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Simon Peter & Andrew in The Chosen (Adapting Biblical Characters)

Updated: May 31

***Season 3 Updates Below***

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.

Jesus with Simon Peter played by Ernest Torrence in The King of Kings
Jesus with Simon Peter played by Ernest Torrence in The King of Kings

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 Shabbat 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 and Eden 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.

In Episode 1 of Season 3, the disciples return to Capernaum, a move that brings Simon's family life back into focus. Not only does Eden show up throughout Episode 1 and Episode 2, she is central to Simon's story. Through their interactions, the show explores (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 and Eden decide to begin trying to have children - a proposal that is immediately complicated by Jesus' decision to send the Apostles out on mission to the surrounding towns.

Having spent an indefinite period of time on mission, the Apostles regather in Capernaum in Episode 4. Simon is eager to be reunited with Eden after a long and tiring journey, but their initial interactions almost immediately erupt into conflict. Initially, we're led to believe that the conflict is merely due to the exhaustion that both feel and a few cringe-worthy husband-fails on the part of Simon. As the conflict is prolonged and even escalates, however, it becomes clear that there are bigger issues at stake.

Simon Peter (Shahar Isaac) and Eden (Lara Silva) in The Chosen Season 3
Simon Peter (Shahar Isaac) and Eden (Lara Silva) in The Chosen Season 3

During a nighttime stroll, Simon bumps into the Roman Centurion, Gaius. After working through a little Jew/Roman tension, Simon opens up to Gaius about his conflict with Eden, and Gaius offers him a typical piece of husband-advice: assume that you did something wrong and apologize. Although that advice doesn't solve solve Simon's conflict (in part due to Simon's inept and unreflective execution), this interaction leads to a budding friendship between Simon and Gaius, which functions as a secondary narrative for Simon throughout the remainder of Season 3. As the two men bond over their shared marital difficulties, they develop trust and are able to open up and be vulnerable with one another.

Episode 5 opens with a flashback to Eden having a miscarriage while Simon was away on mission. We, the audience, now know the real issue underlying the conflict, but Simon remains in the dark and struggles to communicate with Eden. Unable to understand what's going on at home, he begins to direct his frustration at Jesus. That frustration subsides a bit in the face of several stunning miracles in Episode 5 and Episode 6. At the end of Episode 6, however, Eden finally opens up to Simon about the miscarriage and his frustration with Jesus increases exponentially.

At the start of Episode 7, Simon is in a very dark place, drinking hard and behaving erratically. The other disciples don't understand what's going on and begin to worry about Simon's leadership. John is recruited (quite reluctantly) by Jesus to try to draw Simon back. In the process, the two apostolic leaders have an important heart to heart, in which Simon shares about Eden's miscarriage and John shares about his struggle to feel loved. Still, despite John's best efforts, Simon remains bitter - and he continues to be fairly bitter throughout their time in the Decapolis, ministering to the crowds and feeding the 5,000. Simon is frustrated at how much attention Jesus is giving to Gentiles when the families of his own disciples are falling apart.

Simon's arc finally comes to head at the end of Episode 8, as the disciples row back to Capernaum and Jesus walks to them over the water (Matthew 14:22-33). Simon finally opens up to Jesus about his frustration over Eden's miscarriage and questions why he's had to suffer so much in spite of his faith. In words designed to echo 1 Peter 1:6-7, Jesus explains that the trials and tribulations of this life function as a fire that purifies faith like gold. This context provides an additional layer of significance when Jesus commands Simon to walk out to him on the water. The wind and the waves represent the difficulties of this life, which so often feel overwhelming and out of control. When Simon begins to drown, he isn't just afraid of the physical storm; he's struggling to trust Jesus in the face of his personal loss and confusion. When Jesus pulls him out of the water, he isn't just saving Simon from literal drowning; he's also pulling Simon up out of spiritual darkness and keeping him from drowning in doubt and despair.

Of course, we can't understand this moment between Simon and Jesus without also considering what's been going on in Eden's storyline. Eden's faith also struggles in the wake of her miscarriage - particularly when she sees another woman with uterine bleeding, Veronica, experience miraculous healing. And yet by the time she tells Simon about the miscarriage, she is in a much better place and is even able to show him a lot of grace and compassion as he cycles through a lot of emotions. But Eden is still struggling by Episode 7 - perhaps just as much with Simon's behavior as with the actual loss itself. When Mary Magdalene, Zebedee, and Salome confront her, she finally opens up to them and they take her to Rabbi Yussif for pastoral counseling. Instead of brow beating her or offering her a religious platitude, however, Yussif helps Eden express her grief to God in the words of Psalm 77. Even as Simon is struggling to come to Jesus over the raging waters, Eden is ritually cleansed from her grief and she prays to God to hold onto Simon and preserve his faith. When Jesus pulls Simon up, it is a direct answer to Eden's prayer - and a sign that God is listening to her pained but genuine cries.

In my initial post about Simon Peter (above), I argue that he functions as a kind of exemplar of the show's vision of masculinity. Season 3 provides even more support for this approach. Over the course of Season 3, Simon displays many behaviors/shortfalls that are stereotypically associated with contemporary males: he struggles to listen well to his wife and take notice of what matters to her; he's sometimes blinded by his sex drive, he doesn't know how to read her emotions and respond empathetically, and when he is emotionally-overwhelmed, he resorts to drinking and withdrawal. The solution to Simon's struggles is also a reflection of contemporary conversations regarding masculinity. Simon needs to open up and be vulnerable. His friendship with Gaius embodies the modern ideal for male friendship, particularly in evangelical culture: two guys who are tough on the outside but gradually open up and share their struggles and advice with one another. His friendship with John eventually serves a similar function. His marriage with Eden initially struggles because of the lack of openness and only begins to heal when the two are able to be vulnerable with one another. Simon's relationship with Jesus likewise struggles because of a lack of vulnerability and is only repaired when Simon finally opens up and cries out to Jesus.

Just as Simon embodies modern discourse around masculinity, Eden functions as an embodiment of conversations surrounding women. She displays struggles that in contemporary culture are stereotypically associated with women: she's hesitant about beginning to try to have a baby in the face of uncertainty (a glaring anachronism - modern family planing was completely foreign to the time and culture), she has to grieve her miscarriage secretly, she doesn't know how to open up to her emotionally-stunted husband, and she fears for his emotional and spiritual well-being when he goes through hardship. Ultimately, Eden makes it through by taking actions that sounds very reminiscent of the advice you'd hear at a contemporary woman's conference: she responds to her husband's vulnerability with compassion and grace, she opens up to other women, she gets counseling, and she prays for her husband.

I'm not making these observations regarding Simon and Eden as a criticism. It's just an interesting trend to make note of. I'm very curious to see if The Chosen continues to use them to explore concepts of masculinity and femininity and how that dimension of their storyline will develop over time.

***Update: Andrew in The Chosen Season 3***

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.

Andrew (Noah James) in The Chosen Season 3
Andrew (Noah James) in The Chosen Season 3

Andrew's character falls out of focus for the bulk of Season 3. Contrary to my expectations, John the Baptist makes it through the season unscathed and so Andrew's anxiety over John's fate doesn't really come back into play. However, during the first mission of the Apostles, Andrew and his friend, Phillip, are sent to preach to Jews in the Decapolis and we later learn that they accidentally end up converting some Gentile pagan priests. This creates a tense situation, which they're sent to deal with at the end of Episode 6. Episode 7 begins with Andrew and Phillip returning to Capernaum after having failed to quell the conflict that their preaching has caused in the cosmopolitan region. Both of them feel crushed by shame on account of their failure to communicate Jesus' teaching with clarity and winsomeness. Although the other disciples give them a hard time, Jesus helps relieve them of their shame by acknowledging that he gave them a big task and that, when you carry heavy burdens, things get dropped. By Episode 8, Andrew is in much better shape and plays an important role in connecting Jesus with the five loaves and two fish that feed the crowd of over 5,000.

The show's decision to send Andrew and Phillip to the Gentile-populated region of the Decapolis is not haphazard. This is setting up an important (but little known) biblical moment featuring the pair:

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him." (John 12:20-26, ESV)

This scene takes place during Palm Sunday in the days leading up to Jesus' betrayal and crucifixion. For reasons the Gospel of John doesn't spell out (but which The Chosen has now explained), Gentile Greeks come to Phillip and Andrew and ask for access to Jesus. This request leads Jesus to declare "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" - which, in the parlance of John, is a way of saying, it's now time for the crucifixion. On the surface, it's a non-sequitur. But Jesus sees the visit of these Greeks as a foretaste of the regathering of the Gentiles into the people of God, an essential part of his mission that's only made possible by the crucifixion. I'm glad that the creators of the show are already anticipating this important moment and I'm interested to see how Andrew's story continues to build toward it. I have to imagine that Leander, the Greek convert who shows up in Episodes 7 and 8, will be a part of that story as well.

Simon, Andrew, and Eden in The Chosen and in Scripture: FAQ

Who is Simon Peter's brother in Scripture? Are Simon and Andrew brothers in the Bible?

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?

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).

In The Chosen Season 1 and Season 2, Simon is depicted as resenting Matthew because of the role he played as a tax collector.

Where did Jesus meet Simon Peter and Andrew in the Bible?

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? Is Eden in Scripture?

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?

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.

Did Simon Peter's wife have a miscarriage in the Bible? Did Eden miscarry in the Bible?

In the Bible, we are not told if Simon Peter and his wife had a miscarriage. However, it's plausible that they could have, given how common miscarriages were in the ancient world.

In The Chosen, during Season 3 Episode 5, we see that Eden had a miscarriage.

Where in the Bible does Jesus invite Simon to walk on the water?

In Matthew 14:22-33 we're told about how Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water, and invited Simon Peter to come out to him. The Bible says Simon was afraid of the waves and began to drown until Jesus saved him.

In The Chosen, during Season 3 Episode 8, we see the same event play out. However, the show suggests that Simon's faith failed not only because of the physical waves but also because of the grief and doubt caused by Eden's miscarriage.

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.


Further Reading

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.

FYI: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Click here for my affiliation policy.


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