Peter, Second Epistle of
Peter, Second Epistle Of follows immediately the other, but it presents questions of far greater difficulty than the former. SEE ANTILEGOMENA.
I. Canonical Authority. — The genuineness of this second epistle has long been disputed, though its author calls himself "Simon Peter," δοῦλος καὶ ἀπόστολος, "a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ."
1. History of Opinion. — It is hard to say whether the alleged quotations from it by the fathers are really quotations, or are only, on the one hand, allusions to the O.T., or, on the other, the employment of such phrases as had grown into familiar Christian commonplaces. Thus Clement of Rome, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 7), says of Noah, ἐκήρυξε μετάνοιαν, and of those who obeyed him, ἐσώθησαν, language not unlike 2Pe 2:5; but the words can scarcely be called a quotation. The allusion in the same epistle to Lot (chapter 11) is of a similar nature, and cannot warrant the allegation of any proof from it. A third instance is usually taken from chapter 23, in which Clement says, "Miserable are the double-minded," a seeming reminiscence of Jas 1:5; but he adds, "We are grown old, and none of those things have happened to us" (γεγηράκαμεν καὶ οὐδὲν ἡμῖν τούτων συμβεβηκεν), as if in alluision to 2Pe 3:4. The appeal to Hermas is as doubtful; in lib. 1, Vis. 3:7, the words reliquerunt viam veram have a slight resemblance to 2Pe 2:15; in another place (2 Peter 1:4:3) the clause qui effugistis sceculum hoc is not a citation of ἀποφυγόντες τὰ μιάσματα τοῦ κοσμοῦ, 2Pe 2:20. Justin Martyr says, "A day with the Lord is as a thousand years" (Dialog. cumn Tryph. cap. 81; Opera, 2:278, ed. Otto, Jene, 1843), but the clause may as well be taken from Ps 90:4 as from 2Pe 3:8. Similar statements occur twice in Irenaeus, and have probably a similar origin, as citations from the O.T. The epistle is not quoted by Tertullian, the Alexandrian Clement, nor Cyprian, who speaks only of one epistle. A passage in Hippolytus (De Antichristo, 2), in asserting of the prophets that they did not speak "by their own power" (ἐξ ἰδίας δυνάμεως), but uttered things which God had revealed, appears to be a paraphrase of 2Pe 1:21. Another statement made by Theophilus (Ad Autolycum, lib. 2, page 87), in which he describes the prophets as πνευματοφόροι πνεύματος ἁγίου, is not unlike 2Pe 1:20, ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι. Theophilus again describes the word shining as a lamp in a house — φαίνων éσπερ λύχνος ἐν οἰκήματι; but the figure is different from that in 2Pe 1:19, ὡς λύχνῳ φαίνοντι ἐν αὐχμηρῷ τόπῳ — "as a light shining in a dark place." Clement of Alexandria commented, we are told by Eusebius and Cassiodorus, on all the canonical Scriptures, Eusebius specifying among them "Jude and the other Catholic epistles" — καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς καθολικὰς ἐπιστολάς (Hist. Eccles. 6:14). But a second statement of Cassiodorus mentions expressly the first epistle of Peter, as if the second had been excluded, and adds, "1 and 2 John and James," thereby also excluding Jude, which Eusebius, however, had distinctly named (De Institut. cap. 8). The testimony of Origen is no less liable to doubt, for it seems to vary. In the translation of Rufinnus, who certainly was not a literal versionist, we find the epistle at least three times referred to, one of them being the assertion, " Petrus enim duabus epistolarum suarum personat tubis" (Hom. 4, on Joshua). In Hom. 4 on Leviticus, 2Pe 1:4 is quoted, and in Hom. xiii on Numbers, 2Pe 2:16 is quoted. Somewhat in opposition to this, Origen, in his extant works in Greek, speaks of the first epistle as ἐν τῇ καθολικῇ ἐπ.; nay, as quoted by Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. 6:25), he adds that "Peter left one acknowledged epistle," adding ἔστω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν ἀμφιβάλλεται γάρ. This is not a formal denial of its genuineness, but is tantamount to it. Nor can the words of Firmilian be trusted in their Latin version. Yet in his letter to Cyprian he seems to allude to 2 Peter, and the warnings in it against heretics (Cypriani Opera, page 126, ed. Paris, 1836). In a Latin translation of a commentary of Didymus on the epistle it is called falsata, non in canone. Now falsare, according to Du Fresne in his Glossar. med. et infim. Latinitat., does not mean to interpolate, but to pronounce spurious. Eusebius has placed this epistle among the ἀντιλεγόμενα (Hist. Eccles. 3:25), and more fully he declares, "That called his second epistle we have been told has not been received, οὐκ ἐνδιάθετον; but yet appearing to many to be useful it has been diligently studied with the other Scriptures." Jerome says explicitly, "Scripsit duas epistolas . . . quarum secunda a plerisque ejus esse negatur;" adding as the reason, "propter styli cum priore dissonantiam," and ascribing this difference to a change of amanuensis, diversis interpretibus (De Script. Eccles. cap. 1, epist. 120, ad Hedib. cap. 11). Methodius of Tyre makes two distinct allusions to a peculiar portion of the epistle (3:6, 7, 12, 13), the conflagration and purification of the world (Epiphan. Haeres. 64:31, tom. 1, pars post. page 298, ed. Oehler, 1860). Westcott (On the Canon, page 57) points out a reference in the martyrdom of Ignatius, in which (cap. ii) the father is compared to "a divine lamp illuminating the hearts of the faithful by his exposition of the Holy Scriptures" (2Pe 1:19). The epistle is not found in the Peshito, though the Philoxenian versioa has it, and Ephrem Syrus accepted it. The canon of Muratori has it not, and Theodore of Mopsuestia rejected it. But it was received by Athanasius, Philastrius, Cyril, Rufinus, and Augustine. Gregory of Nazianzum, in his Carmen 33, refers to the seven catholic epistles. It was adopted by the Council of Laodicea, 367, and by the Council of Carthage, 397. From that period till the Reformation it was acknowledged by the Church. Not to refer to other quotations often given, it may suffice to say that, though the epistle was doubted, it usually had a place in the canon; that the objections against it were not historical, but critical in nature. and had their origin apparently among the Alexandrian scholars; and that in one case at least, that of Cosmas Indicopleustes, doctrinal prepossessions led to its rejection, Gregory, at the end of the 6th century, seems to allude to others whose hostility to it had a similar origin, adding, "Si ejusdem epistolse verba pensare voluissent, longe aliter sentire potuerant." (See Olshausen, Opuscula, where the citations are given at length.) The old doubts about the epistle were revived at the time of the Reformation, and not a few modern critics question or deny its genuineness. In earlier times strong disbelief was expressed by Calvin, Erasmus, Grotius, and Salmasius. Scaliger, Semler, Credner, De Wette, Neander, and Mayerhoff deny its Petrine origin. Pott, Windischmann, Dalll, Qaussen, and Bonnet, on the other hand, make light of many objections to it. But the proofs adduced on its behalf by Dietlein (Die 2. Ep. Petri, 1851) are many of them unsatisfactory, the result of a dextrous and unscrupulous ingenuity on behalf of a foregone conclusion. Yet amid early doubts and modern objections we are inclined to accept this epistle, and to agree with the verdict of the early churches, which were not without the means of ample investigation, and to whom satisfactory credentials must have been presented.
The objections, as Jerome remarks, were based on difference of style, and we admit that there is ground for suspicion on the point. Still no doubter or impugner who placed the epistle among the ἀντιλεγόμενα gives any historical ground for his hostility. No one of old is ever brought forward as having denied it in his own name, or in the name of any early Church, to be Peter's. If the apostolic fathers do not quote it, it can only be inferred either that it was not in universal circulation, or that they had no occasion to make any use of it. We observe that it was not likely to be quoted frequently; it was addressed to a portion of the Church not at that time much in intercourse with the rest of Christendom: the documents of the primitive Church are far too scanty to give weight to the argument (generally a questionable one) from omission. Their silence would not warrant the assertion that the epistle was not in the canon during their period, and for half a century afterwards. The earliest impugners never speak of it as a book recently admitted into the canon, or admitted on insufficient evidence or authority. One objection of this nature would have been palpable and decisive. The silence of the fathers is accounted for more easily than its admission into the canon after the question as to its genuineness had been raised. It is not conceivable that it should have been received without positive attestation from the churches to which it was first addressed. We know that the autographs of apostolic writings were preserved with care. It may be added that there appears to be no probable motive for a forgery. Neither personal ambition nor ecclesiastical pretensions are in any way forwarded by the epistle. There is nothing in it that an apostle might not have written, nothing that comes into direct conflict with Peter's modes of thought, either as recorded in the Acts or as found in the first epistle. No little circumstantial evidence can be adduced in its favor, and its early appearance in the callon is an element of proof which can it easily be turned aside.
The doubts as to its genuineness appear to have originated with the critics of Alexandria, where, nevertheless, the epistle itself was formally recognised at a very early period. Those doubts, however, were not quite so strong as they are now generally represented. The three greatest names of that school may be quoted on either side. On the one hand there were evidently external credentials, without which it could never have obtained circulation; on the other, strong subjective impressions, to which these critics attached scarcely less weight than some modern inquirers. They rested entirely, so far as can be ascertained, on the difference of style. The opinions of modern commentators may be summed up under three heads. Many, as we have seen, reject the epistle altogether as spurious, supposing it to have been directed against forms of Gnosticism prevalent in the early part of the 2d century. A few consider that the first and last chapters were written by Peter or under his dictation, but that the second chapter was interpolated. So far, however, is either of these views from representing the general results of the latest investigations, that a majority of names, including nearly all the writers of Germany opposed to Rationalism, who in point of learning and ability are at least upon a par with their opponents, may be quoted in support of the genuineness and authenticity of this epistle. The statement that all critics of eminence and impartiality concur in rejecting it is simply untrue, unless it be admitted that a belief in the reality of objective revelation is incompatible with critical impartiality, that belief being the only common point between the numerous defenders of the canonicity of this document. If it were a question now to be decided for the first time upon the external or internal evidences still accessible, it may be admitted that it would be far more difficult to maintain this than any other document in the New Testament; but the judgment of the early Church is not to be reversed without far stronger arguments than have been adduced, more especially as the epistle is entirely free from objections which might be brought, with more show of reason, against others now all but universally received: it inculcates no new doctrine, bears on no controversies of post-apostolical origin, supports no hierarchical innovations, but is simple, earnest. devout, and eminently practical, full of the characteristic graces of the apostle, who, as we believe, bequeathed this last proof of faith and hope to the Church. Olshausen's deliberate conclusion is —
"1. That our epistle, as far as we can ascertain from history, was used by the Church, and was generally read, along with the other catholic epistles;
2. There were those who denied that Peter was the author of this epistle, but they were influenced particularly by critical and, perhaps, by doctrinal reasons;
3. That there were historical considerations which led them to assail our epistle is not probable; certainly it cannot be demonstrated. History, then, avails scarcely anything in overthrowing the authority of our epistle" (Integr. and Authent. of Second Epistle of Peter, transl. in Amer. Bibl. Repos. July 1836, pages 123-131).
2. Internal Evidence. — There are points of similarity in style between it and the first epistle. The salutation in both epistles is the same, and there are peculiar words common to both, though found also in other parts of the N.T. Both epistles refer to ancient prophecy (1Pe 1:16; 2Pe 1:20-21); both use ἀρετή as applicable to God (1Pe 2:9; 2Pe 1:3), and both have ἀπόθεσις (1Pe 3:21; 2Pe 1:14), which occurs nowhere else in the N.T.; ἀναστροφή is a favorite term (1Pe 1:15,17-18; 1Pe 2:12; 1Pe 3:1-2,16; 2Pe 2:7-18; 2Pe 3:11); the verb ἐποπτεύειν in 1Pe 2:12; 1Pe 3:20, corresponds to the noun ἐπόπτης (2Pe 1:16) ; the peculiar collocation ἄσπιλος καὶ ἄμωμος (1Pe 1:19) has an echo of itself (2Pe 2:13; 2Pe 3:14); πέπαυται ἁμαρτίας (1Pe 4:1) is not unlike ἀκαταπαύστους ἁμαρτίας, etc. (2Pe 2:14). We have also, as in the first epistle, the intervention of several words between the article and its substantive (2Pe 1:4; 2Pe 2:7; 2Pe 3:2). The frequent use of ἐν in a qualifying clause is common to both epis. ties (2Pe 1:4; 2Pe 2:3; 2Pe 3:10). The recurrence of similar terms marks the second epistle, but it is not without all parallel in the first. Thus 2Pe 1:3-4, δεδωρημένης, δεδώρηται; 2Pe 2:7-8, δίκαιος, three times; 2Pe 2:12, φθοράν ἐν τῇ φθορᾶ'/ καταφθαρήσονται. So, too, in 1Pe 3:1-2, ἀναστροφῆς, ἀναστροφή; and 2Pe 2:17, τιμήσατε, τιμᾶτε, etc. Then too, as in the first epistle, there are resemblances to the speeches of Peter as given in the Acts. Comp. ἡμέρα κυρίου (2Pe 3:10) with Ac 2:20 — the phrase occurring elsewhere only in 1Th 5:24; λαχοῦσιν (2Pe 1:1) with ἔλαχε (Ac 1:17); εὐσεβείαν (2Pe 1:6) with Ac 3:12; and εὐσεβεῖς (2:9) with Ac 10:2-7: κολαζομένους (ib.) with Ac 4:21-an account which Peter probably furnished. We have likewise an apparent characteristic in the double genitives (2Pe 3:2; Ac 5:32).
It is also to be borne in mind that the epistle asserts itself to have been written by the apostle Peter, and distinctly identifies its writer with the author of the first epistle — "This epistle now, a second, I write unto you, in both which I stir up" — averring also to some extent identity of purpose. It is not anonymous, like the epistle to the Hebrews, but definitely claims as its author Peter the apostle. Nay, the writer affirms that he was an eye- witness of the transfiguration, and heard "the voice from the excellent glory." He uses, moreover, two terms in speaking of that event which belong to the account of it in the Gospels; comp. 2Pe 1:13, σκηνώματι, with his own words σκηνὰς τρεῖς; also in 15, ἔξοδον, in reference to his own death-the same word being employed to denote Christ's death, τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ, this being the theme of conversation on the part of Moses and Elias (Lu 9:31). Ullmann supposes the reference in the words δίκαιον δὲ ἡγοῦμαι διεγειρειν (1:13) to be to Mark's Gospel said to have been composed on Peter's authority; but the allusion seems to be to the paragraph immediately under his hand. It would have been a profane and daring imposture for any one to personate an apostle, and deliver to the churches a letter in his name, with so marked a reference to one of the most memorable circumstances and glories in the apostle's life. A forgery so glaring could make no pretence to inspiration to be a product of the Spirit of Truth. The inspiration of the epistle is thus bound up with the question of its authorship, so that if it is not the work of Peter it must be rejected altogether from the canon. The opinion of critics of what is called the liberal school, including all shades from Liucke to Baur, has been decidedly unfavorable, and that opinion has been — adopted by some able writers in England. There are, however, very strong reasons why this verdict should be reconsidered. No one ground on which it rests is unassailable. The rejection of this book affects the authority of the whole canon, which, in the opinion of one of the keenest and least scrupulous critics (Reuss) of modern Germany, is free from any other error. It is not a question as to the possible authorship of a work like that of the Hebrews, which does not bear the writer's name. The Church, which for more than fourteen centuries has received it, has either been imposed upon by what must in that case be regarded as a satanic device, or derived from it spiritual instruction of the highest importance. If received, it bears attestation to some of the most important facts in our Lord's history, casts light upon the feelings of the apostolic body in relation to the elder Church and to each other, and, while it confirms many doctrines generally inculcated, is the chief, if not the only, voucher for eschatological views touching the destruction of the framework of creation, which from an early period have been prevalent in the Church.
3. Objections. — There are serious difficulties, however, in the way of its reception; and these are usually said to be difference of style, difference of doctrine, and the marked correspondence of portions of the epistle with that of Jude. Yet Gaussen makes the astounding statement — "The two epistles when carefully compared reveal more points of agreement than difference," but he has not taken the trouble of noting them (On the Canon, page 359). The employment of ὡς is different in the second epistle from the first. There, though it occurs otherwise, it is generally employed in comparisons, and its frequency makes it a characteristic of the style; but it occurs much more rarely in the second epistle, and usually, though not always, with a different meaning and purpose. The use of ἀλλά after a negative clause and introducing a positive one is common in the first epistle, and but rare in the second. There are many ἃπαξ λεγόμενα in the second epistle. The first and second epistles differ also in the use of Χριστός. In the first epistle X. stands in the majority of instances without the article and by itself, either simply I. X. or X. I.; but in the second epistle it has usually some predicate attached to it (2Pe 1:1-2,8; 2Pe 2:14-16). The name θεός occurs nearly forty times in the first epistle, but only seven times in the second. Again, κύριος is applied to Christ only once in the first epistle (1Pe 1:3), but in the second epistle it is a common adjunct to other names of the Savior. In the first epistle it means the Father in all cases but one (1Pe 2:3), but in the second epistle it denotes the Son, in harmony with Peter's own declaration (Ac 2:36; Ac 10:36). The epithet σωτήρ, so often applied to Christ in the second epistle, is not found in the first. The second coming of our Lord is also expressed differently in the two epistles. ἀποκάλυψις, or its verb, being used in the first epistle (1Pe 1:5,7,13; 1Pe 4:13; 1Pe 5:1); or it is called τὸ τέλος πάντων (1Pe 5:7); or χρόνοι ἔσχατοι (1Pe 1:20). But in the second epistle it is called ἡμέρα κρίσεως (2Pe 2:9), παρουσία (2Pe 3:4), ἡμέρα κυρίου (2Pe 3:10), ἡμέρα θεοῦ (2Pe 3:12). These are certainly marked diversities, and it is difficult to offer a satisfactory explanation of them. It may, however, be replied that with the sacred writers the divine names are not used, as with us, without any prominent or distinctive application. In the first epistle the Redeemer's names are his common ones, the familiar ones in the mouths of all believers — for the writer brings into prominence the oneness of believers with him in suffering and glory; with him still as Jesus wearing his human name and his human nature with all its sympathies; or as the Christ who, as the Father's servant, obeyed, suffered, and was crowned, the Spirit that anointed him still being "the unction from the Holy One" to all his people. In the second epistle the writer has in view persons who are heretics, rebellious, dissolute, false teachers; and in warning them his mind naturally looks to the authority and lordship of the Savior, which it was so awful to contemn and so vain to oppose. If the last day be set in different colors in the two epistles, the difference may be accounted for on the same principle: for to those suffering under trial it shines afar as the hope that sustains them, but to those who are perverse it presents itself as the time of reckoning which should alarm them into believing submission.
The aspects under which the Gospel is represented in this second epistle differ from those in the first. The writer lays stress on ἐπίγνωσις, or γνῶσις (2Pe 1:2-3,5,8; 2Pe 2:20,11; 2Pe 3:18). In this epistle the Gospel is generally Χριστοῦ δύναμις καὶ παρουσία (2Pe 1:16), ὁδὸς τῆς δικαιοσύνης (2Pe 2:21), ἁγία ἐντολή, etc.; whereas the first epistle throws into prominence ἐλπίς, σωτηρία, ῥαντισμὸς αἵματος I. X., χάρις (2Pe 1:10) ἀλήθεια (2Pe 1:21), λόγος (2:8), πιστις, etc. The reason may be ventured that the persons addressed in the second epistle were in danger of being tempted into error; and that a definite and progressive knowledge of Christianity was the safeguard against those loose speculations which were floating around them. On this account, too, we have admonition suggested and pointed by their perilous circumstances, "to make their calling and election sure" (2Pe 1:10; 2Pe 3:14); nay, the purpose of the epistle seems to be given in 2Pe 3:17: "Ye therefore, beloved, knowing beforehand, take heed lest, being led away with the error of the lawless, ye fall away from your own steadfastness; but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of oul Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." The ἐπίγνωσις is the grand theme of counsel and the real prophylactic presented, for it embodies itself in that δικαιοσύνη on the possession of which so much depends, as is seen in the allusions to Noah and Lot, and to the want of which are traced in contrast the judgment of the flood and the fate of Sodom, the selfish character of Balaam, and the dark and deceitful ways and works of the false teachers.
There is also a characteristic difference in the mode of quotation from the O.T. Quotations are abundant in the first epistle, either formally introduced by διότι γέγραπται (1Pe 1:16), or by διότι περιέχει ἐν τῇ γραφῇ (1:6), or are woven into the discourse without any prefatory statement, as if writer and readers were equally familiar with them (2Pe 1:21; 2Pe 2:3-5,7,9-10,22,22,22; 2Pe 3:9-11,15). But in the second epistle quotations are unfrequent, though we have Ps 90:4 in 3:8, and Isa 65:17 in 2Pe 3:13. Of a different kind are the allusions to Noah and the flood, to Lot and Sodom, and to Balaam. But we may still explain that the modes of handling and applying the O.T. may differ according to the purpose which any writer has in view. In a longer and fuller epistle there may be quotations at length, but in a shorter one only apposite allusions to facts and incidents. The objection would have been stronger if in an epistle ascribing itself to Peter there had been no use made of the O.T. at all; but a third of this epistle consists of references to the O.T. or to warnings drawn from it.
The peculiar similarity of a large portion of this epistle to that of Jude has often been commented on. The second chapter and a portion of the third are so like Jude that the resemblance cannot be accidental, for it is found in words as well as in thoughts. It has been conjectured by some that both borrowed from a common source. Bishop Sherlock supposed that this source was some ancient Hebrew author who had portrayed the false teachers, Jude having used the epistle of Peter as well as this old authority (Use and Intent of Prophecy, Dissert. 1:200, Lond. 1725). Herder and Hasse, holding this theory, conjecture the document common to both writers to be the Zendavesta. This opinion has no foundation, and relieves us of no difficulty. Others imagine that Jude followed Peter, and several reasons have been alleged in favor of this opinion by Mill, Michaelis, Storr, Dahl, Wordsworth, Thiersch, Hleydenreich, Hengstenberg, and Gaussen. Their general argument is that Peter predicts what Jude describes as actually existing (Jude 1:18), and that Jude refers to prophecies which are found only in Peter. But it is really doubtful if both epistles refer to the same class of errorists. Those described by Peter are rather speculators, though their immoral practices are also noted, while those branded by Jude are specially marked as libertines and sensualists, whose life has perverted and undermined their creed. Others again hold that Peter took from Jude; such is the view of Hug, Eichhorn, Credner, Neander, Mayerhoff, De Wette, Guericke, and Bleek. One argument of no small force is that the style of Jude is the simpler and briefer, and Peter's the more ornate and amplified; that Jude's is more pointed and Peter's more indefinite; and that some allusions in Peter are so vague that they can be understood only by a comparison with Jude (comp. 2Pe 2:4 with Jude 1:6; 2Pe 2:11 with Jude 1:9). Thus Peter says, generally, "Angels bring not railing accusations;" Jude gives the special instance, Michael and Satan. Peter speaks of the "angels that sinned;" Jude says more precisely, they "kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation." Olshausen and Augusti in part think that the similarity may be accounted for by a previous correspondence between the writers; that Jude may have described to Peter the character and practices of the false teachers, and that Peter, relying on the truthfulness of the statement, made his own use of it without hesitation when he had occasion to refer to the same or a similar class of pernicious subverters of truth and purity. This hypothesis is scarcely probable, and it is more likely that Peter had read the epistle of Jude, and reproduced in his own epistle and in his own way its distinctive clauses, which must have deeply impressed him, but with such differences at the same time as show that he was no mere copyist. Is it unworthy of an apostle to use another writing divinely authorized, and can Peter's appropriation of so much of Jude's language be stigmatized, as by Reuss, as "a palpable plagiarism?" Thus Jude uses the phrase "clouds without water," but Peter "wells without water," this figure being more suited to his immediate purpose. The σπιλάδες of Jude 1:12 was from reminiscence of sound before Peter's mind, but it is changed of purpose into σπῖλοι; and Jude's phrase ἐν ταῖς αγάπαις ὑμῶν becomes in the same connection in Peter ἐν ταῖς ἀπάταις αὐτῶν. 2Pe 2:17 shows a like similarity and difference compared with Jude 1:13. The claim of originality thus lies on the side of Jude, while original thinking characterizes Peter's use of Jude's terser and minuter diction. There is no ground for Bertholdt's suggestion to reject the second chapter as spurious; or for Ullmann's, to refer both second and third chapters to a post-apostolic period; or for Lange to brand as spurious the whole of the second chapter with the last two verses of the first chapter, and the first ten verses of the third-that is, from the first τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες to the other; or for Bunsen to receive only the first twelve verses and the concluding doxology (Bertholdt, Einleit. in d. N.T. volume 6; Ullmann, Der zweite Brief Petri; Lange, Apostol. Zeitalter, 1:152; and in Herzog's Eincyklop. s.v.; Bunsen, Ignatius von Antiochien. page 175).
Other more specific objections against the epistle may be briefly alluded to. According to Mayerhoff (Einleit. page 187), the writer in 2Pe 3:2 separates himself from the apostles; Bleek (Einleit. page 576) and others supposing that he intended to characterize himself as an apostle, and having before him the somewhat parallel expression of Jude, he so far altered it, but in the alteration has failed to give lucid utterance to his purpose. The phrase, with the double genitive καὶ τῆς τῶν ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν ἐντολῆς τοῦ κυρίου, naturally means, "and the commandment of the Lord given by your apostles." The pronoun ὑμῶν is the best-sustained reading, and the English version does violence to the position of the words. As Olshausen and Windischmann have shown, the use of ὑμῶν does not exclude Peter, even though it be rendered "the commandments of your apostles of the Lord Jesus." In fact, it neither denies nor affirms his apostleship; though if ἡμῶν had been employed, and the phrase rendered "our apostles," the conclusion against its genuineness would certainly have some weight. But this objection that the writer excludes himself from the apostles neutralizes another, to wit, that the writer betrays too great anxiety to show himself as the apostle Peter. He could not certainly do both in the same document without stultifying himself. Does not the apostle Paul when it serves his object use pointedly the first person singular, refer to himself, and assert his apostolic office as Peter does in 2Pe 1:12-15? The use of the name Συμεών;Λ in 2Pe 1:1 can neither tell for the genuineness, as Dietlein supposes, nor against it, as Mayerhoff argues. The reference in 2Pe 3:1 to a former epistle is not for the purpose of identifying himself with the author of that epistle, but naturally comes in as a proof of his anxiety for his readers that they should bear in memory the lessons already imparted to them.
It is said that the first epistle was addressed to a particular circle of churches (1Pe 1:1), while the second was to Christians in general (2Pe 1:1), yet it assumed (2Pe 3:1) that the readers were in both cases the same, the confusion being increased by the fact that in chapter 2Pe 1:16 the writer speaks as if he had been their personal instructor, whereas in 2Pe 3:15 he treats them as the disciples of Paul. But we may well suppose that the first epistle, directed to a large enough circle at first, must soon have taken its place as a general epistle. The inspired penmen knew well that, though there was a paiticular occasion for their writing and special counsels to be given, yet their teachings were to be for the guidance of the whole Church. Hence we sometimes find them directing that their letters should be read beyond the first community to which they came (Col 4:16; 1Th 5:27). Peter miight therefore properly write a second time to Christians without express limitation of country, and still regard his readers as those whom he had admonished before. It is not necessary to suppose that by his expression in 2Pe 1:16 he means personal instruction: the reference was to what he had said in his former letter. We must consider too the circumstances under which he wrote at all. There was a spurious kind of wisdom corrupting the Church (Col 2:8,16-23). Jewish traditions had their influence; and sensual indulgence was sure to follow. Paul, who had carefully watched the churches he had planted, had been long a prisoner, and was thus withdrawn from active superintendence of them. Very fitting therefore it was that Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, should write as he did at first, to confirm the doctrine learned of Paul, and to inculcate the holy principles and unblemished conduct which could alone fortify believers against impending persecution. Yet he anticipates in the first letter a further declension, and a greater necessity for faithful resistance of error (1Pe 4:1-4). Now we know that the evil did increase; and Paul in the pastoral epistles speaks of serious depravation of doctrine, and more open lawlessness of conduct (1Ti 1:19-20; 1Ti 4:1; 2Ti 2:17-18; 2Ti 3:1-7). The second epistle of Peter was called for, then, to check the progress of false teaching and of unbecoming conduct: it takes up the matter at a point historically later than the first; but it handles the same topics, and so is a proper supplement to it. Thus, as Schott says (page 162), "That which presented itself in the first epistle we see also in the second; the same uncertainty respecting the gospel-standing of Gentile Christians, and the gospel-teaching of Paul (2Pe 1:1,10,12; 2Pe 3:2,15, etc.); the same questionings about the revelation of Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the final judgment (2Pe 1:4, etc., 11, 12, etc., 16, etc.; 2Pe 2:9; 2Pe 3:2,8, etc., 10, etc., 18); the same tendency to relax in the work of Christian sanctification (2Pe 1:5-12, etc.; 2Pe 3:11, etc., 14, 17)." Other noteworthy traces he believes he can detect of a relationship between the two. Some of these are a debased state of religious knowledge grounded on Jewish writings alien from the true teaching of Scripture, and an affected spirituality which fostered sensual indulgence. Evidence that such evils existed at the time of writing may be found more clearly in the second, more faintly, but yet noticeably, in the first epistle.
Three arguments have been adduced to prove that the epistle must belong to post-apostolic times.
(1.) It is alleged that the doubts about Christ's second coming, referred to in 2Pe 3:3-4, could not have arisen in apostolic times, when the belief in it was so firm and glowing; and a period of some length must have elapsed ere it could be said that the "fathers had fallen asleep." But the scoffers referred to were probably Gnostics who never believed that event, or at all events spiritualized the truth of it away; and after one generation had passed they might use the language imputed to them; or "the fathers" may, denote the Jewish patriarchs, since whose decease uniformity had characterized all the processes and laws of nature. The Gnostic spiritualism which treated the resurrection as past early troubled the Church, and its disciples might cast ridicule on the faith and hopes of others in the challenge which Peter quotes.
(2.) It is said that the allusion to Paul's epistles indicates a late date, as it supposes them to be collected in part at least, and calls them by the sacred name of ypacoal (2Pe 3:15-16). But surely it may be granted that towards the close of Peter's life several epistles of Paul may have been brought together and placed in point of authority on the same level as the O.T.; and that other documents also — τὰς λοιπὰς γραφάς — already occupied a similar place. Whatever exegesis be adopted, this is the general result. The writings of Paul, so well known to the readers of this epistle, are mentioned not as a completed whole; the phrase ἐν πάσαις, etc., is not to be taken absolutely, but relatively, as if denoting "in all his epistles which he writes." The "things" referred to as discussed in these epistles (περὶ τούτων) are not their general contents, but the coming of our Lord and the end of the world, and in these discussions "are some things hard to be understood." The allusion certainly presupposes a late age, and the writer, as he informs us, was very near his death. The date of Peter's death is not precisely known, and the common traditions concerning it may therefore be modified. As Alford says, a later date than the usual one may be assigned to it. 3. Again, it is held, as by Neander, that the epithet "holy mount," as applied to the hill of transfiguration, indicates a late period, for Zion only was so designated; and Mayerhoff affirms that the epithet suits Mount Zion alone. But the scene on which the glory of Jesus had been so displayed might many years afterwards be well called "holy" by one who was an eyewitness, when he referred to it as a proof and symbol of "the power and coming of the Lord Jesus." Still, while a partial reply may be given to objections based on difference of style and of doctrinal representation, it must in honesty be added that these differences are not all of them wholly accounted for. The style and matter, as a whole, are so unlike the first epistle, that one has considerable difficulty in ascribing both epistles to the same author. While there is similarity in some words or phrases, the spirit, tone, and manner of the whole epistle are widely diverse. Minute criticism may discover ἃπαξ λεγόμενα, and arrange them in proof parallel to similar usage in the first epistle; but such minutiae do not hide the general dissimilitude. It may be argued, and the argument is not without weight, that a forger would have imitated the salient peculiarities of the first epistle. No one of ordinary critical discernment would have failed to attempt the reproduction of its characteristic features of style and thought. But the absence of such studied likeness is surely in favor of the genuineness. It may be added also that, as there are in the first epistle statements so peculiar to it as to be found nowhere else, the same specialty in what seems to be undesigned coincidence marks the second epistle in the declarations of its third chapter. It would have been difficult in the second century to impose on the churches a second epistle forged in Peter's name, and so unlike in many points to his first. A direct imitation of his style might have deceived some of the churches by its obvious features of similitude, but the case is widely different when a writing so obviously unlike the first epistle won its way into circulation unchallenged in its origin and history, and was not doubted save at length by scholars and mainly on critical grounds. Why did not Origen and others tell us of the time of its first appearance, and how and by whom it was placed in the canon? Possibly on such points they were ignorant, or at least they knew nothing that warranted suspicion. Still the difference of manner between the two epistles remains, and perhaps one might account for it, as Jerome has hinted and Calvin has supposed, by the supposition that Peter dictated the epistle in Aramaic, and that the amanuensis was left to express the thoughts in his own forms and phrases.
Difference of condition and purpose may account for difference of topic, and the change of style may be ascribed to the Greek copyist and translator. If, moreover, we admit that some time intervened between the composition of the two works; that in writing the first the apostle was aided by Silvanus, and in the second by another, perhaps Mark; that the circumstances of the churches addressed by him were considerably changed, and that the second was written in greater haste, not to speak of a possible decay of faculties, the differences may be regarded as insufficient to justify more than hesitation in admitting its genuineness. The authenticity of the epistle has been maintained more or less decidedly by Michaelis, Nitzsche, Flatt, Augusti, Storr, Dahl, Hug, Heydenreich, Lardner, Windischmann, Guericke, Thiersch, Stier, Dietlein, Hofmann, Luthardt, Bruckner, and Olshausen. Feilmoser and Davidson incline to the same side. These are great names; yet, though we agree with their opinion, we cannot venture to say, with Bonnet, that "of all the books of the N.T. which have been controverted at certain times, there is not one whose authenticity is so certain as that of the second epistle of Peter" (Nouv. Test., Introd., 2:701, Geneve, 1852).
II. Time, Place, Design, and Persons addressed. — When and where the epistle was written cannot be definitely known. The place was Rome in all probability; for Peter, after coming to Rome, did not, so far as we know, leave that city till his death. His death is usually placed in 64, but it may have been later, and this epistle was written just before it. Mayerhoff ascribes it to a Jewish Christian of Alexandria about the middle of the second century. Huther places it in the last quarter of the first century or the beginning of the second.
The persons for whom the epistle is intended are "those who have obtained like precious faith with us;" and 2Pe 3:1 identifies them with those addressed in the first epistle. It is objected that this epistle asserts that Peter had taught them in person — such not being the case with those addressed in the first epistle. But the phrase adduced — ἐγνωρίσαμεν ὑμῖν (2Pe 1:16), "we made known unto you" — seems to refer not to oral discourse, but to various portions of the first epistle in which the coming and glory of Christ are dwelt on. The object of the epistle is to warn against "false teachers," "bringing in damnable heresies," "denying the Lord that bought them," holding a peculiar daemonology — covetous, sensual, and imperious apostates, the victims and propagators of Antinomian delusion. Probably they taught some early form of Gnostic error, which, denying the Lord's humanity and atoning death, ridiculed his second advent in man's nature, set aside the authority of law, and by this effrontery justified itself in licentious impurity. The false teachers were like the "false prophets," perhaps claiming divine basis for their teachings, and therefore the more able to shake the faith of others, and seduce them into perilous apostasy. Thus, in brief, as the writer himself describes it (2Pe 3:17), his object is, first, warning, or to caution his readers against seduction: "Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness'" προγιγνώσκοντες — "as ye know those things beforehand," that is, from his descriptive accounts; and, secondly, counsel, or to urge on them, — as the best of all antidotes to apostasy, to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." For this χάρις and γνῶσις would fortify them and make them invincible against those assaults which so often succeeded with the unwary who fell in their heedlessness, the graceless who trusted in their own strength, and the ignorant or half-informed, so liable from their partial knowledge to be imposed upon by any system that dealt in novel speculations, professed to unfold mysteries, or give license and warrant for lawless practices. The supposition of Grotius, that it was written in the reign of Trajan against the Carpocratians, and by Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, is without any probability, as Bertholdt has more than sufficiently shown. The arguments of Schwegler for its place as Rome, its date the end of the second century, and its purpose as an effort to conciliate Petrine and Pauline theological differences, are answered conclusively by Huther.
III. The contents of the epistle seem quite in accordance with its asserted origin. The customary opening salutation is followed by an enumeration of Christian blessings and exhortation to Christian duties, with special reference to the maintenance of the truth which had already been communicated to the Church (2Pe 1:1-13). Referring then to his approaching death, the apostle assigns as grounds of assurance for believers his own personal testimony as an eye-witness of the transfiguration, and the sure word of prophecy, that is the testimony of the Holy Ghost (14-21). The danger of being misled by false prophets is dwelt upon with great earnestness throughout the second chapter; their covetousness and gross sensuality, combined with pretences to spiritualism, in short all the permanent and fundamental characteristics of Antinomianism, are described; while the overthrow of all opponents of Christian truth is predicted (2 Peter 2:1-29) in connection with prophecies touching the second advent of Christ, the destruction of the world by fire, and the promise of new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. After an exhortation to attend to Paul's teaching, in accordance with the less explicit admonition in the previous epistle, and an emphatic warning, the epistle closes with the customary ascription of glory to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
IV. Commentaries. — Exegetical helps on the whole of this epistle exclusively are the following: Simson, Commentary (Lond. 1632, 4to); Adams, Commentary (ibid. 1633, fol.); Smith, Commentaries (ibid. 1690, 4to); Deurhof, Erklaringe (Amst. 1713, 4to); Nitzsche, Vindicatio (Lips. 1785, 8vo); Flatt, Defensio (Tub. 1806, 8vo); Dahl, De αὐθεντίᾷ, etc. [includ. Jude] (Rost. 1807, 4to); Richter, De Origine, etc. [includ. Jude] (Vit. 1810, 8vo); Ullmann, Auslegung (Lips. 1322, 8vo); Olshausen, De Integ. et Authent. etc. (Regiom. 1822-3, 4to; in English in the Bibl. Repos. July and October 1863); Picot, Recherches, etc. (Genev. 1829, 8vo); Moutier, Authentie, etc. [includ. Jude] (Strasb. 1829, 8vo); Delille, Authentie, etc. (ibid. 1835, 8vo); Magnus, id. (ibid. 1835, 8vo); Heydenreich, Aechtheit, etc. (Herb. 1837, 8vo); Audemars, La 2d Ep. de P. (Genev. 1838, 8vo); Daumas, Introduction critique (Strasb. 1845. 8vo); Brown, Discourses [on chapter 2 (Edinb. 1856, 8vo); Smith, Lectures (Lond. 1878, 8vo). SEE PETER, FIRST EPISTLE OF.