What is the “Apocalypse of Peter”?

The Apocalypse of Peter (or Revelation of Peter) is an early Christian text. It is an apocalyptic literature with Hellenistic and Greek mythology connotations. It does not exist in an entire manuscript. The author is unknown. This book should not be confused with the Gnostic Gospel of Peter which is a completely different work. The Apocalypse of Peter is similar to the popular Clementine literature of Alexandria. It was recorded for simple readers.

Dating

The Muratorian fragment which dates to c. 175-200, is the earliest remaining list of canonical sacred books of the NT. It includes the Apocalypse of Peter.  And the scholar Oscar Skarsaune dates the Apocalypse of Peter to the time of Bar Kochba revolt (132–136).

Discovery

Sylvain Grébaut discovered the Greek manuscript of the Apocalypse of Peter in 1886–87 in a desert necropolis at Akhmim in Upper Egypt. The fragment consisted of parchment leaves. People claimed that it was placed carefully in the grave of a Christian monk of the 8th or 9th century. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo holds the Greek manuscript. And the Ethiopic copy was found in 1910.

Content

The Apocalypse of Peter is a sermon by the Risen Christ to his faithful followers given to Peter. It offers a vision first of heaven, and then of hell. It describes in great detail the punishment inflicted in hell for each sin and the pleasures in heaven for each virtue.

The vision of heaven

  • The saints are beautiful with white complexion and curly hair.
  • The earth is filled with perfumed flowers.
  • The saints wear light clothing as the angels.
  • The redeemed sing in harmonic prayer.

The vision of hell

  • Sinners are hung by the tongue.
  • Adulterous women are hung by the hair over a bubbling mire. Adulterous men are hung by their feet, with their heads in the mire.
  • Murderers and their helpers are placed in a pit of creeping things that plague them.
  • Homosexuals and lesbians, are “cast off” from a cliff. Then they are forced up, over and over again, forever.
  • Women who have abortions are placed in a lake of blood the comes from all the other punishments, up to their necks. They are also tortured by the spirits of their unborn children.
  • Those who lend and take “usury upon usury” stand up to their knees in a lake of foul matter and blood.

Not part of the Bible

The early Christians didn’t accept the Apocalypse of Peter and therefore didn’t place it into the Bible. Both versions of the text include imagery drawn from Greek mythology that contradict Biblical principles. For these reasons, the Apocalypse of Peter was excluded from the Holy Canon.

The Muratorian fragment confirmed that many Christians didn’t even read it. For it states, “the Apocalypses also of John and Peter only do we receive, which some among us would not have read in church.” Therefore, like the many other ancient documents that became part of the Old and New Testament Apocrypha, the Apocalypse of Peter should not be referenced as a reliable source of doctrine.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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