Authorship and Date of 2 Peter and Jude

Relationship Between 2 Peter and Jude

The authorship and date of 2 Peter and Jude are treated in one post because there is a literary relationship between the two letters. In a number of verses the epistles have remarkable parallels, especially in the Greek (Davids 136-141; Schreiner 415-417):

  • Jude 4: “For certain men have secretly slipped in among you – men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation . . . who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” || 2 Peter 2:1: “These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them.”
  • Jude 4: “For certain men . . . who long ago were marked out for the condemnation” || 2 Peter 2:3: “Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by”
  • Jude 6: “You also know that the angels who did not keep within their proper domain but abandoned their own place of residence, he has kept in eternal chains in utter darkness, locked up for the judgment of the great Day.” || 2 Peter 2:4: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them into hell and locked them up in chains in utter darkness, to be kept until the judgment
  • Jude 7: “So also Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire.” || 2 Peter 2:6: “and if he turned to ashes the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah when he condemned them to destruction, having appointed them to serve as an example to future generations of the ungodly”
  • Jude 8: “Yet these men, as a result of their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and insult the glorious ones.” || 2 Peter 2:10: “especially those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority. Brazen and insolent, they are not afraid to insult the glorious ones
  • Jude 9: “But even when Michael the archangel was arguing with the devil and debating with him concerning Moses’ body, he did not dare to bring a slanderous judgment, but said, ‘May the Lord rebuke you!'” || 2 Peter 2:11: “yet even angels, who are much more powerful, do not bring a slanderous judgment against them before the Lord.”
  • Jude 10: “But these men do not understand the things they slander, and they are being destroyed by the very things that, like irrational animals, they instinctively comprehend.” || 2 Peter 2:12: “But these men, like irrational animals – creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed – do not understand whom they are insulting, and consequently in their destruction they will be destroyed
  • Jude 11: “. . . because of greed have abandoned themselves to Balaam’s error . . .” || 2 Peter 2:15: “By forsaking the right path they have gone astray, because they followed the way of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness”
  • Jude 12: “These men are dangerous reefs at your love feasts, feasting without reverence, feeding only themselves.” || 2 Peter 2:13: “they are stains and blemishes, indulging in their deceitful pleasures when they feast together with you
  • Jude 12: “They are waterless clouds” || 2 Peter 2:17: “These men are waterless springs”
  • Jude 13: “whom the utter depths of eternal darkness have been reserved” || 2 Peter 2:17: “for whom the utter depths of darkness have been reserved
  • Jude 16: “they give bombastic speeches” || 2 Peter 2:18: “For by speaking high-sounding but empty words
  • Jude 17-18: “But you, dear friends – recall the predictions foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. For they said to you, ‘In the end time there will come scoffers, propelled by their own ungodly desires.'” || 2 Peter 3:2-3: “I want you to recall both the predictions foretold by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. Above all, understand this: In the last days blatant scoffers will come, being propelled by their own evil urges

What we see in even such a comparison of the English text – the verbal similarities would be more striking in Greek – is that the same topics are covered in largely the same order, often using the same or almost the same words. There are topics missing in 2 Peter that are found in Jude (the out-of-chronological-order reference to the people coming out of Egypt, the reference to Korah, and the citations of Testament of Moses and 1 Enoch), and there are also topics added by 2 Peter (the reference to Lot and the long section on the false teachers having fallen away), but in only one case is there a change in order. It is this combination of virtually identical order with pieces of similar and at times identical wording that is so striking. (Davids 141)

The parallels can be explained in four main ways: (1) 2 Peter depends on Jude, (2) Jude depends on 2 Peter, (3) both are dependent on an earlier source or tradition, or (4) both were written by the same author. “Common authorship is implausible because of the considerable differences of style and background (the Palestinian Jewish character of Jude, the Hellenistic character of 2 Peter), and also because it is difficult to believe that a writer would have used his own work in the way in which the author of 2 Peter uses Jude” (Bauckham 141). That some of the themes shared by both letters are unusual means dependence on general Christian tradition is not likely to explain the parallels. There is no other extant work that is a candidate to be the source of both letters.

The simplest hypothesis is that one letter is dependent on the other. If Jude is dependent on 2 Peter it is hard to see why Jude, with so little new material (1-3, 19-25), was written at all. Thus it is most likely that 2 Peter is dependent on Jude.

[T]his solution can explain the differences between 2 Peter and Jude by pointing to a consistency in 2 Peter’s editing: he adds the point of view that the teachers he opposes were at one time true members of the community; he removes direct references to 1 Enoch and the Testament of Moses; he also simplifies some of Jude’s examples by not taking over all three examples that are in some of Jude’s groups of three. Finally, he drops the ending of Jude (although aspects show up in his own closing) and instead integrates the last part of Jude before the ending into his own apologetic for the Parousia, for, unlike the false teachers in Jude, the people whom 2 Peter labels false teachers use a denial of the Parousia to support their practices. This, then, appears to be the best explanation of the data that we find in both Jude and 2 Peter. (Davids 142-143)

Opponents of 2 Peter and Jude

While the opponents countered by 2 Peter and Jude are not identical, an earlier generation of scholars thought both epistles countered Gnostics. These scholars argued that, since Gnosticism arose in the second century, 2 Peter and Jude must be second century letters. However, most present-day scholars, even those who deny the authenticity of 2 Peter or Jude, believe the aforementioned scholars read too much into the epistles and did not take note of the differences between the opponents and Gnosticism. Writing thirty years ago already, Richard J. Bauckham states:

If the exegesis supporting the above sketch of the false teachers [in Jude] is sound they cannot be called Gnostics. What is missing from their teaching is the cosmological dualism of true Gnosticism. Even though their sense of moral autonomy and spiritual status and their attitude to the angels of the Law resemble the views of many later Gnostics, Jude provides no evidence that they saw these hostile angels as creators and lords of the material world, thereby detaching not only morality but also all other features of this material cosmos from the will of the supreme God. Nor do we know that their indulgence in sins of the flesh was linked to a disparagement of the body as material. In the absence of cosmological dualism, it is misleading even to call their teaching “incipient Gnosticism.” It is better to see their antinomianism as simply one of the streams that flowed into later Gnosticism, but which at this stage is not distinctively gnostic. (12)

The opponents of 2 Peter are not Gnostics. Although the identification of them as Gnostics has been the common opinion since Werdermann, it has recently been rejected by Fornberg and Neyrey, both of whom have studied the opponents in 2 Peter carefully, without confusing its opponents with Jude’s. . . . As in the case of Jude, there is no evidence that the false teachers in 2 Peter held the cosmological dualism which is the essential mark of true Gnosticism. There is no evidence that their ethical libertinism was based on such dualism, or that their eschatological skepticism resulted from a gnostic concentration on realized, at the expense of future, eschatology. If they resembled some second-century Gnostics in denying the divine inspiration of OT prophecy (1:20-21a), they did so by attributing it to a merely human origin, not to the demiurge, as second-century Gnostics did. There is no hint in 2 Peter of controversy about bodily resurrection, which was usually a main focus of anti-gnostic discussion of eschatology, because of the link between this issue and gnostic dualism (cf., e.g., 1 Cor 15; 2 Tim 2:18; 1 Clem. 24; 2 Clem. 9; Pol. Phil. 7:1; “3 Cor.” — though not all these need be anti-gnostic). Conversely, there is no evidence that the delay of the Parousia, so important in 2 Peter, feature in second-century Gnostic argument against traditional eschatology. (156-157)

Authorship and Date of Jude

Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James

The author identifies himself as Jude, the brother of James and Jesus (see commentary on 1-2). Jude was a relatively obscure figure in early Christianity so it is not clear why an author would use his name as a pseudonym. Furthermore, it is not clear why a pseudonymous author would refer to Jude as the brother of James instead of the brother of Jesus. “It is easier to explain this if the letter is authentic than if it is pseudepigraphal. Palestinian Jewish-Christian circles in the early church used the title ‘brother of the Lord’ not simply to identify the brothers, but as ascribing to them an authoritative status, and therefore the brothers themselves, not wishing to claim an authority based on mere blood-relationship to Jesus, avoided the term” (Bauckham 21). The lack of a reference or allusion to James’ death may indicate the epistle was written prior to James’ death around 62.

Although I have been eager to write to you . . . I now feel compelled instead to write . . .

In verse 3 the author notes that he wrote this letter instead of a letter on a different topic. “Such a reference makes little sense in a pseudepigraphal letter; it is very unlikely that there was a well-known work in Jude’s name (now lost) to which the author might be supposed to be referring, but even if there was, one would not then expect such a vague reference to Jude’s intention of writing it” (Bauckham 30).

Recall the predictions foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ

The author urges his readers to remember what the apostles of Jesus Christ foretold (17). This is taken by some to indicate that the apostolic age was past. But this verse is actually a call to the readers to remember what the apostles said to them (18). The founding of the church of the readers by the apostles is what is past, not the apostolic age. The author himself was apparently not a founder of the church he was writing to and so does not tell the readers to recall what he had said. The recollection of past teaching was common in the early church (Rom 6:7, 17; 1 Cor 11:23-26; 15:1-4; Gal 1:9; 1 Thess 4:1-2). Jude implies that most of the readers were alive when the apostles founded their church. This points to an earlier date rather than a later date.

External Attestation

Jude may have been cited by Athenagoras, Polycarp, and Barnabas in the second century. If so, this implies a first century date. Jude is considered Scripture by the Muratorian Canon (~200). Both Tertullian (The Apparel of Women 1.3) and Clement of Alexandria (Paed. 3.8.44; Strom. 3.2.11; Eusebius, HE 6.14.1) refer to the letter. Origen accepted the letter but notes others questioned its authority (In Matt. 10.17; 17.30; Commentary on John 19.6; Comm. in Rom. 3.6). Eusebius also notes that some questioned it (HE 2.23.25; 3.25.3; 6.13.6; 6.14.1). According to Jerome it was questioned because of the citation of the pseudepigraphical book 1 Enoch (De vir. ill. 4). This explains why it was not contained in the early Syrian Canon, the Peshitta (it was not accepted in the Syrian church until the sixth century). Despite the issue of canonicity, there were no ancient concerns over the authenticity of the letter.

Language

Some scholars believe the Greek rhetoric and vocabulary of the epistle is too polished to come from a rural Jew like Jude. However, other scholars note that the influence of Hellenistic culture was significant in Galilee in the first century and that an itinerant missionary would have had to have acquired greater ability in the Greek language to foster his ministry. The Greek of the letter does not help us identify the author. In two cases the epistle appears dependent on the Hebrew text (v 12: Prov 25:14; v 13: Isa 57:20) and in three other cases its vocabulary fails to correspond to the LXX text (v 11: Num 26:9; v 12: Ezek 34:2; v 23: Amos 4:11/Zech 3:3). In other words, the author was familiar with the Hebrew Bible as might be expected of a Palestinian Jew like Jude.

2 Peter

I argue below that 2 Peter is authentic. Since Peter died around 65 and 2 Peter uses Jude, the letter of Jude must have been written prior to 65 as well.

Summary

In conclusion, I believe the letter of Jude was written by Jude, the brother of Jesus, some time in the period between 50 and 65.

Authorship and Date of 2 Peter

Simeon Peter

The author identifies himself as Simeon Peter (1:1) using the Hebrew form of the name (Symeon Petros). This form only appears elsewhere in Acts 15:14 on the lips of James the brother of Jesus. It does not appear in the Apostolic Fathers or pseudepigraphal Petrine literature. A pseudonymous author would more likely have used the form of the address used in 1 Peter or one of the common expressions to denote Peter elsewhere in the NT. It is plausible that Peter himself would switch between the forms of his name (cf. the switch between Peter in Gal 2:7-8 and Cephas in Gal 2:9, 11, 14).

My tabernacle will soon be removed

The author states that he would die soon (1:14). This is consistent with Peter’s situation in the 60s but is an awkward statement on the lips of a pseudonymous author (Schreiner 261).

We were eyewitnesses of his grandeur

The author claims to be an eyewitness of the transfiguration (1:16-18). The account does not precisely match any of the accounts in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 17:1-13; Mk 9:2-13; Lk 9:28-35) and therefore appears to be an independent account. Yet the account is not as embellished as it might have been if it had been written by a pseudonymous author (Robinson 177; Schreiner 261).

Some scholars think a late date is indicated by the words “sacred mountain,” showing that the place on which the transfiguration occurred is now venerated. Interestingly, Sinai is never called the “holy mountain.” And if the purpose was to venerate the mount of transfiguration, it is curious that its location eludes us. Bauckham probably is correct in seeing an allusion to Ps 2:6, where the king is appointed “on Zion, my holy hill.” This is strengthened by the allusion to Ps 2:7 in v. 17. The main purpose, however, is to locate the event in history. Peter did not refer to an ethereal or ineffable event. The mountain in which Jesus was glorified and where God spoke really exists, and it is holy because God revealed himself there. (Schreiner 317)

This is already the second letter I have written you

As noted in the commentary on 2 Peter 3, this letter claims (3:1) to be the second one written by Peter and most likely refers to 1 Peter. This does not fit with pseudepigraphy since 2 Peter does not depend on 1 Peter for its content. A forger would be disposed to borrow from 1 Peter whereas the independence of 2 Peter suggests the author is addressing a somewhat new situation. I dated 1 Peter to 60-65 so this allusion to 1 Peter places 2 Peter in a similar date range.

The subsequent reference to “your apostles” (3:2) does not indicate the letter was written in the post-apostolic age because the phrase can refer to apostle-missionaries who founded a specific church (1 Cor 9:2; 1 Clem 44:1). The concern of the scoffers in 3:4 that the fathers had died and the world still continues does not indicate a date after Peter’s lifetime since many from the first generation of Christianity would have been dead by the 60s. But, more importantly, the term “fathers” refers to OT patriarchs, not the first generation of Christians.

Our dear brother Paul

The reference to Paul as a “beloved brother” (3:15) is fitting for Peter’s lifetime (Acts 21:20; Eph 6:21; Col 4:7, 9; Philem 16). The dispute between Peter and Paul mentioned in Gal 2:11-14 does not indicate that the two never reconciled.

In fact Gal 1:18; 2:7-9 show that Peter recognized Paul as a fellow-apostle, and it is naive to suppose that their disagreement at Antioch need have prevented Peter from writing of Paul in the terms used here. It was only one incident in a long relationship of which we otherwise know next to nothing. If Peter had a critical view of Paul, it is odd to find Silvanus in the Petrine circle in Rome (1 Pet 5:12). As far as our evidence goes, there is nothing implausible in the attitude to Paul here . . . . (Bauckham 328)

That Paul had been granted wisdom (3:15-16) accords with Paul’s own writings (1 Cor 2:6; 3:10; Gal 2:9; Eph 3:1-10). Later generations would not put themselves on the same plane as Paul or the other apostles (1 Clem 47:1; Ign., Eph 12:2; Trall. 3:3; Rom. 4:3; Ep. Polyc. 3.2; 9.1).

What is noticeable in 2 Peter is that our author does not refer to Paul as an apostle [explicitly by name], which virtually all passages in the apostolic fathers do, but uses the normal term for a fellow worker in the fictive family of the Jesus movement, “brother,” and he uses a term of endearment rather than the terms of exaltation (e.g., “blessed”) that were used in the period of the apostolic fathers. Thus, if our author is a later pseudepigrapher, he is really good at remembering such details about the earlier period of the Jesus movement. (Davids 298-299)

A bigger alleged problem is that the author refers to the Pauline letters as Scripture (3:16) which would have been impossible, in the opinion of some scholars, during Peter’s lifetime.

To say Peter could not have engaged in such concept broadening [identifying Paul’s writings as Scripture] is not defensible, even at this early date and considering the authoritative nature of the apostolate as the messengers commissioned by the Lord himself. The early church fathers did not lavishly use the introductory formulas that would tag NT writings as Scripture. But such ascriptions were certainly not absent. When, for example, 2 Clement (2.4; 13.4) makes this kind of ascription, “the nonchalant, incidental character of these formulae indicates no consciousness on the author’s part the he is making a radical innovation”. The evidence regarding how the church of the second half of the first century regarded the apostolic writings is scant, deducible only from later sources. Dating 2 Peter as a document written in the early second century on the basis of 3:16 outstrips the evidence. (G. Green 340-341)

The above points suggest that 2 Peter was written after Paul had written a number of letters but still during the apostolic age.

Language

In the mind of many scholars, the language of 2 Peter poses a problem for viewing the epistle as being from the hand of Simon Peter. The author was too proficient in Greek and familiar with Greek culture to be identified as a Galilean fisherman like Peter. Also, the language differs from that found in 1 Peter. Richard J. Bauckham writes: “It can safely be said that if 1 and 2 Peter had been anonymous documents, no one would have thought of attributing them to a single author” (145).

These objections to authenticity are not insurmountable. Galilee was influenced by Hellenism and Greek culture. The language of the epistle does not require an author with thorough knowledge of Greek philosophy and classics. Peter could have used Hellenistic terms to speak to the culture of his audience.

The difference in language between 1 and 2 Peter is partially due to the different situations the two letters address. The differences can also be explained on the grounds that Peter used a different secretary in composing 2 Peter than he did in composing 1 Peter. Richard J. Bauckham, who does not believe 2 Peter was written by the apostle, admits that the linguistic evidence is “consistent with a secretary hypothesis in which the secretary is not Peter’s amanuensis but his agent” (159). Gene L. Green elaborates (147):

Peter could have used different secretaries in writing 1 and 2 Peter, and the stylistic features of 2 Peter cannot be invoked as evidence against the letter’s authenticity. We may well suppose, however, that Peter approved the contents and, as was the custom, included the final greeting of the letter in his own hand. Surviving ancient Greek letters show the change of hand at the end of the letter but do not commonly signal in the text that the author has taken pen to hand.

Some defenders of the authenticity of the letter also point out that it is strange that, if the letter is pseudonymous, the author did not more carefully borrow the language of 1 Peter.

Genre

All scholars agree that 2 Peter is, at the very least, an epistle. However, Richard J. Bauckham argues that the work is also a testament: a farewell address from an authority who is near death to his followers. He states that the book was recognized as a “transparent fiction” by its first readers, meaning they knew it was not written by the apostle Peter. He contends that the epistle became accepted as authentic at a later date because the literary genre eluded detection by later Christians, especially Gentiles. This hypothesis has the advantage of allowing one to view the epistle as not coming from Peter but also not engaging in deception.

While 2 Peter has a few passages (1:12-15; 2:1-3a; 3:1-4, 15b-16a, 17) that contain similarities to a testament those similarities are not sufficient to conclude the epistle is a testament and a transparent fiction. There is no evidence that anyone in the church ever accepted 2 Peter as a transparent fiction nor does the epistle contain common features of a testament (e.g., deathbed scene, burial account, blessings and curses, visions and revelations, prophecies). The genre of 2 Peter does not rule out the apostle as its author.

External Attestation

Some scholars claim 2 Peter lacks external attestation in the second century and that this suggests a late date for the letter. But as Richard J. Bauckham, who denies the authenticity of the letter, writes (162): “There is better evidence than is sometimes admitted for the fact that 2 Peter existed in the second century.” Gene L. Green finds allusions in 1 Clement (11; 23:3), 2 Clement (11:2), Barnabas (15:4), the (non-Gnostic) Apocalypse of Peter (1-2, 4, 22-23), Irenaeus (Haer. 5.23.2), and Clement of Alexandria (Letter to Theodorus 1.7; HE 6.14.1). These allusions require a first century date for 2 Peter.

2 Peter’s canonicity was disputed in the early church (Origen, Commentary on John 5.3; Eusebius, HE 3.3.1-4; 3.25.3-4; 6.25.8, 18; Jerome, Script. Eccl. 1, Ep. 53.9; 120.11) but most accepted it. No extant source rejects it outright. The church rejected many other “Petrine” writings as spurious so it was perfectly willing to reject a writing even if it claimed to be written by Peter (Origen, On Principles, Preface 8; Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.3.2; 6.12.1-6, 13; 6.25.7-11). It is also worth noting that, if 2 Peter is pseudonymous, the author did not use Peter’s name to expound an heretical theology like some later such authors did.

Jude

According to some scholars, the apostle Peter would not have used a non-apostolic writer like Jude as a source. But this is pure speculation. We don’t know that Peter would not use Jude as a source, especially when Jude was written by the brother of Jesus. One might think the apostle Paul would not cite a pagan poet and yet he does just that (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). Based on the evidence laid out earlier I conclude Peter did use Jude and thus must have written after Jude.

Summary

In conclusion, the evidence indicates that the apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter after Jude, 1 Peter, and some Pauline letters were written. It can be dated to between 60 and 65.

Bibliography

Bauckham, Richard J. Jude, 2 Peter. Word Books, 1983.

Davids, Peter H. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006.

Green, Gene. Jude & 2 Peter. Baker Academic, 2008.

Green, Michael. 2 Peter & Jude. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

Robinson, John A. T. Redating the New Testament. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2001.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Holman Reference, 2003.

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3 thoughts on “Authorship and Date of 2 Peter and Jude

  1. The Book(s) of Enoch were considered scriptures in the Judaism of the time, which would have been a common background for many Christians. I don’t have the details at hand, but those naughty angels ring a bell!

  2. Your conclusion that Peter used Jude I believe is faulty due to the fact that Peter warns that the false teachers are COMING; whereas, Jude warns that they have already arrived. This clearly is an indication of sequence demanding that Jude was written AFTER 2 Peter. Likewise, with that logic, 1 John can be shown to have been written well after 2 Peter and Jude due to John saying that those people had “gone out from” them “for they were not OF” them.

  3. Daniel Garrett:

    Your conclusion that Peter used Jude I believe is faulty due to the fact that Peter warns that the false teachers are COMING; whereas, Jude warns that they have already arrived. This clearly is an indication of sequence demanding that Jude was written AFTER 2 Peter.

    This argument only works if we assume that both letters were written to the same audience and/or about the same false teachers. It’s quite possible for the false teachers to already be with Jude’s audience but not yet with Peter’s audience. And if the two letters are speaking about two separate groups of false teachers it would be wrong to think a single set of false teachers moved between the two audiences between the time the first and second letters were written.

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