Saint Peter and Judaism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The relationship between Saint Peter and Judaism is thought to have been fairly positive. Saint Peter, whom Roman Catholics regard as the first Pope, is mentioned in Jewish folklore as a learned and holy man.

Toledot Yeshu[edit]

Shimeon Kepha Ha-Tzadik, a character found in the Toledot Yeshu, appears to be based on Peter, although the story is set in the Hasmonean era. According to the account he had a pristine reputation as a greatly learned and holy man who sought to bring about the end of one hundred years of strife in Israel.

"The Sages desired to separate from Israel those who continued to claim Yeshu as the Messiah, and they called upon a greatly learned man, Simeon Kepha, for help. Simeon went to Antioch, main city of the Nazarenes and proclaimed to them: "I am the disciple of Yeshu. He has sent me to show you the way. I will give you a sign as Yeshu has done."[citation needed]

Shimeon, having gained the secret of the Ineffable Name, healed a leper and a lame man by means of it and thus found acceptance as a true disciple. He told them that Yeshu was in heaven, at the right hand of his Father, in fulfillment of Psalm 110:1. He added that Yeshu desired that they separate themselves from the Jews and no longer follow their practices, as Isaiah had said, "Your new moons and your feasts my soul abhorreth." They were now to observe the first day of the week instead of the seventh, the Resurrection of Jesus instead of the Passover, the Ascension of Jesus instead of the Feast of Weeks, the finding of the Cross instead of the New Year, the Feast of the Circumcision instead of the Day of Atonement, the New Year instead of Hanukkah; they were to be indifferent with regard to circumcision and the dietary laws. They were to follow the teaching of turning the right if smitten on the left and the meek acceptance of suffering. All these new ordinances which Simeon Kepha taught them were really meant to separate these Nazarenes from the people of Israel and to bring the internal strife to an end."[1]

Apostle to the Jews[edit]

St Paul says that Peter had the special charge of being apostle to the Jews, just as he was apostle to the Gentiles. Another apostle, James, is regarded as the leader of the Jewish Christians.[2]

Incident at Antioch[edit]

The incident at Antioch refers to a meeting between Paul the Apostle and Peter described in the Epistle to the Galatians.[3] As gentiles began to convert from Paganism to Christianity, a dispute arose among Christian leaders as to whether or not gentiles needed to observe all the tenets of Mosaic Law. In particular, it was debated as to whether gentile converts needed to be circumcised or observe the dietary laws. Paul was a strong advocate of the position that gentiles need not be circumcised or observe dietary laws. Others, sometimes termed Judaizers, felt that gentile Christians needed to fully comply with the Mosaic Law.

Council of Jerusalem[edit]

Peter was a leader at the council of Jerusalem, where he took decisions related to noachide laws and circumcision. He ultimately stood a middle-ground between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. It was agreed that acceptance of the Noahide laws — avoidance of idolatry, fornication, and the eating of flesh cut from a living animal — should be demanded of the heathen desirous of entering the Church.[4]


The Tosaphist Rabbeinu Tam wrote that Peter was "a devout and learned Jew who dedicated his life to guiding gentiles along the proper path". Tam also passed on the traditions that Peter was the author of the Sabbath and feast-day [5] prayer Nishmat, and this was a popularly held belief through the Middle Ages.[6] Otzar Hatefillah, quoting Mahzor Vitri, pointedly denies this claim, offering instead Simeon ben Shetach as the probable author.[citation needed] Peter is also thought to have authored a prayer for Yom Kippur in order to prove his commitment to Judaism despite his work among Gentiles.[7]

Vitry Machzor[edit]

Legends about Peter and his activities are also mentioned in other medieval works, such as the Vitry Machzor.[8]


  1. ^ "Toledoth Yeshu". Archived from the original on 2 February 2004. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "About the Apostles Peter and Paul". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Dunn, James D.G. The Incident at Antioch (Gal 2:11-18) Journal for the Study of the New Testament 18, 1983, pg 95-122]
  4. ^ Badenas, Robert. Christ the End of the Law, Romans 10.4 in Pauline Perspective, 1985 ISBN 0-905774-93-0
  5. ^ "Nishmat". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Poetical Qualities of The Apostle Peter in Jewish Folktale". Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  7. ^ H. J. Zimmels (July 1957). "Rabbi Peter the Tosaphist" 48. The Jewish Quarterly Review. pp. 51–52. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]