Monday, April 25, 2022

A Little More on the Resurrection Narratives?

Indulge me, please, with another resurrection post ... we are still well within the "50 Days of Easter"! It will be last one for Pascha 2022.

I have never noticed before the unusual character of the verse, Luke 24:12.

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (NRSV)


1. Not all ancient manuscripts have this verse. That means it may not have been known to Luke himself and may have been added later (e.g. to bring Peter into the story at an earlier stage than otherwise, see Luke 24:34). REB confines the verse to a footnote.

2. The verse is reminiscent of aspects of Peter and the Beloved Disciple's racing/running to the tomb and seeing into it, in John 20:3-10: thus:

20:3 Then Peter and ... set out and went toward the tomb.

20:4 The two were running together ...

20:5 He [the Beloved Disciple] bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there ...

20:6 ... Simon Peter ... saw the linen wrapping lying there ...

20:10 Then the disciples returned to their homes ...

The emboldened words in Luke 24:12 and John 20:5 are exactly the same in Greek.

3. How to explain the relationship between Luke 24:12 and John 20:3-10. Did one copy/adapt from the other? Did they both draw on a common tradition? 

C.F. Evans, in his commentary, Saint Luke (SCM/Trinity Press International, 1990), pp. 899-900 lists three explanations for Luke 24:12:

A. "Luke wrote the verse, and it was later used by John." He then observes, "Against this is that some of the common language is characteristic of John rather than of Luke."

B. "Luke and John have used a common tradition of the empty tomb story in which disciples (Peter) were connected with the tomb, each doing so in his own way. Luke has combined it with Mark's story, while John has incorporated the beloved disciple into it." Evans then observes, "Against this, apart from the Johannine character of the language referred to above, the verse would be the only evidence for such a common tradition to be found in Luke's version, which is otherwise based on Mark's, and it follow awkwardly after 'an idle tale', giving the impression of something tacked on.

Yes, explanation C is the one!

C. "The verse is a later harmonizing addition to Luke's text, formed largely out of language borrowed from John 20:1-10, with the object of improving the transition to the narrative of appearances, and of brining Peter (cf. v. 34) into relation to the tomb." For Evans, "This is the most likely explanation of the presence of the verse here, and of its clumsiness."

Now various things can be contested here (e.g. I have seen a commentator deny that the language in v. 12 is Johannine), but the verse is a clumsy one relative to the verses preceding and succeeding it, and explanation C has a certain plausibility to it.

What does this mean for insight into the composition of the resurrection narratives?

Perhaps there are many insights!

Here is one insight:

The narratives across Mark, Luke and John are interested in the role of Peter as a witness to the resurrection - noting that Paul's tradition in 1 Corinthians 15:5 reports a specific appearance "to Cephas" prior to an appearance "then to the twelve."

Matthew, who follows Mark to a significant degree in Matthew 28:1-7, fails to follow Mark 16:7, where the messenger from God at the tomb says, "But go, tell his disciples and Peter ...".

Luke (who avoids any talk of appearances of Jesus in Galilee, in both Luke 24 and Acts 1) notes in 24:34 a specific appearance to "Simon", but via an indirect report. Luke 24:34 is consistent with 1 Corinthians 15:5. 

Luke 24:12 places Simon Peter at the tomb but without account of an appearance of the risen Lord to him. 

Otherwise, we assume in Matthew's Galilee appearance (28:16-20) and Luke's Jerusalem appearance to all the gathered disciples, that Peter is present in that group.

Similarly, in John 20, we assume that Peter is present in both accounts of appearances to the gathered disciples - only Thomas is noted as missing from the first account.

Nevertheless, in John 21, the appearance of the Lord to seven disciples gathered together at the Sea of Tiberias (i.e. in Galilee) becomes a major encounter between Jesus and Simon Peter.

Is there a developing interest in the role of Simon Peter as a witness to the resurrection, through the decades in which the gospels are composed (and, in the case of Luke 24:12 edited)?

But, why then does Matthew show no interest in Peter in his post resurrection narratives?

A possible deduction is that Matthew is a Palestine-based gospel and Peter is long gone from Palestine to Rome.

By contrast, if Mark is Rome-based (as many have supposed), then his interest in Peter is understandable. Luke is not as interested in Peter as he is in Paul, but Peter is important, and Paul himself does not omit the "appearance to Peter" tradition from his list in 1 Corinthians 15.

John, as best we can tell, is neither a Palestine nor a Rome based gospel. Possibly he composes his gospel in Ephesus. But his gospel represents a distinctive form of early Christianity, Johannine Christianity and this development is in contrast, if not in tension with the Pauline - Petrine Christianity across the water in Rome. So Peter figures prominently in John's Gospel, especially in the epilogue which is chapter 21. But the emphasis on Peter is not about boosting Petrine Christianity; it's about defending Johannine Christianity as a worthy form of Christianity, with as strong a foundation in the ministry of Jesus Christ as Petrine Christianity has.

All this is pretty well known.

Luke 24:12 offers the possibility of a strengthening of this analysis.


Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter; Simon Bar-Jonah was a person of Simple Faith. He didn't always get it right - and sometimes got it horribly wrong (sounds familiar!) . BUT, in the end; Jesus called him Rock (Peter), on whose type of fragile humanity he would build His Church! In that context, may I offer today's quote from Peter's Successor, Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome:

"TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2022

“Dear brothers and sisters, is better to have an imperfect but humble faith that always returns to Jesus, than a strong but presumptuous faith that makes us proud and arrogant. Woe to those, woe to them!”
Pope Francis

Christ is risen, Alleluia! He is Risen Indee, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Unknown said...

Markus Bockmuehl (Simon Peter in Scripture and in Memory) adds nothing to + Peter's OP, except to note that St Luke's storytelling could have been constrained by Jerusalem testimony that did not support an alternative to the Synoptic and Johannine perspectives.


Mark Murphy said...

Could the text describing Peter as "stooping" and "bending" in the presence of the empty tomb be a prophetic inclusion in terms of what "Petrine Christianity" needs in order to moderate it's missional energy and claims?

Peter Carrell said...

Very droll, Mark!

Certainly, John 21 can be read as dampening all claims that the church-founded-by-or-based-on-this-but-not-that-apostle is "the one, true church."

(There are reasons for admiring Rome; e.g. it has stuck around, been more resilient than (e.g.) the church in Ephesus; but connection to Peter is not one of them, in my view.)

Anonymous said...

+ Peter's view is exactly right.

Canon 6 of 1 Nicaea (325) recognised that three sees had been exercising authority in the regions around them: Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch.

Canons 2 and 3 of 1 Constantinople (381) recognised that the evolving episcopal system had aligned with the imperial one: old Rome retained some precedence over the new Rome of Constantinople, but the latter has the same privileges of honour (πρεσβεία τιμής). This paralleled the imperial administration in which Rome remained the ceremonial capital of the empire but the emperor governed from Constantinople.

Canons 9, 17, and 28 of Chalcedon (451) recognise the equal honour of Rome and Constantinople, that both review the disciplinary decisions of other metropolitan sees, that Jerusalem has risen to a fifth rank behind Alexandria and Antioch, and that Constantinople is responsible for bishops among the barbarians.

Now Roman primacy can be understood in several ways. Ways that are compatible with these ecumenical canons can possibly be from God. Plainly ruled out are theories that Rome has powers not equally held by Constantinople. More obliquely ruled out are theories in which archbishops and bishops are mere representatives of Rome.

In the course of his long and luminous career as an historian, the Orthodox patriarchs often consulted Fr John Meyendorff on the contemporary meaning of the ecumenical canons (eg "Is the bishop of Washington a patriarch equal to those of Rome and New Rome?"). Two quotations give the flavour of his replies.

"Personally, I see no way in which the Orthodox Church can fulfill its mission in the world today without the ministry of a 'first bishop,' defined not any more in terms which were applicable under the Byzantine Empire or in terms of universal jurisdiction according to the Roman model, but still based upon that 'privilege of honor' of which the Second Ecumenical Council spoke. We should all think and search how to redefine that 'privilege' in a way which would be practical and efficient today. I believe that the tradition of the Church offers sure guidelines in this respect."

"...the primacy of Constantinople [is defined] in terms of 'service' (diakonia) to all the Churches. This is, indeed, the theological and ecclesiological category which makes the idea of primacy acceptable and ancient canons fully understandable, while remaining adequate to the new historical situation in which we live."


Anonymous said...

Somewhere Jesus said ‘The greatest among you must be as one who serves’. That can be a church or a priest!

Anonymous said...

The Eurasian Hordelands--


Mark Murphy said...

"The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save."

Bosco Peters said...

Thanks for this work of yours, Peter.
You will be able to imagine, Peter, how saddened I am that NRSV translates the exact same Greek quite differently in these two places - the "Updated Edition" does nothing to fix this!
I quickly compared some translations:
Only ASV and NAS are the translations I found that were consistent.
Easter Season Blessings

Unknown said...

Anglican Political Theologians: What civil society should the Body promote in oh Siberia or the Congo?


Unknown said...

Postscript: Siberia? If Putin is right about the minimum security requirements for the empire he holds together, and about the polity that is feasible in that terrain, then Russia as we have known it may not be viable.

Siberian separatism persists despite ruthless repression. Faced with a manpower shortage in Ukraine, Putin has nevertheless withdrawn all his troops from the east. Meanwhile, China is tactfully asking for a new relationship with Canada.


Unknown said...

Postscript. The Congo? Or any other resource extraction economy. South Dakota.

People who eat by trading unprocessed resources rarely have good democracies and often have kleptocracies. This is a problem for Christians who assume that a good polity must be like ours.


Peter Carrell said...


Bosco: (unfortunately) Indeed! A little consistency would be a good thing. But such things keep alive the importance of learning biblical languages!

Bowman: interestingly, in the South Island where I live, there has been a massive use of extracted water to grow grass to feed dairy herds of a maga size to send milk powder to China. To get to the current level of water extraction, our Government a decade or so ago cancelled democratic elections to the environmental council responsible for issuing permits for such extraction. (A specific consequence of such water extraction for such a purpose is the increase of nitrates in our rivers and associated alluvial supplies of drinking water.)