2017 2nd Quarter
Lesson 2, April 1-7, An Inheritance Incorruptible
Sunday, April 2
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” KJV, 1 Peter 1:1.
The first letter of Peter is addressed to the Christian believers who lived in the territories of the Roman Empire that later became known as the Byzantine Empire. The reference to the dispersion directly translated by modern versions (“To the pilgrims of the Dispersion,” NKJV) can create some confusion as to which historical event of scattering the Israelites, Jews, or Christians Peter is bringing to mind. But we must keep in mind that the dispersion of the Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem had not yet occurred at the time of Peter’s epistles, since his death happened about “13 October AD 64 during the festivities on the occasion of the ‘dies imperii’ of Emperor Nero.” (Rainer Riesner, Paul’s Early Period: Chronology, Mission Strategy, Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998, 65.)
The region of the dispersion of the Israelites from the northern 10 tribes and the tribe of Benjamin and Judah that were conquered by the Assyrians, culminating in the miraculous defeat of the Assyrians at Jerusalem, is included in that same territory. In this map we can see what territory is mentioned when it was a part of the Assyrian empire of Old Testament times.
(Image by Joelholdsworth – Own workThis vector image was created with Inkscape., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2131901)
By the time of the Greeks, this region would essentially make up the territory held by the King of the North in Daniel’s prophetic writings (See Daniel 11.) And it is quite amazing that the Jews would have been dispersed to even this region as a result of the conquests of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes-Persians, and the Greeks. Remember, Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin and a Roman citizen because of his home in Tarsus. “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” KJV, Acts 22:3, emphasis added.
Again, another map to help us understand to whom Peter addressed this epistle.
(Image by Javierfv1212 (talk) – I created this work entirely by myself. Historical Sources used: Penguin Historical Atlas, Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome by Nick Constable., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7730788)
The Roman Empire at the time of Hadrian. Cappadocia is indicated in red.
Now, if we understand that the dispersion of the Israelites from the promised land of Canaan was because of the wickedness they performed, we can begin to understand that Peter is writing to an audience that may be professing to be Christian, but have not completely repented of their wicked habits. The history of the Christian Church during the future reign of the Byzantine Empire would be an indication that Peter fully understood the need for reproof and encouragement embodied in his letter to this audience.
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” KJV, 1 Peter 4:1-6, emphasis added.