2 Peter #1
2 Peter 1:1
January 8, 2020
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to 2 Peter. You say, “Where is that?” It’s right after 1 Peter. That’s not very helpful, is it?
We’re going to start tonight a new series of studies. We’ve completed The Coming Kingdom series, which is now on our website. My wife has been working diligently to put the whole thing up. It’s on my YouTube channel. If you have an interest in that, just go to your YouTube search engine, stick my name in there, and it should take you right there.
But having completed the kingdom series, we’re going to start a new series tonight on the book of 2 Peter. I usually like to do this. Before we just jump into a book and start studying it verse by verse – which we will do – one of the things I like to do is take you through the background of the book. And I would like to try to do that this evening.
Probably even more important than taking you into the background of 2 Peter, if you track with me, I’m going to show you tonight a method – a Bible study method – that you can use as you apply it to any book of the Bible. Because a lot of you are teaching also. You’re teaching small groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, one-on-one.
A lot of the time you’re struggling. When you get an opportunity to teach, how do you teach, exactly? So you can take this method that I’m using tonight, and you can apply it to any book of the Bible. And if you track through some of these introductory matters in any book of the Bible – just like we’re going to do here tonight – then you’re way ahead of the game in terms of understanding a book before you teach a book.
So, the first question you want to ask yourself with any book of the Bible is authorship. And authorship, basically, is, “Who wrote the book?” When you look at that, one of the things you can look at is what’s called “internal evidence.” What does that mean? It means evidence within the book itself that reveals the author.
If you look at 2 Peter 1:1, we see who wrote this. It says, “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” So, the Apostle Peter is claiming to be the author of this book.
As you move into chapter 1 of 2 Peter, you can see his fingerprints, if you will, all over this. Let me read verses 13 and 14. As I read these, try to think of what event in the life of the Apostle Peter this is referring to. Peter says, “I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.”
Any guesses as to what he is talking about there? He is talking about something that happened in John 21, probably about 30 years earlier. Where Jesus, in John 21:18-19, basically made a prediction over Peter’s life. He said, “…when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Speaking of the manner of death in which Peter would die to glorify Christ. So Peter, at the very end of his life, is recalling what the Lord said about him about three decades earlier.
Then jump down to verses 15-18, if you could. Peter says, “And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind. For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’ — and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
What event is Peter referring to there? Yes, that’s Matthew 17:1-13 where he, along with James and John [Peter, James, and John are that inner circle], saw the transfigured Christ. So this is what we call internal evidence. You know, Peter’s name is here, and he’s referring to things that you can locate in the Gospels. So, that is some of the evidence you look at to see who wrote this book.
Something else you look at is what’s called external evidence. Internal evidence is evidence inside the book. External evidence is evidence outside the Bible. So there’s a lot of external evidence from church fathers, their writings, etc., that you can look at to determine who wrote 2 Peter.
The problem here, though, is that the external evidence for authorship of 2 Peter is very, very weak. In fact, this particular book was not even cited by a church father until the third century. Probably, at some point, you’re going to be watching the History Channel, or A&E, or Unexplained Mysteries of the Bible, and they’re going to bring on some scholar from Harvard. He’s probably trying to tell you that 2 Peter was never part of the New Testament. “It was added later,” and all this kind of stuff.
2 Peter is really interesting. It’s sort of like the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel is criticized up one side and down the other. They say, “It’s a late book. It’s a forgery. Those really weren’t prophecies,” etc. And with the same vigor that people attack the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, they wage the same war on 2 Peter in the New Testament.
So Peter – particularly 2 Peter – is the equivalent, if you will, of the book of Daniel. And I just find it interesting that those are the two books that really reveal an awful lot about prophecy and the end times, as we’re going to see. Maybe that’s the reason why Satan doesn’t like the book of Daniel and he doesn’t like the book of 2 Peter.
One of the things people will say is, “Look, how can you believe that Peter actually wrote this? This book isn’t even quoted by a church father until the third century?” I really struggled with how deep to go into this with you, because this is something you can really get bogged down on – debates about authorship.
But I wanted to at least bring this to your attention, because at some point your children, or your grandchildren, or you yourself are going to be exposed to people telling you that 2 Peter is really not an authentic biblical book. “It’s a forgery. It was obviously not written by the actual Apostle Peter; it was written much later.”
So, in the left column I have the criticisms raised against authorship of 2 Peter. And I just want to show you, briefly, how to answer those. Because when you’re watching A&E, Unexplained Mysteries of the Bible, and the History Channel, these are the five main arguments that you run into.
So, the first argument relates to external evidence – or evidence outside the book. And people say, “This book was never cited by a church father until the third century.” The answer to that is, “While that may be true, there were probably a lot of other reasons that the early church was sort of uncomfortable with this book.”
I mean, this book says some very unique things. First of all, it talks a lot about angels. It’s a very brief book. It even references some writings that are noncanonical or apocalyptic. Peter’s name was sort of a forged name that many people were using out there. And that may be another reason why this book was not cited by a church father until the third century.
The book had a very limited distribution. And the date of it is sort of late. So yes, it’s true. This book was not cited by a church father until the third century, but my point is that there were some reasons that a lot of people in the early church were sort of suspicious of this book.
However, it is cited by the book of Jude. Wouldn’t you say Jude is a pretty reliable church father? Jude, you’ll remember, is the half-brother of the Lord. And Jude himself, who wrote the book of Jude, was very comfortable with 2 Peter.
So when all these people raise this objection, “Nobody cited the book,” my response, basically, to that is, “There are reasons for that.” But here’s a church father that really matters – the Lord’s half-brother. And he had no problem citing the book of 2 Peter.
So, when you look at 2 Peter 2:1, Peter says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
Hold your place here in 2 Peter, and go a few books to the right, the second to last book of the New Testament. Look at verse four. Jude says, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
So, Peter is warning that the false teachers are coming. Jude, who wrote – I don’t know – probably five or six years later, in Jude verse four is making a reference, most people believe, to 2 Peter 2:1. And Jude is saying that Peter’s prophecy of false teachers has come true. Peter warned they were coming; Jude says that they’re here.
So, if Jude felt comfortable referencing 2 Peter, it really doesn’t matter how many church fathers accepted this book or rejected it. I think it’s safe to say that we can accept it.
I got this chart from Arnold Fruchtenbaum. He has a really good book called the Messianic Jewish Epistles, and the chart here shows you all the references that Jude makes to 2 Peter. Jude references 2 Peter over and over again; you see that on the right column. What Jude is referencing in 2 Peter is in the left column.
So, Jude is very dependent on 2 Peter. And if Jude felt very comfortable with 2 Peter, then it really doesn’t matter – this argument people use – that no church father quoted this book until the third century.
Another argument that you will hear is, “2 Peter should be rejected from the biblical New Testament canon because of the linguistic differences with 1 Peter.” And it is true that when you read 1 Peter in Greek and you read 2 Peter in Greek, the writing style is totally different. The vocabulary is different. The sentence structure is different.
So, what people do is they use that to argue, “2 Peter was really not written by the real Peter. The real Peter wrote 1 Peter, but some forger wrote 2 Peter.” And they’ll trumpet this to you on the History Channel or Unexplained Mysteries of the Bible, or A&E. And most Christians are kind of caught flat-footed with that, because they’re not really equipped to give an answer.
So, when children or grandchildren ask their father or grandfather about this, they don’t have much of an answer, because they’re not really in a church that deals with these kinds of issues. But there’s a really simple answer to that linguistic argument, and you’ll find the answer in 1 Peter 5:12.
This answer is so simple that it’s sort of shocking that people still use this argument. If you go to 1 Peter 5:12, Peter says, “Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!” You notice the name Sylvanus there?
Who was Sylvanus? Let me give you a fancy name for him. He is what you call an amanuensis. In the word “amanuensis,” you recognize the word “manu,” as in manual. What was an amanuensis? An amanuensis was basically a scribe, sort of like a secretary.
So, the solution to the alleged differences linguistically between 1 Peter and 2 Peter is simply the fact that when Peter wrote 1 Peter, he didn’t write it in his own hand. He dictated what he was going to say through an amanuensis. He gives us his name here: a man name Sylvanus.
Then, when Peter wrote 2 Peter, he wrote it himself. So if you understand that – the History Channel never gives you that answer – that completely explains why there are different writing styles between the two books.
Another argument that you hear people say is, “Well, the ideas in 2 Peter are completely and totally different than the ideas in 1 Peter. So, therefore, whoever wrote 2 Peter was not the same guy who wrote 1 Peter.” And the answer to that argument is, “Of course there’s different ideas presented in these two books, because these two books have two totally different purposes.”
1 Peter is all about suffering – suffering for the cause of Christ and the hope of future glory. That’s what 1 Peter is about. In 2 Peter, the subject matter is completely different. He’s dealing with false teachers.
So, obviously, when you write a term paper and then you write a love letter to your spouse, I hope your writing style is different in those two things. If not, you might need some counseling or something. You don’t write a love letter to your spouse like you would a term paper. “I’m going to make three points here. And here’s the bibliography.” So, obviously, we write differently depending on what the circumstance is. You see that?
So, the circumstances between the two books are completely different. So, this idea that, “Gosh! We’ve got to reject 2 Peter, because the ideas are different.” Well, no. It’s a completely different circumstance. And I’ll try to explain that as we go.
Beyond that, yes, the ideas in the two books are different, but there’s a lot of similar ideas. Both books talk about angels in prison. Both books talk about the flood. Both books talk about how there were only eight survivors of the global flood. Both books talk about the future destruction of the earth. And both books have a huge emphasis on holiness – holy living as a consequence of the earth that’s about to be destroyed by fire.
So, yeah, there’s a lot of dissimilarities between the two books – no doubt about it. But there are an awful lot of similarities as well.
Then another argument that people like to use is they’ll go over to 2 Peter 3:15-16. Peter writes this, “and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters [notice that word all], speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand [so don’t feel bad if you don’t understand everything that Paul wrote – Peter himself had difficulty with it], which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
So, you’ll notice that Peter here makes reference to Paul’s letters. And he makes this statement, “Paul… in all his letters.” So what people say is, “Well, you know, it took a long time for Paul to write those letters. You know, his last letter wasn’t really completed until 2 Timothy, AD 67. And it took a while for the church to kind of accept these letters as authoritative. So, what they do is they try to use that to push 2 Peter into the distant future, long after the death of the original Peter.
They’ll say, “You know, Paul’s last letter was AD 67. Peter probably had died by then – or was getting ready to die. Therefore, when Peter makes a reference to all of Paul’s letters, it’s obviously not the real Peter. It’s some other forger pretending to be Peter long after Paul’s letters have been completed and accepted.” That’s the argument that they use.
But you can see here, from the opposite end of the chart, that “all” doesn’t always mean “all.” It’s like moving from California to Texas. I had to figure out that there’s a difference between “y’all” and “all y’all.” I was confused on that for a long time. Because I thought “y’all” meant everybody. But sometimes when “y’all” is used, it can refer to a subgroup. But when a Texan says, “all y’all,” that means everybody in the room, right? We need to come out with a dictionary or something to help us out-of-staters.
But when it says in 2 Peter 3:15-16, “Paul…in all his writings,” it’s not necessarily making a statement about every single book that Paul wrote. What it could be referring to is the books that Paul had already written that were available then. And Paul started writing books as early as the book of Galatians, AD 49. Then, the two Thessalonian books were written not long after in AD 51. So, this argument that “‘all of Paul’s letters’ pushes the date of 2 Peter late and, therefore, someone other than the real Peter wrote it” doesn’t really stand up either.
Then, one more argument people use. 2 Peter 3:4 – notice what it says there. And saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” So, the critic comes in and says, “Look, by the time this book here is written, the fathers had fallen asleep. So, the apostles were dead. The early church fathers – most of them – were dead. So, that automatically pushes the date late – long after the death of the original Peter. So, obviously, the original Peter couldn’t have written 2 Peter.”
The response to that is very simple. “Fathers” here doesn’t necessarily refer to the apostles. “Fathers” could refer to the patriarchs. You know who I mean by the patriarchs? Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That takes us to 2000 BC, roughly – 2000 years before the time of Christ. And the word “fathers” is used that way in Romans 9:5, Acts 3:13, and Acts 7:52. And if “fathers” here doesn’t mean the apostles but actually refers to the patriarchs – and it’s within the semantic range of that word “fathers” to mean that – then it poses no problem for dating this book early and arguing that the original Peter wrote that.
So, why did I tell you all that? Because when you read the commentaries, you wouldn’t believe how deep this subject goes. I had no idea, when I went into seminary, that 2 Peter was as disputed as it is. But this is like a whole ball of wax here, and people write doctoral dissertations. We just had one of our faculty members at Chafer Seminary send me his work on this. Multi-hundred pages he sent to me via email.
You can get into this subject and totally drown in it. And most liberals laugh at us studying this book because they don’t think it’s an authentic book. I tried to simplify this is much as I could. Every single argument that liberals come up with to argue that 2 Peter was not written by the real Apostle Peter, I think all those arguments could be answered.
The only reason I bring this up to you is not to bore you with all this stuff; it’s just to let you know there’s a big dispute on this. Your children or grandchildren will get hit with some of these arguments at some point, so you need to be equipped, as a Bible believer, to answer those basic arguments. So, anyway, hope you found that sort of helpful.
But the first thing you ask yourself when you study any book of the Bible is, “Who wrote this book?” So, what’s the BLT (bottom line time)? The author of 2 Peter is who? The Apostle Peter. See, you didn’t have to come to church tonight to learn that. What did we learn at church tonight? We learned that Peter wrote 2 Peter – just like Peter wrote 1 Peter.
There is a second thing you look at when you study any book of the Bible. Once you determine who the author is, you want to ask yourself, “What is the biography of this particular author?” And we know a lot about the Apostle Peter already, don’t we, simply by studying the Gospels and the book of Acts.
Just a few facts, if I can give these to you, concerning the Apostle Peter. Peter’s name is mentioned first on all the lists enumerating the apostles. The 12 apostles are listed three times in the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke – and once in the book of Acts, and Peter’s name is always first on every single list.
So, what does that tell you? It tells you that Peter was looked at as the leader of this little group of apostles that the Lord had hand-picked. And not only is his name mentioned first, but as one of the inner three, he, along with James and John, witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) and Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17).
So, Peter was not just a leader of the 12, but he was what we would call in the inner circle. He, along with who else? James and John, the sons of thunder. John became the love apostle, but he was not a very loving person when the Lord found them.
He, along with James and John, were a more intimate group with the Lord – the three within the 12. So, they had a chance to see a lot of things that perhaps the others didn’t see. That’s why Peter makes a reference to his eyewitness testimony of the transfiguration. He saw that because he was in that inner circle.
Beyond that, we know that Peter denied the Lord three times but later repented. And one of the reasons we love Peter is we see ourselves in Peter, don’t we? I mean, I see myself in him, because Peter messed a lot of things up. And it’s a beautiful testimony that God, when He gets hold of us, is not looking for perfect people.
Now, why isn’t God looking for perfect people? Because there aren’t any! God takes us exactly as we are, and if we cooperate with Him, through His grace, He will mold us and shape us into what He wants us to be. So, God doesn’t look at us so much as what we are but what He’s going to turn us into. And the Lord turned Peter into something awesome, which we’ll talk about just a minute.
Peter was also an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Christ. I have the Scripture references there for that.
He was an eyewitness to Christ’s post-resurrection ministry. Jesus had a ministry of about 40 days following His resurrection from the dead before He ascended to the Father. Peter was on the ground floor of that ministry. Peter was also an eyewitness to the ascension of Jesus Christ.
Peter became a huge figure in the early church. He is the one who presided over the choice of Matthias when they had to pick a replacement because Judas had committed suicide (Acts 1).
Who is the one who gave that sermon on the Day of Pentecost where 3000 people got saved? The Apostle Peter. That’s the same guy who denied the Lord three times. That’s the same guy who opened his mouth in Matthew 16 in Caesarea Philippi. I call Peter the apostle with the foot-shaped mouth. He is always sticking his foot in his mouth.
And Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me…” What? “…Satan.” The same guy that goofed there is the same guy that the Lord uses on the Day of Pentecost to preach that opening sermon in the age of the church and 3000 conversions happened. So, we think that if we mess something up, God is done with us and will never use us again. Not so, when we study the life of Peter.
Peter was the one who was given what is called the keys of the kingdom. What do you do with the key? You open the door. So it was Peter who opened the door to the first Jewish converts in the age of the church (Acts 2). He opened the door to the first Samaritan converts in the church (Acts 8), and he opened the door to the first Gentile converts in the age of the church (Acts 10). So, I think that’s the outworking of the statement that Jesus made to Peter in Matthew 16 about “I’ll give you the keys to the kingdom.”
What else do we know about Peter? He ministered in various places around the land of Israel, including Jerusalem, a place called Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea. And he apparently made his way up north and had a ministry there in one of the most vibrant churches that we have record of in the book of Acts: Syrian Antioch.
Then the church had to make a really big decision in Acts 15 concerning Gentile converts, because the bulk of the people getting saved in Acts 15 – really beginning in Acts 13 – were Gentiles. So, they had to make a decision, “Are we going to put all these Gentiles under the Mosaic Law to become members of the church?” The church decided, “No. We’re not going to do that.” And it was the Apostle Peter (Acts 15) who presided over that decision.
Then after that point in time Peter kind of disappears from the book of Acts. Because the main guy from that point on in the book of Acts will not be Peter, but it will be who? The Apostle Paul.
Given the sparse data that we have of Peter following Acts 15, we know that he traveled extensively. He was often accompanied by his wife. In 1 Corinthians 9:5 Paul says, “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” Cephas is the Aramaic name for Peter.
Peter had three names. Simon was his Hebrew name. Then the Lord named him “little stone,” and he got the name Peter – or Petros. Then, his Aramaic name was Cephas. Back in Greco-Roman times in the land of Israel there were probably three languages spoken. There possibly could be a fourth language spoken—Latin, from the influence of Rome.
So you have Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin. And when you go through the Gospels, they put a sign over Christ’s head as He was dying, remember? As you go through the Gospels, you’ll see all four of those languages that I just mentioned. People were multilingual, you know, very easily back in that time period.
Paul says, “Do I not have a right to take along a believing wife, as does Cephas?” That shows us that Peter was married. We know Peter was married, because Jesus went to Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. It’s kind of hard to visit someone’s mother-in-law if they’re not married. And why bring this up? Because the Roman Catholics say Peter was the first pope. They teach the celibacy of the priesthood, and – oh my goodness – what are you going to do with all these Bible passages that say the original pope, allegedly, had a wife? So, you can see that a lot of things taught in Roman Catholicism contradict the Bible. This would be one.
Peter, apparently, paid a visit – or at least he wrote a letter – to Asia minor. And he made it as far east to Babylon (1 Peter 5:13). More on that later.
Now, this I would hold on to loosely, because this is tradition which arises a century after Peter died. According to tradition he finally went to Rome, and in Rome he was martyred by being crucified upside down in AD 67 or AD 68 prior to the death of Nero. And a lot of people look at that as the the fulfillment of Christ’s words concerning Peter’s martyrdom that Jesus gave to Peter along the shores of the Sea of Galilee in John 21.
Number nine you hold onto loosely, because there is no Bible to support it. It’s just tradition that arises about a century or so after the death of the Apostle Peter.
Anyway, that is what you do when you look at biography. You try to gain as many facts as you can about who the author is, because the better you understand the author, the better you understand why he’s surfacing the things that he brings up in his book.
The third thing you look at is the date. When was this book written? The liberals think this was written by a forger in the second century. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think the date of this book would be about AD 64; that would be a very safe date.
He obviously wrote it after 1 Peter. How do we know that? Look at 2 Peter 3:1. He says, “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you.” So what would be the first letter? 1 Peter. So it’s generally believed that he wrote 1 Peter and 2 Peter basically to the same group of people from the same location in very close proximity to each other. These books could have been written the exact same year.
When you go through 1 Peter, 1 Peter makes a lot of references to the book of Ephesians. You read the book of Ephesians and you’ll say to yourself, “Wait a minute; I read that in 1 Peter.” Read the book of 1 Peter and you’ll say, “Wait a minute; I read that in the book of Ephesians.”
This chart here shows you the similarities between 1 Peter and in Ephesians. Ephesians was written as Paul’s first prison letter, about AD 60. So, if Peter is making reference to Ephesians, then the date of 1 Peter would be after AD 60. And the date of 2 Peter – being after 1 Peter—would be post AD 60 as well.
You know the saying, “Is Paul borrowing from Peter, or is Peter borrowing from Paul?” I’m pretty confident that it’s not Paul borrowing from Peter. It’s Peter depending on Paul, because Peter makes a statement in 2 Peter 3:15-16 concerning the writings of Paul. That’s where he says, “A lot of the things that Paul says are hard to understand.”
So, if 1 Peter is depending on the book of Ephesians, and the book of Ephesians was written around AD 60, then 1 Peter was written post AD 60. And if 2 Peter was written after 1 Peter, then also 2 Peter would be written post AD 60. I’m just trying to give you a sense of why we’re dating this book about AD 64.
I personally think things like this are important, because if you don’t communicate this to your flock, what they’re going to think is the Bible is just sort of a bunch of myths. But the more you get into dates and the more you get in the history, the more you’re communicating to them that these are real historical people dealing with real historical situations.
A lot of people’s eyes glaze over when you talk about things like this. But I think it’s important to communicate this to folks, because we’re demonstrating that we believe that the Bible is historically true. These things happened in a very real historical timeframe.
We push the date probably that late, because Peter does make reference to some of Paul’s letters. Some of Paul’s letters must have been in circulation and embraced. So, that pushes the date, I think, safely post AD 60.
However, you can’t push the date too late. This is what the liberals do. They push it real late into the second century, and they try to argue that the real Peter never wrote 2 Peter. You can’t push the date too late, because Peter never makes reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. When did that happen? AD 70 – historical event.
So, this book probably was written pre AD 70. Peter, in 2 Peter, also makes reference to Paul’s books, but he never makes reference to Paul’s death. Paul died about AD 68, we believe. So, this book must have been written pre AD 68.
And if tradition is right and Peter died in AD 67, it’s kind of hard to write a book after you’re dead. Amen? That would be tough to pull off. So, if he died in AD 67, we’ve got to date 2 Peter earlier than AD 67. The History Channel is never going to give you this information.
Peter really doesn’t make a direct reference to the Neronian persecution that arose. There was a madman named Nero who came to the throne in Rome, as you know. And this guy, as you know, burned Rome – a lot of it anyway – and blamed it on Christians. This is a guy who would take Christians and light them on fire to illuminate his garden parties.
And that was very significant—the Neronian persecution – because that started the first formal persecution by the empire of Rome against the church. And that didn’t get fixed until probably AD 313 with the coming of Constantine to the throne.
You have to understand that the early church, from AD 64 to about AD 313, was under heavy persecution. And Peter really doesn’t mention the Neronian persecution directly, so that would push the date even earlier.
You see what I’m doing here. There are forces that push the book post AD 60 and other forces that won’t allow us to push the date of the book too late. So, I think a date of AD 64 for the writing of 2 Peter would probably be pretty accurate.
Any book of the Bible you study, you want to ask yourself the date. You don’t just want to have a date memorized – anybody can do that. You want to be able to explain why you date it the way you date it. So, I just gave you my logic on it.
The fourth thing to think about is the audience, or the recipients. Who was this book written to? And if you get settled on that, that solves so many problems. So, let me give you three features of Peter’s audience. I think the audience in 1 Peter is the same audience in 2 Peter.
Notice, if you will, 1 Peter 1:1. Notice what it says. To those who reside as aliens, scattered [that’s an important word: scattered] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen.
Now, notice the very literal places of geography here. We’re not reading “Jack and the Beanstalk.” We’re not reading Veggie Tales. These are real geographical places. Where are these places located? They are located – see that giant red circle – in what’s called North central Turkey.
If you go to any Bible map and you look at what today is Turkey, you’ll see all those places: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia. So that’s the crowd that Peter is writing to in both of his books. Here is another map showing you where those places are in what we would call North Central Turkey.
Now, here is an interesting question. How did the gospel get up into that area? Because Peter is writing the same people, as I’ll show you in a minute, up in that area. Probably your best bet is the Apostle Paul on his three missionary journeys.
Paul went on three missionary journeys, right? And he started each journey up north. Here I’m talking about north of Israel in a place called Antioch. That’s where the church began to explode numerically and began to grow like crazy.
So, you have a very influential church in Antioch – northern tip of Israel. And when you get into the book of Acts, you’ll see that the Apostle Paul launched his three missionary journeys from that particular location. On each missionary journey he went through southern Galatia, and he planted a ton of churches there in southern Galatia.
If you read Acts 13 and 14, you’ll see the names of various churches that Paul planted there. And it’s very likely that those churches in southern Galatia evangelized the folks up north. So there is a logical reason as to how the gospel got up into what we would call North Central Turkey. And that’s who Peter is writing to.
Beyond that, there is something very important to understand about the audience. Is this book written to saved or unsaved people? Go back to 1 Peter 1:3-4. Tell me if these folks are saved or unsaved. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again [sound like they’re saved? sure they do!] to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. That statement makes no sense if he’s dealing with unsaved people. He is obviously dealing with regenerated people (or Christians) that were most likely evangelized by the churches that Paul planted on his first missionary journey.
Now go to 2 Peter1:1 and tell me if you think these folks are saved or unsaved. Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours [in other words, as Peter’s faith], by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. What do you think? Saved or unsaved? Clearly, saved people.
So, not only is he addressing folks in the north central portion of Turkey, but he is addressing believers. And you say, “Well, who cares if he’s writing to believers or unbelievers?” You’ve got to get that figured out real fast in any book you’re studying, because that will teach you what the book is about.
If he’s writing to people who are saved, he’s not writing a book about how to get saved. You guys agree with me on that? He’s teaching believers how to grow. So, in 1 Peter he’s teaching them about suffering. In 2 Peter he’s teaching them about how to stand up and endure false teachers – how to protect yourself from false teachers.
So, 1 Peter and 2 Peter are not evangelistic books. They are books about growth. They’re not dealing with justification – first tense of our salvation. But what? Sanctification – middle tense of our salvation.
Now, if you want to teach a book on evangelism – a message to the unsaved—you don’t study 1 Peter and 2 Peter for that. You study the Gospel of John. Because John tells us at the end of his book, chapter 20:30-31, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have…[what? ] life in His name.” He is obviously writing to people who haven’t believed yet and haven’t received the gift of eternal life yet.
So, when you develop your evangelistic strategies, you don’t go to 1 Peter and 2 Peter for that. That’s not why the book was written. You go to the Gospel of John for that. But when you’re trying to help Christians understand suffering, you send them to 1 Peter.
When you’re trying to help Christians become protected against the onslaught of false teaching, you send them to 2 Peter. You can figure that out just by figuring out who the audience is. The reason I have to go into this is that there is a lot of confusion today about what the gospel is and what you say to an unsaved person.
And anybody who’s developing their gospel presentation from 1 Peter or 2 Peter is not paying attention to whom those books are written. You develop your gospel presentation from the Gospel of John, which was written primarily to unsaved people. Do you see that? That’s why analyzing the audience is actually very important, because it helps you avoid a lot of confusion.
Not only was this audience located in the north central portion of modern Turkey, not only were they regenerated, but I am convinced that they were Jewish. Why do I think they were Jewish? Because 1 Peter 1:1 uses the word “scattered.” Remember, I said to pay attention to that word?
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered…
…scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…
“Scattered” is a translation of the Greek word DIASPORA, or dispersed, which is used only three times in the Bible. And it’s always used of Jewish people. 1 Peter 1:1, James 1:1, you’ll see the word “scattered.” Written to the 12 what? Tribes. Sounds Jewish to me! And John 7:35.
Beyond that, the audience is called aliens and sojourners and pilgrims. The word translated “aliens or sojourners or pilgrims” is the word PAREPIDĒMOIS, which is a compound word – meaning three words making up one word. “Para,” away; “epi,” from. Do you recognize the word “demois”? I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right, exactly, but you might see in it the word “domestic” or “democracy,” meaning “home.”
So the word “alien, sojourners, pilgrims” literally is “people away from home.” Wouldn’t that fit a Jewish audience pretty well? Because where is his audience? In north central Turkey – away from home. Where is home? The land of Israel.
How did this Jewish audience get way up there north? Remember a guy named Saul of Tarsus? In Acts 8 and 11 there is a reference to how he launched a horrific wave of persecution against the early Christians, and he scattered them. That’s where they went! They went up north to north central Turkey. And that could be another reason for how the gospel got up into that area.
So, the very name “aliens or sojourners” communicates, to my mind, a Jewish audience. In 1 Peter – and I’ve got the references there on the screen – Peter will distinguish his audience from the Gentiles. So he’s distinguishing Jews from the Gentiles. Jew, Gentile. The fact that he distinguishes from the Gentiles also lends credence to the argument that these are Jews.
Then, in 1 Peter 2:9, he calls them “a holy nation.” That can’t be the church as a whole, because the church consists of many nations. So he’s obviously dealing here with a subset within the church – saved Hebrews.
Then you’ll notice both letters start this way (1 Peter 1:1, 2 Peter 1:1). How does Paul start letters? “To the church of…” You notice that Peter doesn’t start that way in either book? He doesn’t say “to the church of,” because this book was not written to a particular church or churches. It’s written to Hebrew Christians that have been scattered and have been pushed out of their land. See that?
Beyond that, Galatians 2:7-8 tells us that the Apostle Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles. But who is the apostle to the Jews? Peter! So it stands to reason that his audience is Jewish.
So what can we learn about the recipients of this letter? Three things. Number one, they’re located in the north central portion of modern day Turkey. Number two, they are regenerated (or saved) people. Number three, they’re Jewish (or Hebrews).
By the way, if you really want to go deeper into why the audience of 1 Peter was Jewish and not Gentile, we covered that in our The Coming Kingdom series. I went through all the arguments pro and con, because that has a bearing on how 1 Peter 2:9 is misinterpreted by Kingdom Now theologians. So if you want to go deeper into that, you can access that lesson on the kingdom that we gave.
So there are, in your New Testament, six letters that are not just written to Gentile Christians as a whole, but Jewish Christians. Can you identify what those six letters are? Which gospel, do you think, fits that category? Matthew. Matthew was written to a Hebrew Christian audience. Mark wasn’t, Luke wasn’t, John wasn’t, but Matthew was.
That’s why Luke, when it identifies the genealogy of Jesus, links Jesus back to Adam (Luke 3). Is that what Matthew does? Matthew links Jesus back to whom? David and then Abraham. Why would Matthew do that and Luke not? Because Matthew was written to a Jewish audience; Luke was written to a Gentile audience.
What other letter am I thinking of that is Jewish? Hebrews! That’s kind of a giveaway, right? Doesn’t that sound Jewish? Hebrews? That’s the scriptural authority that my wife quotes when she wants me to make the coffee in the morning. She says, “It says he brews, not she brews.”
So, Hebrews was. How about the book of James? James is written to the 12…tribes! So that’s number three. 1 Peter and 2 Peter were written the Jews. We just covered that. And we might throw into the mix Jude, because Jude is heavily depending upon 2 Peter. So, the best we can tell about the audience is it’s an audience located in North central Turkey, they’re saved, and they’re Jewish.
I’m sorry; I had hoped to get a lot further than where I got. In review, the first four points we’ve covered. Who wrote the books of 1 and 2 Peter? Peter! Do we know things about his bio? Lots of things from the Gospels and the book of Acts. What’s the date of the book? AD 64 – safe date. And who is the audience? Those in north central Turkey, regenerated, and what we would call Hebrew Christians.
And just because a book of the Bible is written to Hebrew Christian doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from it as Gentiles, right? All Scripture is profitable. But these are important things you must work through to really interpret the book right.
The next time we’re together we’ll finish this list:
- Place of writing
- Occasion for writing
- Why it was written?
- How would you outline this book?
- What is the book about?
Could you step back from this book and give a one sentence definition of what this book is about? You should be able to do that with any book of the Bible – all 66 books. You should be able to step back from it and say, “Here’s what this book is about,” in a sentence. How can you teach it unless you can do that?
Then we’ll look at unique characteristics of the book. What makes this book special? In other words, if we didn’t have 2 Peter in our canon, what would we be missing?
So, any book of the Bible—Romans, Acts, Matthew – you should be able to look at and say, “Gosh, if God didn’t give us that particular book, here are all the things that we would be missing.” And those are what you call unique characteristics of the book.
So even if you didn’t grasp every little jot and tittle of what I tried to communicate tonight, at least you’re seeing a method that you can use as you teach other people. We’ll stop at this point.