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Bethsaida and Capernaum, Peter and Jewish Identity

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  • Daniel Gaztambide
    Dear Everyone, As of late my research on the historical Peter has been engaged in trying to make some historical and psychological sense of his origins and
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2005
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      Dear Everyone,

      As of late my research on the historical Peter has been engaged in
      trying to make some historical and psychological sense of his origins
      and early life (a speculative reconstruction as best as one can of
      course!).

      A recent publication by Markus Bockmuehl in Chilton & Evans' "The
      Missions of James, Peter, and Paul" (Leiden: Brill, 2005), takes a
      look at the archaeological evidence concerning Bethsaida (which some
      scholars postulate as Peter and his brother Andreas' early home before
      Capernaum, where Peter presumably married), noting a strong
      graeco-roman presence with an almost noexistent or weak jewish
      presence. Bockmuehl writes:

      "Life in a minority context could heighten, as much as it might
      dilute, Jewish national and religious zeal: proof of this is evident
      in the first century Jewish communities of Gomla, Caesarea, Antioch,
      Alexandria and a host of other places. The liminality of the young
      Peter's Judaism may well have left him precariously balanced between a
      potential commitment to nationalism on the one hand and a potential
      openness to a multi-cultural reality on the other" (pg 83)

      Could it be possible that in his early life Peter might have been
      caught between a robust Jewish identity in the face of a gentile
      world, and a passive acceptance of his gentile neighbors and a relaxed
      view towards torah? This might be the case, if Paul's comment in
      Galatians 2:14, that "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and
      not like a Jew." is aimed at Peter's daily living.

      If that were the case, could Peter's ambiguity toward gentiles and
      Jewish nationalism been problematic for him if he moved to Capernaum,
      which is supposedly a more "Jewish" spot? How would the "fact" that he
      came from a Gentile settlement have set with his new practicing Jewish
      neighbors?

      Finally, could there be "a symbolic link between Peter's youth and
      apostolic ministry- between the comprehensive menagerie that in Acts
      he sees lowered from heaven in a fisherman's sail and the
      indiscriminate assortment of fish and animals that had been the diet
      of his Gentile neighbors at Bethsaida [?]" (Pg 84)

      Best to all,

      -Daniel J. Gaztambide
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