As I mentioned in my last post, the Peter in Earliest Christianity conference in Edinburgh got off to a fast start on the very first day. Now, 21 papers later, the conference is over and it was a very busy and productive time. While being familiar with many of the issues with which the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins is concerned, I generally focus on Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East; so, the conference was an exercise in close listening, note taking and fast googling.
One aspect that might be unfamiliar to those who attend large conferences such as SBL, there was only one session at a time. While having the unfortunate result of listening to some papers that are not in your area of interest, this has the benefit of creating a common conversation, as everyone has heard the same papers. With about 60 delegates and 21 papers, there was a very high presentation rate. This more intimate nature made it almost certain that coffee breaks and the social hours were spent talking to one of the presenters.
Over the next few days I hope to write a couple posts making a few comments on or summarizing a good number of the papers that were presented. The papers were roughly organized chronologically, beginning with scripture and historical issues and moving, by the end of the conference, to patristic, gnostic and late texts of the second to fourth centuries.
The opening lecture was given was given by the founder of the Centre (they call it CiSCO), Larry Hurtado, and he opened the conference with a survey of the recent Protestant works on Peter. Noting that Prostestants have neglected Peter, he reviewed the works by Cullmann, Hengel, and Bockmuehl.
Cullmann (whose name I heard a dozen times this week) wrote an important work on Peter in 1952 and made an attempt to, as an invitee to Vatican II, be conciliatory to Rome while still expressing his disagreement regarding the papacy. He did assert that the appellation 'Peter' was given to Simon by the historical Jesus, but he feels that the passage in Matthew 16 has been taken too far by Rome. Hengel, in his attempt to provide a corrective to Protestant neglect of Peter, sees Peter as a competent leader who must have necessarily shaped pre-Pauline Christianity. Additionally, he emphasized the fact that Paul went to visit Peter and certainly would have learned about Jesus from him, during his two week visit (Gal 1:18). As one of two important leaders, Peter's influence must be re-evaluated, while acknowledging a conflict between the two. Markus Bockmuehl, a delegate at this conference, wrote the most recent significant work on the topic. Hurtado notes that Bockmuehl focuses more on historical issues and he focuses on the ways in which Peter was remembered. Taking a conservative approach, emphasizing only those things which can be confidently asserted, he discussed the difference between eastern and western views and concludes that Peter was a bi-cultural lower-middle class individual from Bethsaida.
I assure that I will not write 21 posts on this conference (especially since SBL International begins tomorrow), but I do hope to write at least one post for each day.