Monday 19 March 2012

2 Peter - a cuckoo in the nest

Yeah, right!
The New Testament book of 2 Peter is almost universally regarded by scholars as pseudonymous.  In other words, it wasn't written by Peter but by someone else and much later.  This comes as news to many biblicists who are convinced otherwise based on little more than wishful thinking. 

Richard Bauckham writes in the HarperCollins Bible Commentary:

2 Peter belongs not only to the literary genre of the letter, but also to that of "testament"... In Jewish usage the testament was a fictional genre... It is therefore likely that 2 Peter is also a pseudonymous work, attributed to Peter after his death... These literary considerations and the probable date of 2 Peter... make authorship by Peter himself very improbable.
Scot McKnight, writing in the Eerdmans Commentary notes that 2 Peter

was probably composed within two decades after his death. No book in the Bible had more difficulty establishing itself in the canon. As late as Eusebius (d. 371) some did not consider 2 Peter to be from the Apostle or part of the canon... doubts continued for centuries (e.g., Calvin and Luther)
McKnight adds:

There is clear evidence that 2 Peter is either dependent on Jude or on a later revision of a tradition used by the author of Jude and then by the author of 2 Peter... The letter probably emerges from a Hellenistic Jewish context, probably in Asia.
Neither Bauckham nor McKnight can be regarded as skeptics, both are firmly within the conservative Christian tent.  Bart Ehrman, on the other hand, isn't. He notes that
 whoever wrote 2 Peter, it was not Simon Peter the disciple of Jesus. Unlike 1 Peter, the letter of 2 Peter was not widely accepted, or even known, in the early church. The first time any author makes a definite reference to the book is around 220 CE, that is 150 years after it was allegedly written. It was finally admitted into the canon somewhat grudgingly, as church leaders of the later third and fourth centuries came to believe that it was written by Peter himself. But it almost certainly was not... As scholars have long recognized, much of the invective is borrowed, virtually wholesale, from another book that found its way into the New Testament, the epistle of Jude. This is one of the reasons for dating the letter itself somewhat later... it is dependent on another letter that appears to have been written near the end of the first century.
Sadly, none of this prevents idiots from playing fast and loose with the text.  Elsewhere I've noted the suggestion by a magazine writer that 2 Peter 1:12-15 proved ol' Pete himself was a prime mover in the creation of the canon!  Even worse are these downright deceptive notes provided in a copy of the awful ESV Bible.
Peter probably wrote this letter from a Roman prison about A.D. 67-68, shortly before his death... Recalling his firsthand experience of Christ's glory at the Transfiguration (1:17-18), Peter explains the "more sure" truth of the gospel as an antidote to heresy. (ESV, NT book introductions, 2 Peter.)
Total rubbish.  "Peter probably" did no such thing. This is whistling in the dark, hoping the peons in the pews won't dig beyond shallow reassurances. Ignorance is bliss.  Way back in 1981 James Barr wrote:
[I]t can be said, and should and must be said, that in some at least of the new 'evangelical' translations the Bible itself has been doctored to make it say the sort of thing that modern revivalist fundamentalists say...
[F]undamentalism is not basically concerned with the Bible and what it says, but with the achievement of dominance for the evangelical tradition of religion and way of life. (1981 foreword to "Fundamentalism".)
 It's not that there was merely an innocent misidentification of 2 Peter's authorship, the forger deliberately misrepresented himself as Peter.  How do we know this?
16 We didn’t repeat crafty myths when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary, we witnessed his majesty with our own eyes. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when a voice came to him from the magnificent glory, saying, “This is my dearly loved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.
To put no too fine a point on it, the author is telling blatant, in-your-face porkies.  He witnessed nothing with his own eyes, heard no voice from heaven and was not with Jesus on any holy mountain.  Bob Price pulls no punches:
2 Peter is thus a double fraud: it is not a Petrine writing, and its author is baldly lying about being an eyewitness to the Transfiguration.
So what do we do with 2 Peter?  Can it even be scripture in any meaningful sense of that word?  And if it can be, why not the Shepherd of Hermas, the Gospel of Thomas or the Book of Mormon?


  1. Oh, Lord! You are determined to out thump the tub-thumpers. Please lets have a more sophisticated reading. You quoted Bauchman writing: "2 Peter belongs not only to the literary genre of the letter, but also to that of "testament"... In Jewish usage the testament was a fictional genre..." but then you proceed to treat the work as if itg was claiming to be history. If I read a fictional account that has Te Raupata as a character I don't complain at the words put in his mouth unless they sound like something he would not have said. So the question you should have asked was: "Does this sound like something Peter might have said?"

  2. Wow... Tim! Could it be that a nerve was hit.

    A more sophisticated reading? How sophisticated do you want to get? 2 Peter doesn't claim to be authentic? The early Christians were genre experts? Are you saying that the intention of the writer was to create a piece of jolly hockey sticks pious fiction that everybody at First Antioch Apostolic Church could have a good laugh at over a chalice of Speights?

    "Hi folks, this is (nod, nod, wink, wink) Peter (chuckle)."

    Sheesh, what went wrong?

    And are you saying that it was on THIS basis that it was accepted into the canon?

    From what I've read about sweet-natured Athanasias and the gang, that doesn't seem exactly likely.

    Impossible, actually.

    "Righto lads, 2 Peter, in or out?"

    "Uh, it was written by Pete, right?"

    "Absolutely, 'cos it says so. Why he was right there at the Transmogrifigaration - right there in chapter 1."

    "Well then, its got my vote."

    "Any heretics or Arians wanna vote otherwise? Speak up now so we can pass on your details to the nice officers in trenchcoats guarding the doors, hmmm?"

    "That'll be a pass then."

    Moreover, do you think the nice folk at your local Baptist church would accept your sophisticated explanation? (Lord knows, I don't even know whether I understand it myself.) Dude, my experience attending a Baptist church, during the course of which I rubbed shoulders with some of the good people at a Summer School at the very institution I believe you teach at, would indicate otherwise. (Now THAT was unsophisticated.)

    Tub thumping may be what I'm doing, but tell me with a straight face that you're not doing sophisticated apologetics - really sophisticated desperate apologetics.

  3. I'd thoroughly agree with the conclusion to your next post but two/on this topic: "'s a mess."

    But I'm tollerant of mess, all human life is a mess, why not the Bible? If, as your quote from Bauchman suggests there was a fictive literary genre at the time to which 2 Peter fits then surely some people recognised this, others didn't, always some people are more or less sensitive to such things. As to your imagined conversations there, great fiction, but thoroughly modern in outlook so no actual help.

  4. Yes, well, I did have my tongue firmly in my cheek at the time. Some might even add that my foot was in my mouth as well. ;-)

  5. "I'm tolerant of mess, all human life is a mess, why not the Bible"

    Christians are very adaptable Chameleons

  6. It would not surprise me if all the New Testament epistles were forgeries, even the so-called "authentic" Pauline epistles.