Jesus said to Peter in

John 21:18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.

In what ways do these clues predict how Peter would die?


3 Answers 3


There are two matters in the this question.

1. The prophecy/statement

The prophecy itself is (probably deliberately) vague. For example, "stretching out the hands" may refer to preparing a person for a flogging as was the case with Paul in Acts 22:25 -

But as they stretched him out to strap him down, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it lawful for you to flog a Roman citizen without a trial?”

Many people were flogged to death and thus, Jesus' statement could possibly refer to a death other than crucifixion.

2. Peter's Death

The actual historical material recording Peter's mode of death is also vague. We have no reliable historical record of how Peter died. The closest we get is 1 Clement 5:4 which reads:

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.

We do not even have reliable information that Peter died in Rome. (However, we do NOT have data that says he did NOT die in Rome either.) The source of the tradition that Peter died in Rome by crucifixion is found in the pseudepigraphal work, "The Acts of Peter" written about 100 years after Peter's death. In the Acts of Peter- XXXV we have -

And as he went forth of the city, he saw the Lord entering into Rome. And when he saw him, he said: Lord, whither goest thou thus (or here)? And the Lord said unto him: I go into Rome to be crucified. And Peter said unto him: Lord, art thou (being) crucified again? He said unto him: Yea, Peter, I am (being) crucified again. And Peter came to himself: and having beheld the Lord ascending up into heaven, he returned to Rome, rejoicing, and glorifying the Lord, for that he said: I am being crucified: the which was about to befall Peter.

Tertullian (155-240) also alludes to Peter's death in his Prescription Against Heretics that Peter endured a death like the Lord's.

Origen (184–253) in his Commentary on the Book of Genesis III, quoted by Eusebius of Caesaria in his Ecclesiastical History (III, 1), said: "Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer."

This is not to suggest that Peter did NOT die by inverted crucifixion, only that the data is scant and less than solid.


The prophecy about Peter's death in John 21:19 is similar is style to an eastern oracle's prophecy and capable of a range of outcomes. This is almost certainly deliberate so that because the Lord often does not want us to know the future too accurately. As Sir Isaac Newton is supposed to have said - "God gave men prophecy, not to make them prophets, but to strengthen their faith when it was fulfilled."

  • "inconceivability" - I do not think that word means what you think it means.
    – ESCE
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 21:18
  • @ESCE - thanks - my mistake and fixed
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 21:29
  • 1
    @jpaugh - thanks - my mistake and fixed.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 21:30
  • Ending life in prison is all it took to fulfill the prophecy. John's gospel was after Peter's death, and John say Jesus' prophecy as fulfilled. John was claiming that Jesus wasn't prophesying about his life.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 23:56

Prophecy is not 'prediction'.

Prophecy expresses something spiritual, that will come to pass, because it is ordained to do so.

Only afterwards, is it clear that a certain thing had already been aforementioned.

One could not have predicted the way Peter would die from Jesus' information. But, looking back, we can see that it was foreknown and that it was foretold


In what ways do these clues predict how Peter would die?

The conclusion we draw from the above verses is that Peter was able to dress at will for whatever duty he wanted to perform. He had the liberty to go where he wanted to go. But in later life, this would change. He would have to stretch out his hands, perhaps in submission to someone else.

Another man would take control of him, dress Peter, perhaps binding him or preparing him for what was to come and bearing him to a place where he did not want to go, evidently the place of execution. Thus Jesus’ prophecy regarding Peter indeed indicated that the apostle would die a martyr’s death, but the manner of this death is not necessarily implied.

  • "Stretch out your hands" sounds like it could be crucifixion. Or it might not, but "perhaps in submission to someone else" isn't a particularly compelling alternative
    – b a
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 19:37

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