The Gnostic Gospel of Peter

Until 1886 rumors of an apocryphal Gospel of Peter existed. However, no proof of such existed until 1987 when a large 8th Century fragment of what is alleged to be the Gospel of Peter was found in a tomb in Akhmim in Upper Egypt. Subsequent copies were later found in Egypt. Scholars have concluded it was written in Syria between 100 – 130 AD.

The Gospel of Peter is a fragmented work consisting of 14 paragraphs comprised of 60 verses. It has no inscription indicating Simon Peter was the author. It is even doubted it is a Gnostic work.

Around 200 AD Serapion, one of the first to write of the book, initially endorsed the writing as trustworthy. After future deliberation he decided members of the Docetic cult had added material supportive of their doctrine. It is colored throughout by teaching of cultic groups existing at the time of the writing, but not existent in the Bible era.

An example relates to Jesus having no pain on the cross. The Gnostics taught Jesus had no physical body, He was only a marage. The concept of no pain supports their heresy that His sufferings were not real, but they merely appeared to be so.

The work’s account of Jesus death depicts Him being “taken up” from the cross. This further supports the Docetic belief that He, having no real human body, could not die.

A lack of knowledge of prevailing Jewish historical customs further discredits the work. Priests and scribes are represented as camping out in the cemetery at Jesus’ tomb. Because of ritual impurity no priest or scribe would have done so.

In summary it is an expanded pseudo account of Jesus’ post-resurrection life. It begins when the trial of Jesus is ending. The Jews are depicted as desiring for Jesus to suffer agony. The Jews are said to have prevented His legs from being broken and hasten his death to extend His agony. It indicates the Jews belatedly bemoaned their actions saying, “Then the Jews and the elders and the priests recognizing what great evil they had done to themselves, began to grieve and say, ‘Woe on our sins, the judgment and end of Jerusalem is near.’” Conversely many Jews responded repentantly.

At His resurrection Jesus is represented as being accompanied by two men surrounded by a bright light from the tomb.

The stone unaided rolled away from the tomb by itself. The two men entered to accompany Jesus’ exit from the tomb.

Upon exiting the two men were so tall their heads reached the sky. Jesus was of such height His head reached into the heavens. A floating cross came out of the tomb and a voice from heaven enquired of the cross, “Did you preach to those who sleep?’ The cross answered, “Yes.”

Numerous evidences indicate “The Gospel of Peter” post-dated the “Gospel of Matthew” and it’s author was heavily dependent on Matthew and the Revelation.

Internal evidence reveals it contains a number of second century legends, the time of its authorship. The author was evidently reliant on secondary sources whereas the Four Gospels were written by first person eye witnesses. The Gospel of Peter offers no reliable insight into the life and time of Jesus as do the Four Gospels.

A qualification for a book to be included in the Bible was it must have been written by an apostle or someone associated closely with an apostle. The Gospel of Peter being written in the mid-second century does not meet this standard. For that and many other reasons the Gospel of Peter was not considered worthy of inclusion in the New Testament cannon.