Introduction (Chapter 1 Verses 1-2)
The writer of the letter is Peter, the apostle, and it’s thought to have been written around 64 AD. At the time of Nero’s government in Rome (vv1-2), which brought fierce persecution to Christians which resulted in the ‘scattering’ of so many throughout the territories mentioned here. Now the question arises, where was Peter writing from? What does Peter mean by Babylon (1Peter 5.13)? There is no hint that Peter ever visited the literal Babylon, and in Peter’s day it no longer existed anyway. Added to that, the letter finished with a reference to Silas and Mark, so all three, including maybe even Peter’s wife (1Corinthians 9.5), all of them, would have had to have been in the same Babylon together. Now others argue that it is a veiled reference to Rome, the City that is. But is it possible it could simply mean the ‘world’. The verse reads “she who is in Babylon” (5.13), ‘she’ being the Church obviously, and of course the Church Peter is writing to is in the world, and Rome was the then centre of the known world, and the seat of its government? It may be that Peter equates the persecuting Roman government of Nero, which was killing God’s people, with Nebuchadnezzar, who did the same with God’s people in the Old Testament. The persecution itself would have been the reason for the veiled reference to Rome, not wanting to bring anymore persecution upon the Christians, unnecessarily.
Peter is a colourful character, the gospels and Acts give us a good account of his traits, his fall, his reinstatement and subsequent service. He took part in the Jerusalem council (Acts 15.6-14), he was rebuked by Paul for his hypocrisy (Galatians 2.11-21), which reveals that although changed, he wasn’t yet perfect by any means. He became a planter of, and leader in New Testament Churches. It is thought that Peter was martyred shortly after writing this letter in Rome, hence perhaps the coded reference to Rome, ‘Babylon’ (5.13)? His martyrdom was the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophetic word (John 21.18-19). Which Peter had long been prepared for, his ‘glorious’ departure. There was a time when in self-confidence he boasted of such a martyr-like faith (Mark 14.31). But now with the Lord’s refining process, and a deal of persecution, the dross is gone, and we are left with a humble servant of God. Who is standing now upon nothing but solid ‘Rock.’ A man more than ready and willing to die for Jesus. Lord, give to us such faith?
(© James R Hamilton, written May, 1998)