I return now, at last, to the question of why the Apocalypse of Peter, an account of Peter’s tour of the glories of heaven and the torments of hell, did not make it into the New Testament. It was a fairly widely known book in the first couple of Christian centuries, was accepted by some church leaders as part of the Scriptures, seemed to support acceptable Christian views, and was said to have been written by Jesus’ apostle himself. So why did it come to be excluded? No one in the ancient church actually says, and so we have to come up with a hypothesis. I have one, but it’s a bit complicated, which is why I’ve been putting off talking about it (I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks, away from my books, and wanted to make sure I could access them before giving this a shot).
My thesis is that there are a couple of points of view in the book that were *eventually*, by the fourth century or so, seen to be problematic, and it is because of these that the book ended up not “making it”. To explain the problem with the first point of view will require some background connected to acceptable understandings of eternal torment in the early Church.
Last year, starting March 29 (you can look these up), I had a short series of posts on the development of the Christian views of “purgatory,” the idea that after death, the moderately righteous would have to (or would be allowed to) pay for their sins by being punished temporarily. That temporarily may have involved days, months, years, or aeons, but it was in any event “temporary.” After that they would be allowed to enter into an eternal reward. But first there was hell to pay.
The idea that after death people could pay for their sins by intense, but temporary brought forth another pressing question for some early Christian thinkers. If that was true …
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