Does John 1:41 contradict Matthew 16:16-17 as to when Peter knew Jesus was the Messiah?
Hello, thank you for your ministry. I have a question on when Jesus was called Messiah and when Simon was first called Peter. In John 1:41, Andrew tells Peter that Jesus is the Christ, but in Matthew 16:16-17, Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ and Jesus says flesh and blood did not reveal it to him, but God revealed it to him. These seem to contradict. There is a second question, but I thought I would ask since they are so closely related. In John 1:42, Simon is first called Peter, but in Matthew 16:18, Simon is first called Peter. These also seem to contradict because one is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, while the other is in the middle. Thank you very much.
It took me a minute to see the possible contradiction, but then it hit me. You are right that Peter was told by Andrew that he believed Jesus was the Messiah. We do not know if Peter really believed him at this point. We also do not know what Andrew’s or Peter’s view of the Messiah was at that time. Still, if we take this statement fully literally, I suppose you could see Matthew 16:16-17 as a contradiction. However, I do not believe the contradiction is a real one for a couple of reasons. First, in Matthew 16:16-17, Peter tells Jesus more than simply that he is the Messiah. Much more! He tells Jesus that he is the Messiah and that he is the Son of the living God. For a Jew to recognize the Messiah is one thing, but to recognize Jesus as the Son of God is another thing. Very few if any of the Jews expected their Messiah to be God-in-the-flesh. Others had been thought (wrongly) to be the Messiah, but none had been thought to be the Son of God! What Peter learned about Jesus, as explained in Matthew 16:16-18 is an order of magnitude greater than what he learned about him from Andrew, especially given the more limited idea of the Messiah the Jews had compared to who Jesus actually was.
A second reason to not see these as contradicting (not that you need another at this point!) is that, to learn that Jesus is the Messiah as the opinion of Andrew and to learn from God himself as a revelation, that Jesus is the Messiah is another. It does not contradict that Peter heard Andrew’s opinion that Jesus was the Messiah, but later to have it revealed to him by God! Surely, the second revelation is greater than the first.
About John 1:42 versus Matthew 16:18, the answer is rather straightforward. In John 1:42 Jesus is telling Peter that he will be called Peter. Whether or not this is the first time this happened, I am not sure, but it seems reasonable that this is when Jesus first gave him the name Peter. In Mathew 16:18 Jesus is not giving him the name Peter for the first time. He says to Simon: “You are Peter.” This is not new information for Simon. In fact, in context, he is not telling him his name, but rather Jesus is telling him WHY he is called Peter. He (probably) got the name first in John 1:42 and he (probably) learned the reason for the name in Matthew 16:18. In both cases I say probably because it is possible in both cases that this was not brand new information for Peter.
I hope this helps.