Peter - people in his story

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St Peter, painting by Holman Hunt

Peter's story

Scroll with sacred writing

Bible text for this story

Set of golden keys

Bible study activities

Reconstruction of a 1st century fishing boat in Galilee - based on an excavated boat

A fisherman's life 

The Denial of St Peter, Gerrit van Honthorst

of Peter and Jesus

'What do I do now?' logo

on Peter's story

Map of the Jerusalem area, showing valleys and ridges

Bible Maps: places in Jerusalem Peter saw with Jesus (maps 4 & 5)

'The Kiss' (Beso), Spanish carving

The story of Judas

Basil Rathbone as King Herod 

The Herods 
Mad, bad and dangerous

Crucifixion, Matthias Grunewald, detail










Who's in the Story of Peter? 

Peter  was a young-ish man living on the shores of the Lake of Galilee, working with family members to earn a living as a fisherman. Jesus knew his strengths and weaknesses, and loved him.  Peter was possibly the most likeable and straightforward person in the gospels - and also the most human.

Peter: film still from 'Jesus of Nazareth'Worth noting about Peter:

  • he was, or had been, married; his mother-in-law is mentioned though his wife is not, so he may have been a widower who still cared for his wife's mother

  • he was honest and open by nature; he spoke from the heart

  • he seems to have been ready to assume responsibility, and to speak on behalf of the other disciples, and Jesus acknowledged this by naming Peter as leader

  • like most other people on this planet, he meant to do the right thing but did not always live up to his resolutions

  • he was not illiterate: a decree made by Queen Alexandra in 1st century BC, all Jewish males were taught to read, so that they could study the Torah

Andrew was the brother of Peter, and the one who introduced Peter to Jesus of Nazareth. Like his brother he was a fisherman from Bethsaida on the Lake of Galilee.

St John the Baptist shows Christ to Andrew, Ottavio Vannini

St John the Baptist shows Jesus 
to Andrew, Ottavio Vannini

Worth noting about Andrew:

  • he seems to have been actively seeking religious ideas: he heard about Jesus from John the Baptist, followed up John's suggestion, and so met Jesus

  • he recognised Jesus as the Messiah

  • it was Andrew who brought the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus when he fed thousands of hungry people 

  • Peter seems to have been the more confident of the two brothers, speaking up without hesitation; Andrew may have been the thinker in the family

Peter's mother-in law, a traditional, no-nonsense Galillean peasant woman.

The Grandmother, Morteza Katouzian, 1986, detailWorth noting about Peter's Mother-in-law:

  • she had at least two sons, so was a woman of standing in her community

  • she may have been exasperated at her sons' choice when they focused on Jesus rather than on their tasks as fishermen; after all, they had a duty to support the family

  • she was practical and hospitable; after she recovered her health, her first act was to feed and look after her guests

  • she herself may have been interested in religious teachings, since she had two sons who were prepared to leave everything to follow Jesus; hopefully she had other family members who supported the family after Peter and Andrew left

James and John, two brothers who were core members of the group who followed Jesus as he travelled through 1st century Palestine, teaching and healing; they were first-hand witnesses of the ministry of Jesus.

Two brothers: Photo from

Two brothers

Worth noting about James and John:

  • like Peter and Andrew, they were two brothers who fished the waters of the Lake of Galilee 

  • Jesus trusted them so implicitly that he chose them, along with Peter, to witness the mysterious event called the Transfiguration

  • they fell asleep while Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane;  terrified for their safety since at this stage they and Jesus were virtually fugatives from the law, they still managed to sleep even in these uncomfortable circumstances; perhaps travelling with Jesus had taught them to sleep well, even in the open air


Judas:  betrayer of Jesus, perhaps the most mysterious figure in the New Testament

Judas, by Nikolai NikolajewitschWorth noting about Judas:

  • he was the only non-Galileean among the twelve apostles; from the start, this would have made him an outsider in the group of apostles

  • he seems to have had a gift for financial administration

  • he may have been better educated and more sophisticated than the other apostles

  • he led the soldiers so Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, so was present when Peter cut off the ear of Malchus 


Malchus, a servant of the High Priest; his ear is cut off by Peter during the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Christ Healing the Ear of Malchus, James Tissot

Christ Healing the Ear of Malchus, James Tissot

What is known about Malchus:

  • virtually nothing is known, apart from the fact that he was a servant of the High Priest: he may have been a member of the High Priest's guards, or a strongman hired to perform duties which involved violence 


The servant girl, the women who recognised Peter during his trial/hearing at the Palace of Caiphas the High Priest

Reconstruction of the 1st century palace of the High Priest, Caiphas; Peter would have been standing in one of the courtyards

Reconstruction of the 1st century palace of the High Priest, Caiphas; Peter would have been standing in one of the courtyards

Worth noting about the servant girl:

  • though only a minor character in the story, her assertiveness throws Peter's fear into sharp contrast 

  • as a person, she comes across as articulate, nosey, bossy and suspicious

  • the High Priest was the most important Jewish leader in the country, and very powerful; any member of his staff, even a servant woman, would have been a person of some standing and prestige in Jerusalem 


Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James

Crucifixion Altarpiece, Matthias GrunewaldWorth noting about these women:

  • these are the women who stayed with Jesus to the bitter end, witnessing every dreadful moment of his death by crucifixion 

  • they were utterly committed to Jesus' cause, and they paid for their loyalty - for example, it was not long after this that the mother of James saw her son executed for being a follower of Jesus

  • Mary Magdalene is an in-depth look at this remarkable woman


Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee and visiting Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' death

Herod, from the TV series 'Rome'Worth noting about Herod:

  • don't confuse him with his father King Herod the Great, whom Matthew's gospel accuses of slaughtering the male babies in and around Bethlehem at the time that Jesus was born

  • Herod the Great was or became a paranoid maniac; his son Herod Antipas was not given the kingship the Romans had bestowed on his father

  • Herod preferred not to be entangled in Jerusalem politics, but Jesus was legally one of his subjects

  • Herod Antipas was either lazy or, as Jesus earlier suggested, cunning; he did not wish to take part in trials or executions, and was an unwilling participant in the summary trial of Jesus of Nazareth; he had survived his father's paranoia by keeping his head down

  • see The Herods: Mad, Bad and Dangerous  for short histories of the three men called Herod who appear in the gospels and Acts of the Apostles 


The Angel, who leads Peter out of imprisonment

Leon-Francois Comerre, Announcement to the Shepherds, detail

Leon-Francois Comerre, Announcement to the Shepherds, detail

Worth noting about angels:

  • ancient peoples certainly believed in angels, primarily as messengers of God: they delivered a message, or carried out a command made by God

  • see Angels in the Bible for descriptions of the different types of angels

  • see Angels: Art for images of them through the centuries


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