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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
the great Apostle of the circumcision, was the son of Jona, and born at Bethsaida, a town situated on the western shore of the lake of Gennesareth, but in what particular year we are not informed, John 1:42-43 . His original name was Simon or Simeon, which his divine Master, when he called him to the Apostleship, changed for that of Cephas, a Syriac word signifying a stone or rock; in Latin, petra, from whence is derived the term Peter. He was a married man, and had his house, his mother-in-law and his wife, at Capernaum, on the lake of Gennesareth, Matthew 8:14; Mark 1:29; Luke 4:38 . He had also a brother of the name of Andrew, who had been a disciple of John the Baptist, and was called to the knowledge of the Saviour prior to himself. Andrew was present when the venerable Baptist pointed his disciples to Jesus, and added. "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;" and, meeting Simon shortly afterward, said, "We have found the Messiah," and then brought him to Jesus, John 1:41 . When the two brothers had passed one day with the Lord Jesus, they took their leave of him, and returned to their ordinary occupation of fishing. This appears to have taken place in the thirtieth year of the Christian era. Toward the end of the same year, as Jesus was one morning standing on the shore of the lake of Gennesareth, he saw Andrew and Peter engaged about their employment. They had been fishing during the whole night, but without the smallest success; and, after this fruitless expedition, were in the act of washing their nets, Luke 5:1-3 . Jesus entered into their boat, and bade Peter throw out his net into the sea, which he did; and now, to his astonishment, the multitude of fishes was so immense that their own vessel, and that of the sons of Zebedee, were filled with them. Peter evidently saw there was something supernatural in this, and, throwing himself at the feet of Jesus, he exclaimed, "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man." The miracle was no doubt intended for a sign to the four disciples of what success should afterward follow their ministry in preaching the doctrine of his kingdom; and therefore Jesus said unto them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men;" on which they quitted their boats and nets, and thenceforth became the constant associates of the Saviour, during the whole of his public ministry, Luke 18:28 .
From the instant of his entering upon the apostolic office, we find St. Peter on almost every occasion evincing the strength of his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and the most extraordinary zeal in his service, of which many examples are extant in the Gospels. When Jesus in private asked his disciples, first, what opinion the people entertained of him; next, what was their own opinion: "Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," Matthew 16:16 . Having received this answer, Jesus declared Peter blessed on account of his faith; and in allusion to the signification of his name, added, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth," &c. Many think these things were spoken to St. Peter alone, for the purpose of conferring on him privileges and powers not granted to the rest of the Apostles. But others, with more reason, suppose that, though Jesus directed his discourse to St. Peter, it was intended for them all; and that the honours and powers granted to St. Peter by name were conferred on them all equally. For no one will say that Christ's church was built upon St. Peter singly: it was built on the foundation of all the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. As little can any one say that the power of binding and loosing was confined to St. Peter, seeing it was declared afterward to belong to all the Apostles, Matthew 18:18; John 20:23 . To these things add this, that as St. Peter made his confession in answer to a question which Jesus put to all the Apostles, that confession was certainly made in the name of the whole; and, therefore, what Jesus said to him in reply was designed for the whole without distinction; excepting this, which was peculiar to him, that he was to be the first who, after the descent of the Holy Ghost, should preach the Gospel to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles: an honour which was conferred on St. Peter in the expression, "I will give thee the keys," &c.
St. Peter was one of the three Apostles whom Jesus admitted to witness the resurrection of Jairus's daughter, and before whom he was transfigured, and with whom he retired to pray in the garden the night before he suffered. He was the person who in the fervour of his zeal for his Master cut off the ear of the high priest's slave, when the armed band came to apprehend him. Yet this same Peter, a few hours after that, denied his Master three different times in the high priest's palace, and that with oaths. In the awful defection of the Apostle on this occasion we have melancholy proof of the power of human depravity even in regenerate men, and of the weakness of human resolutions when left to ourselves. St. Peter was fully warned by his divine Master of his approaching danger; but confident in his own strength, he declared himself ready to accompany his Lord to prison and even to judgment. After the third denial "Jesus turned and looked upon Peter;" that look pierced him to the heart; and, stung with deep remorse, "he went out, and wept bitterly." St. Peter, however, obtained forgiveness; and, when Jesus had risen from the dead, he ordered the glad tidings of his resurrection to be conveyed to St. Peter by name: "Go tell my disciples and Peter," Mark 16:8 . He afterward received repeated assurances of his Saviour's love, and from that time uniformly showed the greatest zeal and fortitude in his Master's service.
Soon after our Lord's ascension, in a numerous assembly of the Apostles and brethren, St. Peter gave it as his opinion, that one should be chosen to be an Apostle in the room of Judas. To this they all agreed; and, by lot, chose Matthias, whom on that occasion they numbered with the eleven Apostles. On the day of pentecost following, when the Holy Spirit fell on the Apostles and disciples, St. Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice; that is, St. Peter, rising up, spake with a loud voice, in the name of the Apostles, as he had done on various occasions in his Master's lifetime, and gave the multitude an account of that great miracle, Acts 2:14 . St. Peter now began to experience the fulfilment of Christ's promise to make him a fisher of men, and also that he would give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven. His sermon on this occasion produced an abundant harvest of converts to Christ. Three thousand of his audience were pricked to the heart, and cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" St.
Peter proclaimed to them the riches of pardoning mercy through the divine blood of the Son of God; and they that gladly received his doctrine were baptized and added to the church, Acts 2:37-43 . The effects produced on the mind of this great Apostle of the circumcision by the resurrection of his divine Master, and the consequent effusion of the Holy Spirit, were evidently of the most extraordinary kind, and such as it is impossible to account for upon natural principles. He was raised superior to all considerations of personal danger and the fear of man. And though all the Apostles could now say, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind;" yet an attentive reader of the Acts of the Apostles cannot fail to perceive that upon almost every occasion of difficulty St. Peter is exhibited to our view as standing foremost in the rank of Apostles. When St. Peter and John were brought before the council to be examined concerning the miracle wrought on the impotent man, St. Peter spake. It was St. Peter who questioned Ananias and Sapphira about the price of their lands; and for their lying in that matter, punished them miraculously with death. It is remarkable, also, that although by the hands of the Apostles many signs and wonders were wrought, it was by St. Peter's shadow alone that the sick, who were laid in the streets of Jerusalem, were healed as he passed by. Lastly: It was St. Peter who replied to the council in the name of the Apostles, not obeying their command to preach no more in the name of Jesus.
St. Peter's fame was now become so great, that the brethren of Joppa, hearing of his being in Lydda, and of his having cured Eneas miraculously of a palsy, sent, desiring him to come and restore a disciple to life, named Tabitha, which he did. During his abode in Joppa, the Roman centurion, Cornelius, directed by an angel, sent for him to come and preach to him. On that occasion the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius and his company, while St. Peter spake. St. Peter, by his zeal and success in preaching the Gospel, having attracted the notice of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Herod Agrippa, who, to please the Jews, had killed St. James, the brother of St. John, still farther to gratify them, cast St. Peter into prison. But an angel brought him out; after which he concealed himself in the city, or in some neighbouring town, till Herod's death, which happened about the end of the year. Some learned men think St. Peter at that time went to Antioch or to Rome. But if he had gone to any celebrated city, St. Luke, as L'Enfant observes, would probably have mentioned it. Beside, we find him in the council of Jerusalem, which met not long after this to determine the famous question concerning the circumcision of the Gentiles. The council being ended, St. Peter went to Antioch, where he gave great offence, by refusing to eat with the converted Gentiles. But St. Paul withstood him to the face, rebuking him before the whole church for his pusillanimity and hypocrisy, Galatians 2:11-21 .
In the Acts of the Apostles, no mention is made of St. Peter after the council of Jerusalem. But from Galatians 2:11 , it appears that after that council he was with St. Paul at Antioch. He is likewise mentioned by St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22 . It is generally supposed that after St. Peter was at Antioch with St. Paul, he returned to Jerusalem. What happened to him after that is not told in the Scriptures. But Eusebius informs us that Origen wrote to this purpose: St. Peter is supposed to have preached to the Jews of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia; and at length, coming to Rome, was crucified with his head downward.
We are indebted to this Apostle for two epistles, which constitute a valuable part of the inspired writings. The first epistle of St. Peter has always been considered as canonical; and in proof of its genuineness we may observe that it is referred to by Clement of Rome, Hermes, and Polycarp; that we are assured by Eusebius, that it was quoted by Papias; and that it is expressly mentioned by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and most of the later fathers. The authority of the second Epistle of St. Peter was for some time disputed, as we learn from Origen, Eusebius, and Jerom; but since the fourth century it has been universally received, except by the Syriac Christians. It is addressed to the same persons as the former epistle, and the design of it was to encourage them to adhere to the genuine faith and practice of the Gospel.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Peter'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​p/peter.html. 1831-2.