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Author of 2 Peter

There are few New Testament books more criticized than 2 Peter. Even in the Early Church there was discussion concerning the book.  The discussion concerns the author of 2 Peter.  Many scholars have argued that Peter could not have written Second Peter.

Arguments against Peter

Their arguments are as followed:

1. The Greek of 2nd Peter is different than the Greek of 1 Peter.

2. It is not referred to until the Early 3rd Century.

3. The themes are different in 1 and 2 Peter.

This has led some scholars to conclude that 2 Peter is a “testament.”  A book written not by the author himself, but by one of his followers.

Examining the claims against Peter

Let us first examine each of these claims against authorship and then provide a positive argument as to why we can accept Peter as the author of the book.

The difference in Greek style between one book and another book is an argument that most Bible readers would not be able to follow.  Most people read a text from the English and therefore do no recognize differences in Greek style and vocabulary.  However, to argue that a difference in style between two documents proves two different authors is overly simplistic.  Style, many times, can be determined by purpose of writing and content of the writing.  1 Peter was written to encourage the church that they were truly in God’s grace and to remind Christians of the conduct they should display while facing suffering (read more here). The content of 2 Peter is different.  Its focus is on false teachers from within the church leading people away from the teachings of the apostles.  Different vocabulary and different rhetorical style would be used in each circumstance.  Therefore, the argument of differing style can be explained in this way without having to posit two different authors.

The fact it was not referred to until Origen is an argument from silence.  To say that the Early Christian writers did not refer to 2nd Peter until Origen is one thing;  concluding that they did not refer to the book because they believe it wasn’t written by Peter is another.  In all honesty we do not know why they did not refer to 2nd Peter.  Again this is not proof at all that Peter did not write Peter.

The difference in themes is another weak argument.  Differing themes would be expected from two different letters.  Peter did not have to write on one particular theme, or say the exact same thing about a particular theme.  In fact we would expect a second letter to the same group, which 2 Peter claims to be, to have a different theme and to expand on earlier teaching such as the 2nd Coming.

Other arguments such as Peter is dealing with Gnosticism, the reference to “fathers,” and to Paul’s writings as Scripture are matters of exegesis within the text.  The argument that Peter is combating Gnosticism is reading into the text.  It is more likely that Peter is writing against those who deny the Second Coming.  The reference to the “fathers” is said by some to refer to the Christian fathers, which would refer to the apostles and therefore Peter could not have written it.  “Fathers,” however, seems more likely to refer to the Old Testament fathers. Finally, some argue that Peter is stating that Paul’s writing have all been written and collected at this point and that this could not have happened within the lifetime of Peter.  The first question is “why couldn’t Paul’s letters all been collected by this time?.”  Second the text simply refers to Paul’s writings not necessarily stating that Paul has written them all or that they all have been collected.

On balance the argument against Peter as the author of 2 Peter are lacking.

Argument for Peter

Now let’s turn to a positive argument for Peter being the author of 2 Peter.  First, the book claims to be written by the apostle Peter.  In 3:1 we are told that this is the second letter, thus connecting it with 1 Peter, which also claims to be written by Peter.  It refers to historical events, which would have been true in the life of Peter.  Such as a prediction by Jesus that Peter would die, being present at the Mount of Transfiguration, and being a recipient of the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

The book claims to be from Peter and provides historical evidence for that claim.  The arguments against this claim are lacking.  Therefore there is not reason to reject the truthfulness of verse 1 and declare Peter as the author (read more about Peter here).

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2 Comments

  1. Wesley, you are correct that we must be careful about how we reach conclusions based merely on style. I’ve often found it unfortunate when people argue, more or less, that a different style necessitates a different author. I agree with you that it does not.

    I notice, though, you haven’t said anything about the connection between Jude and 2 Peter 2:1-3:3. One other issue to grapple with is whether Jude borrowed from Peter, or vice versa. Depending on which you believe came first, that can also play into the discussion of dating and authorship. I’d be curious to see what you conclude about that. I’ve wrestled with this connection a good deal myself, and I’ve not reached a conclusion that fully satisfies me.

  2. Wesley

    March 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks Mark.

    I will deal with the issue of 2 Peter 2 and Jude when I deal specifically with the date of 1 Peter.

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