I find it very helpful to review some of the books of the New Testament so that you can be aware of the comparisons. The actual authorship of many of the books of the New Testament is in doubt, just as it is in many of the apocryphal books. For example, take a look at the four Gospels:
The above information is taken from The New Catholic Study Bible, St. Jerome edition. Similar information is found in numerous other study Bibles and the writings of multitudes of other biblical scholars.
As you can see, the Gospels were evidently written by men who did not have first-hand information about Christ. They were relating information that had been passed on to them by others. In at least one case (Luke), this information was passed on by Paul, who had never met the historical Jesus. The rest of the New Testament consists primarily of the writings of Paul.
When comparing the canonical and apocryphal New Testament writings, it is important to remember that it is not a case of first-hand versus second-hand information. It is merely a choice between doctrinal points of view, with the choice being made by men with a doctrinal bias (namely, the followers of Paul). Perhaps a clearer analogy would be if two groups of politicians, one conservative and one liberal, were to each write their suggested solutions to the nation's problems. When it comes time to choose which of these writings to include in a guide for future politicians, the committee that makes this decision is composed of either only conservative politicians or of only liberal politicians. It is not hard to imagine which works would be included (made canonical) and which would be rejected (made apocryphal). This situation is similar to the one that existed when the Bible was first formed.
The works presented in this section primarily present themselves as the words and deeds of St. Peter and St. James. As with many of the books that were included in the New Testament, the authorship of these works is not certain. However, it is safe to say that the content does represent an accurate portrayal of the preachings and beliefs of these men. They present quite a different view of Christianity than the one presented to most of us for most of our lives. When reading this information, it important to remember that it was written by the followers of those who had known and been Yeshua during His ministry here on Earth. They passed on to others ideas that they believed had been passed on to them by Christ himself. These ideas represent what they felt would be the foundation of the church that Christ had come to establish.
Clement was St. Peter's hand-picked successor and much of the material that follows is from the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions. In the works, much is said concerning a doctrinal battle between Peter and a magician named Simon. Magus. Scholars are certain that Simon is a pseudonym for St. Paul and that the disputes mentioned are really between Peter and Paul. In writing about this matter G. Strecker states:
It is true that in the basic writing the statements in question are directed against Simon Magus, and in this way veiled; nevertheless the allusions to citations from the Pauline letters, above all to the discussion between Paul and Peter in Antioch (Galatians 2:11ff), the designation of the magician as a missionary to the Gentiles, and not least the scarcely disguised attitude of the Epistula Petri (the letter from Peter to James that I mentioned earlier) show that in the Kerygmata Petrou (preaching of Peter) source they are leveled against Paul. (Apostolic Pseudepigrapha, p. 108)
Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Professor of Religious History, in Germany, and a recognized expert on matters dealing with St. Paul concurs:
This conflict is developed to its full extreme in the presentation of the Kerygmata Petrou, which reproduces similarly the point of view of the Judaistic opponents of Paul. Their old enemy here appears under the pseudonym 'Simon." This "Simon who Is also Paul..." (Jewish Christianity, p. 51)
As you can see, these are only a few examples which reveal to you the opinion of the scholarly community that there seems to be a consensus that the mentioned Simon is indeed Paul in these writings. The question that came to my mind was why these early Christian writers would not identify Paul directly. After some thought, a possible reason became very obvious.
Others are of the opinion that the followers of Peter and James believed that they had been given the responsibility of conveying Christ's message to the world. They found themselves in a position where Paul (whom they considered to be a false apostle and an enemy of Christ) had somehow gained ascendancy and had taken over the leadership of the Christian church. This being the case, a direct attack on Paul would mean the certain condemnation of their writings and would eliminate any chance of having their (Christ's) message included within the canon of the church. At the time this material was put into written form, both Paul and Peter were dead. Therefore, the issue of personalities was not important; the attempted preservation of what they considered to be the true message of Christ was. By using Simon as a veiled reference to Paul, they must have felt that they least had a chance to present their all-important doctrinal messages and to have Christ's heavenly sent message yet be presented to the intended recipients. Unfortunately, this attempt failed an the Paulinist faction succeeded in suppressing this vital information.
In previous letters in this series, you read the New Testaments version of Saul's persecution of the early church, as presented in Acts by Paul's friend Luke. In this version, Saul plays a minor role (holding the cloaks of those who were throwing the stones). The worst that is said of him is that he consented to Stephen's death. In the Clementine Recognitions (Book 1, Chapter LXX), our introduction to Saul is a bit more dramatic. In this version of Acts, Saul instigates a riot within the temple and attempts to murder the Bishop, James (the brother of Christ), by throwing him down the temple steps. James has just spent seven days persuading people to be baptized:
And when matters were at that point that they should come and be baptized, some one of our enemies (Saul), [ A note in the original manuscript indicates that the enemy" referred to this passage is Saul. All major interpreters seem to be in agreement on this point.] entering the temple with a few men, began to cry out, and to say, 'What mean ye, O men of Israel? Why are you so easily hurried on? Why are ye led headlong by most miserable men, who are deceived by Simon, a magician?" While he was thus speaking, and adding more to the same effect, and while James the bishop was refuting him, he began to excite the people and to raise a tumult, so that the people might not be able to hear what was said. Therefore he began to drive all into contusion with shouting, and to undo what had been arranged with much labor, and at the same time to reproach the priests and to enrage them with revillings and abuse, and, like a madman, to excite every one to murder, saying 'What do ye? Why do ye hesitate? Oh, sluggish and inert, why do we not lay hands upon them, and pull all these fellows to pieces?" When he had said this, he first, seizing a strong brand from the after, set the example of smiting. Then others also, seeing him, were carried away with like madness. Then ensued a tumult on either side, of the beating and the beaten. Much blood is shed; there Is a confused flight, in the midst of which that enemy (Saul) attacked James, and threw him headlong from the top of the steps; and supposing him to be dead, he cared not to inflict further violence upon him.
What a difference between being a consenting bystander to the stoning of Stephen and being the leader of a riot and attempting to murder Christ" brother, the Bishop James. Also remember that if the followers of Peter and James had been the ones to choose what to include in the Bible and what not to include, the above version of Acts would be the one in the New Testament. The Lukan version would be listed in some obscure books as a pure fabrication in interest of the Pauline forces.
As discussed in an earlier portion of these articles, Pauls claim to apostleship rests solely upon his alleged conversion on the road to Damascus. As you have seen from evidence found in the New Testament, it is possible to cast serious doubt upon this very important claim. The writings of the followers of Peter and James present an even more critical view of this supposed event. The following dialogue between Peter and Simon (Paul) is taken from the Clementine Homilies. Paul is arguing that a vision (such as that claimed by Paul) is a more accurate way to learn the wished off Christ than a face to face communication with Christ (such as that experience by Peter and the other Apostles). Paul is speaking:
You professed that you had well understood the doctrines and deeds of your teacher because you saw them before you with your own eyes, and heard them with your own ears, and that is not possible for any other to have anything similar by vision or apparition. But I shall show that this is false. He who hears any one with his own ears, is not altogether fully assured of the truth of what Is said; for his mind has to consider whether he is wrong or not, Inasmuch as he is a man as far as appearance goes. But apparition not merely presents an object to view, but inspires him who sees it with confidence, for It comes from God. Now reply first to this. (Homily XVII, 13)
Peter, after discussing the impossibility of a person knowing whether a vision comes from God or from the devil points to a quote from the Old Testament that shows that God speaks directly to his most essential messengers:
Moses had married a Cushite woman, and Miriam and Aaron criticized him for a. They said, "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn't he also spoken through us?, The Lord heard what they said. Suddenly, the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam," want the three of you to come out to the Tent of my presence." They went, and the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance of the Tent, and called out, "Aaron! Miriam!" The two of them stepped forward, and the Lord said, "Now hear what I have to say! When there are prophets among you, I reveal myself to them in visions and speak to them in dreams. It is different when I speak with my servant Moses; I have put him In charge of all my people Israel. So I speak to him face-to-face, clearly and not In riddles; he has even seen my form! How dare you speak against my servant Moses?" (Numbers 12:1-8)
Peter then argues that impious (evil) men sometimes have visions:
And let no one say, "No one who Is Impious sees a vision when awake." That Is false. Nebuchadnezzar himself, having ordered three men to be cast Into fire, saw a fourth when he looked Into the furnace, and said, "I see the fourth as the Son of God." And nevertheless, though they saw apparitions, visions, and dreams, they were Impious. Thus, we cannot Infer with absolute certainty that the man who has seen visions, and dreams, and apparitions, Is undoubtedly pious. For In the case of the pious man, the truth gushes up natural and pure in his mind, not worked up through dreams, but granted to the good through Intelligence. (Homily XVII, 17)
Finally, Peter levels his most telling argument against Paul's claim of apostleship through a vision:
If, then, our Yeshua appeared to you in a vision, made himself known to you, and spoke to you, It was as one who Is enraged with an adversary; and this Is the reason why It was through visions and dreams, or through revelations that were from without, that He spoke to you. But can any one be rendered fit for instruction through apparitions? And if you will say, "It is possible," then I ask, "Why did our teacher abide and discourse a whole year to those of us who were awake?" And how are we to believe your word, when you tell us that He appeared to you? And how did He appear to you, when you entertain opinions contrary to His teaching? But If you were seen and taught by Him, and became His apostle for a single hour, proclaim His utterances, Interpret His sayings, love His apostles, contend not with me who companied with Him. For In direct opposition to me, who am Arm rock, the foundation of the church, you now stand. If you were not opposed to me, you would not accuse me, and revile the truth proclaimed by me, in order that I may not be believed when I state what I myself have heard with my own ears from the Lord, as if I were evidently a person that was condemned and in bad repute. But It you say that I am condemned, you bring an accusation against God, who revealed the Christ to me, and you inveigh against him who pronounced me blessed on account of the revelation. But If, Indeed, you really wish to work In the cause of truth, learn first of all from us what we have learned from Him, and, becoming a disciple of the truth, become a fellow worker with us. (Homily XVII, 19)
In previous articles, I presented Paul's attack on Peter in Galatians 2:11. At that time it was stated that it would be interesting to hear Peter's reply to that attack. Most scholars seem to agree that the reference above to Paul accusing and condemning Peter refers to the episode described in Galatians. In the letter of Peter to James, Peter once again denounces the false accusation that is made about him in Galatians:
And Indeed some have attempted, whilst I am still alive, to distort my words by Interpretations of many sorts, AS IF I TAUGHT THE DISSOLUTION OF THE LAW AND, ALTHOUGH I WAS OF THIS OPINION, DID NOT EXPRESS IT OPENLY. But that may God Forbid! (Epistula Petri 2:4)
I was certain that Peter would have made a reply to the attack leveled at him by Paul in Galatians, and I am happy that some of the texts have survived and that I was fortunate enough to come across them.