Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 PETER - Introduction

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1 Peter - Introduction

Supplemental Commentary:



St. Peter.  St. Peter, also called Simon, was the son of a certain John of Bethsaida (John 1, 40-42).  The preaching of John the Baptist had drawn him to the shores of the Jordan where Andrew, his brother, introduced him to Jesus.  Both brothers were fishermen (Matt. 4, 18); Peter's residence was situated at Capharnaum, a city on the Lake of Genesareth.  The Evangelists, indeed, speak of Peter's mother-in-law; still, 1 Cor. 9, 5 is not conclusive evidence that Peter's wife was alive even at the time of his first acquaintance with Christ.

On the occasion of their first meeting Christ promised to confer on Simon the surname of Cephas; its Greek equivalent, Petros, was late Latinized and has since become the name by which the Prince of the Apostles is best known.  Peter did not immediately leave all things and follow Christ.  The miraculous catch of fishes mentioned by St. Luke (5, 1-11) marks the beginning of Peter's permanent association with our Lord.  He was one of the few to witness the restoration of Jairus' daughter; on the Mount of Transfiguration and during the Agony in the Garden Peter was a privileged witness; he had even been invited by Christ to walk upon the waters (Matt. 14, 22-32).  On the occasion of his profession of faith near Caesarea Philippi, Christ promised to confer on him the power of the keys, the symbol of supreme authority (Matt. 16, 13-20).

St. Peter is spoken of frequently in the Gospel account of the events of Holy Week.  He and John were commissioned by Christ to prepare the Cenacle where Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist.  Informed that Christ's betrayer was in their midst, Peter asked John to question Jesus concerning the identity of the betrayer.  Christ's prophecy of Peter's denial, of His special prayer for Peter's faith, and Peter's vehement protestation, "Even if I should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee" (Mark 14, 31) were uppermost in Peter's mind when he drew the sword in defense of Christ (John 18, 10 f).  Peter's repentance after his denial of Christ was quick and sincere.  He and John were first among the Apostles to explore the empty tomb; to Peter and the disciples were the women commissioned to announce the Resurrection (Mark 16, 7).  St. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, saw fit to record for posterity Simon Peter's threefold attestation of love for Christ (John 21, 13-17).

During the days preceding the first Pentecost, Peter's was the directing hand in the events which resulted in the election of Matthias to the apostolate (Acts 1, 15-26).  On Pentecost, Peter's discourse in the defense of the Apostles and the cause of Christ resulted in the conversion of about three thousand souls (Acts 2, 14-41).  St. Peter was the guiding genius of the infant Church; he defended Christ before the Sanhedrin, suffered  imprisonment and disgrace, but was always buoyed up with the one thought, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5, 29).  Peter continued his activity by visiting and comforting the churches of Judea and Samaria until about the year 42; at this date according to one tradition he journeyed to Rome.  He returned to Jerusalem and presided at the first council in the history of the Church about the year 49.  He then retired to Antioch (Gal. 2, 11-14); according to a tradition handed down by Eusebius, the Church historian, Peter continued there as Bishop for some time.  His missionary endeavors led him most likely through the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, and then back to Rome where he established his episcopal see.  He remained at Rome more or less continuously until the year 67 when he was martyred as foretold by Christ (John 21, 18 f).

The Author.  Catholic tradition has ever maintained that St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, is the author of 1 Peter.

External Evidence.  As is to be expected, traces of the Epistle appear at the end of the first century.  The epistle of Clement of Rome addressed to the Corinthians reproduces in 49, 5 the saying of 1 Pet. 4, 8, "Charity covers a multitude of sins."  Indirect references to the Epistle occur frequently in the Shepherd of Hermas written about the year 135.  On the authority of Eusebius, writers of the second century, such as Papias of Hierapolis and Polycarp of Smyrna, definitely cited the Epistle.  These citations are not ascribed to St. Peter; but with the ecclesiastical writers of the third century, the Petrine authorship of the Epistle stands as an established fact.  This explicit statement of the authorship is attested by Irenaeus in Gaul, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian and Cyprian.

Internal evidence.  1 Pet. 1, 1 describes the author as "an Apostle of Jesus Christ"; 5, 1 declares him to have been "a witness to the sufferings of Christ."  These statements are confirmed by other references, particularly 1, 8 where the author indirectly speaks of himself as a disciple of Christ.  The similarity of content and development between the Epistle and the preaching of Peter as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles---that the suffering and resurrection of Christ constitute the foundation of our Christian hope---confirms its Petrine authorship.  At the close of the Epistle the author sends greetings from "my son, Mark," the spiritual child and co-laborer of St. Peter.  A final reference to the Petrine authorship, "The church which is at Babylon," points to Rome as the place of its origin.

Date.  The author's familiarity with the Epistle to the Ephesians places the earliest date of composition about the year 63.  But the burning of Rome on July 18, 64 A.D., with its subsequent persecution of Christianity, demands that the Epistle be written prior to this date.



Introduction 1, 1-12

I. General Counsels of Christian Holiness 1, 13 -- 2, 10

II. Particular Counsels of Christian Conduct 2, 11 -- 4, 6

III. Christian Service and the Coming Judgment 4, 7 -- 5, 11

Conclusion 5, 12-14

Confraternity Bible:



St. Peter was led by his brother Andrew to the Lord, who conferred upon him the name Cephas, i.e., "rock" or Peter.  After the Resurrection the primacy was conferred upon him and immediately after the Ascension he began to exercise it.  After preaching in Jerusalem and Palestine he went to Rome, probably after his liberation from prison.  Some years later he was in Jerusalem for the first Church Council, and shortly afterwards at Antioch.  In the year 67 he was martyred in Rome.

The Epistle names St. Peter, Apostle of Jesus Christ, as its author, and the testimony of the early centuries of Christianity reaffirms this evidence.  Its authorship is also confirmed by the contents of the Epistle, in which the author appears as an immediate witness of the sufferings of Christ, and by its similarity to St. Peter's discourses in Acts.

The Epistle is addressed to the Christian communities of Asia Minor that were being distressed by the enmity of their pagan neighbors.  By their acceptance of Christianity they had become separated from their own countrymen, who abused and persecuted them.  The Apostle therefore instructs his readers that Christianity is the true religion in spite of their trials and sufferings, and exhorts them to lead good Christian lives.

The place of composition is given as "Babylon" (5, 13).  We know that this name was a cryptic designation of the city of Rome.  Since the author seems to be familiar with the Epistle to the Ephesians, which was written in 63 A.D., and since he makes no reference to the persecution of Nero, which began about the end of 64 A.D., it appears very likely that the letter was written in the latter part of 63 or the beginning of 64.