Re: Did Peter walk on water?

Date: Fri Sep 27 2002 - 02:59:44 EDT

  • Next message: "Re: Did Peter walk on water?"

    To my post,

    << Externally, one would like to have had the incident of Peter walking on
    > water mentioned in Mark, which traditionally has been thought to derive
    > essentially from the memoirs of Peter, or in Luke, whose preface, tells
    us he
    > took extra pains to get his facts straight from the eyewitnesses. Matthew
    > the weak sister of the three, and is the only one reporting the incident.
    > That does not put it in doubt, but it doesn't help matters much.
    > Internally, one can see that Matthew usually adjusts the statements in
    > so as to omit or tone down things that seem to be unfavorable to the
    > disciples (See Alfred Plummer, The Gospel according to St. Matthew, repub
    > Eerdmans, p xiv), so it is historically confirming when he tells of an
    > incident that Mark does not even mention and yet is detrimental to the
    > reputation of Peter (in that his faith is pronounced small). Similarly,
    > Matthew emphasizes the primacy of Peter; so, it runs against his tendency
    > report that which would degrade him. The story is also in keeping with the
    > impetuosity of Peter as we meet him in all of the gospels.
    > No doubt much more could be said, but the upshot, in my opinion, is that
    > is probably historically accurate to say that Peter walked on the water.
    > least that would be the presumption if the data is looked at apart from
    > naturalistic philosophy.

    George commented,

    >> Perhaps, although the fact that Mt gives Peter a place in the story at
      all might be seen as consistent with his emphasis on the importance of Peter.
      (Mt does not, after all, tone down the most negative story about Peter, that
      his denial.)>>

    I hope no one tries to build up my importance by airing my failures.
    It is true that Matt does not tone down Peter's denial, but the passion
    tradition was a unit and one of the most well-rooted historical parts of the
    gospels. I suggest that Matthew was constrained by the tradition to mention

    >>Jn as well as Mk & Mt, have an account of Jesus walking on the sea
      following the feeding of the 5000. Johannine-synoptic agreement suggests
      the accounts go back at least to very early Christian tradition, & it
      seems safe to say that the first Christians knew of such a story. & of
    course it is Jesus walking on the sea (not simply "on the water") that is
    the most important

    Yes, the agreement of John with Mk-Mt testifies to its historicity.

    << The question then is whether Peter also walked on water or whether, for
      one reason or another, this part of the story is a Matthean creation
      to make some theological point. One way of getting at that question is to
    look at the language & theology in the part of the story about Peter & see
    if it reflects
    distinctively Matthean usage - favorite words, concepts, &c.>>

    I don't see how language or even theology can help us determine whether the
    story is historical or not. For example, the use of "apokritheis...eipen"
    (having answered...he said) in v. 28 is a Mattheanism, but so what? The same
    Mattheanism is found in 26:3 at the beginning of the story of Peter's denial.
      Would we judge the latter as fictional haggadah because it begins with this
    Similarly, one's theological interests may make one select material or
    emphasize some material over other, but on what basis can we say that because
    a writer has a particular theological interest or focus that some of the
    material supporting that interest was therefore invented by him?

    <<One biblical scholar who has done such work is Robert Gundry, whose
      _Matthew: A Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art_ (Eerdmans, 1982)
      deals with such questions for the entire gospel. His conclusion about the
      Petrine part of our text may be worth quoting (p.300);

               "The several echoes of the story about the earlier storm and the
      preceding part of the present story, the heavily Matthean diction, the
      theological motifs characteristic of Matthew, and the possible allusions to
      OT make it difficult to resist the conclusion that Matthew did not draw the
      material in vv 28-31 from tradition, but composed it as a haggadic midrash on
      discipleship: confessing Jesus as Lord, obeying Jesus' command, being guilty
      little faith in persecution, crying out for deliverance, and being rescued
      rebuked by Jesus.">>

    The story of Peter walking on the water is directly tied to the preceding
    story about the storm, why wouldn't there be echoes of the preceding story?
    Gundry cites the reference to the wind in v. 30 as harking back to its
    mention in v. 24, the "becoming afraid" as harking back to Matthew's
    insertion of "from fear" in v. 26. Well, of course the wind is in both, it is
    the same storm; and, of course seeing a ghost or high waves coming at you
    would cause fear. For Peter's "Lord, save me," Gundry goes all the way back
    to the storm in 8:25 to find the "echo"in the disciples' "Lord, save us." And
    for the Mattheanism, "one of little faith" in v. he goes back to 8:26, where
    Jesus used the same word under similar circumstances. But, don't people use
    the same words under similar circumstances? I don't find this kind of
    reasoning at all compelling.

    Part of his "heavily Matthean diction" is "Petros", which is actually used
    more often in John. Another part is "lego(omega)n" , which is used just as
    often in Luke (both 48 times). And what about "legon" in Matt 16:13 along
    with "apokritheis...eipen" and "Petros" in 16:16? Isn't that story also
    presented with "heavily Matthean diction"? Does that mean the great
    confession of Peter, which is found in Mark 8 and Luke 9) is a fictional
    haggadah? And, if you were making up a story to insert in an historical
    account, wouldn't you take some pains to avoid a heavy use of your unique
    diction? What modern historian does not use his own diction? and where it is
    heavy, does that section become fiction?

    I have already commented on the meaninglessness of the use of theological

    The "possible allusions to the Old Testament" could be found in numerous
    sections of Matthew which one would not suppose are unhistorical. And
    "possible" does not add to probability in any case.

    Matthew's gospel is Targumic, but haggadic? The story has a weak historical
    foundation, but I do not see where Gundry's arguments constitute genuine
    evidence that the story is fiction.


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