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by John Dummelow
1. Connexion of 2 Peter and Jude, and difference between them. These Epistles are closely connected. Both were written to meet a sudden danger to the faith which had arisen in some unnamed Churches. Both authors seem to have intended to write an ordinary pastoral letter. St. Jude says so (2 Peter 1:3 RV), and in 2 Pet part of the intended letter is given (c. 3). Both, however, have been compelled by the sudden peril to send a special warning. It seems plain that one had read the letter of the other, or even that the first letter had opened the eyes of the second writer to the danger.
Yet the one Epistle is by no means a mere repetition, of the other. St. Jude writes with a stern sense of honour, and the joy of a theologian in the deep mysteries of the creed. ’Contend for the faith once for all (RV) delivered’ is his command, which, however, he softens with a touch of pity here and there for those who are falling. The enemies of the faith he scorns too much to allow them the name of teachers. The author of 2 Pet has a simpler mind, though by no means a less thorough faith in Christ as God. ’Hope on and do your duty more and more’ is his message. The tone of almost diffident love and admiration with which he speaks of St. Paul (2 Peter 3:15-16) gives us a glimpse into a very gentle heart.
2. Connexion between 2 Peter and 1 Peter. Which letter was written first? Most say St. Jude’s. This is partly because there would otherwise be little original matter in his Epistle; but if the need were urgent he would not have delayed in order to be original. There are, however, some things in 2 Pet which tend to raise suspicion that it is not only founded upon Jude, but is a much later piece, written not by, but only in the name of, St. Peter. Thus the prophecy about the mockers in 2 Peter 3:2. looks as if it were designed as an imaginary-explanation of the reference to such a prophecy in Judges 1:17. But the passage takes another colour in RV: it is itself a reference to a prophecy. Again, the references to events in the life of St. Peter in 2 Peter 1 (2 Peter 1:14, 2 Peter 1:16-18) are perhaps more obvious than natural: yet St. Peter might have-written in this way. The style of 2 Pet differs from that of 1 Pet: but again, this may be accounted for by the difference in subject, or perhaps by a change of secretary. Resemblances in language between 2 Pet and 1 Pet must not be pressed too much in either direction, since an imitator might have designed them; or, if St. Peter did employ secretaries to shape his letters for him, mere resemblance in language would not be important. Resemblances of thought, which betray the mind of the author, would mean more, and there are such. No one can fail to notice that, while in Jude there are several thoughts and expressions which remind us of the deep and mysterious mind of St. Paul; in 2 Pet, as in 1 Pet, spite of many resemblances to St. Paul, in words, there is a marked difference in the habit of thought. The reference to St. Paul at the end of 2 Pet is just what the author of 1 Pet would agree with.
3. Ancient Opinion about Authorship of 2 Peter and Jude. Objections to Apostolic Authorship, especially of 2 Peter. The genuineness of both Epistles has been questioned even in early times. But the wide acceptance of Jude at the beginning of the third century, justifies us in accepting with little hesitation the final verdict of the Church in its favour, especially as there is really nothing in it which might not have been written in the apostolic age. It is not quite the same with 2 Pet. Not only were doubts expressed in various places for a long time about it, but no certain traces of its existence can be found in Christian literature before the end of the second century. Yet this could be explained if the Epistle had but a small circulation in the earliest years, and in any case its peculiar subject and its shortness would prevent its being often quoted. If it could be proved that 2 Pet is copied in Jude, the whole aspect of the case would be changed, and the apostolic authorship would be supported by practically contemporary evidence. This cannot be proved, and a comparison of the two Epistles leaves a different impression on different minds. This, however, may be said. “When one document is founded on another, the later one has generally been made smoother and clearer, and some rugged but forcible phrases have been lost in the process. It looks as if this might have happened in the composition of Jude: cp., for instance, 2 Peter 2:17 with Judges 1:12. Here Jude is certainly smoother and clearer, but the fine expression ’mists driven by a storm’ (RV) is wanting. In 2 Pet the sentence ends awkwardly but forcibly with ’for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved,’ where the antecedent to ’whom’ is not ’springs’ or ’mists,’ but ’these men.’ In Jude this fits easily and obviously into the sentence through the addition of ’wandering stars.’ Even granting this, however, we should still have a difficulty about the date. The Jude who wrote the Epistle does not call himself an Apostle, but ’brother of James.’ He was, therefore, the Jude who was one of the brothers of the Lord (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). He may have lived till about 80 a.d. But tradition says that St. Peter was put to death by Nero about the same time as St. Paul. Now if 2 Peter 3:1—’this is the second epistle that I write unto you’—is really a reference to our First Epistle, and if 1 Pet was written during the Neronian persecution, it is strange, but not impossible, that a letter so different, and dealing with a danger almost incompatible with the danger of persecution which the First Epistle foretells, should have been written almost directly afterwards to the same readers. “We do not know for certain that St. Peter did not live longer—even much longer, and we cannot be sure that the reference is not to quite another Epistle, written to different people, earlier in St. Peter’s life. Then 2 Pet would be earlier than 1 Pet, which, however, is not an easy supposition to those who notice affinities between 2 Pet and the Pastoral Epistles.
4. If copied from Jude, 2 Peter was probably written in the second century, yet in good faith. If it could be proved that 2 Pet was copied from Jude, it would be almost necessary to think that it is a work of the second century, written in the Apostle’s name. No fraud need have been designed. The book would be a kind of religious fiction, intended for the instruction of readers who would be interested, but not deceived, by the imaginary setting. It must be remembered that this was what many in the early Church did believe it to be. There are, however, many such works, not a few being in St. Peter’s name, and the difference in earnestness and spiritual power between the best of them and 2 Pet is remarkable. If 2 Pet is a fiction, it alone among such works carries with it the distinction of the apostolic age. The question cannot be decided on the limited evidence we have. The doubts of the early Church, and the probable silence of the first and second centuries, are not to be disregarded; on the other hand, the critical suspicions of our own age ought not by themselves to be allowed an exaggerated importance.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26