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The First Epistle of Peter is a book of the New Testament. It has traditionally been held to have been written by Saint Peter the apostle during his time as bishop of Romemarker or Bishop of Antioch, though neither titles are used in the epistle. The letter is addressed to various churches in Asia Minor suffering religious persecution.


Simon Peter wrote two epistles which are called Catholic, the second of which, on account of its difference from the first in style, is considered by many not to be by him. Then too the Gospel according to Mark, who was his disciple and interpreter, is ascribed to him. On the other hand, the books, of which one is entitled his Acts, another his Gospel, a third his Preaching, a fourth his Revelation, a fifth his Judgment are rejected as apocryphal.

Authorship and date

The author identifies himself in the opening verse as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus", and the view that the epistle was written by St. Peter is attested to by a number of Church Fathers: Irenaeus (140-203), Tertullian (150-222), Clement of Alexandria (155-215) and Origen of Alexandria (185-253). Most scholars believe the author was not Peter, but an unknown author writing after Peter's death. Estimates for the date of composition range from 75 to 112 AD.


This epistle is addressed “to the strangers dispersed through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, elect,” (five provinces of Asia Minor) though it otherwise appears to be addressed to Gentiles rather than to the Jews of the Diaspora. Some of these areas were evangelized or re-evangelized, by Paul of Tarsus according to , .

The author counsels (1) to steadfastness and perseverance under persecution (1–2:10); (2) to the practical duties of a holy life (2:11–3:13); (3) he adduces the example of Christ and other motives to patience and holiness (3:14–4:19); and (4) concludes with counsels to pastors and people (chap. 5).

The Epistle is attentive to keeping with the teachings of Paul, and is likewise in conformity with the teachings expressed in the canonical Gospels. The letter blends moral exhortation with catechesis, and especially relates fidelity even during suffering with the life of Jesus.

The "Harrowing of Hell"

The Epistle contains the remarkable assertion: "For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (4:6). This passage has few parallels in the New Testament (cf. Eph 4:9-10, 1 Peter 3:18-19, John 5:25), though it has been argued that the various assertions that Christ was “raised from the dead” presuppose that he journey to the abode of the dead before his Resurrection (e.g. the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 632).

This teaching became included in the Apostles’ Creed, reading: “He (Jesus) descended into Hell.” The earliest citations of the Creed, however, (for example that of Tertullian) do not include this line (or several others), and the Apostles' Creed was not well known in the East. From the doctrine of the Harrowing of Hell emerged various medieval legends.


The principal divisions of the First Letter of Peter are the following:

  • Address (1 Peter 1:1-2)
  • The Gift and Call of God in Baptism (1 Peter 1:3-2:10)
  • The Christian in a Hostile World (1 Peter 2:11-4:11)
  • Advice to the Persecuted (1 Peter 4:12-5:11)
  • Conclusion (1 Peter 5:12-14) 1 Peter 1:1-2

See also


  1. The early Christian world, Volume 1, p.148, Philip Esler
  2. 1 Peter Introduction, New American Bible

External links

Online translations of the First Epistle of Peter:

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