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- 2 Peter
by Editor - Joseph Exell
1. GENUINENESS OF THE EPISTLE.
1. External Evidence.
IN considering the genuineness of this Epistle we are confronted at once with the well-known words of Eusebius. He says, in his 'Ecclesiastical History,' which seems to have been finished in A.D. 325, "One Epistle of Peter, which is called the first, is accepted; and this the presbyters of old have used in their writings as undoubted. But that which is circulated as his Second Epistle we have received to be not canonical. Nevertheless, as it appeared to many to be useful, it has been diligently read with the other Scriptures" (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 3:3). In the same chapter he says that he knows only one genuine Epistle among the writings attributed to St. Peter; and in book 3:25 he classes the Second Epistle with those of James and Jude, as "disputed, indeed, but known to most men."
There are no direct quotations from this Epistle in the Christian writings of the first two centuries; there are, however, some scattered allusions which seem to imply acquaintance with it. Thus Clement of Rome, in his 'Epistle to the Corinthians,' written about A.D. 100, says (chapter 23.), "Let that Scripture be far from us where it says, Wretched are the double-minded,... who say, These things we heard even in the time of our fathers, and, behold, we have grown old, and none of these things has happened to us." The same passage is quoted with slight differences in the so-called second epistle of Clement, where it is introduced with the words, "For also the prophetic word (ὁ προφητικοÌς λοìγος) says." Clement seems to have had in his mind recollections of chapter 3:4 and James 1:8. The words of the second epistle (written, perhaps, about the middle of the second century) remind us also of 2 Peter 1:19 (τοÌν προφητικοÌν λοìγον). The remainder of the passage, as quoted in 1 Clement 23, and 2 Clement 11, is quite different from St. Peter. It is therefore possible that Clement may be quoting some apocryphal writing; but it is at least probable that he is mixing together reminiscences of James 1:8 and chapter 3:4, with additions derived from some unknown source. The early Fathers were accustomed to give the sense, not the exact words, of their citations, often, it seems, quoting from memory; but even if we suppose that the passage was borrowed immediately from some unknown writer, it remains probable that that writer, older than Clement or contemporary with him, was acquainted with this Epistle. The μεγαλοπρεπηÌς δοìξα of 1 Clement 9. looks like a recollection of the same remarkable words in 2 Peter 1:17. It is also probable that in 1 Clement 7 and 9 there is a reference to 2 Peter 2:5, and in 1 Clement 12 Peter 2:6-9; 2 Peter 2:6-9. In the 'Shepherd of Hermas' there are three or four apparent allusions to this Epistle. Thus the words, τη῀ς τρυφη῀ς καιÌ τη῀ς ἀπαìτης ὁ χροìνος ὡìρα ἐστιÌ μιìα ('Sim.,' 6:4) remind us of chapter 2:13. So in 'Vis.,' 3:7, I the words, "Who... have forsaken the true way," may be an echo of chapter 2:15, and "Ye who have escaped the world" ('Vis.,' 4:3.2), of chapter 2:20. Justin Martyr says, in controversy with the Jew Trypho, "As there were false prophets in the time of your holy prophets, so now there are many false teachers among us," in which words there seems to be a reminiscence of chapter 2:1. In the same book he says, "The day of the Lord is as a thousand years," which may be suggested by Psalms 90:4, but more nearly resembles chapter 3:8 — a passage to which possible allusions occur in the epistle ascribed to Barnabas, in Irenaeus, and Hippolytus.
In the Apology addressed to Antoninus by Melito of Sardis, about A.D. 170, there is a passage which closely resembles 2 Peter 3:5-7. Irenaeus also speaks of the conflagration of the universe as a "diluvium ignis;" and it may be noted, as at least a remarkable coincidence, that in speaking of the death of St. Peter he has the same word, ἐìξοδος, which is used in chapter 1:15. In the writings of Theophilus of Antioch, who wrote about the same time, there is a possible allusion to chapter 1:19, and an almost certain reference to 2 Peter 1:21, "Men of God, moved by the Holy Ghost, and becoming prophets, inspired and made wise by God himself, became taught of God" ('Ad Autolycam,' 2:9).
Eusebius tells us ('Hist. Eccl.,' 6:14) that Clement of Alexandria wrote expositions, not only of the canonical Scriptures, bat also of the disputed books, as the Epistle of Jude and the remaining Catholic Epistles. Some doubt is thrown upon this assertion by some contradictory statements of Cassiodorus; but, on the whole, it seems probable that the Second Epistle of St. Peter was known to the great master of the catechetical school.
Hippolytus of Portus, who wrote about A.D. 9.20, has a passage which seems to be an expansion of 2 Peter 1:20. He says ('De Antechristo,' c. 2) that "the prophets spoke not of their own power, nor did they preach what they themselves wished; but first they were gifted with wisdom through the Word, then were well instructed about the future through visions." And in another place he speaks of the "wicked angels chained in Tartarus as punishment for their sins" ('Adv. Haer.,' 10:30). Origen, who died A.D. 253, was certainly acquainted with both the Epistles of St. Peter. He is quoted by Eusebius ('Hist. Eccl.,' 6:26) as saying, "Peter has left one acknowledged Epistle: let it be granted that he left also a second, for this is disputed." In the 'Homilies,' which we have only in the Latin translation of Rufinus, he thrice mentions the Second Epistle: "Peter sounds forth with the two trumpets of his Epistles" (Hom. 7. on Joshua); "And again Peter says, Ye have been made partakers of the Divine nature" (Hom. 4. on Leviticus); "As the Scripture saith in a certain place, A dumb animal, answering with human voice, forbade the madness of the prophet". But there are no quotations from the Epistle in his extant Greek works, and he twice speaks of the First Epistle as the Catholic Epistle of Peter.
Firmilian, Bishop of the Cappadocian Caesarea, has a clear allusion to this Epistle. He speaks of "Peter and Paul, the blessed apostles,... who execrated heretics in their Epistles, and warned us to avoid them." There is no passage in the First Epistle of St. Peter to which these words can refer. Athanasius and Cyril of Jerusalem accepted all the seven Catholic Epistles as canonical.
After the time of Eusebius the Epistle seems to have been generally received. Doubts were occasionally expressed, as by Gregory of Nazianzen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who is said to have rejected both Epistles. Jerome writes, in a well-known passage, "Scripsit (Petrus) duas epistolas quae Catholicae nominantur, quarum secunda a plerisque ejus esse negatur propter still cum priors dissonantiam." In another place, however, he explains the difference of style by supposing that the apostle had used different interpreters. He contributed largely to the general acceptance of the Epistle by including it in his own Latin translation; and from his time the doubts of its authenticity seem to have rapidly disappeared.
The Epistle is not in the Peschito, or Old Syriac, Version, but it was received by Ephrem Syrus, and is contained in the Philoxenian, or Later Syriac. It is not in the Old Latin, which was used before the time of Jerome. It is not mentioned in the Muratorian Canon; but that fragment omits also the First Epistle, which was universally accepted.
The Second Epistle of St. Peter was recognized as canonical by the Councils of Laodicaea, Hippo (393), and Carthage (397). Laodicaea, we must remember, was one of the Churches of that Roman province of Asia to which (among other countries of Asia Minor) St. Peter's Epistles were addressed. It is probable that a much larger amount of ancient testimony than we now possess was within the reach of the Fathers of these Councils. They appear to have exercised great care and discrimination. They excluded some writings from the canon which had been read in Churches and classed with the Scriptures, as the 'First Epistle of Clement' and the 'Epistle of Barnabas.' We cannot but believe that they had the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the performance of their difficult and momentous duty. We attach, therefore, very great weight to their judgment. At the same time, it must be admitted that, apart from their authority, the external evidence for our Epistle, though considerable, cannot be regarded as entirely convincing.
2. Internal Evidence.
We come next to the evidence which may be derived from the Epistle itself. It has been urged against its genuineness:
(1) That the writer labours to identify himself with the apostle in a manner forced and unnatural.
(2) That the reference to St. Paul in chapter 3:15, 16 is not such as might be expected from St. Peter.
(3) That, as Jerome had long ago remarked, there is a striking still dissonantia between the two Epistles.
(4) That the key-note of the Epistle and its leading thoughts differ widely from those of the First Epistle.
(5) That the relation between the second chapter and the Epistle of St. Jude is perplexing, and suggests doubts as to the apostolic authority of the writers.
(6) That the resemblances between this Epistle and certain passages in Josephus is so close as to show that the writer must have been acquainted with works which were not published till after the death of St. Peter.
It will be convenient to discuss these points in order.
(1) The writer of the Epistle calls himself "Symeon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ." In chapter 1:14 he refers to the Lord's prophecy concerning the death of St. Peter in John 21:18, John 21:19. In verses 16-18 of the same chapter he tells his readers that he was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration, and heard the voice that was borne from heaven: he calls the scene of that great sight "the holy mount." In chapter 3:1 he [refers to the First Epistle; and in chapter 3:2, according to the received text, he again asserts his apostleship.
It has been urged that the double name, Symeon Peter, betrays an anxiety on the part of the writer to identify himself with the apostle; the apostle would simply say Peter, as he does in the First Epistle. But, on the other hand, it is altogether improbable that an imitator would vary the form of address. An unknown Christian, wishing to assume the personality of the great apostle, would not begin at once with a change so unnecessary, so sure to excite questionings. A man uses his own name with a certain freedom: sometimes he writes it in full; sometimes he uses initials; sometimes, if he has several names, he omits some of them. The variation, if it surprises us a little in the apostle, would surprise us much more in the case of an imitator. It is rather, as far as it goes, a point in favour of the authenticity of the Epistle.
The reference in 2 Peter 1:14 to the interview with our Lord described in John 21:15-22 is sometimes compared with the reminiscence of the same interview in 1 Peter 5:2. The last, it is said, is unconscious — it comes from the fullness of the heart; while the direct assertion of chapter 1:14 is in the manner of a falsarius. But this, surely, is hypercriticism. St. Peter, when standing before the Sanhedrin, asserted his personal knowledge of the great facts of the gospel (Acts 4:20), much as he does in this Epistle. Apostles, like other men, may sometimes relate at length events of their previous history, sometimes make allusions to them. In this very chapter there are two such unconscious reminiscences. The use of the word "tabernacle" in verses 13 and 14 reminds us of St. Peter's suggestion, "Let us make three tabernacles;" and the word ἐìξοδος occurs in the sense of "decease" nowhere in the New Testament except in chapter 1:15 and in St. Luke's account of the Transfiguration. These two allusions are exactly in the manner of the First Epistle. Compare also the unconscious adoption of Christ's words in 2 Peter 2:20; the reference in 2 Peter 3:10 to Matthew 24:43; the apparent reminiscence of Matthew 7:6 in 2 Peter 2:22, and of Matthew 25:46 (κοìλασις) in the use of the word κολαζομεìνους in 2 Peter 2:9. Surely neither the assertions of 2 Peter 1:14-18, nor those of 1 John 1:1-3 give the very slightest reason for doubting the genuineness of either Epistle.
The same may be said of the account of the Transfiguration; there also we find minute evidences of Petrine authorship. The change of number from the singular in verse 14 to the plural in verses 16, 18 may well come from an unconscious recollection that, while the Lord's words recorded in John 21:18 were spoken to St. Peter only, two other apostles were witnesses of the Transfiguration. And we may regard it as certain that a falsarius of the second century would have quoted the words of the voice from heaven exactly as they are given in one of the synoptic Gospels, which were then well known. The description of the scene of the Transfiguration as "the holy mount," doubtless implies that the Epistle was written in the later apostolic period, when the leading facts of the gospel history were generally known among Christians. But it cannot be fairly insisted on as an argument for a post-apostolic date. Why should not the mount of the Transfiguration be regarded as a holy place by the early Christians as Mount Sinai was by the ancient Israelites?
In 2 Peter 3:2 the true reading seems to be ὑμω῀ν, so that St. Peter may be understood as confirming by his apostolic authority the teaching of St. Paul, as he does in verse 15 of the same chapter, and in 1 Peter 1:12, 1 Peter 1:25; and, as some think, in 1 Peter 5:12. But, even if the reading of the received text is retained, there is no reason why the assertion of apostleship should be regarded as an indication of a non-Petrine authorship, any more than the assumption of the title, "an apostle of Jesus Christ," in both Epistles. St. Paul often asserts his apostleship: why should not St. Peter do the like?
(2) Another objection is drawn from the reference to St. Paul in chapter 3:15, 16. One apostle, it is urged, would not be likely to give his imprimatur to the writings of another; he would not speak in this way of the difficulties in them; he would not class them with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Again we ask, Why not? It seems a very natural thing that an apostle, writing at a time when some at least of St. Paul's Epistles had become generally known, should refer to writings of such importance. St. Peter's first letter is full of references to St. Paul's Epistles, though the apostle is not mentioned by name. And there may have been good reasons. We know that St. Paul's authority had been questioned in the Churches of Galatia; St. Peter may have thought it desirable to support that authority. We know that St. Paul's teaching had sometimes been misrepresented; St. Peter may have thought it necessary to warn his readers against hasty conclusions from difficult parts of that teaching. St. Paul himself had done the like in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, in Romans 3:8, and elsewhere. Nor is there any reason to be startled at the application of the word "Scripture" to the Epistles of St. Paul. St. Paul again and again asserts his own inspiration; he says that he received the gospel "by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:12); he tells the Corinthians that the spiritual' among them will understand that the things which he writes "are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:37; see also 1 Corinthians 5:3, 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:13); he applies the word "Scripture" to what seems to be a quotation from the Gospel of St. Luke (1 Timothy 5:18). St. Peter himself, in his First Epistle (1 Peter 1:12), classes "them that have preached the gospel unto you," of whom St. Paul was the chief, with the prophets of the Old Testament. The only inference to be fairly drawn is that, at the date of this Epistle, some of the writings of the New Testament were generally known among Christians, and were accepted among them as sacred books, of equal authority with the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
(3) Undoubtedly, there is a difference of style. The style of both Epistles is nervous and energetic; in both there is an abundance of unusual words; there is an obvious fondness for striking and picturesque expressions, as well as for mysterious subjects. These characteristics, common to both Epistles, are more marked in the second than in the first; the style is here and there more rugged, the rare words are more startling; we meet here and there with anacohtha and strange participial connections. The connecting particles commonly used in the First Epistle appear rarely in the second; we notice also, as a peculiarity of the Second Epistle, a remarkable tendency to repeat a word three or four times. The style of the Second Epistle is perhaps, as a rule, less Hebraistic; while in some parts the Greek seems more classical and more periodic than that of the first. But these differences can be accounted for. The First Epistle was written calmly. It is a treatise rather than a letter; it was intended to arm the Christians of Asia Minor against the coming sufferings, to console them, to remind them of the high-privileges and blessed hope of their heavenly calling. It is the thoughtful production of a man writing deliberately. The Second Epistle is a more hasty composition; the effect is produced by a few bold, hurried strokes. The apostle, it seems, bad heard of the errors of the false teachers; they had already done much harm; they were beginning their evil work in Asia Minor. Perhaps St. Jude's Epistle was put into St. Peter's hands; he flashed into something of his old passionate impetuosity. St. Jude's burning words fixed themselves upon his memory, and gave their own colour to the diction of the whole Epistle. This hypothesis is, to say the least, not improbable. St. Peter had read the Epistle of St. James and some of those of St. Paul; these writings had considerable influence upon the thought and style of the First Epistle. Is it not possible that a subsequent perusal of St. Jude's Epistle may not only have given him fresh information, but may have communicated something of its fire and something of its own peculiar character to his impressionable mind? There is a strongly marked difference of style between the preface of St. Luke's Gospel and the narrative which follows. The preface is in the ordinary style of the writer; the narrative took its colour from the Aramaic documents which he consulted, or from the Aramaic language of the persons who related to him the events of which they had been eye-witnesses.
It is possible, as St. Jerome suggests, that the difference of style between the two Epistles of St. Peter may have arisen from the employment of different interpreters. But there does not seem to be much ground for the hypothesis that St. Peter wrote originally in Aramaic, or dictated his letters to an interpreter. Galilee was a half-Greek country; Peter's own brother bore a Greek name; it is probable that the family always spoke Greek as well as Aramaic. It is scarcely possible that St. Peter could have been ignorant of Greek towards the end of a life of which much had been spent away from Palestine.
We must remember also that the Epistles, especially the second, are short compositions; they furnish us with scarcely sufficient data to enable us to form an authoritative decision on a question so complicated and so delicate as that of style. Thus one commentator says that the Greek of the First Epistle is better than that of the second; another, also a good scholar, pronounces in favour of the Second Epistle as more classical and less Hebraistic than the first.
But if there is a difference, there are also many points of resemblance. We have said that the style of both Epistles is lively and picturesque; in both there are many words which occur nowhere else in the New Testament. Attention will be drawn to them in the notes; but it is, perhaps, desirable for readier comparison to note some of the moss remarkable of them here. In the First Epistle we have ἀναγεννηìσας (1 Peter 1:3), ἀμαìραντος (1 Peter 1:4), ἀνεκλαλητοìς (1 Peter 1:8), ἀναζωσαìμενοι (1 Peter 1:13), πατροπαραìδοτος (1 Peter 1:18), ἀρτιγεìννητος and ἀìδολος (1 Peter 2:2), ἱεραìτευμα (1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9), ἐποπτευìω (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:2), ὑπολιμπαìνω ανδ ὑπογραμμοìς (1 Peter 2:21), μωìλωψ (1 Peter 2:24), ἐμπλοκηì and ἐìνδυσις (1 Peter 3:3), οἰνοφλυγιìα (1 Peter 4:3), ἀναìχυσις (1 Peter 4:4), ἀλλοτριοεπισκοìπος (1 Peter 4:15), ἀμαραντιìνος (1 Peter 5:4) ἐγκομβωìσασθε (1 Peter 5:5), ἀρχιποιìμην (1 Peter 5:4) ὠρυοìμενος (1 Peter 5:8), συνεκλεκτοìς (1 Peter 5:13).
Among the remarkable words of the Second Epistle are ἰσοìτιμος (2 Peter 1:1), ἐπαìγγελμα (2 Peter 1:4), παρεισενεìγκαντες (2 Peter 1:5), μνωπαìζων (2 Peter 1:9), ταχινοìς (2 Peter 1:14; 2 Peter 2:1), ἐποìτης (2 Peter 1:16), διαυγαìζω αὐχμηροìς φωσφοìρος (2 Peter 1:19), ἐπιìλυσις (2 Peter 1:20), ἐìκπαλαι (2 Peter 2:3; 2 Peter 3:5), πλαστοìς (2 Peter 2:3), ταρταρωìσας and σειροι῀ς or σειραι῀ς (2 Peter 2:4), τεφρωìσας (2 Peter 2:6), ἀìθεσμος (2 Peter 2:7; 2 Peter 3:17), βλεìμμα (2 Peter 2:8), μιασμοìς (2 Peter 2:10), τολμηταιì (2 Peter 2:10), μω῀μος and ἐντρυφαìω (2 Peter 2:13), ἀστηìρικτος (2 Peter 2:14; 2 Peter 3:16), ἀκαταìπαυστος (2 Peter 2:14), παραφρονιìα and ἐìλεγξις (2 Peter 2:16), ἐξεìραμα, κυìλισμα, and βοìρβορος (2 Peter 2:22), ἐμπαιγμονηì (2 Peter 3:3), ῥοιζηδοìν (2 Peter 3:10), καυσοìω (2 Peter 3:10, 2 Peter 3:12), δυσνοìητος and στρεβλου῀σιν (2 Peter 3:16), στηριγμοìς (2 Peter 3:17).
Forty-eight ἁìπαξ λεγοìμενα have been counted in the Second Epistle, fifty-eight in the first. Thus the use of unusual words is characteristic of both Epistles; one or two in the second, as especially ταρταρωìσας, may be stranger and more startling than any in the first; but this may be accidental (there are but a few such), or it may be due to the difference in subject; and surely an imitator in the second century would be far more likely to copy some of the more uncommon words of the First Epistle, than to show an amount of literary skill which we cannot attribute to any Christian writer of that period, by catching the manner of St. Peter without anything like a servile reproduction of his expressions.
But although there is no direct imitation, there are words and phrases which occur also in the First Epistle or in St. Peter's speeches as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, sufficient in number and importance to form an element in estimating the genuineness of our Epistle. Thus, in the first chapter, the words ἰσοìτιμος of verse 1 and τιìμα of verse 3 remind us of the τιìμιος of 1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 1:19. The salutation of verse 2 corresponds exactly with that of the First Epistle. In verse 3 we have the word ἀρετηì (a very unusual word in the New Testament) ascribed in a very remarkable way to God himself, as in 1 Peter 2:9. In verse 5 the word ἐπιχορηγηìσατε points back to the χορηγει῀ of 1 Peter 4:11. In verse 7 we have the φιλαδελφιìα which we have already met with in 1 Peter 1:22 and __2 Peter __3:8. In verse 14 the ἀποìθεσις του῀ σκηνωìματοìς brings to our memory the words of 1 Peter 3:21, σαρκοÌς ἀποìθεσις ῥυìπου. In verse 16 ἐποìπται reminds us of the ἐποπτευìοντες of 1 Peter 2:12. In the first verse of the second chapter the use of the verb ἀγοραìζειν reminds us of the description of the redeeming work of Christ in 1 Peter 1:18. In verse 4 the words εἰς κριìσιν τετηρημεìνους turn our thoughts to 1 Peter 1:4, where the heavenly inheritance is said to be τετηρημεìνην ἐν οὐρανοι῀ς εἰς υμα῀ς. In verse 7 we have the word ἀσεìλγεια, which occurs also in 1 Peter 4:3. In verse 14 καταìρας τεìκνα reminds us of the τεìκνα ὑπακοη῀ς of 1 Peter 1:14, and ἀκαταπαυìστους ἁμαρτιìας of the πεìπαυται ἁμαρτιìας of 1 Peter 4:1. In 2 Peter 3:3 the words, ἀπ ἐσχαìτων τω῀ν ἡμερω῀ν, remind us of the ἐπ ἐσχαìτου τω῀ν χροìνων of 1 Peter 1:20, and in verse 14 the exhortation to be found, ἀìσπιλοι καιÌ ἀμωìητοι, points back to the "Lamb without blemish and without spot (ἀμωìμπυ καιÌ ἀσπιìλου)" of 1 Peter 1:19. The use of the word ἰìδιος (1 Peter 3:1, 1 Peter 3:5; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 2:16; 2 Peter 3:17) and the frequent omission of the article may also be noticed as points of similarity between the two Epistles: ἀναστροφηì, conversation, and the cognate verb, are favourite words in both. Again, the verb λαγχαìνειν in chapter 1:1 reminds us of St. Peter's use of the word in the same sense in Acts 1:17 (the only two New Testament passages in which the word occurs in this meaning). The somewhat uncommon word εὐσεìβεια in 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:6, 2 Peter 1:7, and 3:11, recalls the same word in St. Peter's speech in Acts 3:12. The "cleansing from his old sins" of chapter 1:9 seems to point back to the baptism "for the remission of sins" preached by St. Peter, Acts 2:38. The word φεροìμενος of chapter 1:21, which we find also in 1 Peter 1:13, occurs in Acts 2:2, in the description of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost, when St. Peter preached his great sermon. In 2 Peter 2:1 St. Peter says that the false teachers denied the Lord that bought them; he had used the same word ἀρνει῀σθαι, to deny (that word to him so full of solemn memories), twice in the speech in Acts 3:0 (verses 13, 14). The words of chapter 2:13, "to riot in the daytime," recall Acts 2:15. The μισθοÌς τη῀ς ἀδικιìας of chapter 2:15 is found in St. Peter's speech in Acts 1:18. The Lord Jesus is called the "Saviour" five times in this Epistle; St. Peter had described him as "a Prince and a Saviour" in his speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:31).
On the whole, while we recognize the existence of that dissonance of style which was noticed long ago by St. Jerome, there are also many points of resemblance, and the difference is not greater than can be accounted for. The two Epistles were separated by an interval of, perhaps, two or three years; the occasion and subject matter are different; the apostle seems to have incorporated into the second chapter the substance of another writing which may have tinged the style of the whole Epistle; and it is at least possible, as St. Jerome suggests, that St. Peter may have used the services of different interpreters.
(4) The leading thoughts of the Second Epistle are not those of the first. The key-note of the First Epistle is hope; that of the second is knowledge (ἐπιìγνωσις). The First Epistle directs our thoughts to the great events in the life of Christ, — his sufferings, death, his descent into Hades, his resurrection and ascension. It dwells on the doctrines of grace, the new birth, the atonement; it enforces the necessity of patient endurance in view of the coming persecutions, the duty of loyal obedience to rulers, the blessedness of humility; it asserts the priesthood of all true Christians; it represents the Church as a spiritual temple, in which individual believers are living stones. It is full of the Old Testament; there is an abundance of quotations from Isaiah, the Proverbs, the Psalms; there are constant reminiscences of the Epistle of St. James, and some of St. Paul's Epistles, especially those to the Romans and Ephesians. The Second Epistle is very different; it does not dwell on the great events and doctrines insisted upon in the First Epistle. There are no certain quotations from the Old Testament, or from St. Paul. But the difference of purpose is quite sufficient to account for these differences of treatment. The false teachers and the scoffers are the most prominent figures in the Second Epistle; the writer's mind is full of the dangers to be apprehended from them. The full knowledge (ἐπιìγνωσις). Of our Lord Jesus Christ is the best safeguard against these dangers; therefore knowledge is the apostle's leading topic now, as hope was when his object was to comfort and support his suffering brethren. There are, however, points of contact between the Epistles. In both great stress is laid on ancient prophecy, as also in St. Peter's speeches recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. In both the end of all things is a prominent thought. St. Peter, in 2 Peter 3:12, speaks of Christians as not only "looking for," but also "hasting" the coming of the day of God; he had long before expressed the same remarkable conception in his speech (Acts 3:19, Acts 3:20). An imitator would not have been likely to vary the apostle's expression; he would not have adopted the form parousia, or "day of the Lord," in describing what is called the "Revelation of Jesus Christ," or "the end of all things," in the First Epistle; he would probably have met the taunts of the scoffers rather by maintaining that the day of the Lord was close at hand (after the manner of 1 Peter 4:7), than by giving reasons for its apparent delay. Again, we have the doctrine of election in both Epistles, and in both the necessity of holiness in heart and life is earnestly pressed upon the readers; both Epistles draw attention to the warnings of the Deluge and the fewness of the saved; both dwell on the long-suffering of God; both regard the history and privileges of God's ancient people as typical of the temptations and blessings of Christians. The "sinful angels "of the Second Epistle, in pits or chains of darkness, remind us of the "spirits in prison" of 1 Peter. The Lord preached (ἐκηìρυξε) to those spirits (1 Peter 3:19): Noah was a preacher (κη῀ρυξ) of righteousness to the men of Sodom (2 Peter 2:5). And if the writer of the Second Epistle does not dwell upon those great facts of our Lord's life which are mentioned in the first, as an imitator would have done, he does dwell upon another, the Transfiguration. If he does not quote verbally from the Old Testament, he directs his readers' attention to the word of prophecy, and his thoughts are full of Old Testament examples, "the false prophets among the people" (2 Peter 2:1), Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, Balaam; while he has two apparent references to the Old Testament in 2 Peter 2:22 and 3:8. If he does not quote St. Paul directly, he refers to his Epistles generally in 2 Peter 3:15, 2 Peter 3:16; and there are words and expressions here and there which seem to imply familiarity with the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians; thus ἐπιìγνωσις, the key-note of the Epistle, is found in Romans 1:28; Romans 3:20; Romans 10:2 (comp. also 2 Peter 1:17 with Romans 2:7; 2 Peter 2:13 with Romans 13:13; chapter __2 Peter __2:18 with Romans 6:16; chapter __2 Peter __3:7 with Romans 2:5; 2 Peter 3:15 with Romans 2:4; and chapter __2 Peter __3:2 with Ephesians 2:20 and 3:5). There are other points of contact with other Epistles of St. Paul, most of which are noticed in the Exposition; and there are two apparent reminiscences of the Epistle of St. James; 2 Peter 1:9 recalls to our thoughts James 1:23, James 1:24; and the remarkable word δελεαìζω, used in 2 Peter 2:14, 2 Peter 2:18, occurs also in James 1:14. It is sometimes urged as an additional point of difference between the Epistles that while our Lord is usually called "Christ" or" Jesus Christ" in the first, in the second the simple name is never used. This is not quite true (see chapter 1:1): but, if it were, it would seem a point of very little importance in a short Epistle like this, separated from the first by an interval probably of two or three years.
(5) We come now to the relation between chapter 2 of this Epistle and the Epistle of St. Jude. There can be no doubt but that one of the two sacred writers borrowed from the other, unless both derived their materials from a common source. No such common source is known: which then, we cannot but ask, was the original composition — St. Jude's Epistle or 2 Peter 2:0? If St. Peter wrote first, the difficulty is shifted from our Epistle; but, while commentators are divided on the subject, the balance of authorities is in favour of the priority of St. Jude. And this seems the mere probable alternative. When we compare the two Epistles, we see that St. Jude is much stronger in his denunciation, fiercer in his invective; his words seem to flow out of a burning indignation, an intense horror. He, perhaps, had been brought into personal contact with the wicked men whom he describes; St. Peter had only heard from others of their evil lives and false doctrine. It seems more likely that the vehement, fervid Epistle was the original rather than the calmer chapter; it is more probable that St. Peter, reproducing, perhaps from memory, the warnings of St. Jude, would soften some of its sterner language, than that St. Jude should have taken the words of St. Peter and breathed fire and passion into them. It is more probable that St. Peter should have omitted the reason which St. Jude apparently gives for the fall of the angels, and the dispute between Michael the archangel and the devil, than that St. Jude should have made these additions to St. Peter's words from apocryphal books or Jewish legends. It does not seem likely that St. Jude, while adopting a portion of St. Peter's Epistle, would have omitted all reference to the remainder; it is especially unlikely that he should have altogether omitted the solemn description of the day of the Lord in the third chapter, so suitable for his purpose. On these grounds, therefore, we believe that St. Peter, having heard of the doings of the false teachers, inserted into his Epistle much of the earlier Epistle of St. Jude, from which, it may be, he derived his knowledge. There is nothing inconsistent with his apostolic dignity in doing so, while it is in accordance with his character, always open to impressions from without. During his residence at Antioch (as St. Paul tells us in Galatians 2:11, Galatians 2:12), when "certain came from James," he was led by their influence to separate himself from the Gentiles. His First Epistle, written while he was in the society of Mark and Silvanus, was largely coloured by the Epistles of St. Paul; it is not surprising that in his second, if he had just read the Epistle of St. Jude, he should have made use of a large portion of that vehement and striking letter.
(6) Dr. Abbott, has called attention, in the Expositor, to some verbal coincidences between this Epistle and the writings of Josephus, especially two passages in the 'Antiquities.' In the fourth section of the Preface, Josephus says that Moses deemed it exceedingly necessary to consider the Divine nature; that "other legislators followed fables, and by their discourses transferred the most reproachful of human sins unto the gods;" but that Moses demonstrated that "God was possessed of perfect virtue;" and that there is nothing in his writings "disagreeable to the majesty (μεγαλειοìτης) of God." The coincidences between this passage and 2 Peter 1:4, 2 Peter 1:16, 2 Peter 1:3 are obvious; yet we must remember that ἀρετηì is ascribed to God in 1 Peter 2:9; that μυ῀θος occurs four times in St. Paul's pastoral Epistles; and that θει῀ος is not uncommon in the Septuagint. Again, in book IV, 8:2, where Josephus is relating the last address of Moses, he uses seven or eight words which are found in this Epistle; such as "departure "in the sense of death, "the present truth," etc. Dr. Abbott has also pointed out several other scattered parallels, besides those contained in the two passages referred to; as well as some remarkable coincidences with the writings of Philo. St. Peter could not have seen the 'Antiquities' of Josephus, which were not published earlier than A.D. 93. It seems most unlikely that Josephus, who shows no acquaintance with any other part of the New Testament, should have read this one Epistle. But, on the other hand, it does not seem much more probable that a Christian writer of the second century (and no one assigns a later date to this Epistle) would care to reproduce the words and phrases of the Jewish historian, especially if he wished that his production should be regarded as the work of St. Peter; he would be adopting one of the surest means to show that it was not the writing of the apostle. It is quite possible that these resemblances may be accidental; many of the words instanced by Dr. Abbott are ordinary expressions in common use. It is possible, again, that they may have been derived from a common source, such, as the writings of Philo. Philo had visited Rome in the reign of Caligula; Eusebius ('Hist. Eccl.,' 2:17) accepts the legend that he then had intercourse with St. Peter. It is at least probable that Philo's influence would have made itself felt during his embassy among the Roman Jews, and so St. Peter, if writing at Rome, might have derived some words and phrases directly or indirectly from his writings. At any rate, Dr. Salmon has proved, in his 'Historical Introduction to the Books of the New Testament,' that "affinity with Philo is a point of likeness, not of unlikeness, between the two Petrine Epistles"; and also that "even St. Paul's letters, written from Rome, present coincidences with Philo". It is probable that, as Philo's works became known to educated Jews, many words and thoughts derived from them would find their way into popular use among the scattered Hebrew nation. This seems a much more likely explanation of the coincidences (the most remarkable of which had been already noted by many commentators) than the hypothesis that the writer of this Epistle borrowed from the Jewish historian.
On the whole, the internal evidence seems decisive. The Epistle bears the strongest testimony to its own genuineness. The writer's claims are not to be lightly set aside; he asserts himself to be the Apostle St. Peter so plainly and repeatedly that it is hard, on the hypothesis of imitation, to acquit him of deliberate falsehood, and to regard the Epistle as an innocent attempt to strengthen the influence of a good and holy writing by investing it with apostolical authority. We have to deal, not only with direct assertions, as 2 Peter 1:1 and 12-15; 2 Peter 3:1, 2 Peter 3:15, 2 Peter 3:16; but also with indirect reminiscences and allusions, such as the use of the word δελεαìζω, (2 Peter 2:14, 2 Peter 2:18), which points back to St. Peter's early occupation; the evident references in chapters 2 and 3 to that solemn discourse of the Lord upon the Mount of Olives, which, it seems, was heard only by St. Peter and three other apostles (see Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:12, Matthew 24:24, Matthew 24:29, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:43); the constant recollection of the solemn charge which the Lord had given him, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren;" three times in this Epistle that word στηìριξον seems in be in the writer's thoughts (see in the Greek, 2 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 3:16, 2 Peter 3:17).
Again, there is considerable weight in the negative evidence for the early elate of this Epistle implied in the absence of references to the more developed heresies of the second century. A writer of that date, dealing, as St. Peter does, with the false teachers of his time, must haw shown, at least unconsciously, an acquaintance with some of the various forms of Gnosticism. It would have been difficult for him, when describing the tremendous circumstances of the day of the Lord, to suppress altogether his knowledge of the fall of Jerusalem — the great catastrophe which in our Lord's prophecies was so closely associated with the end of all things. And probably in a writing of that date we should find at lease some indications of the more complete ecclesiastical organization of the time.
Another important element in the evidence for the authenticity of this Epistle is its own intrinsic power and beauty. We have several Christian writings of the second century; they are precious for many reasons; we should be very sorry to be without any one of them. But the value of them all put together is as nothing compared with that of this Epistle. They are such books as good men might; write now; full of piety and holiness, but not beyond the reach of men endued with the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. Bat is there any man living, however wise and holy, who could write an Epistle like this? Could any of the sub-apostolic Fathers whose writings have come down to us have produced anything to be compared with it? The books of Holy Scripture and human compositions lie in different planes; they do not bear comparison. There is an indescribable something in the Word of God which appeals to the human nature which God created, to the conscience which bears witness of him — something which tells us that the message comes from God. The Second Epistle of St. Peter possesses that authority, that holy beauty, those notes of inspiration which differentiate the sacred writings from the works of men.
2. INTEGRITY OF THE EPISTLE.
Some critics call in question the integrity of the Epistle. Some regard the second chapter as an interpolation from St. Jude. Lange enlarges the supposed interpolation, making it extend from chapter 1:20 to chapter 3:3. One holds the first chapter only to be genuine; the critical discernment of another pronounces for the first twelve verses of the Epistle and the concluding doxology. This want of agreement is a strong argument against the attempts to disintegrate the Epistle. There is no evidence whatever in favour of the theory of interpolation from manuscripts or versions or ancient authority of any kind. Neither is there any trace of such interpolation in the Epistle itself. The writer sums up the substance of his teaching in the last two verses: "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." He keeps these two purposes in view throughout; he passes from one to the other by simple and natural transitions. Such differences of style as may be found in the different sections of the Epistle can be accounted for by change of subject and in part by the influence of St. Jude. There is no such difference as to warrant the disintegration of the Epistle.
3. READERS: TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING.
The Epistle is addressed generally to "them that have obtained like precious faith with us." But verses 12 and 16 of chapter 1 seem to imply some acquaintance, either personal or by letter, with those to whom the apostle is writing; and in 2 Peter 3:1 he identifies them with the readers of his First Epistle. The dangers to be apprehended from the false teachers threatened other Churches besides those of Asia Minor; therefore the apostle gives his letter a more general character, probably intending it for a wider circulation. But he addresses principally the readers of the First Epistle. The spiritual dangers to which they were now exposed were more to be dreaded than the persecutions of which so much had been already said; therefore now he dwells upon the errors and evil practices of the false teachers, not on the sufferings which were gathering, round the Church.
The apostle was looking forward to the putting off of his earthly tabernacle. His martyrdom may have taken place about the year 68; probably this Epistle was written not long before. There is no evidence of any sort which can help us to determine the place of writing; the apostle may have been at Babylon, or at Rome, or at some intermediate point in the journey between the two cities.
4. ANALYSIS OF THE EPISTLE
St. Peter addresses his letter to those who have obtained the like precious faith with himself. He strikes at once the key-note of the Epistle, the full knowledge of God. He dwells, as in the First Epistle, on the blessings and the high privileges of the Christian life, and urges his readers, in the strength of God's promises and of fellowship with God, to bring in all diligence; they must go on from grace to grace — beginning with faith, they must go on to charity. Such continual progress is necessary for the attainment of full knowledge; without it men are blind, forgetting that they once were cleansed. Therefore they must be diligent to make their calling and election sure by holiness of life. The apostle will not be negligent to keep them in remembrance of what they knew already. For his end would be swift; he would have no time for death-bed admonitions; he wished, therefore, now to say all that was necessary, he had the sure knowledge of an eye-witness; he had seen the glory of the Transfiguration, and had heard the attesting voice which came from heaven. And this was not the only evidence of the certain truth of St. Peter's message; there was also the word of prophecy, to which Christians should give heed, for it came from God through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Chapter 2. But as there had been false prophets of old, so there would be false teachers now, who would even deny the Lord that bought them, bringing in heresies of destruction, leading many astray, seeking their own gain. They would bring upon themselves swift destruction, as did the angels that sinned, and the contemporaries of Noah, and the cities of the plain. Then the faithful few were saved; so now the Lord will punish the wicked and deliver the godly. The characteristics of these false teachers are their impurity, their presumption, their railing, their covetousness. They are like Balaam in these things; they promise, but do not perform; they talk loudly of liberty, but they are slaves themselves. Whatever knowledge they may once have possessed makes their guilt the greater; their latter end is worse than the beginning; they exemplify the old proverb, and return, like unclean animals, to their uncleanness.
Chapter 3. Therefore the apostle writes a second Epistle, urging his readers to keep in remembrance the warnings of the prophets and apostles. There would be mockers who would scoff at the delay of the Lord's coming. Let them remember that by the Word of the Lord was the world made; by that Word it would be dissolved. Let them remember that the world had once perished by water; it would be destroyed by fire. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The delay of the judgment comes, not from slackness, but from the Lord's long-suffering mercy, lie gives us time for repentance. But the day of the Lord will come, and that suddenly, and with tremendous portents. Therefore they must prepare to meet their God. We have the promise of new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness; therefore, we should diligently prepare ourselves for that new home. St. Paul had taught the same things; but there were some things hard to be understood in his Epistles, as in other Scriptures. The apostle ends by urging his readers to be on their guard and preserve their steadfastness, bidding them, as he did at the beginning of the Epistle, to grow in grace and knowledge.
Those mentioned in the Introduction to the First Epistle. It may be added that, while the authenticity of this Epistle has been denied, not only by Baur, Schwegler, Hilgenfeld, Mayerhoff, Reuss, Bleek, Davidson, but also by such critics as Weiss, Huther, and Godet, it has been defended by Hug, Guerieke, Windisehman, Thierseh, Schott, Bruckner, Fronmuller, Hoffman, and other German writers; and, among English scholars, by Lardner, Alford, Wordsworth, Professor Lumby. Archdeacon Farrar says, "I believe there is much to support the conclusion that we have not here the words and style of the great apostle, but that he lent to this Epistle the sanction of his name and the assistance of his advice." Bertholdt, Ullman, Bunsen, and Lunge admit the authenticity, but question the integrity of the Epistle, holding that it has been interpolated in various degrees.
the Second Week of Advent