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THE EPISTLE OF SYMEON PETER (II.)
The composition of this writing during the course of the second century, and probably in its first half, cannot be regarded any longer as one of the open questions in NT criticism. The epistle is notoriously weak in external attestation (DB, iii. pp. 799-806), but the security of the critical conclusion rests mainly upon internal evidence. Especially noteworthy are (a) the references to Paul's epistles1 (316): these would appear to have acquired considerable prestige in the church, and to be ranked Kot" *£°X'IV s'^e side witli the canonical scriptures, as well as numbered among that class of books which forms a subject of discussion and dispute. All this, especially the co-ordination of apostolic writings with the sacred codex of the OT, points to a late and ecclesiastical atmosphere, (b) The writer, who is not an apostle (32, Tu>v airocrroKav v/iav), at the same time appeals intentionally and emphatically to the authority of Peter (l1*-" 31. 2. is). ne plainly uses 1 Peter, which he endeavours to imitate for his own purposes in spite of individual peculiarities of style and thought (cp. on the well-marked difference of language, Holtzmann, Einl. p. 322, and the moderate statement of Simcox: Writers of NT, pp. 63-69, besides the critical editors), (c) The literary relations of the epistle involve its dependence upon Clem. Rom., and even more markedly on the epistle of Judas, of which a large part is reproduced and expanded in 2 Pet 2: probably also (in spite of Chase's scepticism) a similar connection with 4th Esdras and the Antiquities of Josephus,2 and apparently a set of similarities in thought and expression to the recently* discovered Apocalvpse of Peter (DB, iii. pp. 814-816 ; Harnack, TV, ix. 2."p. 90 f.), if not to Hebrews and James as well, (d) The general contour of the writing is late: we have the incipient ecclesiasticism of the church with its three authorities (32), the Lord, the apostles, the prophets; the corresponding identification of " apostolic " with "authoritative ;the subtle traces of Gnosticism with its subjectivity (l20) and conceptions of the Divine essence (V), in view of which the writer emphasises the genuine Christian "knowledge" (yvairis, firiyvao-is)3 with its correlative of steady faith in the second
1 "Das Christenthum ist liier schon ganz gewordeu, was zuvor das Judenthnm war; Bibelglaube, Buchreligion, wie dem auch l2"-21 die Inspirationslehre in der Form des schroffsten Supernaturalismus vorgetragen wird" (Holtzmann, NTTh, ii. p. 397). On the analogous Hellenic belief in inspiration and reverence for antiquity, cp. Hatch, Jliibert Lectures, pp. 50, 51.
2 Elaborated in three articles by Dr. E. A. Abbott (Exp.'' iii. pp. 49-63, 139-153, 204-219), which are not deprived of their substantial force by the adverse discussions of Professor Vf&vMA (South. Presbyterian Review, 1882, p. 45 f., 1883, p. 390 f.), Dr. Salmon (INT, p. 497 f.), and Znhn (EM. ii. p. 10'J); cp. the more impartial investigations of Farrar (Exp.- iii. pp. 401-423; Early Days, bk. ii. chap. ix.; Exp." viii. pp. 58-69) and Krenkel (Josephus u. Lucas, p. 350 f.).
3 Knowledge has displaced the "hope" of 1 Peter, and by a corresponding change the sufferings of Christ and Christians have fallen into the background (contrast 1 P 51 with 2 P l"-").
advent, according to the original and apoatolic tradition, and as opposed to current spiritualisations; the fact of errorists being able for their own ends to pervert the scripture (316), and to make use, as it is known the Marcionites did, of Paul s epistles (passages like 1 Thess 51', 2 Thess 218, Rom 2", are much more likely than Gal 211, if any special reference is to be thought of); the general impression that the early Christian age is far behind the writer and his readers, an era to be looked back upon (e.g. 34, dtp' Jjs yap ol naripts iKOtiafirjirav). These form a cumulative argument for the second-century date, which is final. It is accepted even by writers like Beyschlag (NTTh, ii. pp. 490-498), who finds 2 Peter is critically disputed with evident reason, based upon the epistle of Judas —which he puts into the first century—and a product of the second century ; as also by Bovon (NTTh, ii. pp. 485 f.). Generally c. 150 A.d. or the years preceding that time form the period1 adopted by a very numerous and weighty league of scholars, including Reuss (275-277), Hilgenfeld, Hausrath, Bleek, Mangold, Renan, S. Davidson (INT, ii. pp. 523-559), Holtssmann, Kriiger, von Soden, Ramsay (before 130 A.d!), McGiffert, Adeney, and most recently Chase (DB, iii. pp. 796-818) in an article of exceptional brilliance and research. After Eeim (iv. p. 312, etc.), Pfleiderer puts the date further down into the century ( Urc. pp. 838-843), and Jiilicher chooses 125-175 A.d.; but Simcox rightly demurs to such a late period, on the ground that the book contains an indisputably Hebraistic element, and it is probably safer to place the writing not subsequent to the sixth or seventh decade of the second century. At any rate it is the latest writing in the NT (cf. Bruckner, Chron. pp. 296-307). Harnack'g wellknown theory would imply that about this time, i.e. 150-175, the Petrine title was added to 1 Peter, probably by the author of 2 Peter (Chron. pp. 450-470).
This date involves the pseudonymity of the epistle. Of course, were the title to be interpreted literally and logically, the writing would be the testament of Peter. It must then have been composed, as the author intended his readers to believe, shortly before the death of Peter and subsequently to the first epistle, i.e. between 65 and 67 (Salmon, Lumby, etc.). Weiss (followed by Kiihl), with his theory of the extremely early date of 1 Peter, has little difficulty in supposing that this writing might have followed some ten years later (INT, ii. pp. 154-169), and Spitta, on grounds of his own, arrives at a similar result; while Zahn actually dates the writing before 63, addressed by Peter to churches 2 in or near Palestine (Einl. ii. pp. 42-110). But the contents of the epistle are in hopeless contradiction with this hypothesis, the case for which is largely made up of assertions and assumptions. It may be said with perfect moderation and justice that the whole available evidence, positive and negative, internal and external, points away from such a period of composition. Calvin's excellent sense made him very dubious of the Petrine authorship, and finally suggested to him that the epistle might have been composed
i When the bubbling, many-coloured theosophies of Guosticism were fronted by a movement of the church towards organisation and a canon. 2 Peter thus forms (cp. Kenan's testimony, L'ltglise Chrlt. chap, vii.) the most worthy member of the series of Petrine pseudepigrapha; it is an attempt to conserve the faith against Gnostic errors and the moral and mental snares which they set. Still, the actual environment of the book is dim. All we can see is that eschatological doubts have risen, since Judas wrote. Scepticism upon the last things has been revived and added to the heresies already prevalent.
1 Jewish-Christian, upon the whole, and indebted for their Christianity to Peter or to other early disciples and apostles of Jesus.
at the command of the apostle by one of his followers, as he had already conjectured that Malachi was a name assumed by Ezra. This is a reasonable line of criticism, and it has become a favourite in several quarters. Recently, for example, the allied hypothesis of a literary amanuensis has been ingeniously used * to account for the faults and conflicting facts of style and expression. On this view the writing becomes Petrine rather than Peter's; the cast of thought is secured for the apostle, while the peculiar Greek is attributed to a different secretary from the Silvanus who composed the first epistle. But this notion raises more difficulties than it solves. Nor does it fairly satisfy the internal evidence of the writing, which is crucial. A better attempt upon the same line is that of Professor Ramsay (CRE, pp. 492, 493). He regards the author as a pupil of Peter, who reproduced iris master's counsels and spirit in face of new and later circumstances, just as the author of the "pastorals" is held to have done with Pauline ideas. But, as he proceeds to point out, some words of Tertullian (Adv. Marcion, iv. 5) 8 indicate that in ancient opinion a pupil's work could often be treated as that of his master: consequently, pseudonymity in a case like the present—though a further development—might be considered as a method which betokened humility and self-effacement upon the part of the author, rather than any attempt to deceive his contemporaries. This indeed would be the true standpoint from which to regard any NT pseudepigrapha. Probably, too, 2 Pet was put under Peter's name owing to the eminence of the genuine first epistle and the increasing authority of the Petrine tradition among the sub-apostolic communities.
The Greek style of the book has drawn upon it severe, though slightly exaggerated, strictures from Dr. Abbott, who inveighs against its " use of some words almost unknown to Greek literature, its misuse of other words and idioms, its fondness for grandiloquent novelties and strained sonorousness, its weak reduplication of florid phrases." This laboured and ambitious character suggests to him the English written by a Bengalee affecting the " fine style." After one gets over the odd associations of the parallel, "Baboo Greek" helps to elucidate at least one or two points in the epistle ; it is decisive against the Petrine authorship, though not directly for the second-century date.3 Chase also terms the vocabulary "ambitious, poor, and inadequate,: (DB, iii. pp. 806-809).
The origin * of the epistle has been usually given as Egyptian, but Deissmann (Bibel-Studien, pp. 277-284) has discovered some interesting parallels between the style of the introduction and a decree of Stratoiricea, which would rather point to Asia Minor.
1 E.g. by Farrar and Simcox. But the notion is as old as Jerome's day. Much more plausible is the idea that 2 Pet is by the author of the "Apocalypse of Peter."
2 "Since it is permissible that what scholars publish should be regarded as the work of their master"; cp. Dr. Sanday's most cautious sentences ("Inspiration," Hampton Lectures, pp. 848-350).
3 The growing distance from the religious centre of Christianity is even more noticeable in 2 Peter than in the other NT productions of the second century. It comes out iu the diminution of simplicity, the increased recourse to vehement appeals and threats, the dependence on Jewish Haggada, and the presence of popular ideas such as that of the world's catastrophic overthrow and renewal (a stoical opinion, Cicero, de Kat. Deorum, ii. 46). Cp. Zeller's Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics (KTr.), pp. 155 f.
* Dr. Stanton's remark (JTS, n. 19) upon the publication of pseudepigraphio literature applies to 2 Pet: "The real author of any such work had to keep himself altogether out of sight, and its entry upon circulation had to be surrounded with a certain mystery, in order that the strangeness of its appearance at a more or less considerable interval after the putative author's death might be concealed."
The libertines who are attacked in the epistle of Judas appeal to a deeper Gnosis, they criticise the traditional faith and are on the point of separating themselves from Christendom; but in 2 Peter they reveal themselves in a still more advanced stage of development. They cast doubts upon the Christian tradition and occasion heresies. Their libertine tendencies and the background for these in angelology remain the same, even if the details are somewhat clearer and the propaganda more energetic. But they have brought one new idea into action, which for the time has produced a widespread opposition in Christian circles. This idea is to doubt the escbatological Christian outlook; and it assumes the guise of an appeal to a deeper knowledge of Christ, to a particular conception of the OT, as well as to the position of Paul. The last-named point could be manipulated in support of a theoretical basis for libertinism, and also—by an ingenious change of meaning—to extinguish the outlook for the second Advent. The author places himself in the ranks of those apostles who were investod with canonical authority. Indeed, he lays emphasis on this expressly. His aim is to deepen the impression of what he writes by introducing it as the last word of Peter, the testament of the apostle given immediately before his death.—von Soden.
I1-4 Greeting: the possession of the Divine Life:
l6'11 its moral obligations.
j 12-21 To urge these, the motive of the writer: his authority.
The need of such counsel: in 21'3 (a) the rise of false prophets and teachers—
doom of these and their adherents foretold and certain. Zu'a (I/) the doubts of the second Arrival—
the day of the Lord, certain and critical.
ju-is final appeal.
1 1 Stmbon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ,
to those who have been allotted along with us a faith of equal privilege, through the justice of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ:
2 Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the full knowledge of God
3 and of Jesus our Lord, as his divine power has bestowed on us all that makes for life and piety through the full knowledge of him who called us
4 by his own majesty and virtue—through which he has granted promises that are precious to us and most great, in order that through these you may come to share in the divine nature and escape from the corruption
5 which, thanks to lust, is in the world. Yea and for this very object, contributing on your part all eagerness, in your faith furnish virtue; and
6 in virtue, knowledge; and in knowledge, self-control; and in self-control,
7 patience; and in patience, piety; and in piety, brotherly love; and in
8 brotherly love, love. For if these things exist with you and increase, they render you neither idle nor fruitless in gaining the full knowledge
9 of our Lord Jesus Christ; for he who has not these things by him is blind, short-sighted, since he has forgotten the cleansing from his Bins
10 of long ago. Therefore, brothers, endeavour all the more eagerly to make sure of your calling and selection, for by so doing you shall
11 never stumble. In this way you shall have richly furnished to vou the entrance into the eternal reign of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
12 Therefore I shall take care always to remind you of these things, although you know them and are established in the truth you now
13 possess. Indeed I consider it right, so long as I dwell in this tent, to
14 stir you up by way of reminder; since I know my tent must be struck
15 speedily, as our Lord Jesus Christ also pointed out to me. Yes and I will eagerly endeavour that even after my departure you may constantly
16 recollect these things. For it was no sophistical myths that we followed, when we made known to you the power and arrival of our Lord Jesus
17 Christ: nay, we were admitted to the spectacle of his grandeur. For he received honour and majesty from God the Father, when such a voice as this reached him from the grand Majesty,
"This is my beloved Son,
18 and this voice we heard borne out of the sky, when we were with him on
19 the holy mountain. And so we have the word of prophecy more sure than ever, to which you do well to devote yourselves, as to a lamp shining in a darksome place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise within
20 your hearts; especially as you know that every prophecy eludes individual interpretation,
21 For it was not through man's will that any prophecy was ever borne,