Peter’s prominent role as Jesus’ chief apostle led many early Christian authors to compose writings in his name. Despite persistent doubts about its authenticity and its secondary status to a very popular text called the Apocalypse of Peter, 2 Peter eventually landed a place in the New Testament. In fact, we have no explicit mention of 2 Peter until the early third century C.E., and doubts about its authenticity lingered for centuries. That ancient Christians gave 2 Peter a tepid reception is just one of the reasons modern scholars have often considered 2 Peter to be the latest of all the New Testament writings, likely penned by someone other than Peter. How late is “latest”? It’s difficult to say, but perhaps the end of the first century or even well into the second century—a considerable time after the real Peter lived.
Despite these concerns, 2 Peter is an important witness to concepts of apostolic authority and tradition in the early Christian church. It also makes innovative use of the language of Hellenistic philosophy and religion in its effort to defend core elements of Christian belief.
Although 2 Peter is pseudonymous, the persona of Peter is prominent. Aware of his impending death, “Peter” writes his “second letter” because he wants to offer final words of wisdom to believers so they will remember the traditional apostolic teaching (
First, the writer had to account for the delay of Christ’s return. To the “scoffers’” derisive question, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (
Second, 2 Peter had to address widespread skepticism that this world would be destroyed. Some philosophers argued that the world was indestructible, and 2 Peter’s opponents noted that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!” (