SIMON CEPHAS (better known as PETER):
By: Kaufmann Kohler
The first of the Twelve Apostles; the chief disciple of Jesus and head of the early Church. His life became at an early stage the subject of popular legends, which extended even to his name. Besides the name of Simon, which had come into use in place of the Biblical "Simeon," he had, in accordance with the custom of the time, the second name of "Kaipha" (Aramaic equivalent for "rock"; whence the Latin "Petrus," from "petra" = "rock"). As legend would have it afterward, Jesus gave him this second name to signify that upon him, as upon a rock, his church should be built (Luke vi. 14; Matt. xvi. 18; John i. 42; Mark iii. 12 significantly omits the reason; comp. Midr. Yalḳ. i. 766 on Num. xxiii. 9: "Upon Abraham as top of the rocks God said I shall build my kingdom"). Simon, the son of Jonah (John i. 42; Matt. xvi. 17), was, like his brother Andrew, a fisherman of Capernaum, or of Bethsaida near by (John i. 44), on the Lake of Gennesaret in Galilee.
According to John i. 35-42, Jesus, at the time of his own baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, met the two brothers as disciples of John, and afterward bade them follow him to Galilee. According to the synoptic Gospels, which slightly differ from one another (Matt. iv. 18-22; Mark i. 16-20; Luke v. 1-11), Jesus met them on the Lake of Galilee at the beginning of his career, while they were casting nets from their boats, and told them to follow him and become "fishers of men." The house of Peter in Capernaum is represented by the synoptic Gospels as the starting-point and center of Jesus' activity. Peter's mother-in-law is the first person mentioned as having been cured by Jesus, and to Peter's house all the sick and demoniacs were brought in the evening of the Sabbath to be healed (Mark i. 29-34 and parallels). "Simon and they that were with him followed" Jesus thence throughout Galilee (Mark i. 36-39), and the latter, on his return, again stayed in Peter's house, and ever afterward did there his work of healing in Capernaum (Mark ii. 1, 15; iii. 20; ix. 33). Peter is the favorite disciple, who is always found at the side of Jesus (ib. v. 37; ix. 2; xiv. 33, 54), and who is foremost in addressing him or acting for him (ib. ix. 5, xiv 29-31; Luke viii. 45, xii. 41, xxii. 8).He Pronounces Jesus the Messiah.
As the main reason, however, for the prominence (Matt. x. 2) and, afterward, the primateship accorded to Peter, the fact is stated that in answer to Jesus' question, "Whom say ye that I am," he, alone of all the disciples, declared him to be the Messiah, "the anointed of God" (Matt. xvi. 13-20; Luke ix. 18-21; Mark viii. 27-30); and, according to Matthew, the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," with the power of Binding and Loosing, were given to him by Jesus on that occasion. The real history underlying this legend is that Peter is mentioned by Paul (I Cor. xv. 5) and in older traditions (Mark xvi. 7; John xxi. 1-21; comp. Matt. xxviii. 16; Luke xxiv. 12, 34) as the first among the disciples who "saw" the departed Christ. On the other hand, while Jesus was alive Peter is represented as having encountered severe rebukes from his master for his lack of faith and his false zeal, as well as for his listlessness, for his antagonistic attitude at first, and for his cowardly fear at the critical hour (Mark viii. 32, xiv. 30-42, 54-72; Luke xxii. 31; John xviii. 10-11). As a matter of fact, Peter early became as much an object of popular legend as did Jesus his master. Thus, in Matt. xiv. 22-33 Peter walks on the water in the same manner as Jesus does (the original legend is found in John xxi. 1-24; comp. Luke v. 3-9); in the transfiguration story (Matt. xvii. 1-8) he stands out prominently; and he plays the chief rôle in the story of the coin found in the fish's mouth (Matt. xvii. 24-27). Both Matthew (xv. 15, xvii. 21) and Luke (viii. 25, xxii. 8), representing the older tradition, put him in the foreground, while the Pauline and Johannean traditions pushed him more and more into the background (John xiii. 24, xxi. 21, et al.).Head of the Church.
While the acts recorded of Peter (in Acts i. 15, ii. 14 et seq., iii. 1-11, iv. 8 et seq., v. 29 et seq., viii. 14 et seq., ix. 32, x. 1-xi. 18, xv. 4 et seq.) can not claim historical character, the fact can not be questioned that he occupied the position of head of the Church of Jerusalem. As such, with his authority as the foremost disciple of Jesus, he exerted a determining influence upon thecharacter and organization of the Church; so much so that the Judæo-Christians in Corinth called themselves, in opposition to the church Paul had organized there, the church "of Cephas" (I Cor. i. 12). At the same time he was regarded only as one of the Twelve Apostles (Acts i. 14, ii. 14, v. 2, vi. 2), and in their name he speaks (Acts iv. 8, 19; v. 2, 29) in defense of the Church and hurls forth his anathemas against the transgressors (Acts viii. 20), the Holy Spirit always prompting his speeches and his acts. But he was also sent forth as a missionary through the land of Judea and Samaria (ib. viii. 14, ix. 32, x. 9), where many stories circulated among the people of the supernatural cures he performed, of his miraculous escapes from prison (ib. iii., ix., xii.), and of conversions of Gentiles: these could hardly have been inventions of the writer of the Acts. From I Cor. ix. 5 it may be learned that he, like other apostles, used to travel with his wife on his missionary journeys while he was supported by the Church.
Regarding the encounter of Peter with Simon Magus (Acts viii. 14-25) see Simon Magus. The story of the conversion of Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Cæsarea (Acts x. 1-45), in anticipation of which Peter was told in a vision to partake of the food of the heathen in order to win him to a belief in Christ, seems to indicate an early split in the Judæo-Christian Church rather than an intention on the part of the writer to identify Paulinism with that Church. It was probably independently of Paul that the question arose among the Judæo-Christians as to whether certain concessions to the proselytes of the gate were not advisable in the interest of the Church propaganda. Both the traditional and the progressive currents of thought in the Church find expression in the Cornelius story on the one hand, and, on the other, in the rather mythical account of the apostolic council presided over by James, the leader of the conservative side, in which Peter appears as the prime mover (Acts xv. 7 et seq.), and by which the observance of the Noachian laws is insisted upon as the condition of admitting proselytes.A Jewish Teacher, According to the Clementines.
The representation of Peter found in the Clementine writings, especially in those parts based upon older sources (the "Kerygma Petri" [?]; see bibliography in Herzog-Hauck, "Real-Encyc." s.v. "Clementinen"), is quite different from that given in the Acts. The speeches of Peter in Acts iii. 13-26 and elsewhere are animated by the same spirit of hostility to the Jews which pervades the Gospels (see New Testament); the Peter of the Clementines is, in speech and mode of living, a Jew. He departs from Judaism only in that he recognizes in the crucified Jesus the "Prophet" predicted by Moses (Deut. xviii. 15), and through whom sacrifice was abolished and baptism substituted therefor("Recognitiones," i. 36-39, 43, 50), and through whom the heavenly Jerusalem was to be brought down as a habitation of the saints (ib. 51). He lays all possible stress upon the Law, while the Prophets are secondary (ib. 68). On the other hand, he calls Paul "an enemy" of the Church, who acted in the interests of the high priest while pursuing the faithful, and who, in his fury, while he was hastening to Damascus with the expectation of seizing Peter, came near killing James, the brother of Jesus. In his dispute with the high priest Caiaphas, who finds special fault with "the good tidings for the poor" brought by Jesus, he admits that he is himself but "an unlearned fisherman and rustic" (ib. 61-62). He declares the object of baptism to be the remission of sins ("Homilies," vii. 8, xi. 19, 26-29). The articles of his faith are the worship of God as the Maker of heaven and earth, belief in the True Prophet (Jesus), and love coupled with practical benevolence ("Recognitiones," iii. 66; comp. "Homilies," vii. 8). "We. worship one God, the Maker of the Universe, and observe His law, by which we are commanded first to worship Him and reverence His name [comp. ib-xvii. 7]; and then to honor our parents and to preserve chastity and uprightness" ("Recognitiones," vii. 29). But he is especially insistent on the prohibition against eating with the Gentiles, unless they be baptized, and on "abstaining from the table of devils," that is, from food offered to idols and from dead carcasses, from animals suffocated or torn by wild beasts, and from blood. He insists also upon washing after every pollution, and upon the observance of the Levitical purifications by both sexes ("Homilies," vii. 8, viii. 23, xiii. 4; comp. "Recognitiones," iv. 36).Peter and Paul.
It is also of interest to note his declaration that the greatest commandment is "fear the Lord thy God . . . and serve Him" (Deut. x. 12), and to observe the harmony between his teaching and that of the Jewish Didache and Didascalia: "As you would not like to be murdered yourself, nor to have your wife commit adultery, nor to have your things stolen from you, so do not these things to others" ("Homilies," vii. 4, xvii. 7). In the original "Preaching of Peter," thirty, or sixty, or one hundred commandments for the Jewish converts are singled out (comp. Ḥul. 92a; Midr. Teh. to Ps. ii. 5; Gen. R. xcviii. 14). "Man is the true image of God" (not Christ only!); "The pure soul bears His likeness"; "therefore we must honor God's image by offering food to the hungry and clothing to the naked, caring for the sick, sheltering the stranger, visiting him who is in prison, and affording the "needy all the help we can" ("Homilies," xi. 4, xvii. 7). Accordingly, Peter acts in regard to food, prayers, fasts, and ablutions exactly as does a pious Jew or Essene ("Recognitiones," i. 19; ii. 19, 72; v. 36). Many similar passages show the close relation of this teaching, attributed to Peter, to that of the rabbinical schools.
Little value can, according to this, be attached to Gal. ii. 9 (a spurious epistle; see Saul of Tarsus), where Peter is charged by Paul with hypocrisy. That a disagreement in certain matters arose between the two disciples is certain; but whether it was Peter or Paul who was inconsistent and wavering still remains a matter of dispute.
According to the Clementines, Peter stayed at Cæsarea a long time, and then went, by way of Tripolis, to Rome. In John xxi. 19 his martyrdom is predicted to him by Jesus (comp. I Epistle of Clement of Rome, v.). Regarding his stay in Rome, reliance must be placed upon Eusebius ("Hist.Eccl." ii. 1; comp. iii. 39, 15); certainly the account of his meeting Philo (ib. ii. 17) and Paul in Rome is mythical.His Supposed Writings.
According to the testimony of Papias (Eusebius, l.c.), Peter was not able to write expositions of his system of faith; the epistles that bear his name are products of the second century. The First Epistle, addressed to the (Pauline) churches of Asia, betrays the style and influence of the Pauline school; it was written during the persecutions of the Christians in the East in the second century, and, judging from iv. 3, the writer was a converted Gentile, not a born Jew. Possibly the whole epistle is based upon an older Judæo-Christian document (ii. 11-iii. 16, v. 1-12) that addressed its monitions to "the strangers and sojourners" (ii. 11; comp. i. 1). The epistle claims to have been written in Rome (v. 12). The Second Epistle, which shows in iii. 1 its dependence upon the First, and an acquaintance with apocalyptic literature, is a strong arraignment of the abuses of the Church due to Gnostic libertinism preached in some of the Pauline churches (i. 16, ii. 1-2, iii. 14-18); at the same time it endeavors to reconcile Paul's teachings with Peter's (iii. 15).
The so-called Gospel of Peter, of which fragments were found in Akhmym, Upper Egypt, in the year 1886-87 (see Harnack, "Bruchstücke des Evangelium und der Apocalypse des Petrus," 1893; Zahn, "Das Evangelium des Petrus," 1893), is of peculiar interest to the Jewish reader, inasmuch as, to judge from the fragments containing the story of the crucifixion, the whole is a product of fierce hatred toward the Jews, even to a greater extent than is the Fourth Gospel. Peter the Jew was made the mouthpiece of the Church at a time when hostility to his kinsmen had become the distinction of the orthodox Christian.The Apocalypse of Peter.
The Apocalypse of Peter, a fragment of which was found at Akhmym together with the fragments of the Gospel of Peter, has been identified by Harnack (l.c.) with the one known to Clement of Alexandria ("Eclogi," 41, 48, 49) and other Church Fathers. It seems to have drawn its material from a similar Jewish apocalypse (see Kohler, "Pre-Talmudic Haggadah," in "J. Q. R." vii. 605). It shows no traces of Jew-hatred. In it Peter speaks as having, with the other apostles, had intercourse with the departed Jesus on the mountain, and as having been shown by him the reward of the just in Paradise and the punishment of the wicked in Gehenna. Among those subjected to great torture by fire and by scourging are mentioned "those that made idols of wood for themselves and worshiped them instead of God"; also the usurers, the rich that fail to aid the needy, and those "who have forsaken the way of God." The excruciating pains which the wicked suffer wrest from them the confession: "O God, Thy judgment is righteous" (ed. Harnack, l.c. pp. 25, 33, 34). The whole work furnishes proof that its writer was still under Jewish influence, if he did not, indeed, simply take his material from a Jewish apocalypse and adapt it to the new creed.