Criswell Theological Review 2.1 (1987) 119-40.

          Copyright © 1987 by The Criswell CollegeCited with permission. 




                      PETER AND PAUL


                 “THE LORD’S SUPPER”

                       IN I COR 11:23-26*



                                  WILLIAM R. FARMER

                Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275



With reference to the Lord's Supper Paul wrote as follows:


            The tradition which I handed on to you (concerning the Lord's Supper),

            originated with the Lord himself. That tradition is (I need not remind

            you) that: "The Lord Jesus, during the night in which he was delivered

            up, took bread. And after giving thanks, he broke it and said: 'This is my

            body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same

            way, after supper he took the cup, saying 'This cup is the new covenant

            in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

            For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the

            death of the Lord, until he comes" (1 Cor 11:2.3-26).


            In order to understand the relationship between Peter and Paul,

the importance of that relationship for our understanding the

origin and significance of 1 Cor 11:23-26, we can begin by asking: "By

what authority does the Apostle to the Gentiles assure the Corinthian

church that the tradition concerning the Lord's Supper he had received

and had in turn passed on to them, originated with Jesus himself?”

Paul would never have claimed that he was an eyewitness to what

happened during the night in which Jesus was delivered up. Nor

can we understand him to be claiming that this is a tradition that had


            *For a lecture at Criswell College on January 22, 1987, I abstracted and adapted

material from a manuscript I intend to contribute to a volume co-authored with Fr.

Roch Kereszty. This essay is the unabridged section of the manuscript from which the

lecutre was taken.




been revealed to him bodily and verbally by revelation from the

Christ. All the technical terminology used by Paul indicates that

tradition like that concerning the resurrection appearances he

later (15:3-7), has been handed on as a well formulated statement

the conventional manner of the time.1

            It is most likely that, in the first instance, Paul received these

traditions he passed on to his churches from the church he had per-

secuted before he became a Christian. But in matters as important as

these, it is not unlikely that Paul took pains to be sure about what he

was authorizing his churches to receive as tradition concerning the

normative events of the Gospel.

            In the case of the tradition concerning the resurrection appear-

ances, Paul had his own direct experience of the Risen Christ to serve

as a control by which to judge the tradition he had received. And it is

clear that he knows, or at least firmly believes, that the appearance of

the Risen Lord to him is of the same order as that to the other


            Paul tells the Corinthians that most of the over 500 brethren to

whom the Lord appeared on a single occasion were still alive at the

time of writing (15:6). While it is possible, indeed probable, that Paul

had the opportunity both preceding and following his conversion, to

discuss the resurrection of Jesus with some of these Christians, this

would hardly have satisfied the unquestioned concern for truth regard-

ing events of the past that were decisive for the pastoral and theo-

logical task of expediting the Gospel, which we know motivated Paul

(cp. Gal 1:20; 2:5, 14).

            Since the tradition he had received concerning the resurrection

placed Peter and the Twelve at the beginning of the series of resurrec-

tion appearances, to have discussed these appearances with Peter

would have been of importance to Paul. Did Paul have the opportunity

to hear anything directly from Peter on these matters, or on matters

bearing on Paul's belief that the resurrection appearances to Peter and

the other Apostles were of the same order as his? The answer is: "He

certainly did."


                                                I. Galatians


            In his letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul informs his readers

that three years after his conversion he went up (from Damascus) to


            1 See B. Gerhardsson, The Origins of the Gospel Traditions (Philadelphia: Fortress,




Jerusalem to visit (or get to know) Peter. And he adds that he

remained with Peter 15 days (Gal 1:18).

            In order to begin to comprehend the far reaching consequences

of this meeting it is necessary to answer certain questions. Granting

that Paul presumably wanted to make contact with church authorities

in Jerusalem (he did see James, for example), why did he go to Peter?

And why did he remain with Peter 15 days? In this connection we

need to ask what we can learn from a philological analysis of the text

about the probable parameters of Paul's purpose or purposes in under-

taking this history making trip.

            In answering these questions we face three main tasks: the first is

to ascertain as best we can what Paul had been doing during the three

year period between his return to Damascus mentioned in v 17 and

his visit to Peter referred to in v 18; the second is to determine the

most probable meaning in this context of the verb Paul used that is

generally rendered in English by "to visit" or "to get to know"; and

the third is to analyze the verbal phrase "and I remained with him" in

relation to the temporal phrase "for fifteen days,"

            The first task presents no great difficulties. Paul tells us in v 21

that after he had finished his business in Jerusalem he set out for the

regions of Syria and Cilicia, and that at that time he was still unknown

by face to the churches of Christ in Judea (v 22). What these churches

knew about him was only what they could learn from the reports they

heard about him, and these reports were to the effect that "the one

who formerly persecuted us, now preaches the faith he formerly

ravished" (v 23). To which Paul simply adds: "And they (i.e., those

whom Paul formerly persecuted) glorified God in me" (v 24). Where

were these Christians who glorified God in Paul?

            Beginning in v 16 Paul tells his readers that (contrary to what they

may have heard from others) following his conversion he did not

immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did he go up to Jeru-

salem to (make contact with) those who were apostles before him,

but rather he went away into Arabia, and then (without specifying

how long he remained in Arabia) he adds: "and I returned again to

Damascus" (v 17). This clearly implies that Paul had been in or near

Damascus at the time of his conversion. Since the Churches of Christ

in Judea did not know Paul by face, but only by reports they heard

from others, it is clear that Paul had been preaching the Gospel in

some area outside Judea during the three year interval in question,

and it presents the least difficulty if we conclude that he had been

doing this in and around Damascus, or perhaps more broadly in the

general area of Southern Syria, It had to be in some place outside

Judea, some place where his earlier persecuting activity was still



vividly remembered and could be existentially juxtaposed to his

present activity.

            Since in v 21 Paul writes that upon leaving Jerusalem he went

into the region of Syria and Cilicia, and then includes not one word

about what he did for the next 14 years before returning to Jerusalem

for the apostolic conference of Gal 2:1-20, we are to conclude that the

terse phrase "into the regions of Syria and Cilicia" is directional and

that Paul is opening up a new phase of his missionary career that at

least in its initial stage was to see him through the Cilician gates. Paul

would in any case most probably have come into Galatia from Cilicia.

Once the Galatians came to know Paul they would have had reason to

follow his career with interest. But where Paul had been before he

came to Galatia from Syria and Cilicia would have been relatively

vague to them. The one thing they did not know and needed to get

straight was Paul's earliest contacts with the Jerusalem based Apostles.

This explains Paul's relatively detailed account on this point. From

this account we can infer a great deal more than he explicitly tells us.

            From our analysis we conclude that during the three years in

question, Paul had been preaching the Gospel outside Judea in an

area of his former persecuting activity, and that during this period of

evangelization he had laid the groundwork for beginning a westward

mission to the Gentiles. His going to Jerusalem of a necessity must

have proceeded from the reality of these three years of preaching and

from his decision to embark on this far reaching mission.


                                    II. To Visit Cephas


            In v 18 Paul explains that he went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter.

The verb used is i[storh?sai which in this case can be best understood

if we begin with its cognate noun form i!stwr. The histor in ancient

Greece functioned as examiner and arbiter in legal matters. He was

learned in the law and skilled in examining witnesses. He knew how

to ask the right questions of people who were being examined in

order to ascertain the truth in matters of dispute. The truth he was

after was not philosophical truth in some abstract metaphysical sense,

but rather the kind of truth that can issue in practical wisdom. In the

final analysis the histor would be called upon to make a judgment.

The histor was a judge.

            The first Greek historians were geographers who explored the

great rivers that emptied into the known seas. Having penetrated

inland as far as they could safely travel, they would then interrogate

people who had come down these rivers from further inland to get

from them eyewitness accounts about the unexplored sources of the



great rivers running further back up into the unknown interiors of the

continents. These same Greeks would question the priests living in the

temples which were supported by these ancient river cultures, about

records kept in the temples, about the genealogies of the local kings,

and the customs of the local inhabitants, The reports of these geog-

raphers constituted the beginnings of what came to be called "history,"

            The verb i[storh?sai can mean to inquire into or about a thing, or

to inquire about a person, Or it can also mean to "examine" or to

"observe," Such a questioner or observer would then become "one

who is informed" about something, or "one who knows,"

            In the case at hand the verb is used with the accusative of person,

so that it can mean to "inquire of" or "to ask." One can inquire of an

oracle. Lexicographers are led to place our text in this context and cite

Gal 1:18 as follows: "visit a person for the purpose of inquiry, khfa?n."

Such a meaning equivalent is contextually preferable to those one

generally finds in English translations: RSV "visit"; NEB "get to know";

Goodspeed "become acquainted with"; or the Amplified New Tes-

tament "become (personally) acquainted with." Even the paraphrase

visit Cephas for the purpose of inquiry" is lexicographically limited

in that it fails to suggest as strongly as it might the well established

usages "examine” and "observe," both of which are faithful to the

function of the histor and open up rich possibilities for understanding

what Paul meant and how his readers would have understood his

phrasing in this instance.

            The linguistic evidence examined thus far by no means limits us

to a view that Paul meant to suggest that he had simply made a

courtesy call or that he went up to Jerusalem for an innocuous social

visit with Peter. As we go deeper into the lexicographical evidence

offered by Liddell and Scott, we are carried even farther away from

such an understanding of the text.2 The word, of course, can mean

simply "to visit," But should we so understand it in the context in

which we find it?


            2 In other contexts, this verb means: "give an account of what one has learned,"

records." As historia it is used in the sense of "inquiry"; it is so used in the title of a

work by Theophrastus: "systematic (or scientific) observation." In the absolute it is used

of “science” generally; of "geometry," and in empirical medicine for "body of recorded

cases.”" Historia is also used in the sense of "knowledge obtained through inquiry and

observation" i.e" "information." And finally we have the meaning of historia as: a

written account of one's inquiries," "narrative,” "history" (LSJ 1.842). WZNT cites

examples from Hellenistic Greek which mean simply "get to know," which meaning

has been accepted by the translators of NEB. However, on the basis of context, "visit a

person for the purpose of inquiry" is to be preferred.



            The most complete study of i[storh?sai as used by Paul has been

made by G. D. Kilpatrick.3 Kilpatrick takes into consideration the

Latin, Coptic and Syrian versions, all of which understand i[storh?sai

in the sense of "to see." He notes, however, that later commentators

were not content with this interpretation. Chrysostom perceived that

i[storh?sai must here mean more than "see." He makes a distinction

between i]dei?n and i[storh?sai and explicitly notes that Paul does not

write: i]dei?n pe<tron, but i[storh?sai pe<tron. Kilpatrick discusses the

views of other writers, Greek and Latin, and concludes that the oldest

identifiable interpretation is that of the versions which treat i[storh?sai

as the equivalent of i]dei?n and dates it 2nd century. Chrysostom's

comment, which is shared by Latin commentators, he dates as earlier

than the middle of the 4th century; and suggests that it perhaps

belongs to the Antiochene tradition of exegesis.

            On the basis of Liddell and Scott's article which Kilpatrick regards

as probably the best guide we have, but also taking into account other

lexicographical aids, he concludes that "i[storh?sai khfa?n at Gal. 1:18

is to be taken as meaning 'to get information from Cephas'" (p. 149).

In coming to this conclusion Kilpatrick notes that the reason that

ancient commentators rejected this interpretation is that it appeared

to them to be 'inapplicable' in Paul's case. On the basis of Gal 1:11-12,

where Paul says that he received "the Gospel" by revelation, "they

argued that St. Paul had already received the requisite knowledge by

revelation and so had no need to visit St. Peter for that purpose."

Those who took this position and at the same time recognized that

i[storh?sai must mean more than i]dei?n, generally followed Chrysostom

in making Paul visit Peter "to pay his respects." Kilpatrick notes that

for Augustine the visit was merely a token of friendship. For Vic-

torinus and Ambrosiaster the visit is an acknowledgement of "the

primacy of Peter" (p. 146).

            Kilpatrick has his own theory as to why Paul would have sought

information from Peter. He notes that the interpretation suggested by

Liddell and Scott 'to visit a person for purpose of inquiry,’ ie., "to get

information," satisfied the conditions of the context, so long as the

meaning of eu]agge<lion does not mean "information about Jesus," and

since Paul seeks information from Peter and not from James, with

whom he also had some contact, Kilpatrick asks: "Is there any in-

formation that one had to give him that the other could not provide?"

In answer he writes: "St. Peter had been an eye witness and disciple


            3 "Galatians 1:18 ISTORHSAI KHFAN," New Testament Essays: Studies in

Memory of Thomas Walter Manson (ed. A. J. B. Higgins; Manchester: University Press,

1959) 144-49.



of Jesus. St. James could not claim 'to be a comparable informant

about the teaching and the ministry." In conclusion Kilpatrick writes:

"We know then of one kind of information for which St. Paul would

go to St. Peter rather than St. James, information about Jesus' teaching

and ministry."

            Kilpatrick considers but rejects the first meaning that Liddell and

Scott give, "that of inquiry into or about a person or thing" (p. 147).

He cites Plutarch's Moralia 516 C, De Curiositate 2, iii, 314 in the last

Teubner edition, for an example of the use of i[storh?sai for 'getting

information' about both persons and things: “Aristippus is so excited

by what he hears of Socrates that he is beside himself. . . He found

out about the man, his utterances and his philosophy." For some

unaccountable reason, Kilpatrick dismisses the lexicographical implica-

tions of this text from a near contemporary of Paul by saying: "But we

may exclude at once the explanation that i[storh?sai khfa?n meant 'to

inquire into, investigate, Cephas.'" In fact "to get information from

Cephas" is not incompatible with "to inquire into, investigate Cephas."

Because of the very close relationship of Peter to Jesus, and because

Jesus first appeared to Peter, for Paul to go to Peter for information

about Jesus' teaching and ministry, entails from the outset that Paul is

involved in questioning Peter not only about Jesus, but in effect about

Peter' s memory of Jesus, his beliefs about the meaning of Jesus' death

and resurrection, and thus Peter as a witness is inextricably bound up

together with that to which he is a witness. The two cannot be

separated as simply as Kilpatrick suggests. We see no objection to

combining Liddell and Scott's first meaning for i[storh?sai with their

suggested interpretation. To be sure the focus of Paul's inquiry would

be Jesus, but that can hardly have precluded serious attention by Paul

to the question of Peter's credibility. Indeed we may say that the

Apostolic witness preserved in the NT rests primarily upon Paul's

conviction of Peter's credibility as a witness, as well as upon Peter's

conviction of Paul's credibility as a witness. Their mutuality in finding

one another to be credible witnesses is absolutely basic for under-

standing Christian origins.

            At issue is how we are to understand certain phrases Paul uses in

arguing for his independence from the authority of the Jerusalem

apostles, or as he refers to them "those who were apostles before me"

(Gal. 1:17). The translators of the NEB have a firm grasp of the

essential character of Paul’s argument so we can best follow his

thought by citing that translation. In his opening words Paul strikes

this note of apostolic independence: “From Paul, an apostle, not by

human appointment or human commission, but by commission from

Jesus Christ and from God the Father who raised him from the Dead”



(Gal 1:1). To remind his readers that Jesus Christ has been raised

from the dead by God the Father immediately places Paul who has

seen the Risen Jesus on an equal footing with all the other apostles

and cuts the ground out from any argument that would proceed from

some presumed advantage on the part of those apostles who had

known Jesus before his death and resurrection.

            "I must make it clear to you, my friends, that the gospel you

heard me preach is no human invention. I did not take it from any

man (not from Peter or James for example); no man taught it me; I

received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal 1:11-12).

            Paul is not denying that he has ever taken over anything from

anyone, least of all is he denying that he has ever been taught by

anyone. The fact that in his first letter to the Corinthians he explicitly

states that he is handing on the tradition that he had received: "That

Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures. . ." makes

it clear that there was tradition, including factual information concern-

ing Jesus that Paul did receive. But for Paul facts themselves do not

the Gospel make. No doubt Paul, as a Pharisee of the Pharisees, in his

role as persecutor of the Church, made himself acquainted with the

essential content of the Gospel as it was being preached and defended

by those within the covenant community with whom he was contend-

ing. Indeed it would not be out of character for this great theologian

to have achieved an even more firm and comprehensive grasp of the

essential content of this Gospel than was in the head of many of the

faithful who were willing to die for it. What was at issue for Paul

were not the facts concerning the earthly life of Jesus but the meaning

of these facts and the truth of his resurrection. As he persecuted the

Church and ravished the faith, he was convinced that the Gospel

preached by the Christians was false. That is why he was willing to

persecute them unto death if necessary. Everything hinges on the

"Truth of the Gospel." Once it pleased God to reveal his Son to Paul,

so that Paul could see Jesus as the Son of God, everything changed

(see Gal 1:12, 15; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:8; and Phil 3:21). What had been

perceived as false, was now recognized as true on the basis of Christ's

appearance to Paul. That Jesus had died, or even that he had been

crucified, was never in dispute between the Christians and the pre-

Christian Paul. But the belief that Jesus had died "for the sins" of

others, "according to the Scriptures" and that God had vindicated him

by raising him up--those were faith claims made by the church

whose truth the pre-Christian Paul could never have accepted, but

whose truth, on the basis of Christ's resurrection appearance to him,

he was now prepared to embrace, pass on to his converts, and

presumably himself proclaim. That there were factual details con-

cerning these deep matters of faith that may have interested Paul



should not cause alarm for those who wish, at all costs, to preserve his

independence of those eyewitnesses upon whom he would have been

dependent for finding adequate answers to some of his questions.

            We take this position because the answers Paul received were

always received within the context of a faith already firmly and

irrevocably grounded in the decisive revelation that preceded and led

to his questions. Most if not all of Paul's post-conversion questions

would have been of the nature of questions for the purpose of clari-

fication in detail. Paul would hardly have asked Peter "Did Jesus die?"

or "Was Jesus crucified?" That kind of information would have been

entailed in the essential kerygma Paul had formerly rejected and now

himself proclaimed.

            Paul's pre-Christian questioning would have focused on issues

vital to the way in which the Law and the Prophets were being

interpreted and acted upon. But once Paul became a Christian there

would have been a whole new set of questions for him to ask concern-

ing aspects of Christian life and faith which were relatively untouched

by points at issue over whether something had or had not happened

"in accordance with the scriptures." As a Pharisee Paul had sat in

Moses' seat, and it thus had been for him and his fellow Pharisees to

decide how the Law and Prophets were to be interpreted. When any

members of the covenant were interpreting the Law and the Prophets

in a manner contrary to Pharisaic teaching, and especially when these

interpretations led to behavior that was threatening to the established

world of Jewish Piety, Paul, as a Pharisee, zealous for the Law, was

constrained to act. And act he did. But once Paul was converted,

questions like: "What happened on the night Jesus was handed over?,"

i.e., questions concerning matters important t() Christians, but which

had not been problem causing to Paul the enforcer of Torah, would

now have become questions of interest to Paul the Christian leader and

they were perfectly legitimate questions for him to pursue. As his

leadership role in the church grew, that he have a firm grasp on such

matters would have become important in Paul's overall preparation

for mission.

            In this context we should not shy away from accepting the plain

meaning of what Paul writes in reference to going to Jerusalem: he

went to question Peter. Paul is not making himself subservient to

anyone in his decision to ask questions. This apostolic concern to "get

it right“ is foundational for Christian life and faith. Paul is not for-

ensically diminishing his authority by "making inquiry" of Peter. On

the contrary his use of to i[storh?sai in this context conceptually places

Peter in the block. Paul is the i!stwr. Peter is the one being cross-

examined.  What is at issue is the truth in a whole range of practical

matters which Paul wants to discuss with Peter--none, we conclude,



extending to the heart of his Gospel. That much Paul appears to rule

out decisively in what he says about how he received his Gospel in

Gal 1:1-17.

            Paul in going to Jerusalem to question Peter, is moving up the

stream of church tradition to its very source, i.e., to those eyewitnesses

who first carefully formulated it.

            Paul's use of i[storh?sai at this point serves very well his

of establishing both his apostolic independence and his apostolic

authority. He is not just an independent apostle who has seen

Risen Jesus. He is an independent apostle who stands in a

relationship to Peter. By implication, everything that Paul did or said

in the church after that meeting carried with it the implicit authority

of both Paul and Peter. That was the risk Peter took in agreeing to the

meeting. We have no way of knowing from any statement made

Peter on the subject how Peter viewed Paul's coming to Jerusalem.

But the practice of risk taking out of love, even love of a potential

enemy, has been endemic to Christian faith from its origin in the heart

of Jesus.


And I remained with him 15 days

            The conventional critical comment on this compound phrase

reflects the purpose of this phrase in Paul's overall argument in

Galatians; namely to establish that he was not dependent for this

authority to preach the Gospel upon those who had been Apostles

before him. Thus E. De Witt Burton writes: "The mention of the brief

duration of the stay is intended, especially in contrast with the three

years of absence from Jerusalem, to show how impossible it was to

regard him as a disciple of the Twelve, learning all that he knew of

the Gospel from them."4 But if this is the case, how much more

remarkable is the evidence that Paul provides! For in this case Paul's

statement that he remained with Peter for 15 days is being given

under some constraint. His purpose would have been better served

had he been able to write that the visit was for only one day.

            We have an example in the early church of such a one day visit

which features "greeting the brethren" (Acts 21:7). Of course such

visits can last several days. Thus when King Agrippa and Bernice

arrived at Caesarea for a courtesy visit to Festus "They spent several

days there" (Acts 25:13-14). While visits in the early church are often

for unspecified periods of time, it is not unusual to have the length of


            4 E. De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the

Galatians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1921) 60.



stay explicitly mentioned, and it is instructive to see Paul's visit with

Peter against the background of a spectrum of visits of specified

length. Thus in addition to the one day visit of Acts 21:1, there are

three instances of seven day stays or stayovers. Thus Paul met up at

Troas with some fellow workers who had gone on ahead, and they

spent a week there. This is not a visit per se, but it is instructive (Acts

20:6). As Paul was returning to Jerusalem for the last time his ship put

in at Tyre to unload cargo, he took advantage of the situation and

spent seven days with the disciples in that city before returning to his

ship (Acts 21:4). On his way to Rome Paul and those with him finally

reached the port of Puteoli, where some fellow Christians invited

them to remain with them seven days (Acts 28:14).

            If we are to appreciate the significance of Paul's two week stay

with Peter, we cannot do better than recognize that in cultures which

observe a lunar calendar important meetings or conferences fall into

one or another of four basic categories. There are important one day

visits. These provide the occasion for direct face to face meetings

between important persons. Only limited tasks can be accomplished,

however, during a one day meeting. Next we have a basic pattern of

three days and two nights. The guests arrive during the first day, and

after greetings and preliminary matters are taken care of, the agenda

for the following day is agreed upon. What is not accomplished

during the second day can be dealt with before departure on the third

day. The three day visit, meeting, or conference is very efficient and

often used. Next is the one week meeting. This is reserved for more

important meetings. For one thing it is very expensive in terms of

time taken out of the busy schedules of the persons concerned, as well

as the time required in making arrangements for such a long series of

discussions. A great deal can be accomplished within the rhythm of

the week long meeting. It is relatively rare, however, for conferences,

whether planned or unplanned, to go into a second week. Such two

week conferences, when planned, are generally planned some time in

advance, and are reserved for only the most long term projects. A 15

day visit corresponds comfortably to the rhythm of a two week

conference. One could arrive on the sixth day of the week sometime

before sunset which begins the sabbath and depart early on the

morning following the sabbath two weeks later. Such a stay will

accommodate a leisurely visit, with ample time for work and relaxa-

tion. One can expect maximum communication during such a visit.

Among other things such a period of time allows for the most difficult

of topics to be laid out on the table, and, providing the persons

concerned are capable of it, there is time to confront decisive issues,



bare mounting tensions, and confidently await lasting resolutions, all

within the framework of what can be called a "double sabbath."

            The point is not that Peter and Paul used their two week visit in

any such fashion. We will never know how they spent those days

together in Jerusalem. The point is that two weeks for important

leaders, not to say the two persons who eventually emerged as the

two leading Apostles of the Church, is a considerable length of time

for a visit. Seldom do great leaders have the luxury of such schedules.

In our own time one thinks of the Camp David accords. Or we can

cite the two week visit that Dietrich Bonhoeffer made to talk with

Karl Barth on his way back from his stay in the United States before

he took up his role within the life of the Third Reich, which led

eventually to his death.

            Two weeks provided ample time for both Peter and Paul to

discuss whatever was uppermost in their minds, including such topics,

we must presume, as the Lord's Supper and other matters bearing

upon the preaching of the Gospel, including the resurrection.

            And when we realize the full range of meanings that Paul's

readers could rightfully associate with his use of  i[storh?sai in this

context, presuming that he was careful in his choice of language, we

must be open to understanding Paul as saying that he went to Jeru-

salem to question, examine and observe, to the end that he would

leave informed and ready to report to others on the results of his


            Peter was Paul's host throughout the two week period. As Peter's

guest Paul was being afforded an unparalleled opportunity to gain an

inside view of Peter's life and manners. To remain with Peter for two

weeks would, of necessity, have afforded them the opportunity to

share table fellowship, and it is altogether likely that they observed

the Lord's Supper together in accordance with the words of institution

which are preserved for us in 1 Cor 11:23-26 sometime during that

two week period. It would be interesting to know whether James was

present on this presumed occasion.

            We are now ready to take up the question with which we began

this section on Galatians: Granting that Paul wanted to make contact

with Church authorities in Jerusalem (he did see James, for example),

why did he go to Peter?


        III. The Role of Peter in the Pre-Pauline Palestinian Church


            In the Gospel of Matthew are preserved in their pristine oral

form the following words of Jesus:



            Woe unto you, Chorazin!

                Woe unto you, Bethsaida!

                      For if the mighty works which were done in you,

                             Had been in Tyre and Sidon

                                    They would nave repented long ago in sack cloth and ashes.

            But I say to you,

                It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon

                    At the day of judgment

                          Than for you!

            And as for you, Capenaum, shalt thou be exalted into heaven?

                Thou shalt be brought down to hell!

                    For if the mighty works which have been done in you

                         Had been done in Sodom,

                              It would have remained until this day.

            But I say to you,

                 It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom

                     At the day of judgment

                         Than for you! (Matt 11:21-24)


            The even handed treatment of these three Galilean cities, all of

which face a terrible fate on the day of judgment for their failure to

repent in the face of the mighty works that had been done in them,

does not prepare us for the exceptional role that one of the three plays

in the Gospel stories of Jesus. All four Gospels feature the city of

Capernaum, and give scant attention to the other two places which

one would judge from the words of Jesus were the beneficiaries of his

preaching and healing ministry no less than Capernaum.

            The Gospels, of course, tell the story of Jesus from the theological

perspective of the mission to the Gentiles. In even the most Jewish of

the four, the Risen Jesus commands the eleven disciples to go and

"make disciples of all the Gentiles" (Matt 28:19).

            Indeed it is to the text of this Gospel that we must go in our

search for an answer to the question of how the city of Capernaum

has come to play such a dominating role in the Gospel story.

            But first it is important for us to situate in our mind's eye the

location of Capernaum in relation to other points of interest in the

early Church, especially the city of Damascus which lies to the


            The Lake of Galilee is a great expanse of water fed by the Jordan

River, which empties into the lake at its northern estuary and exits at

the south to wend its way through the great Jordan valley until it

finally empties into the Dead Sea. Capernaum is situated at the

northern end of the lake west of the Jordan estuary. Here it occupies

an outstanding position at the crossroads of both land and sea-routes

leading north and east from Galilee.



            The main road north from Judea and southern Galilee skirted the

western coast of the lake until it reached a point just west of

Capernaum. There it divided. One could continue north by ascending

up the river bed of Nahal Korazim by way of the village and syna-

gogue of Korazim (following the spelling of modern topography).

One would then cross the Jordan over the B’noth-Ya’agor bridge and

proceed eastward through Gualanitis (Golan) to Damascus. Or one

could follow the eastern branch of this road at Capernaum and

proceed along the northern coast of the lake of Galilee leaving the

port of Capernaum on the immediate right and thus in a short time

reach the Jordan estuary. The river was crossed about one mile above

the estuary via the ford at Beth-Saida (Bethsaida), which in the 1st

century served as the capital of Philip the Tetrarch of Gualanitis,

Iturea, and Trachonitis. From Beth-Saida this road turned northwards

until it joined the Qu’neitra-Damascus highway.5

            As a port Capernaum was favorably located in relation to ex-

cellent fishing grounds near the Jordan estuary, and from Capernaum

people had easy access by boat to Tiberias and about 30 other fishing

villages all around the lake of Galilee.6 All in all Capernaum was well

situated to be a base for the disciples as they undertook, as in time

they certainly did, the making of new disciples in areas north and east

of Galilee. At any rate, however it happened, by the time the

evangelist Matthew undertook to compose his Gospel, Capernaum,

had become an important city in the salvation history of the Gentile


            It is clear that the evangelist Matthew composed his Gospel while

standing in the tradition of an early Christian mission that came

originally out of northern Galilee. He takes as his central key text,

compositionally speaking, a text from Isaiah. In this text, a passage

which makes no reference to Capernaum is interpreted in a way that

nonetheless makes Capernaum a part of God's plan of salvation for

the Gentiles.7 According to the Hebrew-Masoretic text, this passage

from Isaiah reads:


            5 B. Sapir and Dov-Neeman, Capernaum; History and Legacy, Art and Archi-

tecture (Tel-Aviv, 1976) II.

            6 Ibid.

            7 For other reasons supportive of the view that the evangelist Matthew wrote for

readers who lived in Christian communities which were the fruit of early missionary

activity from northern Galilee into southern Syria, see W. R. Farmer, "Some Thoughts

on the -Provenance of Matthew," The Teacher's Yoke: Studies in Memory of Henry

Trantham (ed. E. J. Vardaman and J. L. Garrett, Jr.; Waco: Baylor University Press,

1964) 109-16.



            In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and

            the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time he hath made it glorious, by

            the wa y of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.


The people that walked in darkness there have seen a great light: they

that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the

light shined (9:1-2).

            The LXX version of this text in Matthew is shortened and slightly


            The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea,

            beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people that sat in

            darkness saw a great light: And to them that sat in the region and

            shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.


            The evangelist believes that the way to understand this text is to

realize that when the prophet Isaiah writes “by the way of the sea,” he

is referring to the seacoast of the Lake of Galilee. This we know

because in the preceding verses Matthew notes that in leaving Nazar-

eth and coming to dwell in Capernaum by the sea in the regions of

Zebulun and Naphtali, Jesus did so in order that the word of Isaiah

the prophet might be fulfilled (4:13-14).

            Thus, Capernaum is important because, situated on the coast of

the Lake of Galilee, it can be interpreted as being “by the way of the

sea.” Since there is nothing in the text of Isaiah that refers to Caper-

naum, one must presume that Capernaum was in some unexpressed

way important to the evangelist. According to the words of Jesus,

Capernaum is notable as one of three cities doomed for destruction

because of its negative response to his ministry. What then has hap-

pened to reverse this judgment of Jesus so that in the Gospel stories of

God's salvation Capernaum plays such a positive and important role?

            One might say that there is no mystery, since we know that Jesus

had a ministry in Capernaum, and since Capernaum was a city on the

coast of the Lake of Galilee, it was natural for the evangelist to see

Jesus' going to Capernaum as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.

However, it is equally clear that Jesus also had a ministry in other

Galilean cities and villages, including significant evangelistic efforts in

Chorazim and Bethsaida, and yet little or nothing is said about these

ministries. Clearly a selective process has taken place which calls for

an explanation.

            Something very important concerning Capernaum must have

taken place in order to account for its prominence in the Gospel story.

The evangelist has made this city the turning point in the whole

development of Jesus' ministry. Following his baptism in the Jordan,



and his return to Nazareth in Galilee, Capernaum is the next place of

importance. Jesus goes to Nazareth, but nothing much of importance

happens there. He goes immediately then to Capernaum where the

first thing he does is to call Peter and his brother Andrew as well as

James and John. He calls them from their fishing duties as his first

disciples. Capernaum is the place where Jesus inaugurates his public

ministry by calling disciples, three of whom, Peter, James, and John,

will be with him at most of the high moments throughout his ministry.

When compared to the rest of the Twelve, these disciples, and

especially Peter, clearly dominate the Jesus tradition that the evangelist

will use in composing his Gospel.

            The best way to explain this selectivity is to recognize that the

story of Jesus is being told from a particular perspective, i.e., that of

the evangelist, or better, that of the churches for which he is writing

his Gospel. The best way to explain this selectivity of emphasizing

Capernaum and certain of the Twelve is that Capernaum and some or

all of those first disciples called by Jesus were singularly important in

the history of the evangelists' church.

            This is not to say that the story of Jesus has been falsified. Rather

it is to say that the Gospels grow out of an exegetical tradition. It

makes the best sense if we posit that Jesus himself inaugurated this

exegetical tradition by his reading of Isaiah. Because Isaiah was

important for Jesus, Isaiah was therefore important for his early

disciples. The early Christians living on the coast of the Lake of

Galilee, including any living in Capernaum, would have been the first

to understand and appreciate this Matthean hermeneutical develop-

ment within the Jesus-school Isaianic exegetical tradition.

            Our analysis suggests that this exegetical tradition developed in

the hands of a Christian preacher in the city of Capernaum who

interpreted the text of Isaiah to apply to the city in which he was

preaching. "We here in this place have seen a great light." It would

appear that in some such way the text of Isaiah has come to be seen in

relationship to the history of the readers for whom the evangelist is


            Capernaum is one of many places frequented by Jesus. But this

place, this particular place, because of its topographical importance,

so well situated as a base for evangelistic outreach with good road

and water connections, especially between Galilee and Damascus,

becomes very important to the mission that moves from Galilee

towards Damascus. Capernaum is the only city Jesus is known to

have frequented that is situated on the seacoast made important by

the prophecy of Isaiah, and which also served travelers on their way

from Jerusalem to Damascus. Capernaum was a chief port of entry



for travelers from southern Syria (including Damascus) into Galilee

and points south (including Jerusalem). At the same time, and for

similar reasons, it was the most suitable northern base for Christian

missionary activity, moving out of Galilee into southern Syria. We

know that Paul's persecution of Christians took him to Damascus, and

that if he ever passed through Galilee on the way he would have

passed by or very near Capernaum.

            The whole of early church history makes sense if Peter was

important in an early Christian mission going forth from Galilee into

southern Syria and if this was also the missionary church that Paul had

been persecuting and from which he received the tradition he passed

on to others after his conversion. This would not have precluded

Peter's spending periods of time in Jerusalem, and giving leadership

to the Twelve from that center.


                                    IV. Paul's Relationship to Peter


            Looking at the matter in this way makes it possible for us to say

that Paul entered into a partnership with Peter in principle the day he

began preaching the faith of the Church that he once ravished (Gal

1:23). There is nothing intrinsically implausible or improbable in this

way of interpreting the evidence. It certainly helps us to understand

how it was possible for Paul to visit Peter in Jerusalem and to remain

with him for 15 days.

            It is altogether likely that each knew a good deal about the other

long before they met in Jerusalem. And it is not unlikely that there

had been some communication between them during the period Paul

was preaching the Gospel prior to his visit to Jerusalem to visit Peter.

The visit itself almost certainly would have required some communi-

cation between them as well as some kind of pre-understanding.

            Paul's decision to preach in Cicilia and points further west would

have provided the occasion for him to visit Peter in Jerusalem, and

for him to reach a firm apostolic understanding with that apostle to

whom the risen Christ, according to the tradition he had received,

had indeed appeared first. Thereafter, wherever Paul went he passed

on the tradition he had received from the mission Peter had organized

and inspired.

            I delivered to you first of all that which also I received: That Christ died

            for our sins according to the scriptures (Isaiah 53); and that he was

            buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the

            scriptures (Hos 6:2, Jonah 2:1); and that he appeared to Cephas; then to

            the Twelve; then he appeared to about five hundred brethren at the



            same time, of whom the majority abide with us until this day, but some

            have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles

            (I Cor 15:3-7)].


            To this litany of what he had received which now he passes on to

the Corinthians, Paul adds pertinent items from his own history with

fitting theological and interpretative comments:


            And, last of all, as to one born out of due time he appeared also to me.

            For I am the least of the apostles, one who is not (even) worthy to be

            called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the

            grace of God I am what I am, and his grace which I have received has

            not been without effect; on the contrary (because of the effect of God's

            grace) I labored more abundantly than all of them (i.e., the other

            apostles): yet not I but the grace of God which was with me. Whether it

            be I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed (8-11).


            This tradition that Paul passes on; and which represents Peter as

the first to whom the risen Christ appeared, raises interesting questions.

The Gospel of Matthew, for example, preserves a tradition according

to which Jesus after his resurrection first appeared to Mary Magdalene

and the other Mary. It is argued that Paul passes on a kerygma that

must have the value of legal testimony, and that since women's

testimony was unacceptable in Jewish courts, it was omitted altogether

in kerygmatic passages, so that it would be wrong to argue that the

tradition Paul passes on conflicts with that from Matthew. In any case,

it is clear that Paul is passing on a pro-Petrine tradition, i.e., a tradition

that developed within a Church in which it was remembered that the

Risen Lord first appeared to Peter. That apostle to whom the Risen

Christ was believed to have first appeared would have had a special

place in post-resurrection churches. It is also important to note that in

Paul's version of this tradition Christ's appearance to him, coming at

the end of the series, "last of all," creates a series which begins with

Peter and ends with Paul. According to Paul's version this is a closed

canon of resurrection appearances. It runs the gamut of Apostolic

authority--from Peter to Paul. Paul is least of all, because he perse-

cuted the Church of God. But, he is also first, because where sin doth

abound, there doth grace much more abound. Similarly Paul can

claim to have labored more than any of the apostles, which would

have included Peter. So the last shall be first--whether by one's own

labor in the Gospel, or by God's grace.

            Paul passed on a tradition that had developed in a church in

which there was already present an incipient Petrine primacy. But his

churches received this tradition from him within an overall theological

framework which bespoke apostolic mutuality between the first of

the Twelve and the Apostle to the Gentiles. Was this simply Paul's



construction: or did it represent a bona fide apostolic agreement that

had been reached between Peter and Paul before or during that 15

day meeting in Jerusalem?

            It must have represented an implicit apostolic quid-pro-quo

whether consciously recognized or not. In any case no one can deny

the facts: Paul passed on a pro-Petrine if not an implicit Petrine-

primacy tradition and Peter supported Paul's right to head the apos-

tolate to the Gentiles. Of course this understanding was not officially

ratified by the pillars of the Church in Jerusalem until 14 years later

when Paul returned to Jerusalem, and lay before those who had been

apostles before him the Gospel he had been preaching to the Gentiles.

            It has been argued that the Jerusalem conference was only pos-

sible because Peter was willing to arrange it at Paul's request, and for

the sake of the Gospel.8 According to this argument, the fundamental

theological agreement reached between Peter and Paul during their

15 day visit 14 years before the Apostolic Conference (Gal 2:1-10),

tested by 14 years of missionary work by Paul and his associates,

provided the essential components for the successful outcome of the

Apostolic Conference. The agreement of the Jerusalem apostles to

ratify the longstanding understanding between Peter and Paul which

issued in the decision to make each of them the heads of two separate

but concordant missions, is the apostolic magna charta of the holy

catholic church, reaffirmed martyrologically by signatures made in

blood by these two chief Apostles during the Neronian persecution.

Paul gives his readers an eyewitness report of what actually happened

at this historic conference. It is one of the most remarkable statements

in the NT:

            When they (i.e., the pillars of the Church in Jerusalem) saw that I had

            been entrusted with the gospel of uncircumcision, even as Peter with the

            gospel of the circumcision (for he that wrought for Peter unto the

            apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles);

            and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and

            Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars gave to me and

            Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the

            Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision (Gal 2:7 -9).


            This dual leadership of the historical apostolate helps explain

why the NT writings feature Peter and Paul. But the subsequent


            8 W. R. Farmer, "Peter and Paul: A Constitutive Relationship for Catholic Christi-

anity," Texts and Testaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and Early Church Fathers, a

volume in honor of Stewart Dickson Currie (ed. W. Eugene March; San Antonio:

Trinity University Press, 1980) 219-36; and "Peter and Paul,” Jesus and the Gospel;

Tradition, Scripture, and Canon (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983) 50-63.



concordant martyrdom of these two Apostolic heads is no less essential

to the historical development that eventually led to the formation of

the NT canon.9

            There is a solid NT foundation for the recognition of Irenaeus

that the founding and building up of the Church in Rome by "The

two most glorious (i.e., martyred) apostles Peter and Paul" (Against

Heresies 3.3.2) provides the Holy Catholic Church with an essential

touchstone in history for the combatting of heresy. That which is not

in harmony with the concordant apostolic witness of Peter and Paul

sealed in blood, and witnessed to in the scriptures which have been

normed by this apostolic history and faith, is not catholic, and cannot

be accepted as being faithful to the primitive Regula, i.e., the "truth

of the Gospel,"10 by which these two Apostles had agreed to norm

their faith and practice (Gal 2:11-21).

            Tertullian correctly saw that the norm by which the issue between

Peter and Paul at Antioch was finally settled was in fact a primitive

Apostolic understanding based upon a theological agreement to which

both Peter and Paul subscribed (Against Marcion IV ii.1-5). He

understood that regula to have been laid down for the Church by the

Apostles at the Jerusalem conference of Gal 2:1-10. Our analysis leads

to the conclusion that this apostolic conference was preceded by a

less publicized, and, in some sense, preparatory meeting, a meeting

that had taken place between Peter and Paul in the same city 14 years

earlier (Gal 1:18).

            In his First letter to the church at Corinth Paul addresses the

problem of party spirit in that church and specifically refers to four

parties, i:e., those who say "we belong to Paul," those who say "we

belong to Apollo," those who say, "we belong to Cephas," and those

who say "we belong to Christ." While Paul does not criticize Peter for

contributing to this divisiveness it is clear from the fact that there

were members of the Corinthian church who said "we belong to

Cephas," that there was a basis for tension between Peter and Paul

over the way in which their respective adherents behaved toward one

another. Just how serious this tension may have been we do not know.

There is no reference in any other letter of Paul to a "Cephas party."

In Paul's Second letter to the church at Corinth he is at pains to

criticize certain opponents at Corinth who questioned his apostolic


            9 W. R. Farmer and D. Farkasfalvy, The Formation of the New Testament Canon

(Ramsey, NJ: Paulist, 1983) 7-95.

            10 For the relationship of the apostolic norm of the "truth of the Gospel" and the

2nd century forms of the "Regula," see W. R. Farmer, "Galatians and the Second-

Century Development of the 'Regula Fidei,'" The Second Century, a Journal of Early

Christian Studies, 4 (1984) 143-70.



authority and worked against him. The depth of Paul's feeling about

the challenge this opposition represented to his apostleship may be

measured by his use of sarcasm in referring to them derogatively as

"super-apostles." While there is no way these "super apostles" in

2 Corinthians can be identified with any degree of certainty as ad-

herents of the "Cephas party" in I Corinthians, neither can one

absolutely rule out the possibility that Paul's opponents in 2 Corinth-

ians may have stood in some meaningful, even if undefinable, relation-

ship to this Party.

            To the degree that we allow for the possibility that Paul's

opponents in 2 Corinthians are positively related to the Cephas Party

mentioned in I Corinthians, the case for serious tension between Peter

and Paul in the period following the Apostolic conference in Jerusalem

is strengthened. Certainly the incident that Paul relates in Galatians 2

concerning the confrontation he had with Peter over the issue of table

fellowship between Gentile and Jewish Christians in Antioch serves to

underscore the undeniable fact that these two apostles could differ

strongly over very important issues. However, such disagreements

only serve to underscore how firm was the bond that united them.

The more we make room for Post-conciliar tension, and the greater

the place we give to this tension, the more we recognize the need for

pre-conciliar solidarity to account for the eventual outcome. For if

there is one thing that is certain in church history it is that in spite of

any pigheadedness on the part of either or both these great apostles,

they did stand together on the fundamental theological basis of the

Faith, i.e., God's redemptive, sacrificial, and atoning love for sinners,

and all else that is entailed in the good news of justification by faith

(Gal 2:15-21).


            IV. The Pre-Pauline Tradition Concerning the Lord's Supper


            Finally, in answer to the question, "By what authority does the

Apostle to the Gentiles assure the Corinthian Church that the tradition

concerning the Lord's Supper he had received and had in turn passed

on to them, originated with Jesus himself ?" we answer, by the

authority of those who were apostles before him. And if it be asked,

did Paul have the opportunity to discuss the form, content, and

credibility of this tradition with those apostles who were eyewitnesses

to what actually happened in Jerusalem on the night when Jesus was

delivered up? The answer is most assuredly yes.

            First he could, and presumably did, discuss such matters with

Peter, who, according to the Gospels (Matt 26:17-30 and parallels),

was present there in Jerusalem that night in the very room where

Jesus took bread and broke it. Second, Paul had further opportunity



to discuss such matters with John as well as with Peter 14 years later

during the Jerusalem conference, if by that time he still had any

questions. Paul's subsequent assurance to his readers in Corinth that

he was passing on to them a tradition that he had received entails

under these circumstances, the presumption that this tradition is

handed on to us in the scriptures as tradition that comes not only with

the authority of the Apostle Paul but with that of those Apostles Paul

knew who had themselves been eyewitnesses to the event. We cannot

be certain of this point. But it appears to us to be intrinsically probable

in the light of the considerations to which attention has been brought

in this essay.

            The import of this conclusion is far reaching. If Christ died for

our sins according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15:3), since Isaiah 53 is the

only scripture theologians can supply to explain the meaning of the

tradition Paul is passing on, we must be open to the conclusion that

this passage in the book of Isaiah was important for Jesus. The

evidence of his words preserved in Matt 20:25-28 (and Mark 10:42-

45), where the Son of Man gives his life as a ransom for many, argues

for this conclusion.

            It would follow in this case that for Jesus to speak as he spoke

and to act as he acted on the night he was delivered up would have

been for him to have taken a crucial step in instituting the Church.

And a Church so instituted would be a Church which in a central way

would live out of the mystery of this Eucharist. In other words it

would be a martyrological church living out of the vicarious and

atoning sacrifice of Jesus. The concordant martyrdom of the two

chief Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome would be inspired by the

definitive faith that mysteriously comes to expression in the eyewitness

tradition concerning this institutional act, and, as a rite, it would be

central in the life and faith of that Holy Catholic Church within

whose divine economy it would be the vocation of the Church in

Rome to represent the concordant witness of the Chief Apostles Peter

and Paul, and to counsel with all churches which wish to remain

faithful to that earliest apostolic witness: "in the night he was delivered

up, he took bread. . . ." That is to say, words, and deeds, as well as

the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, would be normative for the

Church in relationship to this central rite as the specification by our

Lord of how the concord between the Law and the Prophets and the

Covenant that was coming into being through his death and resurrec-

tion was to be understood and lived out; a rite in which the fulfillment

of the Law and Prophets is celebrated, the redeeming benefits of the

atoning sacrifice of Christ are appropriated by faith, and the fruits of

the Spirit that flow from the New Covenant are shared by the


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

The Criswell College

4010 Gaston Ave. 

Dallas, TX   75246


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: