Peter (disciple/also known as Simon Peter)
Father: Jonah (John 1:42)
Spouse: Unnamed (Matthew 8:14)
Brother: Andrew (John 1:40)
First mention: Matthew 4:18
Final mention: 2 Peter 1:1
Meaning of his name: Simon means "hearing;" Peter means "rock" (Greek) Cephas means "rock" (Aramaic)
Frequency of his name: Referred to 183 times
Biblical books mentioning him: Nine books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter)
Occupation: Fisherman and apostle
Place of birth: Bethsaida in Galilee (John 1:44)
Place of death: Tradition says he died in Rome.
Circumstances of death: Tradition says he was crucified upside down.
Important fact about his life: He was one of the chief apostles and author of two New Testament books.
Copyright 1999, used by permission from Dr. H.L. Willmington.
Formerly Simon (i.e., "hearer"), Peter was the son of Jonas and probably a native of Bethsaida in Galilee. Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen on the Sea of Tiberias (sometimes called the Sea or Lake of Galilee) and partners of James and John.
With his brother Andrew, Peter was a disciple of John the Baptist, and when John pointed out Jesus to Andrew as the Lamb of God, Andrew went to Peter and told him, "We have found the Messiah." He brought him to Jesus, who looked at him, and said, "You are Simon, the son of Jonas; you shall be called Cephas." This first call resulted in no immediate change in Peter's life. He and his fellow disciples looked upon Jesus as their teacher, but were not commanded to follow Him at this time as regular disciples. He returned to Capernaum and continued his usual vocation.
The second call was received on the Sea of Galilee where the four partners (Andrew, Peter, James, and John) were fishing. People wanted to hear from Jesus, so He got into Peter's boat and requested that they go out a little from the land. They did and He addressed the multitude. After this, there was the miracle of the great catch of fish, foreshadowing the success of the apostles as fishers of men. They pulled their boat up on the shore and left everything to follow Jesus.
The special designation of Peter and his eleven fellow disciples took place some time afterward when they were set apart as Jesus' close friends. They appear to have then first received formally the name of apostles, and from that time Simon was almost always called Peter. It is he who utters that notable profession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," at Capernaum and again at Caesarea Philippi.
In his affection and self-confidence, Peter ventured to reject as impossible the announcement of the sufferings and humiliation which Jesus predicted, and heard the sharp words, "Get behind me, Satan! you are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Toward the close of Jesus' ministry, Peter's characteristics become especially prominent. At the last supper, Peter seems to have been particularly earnest in the request that the traitor might be pointed out. After the supper, his words drew out the meaning of the significant act of Jesus in washing His disciples' feet. It was then that He made those repeated protestations of unalterable fidelity, so soon to be falsified by his miserable fall. On the morning of the resurrection, we have proof that Peter, though humbled, was not crushed by his fall. He and John were the first to visit the sepulcher or tomb; he was the first who entered it. To Peter, Jesus revealed Himself, thus conferring on him a signal honor and showing how fully he was restored to His favor.
We next read of Jesus' interview with Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where he asked him three times, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me?" After Christ's ascension, Peter stands out as the recognized leader of the apostles, although it is clear he does not exercise or claim any authority apart from them, much less over them. Peter is the one who points out to the disciples the necessity of filling the place of Judas and the qualifications of an apostle. On the day of Pentecost, Peter, as the spokesman of the apostles, preached that remarkable sermon which resulted in the conversion of about 3,000 souls.
After the miracle at the temple gate, persecution arose against the Christians and Peter was cast into prison. He boldly defended himself and his companions at the bar of the council. A fresh outburst of violence against the Christians led to the whole body of apostles being cast into prison, but during the night they were wonderfully delivered and were found in the morning teaching in the temple. A second time Peter defended them before the council.
The time had come for Peter to leave Jerusalem. After laboring for some time in Samaria, he returned to Jerusalem and reported to the church there the results of his work. Here he remained for a period of time, during which he met Paul for the first time since Paul's conversion. Leaving Jerusalem again, he went on a missionary journey to Lydda and Joppa. He is next called to open the door of the Christian church to the Gentiles by the admission of Cornelius of Caesarea.
After remaining for some time at Caesarea, he returned to Jerusalem where he defended his conduct with reference to the Gentiles. Next, we hear of him being cast into prison by Herod Agrippa, but in the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison gates and he found refuge in the house of Mary. He took part in the deliberations of the council in Jerusalem regarding the relation of the Gentiles to the church. This subject had awakened new interest at Antioch and for its settlement was referred to the council of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. Here, Paul and Peter met again.
Among the leading characteristics of Peter were devotion to his Master, even leading him into extravagance, and an energetic disposition which showed itself sometimes as boldness and temper. His temperament was choleric and he easily passed from one extreme to another. The contrast between Peter of the gospels--impulsive, unsteadfast, slow of heart to understand the mysteries of the kingdom--and the same apostle as he meets us in the Acts--firm and courageous, ready to go to prison and to death, the preacher of the faith, the interpreter of Scripture--is one of the most convincing proofs of the power of Christ's resurrection and the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. (E.H. Plumptre, Bible Educator, vol. Iv, p. 129)
The evidence of Peter's martyrdom in Rome is complete. While the time and manner of Peter's martyrdom are less certain. The early writers imply, or distinctly state, that he suffered at or about the same time with Paul, and in the Neronian persecution. All agree that he was crucified. Tradition says that Peter felt unworthy to be put to death in the same manner as his Master, and therefore, at his own request, he was crucified with his head downward.