The Second Epistle of Peter
1. Author and Recipient of the Epistle
The author of the Second Epistle of Peter introduces himself with “Symeon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” Symeon is the Hebrew-Aramaic way of writing Simon which is also used in Acts 15:14 (according to the Greek text of the NT of Nestlé-Aland26). Peter anticipates his death in the near future (chap. 1:14) and thereby remembers the Lord Jesus’ announcement in John 21:18-19. Besides he mentions that he was one of the three eye-witnesses on the mount when the Lord Jesus was transfigured (compare Luke 9:27-36). Peter knows and estimates Paul’s epistles and calls him “our beloved brother Paul” (3:15). Finally he writes that this is the second epistle addressed to them (chap. 3:1). All these facts form part of the internal evidence for the genuineness of the epistle and authorship of Peter.
And yet this epistle is dismissed today by most scientists as not being from Peter. The main reasons are as follows:
1.The epistle is written in very good Greek. This appears not to sit well with Peter’s authorship.
2.Certain passages resemble passages in the epistle of Jude and therefore would speak against Peter’s authorship.
3.The heresies fought against indicate the post apostolic time.
4.The epistle is testified (referred to by others) fairly late only.
These objections, however, are not valid and have been refuted by many researchers.
1.The Apostle Paul himself did not always write in the same style.
2.The similarity with Jude’s epistle is not to be equated with dependency. Think of the contents of Deuteronomy and the Chronicles. They also list many parallel references to other books. But this is done so intentionally!
3.The heresies referred to do not indicate a definite time of writing.
4.It is true that Irenaeus (about 140 to 202 AD) and Tertullian (around 160 to 220 AD) do not mention the Second Epistle of Peter. The Muratori Canon (end of 2nd century) does not mention it either; neither does it mention Hebrews, James and First Peter. Origines (about 185 to 254 AD) is the first to mention Second Peter but considers it contested. So does Eusebius (around 263 to 339 AD). Cyrill of Jerusalem (around 310 to 386 AD) and Athanasius (around 296 to 373), however, refer to it as writing of the Canon and so do Augustine (354 to 430 AD) and Hieronymus (around 340 to 420 AD).
The Eastern Church confirmed at the synod of Laodicea (around 360 AD) that Second Peter is part of the Canon of Holy Scripture. The West has done so in the well known synods in Rome (382 AD), Hippo (383 AD) and Cartago (397 AD) where the inspired writings of the NT found definite recognition against the always increasing heresies.
It is surprising with which carelessness research (and this in spite of great knowledge of details) comes to such shattering conclusions regarding this book of the Bible. One would only like to reply this critique with the following questions: Is it to be thought of that an upright author will include personal information on Peter’s life in obviously falsifying intention (and this in an epistle which is talking so much on truth and holiness)? And: Would believing Christians who followed their Lord faithfully have accepted such an obviously falsified epistle and have taken it for true? – This must definitely be negated.
Time and place of writing cannot be affirmed out of the epistle itself. According to tradition it was written between 63 and 67 AD.
2. Subject and Purpose of Epistle
Peter wrote this epistle to warn the believers against
1. False teachers and false teaching (chap. 2:1)
2. Scoffers who would question the coming of Christ (chap. 3:3)
The subject of this epistle is the certainty that the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ will come. This is why Peter mentions Christ’s glorification on the mount – which was a confirmation of the words of the OT prophets (chapter 1).
But before this kingdom is established the destruction of Christendom must come to an end. Christendom had already started to deteriorate at Peter’s time. This is described drastically in chapter 2. Jude’s subject is the apostasy of Christendom whereas in 2 Peter we rather find the evil in false teaching.
The third chapter brings in the denial of Christ’s coming again which is based on the supposed invariability of things since the beginning of creation. Peter thus takes the opportunity to point to the “day of the Lord” and the kingdom, and even to eternity. Realising these things believers ought to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The just governmental ways of God will succeed also regarding the unbelievers.
Second Peter is also an epistle of remembrance: Peter speaks thrice of the remembrance of the good doctrine and practice (chapter 1:12-15). In chapter 3:1-3 he reminds the believers of the words of the OT prophets and of the NT apostles and finally in chapter 3:15 of the writings of the Apostle Paul.
Peter makes frequent mention of the Holy Scriptures of the OT: chapter 1:19-21; 2:18.104.22.168; 3:2.5-6.8.16.
a. Peter and Jude
The second chapter of 2 Peter and the Epistle of Jude contain some similar statements. These similarities have led to diverse conclusions. The most wide spread thought nowadays is that Peter copied from Jude’s epistle (which existed already at Peter’s time) and thereby omitted some “deficiencies”. If however we compare some of the verses in question we find that both authors deal with similar subjects but under different viewpoints and not at all dependant on one another.
|2 Peter 2:||Jude|
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.
And the angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
...as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceiving while they feast with you.
These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear.
...following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity.
...and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward...
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
Clouds they are without water, carried about of winds...
b. As to the Origin of the Canon of the New Testament
In 2 Peter 3:15-16 the author puts the writings of the apostle Paul on the same level with the “other scriptures” (the writings of the OT) while writing: “As also in all his epistles, ... which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” The canon of the OT had been established for a long time. The OT is referred to as “the scriptures” (compare Luke 24:32.45; John 5:39). The Holy Spirit had been at work in the authors of both OT and NT by inspiration and he worked to the effect that the recipients or readers accepted these writings as coming from God. This we see also with Peter. Similarly the Apostle Paul in 1 Tim. 5:18 refers to a verse of the OT (Deut. 25:4) and one of the NT (Luke 10:7) with the introductory words: “For the scripture says.” In these two examples we definitely see that the collection of NT writings had already begun at that time and that they were considered as godly authority as were the writings of the OT.
4. Overview of Contents
|I. 2 Peter 1:1-2||Greetings|
|II. 2 Peter 1:3-11||Admonition to Spiritual Growth|
|III. 2 Peter 1:12-21||The Prophetic Word|
|IV. 2 Peter 2:1-22||Warning Against False Teachers|
|V. 2 Peter 3:1-13||The Future|
|VI. 2 Peter 3:14-18||Final Admonition|