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The Earliest References to Matthew’s Gospel: 2 Peter?

There are several reasons why numerous scholars consider 2 Peter to possibly be the latest writing that was included in the New Testament. This includes its lack of early attestation, its concerns about the delay of Jesus’s second “coming” (parousia), its dependence on the epistle of Jude, and its commendation of a collection of Paul’s letters as scriptural. I cover these points in my introductory post on 2 Peter. Back in 2018, an edited volume on the relationship between 2 Peter and the other New Testament writings was published under the German title Der zweite Petrusbrief und das Neue Testament (WUNT 397; Mohr Siebeck, 2018) and I contributed an article to it (see my posts on the book here, here, here, here, and here). The editor, Wolfgang Grünstäudl, has dated 2 Peter even later in the second century than many commentators because he judges it to be dependent on the Apocalypse of Peter and he has persuaded Jörg Frey. Here are a few excepts from my chapter “Did Mark’s Gospel Influence the Authorial Fiction in 2 Peter” in the edited volume where I look at the relationship between 2 Peter and the Synoptic tradition:

  • “Richard Bauckham [Jude, 2 Peter, 148] helpfully lists certain allusions to Synoptic traditions in 2 Pet 1:16–18 (Mark 9:2–7/Matt 17:1–5/Luke 9:28–35), 2:20 (Matt 12:45/Luke 11:26) and 3:10 (Matt 24:43/Luke 12:39; cf. 1 Thess 5:2) and less plausible echoes in 1:16 (Mark 9:1/Matt 16:28), 2:9 (Matt 6:13), 2:21 (Mark 9:42; 14:21; cf. 1 Clem. 46:8), and 3:4 (Mark 9:1/Matt 16:28; Mark 13:30/Matt 24:34/Luke 21:32). Grünstäudl [Petrus Alexandrinus, 34] expands on 2 Peter’s Matthean affinities (2 Pet 1:17/Matt 12:18, 17:5; 2:6/10:15; 2:9/6:13; 2:14/5:27–29; 2:20/12:45; 2:21/21:32; 2:22/7:6; 3:4/24:3, 27, 37, 39; 3:4, 9/24:48 and 25:5; 3:13/19:28), but some of his examples seem closer to other non-Matthean parallels (e. g., 2 Pet 2:6/Jude 7; 2 Pet 2:22/Prov 26:11 and Ahikar 8.18 [Syriac]; 2 Pet 3:13/Isa 65:17 and 66:22) and an intertextual relationship may not be necessary to account for most of them.” (78-79)
  • “The petition for deliverance in the Lord’s Prayer (2 Pet 2:9a; cf. Matt 6:13; Luke 11:4; Did. 8:2) and the thief logion (2 Pet 3:10; cf. Matt 24:43; Luke 12:39; 1 Thess 5:2; Rev 3:3; 16:15; Gos. Thom. 21) could have been drawn from oral catechetical traditions or the source(s) of the Synoptic double tradition, though the latter could also be primarily based on the construal of the metaphor in 1 Thessalonians given the respect for the Pauline epistles in 2 Pet 3:15f.” (79)
  • “There is almost verbatim agreement between 2 Pet 2:20b… and Matt 12:45/Luke 11:26… 2 Pet 2:20b may be a re-contextualization of the verse in Matthew’s Gospel, but it may also have been in contact with a hypothetical sayings source underlying Matt 12:45/Luke 11:26. Alternatively, as a short, memorable aphorism, its precise wording could have remained intact in the oral transmission.” (79-80)
  • “[Robert] Miller’s [“Is There Independent Attestation for the Transfiguration in 2 Peter?“, 623] crucial point is that Matthew imports the line “in whom I am well pleased” (ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα) from the baptism to the transfiguration (cf. Matt 3:17; 17:5), a piece of Matthean redaction reduplicated in 2 Peter, though the author substitutes εἰς ὅν for ἐν ᾧ due to accidentally conflating the wording of Matt 17:5 with 12:18.” (81-82)

In summary, I sided with Miller against Bauckham in finding a secure reference to Matthew’s account of the transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:17. 2 Peter did not repeat most of Matthew’s details (e.g., the three disciples, the heavenly visitors, Peter’s offer to set up dwellings, the cloud, the command to “listen”), but noted that there were plural witnesses to this mountaintop experience and retained the acclamation of Jesus’s divine sonship as it ties into the theme of the certainty of the messianic son’s eschatological return to rule. The other parallels, while far less secure, could contribute to the overall case for the dependence of 2 Peter on Matthew’s Gospel. I did not find clear evidence of dependence on the other two Synoptic Gospels. I also do not think that 2 Peter 1:12-15 is a subtle allusion to the Patristic tradition that Mark would help the readers remember what Peter taught them after his “departure” by writing a Gospel, but was referring to the contents of the letter itself serving as a perpetual reminder of Peter’s teachings after his demise (86-87).

Side note: I closed this chapter by noting an incongruity that still puzzles me (87-88). The Petrine Epistles, and other apocryphal texts ascribed to Peter, seem to presuppose Peter’s literacy. Papias’s informant, the Elder John, imagines a scenario where Peter required Mark as his “translator” (hermeneutes), for Greek was not his native language (Eccl. Hist. 3.39.15), and Acts 4:13 seems to concede that Peter was illiterate. Yet Eusebius informs us that Papias knew 1 Peter (2.15.2; 3.39.17). Did Papias imagine that Peter was miraculously empowered to write 1 Peter given his lack of formal education? Or did he infer that just as Peter relied on a translator when preaching to a Greek-speaking audience, he relied on an unidentified secretary to transcribe the letter, even though this also seems to demand that Peter had access to some rhetorical training to dictate the contents of the letter to an amanuensis?

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