Introduction to Second Peter
Copyright 2003, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington

Critics have maligned the book of 2 Peter with all kinds of vicious words and destructive theories. For example, some have attacked the second letter saying that it began with 2 Peter 2:1. A wild notion that other writers than Peter composed the book or parts of it has been introduced. I see no reason to agree with them.


The letter contains important doctrines about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Christian life and the final coming of Christ. There is also a brief discussion of the new heaven and new earth. In chapter 1, Christians are told to supply seven virtues in order not to be idle nor unfruitful (2Pe 1:5-11). If they do add them, they will not fall (2Pe 1:10). Holy living and godliness are presented as absolutely essential (2Pe 3:11).


If one accepts the Biblical statements about inspiration as do I, he takes the word at face value. Peter declares that this is his second letter. "Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle" (2Pe 3:1). In his own inspired introduction he states that he is the writer: "Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ" (2Pe 1:1). True to character, he never lifts himself above any of the twelve apostles. He never identifies himself as Pope (see notes on Ac 10:25, 26). He states that he was a witness of the majesty of Christ (see 2Pe 1:16-18; chart PETER AN EYE-AND-EAR-WITNESS at 2 Peter 1:16).


When Peter wrote this letter he was no longer an impulsive young man. His death was imminent (2Pe 1:14). According to tradition, he suffered martyrdom in Rome. Nero began persecuting Christians after the burning of much of that city in AD 64. Most likely, he wrote this, his last letter, near the end of the Nero's despicable reign. That mad emperor took his own life in the summer of AD 68. It is supposed that Peter wrote his second epistle about AD 66 or 67.


Unless one buys into the liberal view that Peter did not write the letter, he has to concur that 2 Peter was written to the same audience as 1 Peter (see 2Pe 3:1).[ 1 ] That is, to Gentile (and possibly some Jewish Christians) "pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1Pe 1:1). The Scriptures are silent as to Peter's location when he wrote. Some pupils suggest Jerusalem but tradition says Rome.


Critics have exaggerated differences in the style of the two letters of Peter (or parts of them). They try to contrast 2 Peter with 1 Peter.[ 2 ] Nevertheless, the styles of the two letters are similar. Merrill C. Tenney wrote:

It seems strange that if a forger knew First Peter, he could not have been more careful to copy its style exactly.[ 3 ]

Marvin Vincent, who made a study of every word in the NT, stated:

There are such differences [in style], and very decided ones, though perhaps they are no more and no greater than can be explained by diversity of subject and circumstances, and the difference in the author's age.[ 4 ]

The eminent James Macknight observed:

With respect to the objection against the authenticity of the second epistle of Peter, taken from its style being different from the style of the first, it is to be observed, that in the opinion of many learned men this diversity is found only in the second chapter of the second epistle; the style of the first and third chapters being pretty much akin to the style of the first epistle . . . it is well-known that an author's style is regulated by the subjects of which he treats.[ 5 ]


[ 1 ]There is, of course, the outside possibility that 1 Peter was written after 2 Peter, and that there was another "lost" letter that would justify the statement "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you" (see 2Pe 3:1).
[ 2 ]Various explanations have been offered to explain insignificant differences in style. (1) Peter may have used someone other than Silvanus as an amanuensis. (2) He may have written to a different audience (some say a single, obscure congregation). (3) Different subject matter allowed for a variation in style. (4) He wrote one of the letters with more urgency. (5) Some critics even imagine that another than Peter wrote it, his name being appended to give it an air of authority.
[ 3 ]Zondervan 643.
[ 4 ]Vincent 1.623, 624.
[ 5 ]Macknight 628.

Copyright ©2003, Charles Hess, Ridgefield, Washington, U.S.A.
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The basic text, and all quotations not designated otherwise, are from the New King James Version, copyrighted ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Bracketed alternatives are drawn from various sources such as the ASV, Darby, KJV and RSV. Greek transliteration follows the BibleSoft method.

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