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.
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.
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".
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.
New Testament Account
Notes and Links
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