There is considerable evidence, biblical and extra-biblical, that apostle Peter was martyred for his Christian faith.
Jesus told Peter regarding his death in John 21:18-19:
“18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)”
This is one of the passages in the Bible which demonstrates that martyrdom for faith in God is an act of glorification of God. If this brief conversation at the end of John’s gospel was the only one referencing Peter’s martyrdom, we would still be believe in the martyrdom of Peter because it is found in the Bible.
But there are also a number of non-canonical and historical accounts which mention Peter’s execution.
Peter was approximately 65 years old when he died in Rome, probably in 64 AD, possibly during the Neronian persecution in the months that followed the Great Fire of Rome.
Clement of Rome (d. 101 AD) who was likely ordained pastor (bishop/pope) by Peter wrote in his Letter to the Corinthians:
“Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most just pillars of the Church were persecuted, and came even unto death… Peter, through unjust envy, endured not one or two but many labours, and at last, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due to him.“
Christian writer Tertullian (160–c. 225 AD) wrote:
“Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves). How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood; where Peter endures a passion like his Lord’s“
Origen (185 – 254 AD) wrote in Eusebius, Church History III.1:
“Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.”
According to this account, Peter did not deem himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Savior, but willingly endured an upside down crucifixion.
How did Peter end up in Rome during Nero’s persecution?
Apocryphal writings and church tradition say that Peter saw Jesus in a vision and Peter inquired “where are you going, Master?” to which Jesus answered “I am going to Rome to be crucified, again.” Tradition says this is when Peter made the decision to go back to Rome and accept martyrdom.
We will look at the martyrdom and persecution of other apostles in upcoming posts.
to be continued…