Cephas and Peter (Critique of Ehrman & Allison articles in JBL, part 2 of 2)
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).
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
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- bjtraff wrote:
> Actually, Paul calls Peter PETROS in Galatians 2:8, KHFAS inThe appearance of the name "petros" in Galatians 2 is probably due to the fact
> 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.
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
> Brian Trafford
> Calgary, AB, Canada
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