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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Peter


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1. Names.-Peter is known by four different names in the NT. By far the most common designation is simply ‘Peter’ (20 times in Matthew , 18 times in Mark , 15 times in Luke , 16 times in Jn., 52 times in Ac., twice in Gal. [Galatians 2:7 f.], and once in 1 Peter [1 Peter 1:1]). ‘Simon,’ standing alone, occurs less frequently (twice in Matthew , 5 times in Mark , 10 times in Lk., once in Jn.), and ‘Symeon’ but once (Acts 15:14)._ With two exceptions (Galatians 2:7 f.), ‘Cephas’ is the term uniformly employed by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Corinthians 15:5, Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:11; Galatians 2:14); and John once speaks of ‘Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)’ (John 1:42). ‘Simon’ and ‘Peter’ sometimes stand in conjunction with one another (3 times in Mt., once in Mk., twice in Luke , 18 times in John , 4 times in Acts, and once in 2 Pet. (2 Peter 1:1), where ‘Symeon’ rather than ‘Simon’ is, however, the better attested reading). Of the various names, ‘Symeon’ (‘Simeon’) and ‘Cephas’ are Semitic in origin, while ‘Simon’ and ‘Peter’ are Greek. ‘Symeon’ (Συμεών) appears frequently in the LXX_ as the rendering of the Heb. (Shimeôn = Simeon); but, since it is applied to Peter at most only twice in the NT (Acts 15:14; 2 Peter 1:1), it can hardly have been his real name. In these two instances the usage, if not accidental, may have been designed to add solemnity and force to the narrative, and was made all the easier because the Greek ‘Simon’ (Σίμων), the name by which Peter probably had been known from childhood, was so like the Hebrew in sound. But among the Jews in Hellenistic times the Hebrew name had been largely supplanted by the Greek, and the latter was even written in Semitic characters (îÄéîæÉï). Some examples of Jews with the Greek name are Simon the Maccabaean, although his great-grandfather was called ‘Symeon’ (1 Maccabees 2:3); Simon the son of Onias (Sirach 50:1); a certain Benjamite (2 Maccabees 3:4); and Simon Chosameus (1 Esdras 9:32). In Josephus’ writings Jewish persons are very frequently called ‘Simon,’ less often ‘Symeon.’ Both names seem to have been employed, and usually with discrimination, by Jews in the Hellenistic period; but ‘Simon’ was the more common, and this in all probability was the Apostle’s original name. In the Apostolic Age, however, he was known chiefly by his surname, ‘Peter.’ That this usage had been established already within the primitive Aramaic-speaking community is amply attested by St. Paul’s frequent ‘Cephas’ (Κηφᾶς), a Graecized transliteration of the Aramaic ëÌÅéôÈà (Kepha’), which when translated into Greek becomes ‘Peter’ (Πέτρος, ‘stone’).

There is some uncertainty as to the exact circumstances under which the Apostle first received this appellation. According to Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14, early in his Galilaean ministry Jesus set apart the Twelve to be His helpers and gave Simon the surname Peter (καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ὄνομα τῷ Σίμωνι Πἐτρον) In referring to the same incident, Matthew (Matthew 10:2) speaks of ‘the so-called Peter’ (ὁ λεγόμενος Πέτρος), but seemingly intends to make the Apostle’s famous confession at Caesarea Philippi the occasion for the Messiah to bestow upon him the name ‘Peter’ and to designate him formal head of the Church (Matthew 16:17-19). In the Gospel of John, when Simon was first brought to Jesus, the latter exclaimed, ‘Thou art to be called Cephas’ (σὺ κληθήσῃ Κηφᾶς [John 1:42]), probably meaning from this time forth, since John does not recur to this subject and henceforth always (except in 21) uses ‘Peter’ either alone (16 times) or in conjunction with ‘Simon’ (18 times). Finally, there are intimations, though these are very vague, that the special recognition of Simon’s supremacy may at one time have rested upon his early belief in Jesus’ resurrection. He was generally thought to have been the first disciple to see-if not to believe in (John 20:8)-the Risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:5, Mark 16:7, Luke 24:34), and, as St. Paul had attained apostleship through a similar vision, so Peter had been ‘energized’ for his work as an apostle (Galatians 2:8). There is here no statement that Simon received his surname on this occasion-indeed, he is already known as ‘Peter’ (or ‘Cephas’) in this connexion-but it is possible that his initial vision, which made him the corner-stone of the new community, established, if not for the first time, at least more completely, the custom of referring to him as ‘Peter.’ The infrequency of the word as a proper name at that time, and the fact that ‘Simon’ would readily have served all ordinary needs either in Jewish or in Christian circles, make it still more evident that the designation ‘Cephas’ (Peter) was called forth by special circumstances, uncertain though some of the details may be at present. The usage undoubtedly originated early, probably in the lifetime of Jesus; and the significance of the appellation was at the outset, or soon became, intimately associated with Peter’s prominent position within the company of early disciples.

2. Peter in the NT writings.-The earliest literature preserved from apostolic times, the letters of St. Paul, contains explicit and important information about Peter. These documents do not, to be sure, purport to give any detailed account of his career, and the data which they do preserve are usually incidental to other interests, but this very fact makes the information all the more significant. St. Paul’s statements clearly represent items of general knowledge current at that early date regarding ‘Cephas.’ While St. Paul’s references are relatively few in number, they contain implications of much importance. Peter is seen to have been the first to obtain a vision of the Risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:5); and thus from the outset he occupied a position of primacy in the community and was also first among the apostles, while St. Paul reckons himself last (1 Corinthians 15:9). St. Paul vigorously resented the insinuation of his enemies, to the effect that Peter’s chronological priority carried with it a superior authority, particularly for Gentile Christians; but, on the other hand, St. Paul did not think his apostleship or mission at all different in kind or superior in authority as compared with that of Peter. The seducers in Galatia were not really preaching Peter’s gospel-they were perverting it (Galatians 1:7); it was as truly founded upon faith in Jesus the Messiah as was St. Paul’s (Galatians 2:16); and both apostles had been equipped in the same authoritative way for the performance of their respective apostolic duties (Galatians 2:8). Peter had been commissioned to preach the gospel to the Jews, and this work must have seemed to St. Paul quite as important as-perhaps in some respects more important than-his own specific task of Gentile evangelization. He never doubted that God’s primary concern was for the welfare of the Jews, and that He had even designed them to be the ultimate heirs of the Kingdom, notwithstanding their temporary rejection of the gospel (Romans 11). In the meantime, the Gentiles were reaping the profits to be derived from the Jews’ rejection, St. Paul being especially commissioned to carry on this temporary enterprise of evangelizing the Gentiles, but the original and fundamental task was still Peter’s.

The importance of this phase of St. Paul’s thinking-an item sometimes obscured by a too one-sided emphasis upon the legalistic controversy-is further attested by the high estimate he continues to place upon Judaism, and the value he attaches to Christianity’s Jewish connexions. The Jew has had the advantage in every way (Romans 3:1; Romans 9:1 ff.), and St. Paul’s ancestry entitles him to a full share in that advantage (Romans 11:1, 2 Corinthians 11:22, Philippians 3:5). True, his ancestral heritage must now be brought to its proper consummation in the new faith, toward which all the Divine purposes down through the ages had been tending. From St. Paul’s point of view it was altogether essential, however, that Christianity should have had this Jewish origin; and so it was especially fitting, he thought, that those olive branches which had been temporarily severed from the Jewish trunk-as was the case with all Jews who rejected Christianity-should one day be restored to their rightful place along with the few wild olive branches that had in the meantime been grafted upon the native stock (Romans 11:11 ff.). It fell to Peter’s lot to engage in the work of preserving, or restoring, the original branches, a work with which St. Paul was in full sympathy and to which he would gladly have given himself at all costs had circumstances permitted (Romans 9:3). Hence it is not strange that he should cite the Jewish churches as models (1 Thessalonians 2:14), that he should refer with manifest satisfaction to their approval of his initial missionary activities (Galatians 1:24), that he should reckon his own evangelizing activity as formally beginning at Jerusalem (Romans 15:19), that he should take occasion to pay Peter a two weeks’ visit in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18), or that he should in all sincerity seek the approval of the Jerusalem Church upon his Gentile work (Galatians 2:1 ff.). Furthermore, his high estimate of the Jewish community’s significance found very tangible expression in the collection, which was no mere perfunctory keeping of a past agreement, but an expression of genuine appreciation of the Jewish Christians’ willingness to share their special prerogatives with the Gentiles who fulfilled the condition of faith (Galatians 2:10, Romans 15:26-28). These facts must be borne in mind when attempting to evaluate St. Paul’s testimony to the significance of Peter’s position in the early history of Christianity. It is quite erroneous to conclude, as some interpreters have done, that St. Paul’s controversy with the legalists really meant any conscious effort on his part to oppose or to supplant Peter, whose unique position in the early community and whose leadership in the work of evangelizing the Jews are clearly attested and highly esteemed by St. Paul.

Unfortunately, St. Paul did not have occasion to mention Peter as often as we could wish; consequently, the latter’s career cannot be restored with any degree of fullness from the Pauline letters. Whether he was among the apostles in Jerusalem, whom St. Paul, had he so chosen, might have visited immediately after his conversion (Galatians 1:17), is not clear; but three years later he was there and entertained St. Paul for two weeks (Galatians 1:18). He was also in Jerusalem fourteen years later, when the legalistic controversy was going on (Galatians 2:1-10). Soon afterwards, perhaps accompanying St. Paul and Barnabas on their return, he came to Antioch in Syria, where his reactionary attitude upon the question of table-fellowship with Gentiles evoked St. Paul’s vigorous censure. An incidental reference to Peter as a travelling missionary accompanied by his wife and deriving support from those to whom he ministered (1 Corinthians 9:5), and mention of a Cephas party in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22), complete the list of Pauline data. These scanty particulars do not permit of any very extended interpretation, yet they do make it clear that Peter was prominent in the counsels of the mother Church, that he continued to prosecute his work as an evangelist, and that his fame had reached even to Asia Minor and Greece early in the fifties.

Of the remaining Christian literature produced in apostolic times, the Gospels and Acts are the most important for our present purpose. In the first part of Acts, Peter is the leader of the apostolic company, and in the Gospels he occupies a position of prominence, commensurate with the dominant part he subsequently played in the life of the early Christian community. Remembering the ample attestation of Peter’s prominence given by his contemporary St. Paul, it is not at all surprising that the evangelists, in selecting gospel tradition and giving it written form, should mention Peter frequently and assign him a position second only to that of Jesus. His name does not appear in any of the non-Marcan sections common to Matthew and Luke (i.e. in the Logia [Q]), but in Mark he is a conspicuous figure from first to last. He, with his brother Andrew, is the first to answer Jesus’ call to discipleship (Mark 1:16); they entertain Him at their home in Capernaum, where He heals Simon’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29 f.); and the company of the disciples is now known as ‘Simon and those with him’ (Mark 1:36). He heads the list of the Twelve (Mark 3:16), he is named first among the favoured few to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37), he is granted similar favours at the time of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), and in Gethsemane on the night of the betrayal (Mark 14:33), and it is to him in particular that the women are instructed to announce the resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16:7). On several occasions he is chief spokesman for the disciples, and is mentioned first among those receiving private instructions or explanations (Mark 8:29, Mark 9:5, Mark 10:28, Mark 11:21, Mark 13:3). Notices which reflect somewhat unfavourably upon him are also preserved. Although he is the first of the Twelve to affirm belief in Jesus’ Messiahship, his failure to understand the true Messianic programme calls forth a sharp rebuke from Jesus (Mark 8:32 f.); he is found asleep when left on duty in Gethsemane (Mark 14:37); and during the course of Jesus’ trial Peter persistently denies his Master (Mark 14:29; Mark 14:54-72).

With the exception of a few alterations and supplements, Matthew and Luke take over most of the Marcan statements regarding Peter. Matthew omits the paragraph in which ‘Simon and those with him’ seek Jesus to tell Him that the people of Capernaum desire His return to the city (Mark 1:36), nothing is said of Peter’s accompanying Jesus when the latter raised the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37), and Peter’s name is expunged from the instructions given to the women by the angel at the tomb of Jesus (Mark 16:7). These omissions are relatively insignificant when compared with the main body of Marcan material which Matthew has preserved. The additional data of Matthew are more important, especially the paragraph supplementing Mark’s account of Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:17-19). In comparison with this incident, the other chief Petrine additions of Matthew-Peter’s walking on the water (Matthew 14:28 f.), and the story of the coin found in the fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27)-are of only secondary interest. Into Mark’s narrative of Peter’s confession, otherwise copied rather closely, Matthew interjects three verses, ascribing Peter’s exceptional perceptive powers to revelation, designating him the corner-stone of the Church, and committing to his keeping the keys of the Kingdom. These statements are manifestly Matthaean insertions, for they do not stand in Mark, which Matthew is copying in both the preceding and the following contexts, nor do they appear in Luke, where the Marcan narrative at this point is also followed. But from what source the First Evangelist derived his information, and whether the words were actually spoken by Jesus, are much-debated problems. The balance of critical opinion at present inclines to the view that this tradition arose subsequently to the death of Jesus and at a time when the first vivid expectations of an imminent catastrophic end of the present world were being displaced by a growing interest in ecclesiasticism. However this may be, it is perfectly clear from Matthew’s language that Peter had lost none of the prestige which was his in St. Paul’s day, while his exact position with reference to all other Christians and to the Christian organization itself has been more specifically defined.

Luke furnishes scarcely any additional data to shed light upon the apostolic estimate of Peter. The Marcan account of the disciples’ call is omitted in favour of another tradition somewhat richer in descriptive details (Luke 5:1-11; cf. Mark 1:16-20); and in the account of Peter’s denial Luke seems to be following a slightly different source, yet the variations are formal rather than essential so far as the portrayal of Peter is concerned (Luke 22:31-62; cf. Mark 14:26-72). In copying Mark’s account of the Caesarea-Philippi incident, Luke omits the closing verses which tell of Jesus’ upbraiding Peter for his presumption in attempting to regulate the Messiah’s conduct (Mark 8:32 ff.). Similarly, in Luke’s version of the Gethsemane incident Peter is not singled out for rebuke as in Mark (Luke 22:46; cf. Mark 14:37). Nor does Luke report the special message of the angel to Peter, telling him that he will see the Risen Lord in Galilee (Luke 24:7; cf. Mark 16:7), because Luke records only Judaea n appearances; but he does note that the first appearance was made to Peter (Luke 24:34).

It is in the early chapters of Acts that Peter’s portrait is drawn most distinctly. He heads the list of the Eleven, and takes the initiative in the election of a successor to Judas (Acts 1:13; Acts 1:15). He is also the chief speaker on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14 ff.), the immediate agent in healing the lame beggar at the Temple gate (Acts 3:1-10), and the principal defender of the new faith during the subsequent period of persecution (e.g. Acts 3:12 ff., Acts 4:8 ff., Acts 5:29 ff.). His miraculous activity is especially noticeable. Ananias and Sapphira fall dead at his word (Acts 5:3-10), and he stands out so prominently among the apostolic wonder-workers that apparently his very shadow possesses therapeutic power (Acts 5:12-16). He is next seen in Samaria, where he represents the Jerusalem Church in supervising and bringing to completion the evangelistic work of Philip (Acts 8:14-25). Then we are told of missionary enterprises conducted by Peter himself ‘throughout all parts’ (Acts 9:32), and particularly of his wonderful miracles performed at Joppa (Acts 9:33-41). Here he experienced his remarkable vision, in which God showed him that he ‘should not call any man common or unclean,’ with the result that he went freely to the house of the Gentile Cornelius, preaching that God is no respecter of persons. Accordingly, Peter baptized Cornelius and his friends, thus establishing the first company of Gentile Christians (10). On returning to Jerusalem, Peter is criticized for having eaten with the uncircumcised, but he presents so adequate a defence of his conduct that the Jerusalem Church ultimately glorifies God for the establishment of Gentile missions through his work (Acts 11:1-18). Later we learn of his arrest and imprisonment by Herod Agrippa I., and his miraculous release, after which ‘he departed and went to another place’ (Acts 12:1-19). He is in Jerusalem again at the time of the Council, where he affirms, and James reiterates, that ‘a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe’ (Acts 15:7; Acts 15:14). At this point Peter disappears completely from the history of the Apostolic Age as recorded in Acts.

In the Fourth Gospel, likewise, Peter is a conspicuous figure, though he does not always occupy so unquestionably pre-eminent a position as in the Synoptists and early chapters of Acts. In the assembling of the first group of believers his brother Andrew takes precedence over him (John 1:40-44), and is also spokesman for the disciples on the occasion of the miraculous feeding (John 6:8). But Andrew is each time identified as the ‘brother of Simon Peter,’ thus implying that the latter was really the better known. He is also foremost in John’s account of the disciples’ confession of belief in Jesus (John 6:68); and, as in the Synoptists, it is Peter who objects on a certain occasion to Jesus’ procedure-this time the act of foot-washing (John 13:6-9). Peter’s denial is also recorded by John (John 13:36 f., John 18:17-27), and his impetuosity is displayed in cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant (John 18:10 f.). But Peter’s prominence is rivalled by that of the unnamed disciple ‘whom Jesus loved.’ He, together with Andrew, was the first to follow Jesus (John 1:35 f.); he had the position of honour at the Last Supper (John 13:24); he was acquainted with the high priest, and so procured Peter’s admission to the court (John 18:15); and he seems to have anticipated Peter in believing that Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:2-8). In the so-called appendix to John (21) Simon Peter is the chief actor, but the beloved disciple standing in the background is certainly a formidable rival for the honour of first place.

Except in the salutations of the two Epistles commonly ascribed to Peter, there is no further mention of his name in the NT. For one who evidently occupied so prominent a place in the life and thinking of the Apostolic Age, the amount of information about him preserved in the literature of the period is relatively meagre. St. Paul’s statements are exceedingly fragmentary; the Gospels do not, of course, pretend to give information about apostolic history, yet indirectly they furnish some indications of how Peter was regarded at the time the documents were being produced; and Acts, while tolerably full in its description of Peter’s earlier activities, consigns him to absolute oblivion after the Jerusalem Council. It is not at all probable that so important an individual would thus suddenly drop completely out of sight in the actual history of the Christian movement, nor can we assume that the information supplied by our extant NT sources is at all exhaustive-to say nothing of the difficulty of harmonizing what sometimes appear to be striking discrepancies.

3. Peter’s earlier activities.-A résumé of such facts as are apparently beyond dispute yields a very definite picture of Peter’s earlier activities, notwithstanding some uncertainty in details. He was a Galilaean fisherman living in Capernaum when Jesus began His public ministry. Soon after coming into contact with Jesus he abandoned his business as a fisherman in order to accompany the new Teacher on His preaching tours. How Jesus, who had left His carpenter’s bench, and Peter and others, who had similarly forsaken their ordinary daily pursuits to engage in this new enterprise, now supported themselves and their families is not clear from our present sources of information; but this uncertainty can hardly reflect any serious doubt upon the fact of their procedure. Peter was one of the most prominent members in the company of disciples, and so strongly did Jesus and His work appeal to him that he saw in the new movement foreshadowings of the long-looked-for Messianic Kingdom, and ultimately he identified Jesus with the Messiah. But Peter’s conception of the Messiah’s programme underwent some radical readjustments in the course of time. At first his view seems to have been largely of the political nationalistic type-the earthly Jesus would some day don Messianic robes and set up the new Kingdom. In this schema there was no place for Jesus’ death, hence that event proved a stunning blow to Peter’s faith. According to one tradition, regarded by many scholars as the more reliable, he returned disappointed to Galilee, where he probably intended to resume his work of fishing. Doubtless he had still kept his home in Capernaum, and thither he would naturally go after his great disillusionment. Then came the experience which constituted the real turning-point in his life: he saw his Master alive again-no longer an earthly but now a heavenly Being. This vision gave him a solution of his difficulties, since it enabled him to resume his belief in Jesus’ Messiahship and look forward to the establishment of the new Kingdom. It necessitated, however, considerable readjustment in his thinking, for the Messiah in whom he now believed was not an earthly figure who would demonstrate the validity of His claims by leading a revolt against the Romans; He was a heavenly apocalyptic Being who would come on the clouds in glory when the day arrived for the final establishment of God’s rule upon earth.

This new way of thinking gave Peter a new conception of his mission. Now he, and the other disciples, must make haste in gathering members for the new Kingdom. Actuated by the genuinely altruistic motive of mediating this new knowledge to their Jewish kinsmen, and desiring to fulfil as quickly as possible the conditions preliminary to the Kingdom’s coming, they began a vigorous preaching activity to propagate the new faith. Whatever doubts may be entertained regarding the verbal accuracy of the speeches of Peter recorded in Acts, the accuracy of the main content is hardly to be disputed, so far at least as the interpretation of Jesus’ Messiahship is concerned. Here we have a primitive stage of thinking, when the expectation of the Coming is vivid, and when Christians have not yet come to see-as they did in later times-that Jesus had made an adequate display of His Messiahship while He was still upon earth. In these early discourses of Peter attention is fixed upon the future: the real manifestation of the Messiah is an affair of the future, and the Jews are exhorted to repent so that God may send Jesus to discharge His full Messianic functions (Acts 3:19 f.). While upon earth He had been a ‘Servant’-a highly honoured messenger of God-who conducted a propaganda of preparatory prophetic preaching (Acts 3:13; Acts 3:22-26); He had been a ‘man approved of God by mighty works and wonders and signs, which God did by him’ (Acts 2:22), the great and ultimate sign of Divine approval being the elevation of Jesus to a position of heavenly Messianic dignity and lordship through the Resurrection (Acts 2:36). Since the Messiah’s coming awaited the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21), Peter threw himself energetically into the task of preaching the restorative message. Henceforth this constituted, both for him and for his companions, their great mission, and in this propaganda Peter was undoubtedly the leader. The general situation described in Acts is corroborated by St. Paul when he affirms that Peter had been especially equipped for carrying on the work of Jewish missions (Galatians 2:8).

Peter’s equipment consisted not merely in some new command received from the Risen Lord, or in a new stock of Messianic beliefs; he now possessed a new power, an endowment by the Holy Spirit, as the first believers called it. This phase of the new community’s life, as described in the Pentecostal experience of Acts 2, has doubtless been somewhat formalized; but that the early disciples, in the glow of their new faith in the Risen Lord, did experience an elation of feeling which sometimes expressed itself in ecstasy and the performance of miracles, seems beyond question._ In Jewish thinking the work of the Holy Spirit had already come to be very closely associated with the Messiah and His Kingdom. Isaiah had pictured the ideal ruler as one who would be richly endowed by the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 61:1 ff.), and Joel (Joel 2:28 ff.) predicted, among the displays to precede the advent of the Messianic Age, an outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh, equipping the sons and daughters of Israel with power to prophesy and inspiring dreams and visions in the old and young. Later Jewish Messianic literature retained and heightened this emphasis upon the functions of the Spirit. Enoch represented the Messiah as a spiritually endowed being (49:1-4, 62:2), and according to the Testament of Judah this pneumatic Messiah would similarly equip his subjects (Judah, 24; cf. Levi, 18). It was perfectly natural that the disciples, who had now come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah elevated upon His throne in heaven, should become conscious of the new power which was theirs by right of membership in the new Kingdom about to be more fully revealed. Their inherited Jewish thinking, together with their visions of the Risen Jesus, supplied a very fitting background for the Pentecostal phenomenon. In view of Peter’s preeminence in the early community, we may safely assume that he was one of the first to attain this type of experience.

This unique spiritual endowment normally expressed itself in miraculous activities. On this subject it may be well to supplement the generous testimony of Acts with the somewhat less extravagant, but quite specific, corroborative evidence from St. Paul. Christianity as a historical phenomenon is defined by him largely in terms of spiritual endowment, with its resultant activities. While all Christians share the one Spirit in common, its power is manifested variously in different persons, and among these manifestations ‘miracles’ and ‘gifts of healings’ occupy a prominent place (1 Corinthians 12:28). In controverting his opponents St. Paul appeals especially to miracles as the unique differentia of the new religion and the final evidence of his own right to be reckoned among the genuine apostles. In denouncing the Judaizers’ gospel of the flesh St. Paul (Galatians 3:5) asks the Galatians a test question designed to prove beyond doubt the genuineness of his gospel of the Spirit: ‘He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, dceth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?’ Nor was this miraculous power peculiar to the Christianity of St. Paul, for he replies to his opponents in Corinth: ‘In nothing was I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works’ (2 Corinthians 12:11 f.). Thus the power to work ‘miracles’ (δυνάμεις) was an inherent characteristic of the new religion, and the exercise of this function belonged particularly to its leaders, among whom Peter had preeminence.

Miracles were performed in the name of Jesus, who had been exalted to a position of peculiar authority in the angelic realm. All sickness, especially demon possession, and death itself were believed to be the result of Satanic activity within the present evil age; but now that Jesus had been elevated to a position of heavenly Lordship, His spiritually endowed followers were equipped with a new authority. When they spoke in Jesus’ name they could heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. This unique efficacy of the ‘Name’ (q.v._), as a characteristic of the new religion, is clearly evident in St. Paul. Christians are those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2); sinning members of the community are delivered over to Satan in the name, and so through the authority, of our Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:3 f.); and God has exalted Jesus to a position of authority so supreme that every knee is to bend ‘in the name of Jesus’ (Philippians 2:9 f.). Peter not only shared this belief in the exaltation of Jesus, but was commonly credited with having been the first to receive convincing proof of this fact; and there can be no reasonable doubt that he performed miracles in the name of Jesus. The words put into Peter’s mouth by Acts, to the effect that the lame man had been cured through the efficacy of Jesus’ powerful name (Acts 3:16), are wholly consonant with the primitive situation when Peter was prominent in the activities of the new spiritual community.

This procedure soon caused him and his associates serious trouble. Belief in dynamic personalities, the use of whose name enabled one to effect wonders, was already a familiar phenomenon to the Jews,_ and was viewed with some suspicion by the authorities. Since Jews who adopted magical practices of any sort were strongly tempted to employ names of heathen deities in their formulae of exorcism and the like, it had been decreed in the Law that ‘whosoever dceth these things is an abomination to Jahweh’: Israel’s God is alone worthy of recognition (Deuteronomy 18:9 ff.; cf. Exodus 20:3; Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 19:26; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, Isaiah 2:6, Jeremiah 27:9 f., Ezekiel 20:26, Malachi 3:5, Philo, de Spec. Leg. i). When Christians, believing in Jesus’ Lordship, proceeded to use His powerful name, the Jewish authorities naturally suspected them of violating the Deuteronomic Law, and questioned them to learn by what authority, by what ‘name,’ they performed their wonders (Acts 3:12; Acts 3:16; Acts 4:7-10). Peter replied that the Christians were not breaking the Law, but were bringing it to fulfilment, because Jesus was that Prophet to whom Moses had referred in the Deuteronomic context as the One to whom Israel should listen. His elevation to heaven was said to justify this affirmation, hence it was quite proper to work miracles in His ‘name’ (Acts 3:22 ff.; cf. Deuteronomy 18:15 ff.). But the Jews were unwilling to accept Peter’s interpretation of Moses, and consequently they tried to restrain the Christians’ dynamic activities.

Doubtless also the content of Peter’s preaching aroused opposition at a relatively early date. This would be particularly true of his insistence upon Jesus’ elevation to a position of Lordship in the angelic sphere. Acts intimates that the Christians’ preaching about the Resurrection caused offence to the Sadducees (Acts 4:2), but the reverence with which early believers regarded the Risen Jesus might easily seem to many Jews to endanger the supremacy of Jahweh. Apparently this was one of the most important items inciting St. Paul’s persecution, judging from those phases of the new religion which he sets in the foreground after his conversion. That which he most vigorously antagonized as a persecutor was very probably the thing which he later set forth as the characteristic feature of his new faith. This was confession of Jesus’ Lordship, based upon belief in His resurrection. This was the distinctive mark of the new movement, the fundamental condition for the attainment of salvation (Romans 1:4; Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 15:5 ff., Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:15 f.). St. Paul adopted so thoroughly this phase of his predecessors’ thinking that he even taught his Gentile converts the characteristic prayer of the Aramaic-speaking Christians, Marana tha (‘Our Lord, come!’ [1 Corinthians 16:22]). This prayer was especially appropriate on the lips of Peter and his companions in those early days of persecution when Jesus was expected to appear suddenly as Messiah and vindicate the faith of His loyal disciples.

4. Peter’s later activities, as reported in the NT.-Such in general are some of the more evident items in Peter’s career during the earlier years of apostolic history. Of his later activities we are less well informed, and the information which has been preserved is sometimes difficult to interpret. To begin with, what were the relative positions of Peter and James in the Jerusalem Church? While Peter is manifestly the most prominent person in the early chapters of Acts, the name of John is sometimes mentioned as one of the leaders of the new cause (e.g. Acts 1:13; Acts 3:1 ff; Acts 4:13; Acts 8:14), but James is never once singled out for notice. Not until Peter goes to ‘another place’ does Acts hint that James takes precedence in the Jerusalem community (Acts 12:17), and henceforth he appears to be the generally acknowledged leader (Acts 15:13 ff., Acts 21:18). Yet his presence among the believers at a much earlier date is attested by St. Paul, who remarks that James-in all probability meaning the Lord’s brother-was the one to witness Jesus’ fourth appearance (1 Corinthians 15:7). He was also a member of the new brotherhood when St. Paul, three years after his conversion, paid a visit to Peter in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18). At the time of the Jerusalem Council he was not only the head of the Church (Galatians 2:9), but was so influential that his objections caused both Peter and Barnabas to withdraw from their former liberal position (Galatians 2:11-13). Thus from St. Paul’s statements it becomes clear that Peter and James were both present in the early company of believers, that the former was the leader in the earliest period of the history, and that James by the middle of the century had become the actual head of the mother church.

But neither St. Paul nor Acts gives the particulars of the process which issued in this result. For an answer to this problem we must rely upon inference, supplemented by later tradition. Eusebius (HE_ II. i. 3) states, on the authority of Clement of Alexandria, that Peter, James (the brother of John), and John, not coveting honour for themselves, chose James to be bishop of Jerusalem soon after Jesus’ ascension; but so formal an appointment at this early date is hardly probable. It is far more likely that a gradual development of circumstances produced the later situation in which James supplanted Peter. Peter’s work as an evangelist and the opposition which his public preaching aroused among the Jews probably resulted in his leaving the city for longer and longer periods, so that the task of local leadership devolved increasingly upon James. The Jewish opposition which broke out afresh under Herod Agrippa I., and from which Peter barely escaped with his life, was the occasion of his going to ‘another place’ after he had sent James a message regarding the situation (Acts 12:17). It has been conjectured with some degree of plausibility that James became actual head of the Jerusalem Church about this time. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. VI. v. 43) reports a tradition to the effect that Jesus had instructed the apostles to preach to Israel for twelve years before going forth to the world-which may signify that the original apostles’ departure from Jerusalem, thus leaving James in charge, was virtually coincident with Herod’s persecution. But aside from the question of the historicity of Clement’s tradition, James probably supplanted Peter in Jerusalem about this time. This seems to be the most satisfactory explanation of the NT data. James’s blood relationship to Jesus would give him a unique position among Christians, and his vision of the Risen Lord would add to his prestige, while his conservative attitude toward Judaism would be a valuable asset to the community in those days of persecution (cf. Eusebius, HE_ II. xxiii.1ff.). The impetuous Peter sought other fields of activity. Yet we must not assume that there was any rivalry between these two individuals, notwithstanding the contrasts in their personalities. Between the extremes of Pauline liberalism and Jacobaean conservatism Peter (and Barnabas) sometimes vacillated, but on the whole they seem to have inclined toward the position of James.

A second problem left unsolved by our NT information is the question of Peter’s real attitude toward the Gentile missionary enterprise. According to Acts 10 f., he had been instructed by God in a vision not to call any man common or unclean, and as a result he went to the house of Cornelius, where he ate with Gentiles and established a Gentile church. On returning to Jerusalem he was arraigned for his conduct, but presented so strong a defence that the mother Church glorified God for the conversion of the Gentiles accomplished through Peter’s action. St. Paul, on the other hand, in writing to the Galatians, represents that this problem had been fought out-manifestly for the first time, as St. Paul describes it-over the missionary activities of himself and Barnabas. Even then it was merely the question of admission, and not the question of table-fellowship, that had been discussed at Jerusalem. Not until later, when Peter came to Antioch, did the latter question become acute, and then Peter took the conservative position in line with the wishes of the Jerusalem Church (Galatians 2:11 ff.). If St. Paul’s representation is correct, it becomes difficult to believe, as the narrative of Acts would seem to demand, that Peter and the Church at Jerusalem had taken exactly the opposite stand a few years earlier.

Different attempts have been made to obviate the difficulty. Appeal is sometimes made to the proverbial fickleness of Peter, but in order to meet the situation we should have to predicate a similar characteristic for the leaders in Jerusalem. Or, again, it is urged that Cornelius was already a ‘God-fearer,’ that he prayed to Jahweh, gave alms, and wrought ‘righteousness’ in good Jewish fashion (Acts 10:30; Acts 10:35), and so his case was quite different from that of ordinary Gentiles. Yet it must be remembered that the specific thing for which Peter was called to account was ‘eating with the uncircumcised’ (Acts 11:3). He affirmed that the Spirit had instructed him to make no distinction in respect to table-companionship between circumcised and uncircumcised believers, and this was the very point in debate at Antioch. We are quite ignorant of any extenuating circumstances which made the Antiochian situation different in principle from that of Caesarea, and so the difficulty of squaring the narrative of Acts with the representation of St. Paul remains unsolved.

Still another method proposed for relieving the difficulty is to appeal to the alleged apologetic purpose of the author of Acts, who, it is said, desired to bridge the chasm separating Peter from St. Paul, and tried to accomplish this result by ‘Paulinizing’ Peter in the early part of the book and by ‘Petrinizing’ St. Paul in the latter part. Thus Peter is credited with inaugurating the Gentile mission, and the Jerusalem Church is made to put the stamp of its approval upon his undertaking. In Acts’ account of St. Paul, on the other hand, the Antiochian incident is absolutely ignored. St. Paul voluntarily circumcises Timothy (Acts 16:1), he also accepts and imposes upon his churches the decrees issued from Jerusalem (Acts 16:4), and in still other respects his loyalty to Judaism is made evident (e.g. Acts 21:17 ff.). Thus ‘Theophilus’ has been assured-and this is assumed to be the author’s chief aim-that the new religion is firmly established through a line of unbroken descent from antiquity, Gentiles having been designed from the first to be its legitimate heirs. Gentile Christianity is not an offshoot from the main movement-the ingrafting of a wild olive branch, as St. Paul says-but an integral part of the whole, having full ecclesiastical supervision and approval from the first. In favour of this interpretation it is possible to cite the manifest interest of Acts in the formal organization of the early community and in Jerusalem as the official centre from which the new religion expands. The appearances of Jesus, both in Luke and Acts, are located in or near Jerusalem; the disciples are instructed to wait in Jerusalem until Pentecost, when the adherents of the new movement are to be formally equipped with the Spirit; in the meantime, the waiting company fills the vacancy in the apostolate, so that the new church may be properly and fully officered from the start; and throughout the entire history of the early period the matter of official apostolic supervision is constantly in evidence. It certainly was not the intention of the writer of Acts to dwell upon differences of opinion among early Christians; and, further, it was quite natural that he should so select or interpret his source materials as to indicate that the certainty and stability attaching to his thought of this movement in his own day were but a continuation of an earlier state of affairs. Consequently it is not improbable that there was a disposition on his part to believe that the proper officers of the church had formally approved the Gentile mission from its very inception, and this feeling quite probably influenced his account of the Cornelius incident. But this fact does not warrant us in concluding that Peter did not come into contact with Gentiles at an early date, although he is not likely to have settled formally the ultimate problem of the whole dispute before it was pushed into the foreground by the work of the Judaizers in Pauline territory.

The foregoing discussion suggests another of the main difficulties in the present study, viz. the exact nature of the relationship between Peter and St. Paul. The so-called Tübingen School has placed great stress upon the supposed cleft between these two apostles, the former representing Jewish and the latter Gentile Christianity._ But this way of interpreting early Christian history is open to some serious objections. We have already noted the vital and important place which St. Paul’s Jewish heritage continued to hold in his thinking as a Christian, even to the end of his career. It is a natural, but none the less serious, mistake to assume that the legalistic controversy which bulks so largely in St. Paul’s letters to Galatia and Rome furnishes the proper perspective in which to set the whole of the Apostle’s activity and thinking. In fact, all his extant writings are designed chiefly to meet some occasional or exceptional problem rather than to set forth comprehensively the character and content of his religion. Common possessions and generally accepted items are mentioned only incidentally, if at all, while debated points are treated at length. It is no doubt true that St. Paul strongly insisted upon the Gentiles’ freedom from the ceremonial Law, but still he had much in common with his Jewish predecessors, particularly with Peter. Nor is it correct to think that St. Paul was alone responsible for the whole propagation of the gospel in Gentile lands. The missionary activities of ‘the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas,’ as well as of Barnabas, are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:5; yet it may be that only their fame, and not their actual work, extended to Corinth. But it is plain from Romans that an important church had been established in the capital of the Empire without the aid of St. Paul (cf. Romans 1:8-15). Even in the East he and his immediate companions were not the only workers in the field, and with some of these his relations were altogether friendly (e.g. Acts 18:2; Acts 18:24 ff., Acts 19:1). It is quite inconceivable that Peter, Barnabas, Mark, and others less well known, ceased proclaiming the new faith in different parts of the Mediterranean world at the moment their names disappear from the pages of Acts. Nor is it likely that they confined their efforts exclusively to Jewish territory. But even if they did work only with Jewish audiences in the Diaspora, they would inevitably be brought into contact with Gentiles attending the services of the synagogue as interested outsiders. There were certainly Gentile Christians in the Church at Rome before St. Paul visited the city (e.g. Romans 1:5 f., Romans 1:13, Romans 11:13); and probably these were uncircumcised Gentiles, else the Judaizers would have had no occasion to raise the agitation which St. Paul’s letter is evidently designed to counteract. We must conclude that the Antiochian incident is not a safe criterion by which to judge the entire history of the relationship between Peter and St. Paul, and their respective conceptions of the character of the new movement as a whole.

Still we must ask what relation Peter bore to the various disturbers who from time to time caused St. Paul so much trouble. The Judaizers of Galatia were not, even on St. Paul’s own showing, representatives of Peter, although they may have used his less radical but still evident conservatism for the purposes of their self-authentication. It would have been more nearly correct for them to have laid claim to the authority of James, as perhaps they did, but St. Paul does not even identify their position with that of James. They maintained the absolute necessity of circumcision for all Gentiles, while both Peter and James yielded to St. Paul’s demands for the Gentiles’ freedom. Apparently this was the principle upon which Barnabas had also been working before the Judaizers caused trouble, and there is no reason to suppose that Peter had observed any different practice, in so far as his missionary activities had brought him into contact with Gentiles. It was the work of the reactionary Judaizers that made the problem acute, but in the nascent period of the missionary enterprise the liberal attitude probably prevailed, not by design, but because it was a natural feature in the spontaneous growth of the new movement. Even while the new gospel was being preached to Jews the fundamental condition of membership in the new society was acknowledgment of Jesus’ Lordship; consequently, when Gentiles heard this preaching-at first probably in connexion with the Jewish synagogue-and responded by confessing their belief in the Messiahship of the Risen Jesus, they were straightway reckoned among the chosen company to receive the Lord at His coming. This was the prevalent situation until the Judaizers appeared upon the scene. They represented the ultra-conservative position of certain Jewish converts, but whether or not their propaganda emanated in the first instance from Jerusalem is not perfectly clear. In Pauline territory they seem to have claimed the authority of Jerusalem, but St. Paul put their claim to the test by a personal visit to the mother Church, the result of which demonstrated that the Judaizers were not backed either by James or by Peter. On the secondary question of free intercourse between Jewish and Gentile believers in the same community, particularly at table, James and Peter-the latter at least temporarily-and even Barnabas were less ready to follow St. Paul to the logical conclusion of their common position; but their action in this respect does not at all mean their desertion to the ranks of the Judaizers.

So far as the Judaizing movement is concerned, the situation reflected in Romans is in the main similar to that in Galatians; but in the Corinthian correspondence the opposition to St. Paul seems to have developed new features. This is not the place to discuss at length the perplexing problem of the Corinthian parties; we are here concerned only with the question of Peter’s relation to these factions. The presence of a group of persons in the Corinthian Church who said they were ‘of Peter,’ side by side with groups which affirmed allegiance to Apollos and St. Paul respectively, might imply that Peter, like St. Paul and Apollos, had preached in Corinth. This inference-probably it was only an inference-was drawn by Dionysius of Corinth (c._ a.d. 170), who spoke of this church as ‘the planting of Peter and Paul’ (Eusebius, HE_ II. xxv. 8). Some modern scholars regard this conclusion as historically correct (e.g. K. Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul, London, 1911, p. 112 ff.), but most interpreters are of the opinion that St. Paul’s language does not justify it. He says so little about the Cephas-party, mentioning it only once, or possibly twice (1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22), and then without adequate description, that there is no means of knowing positively whether these sectaries we


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Peter'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/p/peter.html. 1906-1918.

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