Who Wrote 2 Peter?
An Article for Eggheads
Jesus had a brother named Jude (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55). He also had a brother named James who became very famous in the early church (Galatians 1:19; 2:9; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 15:13). Don’t confuse this James with James, the brother of John whom Herod killed about 10 years after death of Jesus (Acts 12:2). When Jude writes in verse 1 of his little letter that he is “the brother of James,” he lets us know who he is. He is Jesus’ brother.
Now if you read Jude alongside 2 Peter 2 you will see immediately that there is a very close connection. Both use similar language in a similar way to denounce a similar false teaching. Many scholars think Jude copied from 2 Peter or the author of 2 Peter copied from Jude. But the relationship between the two is not exact like it would be if one copied the other. It’s just close. The closest analogy in the New Testament is the relationship between Ephesians and Colossians. Of the 155 verses in Ephesians, 73 have verbal parallels in Colossians. Yet the parallels are not exact. Paul probably wrote both at about the same time and wanted to say much the same to two different communities. Could this imply that 2 Peter and Jude have the same writer?
There are very strong objections to thinking the same person wrote 1 and 2 Peter. The vocabulary and style in 2 Peter are very different from 1 Peter but are very similar to Jude. There is evidence that Peter and Jude may have been co-workers. In 1 Corinthians 9:5 Paul may imply that Peter and Jesus’ brothers traveled together. So Jude and Peter could have had a relationship like Paul and Luke (or Paul and Silas). If so, then the tremendous similarity between 2 Peter and Jude may be explained by some sort of collaboration.
J.A.T. Robinson (in Redating the New Testament), suggests the following hypothesis: Jude begins to write 2 Peter at Peter’s request and as his agent. But he breaks off and sends a shorter, hurried letter in his own name (Jude). In it (verse 3) he says, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith.” The first italicized words would refer to 2 Peter (cf. 1:1). The second italicized words would refer to “Jude.” Then after “Jude” is quickly dispatched, Jude completes 2 Peter for the apostle, and uses in 2 Peter 2 most of what he had sent in “Jude.” Jude was not impersonating Peter, for that was not tolerated in the earliest church (2 Thessalonians 2:12; 3:17). He was representing him. He was his agent. And the Jewish teaching of the day said, “A man’s agent is as himself” (Mishna, Berakoth 5:5).
So when 2 Peter 3:1 says, “Beloved, this is now the second letter I am writing to you,” the letter in mind may well be Jude rather than 1 Peter, especially since the content of the letter described in 2 Peter 3:2 fits Jude better than 1 Peter. And Jude may have left another signature in 2 Peter. Probably the best reading for 2 Peter 1:1 is “Simeon Peter” rather than Simon Peter. The only other person who is recorded as using this Hebraic name is James, Jude’s brother, in Acts 15:14. As Robinson says, “It was in the family.” So the word Simeon at the beginning of 2 Peter is another clue that Jude penned the letter on Peter’s behalf.
The advantages of Robinson’s hypothesis are that: 1) it explains the difference in style, vocabulary and content from 1 Peter; 2) it explains the similarity to Jude; 3) it avoids the problem of forgery; 4) it preserves the apostolic authority of the letter.
In the end our confidence in the truth of the letter does not rest on the uncertain hypotheses about authorship, but on the power of its message to change us and its coherence with other apostolic teaching. What we mean when we say that New Testament books like 2 Peter are inspired by God is that God guided the minds of the apostles and their agents so that what they wrote as teachers in the church was true.
Under the Word,
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