2 Peter is a fascinating book, both for its content and for its place in the canon of the New Testament. Since you can read the content for yourself, I thought I might share something today about the place of 2 Peter in the canon. Here is what one of my favorite Bible commentators, William Barclay, had to say about it….
For long it [2 Peter] was regarded with doubt and with something very like misgiving. There is no trace of it until after A.D. 200. It is not included in the Muratorian Canon of A.D. 170 which was the first official list of New Testament books. It did not exist in the Old Latin Version of the Scriptures; nor in the New Testament of the early Syrian Church.
The great scholars of Alexandria either did not know it or were doubtful about it. Clement of Alexandria, who wrote oulines of the books of Scripture, does not appear to have included Second Peter. Origen says that Peter left behind one epistle which is generally acknowledged; “perhaps also a second, for it is a disputed question.” Didymus commented on it, but concluded his work by saying: “It must not be forgotten that this letter is spurious; it may be read in public; but it is not part of the canon of Scripture.”
Eusebius, the great scholar of Caesarea, who made a careful investigation of the Christian literature of his day, comes to the conclusion: “Of Peter, one Epistle, which is called his former Epistle, is acknowledged by all; of this the ancient presbyters have made frequent use in their writings as indisputably genuine; but that which is circulated as his second Epistle we have received to be not canonical although, since it appeared to be useful to many, it has been diligently read with the other Scriptures.”
It was not until well into the fourth century that Second Peter came to rest in the canon of the New Testament.
It is well-nigh the universal judgment of scholars, both ancient and modern, that Peter is not the author of Second Peter. Even John Calvin regarded it as impossible that Peter could have spoken of Paul as Second Peter speaks of him (3:15,16), although he was willing to believe that someone else wrote the letter at Peter’s request. What, then, are the arguments against Peter’s authorship?
1. There is the extreme slowness, and even reluctance, of the early church to accept it….
2. The contents make it difficult to believe that it is Peter’s….
3. It is wholly different in character and style from First Peter….
4. Certain things within Second Peter point well-nigh irresistibly to a late date….
IN PETER’S NAME
How, then, did it become attached to the name of Peter? The answer is that it was deliberately attached. This may seem to us a strange proceeding but in the ancient world this was common practice. Plato’s letters were written not by Plato but by a disciple in the master’s name. The Jews repeatedly used this method of writing. Between the Old and the New Testament, books were written under the names of Solomon, Isaiah, Moses, Baruch, Ezra, Enoch and many another. And in New Testament times there is a whole literature around the name of Peter—The Gospel of Peter, The Preaching of Peter, The Apocalypse of Peter….
There is nothing either unusual or discreditable in a book being issued under the name of Peter although Peter did not write it. The writer in humility was putting the message which the Holy Spirit had given him into the mouth of Peter because he felt his on name was unworthy to appear upon the book.
And there Barclay makes the most important point. We must always remember that simply because a book in the New Testament was not written by an apostle that does not mean that God cannot speak to us through it.