Posted tagged ‘Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates’

Modern Christian Mythology: Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates

May 26, 2010

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.