You open your Bible, intrigued by the question – who is Simon Peter’s father? As you begin reading the Gospels and Acts, you search for clues about this disciple’s family background. Peter is one of the most prominent figures in the New Testament, but details about his early life are scarce. As you dig deeper, you discover insights into the ancestry and home life of this famous follower of Jesus.
Simon Peter is undoubtedly one of the most influential people in the New Testament. Originally named Simon or Simeon, he took on the additional name Peter when Jesus gave him a new designation (John 1:42). Peter means “rock” in Greek, a reference to Peter being the rock upon which Jesus would build his church (Matthew 16:18).
As one of the Twelve Disciples, Peter is mentioned more than any of the others in the Gospels. He walked closely with Jesus and was part of his inner circle. Peter was known for his boldness, impulsiveness, and deep love for Christ. After Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter became a pillar in the early church and helped spread the Gospel across the Roman Empire.
But before he met Jesus and embarked on his amazing journey of faith, Peter came from humble beginnings. He grew up in Bethsaida, a small fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. According to John 1:44, Peter’s hometown was the same as Philip and Andrew. Fishing was the family trade, as Peter and Andrew worked alongside their father catching fish and mending nets (Matthew 4:18-20).
So who exactly was Simon Peter’s father? The Bible provides some clues, which we will explore in this post. Join me as we take a look at the Scriptural evidence concerning the ancestry and home life of one of Christianity’s most famous saints.
Simon Peter’s Father is Named Jonah
The first key detail we have about Peter’s family is the name of his father – Jonah. This is recorded only once in the entire New Testament, in John 21:15-17:
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” (NKJV)
In this tender post-resurrection conversation, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, paralleling Peter’s three denials. Each time, He addresses Peter as “Simon, son of Jonah”. The name Jonah means “dove” in Hebrew. So Peter’s father was named Jonah, and this was a well-known fact to both Jesus and the disciples.
The name Jonah was common in first century Palestine, just like the prophet Jonah from the Old Testament. But this specific Jonah made a profound impact on his son, as Peter’s given name was also John. The name Simon or Simeon was likely his nickname or Jewish name used along with John.
Peter’s Father Was a Fisherman
The second key detail we know of Simon Peter’s father Jonah is his profession – he was a fisherman. This is seen in several passages:
Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Luke 5:2-3, 10:
And saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”
These verses indicate that fishing was the family business. Peter’s father Jonah, along with Zebedee the father of James and John, owned boats and would fish regularly on the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus called these disciples, they left their boats and nets behind – including the ones belonging to their fathers.
Peter, Andrew, James and John grew up learning the fishing trade along the shores of Galilee. Their fathers taught them how to cast nets, sail boats, and handle the day’s catch. So Simon Peter’s father made his living as a fisherman, a common occupation in that area.
Peter Came From a Modest Upbringing
Since fishing was their family business, we can surmise that Peter had a modest, working-class upbringing. As a child he lived in Bethsaida, an insignificant fishing village far from the cultural hubs of Jerusalem or Rome.
Archaeologists have excavated ancient Bethsaida, and it was a small town of maybe 1,000-2,000 people at most. Peter did not have an affluent background or extensive religious schooling. He grew up by the sea, learning to work with his hands alongside his father and brother.
Several Bible passages hint at Peter’s humble origins and lack of higher education:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” After a little while those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.”
And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”
In these scenes, it is apparent that Peter did not have an extensive education. His speech gives him away as someone who was not trained in rhetoric or religious law. He does not have connections like the “other disciple” who got him into the high priest’s courtyard. Peter is on unfamiliar ground here in these halls of power – a humble fisherman out of his element.
So while we do not have detailed information, it is likely that Peter’s upbringing was unexceptional. His father Jonah raised him in Bethsaida, teaching Peter the family fishing trade. They were probably poor by comparison to Jerusalem elites and did not have prestigious careers. But Peter grew up in a wholesome home, learning a practical skill alongside his father.
Key Takeaways on Simon Peter’s Father
- Peter’s father was named Jonah
- Jonah was a fisherman who owned a fishing boat
- Peter grew up in the small fishing village of Bethsaida
- He had a modest, working-class upbringing alongside his father
- The family fishing trade was likely their main source of income
- Peter’s lack of education and refinement is apparent in biblical scenes
- His father Jonah shaped Peter’s development and early life as a fisherman
Peter did not come from an impressive background or lineage. But God chose him and equipped him through Christ. His boldness and leadership in the early church transformed him from a humble fisherman to a “fisher of men”. The influence of his father Jonah laid the foundation for Peter’s earthly work – and his later heavenly calling.
In investigating Scripture, we have uncovered valuable insights into Simon Peter’s family background:
- His father’s name was Jonah, which means “dove” – a fitting name for a righteous father.
- Jonah made his living as a fisherman in Bethsaida and later Capernaum. He taught his sons the family trade.
- Peter grew up in humble circumstances, but his father provided steady income and a loving home.
- Peter likely viewed his father as a spiritual role model of faith.
- His father’s legacy guided Peter into his ministry as an apostle and leader of the early church.
Simon Peter’s story is a testament to the influence of godly fathers. Peter’s life path was shaped by his childhood experiences with his father. Later, as he did miraculous works in Christ’s name, Peter built upon the foundation laid by his upbringing.
The next time you read the Gospels and Acts, remember that rambunctious Simon Peter had a lifelong connection to his father. Jonah raised his son in the fear of the LORD, and his efforts bore much fruit for the kingdom. Fathers – and mothers – make an enormous spiritual impact on their children. Simon Peter is an inspiring example of this very truth.
So although the Bible does not provide his full name or extensive biographical background, we now know the essence of this man. Simon Peter’s father was named Jonah – and he was a humble, faithful follower of God whose legacy lived on powerfully through his children.