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The Act of Peter

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Treatise
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Greek
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Estimated Range of Dating: 150-350 A.D.

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Marvin Meyer writes, "The Act of Peter is the fourth and concluding tractate in Berlin Gnostic Codex 8502, following the Gospel of Mary, the Secret Book of John, and the Wisdom of Jesus Christ. The text occupies pages 128-41 of the codex, although pages 133-34 are missing. There is a brief colophon on page 142, at the end of the codex. The title of the Act of Peter has been discussed rather extensively on account of the peculiarity of its use of the singular 'The Act' (tepraxis) and the possibility of its relationship to the other (Vercelli) Acts of Peter (Actus Vercellenses). Such a use of the singular is also demonstrated in an instance of 'The Act of Andrew,' as Gilles Quispel has noted, and hence it may be concluded that the story told in the Act of Peter represents one 'act' in what is potentially a series of apostolic acts. Further, it is now assumed by a number of scholars, such as Wilhelm Schneemelcher, that the Act of Peter may very well be a portion of the lost opening section of the Acts of Peter; Schneemelcher also guesses that the Petrine story in the apocryphal Epistle of Titus may provide another episode from the opening of the Acts of Peter. If the Act of Peter may belong to the opening of the Acts of Peter, then the events that are described in the present text were most likely thought to have taken place in Jerusalem. The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles from Codex VI of the Nag Hammadi library is probably unrelated to either the Act of Peter or the Acts of Peter." (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 749)

While the text itself doesn't contain Gnosticism, Douglas M. Parrot gives an explanation for its inclusion in the Berlin Gnostic Codex 8502, "Perhaps the sufficient reason is the rich possibilities for allegorization this story would have presented to the Gnostics. Ptolemy could have represented the soul, whose attration to the things of the world (represented by the beauty of Peter's daughter) leads to ignorance (represented by grief and blindness), and would have led to death except for the coming of the light of true knowledge (in Act pet., the vision of light and the voice of Christ [136,17-137,17]), which removes blindness (138,7-10). The paralysis of the daughter could have represented the power of divine knowledge over the powers of this world; and, of course, the daughter could also have been seen as a type of the fallen Sophia. (For related gnostic views in BG, cf. Soph. Jes. Chr. [BG, 3] 103,10-106,9; 117,13-126,16). It may thus have been the deeper meanings seen in this text that attracted the gnostic compiler to it and led him to use it in the codex." (Nag Hammadi Codices V,2-5 and VI with Papyrus Berolinensis 8502, 1 and 4, p. 476)

Marvin Meyer writes, "This story told in the Act of Peter is also alluded to, as we have noted, in Augustine, but there are further indications of this story or a similar story in the Acts of Philip 42 and the Acts of Nereus and Achilleus 15. The reference in the Acts of Philip is brief, but the Acts of Nereus and Achilleus tells a longer tale, complete with names of the characters in the story and variations o nthe means employed for promoting virginity. In the latter text it is said that Peter's virgin daughter is named Petronilla, and a certain Roman official named Flaccus falls in love with her and comes with a band of soldiers to take her away to be his wife. (Within the tradition of the story from the Acts of Nereus and Achilleus, the person who complains to Peter about his daughter is sometimes named Titus.) Petronilla responds by recommending that Flaccus not send soldiers but women and virgins. Flaccus complies, and Petronilla spends several days in prayer and fasting, celebrates the eucharist - and she dies." (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, p. 750)


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