This article is copyright © 2008 by Alex S. Leung. All rights reserved.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1 Peter 1:3-5)
Characteristics and Attributes, Form and Structure
Date and Destination
Schrenier dates the letter at approximately 62-63, before the church’s persecution by Nero. The readers of the letter were mainly Gentiles, Christians whose suffering was localized and sporadic. They were elect and exiles not necessarily in the physical, literal sense, but rather in the spiritual sense. The reference to the Jewish dispersion is applied to Gentiles metaphorically.
Character of the Letter
The letter contains hymnic, creedal characteristics, as well as hints of catechetical traditions that were common to the church. Some scholars also see the content as a baptismal document, as well as a homiletic midrash since it was grounded in a Jewish hermeneutic.
Purpose and Structure
The purpose of the letter is to give confidence Christians to persevere even as they suffer persecution and anguish in the present evil age. The structure of the letter is that of a typical epistle, with the conventional greeting, and the body of the letter started with a blessing. “Beloved ones” marks the beginning of the two subsequent sections (2:11; 4:12), concluding with a doxology and amen in 5:11. If the letter was divided into 3 sections, we see a general section outlining what it is to be the people of God, the second section being the specific explanation of the general outline, and third being a climatic summary of the letter’s contents.
Consider also the following from the ESV Literary Study Bible:
The book at a glance.
5 chapters, 105 verses. First Peter is written to Christians living in alien territory, as a beleaguered minority in the culture. The controlling *metaphor by which we can best assimilate the book is the exile *motif. Given the difficulties of an exilic existence, it is small wonder that in its later stages the letter becomes a small classic on the subject of suffering for Christ’s sake. Yet the letter begins with one of the most exuberant *lyric passages of celebration of the riches that believers have in Christ that we find anywhere in the NT. Between these bookends of exhilaration and suffering, the letter has the same abundance of instructions for living the Christian life that we find in other NT *epistles. The structure of the letter is informal and miscellaneous, but four good questions to ask as we work our way through the book are these: (1) What spiritual possessions do Christians living in exile have in Christ? (2) What duties accompany such great privileges? (3) What is it about our new nature that enables Christians in exile to perform these duties? (4) What advice does the book give to exiles as they endure suffering for the sake of Christ?
...coming up next, my response and review of these introductory matters.