A verse-by-verse exegetical commentary on the Greek New TestamentIntroduction
This epistle is very similar to the epistle of Jude, so similar in fact, that some commentators think it is a reworking of Jude, particularly 2:1-3:3. The writer primarily sets out to develop an argument in defense of the righteous judgment of God. This was an issue which concerned antiquity, eg. the Epicureans argued against the idea of divine judgment. The argument is framed within a pastoral concern for his readers, that they be "enabled to escape the world's corruption, which is the fruit of unbridled passion, and become sharers in the divine nature", 1:4. This concern sits within the context of a continuing delay in the coming day of the Lord, cf. chapter 3. This delay, prompted both by the mercy of God and the fact that God functions outside of our time-frame, leaves us facing "the world's corruption" - "I want to prevent you from falling into a sleepy lethargy", 1:13, Barclay. It is for this reason that the writer encourages his readers to make every effort to equip their faith with virtue, their virtue with knowledge, their knowledge with self-mastery, their self-mastery with fortitude; their fortitude with godliness; their godliness with Christian friendliness, their friendliness with love, cf. 1:5-7, Barclay.
The structure of 2 Peter
1. Opening address, 1:1-11
i] Greeting, 1:1-2
ii] Participating in the divine nature rather than the world's corruption, 1:3-11
2. The letter's threefold purpose
A farewell address, 1:12-15
The Argument Proper
There will be a day of judgment at the return of Christ
3. Remedies for doubt, 1:16-3:13
i] The implications of the transfiguration, 1:16-21
ii] A defense of Divine judgment, 2:1-10a
iii] Charges against the false teachers, 2:10b-22
iv] The divine word of judgment, 3:1-7
v] The coming Day is sure, 3:8-13
4. Closing exhortation, 3:14-18
An exhortation to righteous living, 3:14-18
As with many of the NT letters, a rhetorical structure is evident in 2 Peter, usually classified as deliberative rhetoric. See D.F. Watson Invention, Arrangement, and Style. The ancients had their way of developing an argument and it does seem that our writer employs the accepted methodology of the time. He opens with an Exordium, 1:1-15, an introduction where the author announces the hortatory intention of the speaker/writer. Then follows the Probatio, 1:17-3:18, where the speaker / writer argues his case with a series of proofs which address the partitio, the central proposition / thesis of the address / sermon / letter, namely that the apostolic eschatological testimony concerning the righteous judgment of God does not consist of "cleverly devised stories .... about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power", 1:16. Neyrey, so also Davids, has identified five such proofs in 2 Peter: i] a refutation against the opponents slander about prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, 1:17-18; ii] an argument against the rationalizing of such prophecy, 1:19-21; iii] a refutation against the opponents denial of divine judgment, 2:1-10b; iv] a refutation against those who mock the prophecies concerning the coming day of judgment, 3:4-7; v] a refutation against the opponents denial of divine judgment, 3:8-13. The usual Digressio is found within the proofs, 2:10b-22: denunciations, encouragements, etc. Finally the letter ends with a Peroratio, a conclusion, here with a recapitulation and appeal, 3:14-18.
So, the rhetorical structure is as follows:
Exordium, Introduction, 1:1-15;
Partitio, Thesis, 1:16;
Probatio, Arguments / Proofs, 1:17-3:18;
Digressio, 2:10b-22, Digression;
Peroratio, Conclusion / Summary, 3:14-18.
Peter runs much the same doctrinal line as James:
James' (Peter's) synthesis: FAITH = righteousness = blessings = WORKS. James is not giving works undue weight, as Luther thought, but seeks to counter the argument of the libertine believers who taught that faith = righteousness = blessings - (minus) WORKS.
The Pauline synthesis: FAITH = righteousness = BLESSINGS = works. Paul is not a libertine in isolating works, for he accepts that those in Christ naturally seek to live as Christ and to this end he exhorts believers to be what they are in Christ. Paul would therefore happily accept James' equation. Paul's isolation of works is in response to the nomist heresy of his opponents who taught that faith = righteousness + WORKS = blessings.
From the earliest of times church leaders have questioned whether this letter was really written by the apostle Peter, even though the letter assumes the authority of Peter. Orign (c. 185-254) mentions that the genuineness of the letter was disputed in his day. Eusebius, writing in the following century, claimed that only 1 Peter was from the hand of the apostle. The difference in style between the two letters has always prompted questions about its authorship from Jerome, to Calvin and Luther, and right through till today. The difficulty we face is that we are unable to either prove, or disprove, apostolic authorship. The ancients were certainly far less concerned with copyright than we are. They happily ascribed their literary works to famous identities, past and present. Yet, if this letter, which claims to be from the hand of Simon Peter, is fraudulent, do we have the authority to treat it as God's word to us? See Michael Green, 2 Peter Reconsidered, Tyndale, 1960, for an argument in favor of Petrine authorship. For convenience sake, these notes will refer to Peter as the author, while at the same time accepting that the matter of authorship remains unresolved.
It is widely argued that second Peter is a reworking of Jude. Jude is usually dated about 120AD and so a date of around 130AD is often ascribed to the letter. This is supported by the evidence of post-apostolic Christianity in the letter, eg. the doctrine of deification. There is, of course, much that is assumed in dating this work. If it was written by the apostle Peter then obviously it would have been composed some time before his execution in 68AD.
Bibliography: Commentaries - 2 Peter & Jude
Bauckham, Word, 1983. Bigg, ICC, 1902. Bowman, Laymans. Brown, Banner of Truth. Cranfield, Torch. Danker, Fortress Press. Davids, Pillar, 2006. Davids, HGT, 2011. Donelson, NTL, 2010. Green, Tyndale 2nd. ed. 1987 / BECNT. Kelly, Blacks. Leaney, CBC. Moo, NIVABC. Mounce, Eerdmans. Lloyd-Jones, Banner of Truth. Neyrey, Anchor, 1993. Reicke, Anchor, 1964. Senior, Glazier. Sidebottom, NCB, 1967.