Monday, January 08, 2007

Peter Davids on the Authorship of 2 Peter

Out of all the books of the NT, the book that has its authorship questioned the most often has to be that of 2 Peter. The second letter of Peter is largely regarded as pseudepigraphical in contemporary scholarship, even by a good many conservative scholars (e.g. Richard Bauckham, David deSilva). I found Peter H. David's comments all the more interesting for this very reason.

Davids overviews Peter in the NT (pp. 123-26) and then proceeds to identify the challenges to Petrine authenticity (pp. 126-30). (1) 2 Peter is written to a Gentile audience whereas Peter himself had a ministry to the circumcision (Jews); (2) There are thematic differences between 1 and 2 Peter. (3) 2 Peter is different from 1 Peter in terms of the quality of its Greek. (4) 2 Peter is also rich in Graeco-Roman concepts and culture and there is a lack of OT references in comparison to 1 Peter. To this I would add (5) the false teachers are more gnostic-esque than elsewhere in the NT; (6) 2 Peter is dependent upon Jude [as Davids admits]; and (7) 2 Peter may assume the collection and veneration of Paul's writings.

David's states at the end: "Certainly one can mount a good defense of Petrine authorship, as Michael Green has done, or one can decide that 2 Peter must have been composed later than the life of Peter, as Richard Bauckham has done. Both Green and Bauckham are British evangelical scholars, but in either case we are working with incomplete evidence [i.e. lack of knowledge of Peter's education and background] and so cannot have a conclusive answer." (p. 130).

About Bauckham in particular he writes: "While Bauckham believes that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphical, he also believes that it is written in a testamental form and that the genre would have been recognized by any contemporary reader as being written in the spirit of Peter rather than having been writen by Peter. Thus, he argues, the document was neither intended to deceive nor did it in fact deceive its first readers. They would have thought of it as being about Peter rather than by Peter. Bauckham may be right or wrong on this, but the position he holds is fully compatible with evangelical affirmations about the trustworthiness of the canonical Scriptures in all that they truly affirm (versus what we may misread them as affirming). (130, n. 2).

Davids agrees with Bauckham that 2 Peter is a farewell speech, but he disagrees that it is a testament like Jewish testaments (e.g. Testament of Moses, Testament of the 12 Patriarchs, etc). But Davids says this in the end: "It is not unreasonable to believe that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphal, although Bauckham assumes the pseudepigaphal character of 2 Peter as being incontrovertible, which in our mind goes beyond the evidence. While it is not unreasonable to believe that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphical, one comes to this conclusion by making assumptions about Simon Peter that, while they are reasonable, are not the only reasonable assumptions that one could make. The fact is that we do not know enough of Simon Peter's history to know whether or not he could have written 2 Peter [or 1 Peter]. Given that we cannot be fully convinced one way or the other, one wonders how the first-century reader could be clear that it was pseudepigraphical, that it was a testament, and that therefore it did not intend to be anything other than pseudepigraphical? Perhaps they could; one cannot rule out Bauckham's hypothesis as totally out of the question. But to me it is not proved. 2 Peter is a farewell letter. It does show characteristics that differentiate it from 1 Peter. It does show a significant knowledge of the Greco-Roman world, including the use of key philosophical terms. But in the absence of a biography of Simon Peter and in particular knowledge of his education and his activities after A.D. 44, one cannot really know whether or not he was capable of writing it ... We do not deny the problems. We do not claim that one can show that he did write it ... In the end we have to conclude that the salutation claims that this letter was written by Simon Peter and that we by the nature of the case cannot know from historical investigation whether this is in some sense actual or is a pseudepigraphical attribution" (p. 149).

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