Markan Fabrications-the Petrine Denial, I. Introduction, II. Lack of Evidence
weedent at atw.earthreach.com
Fri May 26 12:58:52 EDT 2000
To Kata Markon Participants,
Jeffrey Gibson has already alerted you that you would be receiving the following essay, "Markan Fabrications: the Petrine Denial," from me. It is an essay that I developed as my contribution to a discussion that has been taking place on Xtalk regarding whether or not Mark was "anti Peter." Jeffrey invited me to share the same essay with you. I look forward to your critical responses. I am in hopes of eventually publishing this essay with others in a book on Mark which will be something of a scholarly companion to a commentary which I have been asked to write on Mark. So your responses will be very beneficial to me as I continue my work in this area. I will send the essay in sections over six posts.
I look foward to hearing from you.
Markan Fabrications: the Denial of Peter
The past weeks' posts have gone back and forth on the Markan position on Peter, James, etc., at a dizzying pace. It has been difficult to keep up with them. But after a period of silence, as I am preparing my response to Mahlon on the gospel's Galilean provenance, let me contribute my own perspective. Many of you know from my _Mark-Traditions in Conflict_ (1971,1979) that I am convinced that Mark is dramatizing his own vendetta against opponents in his community who advocate a christology radically different from Mark's own suffering-servant christology.
Mark's opponents claim their view on christology is grounded in the tradition passed down by Peter and the Twelve. Thus Peter and the Twelve are the opponents' authorities. Since Mark does not possess the apostolic stature that Peter and the Twelve do, the only way that he can "out trump" his opponents is to compose a drama in which (1) Jesus, the most revered and exalted authority of all, is presented as advocating Mark's christology and (2) Peter and the Twelve are portrayed as advocating the christology of Mark's opponents. Thus in the course of the narrative, Mark presents the disciples, dramatic surrogates for Mark's opponents, as dense, non-comprehending "insiders" who, when they finally "get" the true christological view proclaimed by Jesus at Caesarea Philippi (8:31) and thereafter (9:31; 10:33f.), oppose Jesus' christology and finally betray, forsake and deny him.
Moreover, as a finishing touch on the devastating vendetta against his opponents' authorities, Mark in his final coup de grace narratively deprives the disciples of any possible rehabilitation by having the women flee the empty tomb in silence, saying nothing to anyone (16:8). The dramatic force and effect of their sealed lips is that they never deliver the parousia message (16:7) to the disciples as they were charged to do by the young man in the empty tomb. The drama closes with the disciples having exited the stage as fallen apostates and not faithful apostles. (I have more recently restated and enlarged upon my Markan thesis in an article, "The Markan Mystery and Mark's Messiah for Faith,"in _Chicago Studies_, 1995:17-31.).
In this post, which will be sent in sections, I want to expand upon my Markan thesis and contribute the following to the Xtalk discussion, as well as test some of my theses with those who are interested. I am now convinced that not only did Mark create the denigrating portrayal of the disciples, but Mark also, and Mark alone, invented both the denial of Peter (so also Burton Mack, _The Myth of Innocence_, 306; Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, _The Acts of Jesus_,149, 430) and the betrayal of Judas. Peter never denied Jesus, and Judas never betrayed Jesus. The denial and betrayal are Markan fictions created in the service of his polemic against his opponents who use Peter and the Twelve as their authorities. What is my evidence for making these claims? First, let me address Mark's fabrication of the Petrine denial in this post, and then shortly follow with a future post addressing the Markan fabrication of Judas' betrayal.
II. Lack of Evidence of Petrine Denial Prior to Mark
I can find no evidence anywhere in the Jesus movements, prior to Mark's creation of his gospel drama, that Peter did in fact deny Jesus. Nowhere in early Christian sources prior to Mark is there any reference, allusion or even hint that there was such a Petrine denial. Paul makes no mention of it. I find it strange, if the denial did occur, that Paul would not have drawn attention to such a Petrine lapse in Antioch when Paul castigates Peter for his duplicity in first eating with the uncircumcised at Antioch and then refusing to do so when the James party arrives in town (Gal. 2:11-14). What better way could Paul have had to drive home his point about Peter's hypocritical reversal of behavior than to remind Peter, and those before whom he castigated Peter, that he has had a habit of being duplicitous, a habit which began with his denial of Jesus in the moment when Jesus most needed someone to stand by him? If Paul really knew that Peter denied Jesus, then his total silence with respect to it is deafening,
Likewise, there is no reference or allusion to a Petrine denial in any other pre-Markan tradition. Not a trace of it can be found in Q. And nothing in the Gospel of Thomas would lead one to believe that any of the traditions behind that gospel knew of Peter denying Jesus. Had the author of Thomas known of the denial, he could have used it as sufficient cause alone for the elevation of Thomas over Peter in GTh. 13. For in that saying it is clear that what is at stake is that the author is trying to prove that Thomas, rather than Peter or Matthew, is Jesus' most trusted confidant and most favored disciple.
Stephen Patterson observes with respect to this point (_The Fifth Gospel_, 42): " In Thom. 13, Thomas is exalted but Peter and Matthew must play the fool, unable to understand the real significance and identity of Jesus. This suggests a time in early Christianity when local communities had begun to appeal to the authority of particular well-known leaders from the past to guarantee the reliability of their claims, even while rejecting the rival claims of others and their apostolic heroes." (Parenthetically, that is precisely what I see Mark doing, namely, appealing to the authority of Jesus as support for Mark's christology, "while rejecting the rival [christological] claims of others [Mark's opponents] and their apostolic heroes [Peter and the Twelve]."). The fact that the Gospel of Thomas fails to produce a reference or allusion to the Petrine denial as ammunition to support the primacy of Thomas over Peter, in the rivalry between their respective followers, suggests to me that Thomas did not know of the Petrine denial. Given the high stakes involved in such rivalry, I cannot imagine that the author of Thomas knew of the denial and chose not use it.
To pursue support for my position further: if such a Petrine denial is historical, then I find it quite strange that nowhere in the NT is there any reference to Peter ever offering a *mea culpa* and receiving forgiveness for his denial. It is particularly striking that in none of the resurrection- appearance stories is there any suggestion that Peter offers or has offered a *mea culpa* and is forgiven by the risen Jesus. The appearance story that comes closest to supplying a possible allusion to a Petrine *mea culpa* is the story found in John 21:15-21, part of the later redaction of the original text of the Gospel of John. But even here one has to strain to extrapolate from that passage such a *mea culpa.* In that story the risen Jesus asks Peter three times whether Peter loves him. It is obvious to me, as it is to others (e.g. Funk and the Jesus Seminar, 491), that the narrator has Jesus ask the question three times to parallel Peter's denial of Jesus three times in Mark. Yet, even here I do not find any suggestion that Peter regrets his denial and asks Jesus for forgiveness. Rather, the point of the story is more about Jesus needing assurance of Peter's love than of Peter's need for forgiveness. And the reason that Jesus requires assurance that Peter loves him is that he needs to know that Peter loves him despite the fact that Peter will be crucified for following Jesus (21:18f.). Funk and fellows of the Jesus Seminar saw this story as a rehabilitation of Peter after his denial ( 491), but even that is not self-evident, as I read the flow of the narrative.
It is clear to me that the story of Peter's denial entered the early Christian tradition as a result of Mark's fabrication of the denial. It is also clear to me that Mark very carefully composed and staged the denial to underscore Peter's rejection of the Markan Jesus' proclaimed and self-defined christological identity. What evidence do I have to support that? The evidence that supports my claim lies in the way Mark uses his leitmotiv as a tour de force to denigrate Peter and the rest of the twelve disciples throughout the drama, including employing his leitmotiv to debase Peter totally in the fabrication of the Petrine denial. And what do I mean by Mark's leitmotiv?
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