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NAG HAMMURABI CODICES- The Act of PETER, by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Acts of St.Peter

JESUS und Jünger



by Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz



Introduced by

Douglas M. Parrott

Translated by

James Brashler and Douglas M. Parrot

The Act of Peter is a narrative about how the virginity of Peter’s daughter was preserved and the soul of one Ptolemy saved, by divine intervention exercised through Peter. The setting of Act Pet. is a Sunday (the place is not mentioned; cf. discussion below), when, it appears, it was customary for Peter to conduct his healing ministry. A challenge by one of the bystanders leads Peter to employ the power of God to heal his daughter of paralysis, which healing he immediately reverses (128, 7–131, 9). Peter’s narrative, which constitutes most of the remainder of Act Pet., begins with an explanation of how his daughter came to be paralyzed. When she had grown to sexual maturity, the girl was so attractive that a rich man named Ptolemy burned with desire to marry her. Her mother refused permission, whereupon Ptolemy abducted her. If the operative law was Jewish, Ptolemy’s purpose may well have been to force the girl’s parents to allow him to marry her (see Dt 22:28–29). Peter’s prayers caused her to be paralyzed before Ptolemy could have intercourse with her, and hence her virginity was preserved (131, 12–135, 17). Ptolemy went blind with grief, but a vision spared him from suicide, revealed his guilt, and sent him to Peter, where his sight was restored and his soul was made to see also (135, 17–138, 10). Thereafter he lived an exemplary life and gave Peter and his daughter a parcel of land when he died. This Peter sold and gave the proceeds to the poor (138, 12–139, 17). Peter draws the moral that God cares for his own, and the whole account ends with Peter distributing bread to the crowd and retiring to his home.

Although the physical setting is not mentioned in the text, it is reasonable to think of Jerusalem, since Peter’s home is spoken of (141, 6), where he lives with his wife and daughter (135, 1–6). Another possibility is Rome, but there is a tradition in The Acts of Peter, mentioned below, that he goes alone to Rome. In addition, as noted above, the operative law appears to be Jewish.

The Act of Peter probably was part of the otherwise lost beginning third of a collection of apocryphal narratives known as The Acts of Peter. There is extensive conceptual and literary agreement between The Act of Peter and the remaining Acts of Peter. Whether there is a close enough relationship between The Act of Peter and the Nag Hammadi Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles (VI,1) to make it likely that the latter was also part of The Acts of Peter remains to be seen.

Conceptually, the emphasis of The Act of Peter is moderately encratite. Marriage itself is not denounced (note that Peter was married and still living with his wife). What is denounced is Ptolemy’s lust, which leads him to attempt to deprive a Christian maiden of her virginity by force (137, 1–11). Thus, the encratism in this tractate consists in its advocacy of rigorous sexual self-control, which was a view common among Christians in the second century. There is no doubt, however, that the lack of any statement about the meaning of the narrative would have allowed it to be interpreted in a more extreme sense.

It has been suggested that the reason for the inclusion of The Act of Peter in a codex containing three explicitly gnostic tractates is that the scribe needed to fill up the pages after copying the first three tractates, and thus he was attracted to The Act of Peter by its appropriate length and the encratite tendencies in it. Considering the large amount of explicitly gnostic writing available, one wonders why he chose a work only marginally related. The editor might have been influenced by the immediately preceding tractate, The Sophia of Jesus Christ, which has in its conclusion, when Christ disappears from the disciples, the statement that they “began to preach the Gospel of God, the eternal Father” (129, 5–9). He might have thought that an account of apostolic activity would be appropriate. But since many similar accounts would also have been circulating, there may be a further reason for the choice of this particular tractate.

The Act of Peter may have been chosen because of the rich possibilities for allegorization that it would have presented to Gnostics. Ptolemy could have represented the soul, whose attraction 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.

Act Pt. are dated toward the end of the second century. Hence Act Pet. would have been extant by that time, although it might well have had an earlier, independent existence.


BG 128, 1–141, 7

Now on the first (day) of the week, | which is the Lord’s day, | a crowd gathered and | brought to Peter 5 many who were | sick, in order that he might | heal them. And a person | from the crowd made bold | to say to Peter, 10 “Peter, behold, in | our presence you have caused many | blind to see, and you have | caused the deaf to hear, | and you have caused the lame to 15 walk. And you have helped | the weak and have given them | strength. But your | virgin daughter, who | has grown up to be beautiful and who has 129 believed in the name of God, | why have you not helped her? | For behold, one | side of her is completely paralyzed and she lies 5 crippled there in the corner. | Those whom you have healed are seen (about us); | but your daughter | you have neglected.”

Then Peter | smiled and said to him, 10 “My son, it is apparent to | God alone why | her body is not healthy. | Know, then, that | God was not weak or 15 unable to give | his gift to my daughter. | But so that your soul | may be persuaded and those who are | here may have more faith –.” 130 Then he looked at | his daughter and said to her, | “Arise from your place! Let | nobody help you except Jesus 5 alone, and walk restored in | the presence of all these (people)! | Come to | me!” And she arose | and went over to him. 10 The crowd rejoiced on account of | what happened. | Peter said to them, “Behold, | your hearts have been persuaded | that God is not powerless 15 regarding anything | we ask of him.” Then | they rejoiced even more and praised | God.

Peter said 131 to his daughter, | “Go to your place, sit down, | and become an invalid | again. For this 5 is beneficial for you and me.” | The girl went back again, | sat down in her | place, and became again as she | was before. The whole crowd 10 wept and begged Peter | to make her healthy. | Peter said to them, | “As the Lord lives, this | is beneficial for her and me. 15 For on the day she was born | to me I saw a vision and | the Lord said | to me, ‘Peter, there has been born | to you today a great 132 trial. For this (daughter) | will wound many | souls if her body | remains healthy.’ 5 But I | thought the vision | was mocking me.

“When | the girl became ten | years old, many were 10 tempted by | her. And a man rich | in property, Ptolemy, | after he had seen the | girl bathing 15 with her mother, sent | for her so that he might take her for his | wife. Her mother was not | persuaded. He sent for her many | times. He could not cease […]. (pp. 133–34 are lost. The sense of these pages can be recovered from the context with the aid of a brief notice by Augustine in his treatise against Adimantus, in which he refers to an apocryphal work “about the daughter of Peter himself who became paralysed through the prayers of her father.” It appears, then, that Ptolemy, in his passionate desire, abducted the girl and was about to have intercourse with her by force when she was suddenly paralysed by a divine act that had been sought by Peter in prayer.) 13419

“[The men-servants of] 135 Ptolemy [returned] the girl, | and put her down | before the house, and departed. | And when I and her mother realized it, 5 we went down | and found the girl | with one whole side of her body, | from her toes to her | head, paralyzed and withered. 10 We picked her up, praising the | Lord who had | saved his servant from defilement, | [and] pollution, and [destruction]. | This is the cause of 15 [the fact] that the girl | [remains] thus to this | day.

“Now then, it is | fitting for you to know | the (subsequent) deeds of Ptolemy. 136 He was smitten | in his heart and grieved | night and | day on account of what 5 happened to him. And | because of (the) many tears he | shed he became | blind. He intended | to go and 10 hang himself. And behold | in the ninth hour | of that day, | and when he was alone | in his bedroom, [he] 15 saw a great light | shining in the whole house, | and heard | a voice saying 137 to him, ‘Ptolemy, | God did not | give his vessels for | corruption and pollution. 5 But it was necessary | for you, since you believed | in me, that you not defile | my virgin, whom | you should have recognized as your sister, 10 since I have become | one Spirit for you both. | But arise | and go quickly to | the house of Peter the 15 apostle and you will see | my glory. He will explain | the matter to you.’

“And Ptolemy | did not hesitate. He | commanded his men-servants 138 to lead him | and to bring him to me. | And when he had come | to me he narrated everything that 5 had happened to him | in the power of Jesus | Christ our Lord. Then he | saw with the eyes | of his flesh and the 10 eyes of his soul. And | many hoped | in Christ. He did | good things for them | and he gave them 15 the gift of God. |

Afterwards Ptolemy | died. | He departed from life and | went to his Lord. 139 And [when he made] his | will, he wrote in a | piece of land in the name of my | daughter, since because of her 5 he believed in God | and was saved. I myself | took care of the administration | entrusted to me most carefully. | I sold 10 the land. And | God alone | knows, neither I, nor | my daughter, {I sold the land} | kept anything 15 back from the price of the land. | But I sent the | entire sum of money to the poor. |

“Know, then, O servant of | Christ Jesus, that God 140 [watches over those who] | are his and he prepares | what is good for | each one. But we 5 think that | God has forgotten us. | Now then, brothers, let | us be penitent and | watchful, and pray. 10 And the goodness | of God will look | down upon us – and we | wait for it.” And | {all} other teachings 15 Peter spoke in the | presence of them all. | Praising the name 141 of the Lord Christ, | he gave them all | bread. | When he had distributed it, | he 5 arose and went | into his house. |

The Act of Peter

( Parentheses indicate material supplied by the editor or translator. Although this material may not directly reflect the text being translated, it provides useful information for the reader.

| Small strokes above the line indicate line divisions. Every fifth line a small number is inserted in place of a stroke; the frequency of these numbers, however, may vary in tractates which are quite fragmentary. A new page is indicated with a number in bold type. When the beginning of a new line or page coincides with the opening of a paragraph, the line divider or number is placed at the end of the previous paragraph.

[ Square brackets indicate a lacuna in the manuscript. When the text cannot be reconstructed, three dots are placed within the brackets, regardless of the size of the lacuna; a fourth dot, if appropriate, may function as a period. An exception to this rule is the occasional use of a different number of dots to estimate the extent of the missing portion of a proper noun. In a few instances the dots are used without brackets to indicate a series of Coptic letters which do not constitute a translatable sense unit. A bracket is not allowed to divide a word, except for a hyphenated word or a proper noun. Other words are placed entirely inside or outside the brackets, depending on the certainty of the Coptic word and the number of Coptic letters visible.

{ Braces indicate superfluous letters or words added by the scribe.

Robinson, James McConkey ; Smith, Richard ; Coptic Gnostic Library Project: The Nag Hammadi Library in English. 4th rev. ed. Leiden; New York : E.J. Brill, 1996, S. 528


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