Alinari/Art Resource, NY

“Lord save me!” Simon Peter calls out as he begins to sink when walking across the Galilee toward Jesus, as depicted in “The Calling of St. Peter,” by Hans Suess von Kulmbach (1476–1522). Simon Peter’s brief walk on water, cut short by fear and insufficient faith, is reported only in Matthew (14:28–31).

Though Peter’s faith faltered, he was, Murphy-O’Connor notes, a man of substance in control of his life. Peter and Andrew’s fishing operation, in partnership with James and John, had employees, and the quality of Peter and Andrew’s home at Capernaum indicated their relative wealth. The popular demand for fish in New Testament times turned the apostles into savvy businessmen, who relocated their business to Capernaum to lower their taxes, complied with government regulations on fishing, conducted business in Greek—the international language of the day—and competed against the gentile fishermen on the Mediterranean coast. In a word, the disciples were neither uneducated, common nor naively deluded by Jesus.