Unger's Bible Dictionary: Second Peter



PETER, SECOND EPISTLE OF. A second general, or catholic, epistle, written by the apostle Peter.


Subject Matter. Peter's second epistle may be viewed as a complement to his first. It deals with the second coming of Christ and the evils preceding this great event. The first epistle also speaks of the second coming but does not deal with the conditions prior to that prophetic event. Stern warning is given of coming apostasy, when monetary considerations would sway church leaders. As a result loose morality and general iniquity would abound. In chap. 1 Peter expounds certain precious promises of God's Word; in chap. 2 he inveighs against false teachers; in chap. 3 he deals with the certainty of the coming of the Lord and the prevailing skepticism of the end time.


Authorship. The writer of the epistle strongly affirms himself to be Simon Peter (2 Peter 1:1). The book thus represents itself to be the genuine production of the apostle Peter, who claims to have been present at the transfiguration of Christ (1:16-18) and to have been warned by our Lord of his impending death (1:14). Despite these clear claims, numerous modern critics consider the work written by a pseudonymous author in the postapostolic period. The writer is supposed to have assumed Peter's name a century or so after Peter's death. Supposed differences in style between First and Second Peter are alleged to indicate that the books were by different authors. Although there are confessedly some differences in vocabulary, it has been shown by Zahn (Introduction to the O. T., 2:289 ff.) that there are some striking likenesses. One may also ask whether a forger would run the risk of detection by failing to pay more attention to the style and language of First Peter. Second Peter, however, lacks any proved evidence of forgery. The autobiographical allusions are true to fact. No new material is added. There is nothing romantic or indisputably anachronistic about the second epistle. This is in striking contrast to the apocalyptic "Gospel of Peter" and the "Apocalypse of Peter." A claim is also made that the epistle was penned at a period when the Pauline letters were made use of by heretics to promulgate their teachings (Rev 3:15-16). This reference to Paul's letters, however, does not imply that they had been already collected or even that they had already all been written. The reference may merely refer to such as Peter had come to know. It cannot be shown that Peter deals with a more advanced stage of apostasy than Paul dealt with. Against the charge of spuriousness is the apostolic tone, the Christian earnestness, the genuineness of the autobiographical allusions, and the absence of the fantastic. It ought, therefore, to be accepted as a genuine work of the apostle Peter.


Attestation. Although it is true that Peter's second epistle has less historical support of its genuineness than any other NT book, it bears points of resemblance to a number of writings during the period of A.D. 90 AD - 130 AD. It is not mentioned in the Muratorian Fragment, nor does it occur in the Old Syriac and Old Latin versions. All this is doubtless explainable on the basis of the brevity of the epistle, its containing no striking new material, and its not being addressed to any specific person or church. According to Zahn, the epistle of Jude gives an early attestation of it, and therefore we need no other.


Occasion and Date. Antinomian Gnosticism had begun to manifest itself. The false teachings spread with its immoral tendencies. The apostle wrote to correct this evil and to forewarn of conditions at the end of the age. There is no decisive evidence that Second Peter was not written shortly after First Peter. It was penned probably in A.D. 66 AD - 67 AD, which date would meet all requirements.


Purpose and Plan. The epistle is the second in which the apostle proposes to stir up the "sincere" minds of his readers "by way of reminder" (2 Peter 3:1). To this end he urges upon them growth in Christian grace (1:5-15), warns against false teachers (chap. 2), and urges believers to patient expectation of the Lord's return (3:1-14).



BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. B. Warfield, Southern Presbyterian Journal 33 (1882): 45-75; C. E. B. Cranfield, I and II Peter and Jude (1960); E. M. B. Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (1968); J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of Jude and the Second Epistle of Peter (1978); J. Brown, Parting Counsels: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1 (1980). See also 1 Peter.

(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

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