The Early Christian View Of Pseudepigraphic Writings -- By: Thomas D. Lea

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 27:1 (Mar 1984)
Article: The Early Christian View Of Pseudepigraphic Writings
Author: Thomas D. Lea


The Early Christian View
Of Pseudepigraphic Writings

Thomas D. Lea*

Modern NT scholars quite commonly ascribe the authorship of many NT writings to pseudonymous writers who used a famous name in order to accomplish purposes that the writer deemed important. Among books frequently treated in this manner are Ephesians, the pastoral epistles, James, and 1 and 2 Peter. An example of this approach is seen in F. W. Beare’s very helpful commentary on I Peter when he says, “There can be no possible doubt that ‘Peter’ is a pseudonym.1 Beare adds that the readers of I Peter “would recognize the pseudonym for what it was—an accepted and harmless literary device, employed by a teacher who is more concerned for the Christian content of his message than for the assertion of his own claims to authority.”2 Beare does not feel that the pseudonymous writer of I Peter was seeking to gain an artificial prestige for his work, but he “seeks to re-create the personality of the one whose name he has chosen, and to make him speak in his own personality and accents.”3

Of the NT books mentioned above, no book is more commonly described as a pseudonymous writing than 2 Peter. In order to gain a perspective of the reasons behind the ascription of the term “pseudonymous” to certain NT writings, it will be helpful to examine the reasons why many feel that 2 Peter falls into this category.

W. G. Kümmel lists several factors contributing to his designation of 2 Peter as pseudonymous.4 First, he sees that Peter demonstrates literacy dependence on Jude. Since Jude is assigned to the post-apostolic age, Peter could not have written 2 Peter. Second, he finds that the language and concepts of 2 Peter are so strongly influenced by Hellenism that they could not have been written by Peter or even by one of his pupils. He sees Hellenism as a stream of learning into which the apostle Peter could not have been immersed. Third, he finds that the interest in opposing those who deny the parousia is more easily fitted into sec-ond-century gnosticism than into a first-century Christianity. The movement denounced in 2 Peter is seen by Kümmel to bear the traits of a second-century

*Thomas Lea is associate professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

gnosis. Fourth, the appeal to the writings of Paul is taken to refer to a time when the Pauline letters had been collected. This demands a date in the second century. Finally, Kümmel no...

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