Peter

(first century)
   Apostle.
   According to the Gospel story, Peter was a Galilean fisherman who was called by Jesus to follow him and to become a fisher of men. His original name was Simon; Peter was a nickname meaning ‘rock’. He was the brother of andrew and, in the Fourth Gospel, it is implied that he was formerly a disciple of John the baptist. He quickly emerged as one of the leaders of the Twelve. Together with James and john, the sons of Zebedee, he was present at the raising of Jairus’s daughter. He was the first openly to recognise Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, ‘the son of the living God’. On this occasion, Jesus made the famous declaration, ‘You are Peter (rock) and on this rock will I build my Church’. Again with James and John, he saw the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Carmel and he was taken apart from the others in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus waited for his arrest.
   At the Last Supper, Jesus had predicted that he would deny his master three times that very night. This indeed occurred in the High Priest’s courtyard while Jesus was being tried. On the first Easter Sunday, he was among the first to find Jesus’s tomb empty and it is implied both in the Gospels and in paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians that Jesus made a special resurrection appearance to him. In the twenty-first chapter of the Fourth Gospel (possibly a later addition to the original text), after making a three-fold declaration of loyalty, he was instructed by Jesus to ‘feed my sheep’.
   After the Ascension, Peter continued to lead the twelve. It was he who preached on the first Whitsunday and, according to the Acts of the Apostles, it was he who baptised the first Gentile converts – the centurion Cornelius and all his household. He took a prominent part in the Council of Jerusalem, when he seems to have supported Paul’s stance. Traditionally he is believed to have been the first Bishop of Rome and to have met his death by crucifixion, probably in the persecutions of Nero in c. 64. The New Testament contains two epistles written under his name, of which only the first is generally regarded as genuine. A large amount of pseudo-Petrine literature, including a gospel and an apocalypse, circulated in the second century. papias maintained that he was the main source for the Gospel of mark. In any event, Peter was the outstanding figure in the primitive Church and as the ‘rock’ on which the Roman Church was supposedly founded, has been held in much reverence through the ages.
   The Four Gospels;
   The Acts of the Apostles;
   O. Cullmann, Petrus (1953);
   J. Lowe, St Peter (1956);
   K. Quest, Peter and the Beloved Disciple: Figures for a Community in Crisis (1989).

Who’s Who in Christianity . 2014.

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