All credit for the below notes is to our small group leader Bill, I only hope to approach his level of Bible knowledge in my life. Apologetically 2 Peter 1:3 stands out as testimony to Scripture as being written by direct eyewitnesses.

Authorship

On the basis of the normal rules of historical evidence accepted in respect of other secular works, there is no sound reason for denying that both letters were written by Peter. No other name was ever linked with them, and even though there is an obvious distinction in style between 1 & 2 Peter, this is clearly explicable by the fact that the contents of the first letter were compiled in cooperation with Silvanus, his beloved companion. 1 Peter 5:12 – With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.

Silvanus (Silas) was a onetime companion of Paul 2 Thessalonians 1:1 – Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:, a Roman citizen, and one who was distinguished among Jesus’ early followers. It is significant how often he was involved when important Christian communications had to be made. Acts 15:22 – 23 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 – With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.

He would have written down Peter’s thoughts in his own elegant style, much as a modern secretary would do for his/her employer, although in his case not so much as a secretary but as a valued and trusted companion. This connection also helps to explain some similarities between 1 Peter and Paul’s Thessalonian letters. In contrast in 2 Peter we may well have Peter’s own style, which was very much like the man himself, open, unrestrained, impetuous. He would use a secretary here also, but probably not allowing him as much input.

Peter was familiar with some of Paul’s letters and valued them. We know from 2 Peter 3:15 – Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. They had after all met up with each other at various times, hearing each other’s preaching and having close discussions and Silvanus knew Paul’s teaching inside out, having traveled with him as his close companion. He would no doubt have commented on some of what he knew to Peter. Peter had good reason to be familiar with Paul’s theology as something that augmented his own ideas. But in his letter, Peter has his own view of God’s agenda. He is not just a parrot repeating Paul’s ideas. We must not overlook the fact there are many parallels with thoughts in Hebrews that will come out in the commentary, which suggest that he was at least familiar with the background of ideas lying behind that letter, and there are indications of a similar familiarity with the ideas lying behind James’ letter. He was clearly at home with 1st century Christian thought. 

As a Galilean Peter would have been fluent in Greek and Aramaic, although his Greek has a pronounced Semitic flavor. His ability to speak fluent Hellenistic Greek would undoubtedly have been expanded as a result of his activities for many years among Greek-speaking churches so we would expect to find him using colloquial Greek colored with Semitisms. (It is the more classical Greek of 1 Peter that should surprise us, not the rugged Greek of 2 Peter. But as we have seen that is explicable in terms of his use of the cultured Silvanus as his ‘secretary’). Among such churches he would also have used the Septuagint as a source for his teaching of the Scriptures if for no other reason than that was the version that the majority in the Greek-speaking churches were familiar with and used.

Early References

Both of Peter’s letters are in fact echoed as early as the late first century AD by Clement of Rome (although the earliest Christian writers tended not to quote Scripture directly, but to incorporate it into their text). 1 Peter is also echoed in the letters of Ignatius, the martyred Bishop of Antioch (c. 110 AD), the letter of Barnabas (c. 130 AD), and the Shepherd of Hermas (c. 140 AD) among others. It is clearly cited (although not by name) by Polycarp c.160 AD, who had himself personally known some of the Apostles, and he clearly saw it as authoritative, even though he does not mention Peter’s name. And why should he? He assumed that people would recognize the references and would therefore ascribe it to Peter, which is in itself a sign of its popularity. We may see it as suggesting that its authorship was so well known that it did not need to be stated. 2 Peter is not quite as well attested, but as well as echoes being found in Clement at the end of the first century AD, it was probably also echoed by Justin Martyr (c.150 AD), and possibly by the letters of Ignatius and by Hermas. There are also echoes of both 1 & 2 Peter in the works of Irenaus, Bishop of Lyons, who had known Polycarp, and wrote towards the end of 2nd century AD. Furthermore Origen, a Christian scholar in the early 200s AD, actually describes both letters as having been written by Peter, something clearly held as true by the churches. Origen’s words are interesting as demonstrate that the question of the authorship of New Testament books was taken seriously at this early stage. Yet even in this light, its authorship by Peter was then accepted by most churches, including by Origen himself, and this therefore by the foremost scholar of the period when good information would still be available, and sources could be traced back.    

Central Message

1 Peter

The central message of 1 Peter is the obedience of Jesus Christ, of which we are to partake through the working of the Holy Spirit 1 Peter 1:2 – who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. especially as revealed in His obedience unto death. 1 Peter 3:18 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. This is an obedience into which we can enter which results from our being born again by God. The consequence is that we become ‘the children of obedience’ (1 Peter 1:14), even when it leads through the pathway of suffering. As Paul put it, ‘Through the obedience of One shall many be made righteous’ (Romans 5:19).

Jesus ‘learned obedience by experience through the things that He suffered (Hebrews 5:8) and that He did suffer is something that Peter stresses. He suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit’ (1 Peter 3:18). ‘He His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin might live unto righteousness (1Peter 2:24). And He did so, in order that we might purify our souls in obedience to the truth (1 Peter 1:22) and be supported through our sufferings, ‘unto His eternal glory in Christ’ (1 Peter 5:10). For the final result of our being ‘brought into His obedience in order to become children of obedience’, will be that we will share His eternal glory. This sums up the message of 1 Peter.

2 Peter

The central message of 2 Peter continues the thought of the eternal glory of Jesus. ‘He called us by His own glory and virtue’ (2 Peter 1:3). ‘We did not follow cunningly devised stories when we made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from the Father honor and glory when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased”. And this voice we heard ourselves come out of Heaven when we were with Him in the holy mount’ (2 Peter 1:16-18). And it was a glory which was confirmed by the true prophets (2 Peter 1:19-21).

We must avoid the Christian false prophets, who like the fallen angels of old come to us with great words and promises, encouraging us to earthly pleasures and riches (2 Peter 2:1-22), and rather, as those who are truly righteous, we must look to the words of the true prophets (2 Peter 3:2) who speak of the day when He will come (2 Peter 3:4), the day when out of judgment and destruction will come new heavens and a new earth, in which dwells righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:12-13). They are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to Whom will be the glory forever (2 Peter 3:18).

See Also: The Contingency Argument