Yeshuas Prophecy Concerning Peter
Did Peter endorse Paul?
Whenever Paul is called into question, someone inevitably states that even Peter called Paul's letters "Scripture". This is taken from 2 Peter and assuming the book is authentic. * (see footnote at end of chapter) I personally tend to give the book the benefit of the doubt. The passage in question is the following.
" and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." 2Peter 3:15,16
Before we get to the subject of Yeshuas prophecy to Peter, there are several facts in this quote that need to be clearly pointed out. First, notice that there is only one issue stated by Peter in which we know he is in agreement with Paul... the patience-in-persecution issue. Second, the "things hard to understand" are not identified in this short passage, much less outlined as to which position is correct and which is the "twisted" version. This is again because the context of the next verse is almost always left out. Here, Peter clearly tells us which version is the twisted version.
"You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the Law-less." 2 Peter 3:17
Third, it is particularly interesting to note that in spite of the fact that Peter has obviously read what he believes to be "all" of Pauls epistles and is therefore fully aware of Paul claiming to be an apostle, Peter does not call him a fellow apostle, but instead calls him "brother"! Fourth, claiming that Peter was endorsing Pauls letters, as "Scriptures" is taking great liberties in interpretation. Though the Greek word for "Scripture" does in fact mean "Holy Writings", and the Greek word for "rest" means "the rest of any number or class under consideration", when Peter said, "as they do", he was merely comparing similarities in the way some people deal with both Pauls writings and the Holy Word of God. To say that Peter actually called Paul's letters "Scripture" is a long abstract connection. If all we had were this passage, just exactly what Peter thinks of Pauls writings is somewhat up for grabs.
But it can't be denied that Peter is in fact being considerate and speaking favorably of Paul. This is in spite of the fact that Paul never returns the favor when he makes mention of Peter. Whenever he does, Peter is always left looking bad. If we read the next verse, we see that Peter obviously takes a stand against the Law-less doctrine that many are deriving from Paul's letters, but he continues to speak favorably of Paul. He apparently refuses to admit to himself or believe that Paul was in fact preaching that the Law had been abrogated. At that time, Peter must have been attempting to smooth over the situation.
This brings us to a prophecy that Yeshua gave to Peter shortly
before his ascension, the implications of which should cause us no surprise that Peter
continues to be used to support Paul to this day.
The Prophecy concerning Peter
In the last chapter of Johns' gospel, Yeshua issued a prophecy concerning Peter that has a definite connection to the subject at hand. Yeshua said:
"Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you bound yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch forth your hands, and another will bind you and take you where you do not wish." John 21:18
If these few words concerning Peters future were all we had to go on, what could be determined from them? It could not include more than a couple things. Peter would be taken where he did not want to go, and it was not a good sounding prophecy. But the narrative comes to the rescue with the interpretation of this prophecy in the very next sentence.
"This he spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God." John 21:19
First note that these words of interpretation are not the words of Yeshua, but are the commentary of the writer, John. It can be deduced from the remaining context that this interpretation concerning Peters martyrdom was generally accepted by all.
Here is the question. How could the disciples possibly get
the idea of "death" from Yeshuas words? It may not have been a good
sounding prophecy, but it certainly doesn't give any picture of Peter dying. Tradition
tells us that Peter was crucified up side down, but this is only a tradition. Even
if this were true, one can find even less of this picture in Yeshuas words.
Many translations read, "...you will stretch out your hands..."
This is a classic example of how accepted traditional interpretations can play a
large albeit damaging role in the translating process. The Greek word translated
"out" primarily means to stretch out in front toward something. The
King James Version translates this most correctly, "...thou shalt stretch forth
thy hands...". This is hardly a picture of a crucifixion. Also, the
chronological order of the events listed in the prophecy would be backwards if this were a
picture of a crucifixion. This is easy to see when one reads one of today's popular
paraphrased versions which reads, "...when you are
old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and take
you where you do not want to go." It is hard to imagine someone dressing Peter
while he is on a cross and then taking him some place that he didn't want to
go. I'd figure he was there already! If this were a picture of a crucifixion,
Yeshua would have put it in the proper chronological order as he did in the
first part of
his statement when he said to Peter, "...when you were younger, you girded yourself
and walked where you wished...". If this were a picture of a crucifixion,
have said to Peter, "...when you are old, another will gird you and take you
where you do not wish, and you will stretch out your hands."
Correlation of Peters and Johns prophecy
Let's get back to the question... how could the disciples possibly get the idea of "death" from Yeshuas prophecy to Peter? The answer is in the next few verses.
"Then Peter, turning around saw the disciple whom Yeshua loved following... Peter, seeing him, said to Yeshua, "But Lord, what about this man?" Yeshua said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me". Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. John 21:20-23a
There it is! Peter and the rest of them who were still
scratching their heads over what was said about Peter, were smart enough to know that how
Yeshua answered the question about John would help them understand what he had said about
Peter. Voila! So, if John was going to live until Yeshua returned, that must mean
that Peters negative prophecy meant he was going to die! It only stood to
reason, and in fact was pretty good logic. But it assumed that they clearly understood
what Yeshua was saying about John! How Yeshua had answered the question about John certainly did have a close correlation to what he had said about Peter, but the problem is
that the disciples didn't understand the prophecy concerning John either! This is
obvious in light of the following text. Stay with me on this. I'll
warn the reader that it gets a little involved as we sort through this, but it
all comes together beautifully in the end... and the truth is something very few
have seen since Yeshua spoke these words. .
Unraveling Johns prophecy first
Let's focus on John's prophecy. Most scholars agree that verse 24 was added by someone other than John. It was most likely John's disciples shortly before, or more likely, shortly after John's death.
"This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true." John 21:24
The plural word "we" in this verse is very much out of place with the singular "I" of the very next verse.
"And there are also many other things that Yeshua did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." John 21:25
This last statement of John has a very familiar ring to it. It sounds strikingly similar to the last two verses of the preceding chapter.
"And truly Yeshua did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." John 20:30,31
In the entire script of the book of John, there are no other passages that sound like these two. I believe John had originally ended his record of the gospel at the end of chapter 20, but then decided that in light of what could still be written, he would add to his record what we have come to know as chapter 21. The reason I add this observation here is because it is important to note that John has set a precedent and shown us how he would tend to end his record. In chapter 20, he goes from a direct quote of Yeshua in verse 29, to verse 30, and 31 as quoted above. The new end of his record and what he actually wrote in chapter 21 is very similar. This helps us to understand what parts at the end of the 21st chapter are actually John's and what parts were added later by disciples. We already know some was added.
Getting back to the reason why Johns disciples added what they did. No doubt the death, or prospect of Johns death was causing problems with the common interpretation of Yeshua's prophecy concerning him. Everyone thought John would not die. And now they were being forced to admit that maybe John and the others who had heard the prophecy that day might have misunderstood Yeshua. They did not want Johns record to make Yeshua look like a liar, and far be it from them to let the misunderstanding continue over what was probably no more than a case of missing one small word. So to remedy the problem they settled on the understanding that Yeshua must have said, "If I will that he remain till I come..."
If in fact Yeshua had said "If", this would cause several problems for my thinking besides the fact that I think they completely misunderstood Yeshua right from the start. First, if indeed Yeshua had clearly said, "If I will that he remain", I find it hard to believe that any reasonable person would take this statement and run with it, claiming that Yeshua had definitely said John would not die. If the "If" were common knowledge, reasonable thinking people wouldn't push the hypothetical question to a definite statement. Yet it says in verse 23.
"Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple (John) would not die."
Secondly, the statement of Yeshua as recorded with the "if" is grammatically incorrect! If the statement of Yeshua had started with the "if" as a hypothetical question, then the last half of the question should not have been stated as though it were following a definite statement. In short, if Yeshua had said "If I will that he remain", he should have continued to follow it with the hypothetical question; "what would that be to you?" But he didn't. He said, "what is that to you?"
Here is what happened. Yeshuas statement concerning John was no less a prophecy, nor was it any less definite than was his prophecy concerning Peter which started with... "Most assuredly, I say to you...". I believe he said...
"I will that he (John) remain till I come! What is that to you?"
This makes perfect sense why everyone interpreted it the way they did and subsequently used it to interpret what Yeshua had said about Peter. Everyone including Peter himself. Peter continued to believe this interpretation until he did die a martyrs death. He mentions it himself in his second epistle.
"...knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Yeshua the Messiah showed me." 2 Peter 1:14
But when John was obviously coming to the end of his life and his disciples began to realize they had missed it somewhere, they thought to themselves and reasoned just like anyone would. They thought to themselves "Yeshua must have said 'if', and the 'if' just wasn't heard. The focus of his statement must not have been on John as we thought. He must have been simply telling Peter to mind his own business." Read the account again and see if this doesn't sound like what happened.
22 Yeshua said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow me." 23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Yeshua did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?" 24 This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things that Yeshua did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
It appears that Johns disciples, in an attempt to try to remedy an apparent misunderstanding, added the "if" in verse 22, and all of verses 23 and 24 as highlighted. Johns ending and actual words of chapter 21 read like this,
Yeshua said to him, "I will that he remain till I come! What is that to you? You follow me". And there are also many other things that Yeshua did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Now compare the last three verses of the previous chapter where John had originally ended, and notice how it is uncluttered with explanatory apologetics... and notice the similar flow.
Yeshua said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." And truly Yeshua did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
If it is true that Yeshua did not say "if", but said, "I will that he (John) remain till I come", we are left back at square one in the same difficult spot Johns disciples had been in. It doesn't make sense. John died a long time ago! What could Yeshua have meant by, "I will that he remain till I come."
I must digress a little further from Peter's prophecy, but
hang in there with me and watch it all come together.
Still unraveling John's prophecy
Past precedence for help
To help us understand what Yeshua meant about John, lets take a look at some other passages found in the Gospels where Yeshua was completely misunderstood. It seems to have happened on a fairly regular basis. When trying to understand what Yeshua meant by what he said, the greatest tool available to help us understand is the context in which a statement is found. What was said in the same scene before and after a curious statement will give us the best clues as to its meaning. We need to see that Yeshua virtually always had an underlying theme threaded through his discourses. As will be shown, this could not be more true with respect to Peter's and Johns prophecies.
When a passage seems to jump out of its context with no apparent connection to what was said before or after, red flags should appear. This is especially true in this first example found in two places. After Yeshua had prophesied concerning what was going to happen on earth just before he returned, he said:
"Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled." Matthew 24:34,35 and Luke 21: 32,33
The most common interpretation of this passage suggests that those in the future who are alive at the time the prophecies begin to come true would live to see all of them fulfilled. But Yeshua had clearly said, "this generation", and not that generation. Everyone who heard him that day heard him say that they would not pass away. They knew he was talking about them. It is only now, many hundreds of years after that generation has passed away that we feel forced to accept the current prevailing interpretation.
Any person with an interest in the events that must transpire at the close of this age is very familiar with these words and uses them to bolster the argument that Yeshua will return in our lifetime. I personally still have plenty of good reason to believe he is coming soon, but I no longer use this passage as an argument for the case because it is not what Yeshua meant. The people who were there that day heard him correctly!
Of those today who are familiar with these words of Yeshua, the vast majority of them could not quote from memory the next verse, which was undoubtedly spoken in the very next breath. Yet virtually every one of them knows this passage and has likely quoted it as many times as the former verse. The reason is because there is no direct connection that one can draw between the traditional interpretations of these two statements. Yet it should be painfully obvious there must be a connection. Both verses together read:
"Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away." Matthew 24:34,35
See the connection? The people heard Yeshua correctly that day and they knew he was talking about them. But what was missed is that Yeshua was not referring to them and their physical bodies passing away. He was referring to them in a figure of speech again. He was talking about that generations testimony and their record of the prophetic words he had just spoken. Every time we pick up a Bible and read what Yeshua had prophesied concerning events before his return, we are seeing this prophecy fulfilled before our very eyes. We are in a figure, holding that generation in our hands and bringing to life their testimony of Yeshua's words. That generations testimony of Yeshuas words has not passed away! It is inconceivable to think that they might when we consider the millions of Bibles in print all over the world and how close we are to Yeshua's return. From this example alone, one should see the importance of not letting an interpretation stand alone out of its context.
The other main point we need to see from the fact that Yeshua was not referring to the physical bodies of the people of that generation, but was speaking of their testimony, is that he was using the same figure of speech when he said John would remain! Notice the words "pass away" and their correlation to the word "remain" in Johns prophecy. What does not pass away, obviously must remain!
Hopefully by now one might begin to see where this is going. But I would first like to further support this thesis with one more short example of a similar misunderstanding in John. This one is covered in chapter 1, but if you missed it, here it is again.
"Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. for my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." ...Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying. Who can understand it?" John 6: 51,55,60
Yeshua gives the disciples the interpretation in verse 63.
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life."
Here again, in spite of the fact that Yeshua had appeared emphatic that his flesh and blood were edible, he was not literally talking about his physical flesh and blood. He was speaking about his words, his testimony. The same as in Matthew and Luke, when he spoke of the generation that would "not pass away". He was not speaking of their literal physical bodies, but of their word, which was their testimony.
In John 15:16 Yeshua said to his disciples:
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain."
John's prophecy finally unraveled
It was indeed Yeshuas will that John remain just as he said. And he has! Every time we read the gospel of John or the book of Revelation, Yeshuas words are being fulfilled in front of our very eyes. John remains with us to this day!
Back to Peter
Now that we understand Yeshuas prophecy concerning John, we should be able to use it to help interpret his prophecy concerning Peter. The disciples were right in assuming a connection between the two. But lets go back to the beginning of the particular discourse in which both of these prophecies are found so we can see the beautiful underlying theme that Yeshua had on his mind throughout the entire scene... and from which he never swerves from start to finish.
To set the scene, Yeshua has appeared to his disciples the third time after his resurrection, and this time while they were fishing. He fills their net with fish then says, "Come eat breakfast." After breakfast they get up and go for a walk. The discourse begins.
Yeshua said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes Lord; You know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs". He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know all things; You know that I love you." Yeshua said to him, "Feed my sheep. Most assuredly I say to you, when you were younger, you bound yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch forth your hands, and another will bind you and take you where you do not wish." John 21:15-18
Is it not obvious, that what was on Yeshuas mind in this scene is the feeding of his sheep after he left? And how else could Peter possibly accomplish this other than by telling others of what he had seen and heard? Again the issue is the same. Yeshua was concerned about Peters words, his testimony, his record of what he had seen and heard over the previous three and one half years. This is the very same underlying theme of Johns prophecy as has been shown. It was John's word... his testimony... his record that would remain intact until Yeshua returned. Not his physical body.
This entire scene begins with Yeshua talking about someones testimony, and it ends with Yeshuas prophecy about someones testimony. All that is left between is Yeshuas prophecy concerning Peter! Would it not be safe to assume that he was speaking about Peters testimony as opposed to Peter physically?
Before continuing, there is one more interesting fact that needs to be added to this equation.
As I have previously discussed at length in chapter 1, in the Gospel of John, it is recorded 25 times that Yeshua used the emphatic phrase, "most assuredly, I say to you ". In all but two instances, what is said by Yeshua immediately following it has a direct connection to something that was said earlier in the same discourse. The first instance where it is not obvious that what Yeshua said after has any connection to something said before is the very first time it is recorded in John. I addressed it in chapter 1 and showed that the precedence holds true there. The second time there is no obvious connection is the last time it is used in John and this time it is spoken to Peter just before Yeshua issued his prophecy concerning him. In this last case there is no exception to the well established rule. But we would have to make an exception here if we were to except the traditional interpretation of Peters prophecy. The old interpretation is clearly an issue of how Peter would die. Peter feeding the sheep with Yeshua's words and testimony of him has no relevance or connection to how Peter might die.
Now we have from both before and after the prophecy, strong evidence to suggest that what Yeshua said to Peter has nothing to do with Peters physical life and death. Instead it had everything to do with his word and testimony, which are the care and feeding of Yeshuas sheep.
So what did Yeshua mean when he said to Peter,
" Feed my sheep. Most assuredly I say to you, when you were younger, you bound yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch forth your hands, and another will bind you and lead you where you do not wish."
Yeshua was saying to Peter that if he loved him, he should feed his sheep by telling them the truth about what he had seen and heard over the past three and a half years with him. But beware, in the future when Peter was older, he would stretch forth his hands to feed the sheep and "another" would "bind" him and take him where he did not want to go. And where could that be other than away from feeding the sheep as he should? Yeshua was in effect saying to Peter... "Your accurate testimony to my sheep is very important to me. But someone will come along to turn you from this mission. That direction, you do not want to go!"
After Yeshua had spoken this prophecy to him, he said, "Follow me". But Peter immediately began to concern himself with John. It would appear that this question was indicative of the lack of focused stability in Peter which would ultimately lead to his being led away by someone else, because Yeshua answered the question with... "I will that he remain till I come! What is that to you? You follow me."
Now that we understand Yeshuas prophecy concerning Peter, the question remains: Who is the "other" that was to come along and bind Peter and take him away from feeding the sheep with the truth as he should? You guessed it. It was none other than the false apostle, and liar... Paul!
So how did Paul bind Peter and take
him where he did not want to go? He continues to do it today! It is in the
same way that Yeshua's prophecy concerning John is fulfilled every time we read
the Gospel of John... for John has remained! Every time someone
quotes Peter's words from 2Peter 3:15,16, claiming that Peter called Paul's writings Holy Scripture,
they are fulfilling Yeshua's prophecy concerning Peter. For it is they
who are helping Paul to bind Peter, and are taking Peter (his testimony) where
neither he nor Yeshua wanted him to go... in support of Paul... against the Law!
* Foot Note. There are those who maintain that the book of 2Peter is not authentic based on its grammatical structure and the treatment it received by the early "Church Fathers". The issue is neither here nor there when it comes to the prophecy that Yeshua gave to Peter as found in the Gospel of John, which book is relatively unquestioned in its authenticity. Interestingly enough, Yeshua's prophecy is fulfilled either way, whether Peter actually penned these words or not. Peter is still being bound by this passage and taken where he does not want to go... in support of Paul, against the Law!
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