An early Christian teacher turns his attention to what he views as alarming trends in the church: skepticism over the return of Christ, moral laxity, divisiveness, claims of unique spiritual insight, and denial of the final judgment. The tenor of the letter is at the same time tenacious in its colorful use of rhetoric and relentlessly pastoral in its single-minded concern for the well-being and authenticity of the church and its witness.
Our reading of history reminds us of the strains and stress points that invariably appear when changes are afoot in the life of the church, changes that may show themselves in doctrinal controversies, political upheavals, realignments in ecclesiastical authority, and so on. This letter can be meaningfully read as a testament to one of the earliest of these shifts. Even if we accept that 2 Peter is not from the hand of the Apostle Peter, it consciously aligns itself with the spirit of that apostle and the things that he cared most about. In vivid and at times even alarming ways, it takes us inside an environment where the foundations are being challenged, even shaken, and where the pastor's challenge is to remain uncompromising on truth and doctrine while striving for grace and compassion in ethics and lifestyle.
Where Do I Find It?
The Second Letter of Peter is the twenty-second book in the New Testament. It is situated among the books typically referred to as the "Catholic Letters" (James through Jude).
Who Wrote It?
Arguments based on genre, language and style, and doctrinal concerns prompt a majority of scholars to conclude that an unknown author wrote this book sometime after the Apostle Peter's death. Others argue that Peter wrote it or that someone else wrote it during Peter's lifetime.
When Was It Written?
The belief that the letter's teachings reflect a setting after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and a context in which the original apostles had all died leads many scholars to suggest a date between 80 C.E. and 90 C.E. Some suggest a much later date, in the first half of the second century.
What's It About?
As the early church seeks to regroup in the aftermath of the death of the last of the apostles, a teacher in the lineage of Peter brings words of warning: stay close to the apostolic teaching, do not be shaken from hope in Christ's return, and live in compassion and integrity.
How Do I Read It?
Scholars are not in complete agreement concerning what combination of "epistle" and "testament" this book represents. Perhaps it does not fit neatly into either category. As a letter, the book conveys something of the personal and heartfelt nature of pastoral correspondence. As a testament, it captures the author's resolve to keep the life and health of the church aligned closely to the teaching of its founder, the Apostle Peter.
AUTHOR: David Stewart, Director of Library Services