The book of 2 Peter (2 Peter 1)

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2 Peter explicitly claims to have been written by the apostle Peter, yet today this claim is widely rejected in scholarship. Those who reject Petrine authorship do so for the following reasons: (1) There is a lack of early support for 2 Peter by the church fathers. (2) The letter draws heavily on the epistle of Jude. (3) Its content deals with second century A.D. problems and issues, such as Gnosticism and the delay in Christ’s return. (4) 2 Peter 3:15-16 mentions that a collection of Paul’s letters was already known in the churches. (5) Some argue that 2 Peter is so transparently not by Peter that the early readers would have seen this claim as no more than a literary device.

There are other reasons, however, for maintaining Peter’s authorship: (1) While 2 Peter and Jude have a great deal in common, the fact that their texts are similar has no bearing on the inspiration or authorship of either. (2) 2 Peter contains no direct reference to any second century church issue or institution, and concerns over the delay of Christ’s return appears already in 1 Thessalonians (written ca. A.D. 50-51). (3) The passing reference of Paul’s letters may only indicate that the practice of circulating his letters had begun. (4) Early Christians were quick to repudiate pseudo-apostolic texts and in particular renounced books falsely claiming to have been from Peter (e.g. the Apocalypse of Peter, the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Peter, and the letter of Peter to Philip).

Peter, according to strong tradition, died about A.D. 64-68 under Nero. Thus, his authorship requires a date earlier than this. It has been suggested that Peter wrote this letter from Rome.

This epistle was addressed to Christians to warn them against false teaching (2:1). If 3:1 is a reference to 1 Peter, then Christians in Asia Minor were the recipients of both letters. Otherwise, the identity of 2 Peter’s addressees is uncertain.

2 Peter is an appeal to faith and godliness from the apostle to the churches. Its message does not refer to enemies of the faith, but in such broad terms that it is hard to imagine that Peter had a specific heresy in view. The letter is probably a general exhortation to the churches from the apostle as he approached his death.

As you read, note Peter’s instruction to grow up in godly virtues and Christian character. Watch for his repeated emphasis on truth, which includes not only his warning against false teachers but also his certainty of Christ’s return.

Did you know that New Testament authors adapted literary forms from their culture as they communicate the gospel (1:5-7)? Did you know that the Greek term for “seduce” depicts a fisherman who attempts to lure and catch fish with bait (2:14)? Did you know that in the first century A.D. the term “elements” referred to such entities as earth, air, fire and water (3:10)?


 

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