was successfully added to your cart.

Tag

Simon Peter

Note of the Day – February 21 (Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13ff)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Today’s note examines again the tradition of the calling of the Twelve—specifically, the list of their names, and several details relating to them.

Mark 3:16-19; Matt 10:2-4; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13

There is a list of the Twelve Disciples (or Apostles) in all three Synoptic Gospels, as well as the book of Acts. None of these lists are exactly alike, differing in some way from each other. However, it would seem that two distinct lines of tradition have been preserved—one in Mark/Matthew and the other in Luke-Acts. The lists in Mark (3:16-19) and Matthew (10:2-4) contain the same 12 names, differing only slightly in the order they are presented. There is also, however, a variant reading in Matt 10:3—some witnesses read “Lebbaeus” (Lebbai=o$) instead of “Thaddeus” (Qaddai=o$), or even a combination of the two names.

The list in Luke 6:14-16 shares nine of the twelve names with Matt/Mark, but differs noticeably in the 10th and 11th names:

  • Luke:
    Shim’ôn (Simon) the (one) called “Hot/Fiery” (i.e. ‘Zealot’)
    Yehudah (Judas) (son) of Ya’qob (Jacob/James)
  • Mark/Matt:
    Thaddaios (Matt v.l. Lebbaios)
    Shim’ôn (Simon) the Kananean

Most likely, the Shim’ôn (Simon) of each list represents the same person, on the theory that Kananai=o$ (Kananaíos) is a Greek transliteration of Aramaic an`a*n+q^ (Qan°¹nâ), from the basic root anq, referring typically to a hot/burning emotion—i.e., zeal, jealousy—similar in meaning to the word zh=lo$ (z¢¡los, from which comes the English zeal), and also zhlwth/$ (z¢lœt¢¡s, “zealot”). This would leave just one major difference between the two lists—Judas son of Jacob vs. Thaddeus (or Lebbaeus). The list in Acts 1:13 is essentially the same as that in Luke, except that Judas Iscariot has been left off, for obvious reasons (cf. below).

The variation in both order, and even specific names, is interesting considering the apparent importance of the Twelve in early Christian tradition. One would expect a fixed, well-established formula listing out the names—but this is only partly so in the Gospel Tradition as it has come down to us. It is perhaps an indication that, while the idea of the Twelve, and that designation, was fixed in the Tradition (to be discussed in the next note), the specific list of names for the persons who constituted the Twelve was less definite, remaining somewhat fluid, at the time the Gospels were written.

I have already discussed how the tradition of the calling of the Twelve (and the list of names) was more extensive in the Markan version (3:13-19, cf. the earlier note); especially with regard to the list of names, we see:

  • “he set [i.e. gave] a (new) name for Shim’on {Simon}—'(the) Rock [i.e. Peter]'” (v. 16b)
  • “and Ya’qob {Jacob/James} the (son) of Zabdi, and Yohanan {John} the brother of Ya’qob, he also set for them name(s)—Bene-Regez, that is, ‘Sons of Thunder'” (v. 17)
  • “and Yehudah Ish-Kerioth {Judas Iscariot}, who also gave him along [i.e. betrayed Jesus]” (v. 19a)

In Matthew and Luke (Matt 10:2-4; Lk 6:14-16), this is presented in a simpler fashion. There is no mention of the names given to James and John, and Peter’s naming is merely mentioned in passing: “Shim’on, the (one) counted (as) [i.e. called] ‘(the) Rock {Peter}'” (Matt 10:2). Similarly, the reference to Judas’ betrayal is preserved (Matt 10:4 par). Thus, in the list of the Twelve as it came to be passed down (i.e. at the time Matthew and Luke were composed), extra detail, of any sort, was included only for two of the names—the first and last in the list—Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot.

The Naming of Simon Peter

The giving to Simon (Shim’on) of the name Pe/tro$ (Pétros, “[the] Rock”) is a well-established tradition in the Gospels, being attested in multiple sources, both in the Synoptics and the Gospel of John, as well as evidence for it in the letters of Paul. The dual name “Shim’on (the) Rock” (i.e. Simon Peter), occurs frequently in the Gospel of John (15 times, 13:6, 9, 24, et al), but only twice elsewhere in the New Testament (in Matt 16:16; Lk 5:8). However, it is also worth noting that the tradition of Jesus giving the name Peter (Pe/tro$) to Simon occurs at different points in the Gospel narrative, indicating that it may represent a “floating” tradition—authentic and well-established, but not necessarily tied to one definite episode. Note:

  1. The context of Mark 3:16 par suggests that the name was given when the Twelve were called/appointed by Jesus.
  2. However, the use of the dual name in Luke 5:8 would indicate that it was given at an earlier point, at the call of the first disciples Andrew/Simon and James/John (compare Mk 1:16-20 par).
  3. In John 1:42, it is likewise associated within the initial calling of Simon (cf. below), but according to an entirely separate line of tradition (as discussed in an earlier note).
  4. In Matthew 16:16ff, it is set at a later point, at the time of Simon (Peter)’s confession of Jesus (cp. Mark 8:29 par).

The last two of these are given specific narration, and should be touched on briefly.

John 1:42

In the immediate context (vv. 40-42), Jesus’ words to Simon take place virtually at the moment he and Simon first meet:

“looking on him Yeshua said, ‘You are Shim’on, the son of Yohanan, (but) you will be called Kepha‘ [Khfa=$], which is explained (as) ‘(the) Rock’ [Pe/tro$]”

The idea seems to be that Jesus recognizes and identifies Simon without having met him (as in the case of Nathanael, vv. 47-48), and, at the same time, gives him a new name. The original Aramaic, presumably as spoken by Jesus and his disciples, is preserved here—ap*yK@, K¢¸â, transliterated in Greek as Khfa=$ (K¢phás) and, similarly, in English as Cephas. Paul refers to him also by this Aramaic name in 1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 2:9, 11, 14. If the Johannine tradition is accepted as authentic (and factual), then Simon was given his new name Peter at the very beginning. It was assigned to him by Jesus, quite before Peter had done anything to deserve it.

Matthew 16:16ff

The tradition in Matthew is quite different. Here it is localized at the moment of (Simon) Peter’s confession, which, in the version recorded by Matthew, has its most extensive form—”You are the Anointed (One), the Son of the living God”. Jesus gives the new name to Simon as part of a blessing (or, more properly, a macarism), in response to this confession:

“Happy [i.e. blessed] are you, Shim’on bar-Yonah… and (so) also I say to you that you are ‘(the) Rock [pe/tro$]’, and upon this (great) Rock [pe/tra] I will build the house (of) my e)kklhsi/a…”

It is not necessary to plunge into the many interesting (and controversial) details in this statement; only to recognize the close connection between Peter and the ones “called out” by God—that is, the followers of Jesus, the gathered assembly of believers (i.e., the Church). Peter (the Rock [Pe/tro$, Pétros]) is not precisely the same as the great mass (of Rock [Pe/tra, Pétra]) that serves as the foundation for the house (the Church). Probably the latter should be associated with the Twelve as a group, Peter being one stone—albeit the chief and foremost stone—of the rocky mass.

The Judas Tradition(s)

Finally, mention must be made regarding the tradition(s) associated with Yehudah ish-Keryoth (man [from] Kerioth?), or Judas Iscariot. Almost nothing is known of him from the Gospel Tradition beyond his role as the one who betrayed Jesus (lit. gave him along, i.e. handed him over) to the authorities. Otherwise, he is mentioned in the Gospels only in the list of the Twelve (cf. above), and in John 12:4ff, as the disciple who objected to the woman ‘wasting’ expensive ointment on Jesus (compare Mk 14:4-5 par).

The betrayal by Judas is one of the best attested traditions in the Gospels, the basic outline of which is unquestionably authentic (on objective grounds). Matthew has the most developed version, including the details of (a) the words of Judas in 26:15, 25, (b) the thirty silver pieces (v. 15b), (c) the suicide (hanging) of Judas (27:3-8), and (d) the Scripture (still problematic) cited along with his death (vv. 9-10). However, all three of the Gospels, those usually regarded as later than Mark in composition—Luke, Matthew, and John—have all developed and enhanced the Judas tradition(s) in various ways. This will be discussed in more detail when addressing the Passion Narrative in upcoming notes, as we draw closer to Easter.

As most informed readers of the New Testament are aware, the book of Acts records a quite different version of the death of Judas, in 1:16-20 (vv. 18-19). There are two basic elements in common between the accounts—(1) the tragic/unfortunate death of Judas, and (2) the piece of land called Akeldama[x], presumably a transliteration of the Aramaic „¦q¢l D§mâ, “Field of Blood”. Otherwise, the details of the two narratives differ considerably. Traditional-conservative commentators have sought to harmonize them, but such efforts have not been especially convincing. We seem to be dealing with variant traditions which have been preserved separately, in Matthew and Luke-Acts, respectively. For a summary of the critical questions see K. Lake, “The Death of Judas” in The Beginnings of Christianity, Volume 5 (1933), pp. 22-30. Later traditions, which describe Judas’ demise in more repulsive detail, seem to be influenced primarily by the Acts account.

Note of the Day – February 19 (Mark 3:3-19; Matt 10:1-4)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

The next topic to be discussed regarding the Call of the Disciples in the Gospel Tradition is the tradition of the Twelve Disciples (or Apostles). Three distinct aspects will be examined:

  1. The tradition of the call/commission of the Twelve, and how this functions in the Synoptic Gospels
  2. The list(s) of the Twelve, along with brief discussion of the details related to Peter and Judas Iscariot, and
  3. The significance of the (number) Twelve within this tradition

I begin with the first aspect, starting with the tradition as recorded in the Gospel of Mark.

The Twelve Disciples

Mark 3:13-19

It is worth noting that here, with regard to this particular tradition, Mark actually has a slightly longer (and more elaborate) version. Usually the longer form of a tradition indicates some degree of (secondary) development, though occasionally the process of development may work in the opposite direction—toward the simplifying or condensing of an earlier tradition. The call/commission of the Twelve is set after an initial period of teaching and (healing) miracles by Jesus, as recorded in 1:21-3:12. The Markan narrative at this point may be outlined as follows—first, for the specific tradition in 3:13-19:

  • Verse 13—The call of the Twelve is narrated simply, with three details or elements: (a) the location on a mountain, (b) the call, and (c) the response. As in 1:16-20, an immediate, obedient response is indicated:
    • Jesus calls them toward [pro$] him
    • They go away toward [pro/$] him
  • Verses 14-15—The commission: “he made twelve”, where the verb poie/w (“do, make”) can be understood in the sense of “appoint, designate”. The majority text adds “whom he also named apostles“, though the phrase is omitted by a number of manuscripts and may reflect a harmonization with Lk 6:13b. A two-fold purpose is expressed, by use of the conjunctive particle i%na (“[so] that”):
    • “that [i%na] they might be with him”
    • “that [i%na] he might set [i.e. send] them forth”, using the verb a)poste/llw, related to a)po/stolo$ [apostle]
      the purpose of his sending them is also two-fold, expressed by a pair of infinitives (and a third joining infinitive):

      • “to proclaim (the message of the Kingdom)”
        —”and to hold authority [e)cousi/a]”
      • “to cast out the daimons [i.e. demons, (evil) spirits]”
        These represent the two principal activities of Jesus in his Galilean ministry, and are both characterized by the authority which he possesses.
  • Verses 16-19—The names of the Twelve; this consists of two overlapping components:
    • Vv. 16-17: A specific notice of the naming (implied) of the Twelve, echoing verse 13 [v.l.], and the new names given by Jesus (“he set a name for [them]”) to the first, and best known, of the Twelve—Peter, James, and John
    • Vv. 16b-19: The list of the Twelve, according to the (Synoptic) tradition shared with Matthew

The Markan narrative which follows, spanning the entirety of the Galilean ministry period (3:208:30), appears to be governed by this passage, and may reflect a specific (Markan?) development of an earlier stage of the Gospel tradition. Note the following outline, as I suggest it may relate to the two-fold purpose assigned to the calling of the Twelve in 3:14-15 (above):

1. “to be with him” (3:206:6a)—this theme is expressed, in various ways, in each of the passages or episodes which make up this section, which one might organize into a chiastic outline:

  • Contrast of the disciples with Jesus’ natural family and acquaintances, etc (3:20-21, 31-35)
    —Jesus’ proclamation (and teaching) of the Kingdom, i.e. in parables (4:1-34); by which he also gives the secrets of the Kingdom to his closest followers (the Twelve, v. 10)
    ——The disciples together with Jesus in the boat (4:35-41), along a manifestion of the authority he holds
    —Jesus’ healing (exorcism) miracles (5:1-43), i.e. the authority to “cast out the daimons”
  • Contrast (implied) of those who trust in him (i.e. disciples) with the people of Jesus’ home town (6:1-6a)

2. “he would send them forth” (6:6b-8:30)—the section is introduced with a summary of this activity by the Twelve in 6:6b-13; “the Twelve” are mentioned specifically as such in verse 7. A similar chiastic outline may be established for this section as well, framed, for example, by three pairs of episodes:

  • Reference to the healing miracles, worked by the Twelve (6:13)
    —An episode involving Herod (6:14-29)
    ——Feeding miracle (6:30-44)
    ———{the remainder of 6:45-7:37}
    ——Feeding miracle (8:1-10)
    —An episode in which Herod is mentioned (8:14-21)
  • Narrative of a healing miracle, worked by Jesus (8:22-26)

Clearly the commission of the Twelve in 6:6b-13 is parallel to the call of the Twelve in 3:13-19—and each introduces the two main sections of the narrative (3:13-6:6a and 6:6b-8:30). Beyond this point, the narrative clearly depicts the Twelve remaining with Jesus during his journey to Jerusalem (9:35; 10:32), and also during the time in Jerusalem (11:11).

Matthew 10:1-4

By comparison with Mark, the narrative of the call of the Twelve is much simpler; it also functions thematically, and within the structure of the Gospel, rather differently. To begin with, the mountain setting of Mk 3:13 is not mentioned, occurring at an earlier point, as the setting for the “Sermon on the Mount” (chaps. 5-7); the wording in 5:1 is generally similar to that in Mk 3:13: “he stepped up onto the mount(ain)/hill”. In this scene, Jesus also gathers his disciples together, again using similar language (“they came toward him”); only here the purpose is not to commission the Twelve, but to teach (v. 2). On the theory that Matthew has made use of Mark (or a comparable Synoptic narrative), the collection of teaching making up the “Sermon” (primarily “Q” material) has been ‘inserted’ into the first period of the Galilean ministry at a point corresponding to Mark 1:21. The preceding summary of Matt 4:23-25 anticipates the episodes following in chapters 8-9, which essentially ‘pick up’ the Markan narrative—8:1-9:17 corresponds with Mk 1:29-2:22.

As mentioned, the version of the call tradition in Matthew is simpler that that of Mark, and may reflect an abbreviation of the Synoptic tradition (note how Matthew paraphrases the details in Mark). Moreover, the emphasis is more specifically upon the authority Jesus gives the Twelve to work healing miracles:

“And calling his twelve learners [i.e. disciples] toward him, he gave to them (the) authority [e)cousi/a] o(ver) unclean spirits, so as (also) to (be able to) cast them out and to heal every sickness and every disease.” (10:1)

Healing sickness/disease is mentioned as distinct from the casting out of unclean spirits (exorcism miracles), whereas in Mark, both kinds of activity are combined under the basic idea of expelling demons (understood as being responsible for disease). The names of the Twelve follow in vv. 2-4, but without the Markan reference to Jesus’ giving names to Peter/James/John (Peter’s new name is mentioned in passing).

Also different from Mark’s treatment is the way that the mission of the Twelve (Mk 6:6b-13) follows immediately after the call, in 10:5-16. It also serves as the setting for another collection of teaching (vv. 16-42), similar to the earlier “Sermon” in chaps. 5-7. This material is found in other locations in Mark and Luke (including “Q” material). Matt 11:1 concludes this teaching to the Twelve and focuses back again on the ministry activity of Jesus—11:116:20 generally follows Mk 3:208:30 (cf. above), with some differences in ordering and emphasis, and also inclusion of other “Q” and “M” material. Consider the general outline:

  • Narrative introduction/summary of Jesus’ ministry work (4:23-25)
    • Jesus gathers his disciples to him (5:1)
      • He instructs them—collection of teaching (chapters 5-7, “Sermon on the Mount”)
        • First period of the Galilean ministry—teaching and miracles of Jesus (8:1-9:34)
          —development of the Synoptic tradition, including “Q” and “M” material
  • Narrative introduction/summary of Jesus’ ministry work (transitional, 9:35-38)
    • Jesus’ call/commission of the Twelve (10:1-5)
      • He instructs them—collection of teaching (10:6-42)
        • Second period of the Galilean ministry—teaching and miracles of Jesus (11:116:12)
          —development of the Synoptic tradition, etc.

As in Mark, there is also a notice that the Twelve follow Jesus to Jerusalem; two specific references contain this information:

  • The saying in 19:28, added to the core narrative of vv. 27-30 (= Mk 10:28-31); this tradition will be discussed in a subsequent note.
  • 20:17—the third prediction by Jesus of his upcoming Passion (Mk 10:32 par)

This topic will continue in the next daily note, where the call/commission of the Twelve in the Gospels of Luke (and John) will be examined.

Note of the Day – February 18 (John 1:35-51)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Yesterday’s note explored the tradition(s) related to the call of Peter and the first Disciples, in the Synoptic Gospels (Mk 1:16-20 par). Today I will be looking at the very different line of tradition preserved in the Gospel of John. While it is not entirely impossible to harmonize the Synoptic and Johannine accounts (for those who wish to do so), it should be noted that there is scarcely a single detail in common between them, other than the presence of the brothers Andrew and Simon, and the introduction of the name “Peter” for the latter.

John 1:35-51

As discussed in earlier notes, these verses are part of the larger narrative block of 1:19-51—a sequence of four episodes, set as occurring on four consecutive “days” (a literary device, as much as historical). Verses 35-51 make up the last two “days”. Here again is an outline of vv. 19-51, indicating how deftly the author has blended together traditions regarding the baptism of Jesus and the call of the first disciples, into a single narrative:

  • 1:19-28—Day “1”: The testimony of John the Baptist regarding his own identity
  • 1:29-34—Day “2”: The testimony of John regarding the identity of Jesus
  • 1:35-42—Day “3”: Disciples follow/encounter Jesus as the result of John’s witness
  • 1:43-51—Day “4”: Disciples follow/encounter Jesus as the result of his (and other disciples’) witness
Day “3” (John 1:35-42)

Verses 35-36 essentially repeat the opening from the previous “day” (v. 29f), in which the Baptist sees Jesus (coming) and declares, “This is the lamb of God!”. What follows in the earlier episode (vv. 30-34) is the Baptist’s narration of Jesus’ baptism and his witness as to Jesus’ true identity as the “Son of God” (v. 34 [some MSS read “Elect/Chosen One of God”]). This is treated as a public declaration, for all people to hear. In verses 35-36, on the other hand, it is (only) heard by John’s immediate followers (disciples), two of whom, upon hearing it, leave the Baptist to follow Jesus (v. 37). Compare this with the Synoptic tradition (in Mark):

  • “Jesus said to them, ‘Come (here) behind me…’ [Mk 1:17] and straightaway, releasing th(eir) nets, they followed him” [v. 18]
  • “…looking on Jesus, John says, ‘See! the lamb of God’ [Jn 1:36] and the two…heard him speaking and followed Jesus” [v. 37]

There is a general similarity, but the details differ considerably. It is interesting that, in both traditions, two disciples are involved, and one of them is Andrew (Mk 1:16; Jn 1:40). This cannot be mere coincidence; rather, on entirely objective grounds, it almost certainly reflects authentic (historical) tradition. It is likely that the original Johannine tradition, in its simpler form, continued from verse 37 on (directly) to vv. 40-41:

37…they heard him speaking and followed Jesus. 40Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two…following (Jesus)… 41He finds his own brother Simon and says to him…”

This tradition follows the Synoptic by recording Andrew and his brother Simon (Peter) as the first two disciples (known by name) who follow Jesus. However, the entire setting in John appears to be quite different from that of the Synoptics. There is no mention of fishing; indeed, Andrew appears not to be engaged in fishing at all, but has been a disciple of the Baptist. Nor does Jesus take the initiative, speaking first to Andrew and Peter both, but a very different process and order of events seems to be involved. Moreover, this distinct Johannine tradition has been further adapted by the Gospel writer in light of the overall narrative in chapter 1. This has been done through the inclusion of a number of details:

  • The emphasis on the disciples responding to the witness of John the Baptist regarding Jesus (cf. verses 7-8, 15, 19, 31-32, 34). This is made all the more emphatic by the repetition of verse 29 in vv. 35-36.
  • This begins a chain of witness from John to the disciples in turn (cf. 17:20; 20:31, etc), as narrated in vv. 40-42 and 43-46.
  • The central encounter with Jesus in vv. 38-39, told with distinctly Johannine language, including the special use of the verbs e&rxomai (“come”), me/nw (“remain”) and the motif of seeing/knowing.
  • The declaration of Jesus as “the Messiah” (i.e. Anointed One, Christ); cf. the parallel declaration in v. 49 (also in v. 45), whereby the first disciples bear witness to the identity of Jesus (20:31).

This particular episode also concludes with the naming of Peter (as “[the] Rock”, pe/tro$), by Jesus. This is associated with a different point of the Gospel narrative in the Synoptics (Mk 3:16 par; Matt 16:18). The naming of Peter will be discussed in a subsequent note.

Day “4” (John 1:43-51)

Much that has been said of the prior episode applies to the fourth “day” as well. One main difference is that the disciples are shown responding to Jesus’ call directly, rather than the testimony of John the Baptist (compare vv. 35-37 and 43). Indeed, verse 43 is similar to the Synoptic tradition in Mk 1:16-20 par, though a different disciple (Philip) is involved; yet the basic motif is very close, as Jesus says to the person:

  • “Come (here) in back of me…!”
    Deu=te o)pi/sw mou (Mk 1:17 par)
  • “Follow me!”
    Akolou/qei moi (Jn 1:43)

Again, as in the Synoptics, we are dealing with a second pair of disciples who come to follow Jesus—Philip and Nathanael (instead of the brothers James and John). That this reflects an authentic (historical) tradition, however different from the Synoptic, would seem to be confirmed by the presence of disciples (Philip and, especially, Nathanael) who otherwise play little role in the Gospel narrative. A Christian tradition from a later period would almost certainly have involved better known figures. It is interesting, again, how it is said of Philip (in v. 44) that he was from the same town (Bethsaida) as Andrew and Peter; similarly, in the Synoptics, Andrew/Peter and James/John are, it would seem, from the same area (Capernaum).

From the standpoint of the Johannine narrative (and theological) context, note how in this episode we find the same keywords and motifs as in the prior one—e&rxomai (“come”), me/nw (“remain”), and seeing/knowing (vv. 46-48, 50). All of these common words are given a special meaning and significance in the Gospel of John, involving the relation of the believer to Christ:

  • Jesus comes into the world from the Father, and also comes to those who will believe. Believers, in turn, come to Jesus
  • Believers remain/abide in/with Jesus, and Jesus in/with them

This same dynamic is defined in terms of seeing/knowing—Jesus sees/knows from the Father, and sees/knows those who will believe; then believers also come to see/know Jesus (the Son).

The saying/statement of Jesus in the closing verse 51—a suitable climax to the entire section (and, indeed, chapter 1 as a whole)—draws together all of these motifs, as well as the entire Baptism scene, in the vision promised to the disciples (believers). This remarkable verse has been discussed in considerable detail in an earlier note.

Note of the Day – February 17 (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11)

By | Exegetical/Study Series, Note of the Day | No Comments

Today’s note begins the next division of our series “Jesus and the Gospel Tradition”, focusing on the Galilean Ministry of Jesus (cf. the Introduction). The first topic of study is on traditions related to the Call of the Disciples. There are four primary traditions found in the Gospel narrative:

  1. The call of the first Disciples—esp. two pair of brothers (Peter/Andrew, James/John)
  2. The call of Matthew/Levi
  3. The call and commission of the Twelve
  4. The naming of Peter

Only the first and third of these will be dealt with in detail.

The Call of the First Disciples

Mark 1:16-20 par

Following the baptism of Jesus (and the testing in the desert), the period of Galilean ministry, according to the Synoptic narrative, begins with announcement of Jesus’ activity. In the Gospel of Mark, this is found in 1:14-15:

“And with the giving along (of) Yohanan {John} (into custody), Yeshua {Jesus} came into the Galîl {Galilee} proclaiming the good message of God and giving account [i.e. declaring/saying] that ‘The time has been (ful)filled and the kingdom of God has come near! Change your mind [i.e. repent] and trust in the good message!'”

Matthew (4:17) generally follows Mark, though without the preceding message of John the Baptist’s arrest. Luke has set the notice of John’s imprisonment at a different point in the narrative (right before Jesus’ baptism, 3:18-20), and makes no mention of Jesus proclamation of the coming of the kingdom or need for repentance (but cf. Lk 4:43; 8:1). This has essentially been replaced by the narrative summary in 4:14-15, emphasizing the role of the Spirit and Jesus’ activity of teaching (in the Synagogue), which sets the scene for the episode at Nazareth in 4:16ff. In the quotation of Isaiah 61:1 (vv. 18-19), Jesus declares, as part of his mission, that he is to “give/proclaim the good message”, much as is stated in Mk 1:14-15.

Mark 1:16-20 records the call of the first disciples. The parallel in Matthew (4:18-22) is very close; while Luke, has supplemented the basic narrative (5:1b-2, 10-11) with a miracle story involving Peter and his co-workers (5:4-9). This unique handling and development of the tradition will be discussed below. The narrative in Mark is extremely simple, with action and dialogue kept to an absolute minimum:

  • Notice of the location, along the Sea of Galilee (v. 16a)
  • Jesus encounters a two pair of brothers—Simon/Andrew & James/John—in turn (vv. 16b, 19a)
  • These men are all fishermen, busy working their nets (vv. 16b, 19b)
  • Jesus calls to them (to follow him) (vv. 17, 20a)
  • They all leave their nets and boats (and family, etc) to follow Jesus (vv. 18, 20b)

The central element is the saying of Jesus in verse 17, and the structure of the narrative gives the impression that it was built up around the saying. Here is the saying (in Mark):

“Come (here) in back of me [i.e. follow me], and I will cause you to become salt-water (fisher)s of men” (Mk 1:17)

Matthew’s version (4:19) is virtually identical, reading “make you” instead of “cause you to become”. In Luke, the comparable saying is quite different:

“Do not be afraid! From now on you will be catching men alive” (Lk 5:10b)

What is striking about the main Synoptic tradition, as given simply in Mark/Matthew, is how the sparse narrative detail gives the impression of an immediate response by the disciples—at the very (first) word from Jesus, they leave everything and follow him. This, of course, will become a motif—i.e. of obedience and commitment in following Jesus—repeated on several occasions in the Synoptic narrative (Mk 2:14; 8:34; 10:21 par; Lk 9:57-62 par). The core saying itself contains certain elements which summarize and reflect the ministry of Jesus, and are worth noting:

Verse 17a—the emphasis and motif of discipleship:

  • The expression deu=te (“come [here]”) is as much an invitation or exhoration as it is a command, and indicates one’s coming close, toward Jesus—Matt 11:28; 25:34; cf. also 22:4; Mark 6:31.
  • The preposition o)pi/sw (“in back of, behind”) is often used specifically in terms of a disciple following a master (Mark 8:34 par, etc). Its occurrence in the saying(s) of John the Baptist (Mk 1:7 par; Jn 1:15, 27, 30) was discussed in previous notes.

Verse 17b—the illustration from daily life (cf. the parables of Jesus):

  • The word a(lieu/$ refers to someone who works on/in the salt-water, here meaning specifically a fisherman. The activity from daily life is applied to the religious/spiritual life of the disciple (believer) who follows Jesus.
  • The genitive “of men” (a)nqrw/pwn) establishes the point of contrast—instead of gathering in fish for the catch, the disciples will be gathering in human beings for the kingdom of God. This latter detail is not stated explicitly, but such a connotation is likely, given the frequent references to the kingdom of God/Heaven in the parables and teachings of Jesus.

Luke 5:1-11

As noted above, Luke’s version of this episode represents a significant development, in which the core Synoptic narrative (found in vv. 1b-2, 10-11) has been expanded to include a distinct miracle story featuring Peter (vv. 4-9). Verses 1a & 3 may reflect Lukan editing/authorship in order to blend the two traditions effectively into a literary whole. In particular, they seem to echo the setting in Mk 4:1-2, which Luke may have transferred from that location in the (Synoptic) narrative. This is likely, since in 8:4ff, the passage parallel to Mk 4:1-2ff, there is no corresponding mention of Jesus teaching the crowd from a boat.

This is all relatively straightforward—the Synoptic narrative, supplemented by another (“L”) tradition related to the call of Peter—were it not for the fact that the miracle narrated in vv. 4-9 is remarkably similar to that found in John 21:1-8ff. The problem is that the Johannine episode is said to have occurred at a much later time, after the resurrection of Jesus. It is not just a question of a general similarity; rather, there are a number of specific details shared by the two narratives, which include:

  • Peter and his colleagues had fished all night and had caught nothing (v. 3, 5; Jn 21:3)
  • Jesus is standing on the shore of the lake (v. 1; 21:1, 4)
  • Jesus tells them to go and cast out their nets again (v. 4; 21:6)
  • The result is an enormous catch of fish (v. 6b; 21:6, 11)
  • Reference to the stress (tearing) on the nets, and to the help required to bring in the catch (vv. 6-7; 21:8, 11)
  • A reaction by Peter to(ward) Jesus as a result of the miracle (v. 8; 21:7)
  • Jesus is called “Lord” [ku/rio$] (v. 8; 21:7)
  • The catch of fish is symbolic of the work of Christian ministry, and is connected in the narrative to a (separate) tradition involving the commission of Peter and the other disciples (vv. 10-11; 21:11, 15ff)

Also notable is the use of the dual name “Simon Peter” in both narratives (v. 8; 21:7), as it is the only such occurrence in the Gospel of Luke (and only once elsewhere in the Synoptics, Matt 16:16); cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 28), p. 561.

These similarities have been explained various ways by commentators:

  • As two separate historical episodes, at different points in the life of Peter, during his time with Jesus—one at the beginning, and the other at the end. The shared details would be either coincidental or providential.
  • Two separate traditions have been shaped by a distinct miracle-story form—i.e. the miraculous catch of fish.
  • A tradition with an original post-resurrection setting (John) has been given an earlier setting at the time of Peter’s calling (Luke).
  • A tradition originally associated with Peter’s calling has been set after the resurrection. I.e. the reverse of the view above.
  • It is a piece of “floating” tradition, which came to the Gospel writers (and/or their sources) without a specific narrative (or chronological) context; each writer made use of the tradition at the most meaningful (or logical) point.

The first option generally follows the traditional-conservative view. Those who hold to it would quickly point out the many differences between the two narratives, in addition to the similarities. Critical scholars, on the other hand, are more likely to accept either the second, third, or fifth options (e.g., Fitzmyer, Luke I-IX, pp. 561-2). The fact that Luke has apparently adapted an (earlier) Synoptic narrative, by adding/inserting the miracle episode, as a distinct unit (vv. 4-9), would perhaps favor (some form of) the critical view. For those who would argue between the Lukan and Johannine setting as the “original” setting of the historical tradition, the evidence seems to be fairly evenly divided. On the one hand, the fact that Luke and John (according to the Alexandrian/Majority text of Lk 24), have inherited common traditions related to the resurrection, supports the post-resurrection setting in John 21. On the other hand, the idea of Peter and the other disciples returning to the ordinary life of fishermen after the resurrection has always seemed a bit odd (even unlikely) to many. The overall milieu of the scene (esp. vv. 1a-8 in John) better fits the period of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (as narrated in the Synoptics). It would be easy enough to adapt such an “earlier” or “floating” tradition to a post-resurrection setting, as could have been done in John simply by adding vv. 1 and 12b-14 (try reading the text without these framing verses) to an episode otherwise very close to Lk 5:4-9.

Speaking of the Gospel of John, it should be mentioned, in closing, that the Fourth Gospel has nothing like Mark 1:16-20 par, but records/preserves an entirely different tradition regarding the call of the first disciples (Peter/Andrew, etc). This will be discussed in the next daily note.

Note of the Day – January 28

By | Note of the Day | No Comments

At the end of the previous note, I compared the reaction of the people of Nazareth to Jesus (cf. Luke 4:16-30) with the reaction of the first disciples as recorded in Luke 5:1-11. Today I will be examining this passage a bit more closely. It derives, in part, from a common tradition found, in much simpler form, in Mark 1:16-20 / Matthew 4:18-22. The difference between the Lukan and Markan/Matthean accounts are significant, but clearly we are dealing with a single historical tradition involving the calling of the first disciples (Peter [and Andrew], James and John). This would serve to disprove any need to posit, e.g., two “cleansings” of the Temple, two visits to Nazareth, etc., in order to harmonize apparently divergent chronologies. The order and arrangement of episodes in the Gospels is as much literary as it is chronological. Still, it is useful to recognize the unique elements of the Lukan narrative, for it reveals something of the purpose and meaning the author attributes to it. Here are the main differences, compared with the account in Mark/Matthew:

  1. It is set after the initial ministry in Capernaum (Lk 4:31-44), instead of before (cf. Mark 1:21-39 par).
  2. It begins with a different historical/narrative setting (5:1-3)
  3. It incorporates a miracle, similar to that recorded in John 21:1-8, which is also centered on Simon Peter (5:4-9)
  4. The narrative of the miracle includes a significant saying of Simon Peter (5:8)
  5. The saying of Jesus, central to the main call narrative, differs from the version in Mark 1:17 par (5:10)

Each of these points will be discussed in turn.

1. The setting after Jesus’ initial ministry in Capernaum

In between the episode in Nazareth (4:16-30) and the call of the Disciples here, Luke records three narrative episodes set in Capernaum: (a) healing of the demon-possessed man in the synagogue (4:31-37); (b) healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (4:38-39), with other similar healings being described (4:40-41); (c) Jesus’ retiring to a solitary place, with a statement regarding his mission (4:42-44). These can all be found in Mark/Matthew (Mk 1:21-39 par., in the same sequence), but they occur after the call of the first disciples (Mk 1:16-20). The Lukan order creates a much more dramatic (some would say, more realistic) setting for the call of Peter, et al.—it is only after they have spent some time with Jesus (in Capernaum), having witnessed a number of miracles, that they leave everything to follow him. By comparison, in Mark/Matthew, the disciples appear to follow Jesus on the spot, at first sight, with no psychological motivation provided. Luke may even suggest that a longer time is involved, with additional preaching in Judea (v. 44, other manuscripts reading “Galilee”), before the call in chapter 5. It could be too that the joining of several different traditions (from a later Galilean ministry setting, cf. below) has caused the narrative to move further down in the relative chronology of the Gospel.

2. A different historical/narrative setting

Mark 1:16 states simply that Jesus was himself going alongside the sea [qa/lassa] of Galilee and saw Simon Peter, etc. Luke, on the other hand, records that a crowd was laid upon Jesus as he stood alongside the lake [li/mnh] of Gennesaret (v. 1), and he gets into Simon Peter’s boat and preaches to the crowd. In addition to more precise terminology for the body of water, the setting of verses 1-3 is similar to that in Mark 4:1 / Matt 13:1. Luke would seem to be aware of this, for at the same point (Lk 8:4) he omits mention of Jesus teaching to the crowd from a boat (having already used this setting here in chap. 5). Of course, at the historical level, Jesus may of done this sort of thing on more than one occasion, but there is evidence here of conscious modification by the Gospel writer: he has combined elements from different parts of the (Synoptic) Tradition. Was this done simply for dramatic effect? for greater historical accuracy? or is there a theological reason for the change? In my view, the most likely reason for the joining of these traditions here is literary—by way of “catchword” bonding, with a common motif (the boat/lake setting), elements from different traditions are brought together here. This may seem forced and artificial to us today, but it was an effective and meaningful way of communication—of building up narrative—in the ancient world.

3. Incorporation of a (separate?) Miracle story

The central portion of the Lukan narrative is a miracle involving an extraordinary catch of fish (vv. 4-9). Even a casual reader of the Gospels will recognize the similarity to the miracle recorded in John 21:1-8, the latter of course taking place (in the Gospel setting) after the Resurrection. How are we to explain this? There are three possibilities:

  • They reflect different (authentic) historical events—one occurring early, the other late—which happen to have similar details.
  • The episode reflects a single historical tradition, which has been transferred, from an early Galilean setting (Luke) to a post-resurrection setting (John), or vice versa.
  • It is a “floating” tradition, which has been incorporated into different (chronological) settings in Luke and John.

The third option is perhaps more likely, on objective critical grounds. The first would generally be the traditional-conservative view, but is wrapped up within the larger critical question of the nature and composition of John 21 as a whole (and its relation to Jn 20:19-29 [cf. also Lk 24:36-53, esp. v. 49]). In any case, the miracle, as Luke relates it, would seem to belong to its setting in the (early) Galilean ministry of Jesus. It is the turning point upon which the disciples (Simon Peter, James and John; curiously Luke does not mention Andrew, cf. Mark 1:16) decide to leave their boats and nets to follow Jesus (v. 9-11). Harmonizing passages such as Lk 5:1-11 and Jn 21:1-8 on historical/chronological grounds is a questionable procedure at best; a comparison on symbolic or theological grounds is more profitable (and useful):

  • In both accounts, Simon Peter is the central figure, along with his companions (incl. disciples of Jesus) (Lk 5:3-5; Jn 21:3)
  • In each they fish all night and catch nothing (Lk 5:5; Jn 21:3b); in Lk this is said to Jesus
  • Jesus tells them to (go out again and) let down their nets:
    “Lead (out) upon (the water) into the deep and let go your nets unto a catch” (Lk 5:4)
    “Cast the net (down) into the giving [i.e. right] (side) of the sailboat and you will find” (Jn 21:6)
  • The disciples obey and catch a great “multitude of fish (plh=qo$ [tw=n] i)xqu/wn)” (Lk 5:6; Jn 21:6), so that:
    —the boats became filled so as to sink down (Lk 5:7)
    —they were not strong (enough) to drag it in (Jn 21:6)
  • The miracle brings about recognition of Jesus:
    “And at (his) seeing (it), Simon Peter…” (Lk 5:8)
    “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter: ‘(It) is the Lord!'”(Jn 21:7)
  • Peter acts in response (Lk 5:8; Jn 21:7b)

Most significantly perhaps (as noted by many commentators), in Lk the nets are breaking [lit. rip through], but in Jn it is stated that the nets were not split, and the great catch (153 fish) is brought onto land (Jn 21:8, 11). This sometimes seen as a symbol of the Church and her unity; in the Johannine context especially, an ecclesiastical image (associated with Peter, cf. vv. 15-17) probably is intended.

4. The saying of Simon Peter

This exclamation by Peter in the narrative context is noteworthy:

But (at his) having seen (it), Shim’ôn Rock {Simon Peter} fell to Yeshua’s knees, relating/saying: “Go out (away) from me! (in) that I am a sinning/sinful man, Lord!” (v. 8)

It would seem to be a reaction not just to the miracle, but also to the doubt which he had initially expressed in v. 5. However, in the previous note, I discussed the reaction of the people of Nazareth in relation to the prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:34-35)—that the purpose prophesied for the child (Jesus) was to uncover the thoughts [counting/reckoning] out of many hearts. In the Nazareth episode, this uncovering leads to outright hostility; here, it leads to repentance and humility. Perhaps a slight irony is involved as well: the people of Nazareth, in passionate anger, cast out [e)ce/balon] Jesus from the city; Peter shouts to Jesus, “Go out [e&celqe] (away) from me!” Similar words, but a very different sense.

It is hard to determine whether this saying of Peter reflects a separate tradition (from the miracle story); if so, it has been joined effectively, for it fits within the context of the miracle extremely well. Some critical scholars have felt that Peter’s repentance expressed here is more appropriate in the post-resurrection context (of Jn 21), in light of his three-fold denial of Jesus during the Passion; I find this rather unlikely, on objective grounds. There is nothing else in Lk 5:1-11 which remotely suggests such a context—indeed, without Jn 21 for comparison, I doubt if anyone would consider such an association based on the details of Lk 5:1-11 itself.

5. The form of Jesus’ saying

The saying of Jesus as it appears in Mark 1:16 is:

deu=te o)pi/sw mou kai\ poih/sw u(ma=$ gene/sqai a(liei=$ a)nqrw/pwn
“Come (here) behind me and I will make you to become fishers of men”

These are the only words Jesus speaks in the short narrative (the par. saying in Matt 4:19 is nearly identical). The version of the saying in Lk 5:11 is noticeably different:

mh\ fo/bou: a)po\ tou= nu=n a)nqrw/pou$ e&sh| zwgrw=n
“Do not fear! from now (on) you will be catching men alive”

These are different enough to count as entirely separate sayings; however, assuming Luke was aware of the simpler Gospel tradition (and saying) in Mark, he has either modified or substituted the saying here. Most translations partially harmonize the Markan and Lukan saying by rendering the latter with “…you will be catching men”. However, the verb zwgre/w literally means “capture/take alive“. The contrast is more than simply catching men instead of fish: the disciples will be catching them alive. There may be a distinct soteriological nuance as well: catching men alive implies catching them unto (eternal) life. Since zwgre/w can also be used in the technical sense of taking someone captive (2 Tim 2:26), it may not be inappropriate to compare the Pauline idea of taking people “captive” for Christ—cf. especially 2 Cor 10:5, where the verb ai)xmalwti/zw (lit. take [away] by spear-point) is used.

In conclusion, it is worth comparing the two statements by Jesus which bracket the miracle narrative in vv. 4-9:

  • “Lead (out) upon (the water) into the deep and let go your nets unto a catch [a&gran]” (v. 4)
  • “Do not fear! from now (on) you will be catching men alive [zwgrw=n]” (v. 11)

This highlights the way in which Jesus, with a few simple words, could transform ordinary human activity into a profound expression of the work of God in the lives of human beings. This is not just a question of ‘evangelism’ and missionary work (important as those are), but cuts to the very heart of the nature of the eternal and spiritual dimension which Christ reveals at every moment.