We’re closing the week with the text we label as ‘Second Letter of Peter’ in our bibles. You’ll know by now that I don’t think that either document is from a Galilean fisher friend of Jesus. Nor do I stress much about adjusting the express claim of authorship by ‘Simon Peter’ or ‘Simeon Peter’, claiming a tie to the disciple or to the tribe and patrimony among the twelve of Israel. This just does not ‘sound’ like the illiterate Aramean speaker, or the book we just read.
Let’s try to take today’s reading at face value first. There are no geographic references, just a summary of a category of Christians, belonging to something that promises participation in the divine nature, and separation from the sordid constraints of corruptible life.
Verses 5-7 offer a rhythmic summary of a ladder of religious and spiritual development for members of this community. Verses 8 and 9 endorse the effect of this development, lest we be ineffective or unfruitful, blinded or forgetful of the alternative risks.
This is a reinforcement and reminder of established truth, and while the writer denies being too slick and sophisticated, the language is precisely that: elegant and distinctive in diction.
Yes, this introduction alludes to witnessing the divine endorsement of Jesus, whether in baptism or in transfiguration, and anticipating a regal vision of Jesus holding court in the heavens. The writer claims personal mortality and age – but it’s too much for me to find a claim that the writer is a geriatric Peter.
This introduction closes with an assertion of the weight and authority of ‘scripture’, a collection of writing given a particular canonical status. Scholars quibble the details, but I imagine a time, after about 90CE, with Jamnia established as the centre of Talmudic development. One collection of scrolls is being given particular reverence, not just Torah but the emerging Tanakh, with the Tannaim and Midrash elaborating the ‘white fire’ of ‘oral Torah’. Some say this could be written as late as nearly 150CE, as late as any bible bit.
So what? It’s a relief not to have to reconcile this book with the rest of this week, and to take it on its own terms. This document works as a liturgical and pastoral text to read aloud in a worshiping and learning community, solidifying our centre after the traumatic losses of Jesus’ crucifixion and the destruction of the Temple. What’s our centre to be now? Perhaps it’s a biblical tradition.
2 Peter 1
1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:
2 May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
3 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.
4Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature.
5For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge,
6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness,
7and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.
8For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.
10Therefore, brothers and sisters be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.
11For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
12 Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you.
13I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory,
14since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.
15And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
18We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
20First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
21because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God