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- 2 Peter
by Joseph Benson
SECOND EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER.
This second epistle of Peter is supposed to have been written many years after the former, namely, A.D. 67, a short time, before his martyrdom, which happened in 68, and to which he alludes in one or two places. The authority of it was, for some time, doubted of in the Christian Church, as Origen, Eusebius, St. Jerome, and others, have observed. What made the ancients call it in question was, first, its being omitted, (together with that of James, the 2d and 3d of John, and that of Jude,) in the first Syriac translation of the New Testament, which is supposed to have been made in the second century. But the only conclusion that can be drawn from the omission is, that the author had not seen these epistles, or rather, that they were not generally known, when he made his version. Now this might easily happen, if, as it is probable, he was a Syrian Jew. For Syria being at a great distance from Pontus, Galatia, &c., (to the Christians of which countries these epistles were originally sent,) it would be a considerable time before copies of them were dispersed among the people, for whom the Syriac version of the New Testament was made. So that the author might think it useless to translate them. Another reason why the authority of this second epistle of Peter was called in question was, the supposed difference of its style, particularly of the second chapter, from that of the other parts of St. Peter’s writings. But “I cannot,” says Blackwall, “find any great difference between the style of the first and second epistle: it is to me no more than we find in the style of the same persons at different times. There is much the same energy and clear brevity, the same rapid run of language, and the same commanding majesty, in them both. Take them together, and they are admirable, for significant epithets, and strong compound words; for beautiful and sprightly figures; adorable and sublime doctrines; pure and heavenly morals, expressed in a chaste, lively, and graceful style.” As to the style of the second chapter, thought by some to be peculiarly different from that of other parts of St. Peter’s writings, Bishop Sherlock supposes that the apostle, describing in that chapter the character of such seducers as endangered the faith of the Christian converts, adopts the language and sentiments of some Jewish author, (as St. Jude also is supposed to have done, see 1 Peter 5:14,) containing a strong description, in the eastern manner, of some false prophets in that or an earlier age. But for complete satisfaction on that subject, the reader is referred to that writer’s Discourses on Prophecy, Disc. 1. Diss. 1; and to the second part of Dr. Lardner’s Credibility of the Gospel History.
But, to prove the authenticity of this epistle, it may be sufficient to refer to the epistle itself, where we find divers marks of its being the genuine work of St. Peter. 1. The writer of it expressly calls himself, in the inscription, and in 2 Peter 3:2, “an apostle.” 2. In other places he ascribes to himself things which agree to none but to Peter the apostle. For example, 2 Peter 1:14, “Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus hath showed me;” alluding to John 21:19, where we are told that Jesus signified to Peter by what death, when old, he should glorify God. Chapter 2 Peter 1:16, this writer affirms that he was one of the three apostles who were with Jesus at his transfiguration, when, by a voice from God, he was declared to be “his beloved Son.” 2 Peter 3:15, this writer calls Paul his “beloved brother,” in allusion, no doubt, to his having given Paul the right hand of fellowship: withal he commends his epistles as “Scriptures,” that is, divinely-inspired writings. Having, therefore, thus repeatedly taken to himself the name and character of an inspired apostle, the writer, if he was an impostor, must have been the most profligate of men. 3. By calling this his second epistle, the writer intimates that he had written to them formerly; he intimates the same thing, 2 Peter 1:12-15; and, by so doing, shows himself to be the same Peter who wrote the first epistle. 4. The matters contained in this epistle are highly worthy of an inspired apostle; for, besides a variety of important discoveries, all tending to display the perfections of God and the glory of Christ, we find in it exhortations to virtue, and condemnations of vice, delivered with an earnestness and feeling, which show the author to have been incapable of imposing a forged writing upon the world, and that his sole design in this epistle was to promote the interests of truth and virtue among mankind.
In the preface to the former epistle it has been observed, that they were both addressed to the same people, as appears from 2 Peter 3:1. This epistle, therefore, like the former, was addressed to the whole of the brethren, whether of Gentile or Jewish extraction, who were dispersed in the widely-extended countries mentioned in the inscription of the former. And, as the matters which it contains were admirably calculated for confirming them in the faith of the gospel, and for comforting them under the persecutions to which they were exposed for their religion, it must have been of great use to all the brethren in these countries to have them in writing from an inspired apostle; and the epistle which contained them could not fail to be exceedingly valued by them, especially as it is written in a higher strain than common, both of discovery and of language; written also in the prospect of his soon dying a martyr for the truths which he had all along taught, during the course of a long life.
The general design of this epistle was to confirm the doctrines and instructions delivered in the former, to excite the Christian converts to adorn, and steadfastly adhere to, their holy religion, as a religion proceeding from God, notwithstanding the artifices of false teachers, whose character is at large described, or the persecution of their bitter and inveterate enemies. To be a little more particular: having congratulated the Christian converts on the happy condition into which they were brought by the gospel, I. He exhorts them, in order to secure the blessings of it, to endeavour to improve in the most substantial graces and virtues, 2 Peter 1:1-11. II. To engage their attention the more effectually, he reminds them both that he wrote in the near view of eternity, and that the subjects on which he discoursed were not cunningly-devised fables, but attested by a miraculous voice from heaven, and by divinely-inspired prophecies, 2 Peter 1:12-21. III. He cautions them against the false teachers, whose character he describes, reminding them of the judgments executed on the apostate angels, on the old world, and on Sodom, and of the deliverance of Noah and of Lot; considerations calculated, on the one hand, to terrify such ungodly wretches; and, on the other, to comfort and establish the hearts of upright and pious Christians, 2 Peter 2:1-9. IV. He further describes the character of these seducers, warning all true Christians of the danger of being perverted by them, and them of the dreadful destruction to which they exposed themselves, 2 Peter 2:10-22. V. That the persons to whom he was writing might be more effectually guarded against the artifices of those who lay in wait to deceive, they are directed to adhere steadily and closely to the sacred Scriptures, and to consider the absolute certainty, and awful manner, of the final destruction of this world: and then the whole is concluded with several weighty and pertinent exhortations, chap. 3. throughout. See Macknight and Doddridge.
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