WAS IT FORGED: Second Epistle of Peter

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The Reading Culture of Early Christianity From Spoken Words to Sacred Texts 400,000 Textual Variants 02

NOTE: Nineteen articles will begin with these same two introductory paragraphs but will then speak specifically about the Bible book in question.

It has often been said [by whom?] that it was an accepted practice in antiquity for a writer to attribute his work to a well-known figure from the past or a teacher who has greatly influenced him. The practice would have been condemned as dishonest by all authorities in antiquity. The book Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Agnostic New Testament Bible scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman contends that this is incorrect. Falsely attributed writings are often referred to as “pseudepigraphs,” but Ehrman maintains that the more honest term is “forgery.” The book suggests that 11 or more books out of the 27 books of the Christian New Testament canon were written as forgeries. This article and others will debunk this claim. In his book, Ehrman points out numerous inconsistencies which he finds within the New Testament which appear to support many of his claims, such as the fact that in Acts 4:13, the statement is made that both Peter and John were illiterate, yet in later years entire books of the Bible were then alleged to have been written by them. This last argument is quickly debunked on two grounds: (1) it was not years later that they wrote their books, it was over thirty years later, and in the case of John, it was over sixty years later; (2) the Greek means unlettered (YLT) that is, not educated in the rabbinic schools; not meaning illiterate. Nevertheless, below are three articles that destroy this argument of Ehrman.

Were Jesus, the Apostles, and the Early Christians Illiterate, Uneducated?

What Do We Know About Books, Reading, and Writing; Literacy In Early Christianity?

The Early Christian’s View of the Integrity of the Greek New Testament Books

False attributions

In addition to the eleven books of the New Testament Ehrman identifies as forgeries, he discusses eight originally anonymous New Testament texts that had names of apostles ascribed to them later and are falsely attributed. These are not forgeries since the texts are anonymous but have had false authors ascribed to them by others.

The P52 PROJECT THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS 4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS

Christian apologist Dr. Norman L. Geisler writes,

Who Wrote It?

“Simon Peter, … apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1) is the author.

Internal Evidence

The internal evidence for Peter’s authorship is strong. (1) The repeated claim of the book supports Peter the apostle as the author (1:1; 3:1–2). (2) This claim is confirmed by the fact that it is sent to the same group as 1 Peter (2 Peter 3:1). (3) The character of the book is similar to that of 1 Peter in vocabulary, diction, and thought. Second Peter and Peter’s speeches in Acts 2, 4, and 10 use similar words and phrases that either appear nowhere else in the New Testament or very rarely. These include obtained (1:1; Acts 1:17), godliness (1:3, 6–7; 3:11; see Acts 1:17), lawless (2:8; see Acts 2:23), wages of unrighteousness or iniquity (2:13, 15; Acts 1:18), the day of the Lord (3:10; see Acts 2:20).(4) Peter mentions a colleague, the apostle Paul, and his “letters” (3:15). (5) The contents confirm it is from Peter by telling the manner of his death and saying that he was an eyewitness of the transfiguration of Christ (1:14–18). (6) The date of the book is about AD 66 (see below), which supports Peter as author, since the “letters” of Paul were in circulation by then (3:15–16). (7) The citation by Jude (Jude 6–7 of 2 Peter 2:5–7) verifies that 2 Peter was from a late first-century writer. (8) Pseudonymity (writing under another’s name) denies authenticity. It would have been considered a deliberate forgery.

External Evidence

Despite critics, ancient and modern, the evidence that Peter wrote this epistle is good. (1) The citation of 2 Peter from Jude 6–7 verifies it was from the first century (see also Jude 8 and 2 Peter 2:10). (2) The earliest manuscripts accepted it with Peter’s name on it. This is something they would not have done if they had believed Peter did not write it. (3) There are allusions to 2 Peter in some of the earliest writers, such as the Shepherd of Hermas and the Didache. (4) Many early Fathers cited it, including Origen, Rufinus, Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Jerome, and Augustine. (5) There is more evidence for 2 Peter’s genuineness than for the Greek classics, such as Herodotus and Thucydides. (6) While some have doubted it, it was never rejected by the Christian church. In fact the church has recognized it as authentic and accepted it into the canon of Scripture. (7) As B. B. Warfield pointed out, there is more evidence for 2 Peter’s genuineness than for other books from antiquity; it only seems weak when compared to the overwhelmingly strong evidence for some other New Testament books.

Answering the Critics

  1. The difference in vocabulary from 1 Peter (230 words are not used in 1 Peter) is due to a difference in topic and secretary. Further, the difference in vocabulary is similar to the difference between 1 Timothy and Titus, which has only 161 words in common with the 537 words of 1 Timothy. Yet both are from the same author.
  2. Some have doubted Peter’s authorship because the grammar is better in 1 Peter, but this can be explained by several factors. His use of Silvanus as a secretary for 1 Peter could account for that (5:12). The differences are not great. There are strong similarities in content with Peter’s known speeches in Acts. The different topic, time, and conditions of the recipients can account for variations in style by the same author.
  3. Others have argued that the Old Testament is quoted more in 1 Peter (31×) than 2 Peter (only 5×), but this can be explained by the fact that 2 Peter is shorter, the conditions in 1 Peter called for more quotations, other known authors do the same thing, and it overlooks the fact that both books tend to use the same Old Testament books (Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah).
  4. Some critics sense a greater warmth and intensity in 1 Peter, but this does not prove there were two authors. The same is true between 1 and 2 Thessalonians, which come from the same author. In 2 Corinthians there is even a different intensity in the two parts of the same book (compare chaps. 1–9 with 10–13).
  5. Others insist that second-century Gnostic thought is reflected in 2 Peter. However, similar language does not need to mean similar thought. There are no distinctly second-century Gnostic beliefs here, such as a demiurgic creator, angelic emanations from God, evil nature of matter, or salvation by mystical knowledge. An incipient kind of first-century Gnosticism (which combines legalism, mysticism, and asceticism) found and criticized in the writings of Paul (Colossians and 1 Timothy) comes from the first century but is not reflected in this book.
  6. Still others claim that Peter would not commend Paul, as he did here (in 3:15–16) after Paul rebuked him (Gal. 2:11–21). But this fails to disprove Peter’s authorship because there is no evidence Peter held a grudge, Paul made a favorable reference to Peter in 1 Corinthians 9:5, and second-century references to apostles are more venerational than personal, as they are in the New Testament.
  7. Other critics claim that 2 Peter is citing Jude who wrote in AD 68–69, and this places 2 Peter after Peter’s death (around AD 66–67). However, it is more likely that Jude is citing Peter, since Peter predicts the apostasy (chap. 3) and it is present in Jude; Jude is in a habit of using sources, more than the apostles did; and Jude refers to apostles as if many were gone (Jude 17).
  8. Critics stress the differences between the Epistles but ignore the likenesses. Both place emphasis on Christ, 1 Peter on his suffering and 2 Peter on his glory. And in both Epistles Peter refers to Noah and the flood (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:5–6).

In summation, there is strong internal and good external evidence that the apostle Peter wrote this epistle, and all of the arguments to the contrary are answerable.

When Was It Written?

Peter wrote the letter about AD 66, just before his martyrdom. The evidence points to a date in the mid-60s because: (1) It was written before the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70), since this momentous event is not mentioned as being in the recent past. (2) Paul’s “letters,” which extend into the AD 60s, are cited as in existence when Peter wrote (3:15–16). (3) Yet Peter wrote before Jude (who wrote in AD 68–69), since Jude 6–7 cites 2 Peter 2:5–7. (4) And it must have been written before Peter’s martyrdom (AD 67–68). Thus, AD 66 is the most likely date.

To Whom Was It Written?

The recipients are the same as for 1 Peter (see 2 Peter 3:1), who were described as “the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). This was a major part of Asia Minor.[1]

[1] Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 260–262.

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