Acts of Peter
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, under the title Actus Petri cum Simone. 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 among academics points to its being based on the Acts of John, and traditionally both works 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. Some versions give accounts of stories on the theme of a woman or women who prefer paralysis to sex; sometimes, for instance in a version from the Berlin Codex, the woman is the daughter of Peter. The text condemns Simon Magus, a figure associated with gnosticism, who appears to have concerned the writer of the text greatly. Peter preaches that Simon is performing magic in order to convert followers through deception. In Peter's outrage, he challenges Simon to a contest in order to prove whose works are from a divine source and whose are merely trickery. It is said that Simon Magus takes flight and Peter strikes him down with the power of God and prays that Simon be not killed but that he be badly injured. When the Magus falls from the sky, he suffers a broken leg in three places, and the converted believers of Peter stone him from the city. The Acts then continue to say that he was taken to Terracina to one Castor "And there he was sorely cut (Lat. by two physicians), and so Simon the angel of Satan came to his end.". Following this incident, Peter is going to flee the city; however, he sees an apparition of Jesus and takes it as a message that he must stay and be crucified to see Jesus again in Heaven. Peter requests to be crucified upside-down because he does not believe that a man is worthy to be killed in the same manner as Jesus Christ.
These concluding chapters describing Peter's crucifixion 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.
- Richard Adelbert Lipsius, Maximilian Bonnet:Acta apostolorum apokryphae pars prior, Hermann Mendelsohn, Leipzig 1891. Greek und Latin text.
- Bernhard Pick:The Apocryphal Acts of Paul, Peter, John, Andrew and Thomas. The Open Court Publishing Co., Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd, Chicago, London 1909.
- Elias Avery Lowe: Codices Latini Antiquiores: a palaeographical guide to Latin manuscripts prior to the ninth century. Ed. under the auspices of the Union Académique Internationale for the American Council of Learned Societies and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Vol. 4. Clarendon, Oxford 1947, Reprint Zeller, Osnabrück 1988. Description of codex vercelli 158.