Introducing 1 Peter
It was a shaky time for Christians in the Roman Empire. In A.D. 68 Emperor Nero saw himself surrounded by political enemies and took the easy way out: suicide. In the next year three emperors, in rapid succession, took his place, but couldn't hold the job. So in A.D. 69 troops proclaimed the military leader Vespasian as emperor—and saw that he stayed there.
Vespasian hated Jews, and he counted Christians among them. Prior to becoming emperor, his goal had been to trample Judea and erase it from existence. As emperor, he sent his oldest son, Titus, to finish the job. Titus put Jerusalem under siege for three months. Then he tightened the noose. Troops leveled buildings to the ground. The temple became a crumble of stones. Jerusalem fell. Jews (and Christians) became Roman captives.
Aftershocks vibrated throughout the Roman Empire, blending with the general persecution against "atheists" (people who refused to worship Roman gods) that Nero had begun. Christians everywhere suffered. They were driven from their homes, deported to the outer borders of the empire, forbidden to worship openly and, worse yet, splintered by their own internal doctrinal disputes.
It is possible that the apostle Paul was martyred under Nero. And Peter was martyred as well—crucified upside-down, tradition says, because he felt unworthy to die in the same position as his Lord. It was a dark season for Christians.
How were they to endure?
Peter, through God's inspiration, sensed this coming darkness. If conservative scholars are correct, Peter's first letter can be dated about A.D. 64, written probably from the city of Rome— which Peter called Babylon in 5:13.
This is not a bleak letter. Indeed, it is full of hope and practical counsel on how to endure. It tells us to balance holy living with correct doctrine, to nurture spiritual growth, to work within existing authority structures, and to take care of each other.
This letter, sent with prophetic love to first-century Christians, still lives today. It provides a compass for our own dark road.