The Letter of Peter to Philip is the second and final tractate of Codex VIII from the Nag Hammadi Library.
As the title suggests, the Letter of Peter to Philip is a letter from Peter to Philip written after Jesus’ death, asking Philip to meet him to discuss how they should organize themselves to teach and preach the salvation promised by Jesus Christ. Philip joyfully agrees and Peter summons the other apostles.
The text opens with the apostles praying on the Mount of Olives when,
“a great light appeared, and the mountain shone from the vision of one who appeared. And a voice called out to them and said,
‘Listen to my words that I may speak to you. Why are you looking for me? I am Jesus Christ, who is with you forever.’”
The apostles ask questions about the deficiency of the aeons, the pleroma (fullness), detainment in this world, and the battle against the powers of this world.
Jesus addresses each of their concerns – ‘again’, reminding them that he has already answered these matters.
Concerning the deficiency of the aeons, Jesus refers to the myth of Sophia (see Secret Book of John) where she wanted to set up aeons; the ‘arrogant one’ (demiurge) followed her and formed ‘mortal bodies’ who worshipped the demiurge and not the ‘pre-existent Father’. This led to the world as we know today – full of pain and suffering.
With regard to the pleroma, Jesus declares that he himself is the ‘fullness’, describing how he was sent down from above and went unrecognized by people in the world, but when he spoke with his own, his own responded to him.
So those who listen to the word of Christ will also attain the joy and fullness of the divine. Like Christ, they will become ‘fullness’.
Concerning detainment in this world, the Saviour says,
“It is because you are mine. When you strip yourselves of what is corruptible, you will become luminaries in the midst of mortal people. Concerning the fact that you are to fight against the power, it is because they do not have rest like you, since they do not want you to be saved.”
The apostles ask how they can fight the archons/rulers who dominate and oppress humankind; Jesus acknowledges there is a war going on, but it is a spiritual war and the world rulers are fighting against the ‘inner person’. It is a spiritual struggle, and so the weapons must also be spiritual – for the apostles to equip themselves with the power of the Father, gather in worship and prayer, and to teach and preach salvation in the world.
“Surely the Father will help you, as he helped you by sending me. Don’t be afraid, I am with you forever, as I have already said to you when I was in the body.”
Then came lightning and thunder from heaven, and what appeared to them was taken up to heaven.
Peter proceeds to discuss suffering:-
“He suffered for us, and we must also suffer for our smallness.”
‘Smallness’ refers to deficiency and our mortal existence.
“My brothers, Jesus is a stranger to this suffering. We are the ones who have suffered through the Mother’s transgression.
The Lord Jesus, Son of the Father’s immeasurable glory, is the author of our life.”
Jesus suffers, though not to atone for human sins. Jesus suffers as a divine being in this world to show how to enter into and overcome mortal (corruptible) existence.
To transcend death, embrace life and show humanity the way to do the same.
Scholars believe the Letter of Peter to Philip was originally composed in Greek, in Alexandria, in the 2nd or 3rd century.
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