Peter vs. John the Evangelist

Welcome to the Saintly Sixteen! From 32 saints we have narrowed the field to 16. For this round, rather than the basic biographical information we enter the realm of Quirks and Quotes. Our Celebrity Bloggers will provide unusual information or legends surrounding their saints along with quotes either by or about their saints.

Don’t forget, you can always go to the Bracket Tab to easily find previous battles if you need to refresh your basic knowledge on these saints. This is yet another free courtesy extended to you, the Lent Madness Global Public.

In yesterday's Battle of the Bands, Catherine Winkworth made Isaac Watts sing the blues 56% to 44%. She'll go on to face Eglantyne Jebb in the Saintly Sixteen.

But that's all in the past. Today we kick things off with a battle between two Biblical heavyweights, Peter and John the Evangelist. At stake? The Elate Eight.


PeterYou may know the biblical accounts of St. Peter, but have you heard he was a renowned weeper? Tradition tells us he always wore a towel at his chest to wipe the tears from his face. He was prone to cry when he remembered the voice of Jesus, and he always prayed whenever he heard a cock crow -- a reminder of how he denied knowing Jesus -- and wept some more.

Many miracles were attributed to the penitent Peter. One day, his disciple George died while on a preaching mission. When St. Peter’s staff was laid on his corpse after forty days dead, George came back to life.

As a powerful witness for the Gospel, Peter found himself with an archnemesis, the sorcerer Simon, who aspired to be worshipped as a god through his feats of witchcraft. They first battled wits in Jerusalem, then Peter followed Simon, who ran off to Rome and befriended the nefarious Nero. Along with St. Paul, Peter found Simon in Nero’s court and exposed his sorcery as diabolical. Simon ordered his angels to attack Peter, and Peter replied, “I fear not thine angels, rather do they fear me.” Nero was shocked that Peter did not fear the sorcerer and agreed to provide him with a loaf of bread in secret. The sorcerer demanded Peter show he could read his mind, and Peter said he would do so by thwarting Simon’s schemes. Simon summoned snarling dogs to attack Peter, and Peter fed them the bread he’d secreted from Nero, thus demonstrating he’d known Simon’s plan all along.

Finally, angels of Satan held the sorcerer aloft, and Peter commanded them in the name of Jesus to drop the evil man. Simon was killed. For the loss of his magician, Nero arrested Peter and Paul. In prison, they converted their guards, who then set them free. As they fled the city, Jesus appeared to them and said, “I go to Rome, to be crucified anew!” So they followed him back to Rome. Famously, Peter asked to be crucified upside down. “Lord, I have desired to follow Thee, but I did not wish to be crucified upright. Thou alone art upright and high.”

Paul was also martyred that day, and later the disciple Dionysius saw the two great apostles holding hands and re-entering the city gate, “dressed in shining garments, crowned with light and glory.” Surely it was the holy city they entered, the new Jerusalem, where Christ would wipe every tear from Peter’s eyes, where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away and Christ has made all things new.

(Source: The Golden Legend, a medieval hagiography)

-Amber Belldene


John the Evangelist

What more can be said about Blessed John than to you I have hath said? Apparently, a lot. In round one, we uncovered the startling truth that the man we know as John the Evangelist is probably a mash-up of at least a few New Testament Johns (something like a Gospel version of the Megazord from Power Rangers – it’s morphing time!) To know more about John, we need to immerse ourselves in his parts.

John the Apostle, along with his brother James, was called by our Lord to leave their nets to follow him. While the call to follow Christ must have been compelling, one must sympathize with Zebedee when, in the middle of hauling in the fish, his two sons simply walk away. He is included, along with Peter and James, as the inner circle of Jesus’ inner circle, witnessing both the Transfiguration and our Lord’s anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Curiously enough, the Gospel that bears his name – the Gospel According to Saint John – does not include the story of the Transfiguration. What it does include from the very beginning is a Christ who seems to enter the world already Transfigured. “In him was life,” records the Evangelist, “and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” From this narrative, it is possible to draw a lesson that the Gospel of John goes to great lengths to explore – that Jesus is the light from the very beginning, it just takes us a very long time to figure that out.

After Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, John asserts a great deal of leadership in the early church. For example, when the mission to Samaria resulted in converts to the faith, John goes with Peter to Samaria to lay hands on the neophytes so that “they might receive the Holy Spirit.”

After this, John fades from history into the realm of legend. If John the Apostle is John the Divine/Revelator, then it is widely held that he died in exile on Patmos. This is complicated because Polycrates and Iraneus, both 2nd century bishops, claim that John was martyred in Ephesus. To add to the complexity, third-century-Ephesus couldn’t even decide where in Ephesus the Evangelist was buried with two sites vying for shrine status. Another legend suggest the Apostle avoided martyrdom by miraculously emerging from a cauldron of boiling oil unscathed. And in later versions of the apocryphal Acts of John, the Apostle doesn’t die at all, but ascends to Heaven like Enoch and Elijah. A fitting and fanciful (albeit heretical) end for our Apostle/Evangelist/Seer/Divine.

-Marcus Halley

Peter vs. John the Evangelist

  • Peter (66%, 4,734 Votes)
  • John the Evangelist (34%, 2,479 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,213

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Peter: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
John: By Juan de Juanes - Web Gallery of Art: Public Domain



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168 comments on “Peter vs. John the Evangelist”

  1. As a longtime member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE) community’s “Fellowship of St. John,” my choice is clear.

    The Beloved Disciple has a lot to teach about God’s desire through Christ to draw each of us into the reach of his saving embrace (BCP 101).

  2. Our entire fifth grade participates in a very moving presentation of "The Living Stations of the Cross."
    In our classroom, the character of Peter is played by Matthew. So as a majority we had to vote for Peter!
    In other news, our classroom also sports Avery as "A woman of Jerusalem", Ethan as Barabbas, and our very OWN Oliver, as Pontius Pilate:)

  3. I identify with Peter and his flawed humanity, but it has always been John's writings that have carried me through life. Remembering that "thee darkness shall not overcome the " light, Jesuits

  4. This is a tough one. However, while Jesus dubbed Peter “the rock,” John was the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” If Jesus loved John, who am I to disagree? Also, I am inspired by John’s resting against Jesus. Not only is it a beautiful image in art, it reminds me to ‘rest in Jesus,” too. As a mother myself, it impresses me that Jesus specifically asked/told John to take care of Mary. With such a trifecta, how could I not vote for John?

  5. "Jesus is the light from the very beginning, it just takes us a very long time to figure that out" - a wonderful summing up of the grace that is always with us and the slowness on our part to catch on! Voting for John -

  6. Both great men beloved by Jesus; but as a faithful member of St Peter's Episcopal in Chattanooga, know.

  7. My favorite reading in scripture is the beginning of John’s gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”...memories of discovering this passage years ago as a teenager come sweeping back to me this morning. Being 17 years old and finding Jesus in those words is still stunning to me decades later! St. John will always have my vote...

  8. This was a toughie. My parish patronomic saint or my own. In the end the eclesia triumphed over the persona.

  9. Thank you, all! The Quirks and Quotes Category is a delight as is the suggestion to refresh from the previous biographies. So many good reasons to vote for either Peter or Paul. So, with one cup of coffee and the morning rain I find myself drawn to one action, John bringing comfort to a grieving mother.

  10. In Celtic tradition, John leaned against Jesus’ chest at fhe Last Supper and listened to the heartbeat of God. That image, of the heart of God beating in all creation is a powerful metaphor for me. . I vote for John, listening to the heartbeat of God.

    1. When I read "listening to the heartbeat of God", I was instantly overwhelmed in tears and longing. All of my logic and theological ideology went out the window and the child in me that years to lean against the breast of the Father and hear the reassuring heartbeat of love took over. It must be John, who did what we all yearn to do.

  11. My vote for Peter was actually a vote for Amber Belldene, our celebrity blogger. What great stories, entertainingly told!
    Just can’t get my head around who John is enough to vote for him.

  12. Peter had me at "renowned weeper." Anyone who, like me, suffers from depression must feel a kindred soul at that point.

    The legends are so fascinating, but hagiographies aren't to be taken literally.

    I'd never heard of John's martyrdom; I've always heard of him as the only Apostle who wasn't martyred. I find that more believable, though, especially if Irenaeus said so.

  13. No, no, No, NO, NO!

    John the Evangelist is NOT a “mashup!” There is nothing (that I know of) to suggest that the Fourth Gospel was not written by a single person. The statement that the author was a composite figure, and therefore mythical, cost him votes in the first round, and he’s not doing very well in the second.

    There is a mashup; but, as was pointed out in the course of Round One, it consists of a conflation of the Gospel author with John the Apostle, John the Divine, and maybe others. We are free to believe that the Evangelist was the same as any or all of the others and, if we do, to add their virtues to his in determining our vote; but the figure of the Evangelist, like his glowing words and seminal theology, stands alone. Poor, slandered John!

    I reproach the author of the biography for persisting in a novel and to the best of my knowledge unfounded theory through mistaking it for the one actually in circulation. If I am mistaken in this, I welcome correction and have an apology at the ready.

    Meanwhile I ask your prayers for deliverance from the sin of wrath. Alas, it will come too late; for my ballot, cast in the very heat of anger, is already in the box.

    1. I’m with you, Davis. I thought surely our CB would not continue this angle of Johannine conflation. If that is the approach we are to take, then my vote for Simon/Peter today will be for Simeon at the Presentation, Simon the Zealot, Simon the Tanner in Acts, and the writer of the epistles of Peter. Surely they were all the same person!

    2. Thanks for this! After reading the first round's blog post and this round, I'm still confused about the conflations.

    3. I'm not exactly sure what a 'mash up' means in this situation, but I do not see any reason to disparage ANY saint in LM for being a composite character. Nor do I see any reason to engage in the extremely difficult task of believing that anything following verses 30 and 31 of the 20th chapter of the gospel was written by the same person who wrote what preceded that first ending.

    4. Nope, read the book of Acts. under nets, unclean food,Cornelius,roof,baptism.

    5. I agree! Why was a writer chosen to present the beloved disciple of Jesus, John, to us who doesn't even believe he was a real person? It bothered me all morning.

  14. Peter bested Paul on the first day of Lent Madness this year. I was so torn that day because I valued both Peter and Paul. And while I do like the Gospel of John, I am drawn more to Peter as that guy who may stumble and fall, but gets up and gets a little stronger each time. I get that.

  15. I was utterly dumbfounded by this choice. I didn't even know where to begin. At this point I have no idea what John is even at issue in the vote. Are we talking about the gospel of John or a person? On the other hand, Peter with the gift of tears. That was not attractive. I thought of an earlier saint with the "gift of tears," who did not go far in the bracket. I finally found something to like in the "heretical apostle." Below is a link to a description of John, which continues the theme that we don't know who John is. So I voted for John, somewhat as a vote for "the unknown soldier." And I thought of the vision of the transfigured Christ, who both is and is not even visible to us. What exactly is it we are seeing? And so I voted by way of Paul, who says, work out your salvation by fear and trembling. That is, I take it, we don't have ultimate knowledge. Stay the course; run your race. We aren't going to know in this life. But we are choosing the world in everything we do. Be good to one another and have faith. I am voting for all unknown, struggling believers. May they have peace and influence the world for better.

    1. Peter, because I too have failed to bear witness to Christ fully and still am loved by God.

      1. That is really telling and beautiful, Ellen. Is there anyone among us who can claim to bear witness to Christ fully in this parlous age?

    2. But-but-but the link makes the same mistake as the bio! The question’s not, “Who is John the Evangelist?” We know that: the Gospel writer. So, because all we know about him is his work, the Gospel and the person are in that sense the same.

      The question is, “Was the Evangelist also the Apostle and/or the Revelator? As to that, views differ. For me, John’s gospel is so stunningly powerful that I don’t much worry about whether he was the same as the others who, by the way, also stand as individuals. The conflation is purely optional and, from what I’m told about the peculiar Greek used in Revelation, especially parlous as to that wing of the triad.

      Sorry to persist in my ranting, but I think Paul would approve.

          1. All that being said, I have to give a shout-out for Marcus' blog! It's provocative and powerful.

      1. I think what you're saying is: the gospel is John. "John" is the text. Beyond that, we don't know. Paul put his faith in a voice. It's more rabbinical to place one's faith in writing, in a text. By this logic, "John" seems the more Judaic vote. I recognize the poetry in the gospel of John. I also find the binary division into darkness and light implacable. I myself am mottled, filled with shadows, demi-light. I have been taught to seek shades of grey. "Nevertheless, she persisted." I voted for John despite my doubts. I love Paul's rhetoric, but he too inserted an implacable element into Christianity. Perhaps Peter is more "human" and I should have voted for him. But there is something about the way poetry balks our knowledge, something about the way the divine is absolutely unavailable to us in mortal flesh, that seems crystallinely true. I voted for John.

          1. In him there is no darkness at all.
            The night and the day are both alike.
            The lamb is the light of the city of God.
            Shine in my heart, lord Jesus.

            one of my favorite hymns

          2. What is light? Photons
            which are particles composed
            of light, which is waves
            streaming into my ocular
            nerve, which is a knot
            of darkness at the base
            of my brain, knitting
            the back of my vision orb
            to the sea of dream-things
            that float just out of reach.

            Oh how I wish I could pluck
            sugared fire-flies from that tree
            standing ever in sunlight
            at the far horizon of my sight,
            whose every fruit is delight,
            whose petals pulse bright,
            whose last soughing sigh is . . . delight.

        1. With all of the accusations against "the Jews" contained in John's gospel, he is hardly the more "Judaic" choice. It is also not particularly "rabbinical" to place one's faith in writing, any more than it was Christian or Roman (to name two of many traditions that valued texts). The ancient Judaic oral tradition that contains the details of how to keep the commandments was only committed to writing because of the danger that it would be lost, especially after the Romans conquered and then ravaged Judaea. Even much later, the advent of the printing press brought tremendous concern among rabbis that teachings would be ossified if put into print and widely disseminated, rather than continue to be a living tradition.

          1. I am not qualified to take on midrash, the Talmud, or Torah. But here is Tracy McNulty, who argues in Wrestling with the Angel, that with Paul Christianity commits itself to voice over text, as opposed to Judaism, in a manner that places dread into the very center of Christian theology, as opposed to Judaism, which tries to mitigate the demands of unmediated deity. She refers to Rashi, a medieval French rabbi, who "suggests that the voice of God took the form of a single, terrifying utterance, so unbearable that the people of Israel begged Moses to shield them from God's voice by speaking the commandments for them, mediating its awesome force" (141). Rashi then says Judaism humanizes the law by "recourse to the symbolic limits implied in speech, and writing in particular." Putting the law into writing allows the people to hold at a distance God's terrible voice (the "bat qol," I'm going to say, the "daughter of thunder" that at Jesus' baptism identifies him as chosen). McNulty is arguing that this approach allows Judaism to "take responsibility" for fulfilling the law in a manner distinct from Pauline Christianity, where Paul argues that the voice of the internal spirit abrogates the law. She is highly critical of Paul, in a way I find very interesting. She is applying Lacanian psychoanalytical theory to Christian theology, to say that Christianity places a demanding "superego" into spirituality through the Pauline internal voice of the spirit; she believes Judaism does a better job of buffering its believers from the unmitigated demands of divinity. Christianity thus has a tendency to be more violent in its ethics than Judaism, to expect people to accept unlimited demands on their spirit from an implacable voice. She writes: "Paul makes exposure to this super-egoic violence the very basis of ethics, identifying not simply a hermeneutic error or a lack of faith but a severe ethical failing or cowardice in the refusal to open oneself to the Voice, not just in its love, but in its violence" (143). McNulty is challenging Christianity to consider at a very deep level how Christian "love" is also a form of spiritual violence. I find it a powerful analysis. Consider John Donne: "Batter my heart, three-person'd God."

            As for accusations against "the Jews," that is a separate issue and seems more applicable to Matthew's gospel, imo.

          2. St. Celia, how appropriate that you hold up Rashi today — International Women's Day — Rashi, in defiance of accepted rabbinic thought and practice educated his three daughters in the Talmud to the point that they scared off potential suitors.

      2. Excellent points. And, if it were possible to change my vote from Peter to John the Evangelist, I would do so.

        Before reading your post, I couldn't bring myself to vote for John, in spite of the soul-stirring start to his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word." I just couldn't vote for a mash-up that might include John of Patmos, the writer of the Book of Revelations, the part of the Bible that is so bewildering to me.

        But, we were not voting on a mash-up; we were voting on John THE EVANGELIST.

        Sorry, John. Perhaps I can vote for you in future Lent Madness Tournaments?

          1. "Evil" seems like a strong, strange dismissal of a canonical book of the Bible. I would prefer to think in terms of interpretation, that fundamentalism is the evil that all religions struggle against. A literal, fundamentalist interpretation of any of the books of the Bible (or of the Koran) is a problem for believers, of any faith. The book of Revelation is especially vulnerable to misuse, precisely because it presents a vision rather than dogma. If we seek out any culture's fundamentalist "flashpoints," we will find that culture's weaknesses, where its values decline into fetishes. I would point to the second amendment as a weak spot in American democracy, where fundamentalism presently rules and guns are a fetish rather than an object of rational policy discourse. I would agree that fundamentalism is an evil.

          2. Love 'em! They took me in when I was just confirmed, trained me as an acolyte, gave me a chance to sing in the choir at their mission on Bowdoin St. in Boston. This was back in the tumultuous 60's, so you can imagine what a many-sided life I was leading then.

          3. I like Sansom's mysteries very much. But he is making the assertion that Revelation is "an evil book" in the words of a fictional character. Sansom is not a Biblical scholar but an historian and mystery writer. Revelation fits into a long history of Jewish apocalyptic writings, especially the book of Daniel. It is addressed to "the seven churches" and deals with realities of the time and is not a prediction, hidden in code, of future events. Apparently it was meant to reassure persecuted Christians that good would triumph in the end. It seems odd for a Christian to decide that a writing that was judged worthy to be included in the canon of sacred scripture is "an evil book."

          4. Well then, how do you feel about the Revelation which is the book in the Bible — last one in the Christian scriptures?

  16. The church in which my faith was first nurtured was named for John the Evangelist. I am now serving in a church named for Peter. It is a difficult call today, but in the end I cast my vote for the author of the Gospel of John, whichever John he was. The poetry of his writing illumines the mystery of the incarnation and is a source of joy. And as an aside, a soggy Peter, clad in a towel wet with his own tears, doesn't strike me as much of an advocate for the gospel.

  17. I voted for John because the words in his Gospel and the ones that come to me when I need them. Also, I don't care for all the legends that are used like the ones today for Peter. The Peter of the Gospels, Acts and the Letters should be enough. The "legends" are more fairy tales to me from old Roman Catholic books. Not inspiring or interesting.

    1. Let us remember that The Golden Legend is from the late 13th century, so is pre-Reformation. It is not an "old Roman Catholic book" unless you distinguish Roman Catholicism from eastern Orthodoxy. That great schism took place in the 11th century. But medieval hagiographies are central to Christian tradition, that tradition being understood as split all the way along, between western and eastern, between (much later) Protestant and Roman Catholic, between trinitarian and non-trinitarian. Medieval hagiography is an important branch of Christian spirituality, not less valuable than modern "Christian science," say. And the question of which texts are authoritative and canonical has always been an ongoing issue; who knows what papyrus manuscripts might still turn up in clay urns in the desert?

      1. “Not less valuable than modern “Christian science.” You said it, honey!

  18. My name is the feminine form of one, but I was born the day after the feast day the other shares with another famous martyr.

    Since Peter's martyrdom is more of an agreed upon thing, I'm voting for him. If he wins the Golden Halo he'll probably say he's not worthy of it and weep though.

  19. John's writing is glorious, but I vote for Peter, for his humanity, his fallibility, his penitence, his deep love of Jesus, and the way that, after Jesus's death and resurrection, he lived the gospel to the end of his own life.

  20. Jacobus de Voragine, who wrote the Golden Legend, imagined many wonderful stories and had a gift for melodrama, but the bio of John takes care to be grounded. Even though Peter did proclaim the Christ, I have to go with John just to cast a vote for truth over fancy. It's a tough matchup.

  21. I feel I need to say something about what has bothered me since I first glimpsed this year's picks. As soon as I saw that disciples and perhaps "saints" were included this year, I Knew that one of them would end up with the golden halo. They already Have theirs. Surely someone else here in these pairings is worth one of his/her own.

  22. Davis, my friend, RELAX! Close your eyes, take a deep cleansing breath and let it out s l o w l y. . . .
    There now, are we at peace? Yes? We wouldn't want to lose you in a paroxysm of apoplexy! You are so correct in your points about the 'amalgam John' issue.
    The weepy Peter image leaves me feeling a bit hopeless even though I can identify with him on so many levels. John, on the other hand, makes my mind soar in his poetic imagery and continual reference to 'ruah', the creative 'breath of God,' in our lives imparting the hope of salvation!