|The Authenticity of the Second Epistle of Peter|
There is a difference of opinion among Bible scholars as to whether or not this epistle was written by the Apostle Peter. This has been a question since the time of the early church. I have quoted opinions from four reference books and fifteen versions of the Scriptures. (My sources are only those in my personal library.) Most of the versions in my collection make no comment.
The purpose of my essay is not to support or to refute any viewpoint. It is to show that no one knows for sure and that even the experts do not agree completely, with some disagreeing completely.
|ANT||This letter, claiming to be a second letter by Peter, is certainly pseudepigraphic. Both the external and even more the eternal evidence is against the book's genuineness as the work of the Apostle. The writer has assumed Peter's identity in order to reinforce the message of Jude, which to some extent he has attempted to copy. His manner of referring to Christ, his acceptance of Paul's letters as Scripture, his allusions to the envoys, and his response to those who through the passage of time had become skeptical about the Second Advent, all reveal his late date. It has been held that the author was acquainted with the Antiquities of Josephus, and as the letter was also subsequent to that of Jude, its composition prior to the beginning of the second century is impossible.|
|BNT||It has to be said that a very great many scholars, from John Calvin onwards, have been
very doubtful if Peter really is the author of this letter. There are three main reasons for
First, the style of this letter is so different from the first letter which bears Peter's name that it is next to impossible that the same man could have written both. This is one of the most florid, rhetorical and flamboyant pieces of style in the New Testament.
Second, in 3: 15, 16, the writer writes to his readers as if the letters of Paul were well known to them. This seems to imply that the letters of Paul had been collected and published and were part of the literature of the church. But Paul's letters were private letters, and they were not collected and edited and published for all to read until at least A.D. 90. In the early sixties, when Peter died, it would hardly have been possible to write like this.
Third, he talks of the people who said that the Second Coming was not going to happen, because things have been just the same 'since the fathers fell asleep' (3: 4). This seems to mark out the readers of this letter as at least second generation Christians, whose fathers, who had first heard the Christian message, are now dead.
It may be that the writer of this letter was someone who knew well what Peter had said in his preaching and his writing, and who knew well what he would say in the present situation, and who wrote in his great teacher's name.
|CTNT||The last book of the New Testament to win recognition. The evidence for it in the first
three centuries is slight and scattered. Origen and Eusebius question its genuineness. It was
only after long struggle that it became accepted as a part of Scripture.
One passage in it, 2 Peter 2: 1-19, presents a very close resemblance to Jude 3-16.
|DRB||In this Epistle St. Peter says, (chapter 3), Behold this second Epistle I write to you: and before (chapter 1: 14), Being assured that the laying away of this my tabernacle is at hand. This shows, that it was written a very short time before his martyrdom, which was about thirty-five years after our Lord's Ascension.|
|MSNT||It is impossible to speak with any certainty as to either the date or the authorship of this
Letter. From the beginning there have been doubts as to its genuineness and canonicity, and
these are represented to-day in the differing judgements of critics equally able and sincere.
It has, however, unquestionably had a place in the canon of the New Testament since the Council of Laodicea in 372 A.D., and there is certainly no such decisive evidence against it as to warrant our omitting it from the New Testament.
It would appear that the writer, whoever he was, had seen the Letter from Jude, and bore it in mind in this his plea for such character and conduct on the part of believers as were worthy of their faith and would prepare them for the Coming of the Lord.
|NAB||In both content and style this letter is very different from 1 Peter, which immediately
precedes it in the canon. Acceptance of 2 Peter into the New Testament canon met with great
resistance in the early church. The oldest certain reference to it comes from Origen in the
early third century. While he himself accepted both Petrine letters as canonical, he testifies
that others rejected 2 Peter. As late as the fifth century some local churches still excluded
it from the canon, but eventually it was universally adopted. The principal reason for the
long delay was the persistent doubt that the letter stemmed from the apostle Peter.
Among modern scholars there is wide agreement that 2 Peter is a pseudonymous work, i.e., one written by a later author who attributed it to Peter according to a literary convention popular at the time. It gives the impression of being more remote in time from the apostolic period than 1 Peter; indeed, many think that it is the latest work in the New Testament and assign it to the first or even the second quarter of the second century.
|NBV||Date of writing: c A.D. 66-67.|
|NJB||A large section, 2: 1 - 3: 3, coincides closely with the letter of Jude and is probably
dependent upon it.
The letter may well be the latest writing of the NT, and is widely accepted as dating from the 2nd century, well after Peter's death. It is given the authority of Peter by a literary convention.
|PRS||The authenticity of this letter was sharply disputed by the early Church, and it is still viewed with suspicion by many. This is partly because one section appears to be copied from the letter of Jude, partly because the general character is different from the first letter of Peter, and partly because competent scholars consider there are references in it to events which happened after Peter's death in approximately 64. It is of course, possible that we have here parts of a genuine letter of Peter with considerable later additions.|
|RCB||Reese dates the epistle at A.D. 67. Klassen dates it at about A.D. 41.|
|TBR||Because the author refers to Paul's letters as if they were already a published collection and equal to "the other scriptures" -- details that developed after Peter's death -- many scholars think that a secretary or disciple of Peter published it under Peter's name, presenting Peter's point of view, according to an accepted convention of the time.|
|TCNT||The resemblance of this Letter to the 'Letter of St. Jude,' and to the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, are most remarkable; and so, too, are the apparent references to passages in the writings of the Alexandrian Philosopher, Philo. Both Philo and Josephus wrote in the first Century of the Christian era.|
|TJB||2 Peter seems to date from later than Peter's death, though the writer may have had some claim to represent Peter and was possibly a disciple of his. One possibility is that he filled out one of Peter's writings by adopting the letter of Jude to make a chapter.|
|WAS||From ch. 1: 14, we learn that this epistle was written but a short time before the close of the apostle's life; and the contents of the letter agree with this thought. ... . A portion of ch. 2 has a striking resemblance to a part of Jude's epistle.|
|WNT||The author is usually thought to be the apostle Peter, although many scholars either deny it or doubt it.|
The Bible Almanac:
The different Greek styles of Peter's two letters are to be explained as belonging to two different penmen whose skills Peter used.
The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus:
Eusebius: As to the writings of Peter, one of his epistles called the first is acknowledged as genuine. For this was anciently used by the ancient fathers in their writings, as an undoubted work of the apostle. But that which is called the second, we have not, indeed, understood to be embodied with the sacred books, yet as it appeared useful to many, it was studiously read with the other Scriptures. (Page 83)
Eusebius: Among the disputed books, although they are well known and approved by many, is reputed, that called the Epistle of James and Jude. Also the "Second Epistle of Peter," and those called "The Second and Third of John," whether they are of some other of the same name. (Page 110)
Origen: But Peter, upon whom the church of Christ is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, has left one epistle undisputed. Suppose, also, the second one was left by him, for on this there is some doubt. (Page 246)
Halley's Bible Handbook:
The epistle specifically claims to be the work of Simon Peter. The writer represents himself as having been present at the Transfiguration of Christ; and of having been warned by Christ of his impending death. This means that the Epistle is a genuine writing of Peter, or that it was the work of some one who professed himself to be Peter.
Though it was slow in being received into the New Testament Canon, it was recognized by the early Church as a genuine writing of Peter, and has, through the centuries been revered as a part of Holy Scripture.
Some modern critics regard it as a pseudonymous work of the late second century, written by some unknown person who assumed Peter's name, a hundred years after Peter's death. To the average mind this would be just plain common forgery, an offense against civil and moral law and ordinary decency. The critics, however, over and over aver that there is nothing at all unethical in thus counterfeiting another's name.
Smith's Bible Dictionary:
This epistle presents questions of difficulty. Doubts as to its genuineness were entertained by the early Church; in the time of Eusebius it was reckoned among the disputed books, and was not formally admitted into the canon until the year 393, at the Council of Hippo. These difficulties, however, are insufficient to justify more than hesitation in admitting its genuineness. A majority of names may be quoted in support of the genuineness and authenticity of this epistle. (It is very uncertain as to the time when it was written. It was written near the close of Peter's life -- perhaps about A.D. 68 -- from Rome or somewhere on the journey thither from the East.)
The comments in these references range from adamantly supporting Peter as the author of the epistle to adamantly refuting Peter as the author. In between are those who see the possibility that Peter wrote some of it, but that someone who may have known Peter wrote the rest of it, or that this person wrote all of it. Although the critics see similarities with other writers of the time, not one advocates that the epistle should be removed. The difference of opinion is over who actually wrote the epistle. Many versions make no comment, thus taking for granted that Peter is the author.
Let us examine the criteria for including this or any other writing in the New Testament. Two sources are quoted here.
Smith's Bible Dictionary (page 105):
"The complete canon of the New Testament, as commonly received at present, was ratified at the third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), and from that time was accepted throughout the Latin Church. The books of Scripture were not made canonical by act of any council, but the council gave its sanction to the results of long and careful investigations as to what books were really of divine authority and expressed the universally-accepted decisions of the church."
New American Bible (1979, page xxvii):
"How were the present New Testament books finally selected? There were various factors to be considered: apostolic origin, the importance of the community addressed, the centrality of the doctrine contained. In the final analysis, however, it was the church's awareness, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that certain books were an authentic and necessary reflection of her own life and faith. The community of believers saw their own faith in these books as in a mirror."
The most important criterion for any Scripture is the message. How does it compare with what has already been revealed? Considering what a church accepts as right is a weak criterion. Paul warned churches, as did John in the Revelation, that they were going astray. The New Testament was compiled in the same century that Christianity was made popular in the heathen Roman Empire.
Were the church leaders who were involved in the final selection really inspired? In view of the disputes over the Epistles of James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and also the Revelation, one would wonder.
If the apostolic criterion be important, the early date for 2 Peter is more probable. If the later date be correct, a problem arises for those Christians who quote Revelation 22: 18 against later Scripture being given. Since 2 Peter is considered the last book written and also the last accepted, it should not be included according to this argument. The only way around it is if Peter actually wrote it prior to A.D. 70.
The problem is that Bible scholars disagree on the authorship of the Second Epistle of Peter. Each has a way to defend his particular stance. One or none of them may be right. Who knows which ones were inspired by Yahweh? A few writers in the Old Testament are obscure, but their messages are important. The same applies to the New Testament. One cannot always rely on experts, as they, like any human, can be mistaken. Neither can one be adamant in what one believes about the contents of the Bible or any particular version as someday it may be shown that this adamant belief is wrong.
My conclusion from this study is that the importance of the Second Epistle of Peter is not who wrote it but what message the writer has for his readers. This factor should apply to all the books of the Bible and to all writings pertaining to spiritual matters. We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit as we interpret and evaluate them.