Second Peter & Its Reference to Paul
How Second Peter 3:15-17 Reads
This passage reads in the King James as:
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood [Greek, dysnoetas], which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Peter 3:15-17 KJV.)
Many suppose this supports Paul. However, it speaks several negatives:
1. This speaks of "brother" Paul, not "apostle Paul."
2. Paul spoke with "wisdom given unto him," not inspiration. Thus, in the early church, when Paul is quoted, it is not "the Bible" tells us, or "Paul by the Holy Spirit said," as we incessantly are told today. Instead, in the early church, we were told to "hear" Paul who "proclaims these things 'according to the wisdom given him in ministry'...," quoting Second Peter. (Origen ca. 200 AD, Homolies on Genesis & Exodus, Book 8 (Ed. Ronald Heine, 2010) p. 316.)
Polycarp (69-155 AD) spoke likewise. Polycarp was an early enthusiastic supporter of Paul's doctrines in the next generation. However, listen in this famous quote whether inspiration or wisdom is the source of Paul's words: "For neither am I, nor is any other like unto me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he came among you taught face to face with the men of that day the word which concerneth truth carefully and surely; who also, when he was absent, wrote a letter unto you, into the which if ye look diligently, ye shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you...." Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 178. Please note that Polycarp says "he cannot follow" the wisdom of Paul, meaning it is hard to comprehend or understand -- just like Second Peter says.
(The full quote from Polycarp is in the Notes below.)
3. Paul speaks of some things "hard to be understood." This is more correctly translated as that Paul speaks some "nonsensical" things. The Greek word is "dysnoetas." This is a term typically used as ridicule meaning "nonsensical." The Greek dysnoetas was used this very way by another Christian early 'father' -- Lucian -- referring to a false prophet who replied to Lucian's inquiries with multiple responses which Lucian said were "silly and nonsensical" (dysnoetas) -- every one." (Lucian's work Alexander the False Prophet, para. 54.)
4. Paul is lowered not raised by equating him with "other graphe" -- other writings. It is not the term "holy writings," which is how Paul himself referred to an inspired writing unless "writings" in context clearly referred to a passage in the Law or prophets. Non-inspired writings are simply called graphe in the Bible unless the context implies a reference to the Law or Prophets. Paul is thus equated by Second Peter with non-inspired writings, as Second Peter makes no implied reference to the Law or Prophets. It is a modern phenomenon that we hear the word writing when given as the capitalized synonymn Scripture, and we imply into it Holy Scripture -- a meaning far removed from Second Peter's intent. This is more fully explained below.
5. The unstable "wrest" from Paul's "nonsensical" writings an "error" which the "lawless" (Greek, athesmon) prefer, and thereby fall from their "steadfastness" in Christ. This is all toned down by translators. Yet, we can find it under the covers by using an interlinear Greek New Testament, and double-checking the key words.
Second Peter 2:18-22 Earlier Describes Paulinism In Veiled Terms As A Teaching of Nonsense
Then when #5 is read together with Second Peter's critique in chapter 2, verses 18-22, about "false teachers" who for gain "arrogantly use nonsense," it is clear Paul and his followers are included in this earlier description. Listen intently:
18 They arrogantly use nonsense [Greek, mataiot?tos, synonymn to dysnoetas] to seduce people by appealing to their sexual desires, especially to sexual freedom. They seduce people who have just escaped from those who live in error. 19 They promise these people freedom, but they themselves are slaves to corruption. A person is a slave to whatever he gives in to.
20 People can know our Lord and Savior Yeshua Christ and escape the world’s filth. But if they get involved in this filth again and give in to it, they are worse off than they were before. 21 It would have been better for them never to have known the way of life that God approves of than to know it and turn their backs on the holy life God told them to live. 22 These proverbs have come true for them: “A dog goes back to its vomit,” and “A sow that has been washed goes back to roll around in the mud.” (Names of God Bible, 2 Peter 2:18-22.)
Second Peter in chapter two is clearly saying ones who knew Christ and thereby escaped the world's filth were promised freedom from legal constraints on behavior by false teachers who "arrogantly used nonsense." Now they have been duped by this false promise, and are worse off than when they did not yet know Christ, and had thereby escaped the world and been washed clean of sin. This is because their disobedience - given license by the false teachers who speak nonsense -- has led them to return to their filfth and vomit.
Don Flemming comments on 2 Peter 2 in a very telling way in his highly regarded commentary - the AMG Concise Bible Commentary (Chatanooga, Tennessee, 1994). He writes: "In it, he [Peter] opposed the false teachers who claimed that faith was not related to behavior, and therefore immoral practices were not wrong for those with higher spiritual knowledge."
More precisely, Flemming means these teachers said immoral practices had no serious risk of loss of salvation for those with "faith" -- the higher spiritual knowledge. This is Paul's doctrine in many places, such as 1 Corinthians 8:7-8.
Second Peter 2 and 3 Are Anti-Paul, not Pro-Paul
Second Peter thus presents a subtle yet obvious highly negative picture of Paul, not a positive one. One has to lift completely out of context the word "scripture" in 2 Peter 3:17, and then improperly spin it to ignore or discount these multiple negatives.
The Argument for Paul from 2 Peter 3:15-17
Those who seek to claim Paul is as inspired as Moses or Jesus rely upon 2 Peter 3:15-17 which says some twist Paul like they "do other Scripture" to their destruction. The same passage is otherwise very unflattering to Paul -- first denigrating his writings as "difficult to understand" using the Greek word "dysnoetas." As mentioned above, this is a term used as ridicule meaning "nonsensical." The Greek dysnoetas was used this very way by another Christian early 'father' -- Lucian -- referring to a false prophet who replied to Lucian's inquiries with multiple responses which Lucian said were "silly and nonsensical" (dysnoetas) -- every one." (Lucian's work Alexander the False Prophet, para. 54.) In the same pattern of denigrating Paul, Second Peter continues, calling Paul a "brother" (not an apostle) who had "wisdom as God gave him" (rather than inspiration).
These multiple negatives make it very hard for those who wish to rely upon the "other Scripture" reference as a positive to accept Second Peter as entirely inspired. Hence, at least one -- Calvin -- who knew what dysnoetas really meant -- rejected Second Peter as authentic for using this term in reference to Paul's writings. Moreover, those who rely upon the 'other scripture' reference also read far too much into this as a supposed positive, as we shall see.
Is Second Peter Truly Canonical?
The first question is whether anyone, including those endorsing Paul or those disputing Paul's validity (as myself) can truly rely upon 2 Peter 3:15-17 as inspired writ. The oldest voice on the issue was Eusebius. He was part of Constantine's Roman church that was extremely pro-Paul because he gave verses that could do away with Jewish traditions. So there is some possible bias to shield Paul from Second Peter. He was writing in the early 300s, as the orthodox historian, and said:
"One epistle of Peter, that called the first, is acknowledged as genuine. But we have learned that his extant second epistle, does not belong to the canon. Yet as it has appeared profitable, it has been used with the other scriptures." (Eusebius, History of the Church 3:3:1, in Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. I at 254.)
Similarly, Calvin, one of the leaders of the Reformation of the 1500s, disliked Second Peter's criticism of Paul. For this reason Calvin concluded it could not have been written by Peter.
Calvin regarded the fault Peter found about Paul as "difficult to understand" in 2 Peter 3:15-17 outweighed any positives stated by Second Peter. The words attributed to Peter implies, as the Bethel Church of God explains:
Based on the above texts, as well as others, there is only one way to understand Paul’s Epistles. They must be interpreted by the clear texts in the Bible, texts that are not difficult to understand. ("Understanding Paul," Bethel Church of God (2012).)
Thus, Calvin disliked this implication because it means to interpret Paul, you must begin by excluding Paul from consideration. You would then have to start with Jesus and the apostles whose words are clear, and only then would you see how and to what extent Paul is compatible. Then if Paul's words are at odds with Jesus or the apostles, then one must dismiss those words of Paul as "difficult to understand." Paul would become essentially irrelevant if we heeded 2d Peter 3:15-17.
But Calvin adored the doctrines he found in Paul of predestination of the lost, sovereignty of God over evil (i.e., God makes all evil happen and no man has free will), and once you experienced regeneration, you could commit no sin that would cause the loss of salvation ("once in grace, always in grace"). Most of those doctrines can only be articulated from Paul's teachings.
Calvin acknowledged therefore that if Peter truly criticized Paul as "difficult to understand" this undercuts Paul's inspiration and anyone's right to meaningfully use Paul to interpret Christianity. Calvin realized Second Peter is a profound and deep cut on Paul. Thus, Calvin concluded Second Peter was not written personally by Peter, relying principally on this issue of the criticism Second Peter contains of Paul.
Calvin's introductory comment to 2d Peter is at link. Calvin says "doubts...ought not keep us from reading it...." "there are probable conjectures by which we may conclude that it was written by another than Peter." "If it be received as canonical, we must allow Peter to be the author." However, in this introduction, Calvin never tells us it is canonical. This is because he later disaffirms any true apostolic support for its supposed inspiration.
When it comes to the key passage that says "Paul is difficult to understand" which leads into it saying that Paul's words are misconstrued as "other Scripture," Calvin realizes that to take any arguable good from this Epistle requires taking a very bad pill which undermines Paul. So Calvin disaffirms the entire Epistle was written by Peter. Calvin writes:
And yet, when I examine all things more narrowly, it seems to me more probable that this Epistle was composed by another according to what Peter communicated, than that it was written by himself, for Peter himself would have never spoken thus. (Bible Study Guide.)
Barclay Also Realized Second Peter Intriguingly Critizes Paul
The importance of this comment is explained by the famous William Barclay. He records that in the commentary, Calvin recognized 2d Peter criticizes Paul, and thus Calvin finally came down with the view that Peter did not write this epistle:
"With its reference to Paul and its tinge of criticizm of him, this is one of the most intriguing passages in the New Testament. It was this passage which made reformer John Calvin certain that Peter did not write himself 2 Peter because, he says, Peter would not have spoken about Paul like this." (William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Westminster, John Knox Press, 2003) at 401.)
Second Peter Thus Contains Several Put-Downs of Paul
So if 2d Peter is inspired, it conveys several direct criticisms / subtle put-downs about Paul. And 2d Peter's anti-Paul slant is precisely the primary reason why Calvin did not accept 2d Peter as actually written by Peter. It supposedly got garbled somehow. Calvin first doubted it in the introduction to his commentary on Second Peter. Then Calvin in the main commentary disaffirmed Second Peter as having a truly reliable source -- Peter himself as author, reviewer or editor. Thus, Calvin can only be construed as having knocked away any canonical basis for Second Peter's joinder to the Bible if you want to keep Paul as an inspired figure.
Alas! Second Peter Is The One Obvious Pseudograph In the NT
While I truly wish 2d Peter were canonical so I could exploit fully the important flaw in Paul identified in 2d Peter, there are good reasons to agree with Calvin that Second Peter is a fabrication. For example, why did its author mispell the name of Simon Peter as Simeon Peter? In 2 Peter 1:1, it is "Simeon Peter," unlike in 1 Peter and everywhere else in the NT except Acts 15:14. ("Authorship of Petrine Epistles," Wikipedia.)
Hard to dispute that! For why would Peter spell his own name differently in two different letters that he both supposedly wrote?
Many other reasons are discussed below why Second Peter is a pseudograph, and only emerged in the NT canon at a very late stage --- 367 A.D.
The five-volume Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (published by Abingdon Press of the United Methodist church with 8400 articles by 900 scholars "in service of the church") contains J.B. Meyer's article which explains his view that it is falsely attributed to Peter after setting out the facts:
The author has adopted the name of the foremost apostle Peter, to enhance the authority of his letters - a practice not unknown in the early church. We have evidence of a rich Petrine literature. Fragments of a Gospel of Peter, an Acts of Peter, and an Apocalypse of Peter have survived... Second Peter belongs to this class of literature. Both internal and external evidence show with cumulative force the impossibility of ascribing the letter to Peter, the disciple and apostle... No theory of secretarial aid can explain the differences in style and thought between 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
Hence, this conservative treatise agrees that 2d Peter is a pseudo-graph and not written by Peter.
Yet, you can find arguments for 2 Peter as truly by Apostle Peter at this link, To repeat, I wish these arguments were persuasive and accepted because 2 Peter aids the case against Paul as an authority.For precisely how 2 Peter perfectly proves the Jesus' Words Only Principle even if Paul were inspired," see our "The Jesus' Words Principle Explained."
However, I am forced to concede with defenders of Paul like Calvin that I cannot fully exploit 2d Peter as inspired. Calvin found fault with 2 Peter because it criticized Paul, and thus Calvin dismissed it as truly canonical. Scholarship confirms Calvin's conclusion. Therefore I unfortunately cannot use it to provide an inspired statement that "Paul is difficult to understand" or that Peter truly only regarded Paul as a "brother" (not an apostle) or Peter only thought Paul spoke with the "wisdom God gave him" (rather than inspiration).
For the same reason, defenders of Paul who are intent to use the "other Scripture" reference which is part of this very same passage -- misunderstood anyway as explained next -- cannot use it to salvage Paul as inspired. For 2d Peter certainly (sadly) was a pseudograph.
Scripture Back Then Did Not Mean 'Scripture' As We Use The Word Today
Even if 2d Peter were inspired (and I wish it were), 2d Peter tells us what people in the 300s were saying about Paul. The first question to interpret is whether this reference to Paul's writings as among "other Scripture" truly meant by "Scripture" what we mean today by the term "Scripture" -- inspired writ. We have shortened "holy scripture" down to "Scripture," but in the days of Peter "scripture" did not mean necessarily an inspired writing.
The term "scripture" in this verse was simply the term GRAPHE. This is a term that simply means a writing or writings. It could be noninspired writings Peter had in mind that the unstable twist to their own destruction. Nothing in context suggests it is only holy writings. Had Peter such intent, all he had to do is call it holy scripture as Paul does elsewhere.
Even if we assume GRAPHE referred to the Bible, it likely was at best a reference to the third part of the three-fold division of the Jewish Bible at that time. It was called the "Writings" or "Scripture" section.
In those days, "Scripture" did not mean 100% inspired-writ, which is precisely why a writing such as Daniel's prophecy was put in the third section -- the "Writing/Scripture" section -- before his Messianic prophecy was validated in the time of Christ. By the time of Jesus, Jews did not yet place Daniel in the "Prophets" section because they still thought it an uninspired work. They kept it in the "Scripture" (Writings) section because one day it may prove to be prophetic but at that time it was not yet established to be so.
Hence "Writings" or "Scriptures" to a Jew meant this category of writings included in the Bible for safe-keeping / edification, intended to identify it as either entirely not yet recognized as inspired (e.g., Daniel) or partly inspired and partly not, e.g., Psalms. See "Writings Section of Original Jewish Bible." Hence, to say something belonged to that "Writings" section, one would say in Greek that it was "Scripture" -- and thus the term "Scripture" was used 180 degrees opposite of what we mean today by "Scripture." Thus, we are reading into Second Peter something it did not intend to apply. We are using our modern concept of "Scripture" to interpet a 1st century meaning which was OPPOSITE of our meaning.
Thus, Second Peter did not intend to elevate Paul's words to inspired status by placing it among the "Scripture." Rather, it sought at best that we see Paul's words as on par with the "Writings" aka Scripture / third section of the OT. The Writings/Scripture was regarded as edifying and only sometimes inspired. This third section was distinct from Torah (Law) and Prophets which were regarded as 100% inspired. Thus, it is important that Second Peter does not categorize Paul as a prophet, and instead placed him on par with the "Scripture." It was a slight, not a compliment.
Our modern use of the word "Scripture" has become more broad than what it meant in the day that Second Peter was written. Our modern misconception was due to a mistranslation of 2 Tim. 3:16. This was mistranslated by adding the italicized word: "All scripture is inspired of God is useful for edification and teaching." (See Writings Section of Original Jewish Bible.) Remove the is, and all it says is "All scripture inspired of God is useful for edification and teaching." It does not say all scripture is inspired of God - investing the word "scripture" standing alone as implying always it is inspired. A major mistake has led to a misunderstanding of 2 Peter 3:15-18.
Modern scholars have finally corrected this mistranslation of 2 Tim. 3:16. However, this long indulgence in a wrong translation has led to an exaggerated importance of the term "Scripture." Thus, when reading 2 Peter 3:15-18 with this wrong light on the word "Scripture," this improperly gave Paul a presumed equality with the words of our Divine Lord.
Also, the fact Paul mentions several times he is not speaking any message from the Lord and other times says he is speaking such a message from the Lord (link) would imply Paul had the view of himself as "Scripture" (not Prophetic) just as Second Peter implies. For sometimes Paul believes he speaks with inspiration (when he says the Lord gave him a message). Other times, Paul believes he is not speaking with inspiration. For these passages in Paul's own words, see "Paul Admits He Often Speaks without Inspiration."
Thus, the reference to Paul's writings as "Scripture" in 2 Peter did not have a meaning that it was inspired. This is using the modern meaning of "Scripture" to apply the same meaning as true when Second Peter was written. This is untrue as a matter of history and as to even Paul's usage of the term "scripture" in 2 Tim. 3:16 when translated correctly.
What Was The Dangerous Doctrine Deduced By Those Twisting Paul?
Another reason I wish 2d Peter were inspired is because it identifies what was the aim of those "twisting" Paul as they do "other Scripture." They were trying to find "lawless" positions from what Paul wrote about against the Law.
Let's read 2 Peter 3:16-17 (NIV) again to see this:
16 There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability.
Indeed, traditional Christian leaders and most Christians do interpret and twist Paul’s writings to their and their followers’ own destruction. Additionally, they are carried away with the error of the lawless - those who oppose the Law given Moses which Jesus specifically endorsed in Matthew 5:17-19. The result is to cause themselves and others to be found WITH “spot or blemish” instead of without!
Do not casually miss the enormously important information Second Peter provides in verse 17 - a warning that applies now just as much as then. The LAWLESS (anti-torah) people are the ones Second Peter explicitly warns us about when it says we are not to be "carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability." Furthermore, the stability to which he refers is at least in part the stability provided by reverence and observance of God's eternal Law!
Below are excerpts of prior letters and portions of my books that discuss 2 Peter.
"Brother" Paul & "Wisdom" from God in Second Peter [Email of May 24, 2010 to Shawn]
[Here is an email where I answer this question about why Second Peter refers to Paul as a "brother" and what does "wisdom" from God mean.]
You ask why 2d Peter 3:15 refers to Paul as "beloved brother" and says Paul spoke according to the "wisdom given him by God."
After one solidly understands, as Calvin did, that 2 Peter 3:15-17 is a strong criticism about Paul as one whose "words are difficult to understand," then one should understand 3:15 is in the same vein. The words were as kind as possible yet represent veiled criticism.
First, whoever wrote 2d Peter, and I wish it were Peter, was being kind about Paul. To call him a "beloved brother" when Paul claimed to be an apostle was putting Paul in his place -- gently and kindly. If Paul were an apostle, why didn't Second Peter call Paul an "apostle"? He didn't do so. That, I would interpret, was purposeful. A criticism in line with what else is spoken about Paul in this passage.
Next, this quote includes the wisdom reference which you quote. I would interpret this as another put down on Paul. It refers to the "wisdom" as God gave Paul, which is something an uninspired person may receive from God. It did not say the "words from God as God gave Paul."
Hence, 2 Peter 3:15-17 allows us to infer whoever wrote Second Peter thought:
a) Paul is difficult to understand and those ambiguities have led many to fall from their steadfastness in Christ into "lawless" doctrine;
b) Paul is a brother -- not an apostle; and
c) Paul spoke with the wisdom God gave him, and not by inspiration.
"Why be so kind?' is your apparent question if Paul was as much trouble as I contend. 'Why not bluntly call these issues out?'
My view is that Jesus told the apostles through a parable how to handle those who are tares sown by the enemy. In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the objective is to leave them in the church and not exclude them. Let the angels make the separation later. We are not so wise to know how to differentiate a wheat from the tare.
At the same time, it would be proper for an apostle like Peter to help us identify the proper level of authority of Paul. Peter properly would be saying nicely and without offense, in effect, 'don't follow a mere brother who spoke with wisdom, not inspiration, and whose words are hard to understand. Stay steadfast in Christ.' That is all an apostolic voice like Peter had to say. To go beyond testing Paul's words for validity can end up in unnecessary fault-finding of him as a person, etc. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares dictates a kinder approach. I think that is what 2d Peter represents. A kind, gentle approach to Paul yet still with 3 distinct criticisms which I just mentioned.
If you observe how I test Paul, I invest him with all good faith, and I attribute no malevolence to him whatsoever. I don't think he deliberately lied about being a believer in Christ or with a malicious purpose. Yet, his statements were often untrue. There is a difference. Paul was mistaken in his views about his apostleship (i.e., what a true apostle of Jesus Christ means), the doctrines he taught, etc. Also, he fulfilled the Benjamite Wolf prophecy of Genesis 49 by killing Christians initially and then separating/dividing them between Gentiles and Jews. Paul had no idea that he was fulfilling prophecy, but it does not change the fact God tells us that Paul was the Benjamite Wolf -- whom Jesus also tells us was the wolf in sheep's clothing.
Did that help?
The Importance of Chapter Two of Second Peter To Understand 2 Peter 3:14-18
[The following is an excerpt from Jesus Words on Salvation (2009) at 501 et seq. where I discuss how the 3d century church used Second Peter to fight off Marcion's emphasis on faith alone for salvation:]
An early answer within the church to this identical quandary of Paul’s belief alone verses (at least as ‘twisted by some’) was to regard such problem verses in Paul as “difficult to understand.” (Self-contradiction causes uncertainty.)
Hence, the early church taught these belief alone passages were an impermissible basis to stray from what Jesus — our Sole Teacher (Matt. 23:8,10) and Divine Lord — taught us. Second Peter bluntly provides this solution.
Second Peter warned us that Paul says many things that are “difficult to understand” (2 Peter 3:17) and many people twist Paul’s words so that they fall from their “steadfastness in Christ” to their own destruction.
Second Peter continues and makes clear that it is talking about the doctrines of Paul that are a cheap grace — that lead Christians to think accepting Christ one time allows you to sin later and still go to heaven. If you follow the belief alone implication that lets go of obedience for salvation, Second Peter says you stop following Jesus. You lose your “steadfastness” in Christ.
In fact, what is remarkable is how clear this is explained in Second Peter 2:20-21. For it unequivocally says in Greek that it would have been better you never had accepted (epi-ginoska, not merely ginoska) the Lord Jesus Christ than to have accepted (epi-ginoska) Him, and then be overcome again later by sinning.
Apostle John likewise used epignosei to refer to a saving epi-gnosis as long as it continues. Apostle John said anyone who “epignosei [continuous tense, present participle active] — keeps on accepting — the Son also has the Father.” (1 John 2:23.)
This tells us that Second Peter — which uses the same epignosei — says it would be better to have never had the Son and Father by epignose-ing the Son than to have had them but then be tripped up by a doctrine that licenses sin as salvation-wise safe, and then become lost again.
Unfortunately, rather than heed Second Peter, most evangelicals are subjected to translators who torture Second Peter 2:20-21 so it is neutralized from undermining their ‘free to sin and yet be saved’ doctrine. This teaching is known as Eternal Security which they deduce from Paul’s writings.
Translation Of Second Peter Chapter Two To Obscure Its Meaning
For Second Peter is translated typically so that it no longer speaks about those who “accepted” Jesus. Second Peter really says those accepting Him are falling from salvation due to demoralizing doctrine.
Second Peter also clearly specifies what is the wrong demoralizing teaching of those who ‘twist’ Paul. They promise that you have liberty in Christ to sin and remain saved.
“(17) These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved. (18) For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error; (19) promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage. (20) For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the epignosei
knowledge [acceptance] of the Lord and Sav iour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first. (21) For it were better for them not to have epiginosko known [accepted] the way of righteousness, than, after knowing [sic: accepting] it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (22) It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.” (2Pe 2:17-22 ASV.)
The word epignosei and epignosko used in verses 20 and 21 is often mistranslated as knowledge and know respectively. Yet, not one dictionary definition of epignosei includes knowledge. The Greek prefix epi is meant to convey ‘above the norm, over and above.’ The prefix epi thus intends to intensify ginosko. Thus, Vines says its primary meaning is “to know thoroughly (epi, ‘intensive’ [of] ginosko, ‘to know.’”) Thus, the definition is some meaning beyond mere knowledge. Moreover, to suggest these people “escaped...through [mere] knowledge” of Jesus the evils of the world is silly. These people escaped the miasmata, meaning “defilement, stain of guilt” of the kosmos. These must be Christians. Thus, epignosei obviously is intended to convey that meaning.
What epignosei means in the LSJ Middle Lexicon is essentially (1) to look upon, observe; or (2) “recognize, know again, to acknowledge or approve...[iii] to come to a decision, to resolve, decide.” The most obvious English synonym that fits the context is “acceptance” and “accept” in verses 20 and 21. Incidentally, Paul uses epignosei in the same manner in Titus 1:1 about what saves. There the KJV translates it correctly as “acknowledging [i.e., accepting] the truth.” The same is true of 1 John 2:23 which is discussed below.
In 2 Peter 2:20-21, it ordinarily is translated so that supposedly people who merely knew about Jesus fell away by being taught there is a “liberty” to sin as a Christian. Yet, if Second Peter had meant that persons who merely knew about Jesus are at issue, the proper word to use would have been ginoska (know). It certainly would not be epi-ginosko. A Greek would understand the verb epi-ginosko due to the prefix epi is intended to intensify the verb to know. Hence, it could only mean accept or acknowledge in this context.
Moreover, it appears suspiciously inconsistent to render 1 John 2:23 to say the one who is “acknowledging the Son also has the father,” but rendering the same word in 2 Peter 2:20-21 as ‘know.’ The effect of the inconsistency is that the reader is misled. The uninformed Christian is led to think Second Peter is concerned about those who never have accepted/acknowledged Christ but merely know about Him. Yet, Second Peter is truly warning those who have accepted Christ unto a saving relationship with the Father and Son that they do not realize that it would be better never to have accepted Christ than to listen to a ‘twisting of Paul’s words,’ and be seduced thereby to think that sinning is salvation-safe. Second Peter means it is not possible for a Christian to safely accept such a liberty to sin even when Paul appears to say so.
How Could It Be Better Never To Have Accepted Christ?
Then what does Second Peter mean? Obviously, the only way it would be better never to have accepted Christ is that you not only go to hell, but also you receive extra lashes for knowingly flaunting Jesus’ commands based on being led astray by "hard-to-understand" passages in Paul’s writings. Did Jesus ever teach this extra-lashes principle, thus strengthening this reading? Yes, He did!
Jesus taught this in Luke’s Gospel. He spoke about what will happen to disobedient servants of His. Jesus says the ones who actually knew His will but did not do it receive more lashes than the ones who are disobedient but ignorant of His will. Both types of disobedient servants are in hell, but the ones who receive a worse whipping are the ones who knew their Lord’s will and still disobeyed:
And that servant, who knew his lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; (48) but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more. (Luke 12:47-48.)
What should have been the modern response to Second Peter? It should have put us on alert to any and everything Paul says. There is a fatal and destructive message that can be construed from Paul’s writings due to their "difficult to understand" nature, Second Peter says. This message is identified as a message of “liberty.” In context, it is obvious the misleading message is what we call today faith alone doctrine. This alone part of the label signifies that no disobedience can destroy your salvation. Faith alone supposedly does it all for you. Second Peter yet warns a double dose of damnation for those so duped. For you have accepted the Son, but later became seduced by passages in Paul to break “the holy commandments.” (2 Peter 2:21.) Yet, you knew the Lord Jesus’ will was very different. You knew Jesus said ‘repent or perish,’ and ‘heaven maimed or hell whole’ (Mark 9:42-47; Matt 18:6-8). Now, for flagrantly disregarding the Lord’s will, you will suffer a double portion in hell. That’s what Second Peter is bluntly saying.
Jerome’s Low View Of Paul’s Writings Akin To Second Peter
Another confirmation that we are reading Second Peter correctly is to examine Jerome’s comments about Paul. Jerome translated the Greek NT in 411 A.D. into the Latin Vulgate. Jerome in his Commentary on Galatians and Ephesians wrote: “Paul does not know how to develop a hyperbaton [i.e., a change of normal word order for emphasis], nor to conclude a sentence; and having to do with rude people, he has employed the conceptions, which, if, at the outset, he had not taken care to announce as spoken after the manner of men, would have shocked men of good sense.” (Gaussen: 119 quoting Comm. Galatians Bk 11, titl. Bk 1, i.1; and Comm. Ephesians Bk. 11: 3.1.) Gaussen interprets the implication of Jerome's commentary as follows:
Such being then the traces of infirmity which we can follow in the Scriptures, it remains impossible to recognize in such a book an inspiration that goes even to the lesser details of their language. (Louis Gaussen, Theopneusty, or, The plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (1843) at 100 -- at this google-books link.)
In other words, unless you read Paul with extreme care, he is unintelligible and appears contradictory of good sense. One can untangle it, Jerome seems to imply. Yet, Jerome also implies it is very difficult treading to do so. Obviously, basing doctrine on Paul was regarded as precarious in the early church. As Gaussen says, Jerome's words implied Paul is useable for edification, but placed Paul's words outside the realm of truly inspired writ.
[PS Gaussen goes on to defend the full inspiration of everything in Holy Scripture as we have assembled it, for he felt there is nowhere one can draw a line to keep any of it as inspired once you go down this road. I disagree. Regardless, my point of referencing Gaussen is solely to see Gaussen recognizes Jerome's remarks from 400 AD are a criticism on viewing Paul as inspired.]
What Do We Do With Paul’s Cheap Grace Verses?
Then what of the cheap grace verses in Paul such as Romans 4:5? For the one following Christ, this is no problem. For we follow Christ, and always remember His words are above all — as the great prophet John the Baptist said.
Thus, we can take the wise path laid out by Second Peter. It warned us that we can never safely reject Jesus’ doctrine. If we do so, even if it is in reliance on Paul’s “difficult to understand” cheap grace verses, we will fall from our steadfastness in Christ.
Second Peter was telling us that twisting the costly-grace Paul to become the cheap-grace Paul is a waste of a Christian’s time and energy. Study the Master — your one and only Teacher (Matt. 23:10) — just as the Master taught. To spend time trying to make the Master who taught a costly-grace Gospel to match a disciple (Paul) when the disciple cheapens the price of salvation is to invert their relationship. Such an approach makes the disciple the Master, and the Master his inferior, as Kierkegaard warned. God forbid!
"Authorship of the Petrine Epistles," Wikipedia:
It is possible that Silvanus, a companion of Paul, wrote both epistles.
"Most scholars today conclude that Peter was not the author of the two epistles that are attributed to him...." Id.
The first epistle was physically written at least by Silvanus. In 1st Peter, the author admits this in 1 Peter 5:12: "By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand."
Where else do we read about Silvanus? We find Paul talks often of him as a companion:
2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.
1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Silvanus was clearly Paul's partner. Hence, Silvanus clearly wrote 1 Peter and could have written 2d Peter as well. In doing so, Silvanus could have tried to have Peter call Paul a "brother" and that Paul had at least "wisdom" that God gave him. (These are more likely subtle knocks.) On the other hand, most scholars agree that 2 Peter came into existence later in the church -- near the 300s, and thus could not have been written by the same person who wrote 1 Peter. Hence, it appears there is no ability to affirm 2d Peter was written by Peter.
Scott Schiffried Post on 2d Peter
Skeptics and believers reject certain books of the Bible for one reason or another. Anytime someone questions the name of the authorship of a writing without any reason, this can only be done with prejudice. The common reason for rejecting a book of the Bible has always been a presumptuous bias. There is not one scholar who rejects 2 Peter with any proof. This is not said to disregard their evidence with their opinion, but rather disregarding their opinion that is without proof. One can’t pick up a book, look at the name of the author, and accuse the author of forgery without by doing so in sinning, slandering, and bearing false witness. These are the implied charges of these disclaimers of 2 Peter’s authenticity. These accusing skeptics bear false witness by bringing charges without any sources for their accusations.
****The apostolic collection certainly did not consist of the 2nd c. writings of the falsely titled Gospel of Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter, which were rejected being written long after Peter’s death. On the other hand, 2 Peter was never rejected. Many accepted 2 Peter and some doubted the book like Origen in the 3rd c. and such too as noted by the 4th century historian Eusebius. Yet, this doubt is settled by the fact that an overseeing elder of the Church in Rome named Clement referred to 2 Peter 3:4 as “the scripture” in his letter to the Corinthians (23:3). Clement wrote His letter before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD (Clement 41:2). Clearly, Clement bears witness with the existence and character of the letter of 2 Peter showing that 2 Peter is authentic.
November 20, 2013 Reply Comment
Sorry to see such a heated exchange. You say Peter is the author of Second Peter, and I wish it were so. Calvin rejected Second Peter because it criticized Paul as "difficult to understand."
In the modern era, defenders of Paul think the 'scripture' reference in 2d Peter supports Paul. Calvin believed it did not.
Regardless, you can see that Paul defenders and Paul critics have equal reasons to hold onto Second Peter. So truly the issue must be analyzed objectively.
I don't think one can argue Peter wrote Second Peter by referring to 1 Clement 23:3. First, Clement does not say who wrote those words. Second, the first part of the quote from "scripture" is so different from 2d Peter that it proves it does not come from 2d Peter. Clement says this: "1Clem 23:3 Let this scripture be far from us where He saith "Wretched are the double-minded, Which doubt in their soul and say, 'These things we did hear in the days of our fathers also, and behold we have grown old, and none of these things hath befallen us."" (Lightfoot translation.) Of course, the second portion is similar to 2d Peter 3:5 which reads mockers will say “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.”
But Clement clearly includes in this "scripture" quote that it begins totally different "He says 'Wretched are the double-minded, which doubt in their soul and say "...." But 2d Peter clearly omits the full quotation that Clement is taking from his source. Hence 2d Peter is likely using the same source for which Clement is referencing. Clement is clearly not quoting from 2d Peter, but another source.
As Leander Keck in The New Testament Experience of Faith (Bethany Press 1976) says at 153, "we do not know what scripture Clement is quoting" even though it has similarities to Second Peter.
Thus, regardless of whether one wishes to cite 2d Peter for their view of Paul, I can see clearly that Clement is not quoting 2d Peter for 2 Peter is missing the key introductory part of the quote about double-mindedness which was part of the passage that Clement was quoting.
Just trying to keep it real!
Polycarp's full quote on Paul:
For neither am I, nor is any other like unto me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he came among you taught face to face with the men of that day the word which concerneth truth carefully and surely; who also, when he was absent, wrote a letter unto you, into the which if ye look diligently, ye shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you, 3which is the mother of us all, while hope followeth after and love goeth before—love toward God and Christ and toward our neighbour. For if any man be occupied with these, he hath fulfilled the commandment of righteousness; for he that hath love is far from all sin (Polycarp Phil 3.2– 4). Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 178.
Second Peter 2:4 oddly refers to Tartarus. This is a name of a Greek god as well as a place of torment controlled by that god. It is below Hades. See Wikipedia article. Second Peter would unlikely have Apostle Peter as a source of this word. First, if Peter was writing himself, he would use Sheol, Gehenna, etc., or even Hades. But Tartarus requires familiarity with Pagan beliefs. Second if someone else is transcribing Peter's words spoken out loud, and rendering them in Greek, Tartarus is the name of a false god of Greek paganism. It is forbidden under the Law to utter the name of a false god. Certainly Peter would not have spoken such a word, or if he knew rudimentary Greek, would not approve it to go in something to a spiritual community.
For an excellent video of someone who contends if Peter endorses Paul, this refutes Peter's validity, because Paul says circumcision is "unprofitable" - whether for Jew or Gentile, and Paul claims in Galatians 2:7-8 that Peter continued with a gospel of circumcision, see Why Second Peter is Not A Credible Witness for Paul = You Tube. The video says that if that is true, then Peter is invalidated as an inspired individual, and hence his endorsement of Paul is meaningless. "If Peter's gospel lacks credibility, how can Peter give a credible testimony to Paul's gospel?" (5:05 mark). This means neither Peter nor the other 11 could not pass on any credible approval to Paul, of course only if you believe Paul's words about Peter and the gospel of circumcision. Thus, those who cite this passage have a self-refuting reference, invalidating it as proof of Paul's validity.