Today we begin the First Letter of Peter. The letter was written by Peter, likely dictated to a secretary, probably Silvanus, who had also traveled with Paul. Peter was martyred in Rome in A.D. 64. We can tell from the text that it was written later, after some persecutions had taken place. Thus the letter can be accurately dated to between A.D. 60 and 64.
What is especially interesting it that it was written from Rome. We know this because of a reference in Chapter 5 to “Babylon” which was code for Rome. Most likely, Peter was already a wanted man by the time the letter was written.
That Peter was in Rome and martyred there is of important significance. We know that Peter was crucified upside down. At his request he deemed himself unfit to die in the same manner as the Lord. We know that his body was taken out of Nero’s circus and buried a short distance away. Tradition says the grave was marked with a red stone.
When Christianity was legalized in the A.D. 300′s a Church was built over the traditional spot, but the grave itself had been lost. The Church was added onto and expanded and lasted over 1,000 years. However, in the 1400′s it had fallen into such disrepair and a new Church was commission to be built over the ruins of the old. Through the 1400′s and 1500′s the new Church was constructed.
In the 1950′s archeological excavations under the Church revealed an ancient street that had been buried for centuries. The street lead to cemetery. Multiple tombs were found, including one that had written out the outside, “Here lies Peter”. Tests revealed that is was a first century man of approximately 60 years old. Other evidence confirmed it was the tomb of St. Peter. After being pressed down for 2,000 year the bones had been petrified, literally turned to rock.
Then a miraculous realization: measurements of the position of the grave determined it is exactly under the alter of the Church above. Having not known the location of the tomb, there is no way the alter could have been placed so precisely but yet for 500 years the Church above had been standing with its center point directly over the petrified bones of the first pope. Peter, had quite literally, become the Rock on which the Church was built. That Church is of course, St. Peter’s Basilica of the Vatican.
You can learn more about this story and see a virtual tour of the tome at: Tomb of St. Peter