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Gospel of Peter

Rescued from the Seraphim Files

1. But of the Jews none washed his hands, neither Herod, nor any one of his judges. And when they had refused to wash them, Pilate rose up. And then Herod the king commanded that the Lord be taken, saying to them, Whatever I command you to do to him, do.

This account tends to lay more responsibility on Herod and the people, while relieving Pilate somewhat of his share in the action that was taken.

2. And standing there was Joseph the friend of Pilate and of the Lord, and knowing that they were about to crucify him, he came to Pilate and asked the body of the Lord for burial. And Pilate sent to Herod and asked for his body. And Herod said, Brother Pilate, even if no one asked for him, we purposed to bury him, especially as the Sabbath draws on, for it is written in the law that the sun should not set upon one who has been put to death.
3. And he delivered him to the people on the day before their feast of unleavened bread. And they took the Lord and pushed him as they ran, and said, Let us drag away the Son of God, having obtained power over him. And they clothed him with purple and set him on the seat of judgment, saying, Judge righteously, O king of Israel. And one of them brought a crown of thorns and put it on the head of the Lord. And others stood and spat in his eyes, others smote his cheeks, others pricked him with a reed, and some whipped him, saying, With this honor let us honor the Son of God.
4. And they brought two malefactors and crucified the Lord between them. But he held his peace, as though having no pain. And when they had raised the cross, they wrote the title: This is the king of Israel. And setting his garments before him, they separated them among them and cast lots for them. And one of those malefactors reproached them, saying, We for the evils that we have done have suffered thus, but this man, who has become the Savior of men, what wrong has he done to you? And they, being angered at him, commanded that his legs should not be broken, that he might die in torment.
5. And it was noon, and darkness came over all Judaea. And they were troubled and distressed for fear the sun had set while he was yet alive, for it is written for them that the sun must not set on him that has been put to death. And one of them said, Give him gall with vinegar to drink. And they mixed and gave it to him to drink, and fulfilled all things, and accomplished their sins against their own head. And many went about with lamps, supposing that it was night, and fell down. And the Lord cried out, saying, My power, my power, you have forsaken me. And when he had said it, he was taken up. And in that hour the veil of the temple of Jerusalem was rent in two.
6. And then they drew out the nails from the hands of the Lord and laid him upon the earth, the whole earth quaked, and great fear arose. Then the sun shone, and it was found to be the ninth hour. Then the Jews rejoiced and gave his body to Joseph so he might bury it, since he had seen what good things he had done. And he took the Lord, washed him, rolled him in a linen cloth, and brought him to his own tomb, which was called the Garden of Joseph.
7. Then the Jews and the elders and the priests, perceiving what evil they had done to themselves, began to lament and to say, Woe for our sins, for judgment has drawn nigh, and the end of Jerusalem. And I with my companions was grieved, and being wounded in mind, we hid ourselves because we were being sought for by them as malefactors who wished to set fire to the temple. And upon all these things we fasted and sat mourning and weeping night and day until the Sabbath.
8. But the scribes and Pharisees and elders gathered together when they heard that all the people murmured and beat their breasts saying, If by his death these most mighty signs have come to pass, see how righteous he is, -- the elders were afraid and came to Pilate beseeching him and saying, Give us soldiers that we may guard his sepulchre for three days, for fear his disciples come and steal him away, and the people suppose that he is risen from the dead and do us evil. And Pilate gave them Petronius the centurion with soldiers to guard the tomb. And with them came elders and scribes to the sepulchre, and having rolled a great stone together with the centurion and the soldiers, they all who were there together set it at the door of the sepulchre; and they affixed seven seals and pitched a tent there and guarded it. And early in the morning as the Sabbath was drawing on, there came a multitude from Jerusalem and the region round about, that they might see the sepulchre that was sealed.
9. And in the night in which the Lord's day was drawing on, as the soldiers kept guard two by two in a watch, there was a great voice in the heaven; and they saw the heavens opened, and two men descend with a great light and approach the tomb. And the stone that was put at the door rolled of itself and made way in part; and the tomb was opened, and both the young men entered in.

The Lord's day means the first day of the week, or Sunday. Note that Peter says the stone rolled away of itself.

10. When therefore those soldiers saw it, they awakened the centurion and the elders, for they too were close by keeping guard. And as they declared what things they had seen, again they saw three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them. And the heads of the two reached to heaven, but the head of him who was led by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, You have preached to them that sleep. And a response was heard from the cross, Yes.
11. They therefore considered one with another whether to go away and show these things to Pilate. And while they yet thought thereon, the heavens again were seen to open and a certain man to descend and enter into the sepulchre. When the centurion and they that were with him saw these things, they hurried in the night to Pilate, leaving the tomb they were watching, and declared all things which they had seen, being greatly distressed and saying, Truly he was the Son of God. Pilate answered and said, I am pure from the blood of the Son of God, for it was you who determined this. Then they all drew near and begged and entreated him to command the centurion and the soldiers to say nothing of the things which they had seen. For it is better, they said, for us to be guilty of the greatest sin before God, and not to fall into the hands of the people of the Jews to be stoned. Pilate therefore commanded the centurion and the soldiers to say nothing.
12. And at dawn on the Lord's day Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord, fearing because of the Jews who were burning with wrath, had not done at the Lord's sepulchre the things which women are accustomed to do for those that die and for those that are beloved by them -- she took her friends with her and came to the sepulchre where he was laid. They feared the Jews should see them, and they said, Although on that day on which he was crucified we could not weep and lament, yet now let us do these things at his sepulchre. But who shall roll away for us the stone that was laid at the door of the sepulchre, that we may enter in and sit by him and do the things that are due? For the stone was great, and we fear someone will see us. And if we cannot, yet if we but set at the door the things which we bring as a memorial of him, we will weep and lament until we return home.

Note the prominence assigned to Mary Magdalene. Compare with: "Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.... And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary..." (Matthew 27:56, 61; 28:5)

13. And they went and found the tomb opened, and coming near they looked in and saw there a certain young man sitting in the midst of the tomb, beautiful and clothed in a robe exceeding bright. He said to them, Why have you come? Whom do you seek? Him that was crucified? He is risen and gone. But if you do not believe, look in and see the place where he lay, that he is not here; for he is risen and gone where he was sent. Then the women feared and fled.
14. Now it was the last day of the unleavened bread, and many were going forth, returning to their homes as the feast was ended. But we, the twelve disciples of the Lord, wept and were grieved, and each one, being grieved for that which had come to pass, departed to his home. But I, Simon Peter, and Andrew my brother took our nets and went to the sea; and there was with us Levi the son of Alphaeus, whom the Lord...

At this point the fragment ends. While in general the story of the trial and crucifixion that is revealed here follows that of the canonical gospels, in detail it is very different. This account is freer from constraint; and with the events between the burial and resurrection of our Lord, it is much more ample and detailed than anything in the canonical tradition.

There are indeed twenty-nine variations of fact between this Gospel According to Peter and the four canonical gospels. Some of the most important that the reader will note are as follows: 1) Herod was the one who gave the order for the execution. 2) Joseph (of Arimathaea) was a friend of Pilate. 3) In the darkness many went about with lamps and fell down. (That is a startling glimpse of the confusion that seized the people.) 4) Christ's cry of "My power, my power." 5) The account of how the disciples had to hide because they were searched for on suspicion of plotting to set fire to the temple. 6) The name of the centurion who kept watch at the tomb was Petronius. 7) The Resurrection and Ascension seem recorded (in verse 5) not as separate events but as occurring on the same day.

In the valley of the Upper Nile, on the right bank of the river, is the mysterious town of Akhmim. It was called Panopolis in ancient times when it was the capital of the district. The remnants of monasteries and the ruins of temples mark the intellectual life of a former day. Centuries rolled over that remote tomb at Akhmim, while nations rose and fell, wars blasted civilization, science metamorphosed the world. Shakespeares and Miltons wrote their names and passed on, the American nation was born and grew up -- all the while the ink on the parchment in that Egyptian tomb was scarcely changing -- and the beautiful words of this Scripture were preserving for us this version of the most tragic and momentous event in history. That briefly is the romance of The Gospel According to Peter.

In 1886, the French Archaeological Mission, while excavating in the grave of a monk, came upon a parchment codex. Six years later a translation of this was published in the Memoirs of the French Archaeological Mission at Cairo. Scholars realized for the first time that a striking discovery, possibly of overwhelming importance, had been made. A portion of The Gospel According to Peter appeared to have been restored to the Christian Community after having been lost for ages.

Such a gospel was referred to by Serapion, Bishop of Antioch, in 190 A.D.; Origen, historian, in 253 A.D.; Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea in 300 A.D.; Theodoret in 455 in his Religious History said that the Nazarenes used The Gospel According to Peter; and Justin Martyr includes the Memoirs of Peter in his "Apostolic Memoirs." Thus scholars have always recognized that such a document existed long ago, although its whereabouts and fate were a mystery until the discovery at Akhmim.

Commenting in the Journal of Theological Studies on Justin Martyr's ancient testimony and this present document, D.H. Stanton wrote: "The conclusion with which we are confronted is that The Gospel of Peter once held a place of honor, comparable to that assigned to the Four Gospels, perhaps even higher than some of them..."

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Kirby, Peter. "Gospel of Peter." Early Christian Writings. <>.