ST PETER’S STORY

This St. Peter biography demonstrates unequivocally that, on his way from being a humble fisherman to an early disciple or follower, Peter denied Jesus three times. However, Jesus ultimately chose Peter to lead the church, calling him the rock of the church. Peter died after intense persecution as the first Pope and leader of the Catholic church.

Because Jesus also promised to give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven, most portrayals of Peter show him carrying a pair of keys.

At the moment of Jesus’ arrest, Peter cut off the ear of a high priest’s servant with a sword, but then, as Jesus foretold, he denied ever knowing him three times. After Jesus’ Resurrection, Peter re-affirmed his love for Jesus and was commanded to “feed (his) lambs” to take care of the Church.

st. peter biography
St. Peter

According to the Acts of the Apostles, Peter takes the lead in addressing the crowds assembled in Jerusalem for the Pentecost feast. As the leader of the Christians in Jerusalem, he was sentenced to death by Herod but miraculously released from prison the night before his trial.

After that, Peter departed Jerusalem to promote the Gospel. According to legend, he was in Rome in 63/64AD, during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero. Nero blamed Christians for a terrible fire in Rome in 64 AD. Peter was one of the Christians arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

Story of St. Peter

St. Peter, originally known as Simon, was a fisherman by trade. Jesus called Peter and his brother Andrew, James, and John to leave everything behind to become His followers. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

When Peter confessed confidence in Jesus as Messiah, Jesus gave him the nickname “rock” and said that the Church would rise on the rock of Peter’s faith (Matthew 16:18). When naming Jesus’ apostles, all of the Gospel writers start with Peter. In the Gospels, however, Peter repeatedly reveals that his faith is faulty but increasing.

He says things that irritate Jesus: he denies that Jesus’ crucifixion should ever be allowed to occur (Matthew 16:22), informs Jesus at the Last Supper that he would never wash his feet (John 13:8), and refuses connection with Jesus three times, despite Jesus’ prediction that he would (Luke 22:61).

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St. Peter exemplifies how tough discipleship may be, but he is also an example of the Lord choosing the weak and strengthening them in bearing witness to Him. At 64, Peter was killed (crucified upside down on a cross) for his religion in Rome, where he served as the city’s first bishop. St. Peter’s feast day is February 22nd, the feast of St. Peter’s primacy.

Saint Peter Times

As far as can be determined, Peter was a member of the ordinary people of Palestine, who were typically deemed to be Am harez, the people of the land, by educated Jewish classes. This word was used derogatorily to characterize persons unaware of the finer points and deeper ideals of Judaism and the Jewish way of life. Furthermore, Peter was a Galilean, so he shared the spirit of independence and resistance to Jerusalem in that northern province.

Recent studies of ordinary Palestinians’ everyday lives give a reasonably clear image of Peter’s social conditions: great poverty, a strongly fideistic approach to religion, a reliance on superstition, and an intense reliance on the vagaries of natural elements.

Furthermore, in the northern portions of Palestine, away from the immediate influence of Jerusalem, more revolutionary ideas quickly gained traction. Unrefined and immature views about the Messiah and Israel’s rescue were easily transformed into political movements, radical organizations, and a willingness to distance oneself from the authoritarian structure of southern Judaism.

When Peter reached adulthood in the mid-20s of the first century AD, the general atmosphere in Palestine was one of tension over the universal presence of the Roman conqueror and foreboding born of a strictly religious conviction that the arrival of the Jewish Messiah was imminent as the only possible solution to Israel’s difficulties.

Indeed, we see in the Gospels more than once that Jesus’ followers, led by Peter, tried to force Jesus to embrace the role of king. Even after Jesus’ Resurrection, Peter and the others asked him when and how to restore Israel’s kingdom. It is apparent that Peter’s connection to Jesus was founded, at least in the beginning, on the belief that Jesus would truly restore the kingdom of Israel and that Peter and the other Apostles would be leaders in the new age.

saint peter prayer
Saint Peter Prayer

Saint Roman Sojourn

From what we can learn and guess, it appears that Peter held a position of importance in Rome and was martyred there during Nero’s reign (37-68). The earliest evidence comes from a letter made by Clement in Rome about the year 96. A letter from Ignatius of Antioch (died before 110) and a speech by Gaius, a Roman clergyman, both imply Peter’s presence and power in Rome (ca. 200). Gaius mentions the Vatican Shrine and the Church’s “founders.” Finally, all early listings of Rome’s bishops begin with Peter’s name as the first bishop.

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Nero at Baiae

Excavations at the Vatican have turned up no compelling and irrefutable proof of Peter’s presence in Rome or burial beneath the Vatican. They did, however, discover an antique shrine dating from around the year 160. Collateral evidence implies the burial location of a revered figure, which Roman Catholic tradition recognizes as Peter.

There is no direct evidence in the New Testament that Peter’s status as Apostles’ leader was intended to be passed on to his successors, the bishops of Rome, as the popes’ importance over all of Christianity. This is a separate subject that is dependent on subsequent Church development and belief progression.

Tradition names Peter as the author of two letters bearing his name, while the authorship of at least the second has been called into question. Several apocryphal documents, all of which originate from the second century, are attributed to Peter. There is also the fragmented Acts of Peter, which purports to tell the story of Peter’s death as a martyr.

According to the first of the two letters attributed to Peter, his perspective as a Jew and Semite was never impacted by Greek or other non-Jewish philosophy. He embodies the mindset of a first-century Jew who believes that Jesus arrived as the Messiah of Israel, fulfilling all of Israel’s promises and hopes.

Some of Peter’s statements are no longer considered acceptable by orthodox Christian thought. Based on what we know about Peter and his life, he appears to have moved from Palestine to Rome as one Jewish community to another, without fundamentally changing his inclinations as a Jewish believer except in accepting Jesus as the Messiah of Israel.

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Basilica of Gethsemane, Jerusalem

Peter at Gethsemane

Just before Jesus died, Peter was with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the soldiers tried to capture Jesus, Peter drew his sword and swung it at the head of one of them, Malchus, a slave of the High Priest. He missed, but he severed the unfortunate man’s ear.

Peter Denies Jesus

After his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was carried to Caiphas’, the High Priest’s, residence. This was an official home with a central courtyard that was open to the public. While Jesus was being questioned, Peter was waiting outside.

Until this point, Peter had kept his word: he had remained by Jesus’ side while the others fled. But someone, a female servant, identified him as a Jesus believer and challenged him. Fear gripped Peter, and he declared three times that he did not know Jesus. He was immediately sorry for his frailty.

Peter at the Resurrection

When Mary Magdalene broke into the chamber where the disciples were huddled and announced that Jesus had risen from the dead, Peter and the much younger John did not pause; they dashed as swiftly as they could towards the Tomb. John beat Peter to the finish line. However, as soon as Peter came, he went directly into the Tomb by himself. There was no one there — only a sheet where Jesus’ corpse had been.

peter is imprisoned but escapes with the help of an angel
Peter is imprisoned but escapes with the help of an angel

Peter is imprisoned and escapes.

After Pentecost, Peter embarked on a new chapter about his life. Inspired, he began telling everyone he met about Jesus of Nazareth. In a sense, he was the forefather of early Christianity. It was not an easy road to take. Herod Agrippa, I, Herod the Great’s grandson, pursued and imprisoned the early Christians (who slaughtered the Innocents at the time of the birth of Jesus).

Peter was imprisoned as well, but after the Christian communities prayed, God released him: an angel of the Lord appeared, the chains dropped off his wrists, and Peter followed the angel out of the jail cell.

Peter at the Last Supper

Jesus washed the feet of each of his followers during the Last Supper. Although Peter opposed having his feet washed by someone he admired, Jesus insisted.

When danger approached, Jesus knew that his disciples would scatter and run. But Peter disagreed, promising Jesus and the other disciples that he would remain true even if everyone deserted him until the end.

transfiguration of christ
Transfiguration of Christ

Peter at the Transfiguration of Jesus

This was a watershed point in Jesus’ life. Peter had just declared that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.

Separated from the others, Jesus, Peter, James, and John ascended the flat summit. Something happened there that the disciples tried to explain to the others later: Jesus had been transformed, and at the same time, the figures of Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) appeared and spoke with him.

They felt as if a voice came from nowhere and everywhere, telling them that Jesus was God’s Son, chosen by God and now shown to them.

Peter, who was always full of energy, wanted to set up tents or pavilions, but Jesus gently restrained him. Peter and the other disciples did not comprehend the significance of all of this until after the Resurrection.

Summary St. Peter Biography

The story of Peter, in summary, proves Saint Peter was a Galilean fisherman who lived on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (see top right of map) with his wife, his brother Andrew and his mother-in-law.

People at the time worked as a family unit. Therefore, Peter’s family’s men and women worked together to capture and preserve/dry fish for export to the nearby towns.

This family was most likely collaborating with Zebedee and his sons, James and John (Matthew 4:21).

Resources St. Peter Biography

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