In my previous post I gave the evidence that in the early church there were writers who maintained that Cephas and Peter were *not* the same person, despite what is explicitly said in John 1:42.  As some readers have noted to me, that differentiation *may* have been driven by a very clear and certain reason: in Galatians 2 Paul confronts “Cephas” and blasts him for not understanding the Gospel.  Could there have been a major rift between the two most important apostles of early Christianity?  Surely they were more unified than *that*!  Well, if Cephas was not the same person as Peter, it is a much, much smaller problem.  So maybe that is what was driving early Christians to claim there were in fact two figures, the apostle Peter and the other person Cephas.

That post came from a scholarly article I wrote on the topic many years ago.  I’ve decided not to give the entire article here – it gets increasingly technical and rather, uh, boring to general readers.  But I will give here, below, one of the most important parts, where I begin to argue that there is good evidence in Paul’s own writings that Paul, who knew Peter, talks about him as being someone other than Cephas.


I have already shown that it cannot be argued, as one might be inclined to do otherwise, that this tradition (that Peter and Cephas were two different people) derives simply from the ignorance of Christians who did not realize that ”Kephas• and”Petros• are translational equivalents.

The most common view concerning the origin of this tradition is that it derives from an apologetic concern, namely to show that the person whom Paul opposed in Antioch was not the other great apostle of the early church, Peter, but an apostle of much lower standing, Cephas, one of the seventy.  There is a good deal to be said for this view, given the circumstance that several of our sources state explicitly that Paul did in fact confront this otherwise unknown person in Antioch.  At the same time, none of the sources that draws this distinction actually makes anything of it — i.e. none of them uses it for any explicit apologetic ends.  Furthermore, it should be noted that in several of the representatives of this view, including our earliest, the Epistula Apostolorum, Cephas is not one of the seventy at all but is a member of Jesus’ original twelve disciples.

For these reasons, a simpler explanation for the tradition should perhaps be considered at greater length:  it may have derived from …

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