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The Books of Peter

I return now to the thread I had been working on before devoting the last few posts to the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke.  If you recall, some time ago I indicated that I had become a bit obsessed with a rather interesting if largely unasked question, of why the Apocalypse of Peter did not make it into the New Testament but the book of 2 Peter did.

When I started on that thread, I thought it would take three or four posts, but as I got into it I realized that more and more background information was needed – and it turned into a rather longish thread, not only about what the Apocalypse of Peter is about (the first Christian account we have of a guided tour of heaven and hell, given to the apostle Peter himself, where he sees the glories of heaven for the saints and, in far more graphic detail, the torments of hell for the sinners) – but also about how we got the New Testament at all, that is, how, when, and why certain books were chosen to be included and others not.   There is a lot more to be said about the process of canon, but I’ve said enough for now for this thread.

Throughout the thread I’ve been dancing around the central question it started with because even to begin answering it requires all sorts of background information.   Now I want to start addressing it head on.   Here’s the issue at heart:

  1. There are a lot of books from early Christianity that claim to be written by Jesus’ closest disciple, Simon Peter: 1 Peter, 2 Peter, the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Preaching of Peter, the Letter of Peter to James, and so on.The rest of this post is for blog members only.  If you don’t belong yet, there are still eight shopping days before Christmas.  Treat yourself!  Your entire membership fee goes to charity, so why not?
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How Would an Early Christian “Know” Which Books Peter Wrote?
An Intriguingly Legendary Account of Jesus’ Death

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Euler  December 17, 2018

    When searching for your scholarly books, is it always the case that I can identify such a text by publisher? Oxford, SBL,etc. are the scholarly works, while those by Harper and Simon and Schuster are geared towards the general reader?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      Yup, that’s a rule of thumb. The problem is that I published a bunch of books for general readers with Oxford!

  2. Avatar
    ajhuff  December 17, 2018

    This sounds awesome!

  3. Avatar
    AstaKask  December 17, 2018

    Not relevant to this post, but can we make requests? I would like to know the difference between Matthew’s and Paul’s view of the Law (assuming there is a difference).

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      Yup, very big point of disagreement. I’ll add it to my list of things to post on down the line!

  4. Avatar
    jogon  December 17, 2018

    Hi Prof Ehrman, off topic but what is the source of the legend that Igantius knew John? Doing some reading the first mention of this claim seems to be the Martrydom of Ignatius which is first attested in c500AD? Can you shed any light on the matter?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      That’s a good question; I was going to say Irenaeus, who makes the point about Polycarp and John. But now I’m not so sure. The Martyrdom of Ignatius is a second century work.

      • Avatar
        jogon  December 18, 2018

        Don’t think it’s in irenaeus, would be interested to know

  5. Avatar
    James Chalmers  December 17, 2018

    https://brians.wsu.edu/2016/05/31/shoe-in/
    It’s shoo, not shoe.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      Ha! I’ve made that mistake before on the blog! Corrected now!

  6. Avatar
    stokerslodge  December 17, 2018

    Bart, I don’t understand how the church went about deciding which books would made up the New Testament canon. Could you provide some background on how they managed to come to a consensus on such an important issue? Was it discussed and debated in any of the church councils? Was the final decision made by Bishops and Popes? Was there any input by ordinary lay Christians? What was the process? Can you PLEASE shed some light on the matter?🙏 Thank you.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      Today’s post is a start. (I talk about it on the blog elsewhere. Search for “canon”)

  7. Avatar
    fishician  December 17, 2018

    Has anyone compiled a list of the lists? That is, tried to account for all the lists early Christians composed of which books were to be considered sacred writings, with associated dates? It would be interesting to see all that laid out in one reference source.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      Yup, there are a lot of studies doing this kind of thing. The classic study is by Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament. Filled with valuable information like this.

  8. Avatar
    brenmcg  December 17, 2018

    Do you think 2 Peter 3:1 “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you” is referring to 1 Peter?

    Also do you think the writer of 2 Peter wrote it and then sent it hoping the receiver would be convinced it was authentic or do you think they held on to it and showed it around claiming it had been sent by peter years earlier.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      1. Yes; 2. Unfortunately we don’t know how he did it (or how the other authors of “Petrine” works did.

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  December 19, 2018

        1 Peter ends saying the letter will be delivered by Silas which if it was a forgery probably means it wasn’t sent

        • Bart
          Bart  December 19, 2018

          It was a common technique among forgers to include fictitious information about how the book was written and put in circulation.

  9. Avatar
    brenmcg  December 17, 2018

    Hi – off topic question if thats ok –

    Matthew 24:17 has “Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house” and the parallel in Mark 13:15 has “Let no one on the housetop go down nor (μηδὲ) enter the house to take anything out.”

    Matthew’s Jesus warns people to flee Jerusalem without gethering any of their possissions, Mark however seems to misunderstand the meaning here and almost comically has Jesus warn those standing on the housetops to remain on them when the end-times come.

    Do you think the best explanation here is that Mark is editing Matthew’s text and making it worse?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      Matthew appears to be clarifying an ambiguous statement in mark.

      • Avatar
        brenmcg  December 19, 2018

        Its not ambiguous in Mark, its a miscomprehension. He’s clearly not the original author of the line and edits it in a way that makes no sense.

        Why would Mark edit something to make it worse? who knows, but he does edit it.

        The original version is probably the same as what is in Matthew.

        Taken in isolation this verse points to Matthew being prior to Mark.

        • Robert
          Robert  December 19, 2018

          brenmcg: “Why would Mark edit something to make it worse? who knows, but he does edit it.”

          He wouldn’t. If you cannot come up with a rationale for Mark changing the text, then there’s no reason for thinking his text is secondary. If this were a text-critical discussion, Mark’s text would be lectio difficilior, but not impossible or incomprehensible. Both Mark and Matthew have in mind an ancient house in which the roof was accessed by an external staircase or ladder, which one had to descend in order to enter the house from the roof. The δε in Mark’s μηδε should be understood as a simple connective and not be translated as ‘or’ since one would indeed need to descend in order to flee. Matthew has smoothed out Mark’s pleonastic phrasing and syntax.

          • Avatar
            brenmcg  December 21, 2018

            *If you cannot come up with a rationale for Mark changing the text …*
            I can come with a rationale – Mark is doing what most plagiarists do and making a small edit to a text they are copying which he thinks wont affect the meaning; nobody likes being a mere copyist. Mark also does this elsewhere in his gospel. Unfortunately for Mark he has made a glaring error here with this edit, demonstrating a misundertanding of the original concept and changing the meaning to something ridiculous.

            The μηδὲ in 13:15 should be translated as it always is in the rest of Mark and the rest of the new testament – “nor” “neither”. The translation shouldn’t be changed only when it causes problems for a preferred theory.

            One does indeed need to descend in order to flee but Mark’s use of μηδὲ shows he didnt get it – he wasn’t the original author and he has edited some original text to make it worse.

            But if we have single example of Mark editing an original text to make it worse then half the evidence for Markan priority should simply evaporate.

        • Robert
          Robert  December 23, 2018

          brenmcg: “I can come with a rationale – Mark is doing what most plagiarists do and making a small edit to a text they are copying which he thinks wont affect the meaning; nobody likes being a mere copyist. Mark also does this elsewhere in his gospel. Unfortunately for Mark he has made a glaring error here with this edit, demonstrating a misundertanding of the original concept and changing the meaning to something ridiculous.”

          This is a nonsense explanation. There is no glaring error in Mark’s text, just a typical pleonastic stylistic trait of Mark. Check out Frans Neirynck’s Duality in Mark.

          “The μηδὲ in 13:15 should be translated as it always is in the rest of Mark and the rest of the new testament – “nor” “neither”. The translation shouldn’t be changed only when it causes problems for a preferred theory.”

          It would be stupid to slavishly translate such particles in the same way everywhere they appear. You are showing your ignorance both of Greek and of good translation practice. This connective sense of μηδέ and δέ is perfectly legitimate and can be found easily elsewhere in Mark and other books of the NT.

          “One does indeed need to descend in order to flee but Mark’s use of μηδὲ shows he didnt get it – he wasn’t the original author and he has edited some original text to make it worse.”

          Only if one assumes Mark’s knowledge of Greek is as bad as your own.

          “But if we have single example of Mark editing an original text to make it worse then half the evidence for Markan priority should simply evaporate.”

          Why assume Mark is making a text worse? Pure assumption on your part.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 24, 2018

            I’m afraid it’s hard to argue about the meaning of a foreign language without being able to read it…

          • Avatar
            brenmcg  December 24, 2018

            *It would be stupid to slavishly translate such particles the same way everywhere they appear … This connective sense of μηδὲ and δὲ is perfectly legitimate and can be found easily anywhere in Mark and other books of the NT*

            There are 5 examples of Mark using μηδὲ in addition to 13:15 – 2:2, 3:20, 6:11, 8:26, 12:24

            And two senses in which it is used – “not/nor” eg 6:11 “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you” and “not even” eg 3:20 “…and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat”.

            Either sense used for 13:15 shows the secondary nature of Mark.
            “Let no one on the housetop go down nor enter the house to take anything out.”
            “Let no one on the housetop go down not even enter the house to take anything out.”

            The actions of “going down” and “entering the house” shouldn’t be distinguished – they are a single action in Matthew.
            I’m not sure how it being used as a connective would change that – I’m not sure how you want to translate it?

            *Why assume Mark is making a text worse? Pure assumption on your part*
            I’m not assuming Mark is making a text worse, I’m assuming the KJV NIV and RSV are correct translations. From that I’m concluding Mark is making an error when editing Matthew and making the text worse.

            Ps – I appreciate the replies! happy christmas!

          • Avatar
            brenmcg  December 24, 2018

            Bart *I’m afraid it’s hard to argue about the meaning of a foreign language without being able to read it …*

            If I was just arguing for my own esoteric translation I’d agree with you, but I’m using the translations like KJV NIV and RSV.

            “And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house”
            “Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out.”
            “let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away”

            All of which show the secondary nature of Mark.

            Thanks for the replies – Happy Christmas!

          • Bart
            Bart  December 25, 2018

            Yes, it’s best to use a range of English translations, but I would not include the KJV among those you choose. Lots of other good, modern ones. Even so, it’s hard to explain the nuances of the Greek to someone who doesn’t know the language.

        • Robert
          Robert  December 25, 2018

          brencmg: “Ps – I appreciate the replies! happy christmas!”

          You’re welcome and Merry Christmas to you too. In order to help you better understand the issues involved in your attempts to learn Greek and not confuse this noble endeavor with trying to oppose the great majority of NT scholarship on the priority of Mark, I have started a thread here: https://ehrmanblog.org/forum/the-new-testament-gospels/brenmcg-why-would-mark-edit-something-to-make-it-worse-robert-he-wouldnt/#p7055

          It will be much easier for me to help you in a dedicated thread.

  10. Lev
    Lev  December 18, 2018

    I’m really glad you’re completing this thread – I can’t wait to read the conclusions you come to.

    What’s your sense over how many (%) of critical scholars hold that 1 Peter was genuine?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      I really don’t know! The majority I should think, but I have no data on it.

  11. Avatar
    HenriettePeterson  December 18, 2018

    I know you disagree with this, but let’s say at least 1 Peter was written by Peter. What’s the ratio of forgeries written in his name (we know of) vs. books written by him? So it should be “X : 1”

    • Bart
      Bart  December 18, 2018

      We don’t know how many Petrine books were in circulation. But of the ones that survive, if 1 Peter is the only one that is authentic, then it would be something like 5:1 or so?

      • Avatar
        HenriettePeterson  December 18, 2018

        Well, you wrote:
        ” 1 Peter, 2 Peter, the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Preaching of Peter, the Letter of Peter to James, and so on.”
        I thought the “so on” is a definite number of other books we know of. So these 6 books is it?

        • Bart
          Bart  December 19, 2018

          Yeah, I was just covering myself: was doing it from memory and couldn’t remember off the top of my head any others….

  12. Avatar
    nichael  December 18, 2018

    A quick aside concerning item#9 above (”… [scholarship] about the [poosible] relationship of 2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter”)

    Could you suggest a pointer/reference for any possibly interested parties?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 19, 2018

      The article on “2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter,” in Richard Bauckham’s book The Fate of the Dead.

  13. Avatar
    brenmcg  December 26, 2018

    I dont think the nuances of greek are the issue – “neither go down nor enter his house” is a possible translation and the one most used by translators. The majority translation of mark 13:15 causes a problem for markan priority.

  14. Avatar
    Joel Smith  January 23, 2019

    Speaking of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostle Peter explains that Christ was “put to death in the flesh (SARX), but made alive in the Spirit (PNEUMA).” -1 Peter 3:18 (Interlinear Bible) Or in other words, Peter taught that when Jesus’ flesh body died… he was resurrected “in the Spirit”— in a spirit body.
    And, as you know, in 1Corinthians 15 Paul said that when Jesus, the “last Adam”, died he was resurrected as “a life giving spirit”. Neither Peter nor Paul ever said that Jesus’ or anyone else’s resurrection was physical or in the flesh.

    In 2 Peter he endorses the writings of Paul. (differences in literary style between the two letters may be attributed to the use of a secretary.) Peter & Paul both lived in Rome together at the end of their lives and considering that Peter refers to Paul as “my friend and brother” it certainly would presume frequent interaction. If Paul lived the last two years of his life in a rented house in Rome, it’s not unlikely that Peter may have sometimes stayed in Paul’s house with him.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 25, 2019

      In the flesh, no. Physical, absolutely yes. That’s Paul’s major emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15. Christ is raised in a spiritual *body*. That means the body that was resurrected (a real body) was made of “pneuma” (= spirit) not of “sarx” (= flesh). Pneuma is a more highly refined form of matter than sarx. But they are both kinds of matter.

      • Avatar
        Joel Smith  February 3, 2019

        In 2 Cor 5 Paul explains resurrection in even more detail. He says that you have to leave your body behind before you can go to heaven… presumably in your new “spirit body”. When an individual dies their body is “changed” into a “heavenly body” that is not physical or tangible. Flesh, blood & bone bodies can’t go to heaven.
        When Jesus died he became a “life giving spirit”. Jesus died in the flesh & was raised in the spirit.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 4, 2019

          It’s a much debated passage, as it turns out. I’ll be talking about it in my forthcoming book on the afterlife (I have a chapter on Paul’s views).

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