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?


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Neil Godfrey

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