2 Peter

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2010-10-12 10:53.

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Unlike 1 Peter, the letter known as 2 Peter does not contain any personal greetings. The first two verses reflect the common style for the introduction of a letter, but otherwise nothing else is suggestive of a letter. It is not addressed to any particular group of believers.

Both in ancient and modern times, doubts have been expressed about whether this letter can be attributed to Peter. Origen (c. 185 to c. 254 CE), in the fifth book of his Commentary on John’s Gospel, stated that Peter left believers “only one letter of acknowledged genuineness. Suppose we allow that he left a second; for this is doubtful.” In his Ecclesiastical History (III, iii, 1), Eusebius remarked that only the first letter of Peter is accepted and that the “ancient elders” quoted freely from it. After referring to the second letter as having been regarded as uncanonical, he acknowledged that many considered it as valuable and that it had been “used with the other Scriptures.” Jerome, who lived much of his adult life in the fourth century CE, stated that Peter “wrote two letters,” adding, “the second of which, on account of its difference from the first in style, is considered by many not to be by him.” (De Viris Illustribus [On Illustrious Men, chapter 1])

Neither Origen nor Eusebius provided any specifics about the reason for doubts about 2 Peter. If the noticeable variation in style between the two letters is the sole reason for the questioning in ancient times, this would be insufficient evidence to establish that Peter could not have been the source of the information in the letter. For the first letter, he had the assistance of Silvanus. Therefore, another believer could have been involved in writing the second letter. The variation in style could then be attributed to the differing ability of the two assistants when formulating and writing Peter’s words in literary style.

In more recent times, some have assigned a late date for the writing of 2 Peter, placing its composition some decades after the apostle’s death and maintaining that the personal information about his being a witness of Jesus’ transfiguration and his knowing, on the basis of Jesus’ words, that he would soon die could have been obtained from other sources. The perceived extensive use of the letter of Jude has been advanced as indicating that 2 Peter could not have originated with the apostle. (Compare 2 Peter 2:1-20 with Jude [verses 4 through 19].) Letters the apostle Paul wrote are mentioned in 2 Peter 3:16, prompting many to reason that a well-known collection of his letters could not have existed at an early date. Another reason for belief in a late date is that the expressions in 1 Peter suggest an imminent return of Christ, whereas 2 Peter stresses patient waiting for this event.

It is true that Peter’s name was attached to numerous writings that he did not originate, but those works came to be recognized as spurious. Unlike 2 Peter, they were never included in the collection of acknowledged “holy scriptures.” There is nothing in 2 Peter that is out of harmony with the writings that came to be accepted as canonical, and the admonition it contains is useful for teaching, reproof, and correction. (Compare 2 Timothy 3:16.) Therefore, it seems hard to believe that a reverential disciple of Jesus Christ would have attached Peter’s name to a letter at a time when it must have been known that he had died a martyr’s death.

There are clear indications that conscientious believers would not have regarded attaching an apostle’s name to a letter as a practice of no consequence. After a problem arose about communication that had not come from him, the apostle Paul, when there might have been a question, authenticated his letters with his name in the concluding greetings, doing so in his own handwriting. (1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2; 3:17)

The close parallels between Jude and 2 Peter need not be regarded as resulting from direct dependence on the part of either one. Peter had close association with James, and it is likely that he also had considerable interaction with Jude. So it would not be unusual for both of them to refer to the same well-known examples from ancient times when addressing similar problems.

Peter’s knowledge about Paul’s letters and their misuse is to be expected. They were personally acquainted with one another, and Peter would have been interested in Paul’s faithful service as an apostle to the nations. Silvanus had closely worked with Paul and knew about the problems that had arisen in connection with his letters. It may well be that he had copies. Solely on the basis of what Silvanus could have told him and provided, Peter would have been able to speak about Paul’s letters and how certain ones were twisting what they contained.

Believers did not know just when Jesus Christ would return in glory. Their speaking about the event in terms of immediacy and patient waiting would not be antithetical. When believers in Thessalonica drew the wrong conclusions about the imminence of Christ’s return, Paul made it clear that certain developments must take place first. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) In the case of persons who become overly excited about the imminence of an event, even the passage of a few years can cause them to become impatient. For this reason, admonition about preserving a sense of immediacy and exhortation about waiting patiently do not constitute clear evidence that they come from distinctly different times.

There is no unmistakable proof that 2 Peter could not have originated with the apostle. So, in keeping with the opening verse, one may regard Peter as the source. A person’s not doing so does not contribute anything of real value when it comes to the message 2 Peter conveys.