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Friday, May 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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(pee' tehr) Personal name meaning, “Rock.” Four names are used in the New Testament to refer to Peter: the Hebrew name Simeon ( Acts 15:14 ); the Greek equivalent Simon (nearly fifty times in the Gospels and Acts); Cephas , most frequently used by Paul (1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:9 ,Galatians 2:9,2:11 ,Galatians 2:11,2:14 ) and occurring only once outside his writings (John 1:42 ). Cephas and Peter both mean rock . Simon is often found in combination with Peter , reminding the reader that Simon was the earlier name and that Peter was a name given later by Jesus. The name Peter dominates the New Testament usage.

Family of Peter The Gospels preserve a surprising amount of information about Peter and his family. Simon is the son of Jona or John (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42 ). He and his brother, Andrew, came from Bethsaida (John 1:44 ) and were Galilean fishermen (Mark 1:16; Luke 5:2-3; John 21:3 ), in partnership with the sons of Zebedee, James and John (Luke 5:10 ). Peter was married (Mark 1:29-31; 1 Corinthians 9:5 ) and maintained a residence in Capernaum (Mark 1:21 ,Mark 1:21,1:29 ). Before becoming disciples of Jesus, Peter and Andrew had been influenced by the teaching of John the Baptist (John 1:35-42 ).

Role of Peter Among the Disciples Peter is credited with being a leader of the twelve disciples whom Jesus called. His name always occurs first in the lists of disciples (Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Matthew 10:2 ). He frequently served as the spokesman for the disciples (compare Mark 8:29 ) and was usually he one who raised the questions which they all seemed to be asking (Mark 10:28; Mark 11:21; Matthew 15:15; Matthew 18:21; Luke 12:41 ). Jesus often singled out Peter for teachings intended for the entire group of disciples (see especially Mark 8:29-33 ). As a member of the inner circle, Peter was present with Jesus at the raising of the synagogue ruler's daughter (Mark 5:35-41 ), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8 ), and at the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemene (Mark 14:43-50 ). As representative disciple, Peter frequently typified the disciple of little faith . His inconsistent behavior (see Matthew 14:27-31 ) reached a climax with his infamous denial scene (Mark 14:66-72 ). Peter was, however, rehabilitated in the scene where the resurrected Jesus restored Peter to his position of prominence (John 21:15-19; compare Mark 16:7 ).

Peter's Role in the Early Church Despite Peter's role among the disciples and the promise of his leadership in the early church (see especially Matthew 16:17-19 ), Peter did not emerge as the leader of either form of primitive Christianity. Though he played an influential role in establishing the Jerusalem church (see the early chapters of Acts), James, the brother of Jesus, assumed the leadership role of the Jewish community. Though Peter was active in the incipient stages of the Gentile mission (see Acts 10-11 ), Paul became the “apostle to the gentiles.”

Peter probably sacrificed his chances to be the leader of either one of these groups because of his commitment to serve as a bridge in the early church, doing more than any other to hold together the diverse strands of primitive Christianity.

The Legacy of Peter Tradition holds that Peter died as a martyr in Rome in the 60s (1Clem. Acts 5:1-6:1 ). His legacy, however, lived on long after his death. Both 1,2Peter in the New Testament are traditionally attributed to the apostle Peter. Significant also was the presence of a group of devotees of Peter who produced several writings in the name of the apostle—the Acts of Peter, the Gospel of Peter (and some would include 2Peter). To a great extent, subsequent generations of the church rely

on the confession, witness, and ministry of Peter, the devoted, but fallible follower of Christ. (See Peter, Epistles of; Jerusalem conference; Jerusalem church; Jewish Christianity; Disciples, Apostles.

Mikeal C. Parsons

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Peter'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​p/peter.html. 1991.
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