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Markley, John R.


Peter – Apocalyptic Seer. The Influence of the Apocalypse Genre on Matthew’s Portrayal of Peter.


Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2013. XV, 285 S. = Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament. 2. Reihe, 348. Kart. EUR 79,00. ISBN 978-3-16-152463-9.


Benedict Thomas Viviano

This is a revised dissertation done at Edinburgh under the supervision of Paul Foster and Larry Hurtado. The thesis of the book is that the portrayal of Peter in the Gospel of Matthew (and we should add Mark) has been shaped by the generic portrayal of apocalyptic seers.
The topic of Peter in Matthew is a well-worn theme, from Cullmann to Hengel and Bockmuehl. John R. Markley brings to the task a somewhat original approach and some fresh vocabulary. He first surveys some earlier research (chapter 1) and it becomes clear he is working in a particular tradition of study of Peter. The authoritative figure here is J. D. Kingsbury. Unlike Kingsbury however he presupposes the two-source hypothesis: the priority of Mark and the exis­tence of Q. No dating of these sources is attempted. In earlier research in this tradition, Peter was usually treated as a typical disciple, over against the view that he was the supreme Rabbi for Matthew. From this discussion emerged a consensus, that Peter is portrayed as both unique and typical/exemplary. This consensus is called the modified typical disciple view. M. surveys the work of M. J. Wilkens, P. Perkins, K. Syreeni and T. Wiarda, before he makes his own proposal, opening up a new front, a tertium quid.
The methodology is a curious mixture of comparative literature, historical inquiry and narrative criticism. The literature he chooses to compare are fourteen apocalypses or parts of apocalypses, both canonical and extra-canonical, both Jewish and Christian, written either before or after Matthew and Mark.
The work is divided into seven chapters. Chapters 2–4 (part I) present the apocalyptic material for the later analysis of the Gospels in chapters 5–7 (part II).
The fourteen apocalypses are: Daniel, 1 Enoch, Jubilees, Testament of Levi, 2 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, Apocalypse of Abraham, Testament of Abraham, 3 Baruch, Revelation, Shepherd of Hermas, Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, Apocalypse of Zephaniah.
M. is interested in tracing the trajectory of the apocalyptic genre from early to late, a continuous stream of tradition, both Jewish and Christian. Works later than the gospels are used because what is important is the genre. It is not supposed that the evangelists knew all fourteen. The formal elements that M. draws out of these texts are narrative isolation, dissemination details, exclusivity of revelation, private setting versus public space, cosmic journeys, dialogue with divine beings, symbolic visions and interpretations, secrecy. For example, Daniel concealed the vision, did not report it.
Chapter 4 is about humans encountering the Divine Realm. Cognitive humanity is the term used for the seer’s ignorance, lack of understanding of the vision, need to ask questions and to receive explanations. Emotional and physical humanity is the term for the visionary’s fear, fainting, prostration, calling forth reassuring words and touches. For example, in Daniel 7–12, Daniel is perplexed in 7:16, 19–20, 23–27 and receives angelic help. Emotion is shown in 7:15, 28; 8:17, 27; 10:1–19.
In chapter 5 we begin to see the payoff of this somewhat tedious analysis: Peter and the disciples as apocalyptic seers in the gospel of Mark. In many ways this is the heart of the book. M.’s thesis explains some features better than W. Wrede in regard to the messianic secret. Wrede is seen to presuppose and measure Mark by the later Christology of the church (shorthand, Nicaea), rather than by the apocalyptic genre. This is an anachronistic flaw in Wrede. Mark is enigmatic revelation. Peter and the other disciples are exclusive recipients of divine revelation, but there are no cosmic journeys. In Mark 4, 7, 8 and 9 there are revelatory discourses and events, which are perplex­ ing. The disciples ask questions and Jesus answers. In the Trans-figuration the heavenly voice interprets the event and thereby corrects Peter’s proposal about the three tents. The three disciples receive divine revelation. Their reactions are not negative or improper, but humanly common to apocalyptic seers (147). 4 Ezra offers the closest analogy, but the combination of an individual and a group is found in Daniel 1–6, so here in Peter and a few disciples. Mark innovates in his combination of divine revelation and historical narrative to make a gospel.
Here M.’s goal of an apologetic for Mark who is usually accused of portraying the disciples negatively becomes clear. Mark’s portrait is not negative but typical apocalyptic humanity. The great footnote on Wrede is found on pp. 152–154.
Chapter 6 treats Peter and the disciples as apocalyptic seers in Matthew. In the Kingsbury line, Matthew is interpreted as nearly identical to Mark. This is evident in the two points that Matthew offers enigmatic proclamation about the Kingdom and that he presents Jesus’ messianic identity and mode (= suffering and the cross). M. begins his analysis with Matt 11:25–27, a highpoint from Q. This passage contains an exclusionary statement, as in the apocalypses. Jesus is the unique revelation of the Father. There is an eschatological reversal: the wise and the understanding mean the scribes and the Pharisees, 5:20. The babes or nepioi are the Twelve. The revelation consists of Jesus’ complete knowledge of divine mysteries, especially regarding the kingdom of God and eschatology. Next M. deals with Matt 13, esp. 11–17. The disciples have been given insight. Matthew omits Mark 8:17–18 and so exonerates the Twelve (cf. Num 24:3–4). Matthew understood that private settings are revelatory settings for exclusive disclosure (176). Matt 13:51, where the disciples say that they understand, is not merely a corrective of Mark 4:13, where the disciples do not understand, a verse Matthew omits, but a use of apocalyptic rhetoric, e. g. T. Levi 8:18; 1 En 1:2; Dan 10:1. Matt 15:16 also shows Peter’s ignorance, that is, his need of an explanation, but this is simply his cognitive humanity; it does not harm Peter’s role as a spokesman for the disciples. Matt 16:11–12 employs dialogue analogous to apocalyptic seers. 17:24–27 shows a formal analogy to 4 Ezra 5:46–49. In 14:33 the disciples understand that Jesus is the Son of God before Peter’s confession in 16:16. M. sees the link between Gal 1:15–16 and Matt 16:17, but for him the polemical elements in Matt 16:17–20 are directed against the scribes and Pharisees, not against Paul, as in the old Tuebingen school (F. C. Baur). In Matt 25:31–46 there is a personal eschatology comparable to Dan 12:1–3; 4 Ezra 14:9; 2 Bar 76:2.
In chapter 7 we arrive at Peter’s significance for Matthew and his readers. This chapter is limp, disappointing, feeble. M. sticks with the modified typical disciple model. He grants a salvation-historical primacy to Peter as the first called. Peter is the spokesman for the disciples only in 15:15 and 19:27; these are exceptional cases, not the norm. The task of being a spokesman is a role, but the content of what he speaks is typical of all the disciples. In 16:18–19 M. grants a role for Peter in the new sect in Judaism. (M. occasionally speaks of church in his work, but not here. The choice of the term sect is unfortunate, not founded in the text and with negative connotations from Max Weber’s Prussia.) The conclusion is that Peter is the principal apocalyptic seer.
M.’s book is a well-executed project to make a fresh point, that the disciples’ flaws in Mark, and the privileges of Peter in Matthew, are both typical of apocalyptic seers in apocalyptic literature. This liter-ary background does not solve all problems, M. rightly insists, but is a reasonable explanation of certain features of these two gospels. Anyone who wrestles with the messianic secret will be grateful.