Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles, born at Bethsaida in Galilee. He was the son of one Jonas or John, whence Christ calls him on one occasion (Matt. xvi. 17) by the surname Barjona or son of Jonah. His original name was Simon. Before his calling to the apos-tleship he had married and removed to Capernaum on the lake of Gennesaret, where with his brother Andrew he followed the occupation of a fisherman. It is probable that like Andrew he was a disciple of John the Baptist. It is related by St. John the Evangelist that the Baptist, standing with two of his disciples, saw Jesus pass by, and exclaimed: "Behold the Lamb of God! " whereupon the disciples followed our Lord and remained with him all that day. One of these two was Andrew, who had no sooner discovered that Jesus was the Messiah than he sought out his brother and brought him to our Lord. "And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation a stone." (John i. 42.) From the Greek word the equivalent of Cephas, the apostle received the name of Peter, which on a subsequent occasion Christ expressly gave to him, saying: " Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will -build my church." (Matt. xvi. 18.) After their first intercourse with the Saviour, Peter and Andrew returned for a season to their occupation of fishing, and were engaged in washing their nets when Jesus, shortly after the commencement of his ministry, walking by the sea of Galilee, entered into Peter's boat to avoid the pressure of the multitude. Peter had toiled all the night and had taken nothing; but at Christ's command he let down the net again and enclosed a miraculous draught of fishes, so that the net broke with the weight. He now received his call to leave everything and become a " fisher of men," being with his brother Andrew the first chosen of the apostles. His name is always mentioned first in the list of the apostles. He was one of the three selected to witness the transfiguration, and to watch with the Saviour during the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. He frequently appears in the gospels as the spokesman for his companions; he is often specially addressed by our Lord, and it is prob-' able that Christ dwelt at his house in Capernaum. It is the opinion in fact of most, though not of all critics, that he enjoyed a certain preeminence among the apostles, upon which, coupled with the injunction given to him by the Saviour to feed his flock, and the declaration, " Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," the Roman Catholics found the doctrine of the supremacy of the popes as Peter's successors.
Protestant theologians regard this preeminence as personal and not official, and as conferring honor without any superior authority. The character of Peter, as displayed in the gospel narratives, is one that commends itself particularly to our interest and affection. Ardent, zealous, quick in his faith, and strong in attachment to his divine Master, he yet exhibits, in a more marked degree than is told of his fellow apos-. ties, the common failings of humanity. When Christ walked upon the sea of Galilee to meet his disciples, whose ship was tossed with the waves, Peter with his leave walked toward him upon the water; but becoming afraid he began to sink, and cried, "Lord, save me." Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and rebuked his fears, saying, " O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matt. xiv. 29-31.) Again, when Christ predicted his passion and death, Peter remonstrated with him, exclaiming, "Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee," and was severely rebuked for it. (Matt. xvi. 22, 23.) At the last supper during the feast of the passover, when our Lord washed his disciples' feet, Peter at first refused with great vehemence to permit him so to humiliate himself before him.
The same night, in reply to a boast of the apostle that he would lay down his life for his Master, Jesus said to him, " The cock shall not crow until thou hast denied me thrice." (John xiii.) Peter was one of the first to whom the Lord showed himself after his resurrection. On a subsequent occasion he had been fishing all night with Thomas, John, James, Nathanael, and two others, and had caught nothing, when Jesus appearing on the shore bade them cast their nets on the right side of the ship, and when they did so it enclosed such a multitude of fishes that they could not draw it up. As soon as Peter knew it was the Lord, he threw himself into the sea in his impatience to come to him. Thrice assuring Christ, in answer to his questions, that he loved him, he was commanded to feed his Master's sheep and lambs; and he was then foretold the sufferings and death whereby he should glorify God, when he should stretch forth his hands, and another should gird him and carry him whither he would not. (John xxi.) After the ascension of Christ, Peter took the' lead in the Christian body; and from the descent of the Holy Spirit his character seems to have been changed by an infusion of that strength and dignity which it previously lacked.
He is frequently mentioned in the Acts, and always appears as a bold and unflinching preacher of the new faith. He preached to the multitude in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost with such effect that 3,000 persons were converted and baptized. With John he cured a lame man at the gate of the temple, and was brought before the sanhedrim and commanded to speak no more in the name of Jesus, which injunction he courageously refused to obey. At his rebuke Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who had sold their goods and laid part of the price at the apostles' feet, pretending that it was the whole, were struck dead. After Philip had converted a great number in Samaria, Peter and John went down to them, and laid their hands on them that they might receive, the Holy Ghost. (Acts viii. 14, 17.) Peter then returned to Jerusalem, preaching on the way in many Samaritan villages, and afterward went to Lydda, where he cured AEneas of the palsy. At Joppa he raised to life a Christian woman named Tabitha or Dorcas. While lodging here with one Simon, a tanner, he was taught by a vision that the gospel should be preached not only to the chosen people, but also to the gentiles, and was instructed to accompany the three men sent to him by Cornelius, a centurion who dwelt at Csesarea. Having baptized this man and his household, he returned to Jerusalem, where one of the brethren rebuked him for holding intercourse with the uncircumcised; but on hearing of his vision they held their peace and glorified God. Imprisoned by Herod (A. D. 44), he was released by an angel and went to Csesarea. He next appears at a council of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem (A. D. 51), when he advocated the exemption of gentile converts from the ceremonial obligations of the Mosaic law.
Indeed, it appears that he was chiefly instrumental in establishing at Antioch a church in great part of gentiles. With these he ate promiscuously, not observing the legal distinction of unclean meats. But on the arrival of some Jewish converts from the church over which the apostle James presided, Peter gave up the practice, thereby causing scandal to the gentile converts, and drawing on himself the censure of St. Paul. (Gal. ii. 11-14.) The remainder of his history is derived from allusions in the epistles, and from the traditions of the early fathers. He was employed for the most part in building up and completing the organization of Christian communities in Palestine and the neighboring districts. From the epistles of Paul it seems not improbable that he visited Corinth, and this is distinctly asserted in a letter of Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, to Rome. His first epistle is dated at Babylon, which was then the seat of a Jewish colony, though some" understand the name to be used here for Rome. Rusebius says that he was at Rome 20 years, and in this he is followed by Jerome and most Roman Catholic writers, who regard him as the first bishop of Rome. Others maintain that he did not visit Rome before the last year of his life, and some indeed that he was never in Rome. The general tradition of antiquity, however, asserts that he was martyred in that city.
Ignatius speaks of him as connected with the church of Rome, and no early writer discredits the tradition. It is said that he suffered about the same time with the apostle Paul, and in the Neronian persecution. Origen says that he was crucified with his head downward at his own request. - St. Peter is the author of two canonical epistles, the first of which was probably written between 45 and 55. It is addressed chiefly to the converted Jews, and its purpose was to confirm them in their faith under persecution, , and to confute the errors of Simon and the Nicolaitans. The second epistle is likewise addressed to the Jews, and is supposed to have been written shortly before the apostle's death. Its authenticity has often been doubted, but that of the first epistle is generally unquestioned. They are both glowing and rapid in style, and show good Hellenistic Greek, but no familiarity with Greek authors. Some other writings of very early date were attributed to St. Peter. " The Preaching of Peter " is quoted by Clement of Alexandria, but is very unlike the style of the canonical epistles. "The Revelation of Peter " was much esteemed for centuries, and, according to Sozomen, was read once a year in some churches of Palestine. The most ancient Roman calendar published by Buchericus marks the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul at the catacombs on June 29; and St. Gregory the Great writes that these catacombs were two miles outside of Rome. One half of both bodies is believed by Roman Catholics to be enshrined in the church of St. Paul without the walls, and the other half in a vault of the Vatican church, called from remote antiquity "the Confession of St. Peter" and Li-mina Apostolorum. This latter was the shrine resorted to as a pilgrimage from all parts of Christendom. The heads of both apostles are also said to be preserved beneath the high altar of the basilica of St. John Lateran. - See Ellendorf, 1st Petrus in Rom und Bischof der romischen Kirche gewesen? (Darmstadt, 1841; English translation in the "Bibliotheca Sacra" for July, 1858, and January, 1859), and a reply to Ellendorf by Binterim (Dusseldorf, 1842); Ventura, Lettres d un ministre protestant (Paris, 1849); Archbishop Leighton, " Practical Commentary on the First Epistle of Peter" (London, 1819); G. F. Simon, Etude dogmatique sur Saint Pierre (Strasburg, 1858); and Fronmuller, in Lange's commentary (English translation, vol. ix., New York, 1867).
Saint Peter, a city and the county seat of Nicollet co., Minnesota, on the W. bank of the Minnesota river, at the junction of the Winona and St. Peter and the St. Paul and Sioux City railroads, 75 m. S. W. of St. Paul; pop. in 1870, 2,124; in 1875, 3,310. It contains several furniture manufactories, three cooper shops, two grist mills, two sash, door, and blind factories, a marble shop, a foundery and machine shop, three breweries, and a national bank. There are a large graded school, with 11 departments and 750 pupils; a Roman Catholic school, with 75 pupils; two weekly newspapers, and 10 churches. The state hospital for the insane, completed in 1875, is of limestone quarried on the ground, and cost $500,-000. The Swedish Lutherans of Minnesota are erecting (1875) a large building for a college.