New Testament Survey: The Book Of Second Peter
The Book Of Second Peter
Peter (2 Pet 1:1)(In 2 Pet 3:1, Peter wrote that it was his second Epistle.)
(For more on Peter see: Survey: Biography Of Peter)
- The authorship of 2nd Peter has been questioned more than any other letter in the New Testament. In fact, it was not quoted by any church father until Origen in the 3rd century. There are a number of different reasons why its authorship has been questioned (i.e. it differs greatly in style and content from 1st Peter). However, if any of these arguments were accepted as credible, and the author was someone other than Peter, when (2 Pet 1:1) says it was written by Peter, then it was written by a liar and false teacher, and should have no place in our Canon.
- As we will discuss further below, the main purpose of this Epistle was to warn against false teachers. If one holds that a false teacher wrote this, two questions should be asked:
- 1. Why would a false teacher write a letter warning about false teachers?
- 2. There are no new doctrines or teachings contained in 2nd Peter, and isn’t that what false teachers always attempted to do when they wrote a spurious letter? (False teachers still attempt to do this today when they teach doctrines not in the Bible.)
- As for differences in style and content, remember that we previously discussed in 1st Peter that it appears likely that Peter dictated his 1st letter to Silas (Silvanus), who then polished or smoothed out Peter’s Greek. In this, Peter’s second letter, it is believed by most that Peter may have written with his own hand, hence the difference in style from the first letter.
- The difference in content between 1st and 2nd Peter can be explained by the fact that the first letter was sent for comfort and strengthening, while the second letter was for warning.
- There are also many internal proofs that 2nd Peter was indeed written by Peter.
1. The author refers to Jesus’ prediction of his death (2 Pet 1:14). Jesus said this of Peter in (Jn 21:18-19).
2. The author states in (2 Pet 1:16-18) that he was present at the Transfiguration of Christ (Mt 17:1-9)(Mk 9:2-10)(Lk 9:28-36)(2 Pet 1:16-18). Only Peter, James, and John were there.
3. The author claims brotherhood with Paul (2 Pet 3:15).
4. 2nd Peter shares a number of unique words with 1st Peter:
|“putting away/put off” (Gr: apothesis)(used only twice in the NT)||(1 Pet 3:21) / (2 Pet 1:14)|
|“liberty” (Gr: eleutheria)||(1 Pet 2:16) / (2 Pet 2:19)|
|“precious” (Gr: timios)||(1 Pet 1:7,19) / (2 Pet 1:4)|
|“called us into/to glory”||(1 Pet 5:10) / (2 Pet 1:3)|
|“grace and peace be multiplied”||(1 Pet 1:2) / (2 Pet 1:2)|
|both Epistles also mention Noah and the flood||(1 Pet 3:20) / (2 Pet 2:5)|
5. 2nd Peter also shares a number of unique words with Peter’s speeches in Acts:
|“obtained” (Gr: lagchano)(used only twice in the NT)||(Acts 1:17) / (2 Pet 1:1)|
|“holiness/godliness” (Gr: eusebeia)||(Acts 3:12) / (2 Pet 1:3,6,7)|
|“day of the Lord”||(Acts 2:20) / (2 Pet 3:10)|
- It is worth noting that the author of 2nd Peter identifies himself as “Simon Peter” (2 Pet 1:1) rather than simply “Peter” as (1 Pet 1:1) does. If someone was trying to pass this Epistle off as a forgery from Peter, why wouldn’t they use the same title as 1st Peter?
- In 393 A.D., 2nd Peter was admitted into the Canon at the Council of Hippo. It had obviously been reasoned at that time that the various arguments presented against Peter being the author had no validity.
- It is important to note that while a few scholars today still debate the authorship of 2nd Peter, virtually no one believes it should not have been included in our Canon.
- It is also interesting to note that the second chapter of 2nd Peter, which warns about false teachers, is almost exactly the same as the book of Jude. Compare:
|(Jude 1:2) / (2 Pet 1:2)||(Jude 1:9) / (2 Pet 2:11)|
|(Jude 1:4) / (2 Pet 2:1)||(Jude 1:11) / (2 Pet 2:15)|
|(Jude 1:6) / (2 Pet 2:4)||(Jude 1:12) / (2 Pet 2:17)|
|(Jude 1:7) / (2 Pet 2:6)||(Jude 1:16) / (2 Pet 2:18)|
|(Jude 1:8) / (2 Pet 2:10)||(Jude 1:18) / (2 Pet 2:1, 3:3)|
There are several reasons as to why this may have occurred:
1. They may have shared a common source for information (i.e as Luke did when writing his Gospel: Lk 1:1-4).
2. They may have spoken with each other on this subject and wrote similarly.
3. Most likely, however, one writer borrowed from the other. Whether Peter borrowed from Jude, or Jude from Peter, has been a point of contention amongst scholars. There are arguments for each viewpoint:
Peter borrowed from Jude:
1. From a logical standpoint, it seems to make more sense for a larger work (2 Peter) to incorporate a smaller work (Jude) into it (quoting) than for a smaller work to be written with the sole purpose of repeating what has already been said.
2. Peter may have quoted Jude to give apostolic authority to it, just as the early church fathers gave credibility to the various letters we have mentioned in these surveys by quoting them in their writings.
Jude borrowed from Peter:
1. In (2 Pet 2:1-3) Peter says there “shall be” (future tense) the coming of false teachers and scoffers, while in Jude (4,11-12,17-19) it speaks of their arrival (present tense).
2. In (Jude 17-18), Jude directly quotes (2 Pet 3:3) and states that it was from an Apostle, implying that Peter wrote before him.
3. If Peter had quoted the book of Jude, it would have gained instant apostolic authority, but instead, it was one of the last books accepted into the Canon.
- Chapters: 3
- Verses: 61
- App. 67 A.D. (About 3 years after 1st Peter, and shortly before Peter’s death: 2 Pet 1:14)
- Peter was martyred during the reign of Nero (Eusebius said during the 14th year of Nero’s reign), and Nero died in 68 A.D., so it must have been written just prior to this. It was written about 3 years before the destruction of Jerusalem.
- Almost certainly Rome (likely from prison)
- 1st Peter was written from Babylon (1 Pet 5:13), and as we discussed previously in 1st Peter, Babylon was likely symbolic of Rome. Reliable tradition holds that Peter spent the last years of his life in Rome.
- Since 1st Peter was written to Christians in the 5 provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, located in northwestern Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and Peter said this was his second letter to them (2 Pet 3:1), the recipients of this letter were the same as 1st Peter.
- This being the case, the recipients again were likely scattered Jews, but also some Gentiles.
(2 Pet 1:3-4,20-21)(2 Pet 2:9,11,20-22)(2 Pet 3:5-10)
- To warn his readers about the “error” (2 Pet 2:18)(2 Pet 3:17) of the false teachers who were teaching such things as: they no longer needed to obey the law because they were under grace (antinomianism), and there would be no second coming of Christ.
- To encourage them to “grow in their grace and knowledge” (2 Pet 3:18) so that they would not fall prey to these false teachings.
- To explain why the Lord’s Second Coming was delayed (2 Pet 3:1-13).
- The word “knowledge” (Gr: “epignosis“) is used 4 times, and the word “virtue” (Gr: “arete“) is used 3 times in 2nd Peter. This is more than any other book in the New Testament.
- The word “godliness” is used 4 times in 2nd Peter. This is second most in the New Testament to 1st Timothy.
- The words “beguiling” (2 Pet 2:14) and “allure” (2 Pet 2:18), come from the Greek word “deleazo,” meaning “to catch using bait.” This Greek word is used only three times in the Bible, with two being found in 2nd Peter. (Interesting in light of Peter being a fisherman.)
- False teachers, eschatology, and the return of Jesus Christ are also strongly emphasized.
- While not an emphasis, it is interesting to note that while 1st Peter often quoted the Old Testament, 2nd Peter does not quote it at all. However, it is alluded to in approximately 11 verses (2 Pet 1:21, 2:4-8,15, 3:5-6,10,13).
- The Epistle is in four divisions:
1. The great Christian virtues, 1:1-14.
2. The Scriptures exalted, 1:15-21.
3. Warnings concerning apostate teachers, 2:1-22.
4. The second coming of Christ and the day of Jehovah, 3:1-18.
(Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain)