The Gospel of Peter (by 150) is a gospel of Jesus Christ whose author claims to be Peter, writing in the first person.
It did not make it into the Bible, but in the 100s and 200s it seems to have been more widely read in Egypt than the Gospel of Mark, which did make it in. It was known to early Christian writers like Origen in Egypt the 200s, Eusebius in Palestine in the 300s and Theodoret in Syria in the 400s. It was still being read as late as the 700s.
So far we only have nine pages of it (Akhmim manuscript, pages 2-10) and what seem to be parts of two other pages (P.Oxy 4009 and P.Oxy. 2949), found in Egypt in the 1800s and 1900s.
Unlike the gospels in the Bible, it gives an account of Jesus rising from the dead:
“But during the night before the Lord’s day dawned, while the soldiers were on guard, in pairs during each watch, a loud noise came from the sky, and they saw the skies open up and two men come down from there in a burst of light and approach the tomb. The stone that had been pushed against the entrance began to roll by itself and moved away to one side; then the tomb opened up and both young men went inside.
“… they see three men leaving the tomb, two supporting the third. And a cross was following them.
“The heads of the two men reached up to the sky, while the head of the third, whom they led by the hand, reached beyond the skies. And they heard a voice from the skies that said, ‘Have you preached to those who sleep?’
“And an answer was heard from the cross: ‘Yes!'”
The rest of it is standard stuff – Herod, Pilate, Joseph of Arimathea, the crown of thorns, Mary Magdalene and so on – but with odd differences. It names the guard in charge of Jesus’s tomb: Petronius.
Jesus’s last words on the cross are a bit different:
“My power, [my] power, you have abandoned me.”
Which some, it seems, took to mean that God did not suffer and die on the cross as a man, but left Jesus behind to do it on his own. That idea of Jesus as a puppet, docetism, was condemned as heresy by Serapion, bishop of Antioch in the early 200s. He therefore concluded that the Gospel of Peter must be a fake.
So did Peter write the Gospel of Peter? Probably not. He died about the year 64. Most scholars believe the gospel was written in the early 100s. A big reason is that it is very anti-Jewish – which would have been unlike Peter and most early Christians (many of whom were Jewish themselves), but very much like Christians in the 100s.
John Dominic Crossan, a New Testament scholar, believes an earlier version of it, which he calls the Cross Gospel, was written in the 40s, making it the earliest story of the passion and resurrection.
– Abagond, 2017.
Sources: mainly “The Complete Gospels” (2010) edited by Robert J. Miller; “The Resurrection of the Son of God” (2003) by N.T. Wright; “Lost Christianities” (2003) by Bart D. Ehrman.
- Jesus Christ
- New Testament canon – how the New Testament came to be
- Roman Egypt