Bible Commentaries
2 Peter

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- 2 Peter

by Dr. Robert Utley



A. The purpose or scope of this introduction is not to discuss in detail the problems connected to the authorship of 2 Peter. I personally have concluded that there is no compelling reason to deny Peter's authorship. Three sources have been helpful in thinking through this issue.

1. Bruce M. Metzger's article "Literary Forgeries and Canonical Pseudepigrapha" in The Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature, 1972, pp. 3-24.

2. Michael J. Kruger's article "The Authenticity of 2 Peter" in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol. 42, No. 4, pp. 645-671.

3. E. M. B. Green's book 2 Peter Reconsidered, Tyndale Press, 1961.

B. As I think about the possibility that 2 Peter was not written by Peter, many things go through my mind.

1. Who wrote 2 Peter does not change my view that it is inspired and trustworthy. Authorship affects hermeneutics, not inspiration, which is a faith presupposition and a documentable historical process.

2. Why am I bothered by pseudonymity? Apparently the first century Greco-Roman world was accustomed to it (Metzger's article).

3. Am I unwilling to allow it because of my own preferences or am I able to honestly evaluate the historical and textual evidence? Has tradition predisposed me to a certain conclusion?

4. The ancient church questioned Peter's authorship, but not the book's message (except the Syrian church). It is an orthodox message in theological unity with other NT books with many affinities to Peter's sermons in Acts.

C. Eusebius used three categories to describe Christian writings:

1. accepted

2. disputed

3. spurious

He included 2 Peter along with James, Jude, 2 John, and 3 John in category 2 (i.e., disputed). Eusebius accepted 1 Peter; had doubts about 2 Peter, and rejected as spurious other supposed writings of Peter (1) the Acts of Peter; (2) the Gospel of Peter; (3) the Preaching of Peter; and (4) the Apocalypse of Peter.


A. This is the most disputed NT book as to traditional authorship.

B. The reasons for these doubts are both internal (its style and content) and external (its late acceptance).


1. Style

a. The style is very different from 1 Peter. This was recognized by Origen and Jerome.

(1) Origen acknowledged that some rejected Peter's authorship, yet he quoted from 2 Peter six times in his writings.

(2) Jerome attributed this to Peter's use of a different scribe. He also acknowledges that some in his day rejected Peter's authorship.

(3) Eusebius addresses this concern in Eccl. His. 2 Peter 3:3:1: "but the so-called second Epistle we have not received as canonical, but nevertheless it has appeared useful to many, and has been studied with other Scripture."

b. The style of 2 Peter is very distinctive. In The Epistle of James, Peter and Jude in the Anchor Bible, pp. 146-147, B. Reicke calls it "Asianism."

"It was called 'Asian' style because its foremost representatives came from Asia Minor, and it was characterized by a loaded, verbose, high-sounding manner of expression leaning toward the novel and bizarre, and careless about violating classic ideals of simplicity. . .Our epistle was undoubtedly written in conformity with the rules of the Asian school which was still important during the first Christian century."

c. It is possible that Peter attempted to write in a language (i.e., Koine Greek) in which he was not fully functional. His mother tongue was Aramaic.

2. Genre

a. Is this a typical first century letter?

(1) it has a typical opening and close

(2) it, however, seems to be a cyclical letter to several churches, like Galatians, Ephesians, James, and 1 John

b. It may be a specialized Jewish genre called "testament," which is characterized by

(1) a farewell discourse

a) Deuteronomy 31-33

b) Joshua 24:0

c) the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs

d) John 13-17

e) Acts 20:17-28

(2) a prediction of imminent death (cf. 2 Peter 2:0 Timothy)

(3) an admonition of his hearers to keep on in his tradition

3. The relation between 2 Peter 2:0 and Jude

a. There has obviously been some literary borrowing.

b. The allusion to non-canonical sources has caused many to reject both Jude and 2 Peter, yet even 1 Peter makes allusion to I Enoch and Paul even quotes Greek poets.

4. The book itself claims to be from Peter the Apostle

a. He is named in 2 Peter 1:1. He is called Symeon Peter. Peter is the name given to him by Jesus (cf. Matthew 16:0). Symeon (not Simon) is rare and unusual. If someone were trying to write in Peter's name the choice of this Semitic spelling is very surprising and counterproductive to pseudonymity.

b. He claims to be an eye-witness to the transfiguration (cf. Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36) in 2 Peter 1:16-18.

c. He claims to have written a first letter (cf. 2 Peter 3:1), which implies 1 Peter.

5. Orthodoxy

a. There is nothing in this letter which contradicts NT Apostolic teaching.

b. There are a few unique items (i.e., world destroyed by fire and Paul's writings seen as Scripture), but nothing gnostic or adoptionistic or obviously heretical.


1. Eusebius lists Christian writings of the first and second centuries in three categories

a. accepted

b. disputed

c. spurious

2 Peter, along with Hebrews, James, 2 and 3 John are listed in the disputed category.

2. 2 Peter does not appear in the Marcion canon (A.D. 154), but Marcion also rejected many other NT books.

3. 2 Peter does not appear in the Muratorian Fragment (A.D. 180-200), but the list seems to be damaged and it also does not list Hebrews, James, or 1 Peter.

4. It was rejected by the Eastern (Syrian) church

a. not in the Peshitta (first half of the fifth century)

b. was included in the Philoxeniana (A.D. 507) from Iraq and the Harclean version (A.D. 616) from north Africa

c. Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia (i.e., leaders of the Antiochian school of interpretation) rejected all the catholic epistles.

5. 2 Peter seems to be quoted in "the Gospel of Truth" and "the Apocryphon of John" found in the Nag Hammadi gnostic texts (cf. The Nag Hammati Gnostic Texts and the Bible by Andrew K. Helmbold, p. 91). These writings in Coptic are translations of earlier Greek texts. If 2 Peter is alluded to then it is impossible for it to have been written in the second century.

6. It is included in P72, dated by the UBS4 (p. 8) as third or fourth century.

7. It is alluded to or quoted by Clement of Rome (A.D. 95)

a. I Clement (9:2 - 2 Peter 1:17)

b. I Clement (23:3 - 2 Peter 3:4)

c. I Clement (35:5 - 2 Peter 2:2)

8. It may be alluded to in Justin Martyr's (A.D. 115-165) Dialogue with Trypho 82:1 - 2 Peter 2:1. These are the only two places in ancient Christian writings where the Greek term pseudoppophetai is used.

9. Irenaeus (A.D. 130-200) possibly alludes to 2 Peter (he is quoted by Eusebius' His. Ecclesiastes 5:2; 2 Peter 3:8 and 3:1:1 - 2 Peter 1:15).

10. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) wrote the first commentary (though it is now lost) on 2 Peter.

11. It appears in Athanasius' Easter letter (A.D. 367), which was a current list of canonical books.

12. It was accepted as canonical by the early church councils of Laodicea (A.D. 372) and Carthage (A.D. 397).

13. It is interesting that other supposed writings of Peter (i.e., the Acts of Peter, the Acts of Andrew and Peter, the Acts of Peter and Paul, Passion of Peter and Paul, the Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Preaching of Peter) were all rejected by the early churches as spurious (i.e., non-inspired).

C. Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (p. 174) makes the comment that 2 Peter may have been Peter writing himself without the use of a scribe (i.e., Silas in 1 Peter 5:12 and John Mark for the Gospel). For evidence he asserts that 1 Peter uses the Septuagint exclusively in OT quotes, but 2 Peter (cf. 2 Peter 2:22) uses the MT of Proverbs 26:11, which denotes a Hebraic background.


A. This depends on authorship.

B. If one is convinced of Peter's authorship then sometime before his death (cf. 2 Peter 1:14).

C. Church tradition asserts that the Apostle Peter died in Rome while Nero was Caesar. Nero instituted persecution towards Christians in A.D. 64. He killed himself in A.D. 68.

D. If a follower of Peter wrote in his name, then a date as late as A.D. 130-150 is possible because 2 Peter is quoted in the Apocalypse of Peter as well as The Gospel of Truth and Apocryphon of John.

E. The renowned American archaeologist W. F. Albright asserts that it was written before A.D. 80 because of its similarities to the Dead Sea Scrolls.


A. If 1 Peter is referred to in 2 Peter 3:1 then the recipients would be the same (i.e., northern Turkey).

B. 2 Peter may be a testimonial to encourage all believers to persevere under trial, resist false teachers, and live faithfully in the gospel tradition in anticipation of the Second Coming.


A. As 1 Peter addresses persecution and suffering, 2 Peter addresses false teachers.

B. The exact nature of the false teaching is uncertain, but it may be related to antinomian gnosticism (cf. 2 Peter 2:1-22; 2 Peter 3:15-18). This book uses technical vocabulary employed by both incipient gnosticism and the mystery religions. This may have been a purposeful apologetic technique attacking their theology.

C. This book, like 2 Thessalonians, addresses the subject of a delayed, but certain, Second Coming, wherein God's children will be glorified and unbelievers judged (cf. 2 Peter 3:3-4). It is interesting that 1 Peter characteristically uses the term apocalupsis to refer to Jesus' return, while 2 Peter uses parousia. This possibly reflects the use of different scribes (i.e., Jerome).

READING CYCLE ONE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Theme of entire book

2. Type of literature (genre)

READING CYCLE TWO (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book a second time at one sitting. Outline the main subjects and express the subject in a single sentence.

1. Subject of first literary unit

2. Subject of second literary unit

3. Subject of third literary unit

4. Subject of fourth literary unit

5. Etc.