Five years ago on the blog I started a thread that I never quite finished, for reasons long forgotten, but I sometimes get asked about it. It involved an issue that the vast majority of avid Bible readers — including professional scholars — have never even considered. I staked out a position on the issue and then later indicated that I was not completely satisfied with my answer. My plan had been to explain my doubts more fully, but for some odd reason I never posted the explanation. So let’s consider it a five-year cliff-hanger. Even today, I haven’t decided!
I’ve decided to repeat the three relevant posts from 2016, and then go ahead and try to complete the thread. Here’s the first.
I remember your saying that you once – wrongly – entertained a theory about “Cephas” and “Peter” being two different people. I *don’t* remember your explaining why you’d thought that, and what convinced you the theory was wrong. I’d still like to know!
I get asked this question on occasion and I’ve decided to do something unusual (for the blog) to answer it. Years ago I wrote a controversial article on the topic for an academic journal. Here I thought it might be interesting simply to reproduce the article for readers of the blog, over several posts. Among other things, this will show – to anyone who is interested in such things – how a work of scholarship on the New Testament is different from a work presenting scholarship to a general (non-scholarly) audience.
Now that I read through this first part of the article, thinking about how it would “play” to a general audience, I think that the problem is not that it is particularly difficult to understand, but simply that it assumes knowledge that not everyone holds and it does not try particularly hard to make a subject interesting, on the assumption that to scholars it already is interesting. Anyway, see what you think. The rest of the article is probably more inherently interesting, since there (as you’ll see as I reproduce it in the next posts) I argue that there are indeed reasons for thinking that Cephas and Peter were in fact two different persons.
Most ancient authors who discuss the relationship of Cephas and Peter explicitly identify the two, or at least speak of Peter when referring to NT passages that name only Cephas. This is not at all surprising given the unequivocal statement of John 1:42: “You are Cephas (which translated means ‘Peter’).” What ”is surprising is that other early Christian authors, all of whom also knew and used the Fourth Gospel, refused to make this identification, and asserted either explicitly or by implication that there were in fact two different persons, one called Cephas, the other Peter. This dissenting opinion is striking for both its antiquity and its persistence. How ancient is it?
Evidence from the Early Church
It first occurs in the first half of the second century in the Epistula Apostolorum. The author of this pseudepigraph opposes a docetic kind of Christology by penning a letter, ostensibly written after Jesus’ resurrection by the eleven remaining disciples, in which he repeatedly affirms both the fleshliness of Jesus and the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh. Since this author otherwise makes repeated use of the Fourth Gospel, he must have known that “Cephas” and “Peter” refer to the same person. This makes it all the more striking that in his own delineation of the eleven disciples he names Cephas and Peter as two distinct individuals (Epistula Apostolorum, 2).
Somewhat later in the second century
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