The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part One)

WELCOME BACK!  We’re been working hard, getting things ready for you to read and enjoy and use.  I’ve received emails from several people who have told me that they are using the apostles lessons as sermons and/or class material.  Thanks for letting me know!  We are so happy that you are finding it useful!  Now, enough of the chit-chatting; on to the story of Peter!!!!!

The most prominent of all the apostles, Peter has been both exalted far beyond his rightful place, and cast down to near-Judas depths by religious people over the past two thousand years.  In their rush to deny Peter’s place as the first Pope, many Christians unfortunately negate Peter’s divinely-given prominence among the apostles, and by extension, the early church.  Neither extreme is correct.

Simon Peter’s Family

Jesus refers to him as the “son of John” or “son of Jonah.”1  We know nothing about this man except that he had two very religious sons: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew.  From this, we can infer that he was probably a devout Jew as well.

It is thanks to his brother Andrew that Simon first gets to meet Jesus.  Andrew, a disciple of John the Immerser, was pointed to Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” and went to find Simon, telling him, “We have found the Messiah!”2  It is quite possible that Simon was also a disciple of John, which would explain how Andrew was able to find him and bring him to Jesus that same day.3

Possibly as much as a year later, Jesus comes into Simon’s house in Capernaum, and heals Simon’s mother-in-law. She immediately got up and began to serve them, which shows that she was most likely a kind, hospitable woman.  Simon Peter was married,4 though we know very little about his wife except that she (1) was still living some 25 years after Pentecost, (2) apparently accompanied her husband on some of his ministry trips, and (3) was a Christian.5  As a side note, this is evidence against Peter being the “first Pope,” as Popes aren’t allowed to be married.6

Simon Peter’s Names

When he was born, this man who would later become one of the greatest Christians to ever live was given the name Simon, or Simeon.7  This was an ancient name, common among the Israelites8 because it was the name of the second-born of the twelve sons of Jacob.9

When Simon met Jesus for the first time, the Lord said to him, “You are Simon, the son of John: you shall be called Cephas.”10  The name Cephas means “stone” in Hebrew.11  After this, however, Paul is the only one who uses this Hebrew form of the name.12

The name “Peter” is simply the Greek form of the Hebrew “Cephas.”  So when Jesus told him that he would be called “Cephas,” He could just as accurately said, “You will be called Peter,” because they mean the same thing.  After this, Simon is almost always referred to as either “Peter” or “Simon Peter.”13

The name “Peter” was divinely-given,14 perhaps to emphasize the kind of person Jesus needed Simon to become—a steady source of strength.15  It is also possible that Jesus gave Him this name, in part, because of the illustration He would use in Matthew 16:16-18:

Simon Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “You are blessed, Simon, son of John: because flesh and blood hasn’t revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I say to you, that you are Peter [Greek, Petros], and upon this rock [Greek, Petra] I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

The difference in the two words, Petros and Petra, are striking.  Petros [Peter] is masculine in Greek, and means a small rock; Petra is feminine in Greek, and means a large slab of rock, bedrock, or a solid mountain of rock.  It was the inspired statement that Peter made (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God) that was the rock upon which the church would be built—not Peter himself.16

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 John 1:42; 21:15-17.  The King James’ Version of Matthew 16:17 gives a transliteration of the Greek (which was a transliteration of the Aramaic), “Barjona.”  But this simply means “son of Jonah,” or “son of John.”  The two names are very similar in the original language.  See David Smith’s article, “Peter,” in James Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible.

2 John 1:40-41.

3 John the Immerser was baptizing in Bethabara (John 1:28), which was near Jericho, around 60 miles from Capernaum, where Peter and Andrew lived (Mark 1:19-21).  Thus, Peter must have been nearby.  This has led many to the natural conclusion that Peter was a disciple of John, which is a very reasonable guess (see W. Patrick’s article, “Peter,” in Hasting’s Dictionary of Christ in the Gospels).

4 In addition to the fact that Peter had a mother-in-law (an impossibility for an unmarried man), he also identifies himself as “an elder” (1 Peter 5:1), thus he was a “husband of one wife,” or more literally, a “one-woman man” (1 Timothy 3:2).  If he was not married, then he would have no right to hold the office of an elder.  In addition, 1 Corinthians 9:5 appeals to Peter as an example of a married apostle (see next footnote).

5 1 Corinthians 9:5, written approximately AD 56, states “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles and the brethren of our Lord, and Cephas [Peter]?”  From this passage, (1) it seems that it was common knowledge that the other apostles were married at that time; (2) the phrase “lead about” means to take someone around with them, showing the apostles’ wives accompanied them; and (3) Paul specifically states that each wife was “a sister,” that is, a sister in Christ (see this verse in ASV, MLV, ESV, NKJV, etc.)

6 The Catholic Church claims Peter was the first Pope, the first bishop of Rome.  There are several lines of biblical evidence which refute this false doctrine, such as: (1) Peter was married, though the Catholic Church teaches that priests (from which the Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, and Popes come) cannot be married; (2) Paul desired to come to Rome to work with the church (Romans 1:10-11); but also said that he would not build on another man’s foundation (Romans 15:20); and Peter’s name is conspicuously absent from the list of greetings that Paul gives to the Christians in Rome (Romans 16); there is no biblical evidence that Peter was ever in Rome; Peter’s mission was to the Jews (Galatians 2:9), and all the Jews had been expelled from Rome (Acts 18:2), giving Peter no reason to go there.  There is much more that could be added, but as it is outside the scope of this work, this will suffice.

7 He is called “Simon” in the gospel accounts, but in Acts 15:14, James (the brother of the Lord) refers to him as “Simeon.” Though it is not translated as such in most English Bibles, in 2 Peter 1:1, he identifies himself as “Simeon Peter” (the ESV, NRSV, NET, NAB, Disciples Literal New Testament, and the Living Oracles all translate this properly).

8 There is a Simeon in Luke 2:25-35; another one mentioned in Luke 3:30; a prophet with that name in Acts 13:1.  Jesus had a brother named Simon (Matthew 13:55); two apostles had that name (Matthew 10:1-4); Jesus ate at the house of a Pharisee named Simon (Luke 7:36-44); Jesus stayed in the house of Simon the leper near the end of His ministry (Matthew 26:6); a man named Simon carried Jesus’ cross (Matthew 27:32); Judas Iscariot’s father was named Simon (John 12:4); the infamous magician-turned-Christian (and according to tradition, turned enemy of Christianity) was named Simon (Acts 8:9, 13); Peter stayed in the house of Simon the tanner while in Joppa (Acts 9:43, 10:5-6).

9 Genesis 35:23.

10 John 1:42.

11 The Hebrew root, Keph (כּף) is used in Job 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:29.

12 1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:5; and Galatians 2:9.

13 Twice in Matthew, Jesus refers to Peter simply as “Simon” (Matthew 16:17; 17:25); In Mark, after noting that Jesus gave Simon the name “Peter,” the apostle is only identified called “Simon” one time (though in the same verse (14:37), Mark also calls him as Peter); Luke’s gospel account uses “Simon” multiple times after noting that he was also called Peter (7:40-44; 22:31; 24:34); John records Jesus calling him “Simon” on only one occasion (21:15-17).  After Pentecost, the only time the name “Peter” or “Cephas” is absent in identifying him is Acts 15:14, where he is called “Simeon.”

14 Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14.

15 Simon would eventually be the one who used the “keys of the kingdom” to welcome both Jew and Gentile into the Kingdom of God (see Matthew 16:16-18; Acts 2; Acts 10-11).  He was also one who was given a specific commission to strengthen the rest of the apostles (Luke 22:31-32); and was entrusted with the shepherding care of Jesus’ sheep (John 21:15-17).

16 The Catholic Church ignores the differences in the original words to make the claim that Jesus was going to build the church on Peter himself (yet again, their argument to elevate Peter to Popehood fails based on biblical evidence).  The only way that petra could be a reference to Peter is if he somehow got a sex change halfway through Jesus’ sentence—an absolute absurdity.

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