Did Matthew Think Peter Was a False Disciple?

A new book from a top evangelical scholar makes the case.
Did Matthew Think Peter Was a False Disciple?
Image: James Tissot / Brooklyn Museum of Art / Bridgeman Images

A leading evangelical scholar says Matthew thought Peter was as bad as Judas.

Robert Gundry, scholar-in-residence and professor emeritus of New Testament and Greek at Westmont College, argues in his most recent book, Peter – False Disciple and Apostate according to Saint Matthew (Eerdmans), that “Matthew portrays Peter as a false disciple of Jesus, a disciple who went so far as to apostatize.” He believes Matthew does so to warn Christians “against the loss of salvation through falsity-exposing apostasy” and against the “ongoing presence of false disciples in the church.”

“The good news about Christ needed to be tailored to Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s, and John’s [respective] audiences,” Gundry told CT. “Hence the differences between the four Gospels. We have the good news according to Matthew, and so on. We have different versions of the good news suited to different needs and circumstances.”

In the case of Matthew’s portrayal of Peter, Gundry believes Matthew revised, added to, and subtracted from Mark’s narrative in order to present Peter unfavorably. Matthew’s audience, he says, faced a more significant threat of persecution and needed warning against apostasy.

Unlike the other Gospels, Matthew does not include an account of Peter’s restoration. After denying Jesus, Peter simply “went outside and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75). And his weeping looks more like despair than repentance, said Gundry. Thus, Peter fits Matthew’s criteria of false disciples and apostates, and shares the same status of that of Judas.

Gundry believes that Matthew’s omission of Peter’s rehabilitation ...

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Did Matthew Think Peter Was a False Disciple?
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