Thursday, 2 January 2020
The book of 2 Peter; an Introduction.
The book of 2 Peter is the 61st book of the Bible, and it is comprised of 3 chapters, coincidentally of 61 verses. Therefore, it is considerably shorter than the previous book, 1 Peter, which was 105 verses. A verse-per-day evaluation of 2 Peter will take just two months to complete.
Peter is the Apostle Peter who was personally called by Jesus. Matthew 4:18 and John 1:40 note that he is Andrew’s brother (another Apostle of the Lord as is seen in Matthew 10:2), and John 1:44 says that Peter and Andrew came from the city of Bethsaida.
Peter is also known as Simon at times. This is known from the time of his first meeting with the Lord which occurred in John 1. In John 1:40, where Andrew was introduced, it is as “Simon Peter’s brother.” In the next verse, it notes that Andrew “found his own brother Simon.” But Peter is also known at times as Cephas (kay-fas). On his initial meeting with Jesus, it says –
“Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, ‘You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated, A Stone).” John 1:42
The name Cephas is the Aramaic word for rock. The word “Stone” in that verse is Petros; hence, the name Peter (Cephas) is a name given by the Lord to Simon. He is at times called any of these names, or a combination of them, such as “Simon Peter.” Further, the name Simon may have a variant spelling at times, Symeon.
Interestingly, it is Paul who uses the Aramaic name Cephas eight of the nine times that it is seen in Scripture. Those are noted four times in 1 Corinthians and four times in Galatians. When Paul uses that name, it is to highlight the Jewishness of Peter in order to make theological points about things. Paul also writes of him using the Greek name Petros two times in Galatians as well. The more common name Peter is used over 150 times in the New Testament.
The combined name Simon Peter is used over 30 times, mostly by John in his gospel, but it is how Peter refers to himself in the first verse of his second epistle. However, there it is spelled with the variant spelling, Symeon, as mentioned above. Paying attention to the various ways Peter is addressed will often help the reader understand the surrounding context better.
Though the initial meeting of Jesus and Andrew and Peter is recorded in John 1, the calling of these two brothers to follow Christ is found in Matthew 4 while they were fishing in the Galilee.
Peter is known as the apostle to the circumcision, meaning the Jews. This is noted in Galatians 2:7, 8, where Paul says that “they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles).” This does not mean there are two gospels, one for the Jew and one for the Gentile, but that these men were given their main audience for the one gospel – to the Jew (Peter), and to the Gentile (Paul).
The canonicity of the book of 2 Peter has long been questioned. From early times, there were doubters concerning whether it was truly a letter from Peter. However, a majority opinion was that it was, in fact, written by him. This includes writings from early church fathers, and also the inclusion of it in various early canons.
There are various reasons for it not being accepted by some, including a variation in style from that of 1 Peter, the language used appears to be less of that of a Galilean fisherman and more of a Greek speaker, and so on. But such variances could simply be because Peter used a different scribe to pen this second epistle. Sylvanus is mentioned in 1 Peter 5:12, but he is not mentioned in the second letter.
Another reason is because Peter refers to Paul’s writings in Chapter 3 of the letter. As these were not all compiled until later, it is argued that Peter could not be the author of this epistle. That is a baseless argument considering that Paul refers specifically to Peter in Galatians, and Peter would have been fully aware of this. Further, Paul is most certainly the author of Hebrews (see Hebrews commentary), a letter written to the same Jewish believers as Peter would have addressed. Peter did not have to be aware of all of Paul’s letters, but he could have been. Paul could have sent him a copy of each letter as a witness to his faithful adherence to the gospel which he was proclaiming to the Gentiles while Peter was proclaiming that same gospel to the Jews. Using Peter’s mentioning of Paul and his writings as a reason to dismiss the authenticity of this epistle is an argument from silence that has no weight at all. Eventually, the church reasoned such things through, and 2 Peter was fully accepted into the final canon of Scripture.
2 Peter was probably penned not long before Peter was martyred. It is assumed that it was written somewhere between AD 64 and AD 68. As 2 Peter refers to 1 Peter (2 Peter 3:1), it was obviously written after 1 Peter. The dating of 1 Peter is estimated to be in the mid to late 60s, and therefore this would follow in the same general timeframe.
The Apostle Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So, in a real sense, the letter is – like all of Scripture – written to the people of the world. However, 1 Peter is written specifically to a Hebrew audience, and Peter refers to this again by saying that this is his second epistle to them (again, see 2 Peter 3:1). The opening salutation, however, is more general, and could certainly include Gentiles (“To those who have obtained like precious faith with us”).
Due to its placement after Paul’s letters, and then after the books of Hebrews and James, it is evident – based on an evaluation of the structure of the Bible – that the Lord intends for this second epistle, like Hebrews and James, to be a letter directed to the Hebrew people of the end times as much as it was directed to the early Jewish believers in the Lord. The very structure of the Bible gives us this hint of redemptive history.
The main theme of 2 Peter is “Perseverance in the Truth of Christ, and the necessity of being knowledgeable in order to mature in Christ to avoid practical and doctrinal errors of false teachers.” Thus, the main purpose of the epistle is to “Remind followers of doctrine and warn about false teachers.”
The main presentation of Christ in the epistle is “Jesus Christ, Our Hope.”
The location where Peter wrote the letter is not given, but one might assume that it was, like his first epistle, from Rome (which Peter calls “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13). Though there are various ideas about “which” Babylon is being referred to, the obvious and most likely answer is that he is speaking of Rome in a symbolic way, equating it with Babylon of past Jewish history. Babylon held sway over Israel before, but at the time that 1 Peter was written, Rome had assumed that role.
Extra-biblical tradition places Peter in Rome in his later life, and there is no reason to assume that he was not referring to Rome in this figurative sense, just as Revelation does in Revelation 17 (and elsewhere). A study of Daniel 9 also indicates that Rome would be the center of focus again in the end times, corresponding to the theme of Rome as Babylon.
As a short summary of the intent and purpose of the book, we should remember these points: 1) Author: Simon Peter (Cephas), the Apostle to the Lord Jesus; 2) Date: Mid to late 60s; 3) Theme: Perseverance in the Truth of Christ, and the necessity of being knowledgeable in order to mature in Christ to avoid practical and doctrinal errors of false teachers; 4) Purpose: Remind followers of doctrine and warn about false teachers; and 5) Presentation of Christ: Jesus Christ; Our Hope.
Further, there is a main thought of each chapter –
- Perseverance in Christ through faith and Scriptural adherence.
- Warning against apostasy and false teachers.
- Expectation of the coming Day of the Lord.
Life application: We hope that you will spend the next 61 days of your life learning the book of 2 Peter, one verse at a time. From there, we hope you will apply its truths to your life, molding yourself more each day into being a faithful and wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.
Lord God, help us to be faithful in studying Your word, accepting its truths in the context in which they are given, and then applying those truths to our walk with You. There is an abundance of false doctrine concerning Your word which is intended to draw us away from You. Help us to not get caught up in such things, but to hold fast to the sure, reliable, and wholly understandable word which You have given to us. Amen.