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The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter

There are three surviving apocalypses allegedly written by Simon Peter, the disciple of Jesus (One other is included in this collection); the one given here was discovered at Nag Hammadi (see page 19). The book contains a series of visions given by Jesus to Peter (hence the title “apocalypse” or “revelation”), which Peter then records in the first person. In these visions, Christ issues dire warnings against the teaching of heretics who propagate falsehoods. Strikingly, the heretics here are the bishops and deacons of the proto-orthodox churches, and their false teaching is that Jesus was himself the Christ who suffered a literal death on the cross. The author deems this staunchly proto-orthodox view laughable; he labels its proponents blind. For this author, the true significance of Jesus’ death goes much deeper. Even though Jesus’ flesh was killed, Christ himself was far removed from suffering; those who beheld the cross with full knowledge (gnosis) did not see the suffering Jesus but the living Christ, who was himself laughing at the entire proceeding. Jesus was merely his outward appearance, just as simple-minded Christians are nothing but the outward appearance of the living ones who have been fully enlightened by the spiritual truth of the immortal Christ. Most scholars have dated this gnostic treatise to the third century.

And when I said these things, the Savior said, “I have told you that these (people) are blind and deaf. Now then, listen to the things that are being told to you in a mystery, and guard them. Do not tell them to the children of this age. For you

will be despised in these ages, since they are ignorant of you. But you will be praised in (the age of) knowledge. For many will accept our teaching in the be­ ginning. But they will turn away again in accordance with the will of the father of

Translation of James Brashler and Roger A. Bullard, from Nag Hammadi Codex VII (Nag Hammadi Studies, 30) ed. Birger Pearson (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996); used with permission.


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