New Testament Overview: 2 Peter

The Non-Pauline Epistles

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    @ by J. Hampton Keathley, III {original source}  


Regarding the authorship of this epistle, it is the most disputed epistle of the New Testament. However, not only does the author clearly identify himself as Simon Peter (1:1), but a number of other internal evidences point to the apostle Peter as the author. In a very personal section, almost as the final testament of a dying father, he uses the first person singular referring to himself (1:14), declares himself as an eyewitness of the transfiguration (cf. 1:16-18 with Matt. 17:1-5), asserts this letter is his second one to his readers (3:1), and shows his personal acquaintance with the apostle Paul whom he calls, “our dear brother” (3:15).

Regarding Peter’s authorship, Ryrie writes:

Many have suggested that someone other than Peter wrote this letter after A.D. 80 because of

  • (1) differences in style,
  • (2) its supposed dependence on Jude, and
  • (3) the mention of Paul’s letters having been collected (2 Pet. 3:16).

However, using a different scribe or no scribe would also have resulted in stylistic changes; there is no reason why Peter should not have borrowed from Jude, though it is more likely that Jude was written later than 2 Peter; and 3:16 does not necessarily refer to all of Paul’s letters but only those written up to that time. Furthermore, similarities between 1 and 2 Peter point to the same author, and its acceptance in the canon demands apostolic authority behind it. Assuming Petrine authorship, the letter was written just before his martyrdom in A.D. 67 and most likely from Rome.fn90

Writing in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Kenneth Gangel writes:

In the fourth century the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter was strongly affirmed.

Two of the great theologians of the early church, Athanasiusdb01 and Augustinedb02, considered 2 Peter as canonical. The Council of Laodiceadb03 (A.D. 372) included the epistle in the canon of Scripture. Jeromedb04 placed 2 Peter in the Latin Vulgatedb05 (ca. A.D. 404). Also the great third Council of Carthagedb06 (A.D. 397) recognized the intrinsic authority and worth of 2 Peter and formally affirmed that it was written by the apostle Peter.

Though 2 Peter is the least attested book in the New Testament, its external support far surpasses that of many of the other Bible books. The absence of early church tradition supporting 2 Peter certainly could have been due to the letter’s brevity and the lack of communication among Christians during times of heavy persecution. Consequently the silence of the second century and the caution of the third century posed no insurmountable problems for the careful scholarship of the canonical councils of the fourth century.fn91

This epistle is titled Petrou B, “Second Peter,” to distinguish it from the first letter written by Peter.


This is the second of two letters Peter wrote to this group of believers (see 3:1) as a kind of final testament, warning, and “last day” letter (1:14; 2:1f.; 3:3), written at the close of the apostle’s career (1:12-14). He was writing to Christians of like precious faith, undoubtedly, to Jewish and Gentile churches of “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia(1 Peter 1:1).

DATE: A.D. 67-68

As a kind of farewell letter warning of dangerous clouds on the horizon, Peter wrote at the end of his career. According to the early church historian, Eusebius, Peter was martyred during Nero’s persecutions (about A.D. 67–68). The letter was most likely written one of these years.


As the apostle Paul warned of the coming dangers of apostasy in the later years of his life and ministry (2 Timothy), so Peter also warned of the ever rising dangers of false teachers as was predicted by the prophets, by the Lord Himself, and His apostles (2:1; 3:1-3). The purpose of this short letter is found in this very issue, this rise of false teachers. Thus, the purpose is one of warning against these dangers facing the church.

Seeing that God has provided all that is needed for life and godliness (1:3), 1 Peter is a passionate plea for his audience to grow and mature in Christ, to be neither idle nor unfruitful (1:8), and with this as a foundation, to guard against the rising tide of false teachers. This was precipitated by the fact that Peter knew his time on earth was short (1:13-15) and that the body of Christ faced immediate danger (2:1-3). Thus, Peter desired to refresh their memories and stir their thinking (1:13; 3:1-2) so that they might have his teaching firmly in mind (1:15). To do this, he carefully described what mature believers should look like, encouraging them to grow in grace and knowledge of the Savior (cf. 1:2-11; 3:18).

As a further foundation for handling false teachers, he reminded them of the nature of God’s Word as their sure foundation (1:12-21) and then warned against sure coming dangers of false teachers whom he also carefully described along with their sure judgment (chap. 2).

Finally, he encouraged his readers with the certainty of Christ’s return (3:1-16). With this final emphasis on the return of the Lord, Peter gave a final challenge.

14 Therefore, dear friends, since you are waiting for these things, strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence… 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard that you do not get led astray by the error of these unprincipled men, and fall from your firm grasp on the truth. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day(3:14, 17-18).


The key word or concept of 2 Peter is that of warning against false prophets or teachers and mockers with false words (2:1-3; 3:3).


1:33 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.

1:20-2120 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: no prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

3:8-118 Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day.  9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare.  11 Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness,


Chapter 1 is the key chapter of 2 Peter because in it, we are given one of the clearest passages on the nature of the inspiration of the Bible. While 2 Timothy 3:16 clearly declares the fact of inspiration, 2 Peter 1:19-21 describes the how of inspiration and more.

It shows us that

  • (1) the Scripture is absolutely reliable, a sure word of prophecy,
  • (2) that no prophecy of Scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, i.e., he did not originate it himself, but rather
  • (3) it was the Holy Spirit Himself who is the source of the Scripture ensuring its accuracy.

See the footnote taken from the NET Bible.fn92a


Peter speaks of Christ as the source of life and godliness, and, in keeping with the focus, he speaks of Christ as

  • Lord and Savior” four times, and speaks of Him as
  • Lord” fourteen times.

In addition, he refers to the glorious transfiguration on the holy mountain and looks forward to the Savior’s second coming or parousia. At this time the whole world will see that which Peter and the other two disciples were privileged to see on that holy mountain.


  • I. Greetings (1:1-2)

  • II. The Development or Cultivation of Christian Character (1:3-21)
    • A. The Growth of Faith (1:3-11)
    • B. The Grounds of Faith (1:12-21)

  • III. The Denouncement or Condemnation of False Teachers (2:1-22)
    • A. Their Danger and Conduct (2:1-3)
    • B. Their Destruction or Condemnation (2:4-9)
    • C. Their Description and Characteristics (2:10-22)

  • IV. The Design and Confidence for the Future (3:1-18)
    • A. The Derision of the False Teachers (3:1-7)
    • B. The Delay of the Day of the Lord (3:8-9)
    • C. The Dissolution Following the Day of the Lord (3:10-13)
    • D.The Diligence Needed in View of the Dangers (3:14-18)
fn90 Ryrie, p. 1984.
fn91 Walvoord/Zuck, electronic media.

tn Verse 20 is variously interpreted. There are three key terms here that help decide both the interpretation and the translation. As well, the relation to v. 21 informs the meaning of this verse.

(1) The term “comes about” (givnetai [ginetai]) is often translated “is a matter” as in “is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” But the progressive force for this verb is far more common.

(2) The adjective ijdiva" (idias) has been understood to mean

(a) one’s own (i.e., the reader’s own),
(b) its own (i.e., the particular prophecy’s own), or
(c) the prophet’s own.

Catholic scholarship has tended to see the reference to the reader (in the sense that no individual reader can understand scripture, but needs the interpretations handed down by the Church), while older Protestant scholarship has tended to see the reference to the individual passage being prophesied (and hence the Reformation doctrine of analogia fidei [analogy of faith], or scripture interpreting scripture). But neither of these views satisfactorily addresses the relationship of v. 20 to v. 21, nor do they do full justice to the meaning of givnetai.

(3) The meaning of ejpivlusi" (epilusis) is difficult to determine, since it is a biblical hapax legomenon. Though it is sometimes used in the sense of interpretation in extra-biblical Greek, this is by no means a necessary sense. The basic idea of the word is unfolding, which can either indicate an explanation or a creation. It sometimes has the force of solution or even spell, both of which meanings could easily accommodate a prophetic utterance of some sort. Further, even the meaning explanation or interpretation easily fits a prophetic utterance, for prophets often, if not usually, explained visions and dreams. There is no instance of this word referring to the interpretation of scripture, however, suggesting that if interpretation is the meaning, it is the prophet’s interpretation of his own vision.

(4) The gavr (gar) at the beginning of v. 21 gives the basis for the truth of the proposition in v. 20. The connection that makes the most satisfactory sense is that prophets did not invent their own prophecies (v. 20), for their impulse for prophesying came from God (v. 21).

fn92b sn 
No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination.
 2 Pet 1:20-21, then, form an inclusio with v. 16: the Christian’s faith and hope is not based on cleverly concocted fables, but is based on the sure Word of God—one which the prophets, prompted by the Spirit of God, spoke. Peter’s point is the same as is found elsewhere in the NT, i.e., that human prophets did not originate the message, but they did convey it, using their own personalities in the process.
db* = Content added by to assist the reader
db01 Athanasius wikipedia
db02 Augustine wikipedia
db03 The Council of Laodicea wikipedia
db04 Jerome wikipedia
db05 Latin Vulgate wikipedia
db06 Third Council of Carthage wikipedia
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