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Second Peter: Introduction, Argument, and Outline

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I. Introduction

A. The Author

From one perspective, this short epistle is the most disputed book in the NT canon as to authenticity. From another, the issue of authorship is already settled, at least negatively: the apostle Peter did not write this letter. The vast bulk of NT scholars adopts this second perspective without much discussion. In my perspective, though 2 Peter is extremely problematic, it should not rank as the most doubtful book of the canon: that ‘honor’ belongs to the pastoral epistles. There are a number of considerations which suggest that Peter did, indeed, write this book. Our discussion will begin with the external evidence, then move to a consideration of the internal.

1. External Evidence

The external evidence for 2 Peter has been regarded as weaker than for any other NT book. The first clear usage of 2 Peter qua 2 Peter was by Origen. Although Origen mentions doubts about its authenticity, he does not evaluate these doubts himself.1  Before Origen’s time, most scholars would say that no church father either quoted or alluded to 2 Peter. For example, E. A. Abbott argued that “Up to the time of Clement of Alexandria (i.e. c. 200) there is no trace of its existence.’2 But recently, Robert E. Picirilli has written an illuminating essay, “AIIusions to 2 Peter in the Apostolic Fathers,”3 in which he challenges such opinion. His conclusion is well worth quoting:

Three conclusions seem justified.

1. The possibility clearly exists that 2 Peter is reflected in several passages in the Apostolic Fathers. …real possibility obtains in at least twenty-two places, the level of likelihood ranging from merely possible to highly probable. The strongest possibilities have been found in 1 Clement, Pseudo Clement, Barnabas, and Hermas, with at least reasonable possibilities in Ignatius and the Martyrdom of Polycarp.

Among possible objections to this is that these allusions are not direct quotations. But such writings usually allude to biblical passages only indirectly, quoting from memory or paraphrasing the general thought. ...

Another possible objection is that Peter is not named as the source of these allusions. But this also is typical. For example, the Lake edition cites 1 Peter twenty-nine times in the Fathers (as compared to four for 2 Peter); in not one of these is Peter named. Romans is cited thirty-one times, and not one names Paul.

2. One thing has been proved, even if negative: one cannot dogmatically affirm that there certainly are no allusions to 2 Peter in the Apostolic Fathers; the common material is too obviously there.

Of course one can still debate the reason for that common material. The fact that it was there does not by itself show what the relationship between 2 Peter and the Fathers was. [Some argue that 2 Peter used the apostolic fathers; others that both the fathers and 2 Peter used a common source.] . . .

So be it; but those who choose either of these two explanations will have at least proved that their conviction of 2 Peter’s lateness is based on some grounds other than lack of possible allusions.

3. Following from the first two conclusions is this final one: the authenticity of 2 Peter will have to be debated on grounds other than whether the Apostolic Fathers knew it and alluded to it.4

In other words, a number of apostolic fathers (as well as others, such as Clement of Alexandria, Theophilus of Antioch, Aristides, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus) seem to allude to this letter. If so, then the external evidence for 2 Peter is not nearly as weak as has been supposed. In the least, Picirilli’s evidence needs to be given a full hearing by NT scholars, even if it might turn over the apple cart of one the assured results of higher criticism.

Although the Muratorian Canon omits any reference to either Petrine epistle, as we have suggested in our discussion of 1 Peter, it quite possibly had a lacuna at this point. All it can render, therefore, is an argument from silence.

Positively, Eusebius states that most regarded it as authentic, though he himself grouped it with the Antilegomena (significantly, he did not throw it in with the spurious books). Others who cite it are Firmillian of Caesarea, Hippolytus, and Jerome. Since Jerome regarded 2 Peter as authentic, no further doubts were expressed about it until modern times.

Three other comments are necessary about the external evidence. (1) If 2 Peter antedates Jude, then Jude would be the first document to cite material from this letter. Most scholars assume the opposite, but a decent case can be made for this view. (2) One of the reasons why 2 Peter may not have gained early acceptance might have been “the influence of the pseudo‑Petrine literature upon church opinion. If Gnostic groups had used Peter’s name to drive home their own particular tenets, this fact would cause the orthodox church to take particular care not to use any spurious Petrine epistles. Some of the more nervous probably regarded 2 Peter suspiciously for this reason . . .”5 (3) Even though all other works attributed to Peter were rejected by the church (save 1 Peter), “there is no evidence from any part of the early church that this epistle was ever rejected as spurious, in spite of the hesitancy which existed over its reception.”6

2. Internal Evidence

Coupled with the relative paucity of external evidence in behalf of Petrine authorship, NT scholars generally point out five types of internal problems which argue against authenticity: the personal allusions, historical problems (reference to the corpus Paulinum, the self-reference to the “second letter” in 3:1, etc.), literary problems (the use of Jude, alleged acquaintance with Paul’s letters), stylistic problems, and doctrinal problems.

a. The Case Against Authenticity

1) The Personal Allusions. In general, the personal allusions to Peter seem forced, as if to prove that the author truly was an eyewitness to the Lord Jesus (cf. 1:16ff.). As well, the reference in 1:14 to Peter’s death as predicted by the Lord looks suspiciously as though it depended on John 21:18-19. All of this has parallels in kind in the pseudepigraphic literature of the time.

2) Historical Problems. Guthrie notes five distinct historical problems in 2 Peter.

(1) The reference to Paul and his letters (3:15-16). “In all his letters” (3:16) sounds to some like a reference to the collected canonical works of Paul; and the linking of Paul’s letters to “the rest of scripture seems to elevate Paul’s epistles to a level of recognition which they did not attain until the early part of the second century.”7

(2) The reference in 3:1 in which 2 Peter is called “the second letter” that the author has written to the audience. In pseudepigraphic writings, writers would sometimes attach their documents to an earlier, authentic work in such a way. Further, if 1 Peter were not by Peter, but was written later—and if the reference is indeed to 1 Peter—then this is further evidence of the pseudepigraphical nature of this letter.

(3) The Sitz im Leben of 2 Peter seems to reflect the intense Gnostic activity of the second century, particularly in the references to the false teachers.

(4) The statement in 3:4, “ever since our fathers died,” seems to be a slip on the author’s part, for it strongly suggests that this epistle was written after the first generation of Christians had passed away.

(5) “Your apostles” in 3:2 seems to be a strange expression for an apostle to make, since it sounds too distant and detached from the apostles, as though the writer were not one of them.

3) Literary Problems. There are two distinct literary problems here.

(1) The use of Jude: Why would Peter, an apostle, so heavily borrow from Jude in chapters 2–3? This is both a literary problem and a chronological problem, for if Jude was written after Peter’s lifetime (as most scholars assume), then if 2 Peter uses Jude, it cannot be by Peter.

(2) In 3:15, the author mentions that “Paul… has written to you.” The double problem here is what letter did Paul write to this audience and why does Peter now address them?

4) Stylistic Problems. This is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back for those wrestling with the authenticity issue. First and foremost, the stylistic differences between 1 Peter and 2 Peter are so great (1 Peter being relatively good Greek, 2 Peter being relatively poor Greek) that to suppose that one man penned both letters—and both within perhaps a few months’ time and to the same audience (as 3:1 suggests)—stretches credibility to the breaking point. Further, the Greek of 2 Peter is stilted and, with its high proportion of hapax legomena8 it gives the impression of having been learned from books rather than from life.9 This first consideration argues against the same author for both 1 and 2 Peter; this second consideration argues specifically against Petrine authorship for 2 Peter.

5)  Doctrinal Problems. There are not only thematic differences between the two Petrine epistles, but a number of Greek expressions from philosophy seem too sophisticated for a man of Peter’s educational background.

Of these five groups of problems, the historical (especially mention of Paul’s works), literary (use of Jude), and stylistic problems are the weightiest.

b. The Case for Authenticity

The arguments in behalf of authenticity will proceed along three lines: internal claims, evaluation of objections to authenticity, additional positive considerations.

1) Internal Claims. Internal claims, of course, do not prove authorship. What they do, however, is set up a standard which is falsifiable. Thus, since Hebrews is anonymous, no intent to deceive can be detected as to authorship. On the other hand, in the case of 2 Peter, as Guthrie notes, “there can be no doubt that the author intends his readers to understand that he is the apostle Peter.”10 Anonymity is not the issue; pseudonymity vs. authenticity is what is at stake.

In 1:1 the author identifies himself as Συμεὼν Πέτρος, “Symeon Peter.”11 In our view, an imitator of Peter, writing in the second century, would hardly use this spelling;12 especially since he was trying to link his letter with 1 Peter where the simple Πέτρος was used.13 In 1:14 the author speaks of his own death as coming soon (or quickly) and that it was revealed to him by the Lord. In 1:16-18 he claims to have been an eyewitness of the Transfiguration. 3:1 refers to a former letter which he had written to the same audience. In 3:15 he seems to place Paul on his level, not above him, by calling him “our beloved brother.”

Although these personal allusions have been seen as forced and due to a much later time (especially 1:14), we will see that such a stance is not at all dictated by the evidence.

2) Evaluation of Objections to Authenticity

a) The Personal Allusions. At the outset it should be pointed out that just because pseudepigraphical writings frequently have personal allusions, this does not mean that all documents with personal allusions are pseudepigraphical! Otherwise every NT letter would have to be regarded with suspicion, except Hebrews and the Johannine letters. Only if the personal allusions are forced or due to hindsight should we regard them as arguing for inauthenticity.

We have already argued that “Symeon Peter” in 1:1 argues strongly for authenticity. “On the whole, the author’s name presents much greater difficulty for the pseudepigraphic writer than for Peter himself, who, in any case, would enjoy greater liberty in varying the form.”14

In 1:14, it is rather doubtful that the author is depending on John 21:18-19. Three considerations demonstrate this: (1) If Peter actually heard Jesus prophesy his death, Peter would of course know about it whether or not he had ever read John. (2) The possibility that Peter would soon (ταχινή) die does not at all have to be a hindsight kind of statement. Peter was already old by this time and may have simply recalled that Jesus’ words needed to be fulfilled (i.e., of a violent death). If his death was not to be of natural causes, it had better be soon! (3) As Bauckham points out, καθὼς καί (1:14)

introduces an additional fact which is compared with what precedes. The general sense of the passage must be: “I know that I am going to die soon—and this corresponds to Christ’s prophecy.” This would be a very odd way of saying: “I know that I am going to die soon because Christ has told me.” The passage must mean that, even apart from Christ’s revelation to him, Peter knows he must die soon.15

Hence, there is no reason to suspect that 1:14 is a statement made in light of John 21 or from the hindsight of history.

In 1:16-18 the reference to the Transfiguration seems quite natural and even incidental. Not only does it not correspond in form to the Synoptic accounts, suggesting an independent tradition,16 but the reference lacks embellishment such as is found in pseudepigraphical writings.17

Not only is there really nothing of substance in these personal allusions to deny authenticity, but they strike one, upon closer investigation, as the very kind of thing that only Peter would write. Further, the argument from personal allusions must be regarded as highly subjective, especially since it is the very lack of such that has caused some scholars to reject 1 Peter.18

b) Historical Problems. Once again, we will look at five distinct historical problems in our evaluation.

(1) The reference to Paul and his letters (3:15-16). “Many scholars… consider that the allusion to Paul tips the scales against Petrine authorship.”19 The double problem here is (a) a collection of Paul’s letters is already known and (b) Paul’s letters are considered on a par with the OT “scriptures.” Neither problem is really insurmountable for a date within Peter’s lifetime. First of all, in the expression ἐν πάσαις ἐπιστολαῖς (3:16) there is no real reason for seeing the corpus Paulinum. All that the expression requires is that the author is aware of some letters which Paul had written.

Second, although at first blush there does seem to be a problem in treating Paul’s letters as scripture,20 it is possible that the NT was treated as such from very early on. Bauckham points out that 2 Clement 14:2; 1 Tim 5:18; 2 Clement 2:4; Barnabas 4:14; and Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians 12:1 all place the NT alongside of the OT in treating it as scripture.21 He goes on to argue that “Apostolic writings were regarded as inspired and authoritative from the beginning …”22

This tack, however, seems unwarranted for the simple fact that not all of Paul’s letters are preserved for us. (Further, it is reading too much into these patristic comments.) This in the least implies that Paul’s readers did not immediately think that all of his letters were inspired. Bauckham does temper his view, however, when he produces evidence in extra-biblical literature that the term “scriptures” “need not . . . imply a canon of Scripture at all. [Hence, 2 Peter’s use of the term] does not at all require the conclusion that the author of 2 Peter knows a NT canon.23

The basic problem with Bauckham’s approach is that he is unwilling to allow the author of 2 Peter to have any insight into Paul before his contemporaries do. In other words, 2 Peter is not permitted to be original or new. But if this letter were by the apostle Peter, we might well expect him to have something fresh to say. On this score, Guthrie ably argues:

Admittedly, the Apostolic Fathers do not as explicitly place Paul on the same level of inspiration as the Old Testament, but it may be claimed that this is implicit…. To place 2 Peter in the vanguard of this movement may at first seem a reasonable hypothesis, but it does not explain why this writer is so much in advance of his contemporaries in his regard for Paul’s writings. Is it not more reasonable to suggest that in the apostolic period Peter may have recognized the value of Paul’s epistles even more fully than the later sub-apostolic Fathers?24

This further fits into the paucity of external evidence for 2 Peter, for if 2 Peter were not widely read in the early part of the second century, this letter would have little impact on shaping the church’s opinion about Paul’s letters.

Third, there is new evidence that Paul’s letters were indeed the first portion of the NT to obtain canonical status. In particular, the evidence suggests that a collection of Paul’s letters may well have existed in the 60s CE. In a recent article,25 Young Kyu Kim argues that Ì46—the earliest Greek manuscript of the corpus Paulinum—has been wrongly dated by NT scholars. It almost universally has received a date of c. 200 CE. Kim believes that his evidence “strongly suggests that Ì46 was written some time before the reign of the emperor Domitian”26—that is, before 81 CE. Kim gives several strands of evidence for this hypothesis, all of a palaeographical nature: (1) the ligature forms of Ì46 do not occur later than the first century; (2) “all literary papyri similar to Ì46 in its exact style… have been assigned to an early date [i.e., no later than c. 150 CE]”27; and (3) Ì46 belongs to the earlier type of such styles. Kim then gives three counter-arguments to a later date: although the manuscript omits iota adscripts, has nomina sacra, and transliterates the Latin name Σιλβανός (three points which pointed earlier scholars to a date of 200), other first century papyri have been found to do the same.28 If Kim’s redating of Ì46 is correct,29 among other things it does indicate that a collection of Paul’s letters30 existed no later than the 70s CE. Such a collection of Paul’s letters also implies that they were regarded with some authority, though to say that they already attained a level equal to that of the OT is more than the evidence allows. Nevertheless, in the least, this new dating of Ì46 seems to squelch any argument against Petrine authorship of 2 Peter on the basis of 2 Peter 3:15-16.31 However, this new dating is probably incorrect.32

(2) Some take 3:1 to be a reference to some letter now lost. This, however, seems to be an unnecessary expedient. The vast bulk of NT scholars regard the verse as referring to 1 Peter.33 Although this is used to argue that 2 Peter emulates other pseudepigraphical works which attach themselves to earlier documents, there are two factors which argue strongly against this supposition here.

First, the reference in 2 Peter 3:1 “is unlike the practice of most second-century writers of apostolic pseudepigrapha. In cases where writings attributed to their pseudonyms were extant, these writers usually echo such writings in their own pseudonymous productions.”34  But 2 Peter is not very much like 1 Peter, as all would agree. In this respect the appeal to pseudepigraphic parallels is found wanting. Either the author was a singularly inept forger, or he was indeed Peter!35 In our view that 1 Peter was written for Peter by an amanuensis, the differences between the two epistles is satisfactorily explained.

Second, not only is 2 Peter not based (literarily) on 1 Peter, but it is based (assuming that the borrowing went in this direction) on Jude! Again, it is incredulous to think of a pseudepigrapher claiming that his is the second letter, then showing little or no acquaintance with the first letter his is purportedly following and, at the same time, basing his work on another document which never claimed Peter as its author! Not only would this betray incredible incompetence on the part of the forger36 but it finds absolutely no parallels in the pseudepigraphical literature.

(3) The Sitz im Leben seems to reflect intense Gnostic attacks. This is hardly a strong argument for “all the data that can be collected from 2 Peter (and Jude) are insufficient to identify the movement with any known second-century system… Indeed, it may with good reason be claimed that a second-century pseudepigraphist, writing during the period of developed Gnosticism, would have given more specific evidence of the period to which he belonged and the sect that he was combating.”37

(4) The statement in 3:4 (“ever since the fathers died”) need not be a reference to the death of the apostles or first generation Christians. In fact, “nowhere else in the New Testament nor in the Apostolic Fathers is πατέρες used of Christian ‘patriarchs’ and the more natural interpretation would be to take it as denoting the Jewish patriarchs, in which case the statement would amount to a rather exaggerated declaration of the changelessness of things.”38

(5) “Your apostles” in 3:2 is not necessarily cold and detached; in fact, if Peter is now writing to the Pauline churches, “your apostles” would be an apt description of Paul and his associates. Indeed, it may be a subtle way of indicating that Paul and his colleagues truly were sent by the Lord—an implication which the author exploits clearly in 3:15-16. If our reconstruction of the occasion for 1–2 Peter is correct, this statement has all the earmarks of authenticity, so much so that it is difficult to see it as being in any sense an argument for inauthenticity.

c) Literary Problems.

(1) The use of Jude: Why would Peter, an apostle, so heavily borrow from Jude in chapters 2-3? This is both a literary problem and a chronological problem, for if Jude was written after Peter’s lifetime (as most scholars assume), then if 2 Peter uses Jude, it cannot be by Peter. Yet, the independent evidence for a late date of Jude (i.e., evidence apart from the assumption that Jude was used by 2 Peter) is virtually non-existent. And if Jude is early (i.e., sometime before 64 CE), the literary question alone remains. One of the interesting points which has gone unnoticed is that if Peter is the (ultimate) author of both 1 Peter and 2 Peter, then his use of Jude in 2 Peter parallels, to some degree, his use of Paul’s writings in 1 Peter. Although the way in which these sources is used is quite different, the fact that both epistles are heavily dependent on earlier traditions may indeed tell us something of Peter’s modus operandi. As many scholars have pointed out, the writer of 1 Peter is not particularly creative or original. The same can be said for the writer of 2 Peter. If 2 Peter uses Jude, then, this in fact becomes a subtle argument in favor of Petrine authorship.39

One other argument should be mentioned here: It is not at all necessary to argue that 2 Peter used Jude. There is just as much likelihood that Jude used 2 Peter, for the following three reasons: (1) Jude tends to use the present tense in his description of the false teachers while 2 Peter tends to use the future tense (indicating that 2 Peter is dealing with them preemptively while Jude is dealing with a reality that has begun to take place);40 (2) Jude 17 may well be a reference to 2 Peter and, in turn, to “your apostles” (2 Peter 3:2): “remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ”41 and (3) “the most important part of Jude, which fulfills the author’s main purpose in writing, is the appeal (vv 20-23)… “ —hence, there is no grounds for wondering why Jude would have bothered to write a letter if most of its content was already part of 2 Peter.”42

(2) In 3:15, the author mentions that “Paul… has written to you.” The double problem here is what letter did Paul write to this audience and why does Peter now address them? Most NT scholars argue that this letter which Paul had written to the audience must now surely be lost. This still does not solve the problem of why Peter would write to this audience—a problem which is difficult for both those who favor Petrine authorship and those who do not. In our hypothesis, the difficulties not only disappear—they also argue very strongly for Petrine authorship. If Peter were writing something of a circular letter (see later discussion) to the Pauline churches of Asia Minor,43 then what Paul had written was more than one letter to these folks.44 A number of these epistles became incorporated into the canon (e.g., Ephesians, Colossians) while others may have been lost (Laodiceans). Further, if Paul’s letters had been loosely collected by this time, the reference to these Christians as recipients of Paul’s letters may be taken in a general way—i.e., they were among the churches which would regularly make copies of Paul’s letters for their own edification, even if some of the letters were not originally addressed to them. Finally, the reason why Peter would write to Paul’s churches is simply that Paul had died45and Peter wanted to make sure the Gentile mission did not lose its apostolic anchor.46

d) Stylistic Problems. The two problems here have to do with (1) the relation of 1 and 2 Peter, and (2) the style of 2 Peter considered by itself. The first issue suggests that two different authors are in view; the second suggests that Peter did not write 2 Peter.

(1) Not only does the author display virtually no awareness of the contents of 1 Peter,47 but the Greek of both epistles is quite different. Simply put, 1 Peter is good Greek while 2 Peter is not. Bauckham aptly summarizes: “…if both Petrine letters are authentic, they cannot be placed very far apart in time. It can safely be said that if 1 Peter and 2 Peter had been anonymous documents, no one would have thought of attributing them to a single author.”48 In our view, however, this really is not a problem because we believe that Peter did use an amanuensis for 1 Peter while he wrote 2 Peter himself. Bauckham objects to the amanuensis hypothesis: “… an adequate secretary hypothesis must… postulate not an amanuensis, but an agent, i.e. a writer who had a completely free hand not only with the expression but also with the content of the letter.”49 Although somewhat overstated (“completely free hand”), we believe this is what took place in 1 Peter.50 As we argued in our discussion of 1 Peter, that amanuensis was from the Pauline circle and had a great deal of freedom in shaping 1 Peter both in the direction of Paulinisms and in polishing Peter’s rough Greek. Thus, not only is this no problem for Petrine authorship of 2 Peter, it actually substantiates it.

(2) The second problem is the particular style of 2 Peter. Bauckham goes to great lengths to demonstrate that the author is good at Greek even though his epistle “may not be to the taste of many modern readers…”51 But the evidence is decidedly against this view. W. F. Howard pointed out that the language “is employed with the uneasy touch of one who has acquired the language in later life.”52 The author does not fully grasp the subtleties of the Greek article, tosses out participles that are left looking for a home, overuses pet terms, and has a habit of repeating words reflecting an impoverished style. All of this points to an author whose native tongue probably was not Greek. Further, there are hints of a Semitic mind at work: (1) repetition of the same or similar word;53 (2) attributive genitive instead of an adjective (cf. 2:10);54 (3) the lack of the article before a genitive (emulating the Hebrew construct state). Bauckham admits that “a native Semitic speaker cannot be ruled out,”55 though he seems to think that a native Latin speaker is preferable. But there is one stylistic feature which argues quite strongly for a Jewish writer: the use of distinctively Jewish sources in the choice of genre. That is to say, the author writes an epistle which embodies a testament. The testament was a distinctively Jewish genre. Not only does this argue for authenticity, but it also argues against a second century forgery, for the vast bulk of second century Christian documents [pseudepigrapha and apocrypha] were written by Gentiles. So much is this true that Bauckham can make the astounding statement that, regarding the church’s hesitancy to accept 2 Peter, “we must reckon with a Gentile church which no longer understood the conventions of a Jewish literary genre.”56 What Bauckham inadvertently implies in this statement is that 2 Peter was misunderstood because it was so Jewish which, in turn, implies that second century Christian writings were largely Gentile in nature. On this basis, then, if the author of 2 Peter is not the apostle he is both a brilliant forger and an inept one at the same time (for reasons given elsewhere). It is hard to conceive of any author being so irreconcilably inconsistent as this forger would have to be. Does not Occam’s razor demand that the simplest explanation (viz., that Peter wrote 2 Peter) is the best?

One stylistic problem still remains, however. It is the fact that the author is fond of rare words and a grandiose style. Would a Galilean fisherman be so pretentious? In response, if it is true that this letter is a testament, we can readily see the reason for this stylistic feature: When one is writing what he believes is his “last will and testament” we should expect him to wax as eloquently as he can. If Howard is right that this letter betrays “an artificial dialect of high-sounding words learnt from rhetoricians and books”57 such would fit well with both Peter’s modus operandi (of heavy reliance on written sources for his composition) and with the psychological probability of one attempting to write eloquently in a second language.58

e) Doctrinal Problems. Finally, two kinds of doctrinal problems surface. First, there are thematic differences between 1 Peter and 2 Peter such that certain emphases in 1 Peter do not show up in 2 Peter and vice versa. First Peter emphasizes the humility of Christ (his first coming); 2 Peter, his glory (his second coming). But this would only be a problem if there were contradiction between the two letters. This argument really should carry little weight, on the analogy of Paul’s letters: both Galatians and 1 Thessalonians were written at about the same time, yet with quite different themes; more to the point, 1 and 2 Corinthians were written to the same group of people within a relatively short span of time, yet the emphasis on spiritual gifts in the first letter (a major emphasis at that) is almost wholly lacking in the second.

Second, some scholars see sophisticated Hellenistic terms used in 2 Peter—terms which would seemingly preclude authorship by a Galilean fisherman (e.g., γνῶσις, ἀρετή). But “it is impossible to say what degree of impact on an author’s mind environment might be expected to have.”59 Furthermore, it is really quite impossible to assign a technical nuance to the few terms used in this epistle. Only if there were consistency of usage which could bear but one interpretation could one argue cogently for a developed use of Greek philosophy. Finally, as we have already seen, this book smells very Jewish—in both its grammar and genre. If it is thoroughly Hellenistic, then it is not thoroughly Jewish. Critical scholarship wants it both ways, betraying a predisposed mindset to ignore evidence to the contrary.

3)  Additional Positive Considerations. Guthrie mentions three additional considerations,60 to which we shall add four others.

(1) Similarities with Peter’s speeches in Acts. Not much weight can be attached to this, as Guthrie admits, for the similarities are merely verbal. However, one implication overlooked by Guthrie is that this verbal correspondence is true of Acts–2 Peter, but not Acts–1 Peter. This suggests two things: (1) Luke has been somewhat faithful in recording at least some of the speeches (cf. James—Acts 15); and (2) if so, then this again suggests that Peter wrote 2 Peter but used an amanuensis to write 1 Peter.

(2) Guthrie appeals to “certain indirect personal reminiscences which might support Petrine authorship. Words are used (σκηνή, ‘tabernacle’ and ἔξοδος, ‘departure’) which are found together in Luke’s transfiguration narrative. They are used in a different context in 2 Peter…”61 This, quite frankly, is a poor argument for it presupposes either that Peter read Luke and his own experience was shaped by Luke’s verbiage or that language bears a one-to-one correspondence with reality (as if to say that the only way Peter could remember the transfiguration was with these words!). We would wholly discount this kind of argumentation for authenticity.

(3) “The superiority of 2 Peter over the Petrine spurious books is another point in its favor… spiritual quality is not a matter of skill, but of inspiration.”62 Here Guthrie argues for the role of the Spirit in pressing upon the Church what the shape of the canon should be. The argument is hardly one that a son of the Enlightenment would use, yet I do embrace it myself. Of course, it will not convince anyone who takes a purely rational look at the Bible.

Finally, we offer four other arguments which suggest Petrine authorship.

(4) As we have stated before, this book is quite Jewish in its grammar and genre. Indeed, because there are so many parallels with Jewish pseudepigrapha, most scholars label this book as pseudepigraphic. Yet, at certain strategic points, the parallel breaks down, while still retaining its Semitic nature (e.g., testaments were also used by real authors/speakers). The one nagging problem which those who reject Petrine authorship have not squarely faced is this: How could such a Jewish-Christian document be produced in the second century, or even shortly after 70 CE? Virtually all documents of this period are either produced by Gentiles and are Christian or produced by Jews and are Jewish. Second Peter, if produced after Peter’s death, would virtually stand alone.

(5) In 2 Peter 1:1 the author writes τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος  ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ (“of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”). This construction fits what is known as the Granville Sharp rule which simply indicates that both “God” and “Savior” refer to one person. Hence, 2 Peter embraces a high Christology. In making such an explicit identification of Christ with God, it certainly belongs to the later books of the New Testament. However, none of the books of the NT is as blunt as are the early apostolic fathers. For example, Ignatius, writing in c. 110 CE, reversed the order, tightening the apposition between “Christ” and “God”: “our Savior and God, Jesus Christ” was a not infrequent phrase in his writings. On a trajectory of christological development (if it developed linearly), one would have to place 2 Peter some time before Ignatius or Clement (c. 96 CE—at the latest). Although this does not prove Petrine authorship, it does seem to indicate a terminus ad quem for the writing of this epistle, viz., before the end of the first century. And if so, then many of the arguments against Petrine authorship fall to the ground for they are based on the supposition that this is a mid-second century document.

(6) In 2 Peter 3:15-16, the very text which has proved so problematic to authenticity, one item has hardly been noticed. When the author refers to Paul’s letters, he speaks of Paul as “our beloved brother.” This kind of familiarity is, as far as I am aware, unparalleled in pseudepigraphical, apocryphal, and patristic literature. The vast bulk of references to the apostles in these writings places them on a pedestal; 2 Peter does not. In fact, one might almost say that the author is looking down at Paul in a patronizing sort of way (though he quickly adds that Paul wrote scripture). This sounds so much like Peter! Furthermore, what forger would add the note about his own confusion over the meaning of Paul’s letters? There is a humility, a pathos, even a touch of irony in these verses which is so subtle and yet smells authentic. As we have argued before, either the author was both inept and a genius, or he was Peter himself.

(7) Finally, as we will develop shortly, virtually all of the problems of authorship vanish once we see what the occasion was that prompted both 1 Peter and 2 Peter. In short, the occasion for this epistle within the lifetime of Peter fits like a glove—and the very issues over authenticity largely contribute to a demonstration of that occasion.

3. Conclusion on Authorship

Although a very strong case has been made against Petrine authorship of 2 Peter, we believe it is deficient. Not only is there very good evidence that this epistle was utilized in the late first and early second century by a variety of writers (as Picirilli has recently pointed out), but the occasion for the letter fits the lifetime of Peter better than later. Further, once some kind of amanuensis hypothesis is seriously taken into consideration (in our view, an amanuensis was used for 1 Peter but probably not for 2 Peter63), then many of the objections against Petrine authorship are found wanting. Taken together, these external and internal arguments strongly suggest the traditional view, viz., that Peter was indeed the author of the second epistle which bears his name.64

B. Date

Generally, three dates have been proposed for 2 Peter: shortly before Peter’s death (c. 64 CE), c. 80 CE (by a disciple of Peter), or sometime in the first half of the second century. The terminus ad quem for this letter is fixed at 150 CE because of its use in the Apocalypse of Peter.

Although most scholars date the epistle in the first half of the second century, and treat the occasion as some kind of combat against early Gnosticism, Bauckham has cogently argued for a date around 80 CE. We would add two arguments to Bauckham’s against a date in the second century: (1) the apparent use of 2 Peter in early patristic writings (as Picirilli has shown), and (2) a more primitive Christology than is found even in Ignatius (d. before 117 CE).

Regarding the date of c. 80 CE, what is of course crucial to maintain is that this epistle cannot have been by Peter. Although there are many points of agreement between Bauckham’s and our view, we do believe that a date within Peter’s lifetime eminently fits the purported occasion better than a date in the 80s. Further, if our arguments as to authorship have validity, then a date in the 80s is necessarily ruled out.65

On the assumption of authenticity, there are basically three factors which suggest that this letter would have been written very shortly before the death of Peter (as we have suggested, and as most NT scholars agree, Peter’s death was in 64 or 65, within a year or so after Paul’s). (1) Both 1 Peter and 2 Peter give evidence of having been written after the death of Paul.66 Hence, if 1 Peter is dated no earlier than 64 CE (the year of Paul’s death), some sufficient amount of time would need to take place before Peter would feel compelled to write again to Paul’s churches, especially since the content of his second letter revolves around a rather different matter.67 (2) As we will soon argue, this epistle has all the earmarks of being a testament as well as a letter. If genuine, then it must have been written shortly before the death of Peter (note 1:14)—and further, within such a short span that Peter knew that his end was near. (3) The absence of personal references, specific addressees, or any cryptic reference to Rome, such as are found in 1 Peter, suggests that this letter may well have been composed while Peter was in prison since the contents of such a letter could hardly be kept secret (and Peter would not want to jeopardize the safety of his friends, either in Rome or in Asia Minor, by revealing too much).68 Hence, 2 Peter was probably written late in 64 CE or sometime in 65 CE, if Peter actually lived till that year.

C. Place of Writing

Little needs to be said about the place of writing. Most scholars, regardless of when they date this epistle, see Rome as the domicile of the author. In our view, if Peter was soon to die, Rome would virtually have to be where this letter originated.

D. Addressees/Audience

On the assumption that 2 Peter 3:1 refers to 1 Peter,69 in which the author states that “this is already the second letter I have written to you [ὑμῖν],” then the audiences of both epistles must somehow overlap. Taking our cue from 1 Peter 1:1, the recipients would at least include Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. However, as we argued in our discussion of 1 Peter, the churches in those regions would in all likelihood be on the fringes of Paul’s ministry. Paul not only did not visit most of those churches; he also, as far as we know, did not write to them. But 2 Peter 3:15 states that “Paul has written to you [ὑμῖν].” As we have suggested earlier, this refers at least to Colossians and Ephesians, and perhaps in a general sense to many of Paul’s other letters which would have naturally circulated to Paul’s churches.70 Consequently, the audience now seems wider than what it was in 1 Peter. Our suggestion is that 2 Peter is written to all of Paul’s churches in Asia Minor, both the primary and secondary Pauline churches, and perhaps even the Pauline churches in Greece and Macedonia as well.71

E.  Literary Genre

Before we look at the occasion, one other matter needs to be dealt with, viz., literary genre. Bauckham has ably argued that 2 Peter imbibes in two literary genres, the epistle and the testament. That it is a true epistle is evident from its opening, its calling itself a letter (3:1), and from the fact that it follows the general pattern of early Jewish and Christian letters. But it also seems to be a testament.

The following passages identify 2 Peter as belonging to this genre: (1) The passage 1:3-11 is in form a miniature homily, which follows a pattern used in the farewell speeches of Ezra… and John… (2) 1:12-15 is full of language typical of farewell speeches…. and explicitly describes the occasion for the writing of 2 Peter as Peter’s knowledge of his approaching death and his wish that his teaching be remembered after his death. These two features are standard and almost universal features of the genre. (3) In two passages (2:1-3a; 3:1-4; cf. 3:17a) Peter predicts the rise of false teachers…. These four passages, but especially 1:12-15, would leave no contemporary reader in doubt that 2 Peter belonged to the genre of “testament.”72

Although it is true that the testamentary form would be quite suitable for a pseudepigrapher, “we should not neglect the possibility that if Peter himself had really wished to address Christians living after his death, it would also have been the ideal for his purpose.”73 Hence, even though we agree that 2 Peter belongs to two literary genres, its testamentary characteristics are wholly appropriate (and not without parallel) for an authentic writing from the apostle Peter.

F. Occasion

The occasion of this letter is almost self-evident. Peter is about to die. “1:12-15 is full of language typical of farewell speeches… and explicitly describes the occasion for the writing of 2 Peter as Peter’s knowledge of his approaching death and his wish that his teaching be remembered after his death.”74 This, however, is only part of the occasion for this epistle. In fact, Peter’s impending death could be seen merely as the catalyst for removing writer’s block! We think it is more than that, but there are other reasons for writing this letter as well. Altogether, I think three events converged, causing the apostle to the circumcision to write this letter to Paul’s churches.75

1. Paul had died. As we argued at length in our discussion of 1 Peter, this was the immediate occasion for the writing of that epistle. Since this was still a recent event, and since Peter still wanted to make sure Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles did not go in vain, he took up the baton, keeping the apostolic connection with Asia Minor alive.

2. Peter was about to die. Not only would this motivate him to get the letter finished, it served another purpose as well. With Paul gone, these Gentile churches lost their apostolic witness to the faith. If Peter were to die, then a second apostolic witness would die with him. Although he had only ministered to them in writing, this important link with the apostolic faith would be gone. Not only this, but with the continuing and widening persecution from Rome against Christians, there was still the danger of apostasy. Though Peter could not prevent his death, he could reassure his audience that his death was within the sovereign plan of God. Hence, in the very statement about his coming death, Peter tells his audience that it was prophesied by Jesus (1:14-15).76 Thus this letter served both as a last will and testament, and as an encouragement for the Christians to remain true to the apostles’ teaching (cf. 3:2, 15-16), even though there would be no living voice left. It is not insignificant that Bauckham, who denies authenticity to this letter, still sees a similar purpose/occasion: “In the relatively new and largely unexpected situation of the Christian church after the death of the apostles, [the writer] assures his readers that they are not disadvantaged as Christian believers who do not have personal access to the apostolic eyewitnesses . . . “77

What is crucial to understand here is that the motive of uniting Petrine and Pauline Christianity—a motive which all see in this letter—is quite naturally attributable to Peter himself. And if so, one of the main arguments against Petrine authorship falls away.

3. Peter anticipated that false teachers would soon creep into the church. Paul himself was well aware that such would happen to the churches in Asia Minor (cf. Acts 20:29-30), as it had happened elsewhere. Peter wanted to safeguard Paul’s churches against these false teachers. In order to do so he not only asserted his own authority (1:16-19), but that of Paul (3:15-16) and his associates (3:2). This “preemptive strike” is reminiscent of Peter’s modus operandi in 1 Peter, where he encourages the saints in anticipation of governmental persecution. The reason Peter now explicitly mentions Paul’s authority (as well as his own) is because after his death the audience would have recourse only to the written apostolic voice, while false teachers would be very much alive.78

G. Theme

The main emphasis of 2 Peter is found in chapters 2 and 3, where the author writes preemptively against the coming heretics. These false teachers will imbibe in antinomianism and a denial of eschatological truths. Thus, the theme might be simply put, “Beware of false teachers who skew grace and deny the Lord’s return” (cf. 3:17).


II. Argument

Peter opens his second letter with a greeting to believers (in Asia Minor—see introduction) (1:1-2).

He then begins the body of his letter in a way similar to his first epistle, and equally similar to many of Paul’s letters. He begins with positive statements about what God has done, then discusses what believers should do. However, unlike his previous letter, Peter now organizes the material around salvation rather than suffering. His concern is decidedly more doctrinal overall as the opposition he anticipates is from within (heretics), rather than from without (oppressors). Thus, in a general sense, the body of this letter has two parts: a commendation of the truth about salvation (positive), then a condemnation of the false teachers (negative).

Peter begins the body of his letter with an argument for the certainty of salvation (1:3-21). Although this first of two main segments is briefer than the second, it is necessary in order to establish the truth of the believers’ salvation. There are two main arguments Peter uses: subjective basis (1:3-11), which is the work of God in the believer; and objective basis (1:12-21), which is the promises of God to the believer. This becomes a two-edged sword to insulate the believers against the false teachings of the coming heretics.

First, the certainty of their salvation is due to the work of God (1:3-11). Peter begins by detailing what God has done for the believer (1:3), then in the believer (1:4). Based on this divine enablement, believers ought to live a certain way (1:5-9): they should employ God’s resources to grow in grace (1:5-7), the result of which will be productivity for God’s kingdom (1:8). But if someone does not grow in grace, he is “blind” (1:9). The effect that such growth will have on the believer’s life, however, is that (1) he will prove to himself that his salvation is genuine (1:10), and ultimately (2) “an entrance into the eternal kingdom will be richly provided for you” (1:11, NET).

Second, the certainty of their salvation is due to the word of God (1:12-21). Peter begins his discussion of the objective basis of salvation by giving the immediate occasion for the writing of his letter: his impending death (1:12-15). This certainly adds solemnity to the words which will follow, for vv. 13-21 then function as sort of a deathbed confession. In vv. 12-15 Peter urges the believers to be reminded “always” of the truths of salvation, “even though you know them and are well established in the truth” (1:12, NET). Further, the need for such reminders is the fact that Peter is about to die (1:13-14) and his opportunity will soon be over. Yet even after his departure, Peter promises that his audience will have a permanent memorial—both of the fact that his own death is within God’s sovereign plan and of the historical facts about their salvation (1:15). As we have argued in our introduction (both to 2 Peter and John), this may well be a reference to the gospel of John—or at least to John 21.

After Peter details his own testament, he now defends the objective basis of his message about their salvation (1:16-21). It seems that this is necessary because after he dies the churches of Asia Minor (as far as Peter is aware) will be without an apostolic witness. Hence, he wants to ground his audience in the written word so as to combat the heretics. He gives two essential arguments: (1) the apostles were eyewitnesses of both the first and second coming of Christ (in the sense that they witnessed the transfiguration) (1:16-18)—unlike the heretics who “follow cleverly concocted fables”; (2) the writings of the OT prophets are even a surer basis than the eyewitness testimony of the apostles (1:19), for their prophecies did not originate with themselves, but with God (1:20-21).79

By concluding on the truth of the OT prophets, Peter builds a natural bridge to the second major segment of his epistles in which he deals with the falsehoods of the coming heretics (2:1–3:16). First, he shows that their character is out of step with true prophets (2:1-22), for genuine prophecy should always lead to purity. Second, after discrediting their character, he now can dismiss their doctrines (3:1-16)—especially those which relate to a denial of the Lord’s return (a doctrine which Peter has just been at pains to prove).

First, the false teachers are discredited because of their character (2:1-22). In essence, they are antinomian, perhaps because they were on the fringes of Paul’s churches and would be likely to take his teachings on grace out of context (cf. 3:15-16). Such is the risk of preaching grace! Apparently these false teachers had not yet arrived on the scene, for Peter predicts their coming (2:1-3a), using future tenses. Once he discusses their condemnation and character, however, he quite naturally uses present tenses. (It is not at all necessary to suppose from this that they were already infiltrating the churches of Asia Minor.) After warning the believers of their imminent arrival, Peter reveals their future condemnation (2:3b-9). He begins by stating that their condemnation is sure (2:3b)—just as sure, in fact, as is the true believer’s salvation! Then he proves this by several OT analogies, showing precedent in God’s dealings with sinful people: angels who sinned (2:4), the world in Noah’s day (2:5), Sodom and Gomorrah (2:6) all were not spared, while the righteous at the time were spared (viz., Noah and Lot). As an inclusio, Peter again reiterates the certainty of the coming condemnation, coupled with God’s protection of the righteous (2:9). After proving their condemnation, Peter now launches into a discussion of their character: they slander and speak against others and reject authority to such a degree that even angels dare not do (2:10-12); they give into their fleshy desires including drunkenness, adultery, and greed (2:13-16); and the result is that they are enslaved to sin (2:17-22).

Second, the false teachers’ denial of the Lord’s return is shown to be wrong (3:1-16). Peter begins this section with a reminder that he has written before concerning the coming of the Lord (3:1; cf. 1 Peter 1:13). Not only has he written to them, but their own apostles (probably Paul and Silas) had also revealed to them both the coming of the Lord and the rise of false prophets (3:2). Once again, as in 1:12-21, Peter wants to make sure his audience remembers to examine the written documents of the apostles so as to combat these heretics with something substantial. After Peter makes this reminder, he then reveals what the false teachers believe about the second coming of Christ: nothing (3:3-7)! Here he implicitly links the two OT motifs with the coming destruction of the world: the world was destroyed by flood (in Noah’s day) and will be destroyed by fire (as were Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot’s day) (3:5-7). The fact that these false teachers “deliberately forget” this is therefore obvious: their predecessors—those who lived in the days of Noah and those who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot—also forgot. Thus Peter tacitly connects the falsity of these heretics’ denial with the condemnation of their character which he expounded in 2:5-8.

Peter concludes the body of his letter in the same way he began it: positive doctrine, followed by an appeal to holy living, and a documentary/objective basis (3:8-16; cf. 1:3-21). Thus in a grand scale, this letter involves an inclusio. In 3:8-13 Peter reveals what the day of the Lord will be like; then he uses this prophecy as firm basis for an appeal to holy living (3:14); finally, he once again reminds his audience that none of this is new—Paul had written to this same audience before concerning these truths (3:15-16). Included in this reminder is a statement that the heretics distort Paul’s words (3:16b)—an implicit warning to study Paul’s letters diligently (cf. 3:16a) for even the enemies of the gospel will employ them to promote heresy!

The letter is concluded with a summary of its contents (3:17), just as 1 Peter concluded with a purpose statement (1 Peter 5:12)80 followed by a benediction (3:18).


III. Outline

I. Salutation (1:1-2)

II. The Certainty of the Believers’ Salvation (1:3-21)

A. Its Subjective Basis: The Work of God (1:3-11)

1. Past: What God has Done (1:3-4)

a. His Divine Power Enabling Believers (1:3)

b. His Divine Nature Indwelling Believers (1:4)

2. Present: What Believers Should Do (1:5-9)

a. The Use of God’s Resources (1:5-7)

b. The Results of Using God’s Resources (1:8-9)

3. Future: What Believers Will Receive (1:10-11)

a. Temporal Results: The Certainty of Salvation (1:10)

b. Eternal Results: The Inheritance of the Kingdom (1:11)

B. Its Objective Basis: The Word of God (1:12-21)

1. Peter’s Testament as a Reminder of Salvation (1:12-15)

a. The Frequency of the Reminder: Constantly (1:12)

b. The Necessity of the Reminder: Peter’s Death (1:13-14)

c. The Promise of the Reminder: A Written Record (1:15)

2. Defense of the Truth of the Message (1:16-21)

a. Apostolic Eyewitnesses (1:16-18)

b. Old Testament Prophets (1:19-21)

1) The Value of OT Prophecy (1:19)

2) The Source of OT Prophecy (1:20-21)

III. The Deception of the False Teachers’ Message (2:1–3:16)

A. Their Antinomianism (2:1-22)

1. The Coming of the False Teachers (2:1-3a)

2. The Condemnation of the False Teachers (2:3b-9)

a. Their Condemnation Sure (2:3b)

b. OT Precedent (2:3b-8)

c. The Coming Judgment (2:9)

3. The Characteristics of the False Teachers (2:10-22)

a. Rejection of Authority (2:10-12)

b. Fleshly Indulgence (2:13-16)

c. Slavery to Sin (2:17-22)

B. Their Denial of the Lord’s Return (3:1-16)

1. Documentation of the False Teachers Reiterated (3:1-2)

2. Denial by the False Teachers Repudiated (3:3-7)

3. Day of the Lord Revealed (3:8-13)

4. Deportment of Believers Required (3:14-16)

a. The Appeal for Behavior (3:14)

b. The Epistolary Basis (3:15-16)

IV. Conclusion (3:17-18)

A. Summary of Letter (3:17)

B. Benediction (3:18)


1Guthrie overstates the case when he says, “Origen saw no reason to treat these doubts as serious” (806), for Eusebius says that Origen did “acknowledge one epistle by Peter and perhaps also a second, for it is disputed.” Although the words are Eusebius’, not Origen’s, we simply cannot know from the extant data how Origen felt about 2 Peter’s authenticity.

2“On the Second Epistle of St. Peter,” The Expositor 2/3 (1882) 50.

3JSNT 33 (1988) 57-83.

4Picirilli, 74-76.

5Guthrie, 809.

6Guthrie, 811.

7Bruce Metzger has in fact argued that the Gospels were probably the first to be considered canonical while Paul’s letters were probably not considered such until a short time later (personal interview, March 1990). For what it is worth, I believe that the opposite was probably true, viz., that Paul’s letters were the first to receive canonical status (although this point cannot be developed in this essay).

8R. J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter (Word Biblical Commentary), notes that Second Peter has an even higher proportion of NT hapax legomena than Jude, in fact “the highest of any NT book …There are fifty-seven words not found elsewhere in the NT” (135).

9So W. F. Howard, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, 2:5-6.

10Guthrie, 811.

11It should be noted that this Semitic name caused some of the early scribes to stumble. Thus Ì72 B Ψ 81 1241, et al. all have Σιμων Πετρος.

12It is significant that no other pseudepigraphical work attributed to Peter uses this spelling.

13The Semitic name Symeon (normally Hellenized into “Simon”) is usually regarded by critical scholars as an attempt to identify this author with the Simon Peter of Acts. The problem, however, with this view is that Acts calls him “Simon Peter,” not “Symeon Peters (“Symeon” without “Peter” is used in Acts only at 15:14; nowhere is “Symeon Peter” found). Thus, if this letter is by a forger, he has created an archaic name which finds no literary parallel in the canon or elsewhere. If this were a ploy to sound authentic, it says too much, for it is both archaic and original. Instead, this designation would be appropriate if it were a self-designation. The very opening of this epistle seems to speak loudly for authenticity.

14Guthrie, 821.

15Bauckham, 199.

16See Guthrie, 823. The point is that a later pseudepigrapher would rely on the Synoptic accounts for his information, while Peter would rely on his memory.

17Two other passages were discussed as containing personal allusion problems. The issues surfacing in 3:1 and 3:15‑16 will be discussed under “Historical problems,” as they are relevant for that issue as well.

18In reading the literature, one cannot help but see an element of caprice and double standard, where scholars have already made up their minds despite the evidence.

19Guthrie, 824.

20γραφαί of course must mean this, as opposed to “writings” for not only does “writings” make no sense in this context, but γραφή is always used in the NT to refer to “scripture” in the technical sense.

21Bauckham, 333.

22Ibid.

23Ibid.

24Guthrie, 826.

25Young Kyu Kim, “Palaeographical Dating Of Ì 46 to the Later First Century,” Biblica 69 (1988) 248­57.

26Ibid., 254.

27Ibid., 250.

28One might ask how so many NT scholars could have been wrong, since Ì46 has been known since the 1930’s. The answer is that many more papyri have been discovered since Ì46 was discovered, and these papyri help to paint a more precise picture as to the date of this manuscript. They simply awaited a systematic sifting for palaeographical material relevant to this papyrus.

291 have spoken with many NT textual critics to get their feedback on Kim’s article (including Bruce Metzger, Gordon Fee, Bart Ehrman, Eldon Epp, Michael Holmes, Thomas Geer, and J. K. Elliott), and not one had any substantive arguments against Kim’s evidence. A few years ago, in the textual criticism group at the Society of Biblical Literature, an Oxford Ph.D. student in papyrology presented a paper in which all of Kim’s arguments were refuted. It was a convincing piece of work.

30This papyrus has ten of Paul’s letters and the letter to the Hebrews (right after Romans). It lacks the pastorals, but has seven blank leaves at the end of the codex. The pastorals would have taken up ten leaves. There is the possibility that the scribe recognized that he had wrongly estimated the length it would require to write out all of the corpus Paulinum and, once he discovered that the space for the pastorals was too short, decided not to begin a task he knew he could not finish.

31When we examine additional arguments for Petrine authorship, we will return to 3:15-16.

32 See note 29 for discussion.

33See Bauckham, 285‑86, for arguments.

34Bauckham, 146.

35Remarkably, Bauckham comes very close to understanding this, yet stops short of adopting authenticity. “His disregard for 1 Peter, which is mentioned because the readers knew it (3:1) but on which, by contrast with later pseudepigraphical practice, the author conspicuously fails to model 2 Peter, may indicate a confidence, derived from personal knowledge, of his ability to speak on behalf of the dead Peter without recourse to other Petrine writings…” (160). Would not this confidence be easier to explain if Peter himself wrote 2 Peter?

36When one compares some other early pseudepigraphy, he notices that at least an attempt was made to use the purported author’s wording and concepts. Cf., e.g., Laodiceans, 3 Corinthians, the Acts of Paul, etc.

37Guthrie, 828.

38Guthrie, 829.

39We could add two further arguments here: (1) as we have already noticed, the blatant use of Jude coupled with the reference to 1 Peter in 2 Peter 3:1 can only be due either to the work of a bad forger or a genuine author. (2) There surely can be no argument that Peter is to blame for not mentioning Jude in his letter, for that is forcing twentieth century standards on a first century writer. It was, in fact, the normal practice not to mention one’s specific sources in a composition in the ancient world (cf. the Synoptic Gospels).

40 This argument could be strengthened as well: conceptually, it is self-evident that 2 Peter is offering a prediction, while Jude is noting the fulfillment.

41So Guthrie, 831. This point will be developed more under the occasion for Jude.

42Bauckham, 141‑42. Bauckham offers the counter‑argument that “the most important literary reason for preferring 2 Peter’s dependence on Jude to the opposite hypothesis is that… Jude 4‑18 [is] a piece of writing whose detailed structure and wording has been composed with exquisite care, whereas the corresponding parts of 2 Peter, while by no means carelessly composed, are by comparison more loosely structured” (142). Essentially Bauckham is arguing that tight structure implies originality. But if we applied this principle to the Synoptic Gospels we should have to adopt a Lukan priority! Further, synoptic scholars are usually agreed that Mark’s was the first gospel. One of the evidences of this is that Mark’s Greek is not as good as Matthew’s or Luke’s. One usually does not find a well-worded essay and mess with it. Indeed, one of the strongest arguments for Markan priority is the tight structure of the Sermon on the Mount: Would someone consciously tamper with such a beautiful piece as this?  (The problem with Matthean priority is that it assumes that both Luke and Mark did.) Likewise, if Jude wrote first, is it likely that Peter would have tampered with the tight structure and beautiful prose? The evidence points in one of two different directions: (1) either both Peter and Jude borrowed from a common tradition (a view that is unlikely, however, in light of Jude’s change in tenses, etc.); or (2) Jude used 2 Peter.

43As we will argue under Addressees/Audience it is our contention that 2 Peter was intended for the same readership as 1 Peter, as well as the staple Pauline churches to the south, i.e., in the rest of Asia Minor.

44Even Bauckham recognizes this probability: “There is no need to postulate any personal link between its [2 Peter’s] author and the churches to which he writes. These churches, either all or some of the churches in the area to which 1 Peter was addressed (1 Pet 1:1), certainly included Pauline churches (2 Pet 3:15), and 2 Peter therefore refers to Paul’s letter(s) to them (3:15) as naturally as 1 Clem. refers to 1 Corinthians when writing to the church of Corinth…” (159).

45See lengthy discussion of this hypothesis in our treatment of 1 Peter and “Under Occasion” for this epistle.

46The reason Peter mentions Paul explicitly here, and not in 1 Peter, may well be due to one or more of the following reasons. (1) He was far more tentative about the receptivity his first letter would get‑‑especially in light of Paul’s generally negative comments about Peter in his letters; hence a de ja vu approach seemed most appropriate; (2) if the first letter was welcomed, this would embolden Peter to make the connection more explicit; (3) since Peter did not use an amanuensis (or at least not one of Paul’s associates) for the writing of 2 Peter, he had to resort to some quite explicit device; (4) the dangers envisaged in the first epistle were from without (persecution) and the Christians simply needed an authoritative voice to say, “Hang tough,” while the dangers envisaged in the second epistle were from within (false teachers) and the audience needed to be reminded that Paul’s letters carried authority (it may in fact be this perception of danger from false teachers that motivated Peter to elevate Paul’s letters to the level of “scripture”‑‑not to give them more weight than they had, but more weight than Paul’s churches recognized them as having).

47An issue we have dealt with earlier in our discussion of 2 Peter 3:1.

48Bauckham, 145.

49Bauckham, 145.

50Nevertheless, he should still be called an amanuensis, rather than an agent, as parallels in the papyri show (see our discussion on James).

51Bauckham, 137.

52W. F. Howard, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 2:28.

53See Bauckham, 137, for a tidy list.

54One writer went so far as to say that 2 Peter’s use of the genitive had no parallels in any other Greek literature (Lars Rydbeck, “What Happened to Greek Grammar after Albert Debrunner?” NTS 21 (1974-75), a paper originally presented to the Fifth International Congress on Biblical Studies meeting at Oxford University in September 1973).

55Bauckham, 138.

56Bauckham, 162.

57W. F. Howard, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 2:28.

58Analogously, papers written for some of my courses by international students often incorporate rare and eloquent (and sometimes misused) terms. In fact, this is usually a sure sign of a foreign student’s work! Further, thesauruses of “good” Greek were available from the second century on and probably earlier. Thus, this final letter by Peter could easily have been produced with the aid of such tools. Its rich vocabulary, coupled with its poor syntax, strongly supports such a hypothesis.

59Guthrie, 837.

60Guthrie, 837-38.

61Guthrie, 838.

62Guthrie, 838.

63It is sometimes objected that an amanuensis hypothesis is merely an expedient created by conservative scholarship. But, as Longenecker has demonstrated, it was normal for a writer to use an amanuensis rather than to write a document himself. Further, as the papyri seem to indicate, the range of freedom that amanuenses had varied considerably, from mere dictation to writing in essay form what was given by the author in a virtual outline. What we have not dealt with at all is why Peter would not use an amanuensis for his second epistle. In fact, this question (rather than why he would use one for his first letter) should be considered more problematic for any amanuensis hypothesis than the reverse. Although it is somewhat ancillary to our discussion, there is the possibility either that (1) Peter now felt comfortable in writing directly to Paul’s churches since they (purportedly) had accepted his first letter, or (2) there may have been no amanuensis available if Peter was imprisoned when writing, as 1:14 seems to imply. What is significant for this second option are the following data: (a) Paul probably had died recently under Nero and Peter was in line to go next (which best explains how Peter knew his time was short in 1:14); hence, a house arrest (such as Paul experienced in his first Roman imprisonment) would hardly be sufficient to keep incarcerated one assigned to death row; (b) thus, if Peter were truly in prison, rather than merely under house arrest, security would probably be tighter and visits from friends would in all probability be short, thus not easily facilitating any time to dictate (or co‑author) a letter; and (c) what is most interesting is that the cryptic mention of Rome in 1 Peter 5:12 is absent in 2 Peter. This seems to imply that 1 Peter was written while Peter was still a free man (in that the term “Babylon” was used to protect the church in Rome). Not only this but there is no personal reference (e.g., “my son Mark”) in 2 Peter, nor is the address spelled out as it is in 1 Peter. If Peter truly was in prison at this time, such references would jeopardize the safety of his friends both in Rome and perhaps even in Asia Minor (for there is a strong presumption that this letter could not go out undetected by Roman officials, while 1 Peter could have). It would be better to communicate verbally to the bearer of the epistle such personal notes (including who the addressees would be).

64Guthrie (840) adds one further argument against a pseudepigraphical document (and, thus, for an authentic one): “Since the false teachers were showing no respect for Paul (2 Pet. 2:16 [sic]), would they have shown any more for Peter? . . . no advocate of a pseudonymous origin for 2 Peter has been able to give a wholly satisfactory account of the motive behind it . . .”

65Michaels (1 Peter) is virtually alone in arguing that the apostle lived into the latter decades of the first century.

66See “Occasion” for both letters for discussion, as well as discussions passim in both on authorship.

67This point ought not to be pressed too hard, however, for in 2 Peter 3:1 the author says “This is already the second letter I have written to you,” suggesting that the interval between the two letters might be received as one which was surprisingly brief.

68For a more extended discussion, see footnote at the conclusion of the section on authorship.

69See our discussion under authorship.

70It should be noted however that Peter distinguishes between what Paul has written to his audience and Paul’s other letters (3:16), suggesting in the least that Peter’s audience had actually been the original recipients of one or more of Paul’s letters.

71In this connection, it is interesting to note that 1 Peter, written to secondary Pauline churches (i.e., those established by Paul’s disciples) deals with danger from without. As such there is no need for Peter to mention Paul’s name, just to encourage the audience to persevere, reminding them (deja vu‑like) that their faith is authentic and that they are not alone. Further, it would only be natural for Peter first to address these secondary churches since they had no direct contact with any apostle and would therefore be the most susceptible to falling away. 2 Peter, on the other hand, is fighting danger from within, dealing with false teachers who took Paul’s doctrine of grace too far and turned it into license. These false teachers were twisting Paul’s words. Consequently, Peter had to pull out the stops and explicitly mention Paul. And again, it would be only natural for Peter to address the primary Pauline churches (as well as the secondary) in this letter, since Paul himself had to combat Judaizers and false teachers who had crept in to the very churches he himself had established.

72Bauckham, 132.

73Bauckham, 133.

74Bauckham, 132.

75These are sketched out here, though the details are discussed passim in our section on authorship.

76One of the exegetical problems of this epistle is 1:15 (“I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to have a recollection of these things”). Among the many possibilities as to the meaning of this verse, one has gone (as far as I am aware) unnoticed. There is the distinct possibility that Peter is here referring at least to John 21, if not the whole of John. Many scholars suggest a connection with John 21 for verse 14; none, to my knowledge, to do so for verse 15. In my dating/occasion of John, it would have followed immediately on the heels of Peter’s death. And John 21, written almost as an afterthought to the Gospel, seems to have been written to show that Peter’s death was no accident, but was indeed within the sovereign plan of God. We suggest that, rather than 2 Peter depending on John, the relationship is vice versa. Second Peter 1:15 seems to say that a greater, written explanation of the prophecy of Peter’s death would be forthcoming. There is, further, the possibility that this verse, wedged as it is between v 14 and vv 16-18, is an unveiling of the occasion for the writing of the entire Gospel of John. Could it be when Peter saw that his death was coming—and that Paul’s churches not only had no apostle, but had no Gospel which was written specifically for them—that he encouraged John not only to write to these churches in Asia Minor, but also to take up residence there (as nascent Christian history supports both an Ephesian destination for the Gospel and for John himself)?  This will be discussed in greater detail in the exegesis of this text.

77Bauckham, 161.

78Two items in this motif strongly suggest authenticity. (1) The kind of false teachers anticipated in this letter are those who lean toward licentiousness (2:2). This would well fit Peter’s character, for, if anything, he himself tended toward a more legalistic Christianity. (2) The humble note about Paul’s letters being difficult to understand (3:16), coupled with the classic analogia fidei statement in 1:19-21, suggest that the author wanted the audience to examine any new teachers very carefully—and to do so on the basis of what had already been written. Yet, since some of Paul’s writings were hard to understand, one must not quickly hail any avant garde interpretation, but must approach all such matters humbly and cautiously.

79 See notes in the NET Bible at these verses for a defense of this exegesis.

80As we have worked through the argument and outline of each book, several items which are parallel between the two books have emerged, this being one of them. This is of course an implicit argument for authenticity for both books. It gains weight when one realizes that there are very few similarities between these two letters. As we have said before, only a terribly inept forger or Peter himself would be so brazen to link these two letters as though from Peter.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines