Mark's account of Peter's denial of Jesus: A representative history of interpretation of Mark 14:54, 66-72
Herron, Robert Wilburn, Jr
Nielsen, Niels C.
Doctor of Philosophy
Historically, Mark's account of Peter's denial of Jesus has been variously interpreted; that variety continues today. The earliest commentary on the passage, Victor of Antioch, interpreted the passage "literally," drawing theological inferences about apostasy. Shortly afterwards the Venerable Bede, influenced by the "School of Alexandria" and Augustine, "allegorized" the passage for the benefit of the faithful. In general, Victor and the "Antiochene School" can be said to have influenced the Eastern Church as evidenced in Theophylact and Euthymius. Bede and the Alexandrian allegorical method, via the Glossa ordinaria, influenced the West. The excesses of the allegorical method may have contributed to the search for a new hermeneutic by the Reformers, insofar as Calvin and others seem to have preferred the "literalism" of the Antiochene method. Allegorical interpretations of the passage in general yielded to more sober pastoral applications, not only in the Reformed tradition, but also among Catholic scholars (e.g., Lapide and Quesnel) and Pietists (e.g., Bengel). The emergence of the theory of Markan priority in the nineteenth century fueled hopes that Mark's version of Peter's denial would be the most historically reliable. Though the recognition of Mark's priority remained, trust in his historicity eroded with twentieth century scholarship. The emergence of Formgeschichte discovered the influence of transmission of the tradition on the final form of the story. The emergence of Redaktionsgeschichte discovered the influence of the author's theology on the tradition, in particular, that the author of Mark must have possessed an anti-Petrine bias to have included this pericope in this way. More recently literary criticism's impact on Biblical studies has suggested that the intended overall impact of the pericope on a reader was to provide a negative example for discipleship formation; a character with whom one may identify, yet improve upon. This line of interpretation mirrors some of the earliest interpretations of the Church, including Victor and Bede. This may be due to literary criticism's "bracketing out" the question of historicity and focusing on the "story world" of the text, which the earliest exegetes did unwittingly by naively equating the text with the events they purported to portray.