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Other Manuscripts of the Apocalypse of Peter, And Why It Matters

In my last post about the Apocalypse of Peter I got down in the weeds a bit to talk about the discoveries and character of the two main manuscript sources of evidence we have of the document, a Greek version discovered in 1886-87 (the manuscript was produced in the sixth century or so) and an Ethiopic translation, found in a writing numbered among the so-called Pseudo-Clementines, and published in 1907-10.  Expert linguists have shown that this Ethiopic translation was made from an Arabic translation of a Greek original.

Our natural inclination, as I pointed out, would be to think that a *translation*, twice removed from an original, could not be as reliable a guide to what a text originally said as an actual copy in the original language.   But the differences are so vast between the two, the Greek text and the Ethiopic, that scholars were driven to ask: which one is more like the book as originally written?

Recall, the Ethiopic is much longer than the other.  It gives descriptions of more sins and punishments in hell than the Greek.  (The Greek is a bit longer in describing the glories of heaven, but there is not much detail in either account).   Moreover, in the Ethiopic the tour of heaven *follows* the tour of hell; in the Greek it’s the opposite.  And just as important, in the Ethiopic the punishments and glory are to come later, after the Day of Judgment; in the Greek they come right away, as soon as a person dies.

As it turns out, scholars are unified in thinking that …

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Finally. Why Did the Apocalypse of Peter Not Make It Into the Canon?
How Do We Know What Was Originally in the Apocalypse of Peter?

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    saavoss  January 28, 2019

    Oooh! A cliffhanger! Can’t wait to read the next post!

  2. Avatar
    fishician  January 28, 2019

    We know there are some passages added later to the gospels, like the end of Mark, and the woman caught in adultery in John, but do we have any evidence of passages that were removed? I’ve heard it suggested that something might be missing from Mark 10:46, but maybe it’s just that nothing worth mentioning happened in Jericho.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 29, 2019

      Not *large* passages like in Mark 16 and John 8. But yes, lots of omissions here and there. I’ll try to think of some good examples.

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      • Avatar
        doug  January 29, 2019

        One omission that stands out to me is where Matthew and Luke used Mark 9:1 but left out the “with power” at the end, perhaps because the imminent coming of an earthly Kingdom of God seemed a little less likely by the time of Matthew and Luke.

        • Bart
          Bart  January 30, 2019

          Matthew has a different change from Luke (he adds “in his kingdom” which appears to have the same force as Mark’s “in power” — so its a replacement, not an omission); but for Luke you’re absolutely right. It’s a key redaction of the text. That’s not the same thing as a *scribal* alteration, though, since now we’re talking about an author composing his work, not a copyist transcribing it.

  3. Avatar
    doug  January 28, 2019

    Little did these writers know that their writings would be studied over 1,000 years later.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 29, 2019

      Of course, a lot of them didn’t think there would *be* a thousand years later!

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  4. Avatar
    sleonard  February 15, 2019

    I’ve never heard you mention stichometries before. Very interesting stuff! Do they lend support to an early version of Mark that lacks the long and short endings? Also, how early do they appear? Might be a good topic for a mailbag post. Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  February 17, 2019

      No, I’m afraid they are of help there. The later stichometries were based on the form of text available to the authors when they were writing — not to the “original” text which would have been changed by then.

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