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Title: ‘The Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of Peter : a tradition-historical study of the Akhmîm Gospel Fragment’
Author: Johnston, Jeremiah J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2748 1318
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2012
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The resurrection of Jesus lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. Apart from its proclamation the movement would have never continued after Jesus’ crucifixion. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus initiated an interesting and developing history of interpretation that entailed clarification, elaboration, and apologetic, usually in response to scepticism and sometimes severe criticism. The present thesis focuses on the history of the understanding of Jesus’ resurrection, particularly as it came to expression in the second century, especially in reference to a work known as the Gospel of Peter. Such critical study is necessary, for the resurrection account in this gospel text has been neglected. Even in Paul Foster’s recently published major study, the resurrection is not discussed to any significant degree. This investigation, however, cannot simply begin with the early Church’s proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus; it must investigate the antecedents of this idea, for these antecedents shaped in important ways how the idea was understood. The thesis proper devotes two chapters (Chapters Two and Three) to the discovery and early assessment of the Akhmîm gospel fragment, a fragment scholars at once assumed was the Gospel of Peter, a writing that was condemned by Bishop Serapion at the end of the second century. An important purpose of the thesis is to test this assumption, show how tenuous it is, and to propose better criteria for determining the date and location of the text, of which the Akhmîm fragment is a part. But before directly addressing this difficult question it is necessary to review the emergence of the resurrection idea. This will allow us with greater nuance to place the Akhmîm gospel fragment in its context. Two chapters (Chapters Four and Five) are devoted to the emergence of the resurrection idea in Israel’s antiquity and in the Second Temple (or intertestamental) period. Chapter Four traces the emergence of afterlife ideas in the old Scriptures of what now constitute the Hebrew Bible. Special attention is given to texts that may hint at bodily resurrection. Chapter Five traces the emergence of resurrection ideas in texts that begin to circulate in the two centuries or so before the time of Jesus. In these texts the hope of bodily resurrection is explicit. Chapter Six examines the resurrection idea in the writings of the New Testament looking at teaching about the resurrection, stories of resuscitation, and the resurrection of Jesus himself. Special attention is given to the New Testament’s interpretation of passages from the Hebrew Bible in support of the resurrection idea. Chapters Seven and Eight return to the question of the Akhmîm gospel fragment inquiring on what basis this fifth-century text can be identified with the second-century Gospel of Peter and, apart from such identification, can be dated to the second century. It is argued that the Akhmîm fragment can be dated to the second half of the second century not by appeals to the Oxyrhynchus texts 2949 and 4009 but by a comparative analysis of a number of texts and writers from the second century. This analysis demonstrates that the Akhmîm fragment exemplifies an apologetic that addresses second-century Jewish and pagan criticisms of the resurrection narratives of the older New Testament gospels. Comparative analysis also demonstrates that the apologetic of the Akhmîm gospel fragment was also intended to assure second-century Christians that the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus rested upon actual eyewitness testimony of the resurrection event itself, not merely the discovery of the empty tomb and later reports of resurrection appearances. The Akhmîm fragment does this by asserting that hostile witnesses—Roman guards and Jewish elders—observed the risen Jesus emerge from the tomb. The resurrection narrative of the Akhmîm fragment is thus unique, for the New Testament gospels say nothing about humans—believers or sceptics— observing the resurrection of Jesus. The apologetic of the Akhmîm gospel narrative is designed to counter the scepticism and polemic that emerged in the second century. It also reflects Roman anti- Semitism that intensified in the aftermath of the great Jewish revolt that ended in 135 CE. The thesis also shows that both the polemic and the apologetic originated for the most part in the eastern Empire, most likely Syria itself, where the Gospel of Peter probably originated (and where Serapion lived). All pertinent elements point to a date of composition in the second century and probably in the east. It also is shown that the Akhmîm fragment’s greatly embellished scene at Jesus’ tomb coheres with the Scheintod (“apparent death”) device that became very popular in Greek romantic novels in the second century. The thesis provides a critical foundation on which scholarship concerned with the Akhmîm gospel fragment may build, for heretofore this scholarship has for the most part merely assumed that this important fragment dated to the second century. It is concluded that the Akhmîm gospel constitutes a fragment of a second-century gospel text that probably circulated under the name of Peter. This conclusion critically supports the long-held assumption that the Akhmîm text is a fragment of the Gospel of Peter condemned by Bishop Serapion
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available