St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles
The life of St. Peter may be conveniently considered under the following heads:
I. Until the Ascension of Christ
II. St. Peter in Jerusalem and Palestine after the Ascension
III. Missionary Journeys in the East; The Council of the Apostles
IV. Activity and Death in Rome; Burial-place
V. Feasts of St. Peter
VI. Representations of St. Peter
I. UNTIL THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST
St. Peter's true and original name was Simon, sometimes occurring in the form Symeon. (Acts 15:14; II Peter 1:1). He was the son of Jona (Johannes) and was born in Bethsaida (John 1:42, 44), a town on Lake Genesareth, the position of which cannot be established with certainty, although it is usually sought at the northern end of the lake. The Apostle Andrew was his brother, and the Apostle Philip came from the same town.
Simon settled in Capharnaum, where he was living with his mother-in-law in his own house (Matthew 8:14; Luke 4:38) at the beginning of Christ's public ministry (about A.D. 26-28). Simon was thus married, and, according to Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, III, vi, ed. Dindorf, II, 276), had children. The same writer relates the tradition that Peter's wife suffered martyrdom (ibid., VII, xi ed. cit., III, 306). Concerning these facts, adopted by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., III, xxxi) from Clement, the ancient Christian literature which has come down to us is silent. Simon pursued in Capharnaum the profitable occupation of fisherman in Lake Genesareth, possessing his own boat (Luke 5:3).
Peter meets Our Lord.
Like so many of his Jewish contemporaries, he was attracted by the Baptist's
preaching of penance and was, with his brother Andrew, among John's associates
in Bethania on the eastern bank of the Jordan. When, after the High Council had
sent envoys for the second time to the Baptist, the latter pointed to Jesus who
was passing, saying,
Behold the Lamb of God, Andrew and another disciple
followed the Saviour to his residence and remained with Him one day.
Later, meeting his brother. Simon, Andrew said
We have found the Messias,
and brought him to Jesus, who, looking upon him, said:
Thou art Simon the son
of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter. Already, at
this first meeting, the Saviour foretold the change of Simon's name to Cephas
(Kephas; Aramaic Kipha, rock), which is translated Petros (Lat., Petrus) a proof
that Christ had already special views with regard to Simon. Later, probably at
the time of his definitive call to the Apostolate with the eleven other Apostles,
Jesus actually gave Simon the name of Cephas (Petrus), after which he was
usually called Peter, especially by Christ on the solemn occasion after Peter's
profession of faith (Matthew 16:18; cf. below). The Evangelists often combine
the two names, while St. Paul uses the name Cephas.
Peter becomes a disciple.
After the first meeting Peter with the other early disciples remained with
Jesus for some time, accompanying Him to Galilee (Marriage at Cana), Judaea, and
Jerusalem, and through Samaria back to Galilee (John 2-4). Here Peter resumed
his occupation of fisherman for a short time, but soon received the definitive
call of the Saviour to become one of His permanent disciples. Peter and Andrew
were engaged at their calling when Jesus met and addressed them:
Come ye after
me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. On the same occasion the sons of
Zebedee were called (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; it is here
assumed that Luke refers to the same occasion as the other Evangelists).
Thenceforth Peter remained always in the immediate neighbourhood of Our Lord.
After preaching the Sermon on the Mount and curing the son of the centurion in
Capharnaum, Jesus came to Peter's house and cured his wife's mother, who was
sick of a fever (Matthew 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31). A little later Christ chose His
Twelve Apostles as His constant associates in preaching the kingdom of God.
Growing prominence among the Twelve.
Among the Twelve Peter soon became conspicuous. Though of irresolute
character, he clings with the greatest fidelity, firmness of faith, and inward
love to the Saviour; rash alike in word and act, he is full of zeal and
enthusiasm, though momentarily easily accessible to external influences and
intimidated by difficulties. The more prominent the Apostles become in the
Evangelical narrative, the more conspicuous does Peter appear as the first among
them. In the list of the Twelve on the occasion of their solemn call to the
Apostolate, not only does Peter stand always at their head, but the surname
Petrus given him by Christ is especially emphasized (Matthew 10:2):
autem Apostolorum nomina haec: Primus Simon qui dicitur Petrus …; Mark
Et fecit ut essent duodecim cum illo, et ut mitteret eos praedicare
… et imposuit Simoni nomen Petrus; Luke 6:13-14:
Et cum dies factus esset,
vocavit discipulos suos, et elegit duodecim ex ipsis (quos et Apostolos
nominavit): Simonem, quem cognominavit Petrum … On various occasions Peter
speaks in the name of the other Apostles (Matthew 15:15; 19:27; Luke 12:41,
etc.). When Christ's words are addressed to all the Apostles, Peter answers in
their name (e.g., Matthew 16:16). Frequently the Saviour turns specially to
Peter (Matthew 26:40; Luke 22:31, etc.).
Very characteristic is the expression of true fidelity to Jesus, which Peter
addressed to Him in the name of the other Apostles. Christ, after He had spoken
of the mystery of the reception of His Body and Blood (John 6:22 sqq.) and many
of His disciples had left Him, asked the Twelve if they too should leave Him;
Peter's answer comes immediately:
Lord to whom shall we go? thou hast the words
of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Holy One
of God (Vulg.
thou art the Christ, the Son of God). Christ Himself
unmistakably accords Peter a special precedence and the first place among the
Apostles, and designates him for such on various occasions. Peter was one of the
three Apostles (with James and John) who were with Christ on certain special
occasions the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37; Luke
8:51); the Transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:28), the
Agony in the Garden of Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33). On several
occasions also Christ favoured him above all the others; He enters Peter's boat
on Lake Genesareth to preach to the multitude on the shore (Luke 5:3); when He
was miraculously walking upon the waters, He called Peter to come to Him across
the lake (Matthew 14:28 sqq.); He sent him to the lake to catch the fish in
whose mouth Peter found the stater to pay as tribute (Matthew 17:24 sqq.).
Peter becomes Head of the Apostles.
In especially solemn fashion Christ accentuated Peter's precedence among the
Apostles, when, after Peter had recognized Him as the Messias, He promised that
he would be head of His flock. Jesus was then dwelling with His Apostles in the
vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, engaged on His work of salvation. As Christ's
coming agreed so little in power and glory with the expectations of the Messias,
many different views concerning Him were current. While journeying along with
His Apostles, Jesus asks them:
Whom do men say that the Son of man is? The
Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others
Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus said to them:
But whom do you say that
I am? Simon said:
Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus
answering said to him:
Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and
blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to
thee: That thou art Peter [Kipha, a rock], and upon this rock [Kipha] I will
build my church [ekklesian], and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou
shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou
shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. Then he commanded his
disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ (Matthew
16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21).
By the word
rock the Saviour cannot have meant Himself, but only Peter, as
is so much more apparent in Aramaic in which the same word (Kipha) is used for
rock. His statement then admits of but one explanation, namely,
that He wishes to make Peter the head of the whole community of those who
believed in Him as the true Messias; that through this foundation (Peter) the
Kingdom of Christ would be unconquerable; that the spiritual guidance of the
faithful was placed in the hands of Peter, as the special representative of
Christ. This meaning becomes so much the clearer when we remember that the words
loose are not metaphorical, but Jewish juridical terms. It is also
clear that the position of Peter among the other Apostles and in the Christian
community was the basis for the Kingdom of God on earth, that is, the Church of
Christ. Peter was personally installed as Head of the Apostles by Christ Himself.
This foundation created for the Church by its Founder could not disappear with
the person of Peter, but was intended to continue and did continue (as actual
history shows) in the primacy of the Roman Church and its bishops. Entirely
inconsistent and in itself untenable is the position of Protestants who (like
Schnitzer in recent times) assert that the primacy of the Roman bishops cannot
be deduced from the precedence which Peter held among the Apostles. Just as the
essential activity of the Twelve Apostles in building up and extending the
Church did not entirely disappear with their deaths, so surely did the Apostolic
Primacy of Peter not completely vanish. As intended by Christ, it must have
continued its existence and development in a form appropriate to the
ecclesiastical organism, just as the office of the Apostles continued in an
appropriate form. Objections have been raised against the genuineness of the
wording of the passage, but the unanimous testimony of the manuscripts, the
parallel passages in the other Gospels, and the fixed belief of pre-Constantine
literature furnish the surest proofs of the genuineness and untampered state of
the text of Matthew (cf.
Stimmen aus Maria Laach, I, 1896,129 sqq.;
und Glaube, II, 1910,842 sqq.).
His difficulty with Christ's Passion.
In spite of his firm faith in Jesus, Peter had so far no clear knowledge of
the mission and work of the Saviour. The sufferings of Christ especially, as
contradictory to his worldly conception of the Messias, were inconceivable to
him, and his erroneous conception occasionally elicited a sharp reproof from
Jesus (Matthew 16:21-23, Mark 8:31-33). Peter's irresolute character, which
continued notwithstanding his enthusiastic fidelity to his Master, was clearly
revealed in connection with the Passion of Christ. The Saviour had already told
him that Satan had desired him that he might sift him as wheat. But Christ had
prayed for him that his faith fail not, and, being once converted, he confirms
his brethren (Luke 22:31-32). Peter's assurance that he was ready to accompany
his Master to prison and to death, elicited Christ's prediction that Peter
should deny Him (Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:33-38).
When Christ proceeded to wash the feet of His disciples before the Last Supper,
and came first to Peter, the latter at first protested, but, on Christ's
declaring that otherwise he should have no part with Him, immediately said:
Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head (John 13:1-10). In the
Garden of Gethsemani Peter had to submit to the Saviour's reproach that he had
slept like the others, while his Master suffered deadly anguish (Mark 14:37). At
the seizing of Jesus, Peter in an outburst of anger wished to defend his Master
by force, but was forbidden to do so. He at first took to flight with the other
Apostles (John 18:10-11; Matthew 26:56); then turning he followed his captured
Lord to the courtyard of the High Priest, and there denied Christ, asserting
explicitly and swearing that he knew Him not (Matthew 26:58-75; Mark 14:54-72;
Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-27). This denial was of course due, not to a lapse of
interior faith in Christ, but to exterior fear and cowardice. His sorrow was
thus so much the greater, when, after his Master had turned His gaze towards him,
he clearly recognized what he had done.
The Risen Lord confirms Peter's precedence. In spite of this weakness, his position as head of the Apostles was later confirmed by Jesus, and his precedence was not less conspicuous after the Resurrection than before. The women, who were the first to find Christ's tomb empty, received from the angel a special message for Peter (Mark 16:7). To him alone of the Apostles did Christ appear on the first day after the Resurrection (Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5). But, most important of all, when He appeared at the Lake of Genesareth, Christ renewed to Peter His special commission to feed and defend His flock, after Peter had thrice affirmed his special love for his Master (John, xxi, 15-17). In conclusion Christ foretold the violent death Peter would have to suffer, and thus invited him to follow Him in a special manner (ibid., 20-23). Thus was Peter called and trained for the Apostleship and clothed with the primacy of the Apostles, which he exercised in a most unequivocal manner after Christ's Ascension into Heaven.
II. ST. PETER IN JERUSALEM AND PALESTINE AFTER THE ASCENSION
Our information concerning the earliest Apostolic activity of St. Peter in Jerusalem, Judaea, and the districts stretching northwards as far as Syria is derived mainly from the first portion of the Acts of the Apostles, and is confirmed by parallel statements incidentally in the Epistles of St. Paul.
Among the crowd of Apostles and disciples who, after Christ's Ascension into Heaven from Mount Olivet, returned to Jerusalem to await the fulfilment of His promise to send the Holy Ghost, Peter is immediately conspicuous as the leader of all, and is henceforth constantly recognized as the head of the original Christian community in Jerusalem. He takes the initiative in the appointment to the Apostolic College of another witness of the life, death and resurrection of Christ to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-26). After the descent of the Holy Ghost on the feast of Pentecost, Peter standing at the head of the Apostles delivers the first public sermon to proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and wins a large number of Jews as converts to the Christian community (ibid. ii, 14-41). First of the Apostles he worked a public miracle, when with John he went up into the temple and cured the lame man at the Beautiful Gate. To the people crowding in amazement about the two Apostles, he preaches a long sermon in the Porch of Solomon, and brings new increase to the flock of believers (ibid., iii, 1-iv, 4).
In the subsequent examinations of the two Apostles before the Jewish High
Council, Peter defends in undismayed and impressive fashion the cause of Jesus
and the obligation and liberty of the Apostles to preach the Gospel (ibid., iv,
5-21). When Ananias and Sapphira attempt to deceive the Apostles and the people
Peter appears as judge of their action, and God executes the sentence of
punishment passed by the Apostle by causing the sudden death of the two guilty
parties (ibid., v, 1-11). By numerous miracles God confirms the Apostolic
activity of Christ's confessors, and here also there is special mention of Peter,
since it is recorded that the inhabitants of Jerusalem and neighbouring towns
carried their sick in their beds into the streets so that the shadow of Peter
might fall on them and they might be thereby healed (ibid., v 12-16). The
ever-increasing number of the faithful caused the Jewish supreme council to
adopt new measures against the Apostles, but
Peter and the Apostles answer
ought to obey God rather than men (ibid., v, 29 sqq.). Not only in
Jerusalem itself did Peter labour in fulfilling the mission entrusted to him by
his Master. He also retained connection with the other Christian communities in
Palestine, and preached the Gospel both there and in the lands situated farther
north. When Philip the Deacon had won a large number of believers in Samaria,
Peter and John were deputed to proceed thither from Jerusalem to organize the
community and to invoke the Holy Ghost to descend upon the faithful. Peter
appears a second time as judge, in the case of the magician Simon, who had
wished to purchase from the Apostles the power that he also could invoke the
Holy Ghost (ibid., viii, 14-25). On their way back to Jerusalem, the two
Apostles preached the joyous tidings of the Kingdom of God. Subsequently, after
Paul's departure from Jerusalem and conversion before Damascus, the Christian
communities in Palestine were left at peace by the Jewish council.
Peter now undertook an extensive missionary tour, which brought him to the maritime cities, Lydda Joppe, and Caesarea. In Lydda he cured the palsied Eneas, in Joppe he raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead; and at Caesarea, instructed by a vision which he had in Joppe, he baptized and received into the Church the first non-Jewish Christians, the centurion Cornelius and his kinsmen (ibid., ix, 31-x, 48). On Peter's return to Jerusalem a little later, the strict Jewish Christians, who regarded the complete observance of the Jewish law as binding on all, asked him why he had entered and eaten in the house of the uncircumcised. Peter tells of his vision and defends his action, which was ratified by the Apostles and the faithful in Jerusalem (ibid., xi, 1-18).
A confirmation of the position accorded to Peter by Luke, in the Acts, is
afforded by the testimony of St. Paul (Gal., i, 18-20). After his conversion and
three years' residence in Arabia, Paul came to Jerusalem
to see Peter. Here
the Apostle of the Gentiles clearly designates Peter as the authorized head of
the Apostles and of the early Christian Church. Peter's long residence in
Jerusalem and Palestine soon came to an end. Herod Agrippa I began (A.D. 42-44)
a new persecution of the Church in Jerusalem; after the execution of James, the
son of Zebedee, this ruler had Peter cast into prison, intending to have him
also executed after the Jewish Pasch was over. Peter, however, was freed in a
miraculous manner, and, proceeding to the house of the mother of John Mark,
where many of the faithful were assembled for prayer, informed them of his
liberation from the hands of Herod, commissioned them to communicate the fact to
James and the brethren, and then left Jerusalem to go to
another place (Acts
12:1-18). Concerning St. Peter's subsequent activity we receive no further
connected information from the extant sources, although we possess short notices
of certain individual episodes of his later life.
III. MISSIONARY JOURNEYS IN THE EAST; COUNCIL OF THE APOSTLES
St. Luke does not tell us whither Peter went after his liberation from the
prison in Jerusalem. From incidental statements we know that he subsequently
made extensive missionary tours in the East, although we are given no clue to
the chronology of his journeys. It is certain that he remained for a time at
Antioch; he may even have returned thither several times. The Christian
community of Antioch was founded by Christianized Jews who had been driven from
Jerusalem by the persecution (ibid., xi, 19 sqq.). Peter's residence among them
is proved by the episode concerning the observance of the Jewish ceremonial law
even by Christianized pagans, related by St. Paul (Gal., ii, 11-21). The chief
Apostles in Jerusalem - the
pillars, Peter, James, and John - had unreservedly
approved St. Paul's Apostolate to the Gentiles, while they themselves intended
to labour principally among the Jews. While Paul was dwelling in Antioch (the
date cannot be accurately determined), St. Peter came thither and mingled freely
with the non-Jewish Christians of the community, frequenting their houses and
sharing their meals. But when the Christianized Jews arrived in Jerusalem, Peter,
fearing lest these rigid observers of the Jewish ceremonial law should be
scandalized thereat, and his influence with the Jewish Christians be imperiled,
avoided thenceforth eating with the uncircumcised.
His conduct made a great impression on the other Jewish Christians at Antioch,
so that even Barnabas, St. Paul's companion, now avoided eating with the
Christianized pagans. As this action was entirely opposed to the principles and
practice of Paul, and might lead to confusion among the converted pagans, this
Apostle addressed a public reproach to St. Peter, because his conduct seemed to
indicate a wish to compel the pagan converts to become Jews and accept
circumcision and the Jewish law. The whole incident is another proof of the
authoritative position of St. Peter in the early Church, since his example and
conduct was regarded as decisive. But Paul, who rightly saw the inconsistency in
the conduct of Peter and the Jewish Christians, did not hesitate to defend the
immunity of converted pagans from the Jewish Law. Concerning Peter's subsequent
attitude on this question St. Paul gives us no explicit information. But it is
highly probable that Peter ratified the contention of the Apostles of the
Gentiles, and thenceforth conducted himself towards the Christianized pagans as
at first. As the principal opponents of his views in this connexion, Paul names
and combats in all his writings only the extreme Jewish Christians coming
James (i.e., from Jerusalem). While the date of this occurrence, whether before
or after the Council of the Apostles, cannot be determined, it probably took
place after the council (see below). The later tradition, which existed as early
as the end of the second century (Origen,
Hom. vi in Lucam; Eusebius,
Eccl., III, xxxvi), that Peter founded the Church of Antioch, indicates the
fact that he laboured a long period there, and also perhaps that he dwelt there
towards the end of his life and then appointed Evodrius, the first of the line
of Antiochian bishops, head of the community. This latter view would best
explain the tradition referring the foundation of the Church of Antioch to St.
It is also probable that Peter pursued his Apostolic labours in various
districts of Asia Minor for it can scarcely be supposed that the entire period
between his liberation from prison and the Council of the Apostles was spent
uninterruptedly in one city, whether Antioch, Rome, or elsewhere. And, since he
subsequently addressed the first of his Epistles to the faithful in the
Provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Asia, one may reasonably assume
that he had laboured personally at least in certain cities of these provinces,
devoting himself chiefly to the Diaspora. The Epistle, however, is of a general
character, and gives little indication of personal relations with the persons to
whom it is addressed. The tradition related by Bishop Dionysius of Corinth (in
Hist. Eccl., II, xxviii) in his letter to the Roman Church under
Pope Soter (165-74), that Peter had (like Paul) dwelt in Corinth and planted the
Church there, cannot be entirely rejected. Even though the tradition should
receive no support from the existence of the
party of Cephas, which Paul
mentions among the other divisions of the Church of Corinth (I Cor., i, 12; iii,
22), still Peter's sojourn in Corinth (even in connection with the planting and
government of the Church by Paul) is not impossible. That St. Peter undertook
various Apostolic journeys (doubtless about this time, especially when he was no
longer permanently residing in Jerusalem) is clearly established by the general
remark of St. Paul in I Corinthians 9:5, concerning the
rest of the apostles,
and the brethren [cousins] of the Lord, and Cephas, who were travelling around
in the exercise of their Apostleship.
Peter returned occasionally to the original Christian Church of Jerusalem, the guidance of which was entrusted to St. James, the relative of Jesus, after the departure of the Prince of the Apostles (A.D. 42-44). The last mention of St. Peter in the Acts (xv, 1-29; cf. Gal., ii, 1-10) occurs in the report of the Council of the Apostles on the occasion of such a passing visit. In consequence of the trouble caused by extreme Jewish Christians to Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, the Church of this city sent these two Apostles with other envoys to Jerusalem to secure a definitive decision concerning the obligations of the converted pagans (see JUDAIZERS). In addition to James, Peter and John were then (about A.D. 50-51) in Jerusalem. In the discussion and decision of this important question, Peter naturally exercised a decisive influence. When a great divergence of views had manifested itself in the assembly, Peter spoke the deciding word. Long before, in accordance with God's testimony, he had announced the Gospels to the heathen (conversion of Cornelius and his household); why, therefore, attempt to place the Jewish yoke on the necks of converted pagans? After Paul and Barnabas had related how God had wrought among the Gentiles by them, James, the chief representative of the Jewish Christians, adopted Peter's view and in agreement therewith made proposals which were expressed in an encyclical to the converted pagans.
The occurrences in Caesarea and Antioch and the debate at the Council of
Jerusalem show clearly Peter's attitude towards the converts from paganism. Like
the other eleven original Apostles, he regarded himself as called to preach the
Faith in Jesus first among the Jews (Acts, x, 42), so that the chosen people of
God might share in the salvation in Christ, promised to them primarily and
issuing from their midst. The vision at Joppe and the effusion of the Holy Ghost
over the converted pagan Cornelius and his kinsmen determined Peter to admit
these forthwith into the community of the faithful, without imposing on them the
Jewish Law. During his Apostolic journeys outside Palestine, he recognized in
practice the equality of Gentile and Jewish converts, as his original conduct at
Antioch proves. His aloofness from the Gentile converts, out of consideration
for the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, was by no means an official
recognition of the views of the extreme Judaizers, who were so opposed to St.
Paul. This is established clearly and incontestably by his attitude at the
Council of Jerusalem. Between Peter and Paul there was no dogmatic difference in
their conception of salvation for Jewish and Gentile Christians. The recognition
of Paul as the Apostle of the Gentiles (Gal., ii, 1-9) was entirely sincere, and
excludes all question of a fundamental divergence of views. St. Peter and the
other Apostles recognized the converts from paganism as Christian brothers on an
equal footing; Jewish and Gentile Christians formed a single Kingdom of Christ.
If therefore Peter devoted the preponderating portion of his Apostolic activity
to the Jews, this arose chiefly from practical considerations, and from the
position of Israel as the Chosen People. Baur's hypothesis of opposing currents
Paulinism in the early Church is absolutely untenable, and
is today entirely rejected by Protestants.
IV. ACTIVITY AND DEATH IN ROME; BURIAL PLACE
It is an indisputably established historical fact that St. Peter laboured in Rome during the last portion of his life, and there ended his earthly course by martyrdom. As to the duration of his Apostolic activity in the Roman capital, the continuity or otherwise of his residence there, the details and success of his labours, and the chronology of his arrival and death, all these questions are uncertain, and can be solved only on hypotheses more or less well-founded. The essential fact is that Peter died at Rome: this constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome to the Apostolic Primacy of Peter.
St. Peter's residence and death in Rome are established beyond contention as historical facts by a series of distinct testimonies extending from the end of the first to the end of the second centuries, and issuing from several lands.
- That the manner, and therefore the place of his death, must have been known
in widely extended Christian circles at the end of the first century is clear
from the remark introduced into the Gospel of St. John concerning Christ's
prophecy that Peter was bound to Him and would be led whither he would not -
And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God(John, xxi, 8-19, see above). Such a remark presupposes in the readers of the Fourth Gospel a knowledge of the death of Peter.
- St. Peter's First Epistle was written almost undoubtedly from Rome, since
the salutation at the end reads:
The church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark(v, 13). Babylon must here be identified with the Roman capital; since Babylon on the Euphrates, which lay in ruins, or New Babylon (Seleucia) on the Tigris, or the Egyptian Babylon near Memphis, or Jerusalem cannot be meant, the reference must be to Rome, the only city which is called Babylon elsewhere in ancient Christian literature (Apoc., xvii, 5; xviii, 10;
Oracula Sibyl., V, verses 143 and 159, ed. Geffcken, Leipzig, 1902, 111).
- From Bishop Papias of Hierapolis and Clement of Alexandria, who both appeal
to the testimony of the old presbyters (i.e., the disciples of the Apostles), we
learn that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome at the request of the Roman Christians,
who desired a written memorial of the doctrine preached to them by St. Peter and
his disciples (Eusebius,
Hist. Eccl., II, xv; III, xl; VI, xiv); this is confirmed by Irenaeus (Adv. haer., III, i). In connection with this information concerning the Gospel of St. Mark, Eusebius, relying perhaps on an earlier source, says that Peter described Rome figuratively as Babylon in his First Epistle.
- Another testimony concerning the martyrdom of Peter and Paul is supplied by
Clement of Rome in his Epistle to the Corinthians (written about A.D. 95-97),
wherein he says (v):
Through zeal and cunning the greatest and most righteous supports [of the Church] have suffered persecution and been warred to death. Let us place before our eyes the good Apostles - St. Peter, who in consequence of unjust zeal, suffered not one or two, but numerous miseries, and, having thus given testimony (martyresas), has entered the merited place of glory. He then mentions Paul and a number of elect, who were assembled with the others and suffered martyrdom
among us(en hemin, i.e., among the Romans, the meaning that the expression also bears in chap. Iv). He is speaking undoubtedly, as the whole passage proves, of the Neronian persecution, and thus refers the martyrdom of Peter and Paul to that epoch.
- In his letter written at the beginning of the second century (before 117),
while being brought to Rome for martyrdom, the venerable Bishop Ignatius of
Antioch endeavours by every means to restrain the Roman Christians from striving
for his pardon, remarking:
I issue you no commands, like Peter and Paul: they were Apostles, while I am but a captive(Ad. Rom., iv). The meaning of this remark must be that the two Apostles laboured personally in Rome, and with Apostolic authority preached the Gospel there.
- Bishop Dionysius of Corinth, in his letter to the Roman Church in the time
of Pope Soter (165-74), says:
You have therefore by your urgent exhortation bound close together the sowing of Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both planted the seed of the Gospel also in Corinth, and together instructed us, just as they likewise taught in the same place in Italy and at the same time suffered martyrdom(in Eusebius,
Hist. Eccl., II, xxviii).
- Irenaeus of Lyons, a native of Asia Minor and a disciple of Polycarp of
Smyrna (a disciple of St. John), passed a considerable time in Rome shortly
after the middle of the second century, and then proceeded to Lyons, where he
became bishop in 177; he described the Roman Church as the most prominent and
chief preserver of the Apostolic tradition, as
the greatest and most ancient church, known by all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul(Adv. haer., III, iii; cf. III, i). He thus makes use of the universally known and recognized fact of the Apostolic activity of Peter and Paul in Rome, to find therein a proof from tradition against the heretics.
- In his
Hist. Eccl., IV, xiv), Clement of Alexandria, teacher in the catechetical school of that city from about 190, says on the strength of the tradition of the presbyters:
After Peter had announced the Word of God in Rome and preached the Gospel in the spirit of God, the multitude of hearers requested Mark, who had long accompanied Peter on all his journeys, to write down what the Apostles had preached to them(see above).
- Like Irenaeus, Tertullian appeals, in his writings against heretics, to the
proof afforded by the Apostolic labours of Peter and Paul in Rome of the truth
of ecclesiastical tradition. In
De Praescriptione, xxxv, he says:
If thou art near Italy, thou hast Rome where authority is ever within reach. How fortunate is this Church for which the Apostles have poured out their whole teaching with their blood, where Peter has emulated the Passion of the Lord, where Paul was crowned with the death of John(scil. the Baptist). In
Scorpiace, xv, he also speaks of Peter's crucifixion.
The budding faith Nero first made bloody in Rome. There Peter was girded by another, since he was bound to the cross. As an illustration that it was immaterial with what water baptism is administered, he states in his book (
On Baptism, ch. v) that there is
no difference between that with which John baptized in the Jordan and that with which Peter baptized in the Tiber; and against Marcion he appeals to the testimony of the Roman Christians,
to whom Peter and Paul have bequeathed the Gospel sealed with their blood(Adv. Marc., IV, v).
- The Roman, Caius, who lived in Rome in the time of Pope Zephyrinus (198-217),
wrote in his
Dialogue with Proclus(in Eusebius,
Hist. Eccl., II, xxviii) directed against the Montanists:
But I can show the trophies of the Apostles. If you care to go to the Vatican or to the road to Ostia, thou shalt find the trophies of those who have founded this Church. By the trophies (tropaia) Eusebius understands the graves of the Apostles, but his view is opposed by modern investigators who believe that the place of execution is meant. For our purpose it is immaterial which opinion is correct, as the testimony retains its full value in either case. At any rate the place of execution and burial of both were close together; St. Peter, who was executed on the Vatican, received also his burial there. Eusebius also refers to
the inscription of the names of Peter and Paul, which have been preserved to the present day on the burial-places there(i.e. at Rome).
- There thus existed in Rome an ancient epigraphic memorial commemorating the
death of the Apostles. The obscure notice in the Muratorian Fragment (
Lucas optime theofile conprindit quia sub praesentia eius singula gerebantur sicuti et semote passionem petri evidenter declarat, ed. Preuschen, Tubingen, 1910, p. 29) also presupposes an ancient definite tradition concerning Peter's death in Rome.
- The apocryphal Acts of St. Peter and the Acts of Sts. Peter and Paul likewise belong to the series of testimonies of the death of the two Apostles in Rome.
In opposition to this distinct and unanimous testimony of early Christendom,
some few Protestant historians have attempted in recent times to set aside the
residence and death of Peter at Rome as legendary. These attempts have resulted
in complete failure. It was asserted that the tradition concerning Peter's
residence in Rome first originated in Ebionite circles, and formed part of the
Legend of Simon the Magician, in which Paul is opposed by Peter as a false
Apostle under Simon; just as this fight was transplanted to Rome, 80 also sprang
up at an early date the legend of Peter's activity in that capital (thus in Baur,
Paulus, 2nd ed., 245 sqq., followed by Hase and especially Lipsius,
Quellen der römischen Petrussage, Kiel, 1872). But this hypothesis is proved
fundamentally untenable by the whole character and purely local importance of
Ebionitism, and is directly refuted by the above genuine and entirely
independent testimonies, which are at least as ancient. It has moreover been now
entirely abandoned by serious Protestant historians (cf., e.g., Harnack's
Gesch. der altchristl. Literatur, II, i, 244, n. 2). A more recent
attempt was made by Erbes (Zeitschr. fur Kirchengesch., 1901, pp. 1 sqq., 161
sqq.) to demonstrate that St. Peter was martyred at Jerusalem. He appeals to the
apocryphal Acts of St. Peter, in which two Romans, Albinus and Agrippa, are
mentioned as persecutors of the Apostles. These he identifies with the Albinus,
Procurator of Judaea, and successor of Festus and Agrippa II, Prince of Galilee,
and thence conciudes that Peter was condemned to death and sacrificed by this
procurator at Jerusalem. The untenableness of this hypothesis becomes
immediately apparent from the mere fact that our earliest definite testimony
concerning Peter's death in Rome far antedates the apocryphal Acts; besides,
never throughout the whole range of Christian antiquity has any city other than
Rome been designated the place of martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Although the fact of St. Peter's activity and death in Rome is so clearly
established, we possess no precise information regarding the details of his
Roman sojourn. The narratives contained in the apocryphal literature of the
second century concerning the supposed strife between Peter and Simon Magus
belong to the domain of legend. From the already mentioned statements regarding
the origin of the Gospel of St. Mark we may conclude that Peter laboured for a
long period in Rome. This conclusion is confirmed by the unanimous voice of
tradition which, as early as the second half of the second century, designates
the Prince of the Apostles the founder of the Roman Church. It is widely held
that Peter paid a first visit to Rome after he had been miraculously liberated
from the prison in Jerusalem; that, by
another place, Luke meant Rome, but
omitted the name for special reasons. It is not impossible that Peter made a
missionary journey to Rome about this time (after 42 A.D.), but such a journey
cannot be established with certainty. At any rate, we cannot appeal in support
of this theory to the chronological notices in Eusebius and Jerome, since,
although these notices extend back to the chronicles of the third century, they
are not old traditions, but the result of calculations on the basis of episcopal
lists. Into the Roman list of bishops dating from the second century, there was
introduced in the third century (as we learn from Eusebius and the
of 354) the notice of a twenty-five years' pontificate for St. Peter, but we
are unable to trace its origin. This entry consequently affords no ground for
the hypothesis of a first visit by St. Peter to Rome after his liberation from
prison (about 42). We can therefore admit only the possibility of such an early
visit to the capital.
The task of determining the year of St. Peter's death is attended with
similar difficulties. In the fourth century, and even in the chronicles of the
third, we find two different entries. In the
Chronicle of Eusebius the
thirteenth or fourteenth year of Nero is given as that of the death of Peter and
Paul (67-68); this date, accepted by Jerome, is that generally held. The year 67
is also supported by the statement, also accepted by Eusebius and Jerome, that
Peter came to Rome under the Emperor Claudius (according to Jerome, in 42), and
by the above-mentioned tradition of the twenty-five years' episcopate of Peter
Sopra l'anno 67 se fosse quello del martirio dei gloriosi
Apostoli, Rome, 1868) . A different statement is furnished by the
of 354 (ed. Duchesne,
Liber Pontificalis, I, 1 sqq.). This refers St. Peter's
arrival in Rome to the year 30, and his death and that of St. Paul to 55.
Duchesne has shown that the dates in the
Chronograph were inserted in a
list of the popes which contains only their names and the duration of their
pontificates, and then, on the chronological supposition that the year of
Christ's death was 29, the year 30 was inserted as the beginning of Peter's
pontificate, and his death referred to 55, on the basis of the twenty-five years'
pontificate (op. cit., introd., vi sqq.). This date has however been recently
defended by Kellner (
Jesus von Nazareth u. seine Apostel im Rahmen der
Zeitgeschichte, Ratisbon, 1908;
Tradition geschichtl. Bearbeitung u. Legende
in der Chronologie des apostol. Zeitalters, Bonn, 1909). Other historians have
accepted the year 65 (e. g., Bianchini, in his edition of the
Pontilicalis in P. L.. CXXVII. 435 sqq.) or 66 (e. g. Foggini,
De romani b.
Petri itinere et episcopatu, Florence, 1741; also Tillemont). Harnack
endeavoured to establish the year 64 (i. e. the beginning of the Neronian
persecution) as that of Peter's death (
Gesch. der altchristl. Lit. bis
Eusebius, pt. II,
Die Chronologie, I, 240 sqq.). This date, which had been
already supported by Cave, du Pin, and Wieseler, has been accepted by Duchesne
(Hist. ancienne de l'eglise, I, 64). Erbes refers St. Peter's death to 22 Feb.,
63, St. Paul's to 64 (
Texte u. Untersuchungen, new series, IV, i, Leipzig,
Die Todestage der Apostel Petrus u. Paulus u. ihre rom. Denkmäler). The
date of Peter's death is thus not yet decided; the period between July, 64
(outbreak of the Neronian persecution), and the beginning of 68 (on 9 July Nero
fled from Rome and committed suicide) must be left open for the date of his
death. The day of his martyrdom is also unknown; 29 June, the accepted day of
his feast since the fourth century, cannot be proved to be the day of his death
Concerning the manner of Peter's death, we possess a tradition - attested to
by Tertullian at the end of the second century (see above) and by Origen (in
Hist. Eccl., II, i) - that he suffered crucifixion. Origen says:
Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired
to suffer. As the place of execution may be accepted with great probability the
Neronian Gardens on the Vatican, since there, according to Tacitus, were enacted
in general the gruesome scenes of the Neronian persecution; and in this district,
in the vicinity of the Via Cornelia and at the foot of the Vatican Hills, the
Prince of the Apostles found his burial place. Of this grave (since the word
tropaion was, as already remarked, rightly understood of the tomb) Caius already
speaks in the third century. For a time the remains of Peter lay with those of
Paul in a vault on the Appian Way at the place ad Catacumbas, where the Church
of St. Sebastian (which on its erection in the fourth century was dedicated to
the two Apostles) now stands. The remains had probably been brought thither at
the beginning of the Valerian persecution in 258, to protect them from the
threatened desecration when the Christian burial-places were confiscated. They
were later restored to their former resting-place, and Constantine the Great had
a magnificent basilica erected over the grave of St. Peter at the foot of the
Vatican Hill. This basilica was replaced by the present St. Peter's in the
sixteenth century. The vault with the altar built above it (confessio) has been
since the fourth century the most highly venerated martyr's shrine in the West.
In the substructure of the altar, over the vault which contained the sarcophagus
with the remains of St. Peter, a cavity was made. This was closed by a small
door in front of the altar. By opening this door the pilgrim could enjoy the
great privilege of kneeling directly over the sarcophagus of the Apostle. Keys
of this door were given as previous souvenirs (cf. Gregory of Tours,
martyrum, I, xxviii).
The memory of St. Peter is also closely associated with the Catacomb of St. Priscilla on the Via Salaria. According to a tradition, current in later Christian antiquity, St. Peter here instructed the faithful and administered baptism. This tradition seems to have been based on still earlier monumental testimonies. The catacomb is situated under the garden of a villa of the ancient Christian and senatorial family, the Acilii Glabriones, and its foundation extends back to the end of the first century; and since Acilius Glabrio, consul in 91, was condemned to death under Domitian as a Christian, it is quite possible that the Christian faith of the family extended back to Apostolic times, and that the Prince of the Apostles had been given hospitable reception in their house during his residence at Rome. The relations between Peter and Pudens whose house stood on the site of the present titular church of Pudens (now Santa Pudentiana) seem to rest rather on a legend.
Concerning the Epistles of St. Peter, see EPISTLES
OF SAINT PETER; concerning the various apocrypha bearing the name of Peter,
especially the Apocalypse and the Gospel of St. Peter, see APOCRYPHA. The
apocryphal sermon of Peter (kerygma), dating from the second half of the second
century, was probably a collection of supposed sermons by the Apostle; several
fragments are preserved by Clement of Alexandria (cf. Dobschuts,
Petri kritisch untersucht in
Texte u. Untersuchungen, XI, i, Leipzig, 1893).
V. FEASTS OF ST. PETER
As early as the fourth century a feast was celebrated in memory of Sts. Peter
and Paul on the same day, although the day was not the same in the East as in
Rome. The Syrian Martyrology of the end of the fourth century, which is an
excerpt from a Greek catalogue of saints from Asia Minor, gives the following
feasts in connexion with Christmas (25 Dec.): 26 Dec., St. Stephen; 27 Dec., Sts.
James and John; 28 Dec., Sts. Peter and Paul. In St. Gregory of Nyssa's
panegyric on St. Basil we are also informed that these feasts of the Apostles
and St. Stephen follow immediately after Christmas. The Armenians celebrated the
feast also on 27 Dec.; the Nestorians on the second Friday after the Epiphany.
It is evident that 28 (27) Dec. was (like 26 Dec. for St. Stephen) arbitrarily
selected, no tradition concerning the date of the saints' death being
forthcoming. The chief feast of Sts. Peter and Paul was kept in Rome on 29 June
as early as the third or fourth century. The list of feasts of the martyrs in
the Chronograph of Philocalus appends this notice to the date-
III. Kal. Jul.
Petri in Catacumbas et Pauli Ostiense Tusco et Basso Cose. (= the year 258).
Martyrologium Hieronyminanum has, in the Berne MS., the following notice
for 29 June:
Romae via Aurelia natale sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli,
Petri in Vaticano, Pauli in via Ostiensi, utrumque in catacumbas, passi sub
Nerone, Basso et Tusco consulibus (ed. de Rossi - Duchesne, 84).
The date 258 in the notices shows that from this year the memory of the two
Apostles was celebrated on 29 June in the Via Appia ad Catacumbas (near San
Sebastiano fuori le mura), because on this date the remains of the Apostles were
translated thither (see above). Later, perhaps on the building of the church
over the graves on the Vatican and in the Via Ostiensis, the remains were
restored to their former resting-place: Peter's to the Vatican Basilica and
Paul's to the church on the Via Ostiensis. In the place Ad Catacumbas a church
was also built as early as the fourth century in honour of the two Apostles.
From 258 their principal feast was kept on 29 June, on which date solemn Divine
Service was held in the above-mentioned three churches from ancient times
Origines du culte chretien, 5th ed., Paris, 1909, 271 sqq., 283
Ein Martyrologium der christl. Gemeinde zu Rom an Anfang des 5.
Jahrh., Leipzig, 1901, 169 sqq.; Kellner,
Heortologie, 3rd ed., Freiburg,
1911, 210 sqq.). Legend sought to explain the temporary occupation by the
Apostles of the grave Ad Catacumbas by supposing that, shortly after their death,
the Oriental Christians wished to steal their bodies and bring them to the East.
This whole story is evidently a product of popular legend. (Concerning the Feast
of the Chair of Peter, see CHAIR OF
A third Roman feast of the Apostles takes place on 1 August: the feast of St. Peter's Chains. This feast was originally the dedication feast of the church of the Apostle, erected on the Esquiline Hill in the fourth century. A titular priest of the church, Philippus, was papal legate at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The church was rebuilt by Sixtus III (432-40) at the expense of the Byzantine imperial family. Either the solemn consecration took place on 1 August, or this was the day of dedication of the earlier church. Perhaps this day was selected to replace the heathen festivities which took place on 1 August. In this church, which is still standing (S. Pietro in Vincoli), were probably preserved from the fourth century St. Peter's chains, which were greatly venerated, small filings from the chains being regarded as precious relics. The church thus early received the name in Vinculis, and the feast of 1 August became the feast of St. Peter's Chains (Duchesne, op. cit., 286 sqq.; Kellner, loc. cit., 216 sqq.). The memory of both Peter and Paul was later associated also with two places of ancient Rome: the Via Sacra, outside the Forum, where the magician Simon was said to have been hurled down at the prayer of Peter and the prison Tullianum, or Carcer Mamertinus, where the Apostles were supposed to have been kept until their execution. At both these places, also, shrines of the Apostles were erected, and that of the Mamertine Prison still remains in almost its original form from the early Roman time. These local commemorations of the Apostles are based on legends, and no special celebrations are held in the two churches. It is, however, not impossible that Peter and Paul were actually confined in the chief prison in Rome at the fort of the Capitol, of which the present Carcer Mamertinus is a remnant.
VI. REPRESENTATIONS OF ST. PETER
The oldest extant is the bronze medallion with the heads of the Apostles;
this dates from the end of the second or the beginning of the third century, and
is preserved in the Christian Museum of the Vatican Library. Peter has a strong,
roundish head, prominent jaw-bones, a receding forehead, thick, curly hair and
beard. (See illustration in CATACOMBS.) The features are so individual that it
partakes of the nature of a portrait. This type is also found in two
representations of St. Peter in a chamber of the Catacomb of Peter and
Marcellinus, dating from the second half of the third century (Wilpert,
Malereien der Katakomben in Rom, plates 94 and 96). In the paintings of the
catacombs Sts. Peter and Paul frequently appear as interceders and advocates for
the dead in the representations of the Last Judgment (Wilpert, 390 sqq.), and as
introducing an Orante (a praying figure representing the dead) into Paradise.
In the numerous representations of Christ in the midst of His Apostles, which occur in the paintings of the catacombs and carved on sarcophagi, Peter and Paul always occupy the places of honour on the right and left of the Saviour. In the mosaics of the Roman basilicas, dating from the fourth to the ninth centuries, Christ appears as the central figure, with Sts. Peter and Paul on His right and left, and besides these the saints especially venerated in the particular church. On sarcophagi and other memorials appear scenes from the life of St. Peter: his walking on Lake Genesareth, when Christ summoned him from the boat; the prophecy of his denial; the washing of his feet; the raising of Tabitha from the dead; the capture of Peter and the conducting of him to the place of execution. On two gilt glasses he is represented as Moses drawing water from the rock with his staff; the name Peter under the scene shows that he is regarded as the guide of the people of God in the New Testament.
Particularly frequent in the period between the fourth and sixth centuries is
the scene of the delivery of the Law to Peter, which occurs on various kinds of
monuments. Christ hands St. Peter a folded or open scroll, on which is often the
inscription Lex Domini (Law of the Lord) or Dominus legem dat (The Lord gives
the law). In the mausoleum of Constantina at Rome (S. Costanza, in the Via
Nomentana) this scene is given as a pendant to the delivery of the Law to Moses.
In representations on fifth-century sarcophagi the Lord presents to Peter
(instead of the scroll) the keys. In carvings of the fourth century Peter often
bears a staff in his hand (after the fifth century, a cross with a long shaft,
carried by the Apostle on his shoulder), as a kind of sceptre indicative of
Peter's office. From the end of the sixth century this is replaced by the keys
(usually two, but sometimes three), which henceforth became the attribute of
Peter. Even the renowned and greatly venerated bronze statue in St. Peter's
possesses them; this, the best known representation of the Apostle, dates from
the last period of Christian antiquity (Grisar,
Analecta romana, I, Rome, 1899,
BIRKS Studies of the Life and character of St. Peter (LONDON, 1887), TAYLOR, Peter the Apostle, new ed. by BURNET AND ISBISTER (London, 1900); BARNES, St. Peter in Rome and his Tomb on the Vatican Hill (London, 1900): LIGHTFOOT, Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., pt. 1, VII. (London, 1890), 481sq., St. Peter in Rome; FOUARD Les origines de l'Eglise: St. Pierre et Les premières années du christianisme (3rd ed., Paris 1893); FILLION, Saint Pierre (2nd ed Paris, 1906); collection Les Saints; RAMBAUD, Histoire de St. Pierre apôtre (Bordeaux, 1900); GUIRAUD, La venue de St Pierre à Rome in Questions d'hist. et d'archéol. chrét. (Paris, 1906); FOGGINI, De romano D. Petr; itinere et episcopatu (Florence, 1741); RINIERI, S. Pietro in Roma ed i primi papi secundo i piu vetusti cataloghi della chiesa Romana (Turin, 19O9); PAGANI, Il cristianesimo in Roma prima dei gloriosi apostoli Pietro a Paolo, e sulle diverse venute de' principi degli apostoli in Roma (Rome, 1906); POLIDORI, Apostolato di S. Pietro in Roma in Civiltà Cattolica, series 18, IX (Rome, 1903), 141 sq.; MARUCCHI, Le memorie degli apostoli Pietro e Paolo in Roma (2nd ed., Rome, 1903); LECLER, De Romano S. Petri episcopatu (Louvain, 1888); SCHMID, Petrus in Rom oder Aufenthalt, Episkopat und Tod in Rom (Breslau, 1889); KNELLER, St. Petrus, Bischof von Rom in Zeitschrift f. kath. Theol., XXVI (1902), 33 sq., 225sq.; MARQUARDT, Simon Petrus als Mittel und Ausgangspunkt der christlichen Urkirche (Kempten, 1906); GRISAR, Le tombe apostoliche al Vaticano ed alla via Ostiense in Analecta Romana, I (Rome, 1899), sq.
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