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Synopsis of Der zweite Petrusbrief und das Neue Testament (Part 1)

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This is the first of three summaries of the contents of Wolfgang Grünstäudl, Uta Poplutz, and Tobias Nicklas, eds., Der zweite Petrusbrief und das Neue Testament (WUNT 397, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018). This is a guest post by Wolfgang Grünstäudl.

This volume, published in the leading series Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, contains 14 chapters (5 in English, 9 in German) written by New Testament scholars working at universities in the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, and Germany. It addresses the increased interest in 2 Peter in recent New Testament scholarship, explores the place of this rather puzzling text within the New Testament, and provides a reliable starting point for further research by bringing together well-known experts on 2 Peter and the early Petrine literature. Papers are arranged in three sections: (1) “Hermeneutische Perspektiven” (hermeneutical perspectives), (2) “Intertextuelle Verbindungslinien” (intertextual connections), and (3) “Thematische Vertiefungen” (thematic case studies).

(1) Both papers of the opening section explore 2 Peter’s place within the New Testament canon, but they do so quite differently and thus demonstrate the spectrum of interpretive approaches to this fascinating New Testament text. Jörg Frey recently published a major critical commentary on 2 Peter (and Jude) in which he adopted the argument in Wolfgang Grünstäudl’s monograph for 2 Peter being dependent on the Greek-Ethiopic Apocalypse of Peter (labeled by Frey as a “new perspective on 2 Peter” [p. 31], cf. the forthcoming publication of the Radboud Prestige Lectures with Brill). Fittingly, he chooses the challenge of writing a commentary on 2 Peter as a starting point for his paper. After providing an overview of previous research, Frey discusses four problematic aspects of 2 Peter: its bold authorial fiction, its supposed deficiencies in its theology, its massive polemic against “others”, and its claim to possess the hermeneutical key to the correct interpretation of the Christian message. In his analysis Frey underlines that the New Testament canon is “not a harmonious collection, but a collection of dissenting views” (p. 36). Therefore, the tension between 2 Peter and the other voices of the canon “still calls for hermeneutical reflection and a theological verdict” (p. 36).

Robert W. Wall is not only well-known for his contributions to the application of the canonical approach within New Testament Studies, but also for his volume (written together with David R. Nienhuis) dedicated to reading the Catholic Epistles collection as a canonical unity. Wall emphasizes the function and importance of 2 Peter as an integral part of the Catholic Epistles collection and as a theological complement to 1 Peter. According to Wall, it is wrong to discern the theological value of 2 Peter (or any other Biblical writing) without acknowledging the concrete literary context in which this writing was and is received as Scripture. By outlining of what he calls the “functional aesthetic” (p. 40 n. 12, following Nicholas Wolterstorff) of 2 Peter in connection with 1 Peter, Wall demonstrates the theological consequences (regarding theology, Christology, and ecclesiology) of such a canonical reading of 2 Peter.

Notwithstanding their dissenting views, Frey and Wall agree in assessing New Testament texts in general and 2 Peter in particular not only “as a testimony of distant religious and linguistic phenomena and developments, but as theological documents that claim to have a message for present day readers” (p. 14).

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