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The Gospel of
Introduction and Text
Chapter 7:25 Then, the Jews and the elders and priests, knowing what evil they had done to themselves, began to mourn and say, "Curse our sins. The judgment and the end of Jerusalem are near."
Discovered in a monk's grave in 1886, the Gospel of Peter is a fragmentary gospel, meaning that we do not have the complete text. What was discovered in that grave was a codex of 9 pages complete, which seems to indicate that the writer was copying a text which had already been fragmented. Simon Peter is supposedly the author of this text and that is why it became known as the Gospel of Peter.
While there was some initial debate as to the date of GPeter, the scholarly consensus by 1925 almost unanimously agreed that this was a later gospel and that it could not have been written before the second half of the second century. This position held for almost fifty years before the debate raged up again over the introduction of two fragments found at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. The larger of the two fragments reversed the order of events in the passion narrative making Joseph of Aramathea's request to Pilate come before the execution! The significance of this lies with the similarity to the order in Peter 2:1-3, which has the same order.
The following translation of the Akhmim fragment is based on the Greek text printed in M.G. Mara's Évangile de Pierre. Although unusual, the traditional textual divisions are followed: verse numbers increase continuously without regard to chapter divisions.
F. F. Bruce writes (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 93):
In The Death of the Messiah, Raymond Brown maintains
that the Gospel of Peter is dependent on the canonical gospels by oral
remembrance of the gospels spoken in churches. The opinion that the
Gospel of Peter is dependent upon the canonical gospels directly is also
a common one.
All of this suggests that the Gospel of Peter is an
independent witness of gospel traditions. Its earliest possible date of
composition would be in the middle of the first century, when passion
narratives first began to be compiled. The latest possible date would be
in the second half of the second century, shortly before this gospel was
used by the Christians at Rhossus and the copy discovered at Oxyrhynchus
was made. It is well known that the passion narrative which Mark used
originally circulated independently of his gospel; the Gospel of John
demonstrates that different versions of this early passion narrative
were in circulation. It is possible that the Gospel of Peter used a
source similar to that preserved independently in Mark and John. The
basic stories underlying the accounts of the epiphany and the empty tomb
are form critically discrete and probably very old. In fact, these
stories are closely related to certain legendary accounts and apologetic
fragments that intrude into the gospel of the New Testament (Matt.
27:51-54, 62-66; 28:2-4; Mark 9:2-8 and parallels). The Gospel of
Peter's exoneration of Pilate, the Roman procurator who had Jesus
killed, and the accompanying anti-Jewish polemica are secondary
additions to these primitive narratives, imported from a situation in
which the Jesus movement was beginning to define itself in opposition to
other Jewish communities.
Harnack (Texte und Untersuchungen, ix, 2, 2d ed, p 76) gives the following list of new traits contained in the Petrine account of the history of the Passion and burial:
1. Herod was the judge who condemned Jesus, and to him application had to be made for the body.
2. The Jews, Herod, and the judges would not wash their hands, and Pilate then raised the sitting.
3. Joseph was the friend of Pilate (sec. 2).
4. Joseph begged for the body before the crucifixion, and Pilate sent for permission from Herod.
5. The soldiers "pushed him as they ran," and their speech (sec. 3).
6. The mockery of the soldiers.
7. Mocking speech.
8. "As though having no pain" (sec. 4).
9. "Having placed his garments before him."
10. One of the malefactors blamed the multitude, and his speech.
11. The legs of either the malefactor or Jesus were not broken, in order that he might die in torment.
12. The gall and vinegar (sec. 5).
13. In the darkness many went about with lamps, and fell down.
14. The cry, "My power, my power."
15. The fact that when he had so cried Christ was taken up.
16. Mention of the nails in the hands at the taking down from the cross (sec. 6).
17. The earthquake when the body touched the ground.
18. The joy of the Jews when the sun shone again.
19. Joseph "had seen all the good things" that the Lord had done.
20. Joseph washed the body.
21. The cries of woe of the Jews and their leaders over their sins, and their expectation of the judgement on Jerusalem (sec. 7).
22. The disciples remained in concealment, full of grief, and fasted and wept till the Sabbath.
23. They were searched for as malefactors and as anxious to burn the temple.
24. The name of the centurion of the watch-Petronius (sec. 8).
25. The centurion, the soldiers, and the elders rolled up the stone.
26. The elders also watched at the grave.
27. Seven seals were placed on the stone.
28. A tent pitched for the watch.
The whole narrative of the resurrection is so different from that of the canonical gospels that it would be useless to go into details; but it is important to notice the prominence assigned to Mary Magdalene, and:
1. That the women fled from the grave and did not see the Lord (sec. 12).
2. That there is no account of any appearance of Christ for the first eight days after his death (sec. 13).
3. That the disciples, along with the rest of those who had taken part in the feast, returned home to Galilee on the seventh day of unleavened bread.
4. That they were then sad, and wept.
(1) [. . .] but none of t[he] Jews washed their hands, neither Herod nor [o]ne of his judges. A[nd] since they did [not] want to wash, Pilate sto[o]d up. (2) Then, Herod the king ordered that the Lord be taken away, saying to them, "Do what I ordered you to do to him."
(3) Joseph, the friend of
Pilate and the Lord, was there. And knowing that they were about to
crucify him, he went to Pilate and requested the body of the Lord for
burial. (4) And sending to Herod, Pilate requested the body.
(6) Then, taking the Lord and running around him, they pushed him and said, "Let us push the son of God since we control his freedom." (7) And they put a purple robe around him and sat him down on the seat of judgment, saying, "Judge justly, king of Israel!" (8) And someone who was carrying a crown of thorns put it on the head of the Lord. (9) And others who were standing around spat in his eyes and others struck his cheeks. Others pierced him and some of them scourged him, saying, "Let us honor the son of God with this honor!"
(10) And they brought
along two criminals and crucified the Lord in between them. But he kept
silent as though he had no pain. (11) And when they set the cross
upright they wrote on it, "This is the king of Israel." (12) And after
they had put his clothes in front of him, they divided them and cast
lots for them.
(15) Then, it was midday
and darkness covered all of Judea. And they became afraid because the
sun was no longer shining and he was still alive. <For> it is written
for them, "Do not let the sun go down on the one who is being executed."
(21) And then, they
pulled the nails out of the hands of the Lord and set him on the ground.
And the whole ground shook and great fear came over them. (22) Then, the
sun shone <again> and it was found to be the ninth hour. (23) So, the
Jews rejoiced and gave his body to Joseph that he might bury it, since
he had seen the great things he had done.
(25) Then, the Jews and
the elders and priests, knowing what evil they had done to themselves,
began to mourn and say, "Curse our sins. The judgment and the end of
Jerusalem are near."
(28) Then, the scribes
and Pharisees and elders gathered together when they heard that all the
people were grumbling and mourning, saying, "If these great signs took
place at his death, see how righteous he was."
(34) When the Sabbath morning dawned, a crowd came from Jerusalem and the surrounding area that they might see that the tomb had been sealed. (35) But during the night in which the Lord's day dawned, while the soldiers were stationed in pairs to keep watch, a great voice came from heaven. (36) And they saw the hea[v]ens open and two men descend from there, having a great radiance and approaching the tomb. (37) Then, the same stone which had been put in the entrance rolled away from it and gave way partially. And the tomb was opened and both young men went in.
(38) Then, seeing this,
these soldiers woke up the centurions and elders, for they themselves
were all there to keep watch. (39) And while they were describing what
they had seen, again they saw three men coming out from the tomb, two
supporting the other and a cross following them. (40) The heads of the
two reached up to the heavens and the head of the one they were leading
by the hand went beyond the heavens. (41) And they heard a voice from
heaven saying, "Did you preach to those who sleep?"
(43) They then determined
with each other to go and reveal these things to Pilate. (44) While they
were still considering these things, the heavens opened again and a man
appeared, descending and going into the tomb. (45) When those around the
centurion that night saw these things, they hurried to Pilate after
being sent from the tomb they were guarding. And they explained
everything they had seen, being extremely anxious and saying, "Truly,
this was the son of God!"
(50) Since Mary Magdalene, the disciple of the Lord, was afraid of the Jews who were inflamed with anger, she had not done what women usually do at the tombs of those who have died and are loved by them. At the dawn of the Lord's day, however, (51) she took her friends with her and went to the tomb where he had been put. (52) And they were afraid that the Jews might see. They said, "Even if we were not able to weep and mourn on the day he was crucified, let us now do these things at his tomb. (53) But who will roll away the stone which was placed in the entrance for us, so that we can to go in to him and do the things we should? (54) For the stone is great and we are afraid that someone might see us. And if we cannot go in, let us put what we brought in his memory at the entrance. Let us weep and mourn until we get to our houses."
(55) When they arrived, they found
that the tomb had been opened. And going in, they stooped over and there
was a beautiful man sitting <in> the middle of the tomb and he had an
extremely bright robe wrapped around him. Whoever he was, he said to
them, (56) "Why did you come? Whom are you seeking? Is it not the one
who was crucified? He has risen and gone out. If you do not believe,
however, bend down and look there at the place he lay because he is not
there. For he has risen and gone out there, where he was sent."
(58) It was the last day of the feast of the unleavened bread and many people were going out, returning to their houses since the festival was over. (59) But we, the twelve disciples of the Lord, were weeping and grieving, and although everyone was mourning because of what had happened, each departed for his own house. (60) But I, Simon Peter, and my brother Andrew took our nets and went out to the sea. And with us was Levi, the son of Alphaeus, whom the Lord [. . .]
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