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Bockmuehl’s New Book on Peter

October 25, 2012

As you’ll note from the announcements about the conference on the Apostle Peter to be held here in New College 4-6 July 2013, one of the featured speakers is Professor Markus Bockmuehl (Oxford University).  Indicative of his expertise in matters concerning Peter is his latest book:  Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory:  The New Testament Apostle in the Early Church (Baker Academic Press, 2012).  As I wrote after reading the proofs of the book several months ago, this is “a valuaable study that combines amazing breadth of coverage of evidence (textual, artistic, and archaeological), sensitive and cogent analysis, and thoughtful concluding reflections for Protestant and Catholic Christians today.”

This is the second of Bockmuehl’s book-length treatments of Peter, his earlier tome: The Remembered Peter in Ancient Reception and Modern Debate (Mohr Siebeck, 2010).  That more technical work, directed more specifically toward fellow scholars, comprises the basis for the 2012 volume, which is aimed to be more widely accessible.

But, as Bockmuehl shows in this book, “accessible” doesn’t have to mean a work less solidly supported by references to primary data and engagement with relevant scholarship.  Instead, he combines clear exposition of the issues and his views with helpful notices and engagement with the views of other scholars, which will enable students and other serious readers to conduct their own research further into matters.

Bockmuehl isn’t afraid to stake out his own position on controverted matters either.  As an example, note his handling of the question of the authorship of 1 Peter (Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory, 126-31).  Essentially, Bockmuehl proposes that the text was likely composed by colleagues (perhaps Silvanus), but that the historical Peter authorized the text and that his person and views are incorporated in it.

So, one of the numerous reasons to consider registering for the conference on Peter next July is the opportunity to hear more from Bockmuehl!

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  1. 1 Peter was authorised by Peter himself? Isn’t it frustrating that we get a text authorised by Peter himself, and the text never has a single mention of any teaching of Jesus.

    It is frustrating for people hoping to hear the authentic words of Jesus.

    • Steven,
      Well, yes, if you set up an expectation without reference to the text or situation in question (e.g., that anything from Peter should focus on Jesus’ teachings), then you could be disappointed. But in any case, Bockmuehl’s proposal is a bit more flexible: “All in all, it seems that 1 Peter cannot be seen as a repository of historical Petrine memore or theology . . . . The letter shows a subtle but identifiable awareness of aspects of Petrine memory relating to the Gospel narratives . . . . it also manifests a number of substantive links with the Petrine profile in the Acts of the Apostles and with aspects of the theology of the gentile mission that also come to articulation in the letters of Paul.” (130-31).

      • Steven:

        Likely as Larry notes, there are some subtle references in the Petrine writings, to the gospels and the work of Paul. Though just as interesting to many of us would be the apparent conflicts between them. Especially consider what the gospels said about Peter; including not only the Gospel of Mark, but also Matthew.

        The writings of Peter are given canonical status in the NT. But consider the gospel’s account of Peter as a character. Especially consider a moment in Matthew 16 – when Peter conflicts rather seriously with Matthew’s Jesus. First Peter “rebuke”s Jesus; telling Jesus that Jesus is wrong on a number of matters, including the necessity of the crucifixion. Here Peter commits what would seem to be to major doctrinal mistakes, or major conflicts with Jesaus. First by questioning Jesus, Peter questions the matter of 1) the authority of Jesus. Then, 2) by questioning the crucifixion (“this will never happen!” says Peter), Peter denies, questions, the necessessity of the crucifixion. Thus Peter conflicts with two major gospel doctrines of Jesus.

        Worse, that’s not the end of conflicts between Peter and Jesus. Because the above amounts to a rather direct repudiation by Peter of Jesus’ authority, finally 3) Jesus himself next calls Peter “Satan” in Mat. 16.23. Jesus assuring us that Peter is “on the side of men,” and not of God.

        These and other examples might suggest an interesting topic: the strong conflict between 1 and 2 Peter, and the gospels. And their Jesus. This conflict is so severe, that one might well question the authority of 1 Peter and 2 Peter; and wonder at their inclusion in the canon.

        Not only does the Gospel of Mark depict Peter as a sort of character, and not a fully divine or infallible author; but the Gospel of Matthew, even its Jesus himself, seems to very severely criticize Peter. To the degree that if Peter actually was the author of 1 Pete and 2, one would hardly expect his writing to be included in the New Testament at all.

        – W. Goodman

      • “Goodman”: The critical portayal of Peter in the Gospels (esp. in Mark) is well known, and there have been different proposals about what it represents. Most scholars today see this, in part, as a device by which to make Jesus the true criterion, the apostles presented as fallible followers (perhaps with whom readers can more readily identify themselves).
        Obviously, for the Gospels to have acquired so quickly and so widely the high status that led to their canonical status, ancient Christian readers didn’t see the portrayal of Peter and the other disciples as the final word on them. In the case of Peter, who by all ancient tradition was executed in Rome under Nero, his martyrdom served to establish him as finally faithful, which allowed his earlier wobbles to function as didactic examples without imperiling his status in the tradition.
        So, whoever wrote 1 Peter and 2 Peter thought Peter a positive figure whose status would enhance the reception of these writings. The Gospels references to Peter’s fallibility didn’t work against this.

  2. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III permalink

    Dear Larry,

    Do you know if Dr. Bockmuehl has interacted with Bauckham’s remarks regarding Peter and the inclusio, and plural to singular use of the verbs found in Gospel of Mark? It is found in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Chapter 6, pp, 155-164.

    If he has not, then what are your thoughts?

    • Dear Briant,
      Bockmuehl (Simon Peter in Scripture & Memory) has a section on “Mark: Peter’s Evangelist” (pp. 131-41), in which he offers his own observations about how Mark treats Peter as a character in his narrative, and what this might suggest about Simon Peter’s relationship to the narrative. He refers to Bauckham’s argument with guarded approval (132). He also cites a more extended engagement with J. D. G. Dunn’s Jesus Remembered in an essay: “Whose Memore? Whose Orality? A Conversation with James Dunn on Jesus and the Gospels,” in Memories of Jesus: A Critical Appraisal of James D. G. Dunn’s Jesus Remembered, eds. R.B. Stewart & G. R. Habermans (Hashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 31-44.

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