1 Peter


The Prologue



This letter from Peter is typical of the Hellenistic world, beginning with a prescript, 1,1-2, and ending with a postscript, 5:12-14. The prescript contains the normal elements of a letter, indicating its author and to whom it is sent. Unlike Paul's letters, it is a general letter to the four Roman provinces of Asia Minor. Prior to the greeting, an affirmation of the letter's recipients may be included, and Peter expresses three qualities of the elected status of his readers. As is typical of Christian letters, the Greek word "greeting" is changed to the more substantial word "grace" and to this is added the Jewish greeting "peace".


i] Context: The body of the letter / epistle takes up all but the prologue, 1:1-2, and the conclusion, 5:12-14. The body presents in three parts:

First, in 1:3-2:10 Peter develops his main argument, and in doing so, establishes central thesis:

The grace of God is the means by which a believer survives in a Godless world.

*The prologue / prescript is thematically developed, v3-12;

*A classic "be what you are" ethical perspective follows, 1:13-2:3;

*The identity of God's chosen people is then further explored in 2:4-10.

Then follows practical application / instructions on Christian living within a Godless world, 2:11-3:12.

Finally, exhortations and encouragement for surviving in a Godless world, 3:13-5:11.


ii] Background: The Rock man, Peter, was a member of the inner circle of disciples, James and John being the other two members. He comes across as a very strong person, but a bit rash. At the time of Jesus' arrest, not only did he run, but he even denied his Lord. This failing deeply affected him and it was most likely the reason why Jesus appeared to him before revealing himself to the other apostles. Peter preached the first gospel sermon after Jesus' resurrection and became the first leader of the church in Jerusalem. His missionary zeal soon took him throughout the Roman empire, although we only get a slight glimpse of his movements from the book of Acts. Tradition has it that in later life he became the leader of the church in Rome where he was crucified, upside-down, during Nero's persecution of the Christian church in 64AD.

Many conservative scholars still hold to Petrine authorship, although doubts are raised by others. The argument against Petrine authorship is prompted by the following issues:

*The eloquence of the Greek used in the letter which is assumed beyond an uneducated Aramaic speaker;

*The failure to acknowledge Paul's missionary work;

*The adoption of Pauline doctrinal constructions;

*The use of quotations from the LXX rather than Hebrew / Aramaic translations;

*The evidential hints of the letter's composition later than Peter's death during the persecution of believers by Nero.

The situation that Peter addresses in this letter is anything but pleasant. The believers of Asia Minor are suffering persecution, probably in the terms of social ostracism. They are facing the typical slander that is often directed at a minority community, slander which results in a lack of business and employment opportunities, along with social isolation. It is to this situation that Peter addresses his letter providing "hope, consolation, and encouragement by explaining their identity in Christ and how even suffering is an integral part of that identity", Jobes.


iii] Structure: Greeting:

From whom and to whom

Chosen by God

According to the foreknowledge of God

Though the Holy Spirit

For obedience and the sprinkling with his blood

The greeting.


iv] Interpretation:

Our author begins with the usual "From So and so, to So and so; Greetings." Our author identifies himself as Peter, Petros, the Rock Man (Kepha in Aramaic), the apostle of Jesus Christ. Authors at this time were less scruplous in identifying their work with a Great One of the past, but this statement if fairly black and white. If Peter is not the author, then we are dealing with a forgery and probably shouldn't regard it as scripture.

Peter addresses the Elect, the Chosen. The term was originally used to refer to God's people Israel, and is applied here to Christians throughout Asia Minor. Peter also draws on Biblical imagery when he describes these communities as diasporaV, "exiles", "of the Dispersion", ESV. In much the same way as Israel found itself scattered and exiled from the promised land, so are believers exiles in a foreign land awaiting their promised home in glory.

In v2, Peter follows up with a Trinitarian formula which identifies the different functions of the members of the Trinity in the formation of the Elect people of God. First, we have the prognwsin, "foreknowing", of the Father, probably with the sense that he destined, determined, decided, as an act of his will, to form this people. This, of course, refers to the "destining" of the elect community, not necessarily the individual members of that community. The NIV's use of the word "chosen" determines one particular theological conclusion, a conclusion accepted by Calvinists, but opposed by Arminians.

To the "destining" by the Father we have the aJgiasmw, the "sanctification" by the Spirit - the work of the Spirit to make the "Elect" people of God a holy set-apart people, a people in the image of God. To this work of the Father and the Spirit, we have the work of the Son, the uJpakohn, "obedience", and the rJantismon aiJmatoV, "sprinkling of blood", of Jesus Christ - possibly even as a hendiadys, "the obedience sacrifice of Jesus Christ" for the salvation of the Elect. This interpretation assumes that the genitive "of Jesus Christ" is verbal, subjective (rather than objective "obedient to Jesus", NIV, ESV, etc.) and that it applies to both "obedience" and "sprinkling of blood", so Elliott.

Peter now adds the usual salutation common in Greek letters of the time, although instead of "Greetings", he uses the Christian greeting, "grace" - a word that encapsulates the unmerited mercy of God extended to sinners through the sacrificial work of Jesus. To this Peter adds the common Jewish greeting, "peace" - a word that signifies the state of peace between God and mankind now realised through Jesus Christ.

Text - 1:1

Greeting, v1-2.

PetroV (oV) "Peter" - Nominative absolute.

apostoloV (oV) "an apostle" - a sent one. Nominative, standing in apposition to "Peter". Here used of one of the twelve, the primary sense of "apostle".

Ihsou (oV) gen. "of Jesus" - of jesus [christ]. The genitive may be taken as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective, in the sense "an apostle sent by / appointed by Jesus Christ". Cristou, "Christ", the anointed one of God, genitive in apposition to "Jesus".

eklektoiV dat. adj. "to God's elect" - to elect, chosen. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative of recipient. Used in the sense of the elect people of God. The title does not say how this elect / chosen set-apart people become members - predestination, or an act of the will. Either way, it is by grace through faith.

parepidhmoiV (oV) dat. "exiles" - refugees, pilgrims, exiles. Dative in apposition to "elect". If Peter were writing to Jews, the sense would be of Jews of the dispersion, but it is more likely that he is writing to Gentiles, in which case the sense is metaphorical.

diasporaV (a) gen. "scattered" - dispersed. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "exiles"; "exiles who are dispersed ........." Again if Peter is writing to Jews, the reference would be to the Diaspora, "the Dispersion", ESV, the scattered people of Israel. The sense may again be metaphorical, or simply descriptive, "believers who are scattered around Asia Minor."

Pontou (oV) gen. "Pontus" - of pontus, [of galatia, of capadocia, of asia, and of bythynia]. The Roman provinces of Asia; the genitive being adjectival, locative, of place.


The three prepositional phrases in this verse introduced by kata, en and eiV, modify the substantive adjective eklektoiV, "the elect", establishing three qualities related to their status.

kata + acc. "who have been chosen according to" - Expressing a standard; "corresponding to / in conformity with."

prognwsin (iV ewV) acc. "the foreknowledge" - foreknowledge, fore-choice. "Foreknowledge" seems softer than "fore-choice", but both mean much the same. God determined of his own freewill to establish a people to himself / of his own, and intended / planned to do so some time before there was time as we know it. The intention to form a people of his own does not necessarily define individual membership. The bottom line is that Israel / the church exists through a divine initiative. Translations will often go beyond what the text is saying, eg., "to those who have been chosen in the providence of God the Father", Barclay.

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - of god. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective.

patroV (hr roV) gen. "the Father" - father. Genitive in apposition to "God".

en + dat. "through" - in, by. Instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", but possibly locative, "in the realm of", so Selwyn.

aJgiasmw/ (oV) dat. "the sanctifying work" - holiness, sanctification [of spirit]. If the genitive pneumatoV, "S/spirit" = "Holy Spirit" (possibly, but unlikely to be a person's inner being = "spirit") is adjectival, possessive, then "in the sphere of the Spirit's holiness", but the noun is usually taken as verbal and "Spirit" as a subjective genitive, either with the sense "consecration", (understood by Luther as the prompting of faith expedited by the Holy Spirit), or "sanctification".

eiV + acc. "to be [obedient]" - to [obedience and sprinkling of blood]. Here possibly expressing purpose / end-view, "for", or result, "resulting in", but better causal, "because of the obedience and the sprinkling of blood", Elliot; "this final prepositional phrase roots the cause of Christian election in Jesus Christ's obedience to the Father's will and his suffering and death (involving the shedding of his blood)", Elliot.

Ihsou (oV) gen. "to Jesus" - of Jesus [christ]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. See above for Cristou.

uJmin dat. pro. "be yours" - [may grace] to you [and peace multiply]. Dative of interest, advantage, "for you"; "may grace and peace multiply for you." The verb "multiply" is optative, expressing a wish, the wish being that God's abundant undeserved mercy and kindness along with his peace be multiplied, bestowed as an overflowing blessings.


1 Peter Introduction

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