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Saint Peter

Saint Peter (died c. 67) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. His original name was Simon, but he was given the nickname of Peter, which means rock or stone in Greek (Petros). Saint Paul generally called him Cephas or Kephas, which is the Aramaic equivalent of the nickname.

Before becoming a disciple of Jesus, Simon (i.e., Peter) was a fisherman. The following account is according to the Gospel of Luke: Simon first met Jesus when Jesus got into his boat to use it to preach to a crowd that had gathered on the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret. After he was done preaching, Jesus asked Simon to take the boat out to deep water to catch fish. Simon expressed doubt that they would catch any fish because they had been fishing all the previous night and had caught nothing. But they did catch huge numbers of fish that day after all, and Simon was ashamed that he had doubted Jesus. However, Jesus called him to be a disciple, saying "Do not be afraid; from now on it is people you will be catching."

According to the Gospels, Simon was the first person to profess faith that Jesus was the son of God, and the event precipitated his renaming to "Peter". The Gospel of Matthew relates that Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, and that when Simon answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", Jesus said, "Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! Because it was not human agency that revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. So now I say to you: you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my community... I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

The Gospels also state that Jesus correctly foretold that Peter would deny him three times after Jesus' arrest. Again according to the Gospel of Matthew, on the evening before Good Friday, Jesus predicted to his disciples that they would "fall away" from him that night. Peter replied, "Even if all fall away from you, I will never fall away." Jesus answered, "In truth I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times." The Gospel then relates that Peter did, indeed, deny knowing Jesus after Jesus had been arrested, in order to avoid being arrested himself. He then heard a cock crow, and remembered what Jesus had said, and wept.

The 21st chapter of the Gospel of John indicates that Peter was martyred by crucifixion, and Clement of Rome, c. 95, placed his death in the time of Nero. Later traditions hold that the Romans crucified him upside-down (by his request; he did not want to equate himself with Jesus). On the way to his execution, it is said, he encountered Jesus and asked: Domine, Quo Vadis? ("Lord, where are you going?"). Other versions of this story claim that this occurred as Peter was fleeing Rome to avoid his execution; the encounter caused him to turn back.

The New Testament includes two letters ascribed to Peter: the First Epistle of Peter and the Second Epistle of Peter. Based on the quality of the Greek, many scholars doubt that the apostle Peter actually penned those letters, but opinions are divided as to whether they were composed by his secretary (amanuensis) or by a follower after this death.

In later tradition, Peter is considered the first bishop of Antioch and later bishop of Rome. The Roman Catholic Church makes use of his position as first bishop of Rome, and Jesus' statement that Peter was the rock upon which he would build his community, in the case for papal primacy. He was succeeded by Pope Linus (67-76).

List of popes Succeeded by:
Pope Linus

See also: St. Peter's Basilica, Quo vadis, The Big Fisherman