II Peter

Author: Peter the Apostle

Date Written: c. 65-68


Peter, the first pope, writes this letter from Rome to all Christians in the period just before his martyrdom.  Yet scholars debate Peter's authorship.  2 Peter may have been initially delivered to the churches in Asia mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1.  The letter magnifies the greatness of God's gifts to his people, warns against false teachers and calls for Christians to be diligent because of the Lord's imminent return.


Peter begins by exalting the "divine power" God has given us to live holy lives (1:3).  He teaches that this power has not only freed us from the world's corruption, but has actually made us partakers of the divine nature (1:4).  Peter lists traits that should characterize Christians: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love (1:5-6).  Peter views these qualities as indispensible components of Christian life (1:9).


Peter gives personal details about himself as an eyewitness of Jesus' transfiguration (1:16) and he refers to his expected death (1:15).  He also acknowledges the first letter he wrote, which is most likely 1 Peter (3:1).  Despite the profundity of his personal affliation with the life of Jesus, Peter points to the Old Testament prophecies as more reliable than his own testimony (1:19).  He insists that OT prophecies are not the result of a prophet's interpretation, but are truly the word of God (1:20).


In chapter 2, Peter begins attacking the false teachers in the early Church.  Some readers find this chapter excessively harsh so its combative nature deserves an explanation.  Peter is deeply concerned over the souls of Christians which the false teachers seek to destroy and exploit (2:1-3).  With a pastor's heart, he is especially concerned for unsteady souls (2:14) and those people who are barely escaping from a life of sin (2:18).  The false teachers who entice converts back into a life of sin warrant the full brunt of Peter's apostolic anger.  He uses several OT examples to show God's faithfulness in rescuing his followers from trials and punishing the unrighteous (2:4-10).  He gives a scathing description of the false teachers (2:10-22), who are slaves of corruption (2:19) that have turned their backs on God's commandments (2:21).


Peter then warns Christians to remember the words of the prophets and watch for scoffers who will lead people into error (3:2-3).  He recalls the doctrine of creation and the flood of Noah, and then forecasts a fiery judgment on the world at the end of time (3:5-7).  Peter explains why the Second Coming has not yet occurred.  He argues that God's relation to time is very different than ours (3:8) and that he delays his judgment out of his patient mercy (3:9).  In fact, he suggests that we can hasten the Day of the Lord by our holy conduct (3:11-12).  Peter commends the reading of Paul's letters and even calls them Scripture, but he acknowledges how difficult they can be to understand (3:15-16).  He ends the letter with a short doxology (3:18).


Parts of 2 Peter (2:1-18; 3:1-3) are very similar to parts of Jude (4-13, 16-18).  Scholars have offered various guesses as to why this is the case.  It seems that one of the authors borrowed from the other, but it is not clear which one was the borrower.


2 Peter encourages us to live lives of holiness and faith while the coming of the Lord is delayed.  Peter invites us to be partakers of the divine nature (1:4) and teaches us that God is patiently delaying his judgment so that everyone can repent (3:9).  As we reflect on the words of the prophets and look forward to the Second Coming, we live in hope (CCC 1042-50). 


By Mark Giszczak


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