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SAINT PETER by Michael Grant

SAINT PETER

A Biography

By Michael Grant

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-19354-X
Publisher: Scribner

 A prolific classical historian attempts to uncover the ``historical'' Peter from evidence in the New Testament. For Grant (Constantine the Great, p. 681, etc.), St. Peter is ``one of the most significant people who ever lived,'' a man who held together the original Christian community and made possible the work of Paul and the spread of Christianity throughout the world. In order to produce a strictly historical account of Peter, Grant rejects as unreliable whatever he considers to be a religious or typological metaphor in the New Testament. Furthermore, he harks back to 1920s German biblical scholar Rudolf Bultmann with a blanket, a priori assumption that miraculous and supernatural events did not really happen, although their moral or pietistic ``meaning'' is true. Thus, the story of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus is merely a pre-scientific way of stating that one should focus on Jesus amidst life's uncertainties. This reductionist approach leads to a text that is a patchwork of probabilities, with the author rather unscientifically begging his own questions and determining what is the ``more likely'' course of events. In Grant's scenario, Peter emerges as a fairly well-off fish pickler, impulsive but slow in understanding, whose faith led Jesus to appoint him first among the apostles and foundation stone of the new movement. Grant accepts as likely the tradition that Peter was crucified and buried in Rome, although he brings in little evidence from recent Vatican excavations. Occasionally, he drops his pose of scholarly detachment, as when he explains that the apostles left everything to follow Jesus because they were too lazy to work, or when he dismisses the resurrection of Christ as a highly motivating delusion. Copious footnotes and a bibliography provide useful tools for further study. A mostly derivative work in which the author's insights are limited by a naive positivism. (Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selections; History Book Club main selection)