Bible Book Number 61—2 Peter
Place Written: Babylon (?)
Writing Completed: c. 64 C.E.
1. What facts prove Peter’s writership of Second Peter?
WHEN Peter composed his second letter, he realized he was to face death soon. He anxiously desired to remind his fellow Christians of the importance of accurate knowledge to help them to maintain steadfastness in their ministry. Would there be any reason to doubt that the apostle Peter was the writer of the second letter bearing his name? The letter itself erases any doubts that may have arisen as to writership. The writer says he is “Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:1) He refers to this as “the second letter I am writing you.” (3:1) He speaks of himself as an eyewitness to the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, a privilege that Peter shared with James and John, and he writes of this with all the feeling of an eyewitness. (1:16-21) He mentions that Jesus had foretold his death.—2 Pet. 1:14; John 21:18, 19.
2. What argues for the canonicity of Second Peter?
2 However, some critics have pointed to the difference in style of the two letters as a reason for discounting the second letter as the work of Peter. But this should pose no real problem, for the subject and the purpose in writing were different. In addition, Peter wrote his first letter “through Silvanus, a faithful brother,” and if Silvanus were given some latitude in formulating the sentences, this could account for the difference of style in the two letters, since Silvanus apparently did not have a part in writing the second letter. (1 Pet. 5:12) Its canonicity has also been disputed on the grounds that it “is poorly attested in the Fathers.” However, as may be observed from the chart “Outstanding Early Catalogs of the Christian Greek Scriptures,” Second Peter was regarded as part of the Bible catalog by a number of authorities prior to the Third Council of Carthage.*
3. When and where was Second Peter apparently written, and to whom was it addressed?
3 When was Peter’s second letter written? It is most probable that it was written about 64 C.E. from Babylon or its vicinity, shortly after the first letter, but there is no direct evidence, particularly as to the place. At the time of writing, most of Paul’s letters were circulating among the congregations and were known to Peter, who regarded them as inspired of God and classed them with “the rest of the Scriptures.” Peter’s second letter is addressed “to those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours,” and it includes those to whom the first letter was addressed and others to whom Peter had preached. Just as the first letter had circulated in many areas, so the second letter also took on a general character.—2 Pet. 3:15, 16; 1:1; 3:1; 1 Pet. 1:1.
CONTENTS OF SECOND PETER
4. (a) How should the brothers strive to become fruitful with regard to accurate knowledge, and what are they promised? (b) How is the prophetic word made more sure, and why should it be heeded?
4 Making sure of the calling to the heavenly Kingdom (1:1-21). Peter is quick to show loving concern for “those who have obtained a faith.” He desires that undeserved kindness and peace be increased to them “by an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” God has freely given them “the precious and very grand promises,” through which they may become sharers in divine nature. Therefore, by earnest effort let them supply to their faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love. If these qualities overflow in them, they will never become inactive or unfruitful with regard to accurate knowledge. The brothers should do their utmost to make sure of their calling and choosing, as well as their entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of their Lord. Knowing that ‘the putting off of his tabernacle is soon to be,’ Peter is disposed to remind them of these things so that they may make mention of them after his departure. Peter was an eyewitness of Christ’s magnificence in the holy mountain when these words “were borne to him by the magnificent glory: ‘This is my son, my beloved, whom I myself have approved.’” Thus, the prophetic word is made more sure, and it should be heeded, for it is not by man’s will, “but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—1:1, 2, 4, 14, 17, 21.
5. What warning does Peter give against false teachers, and what powerful illustrations does he use as to the certainty of God’s judgments against such men?
5 Strong warning against false teachers (2:1-22). False prophets and teachers will bring in destructive sects, promote loose conduct, and bring reproach upon the truth. But their destruction is not slumbering. God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, from bringing a deluge in Noah’s day, or from reducing Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes. But he delivered the preacher Noah and righteous Lot, so “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.” For these are daring, self-willed, like unreasoning animals, ignorant, abusive talkers, delighting in deceptive teachings, adulterous, covetous, and like Balaam in loving the reward of wrongdoing. They promise freedom but are themselves the slaves of corruption. It would have been better for them not to have known the path of righteousness, for the saying has happened to them: “The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.”—2:9, 22.
6. (a) Why does Peter write, and what does he say concerning God’s promise? (b) In contrast to ridiculers, how must Christians show themselves watchful?
6 Keeping close in mind the day of Jehovah (3:1-18). Peter is writing to arouse Christians’ clear thinking faculties, that they may remember the sayings previously spoken. Ridiculers will come in the last days, saying: “Where is this promised presence” of Christ? It escapes the notice of these men that God destroyed the world of ancient times by water and that “by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire” and are “reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” A thousand years are with Jehovah as one day, so “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise,” but he is patient, not desiring any to be destroyed. Hence, Christians should watch their conduct and should practice deeds of godly devotion as they await and keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which the heavens will be dissolved by fire and the elements will melt with intense heat. But there are to be “new heavens and a new earth” according to God’s promise.—3:4, 7, 9, 13.
7. Having this advance knowledge, how should Christians exert themselves?
7 Hence, they should do their utmost “to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” They should consider the patience of their Lord as salvation, just as the beloved Paul wrote them. With this advance knowledge, let them be on guard not to fall from their own steadfastness. “No,” concludes Peter, “but go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”—3:14, 18.
8. (a) How does Peter testify to the inspiration of both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures? (b) How will we be benefited by holding fast to accurate knowledge?
8 How essential accurate knowledge is! Peter himself weaves into his arguments accurate knowledge that he has acquired from the Hebrew Scriptures. He testifies that they were inspired by holy spirit: “For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” He points out, also, that Paul’s wisdom was “given him.” (1:21; 3:15) We benefit greatly by considering all these inspired Scriptures and by holding fast to accurate knowledge. Then we will never become complacent, like those whom Peter describes as saying: “All things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.” (3:4) Nor will we fall into the traps of the false teachers like those Peter describes in chapter 2 of his letter. Rather, we should constantly consider the reminders provided by Peter and the other Bible writers. These help us to remain “firmly set in the truth” and patiently and steadfastly “go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—1:12; 3:18.
9. What earnest effort are we encouraged to make, and why?
9 As an aid in increasing in “accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” Peter recommends earnest effort to build up those Christian qualities listed in chapter 1, verses 5 to 7. Then, in 1 verse 8, he adds: “For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Truly this is splendid encouragement to activity as God’s ministers in these critical days!—1:2.
10. (a) What promises does Peter emphasize, and what does he exhort in connection with them? (b) What assurance does Peter give concerning the Kingdom prophecies?
10 How important it is to exert oneself to the utmost in order to be assured of sharing in “the precious and very grand promises” of Jehovah God! So it is that Peter exhorts the anointed Christians to keep eyes fixed on the Kingdom goal, saying: “Do your utmost to make the calling and choosing of you sure for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail. In fact, thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Then Peter calls attention to the magnificence of Jesus’ Kingdom glory, of which he had been an eyewitness through the transfiguration vision, and adds: “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure.” True, every prophecy concerning the magnificent Kingdom of Jehovah will come to certain fulfillment. Thus, it is with confidence that we echo Peter’s words quoted from Isaiah’s prophecy: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Pet. 1:4, 10, 11, 19; 3:13; Isa. 65:17, 18.
See chart on page 303.