Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
R. Michel Barnes
Deirdre Dempsey, Andrei Orlov
No scholarly consensus has been reached on the question of the relationship between the Gospel of Peter and the New Testament gospels. The same can be said about determining the particular factors that influenced the author of the noncanonical text when composing his own work. This dissertation contends that the author of the Gospel of Peter used all four canonical gospels as sources and that the category of Second Temple Jewish literature known today as "Rewritten Bible" provides the best analogue for understanding the manner in which the New Testament accounts have been reworked in the noncanonical gospel. Apologetic and polemical concerns are identified as significant influences on this work, and this dissertation considers the role of those outside the Christian movement in the formation of gospel traditions.
In Chapter Two it is determined that the most significant alteration to the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of Peter concerns the identity of those who crucify Jesus. Chapter Three examines the four signs at the crucifixion (i.e., darkness, torn veil, earthquake, the destruction of Jerusalem), noting how their role in the noncanonical text differs from the New Testament versions. The variations between the guard stories in Matthew and the Gospel of Peter are reviewed in Chapter Four, and it is claimed that these differences are due to apologetically motivated redaction. Unlike the New Testament gospels, the Gospel of Peter includes an account of Jesus emerging from the tomb, and reasons for this are explored in Chapter Five. The final chapter examines two features of the extra-canonical text: the women's fear of the Jews during their visit to the tomb, and the role of Peter as the narrator of this gospel.
In each of these final five chapters, after demonstrating the specific way(s) that the New Testament accounts have been retold in the Gospel of Peter, this study surveys similar examples from other early Christian literature in order to situate this gospel within a particular socio-religious context. In the last section of each chapter, an explanation is offered as to why the noncanonical author has changed the story in the manner(s) proposed.