The Genre Of 2 Peter: A Comparison With Jewish And Early Christian Testaments -- By: Mark D. Mathews

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 21:1 (NA 2011)
Article: The Genre Of 2 Peter: A Comparison With Jewish And Early Christian Testaments
Author: Mark D. Mathews

The Genre Of 2 Peter: A Comparison With Jewish And Early Christian Testaments

Mark D. Mathews

Durham University

Commentators frequently default to the thesis that 2 Peter belongs to the testament genre and would have been readily received as a pseudepigraphical writing by the early church. It is also argued that later framers of the NT canon would not have recognized the Jewish nature of the convention and thus, after much debate, received it as genuine. This essay compares the so-called testamentary features of 2 Peter with Jewish and early Christian testaments and demonstrates that it is unlikely that either of these positions is sustainable.

Key Words: 2 Peter, testament, farewell speech, death, deathbed, pseudepigrapha, genre


The genuineness of 2 Peter has been continually challenged both before and after its acceptance into the NT canon and, since the turn of the 20th century, has faced the unabating indictment of pseudonymity.1 Modern scholars have marshaled a significant array of challenges against its authenticity, a thorough analysis of which is provided in a recent article by Kruger.2 Prior to this, the last to defend its authenticity vigorously were Spitta and Bigg.3 This method of argumentation, however, seems to have reached an impasse and the majority opinion now is that 2 Peter is a pseudoapostolic letter. The keystone argument for the pseudepigraphal character of the letter is the proposal that it belongs to the testament genre.4

The genesis of this argument springs from Johannes Munck’s work in the 1950s, which compared the farewell discourses of Jacob (Gen 47:29–50:14) and Moses (Deut 31–33) with analogous traditions found in the NT writings.5 Bauckham’s development of this thesis has become the seminal work in establishing 2 Peter as a testament and thus a pseudoapostolic letter. In his study, he concludes that the testamentary features of 2 Peter were so numerous that they “would leave no contemporary reader in doubt that 2 Peter belonged to the genre of ‘testament.’”6

The present study wishes to address this statement directly by comparing the testamentary literature of the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple period to the passages of 2 Peter that Bauckham has ...

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