As 1 Peter deals with problems from outside the church (sufferings), 2 Peter deals with problems from within the church (false teachers). In 2 Peter familiarity is shown with the writings of Paul, which are further acknowledged among “the rest of scriptures” (3:15-16).1 Because of the close association that Silvanus and Mark had with both Peter and Paul (Col. 4:10; 1 Thess. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:12, 13), one or both of these coworkers may have been responsible for sharing Paul’s writings with Peter. Second Peter also shares a literary affinity with the epistle of Jude (see below), particularly 2 Pet. 2:1-18; 3:1-3 and Jude 4-18.
Date, Provenance, and Destination
Second Peter was obviously written after 1 Peter (cf. 2 Pet. 3:1), and in 2 Peter the apostle is preparing to die a martyr’s death (1:13-15). According to early tradition, Peter was executed in Rome during the reign of Nero (see Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.25.1-8). Nero’s persecution began around the summer of 64 and ended by the summer of 68. It is reasonable to date 2 Peter ca. 64-65. Those who wish to date the epistle much later, particularly on into the 2nd century (e.g. R. E. Brown, Introduction to the NT 767) and as late as the 120s or 130s (L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity 424-25), must account for the fact that Psa. 90:4 is quoted in 2 Pet. 3:8 without a hint of chiliastic (literal 1000-year reign of Christ) interpretation that was prevalent and wide-spread in the 2nd century (cf. Justin Martyr, Dial. 81; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 5.28.3, 23.2; Epistle of Barnabas 15.4).
Second Peter is simply addressed to “those having obtained an equally valuable faith with ours through [the] righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:1). Since reference is made to this being the second letter written “to you” (3:1), evidently the audience of 2 Peter is the same as the audience of 1 Peter. The document would then be intended for the “chosen sojourners of [the] dispersion” in the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (see Distinctive Features of 1 Peter).
Literary Affinity with Jude
A number of striking parallels are evident between 2 Peter and Jude, with nineteen of the verses in 2 Peter at least partially replicated in the twenty-five verses of Jude. The five possible explanations for this phenomenon are as follows:
Ø Each author wrote independently, and the similarities are either coincidental or attributable to the Holy Spirit.2
Ø Both documents came from the same author, although each is attributed to someone different.3
Ø Both used a common written source,4 which cannot be verified since the hypothetical source is not available.
Ø Peter borrowed from Jude, which appears to be the position held by most modern scholars.5
Ø Jude borrowed from Peter, which is the position advocated by this author.6
It seems more likely that Jude borrowed from 2 Peter. Jude 17-18 appears to be a quote from 2 Peter 3:1-3 rather than vice versa. The ESV places the warning of Jude 18 in quotation marks and cites 2 Peter 3:2 in the margin. Moreover, the predictive nature of the future tense in 2 Peter 2:1-3 and 3:3 (i.e., false teachers are coming), as compared to the apparent fulfillment implied by the present tense of Jude 4, 16-19 (i.e., false teachers have come), supports the priority of 2 Peter.7
The message of the relatively brief three-chapter epistle of 2 Peter has aided God’s people through the centuries with (a) reminders of the heavenly provision of grace, peace, and knowledge (1:1-4), (b) exhortations for spiritual growth (1:5-11), (c) confirming eyewitness testimony and inspiration of scripture (1:12-21), (d) warnings of false teachers and apostasy (2:1-22), (e) anticipating the day of the Lord (3:1-13), and (f) calling for spiritual maturation and faithfulness (3:14-18).
“But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; to him [be] the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:18).
--Kevin L. Moore
1 Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation, unless noted otherwise. The reference to “some things” in Paul’s letters that are “hard to understand” (v. 16) does not necessarily mean that the writings are unclear or overly complicated; rather the subject matter itself is sometimes complex.
2 A. Barnes says concerning this view, “no one can deny that this is possible, but is by no means probable. No other instance of the kind occurs in the Bible …” (Notes 1512).
3 John A. T. Robinson suggests that Jude was Peter’s amanuensis in the writing of 2 Peter before he wrote his own epistle (Redating the NT 193-99).
4 See M. Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter 50-55.
5 See W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the NT 430-31; R. J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter 141-43; D. A. Carson and D. J. Moo, An Introduction to the NT 656-57; D. F. Watson, Invention, Arrangement, and Style 163-87. Note that many advocates of the priority of Jude build their case on the assumption that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphical.
6 See also C. Bigg, Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude 216-24; D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 923-24; G. N. Woods, Epistles of Peter, John and Jude 377-78. This view certainly does not discount the role of divine inspiration (see Biblical Inspiration in Perspective).
7 See The NT Epistle of Judas.
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