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Cephas and Peter (Critique of Ehrman & Allison articles in JBL, part 2 of 2)

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  • David C. Hindley
    Steven, Here is the rest of the post on this exchange between luminaries, where I offer Allison s rebuttal to Ehrman s suggestions: JBL 111 Peter and Cephas:
    Message 1 of 37 , Jun 24, 2002

      Here is the rest of the post on this exchange between
      luminaries, where I offer Allison's rebuttal to Ehrman's

      JBL 111 "Peter and Cephas: One and the Same" 489-95 (1992):
      Allison's response to Ehrman's article is interesting in its
      own right, if only for the rhetoric employed.

      A.1 Allison begins by noting that Ehrman bases his analysis
      on the research of K. Lake, M. Goguel and D. W. Riddle.
      However, he recaps these scholars research as follows:

      A.1.a "Goguel doubted the traditional identification but
      still held it more probable than not."

      A.1.b "Lake believed there was a Simon Cephas and a Simon

      A.1.c Riddle's article was "confused and confusing", and
      seems to "strongly imply" that "Galatians 2 indicates that
      there was a Peter and a Cephas" in the beginning of the
      article, while seeming to conclude "that there was a Simon
      and a Cephas." [I think he is criticizing the fact that this
      makes it look like Riddle uncritically equated Simon and
      Peter, but I am not sure why, since it would appear that
      Allison also makes this same - and probably correct -

      Next, Allison proceeds to recap Ehrman's article (E1, E2, C1
      and particularly Ehrman's responses E(C1)a and E(C1)b).

      Allison responds:

      A(E(C1)b) He does not have difficulty imagining that
      apologists could have wished to salvage Peter's reputation
      at the expense of tarnishing that of the twelve. There was
      much debate in the 2nd & 3rd centuries over Peter's
      theological and ecclesiastical heritage, but nary any
      controversy over the heritage of the twelve.

      A(E(C1)a) He separates the genesis of an apologetic
      tradition from its subsequent use. The implication, which is
      really not stated by Allison, is that an apologetic origin
      may still underlay these statements, although the statements
      themselves are not used in a polemical manner.

      A(E1-2)a He lists several accounts in early Christian
      literature where a polemical motive concerning Cephas' or
      Peter's heritage can indeed be discerned.

      A(E1-2)b He also notes that those traditions which speak of
      Cephas and Peter as two different individuals do not seem to
      be aware that they had "removed a great stumbling block".

      A(E(C1)a,b) He first asks a rhetorical question: Even if
      those early writers, by means of "careful reading of the
      NT", reached the same conclusion as Ehrman, "were those
      Christians correct?" The implication, of course, is that
      they were not.

      Ehrman's thesis is then outlined (utilizing only E3b, which
      is supported by E(C4), and E4a).

      In response, Allison says:

      A(E(C4)) "1 Cor 15:5 does not *exclude* the possibility
      that Cephas was one of the twelve", as the text alone cannot
      settle the matter.

      A(E4a) "Gal 2:8 cannot be proof that Peter never ministered
      to Gentiles, just as it cannot be proof that Paul never
      occupied himself with Jews." In support, he noted that Gal
      2:9 states that Cephas is to "go to the circumcised" while
      Gal 2:12 has Cephas eating with Gentiles at Antioch, and
      which Ehrman did not treat.

      A(E3b) That the use of multiple names for the same person
      is not as unusual as Ehrman implies. Examples are given: 1)
      Joseph & Aseneth 22:2 (Jacob = Israel), 2) Mark 14:37 (Peter
      = Simon), 3) Luke 22:31 (Simon = Peter). Allison suggests
      that variations of names in these examples can, at least in
      part, be ascribed as stylistic traits of the authors.

      A(E(C2)b)a The employment of characteristically Pauline
      language in a description of the contents of a hypothetical
      "pre-Pauline text" at Gal 2:7 was not a problem for H. D.
      Betz in his 1979 rhetorical analysis of Galatians. Betz's
      reasoning is that "rather than 'quoting' from the written
      protocol, Paul reminds the readers of the agreements by
      using the terms upon which the parties had agreed" (i.e., he
      paraphrased the terms of the agreement in his own language).

      A(E(C2)b)b Allison suggests that the proposal that this
      verse as an allusion to the material embedded in Matt
      16:17-19 may "perhaps have something to be said" for it, and
      notes that Pseudo Clementine Homilies 17:19 combines clear
      allusions to Matt 16:18 and Gal 2:11 in a manner consistent
      with this proposal.

      Finally, Allison offers his own reasons for taking Cephas
      and Peter as a single individual:

      A1a The underlying meaning of the names Peter (stone,
      sometimes rock) and Kephas (rock, stone) make the names near
      synonyms. Since known pre-Christian sources use Aramaic Kepa
      as a name only once, and PETROS not at all (although he
      notes that C. C. Caragounis stated that "in view of the
      predilection of the ancients for names derived from
      PETROS/PETRA ... it is only natural to suppose that PETROS
      was in existence [in pre-Christian times], though no
      examples of it before the Christian era have turned up as
      yet", and he "can demonstrate pagan use of the name in the
      first and second centuries CE"), he thinks it highly
      unlikely that there could be two men with such rare

      A1b If Aramaic Kepa was a nickname rather than a birth
      name, it is to be expected that the Aramaic name will be
      translated for the benefit of Greek-speaking Christians.
      Examples are given: Acts 9:36 (TABIQA <transliterating
      Aramaic tabyeta> = DORKAS); John 11:16, 20:24, 21;2 (QWMAS =
      DIDUMOS <translating Aramaic toma>; Mark 3:17 (BOANHRGES =
      "sons of thunder"); and Luke 6:15/Acts 1:13 (hO ZHLWTHS
      probably translates Aramaic qan'an).

      A2 The author of John 1:42 knew of a tradition in which one
      person, Simon, was also called "Cephas" and "Peter".
      Objections that the author of John 1:42 and/or his tradition
      may have conflated Peter and Cephas because the names mean
      the same thing are dismissed as "sheer speculation, and the
      more dubious given that John's tradition seems to have had
      independent and presumably reliable information about
      several of Jesus' first followers (e.g., Jesus drew
      disciples from the Baptist movement; Philip and Andrew and
      Peter were from Bethsaida; Simon was the "son of John"; see
      1:35-36, 42, 44)." The implication is that he can be trusted
      here as well.

      A3 While the present form of the gospels relate nothing
      about Peter being the first to see the resurrected Jesus,
      Luke 24:34, relating the experiences of the two unnamed
      disciples while on the road to Emmaus, has them tell the
      disciples "[t]he Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to
      Simon". If the appearance to the women is discounted (and I
      will momentarily duck), and Simon is considered to be Simon
      Peter, then the author of Luke is giving Peter the same
      distinction that the author of 1 Cor 15:5 does to Cephas.

      A4 The grouping of "James and Cephas and John" as "pillars"
      in Gal 2:9 is paralleled in Acts by the pairing of Simon
      Peter "with John (e.g., Acts 3:1-26; 4:1-31; 8:14), once
      with James (15:1-21); and the three men are clearly the
      dominant figures among the so-called "Hebrews" (1;13,15-26;
      2:1-42; ..." just as were the "Pillars" mentioned in

      A5 If Peter is not Cephas, why "do the traditions in Acts
      have nothing at all to say about the latter?" The
      implication is that they should have, but do not, and thus
      cast doubt upon the idea. He asks how a person with the kind
      of authority ascribed to Cephas in Galatians, or who had
      important contacts with the Corinthian converts, could
      "manage to leave no sure trace of himself in the NT apart
      from Paul's epistles?" He implies that the only alternative
      to assuming Cephas and Peter are one and the same person is
      to assume that "apart from Paul's epistles, every tradition
      about Cephas came to be, through conscious or unconscious
      error, a tradition about Peter".

      A6 "Paul says that Peter was an "apostle" entrusted with
      the mission to the circumcision (Gal 2:8). Paul says that
      Cephas was an "apostle" entrusted with the ministry to the
      circumcision (Gal 1:18-19; 2:9)."

      A7 1 Clement, presumed by Allison to be an "early witness",
      while not directly equating Peter with Cephas, speaks of
      Peter using language that is drawn from language employed in
      Paul's writings as they relate to Cephas (1 Clem 47:3 from 1
      Cor 1:12; and 1 Clem 5:7 from Gal 2:9).

      A8 Allison lists 10 parallels between Peter and Cephas:


      1) Both mean "rock" (A1)
      2) The lord appeared first to both of them (A3)
      3) Both were Jews and prominent leaders of the primitive
      Jerusalem community (A4)
      4) Both were associated with James and John (also A4)
      5) Both participated in the Gentile mission (A6)
      6) Both were married (Mark 1:30 & 1 Cor 9:5)
      7) Both were of "fickle character" (Mark 14 & Gal 1-2)
      8) Both knew Paul personally (Acts 15 & Gal 1-2)
      9) Both were itinerant missionaries (Acts 1-15 & 1 Cor
      1:12; 3:22, etc)
      10) Both came into conflict with Jerusalem Christians over
      eating with the uncircumcised (Acts 11 & Galatians 2)

      Allison is polite enough, and makes no effort to
      misrepresent Ehrman's position(s) as far as I can see. Like
      Ehrman, he employs some rhetorical figures, notably Tragedy
      (in an Ironic sort of way) to describe Ehrman's quest (A1)
      to revitalize a position that has already been, in Allison's
      eyes, discredited. The implication is that Ehrman, through
      his own tragic flaw, is championing a lost cause. Later, in
      the section where he offers his own evidence for the
      equation of Cephas & Peter, he indirectly belittles Ehrman's
      presumed response (to A2) by Satirically characterizing it
      as "mere speculation" and "dubious". It looks like Allison
      has turned Ehrman's characterizations of scholars holding
      the traditional positions back upon Ehrman himself, although
      in a somewhat more subdued manner.

      Of Ehrman's positions, Allison treats the following:

      Allison - Ehrman

      YES - E1
      YES - E2
      YES - E(C1)a
      YES - E(C1)b
      NO - E3a (What is "obvious", although Allison does chide
      him about what is "obvious" from reading the NT, and this is
      hardly an argument that requires a refutation)
      YES - E3b
      NO - E(C2)a (Gal 2:7-8 is in the first person, but perhaps
      I'm missing it somewhere)
      YES - E(C2)b
      NO - E(C2)c (Use of "Peter" as proof that a document
      underlies Gal 2:7-8, as circular. This is apparently an
      argument that Allison did not have a response for.)
      YES - E(C4)
      YES - E4a
      NO - E4b (Except perhaps indirectly through A(E4a)
      NO - E4c (Except perhaps indirectly through A(E4a)
      NO - E5.1-5 (I do not begrudge Allison for not dealing with
      E5.1-5 as these presume Ehrman's position is correct, and
      Allison does not accept it).

      As for Allison's own arguments (A(E3b), and A1-8), I found
      his evidence to be flawed.

      In A(E3b): Israel is a surname for the proper name Jacob,
      and Peter is a surname for Simon. We are not then comparing
      Gal 2:7-8 with possible stylistic uses of two surnames, but
      of possible stylistic uses of a surname with a proper name.
      It may be a subtle difference, but we cannot rule out the
      possibility that it is a significant difference.
      [Additionally, Steven, you mention Acts. However, there
      should be a difference in how we evaluate a semi-historical
      document that probably incorporated sources and a personal

      A1: In the examples given, both forms are associated by an
      explanation. This is not the case in Gal 1-2.

      A2: "Sheer speculation" goes both ways. Whether the
      traditions about Jesus' followers truly derive from
      "reliable" information, is just as much a speculation as is
      one that assumes that traditions about two individuals,
      Peter and Cephas, could have been conflated in the minds of
      some later Christians. Is this a case of "my speculation is
      better than your speculation?" For one party to call another
      party's assumption "speculation" in a pejorative manner
      while not acknowledging that theirs is also speculative, is
      not a good practice, as there is no good way to weigh
      probabilities in historical cases such as these.

      A3: Why discount Jesus' appearance to the women? Why should
      we automatically assume that "Simon" *has* to mean "Simon
      Peter"? Because it confirms what we already assume? The
      alternatives are not being discussed, because they do not
      support the contention. That is not a good thing to do

      A4 & 6: Both Ehrman and Allison have completely disregarded
      any possibility that Gal 2:7-8 could be in whole or in part
      interpolations (by copyists, redactors, etc). Interpolation
      theories can offer alternative answers to these
      associations. I do not like to see evidence manipulated like
      this. If a whole class of options is not considered, and the
      whole discussion gets reduced to competing theories that
      both uphold the text as we have it, then the argument is
      rigged. Again, not a good thing to do...

      A7: This presumes that 1 Clement is a unaltered letter from
      antiquity, which is certainly not a sure thing. I will even
      concede that the language used of Peter in 1 Clement is
      drawn from passages in Galatians and 1 Corinthians relating
      to Cephas, but I will not so easily concede that 1 Clement,
      and these two passages in particular, are from "Clement's"
      own late 1st century hand. But this is another matter.

      A8: Allison himself says "I freely concede that they [i.e.,
      his parallels in A8.1-10] do not, in the strict sense, prove
      that Peter was Cephas." By extension, all his arguments
      against Ehrman's positions are not "proved".

      To Allison, whether he or Ehrman has proved anything
      "matters little, for apodictic certainty is beyond our
      reach: as historians we trade only in probabilities." And
      that is true, but I would like to see more acknowledgment of
      the *other* possibilities when so much effort is channeled
      into academic discussions. Allison's responses were adequate
      and appropriate, but do not disprove Ehrman's position(s).
      IMHO, both these scholars seem more concerned with
      preserving the text of Gal 2:7-8 than solving the problem.

      Sorry to go on so. I just find debates like that very


      Dave Hindley
      Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    • Karel Hanhart
      ... The appearance of the name petros in Galatians 2 is probably due to the fact that Paul was writing to a community with some (or many) Greek speaking
      Message 37 of 37 , Jul 4, 2002
        bjtraff wrote:

        > Actually, Paul calls Peter PETROS in Galatians 2:8, KHFAS in
        > Galatians 2:9, and PETROS again in 2:11 and 2:14, linking the two
        > names to the same person. He calls him KHFAS (but not PETROS) four
        > times in 1 Corinthians (the only other place that Peter is mentioned
        > in Paul's letters). The only other NT author to link the two names
        > is John (in 1:42, linking KHFAS to the name PETROS from verse 40).
        > So far as I am aware, the case has never been made that Paul learned
        > this Aramaic name for Peter from John, nor vice versa.
        > Based on this evidence, the names Cephas and Peter do appear to
        > belong to the same person.

        The appearance of the name "petros" in Galatians 2 is probably due to the fact
        that Paul was writing to a community with some (or many) Greek speaking members
        not able to understand the Aramaic Cephas. Hence IMHO Paul translated the term
        with "petros" amd Mark followed him throughout his Gospel (the oldest Gospel we

        Karel Hanhart

        > Peace,
        > Brian Trafford
        > Calgary, AB, Canada
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