How did Peter die?

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QUESTION: How did the apostle Peter die? When was his death?

ANSWER: Scripture is silent regarding when Peter died. It also does not directly tell us the precise manner of how it occurred. Only one Biblical verse hints at the possible circumstances of Peter's demise. When he did die, he had the faith and conviction to do so as a Christian, which he was not able to do when Christ was alive (see Matthew 26). Most of what is stated regarding the end of his life is based on tradition and speculation. The belief of many Biblical commentaries, and Christians in general, is that Peter was put to death through crucifixion, upside-down, in Rome.

"Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome . . ." (Foxe's Book of Martyrs)

"The time and manner of (Peter's) martyrdom are less certain. According to the early writers, he suffered at or about the same time with Paul, and in the Neronian persecution, A.D. 67, 68. All agree that he was crucified. Origen says that Peter felt himself to be unworthy to be put to death in the same manner as his Master . . ." (Smith's Bible Dictionary, article entitled "Peter")

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Jesus, shortly after his resurrection, told Peter he would die as a martyr (John 21:18 - 19). He acknowledged this prophecy regarding his death in the last epistle he wrote (2Peter 1:14). John's verses suggest, but do not clearly state, that the apostle would meet his end through crucifixion. The phrase "stretch out your hands" does not necessarily mean Peter's death was by a cross. The phrase could also mean that the he would have his outstretched arms bound, requiring someone else dress him before he is led to be executed. Even if we assume that Peter was crucified, note that John 21 says NOTHING regarding it occurring upside-down.

Martyrdom of St. Peter by Michelangelo
Martyrdom of the apostle (detail)
Michelangelo, 1546 - 50

Some religious people and groups believe Peter met his end in Rome since, they believe, he resided in and preached there for a significant period of time during his ministry. Scripture, however, offers evidence that IF he spent time in the city it was for a brief period. His last recorded book in the Bible, written between 65 and 66 A.D., does not refer to the city. Since tradition states he likely was martyred around 67 or 68 A.D., it highly suggests any time spent in Rome would have been short.

How did the apostle Peter die? We are on safe Biblical ground in stating he perished as a martyr. Tradition states that he perished under Emperor Nero in or just before 68 A.D. It is unclear whether he was killed through crucifixion, and only certain traditions state that he died while upside-down. It is entirely possible his end did not happen in the city, and through the means, most people believe.

Additional Study Materials
How many New Testament churches existed?
Did Peter REALLY die in Rome?
Who founded ancient Rome?

How did the Apostle Peter DIE?

Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Holy Bible, a Faithful Version
Smith's Bible Dictionary

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