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Now, The Gospel of Peter

I am devoting this thread to understanding why the Apocalypse of Peter did not make it into the New Testament, when other Petrine books, especially 2 Peter, did make it in.  I’ve summarized what happens in both these books, but to contextualize my remarks further, I have to provide information on yet another Petrine book that did not make it in, the “Gospel of Peter.”  I’ve talked about this Gospel several times on the blog before, but since it is important to the train of thought here, I need to devote a couple of posts to it again.  Here is what I say about the discovery of the manuscript (the manuscript that also contained the Apocalypse of Peter) and its contents.  This discussion is taken from my book The Other Gospels, co-authored and edited with my colleague Zlatko Plese.

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What we now call the Gospel of Peter was found in one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of Christian texts in the nineteenth century.  In the winter season of 1886-87 a French archaeological team headed by M. Grébant was digging in Akhmîm in Upper Egypt, in a portion of a cemetery that contained graves ranging from the eighth to the twelfth centuries CE.  They uncovered the grave of a person they took to be a Christian monk, who had been buried with a book.  Among other things, the book contained a fragmentary copy of a Gospel written in the name of Peter.

It is a parchment manuscript …

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Introducing the Apocalypse of Peter

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Comments

  1. nichael  November 16, 2018

    > “…other Petrine books.”

    What is the scholarly view as to whether any of these text (“Apocalyse of…”, “Gospel of…”, “1/2 Peter”, et al) might have been originated from a common source?

    That is, they are clearly all ascribed to Peter, but is there anything to indicate that some of them might have (for example) shared an author; or have come out of a common “Petrine Community”; etc?

    For that matter, other than being associated with the apostle Peter, to what extent can they be said to hold anything like a shared “world view” or christology/theology?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 18, 2018

      They have different writing styles, different theological interests, and different overall concerns — so they appear to be different authors, all of whom wanted their readers to think they were Peter.

  2. JohnKesler  November 16, 2018

    “…near the end of the Gospel [of Peter], an account of Jesus emerging from the tomb on the third day.The Gospels of the New Testament give no such report, but simply indicate that Jesus had been raised (when the women find the tomb empty).”

    Why do you think that the canonical Gospels don’t record an account of Jesus’ resurrection? Even if the first “appearances” of Jesus were visions, why would the Gospel authors say that the tomb was simply found empty rather than that someone actually saw Jesus emerge from the tomb?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 18, 2018

      It’s a great question. I don’t know!

      • JohnKesler  November 18, 2018

        “It’s a great question. I don’t know!”

        Do you think that the fact that the canonical Gospels report that a woman/women found an empty tomb, rather than that they saw Jesus come out of the tomb, makes it any more likely that there is at least a kernel of historical truth in the resurrection narratives, and that the Gospel authors took the hand that they were dealt?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 19, 2018

          Nope, don’t see why it would. You may want to read my discussion in How Jesus Became God.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  November 18, 2018

      My hypothesis — and, of course, this is mere speculation at this point — was that The Resurrection was already very familiar and well-known to the audience for the gospel accounts, so the gospels themselves were merely written as prolegomena, so-to-speak, for the Resurrection of Jesus as Messiah. In that way, maybe we can think of Paul’s writings as the “meat” of the gospel message — i.e. the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus the Messiah, and his imminent return as savior before the final judgment — and, therefore, the gospel narratives were something of a hagiography of this mysterious Christ figure. That would be why the earliest Gospel, Mark, doesn’t have an account of the resurrection, because that’s the part early Christian converts already knew. The biography of Jesus found in the Gospel were meant to supply the details leading up to said resurrection and exaltation.

  3. RonaldTaska  November 16, 2018

    Very interesting. I know absolutely nothing about such matters, but I am surprised that something buried for roughly a thousand years would not have rotted. Is there some way to explain this? Such as it being buried in a closed jar in a cave?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 18, 2018

      It has to do with *where* it’s buried. In the dry climate of Egypt, documents can last for well over a millenium.

  4. fishician  November 16, 2018

    We have early authors filling in details about Jesus’ life, like childhood miracles. Why do you think the Gospel of Peter is the only account of the actual resurrection? Seems like more people would have taken a stab at describing it. 1. Any chance that many of the early Christians didn’t really believe in a bodily resurrection, so such a story wouldn’t make sense to them, or seemed unnecessary to them? 2. This gospel and 2 Peter imply Jesus preached to the dead before his resurrection. Do we have any descriptive accounts of that in the early writings?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 18, 2018

      1. There were debates about the bodily resurrection, but even those Christians (the majority, I should think) who subscribed to it didn’t describe it. Not sure why! 2. Earliest description of the “harrowing of hell” is in the amazing Gospel of Nicodemus (also known as the Acts of Pilate).

  5. DavidNeale  November 17, 2018

    Interesting! Doesn’t Crossan have some unusual views on the Gospel of Peter?

    On another note, what do you think about the suggestion (which I have seen in various places online) that γυναῖκα in Matthew 5:28 should be understood as “wife” rather than “woman”? I’m assuming not, since nothing in the context seems to require such a reading.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 18, 2018

      Yes, he thinks the *source* for Gospel of Peter, the “cross Gospel” as he calls it, was also the source for the canonical Gospels but htat Peter preserves it *better* than they. γυνη can mean both woman and wife, so determining the meaning is based on teh context.

  6. JulieGraff  November 17, 2018

    Mr. Ehrman, Jesus presumably was killed for saying he was king of the yehudim (jews)… the apostols where jewish… the mother of Jesus was jewish and we know how important the mother’s ‘jewishness” is for the jews… and I’m not even getting into the importance of King David’s lineage… and yet, at some point in history there was a cut… it stoped being we (the jews)… and started being us and them (the jews)!

    I know that in the gospel of John this cut seams to have already happened, yet in Paul’s letter to the Galatian’s he is arguing with Peter about the importance of being jewish. And in this Peter’s apocalypse again we see the cut is in place.

    Are there any studies about the actual time this cut took place? (because there was one for sure!)

    • Bart
      Bart  November 18, 2018

      Huge literature on this. Look on the internet or on Amazon under the title “Parting of the Ways.”

  7. Rita Gomes  November 17, 2018

    I was without air of so emotional and intense this gospel of Peter.

  8. SonOfZeusTruly
    SonOfZeusTruly  November 18, 2018

    How many times is Zeus mentioned in the Bible? Was was Barnabas’s real name?

  9. Liam Foley
    Liam Foley  November 18, 2018

    A little late with my questions….since it wasn’t discovered until the 19th century did historians/theologians knows of its existence? Was it referenced in other writings? Does any of the writings go back to the historical Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 19, 2018

      Yup, that was yesterday’s post. And no, it is not more historically accurate than the other Gospels.

  10. deanegalbraith@yahoo.co.nz  November 23, 2018

    For anyone interested further in the Gospel of Peter’s very unusual resurrection scene, here’s one recent explanation of why someone would include a gigantic Jesus and a talking cross:

    https://www.academia.edu/16528749/Whence_the_Giant_Jesus_and_his_Talking_Cross_The_Resurrection_in_Gospel_of_Peter_10.39_42_as_Prophetic_Fulfilment_of_LXX_Psalm_18
    (you’ll need an academia.edu account, to read the full article, though)

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