What does it mean to escape the corruption of the world and become partakers of the divine “nature” (physis) in 2 Peter 1:4? Here are some options:
- Theosis: the deification of Christ-followers in their perfection and union with God, though still in a subordinate relationship to the one supreme God
- Immortality as Christ-followers no longer live in bodies subject to physical decay
- Character as Christ-followers imitate the divine virtues in 1:5-7
One of the most difficult issues for Christian students to come to terms with is the imminent expectation of Jesus’s “coming” (parousia) in glory in the New Testament. For instance, 2 Peter 3:10 repeats the saying about Jesus’s sudden return like a “thief in the night” that is multiply attested all over the tradition (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Luke 12:39-40/Matthew 24:43; Thomas logion 21). Indeed, in what may be our earliest text, Paul has to reassure the Thessalonian Christ-followers that those who died in their congregation before the expected return of Christ were not lost forever but would be raised to life when the Lord descends from heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). However, 2 Peter is likely written in the second or third generation when much time had passed and “scoffers” doubted that Christ would return to usher in the new eschatological age since nothing had changed since the creation of the world and the death of the “fathers” or patriarchs in Genesis. 2 Peter 3:1-15a holds the hope that the Lord will return to bring judgment, just as he did long ago in the flood, but that a thousand years is but a day from the divine point of view and that any delay allows humans time to repent. Thus, within the canon of Christian Scripture, there are texts that expect that the “second coming” of Jesus will be near and other texts that acknowledge that it could be far off. Both views can be held in tension: the anticipation of eschatological judgment and salvation may motivate holy living and provide a hopeful future for all of creation, while the acknowledgement that these things only occur on God’s timing “ought” to prevent Christians from being misled by “signs” or apocalyptic calendars.
I have blogged on the meaning of the “Transfiguration” in the context of Mark 9:2-7 and parallels in dialogue with Simon S. Lee and Candida Moss here. Why does 2 Peter 1:17 allude to this episode? For readers who accept the traditional authorship on the epistle, it may be that highlighting an event that was exclusively witnessed by the inner circle of Jesus’s three disciples (Peter, James, John) enhances Peter’s authority as an original eyewitness as opposed to other false teachers. On the other hand, readers that judge the epistle to be pseudonymous may reduce this reference to just an aspect of the “authorial fiction” presented in the letter.
However, there may be a deeper significance to this allusion. 2 Peter is not interested in the details about Jesus’s changed appearance or the presence of Moses and Elijah, but concentrates on the heavenly voice that identifies Jesus as the “Son.” That is, Jesus is the royal messianic heir of David who would rule over the nations in Psalm 2:7-9. Moreover, there is a literary seam that links the Transfiguration to an eschatological prediction of Jesus (Mark 9:1; Matthew 16:28; Luke 9:27), with Matthew referring to the coming (erchomai) of the Son of Man in his kingdom. Thus, like Matthew, 2 Peter sees the Transfiguration as a foretaste of Jesus’s return in glory and confirms that this doctrine is not a myth, in contrast to the scoffers who deny that the promised parousia (coming, advent) of Jesus will ever occur (2 Peter 3:2-3).
There are extensive parallels between 2 Peter and Jude. These parallels are covered, along with the reasons for the majority scholarly view that 2 Peter is literarily dependent on Jude rather than the other way around or both borrowing from a common source, in Jeremy Hultin, “The Literary Relationship between 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude” in Reading 1-2 Peter and Jude: A Resource for Students (ed. Eric F. Mason and Troy W. Martin; RBS 77; Atlanta: SBL, 2014), 27-40. I find the case for 2 Peter’s use of Jude fairly compelling and think that 2 Peter is probably the latest New Testament text, exhibiting contact with 1 Peter (2 Pet 3:1-2), Paul’s letters (2 Pet 3:15-16), and Matthew’s Gospel (2 Pet 1:17; 2:20). Yet for the counter-argument that Jude was literarily dependent on 2 Peter on the basis that Jude improved the grammar, structure, and style of 2 Peter, see Mark D. Matthews, “The Literary Relationship of 2 Peter and Jude: Does the Synoptic Tradition Solve this Synoptic Problem?” Neotestamentica 44.1 (2010): 47-66.
I want to announce an exciting conference that is scheduled to be held at Vose Seminary on August 28-29, 2018. The Conference is entitled “Ancient Wisdom, Modern World” and features Dr. Tremper Longman as the keynote speaker. The link will lead to more information about the conference, the esteemed keynote speaker, and the call for papers. I invite you to submit an abstract to read a paper or to just attend so that you can enjoy thought-provoking lectures and discussions.
Here are bibliographies containing monographs, commentaries, and articles on 2 Peter dating to 1979, 1980, 1982, 1999, 2009, and 2013. It would be interesting to compare the lists to see whether scholarly interest in 2 Peter has increased and to what extent, as well as tracking any changing demographics and methodologies in this area of study.
As I have been going through the General or Catholic Epistles over the last few months, I want to announce an edited volume on the function of 2 Peter in the New Testament canon that is coming out in March. The volume is entitled Der zweite Petrusbrief und das Neue Testament (WUNT 397; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018). In the chapter I contributed to the volume, I first look at whether or not there is an intertextual relationship between 2 Peter and one or more of the Synoptic Gospels. Second, I contrast the image of Peter developed in this letter with Papias’s tradition about Peter and the evangelist Mark. This book will be an important contribution to anyone’s academic library on 2 Peter.
Jacob J. Prahlow has posted the biblical studies carnival for February 2018 at his blog Pursuing Veritas. I appreciate that he included a few of my posts on 1 Peter and 1 John. He also has an extended section on Phil Long’s blog Reading Acts and, like me, Long has also been recently blogging through the General or Catholic Epistles (particularly on James and 1 Peter).
One of the ironies of the Johannine epistles is that the advice about not extending hospitality to false teachers in 2 John 1:10-11 is used as a weapon against the emissaries of the “elder” in 3 John 1:5-8. There seems to be too little in 3 John to get a sense of what exact roles the elder and Diotrephes had among this network of communities and what was the nature of their dispute. Further, there are still questions about what order the epistles were written in, so did Diotrephes’s actions occur after or before the schism in 1 and 2 John over what the author regarded as foundational claims (e.g. Jesus is the Christ and came in the flesh) and does 1 or 2 John represent the earlier or later stages of this conflict. Here are a few issues:
- Was the anonymous author of the Johannine letters and Diotrephes both “presbyters” among the same network of household congregations (in Asia Minor or elsewhere)? Was Diotrephes a leader of a domestic congregation while the “elder” carried an informal authority based on his venerable age, connection with the first-generation of the Jesus movement, or charismatic teaching? Or was Diotrephes trying to usurp an authoritarian leadership, perhaps as one of the group’s wealthy patrons?
- Did the conflict between the “elder” and Diotrephes revolve around theological or Christological issues, around ecclesiastical hierarchies (e.g., leadership structure versus charismatic communal decision-making since they all had an “anointing”), or around a personality clash?