The Peter Principle– Part Seven

The Peter Principle– Part Seven January 11, 2020

Much has been made of how the first disciples of Jesus appear more like the DUH-sciples especially in Mark. In particular, Peter at times comes across this way, for instance when Jesus at Caesarea Philippi starts explaining that he is going to die. The burden of John Markley’s article is to demonstrate that one needs to understand the nature of apocalyptic ways of discussing things to understand what’s going on. The point is that one would not understand such mysteries as the Son of Man being the Messiah without revelation from God. Markey however puts it this way: “human imperception in the face of divinely revealed mysteries” (p. 101). He’s talking not about spiritual imperception without revelation, but rather imperception because of the very content or nature of the revelation. “Such responses are designed to identify the limits of the seer’s unaided human comprehension while he encounters divine revelation.” (p. 103). But this is not the whole problem. As the quotation of Isaiah 6 in Mark 4 shows, the problem is also the hardness of human hearts which was being critiqued in Isaiah 6. When one is in a spiritually dull state, even revelation requires extra explanation from Jesus to make sense of it. But yes, it is true that human imperception in the face of revelation, or in the face of the need for it, puts a different spin on things. It means that we can’t evaluate the lack of understanding by Peter or others as ‘a negative portrait’ of Peter. It reflects the human condition in general in the face of revelation. Markey rightly points to Daniel as a help for us to understand what is going on in these portrayals of the disciples. There, even Daniel the great prophet cannot understand his visions without extra explanation from angelic sources (see Dan. 8.27 and 12.8). His confusion is not presented in Daniel as reflecting negatively on him. Exactly right. See also 4 Ezra 10.35 who says he saw and heard what he did not understand. The angelic interpreter then has to help him understand it. Mark 8.32-33 has Jesus critiquing Peter when he argues against Jesus’ getting himself killed, telling Peter he is ‘thinking humanly’ rather than from God’s revealed perspective. Markley however wants to suggest that Peter’s imperception is part of a positive portrayal of Peter as a seer. This seems a stretch to me. Even in Daniel, imperception is not a sign of being a prophet, it is a sign of even a prophet being in need for further enlightenment. In other words, its not a flatter portrayal, it simply shows that Peter partakes of our human limitations and lack of understanding, which in itself is not a negative thing, just a normal thing.


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