Saint Peter

Saint Peter, portrayed by Peter Paul Rubens in a papal chasuble and pallium holding keys, was one of the twelve disciples  of Jesus.
Saint Peter, portrayed by Peter Paul Rubens in a papal chasuble and pallium holding keys, was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.

Saint Peter, also known as Peter, Simon ben Jonah/BarJonah, Simon, Simon Peter, Cephas, and Kepha, was a Galilean fisherman and one of the twelve disciples or apostles of Jesus whose life was prominently featured in the New Testament gospels. He is considered a saint and the first pope in the Roman Catholic Church and its Eastern Rite. Other religious denominations of Christendom recognize his office as Bishop of Antioch and later Bishop of Rome but do not affirm the belief that his episcopacy had primacy over other episcopates elsewhere in the world. Yet, there are others who refuse to consider Saint Peter as having held the office of bishop, declaring that the office of bishop was a development of later Christianity. Furthermore, most Protestants do not use the title of saint in reference to Peter as a matter of doctrine against canonization, in favor of a more generalized concept and doctrine of sainthood where all Christians are saints and non-Christians are not.

The Liturgy of the Hours records June 29, 69 as his date of death; other scholars believe that he died on October 13, 64. He is believed to have been sentenced to death by crucifixion by the Roman Empire. According to tradition, Saint Peter is buried in the grottoes underneath the Basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City. He is often depicted in art as holding the keys to the gates of heaven, as prescribed in the Gospel of Matthew.



Saint Peter is usually depicted in art holding the keys to the gates of heaven.
Saint Peter is usually depicted in art holding the keys to the gates of heaven.

Saint Peter's original name of Simon or שמעון comes from the Hebrew language meaning hearkening and listening. In standard Hebrew it is pronounced as Template:Unicode and in Tiberian Hebrew it is pronounced as Template:Unicode In Roman Catholic tradition, Peter is considered the first bishop of Antioch, and later bishop of Rome and therefore the first pope. The first epistle ends with "The church that is in Babylon, chosen together with you, salutes you, and so does my son, Mark." (1 Peter 5:13), but Babylon has sometimes been taken figuratively to mean Rome.

The Roman Catholic Church makes use of his position as first bishop of Rome and Jesus' statement that Peter was the rock upon which he would build his community as the case for papal primacy. The popes are thus the successors of Peter and as a result, retain his privileges, given by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 16:18-19). (Protestants argue against this.) In honor of Peter's occupation before becoming an Apostle, the popes wear the Fisherman's Ring, which bears an image of the Saint casting his nets from a fishing boat. The so-called "Keys of Heaven" or Papal Keys were, according to tradition, received by Peter from Jesus, marking Peter's role as head of the Christian faith on earth. Thus, the Keys are a symbol of the Pope's authority still to this day.

St. Peter's Basilica is built at the site of Peter's alleged crucifixion, and beneath the main altar there is an altar dedicated to St. Peter. Recent excavations have discovered a burial chamber even deeper beneath this altar where one skeleton, which was missing its feet, was interred with special honor. Some archeologists propose that these are the actual remains of Saint Peter, supposing that after dying by crucifixion (upside-down according to tradition), his feet were cut off to remove him from the cross. They also cite, among other things, the age of the deceased (60-70, which would be consistent with Peter's age), and the fact that a piece of plaster which had come off the marble-lined repository in which the bones were supposedly buried bore the Greek inscription PETROS ENI - "Peter is within".

Pope John Paul II would always visit the altar of Saint Peter before leaving Rome on an apostolic journey.

His writings

The New Testament includes two letters (or epistles) ascribed to Peter. While neither demonstrates the quality of Greek expected from an Aramaic fisherman who learned it as a second or third language, a number of scholars argued that if his first epistle was not at least written by him with the help of a secretary or amanuensis, then its author was a close associate of Peter who not only knew his opinions well, but felt comfortable speaking in Peter's name.

The Second Epistle of Peter is another possible case. This letter demonstrates a dependence on the Epistle of Jude, and some modern scholars date its composition as late as AD 250. However, this epistle is included in numerous early Bibles of around that time and before, such as Papyrus 72 (3rd century) and the Bible of Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200). See the following section for more detail.

The Gospel of Mark is generally attributed as being the teachings of Peter, recorded by Mark. According to Eusebius' "Ecclesiastical History" 3.39.14-16, Papias recorded this from John the Presbyter: "Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements."

Further Detail on the Authenticity of 2 Peter

Missing image
The Basilica of Saint Peter, portrayed by Viviano Codazzi in a 1630 painting, is the largest church in Christendom from which the Pope governs, teaches and preaches.

There was controversy over the book in the Western Church until the early 4th century over the authenticity of 2 Peter (that is, that Peter was the author). In the East as well, the work was not accepted universally for an even longer period; the Syriac Church only admitted it into the canon in the 6th century.

It is to be noted, however, that the church historian Eusebius remarks on Origen's reference to the epistle before 250. In the collection of Cyprian's letters, the Bishop Firmilian speaks in favor of authenticity. Many scholars have noted the similiarities between pseudo-2 Clement (1st century - related to Clement of Rome) and 2 Peter. Several early church writers, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas among others, make allusions to the letter, which may give it an earlier priority.


There are also a number of apocryphal writings that have been either attributed or written about Peter. They were from antiquity regarded as pseudepigrapha. These include:

See also


External links

Preceded by:
Patriarch of Antioch
Succeeded by:
Saint Euodias
Preceded by:
Succeeded by:
Saint Linus

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