Sts. Peter and Paul Have Several Similarities and Differences: Here’s a Few of the Most Important

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June 29 is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul is an opportunity to reflect on why these two men are in heaven. Let’s look at their differences, not only because they are fascinating, but because they likewise draw us to meditate on how God is calling all of us to follow him.

 

1. The name change

Peter’s actual name was “Simon,” and Paul’s actual name was “Saul.” They came into their second names, by which Christians commonly refer to them today, after they began following Jesus.

 

2. Their ancient cities are still standing

Peter was from Galilee, in modern-day Israel. Paul was from Tarsus, in modern-day Turkey.

 

3. Their trades involved hard work

Peter was a fisherman by trade, while Paul was a tentmaker.

 

4. Their citizenship

This is actually one thing that makes them drastically different. Peter did not have Roman citizenship, while Paul did.

 

5. Literacy

Another key difference. Peter very well was unable to read, while Paul was highly educated and an extensive writer (having given us thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon).

 

6. Role in the church 

Another difference. Peter was the first pope (see Matthew 16:18), while Paul never served as pope.

 

7. Ministerial timing

Peter – along with his brother, Andrew – was the first of Jesus’ twelve original disciples to follow him. However, Paul did not come to follow Jesus until well after Jesus’ earthly ministry had already concluded.

 

8. Gifts as orators

Peter was not a particularly gifted speaker, and it was not until after Pentecost that he became a more prominent orator (see Acts 2:14-41).

 

9. Linguistics

Peter at least spoke Aramaic, while Paul spoke various languages, including Greek and Hebrew.

 

10. Unexpected conversions

Peter and Paul’s conversions were very different, but very well known. Peter (see #1) was fishing at the time, while Paul was on his way to Damascus to continue persecuting Christians. Nevertheless…

 

These men would become two of the Church’s greatest saints from the apostolic era. Peter and Paul had both been great sinners. Peter had denied Jesus not just once (as did Judas Iscariot, who unfortunately entered into despair rather than repenting), nor twice, but three times. Paul had been a fierce persecutor of Christians, consenting to the martyrdom of many.

Despite their many differences, Peter and Paul both repented and truly followed the Lord, allowing their hearts to be converted to his will for the remainder of their lives, never denying him again. They served the Lord faithfully for decades after Jesus respectively called each of them to follow him, collaborating with other Apostles as they served the early Church.

They ultimately gave their lives for the Lord by being martyred in Rome around AD 64 under the harsh persecutions by the Emperor Nero. (Peter was notoriously crucified upside down, and Paul was beheaded.) They went to their deaths in accord with Jesus’ sobering words: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

The more that we learn about how God called Peter and Paul (despite their greatly distinct gifts, talents, abilities, and other circumstances), the better capable we are of fathoming how he wants to do likewise in our own lives. We should learn from the example of Peter and Paul to inspire us to follow the Lord readily and courageously. You can learn more about Saint Peter and Paul’s conversions, and how the Lord used their situations to call them to serve his kingdom, by reading the Catholic Encyclopedia’s entries on Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Saint Peter, Martyr, pray for us! Saint Paul, Martyr and Apostle to the Gentiles, pray for us!

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