An Overview of Second Peter

17 Feb

2peter-overviewIn his second epistle Peter identifies himself as Simeon Peter,[1] using the Hebrew pronunciation of his name. He must have written this epistle before the Nero persecution of 64 AD, when tradition claims both he and Paul were executed as martyrs for Christ. In such a case, the timeline for Peter’s second epistle would be during Paul’s imprisonment or from cir. 56 AD to 64 AD. Most likely, however, Peter wrote it sometime after James’ death, which occurred cir. 62 AD. All things considered, it probably dates between 62 and 64 AD.

The fact that we find 2nd Peter in our Bibles today is a testimony to its veracity in the face of strong criticism. Even today, its genuineness is doubted by many scholars, some of whom are strong believers in the faith. Nevertheless, such things, in themselves, should not upset us, because even the historicity of Jesus and the existence of God are challenged by some folks. A.T. Robertson writes:

“There are undoubted allusions also to phrases in 2Peter in Aristides, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Ignatius (and) Clement of Rome. When one considers the brevity of the Epistle, the use of it is really as strong as one can expect. Athanasius and Augustine accepted it as genuine, as did Luther, while Calvin doubted and Erasmus rejected it. It may be said for it that it won its way (into the Canon) under criticism and was not accepted blindly.” [parenthesis mine]

The epistle can be divided into three main parts, roughly as its three chapters divide it. First, Peter instructed his readers to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus (2Peter 1:2-3, 12-13). Secondly, he warned his readers about false teachers (2Peter 2:1-2, 12-14). Finally, Peter attacks the false doctrine that was put forth by those who denied the claims Peter maid in his first epistle (2Peter 3:3-4).

Peter addresses his epistle to those who have obtained like precious faith (2Peter 1:1), and in 2Peter 3:1 he mentions that this is his second epistle to his addresses. This statement ties Peter’s second epistle to his first, so, his second epistle also went out to those same five Roman provinces in Asia Minor (1Peter 1:1). Moreover, the fact that the two epistles are tied together in 2Peter 3:1 is an indication that both epistles address the same overall subject matter, namely the persecution that arose in those five provinces.

The purpose of Peter’s second epistle seems to be to remind his readers, and keep on reminding them, of what they should already know (2Peter 1:12-13; cf. 3:1). Peter wasn’t trying to use unkind methods upon his readers in order to forcefully persuade or brainwash them to believe the Gospel. On the contrary, it is easy to forget, while one is under severe stress, what one already knows that would be helpful to alleviate worry and tension. Peter’s reminders were intended to meet such circumstances with the needed principles that would permit his readers to face their trials with a peaceful demeanor.

Peter’s reminders, therefore, imply his readers were undergoing persecution in some form. In his next two chapters Peter mentions false teachers who slandered those who were held in high esteem (2Peter 2:10). It seems that not only were the rightful leaders of the church and even Peter and Paul slandered, but they spoke so even of the Lord (2Peter 2:1), forsaking the way of righteousness, because they were bribed to do so (2Peter 2:15; cf. 2:21 and 1:1).

Next, Peter points to scoffers who denied the coming of the Lord, Jesus (2Peter 3:4). That is, they denied Jesus’ coming to power as Messiah, the very thing for which the disciples asked a sign to let them know it occurred (cf. Matthew 24:3, 30). Peter’s mention of their denial in 2Peter 3:4 shows they were unafraid to take Peter’s references to Jesus’ coming in his first epistle and denounce his conclusions, saying a Jewish war with Rome would never happen, and if such a war wouldn’t happen, then Jesus couldn’t be judging the nations from heaven. Their very accusations denied Jesus was the Messiah.

Finally, Peter tells his readers that they are able to fight such accusations through the knowledge of their Savior, Jesus, the Christ (2Peter 3:18; cf. 1:3, 8; 2:20). The more we know about him, what he said and what he did, the more confidence we have in him and content to trust our lives to him.


[1] In some manuscripts it is Simeon (Hebrew pronunciation), while in others it is Simon (Greek pronunciation). I take the position that it is Simeon in this study.

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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Epistles of Peter, Gospel of Luke


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