Saturday, September 08, 2007

Calvin on the Authorship of 2 Peter

About the doubts of many of the Fathers concerning Petrine authorship of 2 Peter, Calvin wrote this:

"The doubts respecting this Epistle mentioned by Eusebius, ought not to keep us from reading it. For if the doubts rested on the authority of men, whose names he does not give, we ought to pay no more regard to it than to that of unknown men. And he afterwards adds, that it was everywhere received without any dispute. What Jerome writes influences me somewhat more, that some, induced by a difference in the style, did not think that Peter was the author. For though some affinity may be traced, yet I confess that there is that manifest difference which distinguishes different writers. There are also other probable conjectures by which we may conclude that it was written by another rather than by Peter. At the same time, according to the consent of all, it has nothing unworthy of Peter, as it shews everywhere the power and the grace of an apostolic spirit. If it be received as canonical, we must allow Peter to be the author, since it has his name inscribed, and he also testifies that he had lived with Christ: and it would have been a fiction unworthy of a minister of Christ, to have personated another individual. So then I conclude, that if the Epistle be deemed worthy of credit, it must have proceeded from Peter; not that he himself wrote it, but that some one of his disciples set forth in writing, by his command, those things which the necessity of the times required. For it is probable that he was now in extreme old age, for he says, that he was near his end. And it may have been that at the request of the godly, he allowed this testimony of his mind to be recorded shortly before his death, because it might have somewhat availed, when he was dead, to support the good, and to repress the wicked. Doubtless, as in every part of the Epistle the majesty of the Spirit of Christ appears, to repudiate it is what I dread, though I do not here recognize the language of Peter. But since it is not quite evident as to the author, I shall allow myself the liberty of using the word Peter or Apostle indiscriminately."

One has to ask if Calvin is drawing the concept of Petrine authorship so widely and broadly that we have to ask if Peter is really the author any more. If all that Peter provided was the instigation, inspiration, or reminiscences for the letter, and it was (as Calvin suggests) penned by a disciple in a style of Greek altogether different from 1 Peter, does Peter still constitute its author? Is conformity to the Apostolic message more important than authorship in determining canonicity? Can one have and entertain doubts about the authorship of certain NT documents and still possess a high and orthodox view of Scripture? These are questions which I think that Calvin's remarks raise.


uninteressant said...

A further question to raise: what about that funky white font for that quote? When reading it in a feed reader, list most blog readers do, the text cannot be seen!

Doug Chaplin said...

Wow, that Calvin sure was a dangerous liberal.

Geoff Hudson said...

I find it remarkable that Calvin saw in this Epistle something that is not obvious:"in every part of the Epistle, the majesty of the Spirit of Christ appears". If the original was a Jeiwsh prophetic document, the Spirit would simply have been the Spirit of God, and the writer would have been a prophet. The extant document does indeed look as though it has had some hefty editorial applied to it. My belief is that its author could have been one Simon, brother of James and son of Judas, and that the original authorship was done some time between 60 and 62 CE shortly before the execution of James by Ananus.

Jim said...

I think the best defense of Petrine authoriship is made by Tom Schreiner in his commentary on 1 and 2 Peter and Jude in the NAC series.



Love's Work said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Love's Work said...

It seems to me that Calvin is making something close to the claim that 2 Peter was written down by an Amaneuensis ( I know i butchered that!).
If the message and theology ultimately come from a disciple who was told what to write while Peter was dying, does Peter still not have a hand in the authorship? We do after all consider Paul to be the author of the letters that he did not directly pen do we not? Good thoughts Chris.
I do think that the letter does at the very least contain Peter's account of the transfiguration in Chapter 1.
My vote: It is by Peter through a disciple.
In Christ,