On Monday, Lord willing, we’ll begin studying through 1 Peter. The first verse we’ll look at reads like this: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…” Now, immediately, we might notice that we don’t really know much about these places Peter was addressing. (If you have a study Bible it will show you a map and tell you that they were all in the Roman Empire in what is now modern-day Turkey.)
Here are some insights into what kinds of places these were where the recipients of Peter’s letter were living. The second two paragraphs give some great encouragement for preaching and living out the Gospel in places where there are lots of obstacles to the message of Christ. Peter’s letter, and the Christians who read it, bore eternal fruit!
The picture that emerges of the regions to which Peter wrote is one of a vast geographical area with small cities few and far between, of a diversified population of indigenous peoples, Greek settlers, and Roman colonists. The residents practiced many religions, spoke several languages, and were never fully assimilated into the Greco-Roman culture. The problem of linguistic diversity would have been an obstacle to any evangelistic effort of the indigenous peoples, since Greek and Latin are poorly attested in vast areas of Asia Minor except among officials in the cities that became Roman administrative centers.
And yet this untamed region became the cradle of Christianity. From Asia Minor emerged people whose names are immortalized in Christian history. From Pontus came Aquila, the Jewish tentmaker and husband of Priscilla (Acts 18:2), as well as Marcion, the wealthy shipowner and Christian dissident of the second century who resided in the prominent city of Sinope. Aquila, the famous translator of a Greek version of the OT, hailed from Sinope as well. From Hierapolis in Phrygia (in Roman Galatia of the first century) came Epictetus, the famous Roman slave and Stoic philosopher, as well as Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, repeatedly quoted by Eusebius. In the fourth century came the Cappadocian fathers, such as Basil, bishop of Cappadocia’s capital city, Caesarea; his brother Gregory of Nyssa; and Gregory of Nazianzus, bishop of Constantinople – all three defenders of the Nicene Creed against the heresies of Arius.
To this remote and undeveloped region, the apostle Peter writes his letter to Christians whom he addresses as “visiting foreigners and resident aliens” (1:1; 2:11), scattered across the vast reaches of Asia Minor. We may surmise that, in no small part because of this letter and the faithfulness of those who received it, well-established churches flourished in all five of these regions by AD 180. Their bishops attended the great councils of the second through fourth centuries, where the doctrines were forged that Christians hold dear yet today.
–Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, pg. 22-23