A Fourth Century Parody
The Non-Canonical "Act of Peter" (Coptic)
Web Publication by Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
The Coptic Parody that is known as the "The Act of Peter"
Acts of Peter From "The Apocryphal New Testament" M.R. James-Translation and Notes Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924 THE COPTIC FRAGMENT This is preserved separately in an early papyrus manuscript (fourth-fifth century) now at Berlin; the other contents of it are Gnostic writings which have not yet been published. I follow C. Schmidt's rendering of it. It has a title at the end:
On the first day of the week, that is, on the Lord's day, a multitude gathered together, and they brought unto Peter many sick that he might heal them.
And one of the multitude adventured to say unto Peter: Lo, Peter, in our presence thou hast made many blind to see and the deaf to hear and the lame to walk, and hast succoured the weak and given them strength: but wherefore hast thou not succoured thy daughter, the virgin, which grew up beautiful and hath believed in the name of God?
For behold, her one side is wholly palsied, and she lieth there stretched out in the corner helpless. We see them that have been healed by thee: thine own daughter thou hast neglected.
But Peter smiled and said unto him: My son, it is manifest unto God alone wherefore her body is not whole. Know then that God is not weak nor powerless to grant his gift unto my daughter: but that thy soul may be convinced, and they that are here present may the more believe - then he looked unto his daughter and said to her: Raise thyself up from thy place, without any helping thee save Jesus only, and walk whole before all these, and come unto me. And she arose and came to him; and the multitude rejoiced at that which was come to pass. Then said Peter unto them: Behold, your heart is convinced that God is not without strength concerning all things that we ask of him.
Then they rejoiced yet more and praised God. And Peter said to his daughter: Go unto thy place, and lay thee down and be again in thine infirmity, for this is expedient for me and for thee.
And the maiden went back and lay down in her place and was as beforetime: and the whole multitude wept, and entreated Peter to make her whole.
But Peter said unto them: As the Lord liveth, this is expedient for her and for me.
For on the day when she was born unto me I saw a vision, and the Lord said unto me: Peter, this day is a great temptation born unto thee, for this daughter will bring hurt unto many souls if her body continue whole. But I thought that the vision did mock me.
Now when the maiden was ten years old, a stumbling-block was prepared for many by reason of her. And an exceeding rich man, by name Ptolemaeus, when he had seen the maiden with her mother bathing, sent unto her to take her to wife; but her mother consented not. And he sent oft-times to her, and could not wait. [Here a leaf is lost: the sense, however, is not hard to supply. Augustine speaks (quoting Apocryphal Acts) of a daughter of Peter struck with palsy at the prayer of her father. Ptolemaeus, unable to win the maiden by fair means, comes and carries her off. Peter hears of it and prays God to protect her. His prayer is heard. She is struck with palsy on one side of her body. Then the text resumes.] The servants of Ptolemaeus brought the maiden and laid her down before the door of the house and departed.
Just to recap.
Peter prays to his God to protect her from harm.
Peter's God strikes her down with the debilitating palsy.
How is this going to help?
Well ... so she cannot make love.
But when I perceived it, I and her mother, we went down and found the maiden, that one whole side of her body from her toes even to her head was palsied and withered: and we bore her away, praising the Lord which had preserved his handmaid from defilement and shame and (corruption?). This is the cause of the matter, why the maiden continueth so unto this day.
Now, then, it is fitting for you to know the end of Ptolemaeus. He went home and sorrowed night and day over that which had befallen him, and by reason of the many tears which he shed, he became blind. And when he had resolved to rise up and hang himself, lo, about the ninth hour of the day, he saw a great light which enlightened the whole house, and heard a voice saying unto him: Ptolemaeus, God hath not given thee the vessels for corruption and shame, and yet more doth it not become thee which hast believed in me to defile my virgin, whom thou shalt know as thy sister, even as if I were unto you both one spirit (sic). But rise up and go quickly unto the house of the apostle Peter, and thou shalt see my glory; he shall make known unto thee what thou must do. But Ptolemaeus was not negligent, and bade his servants show him the way and bring him unto me. And when they were come to me, he told me all that had befallen him by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then did he see with the eyes of his flesh, and with the eyes of his soul, and much people believed (hoped) in Christ: and he did them good and gave them the gift of God. Thereafter Ptolemaeus died, departing out of this life, and went unto his Lord: and when he made his will he bequeathed a piece of land in the name of my daughter, because through her he had believed in God and was made whole.
But I unto whom the disposition thereof fell, exercised it with great carefulness: I sold the land, and God alone knoweth neither I nor my daughter (received the price). I sold the land and kept nought back of the price, but gave all the money unto the poor.
Know therefore, thou servant of Jesus Christ, that God directeth (?) them that are his, and prepareth good for every one of them, although we think that God hath forgotten us.
Therefore now, brethren, let us be sorrowful and watch and pray, and so shall the goodness of God look upon us, whereon we wait.
And yet further discourse did Peter hold before them all, and glorified the name of Christ the Lord and gave them all of the bread: and when he had distributed it, he rose up and went unto his house.
The fourth century author of this "Act of Peter" is a parodist.
The head of the "christian apostles" is depicted as demented.
He heals the multitude but keeps his daughter in her infirmity.
He has forgotten that his daughter has a life.
He is concerned with the ministry of healing.
But he forgets his own daughter.
Peter will not permit his daughter to heal and love life ...
He has some deep psychological problem.