Nationality: Ancient Roman
Died At Age: 67
Also Known As: Shimon, Simeon, Simon
Born Country: Roman Empire
Born in: Bethsaida, Gaulanitis, Syria, Roman Empire
Famous as: Saint
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
Ancient Roman Men
siblings: Andrew the Apostle
Died on: 68
place of death: Clementine Chapel, Vatican Hill, Rome, Italia, Roman Empire
Who was Saint Peter?
Saint Peter, also known as 'Simon Peter’, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome. The ancient Christian churches consider him to be the founder of the Roman Church and the Church of Antioch, but have differences in opinion about the supremacy of his present day successors. He was a fisherman who went on to become the leader of the Apostles, even though he failed Jesus Christ on several occasions. He converted thousands of people by his sermons and performed many miracles in his lifetime. Saint Paul and Saint Peter shared a rocky relationship, as the two leaders had opposing views on the sociability between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Christian tradition holds that Saint Peter was crucified in Rome under the leadership of Emperor Nero. In the New Testament, two general epistles are attributed to Peter, but modern experts generally do not accept the Peterine authorship. His teachings and eye witness accounts are depicted in the ‘Gospel of Mark’. Several books published on his life like 'Acts of Peter,' 'Gospel of Peter,' 'Preaching of Peter,' 'Apocalypse of Peter' and 'Judgement of Peter' could not be included in the Bible canons due to their apocryphal nature.
Childhood & Early Life
According to the New Testament, Saint Peter was born as Simon or Simeon in the 1st century BC. His name was in line with the Jewish tradition of naming the male children after a famous patriarch of the Old Testament.
Simon never received any formal education and only spoke in Aramaic. He was a fisherman by trade who lived in the village Bethsaida, near the Sea of Galilee. He worked on the fishing nets with his brother Andrew and sons of Zebedee, John and James before he joined Jesus in spreading his word.
According to a BBC documentary, living under the Roman rule in those times is likely to have been difficult with exorbitant taxes imposed by the authorities. Since Galilee was a center for commerce and a vantage point for businesses, it could be assumed that Peter was perhaps not just a humble fisherman, but a businessman with a house and a boat.
Most of what we know about Saint Peter is from the gospels. The three Synoptic Gospels reveal how Jesus cured Peter's ailing mother-in-law at their home in Capernaum. The instance implies that Peter was married, even though his wife's name is not mentioned.
According to Matthew and Mark, Peter and his brother Andrew were called by Jesus to follow him. He is believed to have said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." In Luke's account, Jesus asked Peter and his friends John and James to lower their nets, and they started catching fish in multitudes. Soon after that, they became his followers.
The Gospel of John has also illustrated Peter fishing after the resurrection of Jesus, and he referred to them as "fishers of men."
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Position Among the Disciples
Saint Peter has been depicted as the first and most prominent of the Twelve Apostles, as per the 'Book of Acts.'
The Synoptic Gospels refers to him as the spokesman of the apostles. For an instance, Luke notes that Peter questioned Jesus on one of his parables. Even though in varying degrees, the gospels agree that Peter exerted a certain amount of supremacy among the apostles.
It is mentioned in the gospels that Peter formed a particular group with 'James the Elder' and 'John' out of the Twelve Apostles. The trio witnessed significant instances like the 'Transfiguration of Jesus' and the 'raising of Jairus' daughter' even when others were not present.
The 'Acts of Apostles' puts Peter as the protagonist in the early Christian community. Peter was the first one to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection from the dead.
According to the gospel, Jesus entrusted him with important tasks like paying taxes to the authorities on his and the group's behalf. It is also believed that Jesus promised him a special position in the church and considered him to be "the rock" on which the church would be built.
Gospel of Matthew states that Peter was the only one among the disciples who were able to walk on water after seeing Jesus doing the same. However, the gospels of Mark and John don’t mention Peter’s involvement in any miraculous activity of that sort.
The synoptic gospel states that it was Peter who first professed his faith in Jesus as the 'Messiah' and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".
The Denial of Peter refers to the three times when Apostle Peter denied Jesus, as per the four gospels of the New Testament.
In the four gospels, it is stated that during the Last Supper, Jesus foretold that Peter would deny his knowledge and disown him before “the rooster crowed” the next morning.
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The first time he denied him when a female servant of the high priest found him and accused him of being with Jesus. In Mark's account, "the rooster crowed," whereas Luke and John mention him sitting by a fire with other people.
The second denial came when he went to the gateway, away from the vicinity of the firelight. The same servant girl, according to Mark, or another servant girl, according to Matthew, or a man, as mentioned in Luke and John, told the people that Peter was one of Jesus' followers. John says, "the rooster crowed" again.
The Gospel of John puts the second denial when Peter was still sitting beside the fire, and there was an assertion by someone who saw him in the garden of Gethsemane while Jesus was being arrested.
The third and final denial came when his Galilean accent was considered an evidence of him being a disciple of Jesus. According to Matthew, Mark and Luke; "the rooster crowed" again. Matthew further adds that his accent was what gave him away as someone from Galilee.
Luke differs on the third denial and mentions that it was just another individual accusing him and not an entire crowd. John has no mention of any accent.
Peter denied Jesus thrice, but after the third denial, he heard the rooster crow and remembered the prediction that Jesus had made. He then began to cry profusely. This incident is known as the 'Repentance of Peter.'
During Jesus Resurrection
Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians enlists a series of resurrection appearances of Jesus, and the first one of them mentions his appearance to Peter.
John's gospel says that Peter was the first person to enter the empty tomb of Jesus, although the women and his beloved disciples were the first ones to see him.
Luke accounts that the apostles did not believe the women who claimed that they saw an empty tomb. Peter went to the tomb to verify their account and only found grave clothes there. He went home without mentioning it to anyone.
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The final chapter in the Gospel of John describes how Jesus reconfirmed Peter's position after he affirmed his love for Jesus three times in order to nullify his three denials earlier.
The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter located on the Sea of Galilee is considered to be the site where Jesus Christ first appeared to his disciples and established Peter's supreme jurisdiction over the Christian church.
Leader of Early Church
Along with James the Just and John the Apostle, Saint Peter was regarded as a pillar of the early Church. Since he had witnessed Christ's resurrection, he gained a leadership among the early followers of Christianity and formed the Jerusalem Ekklesia.
He was initially the most prominent apostle, but was later overshadowed by James the Just, "the Brother of the Lord." According to some scholars, this shift occurred because of the differences they had over the strictness of adherence to the Jewish Law.
James the Just and his followers took the conservative stance, while the liberal Peter slowly lost his influence. Scholars accredited this shift of power to Peter's involvement in missionary work.
Paul states that the onus of being the apostle to the Jews fell upon Peter like Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles.
Saint Peter is said to have been crucified at the age of 64 during the reign of Emperor Nero. It is believed that he wished to be crucified upside down, unlike Jesus. He was crucified three months after a fire broke out in Rome, and Nero considered Christians responsible for it.
According to Catholic mythology, he was crucified in the gardens of Nero and was buried in Saint Peter's tomb. Emperor Constantine I decided to pay his tribute to the martyred saint by building a large basilica in his memory.
It is believed that his body lays buried right below the high alter of Saint Peter's Basilica. June 29 is observed as the feast day of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
The Gospel of John says that Jesus indicated Peter's impending crucifixion when he said, "when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go."
Scholars Warren M. Smaltz and Donald Fay Robinson interpret the incident in Acts 12:1–17, in which Peter is "released by an angel" and taken to "another place" as a romanticized account of his death. Some theological experts believe that he might have died in a Jerusalem prison around 44AD instead of Rome.