Second Epistle of Peter
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||This article contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. (September 2012)|
The Second Epistle of Peter, often referred to as Second Peter and written 2 Peter or in Roman numerals II Peter (especially in older references), is a book of the New Testament of the Bible, written in the name of Saint Peter, although the vast majority of modern scholars regard it as pseudepigraphical.
It is the first New Testament book to treat other New Testament writings as scripture, 2 Peter was one of the last letters included in the New Testament canon and is part of the Antilegomena; it quotes from and adapts Jude extensively, identifies Jesus with God, and addresses a threatening heresy which had arisen because the anticipated Second Coming of Christ had not yet occurred.
According to the Epistle itself, it was composed by the Apostle Peter, an eyewitness to Jesus' ministry. It criticizes "false teachers" who distort the authentic, apostolic tradition, and predicts judgment for them. 2 Peter explains that God has delayed the Second Coming of Christ so that more people will have the chance to reject evil and find salvation. It calls on Christians to wait patiently for the parousia and to study scripture.
The date of composition has proven to be very difficult to determine. Commentaries and reference books have placed 2 Peter in almost every decade from 60 to 160AD.
Although 2 Peter internally purports to be a work of the apostle, most biblical scholars have concluded that Peter is not the author and consider the epistle pseudepigraphical.  Reasons for this include its linguistic differences from 1 Peter, its apparent use of Jude, possible allusions to 2nd-century gnosticism, encouragement in the wake of a delayed parousia, and weak external support.
The questions of authorship and date are closely related. Self-evidently if Peter the Apostle wrote this epistle then it must have been written prior to his death in c 65–67AD. The letter refers to the Pauline epistles and so must post-date at least some of them, regardless of authorship, thus a date before 60 is not probable.
Many scholars generally consider the epistle to be written between c 100–150AD and so contend that it is pseudepigraphical. For an argument for a late date see Harris. For a 'middle date' see Bauckham who opts for a date between 80–90AD as most probable. For an early date and (usually) for a defense of the Apostle Peter's authorship see Kruger, Zahn, Spitta, Bigg, and Green. Jeremy Duff argues that the various strands of evidence "point towards the period 60–130 CE, with some reason to favour 80–90 CE."
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Acceptance of the letter into the canon did not occur without some difficulty; however, "nowhere did doubts about the letter's authorship take the form of definitive rejection." The earliest record of doubts concerning the authorship of the letter were recorded by Origen (c. 185 – 254), though Origen mentioned no explanation for the doubts, nor did he give any indication concerning the extent or location. As D. Guthrie put it, “It is fair to assume, therefore, that he saw no reason to treat these doubts as serious, and this would mean to imply that in his time the epistle was widely regarded as canonical.” Origen, in another passage, has been interpreted as considering the letter to be Petrine in authorship. Before Origen's time, the evidence is inconclusive; there is a lack of definite early quotations from the letter in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, though possible use or influence has been located in the works of Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 211), Theophilius (d. c. 183), Aristides (d. c. 134), Polycarp (d. 155), and Justin (d. 165). Eusebius (c. 275 – 339) professed his own doubts, see also Antilegomena, and is the earliest direct testimony of such, though he stated that the majority supported the text, and by the time of Jerome (c. 346–420) it had been mostly accepted as canonical.
This epistle presciently declares that it is written shortly before the apostle's death (1:14). Arguments have been made both for and against this being part of the original text, but this debate largely is centered on the acceptance or rejection of supernatural intervention in the life of the writer.
The book also shares a number of passages with the Epistle of Jude, 1:5 with Jude 3; 1:12 with Jude 5; 2:1 with Jude 4; 2:4 with Jude 6; 2:5 with Jude 5; 2:6 with Jude 7; 2:10–11 with Jude 8–9; 2:12 with Jude 10; 2:13–17 with Jude 11–13; 2:18 with Jude 16; 3:2f with Jude 17f; 3:3 with Jude 18; 3:14 with Jude 24; and 3:18 with Jude 25. Because the Epistle of Jude is much shorter than 2 Peter, and due to various stylistic details, the scholarly consensus is that Jude was the source for the similar passages of 2 Peter.
Tartarus is mentioned in 2 Pet 2:4 as devoted to the holding of certain fallen angels. It is elaborated on in Jude 6. Jude 6 however, is a clear reference to the Book of Enoch. Bauckham suggests that 2 Peter 2:4 is partially dependent on Jude 6 but is independently drawing on paraenetic tradition that also lies behind Jude 5–7. The paraenetic traditions are in Sirach 16:7–10, Damascus Document 2:17–3:12, 3 Maccabees 2:4–7, Testament of Naphtali 3:4–5 and Mishna Sanhedrin 10:3.
The audience in this book are the churches in general.
The letter is usually outlined as follows:
- Address (2 Peter 1:1–2)
- Exhortation to Christian Virtue (2 Peter 1:3–21)
- Condemnation of the False Teachers (2 Peter 2:1–22)
- The Delay of the Second Coming (2 Peter 3:1–16)
- Final Exhortation and Doxology (2 Peter 3:17–18)
- Wallace, Daniel Second Peter: Introduction, Argument, and Outline
- Bauckham, RJ (1983), Word Bible Commentary, Vol.50, Jude-2 Peter, Waco
- Brown, Raymond E., Introduction to the New Testament, Anchor Bible, 1997, ISBN 0-385-24767-2. p. 767 "the pseudonymity of II Pet is more certain than that of any other NT work."
- Erhman, Bart (2005). Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Harper Collins. p. 31 "Evidence comes in the final book of the New Testament to be written, 2 Peter, a book that most critical scholars believe was not actually written by Peter but by one of his followers, pseudonymously.". ISBN 978-0-06-182514-9.
- Grant, Robert M. A Historical Introduction To The New Testament, chap. 14.
- Chester, A & Martin, RP, (1994), The Theology of the letters of James, Peter & Jude, CUP, p.144
- Harris, Stephen L.. Understanding the Bible: a reader's introduction, 2nd ed. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. p. 354
- Bauckham, RJ (1983), World Bible Commentary, Vol. 50, Jude-2 Peter, Waco, p.158
- Kruger, MJ, (1999) "The Authenticity of 2 Peter", Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.4, p.645-671
- e.g. S. T. Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament II p. 250
- F. Spitta, Der Zweite Brief des Petrus und der Brief des Judas (1885)
- C. Bigg, ‘The Epistles of St Peter and St Jude’, in International Critical Commentary
- E. M. B. Green, 2 Peter Reconsidered (1961) and other works.
- Jeremy Duff. "2 Peter". Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press. 2001.
- Donald Guthrie, Introduction to the New Testament 4th ed. (Leicester: Apollos, 1990), p. 806.
- M. R. James, ‘The Second Epistle General of St. Peter and the General Epistle of St. Jude’, in, Cambridge Greek Testament (1912), p. xix; cf. Origen, Homily in Josh. 7.1.
- Donald Guthrie, Introduction to the New Testament 4th ed. (Leicester: Apollos, 1990), p. 807.
- C. Bigg, ‘The Epistle of St Peter and Jude’, in International Critical Commentary (1901), pp. 202–205; R. E. Picirilli, ‘Allusions to 2 Peter in the Apostolic Fathers’, in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 33 (1988), pp. 57–83; J. W. C. Wand, The General Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude (1934), p. 141.
- Donald Guthrie, Introduction to the New Testament 4th ed. (Leicester: Apollos, 1990), pp. 808–809, though the exception of the Syrian canon is noted, with acceptance occurring sometime before 509; cf. Jerome, De Viris Illustribus chapter 1.
- 2 Peter Introduction, New American Bible
- T. Callan, "Use of the Letter of Jude by the Second Letter of Peter", Biblica 85 (2004), pp. 42–64.
- The Westminster dictionary of New Testament and early Christian literature, David Edward Aune, p. 256
- Christian-Jewish Relations Through the Centuries By Stanley E. Porter, Brook W. R. Pearson
- Adams, Thomas B. "A Commentary on the Second Epistle General of Second Peter" Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, 1990. ISBN 978-1-877611-24-7
- Green, Michael. "The Second Epistle of Peter and The Epistle of Jude: An Introduciton and Commentary" Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8308-2997-2
- Leithart, Peter J. "The Promise Of His Appearing: An Exposition Of Second Peter" Canon Press, 2004. ISBN 978-1-59128-026-2
- Lillie, John. "Lectures on the First and Second Epistles of Peter" Klock & Klock Christian Pub, 1978. ISBN 978-0-86524-116-9
- Seton, Bernard E. "Meet Pastor Peter: Studies in Peter's second epistle" Review and Herald Pub. Association, 1985. ISBN 978-0-8280-0290-5
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Online translations of the epistle
- Christian Classics Ethereal Library
- A sizeable article giving an overview of the problems with, and ultimately a defense of, the authenticity of 2 Peter
- "Epistles of Saint Peter". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
Second Epistle of Peter
Books of the Bible