I Peter

Author: Peter the Apostle

Date Written: c. 60-68 AD


The apostle Peter, the first pope, writes this letter from Rome, the city which he symbolically refers to as Babylon (5:13).  Silvanus, also called Silas, acts as Peter's secretary when he writes the letter (5:12).  Scholars dispute Peter's authorship, but it is consistently affirmed by early Church sources.  He writes the letter to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1:1), Roman provinces in present-day Turkey.


The letter begins with a celebratory description of God's mercy and salvation (1:3-12) into which we have been invited.  Peter states the purpose of his letter when he calls his readers to be sober-minded and to fully set their hope on the grace of Jesus Christ (1:13).


We are to be holy as God is holy (1:15-16) because of the abiding word of God (1:23) which is the good news (1:25).  Peter paints a picture of the Church as a house in which Christians are the "living stones" which make up the walls of the house (2:4-5) and Jesus is the cornerstone (2:7).  Because of God's mercy, we have become a "holy nation" (2:9).  Since we are holy, Peter exhorts us to live as good citizens, obedient to the laws of our governments and to do good for others (2:11-17).  He teaches that our example of good living will prevent people from slandering us (2:12, 3:16) and cause them to be more receptive to the gospel.  He gives specific teachings to slaves (2:18-25), wives (3:1-6), husbands (3:7) and to all believers (3:8-12). 


One of 1 Peter's central teachings is that we should be ready to suffer for doing good.  Christians should be ready to suffer persecution for the gospel (3:14, 4:14) or for simply doing good deeds (3:17).  He even calls Christian slaves to humbly suffer injustice at the hands of their masters (2:18-19).  He clarifies that it is unrighteous (and even unlikely) for anyone to inflict harm on a person for the good they do (3:13).  Yet he wants the Christians in Asia to be ready for persecution, which is breaking out in the Roman empire under the reign of Nero.  When Christians do suffer, they share in the sufferings of Christ himself (4:13).  In the context of preparing themselves for suffering, he encourages his readers to be especially diligent in avoiding the sins of the flesh (4:1-4).  We are to live in the spirit instead (4:6).


Peter takes a few verses to specifically exhort presbyters-the pastors of the early Church.  He follows his exhortation of presbyters immediately with a couple lines just for the youth (5:5).  In the last section, Peter charges his readers to depend on God and to fight the spiritual battle (5:6-11).  Finally, he recaps the purpose for the letter: to encourage the communities and testify to the truth of God's grace (5:12).


Peter teaches that the whole of salvation history was pointing to Jesus, so much so that he can say the Old Testament prophets served the New Testament Christians (1:11-12).  Appropriate to this theme, Peter adopts Old Testament images for Israel and applies them to the Church: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (2:9).  He uses the image of Noah's flood and his family's protection from it to describe the saving power of baptism (3:21).  Baptized Christians have become resident aliens on the earth (2:11) and are called to live as good citizens (1:13) who may be tested by persecution (4:12).  Peter uses this letter to exhort and encourage Christian communities during a time of tension and persecution, teaching them to prepare their minds for action (1:13) and arm themselves with the mindset of Jesus (4:1).


By Mark Giszczak


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January 25, 2015

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Mk 1:14-20


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