Don’t Knock the Rock: The Divine Authorship of 2 Peter

The Scholarly Skepticism

In ‘postmodern’ times, where belief and doubt battle on the field of truth and relativism lurks under the bleachers, waiting for a chance to streak during the half-time show of popular opinion, skepticism is everywhere.  Sadly, there is nothing either ‘post’ or ‘modern’ about ‘postmodern’ liberal biblical skepticism.  Gleason A. Archer once wrote “So far as twentieth-century liberal scholarship is concerned, little or nothing has happened since 1806 — or indeed, since the third century A.D. The same old threadbare arguments, the long refuted ‘proof texts,’ the circular reasoning of doctrinaire rationalism, have persisted up to the present time.”[1] Liberal skeptics have always doubted the authenticity and inspiration of the word of God and of all the books of the Bible, 2 Peter has been doubted more than any other.  At the turn of the 20th century, Werner Kummel aggressively wrote of 2 Peter that “Peter cannot have written this epistle.”[2] Some 60 years later, C.E.B. Cranfield triumphantly pronounced “that the Apostle Peter was not the author of the Epistle seems certain.”[3] In the last 50 years, skepticism has only grown and one even finds evangelical (supposedly) commentaries that think 2 Peter was written by someone other than Peter.  In digging through the numerous reasons for doubt of the authorship of 2 Peter, one finds that the case is neither ‘certain’ nor even compelling.

Skepticism Utilizing External Evidence

The reasoning for doubting 2 Peter as authentically Petrine come in two major strands: external and internal evidence, with some minor assumptions about the nature of pseudepigraphy sneaking in through the back door.  The external evidence is both numerous and dynamic, with new arguments being conceived as old arguments are rebutted or abandoned.  In the reading of this author, the arguments for doubt arrive in three distinct vehicles: historical silence, canonical doubt and the early existence of a vast Petrine corpus.

Early Church Silence

The main thrust of this argument is that 2 Peter struggled for acceptance in the early church since 2 Peter is not distinctly referenced until the second century, indicating that 2 Peter either wasn’t around or accepted until then.[4] Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria are “completely silent on it.”[5] The first distinct mention of 2 Peter is by Origen and in 2 Peter’s first mention in history, there are suggestions that 2 Peter wasn’t accepted as canonical literature. [6] The skeptical position on 2 Peter asks why this is the case.  Surely, if Peter wrote 2 Peter, it would have been quickly accepted into the canon and readily quoted by the early church fathers.

Questions Regarding Canonicity

Not only is the church silent on 2 Peter until the third century, but when there is talk of 2 Peter in the early church fathers, there are mentions of doubt regarding its authenticity.  Eusebius, who records Origen’s comments on 2 Peter, records Origen as saying that Peter “has left one acknowledged epistle; perhaps also a second, but this is doubtful.”[7] Eusebius also writes,

“One epistle of Peter, that called the first, is acknowledged as genuine.  And this the ancient Elders  used freely in their own writings as an undisputed work.  But we have learned that his extant second Epistle does not belong to the canon;  yet, as it has appeared profitable to many, it has been used with the other Scriptures….Such are the writings that bear the name of Peter, only one of which I know to be genuine and acknowledged by the ancient elder.”[8]

Jerome also commented on suspicions regarding the authorship of 2 Peter, writing in his epistle to Hebidia (epistle 120) that there were doubts about 2 Peter due to linguistic differences between 1 and 2 Peter.[9] The recension of Lucian of Antioch didn’t contain 2 Peter in its list of canonical documents,[10] 2 Peter wasn’t listed in the Muratorian Canon,[11] the Syrian canon didn’t include 2 Peter[12] and the Apocalypse of Peter was in the Muratorian Canon.[13]

A Plethora of Peters

Not only was there a document called the Apocalypse of Peter in a canonical list in the early church era, but there were plenty of other pseudo-Petrine documents as well. From the late 1st and 2nd centuries, the list of claimed Petrine documents included 1 Peter, 2 Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Gospel of Peter, the Kerygma of Peter and the Acts of Peter.[14] Though the sheer presence of pseudo-Petrine literature is not an argument against the authenticity of 2 Peter, Bauckham writes “their diversity of character shows that a wide variety of Christian groups, Gnostic as well as ‘orthodox’, believed that they could claim Petrine authority for their views.”[15] The problem is that the true Petrine literature of the era needs to be distinguished from the pseudo-Petrine literature and in this process the biblical skeptics dismiss 2 Peter as one among many pseudo-Petrine works.

Skepticism Utilizing Internal Evidence

In the dismissal of 2 Peter along with other pseudo-Petrine literature, skeptics cannot sufficiently establish a concrete case from external evidence alone.  At this point the argument against 2 Peter shifts to internal arguments and their number increases exponentially.  The main internal arguments against the authenticity of 2 Peter come in 9 streams: Peter’s claims, his style, his use of Jude, his use of other literature, passages suggesting non-Petrine authorship, overt-Hellenism, anti-Gnosticism, ‘early Catholicism’ and questions regarding genre.

Authorial Claims

Ironically, some skeptics see almost anything as an “obvious effort to falsely acquire authority for the letter” including the actual claim in 1:1 that the letter is from Peter.[16] Robert Wall sees this alone as sufficient reason to declare inauthenticity, writing that “the consensus of biblical research confirm the ancient intuition that 2 Peter is not actually authored by the Apostle Peter (or even by the pseudepigrapher who wrote 1 Peter), but by a so-called Symeon (not Simeon) Peter (1:1; cf. Acts 15:14).  2 Peter is therefore ‘inauthentic’ and lacks credibility as an early (or ‘apostolic’) witness to the gospel.”[17]

The personal details in the letter also create suspicion with some.  Reicke writes that since there are no details in the personal allusions that only Peter would have known, the personal facts (i.e. the transfiguration) are attempts to impersonate Peter.[18] Cranfield likewise suggests that the references to his approaching prophesied death, the transfiguration, his first epistle and his personal affinity for Paul “suggest a pseudonymous writer over-anxious to give his work verisimilitude.”[19]

Authorial Style

Bauckham addresses this issue in depth.  Unlike some, he recognizes the statistical differences in vocabulary of 1 and 2 Peter are not unlike other NT books. He writes that although 38.6% of the vocabulary of 2 Peter appear in 1 Peter, 40.4% of the vocabulary of 1 Corinthians appear in 2 Corinthians and there’s little suspicion of the authenticity of the Corinthian epistles.[20] Bauckham admits that this is not the end of the argument, since pure statistical analysis is a weak way of showing literary relationship.  He goes on to write that 1 and 2 Peter have 154 words, 26 of which occur less than 20 times in the NT and 10 of which occur less than 10 times in the NT.  But, 38 words in 2 Peter appear once or twice in the NT and 2 are in 1 Peter, showing that “there are hardly any words which could be regarded as characteristic of the two Petrine letters”[21] and “if 1 and 2 Peter had been anonymous documents, no one would have thought of attributing them to a single author.”[22] Mayor articulates what he feels the actual differences between 1 and 2 Peter are when he writes “on the whole I should say that the difference of style is less marked than the difference in vocabulary, and that again less marked than the difference in matter, while above all stands the great difference in thought, feeling, and character, in one word of personality.”[23]

Similarities with Jude

Although skeptics suggest that 2 Peter is very dissimilar to 1 Peter, they almost unanimously agree that 2 Peter sounds so suspiciously like Jude that “the central section of the epistle is a recasting of Jude.”[24] The options of literary relationship are limited, being “either one author has borrowed from the other’s work, or that both have made use of a common source.”[25] The idea of literary dependence between 2 Peter and Jude has found many homes in ‘evangelical’ circles too.  Davids comments on the three options, suggesting that Ockham’s razor rules out a common source and “if Jude has used 2 Peter, there is no evidence that his copy included ch. 1.”[26] This only leaves 2 Peter being written by an author who “has the tract of Judas before him.”[27]

Similarities with Anything and Everything

The suggestions of literary dependence do not stop with Jude; some skeptics suggest that Peter was reliant on other pseudo-Petrine literature.  Due to common sounding language, Kelly writes that 2 Peter “sounds much more like the pseudo-Petrine literature of the 2nd century.”[28] Deissman, in a strange claim, suggests that 2 Peter shows direct literary dependence upon the Decree of Stratonicea due to common style and language.[29] Other skeptics don’t necessarily suggest literary dependence of 2 Peter on other works from the 2nd century, but at least suggest that common language and vocabulary of 2 Peter with other works from the 2nd century indicates that 2 Peter is likely from the end of the 1st century or the early 2nd century (i.e. decades after the death of Peter).[30] In any case, divine inspiration is not on the menu for skeptics.

Problem Passages

Though skeptics find problems all over the book of 2 Peter, four passages stand out in skeptical literature as significant.  2 Peter 1:18 recalls the transfiguration and refers to the “holy mount”, which was not known as a holy place “until much later” than the lifetime of Peter.[31] 2 Peter 3:4 refers to “the fathers” suggesting that the first Christian generation was dead and the author was writing after them (including after Peter).[32] 2 Peter 3:15 calls Paul a “beloved brother”, which “betrays, almost more than any other passage in the letter, that the apostolic age, with its tensions between Peter and Paul (e.g. Gal. ii.11-16) on the one hand and Paul and the original apostolic group on the other, lies in the misty past.”[33] Finally, 2 Peter 3:16 refers to “the scriptures”, which “assumes that there was a collection of later writings known to the writer as Scripture, of which St. Paul’s epistles formed a part. But such an assumption can hardly be conceived as possible before the middle of the second century.”[34]

Overt Hellenism

Regardless of specific passages, skeptics find the conceptual world and language of 2 Peter to be too Hellenistic to reflect the thinking of a 1st century Jew.[35] Reicke finds that the Hellenistic language and imagery of 2 Peter make it “extremely difficult to ascribe this epistle to Peter, a Galilean fisherman.”[36] 2 Peter’s comment on being ‘partakers of the divine nature’, which is a Platonic phrase that appears in Plato, Aristotle and Seneca and was used frequently by the early church fathers, insinuates a later date.[37]

Anti-Gnosticism

Along with Hellenistic language, skeptics find that 2 peter addresses Gnostic beliefs not found until 2nd century, being seen in 2 Peter’s focus on knowledge and eschatological skepticism.[38] Instead of the theological problems found in the various early churches, the issues addressed in 2 Peter seem to belong to a different, later era. The Gnosticism dealt with in 2 Peter is much like that spoken of in 1 Clement, suggesting a date decades after the death of Peter.[39]

Early Catholicism

The author of 2 Peter is concerned with things other than Gnosticism.  What is telling to skeptical scholars is that 2 Peter’s concern for the orthodox interpretation of scripture (1:20; 3:15-6) reflects “early catholic” teaching.[40] Also, the exhortation to recall apostolic doctrine was likely written by someone eager to preserve apostolic tradition, which skeptics suggest wasn’t firmly established in the lifetime of Peter.[41]

Genre Complications

The final internal argument against the authenticity of 2 Peter is not too common, but has gained significant popularity in the past decades.  Around 50 years ago, Reicke suggested that 2 Peter is clearly an example of an ancient literary genre known as a ‘testament’, which originally stemmed from Moses farewell speech in Deuteronomy.[42] In his popular 1983 Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, Bauckham made this his principle argument against the authenticity of 2 Peter, giving it considerable treatment. He wrote that the ‘testament’ genre contained 2 principle elements: ethical admonitions that were to be followed after the writer’s death and revelations of the future.[43] The ethical admonitions were in 1:3-11 and the revelation was in 2:1-3 and 3:1-4.[44] The significant fact about the ‘testament’ genre was not in its markers but in its nature; Bauckham argues that a ‘testament’ piece of literature is intended “to be entirely transparent fiction”[45], saying that “readers familiar with the genre must have expected it to be fictional, like the other examples they knew.”[46] This idea seems to somewhat lessen the blow of suggesting that 2 Peter wasn’t written by Peter, since the book would have been clearly recognized as non-Petrine by the readers by the obvious literary genre.  In his 2006 Pillar New Testament commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, Davids spends 26 pages interacting with Bauckham’s thesis and ultimately finds it convincing, saying “It is not unreasonable to believe that 2 Peter is pseudopigraphical, although Bauckham assume the pseudopigraphical character of 2 Peter as being incontrovertible, which in our mind goes beyond the evidence.”[47]

Sanctified Pseudepigraphy

Related to the issue of Bauckham and Davids understandings of the ‘testament’ genre is the assumption that pseudepigraphal literature was accepted in the early church and could actually be accepted into the canon.  It seems that the last 50 years have seen some serious softening up to the idea that ‘pseudepigraphal does not equal forgery’.  Cranfield expresses the idea when he writes,

“Judaism had already produced a long line of pseudonymous apocalyptic writings, and, while Christian works of the first century were, at any rate in general, not pseudonymous, it was not unnatural that in the second century, when the Church had begun to look back to its early leaders in something like the way in which the Jews looked back to the patriarchs and prophets, and to regard their writing as Scripture, someone believing firmly that he had a message of burning relevance to the Church and such as the Apostles, had they still been alive, would have wholeheartedly approved…”[48]

Belief Utilizing External Evidence

In encountering the arguments from external evidence, one can admit that 2 Peter did take its time being universally recognized in the early church.  That being said, there is a much better case for external evidence than much of skeptical scholarship is often willing to admit.

Early Church Testimony

When one looks at the early church writings, one notices several things. One must admit that 1 and 2 Clement contain language that is similar to 2 Peter, but Petrine literary dependence on Clement is not the only explanation. Similar ideas and terminology in passages like 1 Clement 23.3 and 2 Clement 11.2 can be explained by their knowledge of 2 Peter, especially since 1 Clement identifies the written source as “scripture” and 2 Clement calls it ‘the prophetic word”. [49] If the source was some unknown, non-Petrine oral tradition that found its way into both the writings of Clement and 2 Peter, those attestations would be exceedingly strange.  Micheal Green suggests that the quotations of 2 Peter in 1 & 2 Clement (95 & 150 AD), Aristides (130 AD), the Shepherd of Hermas (120 AD), Valentinus (130 AD) and Hippolytus (180 AD) infer that they all knew 2 Peter and considered it scripture; there’s no logical reason to suggest any common source other than 2 Peter except for a priori skepticism of scripture in general.[50]

Bigg spends 11 pages digging through early allusions and possible citations of 2 Peter that include Eusebius, Jerome Justin Martyr, Methodius, Origen, Theophilus of Antioch, Melito of Sardis, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Firmilian, Hippolytus, Tatian, Aristides, Polycarp, Irenaeus, the early pseudo-petrine literature, Ignatius, Barnabas, Hermas, Clement of Rome and Jude.[51] Picirilli, in his colossal article, makes the observation that the earliest writings (Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Hermas, etc.) all seem to have allusions and not ‘direct quotations’ since they quote biblical passages indirectly; usually seemingly from memory.[52] Picirilli goes on to explain this, commenting that in the early fathers, 1 Peter is cited 29 times and Romans is cited 31 times, but none of the citations is direct and because of this, “one cannot dogmatically affirm that there certainly are no allusions to 2 Peter  in the Apostolic Fathers.”[53]

Assertions Regarding Canonicity

With regards to the comments by Eusebius, even though he was skeptical of 2 Peter, he none the less included it with James, Jude, 2 & 3 John as “the disputed books which nevertheless are known to most.”[54] Widespread knowledge across Christendom does not occur over night. Also, Eusebius records that Clement wrote a commentary on all the disputed books “and the so-called Apocalypse of Peter”, which meant that in Clement’s day, 2 Peter was considered scriptural.[55] Again, this could not have happened over night.

As for Jerome, he did mention reasons for skepticism of 2 Peter, and he only lists stylistic reasons which he explained as being due to Peter’s usage of different scribes.[56] History knows of 3 scribes for Peter: Silvanus (1 Peter 5:12), Mark (recorded by Eusebius)[57] and Glaucias (recorded by Clement).[58] It is more than likely that Jerome’s understanding of literary difference due to different scribes is reasonable.  It’s perfectly reasonable to suggest that 2 Peter records the writing style and vocabulary of Glaucias (or some unknown scribe).

Regarding Origen, in his Homilies on Joshua 7.1 he writes “even Peter blows on the twin trumpets of his own Epistles.”[59] Guthrie also writes that Origen “uses the epistle at least six times in citations and shows little hesitation in regarding it as canonical” and that though Origen recognized doubts about 2 Peter, “Origen saw no reason to treat these doubts as serious, and this would mean to imply that in his time the epistle was widely regarded as canonical.”[60]

Finally, the councils of Hippo and Carthage recognized 2 Peter as canonical and the Muratorian Canon is incomplete (i.e. part of the document is torn off) and doesn’t include 1st Peter, James and Hebrews.[61] Regardless of all the recognitions of doubt regarding 2 Peter, no early church father ever listen 2 Peter in a list of spurious works.[62]

A Plethora of Pseudo-Peters

There were “numerous pieces of pseudonymous Petrine literature that flooded the church during the second and third centuries” and all were rejected as authentic except 1 and 2 Peter.[63] Eusebius writes clearly that “the so-called Acts of Peter, however, and the Gospel which bears his name, and the Preaching and the Apocalypse, as they are called, we know have not been universally accepted, because no ecclesiastical writer, ancient or modern, has made use of testimonies drawn from them.”[64] It seems to be a clear manuscript attestation to the regard for 2 Peter in the early church seeing that 2 Peter is in p72 (3rd century) and codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and Alexandrinus.[65] Regardless of the literature floating around in history, once cannot ignore the fact that only the two works of 1 and 2 Peter are established in the Christian canon.

Q and A

One other promising point that of external attestation that is brought up by Michael Green is of the Qumran fragment 7Q10, which Green writes may be a fragment with 2 Peter 1:15 on it. He comments that Qumran cave 7 was sealed in 68 AD (before the Jewish war) and, writes “If this can be substantiated, there will be unimpeachable and very early evidence for the origin of 2 Peter before 68 AD.”[66] Seeing that Green originally wrote his work several decades ago, one must see what has happened now that scholarship has had ample time to regard 7Q10.  Emmanuel Tov, in 2008, wrote on the fragments of Qumran cave 7 and suggested 2 reasons why 7Q10 will never be shown to be 2 Peter 1:15.  First, it’s a tiny fragment that is too small to be properly identified.  Secondly, Tov candidly commented that 2 Peter was “written after the dates assigned to the Qumran fragments.”[67] It seems that baring the divine regeneration of the mind, doubt is both the start and inevitable end of the journey of scholarship, even in the highest stories of the ivory tower.

Belief Utilizing Internal Evidence

As can be seen from the external evidence, the case against 2 Peter is flimsy at best, with a majority of the argument being a testimony from silence or the recognition of doubt as opposed to the actual reasonable validation of doubt.  Shifting to internal evidence, one finds that skeptical arguments equally ring hollow and 2 Peter establishes its authenticity.

Reasonable Claims

Although Peter claims to be the author of 2 Peter, one must notice that 2 Peter 1:1 lists a different name than 1 Peter 1:1.  This seems strange as one would expect a forger to simply copy the name from 1 Peter to avoid suspicion.[68] Not only that, but Zahn writes that “there is something strikingly original about the author’s self-designation, Symeon Petros which, so far as we know, is unheard of elsewhere in Petrine and pseudo-Petrine literature.”[69] Not only is the name different, it’s unique.

Also, if the author of 2 Peter wasn’t Peter, he definitely goes out of his way to make it sound like it.  The author claims that Christ has told him about his coming death (1:14). The author claims to have personally seen the transfiguration (1:16-18).  The author claims to have written 1 Peter (3:1), and the author claims Paul is a beloved brother (3:15-16).  It strikes this author as very bizarre that a pseudopigrapher would utilize empirically falsifiable claims like that, which would easily be falsifiable even a whole generation after the death of Peter while the immediate disciples of the apostles (like Clement) were still around.

Understandable Style

Regarding the stylistic differences between 1 and 2 Peter, one must point out several seemingly obvious points.  First, 2 Peter was dealing with different issues than 1 Peter.  “It seems the critics almost expect Peter’s second epistle to be simply a rehash of the same material so that identical vocabulary and themes would reappear.”[70] Second, there is the fact that Peter utilized Silvanus for 1 Peter but Peter possibly used a different scribe for 2 Peter, or wrote it himself. Gene Green writes “in ancient times, scribal practices were diverse and could include syllabic dictation, dictation at normal speaking speed, editing and even composition.  This makes it horribly difficult to know exactly what the range of variety in Peter’s writing could possibly be.”[71] Third, skeptics play up the dissimilarities while downplaying the similarities.  Kruger lists 12 similarities between 1 and 2 Peter that he suggests “to believe that an author pretending to be Peter would be able to weave such an intricate and subtle literary web is surely gratuitous. Any man that could do such would be a compositional genius with unspeakable abilities.”[72] Fourth, the whole concept of judging Peter’s entire range of style and vocabulary based on 543 words seems utterly silly,[73] and the whole judgment of ‘style’ is inherently subjective.  Suggesting that the main difference is “personality (i.e. Mayor) seems akin to suggesting that saying “it just feels different” is scholarly reasoning.

Shared Understandings with Jude

Just like with early Clementine and other early church literature, the literary relationship between Jude and 2 Peter seems to be utterly arbitrary, and serving a hidden theological agenda.  Brewer comments that Jude 4 & 17 speaks of prophetic prediction of these false teachers and Jude 4 has pareisduw and 2 Peter 2:1 has pareisagw, both of which are closely related hapax legomenas. If Jude isn’t referring to 2 Peter, we have a lost apostolic document being referred to and must wonder where this lone lost apostolic document went and why it was partially preserved in Jude and 2 Peter. If Jude came after 2 Peter, Jude 17 speaks of fulfillment of 2 Peter 3:3 and skeptics are horribly allergic to fulfilled prophecy since this hints at divine inspiration.[74]

Speaking of Jude, Bauckham writes “once one has cast off the spell of the early Catholic and anti-gnostic reading of Jude, the letter does give a general impression of primitiveness.  Its character is such that if might very plausibly be dated in the 50s, and nothing requires a later date.”[75] Ironically, if one dismisses the ‘early catholic’ and ‘anti-gnostic’ readings of 2 Peter, one could arguably date it equally as early.  This sentiment is echoed by Zahn when he comments that there is no essential difference between the false teachers in 2 Peter and in Jude and it is reasonable to suggest they’re from the same era.[76]

Beyond these few issues, there is a serious logical problem presented if 2 Peter is a forgery that is literarily dependant on Jude. If 2 Peter was a forgery, one must wonder why the forger would copy Jude, which was a disputed book.[77] Lapham unwittingly agrees that if Peter actually wrote 2 Peter, it would seem strange that the “Prince of Apostles” would borrow from Jude.[78] It would seem strange that anyone pretending to be Peter would think that they needed to derive authority from a less respected, less recognized individual.

Differences with Anything and Everything

One cannot ignore the striking possibility that, when it comes to deriving authority, it is equally reasonable that the various pseudo-Petrine works of the 1st and 2nd centuries borrowed from 1 and 2 Peter as opposed to vice versa. Even Cranfield admits that 2 Peter likely came before the other pseudo Petrine writings.[79] If 2 Peter is authentic and was written before 64 AD, then following literary works that have similar language may have taken it from 2 Peter precisely because they wanted to sound like the apostle Peter.  There is no concrete reason to think that similar language necessitates Petrine literary dependence on other works outside a priori skepticism of 2 Peter.

Problem Passages

If Peter did write 2 Peter, the problem passage all seem to easily disappear.  If Peter was the author, 1:18 is simply what it says; a recounting by an eyewitness.  Peter would refer to the Mount of Transfiguration as “holy” because of what occurred on the mount, not due to the special nature of the mountain itself.  More so, If 2 Peter was written by a pseudepigraphist, one would wonder why he chose this event since it played no role in the early apostolic preaching of the gospel.[80] It seems strange that a pseudepigraphist would not mention witnessing the resurrection of Christ instead.

2 Peter 3:4 is a quotation by false teachers, and the idea of everything continuing “since the beginning” also indicates that the “fathers” is a reference to “ancestors”.  Beyond this contextual clue, the concept of “fathers” in the New Testament consistently refers to Old Testament Fathers, not the immediately preceding generation.[81]

2 Peter 3:15 sounds exactly like one would expect if Peter and Paul were co-laborers in the gospel, and references to the Tubingen thesis that Peter and Paul had lifelong tension based on Galatians 2 insinuates that two primary apostles of Jesus Christ didn’t have a basic Christian ability to forgive one another.  Suggesting this of two apostles is utterly ludicrous.

Finally, 2 Peter 3:16 does not need to refer to some completed Pauline corpus of the 1st century.  “All his letters” could mean “all he’s written thus far.”[82] Also, regarding any insinuation of a problem with calling Paul’s writings scripture, Paul himself knew he was teaching (1 Thess. 2:13) and writing authoritative words of divine origin (1 Cor. 2:13; 14:37).  Each individual letter was itself “scripture”, without any necessary reference to a collection of books of any sort from a date beyond the lives of the apostles.

Assumed Hellenism

Was Peter Hellenized?  Peter was from Galilee, which was close to the Decapolis (Matt. 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:31), so it is easy to suggest he picked up figures of speech and was familiar with Greek literature and culture.[83] Was Peter utilizing Hellenistic terminology in 2 Peter that was Platonic in nature and popularized among the early church fathers?  The use of Platonic terms is not equivalent with the understanding or transmission of Platonic ideas.  Acts 4:13 suggests that Peter was both erudite and intelligent enough to surprise the educated elite, so knowing Platonic terminology shouldn’t be surprising in the slightest.  If anything, it seems that this accusation is more an insinuation that Peter was an imbecile than anything else, reflecting the modern, rationalistic pride of the skeptical commentators.

Non-Gnosticism

On the topic of Gnosticism, this idea has fallen out of vogue as of late.  Though believing that Peter was not the author of 2 Peter, Bauckham lay this accusation to rest when he wrote:

As in the case of Jude, there is no evidence that the false teachers in 2 Peter held the cosmological dualism which is the essential mark of true Gnosticism.  There is no evidence that their ethical libertinism was based on such dualism, or that their eschatological skepticism resulted from a gnostic concentration on realized, at the expense of future, eschatology.  If they resembled some second-century Gnostics in denying the divine inspiration of OT prophecy (1:20-21a), they did so by attributing it to a merely human origin, no to the demiurge, as the second-century Gnostics did.  There is no hint in 2 Peter of controversy about bodily resurrection, which was usually a main focus of anti-gnostic discussion of eschatology, because of the link between this issue and gnostic dualism…Conversely, there is no evidence that the delay of the Parousia, so important in 2 Peter, featured in second-century Gnostic argument against traditional eschatology.[84]

Early Church

Regarding the accusations of “early Catholicism”, one must understand that concern over doctrine doesn’t necessitate 2nd century church.  Paul was concerned about preserving the apostolic teaching long before Peter died, and there are definite New Testament passages insinuating that there was a body of doctrine long within the lives of the apostles (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Thess. 3:6; 1 Peter 1:25).  Secondly, Bauckham writes that the Kummel label of “early catholic” is more of a pejorative than anything else and “is no help in understanding 2 Peter.”[85]

Genre Fabrications

One must critically engage the whole concept of the genre of ‘testament’.  Contra Bauckham, Green writes that 2 Peter doesn’t include several elements consistent to the “testament” genre including a deathbed scene, burial account of the author, apocalyptic dreams, blessings & curses, and a pre-death trip to heaven.[86] Bauckham’s reduction of the entire genre to 2 marks (ethical admonitions and revelations of the future) makes the genre so utterly general that plenty of other scripture could be labeled ‘testament’. Does Paul’s speech in Acts 20:17-38 change the genre of Acts?  This is definitely not the case.[87]

Beyond that, one must challenge Bauckham’s idea that a ‘testament’ was “transparent fiction”.  If the genre dates back to Moses, did any Jews think that Moses’ own farewell speech was pseudepigraphal or “transparent fiction”?  The early church either wasn’t confident of the authorship or 2 Peter or assigned the letter to Peter. Apparently nobody in the first 17 centuries recognized the obvious ‘transparent fiction’ of 2 Peter.[88] Instead, Peter calls 2 Peter “a letter” (3:1) and there is not sufficient reason to overthrow this classification.[89]

Struggling Pseudepigraphy

Finally, did the early church actually accept pseudepigraphal literature?  Could it actually be accepted into the canon?  It seems that the bold declaration of history to both these questions is a strong negative. Tertullian, Serapion, Origen and the Muratorian fragment speak out aggressively against early pseudepigraphal works.

Tertullian comments that he removed the author of The Acts of Paul and Thecla from his position as presbyter for writing “writings that wrongly go under Paul’s name.”[90] Serapion, Bishop of Antioch in 180 AD, is recorded by Eusebius as writing Concerning the so-called Gospel According to Peter, a refutation in which Serapion wrote “We receive both Peter and the other apostles as Christ, but the writings which falsely bear their names we reject.”[91] Origen rejected the Doctrine of Peter since it was “not included among the books of the Church and…not a writing or Peter nor of anyone else inspired by the Spirit of God.”[92] The Muratorian Fragment records that “there is said to be another letter in Paul’s name to the Laodiceans, and another to the Alexandrians, [both] forged in accordance with Marcion’s heresy, and many others which cannot be received into the catholic church, since it is not fitting that poison should be mixed with honey”[93] and “the Apocalypse of John we also receive, and that of Peter, which some of our people will not have to be read in church.  But the Shepherd was written by Hermas in the city of Rome quite recently, in our own times, when his brother Pius occupied the bishop’s chair in the church of the city of Rome; and therefore it may be read indeed, but cannot be given out to the people in the church either among the prophets, since their number is complete, or among the apostles at the end of the times.”[94] Clearly the early church had several leaders who thought very poorly of pseudepigraphal works and fought against their acceptance in the church.

One must remember that Paul attacked the practice in 2 Thess. 2:2, 3:17 during his own life. Also, pseudepigraphal works introduce new teaching, which 2 Peter does not[95].  Not only does 2 Peter lack new teaching, but one struggles to find a motive for the pseudepigrapher. Zahn comments on this, writing “To reconstruct at a later time, from hints in Jude and from imagination, a lost apostolic prophecy concerning future errors, which, according to Jude, was actually fulfilled in the apostolic age, would have been a task as purposeless as it was difficult.”[96] A pseudepigrapher has no motive, and if Peter is pseudonymous, the author is a “hypocrite as well as a liar”.[97] One would be hard pressed to argue that hypocrisy and deceit are not a good way to establish credibility with the early church.

Conclusions

When one has given a hearing to both arguments against and in favor of the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter from the external and internal evidence, one sees several things.

First, the rejection of Petrine authorship is anything but ‘certain’.  Secondly, arguments from silence are weak and are arbitrary in their orientation and application.  Third, though 2 Peter wasn’t rapidly spread throughout Christendom, wherever 2 Peter was known, it was embraced.  Fourth, arguments from language are flippant and are reveal more about the presuppositions of those who employ them than they do about the words to which they are applied.  Fifth, when 2 Peter is given a consistent read and treated as Petrine, all the internal objections are met with reasonable solutions.  Sixth, pseudepigraphal works were always rejected buy the church and prevented from canonical status.  Finally, skepticism fuels rejection of the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter every bit as much as scholarship.  Brewer, after 110 pages of interaction with skeptical scholarship on the issue, writes “The main factor keeping scholars from Petrine priority is their “presupposition that the Bible is not the supernatural revelation from a supernatural God”.[98] Regardless of the interaction and refutation given them, skeptics will continue to be doubters of God’s word in search of reasons to justify their doubt.


[1] Gleason L. Archer Jr. “Modern Rationalism and the Book of Daniel,” BSac 136 no. 542 (April-June 1979), 136.

[2] Werner Georg Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament. , (trans. by Howard Clark Kee. 17th edition.  Nashville: Abingdon, 1975), 302.

[3] C. E. B Cranfield, I & II Peter and Jude, (London: SCM Press LTD., 1960), 148.

[4] Richard Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary, (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), 162.

[5] Kummel, 433.

[6] James Moffatt, The General Epistles: James, Peter and Judas, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company Inc., 1928), 175.

[7]. Eusebius. History of the Church 6.25.11.

[8] Eusebius. History of the Church 3.3.1 & 4

[9] Bauckham, 163.

[10] J.N.D Kelly, A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and of Jude, (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1969), 224.

[11] Kummel, 433.

[12] Joseph B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. Jude and the Second Epistle of St. Peter, (London: MacMillan and Co. Limited), 1907), cxvi.

[13] Bauckham, 163.

[14] Ibid, 148.

[15] Ibid, 149.

[16] Kummel, 433

[17] Robert W Wall, “The Canonical Function of 2 Peter.” Biblical Interpretation 9 no 1 (2001), 64.

[18] Bo Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter and Jude, Anchor Bible 37 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964), 143.

[19] Cranfield, 148.

[20] Bauckham, 144.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid, 145.

[23] Mayor, cv.

[24] Kelly, 235.

[25] F. Lapham, Peter: The Myth, the Man and the Writings, (London: Shefield Academic Press, 2003), 152.

[26] Peter H Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2006), 142.

[27] Moffatt, 173.

[28] Kelly, 236.

[29] Adolph Deissman, Bible Studies, (Edinburgh, England: T & T Clark, 1907),  360.

[30] Bauckham, 150.

[31] Ibid, 221.

[32] Kelly, 235.

[33] Ibid, 370.

[34] Mayor, 168.

[35] Kummel, 431.

[36] Reicke, 144.

[37] Mayor, 87-88.

[38] Kummel, 432.

[39] Kelly, 236.

[40] Kummel, 432.

[41] Reicke, 143.

[42] Ibid, 146.

[43] Bauckham, 131.

[44] Ibid, 132.

[45] Ibid, 133.

[46] Ibid, 134.

[47] Davids, 149.

[48] Cranfield, 150.

[49] Gene L Green, Jude and 2 Peter, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 141.

[50] Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude. Tyndale New Testament Commentary, (rev. ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 14.

[51] Charles Bigg, A Critiical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1901), 199-210.

[52] Robert E. Picirilli, “Allusions to 2 Peter in the Apostolic Fathers” JSNT 33 (1988), 74.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Eusebius. History of the Church 3.25.3.

[55] Eusebius. History of the Church 6.14.1.

[56] Green, Jude and 2 Peter, 144.

[57] Eusebius. History of the Church 3.39.15.

[58] Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 7.17.

[59] Michael J Kruger, “The Authenticity of 2 Peter”, JETS 42 no. 4 (December 1999, 645-671), 649-50.

[60] Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1990), 806.

[61] Kruger, 651.

[62] Green, 2 Peter and Jude, 14.

[63] D. Edmond Heibert, Second Peter and Jude, (Greenville, SC: Unusual Publications, 1989), 7.

[64] Eusebius. History of the Church 3.3.2

[65] Kruger, 651.

[66] Green, 2 Peter and Jude, 16-17.

[67] Emmanuel Tov, Hebrew Bible, Greek Bible and Qumran, (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 348.

[68] Guthrie, 820.

[69] Theodor Zahn, Vol. 2 of Introduction to the New Testament, (Edinburgh, England: T & T Clark, 1909), 271

[70] Kruger, 658.

[71] Green, Jude and 2 Peter, 147.

[72] Kruger, 660.

[73] Ibid, 658.

[74] Monroe D. Jr. Brewer, “The Relationship of Jude to 2 Peter”, (M.Div. thesis, Talbot Theological Seminary, 1975), 54.

[75] Bauckham, 13.

[76] Zahn, 279.

[77] Brewer, 55.

[78] Lapham, 153.

[79] Cranfield, 149.

[80] Heibert, 9.

[81] John MacArthur Jr., 2 Peter & Jude, (Chigaco: Moody Press, 2005), 10.

[82] Guthrie, 824

[83] MacArthur, 11.

[84] Bacukham, 156-57.

[85] Ibid, 153.

[86] Green, Jude and 2 Peter, 165-167

[87] Ibid, 166.

[88] Thomas R Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude.  New American Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, Publishers, 2003), 259.

[89] Green, Jude and 2 Peter, 168.

[90] Tertullian. On Baptism 17

[91] Eusebius. History of the Church 6.12.2.

[92] Schreiner, 271.

[93] FF Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, (Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 1988), 160

[94] Ibid 161.

[95] John Brown, Parting Counsels: An Exposition of the First Chapter of the Second Epistle of the Apostle Peter with Four Additional Discources, (Edinburgh, England: William Oliphant and Sons, 1856), 2.

[96] Zahn, 267.

[97] MacArthur, 12.

[98] Brewer, 110.

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Knock the Rock: The Divine Authorship of 2 Peter

  1. KJV: Ecclesiastes Chapter 12

    [11] The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
    [12] And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

  2. Lawrence is not your real name; you’re BarElohim from Regina.

    I know it’s you. I can tell from the pingback info WordPress gives me.

    Why do you appear on blogs under various and sundry names quoting random passages of scripture? That’s not being very truthful at all…

    Are you rebuking me for studying the Bible or something else? Please be more clear in your statements bud.

  3. Pingback: Did Bart Ehrman Write “Forged”? « Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely…

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