Bart Ehrman, for all his sins, is the alchemist who turns dull textual criticism into the stuff of popular bestsellers. In today’s column for Huffpost Religion, Ehrman titillates readers with “accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus that did not make it into the New Testament”. One of his examples is from The Gospel of Peter:
The Giant Jesus and the Walking-Talking Cross. Remarkably, the Gospels of the New Testament do not tell the story of Jesus emerging from the tomb on Easter morning. But the Gospel of Peter does. In this text, discovered near the end of the nineteenth century, Jesus comes out of the tomb as tall as a mountain, supported by two angels, nearly as tall themselves. And behind them, from the tomb, there emerges the cross, which has a conversation with God in heaven, assuring him that the message of salvation has now gone to those in the underworld. How a Gospel like this was ever lost is anyone’s guess.
– Bart Ehrman, “What Didn’t Make It Into The Bible?”, The Huffington Post, 21 July 2011
Although Jesus is certainly gigantic in the Gospel of Peter, technically the ascending Jesus was angelic in height, not “giant”. Transformed into an angelomorphic form, Jesus is accompanied by those other angels who accompanied him on his ascent to heavenly glory. These angels are probably Gabriel and Michael, and two angels are often depicted as transporting the righteous to heaven (cf. Ascension of Isaiah 7.23; 2 Enoch 1.4-9; 24.1; Hermes, Vis 1.4.3). Angels by the first century AD could be really, really tall, as big as mountains – whereas Giants, as only half-breeds of angels and humans, would have been somewhere between human height (about 5-and-a-quarter feet tall) and angelic height.
Have a read of Ehrman’s column, where he concludes that, “however [these books that did not make it into the New Testament] are judged today, at one time they were considered by some of Jesus’ followers to be sacred Scripture.”