Thursday, January 10, 2013

More (Cursory) Observations About the Acts of Peter

Another short observation. Reading more of the Acts of Peter to my son as a bad time story (as he half-listens and plays with his Ninjago characters). There certainly is a layer of anti-gnosticism in the work - i.e. Peter confronting 'Simon' (his namesake) and the hold that he has over the Roman Church. Yet the ending of the text is strangely consistent with what we know about the gnostics.  For instance, Irenaeus and the rest of the 'hersiologists' consistently accuse the gnostics of drawing female followers away from the husbands to 'unite' with them.  Peter is engaged in the very same activities in the Acts of Peter.  Both the concubines of the prefect Agrippa and the rich man Albinus have gone to join Peter.  The same scenario of course manifests itself in all the apocryphal Acts.  Yet it is strange in the Acts of Peter given (a) the manner in which Peter is associated with misogyny in the gnostic literature and (b) the anti-heretical layer added to the text with the combat with Simon the magician.

Indeed the ending of the Acts of Peter is surprisingly 'gnostic.'  He runs away from the soldiers trying to arrest him and Jesus tells him in a vision that he (Jesus) needs to be crucified a second time.  The long discussion of the mystery of the Cross also fits this mold.  There is a strong ascetic tone to the ending with the women abandoning 'lust' to join with Peter.  But perhaps most interesting of all, there is the mystical notion of Peter being crucified upside down embodying Adam's fall from heaven.

It would not surprise me if - at the core of the Acts of Peter - was a gnostic text where Simon Peter was in fact Simon Magus.

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