The foremost of Jesus' disciples. He was a fisherman, in partnership with his brother Andrew, when Jesus called him as a disciple, changing his name "Simon" into "Cephas" or "Peter" (a rock), perhaps to denote him as the first member, the foundation stone of the new community. He was married, and his house at Capernaum was the abode of Jesus during the Galilean ministry.
Throughout the gospel history he appears as the most prominent and devoted of the disciples. He was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, and was rewarded, according to Matthew 16:17-19, by a promise of supreme authority in the church. This famous passage, however, is beset with critical difficulties.
In spite of a moment of wavering on the eve of the crucifixion, Peter was the first to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:5), and it was his faith and enthusiasm tha saved the new movement after its seeming ruin. He reconsistuted the scattered company of believers at Jerusalem, and was henceforth the recognized leader of the church. Though favorable to the Gentile mission he was unwilling to break entirely with the Jewish law, and on this point came into conflict with Paul at Antioch.
Of Peter's later life nothing is certainly known, but the tradition that he was martyred at Rome in the Neronian persecution (64) is supported by good evidence.
Adapted from the Dictionary of Religion and Ethics, 1921 edition. E. F. Scott