Introducing the New Testament, 2nd Edition

A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey

Materials available for professors by request only


26. 1 Peter


This chapter should enable the student to

  • summarize what modern scholarship has to say regarding historical background for the letter called 1 Peter, including suppositions about the author, the setting to which it was addressed, the likely date of composition, and the purposes for which it was intended.
  • explicate the type of suffering that the recipients of 1 Peter were probably facing and indicate how the letter counsels them to regard that suffering and to respond to it.
  • explain how 1 Peter presents Christians as constituting a new Israel and interpret this identification in terms of the doctrine called “supersessionism.”
  • relate the teaching of 1 Peter to baptismal imagery and explain how portions of the letter might have had particular significance for new Christians.
  • identify what 1 Peter says regarding submission to earthly authorities and interpret this in light of what the New Testament says elsewhere on that subject.

Pedagogical Suggestions

1. Traditions about Peter

Have students read the second-century writing Apocryphal Acts of Peter. Ask students to sketch the development of traditions about Peter from the Gospels and Acts to the Apocryphal Acts. Where does the content of 1 Peter fit? Are there lines of continuity in the early Christian reflection about Peter that produced the Gospels, Acts, 1 Peter, and, one hundred years later, the Apocryphal Acts? What sources did the author of the Apocryphal Acts employ? Does this writing cite any of the New Testament writings?


This is a longer, synthetic exercise that asks students to draw connections between multiple (biblical and extra-canonical) writings. Students will use their skills of analysis, critical reading of historical evidence, and knowledge of scholarly presentations about Christianity gleaned from the textbook.

2. Images for the Church

Divide the class into groups of five (or, if you want smaller groups, you can have more than one group work separately on the same image). Assign each group one of 1 Peter’s images of the church (text box 26.4). Ask each group to reread and discuss the image they are assigned. Then have the group draw or enact the image, paying attention to the details presented in 1 Peter. How does each image encapsulate specific aspects of the ideal behavior, internal relationships, polity (church governance), and external relationships of the body of believers? What is helpful about the images? Are these images traditional Jewish, Greek, or Christian images? How could you find out?


Students combine their analytical skills in reading and observing with their ability to imagine and construct the ancient social world. Here students learn how to move between the written text and the imagined social world that created and is created by particular writings.

Discussion Prompts

  1. Compare Paul’s understanding of suffering (e.g., in 1 Thessalonians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, or Galatians) with 1 Peter’s.
  2. Compare 1 Peter’s reflections on baptism (chs. 1–3) with Paul’s reflection on baptism in Romans 6. How are the two thinkers alike? Are their views complementary or contradictory? In what ways?
  3. “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” What is the official Roman policy developed with respect to early Christians in Trajan’s reply to Pliny (see box 26.6)? How does this help us understand the content of 1 Peter? How might Trajan’s reply help us to date the letter?