Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NT Pod 5: Simon Peter in Mark: Programme Notes

The latest NT Pod deals with the topic of Simon Peter in Mark's Gospel. Against the background of the famous issue of Mark's negative portrayal of the disciples, I explore a little the interesting thesis of Mary Ann Tolbert that the interpretation to the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4.13-20) reflects programmatically the way that different people respond to Jesus in Mark, with a pun on Peter's name covered in the rocky ground (πετρῶδες). Peter, like those on the rocky ground, receive the word with joy when they hear it but they fall away (σκανδαλίζομαι) when trouble or persecution arise (Mark 4.16-17). This is what I call the "Peter pattern" in Mark, immediate enthusiasm followed by a falling away in the face of the cross, persecution, suffering. It is most clearly encapsulated in the Caesarea Philippi episode, where Peter initially gets things right, having understood and confessed that Jesus is the Christ (Mark 8.27-30), but then gets things horribly wrong, when he rebukes Jesus for talking about the cross and himself receives a rebuke from Jesus, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Mark 8.31-33).

My own addition to this discussion is to link the portrayal of Peter in Mark with the perception in early Christianity of "Christ crucified" as a "stumbling block" to Jews (1 Cor. 1.23). It is the connection between the Christ and crucifixion that causes Peter to stumble, and Mark repeatedly stresses this using the same language of σκάνδαλον and σκανδαλίζομαι (Mark 4.17, 14.27, 14.29). Mark's narrative makes Peter the character through whom the reader comes to understand (and ideally to overcome) the anxiety in the concept of a crucified Messiah.


J. K. Gayle said...


And to add a bit more to your "own addition to this discussion," isn't it interesting how Peter himself (or his pretender perhaps) plays with these words?

The writer of I Peter seems to excerpt and paraphrase LXX Isaiah, as follows:

IS 8.14 LXX: οὐχ ὡς λίθου προσκόμματι συναντήσεσθε αὐτῷ οὐδὲ ὡς πέτρας πτώματι

("not ... as a stumbling caused by stone nor as a fall caused by a rock" - tr. Moisés Silva)

I PT 2.8: λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου

("a stone to stumble on and a rock of catastrophe" - tr. Richmond Lattimore)

The salient new (i.e., Christianized) phrase, of course, is πέτρα σκανδάλου ("a rock of catastrophe").

This appears, of course, in the context of this Πέτρος (i.e., "Peter" [- named Rock]) writing about Ἰησοῦς χριστὸς as a λίθον ζῶντα (i.e., a "living stone"), ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασανas (i.e., which was "rejected"), though afterwards λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον, ἐκλεκτόν, ἔντιμον (i.e., "a stone that is select and prized at the uttermost corner" -- tr. Lattimore).

Mark Goodacre said...

Excellent and helpful comments, JK -- thanks!