. Paul and his companions; those of Pontus possibly by Aquila, who, like the other Aquila who translated the Old Testament into Greek, was a Jew of Pontus (Acts 18:2). Of Cappadocia all that we know from the New Testament is that dwellers in Cappadocia, as well as in Pontus and Asia, were in Jerusalem at the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and heard the great sermon of St. Peter, by which three thousand souls were added to the Church. The Cappadocian Churches may have owed their origin to some of these men, or to some of St. Paul's converts from Galatia or Lycaonia. St. Paul himself had once "assayed to go into Bithy-nia, but the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts 16:7); that province may have received the word of God from Troas; the famous letter of Pliny, written about the year 110, shows how widely the faith of Christ had spread throughout the district. We notice that the missions of the Church in Asia Minor had now covered a field considerably larger than that reached at the date of the Acts of the Apostles. We notice also that many of the Churches addressed by St. Peter were founded by St. Paul or his converts. There was no rivalry between the two great apostles. There had been jealousies among the twelve (Matthew 18:1; Matthew 20:24, etc.); there had been differences between St. Peter and St. Paul (Galatians 2:11); but they were children no longer - they were full-grown Christians now.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,.... The writer of this epistle describes himself first by his name, Peter, the same with Cephas, which signifies a rock, or stone; a name given him by Christ at his first conversion, and which respected his after firmness, solidity, resolution, and constancy; for his former name was Simeon, or Simon, as sometimes called; see Matthew 4:18 and he further describes himself by his office, an apostle of Jesus Christ; being one of the twelve apostles, and the first of that number; who saw Christ in the flesh, was conversant with him, had his call and commission immediately from him, and was qualified by him to preach the Gospel; and was sent out first into Judea, and then into all the world to publish it, with a power of working miracles to confirm it; and this his character he makes mention of, in order to give the greater weight and authority to his epistle; and it is to be observed, that he does not style himself, as his pretended successor does, the head of the church, and Christ's vicar on earth; nor does he call himself the prince of the apostles, but only an apostle, as he was upon an equal foot with the rest. The persons he writes to are
the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia: these Jews here intended are called strangers; not in a metaphorical sense, either because they were, as the wicked are, estranged from the womb, and alienated from the life of God, as all unconverted men are, and as they were before conversion; for now they were no more strangers in this sense: or because of their unsettled state and condition in this life; having no continuing city, and seeking one to come, an heavenly country; and living as pilgrims and strangers, in which respect they are indeed so styled, 1 Peter 2:11 but in a civil sense, and not as the Gentiles were, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, for these were Jews; but on account of their not being in their own land, and in a foreign country, and therefore said to be "scattered", or "the strangers of the dispersion"; either on account of the persecution at the death of Stephen, when multitudes of the converted Jews were scattered abroad, not only throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, but as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch; see Acts 8:1 and so it may be afterwards throughout the places here mentioned; or else these were some remains of the ten tribes carried captive by Shalmaneser, and of the two tribes by Nebuchadnezzar; or rather the dispersion of the Greeks, mentioned in John 7:35 under the Macedonians, by Ptolemy Lagus: however, there were Jews of Pontus, who inhabited that place, and of such we read in Acts 2:9 who came to worship at the feast of Pentecost, some of which were converted to the Christian faith, and being mentioned first, has occasioned this epistle to be called, both by Tertullian (a), and Cyprian (b), "the epistle to the Pontians". Perhaps these Jews converted on the day of Pentecost, on their return hither, laid the first foundation of a Gospel church state in this country: it is a tradition of the ancients, mentioned by Eusebius (c), that Peter himself preached here, and so, very likely, formed the Christians he found, and those that were converted by him, into Gospel churches; and it appears by a letter of Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (d), that there were churches in Poutus in the "second" century, particularly at Amastris, the bishop of which was one Palma, whom he commends, and Focas is said to be bishop of Syncope, in the same age; and in the "third" century, Gregory and Athenodorus, disciples of Origen, were bishops in this country (e); the former was a very famous man, called Gregory Thaumaturgus, the wonder worker, and was bishop of Neocaesarea: in the "fourth" century there was a church in the same place, of which Longinus was bishop, as appears from the Nicene council, at which he and other bishops in Pontus were present; and in this age, in the times of Dioclesian, many in this country endured most shocking sufferings, related by Eusebius (f); and in the same century Helladius is said to govern the churches of Pontus; and in the "fifth" century we read of churches in Pontus, reformed by Chrysostom; in this age Theodorus was bishop of Heraclea, and Themistius of Amastris, both in this province, and both these bishops were in the Chalcedon council; and in the "sixth" century there were churches in Pontus, whose bishops were in the fifth synod held at Rome and Constantinople; and so there were in the "seventh" and "eighth" centuries (g).
Galatia, next mentioned, is that part of the lesser Asia, called Gallo Graecia, in which were several churches, to whom the Apostle Paul wrote his epistle, called the epistle to the Galatians; See Gill on Acts 16:6, Galatians 1:2.
Cappadocia, according to Ptolomy (h), was bounded on the west by Galatia, on the south by Cilicia, on the east by Armenia the great, on the north by part of the Euxine Pontus; it had many famous cities in it, as Solinus (i) says; as Archelais, Neocaesarea, Melita, and Mazaca. The Jews oftentimes talk (k) of going from Cappadocia to Lud, or Lydda; so that, according to them, it seems to be near to that place, or, at least, that there was a place near Lydda so called; of this see Gill on Acts 2:9. From this country also there were Jews at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, some of whom were converted; and here likewise the Apostle Peter is said to preach, as before observed of Pontus, and who probably founded a church or churches here in the "first" century; and in the "second" century, according to Tertullian (l), there were believers in Christ dwelling in this country; and in the "third" century, Eusebius (m) makes mention of Neon, bishop of Larandis, and Celsus, bishop of Iconium, both in Cappadocia; there was also Phedimus of Amasea, in the same country, in this age, and at Caesarea, in Cappadocia, several martyrs suffered under Decius; and in this century, Stephen, bishop of Rome, threatened to excommunicate some bishops in Cappadocia, because they had rebaptized some that had been heretics: in the "fourth" century there were churches in Cappadocia, of one of which, namely, at Sasimi, the famous Gregory Nazianzen was first bishop, and afterwards of Nazianzum, as was also the famous Basil of Caesarea, in the same country; hither the persecution under Dioclesian reached, and many had their thighs broken, as Eusebius relates (n); from hence were sent several bishops, who assisted at the council of Nice, under Constantine, and at another held at Jerusalem: in the "fifth" century there were churches in Cappadocia, in several places, the names of whose bishops are on record; as Firmus, Thalassius, Theodosins, Daniel, Aristomachus, Patricius, and others: in the "sixth" century there were many famous churches in this country, whose bishops were in the fifth synod held at Rome and Constantinople; and in the "seventh" century there were several of them in the sixth synod of Constantinople; and in the "eighth" century mention is made of bishops of several churches in Cappadocia, in the second Nicene synod; and even in the "ninth" century there were Christians in these parts (o),
Asia here intends neither the lesser nor the greater Asia, but Asia, properly so called; and which, according to Solinus (p), Lycia and Phrygia bounded on the east, the Aegean shores on the west, the Egyptian sea on the south, and Paphlagonia on the north; the chief city in it was Ephesus, and so it is distinguished from Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, and Bithynia, in Acts 16:6 as here from Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, and from Pontus and Cappadocia, in Acts 2:9 though they were all in lesser Asia. Here also were Jews converted on the day of Pentecost; and here likewise Peter is said to preach; and by him, and by the Apostle John, who also lived and died in this country, churches were planted; and churches there were here, even in the "seventh" century, as distinct from the other Asia, greater or less; for out of it bishops were sent to, and were present at, the sixth council at Constantinople, whose names are recorded; yea, in the "eighth" century there were churches and bishops, one of which persuaded Leo to remove images from places of worship; and another was in the Nicene synod (q). The last place mentioned is
Bithynia, of which See Gill on Acts 16:7. And though the Apostle Paul, and his compassions, were not suffered at a certain time to go into Bithynia, and preach the Gospel there, yet it is certain that it was afterwards carried thither; and as Peter is said to preach in Pontus, Asia, and Capadocia, so likewise in Bithynia; here, according to the Roman martyrology, Luke, the evangelist, died; and, according to tradition, Prochorus, one of the seven deacons in Acts 6:5 was bishop of Nicomedia, in this country; and Tychicus, of whom the Apostle Paul makes frequent mention, was bishop of Chalcedon, another city in it; and who are both said to be of the seventy disciples; see Gill on Luke 10:1, and it is certain, from the testimony of Pliny (r), an Heathen writer, in a letter of his to Trajan the emperor, written about the year 104, that there were then great numbers of Christians in Bithynia; not only the cities, but the towns and villages were full of them; and in the "third" century, the persecution under Dioclesian raged, particularly at Nicomedia, where Anthimus, the pastor of the church in that place, had his head cut off as Eusebius (s) relates: in the beginning of the "fourth" century, Nice, in Bithynia, became famous for the council held there under Constantine, against Arius; and in this century, bishops from Bithynia assisted at a synod held at Tyre, in Phoenicia; and in the "fifth" century was held a synod at Chalcedon, a city in this country, against the Nestorinn heresy; and the names of several bishops of Chalcedon, Nicomedia, and Nice, who lived, in this age, are on record; and in the "sixth" century there were bishops from these several places, and others, who were present in the fifth synod at Constantinople; as there were also in the "seventh" century, at the sixth synod held at the same place, whose names are particularly mentioned; and in the "eighth" century bishops from hence were in the Nicene synod; and even in the ninth century there were some that bore the Christian name in Bithynia (t). In these places however, it seems, dwelt many Jews, who were converted to Christ, to whom the apostle inscribes this epistle, and whom he further describes in the following verse,
(a) Scorpiace, c. 12. (b) Testimon. ad Quirin. l. 3. c. 36, 37, 39. (c) Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 1.((d) Apud Euseb. ib. l. 4. c. 23. (e) Ib. l. 7. c. 14. Hieron. Script. Eccles. Catalog. sect. 75. (f) Ib. l. 8. c. 12. (g) Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. cent. 2. c. 2. p. 3. cent. 4. c. 2. p. 3. c. 7. p. 289. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 4. c. 1O. p. 602. cent. 6. c. 2. p. 4. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 3. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 5. (h) Geograph. l. 5. c. 6. (i) Polyhist. c. 57. (k) Zohar in Gen. fol. 51. 3. & in Exod. fol. 33. 2. & 35. 4. (l) Adv. Judaeos, c. 7. ad Scapulam, c. 3.((m) Eccl. Hist. l. 6. c. 19. (n) lb. l. 8. 12. (o) Eccl. Hist. Magdeburg. cent. 3. c. 2. p. 2. c. 3. p. 11. c. 7. p. 117. cent. 4. c. 2. p. 4. c. 9. p. 350, 390. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 4. c. 10. p. 605, 859. cent. 6. c. 2. p. 5. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 3. c. 10. p. 254. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 5. cent. 9. c. 2. p. 3.((p) C. 53. (q) Ib. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 3. c. 10. p. 254. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 5. (r) Epist. l. 10. Ephesians 97. (s) Eccl. Hist. l. 8. c. 5, 6. (t) Hist. Eccl. Magdeburg. cent. 4. c. 2. p. 3. c. 9. p. 390. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 4. c. 10. p. 601, 602. cent. 6. c. 2. p. 4. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 3. c. 10. p. 254. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 5. cent. 9. c. 2. p. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
THE FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER Commentary by A. R. Faussett
Its genuineness is attested by 2Pe 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 1Pe 1:13, 21; 3:9; in the fifth chapter, 1Pe 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], 1Pe 2:16. Clement of Alexandria [Miscellanies, 1.3, p. 544], quotes 1Pe 2:11, 12, 15, 16; and [p. 562], 1Pe 1:21, 22; and [4, p. 584], 1Pe 3:14-17; and [p. 585], 1Pe 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 1Pe 3:18-21. Tertullian [Antidote to the Scorpion's Sting, 12], quotes expressly 1Pe 2:20, 21; and [Antidote to the Scorpion's Sting, 14], 1Pe 2:13, 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, 1Pe 1:1, and "a witness of Christ's sufferings," and an "elder," 1Pe 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 (Joh 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 (Mt 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 (Mt 14:30); his bold and clear acknowledgment of the divine person and office of Jesus (Mt 16:16; Mr 8:29; Joh 11:27), notwithstanding the difficulties in the way of such belief, whence he was then also designated as the stone, or rock (Mt 16:18); but his rebuke of his Lord when announcing what was so unpalatable to carnal prejudices, Christ's coming passion and death (Mt 16:22); his passing from one extreme to the opposite, in reference to Christ's offer to wash his feet (Joh 13:8, 9); his self-confident assertion that he would never forsake his Lord, whatever others might do (Mt 26:33), followed by his base denial of Christ thrice with curses (Mt 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 (Joh 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" (Mt 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" (Eph 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 (Isa 28:16; 1Co 3:11). As subsequently he identified himself with "Satan," and is therefore called so (Mt 16:23), in the same way, by his clear confession of Christ, the Rock, he became identified with Him, and is accordingly so called (Mt 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: Ac 15:19, "My sentence is," &c. 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" (Ga 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, &c. [plainly inferred from 1Pe 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 Ac 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 Ac 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, Joh 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, 1Pe 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. 1Pe 1:14; 2:9, 10; 3:6; 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 Re 3:7, &c.; 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 Re 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 (Ac 20:6-10), and of his subsequently staying for a time with Carpus (2Ti 4:13). Of "Bithynia," no Church is expressly named in Scripture elsewhere. When Paul at an earlier period "assayed to go into Bithynia" (Ac 16:7), the Spirit suffered him not. But afterwards, we infer from 1Pe 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 (1Pe 5:1, 2, "Feed," &c.), were much in the same states as when Paul addressed the Ephesian "elders" at Miletus (Ac 20:17, 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 (1Pe 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" (1Pe 5:12). However, see on 1Pe 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, 1Pe 5:12) this grace of God as their safe standing-ground. Compare 1Co 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 1Pe 1:8, 18, "ye know"; 1Pe 3:15; 2Pe 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 (1Pe 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 (1Pe 1:3-12); bringing forth the fruit of faith, considering the costly price paid for our redemption from sin (1Pe 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 (1Pe 1:22; 2:10); after Christ's example in suffering, maintaining a good conversation in every relation (1Pe 2:10; 3:14), and a good profession of faith as having in view Christ's once-offered sacrifice, and His future coming to judgment (1Pe 3:15; 4:11); and exhibiting patience in adversity, as looking for future glorification with Christ, (1) in general as Christians, 1Pe 4:12-19; (2) each in his own sphere, 1Pe 5:1-11. "The title "Beloved" marks the separation of the second part from the first, 1Pe 2:11; and of the third part from the second, 1Pe 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 A.D. 63, appears from the acquaintance which Peter in this Epistle shows he has with them. Compare 1Pe 2:13 with 1Ti 2:2-4; 1Pe 2:18 with Eph 6:5; 1Pe 1:2 with Eph 1:4-7; 1Pe 1:3 with Eph 1:3; 1Pe 1:14 with Ro 12:2; 1Pe 2:6-10 with Ro 9:32, 33; 1Pe 2:13 with Ro 13:1-4; 1Pe 2:16 with Ga 5:13; 1Pe 2:18 with Eph 6:5; 1Pe 3:1 with Eph 5:22; 1Pe 3:9 with Ro 12:17; 1Pe 4:9 with Php 2:14; Ro 12:13 and Heb 13:2; 1Pe 4:10 with Ro 12:6-8; 1Pe 5:1 with Ro 8:18; 1Pe 5:5 with Eph 5:21; Php 2:3, 5-8; 1Pe 5:8 with 1Th 5:6; 1Pe 5:14 with 1Co 16:20. Moreover, in 1Pe 5:13, Mark is mentioned as with Peter in Babylon. This must have been after Col 4:10 (A.D. 61-63), when Mark was with Paul at Rome, but intending to go to Asia Minor. Again, in 2Ti 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 A.D. 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 (1Pe 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" (Ga 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" (Ga 2:2). Individualities occur, such as baptism, "the answer of a good conscience toward God" (1Pe 3:21); "consciousness of God" (Greek), 1Pe 2:19, as a motive for enduring sufferings; "living hope" (1Pe 1:3); "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1Pe 1:4); "kiss of charity" (1Pe 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 (1Pe 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 1Pe 1:6, 7 with Jas 1:2, 3; 1Pe 1:24 with Jas 1:10; 1Pe 2:1 with Jas 1:21; 1Pe 4:8 with Jas 5:20, both quoting Pr 10:12; 5:5 with Jas 4:6, both quoting Pr 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 1Pe 2:7 with Ac 4:11; 1Pe 1:12 with Ac 5:32; 1Pe 2:24 with Ac 5:30; 10:39; 1Pe 5:1 with Ac 2:32; 3:15; 1Pe 1:10 with Ac 3:18; 10:43; 1Pe 1:21 with Ac 3:15; 10:40; 1Pe 4:5 with Ac 10:42; 1Pe 2:24 with Ac 3:19, 26).
There is, too, a recurrence to the language of the Lord at the last interview after His resurrection, recorded in Joh 21:15-23. Compare "the Shepherd … of … souls," 1Pe 2:25; "Feed the flock of God," "the chief Shepherd," 1Pe 5:2, 4, with Joh 21:15-17; "Feed My lambs … sheep"; also "Whom … ye love," 1Pe 1:8; 2:7, with Joh 21:15-17; "lovest thou Me?" and 2Pe 1:14, with Joh 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."
1Pe 1:1-25. Address to the Elected of the Godhead: Thanksgiving for the Living Hope to Which We Are Begotten, Producing Joy Amidst Sufferings: This Salvation an Object of Deepest Interest to Prophets and to Angels: Its Costly Price a Motive to Holiness and Love, as We Are Born Again of the Ever-abiding Word of God.
1. Peter—Greek form of Cephas, man of rock.
an apostle of Jesus Christ—"He who preaches otherwise than as a messenger of Christ, is not to be heard; if he preach as such, then it is all one as if thou didst hear Christ speaking in thy presence" [Luther].
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