The Overlooked Post-Resurrection Appearance

Published by DonDavidson on

Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection are described in at least five different New Testament books—the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John,[1]  the book of Acts, and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

Most of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances are well known: to Mary Magdalene and the women at the tomb,[2] to Cleopas and a companion along the road to Emmaus,[3] and appearances to his disciples in Jerusalem[4] and Galilee.[5] 

But one appearance is often overlooked—the resurrected Jesus appeared to Peter before he revealed himself to any of the other apostles. We know this from two sources.

The first is Luke 24:33-34. Cleopas and an unnamed companion walked with Jesus to Emmaus where they broke bread. Then Jesus suddenly disappeared. Cleopas and his companion immediately walked back to Jerusalem, where they found the apostles and some additional disciples discussing the fact that “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon!” Peter’s birth name was Simon Barjona—that is, Simon, son of Jonah. Jesus later gave him the name, “Peter,” which is derived from the Greek word for “rock.”[6]

Jesus must not have yet appeared to the apostles as a group. Otherwise, his appearance to Peter would not have been remarkable. The apostles and disciples would have been discussing Jesus’ appearance to the whole group rather than merely to Peter.  So sometime before Cleopas’ arrival back in Jerusalem, the resurrected Jesus must have appeared to Simon Peter alone.

Although the New Testament mentions many Simons, including the apostle known as Simon the Zealot, we can be sure that Luke 24:34 refers to Peter because Paul confirms it. In Chapter 15 of his first letter to the Corinthians, he discusses what he was told about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, and he lists them, apparently in chronological order:

He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.[7]

Cephas is Simon Peter. “Cephas” is simply the Aramaic term for “rock,” just as “Peter” comes from the Greek word for “rock.” Paul often refers to Peter as “Cephas,”[8] and John’s Gospel does as well.[9]

I discuss the various stories of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances—and I reconcile them to produce a coherent account of them—in Chapter 15 of my second book, Beyond Shallow Faith, entitled “Making Sense of the Resurrection Stories.”

A Table of Contents for the book is available here:

You can read an excerpt from that chapter here:[10]

[1]. While Mark 16:9-20 also describes some post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, those verses are not contained in the oldest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel which we possess. So I do not rely on those.

[2]. Matthew 28:9-10, John 20:14-17

[3]. Luke 24:13-35

[4]. Luke 24:36-51, John 20:19-29

[5]. Matthew 28:16-20, John 21:1-23

[6]. Matthew 16:17-18

[7]. 1 Corinthians 15:5-9

[8]. See 1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, and 15:5, as well as Galatians 1:18, 2:9, 2:11, and 2:14.

[9]. John 1:42

[10]. The book is available on The e-book is only $0.99.


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