After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared by the Sea of Galilee and charged Peter to "feed my sheep" (John 20.1–10; 21). The first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles describe Peter's role as leader of the Twelve in the election of a replacement for Judas and in the public declaration at Pentecost (Acts 1.15–26; 2.14–40). Much attention is given to Peter's miracles and to his defense of Christianity; his deliverance from prison by an angel is a celebrated incident (Acts 3; 4; 5.1–11, 29–32; 8.14–25; 9.32–43; 10; 11.1–18; 12.1–19). He was a leader at the council of Jerusalem that was called to discuss the integration of non-Jews into the Christian organization; his hesitation to accept them freely was rebuked by St. Paul (Acts 15; Gal. 2).
A few facts of St. Peter's life are known from 2d-century sources. He apparently left Antioch for Rome c.A.D. 55; there he died, head of the local church, a martyr under Nero. According to traditional accounts he was crucified with his head downward. From earliest times the Vatican hill has been pointed out as the place of his martyrdom. Constantine erected a church over the supposed burial place of Peter; in the 15th cent. work was begun on a new, huge St. Peter's Church, built on the same location. It is the principal shrine of Roman Catholicism. Excavation has yielded remains of human bones at the site, but they cannot be identified as those of St. Peter. There is a very ancient tradition, accepted by many scholars, that the Gospel of Mark was written with St. Peter's help and that it consists essentially of his memoirs. The epistles of Peter (see Peter, epistles) are regarded by most critics as mistakenly attributed.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.