PETER, LETTERS OF
Two inspired letters of the Christian Greek Scriptures composed by the apostle Peter, who identifies himself as the writer in the opening words of each letter. (1Pe 1:1; 2Pe 1:1; compare 2Pe 3:1.) Additional internal evidence unmistakably points to Peter as the writer. He speaks of himself as an eyewitness of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, a privilege shared only by Peter, James, and John. (2Pe 1:16-18; Mt 17:1-9) And, as is evident from John 21:18, 19, Peter alone could have said: “The putting off of my tabernacle is soon to be, just as also our Lord Jesus Christ signified to me.” (2Pe 1:14) The difference in style between the two letters may be attributed to the fact that Peter used Silvanus (Silas) for writing the first letter but apparently did not do so when writing his second letter. (1Pe 5:12) Both were general letters, evidently directed to Jewish and non-Jewish Christians. The first letter is specifically addressed to those in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia—regions of Asia Minor.—1Pe 1:1; 2:10; 2Pe 1:1; 3:1; compare Ac 2:5, 9, 10.
The letters of Peter agree fully with other Bible books in stressing right conduct and its rewards and also in quoting from them as the authoritative Word of God. Quotations are made from Genesis (18:12; 1Pe 3:6), Exodus (19:5, 6; 1Pe 2:9), Leviticus (11:44; 1Pe 1:16), Psalms (34:12-16; 118:22; 1Pe 3:10-12; 2:7), Proverbs (11:31 [LXX]; 26:11; 1Pe 4:18; 2Pe 2:22), and Isaiah (8:14; 28:16; 40:6-8; 53:5; 1Pe 2:8; 2:6; 1:24, 25; 2:24). Scriptural prophecy is shown to be the product of God’s spirit. (2Pe 1:20, 21; compare 2Ti 3:16.) God’s promise concerning new heavens and a new earth is repeated. (2Pe 3:13; Isa 65:17; 66:22; Re 21:1) The parallels between 2 Peter (2:4-18; 3:3) and Jude (5-13, 17, 18) evidently indicate that the disciple Jude accepted Peter’s second letter as inspired. Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the letters of the apostle Paul are classified by Peter with “the rest of the Scriptures.”—2Pe 3:15, 16.
Time of Writing. From the tone of the letters, it appears that they were written prior to the outbreak of Nero’s persecution in 64 C.E. The fact that Mark was with Peter would seem to place the time of composition of the first letter between 62 and 64 C.E. (1Pe 5:13) Earlier, during the apostle Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome (c. 59-61 C.E.), Mark was there, and when Paul was imprisoned for a second time at Rome (c. 65 C.E.), he requested that Timothy and Mark join him. (Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11) Likely Peter wrote his second letter not long after his first, or about 64 C.E.
Written From Babylon. According to Peter’s own testimony, he composed his first letter while at Babylon. (1Pe 5:13) Possibly also from there he wrote his second letter. Available evidence clearly shows that “Babylon” refers to the city on the Euphrates and not to Rome, as some have claimed. Having been entrusted with ‘the good news for those who are circumcised,’ Peter could be expected to serve in a center of Judaism, such as Babylon. (Ga 2:7-9) There was a large Jewish population in and around the ancient city of Babylon. The Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971, Vol. 15, col. 755), when discussing production of the Babylonian Talmud, refers to Judaism’s “great academies of Babylon” during the Common Era. Since Peter wrote to “the temporary residents scattered about in [literal] Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1Pe 1:1), it logically follows that the source of the letter, “Babylon,” was the literal place by that name. Never does the Bible indicate that Babylon specifically refers to Rome, nor does it state that Peter was ever in Rome.
The first to claim that Peter was martyred at Rome is Dionysius, bishop of Corinth in the latter half of the second century. Earlier, Clement of Rome, though mentioning Paul and Peter together, makes Paul’s preaching in both the E and the W a distinguishing feature of that apostle, implying that Peter was never in the W. As the vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman government (under Nero) had seemingly not yet begun, there would have been no reason for Peter to veil the identity of Rome by the use of another name. When Paul wrote to the Romans, sending greetings by name to many in Rome, he omitted Peter. Had Peter been a leading overseer there, this would have been an unlikely omission. Also, Peter’s name is not included among those sending greetings in Paul’s letters written from Rome—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Timothy, Philemon, Hebrews.
First Peter. The Christians to whom the apostle Peter addressed his first letter were experiencing severe trials. (1Pe 1:6) Additionally, “the end of all things” had drawn close—evidently the end of the Jewish system of things foretold by Jesus. (Compare Mr 13:1-4; 1Th 2:14-16; Heb 9:26.) It was, therefore, a time for them to be “vigilant with a view to prayers.” (1Pe 4:7; compare Mt 26:40-45.) They also needed encouragement to endure faithfully, the very encouragement provided by the apostle.
Repeatedly, Peter reminded fellow Christians of the blessings they enjoyed. Because of God’s mercy, they had received a new birth to a living hope, giving them reason for rejoicing. (1Pe 1:3-9) They had been bought with Christ’s precious blood. (1Pe 1:18, 19) Through the baptismal arrangement, they had received a good conscience and would continue to enjoy such by living in harmony with what their water baptism symbolized. (1Pe 3:21–4:6) As living stones, they were being built on Christ Jesus to become a spiritual house or temple. They were “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession.”—1Pe 2:4-10.
In view of what God and his Son had done in their behalf, Christians, as Peter showed, had reason to endure sufferings and to maintain fine conduct. They were to expect sufferings, for “even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones.” (1Pe 3:17, 18) Sharing in the sufferings of Christ was in itself a reason for rejoicing, as it would result in being overjoyed at the revelation of Christ’s glory. To be reproached for the name of Christ constituted an evidence that a person had God’s spirit. (1Pe 4:12-14) The trials themselves resulted in faith of tested quality, which was needed for salvation. (1Pe 1:6-9) Moreover, by faithfully enduring, they would continue to experience God’s care. He would make them firm and strong.—1Pe 5:6-10.
However, as Peter emphasized, Christians were never to suffer because of being lawbreakers. (1Pe 4:15-19) Theirs was to be exemplary conduct, which would serve to silence ignorant talk against them. (1Pe 2:12, 15, 16) This involved every aspect of a Christian’s life—his relationship to governmental authority, to masters, to family members, and to Christian brothers. (1Pe 2:13–3:9) It called for right use of the organs of speech, holding a good conscience (1Pe 3:10-22), and remaining free from the defiling practices of the nations. (1Pe 4:1-3) Inside the congregation, older men serving as shepherds were not to lord it over the sheep, but were to do their work willingly and eagerly. The younger men were to be in subjection to the older men. (1Pe 5:1-5) All Christians were to be hospitable, seek to build one another up, have intense love for one another, and gird themselves with lowliness of mind.—1Pe 4:7-11; 5:5.
Second Peter. The purpose of Peter’s second letter was to assist Christians to make their calling and choosing sure and to avoid being led astray by false teachers and ungodly men within the congregation itself. (2Pe 1:10, 11; 3:14-18) Christians are urged to have faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love (2Pe 1:5-11), and they are admonished to pay attention to the inspired “prophetic word.” (2Pe 1:16-21) Examples of past executions of Jehovah’s judgments against ungodly persons are cited to show that those abandoning the path of righteousness will not escape God’s wrath. (2Pe 2:1-22) Despite what ridiculers might say in “the last days,” the coming of Jehovah’s day, a day for the execution of ungodly men, is just as certain as what befell the world of Noah’s day. Also, God’s promise of new heavens and a new earth is sure and should inspire diligent efforts to be found unblemished from God’s standpoint.—2Pe 3:1-18.
[Box on page 622]
HIGHLIGHTS OF FIRST PETER
A letter encouraging Christians to be vigilant and to endure faithfully despite trials
Written in Babylon by the apostle Peter using Silvanus as a secretary, about 62-64 C.E.
Christians should act in a manner worthy of their wonderful hope
“The ones chosen” have been given a living hope, an incorruptible inheritance in heaven (1:1-5)
They have faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls—something that the prophets of old and even the angels were intensely interested in (1:8-12)
Hence, they should brace up their minds for activity; they should shun their former desires, be holy, and conduct themselves with godly fear and brotherly love (1:13-25)
They must form a longing for the ‘milk of the word’ in order to grow to salvation (2:1-3)
They are a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, built on the foundation of Christ; they must therefore offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (2:4-8)
As a people for special possession, they declare abroad the excellencies of their God and conduct themselves in a manner that honors him (2:9-12)
Relationships with fellow humans should be based on godly principles
Be submissive to human rulers; love the brothers; fear God (2:13-17)
House servants must be in subjection to their masters even when these are unreasonable; Jesus set a good example of patient endurance of evil (2:18-25)
Wives should be subject to their husbands; if the husband is an unbeliever, the wife’s fine conduct might win him over (3:1-6)
Husbands are to assign honor to their wives “as to a weaker vessel” (3:7)
All Christians should show fellow feeling toward others, not repaying injury for injury, but pursuing peace (3:8-12)
The end of all things has drawn close, so Christians should be sound in mind and vigilant with a view to prayers, should have intense love for one another and use their gifts to honor God (4:7-11)
Elders should be eager to shepherd the flock of God; young men must remain in subjection to older men; all should manifest lowliness of mind (5:1-5)
Faithful endurance of suffering results in blessings
Christians can rejoice even under grievous trials, since the quality of their faith will be made manifest (1:6, 7)
Christ suffered and died in the flesh to lead us to God; hence, we no longer live according to fleshly desires—even if fleshly people abuse us because we are different (3:18–4:6)
If a Christian endures trials faithfully, he will share in great rejoicing at Jesus’ revelation as well as be assured that he has God’s spirit right now (4:12-14)
Let each one humble himself under God’s hand and throw his anxiety upon Him; let him take his stand against Satan, with confidence that God himself will make His servants strong (5:6-10)
[Box on page 623]
HIGHLIGHTS OF SECOND PETER
A letter encouraging Christians to exert themselves and to cling to the prophetic word; it contains powerful warnings against apostasy
Written perhaps from Babylon about 64 C.E.
Christians must exert themselves and trust in the prophetic word
God has freely given all things that concern life and godly devotion; in response Christians must exert themselves to develop faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love—qualities that will make them active and fruitful (1:1-15)
Christians must pay attention to the divinely inspired prophetic word; when Peter saw Jesus transfigured and heard God speak in the mountain, the prophetic word was made more sure (1:16-21)
Guard against false teachers and other corrupt persons; Jehovah’s day is coming
False teachers will infiltrate the congregation, bringing in destructive sects (2:1-3)
Jehovah is sure to judge these apostates, just as he judged the disobedient angels, the ungodly world in Noah’s day, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (2:4-10)
Such false teachers despise authority, stain the good name of Christians by excesses and immorality, entice the weak, and promise freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption (2:10-19)
These are worse off now than when they did not know about Jesus Christ (2:20-22)
Beware of ridiculers in the last days who will mock the message about Jesus’ promised presence; they forget that the God who purposes to destroy this system of things already destroyed the world before the Flood (3:1-7)
Do not confuse God’s patience with slowness—he is patient because he wants men to repent; nevertheless, this system of things will be destroyed in Jehovah’s day, and a righteous new heavens and earth will replace it (3:8-13)
Christians must do their utmost to be “spotless and unblemished and in peace”; then they will not be misled by false teachers but will grow in undeserved kindness and knowledge of Christ (3:14-18)