Sayings of Peter

Two sayings are attributed to Peter in the Gospel of Thomas. In the first, Peter compares Jesus to a "just messenger." In the second, Peter asks Jesus to "make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life."

In the Apocalypse of Peter, Peter holds a dialogue with Jesus about the parable of the fig tree and the fate of sinners.

In the Gospel of Mary, Peter appears to be jealous of "Mary" (probably Mary Magdalene). He says to the other disciples "Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He prefer her to us?" In reply to this, Levi says "Peter, you have always been hot tempered."

Other noncanonical texts that attribute sayings to Peter include the Secret Book of James, 2 Clement and the Acts of Peter.

Denial of Jesus

In the Fayyum Fragment Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him in an account similar to that of the canonical gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark.

After the death of Jesus

The fragmentary Gospel of Peter, attributed to Peter, contains an account of the death of Jesus differing significantly from the canonical gospels. It contains little information about Peter himself, except that after the discovery of the empty tomb, "I, Simon Peter, and Andrew my brother, took our fishing nets and went to the sea".

Death of Peter

The early writings indicated in the following paragraphs witness to the tradition that Peter, probably at the time of the Great Fire of Rome of the year 64, for which the Emperor Nero blamed the Christians, met martyrdom in Rome.

Clement of Rome, in his Letter to the Corinthians (Chapter 5), written c. 80-98, speaks of Peter's martyrdom in the following terms:

Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most just pillars of the Church were persecuted, and came even unto death… Peter, through unjust envy, endured not one or two but many labours, and at last, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due to him.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, in his Letter to the Romans (Ch. 4) of c. 105-110, tells the Roman Christians: "I do not command you, as Peter and Paul did."

Dionysius of Corinth wrote:

"You [Pope Soter] have also, by your very admonition, brought together the planting that was made by Peter and Paul at Rome and at Corinth; for both of them alike planted in our Corinth and taught us; and both alike, teaching similarly in Italy, suffered martyrdom at the same time" (Letter to Pope Soter [A.D. 170], in Eusebius, History of the Church 2:25:8).

St. Irenaeus of Lyon (a disciple of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, who was himself a disciple of the Apostle St. John, which puts Irenaeus not far from the authentic teachings of the Apostles) in c. 175-185 wrote in Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter III, paragraphs 2–3):

Since, however, it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the succession of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. With that church, because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world, and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles…

Tertullian also writes:

But if you are near Italy, you have Rome, where authority is at hand for us too. What a happy church that is, on which the apostles poured out their whole doctrine with their blood; where Peter had a passion like that of the Lord, where Paul was crowned with the death of John [the Baptist, by being beheaded]

Traditions originating in or recorded in the apocryphal Acts of Peter, say that the Romans crucified Peter upside down at his request, due to his wishing not to be equated with Jesus. Acts of Peter is also thought to be the source for the tradition about the famous phrase "Quo Vadis" (Where are you going?), a question that, according to this tradition, Peter, fleeing Rome to avoid execution, asked a vision of Jesus, and to which Jesus responded that he was "going to Rome, to be crucified again," causing Peter to decide to return to the city and accept martyrdom. This story is commemorated in an Annibale Carracci painting. The Church of Quo Vadis, near the Catacombs of Saint Callistus, contains a stone in which Jesus' footprints from this event are supposedly preserved, though this was actually apparently an ex-voto from a pilgrim, and indeed a copy of the original, housed in the Basilica of St Sebastian.

The ancient historian Josephus describes how Roman soldiers would amuse themselves by crucifying criminals in different positions, and it is likely that this would have been known to the author of the Acts of Peter. The position attributed to Peter's crucifixion is thus plausible, either as having happened historically or as being an invention by the author of the Acts of Peter. Death, after crucifixion head down, is unlikely to be caused by suffocation, the usual cause of death in ordinary crucifixion.

A medieval misconception was that the Mamertine Prison in Rome is the place where Peter was imprisoned before his execution.

Recently, these traditional views concerning Peter's death have come into question, because of a 1953 excavation of what appears to be Peter's Tomb in Jerusalem. This discovery seems to clarify Paul's confrontation in Antioch (ca 51 AD) with "Cephas" (Galatians 2:1–8), as being Peter. Also there is an apocryphal text entitled "Martyrdom of Paul," in which Peter is absent of Paul's death at Rome, stating Paul's only companions to be Luke and Titus (2 Timothy, Paul says "only Luke is with me.") As excavations and research continue, it will hopefully shed light upon seeming contradictions between oral and written tradition.


Late legends said that Peter had a daughter, who was sometimes identified with the virgin martyr Petronilla. At one point Peter refers to Mark as his son, although this is generally considered to not be literal.

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Peter's life story relies on the New Testament, since there are few other first-century accounts of his life and death.


According to the Gospel of John, Peter was born in Bethsaida (John 1:44). His father's name is given as 'Jonah' (John 1:42, Matthew 16:17)—although some manuscripts of John give his father's name as John. The synoptic gospels all recount how Peter's mother-in-law was healed by Jesus at their home in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14–17); Mark 1:29–31; Luke 4:38)—implying that Peter was married.

According to the synoptic gospels, before becoming a disciple of Jesus, Simon (that is, Peter whose name was in fact originally Simon) was a fisherman along with his brother Andrew. The Gospel of John also depicts Peter fishing, but only after the resurrection in the story of the Catch of 153 fish.

Calling by Jesus

Matthew and Mark report that while fishing in the Lake of Gennesaret, Simon and his brother Andrew were called by Jesus to be his followers, with the words, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:18–19; Mark 1:16–17).

In Luke's account Simon is the owner of a boat that Jesus uses to preach to the multitudes who were pressing on him at the shore of Lake Gennesaret (Luke 5:3). Jesus then amazes Simon and his companions James and John (Andrew is not mentioned) by telling them to lower their nets, whereupon they catch a huge number of fish. Immediately after this, they follow him (Luke 5:4–11).

The Gospel of John gives a slightly different account (John 1:35–42). Andrew, we are told, was originally a disciple of John the Baptist. Along with one other disciple, Andrew heard John the Baptist describe Jesus as the "Lamb of God," whereupon he followed Jesus. He then went and fetched his brother Simon, said, "We have found the Messiah," and brought him to Jesus. Jesus then gave Simon the name "Cephas," meaning 'rock', in Aramaic.

Position among the apostles

Peter is frequently mentioned in the Gospels as forming with James the Elder and John a special group within the Twelve Apostles, present at incidents, such as the Transfiguration of Jesus, that the others were not party to.

Peter is also often depicted in the Gospels as spokesman of all the apostles, and as one to whom Jesus gave special authority. In contrast, Jewish Christians are said to have argued that James the Just was the leader of the group.

Washing of feet

According to John, Peter initially refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. When Jesus responded "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me," Peter replied "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head" (John 13:7–9).

Walking on water

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Peter (alone out of all the disciples) was able to walk on water after seeing Jesus do the same thing (Matthew 14:22–32). (Mark and John also mention Jesus walking on water, but do not mention Peter doing so).

Arrest of Jesus

According to John, Peter cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest with a sword at the time of the arrest of Jesus.(John 18:10) John names the servant as Malchus. The synoptic gospels also mention this incident, but do not specifically identify Peter as the swordsman or Malchus as the victim. According to Matthew, Luke and John, Jesus rebuked this act of violence, Luke adding the detail that Jesus touched the ear and healed it.

Denial of Jesus

All four canonical gospels recount that, during the Last Supper, Jesus foretold that Peter would deny association with him three times that same night. In Matthew's account, this is reported as:

Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice."

and that Peter did in fact do so, while Jesus was on trial before the high priest. The three Synoptics describe the three denials as follows:

1. A denial when a female servant of the high priest spots Simon Peter, saying that he had been with Jesus.
2. A denial when Simon Peter had gone out to the gateway, away from the firelight, but the same servant girl or another told the bystanders he was a follower of Jesus.
3. A denial came when recognition of Peter as a Galilean was taken as proof that he was indeed a disciple of Jesus. Matthew adds that it was his accent that gave him away as coming from Galilee. Luke deviates slightly from this by stating that, rather than a crowd accusing Simon Peter, it was a third individual.

The Gospel of John places the second denial while Peter was still warming himself at the fire, and gives as the occasion of the third denial a claim by someone to have seen him in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. Since Peter does not reappear in Matthew's gospel after his denial of Jesus, an extremely small number of scholars have suggested that Matthew viewed Peter as an apostate, and was actually criticising Peter and the groups that looked to him as founder. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus prediction of Peter's denial is coupled with a prediction that all the apostles ("you," plural) would be "sifted like wheat," but that it would be Peter's task ("you," singular), when he had turned again, to strengthen his brethren.

Empty tomb

In John's gospel, Peter is the first person to enter the empty tomb, although the women and the beloved disciple see it before him (John 20:1–9). In Luke's account, the women's report of the empty tomb is dismissed by the apostles and Peter is the only one who goes to check for himself. After seeing the graveclothes he goes home, apparently without informing the other disciples (Luke 24:1–12).

Resurrection appearances

Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians contains a list of resurrection appearances of Jesus, the first of which is an appearance to "Cephas" (Peter). An appearance to "Simon" is also reported in Luke 24:34. In the final chapter of the Gospel of John, Peter, in one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, three times affirmed his love for Jesus, balancing his threefold denial, and Jesus reconfirmed Peter's position (John 21:15–17). Almost all Christians consider the final chapter of the Gospel of John to be canonical, though some scholars hypothesize that it was added later to bolster Peter's status.

Role in the early church

The author of the Acts of the Apostles portrays Peter as an extremely important figure within the early Christian community, with Peter delivering a significant speech during Pentecost. According to the same book, Peter took the lead in selecting a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15). He was twice arraigned, with John, before the Sanhedrin and directly defied them (Acts 4:7–22, Acts 5:18–42). He undertook a missionary journey to Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea (Acts 9:32–10:2), becoming instrumental in the decision to evangelise the Gentiles (Acts 10). He was present at the Council of Jerusalem, where Paul further argued the case for accepting Gentiles into the Christian community without circumcision.

About halfway through, the Acts of the Apostles turns its attention away from Peter and to the activities of Paul, and the Bible is fairly silent on what occurred to Peter afterwards. A fleeting mention of Peter being in Antioch is made in the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 2:11) where Paul confronted him, and historians have furnished other evidence of Peter's sojourn in Antioch. Subsequent tradition held that Peter had been the first Patriarch of Antioch. Some scholars also interpret Paul's brief mention of Peter in 1 Corinthians as evidence that Peter had visited Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12). 1 Peter 5:13 may imply that he wrote that epistle in Babylon, Egypt, Rome or Jerusalem.


Verses 18-19 in the last chapter of the Gospel of John have been interpreted as referring to Peter's martyrdom by crucifixion, though without reference to its location: "'…when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and take you where you do not want to go.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God" (John 21:18–19).

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The Apostle Peter, also known as Saint Peter, Shimon "Keipha" Ben-Yonah/Bar-Yonah, Simon Peter, Cephas and Keipha—original name Shimon or Simeon (Acts 15:14)—was one of the Twelve Apostles whom Jesus chose as his original disciples. His life is prominently featured in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.

According to the New Testament Peter was a Galilean fisherman assigned a leadership role by Jesus (Matthew 16:18; John 21:15–16). Many within the early Church, such as St. Clement of Rome and St. Irenaeus, mention his primacy.

The ancient Christian Churches, Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Anglican Communion, consider Simon Peter a saint and associate him with the foundation of the Church in Rome, even if they differ on the significance of this and of the Pope in present-day Christianity.

Some who recognize his office as Bishop of Antioch and, later, as Bishop of Rome or Pope, hold that his episcopacy held a primacy only of honour, as a first among equals. Some propose that his primacy was not intended to pass to his successors. Still others view Peter as not having held the office of bishop or overseer, on the grounds that this office was a development of later Christianity. Some Protestants do not use the title of "saint" in reference to him.

The Roman Martyrology assigns 29 June as the feast day of both Peter and Paul, without thereby declaring that to be the day of their deaths. St. Augustine of Hippo says in his Sermon 295:

One day is assigned for the celebration of the martyrdom of the two apostles. But those two were one. Although their martyrdom occurred on different days, they were one.

The Annuario Pontificio gives the year of Peter's death as A.D. 64 or A.D. 67. Some scholars believe that he died on October 13 A.D. 64. It is traditionally believed that the Roman authorities sentenced him to death by crucifixion. According to a tradition recorded or perhaps initiated in the apocryphal Acts of Peter, he was crucified head down. Tradition also locates his burial place where the Basilica of Saint Peter was later built, directly beneath the Basilica's high altar. In art, he is often depicted holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven (the sign of his primacy over the Church), a reference to Matthew 16:19.

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Accounts Outside the New Testament
Religious Interpretations
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Popes 251 through 265 are:

251. Pius VII
252. Leo XII
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254. Gregory XVI
255. Pius IX
256. Leo XIII
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Popes 201 through 250 are:

201. Gregory XI
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205. Gregory XII
206. Martin V
207. Eugene IV
208. Nicholas V
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210. Pius II

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236. Innocent X
237. Alexander VII
238. Clement IX
239. Clement X
240. Innocent XI

241. Alexander VIII
242. Innocent XII
243. Clement XI
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245. Benedict XIII
246. Clement XII
247. Benedict XIV
248. Clement XIII
249. Clement XIV
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Popes 151 through 200 are:

151. Damasus II
152. Leo IX
153. Victor II
154. Stephen IX
155. Nicholas II
156. Alexander II
157. Gregory VII
158. Victor III
159. Urban II
160. Paschal II

161. Gelasius II
162. Callixtus II
163. Honorius II
164. Innocent II
165. Celestine II
166. Lucius II
167. Eugene III
168. Anastasius IV
169. Adrian IV
170. Alexander III

171. Lucius III
172. Urban III
173. Gregory VIII
174. Clement III
175. Celestine III
176. Innocent III
177. Honorius III
178. Gregory IX
179. Celestine IV
180. Innocent IV

181. Alexander IV
182. Urban IV
183. Clement IV
184. Gregory X
185. Innocent V
186. Adrian V
187. John XXI
188. Nicholas III
189. Martin IV
190. Honorius IV

191. Nicholas IV
192. Celestine V
193. Boniface VII
194. Benedict XI
195. Clement V
196. John XXII
197. Benedict XII
198. Clement VI
199. Innocent VI
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Popes 101 through 150 are:

101. Gregory IV
102. Sergius II
103. Leo IV
104. Benedict III
105. Nicholas I
106. Adrian II
107. John VIII
108. Marinus I
109. Adrian III
110. Stephen V

111. Formosus
112. Boniface VI
113. Stephen VI
114. Romanus
115. Theodore II
116. John IX
117. Benedict IV
118. Leo V
119. Sergius III
120. Anastasius III

121. Lando
122. John X
123. Leo VI
124. Stephen VII
125. John XI
126. Leo VII
127. Stephen VIII
128. Marinus II
129. Agapetus II
130. John XII

131. Benedict V
132. Leo VIII
133. John XIII
134. Benedict VI
135. Benedict VII
136. John XIV
137. John XV
138. Gregory V
139. Silvester II
140. John XVII

141. John XVIII
142. Sergius IV
143. Benedict VIII
144. John XIX
145. Benedict IX
146. Silvester III
147. Benedict IX
148. Gregory VI
149. Clement II
150. Benedict IX

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