The Authenticity of 2 Peter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE AUTHENTICITY OF 2 PETER

by Steve Cha

 

INTRODUCTION

All 27 books of the New Testament are generally accepted by the evangelical community to be canonical. They are considered inerrant, inspired, and infallible. However, history attests to the fact that there are some books that have been disputed as to their authenticity and inspiration. No New Testament book has generated more controversy over its authorship and rightful place in the canon than 2 Peter. Some scholars, both historical and contemporary, deem the book of 2 Peter to be a pseudepigraphic work, which means that is was not written by the Apostle Peter or one of his associates. This would make 2 Peter a work of forgery on a near same level as an apocryphal book. This claim has major implications for the Christian faith because it questions not only the reliability of a New Testament book for Christian edification, but also the integrity of the canonization process and the work of the Holy Spirit in formulating the words of Scripture. It is the intent of this essay to disprove the claims of the skeptics and to uphold the authenticity of 2 Peter, validating the trustworthiness of 2 Peter and arguing for its inspiration and rightful place in the canon. This essay will seek to establish the orthodox view of 2 Peter, the arguments against Petrine authorship as set forth by skeptics, a solid apologetics for the authenticity of 2 Peter, and will conclude with a brief analysis of what implications this lesson has for the Christian faith and living.

 

THE BACKGROUND OF 2 PETER 

Before we examine the pseudepigraphy theory and provide a fitting case against it, it is best to begin by briefly surveying the orthodox background of the book’s composition. The author of 2 Peter is, quite simply, the Apostle Peter, whom the book is named after. It should be noted that the Apostle Peter is also known as Simon Peter, or Simeon Peter as the writer identifies himself in 2 Peter 1:1. This is the same Peter who also penned the book of 1 Peter. 2 Peter was written shortly before Emperor Nero’s death in AD 68, placing the book’s composition around AD 67-68, since tradition has it that Peter died during the time of Nero’s persecution.[1]

Although 2 Peter does not explicitly say where he was writing from, the Apostle Peter most likely authored his work from the city of Rome while in prison, facing imminent death. 2 Peter also does not mention the audience whom the Apostle wrote to. The epistle was probably written to the same recipients as that of the first letter (1 Peter), which were those “who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pe 1:1). These provinces were located in an area of Asia Minor.[2] It was written as a follow up to 1 Peter, an epistle which was written 2 to 3 years prior. Whereas 1 Peter was written by the Apostle to comfort the people of Asia Minor facing persecution from the Roman Empire, 2 Peter was written to warn the church to be on guard against apostates and false teachers. This made 2 Peter a noticeably difference work than 1 Peter in thematic material.

Because it was written by a disciple of Jesus Christ, the book of 2 Peter contains all the hallmarks that qualify it as God’s word. It is canonical because it is inspired, inerrant, infallible, and sufficient for the Christian faith. Since its composition, 2 Peter was used, quoted, and even regarded as canonical by many of the church fathers such as Jerome, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianus, and Augustine.[3] It is as much God’s word as are the books written by Paul, James, and Jude, not to mention the writings that comprise the Old Testament.

 

THE SKEPTICISM 

Despite the book’s self identification and widespread community acceptance concerning the authorship of 2 Peter, there are some who do not believe what the evangelical world has come to establish with the canonization of 2 Peter as one of the 66 books of the Bible. There are people (both believers and unbelievers) who claim that neither the Apostle Peter nor one of his secretaries wrote 2 Peter, and that the book was a pseudonymous work that originated in the post-apostolic times. This would make 2 Peter a work of forgery that does not meet the criteria for acceptance into the canon of Scripture, since apostolic authority was necessary for works to be accepted as inspired Scripture.[4] Skeptics cite a few main reasons for their theory, which can be divided into the three categories of attestations problems, historical problems, and stylistic problems.

 

Attestation Problems

The first reason why skeptics find the authenticity of 2 Peter to be a problem is that there was doubt concerning its acceptance as Scripture throughout history. Though many accepted it as canonical, there were also some who questioned its authenticity. The first time the book was ever mentioned was by Origen (c. 182-251) at the beginning of the third century.[5] Critics claim that there was very little, if no, trace of the epistle being cited before that time. Although Origin accepted 2 Peter as the word of God, he recognized that there are others who had doubts as to the book’s genuineness. Eusebius perfectly captures the sentiment of this doubt, in which he stated that the majority of the church during his time accepted 2 Peter as authentic, although he himself had some uncertainties about it. These uncertainties stemmed from the fact that writers he respected did not affirm the book’s canonicity and that it was not to his knowledge quoted by the “ancient presbyters.”[6] Eusebius placed 2 Peter in the list of “Disputed Books” along with James, Jude, 2 and 3 John, although not among the spurious books like the Apocalypse of Peter.[7] In summation, critics claim that 2 Peter is not the word of God. At the very least, they believe that the book had dubious amount of authority before Origen’s time.

 

Historical Problems

Skeptics claim that the authenticity of 2 Peter has historical problems as well. One of the objections is the reference in 2 Peter 3:16 to “all” of Paul’s letters. Critics see this as indicating that the Apostle Peter had already died since the text indicates that all of Paul’s letters had been written by that time. The full collection of Pauline writings would not have been complete and widely distributed until after Peter’s death in A.D. 68. Moreover, critics do not believe that Paul’s letters could have achieved the status of inspired and canonical status so quickly that it became as authoritative as the Old Testament.[8] They reason that Peter could not have been alive because time had to have lapsed for the New Testament authority to have developed and for Paul’s letters to have been gathered and regarded by the Christian community to be on the same level of authority as the Old Testament writings.

The skeptics also believe the references to the “false teachers” in 2 Peter to be the second-century Gnostics and not just general apostates in the first century. 2 Peter’s reference to “your apostles” in 3:2 is thought by the skeptics to be the same as the “fathers” of verse 4, which the skeptic’s interpret as the apostles of Jesus. This would seem to suggest that the apostles had already died when 2 Peter was written, therefore the “fathers” cannot be a reference to Old Testament patriarchs.

Another historical objection is that since 1 Peter 1:14 makes reference to Christ’s prediction of John’s death (which is mentioned in John 21:18), 2 Peter must have exercised literary dependence. Critics believe that 2 Peter directly borrowed from the book of John, which was composed after Peter’s death. They reason that it is impossible for the author to have known such specific details concerning the nature of Peter’s death and had to have a reference before he could record it down first.[9] The book of John needed to be composed before the book of 2 Peter did. By then, Peter had already passed away.

 

Stylistic Problems

The last, but not least, objection to the traditional authorship of 2 Peter is the differences in written style between 1 and 2 Peter. Critics claim that the literary style of 2 Peter is different than that of 1 Peter. They perceive 2 Peter to be pseudepigraphic because it explores different themes and contain different vocabulary than 1 Peter.[10] Many of the words that are in 1 Peter do not appear in 2 Peter, which causes skeptics to be doubtful as to whether or not the epistles originated from the same author or were even composed within the same time period.

Proponents of the pseudepigraphic theory contend that the addition of the Jewish name ‘Simeon’ to the Greek name ‘Peter’ in the superscription (1:1) is a conscious attempt to identify the Peter of the second epistle to the Peter of the gospels and Acts. This is the only instance of this double name identification occurring in a non-Gospel book, which seems quite unusual.[11] The usage in 2 Peter is unexpected, especially in light of the absence of ‘Simeon’ or ‘Simon’ from the salutation of 1 Peter. Skeptics conclude that 1 Peter and 2 Peter had different authors who employed the same apostolic name in their writings.

Skeptics even claim that the feel and the tone of 2 Peter is unlike that of 1 Peter. 1 Peter appears more polished and simple in style while 2 Peter is more grandiose and pretentiously elaborate with difficult syntactical constructions.[12] The writing of 2 Peter also appears to be more stilted than that of 1 Peter. The vocabulary is characterized as ‘ambigious’ and its extraordinary list of repetitions makes the book seem ‘poor and inadequate’ compared to 1 Peter.[13] On an interesting note, critics contend that the Apostle Peter is not the author of the epistle because the scribe of 2 Peter possesses an unusual knowledge of Greek culture and philosophy beyond what simple Galileans know. Peter comes from too “simple” of a Galilean background to make the observations that he does in 2 Peter.

Finally, critics argue against the authenticity of 2 Peter because of the different doctrine that 2 Peter explores in contrast to 1 Peter. The emphasis of 2 Peter is on the parousia (Christ’s second coming) while 1 Peter focuses much on the cross, resurrection, ascension, baptism, and prayer. Many would consider that the change in approach to the parousia presupposes a considerable delay after the publication of 1 Peter.[14] However subjective this assessment may be, skeptics still see the difference of subject matter to be too wide of a gap for them to firmly believe that the writer of 1 Peter also wrote 2 Peter.

To sum it up, critics use the attestation, historical, and stylistic problems to contend that a different author, during a post-apostolic period, used the name of Simeon Peter to write 2 Peter and pass off a work that has become a credible document in the Christian community to this day, when in reality it should be no more authoritative than an apocryphal work or a lost epistle.

Now the question is: Is this true? If so, why hasn’t the Christian church detected it? If it is not true, how can we know for sure that Peter penned this document? These are what the remainder of the essay will set out to explore.

 

A DEFENSE FOR THE AUTHENTICITY OF 2 PETER 

The opponents of the traditional view raise some interesting points concerning the reliability of 2 Peter. Although some of their arguments seem to be valid and thought provoking points in favor of non-apostolic authorship, there are many problems with their theories, especially in light of the historical evidence in favor of Petrine authorship. This is not to say that every mystery or difficult issue can be thoroughly solved. But the traditional, orthodox position is still strong to this day. It is credible to the point where we can have confidence of the inspiration and authorship of 2 Peter, trusting in its rightful place in the canon of Scripture. The remainder of the essay will provide a critique of the skeptic’s points of contention and give a defense for the authenticity of 2 Peter.

 

The Process of Canonicity

Before we examine the issue of the identity of 2 Peter (whether it is authentic of pseudepigraphic), it is appropriate to begin by discussing the historic process of canonicity in the church. The issue of canonicity is important because it informs us about the integrity of all books in the Bible and why they are there (in contrast to the countless “gospels” and “epistles” that have been rejected from the canon starting from the second century onward).

Let us first begin by explaining what pseudepigrapha is. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines pseudepigrapha as spurious writings, especially writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times.[15] To explain it more thoroughly, these documents were not written by the biblical characters themselves or by their associates during the times that they were actually alive. Pseudepigraphers use the name of biblical figures, such as the apostles, on their documents in order to present their work as genuine and credible. Pseudepigraphic works do, at times, have some elements of historic and doctrinal truth inherent in it, but in the end, it is ultimately an uninspired work containing unprofitable doctrine, usually used by false teachers and apostates to promote their heresies. Pseudepigraphies, no matter how well intentioned they may appear at times, are ultimately an oxymoron to the biblical principles of adherence to truth (1 Tim 2:7; Rom 3:7; 2 Cor 4:2) and rejection of error (Gal 1:6-9; Jude 1:3).

With this in mind, we now tackle the big question of church history: Can a pseudepigraphic epistle actually make it into the canon, even though it is entirely accurate in its presentation of Christian theology? If one follows the ethical principles of Scripture, then a Christian must say no. However, there are some people who would argue that accepting pseudepigraphic work into the canon was a common and accepted literary device in the early church, and was not considered deceptive or immoral. One such person is scholar P.N. Harrison, who says that the author of a pseudepigraphy was “not conscious of misrepresenting the apostle in any way; he was not consciously deceiving anybody; it is not; indeed, necessary to suppose that he did not deceive anybody.”[16] Richard Bauckham also writes, “The pseudepigraphal device is therefore not a fraudulent means of claiming apostolic authority, but embodies a claim to be a faithful mediator of the apostolic message.”[17]

Regardless of why pseudonyms were used for Christian or non-Christian documents, history shows that only documents penned by the apostles have weight of acceptance in the church. Therefore, pseudepigraphy was not a welcomed practice within the church, especially as it relates to canonization.[18] In fact, it was dangerous to the Christian faith and to the life of the individual believer, since it could lead believers astray through its false teaching. If the early church only accepted apostolic work into the canon, then that means all New Testament documents that bear the apostles’ names must have been written by the apostles, or at least by a secretary who wrote per dictation. The Apostle Paul speaks against the practice of falsehood by stating in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3: “…that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you…” Paul also assures the congregation of the authority, uniqueness, and genuineness of his writing when he says in 2 Thessalonians 3:17: “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write…” The New Testament constantly places a premium on truthfulness, as seen in verses like John 19:35. Romans 3:7, 1 Corinthians 13:6, Colossians 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:7, and Ephesians 4:15. Since the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 1 John 5:6), He can never inspire a forgery, even if such pseudepigraphy contained orthodox teachings meant to clarify ambiguous passages or pay homage to biblical personnel.

Because the Spirit of truth moves the church, we see throughout history how the body of Christ responds against error, especially in relation to false documents. 2 Peter was accepted as canonical, but The Gospel of Peter, The Preaching of Peter, The Teaching of Peter, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, The Epistle of Peter to Philip, and The Letter of Peter to James were all rejected. They were declared to be non-inspired works. This demonstrates the early church’s incredible discernment on the matter and how seriously they regarded inspired testimony as opposed to false works. Elders were even removed from office for trying to pass off epistles as inspired documents. One such example is the author of an apocryphal work titled The Acts of Paul and Thecla. This author was removed from his position as presbyter by Tertullian because of his blasphemous deed, though this elder claimed that he had the best of intentions, claiming he greatly respected the Apostle Paul.[19] This historical example teaches us that one does not have liberty to add to the words of Scripture, no matter how orthodox or reverential his contributions may be (Rev 20:18).

Another example of the church’s commitment to the integrity of the canon, and rejection of pseudepigraphy, is the case of the spurious epistles to the Laodiceans that were among the rejected books in the Muratorian Fragment. The two rejected documents from the second century claimed to be written by the Apostle Paul, but were eventually discovered to be forgeries. They were immediately taken out of the canon since the church did not see it “fitting that poison should be mixed with honey.”[20] The church’s commitment to the inspired word of God makes it difficult to imagine that the church fathers accepted something they knew as pseudepigraphic and not worthy of canonization. This should give us sound confidence that 2 Peter is not an apocryphal book, since the church recognized that the epistle had the foundational characteristics necessary to qualify it as a canonical book. If this is true, then we can also have confidence that 2 Peter was written in the first century (A.D. 67-68) to have been qualified for inclusion in the New Testament. This means that 2 Peter existed and was accessible to the early church, even before Origen directly identified the book by name in his writings, which now leads to the discussion of attestation in the early church.

 

The Authority of 2 Peter before Origen

If 2 Peter is God’s word, then you would think that it would be more widely discussed and quoted in the first and second century, much like the Gospels and Paul’s popular epistles. However, this is not the case. This does not automatically prove that 2 Peter did not exist before the time of its first mention. It only means that tangible evidence is scarce. The canonicity issue that we discussed in the last section is already a healthy indicator of 2 Peter’s existence, inspiration, and canonicity before the time of its first extra-biblical reference. In this section, we will examine 2 Peter in the writings of first century historians, and document the views of various theologians of the third and fourth century regarding the authenticity of 2 Peter.

As I have mentioned, Origen is the earliest discovered historian to reference 2 Peter in his writings. He recognized that some Christians had doubts concerning the authenticity of the book, but he clearly regarded it as Scripture.[21] The fact that he believes it to be Scripture shows that it may have been widely accepted as canonical by this time, and not a recent development as some critics would suggest. There is much evidence to demonstrate that 2 Peter existed before the time of Origen and was both authoritative in and necessary to the apostolic church.

Ireneaus (c. 130-200) is one of the earliest pre-Origen church figures who used 2 Peter verses in his writings. In his work Against Heresies, Ireneaus produced a near exact quote from 2 Peter 3:8: “…that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years…” Justin Martyr (c. 115-165) also makes a reference to 2 Peter 2:1 in Dialogue with Trypho when he states, “And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous with your holy prophets, now there are many false teachers among us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware.”[22] Now read 2 Peter 2:1: “But false teachers also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you…”

A comparison of documents shows that apocryphal works based their writings on 2 Peter. If this is true, then this would indicate that 2 Peter predated the writings of second century documents, placing the composition of 2 Peter in the first century. On such example is The Apocalypse of Peter, which shows extraordinary literary, structural similarities, and dependence on 2 Peter. Scholar J.A.T. Robinson states that “it seems quite clear that the Apocalypse is the later document.”[23] Most people agree that 2 Peter is the superior work in terms of literary craft and spiritual perspective. Because it is unlikely that an inferior work can arise from a superior work, it appears likely that 2 Peter was written first, which means that it came from the first century during the apostolic era.[24]

Arguably the earliest and most impressive record is that of 1 Clement (c. 95-97), which gives us a clue as to the existence of 2 Peter during the end of the first century. In speaking of an unidentified portion of Scripture, Clement states in 1 Clement 23:3, “We have heard these things even in our Father’s times, and, see, we have grown old and none of them has happened to us.”[25] This verse is very similar to 2 Peter 3:4, which reads, “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” The choice of vocabulary may be different, but the general idea is the same. There seems to be a discussion of doubt and the nearness of Christ’s Second Coming in Clement’s quote and the 2 Peter verse.

Two phrases in 2 Peter are also used by 1 Clement in the exact same manner: 1). 2 Peter 1:17 and 1 Clement 9:2 refer to the “magnificent glory,” and 2). 2 Peter 2:2 and 1 Clement 35:5 speaks of the “way of truth” using the exact same Greek word. B.B. Warfield comments that it is unlikely phrases so unlikely and so distinctive could appear in both places by coincidence. In this case, Clement borrowed a peculiar phraseology from 2 Peter.[26]

These are reasonable indications that 2 Peter existed from as early as the first century, and was highly regarded by the church fathers. It was treated as inspired and canonical, despite the lack of consensus that surrounded it in the years to come, probably because of the many apocryphal works that developed around the early 2nd century. Regardless, 2 Peter was providentially preserved throughout history. It eventually found full acceptance into the canon of the church by the fourth century, as confirmed by its appearance in various early manuscripts such as The Bodmer Papyrus (3rd century), Codex Sinaiticus (4th century), and Codex Vaticanus (4th century).

 

The Historical Problems Addressed

Some of the historical problems brought up by critics concern words in 2 Peter that supposedly have vague or unintelligible meaning. Critics believe these words point to historical references in the second century, thereby precluding the possibility of Peter being the scribe of the book. For example, I mentioned earlier that 2 Peter 3:16 made a comment regarding the Apostle Paul and “all his letters.” Skeptics believe that “all his letters” refers to the totality of the canonized letters (the book of Romans to 2 Timothy) in circulation around the churches, which happened after Peter’s time. The skeptics do not believe that Peter could have declared Paul’s writings to be canonized Scripture in the same league as the Old Testament. However, we do not need to understand “all” in this way. Rather, “all” can refer to total number of Paul’s letters that were in existence at the time 2 Peter was written. It is also not unfathomable to think that Peter would consider Paul’s immediate writing to be an addition to the canon of the Bible, or additions to the Old Testament. Peter fully recognized Paul’s gift of prophecy and that he clearly spoke forth revelation from God. In essence, Paul had the authority to write Scripture (2 Thes 3:14; 1 Cor 2:16; 7:17), which was what 2 Peter 1:19-21 affirmed.

Another historical argument that skeptics pose is the issue of “false teachers.” They claim that the false teachers constantly mentioned in the book were not referring to apostates or heretics from the first century, but to second century Gnostics. There is quite simply not enough evidence to support this argument. The text does not make direct reference to these particular heretics nor give the specific details that would describe the characteristics of the typical Gnostic (e.g., cosmological dualism, secret knowledge, matter is evil and spirit is good, etc.). Charles Bigg writes,

Every feature in the description of the false teachers and mockers is to be found in the apostolic age. If they had “eyes full of adultery,” there were those at Corinth who defended incest. If they “blasphemed dignities,” there were those who spoke evil of St. Paul. They profaned the Agape [the love feast or communion service], so did the Corinthians. They mocked at the Parousia [the return of Christ], and some of the Corinthians denied that there was any resurrection.[27]

If the thesis proposed by the skeptics is correct, it would be logical to believe that the author of 2 Peter would speak about more of the pressing spiritual concerns and attacks of the second century. Some of the issues, along with Gnosticism, would include Montanism, the role of bishops in church government, and chiliasm (especially in light of unclear millennial references that could use clarification, like 2 Peter 3:8). However, all of these discussions are missing, and are indicative that the writer and audience are still within the historical and cultural framework of the mid first century.

Third, skeptics contend with the meaning of the word “fathers” in 2 Peter 3:4. They interpret this word to mean the first generation Christians who died at the time of 2 Peter’s composition. If this is true, then the date of the epistle can be pushed back to the late first, if not second century. However, the “fathers” in view in 2 Peter 3:4 were not the first generation of Christians who died along with Peter, but the Old Testament patriarchs. Both the context (the subsequent global flood discussion; vv.5-6) and the usage of the phrase “the fathers” support the interpretation.[28] In the New Testament when the word father (or pater in Koine Greek) is used, the phrase refers not to the first generation of Christians, but to the Old Testament patriarchs. This interpretation makes more sense since the scoffers of verses 4-6 refer to the uniformity of life since the beginning of time. In keeping with this parallel, the fathers should be properly identified with those from the time of Noah. The interpretation of the OT patriarchs is more fitting than the Christian apostles, who had just passed recently.

The final problem to consider in this section is 2 Peter 1:14, where Peter mentions the imminence of his death. Critics say that this proves that 2 Peter was written after Peter’s death because there is no way that he could have predicted his death or have known the details of it. Only after the Gospel of John was written did the author (who was not Peter) read the account of Peter’s death and added the details in 2 Peter 1:14. This, once again, is unsubstantiated.

Why is it hard to believe that Peter knew about the details of his own death when Jesus revealed it to him before His departure? Did Peter really need for John to write it down in a Gospel account when Peter heard Jesus’ words personally many years prior? If the author of 2 Peter was Peter himself, then there is nothing unusual about this proclamation of his death. How Peter knew about the exact timing of his death is somewhat of a mystery, but it is not an unsolvable issue. It is possible that God the Spirit may have revealed it to him sometime before his death. Another explanation offered by some scholars on the meaning of John’s prediction is that the Greek word for ‘soon’ to be better translated as ‘swift,’ which is the meaning it must sustain in 2:1 of this epistle.[29] If this is the true, then the Apostle John would not be speaking of imminence, but on the manner of his death. Whatever the case, we must not be dogmatic on this point to discredit the authorship of 2 Peter. If God inspired the apostles with divine knowledge to write the whole New Testament, then Peter’s knowledge of imminent death is no big issue.

 

The Stylistic Problems Addressed

Another major area of concern that needs to be addressed is the stylistic and literary problems that critics bring up concerning 2 Peter. As I have stated earlier, skeptics do not believe that Peter wrote 2 Peter because the vocabulary, writing style, and themes are different that that of 1 Peter, leading them to speculate that 2 Peter is a literary work from another author and time period. This appears to be a good possibility, yet the differences can be justified. For as many differences that are evident in 1 and 2 Peter, there are also many similarities.

The first issue we will look at is the use of ‘Simon Peter’ in contrast to the more common appearance of ‘Peter’ found in other epistles. The literal translation of Simon in 2 Peter 1:1 is Simeon, which is a Hebrew name (in contrast to the Greek construction, Simon). The only other time that Simeon is used is in Acts 15:14. Critics would see this inconsistency as a certain sign of a pseudepigrapher, but conservative scholars do not conclude it as such. M.R. James, who disputed the authenticity of 2 Peter, admitted that this was one of the few features which made for the veracity of the epistle.[30] If a pseudepigrapher wrote 2 Peter, then it is more probable that he would have followed the model of the salutation in 1 Peter, since in 3:1 the author implies that his present letter is in the same sequence as the first. It is best to assume that the author used the name ‘Simeon’ as a deliberative device to give the letter a greater sense of authenticity. The author either studied the book of Acts or else cited ‘Simeon Peter’ because it was a familiar name that had independently survived orally in the author’s own circle.[31] Whereas the pseudepigrapher would be constrained to follow a predictable pattern to pass his work off as credible, Peter would have greater liberty in varying the form of his name. If the recipients of 2 Peter were predominantly Jewish, then it might be possible to explain the Hebrew form of the name (Simeon) on the grounds that such readers would find it more appropriate and familiar.

The question about differences in Greek style between the two books can also be satisfactorily answered. In 1 Peter 5:12, the Apostle Peter mentioned that he employed an amanuensis (secretary) in writing the book, who is Silvanus. For 2 Peter, Peter either used another amanuensis or he wrote the book himself since he was in prison with minimal amount of access to human resources. The differences in vocabulary between the two letters are obviously explained by the differences in themes characterized by the different historical circumstances that Peter was in. 1 Peter was written to encourage Christians suffering persecution during Nero’s burning of Rome while 2 Peter was written to warn Christians against false teaching because of the rise of dangerous apostates. It would seem peculiar if the two epistles were virtually alike, and possibly even redundant since the aim of Scripture is to educate believers on a wide variety of topics for their edification.

It is undeniable that there are differences in choices of words between 1 and 2 Peter. 2 Peter seems to exhibit rarer and unusual vocabulary such as those found in verses 2:4 and 3:10,[32] and many of the common words found in 1 Peter (such as agathos, upakon, and elpis) are not to be found in 2 Peter. 1 and 2 Peter have 153 words in common, which amounts to 38.6%. That means that 61.4% of the words in 2 Peter are exclusive to the letter alone.[33] It is an interesting statistic, but this does not prove to be conclusive evidence for another author, since the same case can be made concerning the Apostle Paul and 1 Timothy and Titus. 1 Timothy and Titus share 161 common words, which amounts to 40.4%, making 59.6% of words unique to the book of Titus alone.[34] Another example is 1 and 2 Corinthians, both written by the Apostle Paul. The two epistles have 49.3% words in common, with 50.7% of words unique to 2 Corinthians.[35]

On the other hand, there are remarkable similarities between 1 and 2 Peter. The opening salutation in the two books demonstrates this point. 1 Peter 1:2 reads: “May grace and peace be yours…” and 2 Peter 1:2 states: “Grace and peace be multiplied t you…” The Apostle Peter also uses many of the same words in both of the epistles, such as arête (“excellence”’ 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:2,5), apothesis (“removal,” ‘laying aside”; 1 Peter 3:21; 2 Peter 1:14), philadelphia (“love of the brethren,” “brotherly kindness”; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7), anastrophe (“behavior,” “way of life,” conduct”’ 1 Peter 1:15, 2 Peter 2:7; 3:11), and aselgeia (“sensuality”; 1 Peter 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2, 7, 18).[36]

In addition to the grammatical similarities, the two epistles also share many thematic similarities. Both books speaks about the new birth (1 Peter 1:34; 2 Peter 1:4), God’s sovereign choice of believers (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10), the requirement for personal holiness (1 Peter 2:11-12; 2 Peter 1:5-7), the day of judgment for unbelievers (1 Peter 4:2-5:2; 2 Peter 2:10-22); and the second coming of Christ (1 Peter 4:7, 2 Peter 3:4).

 

The Motive behind the Forgery

In providing clarity to these issues, we are now faced with one of two options: either the Apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter during the first century, or a forger (using Peter’s name) wrote 2 Peter around the end of the first century or beginning of the second century. The second option would be an interesting dilemma because the writer would essentially be writing a document that rebukes himself. Because the theme of 2 Peter is about condemning false teachers, hypocrisy, and liars, the author would have put himself under this category, therefore his reputation would have been in jeopardy. The work of any forged document during the apostolic era, no matter how theologically immaculate and well intentioned, would characterize the writer as unscrupulous.

So what is the motive of the forger? In other words, why did the author write the epistle using Peter’s name if the epistle did not advance any new or unorthodox teachings? It would have been unusual at the time for false teachers, apostates, and heretics to unjustly use apostolic names to give credence to works which were entirely orthodox in teaching. All false teachers taught false and damning doctrine to some degree, and 2 Peter does not exhibit any false or questionable teaching that contradicts 1 Peter or any of the New Testament for that matter. In fact, 2 Peter is a warning for the church to be on the alert against false teaching and heretics, which would make the epistle a dread to false teachers, and even pseudepigraphers. Since the epistle is entirely orthodox, there is no reason why it should not have contained the author’s own name, even it if were written in the second century AD. Pseudonymous works were sometimes written because people were fascinated to know more about the biblical figures in history. But the problem is that 2 Peter does not contain any new “biographical” information about Peter that is characteristic of apocryphal writing. The only conclusion we can draw from this is that there was no motive, because there was no forger to begin with.

 

CONCLUSION

The authenticity of 2 Peter continues to a matter of debate in the evangelical community. However, a survey of the factors in favor of the authorship of 2 Peter gives us confidence that the Apostle Peter was indeed the author of the epistle and that the book was written around the year AD 67-68. The traditionally accepted view is trustworthy. Although the archaeological and internal evidence is not as optimal as we would like, the evidence that we do have, along with the various factors that we have explored, give tremendous weight to the fact that 2 Peter is rightly an inspired document that is not only written by an apostle, but one that is rightly included in the canon of Scripture. Understanding this fact is crucial because it upholds the integrity of the Bible and assures us of what 2 Timothy 3:16 and Matt 5:18 state – all Scripture is God-breathed and will never pass away. We are given confidence of God’s sovereignty, the ability of His word to edify, and solidifies our commitment to the truth of Scripture, especially amidst gross error in the world. In a time when false doctrine and theories abound (in this case against 2 Peter itself), it is important that 2 Peter is preserved for the good of the church’s instruction, which is to combat false teaching and to uphold the glorious truth of the gospel in a dying world. Without it, the church is bereft of instruction concerning the importance of upholding truth and rejecting error, which becomes the basis for combating such practices as pseudepigraphy to begin with.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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