It so happened that one day on the Sea of Galilee, two fishermen are washing their nets after an unsuccessful night of fishing. These men, identified as Simon and his brother Andrew,[1] are confronted by Jesus, who, oddly enough, commands them to cast out their nets for another (or, in this case, a first) catch. Simon, with only the slightest hesitation, obeys. The result, as we know, is a miraculous catch of fish that convinces Simon that he is standing in the presence of Someone unlike any he had ever met. This is clear from his response, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk. 5:8). This account, although not the first time in the Gospel narrative that we meet Simon, demonstrates the initial call of the renowned apostle. Some would express shock that he would confess his sinfulness, rather than stand in awe of the miracle he had just witnessed. But, as Stein points out, when we view “this account not so much as a miracle or pronouncement story but rather as a theophany involving a call to service, the response is very appropriate.[2] Simon, renamed Peter[3] by Christ (see Jn. 1:42), becomes a full-time disciple of our Lord and follows Him for the rest of His earthly ministry.

This same Peter, was called by Christ (Mt. 4:19; Mk. 1:17; Lk. 5:10), appointed to be an apostle (Mk. 3:13–19; Lk. 6:13-16), confessed Jesus to be Christ and the Son of God (Mt. 16:13–20; Mk. 8:27–30; Lk. 9:18–21), stood present on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1–9; Mk. 9:2–10; Lk. 9:28–36; Cf. 2 Pe. 1:16–18), denied the Lord during His trial (Mt. 26:69–75; Mk. 14:66–72; Lk. 22:54–62; Jn. 18:25–26), and became witness to the resurrection (Mt.28:16-17; Mk. 16:14; Lk. 24:34; Jn. 20:19-21:23). Quite the resume for a humble fisherman from the region of Galilee! Concluding the Gospel accounts, Peter goes on to become a pillar of the New Testament church[4] and accomplishes much for Christ’s kingdom and glory.


As already implied in our introduction, the apostle Peter is clearly identified as the author of 1 Peter. He identifies himself as such in the first verse (“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” v. 1:1). For most evangelicals, this self-identification is evidence enough to conclude Peter’s authorship. In addition, conservative scholarship is generally in agreement that the same apostle mentioned throughout the Gospels, the Book of Acts, and Paul’s letter to the Galatians is indeed the author of the epistle bearing his name. Clowney states that this is “a claim that should not be discounted,”[5] as the early Church had received “other works claiming to be written by Peter [that] were rejected as not apostolic.”[6] Likewise, Hiebert provides evidence from the writings of Eusebius that 1 Peter was among the books accepted by the whole Church.[7] Grudem also argues for Petrine authorship based on the reception of the early Church.[8] Thus, we have no reason to question (as many liberal scholars do) that anyone but Peter wrote this letter. To do so is to deny the inspired account of Peter himself, and the firm testimony of church history. Obviously, the former is of greater significance, but the latter should not be ignored.


The most liberal estimates for the dating of 1 Peter are “in the time of Trajan (A.D. 98–117), Domitian (A.D. 81–96), or even Vespasian or Titus (A.D. 69–81).[9] These late dates allow for the author of 1 Peter to be writing under a pseudonym and are incompatible with the establishment of Petrine authorship. In seeking to establish a timeline for when Peter penned this epistle, we can go no further than the death of Emperor Nero in A.D. 68. This is because tradition tells us that Peter, like Paul, was executed under Nero’s reign.[10] Thus, Conservative scholars date the book somewhere between A.D. 62 and A.D. 67,[11] with a happy medium existing sometime between A.D. 63 and 64. If the former date is preferred, then 1 Peter was written shortly before Neronian persecution broke out. If we go with the latter, then 1 Peter is written shortly after the outbreak of persecution. Marshall notes that “The evidence from the letter points to widespread hostile reactions to Christians but not to organized, state-inspired persecution.”[12] [13] At any rate, a date of A.D. 63-64 is preferred for two reasons:[14] 1) It allows for Paul and Peter to be in Rome at separate times. If Peter were writing from Rome any earlier, he would have inevitably been in the city during Paul’s imprisonment (roughly A.D. 60-62). This would be unlikely due to neither of the apostles mentioning one another in their letters.[15] Also, the placement of Mark (presumably John Mark) seems to offer some help in this area. If we understand Mark as being with Paul during his above-mentioned imprisonment, then he could not be with Peter in Rome at that same time (If Peter were writing between 60-62). Thus, we can essentially rule out a date earlier than A.D. 63. 2) It would also allow for the writing of the letter to take place shortly before Neronian persecution broke out. This, as Marshall noted, seems to flow better with the thrust of the letter. Peter leaves little in the way of specific references within the letter that would help pinpoint a date in history, which leads me to believe that he was writing shortly before Nero’s persecution. Nevertheless, I am under the persuasion that an argument could be made in favor of a date that coincides with a time shortly after persecution broke out.

Place of Writing

The only indication of a writing location mentioned throughout the letter is found in the final chapter. Here Peter writes, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.” (5:13). The term Babylon has been taken both literally and figuratively.[16] For those who take a literal approach to the reference, two places are considered. First is the ancient city of Babylon known in the Old Testament. This is unlikely given that, at the time of Peter’s writing, it was “a small and obscure place.”[17] Second is Babylon in Egypt, located near modern-day Cairo. Neither of these options are preferable, yet some have argued that the literal interpretation makes sense because “other geographical references in 1 Peter are admittedly literal.”[18] Despite this argument for literal interpretation (which is much appreciated in many other areas), the symbolic approach of viewing “Babylon” as a reference to Rome is the most likely view. Peter referring to Rome as Babylon coincides with John’s later references of the same kind in the book of Revelation (cf. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5, 18; 18:2). There is also a theological significance in this reference as well. Peter’s audience has been identified as exiles, or “those of the dispersion” (See 1:1). This is an allusion to the exile of the Old Testament (Jer. 25:34; cf. Is 11:12; Ez. 20:23; Zep 3:10)[19] that provides a direct link between Israel and the Church. Schreiner adds that “the mention of Babylon constitutes another reminder that believers are exiles in their present situation, and the allusion to exile under the dominion of Babylon constitutes a bookend between the beginning and end of the letter.”[20]


Peter addresses his letter to “…those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia….” (1:1). This list serves as a sort of postal route for the letter’s deliverer and covers four Roman provinces within Asia Minor (most of modern-day Turkey). Thus, Peter’s audience would have been comprised of both Jewish and Gentile converts. Interestingly enough, a portion of these Jewish converts would have undoubtedly been present on the Day of Pentecost (See Acts 2:9), and likely account for the spread of the Gospel in some of these areas. In sum, Peter is writing to a mix of both Jewish and Gentile believers, who are scattered throughout several provinces of Asia Minor. It is possible that a significant number of Gentile converts populated these areas. This assumption seems to be implied by specific phrases that Peter uses throughout the letter that would be difficult to harmonize with those of Jewish background.[21] Nevertheless, in addressing this mix of believers, he consistently treats them as one unified Church, offering no room for division and often applying terminology that, at one time, would have only applied to the Jews, to both Jew and Gentile.

Cultural Setting

The people that Peter has written to live under the oppressive reign of Roman governance. The Roman Empire was widely recognized as a predominantly evil empire. Both its rulers and its subjects were known for state instituted idol worship and celebrated debauchery. This is the world in which the early Church was immersed. As such, purity and consecration to the Lord was a significant point of emphasis in nearly all of the New Testament letters. The apostles knew that they were writing to men and women who were submerged in a sea of wickedness, and their only hope was the persevering grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from widespread wickedness, the early Church was not well-favored by its neighboring citizens. This is due, in part, to the Christian rejection of all forms of polytheism. Devotion to the one true God was a disruption to the Roman way of life and, as such, was only tolerated for a short time before the state began widely persecuting Christians for their faith in Jesus Christ. Even from the early days of the Church, persecution was part of the Church’s everyday experience. All that being said, the believers that Peter was writing to were probably well accustomed to not “fitting in” with their Roman neighbors. Some of them may have even been imprisoned for their faith at some point or another. They lived in a time when being a Christian costed something, and, for some, that cost was something that they paid with their lives.

The Occasion of the Letter

Peter identifies his purpose of writing toward the end of the letter (though it is strongly implied throughout). He says, “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” (5:12). While I have not taken the stance that 1 Peter was written in response to Neronian persecution, I do firmly believe that the Lord, in His providence, had Peter write this letter with that future event in mind. Peter’s audience would have been a people familiar with various forms of suffering already. At this point, Christians, in general, were not a well liked bunch. Peter hints at certain trials and persecutions that these believers were already facing, probably on a daily basis. These include slander (2:12), unfair treatment imposed by masters (2:18-20), unbelieving spouses (3:1-2), and general persecution for doing what is right (3:14-17). Peter’s encouragement to these potentially weary saints is to stand firm, remain pure, and place their hope entirely on the grace that is to be revealed at Christ’s return (1:13-14). Though they may not know it yet, it is this kind of living that will prepare them to face not only their current sufferings but also those that are to come.


There is much that we can learn from the historical context of 1 Peter. These observations are incredibly beneficial in helping us interpret the apostle’s letter, and we are all indebted to the Christ-exalting scholarship that has gone into making these resources available for our use in the study of Scripture!

[1] Mt. 4:18; Mk. 1:16; Lk. 5:1-3.

[2] Stein, Robert H. Luke. Vol. 24. The New American Commentary. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 168.

[3] Or “Cephas” in Aramaic and “Petros” in Greek. Meaning “a rock” or “stone.” See: Gray, James M. “Peter, Simon.” Edited by James Orr, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y. Mullins, and Morris O. Evans. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia. Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915.), 2348.

[4] See Paul’s assessment in Galatians 2:9.

[5] Clowney, Edmund P. The Message of 1 Peter: The Way of the Cross. The Bible Speaks Today. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 18.

[6] Ibid, 18.

[7] Hiebert, D. Edmond. 1 Peter. Winona Lake, IN: (BMH Books, 1997).

[8] Grudem, Wayne A. 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 17. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988).

[9] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 36.; See also Hiebert, 1 Peter, 27.

[10] See, Eusebius of Caesaria. “The Church History of Eusebius.” In Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert, 1:132. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series. (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 132.

[11] Hiebert, 1 Peter, 27.

[12] Marshall, I. Howard. 1 Peter. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991).

[13] I generally agree with this assessment, yet would add that I am hesitant to fully embrace the conclusions of Grudem on this subject. He affirms that an A.D. 64 date is unlikely due to Peter’s “generally positive view of civil government (referring to 2:13-17)…without further qualification.”(See Grudem, 1 Peter, 36.). While I agree that the lack of any specific reference to Neronian persecution is a factor that favors an earlier date of authorship, I am hesitant to base this solely on Peter’s “generally positive view of Government.” Government, and specifically governmental authority is an establishment instituted by God for specific purposes. Whether good or evil, they offer a reflection of His authority and dominion. Albeit in a limited (and, at times, severely flawed) way. Therefore, the institution of government is always to be honored in this sense, even when participating in acts of civil disobedience. That being said, I believe that Peter’s comments are general and would be the same whether experiencing severe persecution or not.

[14] There are more, but for our purposes, we will stick with two.

[15] “Since Peter’s letter mentions Mark but not Paul, it seems unlikely that Paul was in Rome at the time it was written. By the same token, Paul does not mention Peter in his letters, even when he seems to be naming the ‘men of the circumcision’ (Phil. 2:20–21; Col. 4:10–11) who remained his faithful comrades.” (Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, 23.)

[16] See Hiebert, 1 Peter, 330.

[17] See Grudem, 1 Peter, 208.

[18] Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude. (Gospel Advocate Co., 1991), p. 135.

[19] James L. Mason, “Diaspora of the Jews.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 623.

[20] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 251.

[21] See for example 1 Peter 1:18; 2:10; 4:3-4. These examples, highlighted by Grudem, would be difficult to apply to a primarily Jewish audience.