The Apocalypse of Peter – What is it?
The Apocalypse of Peter (also known as the Revelation of Peter) is a writing alleged as authored by the apostle Peter that was written in the second century. It exists in three Greek manuscripts (two are incomplete) and in one Ethiopian manuscript, which differs greatly from the Greek text.
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The origin of the Apocalypse of Peter can be safely assigned to the second century due to the Muratorian Canon. The Muratorian Canon is the oldest known list of New Testament books from as early as AD 170 that notes the Apocalypse of Peter as one of the books not to be included. Since it likely quotes 4 Esdras (written about AD 100), the Apocalypse of Peter is often believed to have been written about this time. Its author was not the apostle Peter (who died in the 60s AD) and remains unknown.
The book was quoted frequently in early ancient writings as well as by the church fathers. Due to this, some felt it was an authoritative writing, yet by the end of the second century its popularity had waned. However, in the fifth-century a church historian named Sozomen wrote that to his knowledge the Apocalypse of Peter was still read each year in some churches in Palestine on Good Friday. Of major concern is that the existing manuscripts vary greatly, indicating that the original text of this document cannot be determined with a high degree of confidence.
The content of the book focuses on false teachers in the last days as well as the judgment to come at the end of time. In the Ethiopian version, Jesus expands His response to the question of the disciples in Matthew 24 regarding the signs of the end of the age. Jesus is also said to have given an extended commentary following the parable of the fig tree. One selection reads:
"Floods (cataracts) of fire shall be let loose; and darkness and obscurity shall come up and clothe and veil the whole world and the waters shall be changed and turned into coals of fire and all that is in them shall burn, and the sea shall become fire. Under the heaven shall be a sharp fire that cannot be quenched and floweth to fulfil the judgement of wrath. And the stars shall fly in pieces by flames of fire, as if they had not been created and the powers (firmaments) of the heaven shall pass away for lack of water and shall be as though they had not been."
Clearly, the Apocalypse of Peter focused on the judgment to come and being prepared for Christ's coming!
While many notable features are found in this writing, it is clear the Apocalypse of Peter was not accepted as authoritative for the church, was not considered inspired Scripture, and was not authored by the apostle Peter. It has, however, played a strong role in church history as a reminder of false teaching and as a reminder of God's coming judgment at the end of time.
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