The epistle called First Peter is pseudonymous. Like some of the letters of Paul that we have already examined, it was written by a student or disciple of Peter who utilized his training in Petrine theology to address a later situation which the Church faced. The letter was most likely composed at the end of the last decade of the first century (around 96-98 AD). It was sent to the territory of Asia Minor where missionaries from Jerusalem had carried out some evangelization. It was written in Rome, the burgeoning center of the Christian faith.
One of the curious aspects of the letter is that it seems to have been composed over a long period of time. That is, in the first part of the book (1:3-4:11), persecution is only a possibility; but in the second part of the book (4:12-5:11) persecution has actually broken out. So at some point during the composition process of the book, the author received word that persecution had actually begun and so changes direction and speaks of the situation as it then stood.
The purpose of the book, then, is quite easy to understand: it was written to encourage those who would face and were facing persecution for their faith by the Roman government. Some scholars believe that the book was also written as a baptismal booklet intended to give instruction to those entering the church. This is quite possible, as they would certainly need to know how to endure the persecution that they might face.
A glance at the outline of the book makes clear this purpose:
1- Opening Greeting (1:1-2)
2- Who is the Church? What are Christians? (1:3-2:10)
3- How to Behave in a Pagan World (2:11-3:12)
4- How to Behave During Times of Persecution (3:13-5:11)
5- Concluding Blessing (5:12-14)
Newly made Christians need to know how to live in a hostile world. That is the issue addressed in this brief but important letter.
ASSIGNMENT: Read 2 Peter, and Brown’s Introduction, chapter 36.
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