Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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2 PETER - Introduction

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2 Peter - Introduction

Supplemental Commentary:

THE SECOND EPISTLE OF ST. PETER

Introduction

The Readers Addressed:  The Epistle expressly states that it is a second communication written to this circle of readers by "Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ" (1, 1; 3, 1).  These Christians were in all probability the same as in 1 Pet. 1, 1; i.e., inhabitants of Asia Minor.  The progress of antinomian tendencies, the abuses subsequent upon a false interpretation of Christian freedom, and the detailed explanation of God's punishment visited upon sin in the past are factors that point to a community recently converted from paganism.

Authorship.  External evidence.  The external evidence in favor of the Petrine authorship is not so early as that of the other Epistles in the New Testament.  At the end of the fourth century both the eastern and western churches acknowledged the authenticity of the Epistle.  Prior to this time the attitude of the eastern church found more favorable expression among ecclesiastical writers than in the West.  Individuals who quote the Epistle as the work of St. Peter are: Cyril of Jerusalem, Cyprian, and Origen.  According to Photius (Bibl. cod. 109), Clement of Alexandria wrote commentaries on the Catholic Epistles; Eusebius informs us that Clement definitely included the antilegomena in his writings.  Possible echoes or traces of the Epistle appear in the writings of Irenaeus of Gaul, Tertullian, and Theophilus of Antioch.

Internal evidence.  The evidence contained in the Epistle pointedly indicates its Petrine authorship.  2 Pet. 1, 1 declares the author to be "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ."  This statement is further confirmed by 1, 16 where the author speaks of himself as a witness of the Transfiguration; then, too, 1, 14 has direct reference to Christ's prophecy concerning the death of St. Peter (John 21, 18 f).  The author's knowledge of early human history through Jewish sources and the promises made in the Old Testament marks him a Jew by education.  Finally, the insistence in 2 Pet. that a Christian's hope will find its complete realization with the advent of Christ's Second Coming closely unites the thought of this Epistle with that of 1 Pet.  The stylistic differences between 1 and 2 Pet.---a fact which occasioned the reserve of early ecclesiastical writers toward 2 Pet.---may be explained in the light of St. Jerome's statement that as the occasion demanded St. Peter employed different secretaries.  Thus, in spite of all difficulties of criticism---external and internal---sufficient reason does not exist to deny this indirect Petrine authorship.  From a Catholic point of view, the authentic declaration of the Church has definitely settled the question in favor of the inspiration of this Epistle.

Date.  The composition of 2 Pet. is subsequent to 1 Pet. which was written about 63 or 64.  The year of St. Peter's martyrdom is 67.  St. Peter's reference to the nearness of his death (1, 13-14) places composition of 2 Pet. about the year 67.

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OUTLINE

Introduction 1, 1-2

I. Christian Virtue: Its Necessity and Motives 1, 3-21

II. False Teachers 2, 1 -- 3, 13

Conclusion 3, 14-18


Confraternity Bible:

THE SECOND EPISTLE OF ST. PETER THE APOSTLE

Introduction

In this Second Epistle St. Peter refers to his previous letter and to the doctrine contained in it.  It was most likely addressed to the same Christian communities of Asia Minor as the former Epistle, and was occasioned by the appearance among the Christians of false teachers, heretics and deceivers, who promised them freedom, corrupting their good morals and denying the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world.  Its purpose, therefore, was to encourage the Christians to persevere in the faith, and to protect them against the dangers of false teachers.

The contents of this Epistle, especially chapter 2, bear such a striking resemblance to the Epistle of St. Jude that it seems probable St. Peter was familiar with the Epistle of his fellow-Apostle and made use of some of its thoughts.

The author calls himself "Simon Peter, a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ."  This statement of authorship is confirmed by the Epistle itself, the author of which describes himself as an eyewitness of our Lord's Transfiguration, and calls Paul his dear brother.

The time and place of its composition are deduced from 1, 13-15.  The Apostle knows that his death is close at hand.  As St. Peter died a martyr in Rome, we may conclude that the Epistle was written from Rome during his imprisonment, 66-67 A.D.