Who wrote 2 Peter?

I have been looking into the subject recently. I find that there is a significant amount of scholars who believe it is pseudonymous. This opinion assumes that it was not deceitful, but a practice in the second century, and therefore still inspired by God to do so.

I am not convinced of this arguement, and believe there are legitimate answers to the concerns of St Peter’s genuine authorship. I believe we can faithfully believe it is from the Chief Apostle, Peter himself. But I am willing to listen to the arguments and possibly accept them. Yet as of now, I believe we should accept the letter at face value.

What do you say?

I myself have read that 2 Peter is written in the wake of Peter by one of his own acquaintances or disciples. As you said, the opinion assumes that this is not a deceitful practice and thus it can still be inspired as part of Scripture. (And then, we do have many pseudonymous works from the first and second centuries.)

I suppose we can only speculate until more information comes up.

But pseudononymous works are one thing… Sacred Scripture is quite another! Why would God need to use someone pseudononymously? And what hard evidence do we have of this? It seems too speculative to doubt it’s genuine. There seems to require just as much difficulty in believing it is not Peter, than believing it is. In fact, I think it is harder to accept. Not that that’s my only criteria.


  1. Mark is widely and consistently believed to have written the Gospel as Peter preached it.
  2. Hebrews, if not written by Saint Paul, was at least at his direction.
  3. The actual authors of the Pentateuch and several other OT books are either not known with certainty or simply unknown.
  4. The Church has tested all scriptures,
    …certainty as to authorship is largely academic - and that is precisely the narrow field of study in which we see these doubts being raised.

I go with Fr. Benedict Groeschel O.F.M.† on this one. He stated, regarding the theological virtues of faith, hope and love:

“They are not called the three theological virtues because theologians necessarily have them…”

He almost killed me with that one.

I think that part of the problem is trying to judge a first century culture and customs by 21st century standards–that is not the correct way to judge something. It really does not matter the name of the book–what matters is that the Church has decided it is inspired by the Holy Spirit–the rest is academic. When it was written it probably did not even have a title.

Most biblical scholars have concluded Peter is not the author, considering the epistle pseudepigraphical.] Reasons for this include its linguistic differences from 1 Peter, its apparent use of Jude, possible allusions to 2nd-century gnosticism, encouragement in the wake of a delayed parousia, and weak external support.

The questions of authorship and date are closely related. For Petrine authorship to be authentic, it must have been written prior to Peter’s death in c AD 65–67. The letter refers to the Pauline epistles and so must post-date at least some of them, regardless of authorship, thus a date before 60 is improbable. Further, it goes as far to name the Pauline epistles as “scripture” — the only time a New Testament work refers to another New Testament work in this way — implying that it postdates them by some time.

Here’s basically the arguments people make:

(1) The letter has a literary relationship with the epistle of Jude (which is itself dated to the late 1st-early 2nd century); there are huge similarities between the two in the language and some of the themes. The similarities are especially prominent in the portrayal of the false teachers in chapter 2. What scholars who don’t accept 2 Peter is authentically Peter’s say is that it’s more likely that 2 Peter is dependent on Jude, due to a number of factors, rather than the other way around.

(2) The letter is quite unique among all the other NT books in that it makes very heavy use of Greek rhetoric and Atticisms, more at home with the elevated language and rhetoric of 2nd century Christian writings than those of the 1st. (For example, the phrase “partakers of the divine nature” in 1:4; this is a phrase not found elsewhere in the NT but has a long history in Greek philosophy.) This is one of the reasons why even some scholars who even consider 1 Peter to have a possibility of being authentic can be a bit more reserved about 2 Peter: it’s so ‘Greek’, even the style of Greek it uses is very complicated and elaborate. (1 Peter by contrast is still simple in its language.)

For example, in chapter 2 the fall of the angels is sort of described in the language of the fall of the Titans in Greek mythology: “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment …” (But then again, some Jewish writers at the time - usually Hellenistic ones - did already make the fallen angels = Titans connection.)

(3) This passage from chapter 3:

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

The argument runs basically that it’s quite difficult to imagine that St. Paul’s letters would have already been collected, considered as Scripture, and widely disseminated as the letter seems to imply at so early a date (remember, Peter is supposed to have died in the mid-60s, so if he’s the one writing this, this would have been somewhere around that time - when according to the consensus, a good deal of the non-Pauline books of the NT were not even written yet). The idea is, the letters of Paul - or the books of the New Testament in general, for that matter - are thought to be not definitively compiled together or achieved a ‘scriptural’ status among early Christians until the post-Apostolic age.

(4) The context of the letter - the rise of false prophets and “destructive heresies” (gnostics?), the persecution of believers, the skepticism among some that the second coming will ever happen - seems to fit more the situation of the late 1st-early 2nd century than the mid-1st century. While Paul stated that Peter’s ministry was mainly to Jews (Galatians 2:8), 2 Peter seems to be written to former gentiles dealing with their gentile neighbors. Even then, the author’s tone is still different from Paul’s, who is himself writing to gentiles: the Christology is cosmic that the writer doesn’t even dwell much on the historical Jesus; there is apparently also no interest in Israel, the Law or the covenant (as we would have expected a writer of Jewish origins - like Paul - to deal with).

(5) Then there’s also the silence towards the letter among the Apostolic Fathers and other earlier Christian authors (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria). The Muratorian canon also doesn’t include it or 1 Peter (it only makes reference to the Apocalypse of Peter, “though some amongst us will not have this latter read in the Church”). Our first attestation of it is in Origen, but even according to him the letter in his time is contested (αμφιβαλλεται). Eusebius lists it among the antilegomena, but by his time he was in the minority - the majority already supported the text. It was by the time of St. Jerome that the letter was mostly accepted as canonical.

That’s pretty much how the ideas run.

Thanks for the well conveyed arguements. I think that they are well reasoned. I still lean toward accepting the Epistles as from the Apostle Peter. It may be more of a Conservative Evangelical position. Do you lean toward one or the other?

Here is an article that I think represents more of what I believe:

I think all the arguments are addressed, so I didn’t want to spend the time answering all your arguments. But thanks a lot for your post

I choose to believe it was written by St. Peter. This is the traditional view and there is no “proof” that it was not.

I just don’t find the counter-arguments very convincing. Modern scholars think they are really smart and that they can tell something wasn’t written by who it claims to have been written by through critical textual examination (i.e., reading tea leaves), 2,000 years after the fact.

There were questions about 2 Peter very early on, but it was included in the Canon of Scripture - that is, it was accepted as what it purports to be: a letter of St. Peter. This stands to reason, since it describes itself as being authored by “Symeon-Peter” and the author claims to have personally known Our Lord and to have witnessed the transfiguration.

I just don’t believe the letter is essentially a fraud - i.e., someone else pretending to be St. Peter a hundred years after his martyrdom. The Holy Spirit would not have permitted the Church to include it in the Canon of Scripture if that were the case.

I lean towards 2 Peter being written by Peter. Relationship to Jude would only be an argument if Jude were presenting something “novel”. If what is essentially an exhortation with historical examples were commonly circulated throughout the early Christian community then one could expect similar themes to present themselves when the exhortation arose. If the text existed in the West, it may not have been know in the East.

Maturity of language transitions through one’s life. I don’t believe people’s authorship at 30 would compare to the same person at 50, a pinnacle at 30 and then stagnation is unusual, therefore not an argument. We are also heavily influenced by any new material we research.

I also lean towards Hebrews being written by Peter.

I have studied this off and on over the years. I certainly am no expert on the question, but it often seems there is more certainty among scholars on this question than is warranted.

The linguistic arguments against Petrine authorship (style, vocabulary, etc.) seem weak since we have so little undisputed writing from Peter. What exactly are we comparing it to? 1 Peter and…what?

It is true there were pseudonymous works at that time and it wasn’t considered to be necessarily deceitful. But, scholars often go a step further and say that the original audience would have known that it wasn’t actually from Peter and been totally cool with that. Yet, many of the arguments we have record of from the early Church’s canonization debates revolve around accepting the authentic writings backed by apostolic authority and rejecting the pseudonymous works! So, why was 2 Peter even debated if it being pseudonymous was a-ok? And why were other works excluded for being written by the second generation of Christians in their own names? If they claimed to be from one of the apostles, would that have gotten them in? Does that make sense to anyone at all?

Finally, I do think it’s quite important that the letter says it’s from Peter, and even includes personal stuff purportedly from Peter. This isn’t like the authorship questions surrounding the Gospels or the Letter to the Hebrews. Those works have names and extra-textual traditions surrounding them that can be debated, but the inspired text itself makes no claims as to authorship. 2 Peter (and the disputed Pauline epistles) say who they were written by. And, like I said, the legitimacy of those greetings in the letters was a big part of the debate as to their canonicity.

It has been debated since the earliest time Biblical theology was being done.

But why the introduction of Simon Peter as the author? Why the claim to be an eye witness to the Transfiguration?

Jerome thought it was Peter. Perhaps there is a good reason for the change in language and commonalities with Jude beyond “someone else wrote it at a later time.”

Cuz when y’all gon down to somewheres else, y’alls is gonna maybe talk a lil’ dif, get it?

Honestly, sometimes people forget that one can write and speak very differently at a whim for whatever reason.

Or it was by a second hand, a different second hand than 1 Peter.

If it isn’t by Peter (or under him), then it is certainly a puzzle to explain why it is not fideistic to call it Scripture.

Thanks. I think the argument of another person using Peter’s identity because it was known to be done in those times, is not very strong because this isn’t an ordinary letter. It’s Sacred Scripture, divinely inspired by God to contain the Revelation of Jesus entrusted to the Apostles. These Apostles suffered because of this commission and gift!

If someone wrote a part of Sacred Scripture in the New Covenant, they would not need to pretend to be someone else, since they are an instrument of His plan. God can use anyone to do great things. You don’t need to be the pope to be used by God!

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