Introduction to 1 Kefa

In my last post, we completed our study of Kefa through the Gospels, Book of Acts, and Galatians. We started this journey back on May 24, 2020. It’s now time to begin to explore his writings to the saints throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Before digging into his writings, I thought it might be beneficial to explore the background material that I have in my library.

Authorship

Although some commentators question Kefa’s authorship, others have argued forcefully for it; the situation presupposed in the letter fits Kefa’s lifetime. The tradition of Kefa’s martyrdom in Rome is virtually unanimous. By the late first century I Clement accepted the letter’s authenticity, and excavations indicate a second-century memorial in Rome to Kefa’s martyrdom. Given this tradition of his martyrdom in Rome, the likelihood that letters he wrote would be preserved, and the fact that most letters were either authentic or written long after the purported author’s death, the burden of proof is on those who wish to deny that Kefa wrote the letter. [1]

So strong is the evidence for the use of this epistle in the early Messianic communities that some scholars have regarded it as proved and maintained that it was considered to be canonical as early as this word had a meaning. [2]

Several early Messianic communities leaders – Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria – accepted 1 Kefa as authentic. Furthermore, there are examples of the early Messianic communities rejecting the practice of writing under an apostolic pseudonym as a forgery. They likely would have dismissed the letter if they had believed it to be falsely attributed to Kefa. In light of this, the book should be accepted as the Kefa’s work. [3]

The opening verse of the epistle claims it was written by Kefa, who was clearly the leader among Yeshua’s emissaries. The gospel writers emphasize this fact by placing his name at the head of each list of emissaries (see Mt 10; Mk 3; Lk 6; Ac 1), and including more information about him in the 4 gospels than any person other than Yeshua. Andrew, Kefa’s brother, brought him to Yeshua (see Jn 1:40–42). Kefa was married, and his wife apparently accompanied him in his ministry (see Mk 1:29–31; 1Co 9:5). [4]

Date

Another indication of probable dating is the teaching of 1 Kefa with regard to the government (see 1 Kefa 2:13–17). The approach is so conciliatory that it would better fit the period up to 64 CE than a later period. It seems difficult to imagine any writer urging submission to the infamous Nero after the commencement of his notorious blood-bath of 64 CE. [5] Most commentators date the writing as between 62 – 64 CE.

Background and Audience

It is widely agreed that Babylon (see 5:13) is a cryptic name for Rome, as in some Jewish works and undoubtedly in the book of Revelation. The situation of persecution described here fits Rome, and it would be appropriate for Kefa to send advance warning of that situation to Believers in Asia Minor, the stronghold of emperor worship. An audience in Asia Minor might consist mainly of Messianic Jews, but Kefa’s audience probably includes Gentile Believers. [6]

A fire devastated Rome in 64 CE but suspiciously left unscathed the estates of Nero and his friend Tigellinus. Like any good politician, Nero needed a scapegoat for his ills, and what appeared to be a new religion, understood as a fanatical form of Judaism begun by a crucified teacher three and a half decades before, filled the need perfectly. Romans viewed Believers, like Jews, as antisocial. [7]

Purpose

His letters are clearly designed for a specific group of Believers although scattered over a wide area. The keynote of the letter is hope and Kefa wishes to exhort these Believers to live in accordance with the hope they have received through Yeshua. He gives practical guidance to assist in their human relationships and particularly exhorts them to endure suffering in a joyful manner for Yeshua’s sake. His main purpose is, therefore, exhortative, but not infrequently he introduces theological considerations. [8]

Kefa loved to lead, but he had to go through a lot of brokenness to learn how. He thus wrote this book to Messianic communities to encourage them to persevere in spite of their own suffering, trials, and persecution. Kefa wanted Believers to know that new birth in Yeshua gives hope that will aid perseverance in spite of what we go through. Kefa blends doctrinal truth about our salvation with practical truth about how it is to be lived out in our various life situations – including in the relationship between husbands and wives. [9]

Believers are constantly exposed to a world system energized by HaSatan and his demons. Their effort is to discredit the Messianic communities and to destroy its credibility and integrity. One way these spirits work is by finding Believers whose lives are not consistent with the Word of God, and then parading them before the un-Believers to show what a sham the Messianic communities are. Believers, however, must stand against the enemy and silence the critics by the power of holy lives.

In this epistle, Kefa is rather effusive in reciting two categories of truth. The first category is positive and includes a long list of blessings bestowed on Believers. As he speaks about the identity of Believers and what it means to know Yeshua, Kefa mentions one privilege and blessing after another. Interwoven into this list of privileges is the catalog of suffering. Believers, though most greatly privileged, should also know that the world will treat them unjustly. Their citizenship is in heaven and they are strangers in a hostile, Satanic world. Thus the Believers’ life can be summed up as a call to victory and glory through the path of suffering. So, the basic question that Kefa answers in this epistle is: How are Believers to deal with animosity? The answer features practical truths and focuses on Yeshua as the model of one who maintained a triumphant attitude in the midst of hostility. [10]

In my next post, we will begin to unpack 1 Kefa.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Peter).

[2]  New Testament Introduction by Donald Guthrie. This a very in-depth commentary.

[3] The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.

[4] The Macarthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible.

[5] The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (1 Peter).

 [6] Ibid.

 [7] Ibid.

 [8] New Testament Introduction.

 [9] The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.

[10]The Macarthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible.

One thought on “Introduction to 1 Kefa

  1. Pingback: Introduction to 1 Kefa | Talmidimblogging

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