Authorship

The author of this letter identifies himself as “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).  Peter, which means “rock” in Greek, was the name given by Jesus to Simon, one of Jesus’ most prominent disciples (Mark 3:16; Matthew 16:16-19).  He was also called Cephas (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5), which also means “rock” but in Aramaic (John 1:42).  He was a former fisherman whom Jesus called into discipleship early in his ministry (Matthew 4:18-20).

Although the writer identifies himself as Simon Peter, there were many in the early church who doubted that the letter was truly written by Peter.  In fact, a large number of scholars today doubt its authenticity.1Kistemaker, Simon J., and William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude. Vol. 16. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. 212-14.  There are a number of reasons that might cause one to doubt Peter’s authorship.

First of all, some people point to the fact that the author uses the combination of names “Simon Peter” (2 Peter 1:1), which in the most reliable Greek manuscripts is actually written “Simeon Peter” reflecting the more Hebraic form of the name Simon.  This combination of “Simeon Peter” appears nowhere else in Scripture.  However, for that very reason one would doubt that a forger would use this name for the apostle Peter.  If a forger wanted to make their letter more believable, they would surely use the most common name for the apostle.  Peter could simply have used his name’s Hebraic form because he was fond of it and its connection to his Jewish heritage (Acts 15:14; see Luke 2:25-35; 3:30; and Acts 13:1 for other Jewish believers named Simeon).

Some also point to the fact that 2 Peter is not quoted by name by an early church father until Origen (AD 185 to 254), more than 100 years after the death of Peter.  Even after quoting it Origen comments that it is doubted by some.2Roehrs, Walter H., and Martin H. Franzmann. Concordia Self-Study Commentary. Electronic ed. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1998.,3Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 287.  However, the early church fathers were quite cautious using writings that could possibly be false, and the fact that Peter must have wrote this letter so close to his death would naturally lead many of them to question its authenticity as it was slowly distributed among the early churches.  Also, even if it is not quoted by the early church fathers by name it is still alluded to “unmistakably, showing that they were familiar with it.”4Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 287.

Others will comment on the fact that it is closely related in subject matter to another disputed book of the New Testament, the book of Jude.  The connection in content between Jude and 2 Peter chapter 2 is undeniable.  Both letters confront the same false teachings and both include a reference to the apocryphal Book of Enoch (Jude 9; 2 Peter 2:11), though the reference in 2 Peter is not as explicit.  The fact that Jude was not an apostle, as well as the fact that he references an apocryphal writing, cause many to discount both Jude and 2 Peter.  However, containing a reference to a commonly known writing, even if it was apocryphal, does not mean the book of Jude was not inspired by God.  Also, while Peter might have been using Jude’s letter as a reference for the subject matter of chapter 2 (or vice versa), the fact that Jude was an active in the ministry of the church (see the introductory page for the book of Jude) and would undoubtedly have known Peter personally actually give credit to Peter’s genuine authorship.

Yet another argument is that the Greek language used in writing the letter is of a much different style than Peter’s first letter (1 Peter).  While this is true, Peter very clearly states in his first letter that he was writing through Silas (1 Peter 5:12), and therefore the Greek of 1 Peter was most likely Silas’ and not Peter’s.  Peter makes no such statement in this letter, and therefore its Greek most likely reflects Peter’s use of the language.

In light of all of these arguments we see no convincing reason to reject Peter as this letter’s genuine author.5For a fuller presentation of the arguments on both sides of the issue of genuine authorship, see Kistemaker’s introductory material to 2 Peter (pages 212-219) in Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude.  Not only does the letter agree with the personality and teaching of the apostle Peter (for example, 2 Peter 1:19-21; 1 Peter 1:10-12),6“Notice the similarities between I Peter and II Peter. In both letters the writer rouses the readers from spiritual lethargy (see 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 2 Peter 1:5, 10; 3:17). In these two epistles, Peter exhorts the readers to be mindful of the judgment day (compare 1 Peter 2:12; 2 Peter 3:12). And in these writings, the author exhorts the recipients to follow the example of Jesus Christ.” Kistemaker, Simon J., and William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude. Vol. 16. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. 224. there are also a number of statements made throughout that show the insight of an eyewitness (for example, 2 Peter 1:16-18; see Matthew 17:1-8).  Thus, while the authenticity of this letter has been spoken against throughout the centuries, the reader of 2 Peter can still read it with the confidence of reading God’s Word.

Recipients

Peter himself says, “This is now my second letter to you” (2 Peter 3:1).  While this could very well be a reference to another letter we are not aware of, it is most likely a reference to 1 Peter.  Therefore it is safe to assume that the intended recipients of this letter are the same as the recipients of 1 Peter.  However, the opening greeting of the letter is more general than 1 Peter’s (2 Peter 1:1), so it could also be primarily written to the recipients of the first letter but also intended for widespread distribution.

See the introductory page for 1 Peter for more information.

Place and Date of Writing

There is no mention of a specific event that caused Peter to write this letter.  However, in the opening chapter of the letter Peter alludes to the fact that his death is imminent (2 Peter 1:13-15; see also John 21:18-19).  Reliable church tradition says that Peter was martyred in Rome during the persecution under Nero (AD 64-68), so it is likely this letter was written from Rome during that time at some point after the writing of 1 Peter.

See the introductory page for 1 Peter for more information.

Purpose and Content

This epistle (letter) has been called the Epistle of Knowledge because in it Peter often speaks about the knowledge of Jesus Christ being central to the hope of eternal life (2 Peter 1:10-11) and the driving force behind Christian living (2 Peter 1:3,8).  The recipients of the letter are obviously being threatened by false teachings (2 Peter 2:1-3), including criticism of hope in Jesus’ Second Coming on the Last Day (2 Peter 3:3-10).  Thus, being the caring shepherd Jesus called him to be (John 21:15-17), Peter also closes the letter reiterating the importance of this knowledge as protection against false teachings that lead people away from the grace of Jesus (2 Peter 3:17-18).

Notable Passages

  • 2 Peter 1:16-21
  • 2 Peter 2:4,9
  • 2 Peter 3:8-9
  • 2 Peter 3:13

Outline

Theme: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior”

  1. Grow in your efforts to live what you believe (2 Peter 1:1–11)
  2. Grow in your certainty of what you believe (2 Peter 1:12–21)
  3. Grow in your vigilance against false teachers (2 Peter 2:1–22)
  4. Grow in your readiness for the last judgment (2 Peter 3:1–16)7Jeske, Mark A. James, Peter, John, Jude. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 2002. 140-41.

References   [ + ]

1. Kistemaker, Simon J., and William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude. Vol. 16. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. 212-14.
2. Roehrs, Walter H., and Martin H. Franzmann. Concordia Self-Study Commentary. Electronic ed. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1998.
3, 4. Schaller, John, Loren A. Schaller, and Gary P. Baumler. The Book of Books: A Brief Introduction to the Bible. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 1990. 287.
5. For a fuller presentation of the arguments on both sides of the issue of genuine authorship, see Kistemaker’s introductory material to 2 Peter (pages 212-219) in Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude.
6. “Notice the similarities between I Peter and II Peter. In both letters the writer rouses the readers from spiritual lethargy (see 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 2 Peter 1:5, 10; 3:17). In these two epistles, Peter exhorts the readers to be mindful of the judgment day (compare 1 Peter 2:12; 2 Peter 3:12). And in these writings, the author exhorts the recipients to follow the example of Jesus Christ.” Kistemaker, Simon J., and William Hendriksen. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude. Vol. 16. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. 224.
7. Jeske, Mark A. James, Peter, John, Jude. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Pub. House, 2002. 140-41.