Modern Christian Mythology: Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates

Modern Christian Mythology: Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates

Whenever a cartoon character dies, they goes to a comical version of heaven in which Saint Peter stands before the “Pearly Gates” of heaven, a key in his hand, and a large ledger book in from of him. As the dearly departed approaches, Pete checks for their name and, if they’re lucky, they’re on the list. If not, there’s a trap door underneath with their name on it.

The vision of Peter as a mystical gate keeper from from the Gospel of Mathew:

“I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven”
-Mathew 16:19a

The ledger is most likely a reference to the Book of Life from ancient Hebrew mythology, and the “Pearly Gates” comes from the strangest book in the Christian cannon, Revelations:

The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made from a single pearl.
-Revelation 21:21

These texts, literally read and pasted together with more than a little imagination, lead to a fanciful image of a long line of people stretched out along a  landscape of cloud, Peter at the head of the line for all eternity, allowing people in one at a time. Eternity’s bouncer.

Since the Christian church was founded in the midst of the Roman Empire, I suspect that the NT character of Peter was syncretized with the Roman god Janus, the god that opened and closed the gates of heaven every morning.

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3 Comments on “Modern Christian Mythology: Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates”


  1. “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made from a single pearl.“

    One hell of an oyster to make such a large pearl. I wonder what they did with the meat.
    This kind of nonsense should have been relegated to the same fate as the greek and roman myths by now. Silly xtians and their idiotic beliefs.

  2. Philip Says:

    The belief of Peter keeping the gates of heaven stems from fundamentalist beliefs. Fundamentalist, spurned Catholicism for what they considered a more literal interpretation of the bible. While some Biblical texts were written during the time of the Roman Empire, the notion that Peter was up at the gates of heaven was ostensibly not held by Christians until much later.


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