Sunday, February 11, 2007

2 Peter & Jude Interview - Peter H. Davids

Peter Davids is another Candadian scholar and he is Professor of Biblical Theology, St. Stephen’s University, New Brunswick, Canada. He is the author of commentaries on James (NIBC, NIGTC) and 1 Peter (NICNT), co-editor of the Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments, and recently published a commentary on 2 Peter and Jude for the Pillar series.

MB: Most New Testament scholars focus around the Gospels or Paul, and yet your academic writing career seems to have centred upon the Catholic Epistles including commentaries on James, 1-2 Peter, and Jude. What has led you into the study of the Catholic Epistles?

PD: It was really quite a happenstance. I had arrived in Manchester for Ph.D. study and discovered that my thesis topic was already being researched at Cambridge. I reflected on what could be a new topic that had to do with biblical ethics and came up with James, having remembered that I had trouble finding material for a paper on James back in seminary, so the field had to be more open. Some years later after my thesis and a commentary on James, F.F. Bruce, who knew of the commentary project and that it was about finished, wrote to ask me to write on 1 Peter in the NICNT, since the person who had had the topic for 25 years had finally admitted that he would not finish it.And the rest is, as they say, history.

MB: In your view, what are the best arguments for and against Petrine authorship of 2 Peter? Where do you come out on that one?

PD: The best argument for Petrine authorship of 2 Peter would be that we know so little of the biography of Peter. Thus it could be that he somehow got a very good Hellenistic education and was thoroughly enculturated in that world. Against it would be that 2 Peter not only is so Hellenistic, but it also uses scripture totally differently than 1 Peter. It is hard to see the same person writing both, not just because the Greek is different, but because the handling of scripture is different. I personally take something of an agnostic stance. I can describe the author and then I let the reader decide whether Peter could fit that picture.

MB: Does postulating the 'Testament' genre for 2 Peter adversely affect one'sview of biblical inspiration and the canonization of the New Testament?

PD: In my view, no, not if, as Bauckham does, one argues that the genre was transparent. There would be no deception in that case. Likewise another evangelical who has written on the topic argues that 2 Peter is a transparent collection, just as Proverbs collected material from previous writers. This collection is designed to preserve Peter (some sections he argues are genuine traditions from Peter), Jude (2 Peter 2), and in a way Paul (the reference to Paul). Of course canonization would not be affected in any case, for it was a decision that this book was to be read in church. One can hold that the justification was not sound, but the final judgment was good - it is a book that is worth reading in the church (which meant that it would instruct the faithful, since most of them could not read and depended on what was read in church).

MB: What problems concerning eschatology had to be addressed in 2 Peter bythe author?

PD: The denial of final judgment. That was the big issue. And if there is no final judgment, then Jesus could not be returning.

MB: When Jude quotes 1 Enoch, does he think of Enoch as Scripture and did Jude really believe that Enoch uttered the prophecy that he is purported to have?

PD: I cannot get into the mind of Jude so I do not know what he thought. But I do know that he cites 1 Enoch as the only scripture that he quotes. Now does that mean that it was canonical for him? To ask that question is to ask ananachronistic question. Jews did not have a fixed canon when Jude was writing - that would come a century or so later. So all we know is that Jude considers it part a prophetic scripture worth quoting.

MB: Who were the 'false-teachers' in Jude?

PD: People from outside the communities he addresses who had entered them and were promoting lifestyles that Jude believes are unethical.

MB: What do you think is the significance of 2 Peter and Jude for Christians today?

PD: Both works remind us that to deviate ethically from the standards of Jesusis to abandon Jesus as Lord, to apostatize. Both books warn us of the consequences of such an act. Jude shows us how not to cut off from such people, but to be compassionately reaching out to them. 2 Peter teaches us that Jesus is already the reigning Lord and that he will indeed return to purify the earth, judging the deeds of people. This reminds us that we must live every day in the light of that judgment. That is much more, but that outlines the main points.

MB: What publishing plans do you have for the future?

PD: I am planning to start a Greek text commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, which will examine the Greek grammar in detail, a sort of a cross between Zerwick and a traditional commentary, perhaps more in the direction of Zerwick.

MB: Peter, thanks!


Peter M. Head said...

So, is there something about the Canadian experience/perspective that leads them to concentrate on these parts of the NT?

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