2 Peter is written as Peter’s exhortation to Christians as he approaches his own death – a sort of last testament. His opening (1.1-2) identifies him and describes what God has done in the lives of believers. The work and purpose of God is then explored in more detail (1.3-4) as a basis for a call to a life growing in virtues (1.5-7) leading to fruitfulness and contrasting with the way of life of others (1.8-9). He then relates God’s work – calling and election – to the Christians’ own work and points to the promised future (1.10-11). This is all, he stresses, a reminder of what they know and must continue to remember as he prepares for death (1.12-15). He then appeals to his own eyewitness testimony about Jesus, particularly the Transfiguration (1.16-18 cf Mark 9), and to the prophetic witness of our Old Testament which was inspired by the Spirit (1.19-21).
Peter then turns to a major concern of the letter: as in the past, God’s people include false prophets and teachers whose lives are depraved and who lead people astray (2.1-3). He warns of the judgment to come on them with reference to various Old Testament narratives – including the judgment on angels (probably Gen 6.1-4), the flood (Gen 6-9) and Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19). These stories show God saving the righteous and judging the wicked (2.4-9). The conduct and character of those who will be judged is then graphically described (2.10-19) with another Old Testament parallel – Balaam and his donkey (Numbers 22) – and a warning that what is presented as freedom may be a form of slavery. Those he has described include some who have known Christ (2.20-22) and their plight is summed up in two proverbs, one from the Old Testament (Proverbs 26.11).
The third chapter opens with another appeal to remember the prophets and apostles and reject false teachers (3.1-3). They are now described as rejecting the promise of Christ’s return (3.4). Peter corrects their error by teaching about creation, de-creation in the flood and future judgment (3.5-7). The seeming delay is explained by reference to God’s different perspective on time (cf Ps 90.4), his patience in order to allow time to repent, and the teaching of Jesus about the day of the Lord (3.8-10). That future day is then described in terms of fire and a new creation which is the basis for a call to holy living (3.11-14) which can speed the day’s coming (cf Isaiah 60.22, 65.17, 66.22). Reiterating that God is patient and seeks salvation (3.15), Peter then refers to Paul’s letters which are viewed as Scripture (3.15-16) before concluding with a final appeal both to guard against error and lawlessness and to grow in Christ (3.17-18).
The short book of Jude has much material in common with 2 Peter and clearly one depends on the other in some way. Jude is identified in the opening verse which also locates the readers within God’s purposes before its opening three-fold blessing (1-2). The letter, after making clear a preference to write about salvation, turns to combat error, encourage faithful contention for truth (3) and describe those who need to be resisted (4). He then, like 2 Peter, reminds readers of Old Testament stories (5-7): the Exodus and subsequent judgment on the unfaithful (cf. Numbers 14, Exodus 32), the disobedient angels (Gen 6), Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19). Those Jude opposes are then described (8-10) in words that relate their behaviour to these stories and a story not in the Old Testament but a later Jewish writing, The Testament of Moses (9). They are then seen (11) as following in the path of Cain (Genesis 4), Balaam (Numbers 22-24) and Korah (Numbers 16) and described in a string of vivid metaphors (12-13). There is then a quotation from another non-biblical Jewish writing, the book of 1 Enoch, which is seen as prophesying about the false teachers and their future condemnation (14-15). Verse 16 then provides further descriptions of their errors. In contrast to them, the readers are urged to recall and apply the apostles’ warning (17-19) and commit to a different way of life. This is focussed on faith, prayer, the Spirit, love, Christ’s future mercy and eternal life (20-21) and certain actions (22-23). The letter closes with a prayer that acknowledges that God is the one who will enable them to do this (24-25).
To listen to or download a reading of each chapter from Tom Wright’s New Testament for Everyone (SPCK), click here.
To read 2 Peter & Jude online at STEP follow the links below (the right hand box gives some help and can be closed to give text on full screen, the site is worth exploring for more detailed study of any text):
ESV & Greek side by side (with various highlighting (when you hover the mouse over words and references) and search tools that don’t require knowledge of Greek to use)
Fulcrum Articles on 2 Peter
- Week 5 – Reading 2 Peter and Jude
- 2 Peter: Introduction to 2 Peter
- 2 Peter: Guide to Online Academic Resources
- 2 Peter: Guide to Commentaries
Fulcrum Articles on Jude