Smith's Bible Dictionary
(a rock or stone). The original name of this disciple was Simon,
that is, "hearer". He was the son of a man named Jonas,
Joh_21:16, and was
brought up in his father's occupation, that of a fisherman. He and his
brother, Andrew, were partners of John and James, the sons of Zebedee,
who had hired servants. Peter did not live, as a mere laboring man, in a
hut by the seaside, but first at Bethsaida, and afterward, in a house at
Capernaum belonging to himself, or his mother-in-law, which must have
been rather a large one, since he received in it not only our Lord and
his fellow disciples, but multitudes who were attracted by the miracles
and preaching of Jesus.
Peter was probably between thirty and forty years of age at the date of his call. That call was preceded by a special preparation. Peter and his brother, Andrew, together with their partners, James and John, the sons,of Zebedee, were disciples of John the Baptist, when he was first called by our Lord. The particulars of this are related with graphic minuteness by St. John. It was upon this occasion that Jesus gave Peter the name Cephas, a Syriac word answering to the Greek, Peter, and signifying a stone or rock.Joh_1:35-42.
This first call led to no immediate change in Peter's external position. He and his fellow disciples looked, henceforth, upon our Lord as their teacher, but were not commanded to follow him as regular disciples. They returned to Capernaum, where they pursued their usual business, waiting for a further intimation of his will. The second call is recorded by the other three evangelists; the narrative of Luke being apparently supplementary to the brief and, so to speak official accounts given by Matthew and Mark. It took place on the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum, where the four disciples Peter and Andrew, James and John were fishing.
Some time was passed, afterward, in attendance upon our Lord's public ministrations in Galilee, Decapolis, Peraea and Judea. The special designation of Peter, and his eleven fellow disciples, took place some time afterward, when they were set apart as our Lord's immediate attendants. SeeMat_10:2-4; Mar_3:13-19, (the most detailed account); Luk_6:13. They appear to have then first received formally the name of apostles, and from that time, Simon bore publicly, and as it would seem all but exclusively, the name Peter, which had hitherto been used rather as a characteristic appellation than as a proper name.
From this time, there can be no doubt that Peter held the first place among the apostles, to whatever cause his precedence is to be attributed. He is named first in every list of the apostles; he is generally addressed by our Lord as their representative; and on the most solemn occasions, he speaks in their name.
The distinction which he received, and it may be his consciousness of ability, energy, zeal and absolute devotion to Christ's person, seem to have developed a natural tendency to rashness and forwardness, bordering upon resumption. 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 thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me, for thou savorest not the things that be of God but those that be of men." It is remarkable that, on other occasions when St. Peter signalized his faith and devotion, he displayed at the time, or immediately afterward, a more than usual deficiency, in spiritual discernment and consistency.
Toward the close of our Lord's 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 our Lord in washing his disciples' feet. Then too, it was 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 sepulchre; he was the first who entered it. We are told, by Luke and by Paul, that Christ appeared to him first among the apostles. It is observable; however, that on that occasion, he is called by his original name, Simon and not Peter; the higher designation was not restored until he had been publicly reinstituted, so to speak, by his Master. That reinstitution -- an event of the very highest import -- took place at the Sea of Galilee. John 21.
The first part of the Acts of the Apostles is occupied, by the record of transactions in nearly all, Peter came forth as the recognized leader of the apostles. He is the most prominent person, in the greatest event after the resurrection, when on the Day of Pentecost, the Church was first invested with the plenitude of gifts and power. When the gospel was first preached beyond the precincts of Judea, he and John were, at once, sent by the apostles to confirm the converts at Samaria. Henceforth, he remains prominent, but not exclusively prominent, among the propagators of the gospel.
We have two accounts of the first meeting of Peter and Paul --Act_9:26; Gal_1:17-18. This interview was followed, by another event marking Peter's position -- a general apostolical tour of visitation to the churches, hitherto established. Act_9:32. The most singlular transaction after the Day of Pentecost was the baptism of Cornelius. That was the crown and consummation of Peter's ministry. The establishment of a church in great part of Gentile origin at Antioch, and the mission of Barnabas between whose family and Peter, there were the bonds of near intimacy, set the seal upon the work thus inaugurated by Peter.
This transaction was soon followed, by the imprisonment of our apostle. His miraculous deliverance marks the close of this second great period of his ministry. The special work assigned to him was completed. From that time, we have no continuous history of him. Peter was probably employed, for the most part, in building up, and completing the organization of Christian communities, in Palestine and the adjoining districts. There is, however strong reason to believe that he visited Corinth at an early period.
The name of Peter as founder or joint founder is not associated with any local church, save the churches of Corinth, Antioch or Rome, by early ecclesiastical tradition. It may be considered, as a settled point, that he did not visit Rome, before the last year of his life; but there is satisfactory evidence that he and Paul were the founders of the church at Rome, and suffered death in that city.
The time and manner of the apostle's martyrdom are less certain. According to the early writers, he suffered at or about the same time with Paul, and in the Neronian persecution, A.D. 67, 68, all agree that, he was crucified. Origen says that Peter felt himself to be unworthy to be put to death, in the same manner as his Master, and was therefore, at his own request, crucified with his head downward.
The apostle is said to have employed interpreters. Of far more importance is the statement that Mark wrote his Gospel, under the teaching of Peter, or that he embodied in that Gospel, the substance of our apostle's oral instructions. See Mark; Mark, The Gospel of. The only written documents which Peter has left are the First Epistle -- about which no doubt has ever been entertained in the Church -- and the Second Epistle, which has been a subject of earnest controversy.
Taken from: Smith's Bible Dictionary by Dr. William Smith (1884)