Acts of Peter

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Crucifixion Petri, page from the Pericope Book by St. Erentrud, 11th century, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 15903

The Petrusakten or "Acta Petri" (ActPetr) are apocryphal and pseudepigraphe texts from the 2nd century with a complex tradition. Under the title Praxeis Petrou ("Deeds of Peter", Greek : Πράξεις Πέτρου), they found widespread use , especially in the Eastern Churches . Only fragments remain of the entire work. There are more extensive Latin versions and parts in a Coptic version. The final part later became an independent work as Passio Petri with its own tradition.

The deeds of Peter and the twelve apostles , which belong to the Nag Hammadi writings (NHC VI, 1), are to be distinguished from the Acts of Peter .

Author, date and place of writing

The author of the scriptures is unknown, but Peter certainly wasn't. Some researchers believe that it could be written by Leucius Charinus , who may also be the author of the Acts of John . There are literary connections between these two scriptures.

Richard Adelbert Lipsius and Theodor Zahn dated the font to the 160s. According to studies by Adolf Harnack , the script can be found in the middle of the 3rd century. Harnack's observations, however, led Carl Erbes to a different conclusion; he dated the drafting in the second century. Carl Schmidt said based on a quote from Origen that the drafting time was before 231, and then narrowed it down to approx. 200 to 210.

The place of origin cannot be precisely determined either. Different possibilities were mentioned: Schmidt names Jerusalem and Rome, others name Asia Minor.


In Jerusalem, Peter's daughter is paralyzed

The first part of the work takes place in Jerusalem and has largely been lost. Here a first clash occurred between Peter and the heretic Simon Magus , as can be deduced from the Codex Vercellensis . The story of the daughter of Peter from Codex Berolinensis Gnosticus 8502 probably also takes place in Jerusalem : A rich man named Ptolemy absolutely wants to have the ten-year-old daughter of Peter as a wife, he offers a lot of money and is not put off by the refusal of the mother’s decisions. A missing page probably describes that the impatient Ptolemy somehow forcibly takes the daughter into the house and that she is paralyzed by divine intervention and remains in an unnatural posture; this preserves the daughter's virginity. Ptolemy then has the daughter brought back and placed on the doorstep. Ptolemy weeps until he goes blind, wants to take his own life, but through divine intervention he realizes that a Christian must not defile a virgin and dies in peace with his Creator, not without bequeathing the daughter a field that of Peter is sold for the good of the poor. The crowd asks why Peter heals other people but his own daughter remains paralyzed. So that there is no doubt about God's power, the daughter's paralysis is lifted for a short time.

Confrontation with Simon Magus in Rome

The Codex Vercellensis begins after the events in Jerusalem and, with chap. 1–3 first shows how Paul worked in Rome and then traveled to Spain. In chapter 4, shortly after Paul's departure, Simon Magus appears in Rome. It works wonders and is well received. The cap. 4–32 describe in detail the argument between Peter and Simon Magus. A report of a first meeting between Peter and Simon Magus can already be found in the Bible in ActsEU , but now the story is expanded considerably. One episode deals with the events in the house of Marcellus, who took Simon into his house. There are a lot of miracles in this story: a talking dog, a broken emperor statue that is put back together with water, a dried fish that begins to swim again in the water and eats breadcrumbs, and a seven-month-old baby who speaks in a man's voice . Simon later practices magic in the forum and rises in the air to prove his divinity. Peter prays that God should stop this happening. Simon falls from the sky and breaks his legs in three places. Then Simon is stoned by the people .

Peter is crucified in Rome

The conclusion in Chap. 33–41 ( Passio Petri ) describes the martyrdom of Peter after his intensive preaching activity in Rome. Agrippa's many concubines listen and are impressed by his sermon of virginity. Soon they don't want to get involved with Agrippa anymore. And also Xanthippe, the wife of a friend, withdraws from her husband. Agrippa gets angry and Peter has to leave the city after many warnings. As he leaves, he meets Christ and asks him: “ Quo vadis, Domine? “(“ Where are you going, Lord? ”) The answer is:“ To Rome, to have me crucified again. ”Thereupon Peter gives up his flight and returns to Rome, praising God. There he is sentenced by Agrippa to death on the cross for wickedness. Peter asks the executors to crucify him upside down. Then he is embalmed and buried with honor. When Nero finds out, he gets angry because he thought up a much worse ending for Peter. In a vision, Nero is warned not to persecute any other servants of Christ and he refrains from doing so. It ends with general praise to God.


In Eusebius of Caesarea , the oldest known mention of the Acts of Peter place. Only a few parts of the original work have survived. Since the character is a written legend, the text was later repeatedly reshaped, incorporated into other works and further processed. Given the sources, this complicated tradition cannot be fully explained. Richard Adelbert Lipsius tried the following reconstruction:

The ancient Greek
Πράξεις Πέτρου
translation A
shorter Greek version
Pseudo Hegesipp
Pseudo Linus
Greek Passion
Passio Petri
Codex Athous
translation B
Codex Patmensis
Old Slavic version

Legend: Theoretically reconstructed text levels are highlighted in yellow, i.e. no surviving text witnesses: Old Greek Πράξεις Πέτρου, Latin translation A, shorter Greek adaptation, Greek Passion , Latin translation B. White are manuscripts as well as levels or adaptations present in text witnesses.

The original Greek version of the ancient Greek Acts of Peter has not been preserved in full. According to Lipsius, there was a Latin long version A and a shorter Greek version of the old Acts of Peter, a later clearly abbreviated excerpt , which is found once in the Codex Vercelli in a Latin translation, but also in the Codex Patmensis, and that of the Ethiopian and Church Slavonic versions The basis is. Current research, on the other hand, assumes that the long version A is a later extension of the text.

Greek fragments

From Oxyrhynchos P. Oxy VI 0849 has come down to us, a fragment from the Oxyrhynchus papyri from the early fourth century, which consists of only one page and largely corresponds to the version in Cod. Vercelli. Otherwise only the end of the Acts of Peter, the Passion of Peter, is transmitted in Greek. The fragment proves that there is an old Greek version and supports the view that the Latin versions are translations of Greek originals and that the script is not originally Latin.

Coptic version in Codex Berolinensis Gnosticus 8502

This Coptic manuscript dates from around the 5th century. The manuscript contains a collection of Gnostic texts and parts of the Acts of Peter. The preserved fragment only contains a story about Peter's daughter. A page is missing from this narrative and the traditional story itself is only part of a larger narrative.

Latin version in Codex Vercellensis 158

The Latin manuscript Codex Vercellensis 158 is the most important and extensive and for some parts the only textual witness. The manuscript is in the Biblioteca Capitolare in Vercelli. It is an uncial from the 6th or 7th century. It contains colophones in large uncials in red and black, set off with zigzag lines. Red ink was used for the first three lines of every book and for the first line of a chapter. The size of the pages is 24.5 × 22.5 cm and the pages contain 23 to 24 lines. The manuscript probably comes from Spain. The margin area contains annotations in Visigoth script and other uncials and italics from the 8th century. The codex comprises 373 folios. The codex already had gaps in the 8th century, folios 360 to 363 were replaced in the 8th century. The writing is bound in booklets of 8 folio. The engraving of Nikephoros , Patriarch of Constantinople from 806 to 815 , indicates that the work has a volume of 2750 engravings, accordingly Cod. Verc. 158 only about two-thirds of the original story. Codex Vercellensis has gaps and corrupted text and is no longer legible in some places.

Passio Petri

The end of the Acts of Peter became a separate text in an editorial office, the Passio Petri with its own tradition. The conclusion is in Codex Vercellensis in Chap. From 30 or 33 handed down as part of the entire work, however, the final parts are partly illegible and incomplete. The missing or uncertain text can be supplemented by the Greek witnesses. The Passio Petri is transmitted in Greek in three manuscripts: Codex Patmensis 48 (or Codex Patmiacus) (9th century), Codex Athous Vatopedi 79 (10th / 11th century) and Codex Ochrid. bibl. mun 44 (11th century). According to Lipsius, the Greek text in Codex Patmensis 48 is very likely a back translation from Latin and does not represent the original Greek wording. The Codex Athous sets accordingly to chapter 30 of the Cod. Verc. one, while the other two manuscripts with Chap. 33 insert. In addition to the Greek manuscripts, there are Coptic, Syrian, Armenian, Arabic, and Ethiopian versions. According to Lipsius, the Slavic version apparently goes back to a very old Greek model. The Ethiopian version is a rather circumscribing translation that does not allow much conclusions to be drawn about the exact wording of the Greek text.

Historical classification

The Acts of Peter may have incorporated and processed several older legends. The entire Acts of Peter are marked by encratism , which demands rigorous sexual abstinence. This is a point of contact with some Gnostic schools , which explains why the script was popular in Gnostic circles. According to the Acts of Peter, Peter's sermon on celibacy resonated with women of the elite of Rome, which triggered the martyrdom of Peter. The speeches of Peter in Cod. Verc. Chapters 37 to 39 are based on Gnostic speculations. Lipsius considers the Acts of Peter as a whole a Gnostic work. Carl Schmidt sees a Gnostic interest, but rejects a Gnostic orientation or a Gnostic revision of the scripture itself. According to Schmidt, the writing nowhere points to an origin outside the Catholic Church, but rather was created, valued and received in church circles and only came into opposition to orthodoxy in the period after Nicaea and was replaced by further processing of the Acts of Peter.

The church fathers Eusebius, Hieronymus and Augustine know the story of the daughter of Peter. This narrative was further processed literarily in the Acts of Philip and in the "Acts of Nereus and Achilles " - there it is connected with the legend of Petronilla and equated with the daughter of Peter. The texts by Pseudo-Hegesipp and Pseudo-Linus are also adaptations that use material from the Acts of Peter.

Reception history

The Acts of the Apostles
a collection of
apocryphal stories of the Apostles

Eusebius rejects these stories as heretical , but the writing was received, in addition to ecclesiastical as well as Gnostic circles. The Decretum Gelasianum , which is attributed to Gelasius I (Bishop of Rome 492-496), counts this writing among the rejected writings and at the same time enumerates the 27 canonical writings. The story of the impact does not end there, however, the texts were further processed in several works. The Acts of Peter were combined with four other apocryphal Acts of the Apostles to form a Manichaean collection of Acts of the Apostles .

Reception in other scriptures

  • Acts of Peter and Paul, praxeis petrou kai paulou (πράξεις Πέτρου καὶ Παύλου)
  • Acts of Philip and acts of Nereus and Achilles
  • The catholic praxeis ton hagion apostolon (πράξεις τῶν ἁγίων ἀποστόλων), deeds of the holy apostles from the Chronicle of John Malalas , 6th century. Not to be confused with the Acts of the Apostles of Luke from the New Testament .
  • The Syrian sermon of Simon Cephas in Rome
  • Chronicle of Georgios Hamartolos
  • Vita Abercii

Reception in art

A number of well-known statements about Peter come from this writing and were often depicted in works of art. This includes the phrase “ Quo vadis? “And the description of the martyrdom of Peter crucified upside down. Artistic depictions of the fight between Peter and Simon Magus also use motifs from this script.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Klaus Berger , Christiane Nord: The New Testament and early Christian writings. Frankfurt 1999, pp. 1268-1270.
  2. For example, Theodor Zahn, History of the New Testament Canonhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Dgeschichtedesne01zahngoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn448~doppelseiten%3D~LT%3DGeschichte%20des%20neutestamentlichen%20Kanons~PUR%3D , 1888, pp. 840f.
  3. ^ According to Schmidt, Die alten Petrusaktenhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Ddiealtenpetrusa00schmgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn118~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D%27%27Die%20alten%20Petrusakten%27%27~ PUR% 3D pp. 99-101.
  4. Carl Erbes: Peter did not die in Rome, but in Jerusalem. In: Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 22, 1998, pp. 1-47 and 161-231, according to Schmidt, Petrusakten p. 101.
  5. ^ Schmidt, Die alten Petrusaktenhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Ddiealtenpetrusa00schmgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn118~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D%27%27Die%20alten%20Petrusakten%27%27~ PUR% 3D pp. 103-104.
  6. ^ German translation of the text also for the following sections in Schneemelcher Apokryphen II, pp. 256–289.
  7. A parallel tradition about the daughter of Peter can be found in the pseudo-Titus letter : There the daughter is not paralyzed, but falls dead. Schneemelcher, p. 54f.
  8. Lipsius: The apocryphal Stories of the Apostles ...http: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Ddieapokryphenap04lipsgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn177~doppelsided%3D~LT%3D%27%27Die%20apokryphen%20Apostelgeschichten%20%E2% 80% A6% 27% 27 ~ PUR% 3D Vol. 2, Part 1, p. 166.
  9. Cod. Ochr. later became known as a text witness and is therefore missing from Lipsius.
  10. Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt. (Ed.): The Oxyrhynchus papyri Part VIhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Doxyrhynchuspappt06grenuof~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3D6~doppelseiten%3D~LT%3DThe%20Oxyrhynchus%20papyri%20Part%20VI .~PUR%20Part%20VI pp. 6-12.
  11. ^ EA Lowe: Codices Latini antiquiores: a palaeographical guide to Latin manuscripts prior to the ninth century. Vol. 4.
  12. Schneemelcher Apocrypha, Vol. II, p. 251.
  13. Schmidt, Die alten Petrusakten,http: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Ddiealtenpetrusa00schmgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn170~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D%27%27Die%20alten%20Petrusakten%27%27~ PUR% 3D p. 151.
  14. Carl Schmidt: Die alten Petrusaktenhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Ddiealtenpetrusa00schmgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn37~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D%27%27Die%20alten%20Petrusakten%27%27~ PUR% 3D , S. 18-19.
  15. ^ Lipsius, The apocryphal Stories of the Apostles ...http: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Ddieapokryphenap04lipsgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn92~ double-sided%3D~LT%3DDie%20apokryphen%20Apostelgeschichten%20%E2%80%A6~ PUR% 3D p. 88.
  16. ^ Lipsius, The apocryphal Stories of the Apostles ...http: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Ddieapokryphenap04lipsgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn217~ double-sided%3D~LT%3DDie%20apokryphen%20Apostelgeschichten%20%E2 .%80%A6~ PUR% 3D p. 296.

Literature (chronological)

Web links