1 Peter – Chapter One III

by Ed Urzi

The circumstances surrounding the Apostle Peter’s death have been the subject of speculation and debate down through the centuries. The traditional view of Peter’s death places him in the city of Rome in or around A.D. 67. It was there that Roman authorities allegedly seized Peter as part of a governmental action targeting Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero.

As Peter faced martyrdom during that time, it is said that he requested to be crucified upside down, as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus did. If this is true, then the book of 1 Peter was likely written around A.D. 65. In addition, there is a passage near the end of this epistle that may offer a clue regarding its place of origin: “She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you…” (1 Peter 5:13).

One Biblical scholar lays out the various options are associated with this reference to “Babylon”…

“According to 5:13, Peter was in ‘Babylon’ when he wrote the epistle. Various identifications of the location have been suggested, among them (1) a military outpost in Egypt, (2) the ancient Mesopotamian city itself, and (3) Rome.

Several lines of evidence favor the last proposal. Mark, who was with Peter when he wrote (5:13), is known to have been with Paul in Rome (Col. 4:10; Philem. 24). Rome is often referred to as ‘Babylon’ in the book of Revelation (Rev. 17:5, 9).

In Peter’s day, Rome was the pagan power under which God’s ‘exiles’ in the provinces of Asia Minor lived as their inheritance awaited them in heaven (1:1, 4), just as in the days of Jeremiah and Daniel, pagan Babylon had conquered Judah and carried captives far from the Promised Land. This interpretation has been generally accepted since the second century. The uniform testimony of early church history is that Peter was in Rome at the end of his life.” (1)

Another source offers a practical explanation for the use of the word “Babylon” as a substitute designation for Rome…

“In times of persecution, writers exercised unusual care not to endanger Christians by identifying them. Peter, according to some traditions, followed James and Paul and died as a martyr near Rome about two years after he wrote this letter, thus he had written this epistle near the end of his life, probably while staying in the imperial city. He did not want the letter to be found and the church to be persecuted, so he may have hidden its location under the code word, ‘Babylon,’ which aptly fit because of the city’s idolatry (cf. Rev 17, 18).” (2)

(1) R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 2237.

(2) John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006).