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2 Peter

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Estimated Range of Dating: 100-160 A.D.

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Kummel presents the arguments that make all critical scholars recognize that II Peter is a pseudepigraph (Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 430-4):

1. The literary dependence on Jude rules this out. II Pet 1 and 3 already have a number of contacts with Jude: cf. II Pet 1:5 with Jude 3; II Pet 1:12 with Jude 5; II Pet 3:2 f with Jude 17 f; II Pet 3:14 with Jude 24; II Pet 3:18 with Jude 25. The most striking agreements with Jude are shown in the portrayal of the false teachers in II Pet 2 and also in the illustrations based on the OT and the pictures drawn from nature, agreements in the exact wording and extensive agreements in sequence. The false teachers deny the Lord Christ and lead a dissolute life (II Pet 2:1 f = Jude 4), they despise and blaspheme the good angelic powers (II Pet 2:10 f = Jude 8 f), they speak in high-handed fashion (uperogka; II Pet 2:18 = Jude 16), they are blotches on the communal meal (spigoi suneuwcwmenoi; II Pet 2:13 = Jude 12), they are clouds tossed about by the wind, devoid of water, for whom the gloom of darkness is reserved (II Pet 2:17 = Jude 12 f), they are denounced for their fleshly corruption and their unrestrained mode of life (II Pet 2:10, 12 ff, 18 = Jude 7 f, 10, 12, 16). The sequence of examples of punishment from the OT in Jude 5 ff (Israel in the desert, fallen angels, Sodom and Gomorrah) is arranged in historical order in II Pet 2:4 ff and modified (fallen angels, Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah) because the author of II Pet needs the example of the Flood to combat the deniers of the parousia. The general statement in II Pet 2:11 makes sense only if note has been made of the concrete example mentioned in Jude 9. The image in Jude 12 f is more genuine and more plastic than the parallel in II Pet 2:17.

This material shows, therefore, that it is II Pet which is the dependent factor. It is further to be observed that the quotation from a noncanonical writing (Jude 14 f = the Apocalypse of Enoch 1:9; 60:8) is lacking in II Pet, and that by omitting certain essential features the allusions to the apocryphal writings have been somewhat obscured in Jude 6 (fallen angels) and 9 (the struggle between the archangel Michael and the Devil). From this it may be concluded that II Pet is already reluctant to use this literature whereas Jude has a naive attitude toward it. II Pet betrays a literary strategem in that the false teachers who are characterized by Jude as being in the present are depicted in II Pet as future and indeed predicted by Peter (2:1 ff, in the future; 3:3, 17 proginwskontes). But in spite of this they are also described in the present tense (2:10, 12 ff, 20), and indeed the past tense is used (2:15, 22). Consequently it is almost universally recognized today that II Pet is dependent on Jude and not the reverse. Then II Pet 3:3 ff portrays the libertines as the deniers of the parousia. In this way he representes a more developed stage, while a less developed stage is evident in Jude, who does not yet know that the false teachers against whom he directs his attention might have denied the parousia. Since Jude belongs in the postapostolic age, Peter cannot have written II Pet.

2. The conceptual world and the rhetorical language are so strongly influenced by Hellenism as to rule out Peter definitely, nor could it have been written by one of his helpers or pupils under instructions from Peter. Not even at some time after the death of the apostle.

The Hellenistic concepts include: the areth of God (1:3), virtue in addition to faith (1:5); knowledge (1:2, 3, 6, 8; 2:20; 3:18); participation in the divine nature (qeias koinwnoi fusews) "in order that one might escape corruption that is present in the world because of lust" (1:4); the term epoptai comes from the language of the mysteries (1:16); placed side by side are a quotation from Proverbs and a trite saying from the Hellenistic tradition (2:22).

3. The letter has a keen interest in opposing the denial of the Christians' expectation of the parousia. 1:12 ff already deals with the hope of the parousia, which is based on the fact of the transfiguration of Jesus and the OT prophecy. In 3:3 ff there is a direct polemic against those who deny the parousia. These ask scornfully, "Where is the promise of the parousia of Christ?" and draw attention to the fact that since the fathers have fallen asleep everything remains as it has been from the beginning of creation (3:4). In I Clem 23:3 f and II Clem 11:2 ff too, there is adduced a writing which was obviously read in Christian circles, in which is laid down the challenge "We have already heard that in the days of our fathers, but look, we are become old and nothing of that has happened to us." I Clem was written ca. 95, and II Clem can hardly have been written earlier than 150. We have, therefore, historical evidence from the end of the first century onward for the disdainful skepticism which is expressed in II Pet 3:3 ff. But it is the Gnostics of the second century who have opposed the parousia and reinterpreted it along spiritualistic lines. It is probably also they who are meant by the proclaimers of the "clever myths" (1:16) and of "knowledge" (see point 2). Characteristic of them are the libertinism and the insolent disrespect for spirit powers (see point 1). II Pet is therefore aimed against a movement which bears the essential features of second-century gnosis. A more exact determination is not possible, however.

4. Also indicative of the second century is the appeal to a collection of Pauline letters from which "statements that are hard to understand" have been misinterpreted by the false teachers, and to further normative writings which inlcude not only the OT but also the developing NT (3:16). In view of the difficulty in understanding "scripture," and its ambiguity, II Pet offers the thesis that "no prophetic scripture allows an individual interpretation" because men have spoken under the power of the Holy Spirit (1:20 f). Since not every Christian has the Spirit, the explanation of Scripture is reserved for the ecclesiastical teaching office. Accordingly we find ourselves without doubt far beyond the time of Peter and into the epoch of "early Catholocism."

It is certain, therefore, that II Pet does not originate with Peter, and this is today widely acknowledged. This point of view can be confirmed through two further facts.

5. As in the case of the Pastorals, the pseudonymity in II Pet is carried through consistently by means of heavy stress on the Petrine authorship (see above, p. 430). The auther adduces his authority not only on the basis of the fiction of a "testament of Peter" but also by reference back to I Pet in 3:1 f, intending II Pet only to "recall" (1:12, 15; 3:1 f) what was said in I Pet to the extent that it corresponds to the interpretation which the author of II Pet wants to give to I Pet. This appeal to the apostolic authority of Peter and his letter is obviously occasioned by the sharpening of the Gnostic false teaching which is being combated in Jdue, as a result of a consistent denial of the parousia of the false teachers. In this way, the apostle has become the "guarantor of the tradition" (1:12 f), and as a consequence of the abandonment of the near expectation (3:8) the parousia is stripped of its christological character and functions as an anthropologically oriented doctrine of rewards. In its consistent quality the pseudonymity betrays the late origins of II Pet.

6. In spite of its heavy stress on Petrine authorship, II Pet is nowhwere mentioned in the second century. The apologists, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, and the Muratorian Canon are completely silent about it. Its first attestation is in Origen, but according to him the letter is contested (amfiballetai). Eusebius lists it among the antilegomena. . . Even down to the fourth century II Pet was largely unknown or not recognized as canonical.

Furthermore, if it is recognized that I Peter is likely to be pseudepigraph, then II Peter must also be one because it refers back to the first one (3:1). Even assuming the authenticity of I Peter, however, it takes little reflection to recognize how unfortunate this church must have been, to be assailed at one moment by persecutors (in I Pet) and at the next moment by gnostic-style heretics (in II Pet), yet at the same time how blessed this church must have been, for the apostle Peter turned from preaching to writing in the final years of his life, and having received reconnaisance while in Rome on the rapidly evolving troubles of this parish, resolved to have them first consoled and then warned in his letters.

Besides, it is only so transparently not a letter, as the notes in the Catholic NAB state, "Except for the epistolary greetings in 1, 1-2, 2 Peter does not have the features of a genuine letter at all, but is rather a general exhortation cast in the form of a letter." As for the epistolary greeting, even it betrays that this is not actually correspondence, being sent "to those who have received a faith of equal value to ours through the righteousness of our God and savior Jesus Christ." I certainly hope St. Peter would have provided better instructions for the courier, but perhaps he took a page from the book of the apostle Paul, who writes "to the holy ones who are faithful in Christ Jesus," which a later scribe was kind enough to explain as residing in Ephesus. Or perhaps the apostle Peter picked up this bad habit from Jude, the brother of James and a slave of Jesus Christ, who writes "to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ."

The external evidence points most strongly to the inauthenticity of II Peter. If II Peter is authentic, then both epistles are authentic and both addressed themselves to the same church and were sent at approximately the same time (Peter's stay in Rome). Thus, it is most reasonable to assume that the two authentic epistles of Peter would have circulated together. However, the external evidence reveals that several early writers have knowledge only of I Peter, and this tells against the authenticity of II Peter.

The epistle known as Polycarp to the Phillipians has numerous allusions to NT epistles, making it likely that the author had some kind of collection available to him. There is a list of NT parallels available online. But the one epistle that the author seemed to have liked to use most was First Peter. The use is clearly evident, as shown in these examples.

"Therefore, girding your loins, serve God in fear" (Polyc 2:1 / I Pet 1:13)
"believing on him who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave him glory" (Polyc 2:1 / I Pet 1:21)
"not returning evil for evil or abuse for abuse" (Polyc 2:2 / I Pet 3:9)
"every passion of the flesh wages war against the Spirit" (Polyc 5:3 / I Pet 2:11)
"who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, who committed no sin, neither was guile found on his lips" (Polyc 8:1 / I Pet 2:24)

Yet despite his fondness for I Peter, the author does not provide the slightest allusion to II Peter. While I should not like to declare this argument to be insuperable, it does provide a consideration which isn't to be dismissed.

Irenaeus of Lyons obviously had a collection of canonical works that he quoted. Among these works were I Peter.

Adv. Haer. 4.9.2
"...and Peter says in his Epistle: 'Whom, not seeing, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, ye have believed, ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable;'..." (quoted of I Pet 1:8)

Adv. Haer 4.16.5
"And for this reason Peter says 'that we have not liberty as a cloak of maliciousness,' but as the means of testing and evidencing faith." (quoted of I Pet 2:16)

Yet nowhere does Irenaeus quote or mention a second epistle of Peter, which is quite odd if Irenaeus' collection included this epistle, for it has so much juicy material that Irenaeus would not hesitate to use against his heretical opponents. Irenaeus would have many occasions to use II Peter in his extensive refutations, and he very likely would have done so if it were an authentic letter of Peter.

I will briefly discuss Wallace's points. Despite the hopeful allusion-hunting of Picirilli, Polycarp and Irenaeus show that II Peter wasn't known in the second century church although I Peter was. The self-identification of the author as "Symeon Peter" provides no evidence one way or the other. II Peter does indeed show signs of hellenization as mentioned by Kummel above, and in any case Jewish Christians were not obliterated c. 70 CE. The construal of "our God and Savior Jesus Christ" as presenting a significantly lower christology than "our Savior and God Jesus Christ" borders on the absurd. Both expressions refer to Christ with the terms Savior and God, and thus the christological expressions are equivalent. Indeed, critical scholarship recognizes the appelation of Jesus as Savior or as God to be a second century phenomenon, and thus this lends further weight to the case that II Peter is to be dated firmly in the second century. Wallace sees "a humility, a pathos" in the statement that there are things in the collection of Paul's letters that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction. If there really is such, it is the affectation of the pseudipigraphist. Wallace relies on the supposition that the apostle Peter was actually informed of his martyrdom by the risen Christ as described by the redactor of John 21 in order to explain the comment in II Pet 1:14. Wallace even proposes that the guidance of the Holy Spirit in selecting the books of the canon lends support to the authenticity of II Peter. It is clear, then, that any scientific approach to the NT demands that II Peter be regarded as spurious.

As to dating, Perrin suggests (The New Testament: An Introduction, p. 262): "He is probably the latest of all the New Testament writers, and a date about A.D. 140 would be appropriate." Nearly all scholars would agree with a date sometime in the second century, probably in the second quarter.

The author of II Peter knew the epistle of Jude, I Peter, the synoptic account of the transfiguration, the Johannine appendix wherein Christ predicts the martyrdom of Peter, and a collection of Pauline letters. Finally, there seems to be a literary relationship of II Peter with the Apocalypse of Peter. Loisy judged II Peter to be dependent upon the Apocalypse, while some scholars today would judge the dependence to be in the reverse direction. I do not know of any data that would resolve this issue one way or the other.

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Kirby, Peter. "2 Peter." Early Christian Writings. <>.