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”).


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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dear Mr. Riddle,

Thank you for the very informative blog post on Galatians 1:18 and following.

I have a question. But first let me set the stage. First you said that the modern critical text has Petros in 2:7. It also has Petro in verse 8. So the modern text is not simply choosing the readings which read Cephas. You also say that there are traditional readings of verse 9 that read Cephas even though it reads Petros elsewhere, such as in the Patriarchal Text, 1904.

Doesn't this mean that the modern critical text matches at least some traditional readings?

If the modern text is right, then another way to explain this discrepancy is to suppose that Paul's Petros and Cephas are not the same person.

In Matthew 16 the Apostles uses the name Petros. It isn't until John 1 that we read, " 'You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter)." John feels the need to explain the name, "Cephas." Is this because Peter is known to the Church by his Greek name "Petros"? This is how he addresses his Epistle: "Πέτρος, ἀπόστολος ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου."

So in Galatians, if we could trust the modern text, could Paul be distinguishing between Petros and someone else named Cephas.

I suppose that the common assumption has been that there has only ever been one person names "Cephas." This is like how people assume that Elvis was the only Elvis. But they should have known better. The ancient church had a tradition of an early pastor named Cephas who was numbered among the 70 who was martyred but not in Rome.

A convincing argument can be made that the name "Ciaphas," borne by the High Priest Joseph Ciaphas, derives from the same Aramaic root as "Cephas," but transliterated into Greek differently. The first-century historian Flavius Josephus writes concerning him, “and when he (Simon, the son of Camithus) had possessed that dignity (of high priest) no longer than a year, Joseph Caiaphas was made his successor.” (Jos., J.Ant. 18,2,2) “Besides which, he also deprived Joseph, who was also called Caiaphas, of the high priesthood.” (18,4,3) The word "Caiaphas" was not a family name. Rather, it was a title given to the High Priest Joseph because his term in office was so long. He was the "rock" of the temple institution, synonymous with the edifice itself, which was built upon a great immovable rock.

Now I am not saying that you could prove that Paul's Cephas was actually the Apostle Cephas of the 70 or the high priest Joseph Ciaphas but it does show that there were other Cephas's about at that time.

It is of course possible that all the passages read Petros and that a scribe changed some of them to emphasize the Jewishness of Paul's interlocutor. It is also possible that all the passages read Cephas and that scribes changed some of them to read Petros to try to add clarity. But it is also equally possible that this Cephas is not the same as Peter. Paul uses the specific names "Petros" and "Cephas" to carefully distinguish between two different men.