The Revelation of Peter, or the Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter, is the third tractate of Codex VII from the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt in 1945.
The Saviour reveals to the apostle Peter the meaning of the crucifixion and the nature of true Christianity.
The Revelation of Peter opens with a scene in the temple at Jerusalem on the night before the crucifixion, a short time before Peter’s denial, where the Saviour is seated talking to Peter.
Although Peter is portrayed as an angry misogynist in the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Thomas and Pistis Sophia, here text Peter is positive and described as a ‘friend of gnosis’. Initially he is timid and fearful, but experiences a revelation following the Saviour’s teachings.
The teachings of the Saviour address the crucifixion of Jesus and disagreements among Christians. Peter receives the revelation in a vision, and only at the very end of the text does he return ‘to his senses’.
Peter envisions the threats of priests and people, and after seeing Jesus being arrested and crucified asks, “What do I see, master? Is it really you they are seizing, and are you holding onto me? And who is the one laughing and smiling above the cross? Is it someone else whose feet and hands they are hammering?”
The Saviour explains that the fleshly body of Jesus was crucified, but the living Jesus is an immortal being who does not suffer and die. Furthermore, the Saviour is more than the living Jesus, he is a transcendent spiritual being. Peter has a glimpse of this and describes what he sees:
“Then I saw someone about to approach us who looked like the one laughing above the cross, but this one was intertwined with holy spirit, and he was the Saviour. And there was an unspeakably bright light surrounding them and a multitude of ineffable and invisible angels praising them. When the one who glorifies was revealed, I myself saw the Saviour.”
The Saviour confirms this to Peter:
“I am the spirit of thought filled with radiant light. The one you saw approaching me is our fullness of thought, which unites the perfect light with my holy spirit.”
Ultimately, the Revelation of Peter is proclaiming the Saviour is the transcendent spiritual presence manifesting the thought and fullness of the divine.
As in the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, the Revelation of Peter has strong criticism of some members of the Christian church who claim to follow Christ but fall into error. In contrast to the ‘little ones’ who are the true believers or genuine Christians, the misguided ‘hold onto the name of a dead man’ and ‘follow an evil deceiver with complicated doctrines’ which leads them astray into ‘heresy’.
These other Christians have bishops and deacons who claim to have divine authority, but they are all ‘dry canals’.
The Saviour declares:
“For a specified time proportionate to their error, they will rule over the little ones. Eventually, truth will triumph over error and the little ones will be vindicated. They will rule, and in the end their immortal souls will receive the reward.”
The Saviour then says to Peter:
“You are to present what you have seen to those who are strangers*, who are not of this age. For there will be no grace among those who are not immortal, but only among those chosen because of their immortal nature, which has shown it can receive the one who gives in abundance.”
(* Stranger in this context refers to a spiritually mature person who becomes a ‘stranger’ to the material world.)
Religious scholars do not know who wrote the Revelation of Peter, and postulate it was written in Alexandria in the 2nd century.
Codex VII comprises the Paraphrase of Shem, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, the Revelation of Peter, the Teachings of Silvanus and the Three Steles of Seth.
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