I am excited to be starting our study of 2 Peter this Tuesday evening after a two-week break. Please take the time this week to read the entire letter. It is fairly short and should take less than fifteen minutes. Also, please read the chapter on 2 Peter from Luke Timothy Johnson’s The Writings of the New Testament for a brief overview of the letter.
2 Peter, along with Revelation, was one of the last books to be incorporated into the New Testament. The canon of the New Testament developed over the first several centuries of the Church with each local church community designating those books that it considered to be Scriptural. (Most all of the early church community used the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures) as their Old Testament, which includes the books of the Protestant Old Testament plus those books included in the Apocrypha.) With some exceptions, the early church generally agreed that the four gospels, Paul’s letters, 1 John, and 1 Peter were part of the New Testament, but the others, including some books that did not make the cut, were disputed.
The issue of what books are in the New Testament came to a head in the early 4th century when the Emperor Constantine became the first Christian emperor and called the first Ecumenical Council. Constantine wanted a copy of the Christian holy writings and there was some disagreement. At this time (c.325), Eusebius wrote his Church History which gave the history of the church from the apostles to the present day. Within the work, Eusebius traces the lines of succession of the present-day bishops, relates important events (particularly persecutions) and written works of the early church, and gives tells us those books that certain churches or writers considered canonical.
As those works attributed to Peter, he writes “One epistle of Peter, that called the first, is acknowledged as genuine. And this the ancient elders used freely in their own writings as an undisputed work. But we have learned that his extant second Epistle does not belong to the canon; yet, as it has appeared profitable to many, it has been used with the other Scriptures. The so-called Acts of Peter, however, and the Gospel which bears his name, and the Preaching and the Apocalypse, as they are called, we know have not been universally accepted, because no ecclesiastical writer, ancient or modern, has made use of testimonies drawn from them.” Church History 3.3.1. In other words, as later as 325, whether 2 Peter should be considered part of Scripture was still in dispute.
A good discussion of the issues with 2 Peter is HERE. Generally, the Greek of 1 Peter and 2 Peter are very different, and 1 Peter extensively uses the Hebrew Scriptures whereas 2 Peter does not. Additionally, 2 Peter 2 and Jude are very similar. And 2 Peter 3:16 calls Paul’s letter “scripture” which would be unusual if Paul was still living.
By the end of the 4th century, however, the church had generally accepted 2 Peter into the canon. Despite its tenuous connection to 1 Peter or the apostle himself, the Church saw within the letter teachings that were apostolic in nature. What the ancient Church saw in 2 Peter and what we see in the epistle is a message to the church at large that bears to be continually repeated.
The first great theme is that the church must be patient in light of its troubles and in waiting for Jesus’s return. As Jesus himself warns us, “If anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.” Mark 13:21. In our lifetimes, we have seen men from Hal Lindsey to David Koresh lose patience in God, and predict that the end times is now. No matter how bad we perceive the present to be, 2 Peter warns us against these teachings that say the time of the second coming is now.
The letter also warns us against false teachers motivated by greed and adultery. These men prey on the Church from the inside for their own gain. These types of false teachers have been with the Church from very early on, and we do not lack a shortage of them today. 2 Peter gives us a warning against them.
But, like most letters, the writer’s primary goal is not to point out errant teachings and beliefs. Rather, the purpose of the letter is to build up the community. We should always be alert to those teachings and people that create divisions and draw us away from a life in Christ. The letter is to encourage each of us to live the life in love, peace, and community that Christ wishes us to live.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is BBQ. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here!
For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.2 Peter 1:5-6