The Letter of Peter to Philip and its Message of Gnostic Revelation and Christian Unity

in Vigiliae Christianae
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Abstract

In this article I discuss the Letter of Peter to Philip, one of the gnostic documents found in the Nag Hammadi collection, as well as in the recently published Codex Tchacos. In prior work on the Letter, questions have been raised with regard to its overall coherence, the precise nature of its relationship to the canonical book of Acts, and the reasons for including it in Nag Hammadi Codex VIII in late antiquity. In my response to these questions, I demonstrate that it is a coherent work; that it is solidly grounded in a specific (albeit somewhat fictional) historical context, namely that of Acts 7-8; and that its presence in codex VIII makes good sense given the codex's underlying logic. The Letter has also been treated in the past as a Petrine document; I demonstrate that in fact it is extremely indebted to a Pauline view of revelation and enlightenment, drawing specifically on the account of Paul's revelation in Acts 9. Thus in contrast to older views that saw the Letter as an incoherent, Petrine work making scattershot use of Lukan references and placed in codex VIII as “filler,” I demonstrate that it is a quite coherent, Pauline work that operates within a precise context in the Actsian historical plan, and that its presence in Codex VIII illuminates the logic underlying that codex's arrangement. In all of this, my emphasis is firmly on the narrative aspects of the frame story part of the Letter, rather than privileging the content of the esoteric revelation delivered by Jesus, as has been done in the past.

The Letter of Peter to Philip and its Message of Gnostic Revelation and Christian Unity

in Vigiliae Christianae

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