I have devoted a few posts to the relationship of / competition between Peter and Mary in early Christian traditions. I conclude by posing a rather significant question. Peter, of course, has traditionally been seen as the “rock” on which Christ built his church, the very foundation of Christianity (Matt. 16:18 – “You are Peter (Greek: petros) and upon this rock (Greek: petra) I will build my church.”). And indeed, according to 1 Cor. 15: 3-5, Peter was the first to see the resurrected Jesus (and realize he had been raised from the dead), and that is the very beginning of Christianity. But what if the Gospels are right, that Mary actually was the first. Wouldn’t it make better sense, then, to say that Mary started Christianity?
Here is how I talk about the matter in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene:
There is no doubt that Peter became dominant as the leader of the church early in the Christian movement, and Mary receded into the background. We have scores of passages that talk about Peter, his involvement with Jesus during his life, and his leadership of the church after his death. And scarcely any reference to Mary.
Somewhat ironically, this is what makes a number of scholars conclude that the religion actually started with Mary, rather than Peter. The logic is this: later storytellers were fully aware of Peter’s vast importance to the burgeoning Christian movement. How could they not be? He was the main figure during Jesus’ ministry, one of the inner circle, the leader of the Twelve. And after Jesus’ death he became the head of the church in Jerusalem and eventually the main missionary to the Jewish people. He along with the apostle Paul was responsible for the spread of the religion from its tiny, inauspicious beginnings to its relative triumph throughout the empire. Peter was huge.
And what about Mary? She was…
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