Question: "What is the Acts of Peter?"

Answer: The Acts of Peter is one of several works that claim to describe the actions of the apostles after the resurrection of Jesus. Others ascribe history to John, Andrew, Thomas, Paul, Philip, Barnabas, and so forth. None of these books were accepted by the early church. Instead, they were considered heresy by the early church fathers, since they taught aberrant doctrines. The Acts of Peter and similar works appear to have been written in the second and third centuries to promote Gnosticism.

The Acts of Peter is nothing more than an interesting fiction, not a narrative that can be accepted in the same way as inspired Scripture. At best, certain details in the Acts of Peter and other Gnostic writings support traditions about the apostles, but nothing in them can be considered truly reliable.

The Acts of Peter follows patterns typical of late apocryphal accounts of the apostles. It contains descriptions of miracles far “flashier” and more theatrical than those recorded in the biblical gospels or the book of Acts. The Acts of Peter was written no earlier than the end of the second century. This was well after the rest of the New Testament had been completed and distributed. The book also encourages themes common to Gnosticism such as a disdain for the body, sexuality, and all things material.

One of the few noteworthy inclusions of the Acts of Peter is its reference to Peter’s unusual crucifixion. This text is among the earliest written accounts that Peter was crucified upside down. Passages mentioning Peter’s choice to be crucified in a different manner than Jesus are found in fragments of other ancient documents as well, but such writings are often found alone, separate from the other content included in the Acts of Peter. Historians believe written accounts of Peter’s crucifixion might have predated the apocryphal stories, but there is no other corroboration of the event available.