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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Peter

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Book Overview - 2 Peter



THE General Editor does not hold himself responsible, except in the most general sense, for the statements, opinions, and interpretations contained in the several volumes of this Series. He believes that the value of the Introduction and the Commentary in each case is largely dependent on the Editor being free as to his treatment of the questions which arise, provided that that treatment is in harmony with the character and scope of the Series. He has therefore contented himself with offering criticisms, urging the consideration of alternative interpretations, and the like; and as a rule he has left the adoption of these suggestions to the discretion of the Editor.

The Greek Text adopted in this Series is that of Dr Westcott and Dr Hort with the omission of the marginal readings. For permission to use this Text the thanks of the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press and of the General Editor are due to Messrs Macmillan & Co.


Oct. 1912.


IN the Introduction and Notes to these Epistles I have derived a large amount of help from the work of Professor J. B. Mayor (The Epistle of St Jude and the Second Epistle of St Peter, 1907), and also from that of the late Professor C. Bigg (in the International Critical Commentary, 1901), and also from the admirable articles by Dr Chase in Hastings’ Bible Dictionary.

I have thought it important, in view of the fact that the book will be used by schoolboys, to make the notes brief, and to be sparing in the number of references and illustrations.

It is not usual or desirable that in books such as the present one new and untried theories should be advanced: but I have ventured to make some suggestions as to the Assumption of Moses and the Apocalypse of Peter.

M. R. J.

Oct. 1912


The reading of most of the Epistles in the New Testament is a difficult task for young students. The subjects with which they deal are to a great extent abstract—things of the mind. Words such as justification, grace, glory, and even faith, convey no very clear idea to a beginner. A proper name or a bit of narrative is welcomed as a relief.

This is very natural. The real value of the Epistles can only emerge when more of life has been experienced: and yet it ought to be interesting at any period of life to know what were the thoughts of such men as Peter, Paul and John about the meaning of the facts which they spent their lives in telling to men all over their world. We shall be more apt to realize the living interest of the Epistles if we recollect that the men who wrote them were not trained from an early age to use a certain kind of language, but were for the most part making for themselves the vocabulary which they used.

The abstract words of which I spoke—grace, justification, and the rest—were not, as now, smooth stones from the brook, worn down by constant attrition, but were rather blocks freshly hewn from the quarry. By their first readers these letters were most anxiously looked for; every word was of importance; and they would determine the line of action and mould the daily life of a whole community. Moreover, on these documents, next to the reports of our Lord’s own life and teaching, the foundation of the whole enormous structure of Christian theology has been raised. They have ruled the lines along which millions of Christian lives have moved. The Gospels are the most important books in the world, and the Epistles are only less important than the Gospels. “Une espérance immense a traversé la terre.” The Epistles are among the first books written to show what effect this hope ought to have upon the lives of ordinary men and women.

A beginner may perhaps have some notion of this: but I am sure that it will be good for him to remind himself of it, and to insist upon attaching some definite meaning to the words he reads. It is not to be expected that he will get as much out of them at an early stage of his career as will come in after years; but at least, in setting out upon the study of these writings, he should start with the conviction that the writer whose work he is to read had a very clear idea of what he meant: that his words were addressed to simple people; that the meaning of them can be attained in a measure by the simple as well as by the clever of our own days; and that it is well worth attaining.


The Epistles before us (2 Peter and Jude) must be studied together. It has long been recognized that there is a close connexion between them. No one can read the second chapter of 2 Peter and the Epistle of Jude without seeing that the authors must have used a common source, or else that one of them has borrowed from the other.

An examination into this connexion is of primary importance: for the result of it must very materially affect our view of the value and authenticity of the two Epistles. We will therefore put this question at the head of our investigation, and will begin by placing side by side the words and passages in which the similarity is most strongly marked.

2 Peter 2


2 Peter 2:1. False teachers τὸν ἀγοράσαντα αὐτοὺς δεσπότην ἀρνούμενοι.

Judges 1:4. Impious men stealing in: τὸν μόνον δεσπότην καὶ κύριον ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι.

2 Peter 2:2. ἀσέλγεια.

Judges 1:4. ἀσέλγεια.

2 Peter 2:3. οἷς τὸ κρίμα ἔκπαλαι οὐκ ἀργεῖ.

Judges 1:4. οἱ πάλαι προγεγραμμένοι εἰς τοῦτο τὸ κρίμα.

2 Peter 2:4. God spared not the angels who sinned but imprisoned them εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους.

Judges 1:6. The angels who left their habitation εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας τετήρηκεν.

2 Peter 2:4. σειροῖς ζόφου.

Judges 1:6. δεσμοῖςὑπὸ ζόφον.

2 Peter 2:6. Sodom and Gomorrha He destroyed, making them ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβέσιν.

Judges 1:7. Sodom and Gomorrha πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου.

2 Peter 2:10. τοὺς ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ μιασμοῦ πορευομένους καὶ κυριότητος καταφρονοῦντας.

Judges 1:7. (These cities) ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας.

2 Peter 2:11. Rash and heady, these men δόξας οὐ τρέμουσιν βλασφημοῦντες, ὅπου ἄγγελοι ἰσχύϊ καὶ δυνάμει μείζονες ὄντες οὐ φέρουσιν κατʼ αὐτῶν παρὰ Κυρίῳ βλάσφημον κρίσιν.

Judges 1:8-9. σάρκα μὲν μιαίνουσιν, κυριότητα δὲ ἀθετοῦσιν, δόξας δὲ βλασφημοῦσιν. ὁ δὲ ΄ιχαὴλ ὁ ἀρχάγγελος, ὅτε τῷ διαβόλῳ διακρινόμενος διελέγετο περὶ τοῦ ΄ωυσέως σώματος, οὐκ ἐτόλμησεν κρίσιν ἐπενεγκεῖν βλασφημίας.

2 Peter 2:12. οὗτοι δὲ, ὡς ἄλογα ζῷα γεγεννημένα φυσικὰ εἰςφθοράν, ἐν οἶς ἀγνοοῦσιν βλασφημοῦντες, ἐν τῇ φθορᾷ αὐτῶν καὶ φθαρήσονται.

Judges 1:10. οὗτοι δὲ ὅσα μὲν οὐκ οἴδασιν βλασφημοῦσιν, ὅσα δὲ φυσικῶς ὡς τὰ ἄλογα ζῷα ἐπίστανται, ἐν τούτοις φθείρονται.

2 Peter 2:13. σπίλοι καὶ μῶμοι ἐντρυφῶντες ἐν ταῖς ἀπάταις (or ἀγάπαις) αὐτῶν συνευωχούμενοι ὑμῖν.

Judges 1:12. οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐν ταῖς ἀγάπαις ὑμῶν σπιλάδες συνευωχούμενοι.

2 Peter 2:15. καταλείποντες εὐθεῖαν ὁδὸν ἐπλανήθησαν ἐξακολουθήσαντες τῇ ὁδῷ τοῦ Βαλαὰμὃς μισθὸν ἀδικίας ἠγάπησεν.

Judges 1:11. τῇ ὁδῷ τοῦ Καὶν ἐπορεύθησαν, καὶ τῇ πλάνῃ τοῦ Βαλαὰμ μισθοῦ ἐξεχύθησαν.

2 Peter 2:17. οὗτοί εἰσιν πηγαὶ ἄνυδροι καὶ ὁμίχλαι ὑπὸ λαίλαπος ἐλαυνόμεναι.

Judges 1:12. νεφέλαι ἄνυδροι ὑπὸ ἀνέμων παραφερόμεναι.

2 Peter 2:17. οἶς ὁ ζόφος τοῦ σκότους τετήρηται.

Judges 1:13. (ἀστέρες πλανῆται) οἶς ὁ ζόφος τοῦ σκότους εἰς αἰῶνα τετήρηται.

2 Peter 2:18. ὑπέρογκα γὰρ ματαιότητος φθέγγομενοι.

Judges 1:16. καὶ τὸ στόμα αὐτῶν λαλεῖ ὑπέρογκα.

2 Peter 3:1. ἀγαπητοί.

Judges 1:17. Ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀγαπητοί,

2 Peter 3:2. μνησθῆναι τῶν προειρημένων ῥημάτων ὑπὸ τῶν ἁγίων προφητῶν καὶ τῆς τῶν ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν ἐντολῆς τοῦ κυρίου καὶ σωτῆρος.

μνήσθητε τῶν ῥημάτων τῶν προειρημένων ὑπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

2 Peter 3:3. τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες ὅτι ἐλεύσονται ἐπʼ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐν ἐμπαιγμονῇ ἐμπαῖκται κατὰ τὰς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας αὐτῶν πορευόμενοι.

Judges 1:18. ὅτι ἔλεγον ὑμῖν Ἐπʼ ἐσχάτου χρόνου ἔσονται


κατὰ τὰς ἐαυτῶν ἐπιθυμίας πορευόμενοι.

There are, besides this central passage, other striking resemblances scattered through the text of the two Epistles. Thus

2 Peter


2 Peter 1:12. Διὸ μελλήσω ἀεὶ ὑμᾶς ὑπομιμνήσκειν περὶ τούτων, καίπερ εἰδότας.

Judges 1:5. Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ἅπαξ πάντα.

2 Peter 1:5. σπουδὴν πᾶσαν παρεισενέγκαντες.

Judges 1:3. πᾶσαν σπουδὴν ποιούμενος.

2 Peter 3:1; 2 Peter 3:14; 2 Peter 3:17. ἀγαπητοί.

Judges 1:3; Judges 1:17; Judges 1:20. ἀγαπητοί.

2 Peter 3:14. σπουδάσατε ἄσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοι αὐτῷ εὑρεθῆναι ἐν εἰρήνῃ.

Judges 1:24. τῷδυναμένῳὑμᾶςστῆσαι κατενώπιον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ ἀμώμους.


Now the connexion between the two Epistles will not be denied. How is it to be explained? As was mentioned above, there are three possibilities, viz.:

(a) 2 Peter and Jude were using a common source, written or oral.

(b) Jude borrowed from 2 Peter.

With regard to (a). We may dismiss the idea that both writers used a single oral (or spoken) source. The resemblances of vocabulary are so minute that we could only entertain the notion by supposing that both writers heard the words spoken simultaneously—that both took notes of a discourse spoken in their presence.

It is a more plausible view that both used a single written source. But a great objection to this theory is the fact that if we take away from Jude the portions common to it and 2 Peter, so little of the Epistle remains that one cannot see why it should have been written or preserved in preference to the source whence it was taken. Nor is it at all easy to imagine what the source can have been or by whom it was written. If it was so important that a great apostle and a venerated apostolic teacher both thought it worth while to borrow largely from it, how does it happen that the source itself has disappeared and left no trace of its existence?

The possibility remains that the prediction quoted in both Epistles (2 Peter 3:3, Judges 1:17-18) of the coming of the mockers may have been drawn from a third source: but if it should appear that one writer did borrow from the other, then it is a simpler and more probable supposition that the prediction was part of the matter borrowed.

On the whole, then, we dismiss explanation (a) as improbable, and we are left to consider the other two possibilities that 2 Peter is indebted to Jude, or that Jude is indebted to 2 Peter.

Each of these views has found many supporters of ability and distinction. To myself it seems likely that a majority of those who have regarded Jude as the borrower have been influenced by the feeling that, if 2 Peter is the borrower, that Epistle can hardly be regarded as the genuine work of the Apostle, and that it would be a disastrous admission to allow that a work which could be called spurious had found its way into the New Testament. The feeling is natural enough: but it should not be allowed to influence us in the search for the truth. We shall see later on that great difficulties have been felt at various stages in the history of the Church with regard to the authenticity and canonicity of 2 Peter, on other grounds besides the possibility of its indebtedness to Jude.

But whatever may have been the attitude of those who approached the question, it does seem to me that the supporters of the priority of 2 Peter have failed to explain some of the principal difficulties which confront them. There is one passage at least in 2 Peter which appears to be almost certainly secondary in relation to the corresponding passage in Jude.

This is 2 Peter 2:11 compared with Judges 1:9 :

They quake not at glories, blaspheming, whereas angels, who are greater in strength and power, do not bring against them before the Lord (various reading from the Lord) a railing accusation.

and they blaspheme glories.

But Michael the archangel, when he was speaking with the devil in controversy about the body of Moses, did not presume to bring against him a railing accusation, but said “The Lord rebuke thee.”

Both writers are here illustrating the attitude of certain false teachers with regard to dignities (whether angelic or earthly) by contrasting it with the conduct of Angels. But while in 2 Peter the illustration leaves us at a loss with regard to the incident referred to, the illustration in Jude is quite clear and definite.

It has been supposed that 2 Peter is referring to the Book of Enoch. Two passages have been suggested. In one, the four great Archangels bring to God the complaint of men about the oppressions of the Giants, and receive God’s sentence against the Angels whose offspring the Giants were. The point of the illustration is that the Angels refer the complaint to God, instead of themselves dealing with the sinful Angels. This explanation requires the (probably true) reading παρὰ Κυρίῳ. In the other passage the Angels, called the Watchers, receive the judgment of God against the sinful Angels, and commission Enoch to announce it to the culprits. In other words, they shrink from announcing judgment to their fellows, but commit the task to a mortal. This interpretation requires us to read παρὰ Κυρίου.

It is possible that one or other of these explanations may be right: but it will not be denied that the allusion is a very obscure one. Nor does it seem applicable to the particular offence which is here reproved, that of βλασφημία, or evilspeaking.

As to Jude, on the other hand, no doubt exists as to the allusion. We have it on good and early evidence that it is taken from a book called the Assumption of Moses (of which more hereafter): and it is appropriate; for Satan had indeed blasphemed Moses, calling him a murderer, and perhaps also God, calling Him a liar.

It is possible, to be sure, that Jude, writing with 2 Peter before him, and not taking the point of the allusion, substituted for it one which was clearer.

But I submit that by far the more natural view is that 2 Peter is here putting into more general terms, and thus obscuring, an allusion in Jude which the writer considered to be of doubtful authority.

The probability that this is the case is increased by another consideration. Jude seems pretty clearly to quote the Assumption of Moses in one or two other places in the Epistle. One of these quotations recurs in 2 Peter in a form a little more remote from the original (Judges 1:16 τὸ στόμα αὐτῶν λαλεῖ ὑπέρογκα, 2 Peter 2:18 ὑπέρογκα γὰρ ματαιότητος φθεγγόμενοι)[2]. This is intelligible if 2 Peter quotes it through the medium of Jude: it is very difficult to believe that the converse process took place, and that Jude, penetrating the obscure allusions in 2 Peter, referred back to the original source of them.

Another aspect of the question, from the point of view of general probability, leads us to the same result. Assuming the dependence of one Epistle upon the other, we can put the possibilities of priority and genuineness in all their forms, as:

(a) Both Epistles are genuine, and Jude borrows from 2 Peter.

(b) Both Epistles are genuine, and 2 Peter borrows from Jude.

(c) Both Epistles are spurious, and Jude is the borrower.

(d) Both Epistles are spurious, and 2 Peter is the borrower.

(e) 2 Peter only is genuine, and Jude is the borrower.

(f) 2 Peter only is genuine, and 2 Peter is the borrower (i.e. St Peter borrows from a spurious letter of Jude).

(g) Jude only is genuine, and Jude is the borrower.

(h) Jude only is genuine, and 2 Peter is the borrower.

(a), (b) are tenable suppositions. The difficulty of (a) is that (as was said above) so little is left of Jude after the borrowings from 2 Peter have been removed, that it is difficult to account for its preservation.

(b) is tenable. Its ultimate reception or rejection must depend on other considerations.

(c), (d) are possible, but less likely than (a), (b). As to (c): if Jude be the borrower and also spurious, one cannot imagine how it came to be written. This difficulty is but slightly lessened by the adoption of (d).

(e) To this the same remark applies.

(f) Extremely unlikely. Under what circumstances could a spurious Jude be so introduced to St Peter as to gain credit with him?

(g) Again, it is most unlikely that a spurious letter of St Peter could gain credence from Jude.

(h) Tenable, and, like (b), depends for ultimate reception upon other considerations.

Yet again, looking at the matter from the point of view of general probability: in view of the brevity of Jude, and of its likeness to 2 Peter, it is very difficult to imagine why it should have been deemed worthy of preservation if it were later than 2 Peter. We must remember that many Epistles of Apostles and apostolic men have almost certainly been lost: from St Paul’s extant letters we can divine the existence of important letters written by him to leading Churches, which we no longer have. Jude is not definitely addressed to any special Church, nor is there a tradition that any particular community held it in high estimation.

To put the matter quite shortly, it is very difficult to account for either the writing or the continued existence of Jude (a short work by a person of whom little is known), except on the supposition that it is a genuine work of the man whose name it bears. No such difficulty exists in the case of 2 Peter, which both contains more matter than Jude, and is current under a widely-known and honoured name. So far as the present argument goes, both Epistles may be genuine: Jude almost certainly is.



We have seen reason for thinking that 2 Peter is later than Jude, and has borrowed from it. This state of things is consistent with a belief in the genuineness of 2 Peter. It is quite possible that the Apostle made use of the Epistle of Jude, whom he must have known and respected: and it would not be strange that he should make no acknowledgment of the borrowing. In older times Isaiah quoted a passage from Micah (Isaiah 2:1-4, Micah 4:1-3). Passages from earlier prophets are to be found in the later chapters of Jeremiah. The Gospel of St Mark is extensively used in Matthew and Luke. The idea of property as connected with an author’s writings is not ancient, and was certainly not present to the minds of the New Testament writers. There is, in short, no difficulty and nothing derogatory in supposing that Peter borrowed from Jude without acknowledgment.

But, apart from the borrowing from Jude, is the genuineness of 2 Peter clearly established? The answer to this question must be in the negative. We will examine the history of the Epistle and its reception.

Complete collections of the early quotations and criticisms of the Epistle will be found in the commentaries of Professor Bigg and Professor Joseph Mayor (to mention the two most recent English editions). It will be sufficient to summarize their results here and to quote the most important.

The phrases which are quoted from the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic Fathers (Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Melito, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus, the Martyrdom of Polycarp), as indicating an acquaintance with 2 Peter, are wholly inconclusive. One expression which occurs in several of these writers as a quotation, Ἡμέρα Κυρίου ὡς χίλια ἔτη (2 Peter 3:8), is a Jewish commonplace: something very like it is in Psalms 90:4 : “a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday.”

There are two or three cases, on the other hand, where a reminiscence of the Epistle does seem probable.

In the Apology of Aristides (possibly as early as 129–130 A.D.) we have ἡ ὁδὸς τῆς ἀληθείας ἥτις τοὺς ὁδεύοντας αὐτὴν εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον χειραγωγεῖ βασιλείαν. This may combine recollections of two passages, 2 Peter 2:2 ἡ ὁδὸς τῆς ἀληθείας and 1:11 ἡ εἴσοδος εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον βασιλείαν.

In the Letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons (177–179 A.D.) preserved by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. V. 1) this sentence occurs (V. 1. 45): ὁ δὲ διὰ μέσου καιρὸς οὐκ ἀργὸς αὐτοῖς οὐδὲ ἄκαρπος ἐγένετο. In 2 Peter 1:8 οὐκ ἀργοὺς οὐδὲ ἀκάρπους καθίστησιν. This is a marked resemblance. The same Epistle uses the word ἔξοδος to mean death, as does 2 Peter 1:15, and also has resemblances to the language of the Apocalypse of Peter, of which book more will be said.

Theophilus of Antioch († 183–185) has two phrases which recall 2 Peter: [1] ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ φαίνων ὥσπερ λύχνος ἐν οἰκήματι συνεχομένῳ ἐφώτισεν τὴν ὑπʼ οὐρανόν. 2 Peter 1:19 λόγον ᾧ καλῶς ποιεῖτε προσέχοντες ὡς λύχνῳ φαίνοντι ἐν αὐχμηρῷ τόπῳ. [2] οἱ δὲ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι πνευματοφόροι πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ προφῆται γενόμενοι. 2 Peter 1:21 ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι ἐλάλησαν ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι.

Immediately after this date, in the writings of men who were younger contemporaries of Theophilus, we find quite clear evidence of the use of the Epistle. Thus we are distinctly told by Eusebius in the fourth century and by Photius in the ninth, that Clement of Alexandria (died about 213 A.D.) wrote notes upon all the Catholic Epistles in a lost work of his called the Hypotyposes, or Outlines.

We have a Latin version, made by Cassiodorus or Cassiodorius in the sixth century, of some notes by Clement on 1 Peter , 1, 2 John and Jude. Cassiodorius contradicts Eusebius and himself, saying that Clement had not commented on 2 Peter, 3 John or Jude. But his utterances are confused, and the testimony of Eusebius is to be preferred. One or two phrases in Clement’s extant works recall 2 Peter, but there is no overt quotation in them.

Hippolytus of Rome, who may have died about 225 A.D., has several expressions which come very close to the language of 2 Peter, e.g. (on Daniel 3:22) ᾧ γὰρ ἄν τις ὑποταγῇ τούτῳ καὶ δεδούλωται, 2 Peter 2:19 ᾧ γάρ τις ἥττηται τούτῳ δεδούλωται.

Origen, who died in 253, says of Peter that he left one Epistle, which is acknowledged, “and perhaps a second also: for there are doubts about it.” The quotations from 2 Peter or allusions to it (about eight in all), which are found in Origen’s works, all occur in works which are only preserved in a Latin version: and it is possible that these are due to the translator (Rufinus of Aquileia) and not to Origen himself. One phrase, however, which is characteristic of Origen’s manner, and probably due to him, may be quoted. He is speaking (in his Homilies on Joshua) of the trumpet-blasts which preceded the fall of Jericho, and compares the utterances of the apostles to trumpets. “Peter, too,” he says, “sounds aloud with the two trumpets of his Epistles.”

Firmilian, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, writing to Cyprian about the middle of the third century, makes unmistakable allusion to 2 Peter. So does Methodius of Patara in Lycia late in the same century.

The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, written about 324, is the source to which we go for a well-considered expression of the opinion of that day as to the reception and status of the various writings in the New Testament. He speaks of the two Epistles of Peter together, and after saying that the First is of acknowledged authority, and was used by the elders of old time in their writings, says: “That which is circulated as the second Epistle has been handed down to us as not canonical (οὐκ ἐνδιάθηκον), but yet, since it has appeared useful to many, it has been held in estimation (ἐσπουδάσθη) along with the other Scriptures.”

In another place, in classifying the Scriptures of the New Testament as acknowledged (ὁμολογούμενα), disputed (ἀντιλεγόμενα), and spurious (νόθα), he puts 2 Peter into the second class. “Of the books which are disputed, but yet well known to most (γνωρίμων τοῖς πολλοῖς) the Epistle of James is in circulation, that of Jude, and the Second Epistle of Peter.”

Jerome, whose authority became paramount in the Western Church through his great work of translating the Bible into Latin, expresses no doubt as to the authenticity of the Epistle in the letter to Paulinus, which was throughout the Middle Ages used as a preface to the Latin Bible. But in a collection of short notices of Church writers usually known as De viris illustribus (much of which is borrowed from Eusebius) he says of Peter that “he wrote two Epistles which are called Catholic: of which the Second is denied by very many to be his, because of the disagreement (dissonantia) of its style with that of the First.”

We need not prolong the list of testimonies drawn from the Fathers[3]; but a word must be said as to the ancient versions of the New Testament into other languages. It is important to notice that 2 Peter was not included in any Syriac version older than the Philoxenian, of the sixth century. Again, the present Latin text of the Epistle, as Dr Westcott points out, “not only exhibits constant and remarkable differences from the text of other parts of the Vulgate, but also differs from the First Epistle in the renderings of words common to both.” And he continues, “When it further appears that it differs no less clearly from the Epistle of St Jude in those parts which are almost identical in the Greek, then the supposition that it was received into the Canon at the same time with them (i.e. 1 Peter and Jude) at once becomes unnatural.”

Athanasius, d. 373 (Alexandria),

Cyril of Jerusalem, d. 386 (Palestine),

Gregory of Nazianzus, d. about 391 (Asia Minor),

Didymus, d. 394 (Alexandria),

The 3rd Council of Carthage, 397 (Africa),

Augustine, d. 430 (Africa).

One interesting bit of evidence pointing in the same direction has been deduced by Dr Chase from the great Vatican manuscript of the Greek Bible, written in the 4th century, and known as B. This venerable book, like other manuscripts, divides the various books of the Bible into chapters or sections, by means of numbers marked in the margin. Now in the Catholic Epistles there are two such sets of chapter-numberings, one older than the other. “This twofold division is found in all the Catholic Epistles except 2 Peter,” from which we conclude that the manuscript from which B was copied, and which furnished the older set of chapter-numbers, did not contain 2 Peter.

We must not altogether neglect the argument from silence. It is very noteworthy that some of the early Church-writers, of whom we have considerable remains, do not seem to have known the Epistle. Irenaeus is one of these: yet it must not be forgotten that the Epistle of the Churches of Vienna and Lyons seems to quote 2 Peter, and that Irenaeus stood in close connexion with the author of this. Tertullian, many of whose works we possess, is another important instance. Yet here again some who lived in his time and in his country seem certainly to have known the Apocalypse of Peter, a writing which we are to consider in connexion with the Epistle; I mean the writers of the Passion of St Perpetua (about A.D. 203).

The Latin fragment called the Muratorian Canon, which expresses the views of some member of the Roman Church about 170 A.D. as to the authority of the N.T. books, has suffered from corruptions, and is difficult to understand in many places. The author of this appears certainly to mention the Apocalypse of Peter, and to omit the Second Epistle. Efforts have been made so to emend the text as to introduce a mention of 2 Peter: but I cannot think that they are either necessary or successful.

On the whole we may say that the external evidence (with which we have been dealing) shows that a very hesitating reception was accorded to 2 Peter by those writers of the early centuries who were best qualified to judge, and that it is weaker than can be produced in favour of any writing of similar importance in the N.T.

In later times, at the period of the Reformation, such men as Luther, Calvin and Grotius felt great doubts as to the authenticity of the Epistle. Grotius put forward the untenable conjecture that the author was Symeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, who is said to have been crucified in Trajan’s time at the age of 120.


We have now to consider the internal evidence afforded by 2 Peter as to its authenticity and genuineness. It will be useful among other things to enquire how far it resembles the First Epistle, which was of acknowledged authority, and also to examine certain likenesses to writings of later date which have been pointed out.

With regard to the First Epistle (1 Peter) we must bear in mind that St Peter’s claim to be considered the author of this has also been contested.

For an investigation of the authenticity of 1 Peter this is not the place: I shall content myself with the statement that its position in comparison with that of 2 Peter is exceedingly strong. The question before us is whether 2 Peter so resembles it in style or in thought as to justify us in assigning both writings to the same author.

In considering the question of style I shall avail myself of the exhaustive examination so admirably carried out by Professor Joseph Mayor in pp. lxviii–cv of his edition of 2 Peter and Jude.


The salutation. 1 Peter 1:2. 2 Peter 1:2. χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη. (An imitator, be it noted, is by no means unlikely to copy exactly such accessories as this: or a salutation may be following a common form.)

2 Peter 1:3 τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς διὰ δόξης. Cf. 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 3:9; 1 Peter 5:10, in all of which God’s calling is spoken of.

2 Peter 2:18 ἐν ἐπιθυμίαις σαρκὸς ἀσελγείαις (and 2 Peter 2:2). 1 Peter 4:3 πεπορευμένους ἐν ἀσελγείαις, ἐπιθυμίαις.

2 Peter 1:16 ἐπόπται. 1 Peter 2:12 ἐποπτεύοντες (and 2 Peter 3:2).

2 Peter 3:14 ἄσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοι. 1 Peter 1:19 ἄμωμος καὶ ἄσπιλος.

2 Peter 2:14 ἀκαταπαύστους ἁμαρτίας (v.l. for ἀκαταπάστους). 1 Peter 4 :1 πέπαυται ἁμαρτίας.

Of a total of 100 words which are common to the two epistles there are very few which appear to constitute what can be called a striking resemblance. They are the following:

ἀναστροφή, twice in 2 Peter, six times in 1 Peter: five times elsewhere in N.T.

ἀπόθεσις, once in each epistle, nowhere else in N.T.

ἀρετή, thrice in 2 Peter, once (in the plural) in 1 Peter: once elsewhere in N.T.

ἀσέλγεια, thrice in 2 Peter, once in 1 Peter.

ἄσπιλος, once in each epistle: twice elsewhere in N.T.


Words used in 1 Peter and not in 2 Peter. These amount to 369, of which 59 occur only in 1 Peter and not elsewhere in N.T.

Words used in 2 Peter and not in 1 Peter. These are 230 in number, of which 56 do not occur elsewhere in N.T.

There is enough here to justify the assertion (current as we saw above in Jerome’s day) that there is a dissonantia between the styles of the two epistles: that “at all events the Greek of the one is not by the same hand as the Greek of the other” (Mayor). But this is not conclusive. St Peter may have employed Silvanus (1 Peter 5:12) to write the First Epistle in Greek at his dictation; and may have employed another man as the vehicle of the Second. Are there, we must now ask, such differences or such similarities of thought as to help us to a conclusion?

For the answer to this question, again, Mayor’s edition affords most valuable material.

Under the head of resemblances he points out three topics which are common to the two epistles: the Second Coming, the saving of Noah from the Flood, Prophecy.

As to the first: 2 Peter speaks of it mainly as the day of judgment and of destruction of the elements, and “seems to look forward to its being put off for an indefinite period.” 1 Peter dwells on it as the time for the revelation of Jesus Christ, of reward of the faithful, of glory and rejoicing, though the judgment of the wicked is also mentioned.

As to the second: 2 Peter speaks of the Flood of water as illustrative of the possibility of a coming destruction of the world by Fire: and again, as a punishment of the ungodly in the ancient world, when Noah—a preacher of righteousness—was saved. 1 Peter uses the deliverance of Noah as an illustration of baptism. Two similarities of language occur: both epistles speak of the μακροθυμία of God—1 Peter in connexion with the Flood, 2 Peter in connexion with the final Fire. Both use the words διʼ ὕδατος—1 Peter of the saving of Noah, 2 Peter of the constitution of the present earth.

The third topic, Prophecy, is treated of in the following passages in the two epistles: 1 Peter 1:11, 2 Peter 1:21. It is not possible in this case to trace a marked resemblance or a marked discrepancy between the two writings. There is a touch of similarity between the statements of 1 Peter that it was revealed to the prophets ὅτι οὐχ ἑαυτοῖς ὑμῖν δὲ διηκόνουν αὐτὰ ἃ νῦν ἀνηγγέλη ὑμῖν, and that of 2 Peter, οὐ γὰρ θελήματι ἀνθρώπου ἠνέχθη προφητεία ποτέ, κ.τ.λ.

Under the head of Differences Mayor points out that, while 1 Peter is full of allusions to the words and acts of our Lord, 2 Peter has but very few such allusions. The following are all that can be collected under this head:

The allusion to the Transfiguration. 2 Peter 1:16.

The prophecy of Peter’s own death. 2 Peter 1:14.

The creeping-in of false prophets, 2 Peter 2:1. (Also in Jude.)

Denying the Lord. 2 Peter 2:1. (Also in Jude.)

The last state worse than the first. 2 Peter 2:20. (Matthew 12:45.)

The day of the Lord as a thief in the night. 2 Peter 3:10. (Matthew 24:43.)

These are mostly utterances of judgment, and severe in tone. 1 Peter on the other hand dwells especially on love, faith, hope and joy as connected with the thought of Jesus Christ.

Again, when we turn to the O.T., 1 Peter is full of allusions and quotations. In 2 Peter only five passages are marked as quotations by Hort: to which Mayor adds nine or ten other allusions. This is a strong point.

It is worth while to quote Mayor’s final conclusion (p. cv). “On the whole I should say that the difference of style is less marked than the difference in vocabulary, and that again less marked than the difference in matter, while above all stands the great difference in thought, feeling, and character, in one word, of personality.”


It was said above that suggestions had been made that 2 Peter showed obligations to certain writings of later date.

First among these is the Antiquities of Josephus (completed about A.D. 94). Dr Edwin Abbott has pointed out very marked resemblances, as he considers them, between the Preface to this work and 2 Peter, and again in Josephus’ description of the last words of Moses (Ant. iv. 8. 2). The most striking of these are the use of the phrases: μύθοις ἐξακολουθήσαντες,—οἷς κακῶς ποιήσετε μὴ προσέχοντες,—ἀρετή of the excellence of God: and the saying of Moses to the general effect that he leaves behind him laws for the people that they may not take to evil courses. We have also the words τὴν μεγαλειότητα τοῦ θεοῦ, θεοῦ φύσις, and a number of coincidences in the use of quite ordinary words and particles.

It is possible to make a rather imposing list out of the materials: but upon examination it will be found that very few of the examples are strong. They do not include the most characteristic features of the Petrine vocabulary, and they are not evidence of borrowing ideas. It would be possible, moreover, to construct a very similar list of 2 Peter’s coincidences with the language of Philo[4]: and in the Preface to the Antiquities Josephus is himself under an obligation to Philo.

The true view of the resemblances probably is that they are to be reckoned as belonging to the ordinary literary Greek of the time, and not as evidence of use of the works of one writer by the other[5].


There is another writing under the name of St Peter which shows undoubted resemblances in language to 2 Peter, but whose spuriousness is universally acknowledged. This is the Revelation or Apocalypse of Peter. It does not exist in its entirety: there are a few quotations from it in early ecclesiastical writers, and there is also a considerable fragment in Greek, which was discovered in Egypt in 1886–7, and published in 1892 along with portions of the Book of Enoch and of the Gospel of Peter[6].

The book is very frequently spoken of by ancient writers and enjoyed a high reputation. The Letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons has probably derived some expressions from it. So, quite certainly, has the Passion of Perpetua. Clement of Alexandria wrote comments upon it: the Muratorian Canon mentions it (adding that “some of our number refuse to have it read in church”), but, as we saw, does not speak of 2 Peter at all. Methodius (who does quote 2 Peter) quotes the Apocalypse as a “divinely inspired writing.” Macarius Magnes (probably in the fourth century) quotes it, but not as authoritative. In the time of Sozomen (a fifth-century ecclesiastical historian) it was still read once a year in some churches in Palestine. Eusebius classes it among the spurious writings.

It was a short book, equal in length to the Epistle to the Galatians, and it is evident from the quotations that the chief subjects treated in it were the state of souls, especially sinful souls, in the next world, and the final judgment. The fragment we possess begins with the closing words of what is most likely a prediction of our Lord’s about the end of the world. Then we find the Twelve with our Lord, upon a mountain. They ask Him to show them one of the righteous who have departed out of the world. Two men appear in a glorified form and great beauty, which is described in very glowing terms. Next, Peter is shown the abode of the blessed, and thereafter the place of torment, to which the greater part of the fragment is devoted. The punishment of various classes of sinners is described, and the principle enunciated that the torment corresponds to the sin.

The book draws its materials, to some extent, from Greek sources. Those who were initiated into the Orphic mysteries were taught to believe in punishments and rewards allotted very much on the lines which are laid down in this Apocalypse. In this lies the explanation of what has been noted in the Apocalypse, namely, that there are similarities between it and the Sixth Aeneid. The truth is that in that book Virgil also is employing Orphic literature.

The influence of the Book of Wisdom is also, to me, very perceptible in the Apocalypse.

The following phrases and passages in the Apocalypse show marked similarity with 2 Peter.

§ 1.

πολλοὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἔσονται ψευδοπροφῆται

δόγματα ποικίλα τῆς ἀπωλείας διδάξουσιν

2 Peter 2:1.

2 Peter 2:1.

τὰς ψυχὰς ἑαυτῶν δοκιμάζοντας.

2 Peter 2:8 ψυχὴν δικαίανἐβασάνιζεν).

ὁ θεὸςκρινεῖ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῆς ἀνομίας.

2 Peter 2:3 οἷς τὸ κρίμα ἔκπαλαι οὐκ ἀργεῖ).

§ 2.

The Apostles go εἰς τὸ ὄρος

2 Peter 1:18.

ἐξελθόντων ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου

ἔξοδον 2 Peter 1:15.

ποταποί εἰσι

2 Peter 3:11.

§ 6.

I saw ἕτερον τόπον αὐχμηρὸν πάνυ

2 Peter 1:19.


2 Peter 2:9.

οἱ βλασφημοῦντες τὴν ὁδὸν τῆς δικαιοσύνης οἱ ἀφέντες τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ


2 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 2:15; 2 Peter 2:21

ἀμελήσαντες τῆς ἐντολῆς τοῦ θεοῦ

2 Peter 2:21; 2 Peter 3:2.

§ 8.

βόρβορος § 15. ἐκυλίοντο

2 Peter 2:22.

Fragment in Macarius Magnes

The heaven and earth are to be judged

2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12.

The principle of 2 Peter 2:19 ᾧ γάρ τις ἥττηται τούτῳ δεδούλωται (which is itself perhaps derived from Wisdom of Solomon 11:16; Wisdom of Solomon 12:2; Wisdom of Solomon 12:27; Wisdom of Solomon 16:1-2) underlies a great part of the Apocalypse.2 Peter 2:1.

In view of these passages it has been held that the two writings come from the same hand, or that one is under an obligation to the other. To me it seems safest to class them together as works composed in the same circle but not necessarily by the same author, and as perhaps containing expansions of teaching which tradition—possibly trustworthy—had handed down as coming from the Apostle.


The result of our investigations so far has been to suggest that 2 Peter is not a genuine work of the Apostle. It is unlike 1 Peter (whose claims to be regarded as genuine are strong), it borrows from Jude, it resembles another undoubtedly spurious Petrine work. In addition to this its reception in early times was by no means general: strong doubts were felt about it in the 3rd and 4th centuries.

Other indications which confirm the idea of its late date are

(a) The allusion to the Epistles of Paul (2 Peter 3:15-16). First, the definite mention of the writings of one N.T. author by another is unique, and, in itself, rather suspicious. Paul and Luke mention writings of their own (and Luke speaks of others unnamed who have drawn up narratives of the life of Christ): but the reference here, partly commendatory, partly warning, is of a different kind. It points, moreover, to a time when Paul’s Epistles were collected and read by Christians; and it is difficult to resist the feeling that the words ὡς καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς γραφὰς do place the Epistles on a level with Scripture. Is this a state of things easily conceivable before 64 A.D., the probable date of St Peter’s martyrdom?

(b) Again, take the words of the mockers (2 Peter 3:4) who say “Where is the promise of His coming? for, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” These words surely point to a time when the first generation of Christian witnesses had passed away. It is possible, of course, to regard the passage as referring to the more ancient prophets: yet this is not satisfactory. It is more natural to look upon it as the expression of the thought of the actual writer—a man living after the date of the apostles and eyewitnesses of Christ. A further indication of the same kind is given in the words τῶν ἀποστόλων ὑμῶν (2 Peter 3:2), which may include the writer, but, again, are more naturally interpreted as drawing a distinction between the writer and the Apostles. If this is the case, we must admit that the writer was inconsistent with himself: see the notes on 2 Peter 1:1-3.

(c) The reference in 2 Peter 1:14 to our Lord’s prophecy of St Peter’s death is most naturally explained (on the assumption that the Epistle is not by St Peter) by a reference to the Gospel of St John (John 21:18). But if he is referring to the written Gospel we must place him after 100 A.D.[7]

(d) The description of this Epistle as “the Second” written by the author gives to me the same impression as does the reference to Paul: namely that the First Epistle had been long current and was of recognized authority. But there is nothing in this that can be described as a proof of late date, and it must be remembered that certain critics of distinction (e.g. Dr Zahn) take the view that the “first epistle” here mentioned was not our 1 Peter, but a lost letter addressed to the church (whatever that was) to which 2 Peter was written.

(e) In 2 Peter 1:15 the writer speaks of a further work which he proposes to put forth, the effect of which will be to keep alive in the minds of his hearers, after his death, the remembrance of his teaching. Some have thought that the work here referred to is the Gospel of Mark, which, according to a probably true tradition, contains the teaching of St Peter. In that case we should here have another reference to a N.T. book, and another suspicious feature in a writing which we already regard with more than suspicion. But we must also allow for the possibility that by the promised writing we are to understand the Apocalypse which told of the παρουσία of Christ (cf. 2 Peter 1:16) or even the Preaching of Peter (see below): for I think we must exclude the Gospel of Peter, which seems to have nothing in common with 2 Peter.

(f) The reference to the Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:17-18) is yet another instance of overt confirmation of other N.T. literature; precious if occurring in a work of unquestioned authority, but operating unfavourably in this case.


On the whole Professor Mayor inclines to place the date of 2 Peter somewhere in the second quarter of the second century, i.e. between 125 and 150 A.D. To myself it seems that this may be slightly too late, and that the first quarter (100–125) is a very possible date. In assigning this earlier date I am influenced by the consideration of the other Apocryphal writings connected with St Peter’s name: the Apocalypse, the Preaching, the Gospel, and the Acts[8].

The Apocalypse we have already examined and have seen that its language shows strong likenesses to 2 Peter. We have to consider next the book called the Preaching (Κήρυγμα) of Peter. Of this we have important fragments quoted by Clement of Alexandria: in the principal passage the religions of the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Jews, and the Christians are described and contrasted. Now, it seems fairly clear that the Apology of Aristides is indebted to the Preaching: the Apology has been dated at 129–130 or 140. In it we have also found (p. xviii) what seems a clear reference to 2 Peter. I do not think it is possible to trace resemblances between the language of 2 Peter and of the Preaching. Yet the following may be cited.

Preaching. The Greeks by worshipping creatures as gods ἀχαριστοῦσι τῷ θεῷ διὰ τούτων ἀρνούμενοι αὐτὸν εἶναι. 2 Peter 2:1 τὸν ἀγοράσαντα αὐτοὺς δεσπότην ἀρνούμενοι. And also there is an emphatic reference to the prophetic scriptures as foretelling the circumstances of our Lord’s life. Cf. 2 Peter 1:19.

The Preaching does not seem to have been in any way a heretical work. Its origin has been with probability assigned to Egypt, on the ground of the references to Egyptian idol-worship, with which the writer seems to have been familiar. The Apocalypse has likewise been assigned to Egypt. The mixture of Jewish and Greek ideas which it displays was certainly to be found there in great vigour.

The Gospel of Peter is of a different complexion. It was probably written about 150 A.D., and seems certainly to have used all our four Gospels. It is characterised (in the fragment which we possess of it) by a violent hatred of the Jews, and also by a wish to show that the sufferings of our Lord in His Passion were only apparent: in other words, that His human body was not really a body like ours, but only a seeming one: in yet other, and technical, language, the author held the Docetic view of the Incarnation. This doctrinal tendency caused an orthodox bishop (Serapion of Antioch, A.D. 190–203) to denounce and condemn the book as heretical. Here again no important resemblance of thought or language to 2 Peter can be found. It is likely enough that the Gospel was written in Syria.

Lastly the Acts of Peter. There are apocryphal Acts of Peter current in profusion, in many languages and of many dates: but those with which we are here concerned exist partly in Latin and partly in Greek (and Coptic), and were written perhaps as late as 200 A.D. (but as I think somewhat earlier) by a person who, though he may not have left the Church, clearly held the Docetic view of our Lord’s person. In this book there is an account of the Transfiguration which evidently echoes the language of 2 Peter (in the words “Dominus noster volens me maiestatem suam videre in monte sancto,” cap. xx). We have in it also the story of a prophecy by our Lord of St Peter’s crucifixion,—altogether different from that in John 21—which was possibly suggested by the language of 2 Peter. These Acts are the latest of the writings which we are considering.

It seems to me that these Petrine apocrypha fall into two groups. The earlier consists of the Apocalypse and the Preaching (and 2 Peter), which may have been written in Egypt in the first quarter of the second century: the later of the Gospel, followed at some interval by the Acts, which may both come from Asia Minor. Of these the Apocalypse and 2 Peter are most closely allied, while the Preaching is used in 130 or so by a man (Aristides) who also knew 2 Peter. The Gospel, whether by accident or not, shows no trace of 2 Peter; but the Acts do. They, however, were written at a time when 2 Peter was certainly current.

I have referred above to the possibility that the earlier group of Petrine apocrypha may contain true reminiscences of the Apostle’s teaching. This may be especially true of the Preaching, but it is also to be kept in mind with regard to the Epistle and the Apocalypse. We have not, at the date which I assign to these writings, reached the epoch of the active production of Christian apocrypha, and the earliest of such pure inventions as we do possess differ from the Petrine group in that they are “tendency-writings,” composed for the purpose of inculcating some peculiar form of doctrine. There is then the possibility that some fragments of genuine Petrine matter may be contained in all three of these writings.


But the question remains: Is not the writer of 2 Peter guilty of forgery in issuing a document under St Peter’s name which St Peter did not write? It is quite certain that such a proceeding, if carried out in our time, could not be qualified by any other name. But in the second century the situation was a very different one. We must consider the habits of the time. There are in existence a large number of writings belonging to the years immediately preceding the composition of 2 Peter, which are fathered upon Jewish patriarchs and prophets or upon pagan seers. What was the intention of their real authors with regard to them? and how were they regarded by their readers? Take, for instance, the Apocalypses which were written soon after the destruction of Jerusalem: those of Ezra (2 Esdras in our Apocrypha) and Baruch. Their ostensible authors are men who lived at the time of the other great catastrophe of the Holy City, under Nebuchadnezzar, and they try to explain the causes of the present troubles of Israel and hold out prospects of a future re-establishment of the polity and of happiness in another world. They are meant to come to the oppressed people like a cheering strain of music out of the distance, or the beloved and familiar voice of one no longer seen, bringing the message which that voice would have spoken in life. They are no more meant to deceive than is an ancient folk-tale that tells of the perils and ultimate triumph of a hero: and to such tales they may fairly be likened, except that they have a more serious purpose and a more sacred form. But just as the children who hear the fairy tale believe it, and as it passes into the daily dramas of their games, so but few decades passed before these Apocalypses were put on a plane which their writers had not intended them to occupy, and were ranked with the ancient scriptures, which they were only designed to recall and interpret. This result shows the mischievous nature of the device innocently adopted by the Apocalyptic writers. There was danger inherent in it.

As soon as the Christian Church began to regard certain of its early representatives in the same light as the patriarchs and prophets of Israel, and to look upon their writings as “Scripture,” the possibility of using their names as the names of Jewish heroes had been used came into existence, and along with it came the danger inherent in the device. At first, as I have suggested, the non-authentic writings that were fathered upon the Apostles were such as may have embodied real reminiscences of their teaching. But very soon the device was employed with the mischievous purpose of gaining credence for special forms of doctrine for which insufficient support was to be found in the older scriptures. It is in these circumstances that we are justified in applying the name of forgery to apocryphal writings.

Applying these considerations to 2 Peter, I think of it as the work of a man who was confronted with a special crisis. Two forms of false teaching were current in his circle: one that of the Libertines, the other that of the deniers of the Second Coming. There was need that the members of his church should be reminded of the teaching of the first preachers of the word upon these points. Those preachers had predicted the coming of false teachers, and had inculcated the uncertainty of the time of the Second Coming, on the authority of our Lord Himself. To meet the danger of the Libertine teaching he borrows and expands the words of an Apostolic writer (Jude) who himself refers back to the Apostles: to meet the other error he quotes, it may be, real words of St Peter or else an ancient writing in the prophetic manner: and he puts the whole of his warning into the form of a letter from St Peter, feeling that he is taking the attitude which St Peter himself would have taken, and, perhaps, knowing that he is to a great extent using words which were handed down to him as St Peter’s own.

If there were an element of conscious deceit connected with the writing, it must have lain principally in the manner in which the Epistle was introduced to the Church. If it was produced as a new discovery, or if a romance was invented to explain its having been previously unknown, then we cannot wholly acquit the writer. But if the document were recognized by those to whom it was read as a crystallizing of oral apostolic teaching put forward to meet a particular difficulty, we shall be still able, even if we dislike the device which the writer adopted, to think of him as a man of sincere purpose and not as a designing impostor.


The contents of the Epistle, shortly summarized, are as follows:

2 Peter 1:1. Greeting to the sharers of the writer’s faith.

2 Peter 1:2-4. The knowledge of God, who has called you, makes it possible for you to attain the highest life and partake of the Divine nature and escape the corruption of the world.

2 Peter 1:5-7. Let your belief in God lead you to cultivate certain virtues, culminating in Love.

2 Peter 1:8. This process will make your knowledge of God and Christ of practical and operative value.

2 Peter 1:9-11. Neglect of it induces blindness of the soul. Beware of this and make your calling a reality. This will lead you into Life.

2 Peter 1:12-15. It will be my care to remind you of this as long as I live (which will not be long), and to provide you after my death with the means of remembering.

2 Peter 1:16-19. My teaching to you was not based on delusion but on my personal experience, for I witnessed the Lord’s glory. And that sight made me the surer of the value of the prophets.

You rightly value their guidance in the dark interval which precedes the full day.

2 Peter 1:20-21. Remember that prophecy is not a matter of private interpretation, any more than, when first uttered, it came at the will of those who uttered it.

2 Peter 2:1-3. But, besides true prophets, there were false prophets in Israel, and so there will be among you. Their immoral life will bring discredit on the Christian name. But they will not remain unpunished.

2 Peter 2:4-9. God did not spare the angels who sinned by lust, nor the men before the Flood (who also sinned by lust), nor the cities of the Plain. Yet in these instances punishment was not indiscriminate. Noah and his family were saved from the Flood, and Lot from Sodom. Both of them had protested against the wickedness around them. So we see that it is in God’s power and is His practice to destroy the wicked and deliver the good.

2 Peter 2:10-11. The false teachers are very bold and high spoken, and make light of the leaders of the Church, but they will come by a fall.

2 Peter 2:12-16. They give themselves up to animal enjoyment and will die the death of brutes. They make the assemblies for worship the means of dissipation, and of pecuniary gain for themselves, reminding us of Balaam.

2 Peter 2:17-19. Unproductive of any good, they do actual harm, especially to those newly turned from paganism, and this under the specious name of Christian freedom, whereas they are really slaves to their vices.

2 Peter 2:20-22. The pity is that they ever became Christians at all. They have lost all the reality of the Christian life, and their end is worse than their beginning.

2 Peter 3:1-2. This is the second letter I have written to you: both are meant to keep alive in your minds the messages of the prophets and apostles which you have heard.

2 Peter 3:3-4. And especially remember that they warned you of men of loose life, who should rise up among you and should deride the idea of our Lord’s return to judgment.

2 Peter 3:5-7. They forget that the world is created subject to change. There was a great catastrophe in the old time when the whole race of men was wiped out by a flood of water, and we believe that another is to come when fire will be the instrument of destruction.

2 Peter 3:8-9. And as to the delay of the Second Coming. Time has no place with God. A thousand years are nothing to Him. He is waiting in order to give all men a chance of repentance.

2 Peter 3:10-13. Nevertheless He will come when He is least expected: and should not that thought lead you to prepare yourselves for His coming, in your life-walk? you must be righteous if you are to inhabit a kingdom of righteousness.

2 Peter 3:14-16. Try then to keep a clear conscience before God, and think of Him as the God who waits patiently to ensure your salvation. That is the teaching of my brother Paul in his letter to you; and in his other letters he has much to say on these topics, which must be studied with care, since, like the other scriptures, they have put wrong ideas into the minds of ill-informed readers, who are not grounded in the faith.

2 Peter 3:17-18. You are forewarned: keep to your principles and grow in the knowledge of Christ: to whom be glory.



The author of the Epistle of Jude describes himself in his opening words as a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James. By this James it is usually held that we are to understand James the Brother of the Lord, author of the Epistle and first Bishop of Jerusalem, who, according to the story preserved by the early Church historian Hegesippus, ended his life a martyr, having been precipitated from a pinnacle of the Temple shortly before the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. This Jude or Judas will therefore be identical with the person mentioned in Matthew 13:55 as a Brother of Jesus. He is the last in the list there given, “James and Joses and Simon and Judas,” and last but one in Mark 6:3. The controversy that has been waged over the meaning of the words “Brother of the Lord” need not occupy us here. It has been held that they were (a) sons of Joseph by a former marriage, and so older than Jesus; (b) sons of Joseph and Mary, younger than Jesus; (c) not really brothers at all but cousins. We gather from 1 Corinthians 9:5 that more than one of them was married[9].

As to the life of Judas or Jude, the Brother of the Lord, we know absolutely nothing. But there is a story, told by Hegesippus and preserved by Eusebius, about two of his grandsons. Domitian had ordered all descendants of David to be put to death. These men were therefore informed against by certain heretics, as being of the seed of David and of the kindred of the Christ. They were brought before Domitian, who, like Herod, had heard of the “coming” of Christ, and was afraid that it implied a political disturbance. The men confessed their descent from David, and being further questioned, stated that they owned between them property to the value of 9000 denarii invested in land, which they cultivated themselves; and showed their horny hands as a proof. Asked concerning the kingdom of Christ, they said that it was not temporal or terrestrial, but would come at the end of the world when Christ should return to judge the quick and dead, and reward every man according to his works. Domitian discharged them unharmed, and revoked his edict against the Davidic clan.

The two men became bishops of churches, and survived till the time of Trajan. Eusebius does not give their names, but in another source they appear as Zoker and James: and it is probable that this additional detail is derived from Hegesippus.

If Jude’s grandsons were alive in Trajan’s reign, what do we gather as to Jude’s own date? Mayor gives the following estimate, on the hypothesis that Jude was younger than our Lord.

Jude may have been born in 10 A.D., may have had sons before 35 A.D., and grandsons before 60 A.D. In the first year of Domitian (81 A.D.) he would have been 71. If the Epistle was written in 80 A.D. he would have been 70 and his grandsons about 20. There is nothing in the story to indicate at what time in Domitian’s reign the interview took place.

If Jude was older than our Lord and was born shortly before 6 B.C., and if his Epistle was written between 75 and 80, he would be an old man (85 or so) but not incredibly old: his grandsons would be over 40 when brought before Domitian.

As to Jude’s position in the Christian community, and as to the special Church to which his Epistle is addressed, we are quite in the dark. Two points only emerge. Jude writes as one whose word will command respect: and he is known—at least by name, but probably more familiarly—to his readers. In Judges 1:3 he speaks of having already contemplated writing to them in more general terms about the Christian hope, when the sudden appearance of false teachers among them compelled him to write at once, and to meet the special crisis, the Epistle which we have. We may naturally deduce from his words that the contemplated writing would have been something in the nature of a pastoral Epistle.

We may place the community to which he writes very much where we please: Dr Chase’s conjecture that it was at or near the Syrian Antioch is as good as any. There is no reason for confining our view to Palestine.


The external evidence for the Epistle of Jude may be given at less length than that which concerns 2 Peter. We have seen reason for thinking that 2 Peter copies Jude, and that 2 Peter may be assigned to the first quarter of the second century. It is therefore an early witness to the existence of, and to the respect felt for, Jude.

In the Teaching of the Apostles or Didachç, a second-century (?) document, there is a probable allusion to Judges 1:22 : Did. ii. 7 οὐ μισήσεις πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἀλλὰ οὓς μὲν ἐλέγξεις, περὶ δὲ ὧν προσεύξῃ, οὓς δὲ ἀγαπήσεις.

The Epistle of Polycarp and Martyrdom of Polycarp (155 A.D.) give the same form of greeting as Judges 1:2 ἔλεος (ὑμῖν) καὶ εἰρήνη καὶ ἀγάπη πληθυνθείη.

The Muratorian Fragment of about 170 A.D. says: “Epistola sane Iudae et superscripti Iohannis duae in catholicis habentur.”

There are quotations with and without specification of source in the Paedagogus and Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria, and also comments (from the Hypotyposes, in a Latin version) on the text. Tertullian names the Epistle. Theophilus of Antioch and Athenagoras (cir. 180) probably allude to passages in it.

Origen mentions it with commendation: and in another place with the words “if anyone should accept the Epistle,” words which point to doubts being entertained of its authority.

Eusebius classes it with James as controverted but well-known and recognized: and elsewhere as not mentioned by many old writers, but yet as having been publicly used in the churches. It exists in the Old Latin but not in the Syriac (Peshitto) version.

The opposition to it indicated in the words of Origen and of Eusebius seems to have been due to its use of apocryphal writings. This, at least, is the reason definitely given by Jerome. The nature of the objection shows that it arose in an age when criticism had begun, and therefore not in the very earliest times. We may fairly think of it as having been most vigorous in the great Antiochene school, where Christian scholarship was strongest, and may couple this idea with the fact of the exclusion of the Epistle from the Syriac version.


The contents of the Epistle may be shortly summarized thus:

Judges 1:1-2. Greeting. Mercy, peace, love to you.

Judges 1:3. I was engaged in writing to you generally about our common salvation when circumstances compelled me to desist from this and write at once urging you to stand fast to your faith.

Judges 1:4. For I hear that false teachers have made their appearance among you, men whose final destiny was long ago foreseen (by Enoch): whose teaching amounts to a perversion of grace into lust and a denial of their Redeemer.

Judges 1:5-7. I warn you against following them. Remember that Israel, redeemed (as you have been) from Egypt, perished in the wilderness. (This applies to their fate and yours if you follow them.) Then again, remember the punishment of the angels who (like these teachers) were guilty of backsliding: and that of the cities of the Plain who were ruined (like these) through lust.

Judges 1:8-11. Besides their other evil courses these men have no respect for authority, celestial or human; they are highly abusive. How different from Michael the chief angel, who did not rail against even the fallen angel, but appealed to God. These men, I say, are abusive, and also brutally ignorant. They recall the angry disobedience of Cain, the covetousness of Balaam, the rebelliousness of Korah.

Judges 1:12-13. Greedy and unproductive, they are men who might have been useful had they kept within bounds; but they have strayed hopelessly from the path.

Judges 1:14-16. Their end was foreseen (as I said) by Enoch the primeval seer: speakers of hard things he called them, and so they are.

Judges 1:17-19. You see that this crisis was not unforeseen. Besides Enoch, the Apostles predicted the coming of such men. They are the “separators” you have read of, and though they arrogate to themselves the name of “spiritual” they are just the reverse.

Judges 1:20-23. Follow them not: keep your faith as it was taught to you: pray: keep in communion with God: look to Jesus Christ. Do your best to save those who have joined or are likely to join the false teachers: but there is danger in the contact with them: be alive to that.

Judges 1:24-25. And so to Him who is able to preserve you from all such danger be glory.


Two Jewish apocryphal writings, the Assumption or Ascension of Moses and the Book of Enoch, are indisputably quoted by Jude: a fact which, as we have seen, operated unfavourably with some upon the reception of his Epistle. Something shall be said here as to the nature and contents of both these books.

But with regard to the difficulty which has been felt by many as to the use of apocryphal books by New Testament writers, it may be remarked that it is less a matter for surprise that they should be quoted at all than that they should be quoted so seldom; and, further, that in all probability if we possessed the Jewish apocryphal literature in a more complete state than we do, we should recognize the existence of a good many more allusions to it than we now can. It is clear, for instance, that portions of the imagery of the Revelation of St John are derived from the Book of Enoch, and that St Paul was acquainted with, and alludes to, more than one apocryphal book. The mention of Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8) may be due to such a book: the same Assumption of Moses which Jude quotes seems to be cited in Galatians 3:19. And the allusion to the “Rock which followed” Israel in the wilderness is at least derived from Jewish legend. Again, the influence of the Wisdom of Solomon is clearly perceptible in James and in Hebrews, and it is probable that Enoch is quoted in 1 Peter as well as in Jude. In the Christian writings which stand next in date to the N.T. (e.g. the Epistles of Barnabas and Clement) the use of apocryphal writings is conspicuous. A long process of criticism was needed before the claim of these books to an authority resembling that of the O.T. was finally set aside, and the ill effects of using them recognized. The men of the first century had no such means as we now possess of judging whether a writing presented to them as ancient, and enjoying the respect of large circles, really deserved that respect or not.

We need not then think it derogatory to the good sense of Jude or to the worth of his Epistle that he should have made use of books which were valued in his day and which he had been brought up to regard with reverence.

His first plain allusion to the Assumption of Moses is in the well-known 9th verse—a passage which has probably excited more curiosity than any other in the minds of his readers. It runs thus:

“But Michael the archangel when he was speaking with the Devil in controversy (or when, contending with the Devil, he was speaking) about the body of Moses, did not presume to bring against him a railing accusation, but said The Lord rebuke thee.”

Now that this illustration is drawn from the Assumption of Moses is expressly attested by several writers of early date who knew that book, namely Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Didymus. Quotations from the same book are made by the first two of these three writers, and by others of later date.

The name of the book occurs in several lists of apocryphal writings, together with a statement of its length, which shows it to have been of the same length as the Revelation of St John.

In 1861 a large fragment of an old Latin version of it was discovered in a palimpsest manuscript at Milan by Ceriani, the celebrated Librarian of the Ambrosian Library. This fragment which may contain the first third, or rather more, of the whole book, gives us the means of judging of its date and character: and a recent editor, Dr R. H. Charles[10], considers it to have been written between A.D. 7 and 29, by a member of the Pharisaic party in Palestine, who wished to urge upon his fellow-believers the adoption of a policy of quietude and patience, as opposed to that spirit of national self-assertion and rebellion against Rome, which ultimately led to the destruction of Jerusalem.

[10] The Assumption of Moses, 1897.

The portion of the book which we have in a continuous form unhappily does not contain the episode quoted by Jude. The contents of it, shortly summarized, are these:

In the 120th year of Moses and 2500th year of the world Moses calls Joshua to him and gives him the charge over the people, seeing that his own death is at hand. Joshua is to take into his keeping the books (probably the Pentateuch) which Moses will give him. Then a long prophecy of the course of Israel’s history is given by Moses, bringing it down to the times of Herod the Great, and the domination of the Sadducean party. Thereafter (at a time which is really in the future as regards the actual writer of the book) a terrible tyrant—a sort of Antichrist—is to come and persecute the faithful, and, after this, the final judgment of Israel’s enemies and their deliverance is to take place.

Upon hearing this and the announcement of Moses’ approaching death Joshua is overwhelmed with grief, falls at Moses’ feet, and utters a lament over the departure of his master, and his own unfitness to succeed him. Moses raises him up, sets him in his own seat, and comforts him by an assurance of God’s faithfulness and the continuance of His care for Israel, whom He will never forsake. And here the fragment ends.

The rest of the story of the book as known to Jude has to be pieced together from various short quotations made by church writers.

It must be remembered that in the long fragment the scene is laid, not on the mountain where Moses died, but in the camp. There is reason for thinking that in the book Joshua next accompanied Moses to the mountain, and Moses saw the land of promise. Then Joshua returned to announce the death of Moses to the people, and to summon Caleb. The people from below saw a cloud of light surrounding and covering the place where Moses was. Michael with other angels came to receive his soul, and bury his body. It is probable that just before the moment of death Moses held a dialogue with God, in which he refused to allow his soul to be separated from his body, like that of other men, by the angel of death, and that God eventually kissed him, and at the kiss his soul left the body (this at least is a constant feature of the story in rabbinic tradition).

At this point, perhaps—certainly after the moment of the death of Moses—we may place the contest between Michael and Samael or Satan. Michael and his angels were preparing to bury Moses, when Samael appeared and said that the body was his, because he, Samael, was the Lord of matter. Michael withstood him with the words “For of His Holy Spirit all we were created,” and again “From the face of God His Spirit went forth and the world came into being.” In other words Samael is not the Lord of matter: all things were created by God. And probably it was in connexion with this that Michael charged Samael with having done his best to mar that creation: for we are told that he accused the devil of having inspired the serpent to become the means of Adam and Eve’s transgression.

But Samael had another accusation in reserve. Moses, he said, was not deserving of burial at all: he was a murderer, for he had slain the Egyptian (see Exodus 2). This blasphemy doubtless kindled the wrath of Michael, but he restrained himself, and instead of retorting that Samael was a murderer from the beginning, he said, “The Lord rebuke thee, O slanderer (διάβολε),” in the words of the angel in Zechariah 3.[11]

It is most likely that at this reply Samael fled in confusion. We gather that his object in trying to obtain possession of the body of Moses was that the Israelites might be induced to make a god of it and worship it.

After the flight of Samael the angels proceeded with their task. It seems that Joshua and Caleb may have been witnesses of the dispute, as they certainly were of the concluding scene. They were now borne up by the Spirit into the air and saw a marvellous sight: Moses appeared in two forms. One (the soul) was being carried up by angels into Heaven; the other—the body—was being buried in a rocky gorge, also by the hands of angels. Of these two witnesses, one, Caleb, was unable, owing to his more earth-bound character, to see so clearly or so much as Joshua, but descended to earth sooner. Joshua, however, remained until all was accomplished, and upon his return to the camp described all that had passed to the people. One detail of the story was that so pure was the body of Moses that the angels contracted no ceremonial uncleanness from contact with it, and needed not to purify themselves.

It is not beyond hope that some further light may be thrown upon the course of this very interesting story by future researchers. In the mean time the above must stand as the best and fullest reconstruction I am able to provide.

But the verse which has served as our text so far is not the only allusion in Jude to the Assumption of Moses. In Judges 1:16, immediately after the express quotation from the Book of Enoch, we read, “These are murmurers, grumblers, walking after their own lusts, and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, respecting persons for the sake of profit.” The clauses which I have italicized have been thought (and, as it seems to me, quite rightly) to be quotations from the Assumption. In the Latin fragment we have a prediction of the domination of a set of men (pretty certainly the Sadducees) whose vices are described at some length (Chapter VII). It is said (VII. 7) that they will be querulosi, which corresponds to Jude’s μεμψίμοιροι, and in VII. 9 os eorum loquetur ingentia cf. Jude, τὸ στόμα αὐτῶν λαλεῖ ὑπέρογκα. And earlier in the book (Judges 1:5), where a similar class of wicked rulers is being prophesied, it is said of them erunt mirantes personas cupiditatum (perhaps locupletum or nobilitatum) et acceptiones munerum (Jude θαυμάζοντες πρόσωπα ὠφελίας χάριν).

Further (and this point has not, I think, been noticed before) in Judges 1:19 we have the words Οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀποδιορίζοντες (rendered “These are they that make invidious distinctions,” Mayor). In the verse of the Assumption quoted above (VII. 7) the word querulosi is immediately preceded by exterminatores, which has usually been taken as meaning “destroyers,” but which, I think, is probably a too-literal rendering into Latin of the same Greek word ἀποδιορίζοντες that is used by Jude; or at the least, of a word of similar sense.


The other apocryphal book which is certainly quoted by Jude is the Book of Enoch. My account of this may be shorter, inasmuch as the book is extant in a complete form, and accounts and editions of it are accessible without much difficulty[12].

The Book of Enoch as we have it (and apparently as Jude also had it) is a book of considerable length, made up of portions belonging to various dates,—from about 160 B.C. to a time not later than the Christian era. We possess it in an Ethiopic version (made from Greek and this, again, from Hebrew), and also a portion of the text in Greek, discovered in 1886–7 in Egypt; besides smaller fragments in Greek and Latin. Its contents are very various. At the beginning is an account of the sin of the angels who mingled with the daughters of men and begat the race of giants: of how Enoch was commissioned to denounce to them their guilt and its punishment: of how he was conducted by angels over the universe, and was translated. In other sections of the book there are disquisitions on the movements of the heavenly bodies, visions of the history of Israel, parables, the story of the birth of Noah, and prophecies of various kinds. The influence of the book is perceptible in several parts of the N.T., and not least in the Revelation of St John.

This very interesting writing or collection of writings is known as the Book of Enoch, par excellence; there is another important Revelation of Enoch (usually called the Secrets of Enoch) which exists only in Old Slavonic: and there is a third very much later Vision in Armenian. But the older Book of Enoch was long regarded with great veneration in the Christian Church: and indeed has, both in itself, and because of the use made of it by Christian writers, a strong claim on our respect.

The use made by Jude of Enoch is considerable in proportion to the length of his Epistle. Most obvious is the quotation in Judges 1:15 : “To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” The Greek of this, as it appears in the Egyptian MS., is as follows: En. i. 9 ὅτι ἔρχεται σὺν τοῖς (ταῖς) μυριάσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ ποιῆσαι κρίσιν κατὰ πάντων, καὶ ἀπολέσει τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς καὶ ἐλέγξει πᾶσαν σάρκα περὶ πάντων <τῶν> ἔργων αὐτῶν ὧν ἠσέβησαν κατ ̓ αὐτοῦ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἀσεβεῖς which differs from Jude, but has in common therewith the words I have underlined. The Ethiopic, as translated by Dr Charles, reads: “And lo! He comes with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon them, and He will destroy the ungodly and will convict all flesh of all that the sinners and ungodly have wrought and ungodly committed against him.”

The clause περὶ πάντων τῶν σκληρῶν ὧν ἐλάλησαν κατ ̓ αὐτοῦ is not from En. i, but, as it seems, from xxvii. 2 περὶ τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ σκληρὰ λαλήσουσιν.

The introductory phrase of Jude, “Enoch the seventh from Adam,” occurs in En. lx. 8 “My grandfather was taken up, the seventh from Adam.”

No less certain, though less obvious, is the use made of Enoch in Judges 1:6 “And the angels which kept not their own dignity but left their proper dwelling-place hath He reserved unto the judgment of the great day in eternal chains under darkness.”

The story of these angels, who came to earth and mingled with the daughters of men, occupies a large place in the early chapters of Enoch, and besides the general allusion, Jude is the debtor to Enoch for some phrases: En. xii. 4 speaks of the angels “who have abandoned the high heaven and the holy eternal place”: in x. 5 are the words, “Cover him (i.e., Azazel, one of the principal offenders among the angels) with darkness, and let him dwell there for ever”: x. 12 “Bind them … until the day of their judgment”: xxii. 11 “unto the great day of judgment.” And in liv. 3 sqq. the immense chains prepared for the hosts of Azazel are shown to Enoch.

Passing over other less striking resemblances to Enoch (which will be recorded in the notes on the text of the Epistle) we have a third clear instance of quotation in Judges 1:13, “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” Ἀστέρες πλανῆται, be it noted, in this verse, does not mean planets in our sense of the word, but stars which have deserted their appointed orbits. Compare En. xviii. 14, where Enoch is shown “the prison of the stars and the powers of heaven; and the stars that are rolling in the fire are those which have transgressed the precept of the Lord in the beginning of their rising, for they went not forth in their season, and He was wroth with them and bound them until the season of the accomplishment of their sin, ten thousand years.” And xxi. 2 sqq., “I beheld … a place of disorder (ἀκατασκεύαστον) and terrible … and there I saw seven stars of the heaven bound.… These are those of the stars of heaven which transgressed the command of the Lord, and were bound here until they fulfil ten thousand years.” In later chapters (lxxx., lxxxvi., lxxxviii., xc.) are allusions to the sin and punishment of stars (which, however, here represent the sinful angels): they are bound in an abyss which is narrow, deep, horrible and dark.

It may be remarked that this bringing together within the limits of a short Epistle of so many passages from different parts of Enoch argues that Jude must have known the book very intimately and regarded it with great veneration.


One of the sayings anciently attributed to our Lord, but not recorded in the Gospels, is “There shall be schisms and heresies.” Whether He uttered the words or not, they are almost a commonplace in the writings of the Apostles, and especially in those of Paul. There were, indeed, bound to be differences and divisions so soon as a new outlook, upon life was opened up to the world at large. Men of all races and classes were being invited to become members of a single community: that community had only the most rudimentary organization, and was constantly being confronted with questions to answer and moral problems to solve. The moment that one of its answers or decisions was rejected or disputed, schism or heresy began. These two words, familiarized to us by the Litany, are invested with a mysterious and sinister atmosphere. We are tempted when we hear them to imagine men who take a demoniac pleasure in devising evil doctrines and misleading the simple. In truth, there were schismatics and heretics who seceded from the Church from motives of ambition or with a view to sensual enjoyment; but there were also many who acted from honest conviction. Of the latter kind were some of those whom we hear of in the New Testament; I am thinking principally of the Judaizers—the reactionary party. We know the terms in which St Paul speaks of them. If we may judge, however, from the language of Jude and 2 Peter the schismatics with whom the writers of these two Epistles had to do were of a lower order.

Let us see what are the main accusations brought against them. Jude says that they changed the grace of God into lasciviousness and denied our Lord (Judges 1:4), indulged in fleshly lusts (Judges 1:7-8), spoke evil of dignities (Judges 1:8-9), were greedy of gain (Judges 1:11; Judges 1:16), discontented and conceited (Judges 1:16).

2 Peter repeats these accusations (except that of discontentedness), but lays more stress upon the luxurious habits of these persons, and adds that they promise liberty to their hearers (2 Peter 2:19). In 3 the writer speaks of men who throw doubt upon the Second Coming; it is not clear that they are the same persons who are attacked in 2.

There are two features here which may point to unorthodox teaching on the part of the accused; but the main stream of the invective is directed against their general conduct and bearing. Of the two charges which relate to teaching, the first is expressed rather differently in the two Epistles: in Jude we have “denying our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ”; in 2 Peter, “denying the Master that bought them.” To be sure this may be but another reference to conduct: the false teachers deny Him in their lives; indulge in practices incompatible with the rules He has laid down. So Titus 1:16, Θεὸν ὁμολογοῦσιν εἰδέναι, τοῖς δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται. But 2 Peter connects it with the bringing in of αἱρέσεις ἀπωλείας, and with both writers it seems to be the head and front of offending. And since we know that erroneous teaching as to our Lord’s Person was rife in early times, there is no good reason to doubt that such teaching is aimed at here. There were various types of it. Simon Magus—a shadowy and problematical figure enough—is represented as thrusting Jesus aside altogether and arrogating to himself the position of a divine being. Cerinthus, who is traditionally said to have been contemporary with St John, held, in common with other men who had been brought up in Jewish circles, that Jesus was only associated with the Divine Power at His baptism, and deserted by it at His crucifixion. Again, the docetic teachers denied the objective reality of the Incarnation. The human life of our Lord was but an appearance: His body was not tangible: He did not eat or drink: He was not really crucified. The apocryphal Acts of John, a product of this school of thought, put these words into John’s mouth, “Sometimes when I would lay hold of Him, I met with a material and solid body, and again at other times when I felt Him, the substance was immaterial and bodiless.” Another form of teaching, the offspring of a mixture of pagan ideas, both Greek and Oriental, with Christianity, made Him one of a multitude of supernatural beings, one link in a mystic genealogy proceeding from the Supreme Being, and thus—even if unintentionally—detracted from the unique significance of His Person. Such teaching—it is roughly labelled as “Gnostic”—was commonly combined with a docetic view of the Incarnation. These were the main tendencies of unorthodox teaching about our Lord, and any of them might be described as a denial of the Master.

The other charge is that of “promising liberty to their followers.” This is stated openly in 2 Peter; a phrase in Jude, “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness,” may perhaps be taken to be of the same import. Either of two evils may have been in the mind of the writers. There is, first, the exaggeration of the Christian liberty which St Paul preached—the making into it a “cloke for licence.” A man might say that restrictions such as those laid down in the Apostolic decree of Acts 15 were not binding upon enlightened persons like himself, though very proper for weaker brethren: and this would lead him to unrestrained intercourse with the heathen, to the eating of meats offered to idols, and so forth: in fact, to the practices which are condemned in the earlier chapters of the Revelation, and are there associated with the names of Balaam and of the Nicolaitanes. Secondly, there is the view that since the body, in common with all other material things, is evil, no abuse of it can affect the soul, of which it is the temporary prison. A tradition preserved by Clement of Alexandria attributes to Nicolaus the deacon, the supposed founder of the Nicolaitane sect, the precept “Abuse the flesh.” Some (including probably Nicolaus himself) interpreted this to mean “Mortify the flesh,” and lived an ascetic life: others indulged themselves in every gratification of the senses and called this abusing the flesh. It is to such antinomians (of whom there were many groups in the second and third centuries, distinguished by the names of their leaders or their special tenets[13]) that the words of our Epistles would best apply.

The other excesses attributed in Jude and 2 Peter to the false teachers are characteristic of many who have combined high pretensions with low aims. They have arrogated to themselves the right to speak, in defiance of the constituted authorities with whom they have quarrelled; they have traded on the readiness of their simple-minded hearers to supply them with bodily comforts; and they have jealously insisted on a recognition of their own superiority. Such teachers might be only schismatics, not heretics: that is, their doctrine might be orthodox enough, and only their attitude towards the main body of the Church incorrect. But we have seen that there is ground for thinking them to have held wrong views upon cardinal points of Christian theology and conduct.

Denunciations of false teachers are found in other parts of the New Testament. We remember the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and the “false Christs” of the Gospels. These are special forms of error combated by St Paul in Colossians and Ephesians, and mentioned in Philippians. The Pastoral Epistles are full of invective, which reminds us far more closely of 2 Peter and Jude in its general tone: only here little is said of sensuality and impurity; indeed, we are told that some of the teachers are ascetics, “forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats” (1 Timothy 4:3). Covetousness, however, and mercenary practices are mentioned more than once. In the Epistles of St John the denial that Jesus is the Christ, and the denial of His coming in the flesh, are specially mentioned. In the Revelation of St John, as noted above, the teachers of Balaam and of the Nicolaitanes are singled out. What one notices is that the accusations of our Epistles and of the Pastorals are, generally speaking, vaguer than those found elsewhere, and that it is extremely difficult to draw a distinct or consistent picture from them.

Nothing has been said so far as to those who questioned the Second Coming (2 Peter 3). The passages quoted in the notes show that there were some Jewish thinkers of not very dissimilar views. But we are also reminded of the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17-18), “who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already.” Similar to this is the doctrine attributed in an early book, the Acts of Paul, to Demas and Hermogenes, that “the resurrection has already taken effect in our children (i.e. that in our children our own life is perpetuated) and that we rise again by attaining to the knowledge of the true God.” That is a view not unknown to philosophers of our own days. We cannot wonder that all such teachings should have been strongly condemned by the first preachers of Christianity, when we consider their probable effect either upon men who had been always brought up to look for a day of reckoning, or upon those who had just been assured that such a day was coming, and coming shortly. The sudden removal of such an incentive to watchfulness and sobriety would in the large majority of cases be highly mischievous, and we see from his concluding words that the author of 2 Peter regarded the matter from that point of view, “Seeing then that these things are to be destroyed, what manner of men ought you to be in holy conversation and godly life?”


Of the Greek manuscripts written in uncial letters[14], which contain the Catholic Epistles including 2 Peter and Jude, the three oldest give us the complete text, viz.

א Sinaïticus, at Petersburg: IVth century.

A Alexandrinus, at the British Museum: Vth century.

B Vaticanus, at Rome: IVth century.

Besides these

C Codex Ephraemi rescriptus, at Paris, Vth century, contains the greater part of the text;

K Mosquensis, at Moscow, IXth century; and

L in the Biblioteca Angelica at Rome, IXth century (late), are complete;

and P Porfirianus Chiovensis, at Kief, IXth century, is nearly complete.

Investigation of the “cursive” or minuscule manuscripts is still progressing. A recent editor of the text of our two Epistles (J. de Zwaan, Leiden, 1909) appears to distinguish four important groups, each headed by a single manuscript, which I will enumerate:

13. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Gr. 14: IX–Xth cent.

27. London, British Museum, Harleian MS. 5620: XVth cent.

214. Lambeth Palace Library 1182: XII–XIIIth cent.

100. Moscow 334: XIth cent.

Of ancient Versions into other languages the most important for our purpose are

I. The Old Latin, i.e. the Latin version or versions anterior to the revision made by St Jerome. The principal remains of this for our Epistles are in

(a) The Palimpsest of Fleury, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale (Latin, 6400 G) of the Vth century, which contains 2 Peter 1:1 to 2 Peter 2:7.

(b) The Freising fragments at Munich of the VIIth century, containing 2 Peter 1:1-4.

(c) The passages quoted in two collections of Biblical texts called the Speculum Augustini and the Speculum Pseudo-Augustini.

(d) Quotations made by Lucifer, bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia, who died in 371.

II. The Philoxenian Syriac Version, made for Philoxenus, bishop of Mabug or Hierapolis, about 508. This was the first rendering into Syriac of our Epistles.

III. The revision of this made by a successor Thomas of Harkel (Heraclea), about a century later and called the Harklensian.

IV. The Egyptian or Coptic Versions, namely the Lower Egyptian, formerly called Memphitic, now usually Bohairic, and the Upper Egyptian (in a different dialect), formerly called Thebaic, now Sahidic. The former is complete, the latter fragmentary.


The Greek text of both these Epistles contains some doubtful passages. The text of the N.T. differs from that of classical authors in this, that we have so many copies, versions and quotations from it going back to a very early date, that there are very few places in which we are justified in saying that the text is corrupt, and in calling in the help of conjecture to restore it. But both in 2 Peter and in Jude there are such places.

[1] The first is in 2 Peter 3:10 καὶ γῆ καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ ἔργα εὑρεθήσεται. This is the reading of the two earliest Greek MSS. א and B and of the later uncials KP as well as of one of the Syriac versions. The older Egyptian version (called Sahidic) reads οὐχ εὑρεθήσεται. The second-best uncial as we may call it (A) and another (L) with two versions reads κατακαήσεται, another good uncial (C) ἀφανισθήσονται. Later MSS. (followed by our Received Text) give καυθήσεται or κατακαυθήσονται. The Latin Vulgate omits the clause.

The words as they stand do not yield a right sense: that is certain. We need instead of εὑρεθήσεται a word which shall mean “destroyed” in some form. The simplest way of mending the passage is to insert οὐχ as the Sahidic version does: and this may after all be the right solution. The negative may have been omitted by the writer himself or by his first copyist. The phrase οὐχ εὑρεθῆναι in a similar connexion may be illustrated from Apocalyptic writings. Thus Daniel 11:19 has: καὶ προσκόψει καὶ πεσεῖται καὶ οὐχ εὑρεθήσεται. Revelation 16:20 καὶ πᾶσα νῆσος ἔφυγεν, καὶ ὄρη οὐχ εὑρέθησαν (cf. 12:8 οὐδὲ τόπος εὑρέθη αὐτῶν ἔτι ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ): 18:14 καὶ πάντα τὰ λιπαρὰ καὶ τὰ λαμπρὰ ἀπώλετο ἀπὸ σοῦ, καὶ οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ αὐτὰ εὑρήσουσιν (this being a periphrasis for the passive): 18:21 βληθήσεται Βαβυλὼνκαὶ οὐ μὴ εὑρεθῇ ἔτι: 20:11 ἔφυγεν ἡ γῆ καὶ οὐρανός, καὶ τόπος οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῖς. Compare also the passage quoted from the Sibylline Oracles in the note on this verse. A passage from the “Second Epistle of Clement,” quoted in the Note on the Destruction of the World by Fire (p. 35), gives ground for another suggestion.

Another way, very simple in itself, but producing a very forced turn of language, is to read the sentence as a question (Weiss), “the earth and the works that are therein, shall they be found?”

The other readings of the MSS. κατακαυθήσεται and the like give the right sense, but do not in any way account for the presence of εὑρεθήσεται. This must be the oldest reading: it could not have been changed into any of the others.

Other conjectures which are worth mentioning are

ῥυήσεται or some compound of it (Hort),



βρασθήσεται, De Zwaan [1909].

Another, not, I think, recorded in print, was suggested by the late Henry Bradshaw, and is worth recording, τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ ἔργα ἀργὰ εὑρεθήσεται.

[2] In Judges 1:5 “I wish to remind you … ὅτι Κύριος (or Ἰησοῦς) λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν.”

Κύριος is read here by אC and the mass of later copies. Ἰησοῦς by AB, five cursive MSS., the Latin, Egyptian, Ethiopic versions and several Fathers. ὁ θεὸς by another small group. Ἰησοῦς is the “best attested” reading in the view of Hort, but “can only be a blunder.” His explanation is interesting. It is that the original text had

ὅτιὁ λαὸν, etc.,

that the letters ⲟⲧⲓⲟ were wrongly read as ⲞⲦⲒⲒ̅Ⲥ̅ (ⲓ̅ⲥ̅ being the universal early abbreviation for Ἰησοῦς) and also perhaps as ⲟⲧⲓⲕ̅ⲥ̅ (abbreviation for Κύριος).

[3] In Judges 1:22-23, is the hardest passage of all. Let us first take the reading of the Received Text and Authorized Version.

καὶ οὓς μὲν ἐλεεῖτε διακρινόμενοι

οὓς δὲ ἐν φόβῳ σώζετε ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες, μισοῦντες καὶ τὸν ἀπὸ τῆς σαρκὸς ἐσπιλωμένον χιτῶνα.

Then the text of Tischendorf and Tregelles (which is that of the “Alexandrine” MS., A)

καὶ οὓς μὲν ἐλέγχετε διακρινομένους

οὓς δὲ σώζετε ἐκ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες

οὕς δὲ ἐλεᾶτε ἐν φόβῳ, μισοῦντες κ.τ.λ.

Then that of Westcott and Hort (which is that of the Vatican MS. B):

καὶ οὓς μὲν ἐλεᾶτε διακρινομένους σώζετε ἐκ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες

οὓς δὲ ἐλεᾶτε ἐν φόβῳ, μισοῦντες κ.τ.λ.[15]

To these we must add:

א οὓς μὲν ἐλεᾶτε διακρινομένους

οὓς δὲ σώζετε ἐκ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες

οὓς δὲ ἐλεᾶτε ἐν φόβῳ, μισοῦντες κ.τ.λ.

(i.e. as A, but with ἐλεᾶτε for ἐλέγχετε in the first clause).

C οὓς μὲν ἐλέγχετε διακρινομένους

οὓς δὲ σώζετε ἐκ πυρὸς ἁρπάζοντες ἐν φόβῳ μισοῦντες.

In these various texts one principal difference is that some (Aא) give three clauses, others (textus receptus, BC) only two.

The Latin, Egyptian, Ethiopic and Armenian versions have three clauses, Clement of Alexandria two. The Syriac versions agree with him.

The text of B is very awkward: we must translate it thus:

And those on whom you have compassion as waverers, save, snatching them from the fire: but on others have compassion in fear, etc.

That is, we must take the first οὓς as a relative pronoun and the second as a demonstrative; and the first ἐλεᾶτε as indicative and the second as imperative.

Hort’s suggested remedy is to omit the first ἐλεᾶτε and render “and some who are waverers save … but on others have compassion in fear, etc.”

It is almost as simple to suppose that οὓς (δὲ) has dropped out after διακρινομένους, which ends with the same letters. And it is rather difficult to account for the presence of ἐλέγχετε.

On the whole, if a satisfactory interpretation of the words can be given, I incline to agree with Mayor in adopting the text of A, which keeps ἐλέγχετε and gives three clauses[16].


The Apocalypse of Peter

Since my account of this Apocalypse (pp. xxvi–xxviii) was printed, more light has been thrown upon it by the discovery of a large portion of the text in an Ethiopic version. Particulars of this will be found in a series of articles by me in the Journal of Theological Studies for 1910–11 (vol. XII.). In the new portions there are two passages which recall 2 Peter. One is a description of the final fire, upon which great stress is laid; the other relates an appearance of Moses and Elias on the Holy Mountain and the utterance of a voice from Heaven. The relation of this section of the Ethiopic to the Greek text described on p. xxvi has yet to be determined. The fact that both in 2 Peter and in the Apocalypse there is mention of a scene on the Holy Mountain, and of a voice from Heaven, is noteworthy.

I may add that I now incline to the view—previously entertained by more than one critic—that the Greek fragment is really a portion of the Gospel of Peter, which had incorporated, with some changes, a large section of the Apocalypse; the latter having been already current for some time as a separate book.

The Apocalypse of Baruch

Another early writing, I have recently noticed, has some notable coincidences of language with 2 Peter. This is the Apocalypse of Baruch[17], a book of considerable length and great interest, which exists in a complete form only in a Syriac version. It is Jewish, not Christian, in origin, and the latest date assigned to it in its present form is 130 A.D. The portion of it which contains the coincidences I have referred to is the concluding section (chapters lxxviii.–lxxxvii.), which gives us the text of an Epistle addressed by Baruch to the nine and a half tribes who had been deported across the Euphrates in the First Captivity.

The resemblances I have noted are these:

lxxviii. 2. The greeting “Mercy and peace.”

lxxviii. 5. Wherefore I have been the more careful to leave you the word, of this epistle before I die (2 Peter 1:12-13).

lxxviii. 7. For if ye so do these things, He will continually remember you (2 Peter 1:10).

In what follows, especially in lxxxiii., there are warnings of the coming judgment, and exhortation against worldly thoughts:

lxxxiv. 1. Behold, I have therefore made known to you these things while I live … and I will set before you some of the commandments of His judgment before I die.

lxxxv. 8. Again moreover the Most High also is long-suffering towards us here (2 Peter 3:9).

lxxxv. 9. Before therefore judgment exact its own … let us prepare our soul (2 Peter 3:11).

The prophet, like the Apostle, has been warned of his speedy departure from this world, and it is possible that the passages I have quoted are only accidentally similar to the phrases in 2 Peter. But they deserve to be noticed, and further investigation may show that there is a real connexion between the two writings.

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