The Gospel of Peter, translated by Raymond Brown

The Gospel of Peter, translated by Raymond Brown.

As provided by Peter Kirby’s indispensable “Early Christian Writings”. The key verses are…

[55] And having gone off, they found the sepulcher opened. And having come forward, they bent down there and saw there a certain young man seated in the middle of the sepulcher, comely and clothed with a splendid robe, who said to them: [56] ‘Why have you come? Whom do you seek? Not that one who was crucified? He is risen and gone away. But if you do not believe, bend down and see the place where he lay, because he is not here. For he is risen and gone away to there whence he was sent.’ [57] Then the women fled frightened.

[58] Now it was the final day of the Unleavened Bread; and many went out returning to their home since the feast was over. [59] But we twelve disciples of the Lord were weeping and sorrowful; and each one, sorrowful because of what had come to pass, departed to his home. [60] But I, Simon Peter, and my brother Andrew, having taken our nets, went off to the sea. And there was with us Levi of Alphaeus whom the Lord …

…a persistent problem of New Testament scholarship is just how “The Gospel of Mark” finished, as the present ending – at verse 16:8 – is abrupt and inconclusive. Prof. James McGrath discusses this question in a series of blog-posts…

November 2, 2007: How Mark’s Gospel Originally Ended

July 23, 2007: More on Mark’s Missing Ending

July 18, 2007: How did Mark’s Gospel originally end?

…the conclusion being that the missing ending of “Peter” and the existing final appearance of Jesus in “John” 21 seem more likely than the rather jarringly different endings of “Matthew” and “Luke”. An older idea, which might precede that ending, is that Jesus appeared to the disciples on a hilltop in Galilee, as per the cryptic verses in “Matthew” 28…

16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

…though nowhere prior does Jesus tell them to go to a mountain. However there is a rather amazing mountain encounter with the Glorified Christ in what’s called “The Transfiguration” – depicted in all three Synoptic Gospels and mentioned in “2 Peter” 1:16-18…

16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[a] 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

…but there’s no evidence that the writer of “2 Peter” is referring to the Synoptic Transfiguration. Notice the linking of the mountain encounter with Peter’s message about Jesus’s Coming in Glory as Apocalyptic Lord. In the Synoptic version Jesus predicts (Mark 9) 1And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” …which is followed by the Transfiguration. A seemingly deliberate muting of the implied imminence of Jesus’ Parousia is the effect, but what really happened on that mountain?

Curiously part of the “Gospel of Peter” was found with another fragment from the “Apocalypse of Peter”, in which there’s this curious encounter…

1 Many of them shall be false prophets, and shall teach ways and diverse doctrines of perdition. 2 And they shall become sons of perdition. 3 And then shall God come unto my faithful ones that hunger and thirst and are afflicted and prove their souls in this life, and shall judge the sons of iniquity.

4 And the Lord added and said: Let us go unto the mountain (and) pray. 5 And going with him, we the twelve disciples besought him that he would show us one of our righteous brethren that had departed out of the world, that we might see what manner of men they are in their form, and take courage, and encourage also the men that should hear us.

6 And as we prayed, suddenly there appeared two men standing before the Lord (perhaps add, to the east) upon whom we were not able to look. 7 For there issued from their countenance a ray as of the sun, and their raiment was shining so as the eye of man never saw the like: for no mouth is able to declare nor heart to conceive the glory wherewith they were clad and the beauty of their countenance. 8 Whom when we saw we were astonied, for their bodies were whiter than any snow and redder than any rose. 9 And the redness of them was mingled with the whiteness, and, in a word, I am not able to declare their beauty. 10 For their hair was curling and flourishing (flowery), and fell comely about their countenance and their shoulders like a garland woven of nard and various flowers, or like a rainbow in the air: such was their comeliness.

11 We, then, seeing the beauty of them were astonied at them, for they appeared suddenly. 12 And I drew near to the Lord and said: Who are these? 13 He saith to me: These are your (our) righteous brethren whose appearance ye did desire to see. 14 And I said unto him: And where are all the righteous? or of what sort is the world wherein they are, and possess this glory? 15 And the Lord showed me a very great region outside this world exceeding bright with light, and the air of that place illuminated with the beams of the sun, and the earth of itself flowering with blossoms that fade not, and full of spices and plants, fair-flowering and incorruptible, and bearing blessed fruit. 16 And so great was the blossom that the odour thereof was borne thence even unto us.

17 And the dwellers in that place were clad with the raiment of shining angels, and their raiment was like unto their land. 18 And angels ran round about them there. 19 And the glory of them that dwelt there was all equal, and with one voice they praised the Lord God, rejoicing in that place.
20 The Lord saith unto us: This is the place of your leaders (or, high priests), the righteous men.

…then followed by a segment straight out of the regular “Apocalypse of Peter”, known from elsewhere.

Makes one wonder what originally happened in the narrative before the early Church politics, as seen in the Jerusalem focus of “Luke/Acts”, dominated the Resurrection account. All the Synoptics seem to be written in the light of the Destruction of Jerusalem c.70 AD, though they also seem to retain much older material. Were the Christians preaching to their fellow Jewish survivors a new message about the successful prophecy by JC of Jerusalem’s demise? And de-emphasising the “imminent End-of-the-World” apocalyptic message that originally went with it, since JC hadn’t come back to Judge the Living and the Dead?

Author: Adam

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