The Acts Of Peter And The Twelve Apostles

The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles is the first tractate of Codex VI.

This is an allegorical story where Peter relates, some time after the crucifixion, of how he and his companions set sail on a ship in order to preach the ministry Christ entrusted to them.

After having sailed for a day and a night, the wind brings them to a small city in the middle of the sea. Once on the dock, Peter is told the name of the town is “Abide-in-endurance.” As he enquires about lodgings, he meets a merchant man holding a book and a box made of precious wood crying out “Pearls! Pearls!”

Peter assumes he is an inhabitant of the city and asks about lodgings, since he and his friends are strangers to the city, but the merchant replies that he is a stranger himself.

The announcement about pearls briefly catches the attention of wealthy people, but the poor surround the man, eager to just see the pearl, as they would never be able to afford to buy one.

The foreign merchant says to them,

“If you can, come to my city, so that I may not only show it to you but may give it to you free of charge.”

The poor people are understandably incredulous and reply,

“We are beggars, and we know that nobody gives a pearl to a beggar. Beggars usually get bread and money. So we ask you this favour, that you show us the pearl, and then we can brag to our friends that we saw a pearl with our own eyes.”

The merchant repeats his invitation and the poor rejoice.

Peter asks the merchant his name and what hardships would be involved in visiting his city, as he and his companions had been entrusted with spreading the word of Christ everywhere. The merchant replied,

“My name is Lithargoel, which means ‘light bright stone’. And concerning the way to this city, none can travel that road unless they renounce all their possessions and fast daily from one night’s stay to the next. There are many robbers and wild beasts on that road. If people take bread, black dogs kill them because of the bread. If they carry expensive garments of this world, robbers kill them because of the garments. If they carry water, wolves kill them for the wolves are thirsty..”

Lithargoel sees Peter’s downcast face and said to him,

“Why are you groaning if you know the name of Jesus and believe in him? He is a power great enough to give you strength. For I also believe in the Father who has sent him.”

“This is the name of my city. In nine gates let us praise God, and consider that the tenth gate is the main gate.”

Peter and his companions follow the merchant’s instructions and arrive safely at the gates of the city.

Lithargoel appears, but looks more like a physician than a merchant. He is holding an ointment box, accompanied by a young disciple carrying a pouch full of medicine. At first the apostles do not recognize Lithargoel, and Peter asks the physician to show him Lithargoel’s house, but then the mysterious physician reveals himself as Christ.

He offers his pouch of medicine to Peter and urges them to return to the city Abide-in-endurance and heal the sick people of the city who believe in his name. Peter is sceptical, saying if they do not even have enough food for a single day how can they help the poor? Christ replies,

“Peter it was necessary for you to understand the parable I told you. Don’t you know that my name is worth more than all the riches, and the wisdom of God is worth more than silver and gold and precious stones.”

Peter is afraid to question a second time and urges John to speak. John points out that they have not been taught how to heal:

“How then, shall we know how to heal bodies, as you have told us?”

Christ answers him by stating that,

“The doctors of this world heal what is of the world, but the doctors of soul heal the heart.”

Christ advises them to heal bodies first, without wordly medicine, so that people will believe in their power to heal illnesses of the heart.

Christ issues a final warning about not having fellowship with the rich people, as many people in the churches show favour to the rich – an aside directed towards the orthodox church.

The apostles fall down to worship him. Christ makes them stand up and departs.

Jesus often used parables in the New Testament to convey his teachings. 

The pearl is known from the famous Hymn of the Pearl in the Acts of Thomas –the  pearl in the Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles symbolizes spiritual salvation.  Renouncing one’s worldly possessions in order to save one’s soul is a familiar theme.   

The city of nine gates bring to mind the city of Jerusalem and its nine gates, with the tenth gate being the entrance to the heavenly realms.

Lithargoel is an angel of healing known from Book of the Installation of the Angel Gabriel in which the angel states,

“I am Litharkuel, in whose hand is the medicine chest, filled with the medicine of life. I heal every soul.”

A parable is a story which has a moral (or message), is universal, appeals to all age groups and cultures, is timeless and has an element of magic.

#gnostic #naghammadi

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