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Authenticity and genuineness.—If not a gross imposture, its own internal witness is unequivocal in its favor. It has Peter's name and apostleship in its heading: not only his surname, but his original name Simon, or Simeon, he thus, at the close of his life, reminding his readers who he originally was before his call. Again, in 2Pe 1:16-18, he mentions his presence at the Transfiguration, and Christ's prophecy of his death! and in 2Pe 3:15, his brotherhood with Paul. Again, in 2Pe 3:1, the author speaks of himself as author of the former Epistle: it is, moreover, addressed so as to include (but not to be restricted to) the same persons as the first, whom he presupposes to be acquainted with the writings of Paul, by that time recognized as "Scripture" (2Pe 3:15, "the long-suffering of God," compare Ro 2:4). This necessarily implies a late date, when Paul's Epistles (including Romans) already had become generally diffused and accepted as Scripture in the Church. The Church of the fourth century had, besides the testimony which we have of the doubts of the earlier Christians, other external evidence which we have not, and which, doubtless, under God's overruling providence, caused them to accept it. It is hard to understand how a book palpably false (as it would be if Peter be not the author) could have been accepted in the Canon as finally established in the Councils of Laodicea, A.D. 360 (if the fifty-ninth article be genuine), Hippo, and Carthage in the fourth century (393 and 397). The whole tone and spirit of the Epistle disprove its being an imposture. He writes as one not speaking of himself, but moved by the Holy Ghost (2Pe 1:21). An attempt at such a fraud in the first ages would have brought only shame and suffering, alike from Christians and heathen, on the perpetrator: there was then no temptation to pious frauds as in later times. That it must have been written in the earliest age is plain from the wide gulf in style which separates it and the other New Testament Scriptures from even the earliest and best of the post-apostolic period. Daille well says, "God has allowed a fosse to be drawn by human weakness around the sacred canon to protect it from all invasion."
Traces of acquaintance with it appear in the earliest Fathers. Hermas [Similitudes, 6.4] (compare 2Pe 2:13), Greek, "luxury in the day … luxuriating with their own deceivings"; and [Shepherd, Vision 3.7], "They have left their true way" (compare 2Pe 2:15); and [Shepherd, Vision 4.3], "Thou hast escaped this world" (compare 2Pe 2:20). Clement of Rome, [Epistle to the Corinthians, 7.9; 10], as to Noah's preaching and Lot's deliverance, "the Lord making it known that He does not abandon those that trust in Him, but appoints those otherwise inclined to judgment" (compare 2Pe 2:5, 6, 7, 9). Irenæus, A.D. 178 ("the day of the Lord is as a thousand years"), and Justin Martyr seem to allude to 2Pe 3:8. Hippolytus [On Antichrist], seems to refer to 2Pe 1:21, "The prophets spake not of their own private (individual) ability and will, but what was (revealed) to them alone by God." The difficulty is, neither Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, nor the oldest Syriac (Peschito) version (the later Syriac has it), nor the fragment known as Muratori's Canon, mentions it. The first writer who has expressly named it is Origen, in the third century (Homily on Joshua; also Homily 4 on Leviticus, and Homily 13 on Numbers), who names it "Scripture," quoting 2Pe 1:4; 2:16; however (in Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 6.25]), he mentions that the Second Epistle was doubted by some. Firmilian, bishop of Cappadocia, in Epistle to Cyrpian speaks of Peter's Epistles as warning us to avoid heretics (a monition which occurs in the Second, not the First Epistle). Now Cappadocia is one of the countries mentioned (compare 1Pe 1:1 with 2Pe 3:1) as addressed; and it is striking, that from Cappadocia we get the earliest decisive testimony. "Internally it claims to be written by Peter, and this claim is confirmed by the Christians of that very region in whose custody it ought to have been found" [Tregelles].
The books disputed (Antilegomena), as distinguished from those universally recognized (Homologoumena), are Epistles Second Peter, James, Second and Third John, Jude, the Apocalypse, Epistle to Hebrews (compare Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 3.3,25]). The Antilegomena stand in quite a different class from the Spurious; of these there was no dispute, they were universally rejected; for example, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Revelation of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas. Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 348) enumerates seven Catholic Epistles, including Second Peter; so also Gregory Nazianzen (A.D. 389), and Epiphanius (A.D. 367). The oldest Greek manuscripts extant (of the fourth century) contain the Antilegomena. Jerome [On Illustrious Men], conjectured, from a supposed difference of style between the two Epistles, that Peter, being unable to write Greek, employed a different translator of his Hebrew dictation in the Second Epistle, and not the same as translated the First into Greek. Mark is said to have been his translator in the case of the Gospel according to Mark; but this is all gratuitous conjecture. Much of the same views pervade both Epistles. In both alike he looks for the Lord's coming suddenly, and the end of the world (compare 2Pe 3:8-10 with 1Pe 4:5); the inspiration of the prophets (compare 1Pe 1:10-12 with 2Pe 1:19-21; 3:2); the new birth by the divine word a motive to abstinence from worldly lusts (1Pe 1:22; 2:2; compare 2Pe 1:4); also compare 1Pe 2:9 with 2Pe 1:3, both containing in the Greek the rare word "virtue" (1Pe 4:17 with 2Pe 2:3).
It is not strange that distinctive peculiarities of STYLE should mark each Epistle, the design of both not being the same. Thus the sufferings of Christ are more prominent in the First Epistle, the object there being to encourage thereby Christian sufferers; the glory of the exalted Lord is more prominent in the Second, the object being to communicate fuller "knowledge" of Him as the antidote to the false teaching against which Peter warns his readers. Hence His title of redemption, "Christ," is the one employed in the First Epistle; but in the Second Epistle, "the Lord." Hope is characteristic of the First Epistle; full knowledge, of the Second Epistle. In the First Epistle he puts his apostolic authority less prominently forward than in the Second, wherein his design is to warn against false teachers. The same difference is observable in Paul's Epistles. Contrast 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1; Php 1:1, with Ga 1:1; 1Co 1:1. The reference to Paul's writings as already existing in numbers, and as then a recognized part of Scripture (2Pe 3:15, 16), implies that this Epistle was written at a late date, just before Peter's death.
Striking verbal coincidences occur: compare 1Pe 1:19, end, with 2Pe 3:14, end; "His own," Greek, 2Pe 1:3, 2Pe 2:16; 3:17 with 1Pe 3:1, 5. The omission of the Greek article, 1Pe 2:13 with 2Pe 1:21; 2:4, 5, 7. Moreover, two words occur, 2Pe 1:13, "tabernacle," that is, the body, and 2Pe 1:15, "decease," which at once remind us of the transfiguration narrative in the Gospel. Both Epistles refer to the deluge, and to Noah as the eighth that was saved. Though the First Epistle abounds in quotations of the Old Testament, whereas the Second contains none, yet references to the Old Testament occur often (2Pe 1:21; 2:5-8, 15; 3:5, 6, 10, 13). Compare Greek, "putting away," 1Pe 3:21, with 2Pe 1:14; Greek, "pass the time," 1Pe 1:17, with 2Pe 2:18; "walked in," 1Pe 4:3, with 2Pe 2:10; 3:3; "called you," 1Pe 1:15; 2:9; 5:10, with 2Pe 1:3.
Moreover, more verbal coincidences with the speeches of Peter in Acts occur in this Second, than in the First Epistle. Compare Greek, "obtained," 2Pe 1:1 with Ac 1:17; Greek, "godliness," 2Pe 1:6, with Ac 3:12, the only passage where the term occurs, except in the Pastoral Epistles; and 2Pe 2:9 with Ac 10:2, 7; "punished," 2Pe 2:9, with Ac 4:21, the only places where the term occurs; the double genitive, 2Pe 3:2, with Ac 5:32; "the day of the Lord," 2Pe 3:10, with Ac 2:20, where only it occurs, except in 1Th 5:2.
The testimony of Jude, Jude 17, 18, is strong for its genuineness and inspiration, by adopting its very words, and by referring to it as received by the churches to which he, Jude, wrote, "Remember the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts." Jude, therefore, must have written after Second Peter, to which he plainly refers; not before, as Alford thinks. No less than eleven passages of Jude rest on similar statements of Second Peter. Jude 2, compare 2Pe 1:2; Jude 4, compare 2Pe 2:1; Jude 6, compare 2Pe 2:4; Jude 7, compare 2Pe 2:6; Jude 8, compare 2Pe 2:10; Jude 9, compare 2Pe 2:11; Jude 11, compare 2Pe 2:15; Jude 12, compare 2Pe 2:17; Jude 16, compare 2Pe 2:18; Jude 18, compare 2Pe 2:1; 3:3. Just in the same way Micah, Mic 4:1-4, leans on the somewhat earlier prophecy of Isaiah, whose inspiration he thereby confirms. Alford reasons that because Jude, in many of the passages akin to Second Peter, is fuller than Second Peter, he must be prior. This by no means follows. It is at least as likely, if not more so, that the briefer is the earlier, rather than the fuller. The dignity and energy of the style is quite consonant to what we should expect from the prompt and ardent foreman of the apostles. The difference of style between First and Second Peter accords with the distinctness of the subjects and objects.
The date, from what has been said, would be about A.D. 68 or 69, about a year after the first, and shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, the typical precursor of the world's end, to which 2Pe 3:10-13 so solemnly calls attention, after Paul's ministry had closed (compare Greek aorist tense, "wrote," past time, 2Pe 3:15), just before Peter's own death. It was written to include the same persons, and perhaps in, or about the same place, as the first. Being without salutations of individuals, and entrusted to the care of no one church, or particular churches as the first is, but directed generally "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us" (2Pe 1:1), it took a longer time in being recognized as canonical. Had Rome been the place of its composition or publication, it could hardly have failed to have had an early acceptance—an incidental argument against the tradition of Peter's martyrdom at Rome. The remote scene of its composition in Babylon, or else in some of the contiguous regions beyond the borders of the Roman empire, and of its circulation in Cappadocia, Pontus, &c., will additionally account for its tardy but at last universal acceptance in the catholic Church. The former Epistle, through its more definite address, was earlier in its general acceptance.
Object.—In 2Pe 3:17, 18 the twofold design of the Epistle is set forth; namely, to guard his readers against "the error" of false teachers, and to exhort them to grow in experimental "knowledge of our Lord and Saviour" (2Pe 3:18). The ground on which this knowledge rests is stated, 2Pe 1:12-21, namely, the inspired testimony of apostles and prophets. The danger now, as of old, was about to arise from false teachers, who soon were to come among them, as Paul also (to whom reference is made, 2Pe 3:15, 16) testified in the same region. The grand antidote is "the full knowledge of our Lord and Saviour," through which we know God the Father, partake of His nature, escape from the pollutions of the world, and have entrance into Christ's kingdom. The aspect of Christ presented is not so much that of the past suffering, as of the future reigning, Saviour, His present power, and future new kingdom. This aspect is taken as best fitted to counteract the theories of the false teachers who should "deny" His Lordship and His coming again, the two very points which, as an apostle and eye-witness, Peter attests (His "power" and His "coming"); also, to counteract their evil example in practice, blaspheming the way of truth, despising governments, slaves to covetousness and filthy lusts of the flesh, while boasting of Christian freedom, and, worst of all, apostates from the truth. The knowledge of Christ, as being the knowledge of "the way of righteousness," "the right way," is the antidote of their bad practice. Hence "the preacher" of righteousness, Noah, and "righteous Lot," are instanced as escaping the destruction which overtook the "unjust" or "unrighteous"; and Balaam is instanced as exemplifying the awful result of "unrighteousness" such as characterized the false teachers. Thus the Epistle forms one connected whole, the parts being closely bound together by mutual relation, and the end corresponding with the beginning; compare 2Pe 3:14, 18 with 2Pe 1:2, in both "grace" and "peace" being connected with "the knowledge" of our Saviour; compare also 2Pe 3:17 with 2Pe 1:4, 10, 12; and 2Pe 3:18, "grow in grace and knowledge," with the fuller 2Pe 1:5-8; and 2Pe 2:21; and 2Pe 3:13, "righteousness," with 2Pe 1:1; and 2Pe 3:1 with 2Pe 1:13; and 2Pe 3:2 with 2Pe 1:19.
The germs of Carpocratian and Gnostic heresies already existed, but the actual manifestation of these heresies is spoken of as future (2Pe 2:1, 2, &c.): another proof that this Epistle was written, as it professes, in the apostolic age, before the development of the Gnostic heresies in the end of the first and the beginning of the second centuries. The description is too general to identify the heresies with any particular one of the subsequent forms of heresy, but applies generally to them all.
Though altogether distinct in aim from the First Epistle, yet a connection may be traced. The neglect of the warnings to circumspection in the walk led to the evils foretold in the Second Epistle. Compare the warning against the abuse of Christian freedom, 1Pe 2:16 with 2Pe 2:19, "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption"; also the caution against pride, 1Pe 5:5, 6 with 2Pe 2:18, "they speak great swelling words of vanity."
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