2 Peter - Bible Society

2 Peter

Back to book list

2 Peter is a letter full of concern about the community to which it was written. Low moral standards, divisiveness, false teaching, uncertainty about Jesus’ return and claims of superiority all appear to be causing problems within the community. The style of the letter is striking for its flowery language, but also for its deep concern for the welfare of the community to which it was written.

Reading time: 10 mins
Short of time? Just read 1.1-15; 2.1-10; 3.14-18
Epistle

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1.3)

5 For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge,  6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness,  7 and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. (2 Peter 1.5-7)

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3.9)

The condemnation of those who undermine belief in the return of Jesus can make modern readers uncomfortable, since many people today are also sceptical about Jesus’ return.  It will be important to be alert to how this makes you feel and to ask yourself the question of where you place yourself on the issue.

Authorship is ascribed to ‘Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ’ (1.1). It may or may not be significant that this is different to the opening of 1 Peter ‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1.1).

Most scholars do not think that the same person wrote both 1 and 2 Peter.  The style, focus and contents are very different in the two epistles.  You may want to read them both together and see what you think.

What do we know about him?

Peter is the best known of all of Jesus’ original 12 disciples.  Although the other gospels say nothing of his ancestry or place of birth, John’s Gospel identified him as the son of John and from Bethsaida (John 1. 42-44).  By the time he met Jesus in Mark’s Gospel he appears to be living in Capernaum – or at least his mother-in-law was (Mark 1.30).  He also had a brother called Andrew (see Matthew 4.18 and John 1.44).  The gospels all identify Peter as a fisherman, hence the assumption by some that he would not have been trained in Greek philosophy or rhetoric.

Peter is presented in all four gospels as being very close to Jesus – even though he regularly got things wrong, a tendency that led in the end to him denying Jesus three times just before his trial.  Christian tradition states that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and was crucified there during the reign of the Emperor Nero (in ad mid-60s).  It is also held by some that the Gospel of Mark contains Peter’s eyewitness testimony of the life and death of Jesus.

If the letter was not written by Peter we know nothing of the author at all.

The focus of the letter is on whether people continue to believe that Jesus would return and suggests a later date when the earliest followers had begun to die, which would have shaken the faith of those remaining.

Many scholars suggest a date around ad 80s-90s, though if Peter did in fact write the letter it would need to be dated before his death in ad mid-60s.

What were people feeling?

Reading between the lines, what was going on when 2 Peter was written was that various people were challenging key features of Christian faith; as a result it is not unlikely that the people were feeling anxious and unsettled.

Epistle – it is certainly addressed with passion to a particular audience, but some scholars argue that ‘testament’ might be a better description, arguing that these could be the final words and encouragements of Peter just before his death.

1-2 Opening and greeting
1.3-11 Recap on what we believe
1.12-15 Why the author is writing
1.16-3.13 The main argument of the letter – the importance of Christ’s return; the importance of the Scriptures; the problem of false teachers, the importance of the last judgement.
3.14-18 Final encouragements

There will be lots of names you will not know, don’t worry if you can’t place them all.  The key ones are given below.

Place

Gomorrah, Sodom

The names of people and peoples

Balaam

Other words

Hell

As you read notice how important character is to the author – see if you can decide what you think Christian character is from the perspective of 2 Peter.
Also look out for the importance of judgement and the second coming and as you read, ask yourself why this is so important in this letter.
2 Peter is vehemently opposed to ‘false teachers’ – look out for what he says about them and try to work out what they might be saying that so upsets the author.
 

Reflect on your view of Jesus’ second coming – do you agree with 2 Peter’s emphasis?  How does the emphasis make you feel?

  • Were there any parts of the book that you particularly liked or which inspired you?
  • Were there any parts of the book that you disliked or which troubled you?
  • What did you think the book was about?
  • Discuss false teachers.  What makes a ‘true’ or a ‘false’ teacher in your view?  Is this as important an issue today as it was then?
  • Do you believe in the second coming of Jesus?  Talk about it within your group – is there anything about it (especially after reading 2 Peter) that makes you uncomfortable?  What would be lost if you stopped believing in it?
  • Think about Christian character – what would you say are the markers of Christian character?
  • ​Did you read anything in the book that touched you, expanded your faith or made you think more deeply about your life and how you live it?

Top tips

How to run a book club

How to run a book club

Here are 8 handy tips to get your book club up and running.

Not sure where to begin?

Not sure where to begin?

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Glossary

Glossary

Unsure of the meaning of a word or phrase in the Bible? Check our glossary of terms.

Bringing the Bible to life

Bible Society, Stonehill Green, Westlea, Swindon, SN5 7DG. Registered charity 232759