Saint Peter

Saint Peter, also known as Peter, Simon ben Jonah / BarJonah, Simon Peter, Cephas and Kepha – original name Simon or Simeon (Acts 15:14) – was one of the twelve original disciples or apostles of Jesus whose life was prominently featured in the New Testament Gospels. A Galilean fisherman, he was called into service by Jesus with his brother Andrew. Peter was one of the few disciples marked exclusively for a special leadership role by Jesus (Matthew 16:18; John 21:15-16), a post that he indeed held for much of the early Church.

He is considered a saint and the first Pope in the Roman Catholic Church and its Eastern Rites.

The Liturgy of the Hours records June 29, 69 as his date of death; other scholars believe that he died on October 13, 64. He is believed to have been sentenced to death by crucifixion by the Roman Empire. According to tradition, Saint Peter is buried in the grottoes underneath the Basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City. He is often depicted in art as holding the keys to the gates of heaven, as prescribed in the Gospel of Matthew.

Saint Peter’s original name of Simon comes from the Hebrew language meaning hearkening and listening. In standard Hebrew it is pronounced as Šhim'on and in Tiberian Hebrew it is pronounced as Šhim'ôn. According to the Greek Holy Scriptures (Mark, Luke, and John), Jesus renames him Petros or Πετρος which comes from the Greek language meaning pebble or piece of rock (but can just as easily be understood to be Matthew changing the feminine “Petra” to the masculine “Petros”). Most scholars understand that Jesus spoke Aramaic, though, and certainly not Greek. The Aramaic word for rock is “kepha” or “kefa”. Thus, Saint Paul’s letters refer to Peter as Cephas, preserving the Aramaic original and avoiding the problem presented by the Greek feminine noun “petra”. Jesus refers to the church foundation as “Petra” or πετρα meaning rock. The Gospel of Saint Matthew proclaims that Saint Peter professes Jesus to be the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. Jesus answered, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:17-19). In the same Holy Scriptures, Saint Paul refers to Saint Peter as Cephas or Kephas. When the Bible lists the Apostles, Peter is always listed first, and Judas Iscariot is always listed last.