Facts and summary
2 Peter is the twenty-second book of the Christian New Testament. The author of the book is traditionally understood to be the Apostle Peter, although this is questioned by some. The letter is dated to the mid to late 60's A.D. The recipients of the letter are Christians in general and it is unknown where it was written from. It is three chapters in length and is often associated with 1 Peter in the New Testament. The purpose of the book is to encourage Christian growth, to combat false teaching (early Gnosticism), and to encourage watchfulness in light of Christ's immanent return. Its teaching emphasis is on the Christian life and perseverance, false teachers, the "day of the Lord."
"Simon Peter a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ" stands at its heading. He reminds us at the close of his life that he is the Peter who was originally "Simon" before his call. In 2 Peter 1:16-18 he mentions his presence at the transfiguration, and Christ's prophecy of his death; and 2 Pet. 3:15 his brotherhood to his beloved Paul. In 2 Pet. 3:1 he identifies himself as author of the former epistle. The second epistle includes in its address the same persons as the first epistle. He presumes their acquaintance with Paul's epistles, by that time acknowledged as Scripture; 2 Pet. 3:15, "the long suffering of God," alluding to Rom. 2:4. A late date is implied, just before Peter's death, when Paul's epistles (including Romans) had become generally circulated and accepted as Scripture.
The church in the fourth century had, beside the testimony which we have of its acceptante though with doubts by earlier Christians. other external evidence which, under God's guiding Spirit, decided them in accepting it. If Peter were not the author the epistle would be false, as it expressly claims to be his; then the canon of the council of Laodicea, A.D. 360) (if the 59th article is genuine) and that of Hippo and Carthage (A.D. 393 and 397) would never have accepted it. Its whole tone disproves imposture.
The writer writes not of himself, but "moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). Shame and suffering were all that was to be gained by a forgery in the first age. There was no temptation then to "pious frauds," as in after ages. A wide gulf separates its New Testament style from the earliest and best of the post apostolic period. "God has allowed a fosse to be drawn by human weakness around the sacred canon, to protect it from all invasion" (Daille). Hermas (Simil. 6:4, 2 Pet. 2:13, and Shep. 3:7; 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:15,20) quotes its words. Clemens Rom. (ad Cor. 7; 9; 10) alludes to its references to Noah's preaching and Lot's deliverance (compare 2 Pet. 2:5-7,9).
Irenaeus (A.D. 178) and Justin Martyr allude to 2 Pet. 3:8. Hippolytus (de Antichristo) refers to 2 Pet. 1:21. But the first writer who expressly names it as "Scripture" is Origen, third century (Hem. on Josh., 4th Hom. on Lev., and 13th on Num.), quoting 2 Pet. 1:4; 2:16. In Eusebius H. E. 6:24 he mentions that some doubted the second epistle. Tertullian, Clemens Alex., Cyprian, the Peshito Syriac (the later Syriac has it), and Muratori's Fragm. Canon do not mention it. Firmilian of Cappadocia (Ep. ad Cyprian) says Peter's epistles warn us to avoid heretics; this warning is in the second epistle, not the first. Now Cappadocia (1 Pet. 1:1; 2 Pet. 3:1) is among the countries addressed; so it is from Cappadocia we get the earliest testimony. Internally it professes Peter is its writer; Christians of the very country to whose custody it was committed confirm this.
Though not of "the universally confessed" (homologoumea) Scriptures, but of "the disputed" (antilegomena), 2 Peter is altogether distinct from "the spurious" (notha); of these there was no dispute, they were universally rejected as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Revelation of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas. Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 348) enumerates seven universal epistles including 2 Peter. So Gregory of Nazianzum (A.D. 389) and Epiphanius (A.D. 367).
The oldest Greek manuscripts (fourth century) contain "the disputed Scriptures." Jerome (de Viris Illustr.) guessed from a presumed difference of style that Peter, being unable to write Greek, employed a different Greek translator of his Hebrew dictation in the second epistle from the translator of first epistle. So Mark's Gospel was derived from Peter. Silvanus, the bearer, Paul's companion, may have been employed in the composition, and Peter with him probably read carefully Paul's epistles, from whence arise correspondences of style and thought: as 1 Pet. 1:3 with Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 2:18 with Eph. 6:5; 1 Pet. 3:1 with Eph. 5:22; 1 Pet. 5:5 with Eph. 5:21.
Style and thoughts
Both epistles contain similar sentiments. Peter looks for the Lord's sudden coming and the end of the world (2 Pet. 3:8-10; 1 Pet. 4:5). The prophets' inspiration (1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:19,21; 3:2). New birth by the Divine Word a motive to abstinence from worldly lusts (1 Pet. 1:22; 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:4; also 1 Pet. 2:9 margin; 2 Pet. 1:3, the rare word "virtue," 1 Pet. 4:17; 2 Pet. 2:3). The distinctness of style in the two epistles accords with their distinctness of design. Christ's sufferings are prominent in 1 Peter, its design being to encourage Christians under sufferings; His glory in the second epistle, its design being to communicate fuller "knowledge" of Him, as the antidote to the false teaching against which Peter forewarns his readers. So His title as Redeemer, "Christ," is in 1 Peter, "the Lord" in 2 Peter.
Hope characterizes 1 Peter, full knowledge 2 Peter. In 2 Peter, where he designs to warn against false teachers, he puts forward his apostolic authority more than in 1 Peter. So contrast Paul in Phil. 1:1; 1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes. 1:1, with 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1. Verbal coincidences, marking identity of authorship, occur (1 Pet. 1:19 end; 2 Pet. 3:14 end; 1 Pet. 3:1,5; 2 Pet. 2:16: "own," idiot, 2 Pet. 3:17). The Greek article omitted 1 Pet. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:21; 2:4,5,7. "Tabernacle," i.e. the body, and "decease" (2 Pet. 1:13,15) are the very words in Luke's narrative of the transfiguration (Luke 9:31,33), an undesigned coincidence confirming genuineness.
The deluge and Noah, the "eighth," saved are referred to in both epistles. The first epistle often quotes Old Testament, the second epistle often (without quoting) refers to it (2 Pet. 1:21; 2:5-8,15; 3:5,6,10,13). So "putting away" (apothesis) occurs in both (1 Pet. 3:21; 2 Pet. 1:14). "Pass the time" (anastrafeste), 1 Pet. 1:17; 2 Pet. 2:18; 1 Pet. 4:3 "walked in" (peporeumenois), 2 Pet. 2:10; 3:3. "Called you," 1 Pet. 1:15; 2:9; 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:3.
08354 2801.11 Besides, the verbal coincidences with Peter's speeches in Acts are more in 2 Peter than in 1 Peter; as (lachousin) "obtained," 2 Pet. 1:1, with Acts 1:17; 2 Pet. 1:6, "godliness," Acts 3:12 (eusebeia, translated "godliness"); 2 Pet. 2:9; Acts 10:2,7, eusebeis in both, "godly"; 2 Pet. 2:9, "punished," Acts 4:21 (the only places where kolazomai, is used); 2 Pet. 3:10; Acts 2:20, "day of the Lord," peculiar to these two passages and 1 Thes. 5:2.
Jude 1:17,18 attest its genuineness and inspiration by adopting its words, as received by the churches to whom he wrote: "remember the words ... of the apostles of our Lord Jesus, how they told you there should be mockers in the last time who should walk after their own ungodly lusts" (2 Pet. 3:3). Eleven passages of Jude rest on 2 Pet. (Jude 1:2 on 2 Pet. 1:2; Jude 1:4 on 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 1:6 on 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:7 on 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 1:8 on 2 Pet. 2:10; Jude 1:9 on 2 Pet. 2:11; Jude 1:11 on 2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 1:12 on 2 Pet. 2:17; Jude 1:16 on 2 Pet. 2:18; Jude 1:18 on 2 Pet. 2:1 and 2 Pet. 3:3.) Jude the fuller in these passages is more likely to be later than 2 Peter, which is briefer; not vice versa. Moreover Peter predicts a state of morals which Jude describes as actually existing. The dignity and energy of style accord with the character of Peter.
Probably A.D. 68 or 69, just before Jerusalem's destruction, the typical forerunner of the world's end foretold in 2 Pet. 3. The past "wrote" (aorist, 2 Pet. 3:15) implies Paul's ministry had ceased, and his epistles now become universally recognized as Scripture; just before Peter's own death. Having no salutations, and being directed to no church or group of churches, it took longer time in being accepted as canonical.
This epistle, little known to Gentile converts, being primarily for Jewish Christians who gradually died out, was likely to have been lost to general reception, but for strong external credentials which it must have had, to have secured its recognition. It cannot have been written at Rome, otherwise it would have secured early acceptance. The distant scene of its composition and of its circulation additionally account for its tardy but at last universal acceptance. The definite address of 1 Peter secured its being the earlier recognized.
Twofold (2 Pet. 3:17,18): to guard against "the error" of false teachers, and to exhort to growth in "knowledge of our Lord and Saviour." The inspired testimony of apostles and prophets is the ground of this knowledge (2 Pet. 1:12-21). The danger arose of old, and will again arise, from false teachers; as Paul also in the same region testified (2 Pet. 3:15,16). "The full knowledge of our Lord and Saviour," whereby we know the Father, partake of the divine nature, escape the world's pollutions, and enter Christ's kingdom, is our safeguard.
Christ is presented in the aspect of present "power" and future "kingship." "Lord" occurs in 2 Peter instead of "God" in 1 Peter. This contradicts all theories of those who "deny" His "lordship," and "coming again," both which Peter as apostle and eye witness attests; also it counteracts their evil example, blaspheming the truth, despising governments, slaves to covetousness and fleshly filthiness while boasting of Christian freedom, and apostates from the truth. The antidote is the knowledge of Christ as "the way of righteousness." "The preacher of righteousness," Noah, and "righteous Lot," exemplify the escape of the righteous from the doom of the unrighteous. Balaam illustrates the doom of "unrighteousness," such as characterizes the false teachers.
Thus, the epistle is one united whole, the end corresponding to the commencement (2 Pet. 3:14,18, compare 2 Pet. 1:2; "grace" and "peace" being connected with "the knowledge" of our Savior; 2 Pet. 3:17 with 2 Pet. 1:4,10,12; 3:18 with the fuller 2 Pet. 1:5-8; 2:21; 3:13, "righteousness," with 2 Pet. 1:1; 3:1 with 2 Pet. 1:13; 3:2 with 2 Pet. 1:19).
Carpocratian and Gnostic heresies were as yet only in germ (2 Pet. 2:1,2), another proof of its date in apostolic times, not developed as in the post apostolic age. The neglect of the warnings in 1 Peter to circumspectness of walk led to the evils in germ spoken of in 2 Peter as existing already and about to break forth in worse evils. Compare the abuse of "freedom," 1 Pet. 2:16, with 2 Pet. 2:19; "pride," 1 Pet. 5:5,6, with 2 Pet. 2:18.
Source: Fausett's Bible Dictionary