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Peter, St

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
E. A. LivingstoneE. A. Livingstone

Peter, St, 

Prince of the Apostles. According to Jn. (1: 35–42) he was introduced to Christ by his brother Andrew and given the name ‘Cephas’, the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek ‘Peter’ (πέτρα, ‘rock’); according to Mt. (4: 18–20) and Mk. (1: 16–18) they were called together from their fishing. In all the lists of the Twelve [Apostles] Peter is named first. He is present on all three occasions when only a small ‘inner group’ is admitted, and he usually takes the lead as the mouthpiece of the Apostles. After his confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus is the Christ (Mk. 8: 27–30; in Mt. 16: 16, ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’), Mt. adds the Lord's promise, ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church’, together with the keys of heaven and the power of binding and loosing (16: 18 f.). (The precise interpretation of this passage has been the subject of much controversy.) His pre-eminence is again affirmed by the Lord at the Last Supper (Lk. 22: 31 f.), but his boast that he will never leave Him is answered by Christ's prediction that before the end of the night he will deny Him thrice. When in the courtyard of the High Priest he is accused of being one of His followers, he three times denies that he knows Him, remembers His prediction, and repents bitterly (Mt. 26: 69–75). He goes to the Lord's tomb as soon as the women report that it is empty (Lk. 24: 12) and he is later favoured with a special appearance of the risen Christ (Lk. 24: 34). After the Ascension he immediately takes the lead of the Apostles and throughout the first half of Acts he appears as their head. He opens the Church to the Gentiles by admitting Cornelius (Acts 10: 1–11: 18) and his authority is evident at the so-called Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15: 7–11).

Little is known of his later years. The tradition connecting him with Rome is early and unrivalled. The later tradition attributing to him an episcopate of 25 years in Rome is less well supported. His death is placed in the reign of Nero (54–68) and was probably in the persecution of 64. There are historical grounds for believing that his tomb in St Peter's, Rome, is authentic. The statement of Papias that his memoirs lie behind Mk. is accepted by many scholars. Feast day (sometimes with St Paul), 29 June. For the NT Epistles, see Peter, Epistles of St.

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