The two prominent Apostles: Sts. Peter and Paul

July 11, 2015

By Kassa Nigus 

Every year, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido church  celebrates the feast of saints Peter and Paul with various religious rituals on July 12 in the same day which always coincides with the end of the Apostle’ s fast and the monthly feast of St Abune Gebre Menfes Kidus.

  St Peter

St Peter, who was named Simon, was a fisherman of Galilee and was introduced to the Lord Jesus by his brother Andrew, also a fisherman. Jesus gave him the name Cephas (Petrus in Latin), which means ‘Rock,’ because he was to become the rock upon which Christ would build His Church. Then he become one of Jesus Christ’s 12 apostles and spent most of his life preaching the gospel after Jesus’ death.

Peter was a bold follower of the Lord. He was the first to recognize that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and eagerly pledged his fidelity until death. In his boldness, he also made many mistakes, however, such as losing faith when walking on water with Christ and betraying the Lord on the night of His passion.

Yet despite his human weaknesses, Peter was chosen to shepherd God’s flock. The Acts of the Apostles illustrates his role as head of the Church after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Peter led the Apostles as the first Pope and ensured that the disciples kept the true faith. St. Peter spent his last years in Rome, leading the Church through persecution and eventually being martyred in there. 

St. Paul
 St. Paul was born in Tarsus five years after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. He wrote fourteen epistles which are included in the writings of the New Testament, and through them we learn much about his life and the faith of the early Church. Before receiving the name Paul, he was Saul, a Jewish Pharisee who zealously persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. Scripture records that Saul was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

  Saul’s conversion took place eight years later after the Ascension of Jesus Christ as he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christian community there. As he was traveling along the road, he was suddenly surrounded by a great light from heaven. He was blinded and fell off his horse. He then heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He answered: “Who are you, Lord?” Christ said: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:1-6)

Saul continued to Damascus, where he was baptized by Ananias, one of the 72 disciples and his sight was restored. He took the name Paul and spent the remainder of his life preaching the Gospel tirelessly to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean world. (Acts 9:10-19)

In general, St. Peter and St. Paul are two of the most well known saints who are mostly responsible for spreading the Christ’s message in the days of the early church. As to why they are celebrated on the same day, scriptures have it that they were executed on the same day in 67A.D (some also said on 69 A.D) under the command of the Emperor Nero and buried in Rome. (Although some historical accounts cite as they martyred in different times, Peter being martyred in 64 AD and Paul in 67 AD.)

According to the scriptures, Paul was beheaded while St. Peter was crucified upside down at his own request because he said he was not worthy to be sacrificed in the same manner as Christ. 

Since we are among the first people, who accept Christianity by the apostles themselves, celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith in order to be sharers of their blessings. 


  Ethiopic Synaxarium: the book of the saints of the Ethiopian Church, on the month of Hamle 5 (July 12) 

  • Hiruy Ermias 1995 E.C.Mezgebe Tarik, part-2, pp.119-126.