Simon Peter & Andrew in The Chosen (Adapting Biblical Characters)
Updated: 6 days ago
Simon Peter is a favorite subject of Bible Art and biblical adaptations so it's no surprise that he and his brother, Andrew, are primary protagonists in The Chosen. Perhaps due to his notable boldness in the Gospels, the character of Peter has often served as an idealized portrait of masculinity in film adaptations of Jesus' life and The Chosen continues this tradition. The Gospels also portray Peter as a complex character - a significant leader and a significant failure - and this complexity makes him an ideal protagonist for The Chosen to follow. The show has relatively less interest in Andrew, Peter's brother, giving less attention to his role in the Gospels and instead using him as a dramatic foil that casts light on Peter's character and make him more three-dimensional.
Simon Peter, the Masculine Ideal
In my recent post about Mary Magdalene, I noticed an interesting parallel between the role of her character in Cecil de Mille's 1927 The King of Kings and in The Chosen. Both adaptations begin by following her character, a prostitute, until she eventually leads us to Jesus, has her demonization healed, and becomes his follower. I won't claim there's quite a close of a parallel between the portrayal of Simon Peter in The King of Kings and The Chosen, but there are similarities in characterization that are worth noting.
The similarity between the two portrayals that first struck me was the emphatic masculinity of Simon Peter's character. Although Ernest Torrence, who played Peter in The King of Kings, and Shahar Isaac, who plays Peter in The Chosen, may look very different, they each embody masculine ideals of their own respective eras. Torrence, who was best known for his villainous roles, looms high over his fellow actors like an early twentieth century circus show strongman. Isaac, on the other hand, is short but toned, and reflects a modern preference for agility and and wittiness in males over brute strength.
Both films highlight the masculinity of Simon Peter's character by contrasting him with a more effeminate foil. In The King of Kings, the strong but kind-hearted Peter is paired against the foppish but calculating Judas. In The Chosen, the tough and street smart Peter is set alongside the bookish and cowardly Matthew. What comes of these contrasts is very different though, as one might expect given the different trajectories of Judas and Matthew as characters.
In The King of Kings, the contrast is clearly meant to inspire judgment. Peter is very clearly the good guy. Judas is very clearly the bad guy. As a result, the masculinity of Peter is held up as praiseworthy, while the effeminacy of Judas is made to inspire contempt.
The Chosen, however, presents us with a much more complex and ambiguous comparison. Although Simon Peter looks down on Matthew with complete scorn, especially given his status as a compromiser, the audience is invited to have a more compassionate gaze. Although we are prompted to see Matthew's behavior as odd and sometimes questionable, we're also shown Matthew's virtues and we're cued to write off his eccentricities as a consequence of his condition and therefore sympathetic and not contemptible. On the other hand, Peter's bravado, while inherently charming, almost ends up proving his downfall and often finds itself met by Jesus' rebuke. Moreover, Peter finds himself in a position not all that different from Matthew as a near-informant for Rome. So, while the contrast between Peter's masculinity and Matthew's lack-thereof is clear and simple, the conclusion that we're meant to draw is more complex. Normative masculinity is still upheld as honorable and attractive, but it's also chastened for being unreliable and potentially dangerous. Meanwhile, the "non-masculine" is shown to be equally valuable and sympathetic. Most importantly, both types of characters receive the exact same call from Jesus to "Come, follow me."
Simon Peter, the Sinful Leader
I've suggested that The Chosen tends to prefer stories about how the marginalized need Jesus' love and acceptance over stories of how sinners need Jesus' forgiveness and transformation, but the character arc of Simon Peter is a significant counterpoint to that argument. We see the moral flaws in his character from the very first moment when we meet Peter, attempting to rig a fight so that he can cheat his in-laws out of money, we're given clear indications that he's willing to do whatever is necessary to survive, even if it means violating the trust of others. His wife, Eden, also brings this point home on a few occasions as she rebukes his behavior and recalls the potential she once saw in him that he's long since fallen short of. A perfect saint Peter is not.
That being said, while The Chosen calls attention to Simon Peter's sins, it also attenuates our judgment of his character. Yes, he is a bit dishonest, but ultimately he has good intentions - he's just trying to provide for his family in the midst of an impossible financial situation. The taxes levied against him are depicted as unfair and exorbitant and his difficult financial situation seems to be due more to bad luck than it is to immorality (though there is a hint that his penchant for gambling has played a role). Moreover, the dishonest acts that he engages in are directed at characters that seem to deserve it - his unpleasant in-laws, the greedy merchant class, and the oppressive Roman regime. There is one time when he's in danger of harming likable characters - when he leads the Romans in search of Jews evading taxation by fishing on Shabat and nearly comes upon Zebedee and his sons - but as soon as he realizes what's about to happen, he does the right thing and saves them from getting caught. By qualifying of Peter's sin with good intentions, The Chosen makes it easier for viewers to like him as a protagonist but it takes the edge off his his moral imperfection a little too much.
Fortunately, though Simon Peter is made a little too palatable and family-friendly, his struggle still has the right center. By the end of the first couple episodes, we understand that Simon Peter is driven by an instinct to survive, even if it means betraying others, and that this instinct is rooted in a lack of faith in God. This is also the core of the biblical Peter's struggle, a struggle which, when push comes to shove during the arrest of Jesus, he will ultimately lose.
Indeed, the Chosen invites us to make a connection between how Simon Peter's faithless survivalism leads him to betray his own people and how the same instinct will one day lead him to betray his own teacher. The scene in which Peter leads a band of Roman soldiers at night in search of the merchants and ends up getting his ear cut is ominously reminiscent of a future scene in which Judas will lead a band in search of Jesus and Peter will cut the ear off the High Priest's servant. Peter's role in the two scenes is almost completely different - from complicit traitor to confused follower - but what's consistent is his impulse to do what he has to in order to save himself instead of entrusting himself to God's care.
Andrew, the Other Brother
I have relatively less to say about Andrew's character in large part because The Chosen does as well. His character is better developed than many of the other secondary characters - we know that he's a loving brother who is willing to challenge his foolhardy sibling but also dependable enough to stick by him when it's necessary. But his characterization seems to function primarily in the service of Peter's character. Without him, Peter's recklessness and selfishness would be much less clear. We get very little of Andrew apart from Peter's own story.
Case in point, I found myself disappointed at how little we're given from Andrew's story in connection to John the Baptist. Before Andrew starts telling Simon Peter that he's found the Messiah, I don't think there's any hint that he's a follower of John. I understand how, for dramatic purposes, the show shielded us from seeing Andrew's first encounter with Jesus, so as to make Peter's encounter more climactic, but I still think it would have been possible to weave in the idea that Andrew had been going off from time to time in order to hear John speak. In fact, making Andrew more clearly a follower of John could have increased the tension between the two brothers, as it would give Andrew more motivation to call out Peter's sin.
Hopefully season 2 will provide Andrew with more opportunities to shine outside the shadow of his more famous sibling. While he didn't get a lot to do on his own, the actor, Noah James, did a great job, and I'd love to see him do more.
Simon and Andrew in The Chosen Season 2
Simon Peter and Andrew continue to be central characters throughout Season 2 of The Chosen, and we see a few developments in their characterization that are interesting from the standpoint of adaptation.
The most significant development we see is the growing rivalry between the sons of Jonah (Simon and Andrew) and the sons of Zebedee (John and Big James). In Episode 1 of Season 2, we see each pair of brothers seeking to set the agenda for the ministry of Jesus and his followers, convinced that they have better insight into Jesus and have what it takes to lead. To further complicate matters, in Episode 3 of Season 2 The Chosen introduces another source of division between the two families. While Simon and Andrew continue to hold a grudge against Matthew for his exploitive work as a tax collector, John and Big James are protective of Matthew. Unfortunately, their rivalry takes a backseat for most of the remainder of the season, re-emerging only briefly in Episode 7 in the fall out of Jesus' detainment, as the disciples fight over what to do next. By that point, Simon and Matthew have ended up on better terms as a result of their buddy cop excursion in Episode 6, so there isn't as strong of a philosophical difference between the families as earlier.
This tension between Simon/Andrew and John/Big James does have biblical roots. For example, in the Gospels we see John and James (and their mother) jockeying for a higher place in Jesus' kingdom, which brings the ire of the rest of the disciples (Mark 10:35-45; Matthew 20:20-28). Even in the writing of the Gospel of John we see evidence of competition between the two families, as John (the narrator) goes out of his way to point out how he ("the other disciple") outran Simon Peter on their way to Jesus' tomb and also how he was the first one to come to understand the resurrection (John 20:3-9). Similarly, John goes out of his way to recall how Simon Peter was bothered when Jesus foretold Simon's death, while leaving John's fate ambiguous (John 21:20-23). This was one the biggest adaptive successes of The Chosen Season 2: it took the gospels' abstract description of the tension between the disciples over leadership and made it more specific and concrete.
Since I complained about how underused Andrew was in Season 1 of The Chosen, I also want to give credit to how Season 2 gives him a lot more to do on his own. In particular, Season 2 effectively retcons Andrew by suggesting that he was much more involved with the disciples of John the Baptist than he actually appeared to be in Season 1. As a result, the arrest of John the Baptist becomes a central plot point in Andrew's story arc, first provoking grief and mourning in Episode 6, and then causing him to respond to Jesus' detainment in Episode 7 with a surprising degree of anger, fear, and frenzy. This makes a lot of sense dramatically, but it also fits with the biblical portrait of Andrew. The Gospel of John makes it clear that Andrew is one of the disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35-40), so it makes perfect sense that he would be grieved and respond the way he's depicted in The Chosen.
***Update: Simon & Andrew in The Chosen Season 3***
Although Simon's family life played a significant role in his character arc in Season 1 of The Chosen, it was absent for most of Season 2. Even when Eden had a brief cameo at the end of Season 2, it hardly had anything to do with Simon and his character arc; her main function in Episode 8 was to serve as the tie-breaker on Jesus' fashion advisory board.
Episode 1 of The Chosen Season 3 brings the disciples back to Nazareth, a move that clearly marks a renewed emphasis in Simon's family life. Not only did Eden show up throughout Episodes 1 & 2 of Season 3, she was the focus of Simon's story. Through their interactions, the show explored (with some of its most effective humor to date) the longing that married partners have for physical intimacy when they've been separated for long periods of time. More importantly, Simon proposed to Eden that they should begin trying to have children - a proposal that was immediately complicated by Jesus' decision to send out the Apostles on mission to the surrounding towns. Based on these events, it seems like Simon's arc in Season 3 will be focused on his struggle to harmonize his responsibilities and desires as a husband with his calling and mission as an Apostle.
Andrew's character arc in Episodes 1 & 2 of Season 3 is a continuation of the struggle with anxiety that we saw at the end of Season 2. Episode 1 of Season 3 is all about how the disciples respond to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and Andrew serves as one of the primary examples. The camera draws our attention to Andrew during the portion of the Sermon on the Mount about worry. He's then especially eager to accompany Joanna back to visit John the Baptist in prison because of his anxiety about John's fate. Fortunately, John quells Andrew's fears and encourages him to follow Jesus' teaching. As he grapples with the unhealthy hold that anxiety has over him, Andrew recognizes the pain that he caused Mary Magdalene and seeks to reconcile with her. If the Season 3 Premiere is a good indicator, Andrew's storyline will continue to be tied closely to John the Baptist and Andrew's struggles with worry. Given how likely it is that John will be executed at some point during Season 3, there will be plenty of material to explore.
Simon and Andrew in The Chosen and in Scripture: FAQ
Who is Simon Peter's brother? Were Simon and Andrew brothers?
In the Bible, we are told that Simon Peter is the brother of fellow disciple, Andrew (John 1:40-42). The Chosen follows the Bible and depicts Simon and Andrew as brothers.
Did Simon Peter and Matthew get along?
In the Bible, we are not told whether Peter and Matthew got along. We are told that the disciples fought and argued with one another from time to time (e.g. Mark 9:33-34).
Where did Jesus meet Simon Peter and Andrew?
In the Bible, we get two primary accounts of how and where Jesus met Simon Peter and Andrew. According to the Gospel of Mark, Simon and Andrew were mending their mets beside the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked by and called them to follow him (Mark 1:16-20). According to the Gospel of John, Andrew met Jesus first, after hearing John's declaration, "Behold the Lamb of God." After Andrew spends some time with Jesus, he goes on to introduce Jesus to his brother, Simon (John 1:35-42).
The Chosen seeks to harmonize the two biblical accounts describing how Jesus met Simon and Andrew. It primarily follows the account from the Gospel of Mark: Jesus meets Simon Peter beside the Sea of Galilee. However, like the Gospel of John, The Chosen depicts Andrew as having already been introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist.
Did Simon Peter have a wife named Eden in the Bible?
The Bible indicates that Simon Peter had a wife (Mark 1:30) but it does not tell us her name.
In The Chosen, Simon's wife is named Eden.
Did Simon Peter and Eden have a child?
In the Bible, we are not told if Simon Peter and his wife had a child. However, it is very likely that they would have, since having children was expected for married couples at that time.
In The Chosen, during Season 3 Episode 1, Simon Peter and Eden begin trying to conceive.
Who plays Simon Peter in The Chosen? Who plays Andrew in The Chosen?
Simon Peter is played by Shahar Isaac. Andrew is played by Noah James.
An adaptation like The Chosen isn't meant to replace the Bible; it's meant to drive us deeper into the Bible and spiritual reflection. The 40 Days with Jesus series helps readers connect what they watch in The Chosen with the Gospel stories that they're based on and then engage in spiritual reflection.
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Contributing to The Bible Artist
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If you liked this post, you might want to check out some of my other posts on The Chosen and Bible adaptation. I have Bible studies/discussion guides for each episode of The Chosen Seasons 1-3, blogs exploring how The Chosen adapts key biblical figures, and articles exploring the controversial nature of adaptation. I hope you enjoy them!
The Chosen Season 3
Reflecting on The Chosen Season 3 & Anticipating Season 4: What Worked & What to Fix
The Chosen Season 3 Episode 1 & Episode 2: Reaction and Analysis
The Chosen Season 3 Episodes 7 & 8: Recap, Review, & Analysis
The Chosen Season 3 Episodes 1 & 2: Questions to Discuss Before the Premiere
Adapting Biblical Characters Series
Thomas & Ramah in The Chosen & Scripture ***Season 3***
Yussif, Jairus, & Shmuel in The Chosen ***Season 3***
Quintus, Gaius, Atticus, and the Romans in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Little James in The Chosen & Scripture ***Season 3***
Pontius Pilate & his Wife in The Chosen ***Season 3***
Judas in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Matthew in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Simon and Andrew in The Chosen ***Season 3 Update***
Exploring The Chosen with Youth or Small Group [Discussion Guides]
Episode 1 Guide: Homecoming
Episode 2 Guide: Two by Two
Episode 3 Guide: Physician, Heal Thyself
Episode 4 Guide: Clean Part 1
Episode 5 Guide: Clean Part 2
Episode 6 Guide: Intensity in Tent City
Episode 7 Guide: Ears to Hear
Episode 8 Guide: The Feeding of the 5,000
Season 2 Reflection P1: What is The Chosen Season 2 about?
Season 2 Reflection P2: What was The Chosen Season 2 about? (Plots & Theme)
Episode 1 Guide: The Beloved Disciple
Episode 2 Guide: Philip, Nathanael, & Matthew
Episode 3 Guide: Life Among the Disciples of Jesus
Episode 4 Guide: Sim