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NEW TESTAMENT SURVEY NewTestament Survey


STUDY 20 - THE EPISTLES OF 2 PETER AND JUDE


For this study see: M.C.Tenney, pp.365-374; R.H.Gundry, pp.443-448. Further reading: D.A.Carson, et al., An Introduction to the New Testament, pp.433-443; 459-464


2 PETER

The background and concern of the Petrine epistles and of 1, 2 & 3 John are false doctrines within the church.  In every situation heresy is met positively.

1. AUTHORSHIP AND BACKGROUND

Authorship
Much space is taken up in modern textbooks with the question of the epistle's authorship. As Tenney indicates it has less external support for apostolic authorship than does 1 Peter.  However, consider the internal evidence:

  1. The writer calls himself Simon Peter, an apostle (1:1; cf., 1 Pet.1:1)

  2. He alludes to his death as predicted by the Lord (1:13-14; cf., Jn.21:18-19).

  3. With others he was an eyewitness of the transfiguration (1:16-18).

  4. He infers a first letter by "this is now my second letter" (3:1; is this 1 Peter?).

  5. The reference to Paul may support apostolic authorship (3:15).

  6. The epistle has apostolic tone, that is, one of authority (e.g., 3:1ff.).

  7. Some see a reference to Mark's Gospel in the promise, "I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things" (1:15). But this argument is tenuous.

The main objection to Petrine authorship of the epistle concerns the decided difference in vocabulary and style between it and 1 Peter. Tenney says, "The second epistle is written in a more laboured and awkward Greek".  He suggests the employment of a different amanuensis, or Peter's transcription, as solutions to the problem. [1]

Background
False teaching and teachers were a threat to the churches. As Tenney says, "The peril confronting the churches was that of doubt and error arising from the false teachings of those who professed to be leaders". [2] Peter anticipates this heresy coming to his churches and pens a warning (2:1-3). The threat - in the form of gnosticism - became a reality by the time of Jude.

Date and place of writing
Notice what Tenney says about localised persecution and the threat of heresy infiltrating the church:

"If the epistle was dispatched from Rome about A.D. 65-67, Peter realised that the disturbance that originally threatened to affect the provinces had proved to be only local... New problems had arisen that demanded attention; the danger to his churches was now less from without than it was from within. [3]

H.C.Thiessen accepts the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter and believes that Jude quotes from the epistle and not vice versa.  His dating: A.D. 66-67.  Peter died about A.D. 68.

2. CONTENT

H.C.Thiessen compares the two epistles of Peter by saying, "In 1 Peter the emphasis falls on suffering, in 2 Peter on false teachers and false teaching; consequently the former epistle is one of consolation, the latter of warning". [4]

Characteristics of the heresy
The danger was a gnostic heresy, which carried with it intellectual and antinomian characteristics.  The words 'know' and 'knowledge' (Gk. gnosis) appear many times in the epistle (consider: 1:2,3,5,6,8,12,14,16,20; 2:9,20,21; 3:3,17,18). [5] Peter's emphasis of true knowledge indicates the presence of the false knowledge of the gnostic sects. 

Notice these characteristics: immorality (2:2,10:12f.), insubordination (2:10), greed for gain (2:3), plausibility and craftiness (2:3,14,19), rhetoric (2:18), mockery of the doctrine of the parousia (3:3f.), wresting Scripture (3:16).

3. OUTLINE

M.C.Tenney sees three main sections in the epistle:

  • 2 Peter: The True Knowledge of God

  • Salutation (1:1)

  • The nature of true knowledge (1:2-21)

  • The peril or abandoning knowledge (2:1-22)

  • The hope in true knowledge (3:1-18). 

Peter seeks to combat false gnosis with true spiritual gnosis.


4. EVALUATION

2 Peter 1:20,21 recognises the OT as God's Word: "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit".  M.C.Tenney believes this to be the chief contribution of the epistle. Compare Peter with 1 Thess.2:13 and 2 Tim.2:15; 3:16 here.  For the church the written revelation of the OT was the disclosure of God's mind and will, and that in a day of theological controversy and moral decline it was the accepted standard of faith and practice.  Further to this, "the allusion to Paul's epistles as 'scriptures' in 3:16 indicates the beginning of the canon of the NT" (M.C.Tenney). [6]

The epistle has historical value and ethical relevance.



JUDE

1. AUTHORSHIP AND BACKGROUND

The similarities between Jude and 2 Peter
M.C.Tenney says that the literary relationship of Jude with 2 Peter is an important factor in determining the epistle's background. [7] The similarities are to be seen especially in the polemic against false teachers.  'Love feasts' are also alluded to in 2 Pet.2:13 and Jude 12. [8]

Notes on similarities:

  1. Similarities can be explained by the fact that the epistles are written to those facing the same situation (but this does not explain word similarities)

  2. The epistles shared a separate common source (not generally believed)

  3. The author of 2 Peter incorporated Jude in his work (F.C.Clogg) [9}

  4. Jude was stimulated to write his epistle by seeing Peter's (M.C.Tenney). [10]

The author "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James" (v.1).  The author is generally taken to be one of the younger brothers of Jesus - 'James' being the elder of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13).  Again, Mk.3:35 may explain why he does not call himself 'the brother of Jesus'.  The injunction of verse 17 - "Remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold" - indicates that he was not an apostle.

Date and place of writing
M.C.Tenney is right in saying that the epistle gives no clear indication as to where or when it was written.  He suggests, "If Jude ministered to the Jewish churches of Palestine, it may well have been sent to them in the period just prior to the fall of Jerusalem". [11]

2. CONTENT

Jude writes to urge his readers to "contend for the faith" (v.3).

The false teachers
The reference to "godless men, who change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord" (v.4) indicates a group of antinomians, who were abusing the liberty of the gospel (cf., Rom.3:8; 6:1).  They denied the Lord Jesus (v.4), and were insubordinate (vv.8-10).  They were also immoral (vv.7-8), ungodly and boasters (vv.15-16). Note the use of the word 'ungodly': "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him" (vv.14,15; italics mine). 

The doom of false teachers was certain (vv.5-7,14-15), but they had to be confronted (v.3).

The use of the Apocryphal literature
There are possible references to: The Assumption of Moses (in v.9) and the Book of Enoch (in vv.14-15).  These non-canonical works were widely circulated in the first century A.D. [12] Note that Jude is not accepting the works as a whole.  By way of comparison, Paul quotes the pagan philosopher poets Aratus (Acts 17:28), Menander (1 Cor.15:33), and Epimenides (Tit.1:12). [13]

3. OUTLINE

Consider M.C.Tenney's outline of this single chapter epistle:

  • Jude: A Warning against Apostasy

  • Salutation (vv.1-2)

  • The announcement of emergency (vv.3-4)

  • The appeal to historical precedents (vv.5-7)

  • The arraignment of apostate teachers (vv.8-16)

  • The advice to believers (vv.17-23)

  • Concluding benediction (vv.24-25).


4. EVALUATION

"The value of the epistle is seen in vv.20-25.  Notice the so-called 'noble imperatives', which focus on the Spirit of God and the love of God::'build yourself up', 'pray in the Holy Spirit', 'keep yourselves in God's love'.  The doxology of vv.24-25 is majestic!

The importance of making a doctrinal stand
At this moment many sections of the Christian church are questioning orthodox Christian doctrines, such as the substitutionary work of Christ, and compromising the Faith. [14] We need to take the word to heart: "Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints".  Each church age must faithfully represent the gospel to its generation.



ENDNOTES

1. M.C.Tenney, p.367.

2. M.C.Tenney, p.368.

3. M.C.Tenney, p.368.

4. H.C.Thiessen, Introduction to the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1943, p.286. The italicised words are Thiessen's.

5. The NIV translates the word for 'know' differently in 2:16,20.

6. M.C.Tenney, p.370.

7. M.C.Tenney, p.370.

8. In the NT reference to the Agape Feasts or Love Feasts is only found in these epistles, but a comparison may be made with 1 Cor.11:20-21.

9. F.C.Clogg, An Introduction to the New Testament, 3rd edition, London, University of London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1948. p.172.

10. M.C.Tenney, p.371.

11. M.C.Tenney, p.371.

12. They were not included in the Jewish canon of Scripture, although they were added to some versions of the LXX.

13. D.W.Burkick and J.H.Skilton comment: "Such usage in no way suggests that the quotations, or the books from which they were taken, are divinely inspired.  It only means that the biblical author found the quotations to be a helpful confirmation, clarification or illustration" ("Jude" in E.H.Palmer (Gen.Ed.), The NIV Study Bible, p.1879).

14. For the study of God's anger, propitiation and the substitutionary work of Christ see: L.Morris, The Atonement, Leicester, IVP, 1984, pp.151-176.





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