Study Guide

Cephas in Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon

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Though Paul calls this fellow Christian Cephas, he's probably better known to us as Peter. As in Simon Peter (John 1:42). Jesus' right-hand man.

Yeah, that guy.

Cephas and the other original apostles (you know, the guys that actually hung out with Jesus on a daily basis back in the gospels) were based mainly in Jerusalem. Paul, on the other hand, is a true traveling preacher who makes his way all over the Roman Empire spreading the good news. What can we say? Peter was kind of a homebody.

Paul mentions a couple encounters with Peter in Galatians that indicate that there's a bit of tension between the two. Paul makes sure to point out to his friends in Galatia that he never received any instruction from Peter in Jerusalem. In fact, it took three whole years for him to even visit with the guy (Galatians 1:18). And another fourteen years to go back (Galatians 2:1). We get it, Paul. You're a one-man wolf pack.

Actually, according to Paul, it's Peter who needs some instruction on what it means to follow Jesus.

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction[…] When I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Galatians 2:11-14)

Oh, snap. Biblical burn.

On the other hand, Paul does acknowledge that Peter is a leader in the church (Galatians 2:9). Not that it matters to him, but there you go. He also says that Peter has "been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised" (Galatians 2:7) by Jesus himself. Of course, Paul's been entrusted with the same gospel, so clearly it's no big whoop.

So what did Peter think of Paul? The world may never know. In other places in the Bible (check out Acts and 1 Corinthians for the full scoop), it's clear that there's a teeny bit of a rivalry going on between the two. We're guessing Peter might not have taken too kindly to this random guy whose past life includes persecuting Christians and whose claim to Christian fame is seeing Jesus on some road. Were you there when they crucified the Lord, Paul? Peter was.

Whether or not these guys saw eye to eye in life, people ever since have loved to group them together in death. Since legend has it that they were both executed on the same day in Rome, Peter and Paul actually have to share their feast day on the Christian calendar. Seriously? Would two separate days be too much to ask?

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