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, epistles of the New Testament
Peter, two letters of the New Testament, classified among the Catholic (or General) Epistles. Each opens with a statement of authorship by the apostle St. Peter. First Peter, the longer book, is addressed from “Babylon” to the Christians of the churches of Asia Minor. The work opens with a reminder of the hope of redemption and an exhortation to holiness, then passes to duties of Christians—obedience to the state, and the obligation of slaves to their masters, wives to husbands, husbands to wives, and all to each other. This leads to consolation and encouragement under persecution. The conclusion is exhortatory. While the ascription to Peter has been often doubted by modern scholars who generally date the work to c.A.D. 100, the letter was accepted as Petrine and canonical from the earliest times. Second Peter, however, is almost universally recognized as pseudonymous, and is dated by many scholars as late as A.D. 150. It was one of the last New Testament books to be admitted to the canon. In the face of the delayed second coming of Jesus, the author exhorts the readers to godly living, warning against scoffers and false teachers and affirming that the second coming will happen. Parts of Second Peter are adapted from the letter of Jude.


See R. J. Bauckham, 2 Peter and Jude (1983); J. R. Michaels, 1 Peter (1988); P. H. Davids, 1 Peter (1990).

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Jesus' disciple Peter plays a small but important role in the Easter story. After the Last Supper, as Jesus and his disciples make their way to the Mount of Olives, Peter boasts that he will never forsake Jesus (for more on the Last Supper, see Maundy Thursday). Jesus sadly predicts that before the night is over Peter will deny him three times (Matthew 26:33-35). When the supporters of the Jewish high priest come to arrest Jesus, Peter cuts off the ear of one of the high priest's servants in an attempt to defend his master. Jesus rebukes him, telling him to put away his sword. In one biblical account of Jesus' arrest, that found in the Gospel according to Matthew, Peter follows the mob that takes Jesus to the high priest's house. While the high priest questions Jesus, Peter lurks in the shadows of the courtyard, waiting to see how things turn out (Matthew 26:69-75). Three different people see him there and accuse him of being one of Jesus' companions. Peter denies each accusation. Then he hears a cock crow, signaling the beginning of the new day, and he remembers Jesus' prediction. Filled with remorse, he weeps.

Although Peter's faith fails him during the darkest hour, Christian scripture tends to portray him as an eager and earnest follower of Jesus. In fact his loyalty sometimes leads him into statements or actions that Jesus condemns (Mark 8:29-33, John 13:8-9, Matthew 26:51-52, John 18:10). Nevertheless many scholars think that Peter was one of Jesus' closest companions. Originally a fisherman from Galilee, Peter along with his brother Andrew left their former lives to become Jesus' disciples. Some sources indicate that Peter may have been the first disciple that Jesus called. Jesus not only gave him a new occupation, but also a new name. Peter's given name was Simon, but according to Christian scripture Jesus renamed him Kepha or Kephas, which is Aramaic for "rock" (Matthew 16:18, Mark 3:16, John 4:42). Since the Christian scriptures were written in Greek, they record the Greek version of this name, Petros, or in English, Peter. Jesus gave him that name for a purpose. He proclaimed that Peter was to be the rock on which he would build his church. The stories concerning Peter in the Book of Acts reveal the insight and inspiration with which Peter preached, healed, and led the Christian community after Jesus'death.

Christian scripture gives evidence both of Peter's virtues and his faults. Many Christians find that this combination of devotion and weakness, insight and error, makes Peter an approachable and yet inspiring model of Christian spiritual growth.

Peter's role in the Easter story didn't end at the time of Jesus' arrest. According to certain Bible passages, Peter was the first person to see the resurrected Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:5, Luke 24:1-34). Other passages, however, claim that the risen Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. In one of the biblical accounts of Jesus' resurrection, that found in the Gospel according to Luke, the risen Jesus reveals himself first to Peter and another, unnamed disciple on the Sunday of the Resurrection. As the men walk from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus they meet a man along the road who becomes their companion (see also Emmaus Walk). He is the resurrected Jesus, although the disciples don't recognize him as such. As they journey towards Emmaus Jesus explains the meaning of the Hebrew prophecies concerning the Messiah. Once they arrive in the village the men sit down to break bread together, and the risen Jesus offers a blessing. Only then do the disciples recognize him. In that instant, Jesus disappears.

After Jesus'death Peter served as a leader and a missionary in the new, Christian church. Christian scripture and tradition provides some evidence that he played an important role in the founding of the church in Rome and that he may have ended his days there. According to Christian tradition he was condemned to die because of his religious beliefs. Legend has it that Peter was crucified head downwards at his own request. He chose this position because he thought himself unworthy to die in the same manner as had Jesus Christ. As early as the second century Roman Christians revered a specific site as the location of Peter's burial. Many believe that this same site now lies under St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy. Today Christian pilgrims still journey to the famous Basilica to pay tribute to St. Peter. Christians have viewed Peter in many ways over the years. Many Christians understand him to have been given special authority in the church as a leader among the apostles. This view is based on one of Jesus' speeches, recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 16:18). Roman Catholic doctrine holds him to have been the first bishop of Rome, or pope. It further proclaims that because Peter enjoyed a special kind of authority, all who serve as pope also have special authority over the entire church. Protestants and Eastern Christians disagree.

In Christian art Peter is often portrayed as the keeper of the keys of heaven. He also appears next to churches, holding a book, or seated as a bishop, settings that symbolize the work he undertook after Christ's death. Occasionally artists depict him weeping alongside a rooster in reference to his role in the Easter story.

Further Reading

Davids, Peter H. "Peter." In David Noel Freedman, ed. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000. Grant, Michael. Saint Peter. New York: Scribner, 1995. McDue, James F. "Peter the Apostle." In Mircea Eliade, ed. The Encyclopedia of Religion. Volume 11. New York: Macmillan, 1987. Neyrey, Jerome H. "Peter." In Paul J. Achtemeier, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. "Peter, St." In E. A. Livingstone, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Third edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1997. Walsh, John Evangelist. The Bones of St. Peter. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1982.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(nickname from the Greek Petros, literally, “rock”; real name, Simon).

In New Testament mythology, Peter was an apostle, one of the closest disciples of Christ. According to the Gospels, he was a fisherman and son of the fisherman Jona of Bethsaida. The image of Peter in the Gospels is contradictory. In the Gospel of Matthew, Peter was the first to declare Jesus the messiah (Christ), for which Christ called him a “rock,” on which the church would be built. In the same Gospel, the story is told of Peter denying Christ three times. In the Acts of the Apostles, it is alleged that after the crucifixion Peter became the leader of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Church tradition names Peter the first bishop of Rome, executed around A.D. 65, during the persecution of Christians in the reign of Nero. On the basis of legends circulating in Rome from the third century, excavations were carried out by the Vatican from 1940 to 1949 to find Peter’s tomb; they were unsuccessful.

Two epistles of the New Testament are attributed to Peter. Even theological critics, however, do not accept his authorship and date the earlier one from A.D. 90 to 95 and the other from A.D. 125 to 150. The cult of Peter is especially widespread in the Catholic Church, and the popes consider themselves his successors.

Peter’s name is associated with a movement (Petrinism) in early Christianity to preserve certain elements of Judaism.


Voropaeva, K. L. Kto takie apostoly? Leningrad, 1973.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1 New Testament
1. Saint. Also called: Simon Peter. died ?67 ad, a fisherman of Bethsaida, who became leader of the apostles and is regarded by Roman Catholics as the first pope; probably martyred at Rome. Feast day: June 29 or Jan. 18
2. either of two epistles traditionally ascribed to Peter (in full The First Epistle and The Second Epistle of Peter)


New Testament either of the two epistles traditionally ascribed to the apostle Peter (in full The First Epistle and The Second Epistle of Peter)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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Historic sights: Coughton Court (main picture), the church of St Peter (top), and the Catholic Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Elizabeth.
There is a pounds 250,000 appeal for structural repairs to the Victorian Roman Catholic Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Elizabeth in the grounds of Coughton Court.

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