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Many people appeal to 2nd Peter 3:16 as demonstration that Peter believed Paul’s letters to be scripture. However, is there any alternative interpretations offered as to what it means when Peter says “as they do the other Scriptures”?

16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

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  • Besides the question of what the author meant by "other scriptures" is the question of whether the author is actually Peter or not. Indeed, the treatment of Paul's letters as scripture is one argument for a late date of the epistle, implying that it was not written by Peter himself. Jul 17, 2023 at 16:33
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    γραφὰς exclusively refers to "Scriptures" in the NT, although the word itself has a broader meaning of "writings" elsewhere. With that said, the corpus being referred to is perhaps broader than what is today considered "canonical" (e.g., James 4:5).
    – Dan
    Jul 17, 2023 at 17:36
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    @DanFefferman . . . . and thus the disposal of both Paul's inspired words and Peter's inspired words is achieved with a single stroke.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 17, 2023 at 19:24
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    @DanFefferman Right, for the sake of this question I'm assuming 2nd Peter has traditional authorship and is not a forgery 👍
    – Luke Hill
    Jul 17, 2023 at 20:24

4 Answers 4

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The answer to this question depends on the meaning of γραφή (graphé) = "writing" or "Scripture". Thus, the OP's question devolves upon the point as to whether γραφή (graphé) can mean anything other than "sacred Scripture".

In non-NT works, there is no doubt that γραφή (graphé) just means any piece of writing.

However, in the NT, the word γραφή (graphé) exclusively means "Sacred Scripture". The word occurs 51 times in the NT and in every single case, it means (BDAG): "sacred scripture" - either as specific passage from one of the prophets, or "scripture in its entirety". (See BDAG for details.) Thayer and strong's reach the same conclusion.

Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that in the specific instance of 2 Peter 3:16, when Peter says (my literal translation):

as also in all the letters, speaking in them concerning these things, among which some things are difficult to be understood, which the ignorant and unestablished distort to their own destruction, as also the rest of Scriptures.

... Peter is saying (inter alia) that Paul's writings were part of the sacred canon of Holy Scripture because he calls the OT and other sacred writings, "the rest of Scripture".

Indeed, Ellicott bravely asserts this:

That an Apostle should speak of the writings of a brother-Apostle in the same terms as the books of the Old Testament—viz., as Scripture—need not surprise us, especially when we remember the large claims made by St. Paul for his own words (1 Thess 2:13; 2Thess 2:15; Eph 3:3-5. Comp. Acts 15:28; Rev 22:18-19). In 1Peter 1:12, Evangelists are almost made superior to the Old Testament Prophets—a statement indicating a view which harmonises well both with 2Peter 1:15-19 and with the view set forth here; for in 2Peter 1:15 he assigns to this Epistle much the same purpose as in 2Peter 1:19 he assigns to the Old Testament Prophets. Moreover, we have seen how Clement of Rome uses the term “Scripture” of a passage which comes from some uncanonical book (see above on 2 Peter 3:4).

The Pulpit commentary is similar:

As they do also the other Scriptures. This passage is of the greatest interest, as showing that some of St. Paul's Epistles had by this time taken their place in the estimate of Christians by the side of the sacred books of the Old Testament, and were regarded as Holy Scripture. By "the other Scriptures" St. Peter means the Old Testament, and also, perhaps, some of the earlier writings of the New, as the first three Gospels and the Epistle of St. James. St. Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:18, quotes a passage which seems to come from Luke 10:7 as Scripture (comp. 1 Peter 1:12).

Bengel, the Cambridge commentary and others are similar. However, some commentators disagree. Some try to assert that γραφή (graphé) does not mean Holy Scripture or, that Peter attempts to make a distinction between γραφή (graphé) and Paul's writings, eg, Benson. However, to do this involves taking this instance of γραφή (graphé) as the only place where this does not mean "Sacred Scripture".

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    this does not answer the question, but gives the opposite answer to what hes asking for
    – Michael16
    Jul 18, 2023 at 10:47
  • @Michael16 - I have addressed this in the final paragraph.
    – Dottard
    Jul 18, 2023 at 10:59
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Q. Many people appeal to 2nd Peter 3:16 as demonstration that Peter believed Paul’s letters to be scripture. However, is there any alternative interpretations offered as to what it means when Peter says “as they do the other Scriptures”?

The passage:

[2Pe 3:14-18 NASB95] [14] Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, [15] and regard the patience of our Lord [as] salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, [16] as also in all [his] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as [they do] also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. [17] You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, [18] but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him [be] the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

In 2 Peter 3:16 (concerning which scholars tend to be in agreement that the two Peter letters were not written by the same author, the letters being pseudepigraphal), "Peter" refers to "Paul's letters." The significance of that is lost on, well, pretty much everyone because they fail to realize what an "Apostle" is:

APOSTLE AND APOSTLESHIP: By: Kaufmann Kohler Apostle (Greek ἀπόστολοσ, from ἀποστήλλειν, "to send"), a person delegated for a certain purpose; the same as sheliaḦ or sheluaḦ in Hebrew, one invested with representative power. "Apostoloi" was the official name given to the men sent by the rulers of Jerusalem to collect the half-shekel tax for the Temple, the tax itself being called "apostolé." See Theod. Reinach, "Textes Grecs et Romains, etc.," 1895, p. 208, and also Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," iv. 476, note 21, where Eusebius is quoted as saying: "It is even yet a custom among the Jews to call those who carry about circular letters from their rulers by the name of apostles"; Epiphanius, "Hæreses," i. 128: "The so-called apostoloi are next in rank to the patriarchs, with whom they sit in the Sanhedrin, deciding questions of the Law with them." The emperor Honorius, in his edict of 399, mentions "the archisynagogues, the elders and those whom the Jews call apostoloi, who are sent forth by the patriarch at a certain season of the year to collect silver and gold from the various synagogues" ("Cod. Theodos." xvi. 8, 14, 29. Compare Mommsen, "Corpus Inscr. Lat." ix. 648. See Apostolé)...

There seems to be a suggestion in the NT portrait of Paul as having achieved that very high rank:

[Act 22:1-5 NKJV] 1 "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now." 2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: 3 "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. [4] "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, [5] "as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished...

This passage from Galatians alludes to and "fulfils" (brings new meaning to) the Ecclesiastes verse:

[Gal 1:13-14 NKJV] [13] For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and [tried to] destroy it. [14] And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

[Ecc 2:9 NKJV] [9] So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.

Paul's claim cannot be verified historically.

However, Paul is said to have abandoned all that when God sovereignly called him in order to serve as Christ's apostle:

[Gal 1:15-17 NKJV] [15] But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called [me] through His grace, [16] to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, [17] nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those [who were] apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

So my view is that what 2 Peter 3 refers to regarding Paul is that, as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, his letters had Christ's authority and he was an authorized producer and dispenser of letters, as well as to collect money on behalf of Christ:

[1Co 16:1-4 NKJV] 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first [day] of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 3 And when I come, whomever you approve by [your] letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. [4] But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.

[Rom 15:25-28 NKJV] [25] But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. [26] For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. [27] It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. [28] Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.

ANSWER ALERT: my alternate interpretation is that Paul was writing circular letters and collecting money in his role as an Apostle of Christ:

[Eph 1:1 NKJV] 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

Supplementary info:

In Ephesians 1:1, however some manuscripts (don't know how many off the top of my head, or it might just be one) have no addressee, suggesting that it was a "circular letter." Is a "circular letter" one written on a round piece of parchment? No, but rather like a personalized mass mailing. They'd just put a city's name at the top and carry it there.

Wikipedia suggests that Paul was writing 2 Peter to gatherings in Asia Minor, John's territory, though the letters do not mention any contact with John. But you can see that from Patmos, your first stop is Ephesus:

Asia Minor mail route

Then you work north, and around and down. We read about these seven cities in the Revelation warnings in the first few chapters. The mail route to the seven congregations in seven cities is similar to the constellation Pleiades, which is comprised of seven stars.

All this also answers the question I and others have raised about Paul's authority. And again, none of any of this is historically supported.

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The verse 2 Peter 3:16 does not equate the NT scripture with the OT "holy scriptures". Only the latter believers started calling the NT as holy scripture. Two possibilities can be argued in favour of this view.

Firstly, Graphe does not necessarily mean "holy scripture" or "scriptures of the prophets" (Rom 1:2, 16:26, 2Ti 3:16, Mat 26:56), but scripture or writing in general. Peter's reference in the verse could simply be referring to the writings provided by the Apostles, or simply all writings pertaining to religion, that includes commentaries on the OT as well. Secondly, and this is the stronger argument: the "the rest of" (τὰς λοιπὰς γρ) should be translated as "the Scriptures as well" or "the Scriptures on the other hand" as demonstrated by Charles Bigg in 1901. See commentaries:

Ellicott comments,

The other scriptures.—The Old Testament cannot well be meant. St. Peter would scarcely have placed the writings of a contemporary side by side with the Scriptures of the Old Testament (the canon of which had long since been closed) without some intimation of a grouping which at that time must have been novel, and probably was quite unknown. It is much more probable that Christian writings of some kind are intended, but we can only conjecture which, any of the canonical writings of the New Testament then in existence, and perhaps some that are not canonical.

Cambridge Greek commentary:

ὡς καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς γραφάς. If the phrase occurred in a later document, we should not hesitate to render it “the rest of the Scriptures” and to take it as including both O.T. and N.T. Scriptures. But the fact that we have here a writing under the name of an Apostle, and of early date, causes a difficulty. We shall be overstating the case if we say that the writer here places Paul’s Epistles exactly on a level with the O.T. and implies the existence of a body of Christian Scriptures that were so regarded: but it is fair to say that he knows of the Pauline Epistles as writings read to Christian congregations and on the way to be put upon the level of Canonical Scripture.

Expositor's Greek Testament commentary,

(1) There has been much discussion among commentators as to the meaning of γραφάς (graphas). Spitta takes γραφάς in sense of “writings,” and concludes that these were by companions of the Apostle Paul; but this is a very unusual sense of γραφή.... (2) The difficulty in connexion with the meaning of γραφάς is largely occasioned by the phrase τὰς λοιπὰς γρ. Does this mean that the Epistles of St. Paul are regarded as Scripture? Attempts have been made (e.g., by Dr. Bigg) to cite classical and other parallels that would justify the sense for τὰς λοιπὰς, “the Scriptures as well”. In these, certain idiomatic uses of ἄλλος and other words are referred to, but no real parallel to this sense of λοιπός can be found, and the connexion implied in λοιπός is closer than ἄλλος. The result of the whole discussion is practically to compel us to take τὰς λοιπὰς γραφάς in the obvious sense “the rest of the Scriptures,” and we cannot escape the conclusion that the Epistles of Paul are classed with these. The intention of the author of 2 Peter seems to be to regard the Pauline Epistles, or those of them that he knew, as γραφαὶ because they were read in the churches along with the lessons from the O.T.

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BDAG defines loipos as "Pertaining to being one not previously cited or included, other, rest of". The sense of remaining expressed by this word is that of the action has not been taken on this remainder group. This difference of being leftover is the kind of the contrast, it conveys.

Dr. Bigg used only two examples to show loipos means a contrasted-other; something contrasted or newly introduced in context. "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope". [1Th 4:13] and τὰ λοιπὰ ἔθνη (the other nations) from Deut 8:20 LXX, which is a common phrase. What others would not have noticed that loipos always means the contrasted rest of group which do not belong in the present category. There is no English equivalent that distinguishes a "contrasted other" like loipos (I am curious to know if other languages do have). The words like 'other, another, rest, remainder' in English means basically the same thing.

The commentators like "Expositor's Greek Testament" are wrong in claiming "but no real parallel to this sense of λοιπός can be found, and the connexion implied in λοιπός is closer than ἄλλος". The connexion with λοιπός is of a changed category, unlike the homogenous type as in ἄλλος. Compare some NT references for loipos.

  • 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. [Luk 18:11 ESV] the rest who are unlike myself.

  • Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? [1Co 9:5 ESV] as opposed to the other apostles, who are unlike myself.

  • But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. [1Th 4:13 ESV]

  • So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. [1Th 5:6 ESV] a contrasted new-group of others

  • As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. [1Ti 5:20 ESV] others who don't sin may fear

  • The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. [Rev 20:5 ESV]

  • For what is there in which you were made inferior to the rest of the churches [2 Cor 12:13] a change or contrast of class.

In contrast, allos αλλος means "other" of the same group or entity. Turn the other cheek; I say one servant go, and he goes, another 'come' and he comes; His hand was restored just the other; The other brother; Jesus presented another parable; Whoever marries another woman, etc. There is no contrast of "on the other hand" type, in these references.

The third Greek word is heteros, which means different, strange, of another kind; this another kind is already known or recoverable from the context, it simply means a different one. Ex. No one can serve two masters, he will love one, and hate the other; if they persecute you in one town, flee to another; are you the one or should we look for another one; Then it goes and brings with it seven other/different spirits more evil than itself; “Some say John the Baptist, different/others say Elijah, and different/others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Conclusion:
Besides the argument given by various scholars about the timeline for the epistles, and the concept of a Canon in the Apostolic Church for objecting to the interpretation that Paul's letters are called scriptures, it should also be noted that for the apostles, to call their own writings as "scripture" would've been highly arrogant and inconceivable. The linguistic argument confirms that conclusion by showing that other languages like English do not have the same range of words in Greek, which led to the ambiguity and misinterpretation.

Had Peter used allos in stead of loipos in this verse, it would have meant that he is including the Scriptures in the same group as Paul's writings, showing a very close relationship between them. The word loipos on the other hand means, pertaining to be something of a new group. It means "Scriptures on the other hand, or as well". Given the fact that the English Bible versions & commentators fail to properly translate the scripture by learning basic Greek, we can safely accuse them of presenting inefficient ambiguity, and of even misleading the readers.

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  • Had Peter, using the words τας λοιπας γραφας, meant anything other than 'all other scriptures' (that is to say Hebrew and Greek scriptures) the apostle would have clarified by definition. That he does not, indicates his meaning. (Unless one wishes to accuse him of inefficient ambiguity.)
    – Nigel J
    Jul 18, 2023 at 9:31
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Much of this stuff concerning Paul stems from a misunderstanding of Paul, his background, and his teachings. If we don't understand who Paul is, confusion is the inevitable result.

Paul was a student of Gamaliel the Elder who was a famous teacher of the law and the grandson of one of the 4 great rabbinical teachers, Hillile the Elder. It was said that Gamaliel would only consider taking on a student once he had fully memorized the entire Torah. This is how and WHY Paul could assert that he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. In modern parlance, we would say that Paul was a LEADING scholar of the Torah.

The CONFUSION of Paul and his teachings started almost Immediately as we see this confusion played out upon Pauls return of his final mission trip. When he presents himself to the Elders and gives his report, James addresses the erroneous rumors that Paul was teaching AGAINST Moses, james tells Paul to take men set aside for the vow and that he should take them, pay their way and also take the vow so that ALL WOULD know that there were nothing to these rumors. And JAMES plain states. That they knew that Paul walked in an orderly fashion.

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    You didn't answer my question... or provide any evidence for your assertions... or actually do much at all.
    – Luke Hill
    Mar 1 at 0:17

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