Gospel of Peter

The Gospel of Peter was a prominent Syrian passion narrative that initially circulated after the rise of Docetism by the middle of the second century. It may have borrowed from the canonical accounts with the intent to embellish or it may be an independent tradition, but it was not a source for the synoptic texts. It survives in two or three scraps as well as a lengthier fragment preserved from the eighth century. Origen claimed that the gospel agreed with that to the Hebrews, or at least the outline it maintained. In fact, one of the versions that the Ebionites used was likewise attributed to Peter.

Harris on Gospel of Peter In the late second century, Serapion of Antioch mentioned its use in Syria and found nothing particularly objectionable about it, until he obtained a copy and learned of its docetic theology. The writer assumed the pseudonym Peter and wrote in the first-person singular when describing interaction between the central figures in the narrative. It remains incomplete, for it begins abruptly, since its opening leaves are missing, and closes with an unusual version of the resurrection. It is possible that the original form was orthodox and that a later editor corrupted it with sectarian content.

The Gospel of Peter remains one of the four early non-canonical gospel narratives. Two papyrus fragments were unearthed, Oxyrhynchus 4009 and 2949, under the direction of Grenfell and Hunt but were not published until 1972. A third, P. Oxy. X 1224, was also recovered but might not belong to the same text. Urbain Bouriant of the French Archaeological Mission, Cairo, discovered an eighth or ninth century parchment codex of the Gospel of Peter in 1886 at the modern city of Akhmim (sixty miles north of Nag Hammadi).

Swete on Gospel of PeterHowever, its publication was delayed until 1892; the following year, J. Rendel Harris and H. B. Swete introduced the document to the public in separate editions. Bouriant found a copy buried respectfully in a cemetery with an Egyptian monk who was interred in dry sand; the same manuscript also contained portions of the Apocalypse of Peter and of 1 Enoch. The present form of the gospel is riddled with emendations and peppered with docetic notions; in fact, its content contradicts the canonical accounts and contains several anomalies that undermine the theology of the passion narrative.

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