Sunday, September 02, 2012

Text Note: Galatians 1:18: "Peter" or "Cephas"?


The issue:

Did Paul write that he went up to Jerusalem to see “Peter” (Petros) or “Cephas” (Kephas)?  The traditional text reads “Peter,” while the modern critical text prefers the Aramaic form of Peter’s name, “Cephas.”

External evidence:

The traditional text is supported by a corrected hand of Sinaiticus and the codices D, F, G, Psi, K, L, P, and the vast majority of minuscules, in addition to the entire Latin tradition and the Syriac Harklean.

The modern critical text is supported by p46, p51, the original hand of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus, among other codices.  It is also found in various Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions.

Internal evidence:

Metzger takes the Aramaic name as the original which was substituted for “the more familiar Greek name Petros” (Textual Commentary, p. 591).

Examination of the rest of Galatians reveals that textual variations between “Peter” and “Cephas” are not limited to 1:18.  The issue resurfaces in 2:9, 11, and 14.

In 2:11 and 2:14, the Textus Receptus also reads “Peter” and the modern critical text “Cephas,” supported by essentially the same external evidence as found in 1:18.

Of particular interest, however, is the reading found in 2:9, where the traditional text agrees with the modern critical text in reading “Cephas,” not “Peter.”  Thus, the modern critical heavyweights Sinaiticus and Vaticanus support the Majority text here.  As Metzger points out, there are, indeed, some witnesses, “chiefly Western,” which read “Peter” rather than “Cephas” in 2:9. These include p46 and the codices D, F, G, K, and L (Textual Commentary, p. 592), but this was not the reading adopted by the traditional text.  Some of the manuscripts (D, F, G, etc.) not only read “Peter” but also place his name first in the list (i.e., “Peter and James and John”).

Analysis:

First, we would acknowledge that the reading of the apostle’s name as “Peter” or “Cephas” does not affect any vital point of doctrine.  The modern critical reading is based primarily on the weight of external evidence and an a priori assumption that the readings of certain texts (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) be given priority.

Second, the assumption that the traditional text substituted “Peter” for “Cephas” in 1:18; 2:11, 14 remains only a speculation.  Is it not equally possible that the manuscripts which serve as the basis for the modern critical text substituted “Cephas” for “Peter” for some unknown reason?  Perhaps they wanted to give emphasis to Peter’s Jewishness by referring to him by his Aramaic name, or they simply wanted to harmonize the references (but cf. 2:7, the only place where even the modern critical text reads “Peter” rather than “Cephas”).

Third, the fact that the traditional text reads “Cephas” rather than “Peter” in 2:9 would seem to undermine the theory that the traditional text systematically substituted “Peter” for “Cephas.”  If this had been the tendency of the received text, why was 2:9 overlooked, especially when some manuscripts obviously did alter the text (and no less than p46 at that!)?

Is it not just as plausible to assume that the variation in uses of “Peter” and “Cephas” in Galatians reflects the original hand of Paul?  Indeed, in Galatians 2:7 Paul refers to the apostle as “Peter” in a text that suffers from no textual dispute.  Thus, the traditional reading(s) might well be defended as authentic.
JTR

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