This book bears the name of the writer (1 Pet 1:1), and is the first of two general epistles by Peter.
Peter was the son of Jonah (Mt 16:16,17). Before he became a disciple of Christ, he was known as Simon. He was a native of Bethsaida, but seems to have moved to Capernaum where he followed the occupation of fishing. From this work he was chosen to be an apostle of Christ and a fisher of men (Mt 4:18-22). He was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew (Jn 1:40-42). Impetuous, brave and energetic, Peter was a leader among the apostles. He made some mistakes, but was outstanding in the spread of the gospel. He was entrusted "with the gospel of the circumcision" and was one of the pillars of the early church (Gal 2:6-8). Because of his prominence in the Gospels and in the first fifteen chapters of Acts, we know more about Peter's life than of any other of the twelve apostles. After the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15:1-29; Gal 2:1-10), we read no more of him in Acts. In Galatians 2:11-21 we read of his presence in Antioch where Paul rebuked him for his cowardice because of Judaizers. Peter was a married man (Mt 8:14; Mark 1:30; Lk 4:38), and there is no indication that he ceased to live with his wife after he became prominent as an apostle (I Cor 9:5). The New Testament says nothing about when, where, or how he died. The Catholic assumption that Peter was executed in Rome has no basis in the scriptures.
First Peter is addressed to "sojourners of the dispersion." These Jewish Christians had been scattered by persecutions (1:1, 17; 2:11,12; 3:17; 4:1-4, 12-19; 5:8,9). They were sojourning among Gentiles in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1 Pet 1:1; 2:12). Although the epistle was addressed primarily to Jewish Christians, it did not exclude Gentiles. Peter presents the church as the true Israel of God's promise (1 Pet 2:4-10).
The letter was probably written between A.D. 64 and 67. It appears to have been written from Babylon (5:13), though some take the position that "Babylon" was a mystical name for Rome or Jerusalem. Nothing in the New Testament confirms this view. One theory holds that Peter used "Babylon" to conceal his actual location from Nero. Clement of Rome, Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius all claim that Peter was martyred in Rome when Nero was emperor.
The general purpose of the letter, expressed in 5:12, was to console them in their suffering, and to exhort them to faithfulness and duty. An indirect object was to give support to the authority of Paul. Faith, obedience and patience are clearly discussed. The epistle is a summary of the consolations and instructions necessary to encourage Christians in their journey to heaven.