Lesson 4 of5
In Progress

Introductory Issues in 2 Peter

Authorship

If the arguments against Petrine authorship are in fact conclusive, this provokes questions about who may have written 2 Peter and about the letter’s place and contribution to canon and to tradition. The option of reading it “as though it had been written by Peter” seems somewhat facile if the arguments of the letter’s discontinuity from 1 Peter are to be taken seriously.

Christian faith in a transitional period

Many suggest that the letter reflects a culture where the shifts from a Jewish to a Hellenistic atmosphere and from an apostolic to a postapostolic culture were being felt. If this is the case, interpreters need to evaluate how 2 Peter should be read against other, subsequent cultural shifts. One rightly asks, for example, whether the letter’s posture of retrenchment or caution is too pronounced.

Reading 2 Peter as a “testament” of the Apostle Peter

Some interpreters identify the genre of 2 Peter as a testament, the final words and exhortations of a revered figure. This becomes impossible, of course, if one accepts the view that the letter was not written by Peter, but by someone else, perhaps even decades after the apostle’s death.

References to other texts

The letter directly refers to the writings of Paul in 3:15-16, and it also alludes to familiar biblical themes and motifs. These are intriguing but do not combine to provide a clear idea of what the author’s sources might have been. Recognized affinities to other early Christian literature are also not conclusive to most readers in suggesting a date or setting.

The relationship between 2 Peter and Jude

Neither Jude nor the author of 2 Peter provides any specific details regarding the errors of false teachers, and we do not know enough to be able to identify these teachers with any of the gnostic sects known to us. Parallel passages include: Jude 4 // 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 6-7 // 2 Peter 2:4-10a; Jude 8-9 // 2 Peter 2:10b-11; Jude 10, 12 // 2 Peter 2:12-13; Jude 11 // 2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 12-13, 16 // 2 Peter 2: 17-18; Jude 17-18 // 2 Peter 3:1-3; Jude 24-25 // 2 Peter 3:18. In the judgment of a majority of scholars, 2 Peter quotes Jude, rather than vice versa.

Tartaros

This Greek term, translated as “hell” in many English versions, appears in 2 Peter 2:4 as the place into which God cast the rebellious angels. It is taken from Greek and Roman mythology, denoting a place of abandonment and torment. Its use here instead of “Hades” may be one small indicator of the letter’s non-Jewish audience.