New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation - Lesson 49

2 Peter - Authorship

Some people question whether or not 2 Peter was written by the apostle Peter.

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Acts to Revelation
Lesson 49
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2 Peter - Authorship

General Epistles

Part 6

IV.  2 Peter (part 1)

A.  Authorship

1.  Arguments against Petrine authorship

a.  Major differences with 1 Peter

b.  The reference to Paul's letters as Scripture

c.  The use of Jude

d.  Acknowledged as pseudepigrapha

e.  Difficulty in acceptance to the canon

2.  Arguments for Petrine authorship

a.  Letter claims to be written by Peter

b.  The letter is too short to consider style issues

c.  The letter was not considered pseudepigrapha

d.  Far better attested than those books left out of the canon

e.  Does not require Paul's writings to have existed in a complete collection

f.  Similarities between 2 Peter and Jude:

i.  Jude is dependent on 2 Peter

ii.  2 Peter is dependent on Jude

iii.  Both are dependent on a common source

iv.  Both were written by the same author

g.  Lack of institutionalized system of church government

h.  Latest date would be 135

  • Acts was written by the same person that wrote the Gospel of Luke and continues where Luke left off with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

  • Luke wrote as a historian and includes details related to geography, political leaders and navigational terms. He was also an eyewitness and acquainted with eyewitnesses of events recorded in Acts.

  • Luke's purpose in writing Acts was give an orderly historical account of events surrounding Christ's ascension, the first followers of Christ and the spread of the early Church.

  • Acts 1:8 is the theme verse for the whole book. The structure of the book of Acts shows how this theme was fulfilled by recording events relating the spread of the gospel geographically.

  • At first, the early Church was made up mostly of Jews who continued to live a Jewish lifestyle.

  • Two events in the early Church were the choosing of an apostle to take the place of Judas Iscariot, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

  • The elements of conversion in the New Testament are repentance, faith, confession, regeneration and baptism.

  • Many of the early Christians spoke Greek and Aramaic. Stephen was one of the first deacons and was martyred for his faith.

  • The apostle Paul's background as a Jew, training as a Pharisee, and Roman citizenship had a significant influence in his ministry and writings.

  • Paul had a dramatic conversion experience as he was traveling on the road to Damascus.

  • After Paul's conversion, on some areas of his theology his positions stayed the same, and on some areas his positions changed dramatically.

  • Many of the events related to Paul's life and ministry are recorded in the book of Acts.

  • The conversion of Cornelius and Peter's vision were important events in emphasizing the inclusion of Gentiles into the early Church.

  • The church at Antioch sent out Paul, Barnabas and John Mark to preach the gospel. This was Paul's first missionary journey.

  • The Jerusalem Council was a meeting of the early Church leaders to decide how to include Gentiles Christians into what had, up to this point, been a predominantly Jewish Christian group.

  • Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus and Paul and Silas went through Asia Minor, then to Macedonia and Greece.

  • Some of the letters from Paul in the New Testament are to an individual and some are to congregations. The letters are written in a form that includes the same general elements in the same order.

  • A main theme of 1 Thessalonians is the second coming of Christ.

  • Paul addresses some issues regarding the second coming of Christ, such as being responsible to work and support yourself in the meantime.

  • On his third missionary journey, Paul spent most of his time in Ephesus.

  • Paul defends his apostleship and explains that the foundation of our relationship with God is based on faith, not works.

  • Paul begins by defending his apostleship. He then explains justification by faith and gives some ethical exhortations. (The lecture does not cover points C. Ethical Exhortations (5:1-6:10) and D. Conclusion (6:11-18), but we included the outline points for your benefit.)

  • Most people agree that Paul wrote both letters to the Corinthians. He answered questions from people in the Corinthian church and addressed problems that had arisen.

  • In 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasizes unity and diversity in the body of Christ, and responds to questions about marriage, spiritual gifts and the Lord's Supper.

  • Paul defends his actions and apostleship and encourages the people in the church in Corinth to contribute to his collection for the poor in Jerusalem.

  • The content of Paul's letter to the church in Rome was shaped by the ethnic background of the congregation and the challenges they were facing at that time.

  • The outline of Paul's letter to the Romans indicates his understanding of the fundamental concepts of the gospel.

  • Paul wrote Romans from the perspective of his calling as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

  • Paul begins Romans by stating the problem of sin and enumerating a few specific sins. His conclusion in chapter 3 is that both the Jews and the Gentiles are under the wrath of God.

  • The divine remedy to the problem of sin and separation from God is justification by a righteous God.

  • The results of God's righteousness include, peace, hope, freedom, living in the Spirit and assurance.

  • Paul was arrested in the Temple in Jerusalem, went on trial in Caesarea, and was transported to Rome and imprisoned awaiting trial before Caesar.

  • A major theme in the book of Philippians is joy in times of adversity.

  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the preeminence and supremacy of Christ.

  • Imperative is always based on the indicative.

  • Most scholars agree that Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul, partly because the content follows an outline that is similar to other letters attributed to him that are contained in the New Testament.

  • In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes who we are in Christ and the mystery of the gospel.

  • Paul writes to Philemon about how Philemon should receive his runaway slave Onesimus, who has become a committed disciple of Christ under Paul's influence and is returning to him.

  • Luke does not record the details of Paul's death in the book of Acts.

  • The best argument is for Pauline authorship, possibly with the help of a secretary.

  • Two themes in 1 Timothy are the role and requirements for bishops and elders, and the role of women in ministry.

  • Paul gives instructions to Titus who is a pastor in Crete.

  • Paul gives instruction to Timothy, who is a young pastor.

  • It is unclear who wrote the book of Hebrews.

  • A major theme in Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ. There are also passages that emphasize that perseverance is essential.

  • According to James, true faith results in works.

  • The apostle Peter wrote this letter to encourage Christians to be faithful during a time of suffering.

  • Themes in 1 Peter include the atonement, the new birth and the continuity of the Old and New Testaments.

  • Some people question whether or not 2 Peter was written by the apostle Peter.

  • Themes in 2 Peter include false teachers and the return of the Lord.

  • 1 John is similar to the Gospel of John in style, vocabulary, theology and purpose.

  • John makes a distinction between acts of sin and continuing in sin.

  • Jesus came as God in the flesh and offers us the gift of eternal life.

  • Revelation is a book written in an apocalyptic genre by the apostle John.

  • The philosphy of interepretation you use when you study the book of Revelation determines what you think specific passages in the book are teaching.

  • Chapters 1-12 begins with the seven churches, and includes the seven seals and seven trumpets.

  • Revelation chapters 13-22 focus on the beast, Christ's final victory, final judgment and the millenium.

  • After Christ ascended and the church was spreading, it was helpful to have a written record of Christ's life and the apostles' teaching. All the books included in the New Testament were written before the end of the first century.

  • Each book included in the New Testament had to meet specific criteria. They are arranged with the Gospels first, then letters, then the book of Revelation.

In this second graduate-level class on New Testament Survey, Dr. Robert Stein walks you through the New Testament books Acts through Revelation. In his analysis of the books, you will learn not only the facts but also be challenged with their theological and spiritual significance.


Very, very few people today would argue for Petrine authorship of this book. The Word Biblical Commentary, which is a conservative commentary series, argues against Petrine authorship. Of all of the books of the Bible, this is the one that is most difficult to defend in regard to authorship. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are denied by many as being Pauline, and I can handle that. But for 2 Peter, I must admit that there are questions that come up that I don’t know how to answer.

As to 1 Peter and 2 Peter, their style and vocabulary are very different. And the writer of 2 Peter has a unique vocabulary. There are 50 words in 2 Peter that are not found anywhere else in the New Testament. That’s a large number for such a small book like this. In 3:15-16, he states, “And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand [I have no problem with that statement at all – there are things in Paul that are hard to understand], which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction [I hope I’m not one of those, however], as they do the other Scriptures.” In other words, Paul’s letters here are equated as Scripture. Now, remember, the critics say it would have taken some time for all of Paul’s letters to have been gathered together into a single corpus or entity, and to then be acknowledged as equal to the Old Testament as Scripture. Therefore, this kind of a statement had to have been written much later than AD 64 or 65, when Peter was martyred. 2 Peter is also related to the Book of Jude in a number of ways. And if he actually used Jude and some of the similarities are due to his having used Jude, then that also suggests a late date for 2 Peter.

Bauckham, in his commentary on Jude and 2 Peter, which is in the Word Biblical Commentary series, argues that this was a transparent fiction that everyone would have acknowledged. In other words, it’s not deceitful; it’s a legitimate literary genre of pseudepigrapha, just as you do not say that the writer of the Book of Enoch was deceitful. You would not argue that the writer of the Psalms of Solomon was deceitful, because they were trying to deceive as to who wrote it; this was a known genre of pseudepigraphy. So he’s arguing that 2 Peter is a pseudepigraphic work; it’s not deceitful, however, because it was transparent to everybody that Peter had not written it. It was written by someone saying in essence that if Peter were alive this is what he would write. So it’s a transparent fiction as such.

Another problem with this is that if Peter wrote it, why did the book have such a hard time being recognized as Scripture? Why was it part of the antilegomena (in other words, part of those books that were debated)? Some people thought it should not be included in the New Testament, whereas the homologoumena everybody acknowledged. Everybody acknowledged 1 Peter; some people argued against 2 Peter. Well, let’s note the opening verse, where it claims to be Peter, “Simon Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ ….” When we go on to vv. 16-18, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty [He’s an eyewitness!]. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” So he claims to be an eyewitness, and present at the transfiguration. And in 3:1 once again you have “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.” So 2 Peter claims clearly to have been written by the apostle.

As to style issues, this is a very small book, and it’s hard sometimes to say how much a small book can vary from larger books by the same author, and still be written by the same person. And this is especially true if you use a secretary. We know that in the first letter, Silvanus was actually the writer of the letter – it was dictated to him. When you ask who wrote Romans, your natural explanation is Paul, and that’s right – he’s the author of the book. But the person who technically wrote it down was a man named Tertius, who in 16:22 says “I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord.” And so if you want to be technical, the one who had pen in hand, and dipped ink and wrote it on the papyrus was Tertius, not Paul. And if you allow freedom to your secretary (sometimes you may; sometimes you may not), maybe that allows for the various differences in style.

As to Bauckham’s argument in Jude and his commentary on 2 Peter, that this was a transparent fiction that everybody would have recognized, the fact is that it was NOT transparent, because no one recognized it. The argument was not whether this was a transparent fiction; it was, whether this was a fraud or Peter wrote it. Those were the only alternatives. So it was not a transparent literary genre that everybody recognized. The early church, when it was discussing the question of whether this book should be recognized as part of the Canon of Scripture, argued whether Peter wrote it or not. If Peter wrote it, it should be included in the Canon; if he didn’t write it, it should not be included, because it was fraudulent. It was not recognized at all as an open, transparent fiction. For 1500 years, plus, it was never recognized as pseuepigraphic, and if that’s true it’s not very transparent at all in that regard.

Pseudepigrapha is a good genre and works real well when there has been sufficient time that no one in the world can confuse you who are writing this, and the person’s name under which you’re writing it because the person’s been dead for a great number of years. In the case of the Book of Enoch, it’s not a problem; the guy’s been dead for thousands of years. So no one thinks Enoch is still writing this. In the case of the Psalms of Solomon, he’s been dead 900 years, so no one is really questioning that. This is not at all the case with regard to 2 Peter.

As to its canonical status, it’s true that it was debated. It was part of the antilegomena, not the homologoumena – not part of the group that everyone agrees to, but part of those which are debated. Yet, there was a third classification, and we’ll talk more about this on the last day of class, of books that everybody recognized were not part of the canon – the Notha. This book was never part of the Notha. It was always part of the disputed books, and it had far better argumentation for it than any of the other books that never were recognized, like the Shepherd of Hermas or 1 Clement, or something like that. So when you compare how the early church talked of 2 Peter, it had far better attestation and argumentation in favor of it than any book that was not accepted. The books that were not accepted were never as strongly supported as 2 Peter.

As to the reference to Paul’s letters being Scriptures, that is something of a problem. But does that mean that the writer had all of Paul’s books bound up in front of him, or does he know of individual letters, like Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and he refers to them in that sense? When Paul wrote these books, to say that he wrote Scripture, or he had an insight into it, that does look rather early in some ways, but it’s not impossible. As to the similarities between 2 Peter and Jude, there are all sorts of ways of explaining that. It could be that Jude used 2 Peter, not the other way around. They could both have been using a common source. It’s hard to argue that.

The lack of any clear ecclesiastical system of government in 2 Peter suggests that it’s not real late either. Later on, when you get into the early decades of the second century, you have the development of the monarchical bishop – a strong bishop ruling over a series of churches. Nothing like that comes up in 2 Peter at all. Finally, the latest possible date for 2 Peter is AD 135, because it is referred to in the Apocalypse of Peter v. 5. The Apocalypse of Peter, the Apocalypse of Paul, the Acts of Paul, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, the Gospel of Thomas – there were a lot of what we call apocryphal books. This one, written around AD 135, alludes to 2 Peter, so that’s the latest that 2 Peter could have been written.

I just don’t really know enough about 2 Peter to be dogmatic about that. I’m just of the opinion that the author’s claim is as Peter, and until someone forces me to believe otherwise, I’ll maintain Petrine authorship in some way, having had a secretary perhaps write some of this material for him.