Gospel of Peter and the Slavonic Josephus

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by Neil Godfrey

Given that the Slavonic Josephus appeared around the 11th or 12th centuries and without any known links to other church documents, what follows can be little more than speculation of course.

Two noteworthy features of The Gospel of Peter (link is to table of gospel comparisons) are:

  • it is Herod who is responsible for crucifying Jesus (albeit with Pilate’s acquiescence)
  • there appears to be no room for a Judas betrayal since all 12 disciples are portrayed as mourning together after the crucifixion

Justin Martyr (link is to table of gospel narrative comparisons) of around 150 c.e. is interesting for appearing to know only the same gospel narratives:

  • Herod and the Jews crucify Jesus “under Pilate (see Dialogue with Trypho 32, 85, 104 and the First Apology 13)
  • He always speaks of the 12 as a constant unified band without any hint of a Judas (See Dialogue with Trypho 42, 53, 106 and First Apology 39 and 50)

The interesting connection of these early accounts with the Testimonium Flavianum in the Slavonic Josephus (scroll to section IV) is that here is provided a narrative explanation for these unusual depaertures from the canonical versions:

  • Pilate, on finding Jesus innocent, releases him — an action that so offends the Jewish leaders that they bribe Pilate with 30 talents to allow them (the Jews) to execute Jesus
  • This bribing of Pilate with 30 talents removes any room for a Judas betrayal (for 30 pieces of silver) since it is Pilate who (in weakness and against his better judgment) betrays Jesus for 30 talents to the Jewish leaders, not Judas.

If, as seems likely, the Slavonic Josephus insertions derive from eastern christians removed from western orthodox controls, and this is the same area where the Gospel of Peter remained popular for many years, is it possible that we have in the Slavonic Josephus’ Testimonium Flavianum a missing portion of the Gospel of Peter narrative?


The poor and Q — literary vs historical paradigms

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

One point used to support the case for Q is Luke’s ‘more primitive’ version of the beatitudes:

‘Blessed are the poor/hungry’ is said to be less (spiritually) developed than Matthew’s ‘poor in spirit/hungry for righteousness’.

On the other hand Luke’s ‘poor’ and ‘hungry’ seems to me to fit in seamlessly with his preceding motifs. Compared with Matthew Luke could be said to be tailoring a gospel for the literal poor:

  • in place of kings and wise-men we have lowly shepherds at Jesus’ birth, and an old man and a widow at his circumcision;
  • rather than in a house or inn the infant Jesus is found in a manger;
  • Mary describes herself as lowly;
  • Jesus opening message in Nazareth is said to be specifically sent ‘to the poor’;
  • in this same opening message Jesus honours a leprous and a widow gentile;
  • John the Baptist demands sharing with and care for the poor and hungry;
  • Jesus’ genealogy is not traced through the wealthy and wise Solomon but through Nathan.

So when we read in this context “blessed are the (literal) poor and hungry” is it not simpler to see Luke’s beatitude being born of the broader themes of the gospel than to postulate that it’s variation from Matthew’s points to an earlier form? So why the preference to see the beatitude as a “more primitive” version of Matthew’s “poor in spirit” and as evidence of a prior source, Q? One reason may be the preference for scholars to find intermediary evidence for Jesus between the late first century gospels and the time of Jesus; another complementary one may be the reluctance to read the gospels as literary works in their own right and through the framework of literary analysis, preferring to treat them rather as “historical records”. Both reasons suggested here would suggest a paradigm bias underlying the scholarship.


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