Category Archives: cephas

Cephas and Peter

This is not a post by me, but has relevance to some of my notes I've written about in the past.

That minefield keeps any non-believing scholars in line. They know that certain things are taboo in NT studies. Sometimes you can watch as the defenders of the faith move the barbed wire and redefine the perimeter. I would cite as an example Bart Ehrman’s fascinating article in the Autumn 1990 JBL, entitled “Cephas and Peter.” It’s well worth reading, but just to summarize here he pretty much concludes that although the names have roughly the same meaning, they are not the same person. He writes:

All the same, we can no longer afford to overlook the peculiar results of this study. When Paul mentions Cephas, he apparently does not mean Simon Peter, the disciple of Jesus.

In Ehrman’s other, later works, notably his popular press treatment of Peter, Paul, and Mary, you won’t hear him make this claim. Is this because he changed his mind, or because he discovered firsthand this subject is now inside the minefield? I cannot help but suspect the latter, because the final paragraph of his 1990 journal article lays out the devastating conclusions:

The implications of this conclusion will be obvious to anyone who has worked at any length with the NT materials. For those who have not, we can simply mention the following: (1) Paul would not have gone to Jerusalem, three years after his “conversion” (Gal 2:18-20), in order to learn more about the life of Jesus from one of his closest disciples, Peter. Instead, he would have gone to confer with Cephas, a leader of the Jerusalem church, perhaps concerning missionary strategy. (2) Peter may not have even been present at the Jerusalem Conference in which Paul’s Gentile mission was approved and sanctioned (Gal 2:1-10). (3) No longer would we know if Peter was accompanied by his wife on his missionary journeys (1 Cor 9:5), nor whether he visited Corinth. (4) The confrontation at Antioch (Gal 2:11-14) would not have been between Peter and Paul, that is, between Jesus’ closest disciple and his most avid apostle. It would have been between a Jerusalem and a Pauline form of Christianity, pure and simple. (5) Finally, there would remain no NT evidence of Peter’s presence in Antioch, where tradition ascribes to him the first bishopric (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.36).

Tim Widowfield

If Peter and Cephas are not the same person, then what happened to “Peter” before the gospel of Mark was written? What happened to “Cephas” after the gospel of Mark was written?

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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in cephas, peter


Paul, Cephas, and Peter

I mentioned in my post on the history of early Christianity that Paul says in 1 Cor 15 that Jesus appeared to “Cephas (κηφας::kefas), and then the twelve” which might imply that Peter and Cephas are two different people. Because according to the gospel narratives, Peter was one of the twelve. Thus Paul should have written “Cephas and the eleven” if Peter and Cephas were indeed the same person.

Galatians 2:6-14 is the only mention of a person named “Peter” (πετρος::petros) in Paul’s letters. Assuming they are the same person, every other instance of this “pillar” Paul uses the name Cephas. Why Paul would out of the blue decide to call Peter “Peter” here instead of his usual “Cephas” has no other explanation other than interpolation.

Galatians 2:6-14


6απο δε των δοκουντων ειναι τι οποιοι ποτε ησαν ουδεν μοι διαφερει προσωπον [ο] θεος ανθρωπου ου λαμβανει εμοι γαρ οι δοκουντες ουδεν προσανεθεντο

7αλλα τουναντιον ιδοντες οτι πεπιστευμαι το ευαγγελιον της ακροβυστιας καθως πετρος της περιτομης

8ο γαρ ενεργησας πετρω εις αποστολην της περιτομης ενηργησεν και εμοι εις τα εθνη

9και γνοντες την χαριν την δοθεισαν μοι ιακωβος και κηφας και ιωαννης οι δοκουντες στυλοι ειναι δεξιας εδωκαν εμοι και βαρναβα κοινωνιας ινα ημεις εις τα εθνη αυτοι δε εις την περιτομην

10μονον των πτωχων ινα μνημονευωμεν ο και εσπουδασα αυτο τουτο ποιησαι

11οτε δε ηλθεν κηφας εις αντιοχειαν κατα προσωπον αυτω αντεστην οτι κατεγνωσμενος ην

12προ του γαρ ελθειν τινας απο ιακωβου μετα των εθνων συνησθιεν οτε δε ηλθον υπεστελλεν και αφωριζεν εαυτον φοβουμενος τους εκ περιτομης

13και συνυπεκριθησαν αυτω [και] οι λοιποι ιουδαιοι ωστε και βαρναβας συναπηχθη αυτων τη υποκρισει

14αλλ οτε ειδον οτι ουκ ορθοποδουσιν προς την αληθειαν του ευαγγελιου ειπον τω κηφα εμπροσθεν παντων ει συ ιουδαιος υπαρχων εθνικως και ουκ ιουδαικως ζης πως τα εθνη αναγκαζεις ιουδαιζειν


6As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message.

7On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.

8For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.

9James, Cephas, and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.

10All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

11When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.

12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”

In the reconstructed version of Marcion’s To the Galatians, Gal 2:7-8 are not in it:

(Gal 2:5) To these not even for an hour we yielded in subjection, That the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

(Gal 2:6) But from those reputed to be something – those of repute conferred nothing to me.

(Gal 2:7) But against them, when they had seen that I was entrusted the gospel of the uncircumcision.

(Gal 2:9) Peter, James and John , who regard themselves pillars, gave to me the right of fellowship: – to me the nations – to them the circumcision

In the Epistle of the Apostles (EoA), the writer gives a list of all of the apostles:

2 We, John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Nathanael, Judas Zelotes, and Cephas, write unto the churches of the east and the west, of the north and the south declaring and imparting unto you that which concerneth our Lord Jesus Christ

The only question that remains is why the interpolation? The only other instance of “Cephas” in the entire NT besides 1 Corinthians and Galatians is at John 1:42, who deliberately joins the two. However, the EoA uses the same motiffs as the gospel of John (disciples poking holes in Jesus’ wounds) so they might have been using that gospel as a source. If so, how could they separate Cephas and Peter?

The interpolation doesn’t add or subtract anything to Paul’s rant here, so the only purpose must be the same purpose as John 1:42 – joining the name Cephas and Peter into one person. Nowhere else does Paul mention that a “Peter” is a pillar of this Jesus movement. Maybe this version of Gal 2:7-8 is the same person who wrote John 1:42.

Edit: Or maybe the interpolation does detract from the rant a bit. Reading this section without the interpolation, Paul obviously has no love for the “so-called” pillars. Which follows the theme of 2:6 where he obviously said that their apparent leadership had no effect on his message, only that he remember the poor (which he did). Using the word δοκουντες::dokountes to describe them (“so-called”) makes sense of how he had no qualms about rebuking Cephas to his face later on in the letter. The interpolated passage softens the vitrol of Paul’s disdain for these pillars… which makes it seem slightly anti-Marcionite.

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Posted by on December 1, 2009 in cephas, gospel of john, interpolation, marcion, paul, peter

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