2 Peter Introduction

Taken from the NIV Study Bible:

Author

 

The author identifies himself as Simon Peter (1:1). He uses the first person singular pronoun in a highly personal passage (1:12–15) and claims to be an eyewitness of the transfiguration (1:16–18 [see note on 1:16]; cf. Mt 17:1–5). He asserts that this is his second letter to the readers (3:1) and refers to Paul as “our dear brother” (3:15; see note there). In short, the letter claims to be Peter’s, and its character is compatible with that claim.

 

Although 2 Peter was not as widely known and recognized in the early church as 1 Peter, some may have used and accepted it as authoritative as early as the second century and perhaps even in the latter part of the first century (1 Clement [a.d. 95] may allude to it). It was not ascribed to Peter until Origen’s time (185–253), and he seems to reflect some doubt concerning it. Eusebius (265–340) placed it among the questioned books, though he admits that most accept it as from Peter. After Eusebius’s time, it seems to have been quite generally accepted as canonical.

 

In recent centuries, however, its genuineness has been challenged by a considerable number of interpreters. One of the objections that has been raised is the difference in style from that of 1 Peter. But the difference is not absolute; there are noteworthy similarities in vocabulary and in other matters. In fact, no other known writing is as much like 1 Peter as 2 Peter. The differences that do exist may be accounted for by variations in subject matter, in the form and purpose of the letters, in the time and circumstances of writing, in sources used or models followed, and in scribes who may have been employed. Perhaps most significant is the statement in 1Pe 5:12 that Silas assisted in the writing of 1 Peter. No such statement is made concerning 2 Peter, which may explain its noticeable difference in style (see Introduction to 1 Peter: Author and Date).

 

Other objections arise from a secular reconstruction of early Christian history or misunderstandings or misconstructions of the available data. For example, some argue that the reference to Paul’s letters in 3:15–16 indicates an advanced date for this book—beyond Peter’s lifetime. But it is quite possible that Paul’s letters were gathered at an early date, since some of them had been in existence and perhaps in circulation for more than ten years (Thessalonians by as much as 15 years) prior to Peter’s death. Besides, what Peter says may only indicate that he was acquainted with some of Paul’s letters (communication in the Roman world and in the early church was good), not that there was a formal, ecclesiastical collection of them.

 

 

Date

 

2 Peter was written toward the end of Peter’s life (cf. 1:12–15), after he had written a prior letter (3:1) to the same readers (probably 1 Peter). Since Peter was martyred during the reign of Nero, his death must have occurred prior to a.d. 68; so it is very likely that he wrote 2 Peter between 65 and 68.

 

Some have argued that this date is too early for the writing of 2 Peter, but nothing in the book requires a later date. The error combated is comparable to the kind of heresy present in the first century. To insist that the second chapter was directed against second-century Gnosticism is to assume more than the contents of the chapter warrant. While the heretics referred to in 2 Peter may well have been among the forerunners of second-century Gnostics, nothing is said of them that would not fit into the later years of Peter’s life.

 

Some have suggested a later date because they interpret the reference to the fathers in 3:4 to mean an earlier Christian generation. However, the word is most naturally interpreted as the OT patriarchs (cf. Jn 6:31, “forefathers”; Ac 3:13; Heb 1:1). Similarly, reference to Paul and his letters (3:15–16; see Author) does not require a date beyond Peter’s lifetime.

 

 

2 Peter and Jude

 

There are conspicuous similarities between 2 Peter and Jude (compare 2Pe 2 with Jude 4–18), but there are also significant differences. It has been suggested that one borrowed from the other or that they both drew on a common source. If there is borrowing, it is not a slavish borrowing but one that adapts to suit the writer’s purpose. While many have insisted that Jude used Peter, it is more reasonable to assume that the longer letter (Peter) incorporated much of the shorter (Jude). Such borrowing is fairly common in ancient writings. For example, many believe that Paul used parts of early hymns in Php 2:6–11 and 1Ti 3:16.

 

 

Purpose

 

In his first letter Peter feeds Christ’s sheep by instructing them how to deal with persecution from outside the church (see 1Pe 4:12); in this second letter he teaches them how to deal with false teachers and evildoers who have come into the church (see 2:1; 3:3–4 and notes). While the particular situations naturally call for variations in content and emphasis, in both letters Peter as a pastor (“shepherd”) of Christ’s sheep (Jn 21:15–17) seeks to commend to his readers a wholesome combination of Christian faith and practice. More specifically, his purpose is threefold: (1) to stimulate Christian growth (ch. 1), (2) to combat false teaching (ch. 2) and (3) to encourage watchfulness in view of the Lord’s certain return (ch. 3).

 

 

Outline

 

  • Greetings (1:1–2)
  • Exhortation to Growth in Christian Virtues (1:3–11)
    • The Divine Enablement (1:3–4)
    • The Call for Growth (1:5–7)
    • The Value of Such Growth (1:8–11)
  • The Purpose and Authentication of Peter’s Message (1:12–21)
    • His Aim in Writing (1:12–15)
    • The Basis of His Authority (1:16–21)
  • Warning against False Teachers (ch. 2)
    • Their Coming Predicted (2:1–3a)
    • Their Judgment Assured (2:3b–9)
    • Their Characteristics Set Forth (2:10–22)
  • The Fact of Christ’s Return (3:1–16) Conclusion and Doxology (3:17–18)
    • Peter’s Purpose in Writing Restated (3:1–2)
    • The Coming of Scoffers (3:3–7)
    • The Certainty of Christ’s Return (3:8–10)
    • Exhortations Based on the Fact of Christ’s Return (3:11–16)

    Questions

  1. What questions are asked about the author of Second Peter?
  2. Why was Second Peter written?
  3. How are 2 Peter and Jude connected?
  4. What sticks out to you personally from the outline?
  5. How can you prepare yourself to read this book?

 

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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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3 Responses to 2 Peter Introduction

  1. kevin w. says:

    There is speculation over whether Peter really was the author of 2 Peter. People point to the difference in writing style, the reference to Paul’s letters, and other references like that of the “fathers” and interpret the data as naturally lending itself to someone other that Peter as the writer. Each on of these questions, however, could just as easily (if not more so) be explained as Peter as the true author.
    2 Peter was written in response to attack from within the church (false teachers and the like). This letter closely resembles Jude in themes, examples, wording, etc. One most likely borrowed from the other.
    Divine enablement is what sticks out to me the most in the outline. I want to keep in mind 1 Peter when reading this book.

  2. Christina Zezulak says:

    Second Peter is questioned because of the style differences in comparison to 1 Peter. An early or late written date of Second Peter is also in question.
    Second Peter teaches how to handle false teachers and evildoers in the church. Peter urges Christians to grow in their faith, fight against false teaching, and eagerly await the Lord’s return.
    Various elements of the books are similar. It is suggested that one of the authors borrowed some elements from the other for their own purpose of writing.
    I could prepare for the study of this book by first reading it in one sitting, for the sake of getting the whole picture. For my own personal study, I can apply the Bible study methods in the Journey into God’s Word as we work through the letter.

  3. Bronwyn says:

    I just finished reading through 2nd Peter in NASB. The three themes that the NIV Study Bible lists (quoted above) blend together well. What a book! What unison! In chapter one there clearly is talk about spiritual growth, chapter two is all about false teachers, and chapter three about the Lord’s return. Yet it’s not so distinctly separate as it may sound. These important themes are not “block chunks;” they are connected, Peter is building one thought upon another. He’s going somewhere with this letter! There weren’t chapter divisions in the original! It’s all blended thought..constructive. He ends with what he begins…”grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:18). In chapter three he brings up again spiritual growth and godliness…”what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,” (verse 11b).

    I noticed that in 1:13-14 and 3:1 Peter writes about his desire to “stir” God’s people to “remember” what’s previously been spoken. His long discourse on false teachers must in part be coming from Jesus’ sermon on the end times in Matt. 24-25, as well as sections of Jude. What holy prophets are being referred to here- some who prophesied about the coming “day of the LORD” I wonder?

    There’s a connection between these three themes.. The false teachers are promoting (or will promote) sensual living and Peter, through chapter 1 and elsewhere is reminding God’s people that we are called to be godly and we can be because of His kind bestowal of power and giving of promises through the gift of Himself (verses 3+). He’s reminding God’s people that they should be different from these “accursed children” among them. The language is very strong (chapter 2)! In light of the LORD’s return as well, about which the ungodly mock we are to be godly as well. The thrust of the book seems to me to be growing in grace in an ungodly, perilous world. Trying in that the wicked not only populate the planet, but also some of the pews, and also perilous when one thinks of the Lord’s return and the dynamics associated with that…being patient, yet expectant…

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