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A Very Strange Saying: From the Gospel of Peter?

As I pointed out yesterday, the "Gospel of Peter" that we have today, discovered in 1886, is unfortunately, only a portion – the only surviving portion – of what was once a complete Gospel. But was it a complete Gospel? Or was it only a passion Gospel (like the later Gospel of Nicodemus) that gave an account only of the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus? That has long been debated. I discussed one intriguing view of the matter some years ago on the blog, as follows: In recent years a German scholar named Dieter Luhrmann has argued that other portions of the Gospel of Peter have shown up, in very small fragments of papyrus discovered in Egypt.  It is a controversial claim.  The most interesting possibility, for me, is a papyrus fragment that Luhrmann published called Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 4009 (it is the 4009th papyrus published from the huge find of papyri in the trash heap of ancient Oxyrhynchus Egypt). To understand why this *might* be a fragment of the Gospel of Peter requires a [...]

The Exasperatingly Fragmentary Gospel of Peter: Readers’ Mailbag December 4, 2017

My Readers’ Mailbag is stuffed, and I need to clear out a few questions to make room for others that come in.  So I may be answering more than normal over the next couple of weeks.  Here is one that I find intriguing:   QUESTION If you could choose any currently-fragmentary or otherwise lacunose document from antiquity and magically receive a reconstructed version to read, what would it be?   RESPONSE Wow.   There are lots to choose from.   I would probably come up with different answers on different days of the week, but the first thing that springs to mind is the Gospel of Peter, one of the most interesting of the ancient non-canonical Gospels.  We have only a fragment of the book, which begins smack dab in the middle of an episode and ends, literally, in the middle of a sentence.   To show why that’s so tantalizing, let me first say a bit about what the Gospel is (at least that part of it we still have!). The Gospel comes from one of the [...]

2020-04-03T01:45:52-04:00December 4th, 2017|Christian Apocrypha, Reader’s Questions|

Why I Shifted My Research Plans

In my last post I started explaining how I came to work on issues of memory.   My plan had been something else, to write a detailed commentary on the Gospel of Peter and other early Greek Gospel fragments.   I had  been committed to do this for years, with a book contract with Fortress Press for their commentary series that is called Hermeneia. Just by way of background:  when I was just out of graduate school, I vowed to myself that there were three kinds of books I would never, ever write.   I would never write a textbook.  I would never write a book on the historical Jesus.  And I would never write a commentary.   The reason for each was that there simply were too many of each kind of book out there already, and I simply didn’t want to tread where so many others had trod. So much for my vows.   I did end up writing a textbook on the NT.  That wasn’t my idea; my publisher twisted my arm and I agreed, and I [...]

2020-04-03T13:53:28-04:00March 30th, 2015|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

Is the Discovered Gospel the Gospel of Peter?

With this post I conclude my discussion to the Gospel of Peter – although, of course, I’m always happy to engage with any questions you have about it (or anything else).   What we have seen so far is that the Gospel was known in antiquity, even though it came to be judged heretical.  Our principal source of information about it is in a discussion of the church historian Eusebius, who mentions a Gospel of Peter known to a Syrian bishop Serapion, who eventually judged it inauthentic because it (allegedly) proclaimed a “docetic” understanding of Christ (that he was not really a human being who really suffered). A Gospel fragment was discovered in 1886 that scholars almost immediately claimed to be a portion of the Gospel of Peter mentioned by Eusebius (and Serapion before him).  But is it that?   Here are the issues, laid out in brief order.  Again, this is lifted from my discussion in my (and Zlatko Plese’s) book The Other Gospels.  *************************************************** The author of this account [the discovered fragment] writes in the [...]

2020-04-03T14:16:49-04:00December 10th, 2014|Christian Apocrypha|

The Discovery of the Gospel of Peter

This is the second of my three posts on the Gospel of Peter.   In yesterday’s post I talked about what we knew about the Gospel before its (partial) discovery in 1886, from what Eusebius, the fourth century church historian, told us, in his story about Serapion of Antioch.   In this post I discuss the modern discovery.  Again, this is taken from my book The Other Gospels, co-authored and edited with my colleague Zlatko Plese.  ************************************************************  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 [...]

2020-04-03T14:16:56-04:00December 9th, 2014|Christian Apocrypha|

Why Not the Gospel of Peter?

In my discussion of why the four Gospels were given their names, I hypothesized that it was because an edition of the four was produced in Rome in the mid second-century, and that this edition named the Gospels as “according to Matthew” “according to Mark” “according to Luke” and “according to John.”   The trickiest name to account for is Mark’s.   Here I suggested that the editor of this Gospel edition wanted the readers to understand that this Gospel presented the views of Peter; but he did not call the Gospel of the Gospel according to Peter because such a Gospel was already known to exist.   This naturally led several of my readers to pose an important question.  Here is how one reader worded it: QUESTION:  If this hypothetical edition of the four gospels in Rome did not attribute 'Mark's gospel to Peter because the gospel of Peter was already known at that time, why did this edition of four gospels also not include the gospel of Peter? RESPONSE:  Ah, that was a part I forgot [...]

The Gospel of Peter in a Papyrus Fragment?

Yesterday I gave a lecture at the Biblical Archeology Society FEST here in Baltimore. Even though I'm (obviously) not an archaeologist, a lot of my work is connected with archaeology, especially the discovery of ancient manuscripts. In 1886 archaeologists digging in Akhmim Egypt were working through a cemetery and uncovered a tomb, from about the 8th century, they thought, that had, along with a skeleton, a 66 page parchment book. The book was written in Greek, and had four texts in it (all incomplete), including, on the first ten pages, a copy of what was identified as the Gospel of Peter. If you’ve ever read the surviving Gospel of Peter, this is the text (or the translation of it!) that you have read. I can blog more about it at some point later. For now: this is an alternative account of the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which is most famous for the resurrection scene, in which the narrator describes what actually happened when Jesus came out of the grave. It’s spectacular. Jesus is [...]

2020-04-03T17:43:28-04:00November 23rd, 2013|Christian Apocrypha, Public Forum|

My SBL Conference

There are two happy events affecting my life today. The first is that I just now have received an author’s copy of my new book, co-edited with my colleague, Zlatko Plese, The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus from Outside the New Testament (Oxford University Press). As I’ve earlier indicated, this book is an English-only edition of our Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations, which included the original Greek, Latin, and Coptic along with the English translations. For this new lay-reader edition, we have simplified the introductions, making them more accessible to the non-scholar, and gotten rid of the ancient languages. The other happy event is that I am off, now, to my annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature meeting. This is the professional meeting for all scholars and professors of Biblical literature. It is a highlight of my year. Papers are read by scholars on topics of everything you can imagine by scholars who are presenting the results of their research to other scholars. Papers are short – usually 20-25 minutes in length – [...]

Forgery and the Gospel of Peter

So in my talk on forgery last night, I introduced the question of whether there could be forgeries inside the New Testament by talking about forgeries that definitely exist *outside* the New Testament; and to do that I began by speaking of three books that Peter, the disciple of Jesus, allegedly wrote.   My definition of forgery is a fairly technical one.  When I speak about forgery I’m not talking about books whose contents have been made up or fabricated, and I’m not talking about books whose contents have been falsified and modified over the years.   I’m talking purely about authorial claims.  A forgery is a book whose author claims to be a (famous) person when in fact he is someone else – and he knows full well he is someone else.   If some writes a book claiming to be Paul, but in fact he is not Paul, that’s a forgery. The phenomenon was widely known, widely practiced, and widely condemned in antiquity, as I’ve talked about on this blog before. To read this blog post [...]

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