Many are familiar with the walking, talking cross in the Gospel of Peter, but I include the relevant text here for those unacquainted:
But when the morning of the Sabbath dawned, a crowd from Jerusalem and the region round about came that they might see the sealed sepulcher. But in the night in which the Lord’s day dawned, as the soldiers kept guard two by two at their post, there was a great voice in heaven. And they saw the heavens opened, and two men descend from there in a great brightness and approach the tomb. But that stone which laid at the entrance started of itself to roll and move sidewards, and the tomb was opened and both young men entered.
As those soldiers saw this, they awakened the centurion and the elders, because they also were there to keep watch. And while they were telling what they had seen, again they saw three men coming out from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them, and the head of the two reaching to heaven, but that of the one who was led by them overpassing the heavens. And they heard a voice out of the heavens, saying: “Have you preached to those who sleep?” And a response was heard from the cross: “Yes.” (Gospel of Peter 9:34-10:42)
Back in 2010 Mark Goodacre, on a blog post, offered a novel proposal for explaining the unusual nature of this scene. He suggested that we should “conjecturally emend the text from σταυρον to σταυρωθεντα, from ‘cross‘ to ‘crucified‘, so that it is no longer a wooden cross that comes bouncing out of the tomb but rather Jesus, the ‘crucified one’ himself.” This would result in the latter half of the passage reading as follows:
And while they were telling what they had seen, again they saw three men coming out from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and the crucified one following them, and the head of the two reaching to heaven, but that of the one who was led by them overpassing the heavens. And they heard a voice out of the heavens, saying: “Have you preached to those who sleep? And a response was heard from the crucified one: “Yes.”
Please read Goodacre’s post for more of his argumentation, as he offers reasons in support of his claims.
Paul Foster has just published an article in the Journal of Theological Studies, attempting to rebut Goodacre’s proposal: “Do Crosses Walk and Talk? A Reconsideration of Gospel of Peter 10.39–42”, JTS 64 (2013): 89-104. Here is Foster’s abstract:
There has been a recent upsurge in support for a conjectural emendation in the text of Gos. Pet. 10.39, 42. The proposed change suggests that instead of a moving and talking cross (σταυρόν), the text should be emended to refer to the crucified one (σταυρωθέντα). The motivation for the change is that as it stands the text ‘is almost unbelievably absurd’. This essay seeks to rebut that suggestion on three levels. First, the proposed emendation introduces more problems than it solves. Secondly, elsewhere in the extant portion of the Gospel of Peter there are other indications that the author heightens miraculous elements, especially in relation to inanimate objects becoming animate. Thirdly, while the notion of a walking and talking cross may offend modern sensibilities, it is a plausible idea in its ancient context, and other texts from the period also contain descriptions of moving and articulate crosses.
I am reading Foster’s article and will post my thoughts on this question next week. In the meantime, any thoughts from readers?
P. S. – Goodacre has recently posed the question of whether it is appropriate to respond to blog posts with a peer-reviewed article and people seem divided on the issue (see the comments section).