None book in NT has been so disputed as to authorship and canonicity than Peter. There are convincing arguments for and against Peter’s relation to this book.
Arguments against Paul’s authorship:
- The style differs from that of Peter.
- Knowledge of Peter was geographically limited.
- The conceptual and rhetorical language is too Hellenistic for a Galilean fisherman.
- Christian writers do not mention Peter in the second century.
- It could be a pseudonymous book bearing Peter’s name.
Arguments for acceptance of Peter as an apostolic writing.
- The style may differ because Peter could use different amanuensis.
- As for the claim that knowledge of Peter was geographically limited, it could be that persecution, the brevity of Peter or its remote destination resulted in its not being widely circulated in the first hundred years of the church.
- We don’t know anything about Hellenistic influence on Peter. Either we don’t know was he bilingual or not. There is a possibility that someone assisted him in writing this letter (amanuensis).
- Brevity of Peter, persecution of his recipients, its remote destination could have led to the lack of attention to it of Christian writers.
- Although it could be pseudonymous letters like “The Gospel of Peter”, “The Apocalypses of Peter”, “The letter of Peter to James”, none of these works was accepted into the canon because they hadn’t God’s inspiration.
Finally, by the time of Cyril of Jerusalem, Peter was considered canonical; and Cyril’s acceptance of it as well as its acceptance by Athanasis, Augustine, and Jerom settled the issue for the early church. These leaders acknowledged Peter to be Scripture because the evidence, both internal and external, showed its solid worth.
Nevertheless, disputes about this subject continue even today. Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples who later became an apostle and a very bold leader of Jerusalem church. He devoted all his life to the ministry of Jesus Christ. He was imprisoned with Paul in Mamertime dungeon and executed outside Rome in 68 AD.
From 2 Peter 3:15-16 it is clear that the letter could not have been written until a number of Pauline epistles had been written and gathered together. This means that earliest date of writing would be AD 60. If the apostolic authorship of 2 Peter is accepted and the letter was published while Peter was still alive, the date would be shortly before his death, approximately 64-68 AD.
There is no reliable information about where the book was written. It could be Rome, because Peter visited it and was well known there or some other cities or countries: Palestine, Asia Minor, Corinth. It is impossible to determine the place of origin unless new information comes into light.
The letter is addressed “to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (1:1). This may imply that Peter wrote to Christians in various places: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bethynia. From the warnings in the letter concerning the false teachers(2:1-20) it is more likely to be addressed to Gentiles than Jews.
The occasion for writing Peter may be inferred from its contents. The immediate occasion was Peter’s knowledge that his time was short and that people of God still face many dangers. The original text differs in some way from already translated one. It is important to view some of the most important passages of the original to have fuller and more vivid understanding of the intended meaning.
The author identifies himself as “Simon Peter” from Herbraic “Simeôn” and a nickname “Petros”-Greek translation of Aramaic word “Cephas” which means “stone”Peter calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ (doulos; lit., “slave”). Servant is bought by his master and should obey his commands. Peter is also purchased for the price of Jesus’ precious blood and does his will.
Peter presents 7 virtues that should be added to the faith to make it effective and productive. These virtues are: “goodness” (aretç)- virtue of moral excellence, “knowledge” (gnosis)-constant goal of Christian’s life, “self-control”(egkrateia), “perseverance” (hypomonç)- patience in waiting for the 2nd coming of Christ, “godliness” (eusebeia)-devotion of person to God, “brotherly kindness” (philadelphia)-virtue that characterizes the fellowship of believers and “love” (agape)-the main of all virtues, denotes self-sacrificing action in behalf of another.
Divine nature of Jesus Christ 2:4-10. Divine nature of Jesus Christ was attested by his apostles and O.T. prophecy. Peter claims that he was eyewitness (epoptai) of Jesus Transfiguration. This scene showed Jesus as the Son of God and the King of the World. In verse 1:19 Peter calls Jesus the “morning star”. Related expression is found in the O.T. “a star…from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17) which supports the idea that Jesus is the promised Messiah.
False teaching and their judgment 2:1-22. The author compares false teachers with “springs without water and mists driven by storm.” Christs provides “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14) to his believers. Because false teachers have no this living water their way is destruction.
Peter informs that the last days will come like a “thief” (unexpectedly), and “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything on it will be laid bare.” 3:10. There is a dispute among some scholars, what are these “elements”, and how a process of destruction would look like. Some, for example, see heavenly bodies (stars) as elements and process of destruction as splitting of the atoms.
Finally, Peter says that living by word of God we will have a new world to live. John also saw “a new heaven and a new earth where nothing is impure” (Rev21:1,8,27) that confirms the truth of Peter’s words and inspired origin of this book.
- to refute false teachers and their heresies.
- To stimulate Christian growth in church.
- To correct errors about 2nd coming of Christ.
- To explain the relation of knowledge to faith.
The theme: growing of fruitful faith in order to stay firm against false teachers and for the gaining of promised eternal life. As a whole, I enjoyed reading of 2nd Peter. The author uses very vivid and original language to describe the problems of Christianity. Peter’s concern and love towards his audience is very touching and worthy of praise.
I think, that this letter is very relevant to the present days. Neglecting some historical features of the text, it seems that it was written exactly for us. The problems that were discussed in the book: false teaching, real faith, and the role of knowledge in its growth are actual more than ever.
What we have now is the variety of sects that pervert or deny the Gospel of truth. Only in Ukraine there is more than 1350 sects, both legal and illegal. A person, who is not rooted in his faith yet, may be caught in the nets of deceivers and false teachers. This problem has become even more critical than in ancient times because present leaders of sects are frequently good psychologists and use hypnosis to influence their “brothers in faith”.
The consequences of these practices are horrible. Many religious leaders interpret the word of God in the ways they want it to be, they seek the secret meaning that isn’t intended by the author. For example Paul’s words “…everything is permissible for me” are paraphrased as “freedom from law and restraint of body”.
Yet, Peter says the most of those who speak about freedom are “slaves of depravity-for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2:19) and the only one who can give us real freedom from sin is Jesus Christ, but, unfortunately false teachers always neglect that last thing.Also, the religion in nowadays is mostly commercialized and the motivation for the ministry is mercenary.
To make a careful and right choice concerning living by faith, one should use the Word of God as a guideline in all his decisions. Those who are already firm in their belief also shouldn’t forget about the danger of misleading. This is what Peter tells us about in the verse 3:17. “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.”
There is one more problem in the letter I would like to emphasize, it is a problem of faith and knowledge. Many people forget that knowledge is not the way to eternal life as well as attendance of religious ceremonies. We won’t be closer to God taking part in some rituals or simply reading the Bible. The road to salvation is not an easy one, and the way to redemption is to do the things you find reading the sacred book. True faith is in true living. Knowledge is only a part, a component of faith, as well as other 6 virtues: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and the queen of all virtues-love.
In my opinion it is not occasionally that love completes the list because God is love himself. That’s why proper knowledge goes side by side with love and can’t be separated from it. On the other hand, when we love someone we want to please the object of our devotion. Following the ways that God has set for us we please the God and do his will. This is the real fruitful faith that apostle Peter tells us about.
- Cf. G. Baker, W. Lane, and J. R. Michaels, “The New Testament speaks” (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), pp. 32, 349-52
- Cf. Guthrie, “New Testament Introduction”, pp. 925-27, esp. P. 926, n.3
- Cf. R.H. Gundry, “A Servey of the New Testament” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), p.353.
- F.F. Bruce, “The Letters of Paul: an expanded papaphrase (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), pp. 10-11