The Gospel of Peter

The Gospel of Peter – Patristic References

The following is transcribed from M.R. James in The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1924).

Here I place the notices of it that are found in the Church wrtiers. There are but three.

Origen on Matthew, x. 17. (They of Nazareth thought that Jesus) was the son of Joseph and Mary: but the brothers of Jesus some (founding on a tradition of the Gospel entitled according to Peter or of the Book of James) say were sons of Joseph by a former wife who had lived with him before Mary.

The Book of James is the so-called Protevangelium, given below.

Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. vi. 12, treating of Serapion, bishop of Antioch about A.D. 190, says:

There is another treatise composed by him about the Gospel called ‘according to Peter’, which he drew up to expose the false statements contained in it, for the benefit of some members of the church at Rhossus, who by the means of the aforesaid book had succumbed to unorthodox doctrines. Of this it will be well to adduce some passages in which he states his view of the book writing thus:

For we, brethren, accept Peter and the other apostles as we would Christ, but, as experienced men, we repudiate what is falsely written under their name, knowing that we have not had any such things delivered to us. For I, when I was with you, supposed that all of you adhered to the right faith, and, not having gone through the Gospel which they produced under the name of Peter, I said: If this is all that seems to cause you scruples, let it be read. But now that I have learned from what has been told me, that somewhat of heresy was nesting in their mind (lit. their mind had its lair in a certain heresy), I will take care to come to you again: so, brethren, expect me soon.

but you who have comprehended of what manner of heresy Marcion (Gr. Marcianus) was, and how he contradicted himself, not understanding what he uttered, will learn the truth from what has been written to you (in this treatise).

For we have been enabled to borrow this very Gospel from others who used it, namely the successors of thsoe who were its authors (lit. began it) whom we call Docetae (Seemers) – for most of their notions belong to that school – and to go through it, and to find that most of it is of the right teaching (word) of the Saviour, but some things are adventitious; a list of which we have drawn up for you.

Eusebius (iii. 3. 2) also names the Gospel (with the Acts, Apocalypse, and Preaching of Peter) as a writing not handed down among the ‘Catholic’ Scriptures, and not used as testimony by ancient or modern church writers. (This, as regards the Apocalypse and Preaching, is an exaggeration.)

Theodoret (of heretical Fables, ii. 2) says: ‘The Nazaraeans are Jews who know Chrst as a righteous man, and use the Gospel called “according to Peter”.’ (What we know of the Gospel and of the Nazarenes forbids us to give credence to this statement.)