Sunday, 2 October 2016

Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter - Part 29

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.


Folk-lore abounds in tales of this kind. About 425 B.C. Herodotus told how Polycrites, fearing his luck could not last, threw his ring into the sea to break this dangerous chain. But the ring reappeared in a fish served for his supper.

Buddhists tell how the Buddha promised a woman that she would never lose anything. Her son tossed her ring into the sea to prove the Buddha a liar. Next day the ring was found in a fish he caught.

The Talmud says that Joseph the Sabbath-lover never thought any fish too dear, if it was for the Sabbath dinner. One day he bought a fish which no one else would buy because of its price, and found in its belly a jewel which made his fortune.

The Arabs have a legend that, while Solomon was washing, a Jinn stole the magic ring, which made him Lord of the Demons, and dropped it into the sea. The King was now powerless. The Jinn assumed his shape and his throne, and Solomon became a fisherman's servant. But the first fish he received as wages had the ring in its stomach. So he regained his power.

These legends are all independent of `Matthew's story; but, when his Gospel was read, similar tales were soon told about Christians. More than one Bishop, like Attilanus of Zamora and Gerbold of Bayeux, disheartened by the apathy of his flock, is said to have flung his episcopal ring into the sea to show that he resigned his post. In each case the ring reappeared in a fish on his supper table.

Mauritius of Angers left the city, vowing never to return, unless God gave him back the keys he had cast into the sea. His clergy brought him back by force, and on the return voyage an immense fish leapt into the boat, and the keys were in its gullet.

More marvellous still, Egwin, founder of Evesham Abbey, in remorse for sins of his youth, locked fetters on his legs and threw the key into the Avon, swearing to wear them for life, unless God set him free. When on pilgrimage to Rome, a fish set before him had the key inside it, though it had been caught in the Tiber!

Glasgow's arms have a salmon with a ring in its mouth in memory of St. Kentigern, who saved the life of a Queen of Strathclyde by catching a salmon that had swallowed a ring, which she had to produce to pacify her jealous husband.

Such stories are innumerable. Folklorists have found similar ones in Madagascar and among the Eskimoes.


This discourse, which Luke and `Matthew' reproduce and expand, foretells in detail Woes about to fall on the Church and the World: wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, the coming of Antichrist (Note how in R.V. `the abomination of desolation' is spoken of as `he'), the Great Tribulation, terrifying portents in sun and moon and stars, the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds.

This bears no resemblance to the teaching of Jesus recorded elsewhere, and most modern commentators believe that Mark is quoting a Christianized Jewish Apocalypse. Even the conservative Bishop Rawlinson writes, `The author was probably a Christian Prophet, who believed himself charged by the Spirit to convey to the Church an apocalyptic message in the name of the Risen Jesus.'

Charles calls it `a Christian adaptation of an originally Jewish work, written (A.D. 67-68) during the troubles preceding the fall of Jerusalem' (Eschatology).

This is no extempore address, but a literary composition, written to be read, `Let him that readeth understand'. It is a typical Jewish Apocalypse of the conventional type; but Christian admonitions are interspersed in the Jewish framework, some of which may be authentic sayings of Jesus. Mk. xiii. 3 2 must be, for no later Christian would have placed a confession of ignorance on the lips of Christ.


Jesus was crucified on a Friday; so the Last Supper was on a Thursday evening. But Passover, being fixed by the full moon, could fall on any day of the week. In the year in which Jesus died, did it fall on a Friday or a Saturday? If on a Friday, since Jewish days began at sunset on the previous night, a Thursday evening supper would be the Paschal meal.

The Synoptists say explicitly it was. The disciples ask, `Where do You want us to make ready the Passover?' He told Peter and John: `Go and prepare the Passover.' `They made ready thePassover.'

But the Fourth Gospel is just as positive that Jesus was in His grave before the Feast began. The Supper took place `before the Feast of the Passover'. The disciples thought Judas left the room to buy what was needed for the Feast. The Priests would not enter Pilate's Palace, `lest they should be unable to eat the Passover'. `It was the Day of Preparation for the Passover.' Christ's body was buried hurriedly `because of the Jews' Preparation Day'.

`John' is almost certainly right. Mark's date, which `Matthew' and Luke copied, raises many difficulties. He says nothing of the lamb, the chief feature of the Paschal Feast, the bitter herbs, the four cups, or the unleavened bread. The Passover law said, `None shall go out of his house till morning'; yet first Judas, then the disciples, then `a great multitude with torches' were walking about that night. The bearing of arms was forbidden; yet Peter and the Temple Police carried swords. Passover was kept as a Sabbath. Travel was forbidden; yet Simon the Cyrenian was `coming in from the country'. Selling was forbidden; yet Joseph bought linen for a shroud. Burden-bearing was forbidden; yet three crosses were carried to Calvary and three corpses to their tombs. On the Feast Day `all the Chief Priests' would have been too busy in the Temple to attend a Sanhedrin meeting; and public executions on so holy a day would have seemed a shocking desecration.

Marcus was probably misled by the fact that he had so often heard the Lord's Supper compared to the Passover-'Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us'-that he had come to believe that the Last Supper was the Paschal meal. `John', who knew Marcus's Gospel and sometimes quotes it verbatim, deliberately corrects his mistake. Passover fell that year on a Saturday. The Talmud agrees: `Yeshu' (i.e. Jesus) `was hanged on the eve of Passover.'


No one knows. He appears five times in the Fourth Gospel. The old idea that this was the modest way in which John avoided mentioning himself has been weakened by strong doubts as to whether John the Apostle was the author of this Gospel. And one point seems decisive against this identification. The Beloved Disciple took Mary straight from the cross `to his own home'. A Capernaum fisherman was unlikely to have a home near Jerusalem.

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