Christianity Knowledge Base

The Acts of Peter is one of the earliest of the apocryphal acts of the apostles. The majority of the text has survived only in the Latin translation of the Vercelli manuscript. It is mainly notable for a description of a miracle contest between Saint Peter and Simon Magus, and as the first record of the tradition that St. Peter was crucified head-down.

The Acts of Peter was originally composed in Greek during the second half of the 2nd century, probably in Asia Minor. Consensus amongst academics points to it being based on the Acts of John, and traditionally both that and this work were said to be written by Leucius Charinus, whom Epiphanius identifies as the companion of John.

In the text Peter performs miracles such as resurrecting smoked fish, and making dogs talk. The text condemns Simon Magus, a senior figure associated with gnosticism, who appears to have concerned the writer of the text greatly. Some versions give accounts of stories on the theme of a woman/women who prefer paralysis to sex, sometimes, including in a version from the Berlin Codex, the woman is the daughter of Peter.

It concludes describing Peter's martyrdom as upside-down crucifixion, a tradition that is first attested in this work. These concluding chapters are preserved separately as the Martyrdom of Peter in three Greek manuscripts and in Coptic (fragmentary), Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic, Armenian, and Slavonic versions. Because of this, it is sometimes proposed that the martyrdom account was the original text to which the preceding chapters were affixed.

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