Revelation of Peter

From the Revelation of Peter, which was part of the Canon and used throughout the early church and read in all churches, but later fell out of use and did not make it into the Roman canon. Here is an excerpt from the description of the punishment of the damned.

 

1 Many of them shall be false prophets, and shall teach ways and diverse doctrines of perdition. 2 And they shall become sons of perdition. 3 And then shall God come unto my faithful ones that hunger and thirst and are afflicted and prove their souls in this life, and shall judge the sons of iniquity.

4 And the Lord added and said: Let us go unto the mountain (and) pray. 5 And going with him, we the twelve disciples besought him that he would show us one of our righteous brethren that had departed out of the world, that we might see what manner of men they are in their form, and take courage, and encourage also the men that should hear us.

6 And as we prayed, suddenly there appeared two men standing before the Lord (perhaps add, to the east) upon whom we were not able to look. 7 For there issued from their countenance a ray as of the sun, and their raiment was shining so as the eye of man never saw the like: for no mouth is able to declare nor heart to conceive the glory wherewith they were clad and the beauty of their countenance. 8 Whom when we saw we were astonied, for their bodies were whiter than any snow and redder than any rose. 9 And the redness of them was mingled with the whiteness, and, in a word, I am not able to declare their beauty. 10 For their hair was curling and flourishing (flowery), and fell comely about their countenance and their shoulders like a garland woven of nard and various flowers, or like a rainbow in the air: such was their comeliness.

11 We, then, seeing the beauty of them were astonished at them, for they appeared suddenly. 12 And I drew near to the Lord and said: Who are these? 13 He saith to me: These are your (our) righteous brethren whose appearance ye did desire to see. 14 And I said unto him: And where are all the righteous? or of what sort is the world wherein they are, and possess this glory? 15 And the Lord showed me a very great region outside this world exceeding bright with light, and the air of that place illuminated with the beams of the sun, and the earth of itself flowering with blossoms that fade not, and full of spices and plants, fair-flowering and incorruptible, and bearing blessed fruit. 16 And so great was the blossom that the odour thereof was borne thence even unto us.

17 And the dwellers in that place were clad with the raiment of shining angels, and their raiment was like unto their land.

18 And angels ran round about them there. 19 And the glory of them that dwelt there was all equal, and with one voice they praised the Lord God, rejoicing in that place.

20 The Lord saith unto us: This is the place of your leaders (or, high priests), the righteous men.

21 And I saw also another place over against that one, very squalid; and it was a place of punishment, and they that were punished and the angels that punished them had their raiment dark, according to the air of the place. 22 And some there were there hanging by their tongues; and these were they that blasphemed the way of righteousness, and under them was laid fire flaming and tormenting them. 23 And there was a great lake full of flaming mire, wherein were certain men that turned away from righteousness; and angels, tormentors, were set over them. 24 And there were also others, women, hanged by their hair above that mire which boiled up; and these were they that adorned themselves for adultery. And the men that were joined with them in the defilement of adultery were hanging by their feet, and had their heads hidden in the mire, and said: We believed not that we should come unto this place.

25 And I saw the murderers and them that were consenting to them cast into a strait place full of evil, creeping things, and smitten by those beasts, and so turning themselves about in that torment. And upon them were set worms like clouds of darkness. And the souls of them that were murdered stood and looked upon the torment of those murderers and said: O God, righteous is thy judgement. 26 And hard by that place I saw another strait place wherein the discharge and the stench of them that were in torment ran down, and there was as it were a lake there. And there sat women up to their necks in that liquor, and over against them many children which were born out of due time sat crying: and from them went forth rays of fire and smote the women in the eyes: and these were they that conceived out of wedlock (?) and caused abortion.

27 And other men and women were being burned up to their middle and cast down in a dark place and scourged by evil spirits, and having their entrails devoured by worms that rested not. And these were they that had persecuted the righteous and delivered them up. 28 And near to them again were women and men gnawing their lips and in torment, and having iron heated in the fire set against their eyes. And these were they that did blaspheme and speak evil of the way of righteousness. 29 And over against these were yet others, men and women, gnawing their tongues and having flaming fire in their mouths. And these were the false witnesses.

30 And in another place were gravel-stones sharper than swords or any spit, heated with fire, and men and women clad in filthy rags rolled upon them in torment. [This is suggested by the LXX of two passages in Job: xli. 30, his bed is of sharp spits; viii. 17, on an heap of stones doth he rest, and shall live in the midst of gravel-stones.] And these were they that were rich and trusted in their riches, and had no pity upon orphans and widows but neglected the commandments of God. 31 And in another great lake full of foul matter (pus) and blood and boiling mire stood men and women up to their knees And these were they that lent money and demanded usury upon usury.

32 And other men and women being cast down from a great rock (precipice) fell (came) to the bottom, and again were driven by them that were set over them, to go up upon the rock, and thence were cast down to the bottom and had no rest from this torment. And these were they that did defile their bodies behaving as women: and the women that were with them were they that lay with one another as a man with a woman. 33 And beside that rock was a place full of much fire, and there stood men which with their own hands had made images for themselves instead of God, [And beside them other men and women] having rods of fire and smiting one another and never resting from this manner of torment…. 34 And yet others near unto them, men and women, burning and turning themselves about and roasted as in a pan. And these were they that forsook the way of God.

This is the Revelation of Peter, which was included with many of our modern day books of the NT at the time of the early church, before the Revelation of John was accepted, even. The Revelation of John was the last of our current books to be accepted as canonical and when it was, the Revelation of Peter was still considered part of canon. The Revelation of Peter was one of them from the beginning. Clement of Alexandria (150 AD-215 AD) appears to have considered the Apocalypse of Peter to be holy scripture. So it was Scripture for almost 200 years at least.

When I say canonical I mean it informally, not according to the Roman canonization, but according to the acceptance by the bishops of the church at that time.

Though it was still considered divinely inspired Scripture (canonical), the Revelation of Peter fell out of use in the public reading in the churches, which was the only way reading of the Scriptures happened. It was finally excluded in the Roman canon, chiefly due to this, but I suspect also because of the blatant depiction of the punishments for sins.

As with all of our books of the NT we have various manuscripts for the Revelation of Peter, none of which are complete. Since the canon was established by the Roman church the Revelation of Peter has been termed apocryphal and they justified it by claiming it was unlikely it was written by Peter. This explains why it was not copied so often and why we do not have a complete manuscript of it today.

The Muratorian fragment, the earliest existing list of canonical sacred writings of the New Testament, which is assigned on internal evidence to the last quarter of the 2nd century (c. 175–200), gives a list of works read in the Christian churches that is similar to the modern accepted canon; however, it also includes the Apocalypse of Peter. The Muratorian fragment states: “the Apocalypses also of John and Peter only do we receive, which some among us would not have read in church.”