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2 Peter claims to be written by the apostle Peter:

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: (2 Peter 1:1)

And later in the same chapter:

17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the internal claims for authorship are very strong & unambiguous, but the external evidence is quite sparse.

Some have said there may be allusions to 2 Peter in 1 Clement; aside from that I find no Patristic usage of this epistle in the first few generations. It shows up in Codex Sinaiticus & in the Easter letter of Athanasius, but it appeared to be on rather shaky ground prior to that time.

Eusebius included 2 Peter in his list of disputed books (see here); Origen was uncertain about its authorship as well (see here).

You might say that 2 Peter is the book that almost didn't make it into the Bible.

2 Questions:

  1. Why was 2 Peter included in the New Testament in the 4th century when its authorship was disputed for so long?
  2. What evidence suggests Peter really was the author?

Notes offered in hopes of promoting robust responses:

  1. To give a fair shake to those who come down on the other side of the authorship debate and wish to offer a counterpoint, I've posed the mirror image of this question here: Authorship of 2 Peter - evidence against Peter

  2. I am not just asking about vocabulary and hapax legomena as this question is, though I don't mind if answers build a portion of their case on vocabulary.

  3. I am not asking if Peter had the requisite level of literacy to write a letter--the practice of using an amanuensis in antiquity isn't really in dispute (see further discussion on scribes here).

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  • Related, possible Duplicate What does the vocabulary of 2 Peter indicate about its authorship ?
    – Nigel J
    Mar 27, 2021 at 4:30
  • Hi @NigelJ, see #2 in the notes in the appendix the question. Mar 27, 2021 at 4:35
  • On an hermeneutic site, evidence of authorship is internal, within the document.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 27, 2021 at 4:39
  • Thanks @NigelJ, not trying to be difficult. Questions like this one have led me to believe that internal & external evidence are in scope. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/11470/… . I certainly agree though that internal evidence is highly relevant, which includes but is not limited to vocabulary. Mar 27, 2021 at 4:44
  • I suppose a question on the Meta site might be appropriate. But my own view is that we either are content to examine scriptural documents by hermeneutics or we are not. Broadening the site parameters, in my experience, does no good at all and only expands the opportunities for adverse influences to operate within it.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 27, 2021 at 5:19

2 Answers 2

1

The question was asked:

Why was 2 Peter included in the New Testament in the 4th century when its authorship was disputed for so long?

Most likely the early church hesitated to accept 2 Peter as authentic because so many other writings were floating around with Peter’s name on them there were clearly heretical.

Just like Peter was slow to accept converted Gentiles into the church, without laying on a bunch of ceremonial laws, so the early church was reluctant to accept 2 Peter as authentic. It was just easier for a time to throw out the baby (i.e. two epistles claiming to be from Peter) with the bath water (i.e. various gnostic writings that claimed the name of Peter).

Other posters deal with the internal form critical arguments against the letter being authentic and not forged. However, some of the best reasons for accepting it as authentic can be summarized in the acrostic BAM.”



B stands for the body of the text. The body of the text appears to specifically state that it was written by Peter:

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ... (2 Peter 1:1)

The Muratorian canon (2nd century) sets the qualifications for inclusion of books in the Biblical canon. To sure, it does not include Peter’s epistles in the list of books. However, as Westcort and others have noted, it is possible that the document is torn where they should have been listed.

Most importantly, the canon states how the names on the books need to be recognized as authentic and not forged. For example, certain books are rejected (emphasis added):

There is current also one to the Laodicenes, another to the Alexandrians, [both] forged in Paul’s name to suit the heresy of Marcion, and several others, which cannot be received into the Catholic Church; for it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey.

2 Peter was recognized by canonical by the Councils of Hippo and Carthage in the fourth century. The Muratorian principle of not allowing forgeries into the canon was followed in that both of those Councils rejected Barnabas and 1 Clement, because they were not of apostolic origin.

The example from Tertullian (On Baptism) of a defrocking of a presbyter for writing the Acts of Paul and Thecla is another example of the early church's disdain for allowing forgeries in the canon.

The second argument uses the word “A” for how its attribution to Peter was viewed positively by a lot of heavy hitters in the early church.

It is true that the attribution of authorship for the epistle was in dispute in the early church. The church leader, Eusebius in regards to 2 Peter said, "we have been taught to regard as uncanonical; many, however have thought it valuable, and have honored it with a place among the other scriptures." In another place he states:

And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, 'against which the gates of hell shall not prevail,' has left one acknowledged epistle; perhaps also a second, but this is disputed. (HE 6.25.8)

However, having studied the reasoning behind Eusebius' doubts, 
Jerome accepted 2 Peter as authentic in his epistle to the Hebidia (epistle 120). Jerome mentioned that some held doubts due to the linguistic differences between 1 and 2 Peter. However, he explained the difference by Peter’s usage of different scribes.

Regarding Origin, although he also recognized how some doubted its authenticity, he writes in his Homilies on Joshua (7:1) that “even Peter blows on the twin trumpets of his own Epistles.”

Daniel Wallace argues:

Irenaeus, however, does quote from it, and regards it as a genuine work of Peter. From the last third of the second century on, this letter is frequently regarded as Petrine, and is cited by Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Theophilus of Antioch, etc. The Muratorian Canon’s omission of either First or Second Peter can only be an argument from silence, especially in light of the great probability of there being a lacuna at this point in the fragment.

The final argument starts with the letter “M” for mythical narratives are denounced in the text as something to be avoided in the Christian community. 2 Peter conveys a claim that the Gospel narratives were not meant to be taken as fictional accounts:

We did not follow cleverly invented stories (myths) when we told you about the power of and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)

From a form critical perspective, this is the type of argument that would be awkward if the work itself was a pious forgery. It would be like a big joke, that one got away with, to write what is recorded in 2 Peter 1:16 and have it be taken seriously by believers.

The non Christian 5th century philosopher, Macrobius, describes the devout pagans of his day. Evidently they liked to demythologize their religious stories and just looked at them as a type of parable of sorts. He writes:

Even if we regard the stories of Mopsus, Teiresias, Amphiraus, Calchas, and Helenus as falsehoods of romantic fantasy (and if the facts had been totally opposed, they would not have been incorporated as seers into those legends), will we refuse to accept the divine power as established even when we are enlightened by examples from home?

Accepting 2 Peter as authentic and not a forgery is important, as it helps to support the interpretation that the early faith community did not cleverly invent stories in telling about the power and coming of Jesus. It was understood in the early church that the New Testament was composed by eyewitnesses or a close associates of the eyewitnesses of Jesus.



2

As stated in the other question, the main arguments against the authenticity of 2 Peter are: The argument against the authenticity of 2 Peter essentially rests on three observations:

  1. A few (admittedly significant) antenicaean father express doubts such as Origen; Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History vi 25, iii 3); Jerome, etc. This exacerbated by the fact until after 200 AD, no Christian writer directly quotes 2 Peter.
  2. The language and style of 2 Peter is very different from that of 1 Peter
  3. 2 Peter calls the writings of Paul "Scripture" and places them on a par with the inspired canon of the OT. 2 Peter 3:15, 16. It is claimed that such a status for Paul's writings could not achieved this by the supposed time that 2 Peter (if genuine) was written.

The argument in favor of 2 Peter is more than the rebuttal of the above objections. However, let me briefly dismiss these objections:

  1. While some antenicaean questioned 2 Peter, none actually rejected the document and many accepted it as genuine.
  2. The difference in language and style (which is quite marked) of 1 vs 2 Peter can be easily explained on several grounds:
  • Peter used a different person to translate from his native Aramaic. "Silvanus" (1 Peter 5:12) was the helper in 1 Peter and this produced some of the most polished Greek in the NT
  • Peter matured and wrote on different topics and thus his style was bound to be different.
  1. The objection that Paul's writings could not be considered scripture by Peter's time is just an assumption and is based on what is unknown rather than what is known.

But most impressive of all -

  1. The style and content is consistent with the rest of the NT. Every other psudepigraphon I have examined (there are lots of them) are fairly obvious forgeries and usually consist of much much gnostic material which foreign to the genuine NT writings.
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  • The reference to Paul in 2 Peter only means some of Paul's letters were being circulated. One would expect the books that became canonical to circulate among the churches soon after they were written. There use among the churches was a stipulation for books in the canon.
    – Perry Webb
    Mar 27, 2021 at 15:47
  • 1
    @PerryWebb - I agree - what became canonical achieved this quite quickly with the notable exception of Revelation.
    – Dottard
    Mar 27, 2021 at 20:31

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