Sunday, 18 September 2016

Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter - Part 28

For the next weeks, my Sunday postings will be a transcript of the book "Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter" by the Jersey historian, the Reverend G.R. Bailleine (1873 – 1966).

Most of Balleine's books are either currently in print - as for example his History of Jersey - or online in the form of PDF versions. This book is not, so this is something different. As well as being a Jersey historian, Balleine was also a priest in the Church of England, and Ministre Deservant at St Brelade's Church for a time

by G.R. Balleine

The following Notes are not exhaustive studies of disputed questions. They merely indicate why, where scholars disagree, the author has adopted one view and not another.


Some say one year (from Passover A.D. Z9 to Passover A.D 30); others say over two. Everything turns on a disputed text in the Fourth Gospel. The Synoptists give little help; but all the events they record could have happened in a single year. The Fourth Evangelist, however, has a definite timetable, based on the Jewish Feasts; and, as no one can suspect this of theological bias, it can be accepted as accurate. Ignoring for a moment the disputed verse, it runs:

16 April, A.D. 29 Passover (ii. 13).
May. `A Feast of the Jews', probably Pentecost (v. I).
October. Tabernacles (vii. 2).
December. Dedication (x. 22).
5 April, A.D. 30. Passover (xi. 5 5).

This would give a one-year ministry. But, when describing the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the Gospel, as we have it, inserts (vi. 4), `Now the Passover, a Feast of the Jews was nigh'.

This puts another Passover half-way between the other two, and would make the Ministry last two years. But Hort, our greatest authority on New Testament readings, believes that the words `the Passover' were a mistaken note inserted by some copyist, and that the text should run, `the Feast of the Jews was nigh', which would then be the Tabernacles mentioned in vii. 2. This question cannot be settled decisively; but modern scholars consider the shorter period the more probable.


In `Matthew' Peter's assertion that Jesus was the Messiah is followed by warm praise, `No human being revealed this to you, but My Father', and three tremendous promises-'Rock you are, and on this rock I will build My Church'; `I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven'; `Whatever you forbid, Heaven will forbid, and whatever you allow, Heaven will allow'. Mark and Luke record Peter's confession; but say nothing of these promises. `John' too does not mention them. Did Jesus really make them?

If He did, they were obviously of immense importance. Why then did Mark, Peter's own disciple, suppress them? Did Q, which Luke had before him, also remain silent? Moreover, if the Primacy was given to Peter in the hearing of all the Twelve, why later do we find them quarrelling as to who was the greatest (Mark ix. 34, Lk. xxii. 24), and James and John asking for the highest places in the Kingdom (Mark X. 37)? In fact Mark and Luke flatly contradict `Matthew'. Instead of being pleased at Peter's confession, Jesus was annoyed. The Greek word epetimesen, here translated, `He charged them' (viii. 30), properly means, `He rebuked', as it is translated elsewhere: Jesus `rebuked the wind' (Mark iv. 39), `rebuked Peter' (viii. 33), `rebuked the foul spirit' (ix. z 5).

`Matthew', the Antioch Gospel (see Note M), contains traditions about Peter unknown to the other Evangelists, e.g. the walking on the water and the coin in the fish's mouth, which were probably stories current in that city. And the Three Promises may be an expression of Antioch's enthusiasm for its first Bishop. To Antioch he seemed the rock on which the Church was built, the holder of the keys of the Kingdom, the lawgiver, whose decisions would never be questioned in Heaven. And in time they came to believe that Jesus had promised this.

The first promise was suggested by the nickname, which Jesus undoubtedly gave him, `Simon He surnamed Peter' (Mark iii. i6). But it seems unlikely that He was thinking of his character when He gave it. Chapter V mentions other possibilities. `Rock' implies firmness, fixedness, absolute stability.

But with all his virtues this was not one of Peter's characteristics. Streeter even calls him a `wobbler'. In Gethsemane he is three times ordered to watch, and three times falls asleep. One moment he boasts about going with Christ to prison and death. The same night he swears, `I do not know the Man'. At Antioch he first shares meals with the Gentiles, then swings to the other side. Jesus was too good a judge of character to call such vacillation rocklike.


Luke and `Matthew' incorporate in their Gospels the greater part of Mark; but each also adds long reports of the teaching of Jesus. In 200 verses these agree so closely, indeed they are often verbatim, that it is obvious that both are quoting the same document.

Scholars have named this Q from the German word quelle, which means `source'. Q is lost, but much of it survives in `Matthew' and Luke.

Q must be later than 69, the date when the son of Barachiah was murdered (Matt. xxiii. 35; Lk. xi. 51), unless this verse is an interpolation; but Q may have Apostolic authority behind it.

About 120 Papias wrote, `Matthew composed the Logia in Hebrew, and everyone interpreted them as he could.' Logia means `sayings'. So Matthew the Apostle apparently took notes of his Master's sermons, and recorded them in Hebrew or Aramaic. Later the author of Q may have translated these into Greek. 

If the author of our First Gospel was known to have based his book on Q's translation of Matthew's Logia, this would explain how Matthew's name became attached to his book. `Matthew,' says Moffatt, `was too obscure an Apostle to be associated by later tradition with a Gospel, unless there was good ground for it.'

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