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Second Epistle of Peter

PETER, SECOND EPISTLE OF. The second epistle of Peter is markedly different in tone and style from all of the other epistles except Jude. It is beset by many difficult problems of interpretation and contains obscure and disconnected allusions to other writings. Since it includes no historical or geographical references unattainable elsewhere, there is little evidence of its precise place in the apostolic lit. Few NT documents have been a center of so much persistent controversy over the authenticity and authorship as 2 Peter.

This epistle is a personal message from the aged apostle who was about to finish his career. He warned the young churches under his charge about his own approaching death and the imminence of Christ’s return. In the face of these eventualities, Christians were exhorted against being corrupted by heretical teachings and falling into error. The chief concern of this epistle, not unlike the latter epistles of Paul and those of James and Jude, was heresy.


In critical discussions the basic coherence of the epistle often is questioned. A variety of ancient texts have been proposed as possible sources of the teachings of the book. Attempts have been made to determine by internal evidence certain subordinate documents within the whole. These are said to be a Petrine tradition called “P,” and a collection of later additions denoted “E.” This is the same sort of methodology that long has been associated with unsuccessful attempts to isolate the origins of the OT. Any efforts to locate such sources within an epistle of such short length and compactness are subjective and specious from the beginning. In this “search,” however, the works Clement of Rome, Second Clement, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Gospel of Peter and even the writings of Josephus and Philo all have had their adherents as influences on 2 Peter. If it is remembered that the epistle is an intensely personal reminder by the apostle to his converts, then its reiterative and disorganized style is easily explained. The mood of the epistle is severe but triumphant, as it seeks to compel faith in the final triumph of God’s will and the ultimate glorification of God’s people.



The date of the epistle must be set between the writing of the first set of apostolic epistles and the death of Peter. If, however, the Petrine authorship is summarily dismissed, then the date is irrelevant and any chronological niche will be sufficient. The evidence supports the Petrine authorship, which could have occurred shortly before Peter’s death. Eusebius places Peter’s martyrdom in Rome during the period of Nero’s persecution (a.d. 64-68). If this were indeed a prison epistle written during the apostle’s last incarceration, then its distribution would be limited. This might account for its extremely late arrival in the Eastern empire. As with the book of Jude (q.v.), the epistle of 2 Peter includes references to the angelology characteristic of late Jewish works of the time of the Rom. destruction under Titus, in a.d. 70. The date of a.d. 67-68 seems to fit all these aspects most completely.

Place of origin.

The tradition that Peter was imprisoned in Rome and thereafter slain under Nero’s orders is central to the Caesaropapism of the medieval world view. Eusebius recounts several traditions associating Peter and Paul with Rome and claiming that they were buried there after preaching the Gospel in Corinth and Italy. Peter’s oblique reference to his own death (1:13, 14) is meager evidence, but it is similar to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6, 7, an epistle that Peter may have read. Recent excavations under the foundations of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome have yielded early Christian tombs in what was once a Rom. necropolis. It is possible that some apostolic figure may have been hurriedly interred there after being executed. This evidence may not be discounted in the consideration of the date of 2 Peter. Irrespective of its actual place of origin the epistle is the work of a man under sentence writing to a suffering church that he cannot visit. The recent identification of a fragment of a Dead Sea Scroll from cave 7 at Qumran as a phrase from 2 Peter 1:15 would prove that the book was known in Pal. by a.d. 135. It was presumably a portion of a partial canon of the NT.

Destination and readers.

The destination and readers of this second epistle must have been the same as those of the first epistle in the light of 2 Peter 3:1. The recipients of 1 Peter are listed in the prologue as, “the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). The mention of the diaspora limits the initially intended audience to the vast Jewish community of Asia Minor. In the Acts, Peter is portrayed as the initial leader of the Church, proclaiming the Gospel to the many groups of national Jews gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Also, in his conforming to Jewish law and the Judaizing mode before his confrontation with Paul he worked primarily among the Jews and Gentile proselytes known as “God fearers” (Acts 10:2, et al.). In the period of the Acts, his ministry was centered in Pal. He is said on one occasion to have gone “here and there among them all,” referring to the small towns of Samaria, Galilee, and western Pal. (Acts 9:32). It was to these same Christian Jews and Jewish converts that both epistles, 1 and 2 Peter, were addressed. They must have been known also to the Asian Jews who had assumed the Hel. way of life in the distant places named. This contention is reinforced by the many lesser known references to the OT and Jewish notions found in 2 Peter. Such material would be comprehended most readily by Jewish readers.


The Church and its leaders were being persecuted from without and subverted from within. Influenced by the many syncretistic cults that had come into the Rom. world from farther E, the Judaizers sought a common ground between the legalistic Pharisaic tradition and the Gospel of Christ. Against this heresy, Peter in his first letter directed his careful statements concerning the relationship between the Old and New covenants. In 2 Peter, on the other hand, none of these directions are noticeable, nor are any anti-Judaizing arguments presented. In their place are farreaching invectives and imprecations taken from the OT and directed against the overt moral laxity and iniquity of the false teachers. In this respect 2 Peter is closest to Jude. This change in theme indicates a change in the historical situation. The decline of the post-Augustan era was already being felt in the Rom. colonies. With the breakdown in external political control came a decline and dissolution in public morals. Antinomianism in the name of Christian liberty endangered the purity of the Biblical message. The apostle directed his readers to this new threat. Magic and astrology were prevalent in the Hel. age, and the evangelical doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ was easily just another mystical notion drawn into the general apocalyptic mood of the oriental cults. Peter aimed to strengthen faith through proper teaching upon the subject. The readers must consider the parousia as an historic fulfillment of the progress of God’s plan and not simply another crystal ball by which men could know the future for personal, selfish gain. The Second Coming must be grasped in its historical meaning and in its assurance of hope for the Christian.


The purpose of 2 Peter is to warn, encourage, and instruct the churches to meet the new challenges that a later age would thrust upon them. The focus of the apostle’s attention is the Church. The epistle is not an evangelizing document as the gospel narratives were intended. It is an edifying personal letter seeking to secure the Christian’s resolve in the face of troubles. In accomplishing his purpose, the author covered a number of points of doctrine, simply mentioning some in passing and reiterating and reviewing others, but discussing none in detail. There is almost nothing that is completely unique to this work. Unlike 1 Peter, which is more in the doctrinal treatise tradition of the major Pauline epistles, 2 Peter relies on arguments, at times appealing to the OT in indirect fashion and at times to the author’s career and personal assurance of his experience (1:18). The purpose of the epistle is stated in Peter’s words as, “to arouse you by way of reminder” (1:13), so that they would (1) beware of false teachers and (2) live holy lives in accordance with their previous beliefs in Christ.



Relationship to 1 Peter.

The differences in style and vocabulary that can be demonstrated between 1 and 2 Peter are fully explicable in view of the differences in theme and purpose. The many likenesses in detail between the two often are overlooked by critics. Although there are 599 divergent readings in the lexica of the two books, there are one hundred agreements along with a few terms that are used only in the two Petrine epistles. Some terms appear in the gospel and epistulary texts of the NT and 2 Peter but not in 1 Peter; thus 2 Peter 1:16 contains the term παρουσία, G4242, in the phrase, “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This term also occurs in the prophetic context of other NT books (Matt 24; 1 and 2 Cor; Phil; 1 and 2 Thess; James, 1 John), although there is not one occurrence in 1 Peter. In 1 Peter the term is ἀποκάλυψις, G637, also used frequently in other parts of the NT. The 2 Peter usage seems to be later in time, after the fuller meanings of Christ’s prophecies became more apparent to the Church; thus the usage of 1 Peter is logically followed by 2 Peter. The introductions and salutations of the two epistles match well, further indicating a common authorship. As to the gospel narrative to which both epistles occasionally refer, 1 Peter includes more open personal recollections and paraphrases of the earthly life of Christ. Second Peter includes brief references, but without any paraphrases of the teachings of Jesus and only to strengthen apologetic points. The 19th cent. exegetes, aware as they were of more romantic and intuitive aspects, saw this as a lack of personal intensity or warmth. It seems more accurate, however, to accept the intense and earnest desire of the apostle to warn and not merely guide in the second letter. The tone of 2 Peter is grave—almost foreboding; this mood, however, is relieved by the insistence upon the me rcy of God, even in the divine punishments. Scholars often have depreciated the Gr. of the epistles by reference to the supposed Aram. originals of the apostolic preaching. The style of 2 Peter shows less Hebraic or generally Sem. influence than prob. any other book in the NT. By the same insight, it is highly unlikely that the book ever went through a number of revisions if its circumstances were as severe as 1:13, 14 would indicate. The epistle was providentially preserved, and was not a long and studied production. This sense of concern and immediacy is vital to understanding the epistle.

Relationship to Jude and the Pauline epistles.

Out of the twenty-five vv. in the short epistle written by Jude (q.v.), nineteen are reiterated in some fashion in 2 Peter. Literary borrowing and primacy has been a longstanding issue. Widespread heresy of that period prompted similar responses from various apostles and other church leaders; therefore a common core of apologetic lit. developed. This can account for the duplication of content in 2 Peter and Jude. Jude is prior since it has fuller and more complete renderings of the OT phrases quoted. Jude, however, lacks the personal reminiscences of the gospel accounts common to 1 Peter and found twice in 2 Peter (1:13, 15, 16-18).

The argument of 2 Peter depended ultimately on the authenticity of its authorship; therefore, Peter distinguished himself in the prologue even more exactly than in 1 Peter and reinforced this with reference to the 1 Peter teachings (2 Pet 3:1). On the other hand, the author of Jude effaced his own personality as a younger brother of the Lord Jesus by his selfless assertion in Jude 1:1 that he is merely the “brother of James.”

Second Peter contains the only interconnective reference from one apostolic epistle to another (3:15, 16). This approval upon the writings of Paul demonstrates the truth of Paul’s authority. It, in turn, shows the extensive distribution that the epistles must have enjoyed even before a formal canon had been determined. It is highly probable that this statement endorsing the Pauline writings was directed against certain false notions of the Judaizers (a notion still treasured by some scholars) that Peter and Paul were at odds personally and theologically. Thus Peter stated his agreement with Paul’s view of the resurrection as seen in 1 Corinthians and elsewhere. That “all his epistles” are mentioned leaves little room for debate as to how many were accepted. Obviously it means all those known to Peter. This may include all now included in the canon if the ancient tradition is correct that Peter suffered martyrdom in Rome after the death of Paul. It is necessary to define the meaning of Scripture at this point. Too often the essential quality of witnessing to Christ has been overlooked. God’s Word explains and answers the situations of life. To separate 2 Peter from life is to remove its authority. The phrase used by Peter in describing Paul’s letters—that he wrote “according to the wisdom given him”—makes apparent that Peter gave to the message of Christ and to the discussions of its meaning more than common authority. The phrase refers back to the phrase in 2 Peter 1:16, “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” The objectivity of God’s special revelation is thus made plain—first, through the apostolic experience and second, through the apostolic word. Of greater importance is the characterization of the Pauline writings—that they are set equal to the OT ὡς καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς γραφὰς, “as also the other scriptures.” At this early date, Pe ter recognized the authority of the OT revelation in Paul’s explanation of the parousia (3:16).

Relationship to apocrypha and pseudepigrapha.

Some vv. in 2 Peter seem to relate to the angelology and apocalypticism of the late Jewish sectarian lit. The restraint of the angels in 2:11 is similar in intent to the story mentioned in Jude 9 that is an allusion to the Apoc. Assumption of Moses, whereas many of the symbols used to describe the awful fate of the wicked are similar to statements in the DSS. As in Jude and in occasional references in the Pauline epistles, this was prob. an accomodation to the literary concepts of the age and to the mistaken use of these apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works by the heretics. To these perverse expectations concerning a political Messianism Peter answers with the truth about the divine parousia at the end of the world. The contents of ch. 3 were designed to correct false assumptions and warn those propagating them.



Few documents in the theological lit. contain so much overview of the Christian message and its ramifications for history than 2 Peter. It covers creation, prophecy, law, imprecation, judgment, cosmology, atonement, and all points of the classical ordo salutis. It is of special value for its attestation of the objectivity of the apostolic witness in 1:16. Because of this, 2 Peter is of prime importance in the understanding of inspiration, revelation, and inerrancy. The terminology of the book is made up of two clear sources: the OT and its interpretation in the gospels and epistles. Peter mixed and combined both strands as no other NT author did. The ethical application of the principle of the Parousia is carried throughout the book. Peter was not allegorizing the Second Coming, but he was demonstrating the important concern that each age has a response and a duty to perform until Christ’s coming. The book adds to the NT the all-encompassing interpretation that is provided by the OT prophetic visions. The basic motive of the Christian religion—that of creation-fall-redemption-restoration—is repeated several times with differing emphases in each case. Peter defined false teaching as false teaching about the Scriptures. For Peter the OT and the apostolic writings were truth—any divergence, falsification, or perversion of this truth is error. The greatest of all errors, according to Peter, is the frustration of the purpose of revelation. The Church would be dependent on the written descriptions of the truth in Christ that the apostles had left. Peter fully realized this and provided the Church with a compendium of the Christian faith in the face of unbelief. Nowhere in the epistle is the Church instructed to take up a course of action against these people; their fate and their condemnation is left to a patient God. The theology of 2 Peter is eminently the theology of the NT.

In the theological development of 2 Peter the portrayal of Christ is central. In the first v. Peter is an apostle of Jesus Christ by virtue of faith. In the succeeding vv. Christ is presented as Lord, Gr. Κυρίος, as authority of truth, as deliverer of the believers, as the escape for Christians from worldly pollutions, and as coming and eternal King. The authority of Peter and the apostles to warn and teach is derived from their functions as apostles, servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the themes developed in the book is the OT concept that ethical and religious commitments determine empirical situations. The historical judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah took the form of a physical calamity, thus the apostle illustrates God’s providence. The surety of the resurrection and final triumph of the believer is rooted in this same providential care. The passage in v. 8 indicates clearly the idea of God’s eternity and of the created nature and structure of time. The Parousia is related directly to this, to remove it from mere humanistic theory. Finally, grace is related to knowledge. This is the positive theological principle of the epistle—that knowledge of life and death, the world that is and that which is to come, are bound up in the knowledge of Christ and His atonement.


J. Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, Eng. tr. (1855); E. A. Abbott, “On the Second Epistle of St. Peter,” EXP, 2nd. Series, III (1882), 49-63, 139-153, 204-219; B. B. Warfield, “The Canonicity of Second Peter,” The Southern Presbyterian Journal, XXXIII (1882), 45-75; F. Spitta, Das Zweite Brief des Petrus und der Brief des Judas (1885); J. E. Huther, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the General Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude (1887); F. W. Farrar, “The Second Epistle of Peter and Josephus,” EXP, 3d Series, VIII (1888), 58-69; G. A. Chadwick, “The Group of the Apostles, II Peter,” EXP, 3d Series, IX (1889), 189-199; J. R. Lumby, The Epistles of Peter (1893); A. E. Simms, “Second Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter,” EXP, 5th Series, VIII (1898), 460-471; A. Plummer, The Second Epistle of Peter (1900); H. N. Bate, “The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude,” JTS, III (1902), 622-628; R. H. Falconer, “Is Second Peter a Genuine Epistle to the Churches of Samaria?” EXP, 6th Series, V (1902), 459-472; J. B. Mayor, “Notes on the Text of Second Epistle of Peter,” EXP, 6th Series, X (1904), 284-292; J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of Jude and the Second Epistle of St. Peter (1907); R. H. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, I-II (1913); E. I. Robson, Studies in the Second Epistle of Peter (1915); F. J. Foakes-Jackson, Peter: Prince of Apostles (1927); V. Taylor, “The Message of the Epistles, Second Peter and Jude,” ExpT, XLV (1933-1934), 437-441; J. W. C. Wand, The General Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude (1934); T. Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, Vol. II (1953); C. E. B. Cranfield, I and II Peter and Jude (1960); B. Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter and Jude (1964); Wm. White, “A Laymen’s Guide to O’Callaghan’s Discovery,” Eternity (June, 1972).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


1. Ancient Opinion

2. Modern Opinion

3. Dr. Chase’s View


1. Style and Diction

2. Reason of Dissimilarities

3. Claim to Petrine Authorship

4. Christian Earnestness

5. Relation to Apostles

6. Autobiographical Allusions

7. Quoted by Jude


1. Saving Knowledge

(1) Basis

(2) Growth

(3) Inerrancy of Sources

2. The Three Worlds

(1) The Old World

(2) The Present World

(3) The New World

The Second Epistle of Peter comes to us with less historical support of its genuineness than any other book of the New Testament. In consequence, its right to a place in the Canon is seriously doubted by some and denied by others. There are those who confidently assign it to the Apostolic age and to the apostle whose name it bears in the New Testament, while there are those who as confidently assign it to post-apostolic times, and repudiate its Petrine authorship. It is not the aim of this article to trace the history of the two opinions indicated above, nor to cite largely the arguments employed in the defense of the Epistle, or those in opposition to it; nor to attempt to settle a question which for more than a thousand years the wisest and best men of the Christian church have been unable to settle. Such a procedure would in this case be the height of presumption. What is here attempted is to point out as briefly as may be some of the reasons for doubting its canonicity, on the one hand, and those in its support, on the other.

I. External Evidence in Favor of Its Apostolic Authority.

1. Ancient Opinion:

It must be admitted at the very outset that the evidence is meager. The first writer who mentions it by name is Origen (circa 240 AD). In his homily on Josh, he speaks of the two Epistles of Peter. In another place he quotes 2Pe 1:4: "partakers of the divine nature," and gives it the name of Scripture. But Origen is careful to say that its authority was questioned: "Peter has left one acknowledged Epistle, and perhaps a second, for this is contested." Eusebins, bishop of Caesarea, regarded it with even more suspicion than did Origen, and accordingly he placed it among the disputed books (Antilegomena). Jerome knew the scruples which many entertained touching the Epistle, but notwithstanding, he included it in his Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) Version. The main reason for Jerome’s uncertainty about it he states to be "difference of style from 1 Peter." He accounts for the difference by supposing that the apostle "made use of two different interpreters." As great teachers and scholars as Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome, e.g. Athanasius, Augustine, Epiphanius, Rufinus and Cyril, received it as genuine. At the Reformation Erasmus rejected 2 Peter; Luther seems to have had no doubt of its genuineness; while Calvin felt some hesitancy because of the "discrepancies between it and the First." In the 4th century, two church councils (Laodicea, circa 372, and Carthage, 397) formally recognized it and placed it in the Canon as equal in authority with the other books of the New Testament.

2. Modern Opinion:

The opinion of modern scholars as to references in post-apostolic literature to 2 Peter is not only divided, but in many instances antagonistic. Salmon, Warfield, Zahn and others strongly hold that such references are to be found in the writings of the 2nd century, perhaps in one or two documents of the 1st. They insist with abundant proof in support of their contention that Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Didache, and Clement of Rome, were all acquainted with the Epistle and made allusions to it in their writings. Weighing as honestly and as thoroughly as one can the citations made from that literature, one is strongly disposed to accept the evidence as legitimate and conclusive.

3. Dr. Chase’s View:

On the other side, Professor Chase (HDB) has subjected all such references and allusions in the primitive writings to a very keen and searching criticism, and it must be frankly confessed that he has reduced the strength of the evidence and argument very greatly. But Professor Chase himself, from the remains of the ancient literature, and from the internal evidence of the Epistle itself, arrives at the conclusion that 2 Peter is not at all an apostolic document, that it certainly was not written by Peter, nor in the 1st century of our era, but about the middle of the 2nd century, say 150 AD. If this view is accepted, we must pronounce the Epistle a forgery, pseudonymous and pseudepigraphic, with no more right to be in the New Testament than has the Apocalypse of Peter or the romance of the Shepherd of Hermas.

II. Internal Evidence in Support of Its Apostolic Authority.

1. Style and Diction:

2. Reason of Dissimilarities:

Besides, there are many striking similarities in thought and diction in the two Epistles. Two instances are given. In the First the saved are described as the "elect" (1Pe 1:1), and as "called" (1Pe 2:21). In the Second, the two great truths are brought together (2Pe 1:10). Likewise, in both stress is laid upon prophecy (1Pe 1:10-12; 2Pe 1:19-21). Now, all this tends to prove that the writer of the Second Epistle was well acquainted with the peculiarity of diction employed in the First, and that he made use purposely of its uncommon terms, or, if the Second was written by another than the apostle, he succeeded surprisingly well in imitating his style. The latter alternative does not merit discussion. The differences arise mainly out of the subjects treated in the two, and the design which the writer seems to have kept constantly in view. In the First, he sought to comfort, strengthen and sustain his persecuted brethren; this is his supreme aim. In the Second he is anxious to warn and to shield those whom he addresses as to impending dangers more disastrous and more to be feared than the sufferings inflicted by a hostile world. In the First, judgment had begun at the house of God (1Pe 4:17,18), and believers were to arm, not to resist their persecutors, but for martyrdom (1Pe 4:1). But in the Second, a very different condition of things is brought to view. Ungodly men holding degrading principles and practicing shocking immoralities were threatening to invade the Christian brotherhood. Evil of a most vicious sort was detected by the watchful eye of the writer, and he knew full well that if suffered to continue and grow, as assuredly it would, utter ruin for the cause he loved would ensue. Therefore he forewarns and denounces the tendency with the spirit and energy of a prophet of God.

3. Claim to Petrine Authorship:

2 Peter opens with the positive statement of Peter’s authorship: "Simon ["Symeon," Nestle, Weymouth] Peter, a servant .... of Jesus Christ." The insertion of "Symeon," the old Hebrew name, in the forefront of the document is significant. If a forger had been writing in Peter’s name he would have begun his letter almost certainly by copying the First Epistle and simply written, "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ." Note also that "servant" is introduced into the Second Epistle, but absent from the First. He designates himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. "Although several pseudonymous writings appear in early Christian literature, there is no Christian document of value written by a forger who uses the name of an apostle" (Dods, SBD). If this important statement is accepted at its full worth, it goes far to settle the question of authorship. Both "servant" and "apostle" appear in the opening sentence, and the writer claims both for himself.

4. Christian Earnestness:

Furthermore, the writer is distinctively a Christian; he addresses those who "have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Pe 1:1). His is the same precious faith which all the saints enjoy; his also the exceeding great and precious promises of God, and he expects with all other believers to be made a partaker of the divine nature (2Pe 1:3,4). Is it at all probable that one with such a faith and such expectations would deliberately forge the name of Simon Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ? The writer is unsparing in his denunciations of false teachers, corrupters of others, and perverters of the truth. He instances the fall of the angels, the destruction of Sodom, the rebuke of Balaam, as examples of the doom of those who know the truth and yet live in shameful sin and crime. Would a Christian and servant of Jesus Christ be at all likely to commit in the most flagrant manner the things he so vehemently condemns? If the writer was not the apostle Peter, he was a false teacher, a corrupter of others, and a hypocrite, which seems incredible to us.

5. Relation of Apostles:

Moreover, he associates himself with the other apostles (2Pe 3:2), is in full sympathy with Paul and is acquainted with Paul’s Epistles (2Pe 3:15,16), and he holds and teaches the same fundamental truth. An apostolic spirit breathes through this document such as is generally absent from spurious writings and such as a forger does not exhibit. He is anxiously concerned for the purity of the faith and for the holiness and fidelity of believers. He exhorts them to give "diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight," and that they "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Pe 3:14,18). All this and much more of like devout teaching is apostolic in tone and betokens genuineness and reality.

6. Autobiographical Allusions:

7. Quoted by Jude:

Once more, Jude appears to quote from 2 Peter (see Jude). The question of the priority of the two Epistles is by no means settled. Many recent writers give the precedence to Jude, others to Peter. One of the highest authority, by Zahn (New Testament, II, 238 ff), argues with great force in support of the view that Peter’s is the older and that Jude cites from it. The arguments in favor of this latter belief are here only summarized:

(1) Jude cites from writings other than Scripture, as the apocryphal Book of Enoch and perhaps also from the Assumption of Moses. Peter scarcely quotes from any source. The former would be more likely to cite 2Pe 2-3:3 than the latter from Jude 1:4-16. The resemblance between these two sections of the Epistles is so close that one must have drawn both thoughts and language from the other, or both availed themselves of the same documentary source. Of this latter supposition antiquity furnishes no hint. The differences are as marked as the resemblances, and hence, the one who cites from the other is no servile copyist. The real difference between the two is that between prediction and fulfillment.

(3) Jude twice refers to certain sources of information touching these enemies, with which his readers were acquainted and which were designed to warn them of the danger and keep them from betrayal. The two sources were

(a) a writing that spoke of "ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ," 1:4;

(b) the prediction of Peter that "in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts" (2Pe 3:3). Jude urges his readers to remember the words which the apostles of Christ had before spoken, and then he cites this prediction of Peter in almost the exact terms: "In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their ungodly lusts." He applies the prediction to the libertines then and there practicing their unholy deeds: "These are they, who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit." The conclusion is inevitable. Jude quotes from Peter.

(4) Chronology gives the priority to Peter. The apostle died between 63-67 AD, probably in 64 AD. The vast majority of recent interpreters date the Epistle of Jude at 75-80 AD. There is no doubt but that it was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 AD. Accordingly, it is later than Peter’s death by from 5 to 10 years. Jude quoted from 2 Peter. This being so, it follows that his Epistle endorses that of Peter as being apostolic and likewise canonical, for he recognizes Peter as an apostle and gifted with the prophetic spirit.

See Jude; Peter (SIMON).

III. Doctrinal Teachings of the Epistle.

Only some of the more important features of the Epistle are here noticed. If all were treated as they deserve to be, this article would expand into the proportions of a commentary.

1. Saving Knowledge:

The key-word of 1 Peter is Hope; of 2 Peter Knowledge. The apostle gives to this gift of grace a prominent place (1:2,3,5,6,8; 2:20,21; 3:18). The term he uses is largely in the intensified form, namely, "full knowledge"; that is, knowledge that rests on fact, knowledge that comes to the believer as something supernatural, as being communicated by the Spirit of God, and therefore is true and complete. The grace and peace Peter asks for the saints should issue in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, who has granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him (1:2,3).

(1) Basis:

The basis of saving knowledge rests on the "exceeding great and precious promises" which He has made us, and which become ours by faith in Him. It leads us into acquaintance with the righteousness of God, into the realization of our calling as saints, and of the glorious destiny that awaits them who know and trust God (2Pe 1:2-4 the King James Version).

(2) Growth:

The growth in true knowledge (2Pe 1:5-11): "In your faith supply virtue," etc. He does not ask that faith be supplied, that these believers already had. But starting with faith as the foundation of all, let the other excellencies and virtues be richly and abundantly furnished. The original word for "supply" is derived from the Greek "chorus," in behalf of the members of which the manager supplied all the equipments needed. And Peter appropriating that fact urges Christians to give all diligence to furnish themselves with the gifts and grace he mentions, which are far more needful to the Christian than were the equipments for the ancient chorus.

See Supply.

What a magnificent cluster Peter here gives! Each springs out of the other; each is strengthened by the other. "In your faith supply virtue," or fortitude, manliness; and let virtue supply "knowledge." Knowledge by itself tends to puff up. But tempered by the others, by self-control, by patience, by godliness, by love, it becomes one of the most essential and powerful forces in the Christian character. Paul begins his list of the "fruits of the Spirit" with love (Ga 5:22); Peter ends his with love. It is like a chain, each link holds fast to its fellow and is a part of the whole. It matters little at which end of the chain we begin to count, for the links form a unity, and to touch one is to touch all. God freely gives what we need and all we need; we are to "add all diligence" to supply the need richly.

(3) Inerrancy of Sources:

Inerrancy of the sources of saving knowledge (2Pe 1:16-21). The apostle rests his teaching on two trustworthy facts:

(a) the fact and meaning of the Saviour’s Transfiguration;

(b) the fact of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Taken together these two facts invest his teaching with infallible certainty. "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." Pagan mythology, so widely prevailing at the time in Asia Minor, indeed over the whole heathen world, was composed of "myths" (Peter’s word) skillfully framed and poetically embellished. Jewish cabalism, and the wild vagaries springing up in the Christian brotherhood itself had no place in the gospel message nor in apostolic teaching. What Peter and his fellow-disciples taught was the very truth of God, for at the Transfiguration they saw the outshining glory of the Son of God, they heard the Divine Voice, they beheld the two visitants from the unseen world, Moses and Elijah. Of the majestic scene they were eyewitnesses. Peter adds, "And we have the word of prophecy made more sure." The Transfiguration has confirmed what the prophets say touching the future and God’s purpose to fill the earth with His glory; every word He has spoken is to be made good.

Moreover, the apostle appeals to the inspiration of the prophets in confirmation of his teaching: "No prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit." He recognizes this as primary truth, that prophecy is not of one’s own origination, nor is it to be tied up to the times of the prophet. The prophecy was brought to him, as it is brought to us. Peter and his fellow-believers did not follow "cunningly devised fables"; they were borne along in their prophetic utterances by the Spirit.

2. The Three Worlds:

Of course in 2Pe 3:5-13, where the three worlds are spoken of, three globes are not meant, but three vast epochs, three enormous periods in earth’s history. The apostle divides its history into three clearly defined sections, and mentions some of the characteristic features of each.

(1) The Old World.

"The world that then was" (2Pe 3:6): this is his first world. It is the antediluvian world that is meant, the world which the Flood overwhelmed. Scoffers in Peter’s time asked, no doubt with a sneer, "Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2Pe 3:4). This is a surprisingly modern inquiry. Mockers then as now appealed to the continuity of natural processes, and to the inviolability of Nature’s laws. Nature keeps her track with unwavering precision. There is no sign of any change; no catastrophe is likely, is possible. The promise of His coming fails. Peter reminds the skeptics that a mighty cataclysm did once overwhelm the world. The Flood drowned every living thing, save those sheltered within the ark. As this is a historical fact, the query of the mockers is foolish.

(2) The Present World.

Peter’s second world is "the heavens that now are, and the earth" (2Pe 3:7). It is the present order of things in sky and earth that is meant. He asserts that this world is "stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." The margin reads, "stored with fire," i.e., it contains within itself the agency by which it may be consumed. The world that now is, is held in strict custody, reserved, not for a second deluge, but for fire. The advent of Christ and the judgment are associated in Scripture with fire: "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him" (Ps 50:3 the King James Version; compare Isa 66:15,16; Da 7:10,11). Nor is the New Testament silent on this point: "the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire" (2Th 1:7).

Ample materials are stored up in the earth for its consumption by fire. The oils and the gases so inflammable and destructive in their energy can, when it may please God to release these forces, speedily reduce the present order of things to ashes. Peter’s language does not signify earth’s annihilation, nor its dissolution as an organic body, nor the end of time. He speaks of cosmical convulsions and physical revolutions of both sky and earth, such as shall transform the planet into something glorious and beautiful.

(3) The New World.

The third world is this: "But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2Pe 3:13). This is Paradise restored. We have sure ground for the expectancy; the last two chapters of Re contain the prophetic fulfillment: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more." The accomplishment of these sublime predictions will involve a fundamental change in the constitution of the globe. Life would be impossible if the sea was no more. But He who made the world can surely recreate it, clearing it of every vestige of sin and misery and imperfection, fitting it for the dwelling of perfect beings and of His supreme glory. Immanuel will dwell with the holy inhabitants of the new earth and in the new Jerusalem which is to descend into the glorified planet. John is bidden, "Write, for the predictions are faithful and true; they shall not fail to come to pass."

"Earth, thou grain of sand on the shore of the Universe of God,

On thee has the Lord a great work to complete."



William G. Moorehead