by Ray C. Stedman
Origen, in about 240 A.D. stated, "Peter has left one
acknowledged epistle, and perhaps a second; for it is disputed."
This is probably the first acknowledgment of an early church authority
that 2 Peter was written by Peter, but even Origen's reference
reflects the doubt that many scholars have felt about the authenticity
of this letter. Certainly no other New Testament book has had
to struggle more continually for canonical acceptance than this
small letter. A widespread critical assessment of it is that it
was written as a pseudepigraph, i.e. by a disciple of Peter who
wrote in the 2nd century, but used Peter's name as the author
to give it acceptability. This was based upon differences of language
and style with 1 Peter (whose canonicity is seldom challenged),
and differences in subject matter and approach. It is also claimed
that 2 Peter borrows much material from Jude and it is highly
unlikely that the genuine apostle Peter would do such a thing.
However, by the fourth century 2 Peter was accepted by the church and councils everywhere and was never anywhere rejected as spurious. Furthermore, modern studies have shown that the differences with 1 Peter are not nearly as great as the earlier critics contended, and that the stylistic differences can be accounted for by the use of a different amanuensis. 1 Peter came to us through the secretarial efforts of Silvanus (see 1 Peter. 5:12), and it is quite likely that Peter employed another to help write the 2nd letter whose name was not given, though many think of Mark or Glaucas, whom Clement of Alexandria mentions. Though 2 Peter does not refer to as many events of the life of Jesus as does 1 Peter, it leans heavily upon the Transfiguration; the prophecy of Peter's own death; the Day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night; the predicted appearance of false prophets, and hints at several other links with the gospel accounts. It would be difficult for a 2nd century pseudepigrapher to include these, but very natural for Peter himself. There is clear evidence from the early centuries that the churches did not look kindly upon efforts to write supposed scripture, using an apostle's name. In one instance (The Acts of Paul and Thecla) the author was disciplined for doing so. Paul also spoke against such a practice in his Thessalonians letters. For these reasons there is a very good basis for viewing 2 Peter as coming to us from the mind and heart of the apostle himself. (See "2 Peter and Jude" by Michael Green in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries for much more help in this matter).
The letter has been dated at various times from 60-160 A.D.
If Peter is the author (as we have discussed above) the date can
be narrowed to sometime between 60 and 68, A.D. It probably was
written from Rome where the apostle spent the closing years of
his life, and is best dated at 64 or 65 A.D. Some question exists
as to whom the letter is addressed. Many take it to be to the
same readers of 1 Peter, which would indicate widely scattered
Christians in the Asia Minor provinces of Pontus, Galatians, Cappadocia,
Asia and Bithynia. However many have noted that 2 Peter seems
addressed to a group whom Peter knows well and who face a problem
of false teaching contained within a local congregation or congregations.
That would mean that 1 Peter is not the letter referred to in
2 Peter 3:1. (See the Notes on 3:1 for further comment on this).
At any rate, the readers seem to be largely Gentiles (because of references to licentious lifestyles), or a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles, probably living in one of the provinces mentioned above. Word of their difficulties with false teachers has reached Peter in Rome and he dispatches this letter to them to encourage and warn of the danger they face.
Did 2 Peter borrow from Jude, or Jude from 2 Peter, or did they both borrow from an anonymous source now lost to us? Those seem to be the options available in discussing the obvious similarities between 2 Peter 2 and Jude. Current scholarship seems to lean to the first option: Peter borrowed from Jude. Certainly the parallel passages in Jude are fuller and more precise than those in 2 Peter, unless of course they were both quoting from memory some anonymous source. Either of these practices is not unknown to biblical writers (there seems general agreement that the gospel writers borrowed from each other or from some unknown source). To judge from the Acts account of the reverent treatment accorded James, it does not appear to be incongruous that Peter, as an apostle, should borrow from another one of the Lord's brothers, Jude. At any rate, the issue does not affect the reliability of 2 Peter, nor detract from its thrust and power.
1 Peter develops the theme of salvation with its accompaniment
of hope and resurrection, so needed when facing persecution. 2
Peter stresses sanctification, with its emphasis on holy
living and its need to answer claims to a libertinism that results
in immorality. 1 Peter looks back to the great events upon which
the Christian faith is based; 2 Peter looks forward to the return
of Christ (the parousia ) and the warnings and hopes
that promise raises. Peter gathers these teachings under five
heads: (1) the need to stand upon apostolic teaching as reflecting
the authority of Jesus; (2) the impossibility of possessing true
spirituality when the lifestyle is one of immorality or debauchery:
(3) the recognition of spiritual powers that are greater than
men, and giving them respect; (4) the end of the age is coming
and it will result at last in a new heavens and a new earth; (5)
the reason for the apparent delay in the parousia
and the fulfillment of God's prophetic program.
I. WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION 1:1-21
A. The Resources You Possess 1-4 1.
An authoritative apostle 1a 2.
An equal standing in faith 1b 3.
An enriching knowledge of God 2-3 4.
Precious, delivering promises 4 B.
The Responsibility This Creates 5-15 1.
Diligence to add to faith 5-9 2.
Diligence to make sure your call 10-11 3.
The importance of these 12-15 C.
The Divine Confirmation 16-21 1.
The power and coming of Christ 16-18 2.
The character of the scriptures 19-21
II. WATCH OUT FOR FALSE TEACHERS 2:1-22
A. How to Recognize Them 1-31
1. The certainty of their appearance 1a
2. Their furtive methods 1b
3. Their destructive impact 2-3a
B. Their Ultimate Fate 3b-10a
1. Examples from the past 3b-8
(a) the angels that sinned 3b-4
(b) the predeluge world 5
(c) Sodom and Gomorrah 6-8
2. Reassurance for the present 9-10a
C. Their True Character 10b-19
1. Their arrogant attitudes 10b-13a
(a) presumptuous, unlike angels 10b-11
(b) ignorant, like animals 12
(c) perverse, like carousers 13a
2. Their deceitful ways 13b-19
(a) excessive reveling while feasting 13b
(b) enticing unstable into immorality 14a
(c) cursed with covetousness, like Balaam 14b-16
(d) promising freedom but making slaves 17-19
D. Their unchanged nature 20-22
1. They escaped the world's pollutions for awhile 20a
2. Yet they became entangled again 20b
3. Their end is worse than if they had never known 20c-21
4. They were never really changed, like dogs and sows 22
III. WAIT FOR THE LORD'S COMING 3:1-18
A. Despite Scoffing Deniers 1-7
1. The ground of true confidence 1-2
2. The reasoning of unbelief 3-4
3. The ignorance behind it 5-7
B. Because of God's transcendence 8-9
1. He views time differently 8
2. He treats sinners differently 9
C. Because of God's predictions 10-13
1. The coming Day of the Lord 10-11
2. The coming Day of God 12-13
D. Because diligence is required 14-18
1. To keep ourselves ready for Him 14
2. To achieve the Lord's goal 15-16
(a) his patience permits salvation 15a
(b) as Paul also taught 15b-16
3. To avoid doctrinal lapses 17
4. To grow in grace and knowledge 18