Did Peter claim Jesus appeared to him?

  • Clarifying the question

    Did Peter publicly maintan that Jesus had visited him in private? He was one of the twelve apostles being discipled under Jesus, and was among the group proclaiming that Jesus appeared to him alive from the dead. But we have reports (in Luke 24:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:5) that just prior to the group appearances to his male disciples, Peter received an individual appearance.

    This helps answer:

“Yes, after all…
  • The A.D. 30 Jerusalem church said so

    According to the A.D. 30 Jerusalem church, Peter publicly maintained that he had received a personal appearance from the resurrected Jesus.1 This is relevant because they were authorities on whether Peter was actually testifying to this. (After all, he was an authoritative member of that church. Moreover, the other members included the apostles and Mary, the very people who knew Peter best.)

    1. We know the church was affirming this for at least four reasons:
      #1 The Jerusalem church affirmed 1 Cor 15:5 -- “He [Jesus] appeared to Cephas [i.e., Peter], then to the twelve”.
      #2 The Jerusalem church affirmed the content quoted in Acts 2:32 -- “[Peter proclaimed] This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.” After all, scholars largely agree Acts 2:14-36/39 here (Peter's Pentecost speech) is primitive, and reflected the teachings of the Jerusalem church about Peter.
      C.H. Dodd (NT professor at Oxford, Cambridge [d. 1973]): “We may with some confidence take these speeches to represent, not indeed what Peter said upon this or that occasion, but the kerygma of the church at Jerusalem at an early period.”[The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments (Willet, Clark & Co., 1937), 22-4.] (Note: Dodd would not deny that Peter was proclaiming this. He just means that the evidence under consideration does not warrant the conclusion that Peter proclaimed them right here at Pentecost).
      Oxford Bible Commentary: “Peter’s message here falls into a distinctive pattern analyzed in Dodd’s classic study of the apostolic preaching. This pattern is distinct from the Pauline gospel and may well have come to Luke via some form of primitive Christian tradition.” [Acts 2:14, John Barton and John Muddiman (Oxford, 2001)]
      James Dunn (NT professor at Durham): “There are several indications that Luke [in Acts 2:14-36/39] was able to draw on earlier tradition …Consequently we may imagine Luke carefully inquiring of those who remembered the earliest preaching of the Jerusalem church and crafting the sermon from these memories and from emphases which had lasted from the earliest period of Christianity's beginnings in Jerusalem to his own day.” [Beginning From Jerusalem (Eerdmans, 2009), 90-91.]
      #3 The affirmation of a special Petrine visit in Lk 24:33-34 is also recognized as an extremely early creedal formala (John Kloppenborg, “An Analysis of Pre-Pauline Formula in 1 Cor 15:3b-5 in Light of Some Recent Literature,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 40 (1978): 358.). William Lane Craig cites Peter Stuhlmacher as one who has given multiple reasons to think Lk 24:34 is as early as 1 Cor 15:5 (“'Kritischer mussten mir die Historisch-Kritischen Sein!',” ThQ 153 [1973]: 250.), and Habermas cites Joachim Jeremias's paper which contains arguments for thinking it must be even earlier. (“Easter: The Earliest Tradition and the Earliest Interpretation,” in New Testament Theology trans. Bowden (Scribners, 1971), 306.) Multiple scholars also comment on Luke's restraint here in refusing to elaborate on the appearance to Peter, showing extreme care with his sources. For example:
      C.H. Dodd: “It is hardly doubtful that the evangelist was familiar with a formula practically identical with that which Paul 'received' and 'transmitted'. We should not miss the significance of the fact that he is content to report the appearance to Peter in this jejune kerygmatic form. …he was clearly not willing to create a whole story out of a bare statement like this: otherwise, what a story we might have had of the appearance of Christ which was (to judge from various indications) crucial for the whole history of the Church, but which has inexplicably failed to enter into the Gospels!” [“The Appearances of the Risen Christ,” The Historical Jesus Vol 3, ed. Evans (Taylor & Francis, 2004), 309.]
      #4 Mark 16:7 implies that Jesus appeared to Peter (But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”) The Gospel of Mark probably ends at verse 9. Scholars know that the bracketed text following v9 in most Bibles was a later scribal addition. That is to say, the following appearances to the apostles is just meant to be implied.
  • The Corinthian church said so

    According to the Corinthian church, Peter publicly maintained that he had received a personal appearance from the resurrected Jesus.1 This is relevant because Peter was well-known to the Corinthians.2 If he had not represented himself as receiving a personal appearance, the Corinthians would not have believed it (in fact, they would sooner have believed that he did not receive an appearance).

    1. We know the Corinthians believed this because Paul used it as a premise in his argument, and framed it as a premise that they already accepted.

      1 Corinthians 15:1,5 -- Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand… that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve.

    2. As stated bluntly by one specialist,
      C.H. Dodd (NT professor at Oxford, Cambridge [d. 1973]): “Cephas [Peter] “Cephas was well-known to the Corinthians, whether directly or not;” [“The Appearances of the Risen Christ”, The Historical Jesus, Vol 3, ed. evans, 310.]
      We know this for at least two reasons:
      The early churches in general were well-networked to the Jerusalem church (e.g. see here), of which Peter was a member. (For a fully narrated example of Peter personally visiting a church like Corinth, see Galatians 2:11ff. For a fully narrated example of a church like Corinth sending members to personally visit and consult with Peter et al., see Acts 15).
      • There was a “Cephas party” at Corinth, which “probably consisted of those who were converted under his ministry”, plausibly suggesting “Peter had spent some time there.” [Walter Elwell, Barry Beitezel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible vol. 2 (Baker, 1998), 1665.]
      1 Corinthians 1:12 — “each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,”…
      1 Corinthians 3:22 — “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas
      1 Corinthians 15:5, 8, 11 — “and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. … and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also … Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
      Note: Some scholars, like Bart Ehrman, understandably caution against assuming “this allegiance to Peter was because he… had come to visit the church”, after all “a fourth group, for example, claims allegiance to Jesus himself, and it is certain that he was never there.” [Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene (Oxford, 2008), 81.] That said, consider three counter-responses to Ehrman. • Given Jesus's centrality to Christianity, it is not surprising that such a group claiming Christ in name would rise up without an _actual_ visit from Christ. A “Cephas party”, by contrast, would not be _nearly as expected_ without a visit from Peter who served as teacher or played a founding role for them.

      • Paul rhetorically makes special use of Peter's name when saying “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas [Peter]?” (1 Cor 9:5). This emphasizes the high regard in which at least some of them hold Peter, and furthermore suggests that they might be at least moderately aware of his personal life (in this case, that he is married).
      • Ehrman doesn't account for the simplest explanation of 1 Corinthians 15:5,8, 11, cited above.

  • Paul said so

    According to Paul, Peter publicly maintained that he had received a personal appearance from the resurrected Jesus.1 This is relevant because Paul knew well whether Peter was claiming this.2

    1. 1 Cor 15:4-5 -- “He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [i.e. Peter], then to the twelve.
    2. We know this for at least two reasons:
      • Paul was well-networked to the Jerusalem church, of which Peter was a member.
      Raymond Brown (NT professor at New York [d. 1998]): “Paul was well informed about the main characters of the Jerusalem church and was in a position to know whether there were traditions that Jesus had appeared both to Peter and James.” [The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (Paulist Press, 1972), 95.]).
      • Paul had been in a lot of personal contact with Peter. For example, he recounts:
      Galatians 1:18 -- “I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted [historēsai] with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days…”,
      and Paul continued to interact with Peter afterwards (Gal 2:9-11, Acts 15, etc.).
  • Luke said so

    According to Luke, Peter had received a personal appearance from the resurrected Jesus.1 This is relevant because Luke likely knew whether Peter agreed to this or not.

    1. Luke 24:34 — “…saying, 'The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon [Peter].'
      Acts 10:41 — “[Peter said]to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.[Note: Acts was written by Luke]
    2. We know this because Luke almost certainly consulted Peter himself in the preparation of his gospel. Consider two reasons we know this:
      • First, there are indications in the gospel itself that Luke did what he claimed to do here:[Forthcoming]
      Luke 1:1-4 -- “_Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught._”

      • Second, consulting eyewitnesses (“living voices”) was expected of ancient biographers. This is a fact recently popularized in Bauckham's award-winning book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008). It is relevant because there can be no doubt that Luke's gospel was intended to be taken as historical; scholars fairly unanimously put it as either “Greco-Roman biography” or “historical monograph”. Incidentally, Luke would likely have already encountered Peter in Jerusalem at the conclusion of his trip with Paul, as narrated in Acts 16-21 (Verse 21:17 reads “After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.”).

      Maurice Casey (Professor of NT literature & language at Nottingham): “Most scholars infer that… Luke was with Paul's party when his narrative uses ‘we’ and not the rest of the time. This is an entirely natural interpretation of a major primary source written by an intermittent eyewitness. Paul also mentions Luke at the close of two or three letters. At the end of the epistle to Philemοn, written in the name of Paul and Timothy when when Paul was in prison, so probably c.62 cε from Rome, he sends greetings from Luke, with Mark, Aristarchus and Demas, referring to them as ‘my co-workers’.” [Jesus of Nazareth (T&T Clark, 2010), 94.]