Book Summaries

Two general, or "catholic," epistles. In the earliest Greek manuscripts they are known simply as Petrou A, "Of Peter I," and Petrou B, "Of Peter II." These epistles are known as "general," or "catholic," epistles because they were addressed, not to an individual person or congregation, but to groups of believers.

Both epistles are of the nature of circular letters addressed to the "strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Pe 1:1; cf. 2 Pe 1:1; 3:1). That the 1st epistle was addressed chiefly to Christians of Gentile origin is clear from such passages as 1 Pe 1:14; 2:9, 10; 3:6; and 4:3. That it was probably written from Rome (ch 5:13) indicates a time toward the close of the apostle's life. The epistle also reflects an unfriendly attitude in the Roman Empire toward Christians (see chs 2:12; 4:12 ­16), which may suggest the time of Nero's persecution, which began in a.d. 64. The 2nd epistle may also have been written from Rome. Both may be dated between a.d. 64 and 67.

1 Peter. Ancient Christian tradition unanimously attests Petrine authorship of the 1st epistle. However, modern critics, on the supposed basis that the Greek of 1 Peter is too elegant for a man of Peter's limited educational background, that the theology of the epistle more closely resembles that of Paul than it does that of Peter, that little mention is made of incidents in Christ's life--as would be expected of one so closely associated with Christ as Peter had been--and that Peter is not otherwise known to have been associated in any way with the churches of Asia Minor, have asserted that the apostle could not possibly have been the author of either this or the 2nd epistle. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that Silvanus (1 Pe 5:12), who apparently served as Peter's scribe, was responsible for the quality of the Greek in the epistle. The contention that the theology of the epistle does not resemble that of Peter is a matter of opinion, as also that Peter would have had more to say about his experiences with Christ. The latter argument and the one about Peter's not having been in Asia Minor are no more than assumptions based on silence. The author identifies himself as the apostle Peter (1 Pe 1:1) and there is no valid reason for doubting his claim. Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, quotes from the epistle, thus attesting its existence soon after the beginning of the 2nd cent. Toward the close of that century Irenaeus and others attribute it to Peter.

1 Peter is a general pastoral epistle imparting counsel on various subjects. Particularly, the apostle would prepare his readers for "the fiery trial" (1 Pe 4:12) that looms ahead, which is already reflected in troublous times. Peter seeks to strengthen their faith, to exhort them to blameless conduct, to give a loyal witness for Christ, and to be prepared to meet their Lord. The introduction (ch 1:1 ­12) is followed by an exhortation to steadfast Christian living (chs 1:13 to 4:19), in which Peter admonishes his readers to live worthy of the high calling in Christ Jesus (ch 1:13 ­25), to advance in their knowledge of Christ and in Christian maturity (ch 2:1 ­8), and to live exemplary lives among the Gentiles (vs. 9 ­18). He also counsels them to be meek under suffering (vs. 19 ­25). He has special advice for servants (v 18), husbands and wives (ch 3:1 ­7), elders (ch 5:1 ­4), and younger members of the church (vs. 5 ­9). He encourages believers to unity in the faith (ch 3:8 ­13). To suffer for Christ is a high privilege with a great reward (vs. 14 ­22). He appeals to the believers to control their fleshly lusts (ch 4:1 ­6), to be sober and charitable in their lives (vs. 7 ­11), and to be steadfast under persecution (vs. 12 ­19), and counsels church officers and members to be faithful (ch 5:1 ­9). The conclusion, vs. 10 ­14, consists of a benediction, a doxology, and personal greetings.

2 Peter. Since early Christian times there has been considerable difference of opinion as to the authorship of 2 Peter. Origen, the earliest writer to mention it specifically, expresses doubt as to its authenticity (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. vi. 25). Eusebius (ibid. iii. 3) wrote that the epistle had not been received as canonical, but that since many considered it useful it was being studied along with other Scriptures. There seem to be no direct quotations from 2 Peter in earliest Christian writings.

Perhaps no other book of the NT has been as emphatically declared post-apostolic--and thus spurious--by modern scholars as 2 Peter. They point out that its language and style differ markedly from those of 1 Peter. They note that it gives a special status to the extant epistles of Paul, referring to them as "scripture" (2 Pe 3:13, 16), placing them thus on the same level of inspiration and authority as the OT, and observe that it is incredible that these epistles of Paul should have been collected and have attained to a state equal to that of OT scriptures during Peter's lifetime, especially since Peter and Paul died about the same time. However, the epistle claims to be the writing of Simon Peter, disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ (ch 3:1). The author also claims to have been with Christ upon the mount of Transfiguration (ch 1:17, 18), an occasion on which only Peter, James, and John were present (Mt 17:1). The difference in the style from 1 Peter may be the result of Peter's not having had the help of the same amanuensis he had in writing his 1st epistle (see 1 Pe 5:12). It is most logical to suppose that Peter, an unschooled Palestinian, with Aramaic as his mother tongue, would use a secretary when he wrote in Greek, a language with which he was not entirely familiar, since even Paul, who was fully at home in Greek, commonly used amanuenses. The argument that Paul's epistles could not have been gathered and recognised as "scripture" before Peter's death is only an assumption. In view of the fact that Paul's active ministry covered a period of about 20 years, that Peter was in Rome at the time he wrote his 1st epistle (1 Pe 5:13), and that Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom about the same time, there is no reason why Paul's epistles could not have attained the status reflected in Peter's statement in 2 Pe 3:15, 16. Paul's active and successful ministry and his explicit claim that he received his gospel by inspiration (see Gal 1:11, 12; 1 Ti 4:1) clearly provide a solid foundation for Peter's statement.

In 1958 an announcement was made of the discovery of a 3rd-cent. papyrus containing the general epistles 1 Pe, 2 Pe, and Jude, now in the Bodmer library in Switzerland. This manuscript is a most significant find and is a testimony to the acceptance of these epistles, at least by some, in the 3rd cent. It was published in 1959 and is known as Bodmer VII, VIII (P72). For a discussion of certain similarities between 2 Pe and the epistle of Jude, see Jude.

Second Peter is a pastoral epistle in which the writer exhorts his readers to continue their growth in grace and in spiritual knowledge, in order that God's purpose in their calling and election may be fulfilled. Following the introduction (2 Pe 1:1 ­11), he states his purpose in writing as being to establish the believers in present truth and to confirm the gospel message on the basis of his personal experience with Christ and the fulfilment of OT prophecy in Christ (vs. 12 ­21). Chapter 2 consists of a series of stern warnings against false teachers and their deceptive heresies. The last section of the epistle (ch 3:1 ­18) stresses the coming of Christ and preparation for His appearing. The great day of the Lord is certain (vs. 3 ­10), and in anticipation of that event all should live godly lives (vs. 11 ­18).

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.