Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lewis Lectures 2012 Almost Here

I'm excited about the upcoming Jack P. Lewis Lectures for 2012 that will be hosted by Heritage Christian University, where I work, next Thursday, Nov. 4, at 10am and at 1pm, with lunch between.

This year we're having Allan McNicol come from Austin Graduate School of Theology. Dr. McNicol is well-known for his work on the Gospels and the Book of Revelation, on which he recently published a monograph. He has taught at Austin Grad. for most of his career after getting his PhD from Vanderbilt. He has produced many writings aimed at the church, and for that I am especially appreciative of him. He has important things to say about ecclesiology that Christians in our shared fellowship--the Churches of Christ--need to hear. A sampling of these writings is available on his website.

Dr. McNicol's topic for the JPL Lectures will involve his interest in Revelation and his work on ecclesiology. It should be a great deal of fun. If you're in the Florence, Alabama area next Thursday, please drop by. I'm sure it will be a blessing to you.

UPDATE (27 Sept. 2012): Here's a link with more information. 

A Literal Reading of Genesis 1

I am not going to offer what the title of this post seems to promise. Instead, I'm just going to point to another couple of posts on the topic by some other authors. They reflect on what it means to read texts "literally," and Genesis 1 just happens to be the example they use. First, Mike Heiser asks, "Who's the Literalist Now?" His post prompted further reflections by Chris Heard, who has been reading a lot of Augustine on Genesis lately, which, of course, is always a good idea. So, how did Augustine interpret Genesis 1 "literally" (which he claims to be doing)? Chris Heard has the scoop.

This illustrates once again that it pays to read ancient authors, because what some of us might take for granted as the obvious meaning of the text might not be so obvious to Christians throughout the centuries. Even if we don't adopt pre-critical interpretations, familiarity with these interpretations enables us to ask questions we might not have thought of asking, or might not have felt comfortable asking.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


This past Thursday, I delivered a chapel speech at our school on the Chalcedonian Creed. I am far from an expert in this area, and I am not a part of a church that ascribes much value to the ancient creeds. So this was a bit of a crash course for me in what the creed was and how it came about. To that end, I used with much profit the first volume of Everett Ferguson's Church History. I prepared a handout for the occasion, and as I am unlikely to use it much in the future, I thought I'd post it here in case it might be of use to someone, and so I might find it again if I happen to need it. Here it is.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Wife of Jesus

Somehow I managed not to hear anything about this yesterday, but this morning my Google Reader was brimming with posts about the recent discovery by Karen King (prof. at Harvard Divinity School) of a (possibly) 4th-century Coptic fragment wherein Jesus mentions "my wife".

On the fragment itself, Mark Goodacre has a typically excellent post, with links to pictures of the fragment and much more information. One of the links he includes is to the Harvard Divinity press release, which includes an advance copy of the scholarly paper by Prof. King to be published in Harvard Theological Review. The site also has a transcription and translation of the fragment.

You can get a lot of the story from Jim Davila's post, where he excerpts the Boston Globe's coverage and provides comments. Prov. Davila is "skeptical" of the authenticity of the fragment, though he does not rule out its authenticity and hopes that it is genuine. Of course, he and others know that this fragment can provide no reliable information on the actual marital status of the historical Jesus, it can only tell us how this was viewed by some Christians in later (2nd century? 4th century?) tradition.

As for the question of whether Jesus was married or not, Jim Davila again provides some helpful comments in a post from a few years ago responding to this theme in The DaVinci Code. Here's an excerpt from that older post.
So Jesus' marital status is a mystery. We would expect, a priori, that he would have been married, but the tradition tells us nothing about his wife, if he had one, and I can think of no good reason the Gospel writers would have wanted to hide the fact if he was married. But it would have been unusual, although not unprecedented for a Jewish man of that period to be celibate. Like the Essenes, he may have renounced marriage for the sake of his ministry. Most people assume that this is the case.
UPDATE (20 Sept. 2012): Jim Davila expresses more reservations about the authenticity of the fragment here.  Also, Christian Askeland reports the general impression at the International Association of Coptic Studies conference, now on-going, and outlines several peculiarities about the fragment that may indicate that it is a fake.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Simon Cephas Peter

This post takes up the discussion from yesterday. You'll probably want to look over that post before reading this one.

There are several interesting features about the NT data regarding Peter's names.

Matthew does not have a story about Jesus giving Peter his nickname, unless Matt. 16:18 serves that function (cf. 4:18; 10:2). But other than that single verse, Jesus in Matthew never calls him Peter, but only Simon, though he only calls him Simon a couple times (16:17; 17:25). Peter does not reappear in Matthew's Gospel after his denials in ch. 26. In other words, he does not feature in chs. 27-28 at all, except by implication as part of the Eleven disciples mentioned in 28:7, 8, 10 ("brethren"; or is this literally Jesus' brothers?), 16.

Mark never calls him Simon after he receives the name "Peter" (3:16) until Jesus finds him asleep in Gethsemane (14:37). The verse is very striking because the narrator uses the name Peter, and Jesus uses the name Simon, and these two words appear back-to-back in the Greek (and English).
He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?
On the other hand, this is apparently related to the entire phenomenon of the name for Peter typically used by Jesus, which is actually (and counter-intuitively) Simon. In Mark, Jesus directly addresses Peter by name only once, here in Gethsemane, calling him Simon (14:37). Mark does report that it was Jesus who gave Peter his nickname (3:16). Also, in contrast to Matthew, Peter does make a brief appearance by name (in the mouths of the angels) following the resurrection (16:7).

Luke reports that Jesus gave Peter his nickname (6:14). After that, he is not called "Simon" again until Jesus says:
"Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat" (22:31)
But, after the resurrection, the disciples are still calling him Simon, when they say:
They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" (24:34)

Like Mark and unlike Matthew, Luke has Peter put in a brief named appearance following the resurrection (24:12, 34). Jesus addresses Peter by name as Simon (22:31) and as Peter (22:34). These are the only times in Luke that Jesus calls Peter by name, and they are both within three verses of each other, and they're two different names. And, as I said, the "Eleven" mention him as Simon in 24:34.

John is interesting, too. The references to Peter by his birth-name are most numerous in the Fourth Gospel, though almost always with the double name Simon Peter (see below). This is also the only Gospel that identifies the father of Judas Iscariot as Simon (6:71; 13:2, 26). I don't know if there is anything to that.

John alone among the Gospels actually preserves a story of Jesus giving Peter a nickname, and John uses the Aramaic form of the name, Cephas (1:42). Nevertheless, the rest of the Gospel uses the name Peter or Simon Peter. Jesus never again in John addresses Peter by his nickname. He addresses him as Simon a few times (1:42; 21:15, 16, 17). John uses the form Simon Peter much more than the other Gospels. This double name appears in John 17x, whereas he uses the single name Simon only 5x, four of which are in the mouth of Jesus (1:42; 21:15, 16, 17; the fifth occurrence is 1:41, before the receipt of the nickname), and the single name Peter 15x (1:44; 13:8, 37; 18:11, 16, 17, 18, 26, 27; 20:3, 4; 21:7, 17, 20, 21).

All four Gospels display in their narrative the effect of Jesus' nickname. Matthew twice mentions that Simon is also called Peter (4:18; 10:2), but he otherwise always calls him Peter, except in 16:16 when the narrator calls him Simon Peter, and twice Jesus calls him Simon (16:17; 17:25). Marks introduces Peter under the name Simon (1:16, 29, 30, 36; 3:16), but when he receives the nickname in 3:16, he is thereafter only Peter, until Jesus calls him Simon in Gethsemane (14:37). Luke calls him Simon several times when he first appears in the Gospel (4:38, 5:3, 4, 5, 8 ["Simon Peter"], 10; 6:14), but after he is named Peter in 6:14, he retains that name until Jesus refers to him as Simon in 22:31, just as the "Eleven" also do in 24:34. When Peter is introduced in John, it is as Simon Peter (1:40) or Simon (1:41), but Simon never appears again after Jesus gives him the name Peter in 1:42, except in the double name Simon Peter (17x, by the narrator) and in the mouth of Jesus (21:15, 16, 17). In none of the Gospels is he simply Peter until after the name change is reported.

Peter is the preferred way for the narrators to refer to him in each of the Gospels and in Acts. This seems to apply even to the Fourth Gospel, though the double name Simon Peter actually appears more often. This seems to be editorial, for whatever reason, but the narrator does also slip into calling him simply Peter quite a bit. The narrator never slips into calling him simply Simon after the name change. Simon Peter is also used in Matt. 16:16, where it seems to prepare the way for the two different uses of Peter's name by Jesus (Simon, 16:17; Peter, 16:18). When Luke uses the double name Simon Peter in 5:8, before his report of the name change in 6:14 and in the midst of an account in which he constantly uses the name Simon (4:38, 5:3, 4, 5, 10), it may have been a device to signal to the reader who Luke is talking about, assuming that Luke's readers may have been more familiar with the name Peter.

Thus, with this strong emphasis on the name Peter, it is striking when characters refer to Peter not by his nickname given by Jesus but by his birth name. Indeed, after giving Peter the nickname, Jesus more often refers to him as Simon (Mark 14:37; Matt. 16:17; 17:25; Luke 22:31; John 21:15, 16, 17) than as Peter (Matt. 16:18; Luke 21:34). Also, the "Eleven" refer to him as Simon rather than Peter in Luke 22:34. Even in Acts it seems that he is known as Simon, judging by the Cornelius story in which the phrase "Simon who is called Peter" is used multiple times (10:5, 18, 32; 11:13). And yet, in the same story, the voice in the dream tells "Peter"--calling him by that name--to kill and eat (10:13; cf. 11:7). If the narrator presents Peter as dreaming that God is calling him Peter, does that mean he thinks of himself as a person named Peter?

But then we have Paul, who almost always calls him Cephas. Presumably this means that the Christians in Corinth and Galatia knew Peter by the Aramaic form of his name. After all, Paul represents some Corinthians as declaring "I am of Cephas!" (1Cor. 1:12).

Paul's evidence suggests that Peter was known early--at least, outside of Palestine--by the Aramaic form of his nickname, and the Gospels suggest that by the time they were written, this was being replaced in the tradition with the Greek form. Does this mean that when Paul twice refers to him with the Greek form "Peter" in Gal. 2:7, 8, that this is somewhat innovative and unusual? If so, it would probably have been more rhetorically effective, if indeed Paul is contrasting Peter's nickname with his role in the Antioch affair (Gal. 2:11).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Peter's Names

You know how I like statistics of word usage in the Bible. This falls into that category.

I was reading Galatians 2 today and was struck by Paul's varying names for Peter. He calls Peter by that name twice in this chapter (Gal. 2:7, 8) and nowhere else in his letters. He elsewhere uses the name Cephas, including three times in this very chapter (Gal. 2:9, 11, 14; cf. Gal. 1:18; 1Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5). Otherwise, the name Cephas occurs in the NT only in John 1:42. Paul never calls him Simon.

I was discussing this with my colleague Jeremy Barrier, who suggested that Paul did have a rhetorical point in using the Greek form Peter in Gal. 2:7, 8. That is, this is a context in which Paul is discussing the so-called "pillars" of the church (cf. Gal. 2:9), and he is about to relate a story in which Peter did not live up to his nickname, "rock". So, Paul uses the Greek form a couple of times because the irony would thus resonate with his Galatian readers better than by use of the Aramaic form Cephas.

Here's the data on Peter's names. The parentheses can indicate two things. If there are quotation marks, it gives a more exact account of which name is used in the cited verse. If there are no quotation marks, it means that the name appears in the mouth of that character.

Matthew 4:18; 10:2; 16:16 ("Simon Peter"), 17 (Jesus); 17:25 (Jesus).

Mark 1:16, 29, 30, 36; 3:16; 14:37.

Luke 4:38, 5:3, 4, 5, 8 ("Simon Peter"), 10; 6:14; 22:31 (Jesus); 24:34 (the Eleven).

John 1:40 ("Simon Peter"), 41, 42 (Jesus); 6:8 ("Simon Peter"), 68 ("Simon Peter"); 13:6 ("Simon Peter"), 9 ("Simon Peter"), 24 ("Simon Peter"), 36 ("Simon Peter"); 18:10 ("Simon Peter"), 15 ("Simon Peter"), 25 ("Simon Peter"); 20:2 ("Simon Peter"), 6 ("Simon Peter"); 21:2 ("Simon Peter"), 3 ("Simon Peter"), 7 ("Simon Peter"), 11 ("Simon Peter"), 15 ("Simon Peter"; "Peter", Jesus), 16 (Jesus), 17 (Jesus).

Acts 10:5 (angel), 18 (reported speech by messengers), 32 (Cornelius' report of the angel); 11:13 (Peter reporting Cornelius report of the angel)

2Peter 1:1

John 1:42 (Jesus)
1Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5
Galatians 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14

Matthew 4:18; 8:14; 10:2; 14:28, 29; 15:15; 16:16 ("Simon Peter"), 18 (Jesus), 22, 23; 17:1, 4, 24, 26; 18:21; 19:27; 26:33, 35, 37, 40, 58, 69, 73, 75.

Mark 3:16; 5:37; 8:29, 32, 33; 9:2, 5; 10:28; 11:21; 13:3; 14:29, 31, 33, 37, 54, 66, 67, 70, 72; 16:7.

Luke 5:8 ("Simon Peter"); 6:14; 8:45, 51; 9:20, 28, 32, 33; 12:41; 18:28; 22:8, 34 (Jesus), 54, 55, 58, 60, 61; 24:12.

John 1:40 ("Simon Peter"), 1:42, 44; 6:68 ("Simon Peter"); 13:6 ("Simon Peter"), 8, 9 ("Simon Peter"), 24 ("Simon Peter"), 36 ("Simon Peter"), 37; 18:10 ("Simon Peter"), 11, 15 ("Simon Peter"), 16, 17, 18, 25 ("Simon Peter"), 26, 27; 20:2 ("Simon Peter"), 3, 4, 6 ("Simon Peter"); 21:2 ("Simon Peter"), 3 ("Simon Peter"), 7 ("Simon Peter"), 11 ("Simon Peter"), 15 ("Simon Peter"), 17, 20, 21.

Acts 1:13, 15; 2:14, 37, 38; 3:1, 3, 4, 6, 11, 12; 4:8, 13, 19; 5:3, 8, 9, 15, 29; 8: 14, 20; 9:32, 34, 38, 39, 40, 43; 10:5 (angel), 9, 13 (voice in dream), 14, 17, 18 (reported speech by messengers), 19, 21, 25, 26, 32 (Cornelius reporting of angel), 34, 44, 45, 46; 11:2, 4, 7 (Peter reporting voice in dream), 13 (Peter reporting Cornelius' report of angel); 12:3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 14 (reported speech by Rhoda?), 16, 18; 15:7.

Galatians 2:7, 8.

1Peter 1:1

2Peter 1:1

Simon Peter
(This will include some references above.)

Matthew 16:16
Luke 5:8
John 1:40; 6:8, 68; 13:6, 9, 24, 36; 18:10, 15, 25; 20:2, 6; 21:2, 3, 7, 11, 15.
2Peter 1:1.