Epistles of Peter

General Information

The two Epistles of Peter are part of the section of the New Testament of the Bible called the General Letters (Catholic Epistles). They are the 21st and 22d books of the canon. Early tradition supports 1 Peter's claim to authorship by Saint Peter (1 Peter 1:1), although the attribution has been challenged. The book was possibly written from Rome ("Babylon" of 1 Pet. 5:13) to Christians in Anatolia (1 Pet. 1:1) just before AD 64. Its purpose was to strengthen Christians suffering persecution. Peter explained the suffering as a test of faith and pointed the persecuted Christians to their living hope founded on God, who raised Jesus from the grave.

Authorship of 2 Peter, although also ascribed to Peter (2 Pet. 1:1), has been questioned by many scholars. No mention of the letter occurs until about the 3d century. Probably written for the same Anatolian audience as was 1 Peter, the book warns against false teachers in the community and gives affirmative assurance that Christ will return (2 Pet. 3:1 - 10).

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Douglas Ezell

Bibliography E Johnson, A Semantic Structure Analysis of Second Peter (1988); R C Kelcy, The Letters of Peter and Jude (1972); S J Kistenmaker, Expositions of the Epistles of Peter and Jude (1987): B Reicke, The Epistles of James, Peter, and Jude (1964); E G Selwyn, The First Epistle of St. Peter (1946).

Epistles of Peter

Brief Outline

First Epistle

  1. Salutation (1:1-2)
  2. Nature of Salvation (1:3-12)
  3. Experience of Salvation (1:13-25)
  4. Obligations of Salvation (2:1-10)
  5. Ethics of Salvation (2:11-3:12)
  6. Confidence of Salvation (3:13-4:11)
  7. Behavior of the Saved under suffering (4:12-5:11)
  8. Concluding salutations (5:12-14)

Second Epistle

  1. Salutation (1:1)
  2. Character of Spiritual knowledge (1:2-21)
  3. Nature and perils of apostasy (2:1-22)
  4. Doom of the ungodly (3:1-7)
  5. Hope of believers (3:8-13)
  6. Concluding exhortation (3:14-18)


Advanced Information

Peter, originally called Simon (=Simeon , i.e., "hearing"), a very common Jewish name in the New Testament. He was the son of Jona (Matt. 16:17). His mother is nowhere named in Scripture. He had a younger brother called Andrew, who first brought him to Jesus (John 1:40-42). His native town was Bethsaida, on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee, to which also Philip belonged. Here he was brought up by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and was trained to the occupation of a fisher. His father had probably died while he was still young, and he and his brother were brought up under the care of Zebedee and his wife Salome (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1). There the four youths, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, spent their boyhood and early manhood in constant fellowship.

Simon and his brother doubtless enjoyed all the advantages of a religious training, and were early instructed in an acquaintance with the Scriptures and with the great prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah. They did not probably enjoy, however, any special training in the study of the law under any of the rabbis. When Peter appeared before the Sanhedrin, he looked like an "unlearned man" (Acts 4:13). "Simon was a Galilean, and he was that out and out......The Galileans had a marked character of their own. They had a reputation for an independence and energy which often ran out into turbulence. They were at the same time of a franker and more transparent disposition than their brethren in the south. In all these respects, in bluntness, impetuosity, headiness, and simplicity, Simon was a genuine Galilean.

They spoke a peculiar dialect. They had a difficulty with the guttural sounds and some others, and their pronunciation was reckoned harsh in Judea. The Galilean accent stuck to Simon all through his career. It betrayed him as a follower of Christ when he stood within the judgment-hall (Mark 14:70). It betrayed his own nationality and that of those conjoined with him on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:7)." It would seem that Simon was married before he became an apostle. His wife's mother is referred to (Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:30; Luke 4:38). He was in all probability accompanied by his wife on his missionary journeys (1 Cor. 9:5; comp. 1 Pet. 5:13).

He appears to have been settled at Capernaum when Christ entered on his public ministry, and may have reached beyond the age of thirty. His house was large enough to give a home to his brother Andrew, his wife's mother, and also to Christ, who seems to have lived with him (Mark 1:29, 36; 2:1), as well as to his own family. It was apparently two stories high (2:4). At Bethabara (R.V., John 1:28, "Bethany"), beyond Jordan, John the Baptist had borne testimony concerning Jesus as the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29-36). Andrew and John hearing it, followed Jesus, and abode with him where he was.

They were convinced, by his gracious words and by the authority with which he spoke, that he was the Messiah (Luke 4:22; Matt. 7:29); and Andrew went forth and found Simon and brought him to Jesus (John 1:41). Jesus at once recognized Simon, and declared that hereafter he would be called Cephas, an Aramaic name corresponding to the Greek Petros, which means "a mass of rock detached from the living rock." The Aramaic name does not occur again, but the name Peter gradually displaces the old name Simon, though our Lord himself always uses the name Simon when addressing him (Matt. 17:25; Mark 14:37; Luke 22:31, comp. 21:15-17). We are not told what impression the first interview with Jesus produced on the mind of Simon. When we next meet him it is by the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 4:18-22).

There the four (Simon and Andrew, James and John) had had an unsuccessful night's fishing. Jesus appeared suddenly, and entering into Simon's boat, bade him launch forth and let down the nets. He did so, and enclosed a great multitude of fishes. This was plainly a miracle wrought before Simon's eyes. The awe-stricken disciple cast himself at the feet of Jesus, crying, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). Jesus addressed him with the assuring words, "Fear not," and announced to him his life's work. Simon responded at once to the call to become a disciple, and after this we find him in constant attendance on our Lord. He is next called into the rank of the apostleship, and becomes a "fisher of men" (Matt. 4:19) in the stormy seas of the world of human life (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:13 19; Luke 6:13-16), and takes a more and more prominent part in all the leading events of our Lord's life.

It is he who utters that notable profession of faith at Capernaum (John 6:66-69), and again at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-20). This profession at Caesarea was one of supreme importance, and our Lord in response used these memorable words: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." "From that time forth" Jesus began to speak of his sufferings. For this Peter rebuked him. But our Lord in return rebuked Peter, speaking to him in sterner words than he ever used to any other of his disciples (Matt. 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33).

At the close of his brief sojourn at Caesarea our Lord took Peter and James and John with him into "an high mountain apart," and was transfigured before them. Peter on that occasion, under the impression the scene produced on his mind, exclaimed, "Lord, it is good for us to be here : let us make three tabernacles" (Matt. 17:1-9). On his return to Capernaum the collectors of the temple tax (a didrachma, half a sacred shekel), which every Israelite of twenty years old and upwards had to pay (Ex. 30:15), came to Peter and reminded him that Jesus had not paid it (Matt. 17:24-27).

Our Lord instructed Peter to go and catch a fish in the lake and take from its mouth the exact amount needed for the tax, viz., a stater, or two half-shekels. "That take," said our Lord, "and give unto them for me and thee." As the end was drawing nigh, our Lord sent Peter and John (Luke 22:7-13) into the city to prepare a place where he should keep the feast with his disciples. There he was forewarned of the fearful sin into which he afterwards fell (22:31-34). He accompanied our Lord from the guest-chamber to the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46), which he and the other two who had been witnesses of the transfiguration were permitted to enter with our Lord, while the rest were left without.

Here he passed through a strange experience. Under a sudden impulse he cut off the ear of Malchus (47-51), one of the band that had come forth to take Jesus. Then follow the scenes of the judgment-hall (54-61) and his bitter grief (62). He is found in John's company early on the morning of the resurrection. He boldly entered into the empty grave (John 20:1-10), and saw the "linen clothes laid by themselves" (Luke 24:9-12). To him, the first of the apostles, our risen Lord revealed himself, thus conferring on him a signal honour, and showing how fully he was restored to his favour (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). We next read of our Lord's singular interview with Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where he thrice asked him, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" (John 21:1-19).

After this scene at the lake we hear nothing of Peter till he again appears with the others at the ascension (Acts 1:15-26). It was he who proposed that the vacancy caused by the apostasy of Judas should be filld up. He is prominent on the day of Pentecost (2:14-40). The events of that day "completed the change in Peter himself which the painful discipline of his fall and all the lengthened process of previous training had been slowly making. He is now no more the unreliable, changeful, self-confident man, ever swaying between rash courage and weak timidity, but the stead-fast, trusted guide and director of the fellowship of believers, the intrepid preacher of Christ in Jerusalem and abroad.

And now that he is become Cephas indeed, we hear almost nothing of the name Simon (only in Acts 10:5, 32; 15:14), and he is known to us finally as Peter." After the miracle at the temple gate (Acts 3) persecution arose against the Christians, and Peter was cast into prison. He boldly defended himself and his companions at the bar of the council (4:19, 20). A fresh outburst of violence against the Christians (5:17-21) led to the whole body of the apostles being cast into prison; but during the night they were wonderfully delivered, and were found in the morning teaching in the temple. A second time Peter defended them before the council (Acts 5: 29-32), who, "when they had called the apostles and beaten them, let them go." The time had come for Peter to leave Jerusalem.

After labouring for some time in Samaria, he returned to Jerusalem, and reported to the church there the results of his work (Acts 8:14-25). Here he remained for a period, during which he met Paul for the first time since his conversion (9:26-30; Gal. 1:18). Leaving Jerusalem again, he went forth on a missionary journey to Lydda and Joppa (Acts 9:32-43). He is next called on to open the door of the Christian church to the Gentiles by the admission of Cornelius of Caesarea (ch. 10). After remaining for some time at Caesarea, he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), where he defended his conduct with reference to the Gentiles.

Next we hear of his being cast into prison by Herod Agrippa (12:1-19); but in the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison gates, and he went forth and found refuge in the house of Mary. He took part in the deliberations of the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-31; Gal. 2:1-10) regarding the relation of the Gentiles to the church. This subject had awakened new interest at Antioch, and for its settlement was referred to the council of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. Here Paul and Peter met again. We have no further mention of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles. He seems to have gone down to Antioch after the council at Jerusalem, and there to have been guilty of dissembling, for which he was severely reprimanded by Paul (Gal. 2:11-16), who "rebuked him to his face."

After this he appears to have carried the gospel to the east, and to have laboured for a while at Babylon, on the Euphrates (1 Pet. 5:13). There is no satisfactory evidence that he was ever at Rome. Where or when he died is not certainly known. Probably he died between A.D. 64 and 67.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

First Epistle of Peter

Advanced Information

This epistle is addressed to "the strangers scattered abroad", i.e., to the Jews of the Dispersion (the Diaspora). Its object is to confirm its readers in the doctrines they had been already taught. Peter has been called "the apostle of hope," because this epistle abounds with words of comfort and encouragement fitted to sustain a "lively hope." It contains about thirty-five references to the Old Testament. It was written from Babylon, on the Euphrates, which was at this time one of the chief seats of Jewish learning, and a fitting centre for labour among the Jews. It has been noticed that in the beginning of his epistle Peter names the provinces of Asia Minor in the order in which they would naturally occur to one writing from Babylon. He counsels (1) to steadfastness and perseverance under persecution (1-2: 10); (2) to the practical duties of a holy life (2:11-3:13); (3) he adduces the example of Christ and other motives to patience and holiness (3:14-4:19); and (4) concludes with counsels to pastors and people (ch. 5).

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Second Epistle of Peter

Advanced Information

The question of the authenticity of this epistle has been much discussed, but the weight of evidence is wholly in favour of its claim to be the production of the apostle whose name it bears. It appears to have been written shortly before the apostle's death (1:14). This epistle contains eleven references to the Old Testament. It also contains (3:15, 16) a remarkable reference to Paul's epistles. Some think this reference is to 1 Thess. 4: 13-5:11. A few years ago, among other documents, a parchment fragment, called the "Gospel of Peter," was discovered in a Christian tomb at Akhmim in Upper Egypt. Origen (obiit A.D. 254), Eusebius (obiit 340), and Jerome (obiit 420) refer to such a work, and hence it has been concluded that it was probably written about the middle of the second century. It professes to give a history of our Lord's resurrection and ascension. While differing in not a few particulars from the canonical Gospels, the writer shows plainly that he was acquinted both with the synoptics and with the Gospel of John. Though apocryphal, it is of considerable value as showing that the main facts of the history of our Lord were then widely known.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Epistles of Saint Peter

Catholic Information

These two epistles will be treated under the following heads: I. Authenticity; II. Recipients, occasion, and object; III. Date and place of composition; IV. Analysis.


A. Authenticity

The authenticity, universally admitted by the primitive Church, has been denied within the past century by Protestant or Rationalist critics (Baur and the Tübingen School, Von Soden, Harnack, Jülicher, Hilgenfeld, and others), but it cannot seriously be questioned. It is well established by extrinsic and instrinsic arguments.

(1) Extrinsic arguments

(a) in writings of the first and second centuries, e.g., Justin's letter to the Churches of Lyons and Vienne, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Papias, Polycarp, Clement of Rome, the "Didache", the "Pastor" of Hermas, and others. The Second Epistle of St. Peter, admitted to be very ancient even by those who question its authenticity, alludes to an earlier Epistle written by the Apostle (iii, 1). The letter therefore existed very early and was considered very authoritative. (b) Tradition is also unanimous for St. Peter's authorship. In the second and third centuries we have much explicit testimony to this effect. Clement and Origen at Alexandria, Tertullian and Cyprian in Africa, the Peshitto in Syria, Irenaeus in Gaul, the ancient Itala and Hippolytus at Rome all agree in attributing it to Peter, as do also the heretics, Basilides and Theodore of Byzantium. (c) All the collections or lists of the New Testament mention it as St. Peter's; the Muratorian Canon, which alone is at variance with this common tradition, is obscure and bears evident marks of textual corruption, and the subsequent restoration suggested by Zahn, which seems much more probable, is clearly favourable to the authenticity. Moreover Eusebius of Caesarea does not hesitate to place it among the undisputed Scriptures.

(2) Intrinsic arguments

Examination of the Epistle in itself is wholly favourable to its authenticity; the author calls himself Peter, the Apostle of Jesus Christ (i, 1); Mark, who, according to the Acts of the Apostles, had such close relations with Peter, is called by the author "my son" (v, 13); the author is represented as the immediate disciple of Jesus Christ (i, 1; v, 9, 11-14); he exercises from Rome a universal jurisdiction over the whole Church (v, 1). The numerous places in which he would appear to be the immediate witness of the life of Christ (i, 8; ii, 21-24; v, 1), as well as the similarity between his ideas and the teaching of the Gospels, are eloquently in favour of the Apostolic author (cf. Jacquier, 251). Finally, some authors consider that the Epistle and the sermons of St. Peter related in the Acts show an analogy in basis and form which proves a common origin. However, it is probable if not certain that the Apostle made use of an interpreter, especially of Sylvanus; St. Jerome says: "the two Epistles attributed to St. Peter differ in style, character, and the construction of the words, which proves that according to the exigencies of the moment St. Peter made use of different interpreters" (Ep. cxx ad Hedib.). Peter himself seems to insinuate this: Dia Silouanou houmin . . . egrapha (v, 12), and the final verses (12-14) seem to have been added by the Apostle himself. Without denying that Peter was able to use and speak Greek, some authors consider that he could not write it in the almost classic manner of this Epistle. Nevertheless it is impossible to determine exactly the share of Sylvanus; it is not improbable that he wrote it according to the directions of the Apostle, inserting the ideas and exhortations suggested by him.

Objections: (a) The relation between the First Epistle of Peter and the Epistles of Paul, especially Romans and Ephesians, does not prove, as has been claimed (Jülicher), that the Epistle was written by a disciple of Paul. This relation, which has been much exaggerated by some critics, does not prove a literary dependence nor prevent this Epistle from possessing a characteristic originality in ideas and form. The resemblance is readily explained if we admit that Peter employed Sylvanus as interpreter, for the latter had been a companion of Paul, and would consequently have felt the influence of his doctrine and manner of speaking. Moreover, Peter and Sylvanus were at Rome, where the letter was written, and they would naturally have become acquainted with the Epistles to the Romans and the Ephesians, written some months before and intended, at least in part, for the same readers. (b) It has been claimed that the Epistle presupposes an official and general persecution in the Roman Empire and betokens a state of things corresponding to the reign of Vespasian, or even that of Domitian or Trajan, but the data it gives are too indefinite to conclude that it refers to one of these persecutions rather than to that of Nero; besides, some authors consider that the Epistle does not al all suppose an official persecution, the allusions being readily explained by the countless difficulties and annoyances to which Jews and pagans subjected the Christians.

B. Recipients of the Epistle; Occasion and Object

It was written to the faithful of "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (i, 1). Were these Christians converted Jews, dispersed among the Gentiles (i, 1), as was held by Origen, Didymus of Alexandria, etc., and is still maintained by Weiss and Kuhl, or were they in great part of pagan origin? The latter is by far the more common and the better opinion (i, 14; ii, 9-10; iii, 6; iv, 3). The argument based on i, 7, proves nothing, while the words "to the strangers dispersed through Pontus" should not be taken in the literal sense of Jews in exile, but in the metaphorical sense of the people of God, Christians, living in exile on earth, far from their true country. The opinions of authors admitting the authenticity are divided with regard to the historical circumstances which occasioned the Epistle, some believing that it was written immediately after Nero's decree proscribing the Christian religion, in which case the difficulties to which Peter alludes do not consist merely of the calumnies and vexations of the people, but also include the judicial pursuit and condemnation of Christians (iv, 14-16; v, 12; ii, 23; iii, 18), while iv, 12, may be an allusion to the burning of Rome which was the occasion of Nero's decree. This is the opinion of Hug, Gloire, Batiffol, Neander, Grimm, Ewald, Allard, Weiss, Callewaert, etc., while others date the Epistle from the eve of that decree (Jacquier, Brassac, Fillion, etc.). The Epistle, they say, having been written from Rome, where the persecution must have raged in all its horror, we naturally look for clear and indisputable indications of it, but the general theme of the epistle is that the Christians should give no occasion to the charges of the infidels, but that by their exemplary life they should induce them to glorify God (ii, 12, 15; iii, 9, 16; iv, 4); besides, the way of speaking is generally hypothetical (i, 6; iii, 13-14; iv, 14), there being no question of judges, tribunals, prison, tortures, or confiscation. The Christians have to suffer, not from authority, but from the people among whom they lived. The Apostle Peter wrote to the Christians of Asia to confirm them in the Faith, to console them amid their tribulations, and to indicate to them the line of conduct to follow in suffering (v, 2). Except for the more dogmatic introduction (i, 3-12) and a few short instructions strewn throughout the letter and intended to support moral exhortations, the Epistle is hortatory and practical. Only an absurd a priori argument could permit the Tübingen critics to assert that it had a dogmatic object and was written by a second-century forger with the intention of attributing to Peter the doctrines of Paul.

C. Place and Date of Composition

The critics who have denied Peter's sojourn at Rome must necessarily deny that the letter was written from there, but the great majority of critics, with all Christian antiquity, agree that it was written at Rome itself, designated by the metaphorical name Babylon (v, 13). This interpretation has been accepted from the most remote times, and indeed no other metaphor could so well describe the city of Rome, rich and luxurious as it was, and given over to the worship of false gods and every species of immorality. Both cities had caused trouble to the people of God, Babylon to the Jews, and Rome to the Christians. Moreover this metaphor was in use among the early Christians (cf. Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). Finally, tradition has not brought us the faintest memory of any sojourn of Peter at Babylon. The opinions of critics who deny the authenticity of the Epistle range from A.D. 80 to A.D. 160 as the date, but as there is not the slightest doubt of its authenticity they have no basis for their argument. Equally diverse opinions are found among the authors who admit the authenticity, ranging from the year A.D. 45 to that accepted as that of the death of Peter. The most probable opinion is that which places it about the end of the year 63 or the beginning of 64; and St. Peter having suffered martyrdom at Rome in 64 (67?) the Epistle could not be subsequent to that date; besides, it assumes that the persecution of Nero, which began about the end of 64, had not yet broken out (see above). On the other hand the author frequently alludes to the Epistle to the Ephesians, making use of its very words and expressions; consequently the Epistle could not be prior to 63, since the Epistle to the Ephesians was written at the end of Paul's first captivity at Rome (61-63).

D. Analysis

The Epistle as a whole being but a succession of general ideas without close connection, there can be not strict plan of analysis. It is divided as follows: the introduction contains, besides the address (superscription and salutation, i, 7), thanksgiving to God for the excellence of the salvation and regeneration to which He has deigned to call the Christians (3-12). This part is dogmatic and serves as a basis for all the moral exhortations in the body of the Epistle. The body of the Epistle may be divided into three section: (a) exhortation to a truly Christian life (i, 13-ii, 10), wherein Peter successively exhorts his readers to holiness in general (13-21), to fraternal charity in particular (i, 22-ii, 1), to love and desire of the true doctrine; thus they shall be living stones in the spiritual house of which Christ is the cornerstone, they shall be the royal priesthood and the chosen people of the Lord (2-10). (b) Rules of conduct for Christians living among pagans, especially in time of persecution (ii, 11-v, 19). Let their conduct be such that the infidels themselves shall be edified and cease to speak evil of the Christians (11-12). This general principle is applied in detail in the exhortations relating to obedience to civil rulers (13-17), the duties of slaves to their masters (18-25), the mutual duties of husband and wife (iii, 1-7). With regard to those who, not having the same faith, calumniate and persecute the Christians, the latter should return good for evil, according to the example of Christ, who though innocent suffered for us, and who preached the Gospel not only to the living, but also to the spirits that were in prison (8-22). The Apostle concludes by repeating his exhortation to sanctity in general (iv, 1-6), to charity (7-11), to patience and joy in suffering for Christ (12-19). (c) Some special recommendations follow (v, 1-11): let the ancients be careful to feed the flock entrusted to their keeping (1-4); let the faithful be subject to their pastor (5a); let all observe humility among themselves (5b); let them be sober and watchful, trusting the Lord (6-11).

In the epilogue the Apostle himself declares that he has employed Sylvanus to write the letter and affirms that the Divine grace possessed by his readers is the true grace (12); he addresses to them the salutations of the Church in Rome and those of Mark (13), and gives them his Apostolic blessing.


A. Authenticity

In the present state of the controversy over the authenticity it may be affirmed that it is solidly probable, though it is difficult to prove with certainty.

(1) Extrinsic arguments

(a) In the first two centuries there is not in the Apostolic Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers, if we except Theophilus of Antioch (180), a single quotation properly so called from this Epistle; at most there are some more or less probable allusions in their writings, e.g., the First Epistle of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, the "Didache", St. Ignatius, the Epistle of Barnabas, the "Pastor" of Hermas, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, the Dialogue of St. Justin with Trypho, St. Irenæus, the Clementine "Recognitions", the "Acts of Peter", etc. The Epistle formed part of the ancient Itala, but is not in the Syriac. This proves that the Second Epistle of Peter existed and even had a certain amount of authority. But it is impossible to bring forward with certainty a single explicit testimony in favour of this authenticity. The Muratorian Canon presents a mutilated text of I Peter, and Zahin's suggested restoration, which seems very probable, leaves only a doubt with regard to the authenticity of the Second Epistle.

(b) In the Western Church there is not explicit testimony in favour of the canonicity and Apostolicity of this Epistle until the middle of the fourth century. Tertullian and Cyprian do not mention it, and Mommsen's Canon (360) still bears traces of the uncertainty among the Churches of the West in this respect. The Eastern Church gave earlier testimony in its behalf. According to Eusebius and Photius, Clement of Alexandria (d. 215) commented on it, but he seems not to have ranked it with the first. It is found in the two great Egyptian versions (Sahidic and Bohairic). It is probable that Firmilian of Caesarea used it and ascribed it to St. Peter, as Methodius of Olympus did explicitly. Eusebius of Caesarea (340), while personally accepting II Peter as authentic and canonical, nevertheless classes it among the disputed works (antilegomena), at the same time affirming that it was known by most Christians and studied by a large number with the other Scriptures. In the Church of Antioch and Syria at that period it was regarded as of doubtful authenticity. St. John Chrysostom does not speak of it, and it is omitted by the Peshitto. That the Epistle formerly accepted in that Church (Theophilus of Antiocy) was not yet included in the canon was probably due to dogmatic reasons.

(c) In the second half of the fourth century these doubts rapidly disappeared in the Churches of the East owing to the authority of Eusebius of Caesarea and the fifty copies of the Scriptures distributed by command of Constantine the Great. Didymus of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, St. Epiphanius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory Nazianzen, the Canon of Laodicea, all regard the letter as authentic. The addition to the text of Didymus, according to which it was the work of a forger, seems to be the error of a copyist. So in the West relations with the East and the authority of St. Jerome finally brought about the admission of its authenticity. It was admitted to the Vulgate, and the synod convoked by Pope Damasus in 382 expressly attributes it to St. Peter.

(2) Intrinsic arguments

If tradition does not appear to furnish an apodictic argument in favour of the authenticity, an examination of the Epistle itself does. The author calls himself Simon Peter, servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ (i, 1), witness of the glorious transfiguration of Christ (i, 16-18); he recalls the prediction of His death which Christ made to him (i, 14); he calls the Apostle Paul his brother, i.e., his colleague in the Apostolate (iii, 15); and he identifies himself with the author of the First Epistle. Therefore the author must necessarily be St. Peter himself or some one who wrote under his name, but nothing in the Epistle forces us to believe the latter. On the other hand there are several indications of its authenticity: the author shows himself to be a Jew, of ardent character, such as the New Testament portrays St. Peter, while a comparison with the ideas, words, and expressions of the First Epistle affords a further argument in favour of the identify of the author. Such, at least, is the opinion of several critics.

In examining the difficulties raised against the authenticity of the Epistle, the following facts should be remembered: (a) This Epistle has been wrongly accused of being imbued with Hellenism, from which it is even farther removed than the writings of Luke and the Epistles of Paul. (b) Likewise the false doctrines which it opposes are not the full-blown Gnosticism of the second century, but the budding Gnosticism as opposed by St. Paul. (c) The difference which some authors claim to find between the doctrine of the two Epistles probes nothing against the authenticity; some others have even maintained that comparison of the doctrines furnishes a new argument in favour of the author's identify. Doubtless there exist undeniable differences, but is an author obliged to confine himself within the same circle of ideas? (d) The difference of style which critics have discovered between the two Epistles is an argument requiring too delicate handling to supply a certain conclusion, and here again some others have drawn from a similarity of style an argument in favour of a unity of authorship. Admitting that the manner of speaking is not the same in both Epistles, there is, nevertheless, not the slightest difficulty, if it be true as St. Jerome has said (see above under FIRST EPISTLE), that in the composition of the Epistles St. Peter made use of different interpreters. (e) It is also incorrect to say that this Epistle supposes the Epistle of St. Paul to have been already collected (iii, 15-16), for the author does not say that he knew all the Epistles of St. Paul. That he should have regarded Paul's letters as inspired forms a difficulty only to those who do not admit the possibility of a revelation made to Peter on this point. Some authors have also wrongly contested the unity of the Epistle, some claiming that it consists of two distinct epistles, the second beginning with ch. iii, others maintaining that the ii, 1-iii, 2, has been interpolated. Recently M. Ladeuze (Revue Biblique, 1905) has advanced an hypothesis which seems to end numerous difficulties: by an involuntary error of a copyist or by accidental transposition of the leaves of the codex on which the Epistle was written, one of the parts of the Epistle was transposed, and according to the order of sections the letter should be restored as follows: i-ii, 3a; iii, 1-16; ii, 3b-22; iii, 17-18. The hypothesis seems very probable.

Relations of II Peter with the Epistle of Jude

This Epistle has so much in common with that of Jude that the author of one must have had the other before him. There is no agreement on the question of priority, but the most credited opinion is that Peter depends on Jude (q.v.).

B. Recipients, Occasion, and Object

It is believed that this Epistle, like the First, was sent to the Christians of Asia Minor, the majority of whom were converted Gentiles (iii, 1-2; ii, 11-12; etc.). False teachers (ii, 1), heretics and deceivers (iii, 3), of corrupt morals (ii, 1) and denying the Second Advent of Christ and the end of the world, sought to corrupt the faith and the conduct of the Christians of Asia Minor. Peter wrote to excite them to the practice of virtue and chiefly to turn them away from the errors and bad example of the false teachers.

C. Date and Place of Composition

While those who reject the authenticity of the Epistle place it about 150, the advocates of its authenticity maintain that it was written after 63-4, the date of the First Epistle, and before 64-5, the date believed to be that of the death of St. Peter (i, 14). Like the First, it was written at Rome.

D. Analysis

In the exordium the Apostle, after the inscription and salutation (i, 1-2), recalls the magnificent gifts bestowed by Jesus Christ on the faithful; he exhorts them to the practice of virtue and all the more earnestly that he is convinced that his death is approaching (3-15). In the body of the Epistle (i, 16-iii, 13) the author brings forward the dogma of the second coming of Christ, which he proves, recalling His glorious transfiguration and the prediction of the Prophets (i, 16-21). Then he inveighs against the false teachers and condemns their life and doctrines: (a) They shall undergo Divine chastisement, in proof of which the Apostle recalls the punishment inflicted on the rebel angels, on the contemporaries of Noah, on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (ii, 1-11). (b) He describes the immoral life of the false teachers, their impurity and sensuality, their avarice and duplicity (12-22). (c) He refutes their doctrine, showing that they are wrong in rejecting the second coming of Christ and the end of the world (iii, 1-4), for the Judge shall certainly come and that unexpectedly; even as the ancient world perished by the waters of the flood so the present world shall perish by fire and be replaced by a new world (5-7). Then follows the moral conclusion: let us live holily, if we desire to be ready for the coming of the Judge (8-13); let us employ the time given us to work out our salvation, even as Paul taught in his Epistles which the false teachers abuse (14-17). Verse 18 consists of the epilogue and doxology.

Publication information Written by A. Vander Heeren. Transcribed by Judy Levandoski. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


DRACH-BAYLE, Epitres catholiques (Paris, 1873); HUNDHAUSEN, Die beiden Pontificalhereiben des Apostelfursten Petrus (Mainz, 1878); CORNELY, Hist. Et crit. Introductio in U. T. libros sacros, III, Introductio specialis (Paris, 1886); BEELEN, Hetniewe Testament (Bruges, 1891); JULICHER, Einleitung in das neue Testament (1894); KUHL, Briefe Petri und Judoe (Gottingen, 1897); HORT, The First Epistle of St. Peter (London, 1898); VON SODEN, Briefe des Petrus (Freiburg, 1899); HARNACK, Gesch. der altchrist. Literatur, die Chronologie (Leipzig, 1900); MONNIER, La premiere epitre de Pierre (Macon, 1900); ZAHN, Grundriss der Gesch. des neutestamntlichen Kanons (Leipzig, 1901); TRANKLE, Einleitung in das neue Test. (Freiburg, 1901); BIGG, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Ep. of St. Peter and St Jude (Edinburgh, 1902); CEULEMANS, Comment. in epist. catholicas et apocalypsim (Mechlin, 1904); HENKEL, Der zweite Brief des Apostelfursten petrus gepruft auf seine Echtheit (Freiburg, 1904); BELSER, Einleitung in das neue Test. (Freiburg, 1905); CALMES, Epitres cathol. Apocalypse (Paris, 1905); WEISS, Der erste Petrus brief und die neuere Kritik (Lichterfelde, 1906); DILLENSEGER, L'authenticite' de la II Petri in Melanges de la faculte' orientale (Beirut, 1907); CALLEWAERT in Revue d'hist. eccles. (Louvain, 1902, 1907); JACQUIER, Hist. des livres du N. Test. (Paris, 1908); BRASSAC, Manuel bibl. (Paris, 1909); VANSTEENKISTE-CAMERLYNCK, Comment. in epist. cathol. (Bruges, 1909).

Apostles Peter and Paul

Orthodox Information

Commemorated June 29

St Peter

A visiting dignitary is honoured with a symbolic key to the city as a token of respect, but for eternity the keys to the kingdom of Heaven have been placed by the Messiah himself, out of respect to one of his greatest disciples, into the hand of a man called Peter,the constant companion and beloved friend of Jesus Christ. This magnificent disciple, whom trust places at the gates of heaven to examine the credentials of those who would enter, had a master key in his lifetime which unlocked the hearts of men to admit the Saviour, and his wisdom was the key to men's minds which in turn admitted the intelligence to give meaning to the Christian faith.

Brought to Jesus by his brother Andrew, a fisherman like himself, Peter forthwith acknowledged the Master and undertook a lifetime of casting his fisherman's nets for the sake of Jesus Christ and so excelled himself in his personal and total dedication to the Saviour that in the two thousand years that have elapsed any roll call of the disciples finds the name of Peter among the most prominent. He ranks with St Paul as one without whom the new Faith could not have survived the whips and scorns of the pagan era of superstition and spiritual darkness.

Several accounts are given in the New Testament about St, Peter and his strong bond with the Nazarene, but the stirring passage in Matthew should be etched in the mind of every Christian, that which says "And I say to thee that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I will give thee the keys of the Kingdom of the Heavens, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in the heavens, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in the heavens." This divine authority vested in Peter as well as to all of the disciples of Christ, placed a sacred trust in Peter, whose name means, "rock" from the Greek word petra.

It was upon this rock of faith, as depicted in holy Scripture, that the formation of the Christian Church, the disciples' handywork, was not only a success but a triumph as well. Peter, the redoubtable fisherman who had never strayed far from his home in Capernaum on the shores of Galilee, was at the side of Jesus in his ministry throughout the Holy Land and as one of his closest apostles planned the campaigns for the winning of converts.

In the course of this spiritual campaign, he came to witness the many miracles of the Master, such as the walking on water, the miracle of the loaves and fishes and, many others which were to lend an aura of divine authority to all of the apostles in the stewardship of the Church.

Peter, together with many others, was privileged to witness the glorious resurrection of Christ, an event which all Christendom views with such reverence as to regard the first followers of Christ, as next to divine.

Peter struck out on his own in the missionary work of renewed dedication after the death of Jesus, but he favoured Jerusalem and together with other followers of Christ assisted diligently in the formation of the Christian community in Jerusalem.

Peter, whose presence at Gethsemane had further fuelled the fires of Christian zeal in his heart, joined John in Samaria, Lydda, Joppa, and Caesaria in a propagation of the truth of the Messiah, but returning to Jerusalem found that a famine had set in and that the Christian community was somehow being blamed for the economic woes that ravaged the land. With the help of Paul and Barnabas they restored the confidence of the people and led them out of their hapless state to an era of new prosperity. Ultimately Peter established the first church in the ancient city of Antioch and became its first bishop. Later in Rome, he was sentenced by Nero to be crucified, a manner of death in which he emulated the Messiah.

St Paul

Whenever the storms of controversy within the Christian Church have cast a shadow on the Cross of Jesus Christ, the clouds have been rolled back by the spiritual brighteness, undiminished by the centuries, of the magnificent St Paul. Most Christians agree that were it not for St Paul, the new faith of Jesus Christ would have never taken hold to become the mainstay of Western civilization, The total commitment of St Paul to the Messiah, for which he ultimately sacrificed his life, brought the message of Jesus to the nucleus of Christians over a period of thirty years and assured the permanency of the truth of the Savior. It was Christ, of course, who planted the seeds, but it was St Paul who nourished the garden of Christendom.

St Paul was born in Tarsus, a flourishing crossroads city in Cilicia, Asia Minor. He received his religious training in Jerusalem under the renowned rabbinical tutor Gamaliel, from whom he absorbed the teaching of the Pharisees with intensity and sincerity. He deplored the acceptance of the Messiah as heresy to his religion and as an affront to the Law of the ancient covenant. Armed with articles of condemnation from his council, he set out for Damascus with an avowed purpose of wiping out this new belief in Jesus Christ.

On the road to Damascus he met Jesus. This is perhaps the most dramatic turnabout in history, one that was destined to alter the course of the world. St Paul embraced as the Messiah the man whom he had set out to destroy; thereafter he devoted himself with deep conviction to the truth of Christianity. The conversion alone of this profoundly religious man is in itself testimony to the reality of the Messiah's divinity.

Although not one of the twelve disciples of Christ, Paul linked himself with the apostles and became the greatest apostolic missionary of all time. A brilliant orator and writer, he was sensitive to the needs and moods of the various tribes of both Greek and Near Eastern backgrounds. Furthermore, he was intelligent enough to cope with the problems that beset the new faith at every turn.

St Paul, a man of small physical stature, cast a giant shadow upon the missionary scene as he traveled the length and breadth of the ancient Eastern world. He had success following success in the vast areas of Asia, Greece, Cyprus, Macedonia, and eventually Rome, where his most noble purpose was to prove his undoing. He had a fondness for Jerusalem, for whose poor he continually solicited funds. Moreover, he envisioned a union of the Jewish and Christian communities, a project which was to prove dangerous. He met James in Jerusalem and together they sought a means to bring this laudable plan into being. However, he encountered not love but outright hostility. In fact, he had to be saved from an angry mob by the Roman authorities, who placed him aboard a ship bound for Rome, where he arrived after a tossed voyage.

St Paul had always wanted to use the eternal city with its strategic position in the empire, from which the spread of Christianity could be projected. Although he preached in Rome for two years, his ambitions were never completely realized, except for the production of his masterful Pastoral Letters.

Despite his frail health he continued his work for Christ at an accelerated pace, but his enthusiastic love for the Savior also brought him the resentment of certain influential elements in Rome. When his enemies had done their worst, he was brought to trial and met a marytr's death about 67 AD.

The true greatness of Paul is discerned in his writings, particularly his epistles. As author of almost half of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, he has influenced Christianity as no other man with the exception of Jesus himself. Even after nearly two thousand years, St Paul's candor, freshness, clarity, and perceptiveness in his writings are as welcome as sunrise.

Orthodox Christianity remembers St Paul each year on 29th June and as one of the Apostles on June 30.

Dismissal Hymn (Fourth Tone)

First-enthroned of the Apostles, teachers of the universe, entreat the Master of all to grant peace to the world, and to our souls great mercy!

Kontakion (Second Tone)

O Lord, You have taken up to eternal rest and to the enjoyment of Your blessings the two divinely-inspired preachers, the leaders of the Apostles, for You have accepted their labours and deaths as a sweet-smelling sacrifice, for You alone know what lies in the hearts of men.

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