Perhaps nothing distinguishes the Catholic Church from other religions as much as the institution of the papacy. Many people over the course of church history have stood athwart the papacy, some denying the full scope of its authority (Orthodox), some denying it any legitimacy (Protestants) and some, while claiming to revere the institution make an idol of its past in order to reject it in the present (Sedevecantists). It is this last category of people which I will address here. More specifically, I will address a video by the YouTube channel VaticanCatholic about Paul’s rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2:11.
What is Vatican Catholic?
Vatican Catholic is a channel is run by two brothers, Michael and Peter Dimond, from a “Catholic monastery” Holy Family Monastery in New York. The Dimond brothers are sedevecantist, that is they deny that the see of Peter is occupied by a legitimate Pope. They thus claim to be Catholic while rejecting the current Catholic magisterium as heretical and invalid. The Dimond brothers are particularly radical and even deny doctrines which other “traditional” Catholic movements affirm such as the possibility of salvation for non baptized persons.
In this video, featuring Peter Dimond, Dimond argues that the figure whom St. Paul says that he rebuked in Gal. 2:11 is not St. Peter, but someone whose name is also Cephas, most likely one of the 70 disciples Jesus sends out in Luke 10. This position is quite extraordinary even for sedevecantists. Dimond himself shows how radical this position is at the beginning of the video is by showing a set of theologians, both Catholic and Protestant who all interpret the passage by understanding that the Cephas of Gal. 2:11 is Peter the Apostle. What arguments does he give for such a radical reading?
Argument 1: Name change
The first argument he gives is that Paul uses different words to refer to Peter in the course of a few verses in Galations 2. In Galatians 2:7-8 he refers to Peter the Apostle by name (Petros in Greek). Suddenly, in verses 9-11 Paul begins referring not to “Peter” but to “Cephas”. Dimond argues that this name change is unlikely if Paul were speaking about the same person. Is this true?
Dimond undercuts himself on this point by resorting to textual criticism, that is, the study of the transmission of the text of the New Testament. Dimond needs to resort to textual criticism because many manuscripts of the New Testament contain “Peter” and not “Cephas” in Gal 2:9-11. If this reading is correct, Dimond’s position is false. Dimond must therefore argue that verses 9-11 originally read “Cephas” and that “Peter” is a later scribal error.
The video correctly points out that a number of very important Greek manuscripts contain the reading of “Cephas” in Gal 2:11 while containing “Peter” in Gal 2:7-8. I agree that the textual evidence they appeal to favors the fact that a proper reading of Gal 2:11 should read “Cephas”. However, the very manuscripts Dimond appeals to dramatically undercut his case. All of these manuscripts say that Paul referred to the Apostle Peter as Cephas back in Galatians 1:18 as well. If the manuscripts are correct in both spots, then Paul has already referred to Peter as Cephas in the same passage and any argument supposing that Paul could not be referring to Peter as Cephas is thereby proven false. Dimond tries to argue that Gal 1:18 should say “Peter” and not “Cephas”.
The inconsistent use of textual evidence
The video (from minutes 19-22) discusses at some length the textual evidence and makes reference to a handful of specific manuscripts: Codices Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, Ephraemi, Vaticanus, and Payprus 46. These five manuscripts are some of the best and earliest textual witnesses we have for the New Testament.
All of these manuscripts, (with the exception of Ephraemi since we have lost its section containing Gal 1:18), read “Cephas” in Gal 1:18 and “Cephas” in Gal 2:11. Thus, it is completely inconsistent to appeal to these very manuscripts to support the reading of Cephas in Gal 2:11 while then rejecting the reading of Cephas in Gal 1:18.
As Peter Dimond notes, these are well known and respected Greek manuscripts from very early on in Church history. The fact that they contain the readings they do weighs heavily in favor of those readings. If Peter Dimond wants to reject the reading of these manuscripts, he needs to give some textual critical reason why. No such argument is given.
It must be noted that there are a few medieval Greek manuscripts such as codices P, Ψ, and a few minuscule texts that do contain both preferred readings of Dimond (that is, they contain Petros in Gal 1:18 and Cephas in 2:11). However, these are manuscripts from almost 1000 years after the writing of the New Testament and should not be preferred to a strong set of manuscripts from much closer to the time of Paul’s writing. Confirmation of this comes from the scholars who assemble the standard Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament (on its 28th edition at this time). They believe that Cephas is the correct reading in both Gal 1:18 and Gal 2:11. Dimond himself refers to the Nestle-Aland text in the video as an authority on the New Testament text and says he has read it all himself.
Textual variants disprove Dimond
The very fact that there are textual variants in the Greek manuscripts of Galatians 1:18 and 2:9-11 confirms the view that the Cephas of verses 9-11 is in fact Peter. If these two figures were the same, it would make sense that scribes would accidentally swap one name for the other when copying texts. At the very least it shows that the view that Peter and Cephas were the same person was common in the early Church. Even Dimond seems to admit this.
Other Pauline references to Peter as “Cephas”
The book of 1 Corinthians provides further evidence against Dimond’s position. In it, Paul clearly refers to the apostle Peter as “Cephas” several times, in chapters 1, 3, 9, and 15. Thus, it is perfectly normal for Paul to refer to Peter as Cephas and he does so repeatedly in his letters. Any argument to the contrary is demonstrably false.
In summary, Dimond finds himself in a conundrum. If Gal. 2:9-11 read “Peter” instead of “Cephas”, he is wrong. However, in order to argue that Gal 2:9-11 reads “Cephas”, he has to resort to textual authorities which show that Gal 1:18 also reads “Cephas” in which case Dimond is also wrong. It is a lose lose situation and Dimond has to arbitrarily pick and choose which manuscripts he will follow at what places in order to avoid facing the error of his position. That in addition to the evidence from elsewhere in Paul makes it virtually certain that “Peter” and “Cephas” are referring to the same person in Gal 2:7-11.
Argument 2: Church Fathers
Peter Dimond also appeals to the Church Fathers in support of his position. The evidence he presents however is extremely weak. Dimond provides one father, Clement of Alexandria, who believed that the Cephas of Gal 2:11 refers to someone besides the Apostle Peter. If Clement were the only father to comment on this passage, perhaps that would count as evidence. However, we have an overwhelming testimony from both the fathers and the rest of Church history that contradict Clement’s reading.
Just consider the number of sources which another sedevecantist site, Novus Ordo Watch, has compiled regarding Gal 2:9-11. In their article, they cite Sts. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Robert Bellarmine specifically in regard to Peter’s actions in Gal 2:11. A simple glance at Catena will show that a number of Fathers including Jerome, John Chrysostom, and John Damascene all agree that Peter was the figure in Gal 2:11. It also quotes other major commentators in the Catholic Tradition such as Haydock and Lapide to this effect. The fact that Dimond could not find even a second witness for his view shows how overwhelming the evidence is against his view. Virtually all of the fathers and theologians down through the centuries both in and outside of the Catholic tradition hold the opposite view of Peter Dimond.
When this testimony is added to the textual evidence from above. It makes it virtually certain that the figure in Gal. 2:9-11 is in fact the Apostle Peter.
Argument 3: Dating the rebuke
The last argument that Dimond makes is an argument from the Book of Acts. Dimond argues that the events recounted by Paul in Gal. 2 must have taken place when Paul was in Antioch in Acts 14. These events would therefore precede the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Dimond argues that it would be strange if Peter, the one who issues the dogmatic decision in Acts 15, would then after the council, fall under the pressure of Judaizers.
Nothing that Dimond says in this section is unreasonable or absurd but the problem is that he is basing his reading of Galatians two off of something far more speculative and uncertain. The previous two points regarding the text itself and the witness of the Church Fathers and theologians vastly outweighs any speculative attempt to date the events of Galatians two precisely such that they happened before or after the council in Acts 15. Ironically, it is a very Protestant like methodology to ignore the witness of the vast majority of Church Fathers in order to argue for a very niche reading of a text that has almost no support in Church history.
In summary, Peter Dimond’s arguments that the “Cephas” of Galatians 2:9-11 is not the Apostle Peter fail. While Dimond appeals both to the Greek text and to the Church Fathers, both of those witnesses count strongly against his case. The Greek text of Galatians 1:18, 1 Cor. 15, and many other passages read “Cephas” which disproves Dimond’s point about Paul not being able to refer to Peter as Cephas. As for the Fathers, their witness, with only one exception, is completely against Dimond. Any speculative arguments trying to link Galatians 2 to Acts will be unable to overcome the meaning of Galatians 2 as it has been received down through the ages by the Church.
While the Dimond brothers purpose in the article, defending the institution of the papacy, is noble, truth should be sought at all times, and there is simply no substantive reason to believe that the figure whom Paul opposes in Gal. 2 is not in fact the Apostle Peter, the first Pope.