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January 31, 2014


1) Eusebius (early 4th Century) reports Papias (early 2nd Century) stated Mark wrote a gospel based upon Peter’s memoirs-- the first attestation we have associating a Gospel according to Mark with Peter. Papias stated in part (according to Eusebius), “For of one thing he [Mark] took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.”

This blog entry argues we know the gospel was sourced by Peter because the author deliberately omitted or modified anecdotes about Peter! So which one are we supposed to be relying upon? Papias (via Eusebius) or this argument? Was it deliberately modified or not?

2) It appears incongruous to argue for reliability by arguing the story was modified. If one is claiming the story was modified by either Peter’s own portrayal or Mark’s editorializing, doesn’t this reduce accuracy rather than bolster it? If Peter (or Mark) made changes where we can verify, this would increase the likelihood of changes where we cannot.

I cannot see how this method would be consistent by claiming modifications indicate accuracy.


1) It could be that Mark omitted the incriminating statements about Peter that the other gospels include because Mark didn't actually hear Peter talk about those things. That would be consistent with what Eusebius said.

2) Although omissions can sometimes give you a distorted picture of the situation, I don't see how an omission of this sort amounts to a "change" or indicates that anything Mark said was inaccurate.


Sure, there are a number of possibilities;

1) Peter said it; Mark never heard it.
2) Peter didn’t say it; Mark never heard it.
3) Peter said it; Mark heard it.
4) Peter didn’t say it; Mark heard it through another source.
5) Peter modified it; Mark quotes Peter verbatim.
6) Peter said it accurately; Mark modifies it.

This blog argues we know Peter handed it to Mark because of (5) or (6). It does not provide for the possibility of (1). Not sure how one can have it both ways.

Omissions are always change—it is inherent in the definition. Of course, the significance surrounds the reason for the omission. I would submit the vast, vast majority of omissions are for brevity. When asked how one’s commute was, a brief 20-second description omits the entire 1-hour drive…but we understand why.

Let’s look at the first example.

Mark 1 has a straightforward story regarding Peter’s calling. Jesus sees Peter and Andrew fishing, says “Follow me” and they immediately (Markan catch phrase) drop their nets to follow Jesus. James and John, sons of Zebedee do likewise.

Luke 5 tells a more detailed account. Jesus asks Peter to take him out in Peter’s boat a little way, so Jesus can teach. Then Jesus asks Peter to go out fishing; Peter says, “We haven’t had any success so far…but O.K.” A miracle occurs with such a large catch the nets begin to break. Peter says (humbly) “Get away from me—I am a sinner.” Jesus says to follow him. He does. [There are other interesting facets like no mention of Andrew as well as James and John being partners of Peter.]

The blog entry argues the Markan omission was not for brevity, but “an effort to protect Peter from embarrassment.” The omission becomes significant in itself as an argument Peter MUST be connected to this story, as evidenced by the omission itself. The motivation to enhance Peter’s reputation. It raises the question (and why J. Warner Wallace would do this, I have no idea) what else was omitted or included to enhance Peter’s story? If Peter (or Mark) deliberately modified the story by omission (as this blog argues), what prevents them from modifying by inclusion?

Humorously, this particular example gets worse.

John 1 also recounts the calling of Peter. In this tale, Andrew and another were disciples of John the Baptist. Upon encountering Jesus, they spend the day with him, listening to his teaching until late afternoon. Andrew then finds Peter, brings Peter to Jesus, and Peter becomes a disciple.

Mark and Luke have Peter’s calling after John the Baptist’s imprisonment; John has it before. Mark and Luke have it in Galilee at the lakeshore; John in a house outside Galilee. Mark has Peter and Andrew together, Luke has just Peter (although Andrew could be there), John has Andrew and then Peter.

Now, in the Markan tale, we would claim Peter omitted the miraculous fish to avoid embarrassment. So why did he omit Andrew bringing him to Jesus, and the events occurred outside Galilee? Was that embarrassing as well? Or was one omitted for brevity and another embarrassment? What method are we using to differentiate the two? Why did Luke omit Andrew? Brevity doesn’t seem to fit, as it would be just as easy to have Andrew’s name.

If the reason to omit was deliberately to better one’s own presentation, I personally think this credits credibility problems—it doesn’t reduce them.

If Peter (or Mark) deliberately modified the story by omission (as this blog argues), what prevents them from modifying by inclusion?

I don't see the two as equal, if by "inclusion," you mean writing things the author knows are not true. That is very different than omitting things that are true.

Was that embarrassing as well? Or was one omitted for brevity and another embarrassment? What method are we using to differentiate the two? Why did Luke omit Andrew? Brevity doesn’t seem to fit, as it would be just as easy to have Andrew’s name.

I think J. Wallace's case for the Peter omissions being from embarrassment is that there's a consistent pattern in the KINDS of omissions there are--omissions that happen to help Peter save face. If there were only one or two omissions, but then there were other passages where Peter's embarrassment is evident, then Wallace couldn't have made that argument.

I don't know why Andrew's name was omitted in Luke.

Leaving details out never makes a story less accurate. If we view the omission of a detail as a change that renders a story less accurate, if that is our standard of accuracy, then all stories are of necessity be inaccurate. It would take infinite time to recount every detail about your 1 hour commute, DGS, because there are infinitely many details about that commute.

If that's the way we go with our standard for accuracy, then the problem is not with the accuracy of any story, but with the irrational way we've chosen to use the word "accurate".

In terms of accuracy, it does not make a lick of difference why details are left out. The details might be left out with the express purpose of causing an unwary hearer to jump to a false conclusion. The story is still accurate if it's only defect is the omission of details.

Leaving out details does, of course, make a story less complete.

Note that there is a difference between leaving out a detail and expressly denying a detail.

But, for the record, I don't find the fact that Peter might be embarrassed by some omitted details particularly compelling. That's just the same academic card that gets played by literary critics of Scripture. The truth is that we can have next to no idea why the author of Mark left out some detail that someone else didn't. Making guesses about it might be an interesting parlor game, but that's all. It implies nothing and it's kind of silly to think it would.

So, clever textual analysis has almost no weight in my view in determining authorship.

I find the fact that early historians thought Peter was looking over Mark's shoulder to be extremely compelling. And that argument does not need any help from and cannot really be assailed by oh so clever readers 1500 years later.

I am not, of course, rejecting the idea that we need to read texts carefully to figure out what they say. That's a separate matter that comes into, for example, the issues surrounding how Peter, Andrew, James and John came to follow Jesus.

It seems to me that Matthew and Mark simply report the final moment of forsaking their old lives and following Christ. Luke and John go into more details about how they came to that moment.

Luke's account begins with Christ going about preaching solo for a while. Peter probably already had some sort of relationship with Christ before the first miraculous draught of fish, because Christ was using his boat as an ad hoc platform for preaching to people on the shore. Though the Luke account leaves open the possibility that Jesus just picked some random fisherman's boat who happened to be by the sea when he needed the boat.

But I'm inclined to think that there was a pre-existing relationship, at least between Peter and Jesus, just from reading Luke. Now, if I had any doubts, John removes it and provides a number of details that led up to that pre-existing relationship. Including the fact that Andrew, Peter's brother, actually knew Jesus first.

So there's really no problem there.

Where there is a more serious issue is with the imprisonment of John and the calling of Peter and the rest. John 3:22-24 states that Jesus was going about with His disciples and John had not yet been thrown into prison.

Luke mentions John's imprisonment in Luke 3:19-20 before the calling of any disciples, but in that case, it's clear enough that the mention was of something that would happen later (because the next thing Luke goes into is how Jesus is baptized by John).

But Mark and Matthew both say that Jesus began preaching in Galilee after John was taken into custody (in Matthew's case, after he, Jesus, heard that John had been taken into custody), and the calling of the disciples was evidently part of that preaching effort.

What is the solution to this riddle?

Well, it seems that Jesus was preaching and baptizing. Then John [the Beloved] says "John [the Baptizer] also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized—for John had not yet been thrown into prison."

Now, it seems to me that John and Jesus were not both baptizing in the same place at the same time. Jesus was baptizing in a place where John was baptizing because he had not yet been thrown into prison. The "for" or "because" is explaining how John was baptizing there in the past. It is not explaining how John was baptizing there now, while Jesus was there.

So John had already been thrown into prison when Jesus and His disciples were preaching and baptizing in Judea (at Aenon near Salim). John was preaching and baptizing there before Jesus and His disciples even got there. Indeed, before Jesus even had His deisciples.


The blog entry claims Peter (or Mark) was attempting to make themselves look better to the intended recipients by omitting embarrassing elements in specific pericopes. The same motivation would include non-historical details. If we are engaging in psychological archeology in Peter’s (or Mark’s) motivation, how we can parse out the removal of elements without the possibility of inclusion?

How can we say Peter (or Mark) have enough personal motivation to modify the accounts by removing elements, but with the same personal motivation would not add elements? Again, remember the very basis of this argument is not reduction for brevity, but a deliberate modification based on embarrassment.

J. Warner Wallace’s case is based on a terrible methodology: the claim “missing elements = Peterine embarrassment = Peterine influence.” What method is being used to determine embarrassment? What method is used to differentiate between brevity and embarrassment? The blog entry makes no argument this would be actually embarrassing—it only makes bald assertions. We cannot declare Peter’s embarrassment as “evident”—we need the necessary social background, intended recipients, authorship, dating, and frankly far more information than available.

To demonstrate the methodology’s insufficiency, let’s take another example—arguably the most embarrassing Peter story regarding his denial of Jesus. A consolidated and slightly abridged* account from the four canonicals:

Another disciple has the connections to get Peter into the courtyard. Peter is in the courtyard warming himself by the fire. A girl claims he was with Jesus, he denies it. Again he is accused of being one of them, again he denies it with an oath. A third time he is accused of being one for he is Galilean. His accent gives him away. Peter calls down curses and swears he did not know Jesus. Jesus looks straight at Peter. The rooster crows the second time. Peter weeps. Bitterly.

*I am ignoring the various minor differences in who was questioning Peter and where specifically he was located. Not relevant or helpful to our discussion.

In at least one of the accounts, the following element is missing:

1) The other disciple getting Peter into the courtyard.
2) The fire.
3) The oath on the second denial.
4) The fact he is Galilean.
5) His accent giving him away.
6) The curses or swearing on the third denial.
7) Jesus looking at Peter.
8) The rooster’s second crow.
9) Peter’s weeping.
10) The weeping is bitter.

Now I ask you – how do we determine which (if any) of these elements is embarrassing? J. Warner Wallace claims (7) is embarrassing. I claim the fact the other disciple had to get Peter in (1) is embarrassing. Or the fact he is Galilean (4) or his poor accent (5). Or his cursing, (3) & (6) or his weeping (9) & (10). Aren’t these just bald assertions with no arguments whatsoever?

Worse, one can first obtain a conclusion, and then find evidence of “embarrassment” within the pericope to support that conclusion. I claim Matthew has Peterine influence because it omits the other disciple, embarrassing fire, and second rooster call. Or Luke must have Peterine influence because it omits the embarrassing cursing and swearing. Or John, because it omits the embarrassing references to Galilee, the swearing, the cursing and the crying.

Seriously…what is so embarrassing about Jesus looking at Peter after the denials as compared to any other element? What is so embarrassing about the catch of fish at Peter’s calling?

Even more worse, if the omission of Jesus’ looking at Peter is demonstration of Peterine embarrassment and Peterine influence, to be consistent we would have to say Matthew and John are also influenced by Peter. Because they…too…do not have the reference to Jesus looking at Peter.

What method do we use to determine embarrassment?
What method do we use to determine deliberate omission for embarrassment as compared to brevity?

This blog entry’s terrible method provides no insight to reduce our possibilities (using the method we can prove ALL the gospels are Peterine influenced) and provides no argument for its baseless assertions.

If you think another example (I’m not bothering to go through them all) better demonstrates omission by embarrassment, I will happily look at it.

I don’t know why Luke didn’t mention Andrew, either. A puzzler.

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