Questions From Readers
● John 21:18, 19 says concerning the apostle Peter: “‘When you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk about where you wanted. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and another man will gird you and bear you where you do not wish.’ This [Jesus] said to signify by what sort of death [Peter] would glorify God.” Do these words specifically refer to a death by crucifixion or impalement?—U.S.A.
The ancient religious historian Eusebius reports that Peter “was crucified with his head downward, having requested of himself to suffer in this way.” However, Jesus’ prophecy regarding Peter’s death was not that specific. Acknowledges A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture: “As the extension of hands is set before girding and being led away, it is difficult to discern how it must be conceived. If the order is part of the prophecy, we must suppose the prisoner lashed to the patibulum before being girded and led out to execution.”
So, were it not for the tradition recorded by Eusebius, Jesus’ statement in itself would not point to a death by crucifixion or impalement. Viewing the words of John 21:18, 19 apart from tradition, we would come to the following conclusion: In his younger years Peter was able to gird himself 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, girding Peter (either 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.