Sunday, February 11, 2007

2 Peter & Jude Interview - Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several volumes including Paul, Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, Romans (BECNT), and 1-2 Peter, Jude (NAC).

MB: Earlier on in your career you worked on the Synoptics but have specialized for the most part on Paul. How hard was it moving from Paul to 1-2 Peter, Jude? What did you learn in the process?

TS: One of my goals was to respect the distinctive contribution of Peter and Jude, and hence I tried to explain the argument in the letters instead of reading Pauline theology into the letters. Reading is hard work, and it is always difficult to discipline ourselves to follow the line of thought that an author pursues. 1-2 Peter and Jude emphasize that believers are to live a transformed life, and that God judges those who give themselves over to evil. Such themes are a helpful corrective for those who misunderstand Paul’s theology of grace, and it seems from 2 Pet. 3:15-16 that some of Peter’s readers fell prey to that very mistake.

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?

TS: Perhaps the best arguments against Petrine authorship are the Hellenistic terms used in 2 Peter and a style that differs from 1 Peter. The most significant argument supporting Petrine authorship is the self-claim of the letter (2 Pet. 1:1, 16-18). Indeed, the claim of the author that he heard God’s voice on the mountain and was with Jesus on the mountain amounts to deception if the author is not Peter. Further, as I argue in my commentary, evidence is lacking that pseudonymous writings (especially epistles) were accepted as authoritative during the NT era. The difference in style and terminology between 1 and 2 Peter may be explained by an amanuensis (either in 1 or 2 Peter or in both) or the particular situation Peter faced. Finally, arguments from style are notoriously subjective when we are testing 2 Peter against 1 Peter since the books are exceedingly brief. Some scholars also argue that the theology of 2 Peter is early catholic and departs from 1 Peter which is often seen as more Pauline. I don’t have space to defend my view here, but I argue in my commentary that the introduction to 2 Peter (1:1-4) demonstrates that the new life demanded by believers is rooted in God’s gracious work in their lives.

MB: Does postulating 2 Peter as a ‘Testament’ or as ‘pseudonymous’ adversely affect one’s view of biblical inspiration and the canonization of the New Testament?

TS: The question needs to be answered carefully. If the author of 2 Peter practiced deception in writing his letter so that he could dupe the readers into thinking Peter wrote the letter, then biblical inspiration and canonicity are both threatened. Others argue that pseudonymity was well-accepted during the NT age, or that 2 Peter is a testamentary writing, so that it was clearly evident to the original readers that the author who wrote the letter was not genuinely Peter. If such a view could be demonstrated historically, then the inspiration and canonicity of the NT are not called into question, for everyone would have recognized that the author was not truly claiming to be Peter. The problem with such views, however, is the lack of evidence that pseudonymous writings were accepted as authoritative. Further, it cannot be substantiated from early church history that 2 Peter was accepted as authoritative or recognized as a ‘transparent fiction.’ Ultimately, then, testamentary or pseudonymous views of 2 Peter undercut its authority and inspiration, for there is no evidence in the NT era that pseudonymous writings were accepted as authoritative, or even that was acceptable to write in someone else’s name.

MB: How does 2 Peter 1.10, ‘make your calling and election sure’ relate to the Reformed view of election?

TS: In context Peter argues that one must practice the godly virtues listed in 2 Pet. 1:5-7 to make one’s calling and election sure. Peter does not focus here on one’s subjective assurance regarding one’s calling and election. Rather, the point is that one must practice such virtues in order to obtain a final reward (eternal life) on the last day. Still, if believers are not living in a godly way and have given themselves over to evil, they should (by implication from 2 Pet. 1:10) examine themselves to see if they are truly believers.

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?

TS: It is unlikely that Jude thought 1 Enoch was part of inspired scripture. We need to remember that 1 Enoch is not considered to be canonical scripture by Judaism, Roman Catholicism, the Greek or Russian Orthodox, or Protestantism. Citing a quotation from another source does not indicate that the entire work is inspired, even if the saying drawn upon is true. For instance, Paul quotes Aratus (Phaenomena 5) in Acts 17:28, and he does not intend to teach that the entire work is inspired scripture. Similarly, he quotes Epimenides in Titus 1:12, without any notion that he accepted the truth of the whole work. It is difficult to see how Jude could be citing an actual oral tradition from the historical Enoch since the book of Enoch was in circulation in Jude's day and was well known in Jewish circles. Jude almost certainly derived the citation from the book of 1 Enoch, and the latter is clearly pseudepigraphical. We would be faced with having to say that Jude knew that this specific quotation from 1 Enoch derived from the historical Enoch. It is better to conclude that Jude quotes the pseudepigraphical 1 Enoch, and that he also believes that the portion he quoted represents God's truth.

MB: Who were the ‘false-teachers’ in Jude?

TS: In the history of scholarship the opponents have usually been described as Gnostic or as representing some kind of incipient gnosticism. Evidence for full-fledged Gnosticism is clearly lacking in Jude. If we restrict ourselves to the letter, we can say that the opponents came from outside Jude’s community and that they were libertines. Perhaps they distorted Paul’s theology of grace as in 2 Pet. 3:15-16.

MB: If you had to preach one passage on 2 Peter and one passage from Jude, which passages would they be and why?

TS: That is a hard question to answer! I think I would preach 2 Pet. 1:5-11, for Peter emphasizes that those who enter the kingdom live a new kind of life. Good works are necessary for eternal life. Then I would probably preach Jude 1-2, 24-25, so that God’s people would understand that God keeps those whom he calls, so that we would have confidence that the God who called us will give us strength to do his will.

MB: I understand that you are currently working on a New Testament Theology. What contribution do Jude and 2 Peter make to the theology of the New Testament?

TS: I just turned in my manuscript for my NT Theology, but it will not appear until June 2008. Jude and 2 Peter remind us of a truth that is very unpopular today. God judges evil, and those who give themselves over to evil will not enjoy an eternal reward. Any theology of grace which teaches that it doesn’t matter how Christians live has forgotten about Jude and 2 Peter (and other parts of the NT as well!). Both Jude and 2 Peter also remind us that believers must persevere to the end in order to be saved, but at the same time they comfort us with the truth that the God who called us will strengthen us to do his will.

MB: Thanks Tom!

1 comment:

thunderbeard said...

i love tom schreiner (though not quite as much as seifrid). he needs to get more pub. schreiner and seifrid almost made me stay at sbts to do graduate work. almost.