1902 Encyclopedia > Peter


PETER. Simon Peter was "an apostle of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter i. 1). His two names are both found in two forms : of the one the full form is Symeon (l'lVpt2>; 2uyu,eu)v, which is found in the speech of James, Acts xv. 14, and in most MSS. of 2 Peter i. 1), the shorter and more usual form being Simon; the other is found both in its Greek form Peter (n<h-pos) and in the Greecized form Cephas (Kn<£as) of the Aramaic Kepha (XS' 3). Simon is the name by which he is always addressed by Jesus Christ; Peter is that by which he is most commonly spoken of in the Synoptic Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and subsequent ecclesiastical literature; the combined name, Simon Peter, is found once in St Matthew, once in St Luke, and frequently in St John; sometimes Peter is expressly stated to be a surname (Matt. iv. 18, x. 2 ; Acts x. 5, 18, 32, xi. 13); St Paul, in 1 Cor. and in Gal. i. 18, ii. 11, 14 (according to the chief uncial MSS., except D), uses Cephas, but in Gal. ii. 7, 8, he uses Peter. The name of his father is also found in two forms, John (TcuavFrys, 'Icoav^s, in most MSS. of John i. 42, xxi. 15, 16) and Jonas (Ttovas, Matt. xvi. 17, and cod. A in John). In John i. 44 he is said to have been of Bethsaida, which was possibly the place of his birth; but it appears from Mark i. 29 ( = Matt. viii. 14; Luke iv. 38) that he and his brother Andrew had a house together at Capernaum. With the same brother, and with James and John as partners, he was engaged in what was probably the thriving business of a fisherman on the Lake of Genne-saret; and from the fact that he went back to his business after the resurrection it has been inferred that, at least up to that time, he had never wholly left it. That he was married is clear from the mention of his wife's mother Mark i. 30 and parallels), and that his wife accompanied him when he finally left his home to preach the gospel is implied by St Paul (1 Cor. ix. 5); there is an early tradi-tion, which is not inconsistent with probability, that she also suffered martyrdom, and that Peter called out to her as she was being led away, " O wife, remember the Lord ! " The statement that he had children is probably only an inference from the fact of his having been married; the alleged name of his daughter, Petronilja, is as suspicious as the story of his having cured her of the palsy ; and the majority of commentators take the expression " Mark, my son," in 1 Peter v. 13, to refer only to spiritual kinship.

Of the beginning of his disciplesliip there are two accounts which have sometimes (by Baur, Keim, Holtzmann, and others), though without sufficient reason, been supposed to be inconsistent with each other.

(1) According to St John, he was brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew, who had been a follower of John the Baptist, but who, after the Baptist's testimony, recognized in Jesus the promised Messiah (John i. 40-12). The fact that he was then not at Capernaum but in the Jordan valley, where John was baptizing, seems to indicate that he, like his brother, had been attracted by John's preach-ing. It is not stated that he at once became one of those who followed Jesus, and there is consequently room for the supposition that he returned home ; and the statement that it was upon the occasion of this first meeting that he received his distinctive surname, Cephas or Peter, is not inconsistent with Mark iii. 16, Luke vi. 14, which men-tion the fact rather than the occasion, or with Matthew xvi. 18, which gives to an existing name a new application.

(2) According to St Matthew and St Mark, it was at the beginning of the Gaiilsean ministry that Jesus called Simon and Andrew to become " fishers of men " (Matt. iv. 18-20; Mark i- 16-18). The manner of the call seems to imply a previous acquaintance, and is consequently not out of harmony with that of St John. It is less easy to determine whether the account in Luke v. 1-11 refers to the same or to a different incident; Schleiermacher, Neander, Bleek, and others treat it as the fuller and more accurate account; Ewald, Weiss, Keim, and others regard the miraculous draught of fishes as a reminiscence of a later tradition, and probably identical with John xxi. 5-11.

From the time of his call Peter has a place in most of the important events of the Gospel narrative. It was to his house in Capernaum that Jesus went as if to a home (Matt. viii. 14; Mark i. 14, 33; Luke iv. 38), and it is consequently sometimes spoken of as simply "the house" (Matt. ix. 28, xiii. 1, 36, xvii. 25). He formed, with his two former partners, James anc} John, an apostolic trium-virate, which was admitted when all others were excluded, and to whom, with Andrew, was committed the great pro-phecy of the last days (Mark xiii. 3). The most important incident which is recorded of him between his call and the crucifixion is that which happened at Csesarea Philippi (Matt. xvi. 13-23; Mark viii. 27-33; Luke ix. p8-22; probably recorded in substance, though in a different form, in John vi. 66-69). The incident links itself closely with the history which had immediately preceded it. The ex-pectation which the Galilasan peasantry had begun to form of Jesus had been disappointed; the miracles of healing and feeding had not been followed by the assumption of the national leadership; many of the disciples had begun to drift away, and those who were looking for the Messiah saw in Him only "one of the prophets." Those who rernained were tested by a direct question; whether the form of the question was that of the Synoptists, " Whom say ye that I am?" or that of St John, "Will ye also go away ?" it was Peter who answered for the rest, in words which have an equivalent meaning, whether they were in the form " Thou art the Christ," or in the form " Lord, to whom shall we go 1 Thou hast the words of eternal life." The further detail which St Matthew gives, xvi. 17-19, has sometimes been thought to be a later addition, reflect-ing a fact of subsequent ecclesiastical history; but its absence from St Mark does not seem to be an adequate ground for rejecting it, and its substance is found in Justin Martyr (Tryph., c. 100). Pound the words which St Matthew records many controversies have raged ; nor does it seem possible, with existing means of investigation, to fix to tire sentence " upon this rock I will build My church " a meaning that will be beyond dispute. Whatever may be its precise meaning, it seems at any rate to be in har-mony with other passages of the Synoptic Gospels, which indicate, not only that Peter was foremost among the apostles by virtue of natural force of character, but that he was also their ordinary leader and representative : the most important passage is Matt. x. 2, where the expression " the first," which is applied to him, cannot be restricted to mere priority of enumeration in the list. It is possible that his colleagues James and John, or their more ambi-tious mother, endeavoured to dispute this position with him (Matt. xx. 20, 21; Mark x. 35-37), and it has been contended (Baur, Strauss, Holtzmann) that in the Fourth Gospel John holds the place which the Synoptists assign to Peter; but even if this contention were admitted it would merely afford one more argument to show that the priority of rank was limited by natural affection as well as by the law of equality among the Christian brotherhood (Matt, xxiii. 8-11; Mark ix! 33-35; Luke xxiL 24-27). But, although Peter was foremost in expressing the con-fident belief of the disciples that Jesus was the Messiah, it seems clear that in his conception of the Messiah he did not rise above the current ideas of his countrymen. " He that should come " was to be a national deliverer. This conception appears on two occasions especially—when Jesus first told the disciples of His coming sufferings, " Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him," and received the answer, " Get thee behind Me, Satan," as though this atti-tude of the disciples were a new temptation (Matt. xvi. 21-23; Mark viii. 31-33); and, when Jesus was actually in the power of His enemies, and no " legions of angels " appeared either to rescue or to enthrone Him, Peter's natural hopefulness gave way to complete despondency, and he more than once "denied that he knew Him."

In the earliest account of the resurrection (that of St Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 5) it is mentioned that Jesus appeared to Peter before and separately from the twelve; and the last chapter of the Fourth Gospel gives him an especial pro-minence : it adds one more example of the impulsive energy of his character (ver. 7); it portrays more vividly than any other passage in the Gospels the depth of his attachment to his Master (vers. 15-17) ; and it forecasts the manner of his death (vers. 18, 19). His prominence in the early community at Jerusalem is proved by the testimony of St Paul; for it was to visit " Cephas " that he made his first journey to Jerusalem after his conversion, and fourteen years afterwards, though James and John as well as Cephas "were reputed to be pillars," it was the latter who stood out above the rest as the special preacher of " the gospel of the uncircumcision " (Gal. i. 18, ii. 1-10). These facts undoubtedly confirm the general picture of the relations of Peter to the early church which is drawn in the Acts of the Apostles; at the same time no part of the New Testament has been more strongly attacked by modern (_writers than the first twelve chapters of that book, in which the " Acts of Peter " are contained. The attack has been made (Baur, Schwegler, Overbeck, Zeller, and others) partly on the speeches and partly on the narrative. (1) It is alleged that the Petrine speeches form no exception to the general uniformity of phraseology and style which characterizes the Acts, and that they ignore the marked differences in the conception of Christianity between Peter and Paul. It must be admitted that the coincidences are such as to render it probable that the author of the Acts dealt freely with his materials, but at the same time the peculiarities are sufficiently numerous to support the view that these speeches contain a true representation of the primitive teaching. (2) The narrative passages which have been most keenly contested are those which relate to Simon of Samaria and to Cornelius. It is alleged that the account of the former is the mere reflex of the later legends in which the name of Simon Magus was substituted for that of St Paul as the representative of false Christ-ianity, and it is said of the latter that it is a mere attempt to claim for Peter the opening of the door to the Gentiles which was the special honour of Paul, and that it cannot be reconciled with the division of labour between the apostle of the circumcision and the apostle of the uncir-cumcision which is spoken of in the Epistle to the Gala-tians.' At the great crisis of early Christianity which is known as the conference or council of Jerusalem Peter advocated (according to the Acts), or accepted (according to Paul), the policy of conciliation. Afterwards he went to Antioch, where Paul had preceded him, and there he carried out his acceptance of Gentile Christianity to the further point of eating at the common meals at which Gentiles were present. For this step the members of the original community at Jerusalem were not prepared ; and, when a deputation from them came to Antioch, peter "drew back and separated himself" (Gal. ii. 12). There-upon followed an argument and a remonstrance on the part of Paul which has been fruitful of results to both ancient and modern Christianity. Peter was "withstood to the face" because of (1) inconsistency, (2) practical calumny of Christ, (3) transgression of the law, (4) making void the gift of God (Gal. ii. 14-21). It is altogether too much to assume that this remonstrance led to a permanent alien-ation of the two apostles from one another; it is more probable that with a character such as Peter's, which had more energy than steadiness of resolution, it may even have been effectual. But it is upon the assumption of such an alienation that the Jewish party in the ancient church pictured Peter as the champion and hero of the faith, and Paul as its vanquished opponent, and also that in modern times the Tubingen school have endeavoured to reconstruct not only early church history but also the New Testament.

This incident at Antioch is the last that is certainly known of Peter. The prophecy recorded in John xxi. 18, 19, is in harmony with early tradition in pointing to a violent death. But of the time and place of that death we know nothing with even approximate probability. The only historical mention of him for more than a hundred years afterwards is in Clement of Rome (Ep., i. 5, 4), who sets before the Corinthians the example of "Peter, who through zeai undertook not one or two but numerous labours, and so having borne witness went to the place that was due to him.' It is sometimes supposed that an indication of the place in which he " bore witness" or "suffered martyrdom" is afforded by the phrase "among us," i.e., among the Romans, in the next chapter ; but this, though possible, is quite uncertain. Outside this state-ment, which if it were more definite would be conclusive, there is only the doubtful interpretation of " Babylon " in 1 Peter v. 13 as meaning "Rome," and the echo of a vague tradition in the apocryphal Petri et Pauli Prxdicatio? The testimony of the " presbyter " who is quoted by Papias in reference to Peter's connexion with Mark (Euseb., H. E., iii. 39, 15) says nothing of the place at which they were together, and the coupling of the names of Peter and Paul by Ignatius (Ad Roman., c. 4) would not, even if the early date of Ignatius were established, afford a solid argument that "in their death they were not divided." But from the beginning of the last quarter of the 2d century the testimony to the presence and death of Peter at Piome is almost uniform ; the tradition, whatever may have been its foundation in fact, had firmly established itself. Diony-sius of Corinth (Euseb., //. E., ii. 25, 8) says that Peter and Paul founded the church at Corinth together and then proceeded to Italy. Irenseus (Adv. Hseres., iii. 1) speaks of Peter and Paul as having together founded the church at Rome; the Muratorian Fragment (not earlier than the end of the 2d century) refers to the " passion of Peter" i.e., his martyrdom ; the presbyter Gaius (Euseb., H. E., ii. 25, 7, early in the 3d century) says that he saw the Tpoiraia. (whatever that may mean) of the two apostles Peter and Paul at Rome ; in Tertullian (e.g., Scorp., c. 15 ; TJe Pr&scr., c. 24 and 36) the tradition is fairly established; and no later Latin father expresses any doubt of it.

But, besides the fact that there is an interval of more than a hundred years between what must have been, in the ordinary course of nature even if not through violence, the approximate time of Peter's death and the first certain tradition of the place and manner of it, there are two other important considerations which render the ordinary patristic statements doubtful. (1) One stream of tradition, for the existence of which it is difficult to account if the other tradition had been uniform, represents Peter as having worked at Antioch, in Asia Minor, in Babylonia, and in the " country of the barbarians" on the northern shores of the Black Sea. This is in harmony with the geo-graphical details of the first of the two epistles which bear his name. That epistle is addressed to the " elect who are sojourners of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappa-docia, Asia, and Bithynia," and the " Babylon " from which it is obviously written (v. 13) is best understood not as a cryptographic expression for Rome, but, like the other geographical names of the epistles of the New Testament, in a literal sense. All this, no doubt, is not inconsistent with the supposition that Peter went to Rome towards the end of his life, but it seems to exclude the theory that he made a lengthened stay there and was the founder of the Roman Church. (2) The other consideration is that the presence of Peter at Rome is almost inextricably bound up with a story of whose legendary character there can be little doubt, that of the Simon Magus of the Clementines.^ Under the name of Simon Magus the conservative Jewish Christians, who could never forgive the admission of the Gentiles to be "fellow-heirs" with the "children of the promise," seem to have represented Paul ; and, throwing back into the 1st century, and into the personal relations between the two apostles, the violent controversies between the catholic and the Jewish parties which came to a head in the 2d century, they framed a romance of which Peter was the hero, and in which, under the mask of Simon Magus, Paul played the part of the " false apostle." The romance in its original form has perished; its substance is partly preserved and partly recast in the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, of which the former exist in their original Greek, the latter in an incomplete Latin translation. In course of time the original identity of Paul with Simon Magus was forgotten, and in the later forms of the legend (see the Acts of Peter and Paul below) Peter and Paul are joined together in the combat with the pretender. But in almost all later patristic accounts of Peter Simon Magus has an important place; he is said to have gone to Pome in the time of Claudius, and Peter is said to have at once followed him in 42 A.D.; hence, as Peter lived until the Neronian persecution in 67 there was room for an episcopate of twenty-five years. This last tradition can hardly be reconciled with the facts mentioned in the New Testament of his presence at Jerusalem and at Antioch (Acts xv.; Gal. ii.); but Lipsius has endeavoured to show, not only that single points in the story must be given up, but that the whole tradition of the presence of Peter at Rome is a fiction which grew out of the Judaeo- Christian attack upon Paul.

The probabilities of the case are evenly balanced; on the one hand it is difficult to account for the complete silence as to Peter in the Pauline epistles, and it is impos-sible with those epistles in sight to regard Peter as the founder of the Roman community; on the other hand, it is difficult to suppose that so large a body of tradition had no foundation in fact; such a supposition, besides its general improbability, would assume tjhat the extreme form of Judaso-Christianity which the Clementines reflect had a much greater influence over the conceptions of the 2d century than the evidence warrants.1

It would be inappropriate to enter in the present article into the causes and consequences of the enormous influence which the belief that Peter founded and presided over the first Christian community at Rome has exercised upon Christianity. It was no doubt natural, considering that influence, that curiosity should be largely exercised as to the details of his life and death at Rome, and that legends of respectable antiquity should express themselves in visible memorials. Modern Rome contains many such memorials. The chapel of S. Pietro in Carcere preserves the tradition that he was imprisoned in the Tullianum, and that a spring of water issued from the ground that he might baptize his gaolers. The churches of S. Prassede and S. Pudenziana preserve the tradition that much of the later part of his life at Rome was spent in the house of Pudens on the Viminal Hill. The latest localization of a legend has built a church outside the old Porta Capena to mark the spot where, when he was fleeing from persecution, he met his Master going into Rome. " Lord, whither goest Thou ?" (Domine, quo vadis ?) was his question. "I go to Rome to be crucified again" was his Mas-ter's answer. Besides these visible memorials of Petrine legends there are four annual feasts. (1) On 29th June is celebrated the Feast of St Peter and St Paul. The day is supposed to be that of their martyrdom ; it is in reality that of the reburial of their supposed remains in 258, which is recorded in the Kalendarium Liberianum of 354 (printed by Mommsen in the Abhandlungen der königl. sächs. Gesellschaft, phil.-hist. Classe, 1850, p. 362). Those of Peter were then reburied "ad catacumbas," i.e., in the ceme-tery of St Sebastian on the Appian Way ; they were afterwards said to have been transferred to the basilica which Constantino erected on the Vatican. (2) On 22d February is celebrated a feast in commemoration of Peter as bishop of Antioch (Festum Cathedrse Petri Antiochense), which also is mentioned as early as the Kalend. Liberianum. (3) On 18th January has been celebrated since the 8th century a feast in commemoration of his bishopric of Rome. (4) On 1st August has been celebrated since the 9th century a feast in commemoration of his imprisonment (Festum S. Petri ad Vinculo), but whether of that by Herod which is mentioned in Acts xii., or of that by Nero, is uncertain.

Besides the two canonical epistles (see PETER, EPISTLES OF) the following works have either been (erroneously) attributed to him or bear closely upon his history.

1. The Gospel according to Peter.—Eusebius (H. E., vi. 12, 2-6) mentions that the public use of this Gospel was at one time allowed, but afterwards disallowed on the ground of its Docetism, by Serapion, the successor of Theophilus in the bishopric of Antioch (191-213). It is mentioned by Origen (Horn, in Matt., x. 17, vol. iii. p. 462), by Jerome (De Vir. Illustr., c. 1), and by Theodoret (Hseret. Fab., ii. 2). Hilgenfeld (Nov. Test, extra canon, rec., fasc. iv. p. 39) thinks that it held a middle place between the Gospel according to the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Ebionites. No certain fragments of it remain.

2. The Preaching of Peter (Uirpov icfipvyua); and

3. The Journeys of Peter (Uerpov wepioöoi).—These two works are mentioned together in the Epistle to James which is prefixed to the Clementine Recognitions ; the former appears to have been Judseo-Christian ; the latter was an attack on Paul under the guise of Simon Magus. Both works underlie the Clementine Recognitions and Homilies ; the patristic references to them will be found in Hilgen-feld, I.e., p. 52, and Einleitung, pp. 42, 155, 580, 613.

4. The Preaching of Peter and Paul.—This, in distinction from the preceding, belongs to the period at which Pauline and Petrine tendencies had become combined. The fragments of it and refer-ences to it are collected by Hilgenfeld, I.e., p. 56.

5. The Acts of Peter and Paul.—The history of this work is obscure ; in its present form (as printed by Tischendorf, Acta Apos-tolorum Apocrypha, pp. 1-39) it is probably a late recasting of an earlier work or works. Of such earlier work or works there are traces which are collected by Hilgenfeld, I.e., p. 66 ; in addition to these it has been thought that the Martyrium Petri et Pauli of Symeon Metaphrastes contains part of the original Acts of Peter ; but the section of the great work of Lipsius, Die apok. Apostelgesch. u. Apostelleg., which will probably unravel the present literary difficulties of these Acts has not yet (1884) appeared.


fragments of it are collected by Grabe, Spieil., i. 74, and by Hilgen-feld, I.e., p. 71. (The work under the same title which was partly translated by Jacobus de Vitriaco in the 13th century, and of which some MSS. still remain, e.g., an Arabic translation in the Bodleian library—MSS. Arab. Christ., xlviii.—is a much later composition.)


7. Epistle of Peter to James.—This is prefixed to the Clementine Homilies (ed. Lagarde, p. 1); according to Fhotius (Biblioth., cod. 42, 113) there was a similar letter, which is now lost, prefixed to the Recognitions. Its character and literary value are the same as those of the Clementines in general.

The Teaching of Simon Cephas in Rome.—This treatise exists in Syriac, and was first published and translated by Cureton, Ancient Syriac Documents, 1864, p. 35 (since by B. P. Pratten, in the Ante-Nicene Library, vol. xx.). (E. HA.)


Throughout the New Testament the Peshito-Syriac uses Cephas where the Greek has Peter, and there is no reasonable doubt of the identity of the two names ; but Clement of Alexandria, in a fragment preserved by Eusebius, H. E., i. 12, 3, and the so-called " Two Ways " (Harnack, Lehre der zwölf Apostel, p. 225, and Hilgenfeld, Nov. Test, extra Canonem reeeptum, fasc. iv. p. Ill) take them to refer to differ-ent persons, probably from an unwillingness to believe that Gal. ii, 11 really referred to Peter,
Throughout the New Testament the Peshito-Syriac uses Cephas where the Greek has Peter, and there is no reasonable doubt of the identity of the two names ; but Clement of Alexandria, in a fragment preserved by Eusebius, H. E., i. 12, 3, and the so-called " Two Ways " (Harnack, Lehre der zwölf Apostel, p. 225, and Hilgenfeld, Nov. Test, extra Canonem reeeptum, fasc. iv. p. Ill) take them to refer to differ-ent persons, probably from an unwillingness to believe that Gal. ii, 11 really referred to Peter,

Clem. Alex., Strom., vii. 10, p. 869, quoted by Eusebius, H. E., Iii. 30, 2.
Clem. Alex., Strom., iii. 6, p. 535, quoted by Eusebius, ibid.
St Augustine, c. Adimdnt. Manich., e. 17, vol. viii. 139, ed. Ben.

The question of the relation of their language to the rest of the Acts and to the Petrine epistles is discussed in detail with various results by several writers, e.g., Mayerhoff and Weiss in the works mentioned below, and more tubby Kahler in Studien u. Kntiken for 1873, p. 492 sq.
The details of the discussion will be found in most recent books

For the detailed proofs of this reference may be made to Baur, Church History, E. T., vol. i. p. 91 ; Zeller, The Acts of the Apostles, E. T., vol. i. p. 250; and Hilgenfeld, in his Zeitschrift f. wissensch. Theologie, 1868, p. 367.

The story is first found in a sermon sometimes attributed to St' Ambrose and printed in some editions of his works, e.g., ed. Paris, 1603, vol. v. p. 100.

6. The Apocalypse of Peter.—This is mentioned as a deutero-canonical book in the Muratorian Fragment, by Clement of Alex-andria (ap. Euseb., H. E., vi. 14, 1), and by Eusebius (H. E., iii. 25, 4). Methodius of Tyre placed it " among the inspired Scriptures " (Sympos., ii. 6), and Sozomen (H. E., vii. 19) says that in some churches of Palestine it was publicly read once a year. A few short

und erste Schicksale der Christengemeinde zu Rom, 1874, p. 51; Schmid, Petrus in Rom, Lucerne, 1879 (which is a convenient summary of earlier literature and arguments rather than an independent contribution to the subject); Langen, Geschichte der römischen Kirche, 1881, p. 40; Sieffert, in Herzog-Plitt, R. E., s.v. "Petrus."

s Hilgenfeld, JYov. Test, extra Can. rec, fasc. iv. p. 57.

4 Uhlhorn, Die Homilien u. Recognitionen des Clemens Romanus, Gottingen, 1852, makes an unsuccessful attempt to show that the two stories may be separated.

The above article was written by: Rev. E. Hatch, D.D.

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