The Authenticity Of 2 Peter -- By: Michael J. Kruger

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 42:4 (Dec 1999)
Article: The Authenticity Of 2 Peter
Author: Michael J. Kruger


The Authenticity Of 2 Peter

Michael J. Kruger*

J. N. D. Kelly in his commentary on 2 Peter confesses that “scarcely anyone nowadays doubts that 2 Peter is pseudonymous.” 1 Indeed, from the very start this epistle has had a difficult journey. It was received into the New Testament canon with hesitation, considered second-class Scripture by Luther, reluctantly accepted by Calvin, rejected by Erasmus, and now is repudiated as pseudonymous by modern scholarship. Joseph B. Mayor agrees with the current consensus when he declares that 2 Peter “was not written by the author of 1 Peter, whom we have every reason to believe to have been the Apostle St. Peter himself …. We conclude, therefore, that the second Epistle is not authentic.” 2

Why all the difficulty? The argument against the authenticity of 2 Peter turns on three main problems: (1) problem of external attestation in the early church; (2) stylistic and literary problems with 1 Peter and Jude; and (3) historical and doctrinal problems that seem to indicate internal inconsistency and a late date. Undoubtedly, 2 Peter has a plethora of problems. Most scholars believe its path towards canonical status was littered with pitfalls and detours for good reason. If so, then why reopen a discussion which apparently deserves to stay closed? It is not because I presume to have solved all the conundrums that have so vexed capable scholars throughout church history, but because, in the case of 2 Peter, the other side of the argument seems mainly untold. It is untold because scholars have reached a conclusion about its authorship upon which they agree (a novel event in a field where there is little agreement on anything). Therefore, it would be most beneficial for us to reconsider the “other side”—indeed, scholarly progress is ensured by a willingness to rethink what has already been thought—and to question what has already been decided.

Therefore, this essay will take a fresh look at 2 Peter’s pseudonymous label. I hope to demonstrate that the case for its pseudonymity is simply too incomplete and insufficient to warrant the dogmatic conclusions issued by much of modern scholarship. Although 2 Peter has various difficulties that are still being explored, we have no reason to doubt the epistle’s own claims in regard to authorship.

* Michael J. Kruger is a doctoral student at New College, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

I. Pseudepigraphy In The Early Church

Before proceeding, it is important to pause and consider this concept of pseudepigraphy. Much has been written on this subject, ...

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