2 Peter–Introduction

If you thought the provenance of 1 Peter was somewhat problematic 2 Peter is even more of a conundrum.  For those who will insist that if the book says it was written by Peter it must be by Peter I would note that there were plenty of texts circulating in the 1st to 3rd centuries that claimed to be by Peter that did not make it into the canon.  How does one distinguish between them?

Included among those that did not make the cut are: The Acts of Peter, The Acts of Andrew and Peter, The Acts of Peter and Paul, The Passion of Peter, The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, The Gospel of Peter, the Preaching of Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter. In fact 2 Peter was rejected as canonical by Eusebius who had three categories for text:  accepted, disputed and spurious.  2 Peter he considered disputed along with James, Jude 2 and 3 John.  Origen, while accepting 2 Peter noted many did not accept it.

It does not appear in the Marcion canon of 154 or in the Muratorian Fragment (which was damaged and does not include Hebrews, James or 1 Peter).  It was rejected totally by the Eastern (Syrian) Church.  Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia (the Antiochian School) rejected this and all the catholic epistles.

On the other hand it is included in the P manuscript dated as 3rd or 4th century, is alluded to or quoted by Clement of Rome around AD 95, alluded to by Justin Martyr prior to 165, Irenaeus prior to 200, Clemet of Alexandria prior to 215, Athanasius prior to 367 and accepted as canonical by the early church council of Laodicea.

You can read more about this at http://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-ii-peter which is the source of my material.

My own thoughts on 2 Peter’s provenance are that it represents Peter writing without a scribe, in his own hand.  Whereas OT quotes in 1 Peter are exclusively from the LXX, while 2 Peter uses the Tanakh, the Aramaic scripture.  It is also written in a more Asian form (Asia at the time meant Turkey and Syria) rather than a classical Graeco-Roman form.

But this is more a matter of faith than history.  There is really no way to prove who originally wrote this text.

If we accept that Peter wrote the text then it must have been written prior to his death in about the mid 60’s AD.

Its audience appears to be the same churches in Turkey that 1 Peter was written to if the former letter alluded to in 2 Peter 3:1 is 1 Peter.

While the major subject of 1 Peter was standing firm in the face of trials and persecution, 2 Peter’s subject it standing firm in the face of false teaching.  It appears the major false teaching Peter seeks to refute is antinomian Gnosticism, the belief that if you have certain knowledge, the law simply does not apply to you, nothing else matters.


The letter starts with a greeting, Simon is rendered in the original as Symeon an Aramaic usage of interest.  Then he starts digging right away at the Gnostics.  The righteousness received by the addressees is as precious as that received by Peter or anyone else, there are no classes of righteousness imputed by God through Christ, there is, rather unity.  But there is also knowledge (another gnostic dig) that gives grace and peace.

In verses 3 and 4 note that he continues to slam the Gnostics saying that Christ’s power has given us everything we need, there is no hidden knowledge, no mystery, we have all the knowledge we need for righteousness, all we need to participate in the divine nature, because we have escaped worldly corruption and evil desires.

Having slammed the gnostic part he now goes after the antinomian part.  A word about antinomianism.  It is a word coined by Martin Luther from two greek words that means against the law.  Protestants were accused of antinomianism by the church when saying that salvation is by faith alone, that our works cannot buy our salvation.

Antinomianism in this case suggests that these gnostics considered that the world of the spirit and the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit were separate.  The flesh was evil and could not be saved, so what happened in the flesh was of no consequence.

Peter’s letter arrives to say that, to the contrary, because of the knowledge we have that gives us all we need to participate in the divine nature, because we have escaped the corruption of the world, we should make every effort to add to faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.  That these are the things that keep us from being ineffective, that keep our knowledge from being useless and inert.

How about us?  Do we live in antinomianism? Do we say, “Hey, I’m saved, acting like an ogre is just the way I am.”  Are we confirming our election daily (is this taking up our cross)?  Are we seeking to add to our lives those things scripture says will keep us from stumbling, or are we seeking to add the things we think will make us happy?