Friday, June 20, 2008
Witherington on authorship of 2 Peter
Ben Witherington in his recent book on 1-2 Peter argues that 2 Peter is clearly dependent upon Jude (following R. Bauckham, D. Watson, and M. Gilmour [pp. 260-72]). He surmises that 2 Peter is a composite document based on genuine Petrine testimony (2 Pet. 1.12-21), Jude, and interaction with Paul's letters. According to Witherington, 2 Peter exhibits a form of grandiose Asiatic Greek rhetoric and he considers it unlikely that a fisherman had picked up such "bookish Greek" and there is no reference to an amaneuensis being used. 2 Peter is a truly "catholic" letter in that it is an attempt at mass communication to all Christians in the empire. Witherington is quick to add that 2 Peter is not a pseudepigraphon and he rejects Bauckham's view that 2 Peter follows the "testament" genre. Witherington urges a way beyond the impasse of Petrine vs. pseudepigraphal: "But it is equally surprising that many scholars today do not seem to realize that there are other options besides declaring this document to be a pseudepigraphon or a letter composed by Peter himself" (p. 269). Unlike the pseudepigrapha, 2 Peter has no special axe to grind and no unique doctrine to promulgate. He concludes that: (1) 2 Pet. 1.12-21 (and perhaps 2 Pet. 3.1-3) must be seen as the testimony of Peter passed on orally at Rome before his martyrdom; (2) It uses Jude and is good Hellenistic rhetoric but not bombastic; (3) we should see 2 Pet. 3.3-11 as a summary of apostolic teaching written in asiatic Greek; (4) It is likely that this document was written up after Peter's (and Paul's?) death by someone in the Petrine circle, a colleague, probably not an understudy. Witherington gives tacit approval to Baukham's suggestion of Linus the second bishop of Rome (2 Tim. 4.21; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 3.13, 21). Thus: "Second Peter is a composite document that draws on material from both Peter and Jude, two earlier apostles, and reflects some knowledge of Paul as well. It bears neither the form nor character of a pseudepigraphon, and since it includes some genuine Petrine material, it is understandably attributed to tis first and most famous contributor' (p. 271).
On a side note, I had a wry smile on my face when I read the CT interview with Tom Schreiner concerning his recent NT Theology (which looks like a very fine book indeed). When asked about possible objections to his volume, Tom replied: "