Peter vs. Paul

Lent Madness 2018 has officially begun! After months of soul-aching anticipation, “Ash Thursday” has arrived. Over the next (more or less) 40 days and 40 nights, you will have the opportunity to re-immortalize one of our 32 competing saints with the coveted Golden Halo.

Today we see two heavyweights facing off in the Apostolic Rumble. Will we rob Peter to pay Paul or will Paul get robbed to pay Peter? That, dear friends, is up to you and your single (we mean that and we have spies everywhere) vote.

If you’re new to Lent Madness, welcome! If you have any questions about how to participate, just let us know by leaving a comment. The Lent Madness community is both friendly and helpful, often answering questions before the Supreme Executive Committee arrives in their grand purple, if imaginary, chariot. You can view and/or print out the full bracket of saints by clicking here.

We urge you to take full part in the Madness. Leave comments here on the website. Read what others have to say. Enjoy the friendly rivalry and trash talk on social media. Do additional research. During the day, check in on the website often to see how each day’s contest is going. And above all, delight in seeing how each saint was a powerful witness of Jesus Christ.

Be sure to sign up for e-mail updates on our home page (upper right corner) so you never miss a vote, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and encourage your friends to jump into the fray.

We can assure you this will be a wild, joyful, educational, ocassionally gut-wrenching ride. We’re delighted to share this journey with you. Let the Madness begin!


PeterThe disciple who makes us all feel better about our failures, Saint Peter was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Peter is traditionally considered the first bishop of Rome—or pope—having been ordained by Jesus who dubs him the “rock of the church.” Originally, Peter was named Simeon, often simplified to Simon in modern English. Peter was married and originally worked as a fisherman with his brother, Andrew. In fact, Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus and gave him the name Cephas (Peter), which means rock.

Peter was a leader among the disciples and witnessed events seen by only a few apostles, such as the Transfiguration and the raising of Jairus’s daughter. According to the gospels, Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, then denied knowing Jesus three times under threat of arrest, and then felt shame and remorse over his betrayal. After Easter, Jesus forgave him his failure and implored Peter to “feed my sheep.”

At the start of the Acts of the Apostles, Peter emerges as an effective leader of the early church. He preached with authority at Pentecost, began to work miracles, and participated in the council at Jerusalem. Historical witnesses confirm his later presence in Rome, although they do not verify the legendary story of his martyrdom. According to this tradition, under Emperor Nero, Peter was crucified upside down. He requested this unusual method of execution out of humility, not wanting to be killed in the same manner as Jesus. Hence, in Christian symbology, Peter is often represented by an upside-down cross, along with the keys to God’s kingdom. The Vatican claims Peter’s remains are housed beneath Saint Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter’s feast day is June 29, and he is the patron of fishermen, net makers, and shipbuilders.

Collect for Peter
Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Amber Belldene


PaulBehind Jesus Christ himself, perhaps no person has shaped the face of Christianity more than Paul of Tarsus—the pharisaic persecutor of the church turned apostle and the primary writer for a majority of the New Testament.

Paul, as an ardent and educated Pharisee, was dedicated to what (at Jesus’ time) was a somewhat new belief—that the law given in Torah could be applied to everyday activities to sanctify the course of ordinary life. As such, Paul’s early interactions with followers of Jesus were as a persecutor, seeking to restore the norms of pharisaic dogma to the followers of the sect known as “The Way.” But Paul underwent a dramatic conversion experience along the Damascus road. He saw Jesus, who addressed him by his Hebrew name, asking “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Blinded by this vision, Paul’s sight was restored by Ananias, and a transformative ministry began.

Paul’s message in his epistles speaks to the transformative power of God’s grace, revealed in Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead. Having experienced grace in his conversion, Paul argues that the grace of God is extended to all—Jew and Gentile alike. As he writes in the Epistle to the Galatians, social distinction must break down when all become part of the body of Christ: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” As the Apostle to the Gentiles, he was at times in direct and fierce conflict with Peter; Paul argued with Peter for the inclusion of Gentiles in the table fellowship of the earliest church. Using the privileges Roman citizenship afforded him, Paul traveled widely to preach the gospel: His journeys took him across the Middle East, Asia Minor, and eventually to captivity in Rome. Paul died in Rome, still longing to travel to more communities with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Collect for Paul
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-David Sibley

UPDATE: At 7:58 p.m. Eastern time, the SEC removed 254 votes from Paul. We found that someone in Little Rock, AR had voted for Paul repeatedly. This is a reminder that you should vote -- and tell your friends to vote -- but once only.

Peter vs. Paul

  • Peter (51%, 4,842 Votes)
  • Paul (49%, 4,657 Votes)

Total Voters: 9,499

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Peter: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Paul: Public domain, via en:. Original source: The Hundred Greatest Men New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1885.


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496 comments on “Peter vs. Paul”

  1. I vote for Peter because he made mistakes and learned for them. And he was born with a pure heart.

    1. Peter is my favorite but for this vote I had to go with Paul because of the inclusion of the gentiles. Peter has taught be so much about picking myself up after a foot in mouth situation.

      1. I love this comment as I am so often in this situation “foot in the mouth” and then have to pick myself up and sort out the pieces.

      2. I agree with you. I wanted to vote for Peter, because I totally identify with his struggles the night Jesus was arrested and I "respect" him as being "the Rock," but . . .

        1. This was a tough one. I voted for Paul because he included Gentiles. Peter is inspiring because he kept going despite his mistakes. On an individual basis that is very laudable. However, Paul reached out to so many different people, beyond the Jews, spreading the good news. I think he was a more influential ambassador for Jesus' message.

      3. What a hard choice this one is!! I've always loved Paul's voice for inclusion (what Episcopalian doesn't?). But in the end I went with Peter because of his willingness to be foolish for Jesus. He asked the necessary questions and got sometimes confusing answers. Jesus loved him anyway and always forgave him. This is so parallel to my own Spiritual journey that I had to not for him. So glad to be a part of Lent Madness this year. This is my first time.

        1. You make a good point about Peter...Like you, I, too, can relate to Peter as I reflect on my spiritual journey. I admire Paul for his eloquent, deep, and complex convictions of which he writes. Hmmm. For whom to vote??? 🙂

          1. Vote for Paul, after a Blue Candle (bible study) discussion with Dr. Vella leading I'm a fan of Pauls

        2. I love your observation about Peter's willingness to be foolish for Jesus - we should all be so foolish! He got my vote for going beyond his mistakes, but Barbara put it so sweetly - Lent Madness gives us tough choices, but a wise community of sharers - We are very blessed . .

          Mary Beth

        3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. My heart is always with Peter. However, this time I chose Paul for his passion for including those on the edges. This is my first online participation. I too am grateful for the opportunity to be part of this community.

    2. hello Oliver, nice to hear your thoughts as always. This was a real tough but you clarified it nicely. It's Peter for me too.

    3. OLIVER! You're back! I voted for Peter for the same reason. He maybe wasn't the smartest, but then through out the Bible it wasn't the "best" who chosen.

    4. Oliver - such a powerful reflection - failure is a great teacher, as long as we truly learn from our mistakes, and move forward in a positive Way. Peace to you, keep on learning!!

      1. I too voted for Paul because he realized the error of his ways and because of him the faith began to be spread around the world.

    5. Glad to see you in Lent Madness Oliver. I have been missing you. The church I am teaching at now just got the Saint stories for Godly Play and it made me think of your passion for the Saints. I hope you and your family are all doing well.

      1. Hi Miss Jennifer,
        So nice to hear from you. We are away from St. John's for this school in. We are in Gaspe, Quebec, Canada for the winter where I am starting Godly Play in the community. Miss all those beautiful Godly Play items at St. John's though! I hope you are doing well also. I will be looking out for your posts during this season.

    6. Nice to see you back, Oliver! I chose Peter, too, because I can relate to making mistakes and learning from then.

    7. There are good reasons to vote for Peter but gender issues may not be one of them. I think if we could ask Thekla, she might say, "If you appreciate women's leadership and teaching in the church, you'd better vote for Paul."

    8. HELP! My wife voted on her account and now I want to vote on this one and you won't let me :- (
      After almost 65 years of marriage we don't always agree and I want MY say too.

      1. Are you voting on the same device? I believe the vote goes by your computer address. So, should be able to vote on line your cell phone and your computer or other type pad. Hope that helps and you are able to vote.

    9. Oliver, it is nice to see you here again, but weren't you ten years old last year? If you have a recipe for not aging, I'd love to have it!!

    10. Oliver - good to hear from you.....but you have to be older than 10 years at this point....Maybe you should change your "name", so we can grow old with you.

    11. I vote for Peter because he too failed Christ and returned to his faith and upon that faith, Christ built his church. It gives me hope each time I stumble in my faith to recall Peter's denial of Christ.

    12. I remember a priest pointing out that Peter had to be told everything three times before he got it. I can be that way sometimes. That's why I identify with Peter.

  2. I love that Peter was able to fail, ask forgiveness and continue on. Gives comfort to one who often comes up short

  3. I am so excited about learning more about the Saints.

    Very pleased our Parish, St. Dunstan's in Dover, MA is doing this this Lent.

      1. Lenten greetings, Julie and Pamela, from St. Dunstan's in Atlanta. Maybe we can organize and put our patron saint in next year's bracket!

      2. I too was introduced to Lent Madness in San Diego. In my case, at Good Sam near La Jolla. Enjoy the saintliness of the season!

    1. No one has mentioned it but Paul is going to be burdened by the era's patriarchy and his
      explicit discrimination against women. Vegas has factored that into the tote board and
      made Paul a 2.0% underdog.
      Take the ~50CE cultural understanding re: women's place in the church out of Paul's
      theology as well as his writings on homosexuality in Romans and we have a toss up.

      1. Although the arguments can be made that those passages don't reflect Paul's views (and some of those letters weren't even written by him).

        I predicted Peter to win this one when I made out my bracket, but my heart goes to Paul. He's also the patron saint of my church, but I've always liked him.

      2. I've always thought that in Romans Paui was condemning the lasciviousness more than the homosexuality. As to women -- He was trying to be celibate, and he wanted women to behave in ways that made that easier for him. Some of his letters do praise church women.

      3. While Paul did many great things & was the product of the times he lived, his attitude towards women & others has always left me cold, plus have always loved St. Peter, so Go Rock!

      4. There is an article by by Barbara Leonhard, OSF that was enlightening to me regarding St. Paul's attitude toward women. The article starts by discussing Prisca, Phoebe, Mary, Junia, Julia, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Chloe, Lydia, Euodia and Syntyche. After a discussion of theses "examples of women who ministered with Paul and who were commended by Paul," she asks "how are we to understand passages in which Paul sounds hostile to women?" She writes:

        "A friend of mine once told me she couldn’t understand why I would write about Paul, since he was so against women in the Church. The passage she had in mind was 1 Corinthians 14:34-35: 'Women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church.'

        Most contemporary biblical scholars maintain that these verses could not have come from Paul. They contradict his acceptance and commendation of women’s leadership. They also directly contradict an earlier passage in this same letter, where Paul assumes that women do both pray and prophesy in the Corinthian community (11:5).

        How, then, did these verses come to be included in the letter? Most likely they were teachings from a later time that eventually were copied into Paul’s letter. Those who copied texts before there were designated chapters and verses at times confused someone’s marginal notes as part of the original document. The notes then became part of the newly copied text.

        The silencing of women does not make sense coming from Paul. Women such as Prisca, Phoebe and Junia could not have functioned as Church leaders and apostles if they were not allowed to speak in public.

        The teaching in 1 Corinthians reflects the attitudes found in 1 Timothy, a letter attributed to Paul but actually not written until the early part of the second century. By this time, at least in some local communities, there was more concern for order and specified positions. In the pastoral letters (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), we find regulations concerning deacons, bishops and elders. The ideal here is a well-regulated household.

        While Paul acknowledges women’s ministry and leadership in house churches, 1 Timothy maintains that “a woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control” (2:11)."

        1. Thank you for your comments about Paul. I think of him being inclusive but do have trouble with some of his comments, so this is helpful. I did vote for Paul.

        2. Thank you for this. I am glad to have a new perspective on the writings of Paul, with which I struggle. Would you say that even in the very early church, we had non-constructive Fake (Good) News situations?

          I am still leaning toward Peter, because I feel that one of the characteristics that Peter possessed was humility, which Paul, regardless of his innumerable good works largely lacked
          . In today's world, so many divisive and tragic events could be prevented if we all had a larger measure of humility.

        3. Voted for Peter in that he had the “VISION” to recognize Jesus as the Anointed One. Whereas Paul had to lose his “vision” to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

        4. Thanks for your helpful comments. Since taking a class on the letters of Paul a few years ago, I have been convinced that the admonishment about women keeping silent in church were not Paul's words, but a later addition. I've been glad ever since not to have to hold that against Paul.

      5. I have to admit that, although it's not mentioned in the summary, I could not ignore the misogynistic tone in some of Paul's writings - so that's why I ultimately chose Peter.

        1. Donna, The "tone" in Paul's writing is likely not his. See other comments re. how later editors added comments to fit Paul's teaching into the attitudes of the culture and the church.

        2. Though they don't pursuade me with everything they say, I am going to let J.D. Crossan and co. convince me to vote for Paul this year. In their light, Paul was as much proto-feminist as he was pro gentile. Whereas, it is likely that Peter fell victim to the mentality of an apostolic "good old boys club" that laid a foundation for a new patriarchy.

      1. As a member of Fr. Funston's son's parish -- yet another St. Paul's -- I, too, felt duty bound, though my heart goes with Peter.

    2. I voted for Paul because I love his conversion story and that he brought the Word to the gentiles!

  4. Oliver, I'm with you about Peter. His pure heart and ability to put it all out there - whether he looked foolish or not -- has been a source of strength for me. I find I often identify with his outbursts and questions.

  5. Had to vote for Peter, but am quite worried about Lenten point shaving. I am hoping none of these saints under-perform to throw the bracket. Who knew Lent could be so fraught?

    1. I think that's part of the fun of Lent Madness -- sometimes the most unlikely saints go on to the next round, and even occasionally win. Not many people predicted the Golden Halo for Frances Perkins, for instance. And the SEC is good at finding any hanky panky in the voting.

  6. Paul’s message was inclusion of all not one special group. To me this battle is still ongoing in our society despite the many who call themselves Christians.

  7. This was the most difficult vote I have cast in the years since I joined Lent Madness. I finally leaned toward Peter, who I hope will gain the Golden Halo.

      1. Just like us...which is the point I guess!
        I've always had a bit of a grudge against Paul, but something about this write up made me wonder, where would the church have been without him! And in the end... he had my vote!

  8. Peter all the way because he was so human and gives me hope when I too stumble. I've always thought that people miss a big part of the point in the story where Peter gets out of the boat to meet Jesus who is walking across the lake. It seems like everyone always focuses on Peter starting to sink because he has doubts. It is more telling to me that Peter is the only one who got out of the boat.

    1. That had never occurred to me, Michelle! Thanks for pointing out that it was Peter who left the boat!

    2. Michelle, I never thought of that scene at the storm/water/boat that way. Thanks for that! I agree...the point being...Peter was the one that got out of the boat. That alone demonstrates great/tremendous faith! Love Peter! But Paul is a good example for all of us as well...any one can change!

    1. I too voted for Paul. We need to be more inclusively minded in this day and time as well. That takes a lot of courage in many parts of the world and even in parts of the United States.

  9. I never stop learning from St. Paul, but St. Peter always gives me hope. So, Peter gets my vote today.

  10. both men made mistakes and learned from them, and perhaps it was hardest for Paul, the Pharisee, to do so. Paul saw the wrongs he had done in the name of his religion and committed to change, an important message in history and today. But Jesus chose Peter as the rock to build His church, so I followed and chose Peter also.

    1. Carolyn I love what you wrote, but I have to disagree with you ... <3
      Paul is the better choice imho ...<3

      1. This is my first madness and my first vote. Very difficult! But ultimately I chose Peter. I see myself in Peter often, but I might have been too ashamed to return to the disciples and Jesus. He let himself be forgiven, an important lesson for me. Also, my parish is St. Peter's, Kerrville TX!

  11. I have to go with Peter. I, too, am one of those who will eagerly and enthusiastically jump into something without always thinking it through. I agree, his ability to ask forgiveness and move on is encouraging.

  12. I had to go with Paul. I'm going on a trip to Greece and Turkey in April to follow "in his footsteps". I also think that Paul has been greatly misunderstood over the centuries.

  13. I voted for Paul because his message was that all of us are part of the body of Christ. We are all really one race, the human race, and no matter what our station here on Earth we are all equal in the eyes of God.

  14. Have to vote for Paul.........he made his mistakes throughout his life and was called to conversion just as we are today. In a very tough pairing between two giants of the church, Paul is my choice!

  15. Go, Peter, all the way! If I have a patron saint, it's Peter, and precisely because, as Amber so wonderfully puts it, he is "the disciple who makes us all feel better about our failures" and because he really did love Jesus with his whole heart.

    1. Hi, Pat. I knew you would vote for Peter. I voted for him too, although I have to say (no offense to Amber, who has been a great celebrity blogger for years) that I preferred the write-up for Paul.

  16. Paul was a terrible writer - have you ever read his stuff out loud? Run on sentences, overly repetitive. OK, he wrote A LOT. OK, he had good ideas, mostly... Peter was flawed and we love him for it.

    1. One of my teachers in high school had the class diagram one of Paul's sentences. It was quite a workout.

      1. I can't get enough of Paul's long, complicated sentences. A real turn-on! Thanks for reminded me of another reason to vote for him.

    2. How much can Paul’s long, run-on sentences be attributed to English translations? Woukd they also be considered long and run-on as he originally wrote them? Just curious!

    3. I nominate Ananias for inclusion in Lent Madness every year. I don't know if he officially counts as a saint, but he is one of my very favorite Biblical characters. Imagine -- God told him, "Go see Saul." He said, "Um . . are you sure? Isn't he the one persecuting the whole church?" But when God insisted, Ananias not only obeyed, but greeted Paul as "brother." What enormous faith.

    4. Oh yes! Thank you for saying that. I hate reading Paul as a lector as it is so repetitive and convoluted, it is far too easy to lose your place in the reading.

  17. Paul gets my vote because of his ability to see past prejudice and include everyone in the Good News of our Lord. Today, and everyday, we need to mediate on the words of Paul and practice inclusion, love, and acceptance.

  18. As a Gentile, I have to throw my support behind Paul. I mean, it's not just motivated self-interest or anything. No, not at all...

      1. I agree. Many women were praised in his letters, and were named as leaders ...and what about his beautiful letter in 1 Corinthians about love? "Without love, I am nothing"?

    1. Peter certainly wasn't a paragon of inclusion. Just because he didn't write about women, doesn't mean he saw them as equals (after all, look at how well he listened to Mary Magdalen, et al. after the resurrection). Paul had his issues, but was way ahead of his time in terms of inclusiveness.

  19. What are you doing to us? What a way to start! But, if asked to make a choice between these two, it is Peter all the way.

    Go Peter!

  20. I voted for Paul. His inclusive message and his strong theological background was key to the advancement of the church universal. Maybe the fact that I am finishing a three week sermon series on Romans 11 might also play a role. That being said SEC should be severely flogged for bad seeding. These two should not be first round match up. Just my not so humble (I gave up humility for Lent) opinion.

  21. I voted for Paul, because he managed to do such a strong about face, also because he did so much to spread the Gospel beyond the Jewish Community, and gave us insight into the lives of the earliest Christians (since the gospels in the form we know them came much later).
    While Peter is much to be admired for his many repentances, his behavior (as we read it in the gospels) at the time of Jesus’ trial was reprehensible given his closeness to the Messiah and insights into what were to become Christian beliefs. He strikes me as arrogant while Paul is more humble.

    1. Reprehensible but completely human -- and foreseen by Jesus. I always wondered if that wasn't God's way of keeping Peter alive to spread the Word. I've never been able to see much humility in Paul.