1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Peter, St

PETER, ST, the chief of the Twelve Apostles. He is known also by other names (a) “Simon” (Σίμων) in Mark four times and Luke seven times. This use is only found in narrative before the story of the mission of the apostles it is also found in speeches; Matthew once, Mark once and Luke twice (b) “Simon who is called Peter” is found in Matthew twice and Acts four times. (c) “Simon Peter” is found in Matthew once, Luke once, John seventeen times (and perhaps also in 2 Peter i 1, where the text varies between Simon and Symeon. (d) “Peter” is found in Matthew nineteen times, Mark eighteen times, Luke sixteen times, Acts fifty-one times, John fifteen times, Galatians twice, 1 Peter once (e) “Cephas” is found in John once, Galatians four times, 1 Corinthians four times. (f) Symeon (Σνμεών) is found in Acts once. It appears that the apostle had two names, each existing in a double form—Greek and Hebrew, Symeon (שמעח) which was Graecized according to the sound into Simon, and Cephas (כיפ֛א) which was Graecized according to the meaning into Peter (Πέτρος). Symeon and Simon are both well-known names in Aramaic and Greek respectively, but Cephas and Peter are previously unknown. Symeon was no doubt his original Aramaic name, and the earliest gospel, Mark, which has some claim specially to reproduce Petrine tradition, is careful to employ Simon until after the name Peter had been given, and not then to use it again. The Gospels agree in regarding Cephas or Peter as an additional name, which was given by Christ. But they differ as to the occasion. According to Mark iii 13 sqq it was given on the occasion of the mission of the Twelve. According to John i. 42 it was given at his first call. According to Matt. xvi. 13 sqq it was given after the recognition of Jesus as Messiah at Caesarea Philippi. This last account is the only one which describes any circumstances (for a further discussion see § 3 (2) below).

According to the Gospels Peter was the son of John ('Ιωάνας, John i 42, xxi. 15 seq) or Jonas (Ιωνάς, Matt. xxvi. 17). According to Mark i. 29 he was a fisherman of Capernaum, but John i. 44 describes him and his brother Andrew as of Bethsaida. From Mark i. 30 he is seen to have been married, and 1 Cor. ix. 5 suggests (but another interpretation is possible) that his wife went with him on his missionary journeys. In 1 Pet. v. 13 Mark is referred to as his son, but this is usually interpreted of spiritual kinship. According to legend (Acta Nerei et Achillei, and Acta Philippi) he had a daughter Petronilla, but there is no reason for thinking that this is historical.

The Gospel narratives are unanimous in describing Peter as one of the first disciples of Christ, and from the time of his call he seems to have been present at most of the chief incidents in the narrative.History in the Gospels up to the Resurrection He formed together with the sons of Zebedee to some extent an inner circle within the Twelve, and this favoured group is specially mentioned as present on three occasions—the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark v. 22-43; Matt. ix. 18-36; Luke viii. 41-56), the transfiguration (Mark ix. 2 sqq; Matt. xv1i. 1 sqq.; Luke ix. 28 sqq.) and the scene in the Garden at Gethsemane (Mark xiv. 32 sqq.; Matt. xxvi. 36 sqq). He is also specially mentioned in connexion with his call (Mark i. 16-20; Matt. iv. 18 sqq; Luke v. 1 sqq.; John i. 40 sqq); the healing of his wife's mother (Mark i. 21 sqq; Matt. viii. 14 sqq; Luke iv. 38 sqq); the mission of the Twelve Apostles (Mark iii. 13 sqq; Matt. x. 1 sqq.; Luke vi. 12 sqq); the storm on the Lake of Galilee (Mark vi. 45 sqq.; Matt. xiv. 22 sqq.; John vi. 16 sqq.); the Messianic recognition at Caesarea Philippi (Mark vi1. 27 sqq.; Matt. xvi. 16 sqq; Luke ix. 18 sqq); the incident of the payment of tribute by the coin found in the fish caught by Peter (Matt. xvii 25 sqq.) and with various questions leading to parables or their explanations (Mark xiii. 36 sqq.; Luke xii. 41; Matt. xviii. 21 sqq; Mark x. 28; Matt. xix. 27; Luke xviii. 28). In the week of the Passion he appears in connexion with the incident of the withered fig-tree (Mark xi. 21; Matt. xxi. 20); as introducing the eschatological discourse (Mark xiii 3 sqq); and as prominent during the Last Supper (Luke xxii 8 sqq.; John xiii 4 sqq; Mark xiv. 27 sqq.; Matt. xxvi. 31 sqq). He was present in Gethsemane, and tried to offer some resistance to the arrest of Jesus (Mark xiv. 47; Matt. xxvi. 51, Luke xxii. 50; John xviii. 10). After the arrest he followed the Lord to the scene of the trial, but denied him and fled. The message of the young man at the tomb (Mark xvi. 4) was especially addressed to Peter and it is clear that the genuine conclusion of Mark must have contained an account of an appearance of the risen Lord to him.

Out of this mass of incidents the following are central and call for closer critical consideration.

1. The Call of St Peter.—(Mark i. 16–20; Matt. iv. 18–22; Luke v. 1-11; John i. 40-42). The account in Matthew is practically identical with that in Mark and is no doubt taken from the Marcan source, but Luke and John have different traditions. The main points are as follows: according to Mark, at the beginning of the Galilean ministry Jesus saw Peter and Andrew fishing. He called them, and they joined him. After this he went with them to Capernaum, preached in the synagogue, and healed Peter's wife's mother. Luke, who certainly used Mark, has partly rearranged this narrative and partly rejected It in favour of a different version. According to him the visit to Capernaum and the healing of the wife's mother preceded the call of Peter, and this was associated with a tradition of a miraculous draught of fishes. The advantage of the Lucan reconstruction, so far as the first part is concerned, is that it supplies a reason for Peter's ready obedience, which is somewhat difficult to understand if he had never seen Jesus before. But it seems probable that this is the motive which led to the redactorial change in Luke, and that the Marcan account, which is traditionally connected with Peter, ought to be followed. With regard to the narrative of the miraculous draught of fishes, the matter is more complicated. Luke obviously preferred this narrative to the Marcan account, but the fact that the same story comes in John xxi. suggests that there was an early tradition of some such incident of which the actual occasion and circumstances were undetermined. Luke preferred to connect it with the call of Peter, the writer of John xxi. with his restitution: probably both are of the nature of redactorial guesses, and the Marcan account must be regarded as preferable to either. The Johannine account of the call of Peter is quite different. According to this it took place immediately after the baptism of Jesus, in Judaea not in Galilee. It is connected with the giving of the name Peter, which in Mark was not given until much later.

2. The Confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi.—(Mark vin. 27-33, Matt. xvi. 13-23; Luke ix. 18-22). According to Mark, Peter, in answer to the question of Jesus, recognized that He was the Messiah, but protested against the prophecy of suffering which Jesus then added. This narrative is followed, with the exception of the last part, by Luke, who as usual is inclined to omit anything which could be regarded as derogatory to the Apostles. Matthew also uses the Marcan narrative, but adds to it a new section from some other source which suggests that the name of Peter was conferred on this occasion—not, as Mark says, at the first mission of the Twelve—and confers on him the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the right of binding and loosing. This must be probably[1] interpreted as a reference to the prophecy concerning Eliakim in Isa. xxii. 22, and to technical use of the words “binding” and “loosing” by the scribes in authoritative decisions as to the obligations of the law. It thus confers on Peter a position of quite unique authority. It must, however, be noted that the power of binding and loosing is given in Matt. xviii. 18 to the whole body of disciples. This seems to be an alternative version, also found only in Matthew. The question of the historical character of the Matthaean addition to the Marcan narrative is exceedingly difficult; but it is hard to think that if it were really authentic it would have been omitted from all the other gospels, and it perhaps belongs to the little group of passages in Matthew which seem to represent early efforts towards church legislation, rather than a strictly historical narrative. Besides it is noticeable that in one other point Matthew has slightly remodelled the Marcan narrative. According to the latter Jesus asked, “Whom say men that I am?" and Peter replied “the Messiah,” without qualification. But in Matthew the question is changed into “Whom say men that the Son of Man is?” and, whatever may be the original meaning of the phrase “the son of man” it cannot be doubted that in the gospels it means Messiah. Thus the simple answer of Peter in Mark would be meaningless, and it is replaced by “The Messiah, the son of the living God,” which is no longer a recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus (this is treated in Matthew as an already recognized fact, cf. x. 23, xii. 40, &c.), but is a definition and an exaltation of the nature of the Messiah.

3. The Conduct of Peter after the Betrayal.—The consideration of this point brings one into touch with the two rival traditions as to the conduct of the disciples after the betrayal and crucifixion of the Lord—the Galilean and the Jerusalem narratives. There is one incident which must in any case be accepted as it is found in both narratives. This is the denial of Peter. It appears that Peter did not stay with the disciples and neither returned home immediately to Galilee (according to the Galilean tradition) nor sought hiding in Jerusalem (according to the Jerusalem tradition), but followed the Lord at a distance and was a witness of at least part of the trial before the Sanhedrim. He was detected and accused of being a disciple, which he denied, and so fulfilled the prophecy of Jesus that he would deny Him before the cock crowed.

But putting this incident aside, the Galilean and Jerusalem traditions do not admit of reconciliation with one another. The former is represented by Mark. According to it the disciples all fled after the betrayal (though Peter waited until after the denial), and afterwards saw the risen Lord in Galilee. The details of this narrative are unfortunately lost, as the genuine conclusion of Mark is not extant. But Mark xiv. 28 and xvi. 7 clearly imply a narrative which described how the disciples returned to Galilee, there saw the risen Lord, and perhaps even how they then returned to Jerusalem in the strength of their newly recovered faith, and so brought into existence the church of Jerusalem as we find it in the Acts. It is also clear from Mark xvi. 7 that Peter was in some special way connected with this appearance of the risen Lord, and this tradition is confirmed by 1 Cor. xv. 5, and perhaps by Luke xxiv. 34.

The Jerusalem narrative is represented especially by Luke and John (excluding John xxi. as an appendix). According to this the disciples, though they fled at the betrayal, did not return to their homes, but remained in Jerusalem, saw the risen Lord in that city, and stayed there until after the day of Pentecost. Attempts to reconcile these two narratives seem to be found in Matthew and in John xxi.

Obviously the choice which has to be made between these traditions cannot be adequately discussed here: it must suffice to say that intrinsic and traditional probability seem to favour the Galilean narrative. If so, one must say that after the denial Peter returned to Galilee—probably to resume his trade of fishing—and he there saw the risen Lord. This appearance is referred to in 1 Cor. xv. 5, and was certainly described in the lost conclusion of Mark. An account of it is preserved in John xxi., but it is here connected—probably wrongly—with a miraculous draught of fishes, just as the account of his call is in Luke. Immediately after the resurrection there is a missing link in the history of Peter. We know that he saw the risen Lord, and, according to the most probable view, that this was in Galilee;History after the Resurrection according to the Acts and Epistles. but the circumstances are unknown, and we have no account of his return to Jerusalem, as at the beginning of the Acts the disciples are all in Jerusalem, and the writer, in contradiction to the Marcan or Galilean narrative, assumes that they had never left it. The first part of the Acts is largely concerned with the work of Peter. He appears as the recognized leader of the Apostles in their choice of a new member of the Twelve to take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts i. 15 sqq.); on the day of Pentecost he seems to have played a prominent part in explaining the meaning of the scene to the people (Acts ii. 14 sqq), and soon afterwards was arrested by the Jews on the charge of being a ringleader in the disorders caused by the healing of the lame man at the “Beautiful” gate of the temple, but was released. After this he appears as the leader of the apostles in the story of Ananias and Sapphira, Who perished at his rebuke for their duplicity (Acts v. 1–11). The last episode of this period is another arrest by the priests, which ended in his being scourged and released (Acts v. 17 sqq).

After this Peter’s attention was directed to the growth of Christianity in Samaria, and he and John made a journey of inspection through that district, laying hands on those who had been baptized in order that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Here Simon Magus (q.v.) was encountered. He was a magician who had been converted by Philip and baptized; he desired to obtain the power of conferring the Spirit, and offered Peter money for this purpose, but was indignantly repulsed. After this Peter and John returned to Jerusalem.

During the following stay in Jerusalem, the duration of which is not defined, Peter was visited by Paul (Acts ix. 26–29, Gal. i. 18), and a comparison of the chronological date afforded by Gal. i. and points to a year not earlier than 33 (Harnack) or later than 38 (C. H. Turner) for this meeting. According to Galatians, Paul saw none of the apostles on this occasion except Peter and James: it is therefore probable that none of the others were then in Jerusalem.

After this Peter made another journey, visiting especially Lydda, Joppa and Caesarea. His stay at Lydda was marked by the healing of Aeneas (Acts ix. 32–4) and at Joppa by the resuscitation of Tabitha or Dorcas. While at Joppa he stayed with Simon the tanner, and thence was summoned to Caesarea to Cornelius the centurion. He hesitated whether to go, but was persuaded by a vision and the injunction to call nothing unclean which God had cleansed. Cornelius was accordingly baptized. This is an important incident, as being the first admission of a Gentile into the church: but he was already “God-fearing,” φοβούμενος τον θεόν (Acts x. 1), which probably denotes some sort of connexion with the Jewish synagogue, though it is difficult to say exactly what it was. After this incident Peter returned to Jerusalem. The members of the Church were somewhat shocked at the reception of a Gentile: their view apparently was that the only road to Christianity was through Judaism. They were, however, persuaded by Peter’s speech (Acts xi. 4–17); but it is uncertain how far their concession went, and in the light of subsequent events it is probable that they still regarded circumcision as a necessary rite for all Christians.

After the return of Peter to Jerusalem the most important events were the famine at Jerusalem, and the persecution of the Church by Herod. During the latter Peter was put in prison (Acts xii. 3 sqq.), but was released by an angel; he first went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, and afterwards went to “another place.” This expression has been interpreted to mean another town, and even to be an implied reference to Rome. This last suggestion, improbable though it be, is historically important. The persecution of Herod seems to have been in his last year, which was probably A.D. 43–44. There was a marked tendency to make the duration of Peter’s episcopate at Rome twenty-five years: and a combination of this tendency with the explanation that the ἔτερος τόπος was Rome probably is the origin of the traditional dating of the martyrdom of Peter in A.D. 67–68. There is, however, no justification for this view, and ἔτερος τόπος need not mean more than another house in Jerusalem.

The famine referred to in Acts xi. 27 sqq. probably began before the death of Herod, but it continued after his death, and the relief sent by the church at Antioch to Jerusalem through Paul and Barnabas probably arrived about the year 45. It is not stated in the Acts that Peter was present, and it is therefore usually assumed that he was absent, but Sir W. M. Ramsay has argued in his St Paul the Traveller that the visit of Paul to Jerusalem with the famine relief is the meeting between Paul and Peter referred to in Gal. ii as the occasion of an agreement between them as to the preaching of the gospel to Jews and Gentiles. This view is not generally accepted, but it has the great advantage of avoiding the difficulty that otherwise Paul in Gal. ii 1 sqq. must describe as his second visit to Jerusalem what was really his third. According to Ramsay, then, Peter was present during the famine, and made a private agreement with Paul that the latter should preach to the Gentiles, and so far Gentile Christianity was recognized, but the conditions of the intercourse between Gentile and Jewish Christians were not defined, and the question of circumcision was perhaps not finally settled. According to the more popular view the description in Gal ii. applies to Acts xv. the so-called council of Jerusalem. This council met after the first missionary journey (c. A.D.. 49) of Paul to discuss the question of the Gentiles. Peter, who was present, adopted the view that Gentile Christians were free from the obligation of the law, and this view was put into the form of the so-called Apostolic decrees by James (Acts xv. 23 sqq). The next information which we have about Peter is given in Gal. ii. 11 sqq. According to this he went to Antioch and at first accepted the Gentile Christians, but afterwards drew back and was rebuked by Paul. On the ordinary interpretation this must have taken place after the council, and it is exceedingly difficult to reconcile it with the attitude of Peter described in Acts xv., so that Mr C. H. Turner thinks that in this respect the account in Gal. ii. is not chronological, and places the visit of Peter to Antioch before the council. If, however, we take the theory of Sir W. M. Ramsay the matter is simpler. We thus get the compact between Paul and Peter during the famine, then a visit of Peter to Antioch, during which Peter first adopted and afterwards drew back from the position which he had agreed to privately.

This vacillation may then have been one of the causes which led up to the council, which may have been held before, not, as is usually thought, after the sending of the Epistle to the Galatians. For this we have no knowledge of details for which the same certainty can be claimed. History after
the Council
of Jerusalem.
There are, however, various traditions of importance. The following points are noteworthy. 1 Cor. i. 12 suggests the possibility that Peter went to Corinth, as there was a party there which used his name. It is, however, possible that this party had merely adopted the principles which, as they had been told, perhaps falsely, were supported by the leader of the Twelve. Dionysius of Corinth (c. 170) states that Peter was in Corinth. This may represent local tradition or may be an inference from 1 Cor. i. 12. 1 Peter suggests a ministry in the provinces of Asia Minor. There is, of course, nothing improbable in this, and even if 1 Peter be not authentic, it is early evidence for such a tradition, but it is also possible that Peter wrote to converts whom he had not personally made. This tradition is found in Origen (Eus. H.E. iii. 1), Epiphanius (Haer. xxvii., vi.), Jerome (De Vir. ill. 1) and other later writers; but it is possible that it is merely an inference from the epistle. Early tradition connects Peter with Antioch, of which he is said to have been the first bishop. The first writer to mention it is Origen (Hom. vi. in Lucam), but it is also found in the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions (Hom. 20, 23, Recog. 10, 68) and probably goes back to the lists of bishops which were drawn up in the 2nd century. Other important references to this tradition are found in Eus. H.E. iii. 26, 2; Apost. Const. vii. 46, Jerome, De Vir. ill. 1; Chronicon paschale; and Liber pontificalis. The tradition of work in Antioch may well be historical. Otherwise it is a rather wild elaboration of Gal. ii. 11. The most important and widespread tradition is that Peter came to Rome; and though this tradition has often been bitterly attacked, it seems to be probable that it is at least in outline quite historical. The evidence for it is earlier and better than that for any other tradition, though it is not quite convincing.

The earliest witness to a residence of Peter in Rome is probably 1 Peter, for (see Peter, Epistles of) it is probable that the reference to Babylon ought to be interpreted as meaning Rome. If so, and if the epistle be genuine, this is conclusive evidence that Peter was in Rome. Even if the epistle be not genuine it is evidence of the same tradition. Nor is corroboration lacking: Clement (c. A.D. 97) refers to Peter and Paul as martyrs (1 Clem. 5-6) and says that “To these men . . . there was gathered a great company of the elect who . . . became an example to us.” This points in two ways to a martyrdom of Peter in Rome, (1) because Peter and Paul are co-ordinated, and it is generally admitted that the latter suffered in Rome, (2) because they seem to be joined to the great company of martyrs who are to be an example to the Church in Rome. Similarly Ignatius (c. A.D. 115) says to the Romans (Rom. iv.), “I do not command you as Peter and Paul.” The suggestion obviously is that the Romans had been instructed by these Apostles. By the end of the 2nd century the tradition is generally known: Irenaeus (3, 1, 1), Clement of Alexandria (comment. on 1 Peter), Origen (Hom. vi. in Lucam), Tertullian (Scorp. 15, and several passages) are explicit on the point, and from this time onwards the tradition is met with everywhere. There is also a tradition, found in Irenaeus (3, 1, 1) and in many later writers, and supported by 1 Pet. v. 13, and by the statements of Papias (Eus. H. E. 3, 39, 15) that Mark acted as Peter's assistant in Rome and that his gospel is based on recollections of Peter's teaching.

This evidence is probably sufficient to establish the fact that Peter, like Paul, had a wide missionary career ending in a violent death at Rome, though the details are not recoverable. The chronological question is more difficult both as regards the beginning and the end of this period of activity.

The Acts, in describing the visits of Peter to Samaria, Toppa, Lydda and Caesarea, justify the view that his missionary activity The Chronology of Peter's Wider Missionary Work. began quite early. Gal. ii. 11 and 1 Cor. ix. 5 show that Acts minimizes rather than exaggerates this activity, the Antiochian tradition probably represents a period of missionary activity with a centre at Antioch; similarly the tradition of work in Asia is possibly correct as almost certainly is that of the visit to Rome. But we have absolutely no evidence justifying a chronological arrangement of these periods. Even the silence of Paul in the epistles of the captivity proves nothing except that Peter was not then present, the same is true of 2 Tim. even if its authenticity be undoubted.

The evidence as to the date of his death is a little fuller, but not quite satisfactory. The earliest direct witness is Tertullian, who definitely states that Peter suffered under Nero by crucifixion. Origen also relates the latter detail and adds that at his own request Peter was crucified head downwards. Probably John xxi. 18 seq. is a still earlier reference to his crucifixion. Fuller evidence is not found until Eusebius, who dates the arrival of Peter at Rome in 43 and his martyrdom twenty-five years later. But the whole question of the Eusebian chronology is very confused and difficult, and the text of the Chronicon is not certain. The main objection to this date is based partly on general probability, partly on the language of Clement of Rome. It is more probable on general grounds that the martyrdom of Peter took place during the persecution of Christians in 64, and it is urged that Clement's language refers to this period. It is quite possible that an error of a few years has crept into the Eusebian chronology, which is probably largely based on early episcopal lists, and therefore many scholars are inclined to think that 64 is a more probable date than 67. As a rule the discussion has mainly been between these two dates, but Sir W. M. Ramsay, in his Church in the Roman Empire, has adopted a different line of argument. He thinks that 1 Peter was written c. A.D. 80, but that it may nevertheless be Petrine; therefore he lays stress on the fact that whereas the tradition that Peter was in Rome is early and probably correct, the tradition that he was martyred under Nero is not found until much later. Thus he thinks it possible that Peter survived until c. So, and was martyred under the Flavian emperors. The weak point of this theory is that Clement and Ignatius bring Peter and Paul together in a way which seems to suggest that they perished, if not together, at least at about the same time. If this view be rejected and it is necessary to fall back on the choice between 64 and 67, the problem is perhaps insoluble, but 64 has somewhat more intrinsic probability, and 67 can be explained as due to an artificial system of chronology which postulated for Peter an episcopate of Rome of twenty-five years—a number which comes so often in the early episcopal lists that it seems to mean little more than “a long time,” just as “forty years” does in the Old Testament. On the whole 64 is the most probable date, but it is very far from certain: the evidence is insufficient to justify any assurance.

For further information and discussion see especially Harnack's Chronologie, and Bishop Chase's article in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible. The latter is in many ways the most complete statement of the facts at present published.

Caius, who lived in the beginning of the 3rd century (see Eus. H. E. 2, 25), stated that the τρόπαια (i.e. probably the burial place, not that of execution) of Peter and Paul were The Grave of Peter. on the Vatican. This is also found in the Acta Petri, 84 (in the Lib. Pont., ed. Duchesne, p. 52 seq, 118 sqq). From this place it appears that the relics (whether genuine or not) were moved to the catacombs in A.D. 258 (cf. the Depositis martyrum, and see Lightfoot's Clement, i. 249); hence arose the tradition of an original burial in the catacombs, found in the Hieronymian Martyrology.

For further information and investigations see Duchesne, Liber pontificalis; Lipsius, Die Apokr. Apostelgesch.; and Erbes “Die Todestage der Apostel Paulus u. Petrus,” in Texte und Untersuchungen, N.F., iv. 1.  (K. L.) 

  1. See, however, A Sulzbach's article in the Zeitschr. f. N. T. Wiss. (1903), p 190. He thinks there is an allusion to a room in the Temple where the great key was kept; this room was called Kephas, because the key was placed in a recess closed by a stone. There is also a valuable article by W. Kohler in the Archiv ur Religionswiss. treating the question of the keys from the point of view of comparative religion.