Home (theory of the ego death and rebirth experience)

The Legend of Saint Peter: A Contribution to the Mythology of Christianity


Arthur Drews, 1910/1924


This is Klaus Schilling's summary of "Die Petruslegende" by Arthur Drews from the 1924 edition, which is available online at http://www.radikalkritik.de/Petruslegende.htm.  Formatted and uploaded with Klaus' permission by Michael Hoffman, Oct. 10, 2005.


The Legend of Saint Peter: A Contribution to the Mythology of Christianity

Arthur Drews (translated into English by Frank Zindler, from 1910 edition)

http://www.atheists.org  - Publisher's site: American Atheist Press.  Click Shopping: Books: Legend of Saint Peter. 

Direct link: https://lightning.he.net/~atheists/catalogue/shop/prod5580.php

Slower ordering:







Preface. 1

Peter in the NT. 2

1. In the Gospels. 2

2. In Acts of the Apostles. 2

3. In the Epistles of St. Paul 3

4. Matthew 16:18. 3

The Prince of the Apostles. 4

The Mythical Background of the Character of St. Peter 4

I. Simon - Heracles - Melkart 5

2. Petros, Mithra, Atlas, Proteus, Petra. 5

3. Janus. 6

4. Jesus. 6

St. Peter as Mithra. 6

St. Peter in Rome. 7

St. Peter and the Papacy. 8

Drews' Other Works in English. 8



This edition is an update of earlier editions since 1910, in a line with many other of Drews' works like the Christ Myth underlining the patchwork of legends and fiction that constitutes our gospels. All criticism used against Drews' revelations about St. Peter had been based on misreadings, lack of reading, and distortions. Drews also recognises that the conservative 'proofs' based on recent excavation are nothing but deceit based on theological stubbornness , pious fraud, and lack of thought.

Peter in the NT

1. In the Gospels

In Mt 16:18f, Peter 'recognises' Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus in turn endows Peter with the 'keys to heaven' , which is the foundation of Apostolic Succession, the cornerstone of the self-justification of the Catholic church. Protestant critics thus is not comfortable with this point. And in deed, the immediate-eschatological character of Jesus' preaching is at odds with founding a church organisation. Singling out a disciple is also against the usually proclaimed equal mission of all disciples as judges over Israel.

In Mark's Gospel, Peter is a fisherman originally named Simon, his brother Andrew is also made disciple and apostle. They are made fishers of men. This is midrashic on the relation of Eliah and Elisha. Also Peter's mother in law is mentioned as one of those healed by Jesus, in analogy to Paul's healing of Publius Senior. Only once Jesus gathers the twelve, Simon is renamed to Peter. Peter also assists the revival of Lazarus, once more in midrashic analogy to E&E.

Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ in much simpler and more original manner than in Mt, but after this point, Mk and MT follow the same lines with respect to Peter. Later Jesus assimilates Peter to Satan, without any reason, but in the very next stage, Peter may accompany Jesus to the mount of transfiguration, along with the Yebedee brothers. Peter turns insanely exstatic when having the vision of Moses and Eliah. This story is once more Toraic midrash (Sinai).

At the mount of olives, Peter claims to be the most faithful disciple. There is once more midrash at work, see the scandalous stone (petros) also used by Paul based on Isaiah 8:14. Same is valid for the denial of Jesus by Peter. Thus Mark's representation is just midrash and legend with no historical base.

Matthew's and Luke's make several amendments proving as more fairy tales. For example peter is deemed as lacking confidence and faith when failing to float on the lake as Jesus does. And the Peter of Matthew's is apparently the favourite disciple! Luke adds folklore miracles like the miraculous fish catch.

John's is more dogmatic than the synoptics, and what he has to add to the representation of Peter is done for dogmatic reasons, and not a iota based on history. John Zebedee is here often preferred over Peter. Peter is only the third disciple called by Jesus and needs the mediation of Andrew. On the other hand, Petrus courageously defends Jesus with his sword against the temple militia, yet gets rebuked for this action.

So all found about St. Peter in our gospels is legend, midrash, and dogma.

2. In Acts of the Apostles

Peter's thaumaturgic deeds , which the apostles 'inherited' from Jesus, are praised here, but Peter runs a second behind James, the brother of the Lord. Peter is also prominent in the pentecostal miracle, supernatural from front to back with no historical anchor.

James rebukes Peter for baptising an uncircumcidsed. Peter is very stern and arrogant, as if he had not committed the denial reported in the gospels.

Peter is in a prominent role when spreading the gospel to Samaria, borderline terrain deprecated by Jews. Peter's authority is enough to rebuke Simon of Samaria who dared to try to buy the apostolic office.

Peter also against any reason revives decease Tabitha, as Jesus did with Yair's daughter. More and more the Holy Spirit becomes companion and object of  Peter's mission. Peter is able to persuade the James-crew that objected to Peter's mission among gentiles, just as Jonah did at Ninive. The synoptics call Peter also son of Jonah.

Peter escapes multiple times from Herod's prison in miraculous manner.

Peter barely appears later in the Acts, only during the apostolic meeting conservatively dated around 53. Here Peter boasts with the event of converting heathen Cornelius. Absurdly Peter dares to appear again in Jerusalem, not having learned from herod's prior actions against him.

After all, the Acts of the Apostles present nothing more than superstition and patched legends, just as the gospels do.

3. In the Epistles of St. Paul

Paul usually calls Peter by his semitic name Cephas. 14 years after a first meeting of the two superapostles at Jerusalem, they meet there again for some serious dogmatic differences had to be cleared. Here, Peter originally treats Jews and gentiles equally, until James objects zealotically. Paul sees Peter's attitude as hypocrisy.

Galatians, which reports the Petro-Paulinic struggle w.r.t. dealing with the uncircumcised, is thought buy many mainliners as the one epistle authentic beyond any doubt. But this is doubtful. Rather, the epistle gives an apology for Paul by gentile Christians against Judeochristians, praising Paul's independance from Jerusalem. The tradition line of the Apostolic Acts  is rebuked polemically.

All this is clumsy and ridiculous, one can't make any historical sense from this pesky polemics between the two currents of Christianity.

Paul was forced to preach only among the gentiles, but that's practically absurd as the interested gentiles were found in the environment of Jewish diaspora communities. Steck and the Dutch [Naber, Pierson, Loman, van Manen, GA vdBvE] have recognised the proper (lack of) historical value of Galatians, a late patchwork of polical, dogmatically driven fiction in contest with the tradition of the apostolic Acts who favourise the Jerusalem apostles.

The mere historicity of Paul is doubtful, and same is to be said about Peter - all the NT stuff in any case holds no historical value concerning those pretended towering figures of young Christianity.

Drews allows for the possibility of concluding Pauline existence from the style of the apostolic Acts (many "we"- sentences) [ as does conservative scholar *Chris* Price], but the real Paul , if at all, was a marginal figure far from the pretended significance of the strawman Paul of early church tradition.

It also remains to wonder what was the proper subject of the struggle between the two parties. The NT only gives rudimentary hints that practically don't justify such a discrepancy.

4. Matthew 16:18

The Pauline epistles had an impact on the gospels. Paul praises himself as the apostle of divine inspiration. Mark and Matthew copy Paul's confession and assign it to Peter. Matthew exaggerates this even much beyond Mark's and Paul's measure. Even before Mt 16 jesus was already titled as Christ, Son of God, David etc., so one has to wonder why Peter is praised in Mt16 as if he were the only or first one to acclaim Jesus as the Christ. The Markan original is simpler.

The dependance of Mt 16:18 on Galatians makes any historical value absurd. The exaggeration of Mt over Mk is even more noteworthy as tradition calls Mark the Greek-speaking companion of Peter who made his mission across the diaspora possible in the first place.

Even more, the role of Peter as key power over heaven and hell are representation of celestial constellations (Scorpio/ Cepheus/ Cassiopeia). Scorpio is also the sign of Satan, which explains Jesus conflating Peter with Satan.

Of course the reason for Mt16:18 is of merely church political nature, the establishment of the authority of the Roman church utterly depends on it.

The Prince of the Apostles

Mt 16:18f gives St. Peter the authority that is base of the apostolic succession. Yet Paul, John, and James have been held in this position elsewhere in the Early Christian Writings. Paul doesn't know about the apostles being 12, and the continuation of the disciples, apart from the extreme strange I Cor 15 which must be in part interpolated. The number 12 in the gospels seems to be enforced by manipulation. Neither do the gospels agree in the names of the disciples, nor do all disciples have a significance in the story. Some are statists, apparently chosen in order to complete the circle of 12 which is

midrashic: Already the Jewish scriptures use the number 12 a lot, e.g. tribes of Israel, and Joshua (=> Jesus) son of noon had 12 assistants when crossing the Jordan. This is rooted in astronomy, which is more apparent in the Revelations of John.

The old oriental astronmythical world is not only home of the 12 disciples or apostles, but also of Peter in particular. Now it's already clear that the circle of disciples has no historical value.

Apostles were the envoys of the central Jewish authority at Zion. They saw themselves as representants of Moses, in the same way as the Christian apostles claim to be Jesus' representants on earth. Their number was given as 70 or 72, which also has Scriptural antecedents. The Didache [also called Apostolic Teachings] leads back to these pre-Christian apostles. Also the sacramental usage of wine is shown in the Didache.

We see that the very disciples/apostles are nothing but astromythical and midrashic fiction.

Catholic scholars claim also John 21:15ff for their cause, which turns once more out as an astromythical legend referring to Cepheus. The latter's appearance also is similar to the iconography of St. Peter and the outfit of the Pope. Eben the head-down crucifixion is seen in the sky around Cepheus.

The Mythical Background of the Character of St. Peter

In The Christ Myth, Drews had shown that Jesus is derived from a paleosemitic solar deity relating especially to paschah and circumcision. Gnostic sects had revived this myth allegorically and represented that deity as crucified.

The fishermen brothers Simon and Andrew also stand for the sign of Pisces, square to Gemini (twins). Cepheus is in opposition to Gemini.

Among the sons of Jacob of the Torah there was a pair of twins, one of them called Sim(e)on.

I. Simon - Heracles - Melkart

Solar deities of a given use to adopt imaginery from the constellation at the primaveral equinox. Those of the Aion of Gemini had often names coetymological with Simon. It also had the significance of 'name'.

Other terms of that etymology : ha-shem (the name as substitute for the Tetragrammaton), Semitic, Samaria, Samson, ...

The Phoenicians synonymised Simon with Melkart. The Greek adopted the same as Heracles. In Samaria, Semo was epitheted the great, in greek mega*, from which Simon Magos is derived - thus the great name.

The apochryphal church tradition knows of a consort of Simon Magus called Helena, identifiable as a lunar deity, Selene, also known as Astarte. The complementarity of solar- and lunar deity was already important in Phoenician faith. Philo sees reason (Logos) and wisdom

(Sophia) in a similar relation. The Apostolic Acts euhemerise this Semo Megas into an adversary of the apostles. This gives raise to the conjecture that also Simon Peter is the result of euhemerisation.

Struggles between old and new deities abbound in mythology: Kronos vs. Ouranos, Heracles vs. Thyrios, ... a struggle imitated by the battle between the apostles and Semo M., in some Christian tradition ending with a deadly duel where Peter defeats the false Simon.

Both Samson and heracles were known for tearing columns from buildings.

2. Petros, Mithra, Atlas, Proteus, Petra

Peter derives from petros, rock, which already points to the rock-born Mithra, a mystery deity of the Middle East. There was a Mithra temple in Tyrus, which was similar to the Salomonic temple. Columns were standing in front of the temple as symbol for the maintenance of power, originally probably phallic symbols. Mithraic symbols are often parallelled in Christianity, and their origin is solar mythology.

Mithra was a typical solar deity, therefore epitheted as invincible sun, overcomer of darkness. The association with rocks will derive from the sun rising beyond rocky mountains. The deity Cervan Acarana , the Timelord, is closely connected to Mithra. This  Timelord holds the key power over the portals to divinity. In Gree culture this deity turned into Kronos. He was depicted as a hybridic beast (lion-serpent) .. The columns are carried over from Heracles who carried the weight of Atlas during one of his deeds. Atlas was master of the columns that carried and supported the world, according to Homer. Assyrian jews equated Atlas with Henoch. Atlas was also related with Proteus, a most ancient Greek maritime deity. The Orphics depicted him , among other ways, also as lionheaded snake.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead knows of a guardian to the realms of the dead, named Petra. This leads once more back to Peter.

The symbolism of the columns already explains why Simon Peter was called a column of ear;y Christianity in Paul's epistles. Peter's unreliability and inconsistency relates him once more with Proteus who was famous for shape changes. Horus, Egyptian counterpart of Heracles, was both ferrymen between the world of the living and the dead, and also ferrymen for the heroes of the sun bark. Zeus endowed Heracles with the power to solve and coaggulate. As Peter does in folklore, those deities were also responsible for the weather.

3. Janus

Dupuis was the first scholar to identify St. Peter as Janus [the term janitor, originally keyholder, derives from janus]. Janus in turn derives fron Dianus (>> day), a god of the daylight hours, male form of Diana, the famous lunar- and wildlife deity. Janus was considered the god of all doors, especially responsible for the portal to heaven. The month January is named after Janus.

One star in Virgo is called Janus. This implies astromythical imagery. In the old days, Janus was at the Medium Coeli at sunrise around the winter solstice, thus opening a new year. Janus was not only competent for opening and closing days and years, but also war and peace. Janus was here seen as superior to Jupiter, the father of the gods. As Janus leads the annual circle of the zodiacal signs, St. Peter leads the twelve apostles of Roman Christianity.

Hercules is called a mace bearer, but key and mace can be expressed as synonymous in Latin: Hercules is thus a key holder like Janus.

The regions of the near East get most rain in winter. This leads to the picture of Janus as a ferrymen across the invernal flood. Argo, called the ship of Janus, was back then seen in the medium coeli during rain time. Janus as a ferryman again alludes to Peter's activity as a fisherman.

Janus was depicted not only with the key to heaven, but also with a long staff that can be reinterpreted as the shepherd's staff with which St. Peter watches over the 'sheep' of the Catholic church.

Janus was depicted as two-faced, watching both ahead and back, from horizon to horizon.

4. Jesus

Jesus hands the keys to St. Peter in Mt16, thus must have held them before. This is underlined by John 10, where Jesus is the master of the doors, even the door itself.

The Apocalypse of John, probably a relict from a pre-Christian Jesus cult, explicitly deems Jesus to hold the keys to hell. Jesus is here also solar deity that died and revived in the annual zodiacal cycle. The sun dies in fall and enters the lower world in order to save the souls from there. In spring it overcomes the darkness.

Thus the solar deity controls the portals to the lower world and back.

Also the term Peter in its significance as rock is associated with Jesus. He's the cornerstone previously rejected. For Paul, he's a spiritual rock, midrashing a rock in the desert that refreshed the Jews on their exodus. Paul also sees Jesus as a cornerstone.

Zachariah  prophesised a seven-eyed mystic stone when talking about Jesus the High Priest. A shaped stone had been set in the Second Temple.

St. Peter as Mithra

The Mithra cult made it to Rome under Pompeius and became particularly popular among military officers. It absorbed the cults of Janus and Attis. Several emperors confessed to it, ending with Julian. As Rome lost to Persia, the confidence in a deity of Persian origin was severely broken. But also other social aspects sooner or later favourised the Christian church over any typical mystery cult.

Excavation show that St. Peter's dome is build on the ruins of a previuous Mithraic temple site.

Many expressions and pictures from the Mithraic cult [albeit some are not really specific] made it into the Christian church: the crown of the Pope is called Mithra. Pope derives from Papa , father, which was already an epitheton for the Mithraic High Priest. Mary with new-born jesus is similar to Kybele with Attis. Attis-priests were celibate as are those of the Catholic Church. The sacraments are largely parallel.

The Roman church performed thus an euhemerisation or historisation of the previous mystery deity Mithra, resulting in St. Peter.

Another title for the Mithraic High Priest was Archigallus, (<<gallus , cock) which leads to the role to the cock when Peter denied Jesus before the passion. Cocks were not allowed in Jerusalem, maybe because of their important role in the religion of the heathen Chaldeans. The cock is related to sunrise, and thus to the portal between day and night, making it well fit in the context of the Janus symbolism.

St. Peter in Rome

The Apostolic Acts are not explicit about Peter's deeds in Rome. Further Christian tradition has him there at least twice, the latter time together with Paul, the martyrium pending.

Also I Peter seems to allude to Peter's and Paul's role in Rome. In any case Peter is deemed founder of the Roman church, Paul running a humble second. The epistles assigned to Peter are not deemed authentic by even many conservative scholars. The second epistle denies the eschatological fervor of the first one,making it impossible to see them in the same circle.

Peter's meeting with Philo at Rome and his relation with Mark the so-called gospel author are freely invented by Eusebius et al.

Many uncritical scholars think of the first epistle of Clement as a witness for Peter's mission in Rome along with Paul. But the traditions about Clement and his falsely so-called letter are abstruse and fantastic beyond any cause. Nothing can be said about Clement of Rome, let alone is it possible to authentify the letter. Rather, in this forged and faked scribble, it's the voice of the much later Roman Church establishing its authority over the brethren churches and its orthodoxy against various heresies by appealing to apostolic authority.

GA vdBvE reasonably disputed the authenticity of the epistle. Many cautiously put the letter around 120, but that's probably much too conservative. And the epistle doesn't even state that Peter was in Rome and what he did there. Too much is read into the epistle. It is not even implied that peter died as a martyr! The Neronic proscription against Christianity with its bloody martyrdom is rather a late fiction. Same is valid for that under Domitian, where uncritical scholars think Clement to belong to.

Next to Clement, Ignatius of Antioch, 'author' of  fantastic letters, is often used as a witness. Ignatius is fabled to have died in Rome at 107. Equally fabulous is the epistle of Plinius to Traianus, identified as medieval forgery by Hochart. Thus also the Traianic proscription shifts into fairy land, and Ignatian authenticity becomes even more absurd. 

Tertullian wrote a homily on the supposed martyrdom of Peter and Paul, which exposes that they have been constructed in analogy to Jesus (crucified) and John the B (beheaded).

Thus there's no witness for Peter's stay and deeds in Rome besides forgeries and fantastic misreadings. It was necessary for the Catholic church to invent such stories for apologistic reasons in their struggle with various heresies. The Catholic Church organisation is solely built on Apostolic Succession which had to be enforced at any cost.

But the attempts to find the tombs of the apostles in Rome for the nth time go on and on ...

St. Peter and the Papacy

The mere existence of St. Peter and his deeds being unrecoverable, the stories about him based on mere midrash, myth, dogmatism, and forgery, the alleged historical foundation of apostolic succession via St. Peter is nothing but a joke.


Frank R. Zindler (editor, American Atheist Press) published an English translation of DIE PETRUSLEGENDE, together with a large appendix of translated Greek, Latin, and Hebrew references alluded to in the main text.

"The Legend of Saint Peter" (Zindler's translation based on the 1910 version) is available from American Atheist Press at www.atheists.org. Drews updated his book.

The first edition is from 1910, before the publication of the many debunkers of the historicity of Jesus and the gospel story in general by Drews, besides the Christ Myth (1909, but also updated in the sequel).

The Legend of St. Peter was conceived as an appendix to the Christ Myth, but in later editions of Christ Myth, the section on St. Peter was moved into a separate book.

The edition used for the above summary is from 1924, after Drews wrote several books showing the lack of historical background of the gospel story, including the following books which deconstruct the gospel story:

  • Das Markusevangelium als Zeugnis gegen die Geschichtlichkeit Jesu (the Gospel according to Mark as a testimony against the historicity of Jesus)
  • Der Sternhimmel in der Dichtung und Religion der alten Völker und des Christentums (the sky of stars in fiction (or poetry) and religion of the ancient peoples and Christianity)
  • Die Entstehung des Christentums aus dem Gnostizismus (the birth of Christianity from gnosticism)

Drews' The Myth of St. Peter received subjection not only from Catholics, but also from Protestants.  They mixed subsequently with the reaction against the other works of Drews' dedicated to the deconstruction of the Jesus myth.

The Christ Myth was already translated before the war.  Don't know whether those three other works have been translated.

Drews' Other Works in English


The Christ Myth

Arthur Drews (translated into English by C. Deslisle Burns)

Westminster College-Oxford Classics in the Study of Religion



http://www.prometheusbooks.com/site/catalog/biblical21.html - Publisher's site.


Multiple copies have been on the shelf in Barnes & Noble stores.


Arthur Drews

The Denial of the Historicity of Jesus in Past and Present


Home (theory of the ego death and rebirth experience)