Pietro Perugino - Jesus gives St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, Vatican City, 1482.

The First Letter of Peter - Πéτρου Α - is the second of seven catholic or universal letters of the New Testament of the Bible, along with James, Second Peter, the First, Second, and Third Letters of John, and Jude. These letters are so called because they are addressed to the universal Church in general and not to a specific community such as, for example, the Philippians.

Simon Peter was a Galilean fisherman from Bethsaida, whose brother Andrew announced to him, "We have found the Messiah" and brought him to Jesus (John 1:41-42). "Jesus looked at him, and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas' (which means Peter)." When the Lord saw Peter at the Sea of Galilee (Lake Gennesaret), he climbed into his boat and Peter caught a miraculous number of fish. Jesus then called Peter and his fishing partners James and John to become "fishers of men." The three left everything and followed him (Luke 5:1-11). We know that Peter was married, for he brought Jesus to the home of his mother-in-law to heal her (Matthew 8:14, Mark 1:29-31). Peter's wife accompanied him on his ministry (I Corinthians 9:5).

Jesus Christ appointed Simon as an Apostle (Mark 3:14-16). Jesus asked his Apostles: "Who do you say that I am?" It was Simon who answered, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." Jesus exclaimed, "Blessed are you, Simon BarJona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:15-17). Whereupon Jesus renamed him Peter (Greek) or Cephas (Aramaic): "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19). Peter was with the Lord on special occasions, such as the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37), the Transfiguration of Christ (Luke 9:28), and the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). Peter denied Jesus three times during his Passion (Mark 14:66-72), but reaffirmed his loyalty three times following the Resurrection of Christ (John 21:15-19). Jesus designated Peter to lead the Apostles and the early Christian Church (Matthew 16:17-19 and John 21:15-17).

The Acts of the Apostles described St. Peter's early leadership and ministry, such as his four powerful speeches in Jerusalem in which he repeatedly witnesses to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus: the Pentecost speech (Acts 2:14-36), which led to the conversion of 3000 Jews, thus fulfilling God's promise to Abraham to bring salvation to the Israelites; the second to the people following the cure of the crippled beggar (3:1-26), and twice (4:8-12 and 5:29-32) before the Sanhedrin with his famous reply, "We must obey God rather than men" (5:29). Peter healed Aeneas and Tabitha (Acts 9), baptized the Gentile Cornelius and his family, and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 10-11). Acts 12 related Herod Agrippa's persecution of the Church beginning with the murder of the Apostle James the son of Zebedee (12:2) and the imprisonment of Peter. However, Peter was miraculously released from prison by an angel of the Lord, and went to the home of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark. "'Report this to James and the brothers.' Then he left and went to another place" (Acts 12:17). Peter's last appearance in Acts occurred in 15:7-11 when he presided at the Council of Jerusalem.

William of Tyre recalled the tradition that St. Peter founded a church in Tortosa dedicated to the Virgin Mary on his travels through Phoenicia (XXII, 3). St. Peter served as the first Bishop of the See of Antioch before he became the first Bishop of the Church in Rome. The historian Eusebius of Caesarea dates Peter in Antioch during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD), and Peter and Paul in Rome during the reign of Nero (54-68 AD). According to Theodoret, St. Peter, on his trip to Antioch to meet St. Paul (Galatians 2:11), designated Ignatius to follow as Bishop of Syria. Eusebius (2:25) also records that Bishop Dionysius of Corinth reported in a Letter written in 170 AD that Peter and Paul taught jointly in Corinth (First Corinthians 1:12, 3:22) as well as in Rome. Both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome during the persecution of Nero 64-68 AD.

The opening verse of this Letter begins with the name of Peter, the leader of Christ's Apostles. Because of his encouragement to the persecuted in Chapter 4, it is thought Peter wrote this in Rome around the time of Nero and the burning of Rome in 64 AD. One of the catholic or universal epistles, First Peter is a pastoral letter addressed to five early Churches emphasizing the "inexpressible and glorious joy" of salvation through Christ, and the call to Christian living. He opens the Letter with a Trinitarian expression, and continues on the mercy of the Father, giving us "a new birth to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1:1-9).

First Peter 2:9-10 emphasizes Virtue and that followers of Christ are the People of God - "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." The second section of the Letter begins in First Peter 2:11 with instruction on Christian conduct, on husbands and wives, and advice to the persecuted. First Peter 2:21-25 affirms that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 and is an often quoted passage: "He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls." Just as Jesus Christ our Paschal Lamb suffered, so too Christians may suffer in a hostile world. But St. Peter recommends exemplary behavior to offset suffering. The verb I suffer - πάσχω or pascho, and the noun suffering - πάθημα or pathema - referring to the sufferings of Christ and Christians - occur 15 times in First Peter, more than any other book of the New Testament.

I Peter 3:7 offers excellent advice to husbands: "Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way." 3:11 directs one to do good and avoid evil! The letter provides a key reference (3:19) for Christ's descent into hell following his crucifixion, as recounted in the Apostles' Creed; the Greek word φυλακή or phylake means both 'prison' and 'Sheol.' First Peter 3:20-21 refers to Noah and the flood, which "prefigures Baptism, which saves you now," through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

St. Peter emphasizes love throughout this letter (1:22, 2:17, 3:8, 4:8). The noted expression in First Peter 4:8 - "Love covers a multitude of sins" - was often referenced by the Apostolic and Church Fathers, such as Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna in Asia Minor, one of the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation.

I Peter 4:16 is one of only three places in the Bible where the word Christian appears, the others being Acts 11:26 and 26:28. The verse is an important reminder for our present times, where Christian persecution has become commonplace in places such as the Middle East: "But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name."

The conclusion (5:12-14) is important, for he states he wrote this letter "by Silvanus" (Latin), also known as Silas (Hebrew), who often accompanied Paul (Acts 15:40, 2 Corinthians 1:19, 1 Thessalonians 1:1). This would account for the letter's superb Greek. Verse 5:13 reads, "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you, and so doth Mark, my son." "Babylon" was a code name for Rome (Revelation 17:9). Colossians 4:10 also suggests that Mark was in Rome during the imprisonment of Paul and Aristarchus. Peter affectionately calls Mark his son! The strong relation between the two surely had an important influence on the Gospel of Mark.

The following Scripture is from the Douay-Rheims Bible now in the public domain and the New American Bible. The Douay-Rheims Bible was the standard English Bible for Catholics for over 300 years, and still remains in use today. The Douay-Rheims Bible was the first approved English translation of St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate Bible. The Old Testament translation was completed at the English College of Douai, France in 1609, and the New Testament at the English College of Rheims, France in 1582. The Douay-Rheims Bible was revised by Bishop Challoner in England from 1749 to 1752. The Haydock Douay-Rheims Bible of 1814 was the one upon which President John F. Kennedy took the oath of office on January 20, 1961 to become the 35th President of the United States. Since its first publication in 1970, the New American Bible is now the most widely read Bible today by Catholics in the USA. Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Chapters one and four are from the New American Bible.

The Mediterranean World during the Apostolic Age.




1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
2 in the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification by the Spirit,
for obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ: may grace and peace be yours in abundance.

A Living Hope

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you 5 who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.

6 In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and investigated it, 11 investigating the time and circumstances that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the glories to follow them. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you with regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you [through] the holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels longed to look.


13 Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance 15 but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, 16 for it is written, “Be holy because I am holy.”


17 Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, 18 realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold 19 but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb. 20 He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, 21 who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Mutual Love

22 Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a pure heart. 23 You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God, 24 for:
“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the field; the grass withers, and the flower wilts;
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” This is the word that has been proclaimed to you.


The Living Stone

1 Wherefore laying away all malice, and all guile, and dissimulations, and envies, and all detractions, 2 As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation: 3 If so be you have tasted that the Lord is sweet.

4 Unto whom coming, as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and made honourable by God: 5 Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

6 Wherefore it is said in the scripture: Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious. And he that shall believe in him, shall not be confounded. 7 To you therefore that believe, he is honour: but to them that believe not, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the head of the corner: 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal, to them who stumble at the word, neither do believe, whereunto also they are set.

9 But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people:
that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
10 Who in time past were not a people: but are now the people of God.
Who had not obtained mercy; but now have obtained mercy.

Live as Servants of God

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul, 12 Having your conversation good among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by the good works, which they shall behold in you, glorify God in the day of visitation.

13 Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God's sake: whether it be to the king as excelling; 14 Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good: 15 For so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not as making liberty a cloak for malice, but as the servants of God. 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

The Example of Christ's Suffering

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is thankworthy, if for conscience towards God, a man endure sorrows, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if committing sin, and being buffeted for it, you endure? But if doing well you suffer patiently; this is thankworthy before God. 21 For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. 23 Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly.

24 Who his own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree:
that we, being dead to sins, should live to justice: by whose stripes you were healed.
25 For you were as sheep going astray; but you are now converted to the shepherd and bishop of your souls.


Advice for Wives

1 In like manner also let wives be subject to their husbands: that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives. 2 Considering your chaste conversation with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: 4 But the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. 5 For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands: 6 As Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, doing well, and not fearing any disturbance.

Advice for Husbands

7 Ye husbands, likewise dwelling with them according to knowledge, giving honour to the female as to the weaker vessel,
and as to the co-heirs of the grace of life: that your prayers be not hindered.

Christians called to Blessing

8 And in fine, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood, merciful, modest, humble: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing: for unto this are you called, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.

11 Let him decline from evil, and do good: let him seek after peace and pursue it:

12 Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers: but the countenance of the Lord upon them that do evil things.

Suffering for the Sake of Righteousness

13 And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good? 14 But if also you suffer any thing for justice' sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled. 15 But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you. 16 But with modesty and fear, having a good conscience: that whereas they speak evil of you, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

17 For it is better doing well (if such be the will of God) to suffer, than doing ill.

18 Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God,
being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit,
19 In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison:


20 Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noah [Noe], when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.

21 Whereunto baptism being of the like form, now saveth you also: not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 22 Who is on the right hand of God, swallowing down death, that we might be made heirs of life everlasting: being gone into heaven, the angels and powers and virtues being made subject to him.


Christian Restraint

1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), 2 so as not to spend what remains of one’s life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God.

3 For the time that has passed is sufficient for doing what the Gentiles like to do: living in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and wanton idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not plunge into the same swamp of profligacy, and they vilify you; 5 but they will give an account to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God. 7 The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers.

Christian Charity

8 Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.

9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining.
10 As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
11 Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Trial of Persecution

12 Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer.

16 But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.

17 For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? 18 “And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?” 19 As a result, those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.


1 The ancients [presbyters] therefore that are among you, I beseech, who am myself also an ancient, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ: as also a partaker of that glory which is to be revealed in time to come: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking care of it, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God: not for filthy lucre's sake, but voluntarily: 3 Neither as lording it over the clergy, but being made a pattern of the flock from the heart. 4 And when the prince of pastors shall appear, you shall receive a never fading crown of glory.

5 In like manner, ye young men, be subject to the ancients. And do you all insinuate humility one to another, for God resisteth the proud, but to the humble he giveth grace. 6 Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation: 7 Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you. 8 Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. 9 Whom resist ye, strong in faith: knowing that the same affliction befalls your brethren who are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. 11 To him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.


12 By Sylvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I think, I have written briefly:
beseeching and testifying that this is the true grace of God, wherein you stand.
13 The church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark.

14 Salute one another with a holy kiss. Grace be to all you, who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Bible

Rembrandt van Rijm - Jesus and the Apostles in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41), Gardner Museum, Boston, 1633.