I. Greeting (1:1-2)

1Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

2Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

As in most other New Testament letters, Peter began by naming the sender, the recipients, and adding a greeting. The sender, "Simon Peter," is identified in the first words of the letter and the recipients by the phrase "to those who . . . have received a faith as precious as ours." The greeting is communicated in v. 2. Virtually all New Testament letters contain greetings that are more weighty than what is typical in Greco-Roman culture. Peter not only identified himself but explained why he was qualified to write to his readers. He was a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ. The recipients are described in terms of their faith in God, which is theirs by virtue of the righteousness of their God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Peter did not restrict himself to the usual "greetings" (chairein) of the Greco-Roman world, but he prayed that God's grace and peace would abound in their lives through the knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus. Some of the central themes of the letter appear in the greeting: the centrality of faith in the Christian life, the saving righteousness of God, the primacy of Jesus Christ, and the importance of knowing God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, the themes of grace and knowledge form an inclusio since the letter ends with an admonition to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (3:18).

1:1 The first unusual feature appears in the first word in the letter. Peter did not use the usual Greek term "Simon" (Simon) to describe himself (as in, e.g., Matt 4:18; 10:2; 16:16-17; 17:25; John 1:40,42; Acts 10:5) but Simeon--still translated "Simon" by English versions. The latter term is Semitic and would only be used in a Palestinian setting. The only other occasion in which Peter was called Simeon was at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:14), where James appealed to Peter's testimony regarding Cornelius. The Palestinian flavor of the Council may explain the use of the term. The name Simeon is also used of the Simon who pronounced a blessing on and prophesied about the infant Jesus (Luke 2:25,34). The Semitic flavor of Luke 1-2 is acknowledged by virtually all. Luke used the name in Jesus' genealogy (Luke 3:30), and one of the prophets bears the name Simeon (Acts 13:1; cf. also 1 Macc 2:65). The term Simeon is an indication of an early date since it was not used in the second century. Some scholars suggest that the pseudonymous author used the Semitic name to communicate "verisimilitude." If this theory is true, it is difficult to see how "the author" was not engaging in deception. Bauckham tries to evade this conclusion by suggesting that the writer may have been "an associate of Peter's who belonged to Peter's circle in Rome." This theory is more difficult to believe than the one that posits deliberate pseudonymity since it is quite improbable that someone in Rome would use Peter's Semitic name. Indeed, the terms "Peter" and "apostle" in this verse show that the letter claims to be from Peter himself, the apostle of Jesus Christ. I conclude that the Semitic Simeon comes from Peter himself, and further it represents an authentic touch from the apostle Peter.

Peter designated himself as a "servant and apostle of Jesus Christ." The term "servant" (doulos) is better translated "slave." It demonstrates that Peter was under the authority of Jesus Christ, that he submitted to his lordship, and that he had no inherent authority. It is also the case, however, that the term doulos suggests honor. Peter was honored because he was a servant of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament prominent men who served Yahweh were called his "servants": Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod 32:13; Deut 9:27); Moses (Deut 34:5; Josh 1:1-2; 1 Kgs 8:53,56); Samuel (1 Sam 3:9-10), and David (1 Sam 17:32; 2 Sam 3:18; 7:5,8,19-21,25-29). In the New Testament, Paul (Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1), James (Jas 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1) are also called douloi. The term, then, not only suggests humility but the honor of serving Jesus Christ.

Peter not only called himself a slave but also an "apostle of Jesus Christ." The term "apostle" in some contexts may refer to missionaries or messengers (Rom 16:7; 2 Cor 8:23; Phil 2:25), but neither of those meanings fits here. Peter was speaking more technically of those whom Jesus Christ specially called and appointed to serve as apostles (Matt 10:1-11:1; Mark 3:13-19; cf. Acts 1:21-26). The authority of the apostles is communicated in 2 Pet 3:2 and the high estimate of Paul (2 Pet 3:15-16). Peter, therefore, was not merely sharing his opinion in his letter. He wrote as a commissioned slave of Jesus Christ and his appointed apostle. He wrote authoritatively to a church threatened by false teachers.

Peter did not identify the recipients geographically, though they probably were Gentiles. He described them as receiving a faith that has equal privileges. The word "received" (lanchousin) connotes the receiving of something by lot. Zechariah obtained by lot the privilege of offering incense in the temple (Luke 1:9). Roman soldiers cast lots to see who would get Jesus' garment (John 19:24). Judas was appointed to serve in an apostolic ministry (Acts 1:17). In each instance receiving something by lot is a gift that one receives. According to Peter, what was received was "faith" in God or Jesus Christ. Most scholars maintain that faith refers here to a body of teaching or doctrine (cf. Jude 3,20). One would expect Peter, however, to speak of faith being "handed down" or "transmitted" rather than received if it refers to doctrine. Hence, Peter likely referred to personal and subjective faith in God and/or Jesus Christ. The statement is remarkable indeed. Faith, which is necessary for salvation, is a divine gift. It cannot be produced by the mere will of human beings but must be received from God himself. He appointed, as it were by lot, that Peter's readers would receive such faith.

It is difficult to know whom Peter had in mind in saying that theirs was "a faith as precious as ours." The word "precious" (isotimon) signifies that they had equal privileges and honor as others. The translation "equal standing" in the RSV communicates more precisely what Peter intended than the NIV's "precious," since the latter focuses unduly on the emotional value of the gift. Josephus used the term to refer to civic equality (Ant. 12.119). Some scholars maintain that Peter compared the privileges of the apostles with that of the readers. It is difficult to see, however, why Peter would make this particular point to the readers. Others argue that Peter referred to the historical contrast between Jews and Gentiles. Etched in the mind of every Jew was their special place as God's chosen people. The inclusion of the Gentiles on an equal basis with the Jews was stunning to the early Jewish Christians (cf. Acts 10:1-11:18; Eph 2:11-3:13), a truth that sunk in slowly. Still, there is no clear indication that Jew-Gentile tensions inform 2 Peter, and hence Peter likely made the general point that all believers of all places, classes, and ethnic backgrounds share the same blessings.

Since Peter emphasized the equality of privilege among believers, it is not surprising that many think the "righteousness of God" (dikaiosyne tou theou) refers to God's fairness and equity in granting equal salvation. Despite the popularity of this interpretation, I think it is mistaken. The phrase "through the righteousness of our God and Savior" modifies the participle "received." The emphasis on God's grace and gift in the context (cf. 1:3-4) suggests that fairness is not the most natural meaning in context. The gift of faith given by God is not understood in the New Testament to be "fair" but entirely of grace. Hence, God's righteousness here does not denote his fairness but his saving righteousness. This accords with the Old Testament, where God's righteousness is parallel to his "salvation" (Pss 22:31; 31:1; 35:24,28; 40:10; Isa 42:6; 45:8,13; 51:5-8; Mic 6:5; 7:9). The faith received, then, is rooted in God's saving righteousness, his free gift of salvation, which is in accord with his steadfast love and mercy. The interpretation favored here may also be supported by the reference to the Pauline writings (3:15-16), indicating that Peter knew and agreed with Paul's theology of God's saving righteousness.

The source of God's saving righteousness is Jesus Christ. The Greek construction here is particularly interesting. It literally reads "the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (dikaiosyne tou theou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou). The grammar clearly indicates that Jesus Christ is called "God" in this verse. The structure of the clause accords with the famous rule of G. Sharp, that when two singular nouns, which are not proper nouns, fall under the same article, they refer to the same entity. The phrase used here fits every part of this definition. If Peter wanted to distinguish Jesus Christ from the Father, he would have inserted an article before the noun "Savior." The pronoun "our" also indicates that only one person is referred to here. Moreover, in four parallel texts "Lord and Savior" refers in every case to the same person, Jesus Christ (2 Pet 1:11; 2:20; 3:2,18). The primary reason some scholars doubt this interpretation is that the New Testament writers rarely use "God" explicitly in reference to Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, in a number of texts Jesus Christ is surely called God (John 1:1,18; 20:28; Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8), though the intention is never to teach a form of modalism. To deny such a reading here would be to violate the clear sense of the grammar. Bigg rightly remarks, "Yet the first and sovereign duty of the commentator is to ascertain, and to guide himself by the grammatical sense." The glory of Jesus Christ is emphasized as well at the conclusion of the letter in the doxology (3:18), so that the letter is bounded by the theme of Christ's supremacy. Jesus Christ is both God and Savior. The term "Savior" often was used of divine rulers in the Caesar cult, but there is no evidence that Peter countered such views in the letter. Finally, Callan effectively argues that the attribution of "Lord" with reference to Jesus Christ implies his deity since the same title also refers to God. He thinks that Jesus Christ received the title "Lord" in 1:2,8,11,14,16; 2:20; 3:18, and the Father is called "Lord" in 2:9,11; 3:8,10,12. Even though scholars debate whether the Father or Christ is called "Lord" in some of these verses (see commentary on the relevant verses), Callan's point still stands, for there is no doubt that both the Father and Christ are called "Lord." He is also correct in suggesting that such a title for Christ points to Jesus' divinity.

1:2 The first words of the greeting are in exact agreement with 1 Pet 1:2. Peter infused the greeting with Christian content by using the word "grace" (charis). The term is not perfunctory, for we have already seen in v. 1 that God has granted faith to the readers through his saving righteousness. Verses 3-4 continue in this vein, reminding us that God has given his people everything so that they may be like him. The term "peace" represents a typical Jewish greeting, and the order may be significant. Those upon whom God has bestowed his grace experience his peace. Peter prayed that God would multiply his grace and peace in the lives of the readers, for he knew that their progress in the Christian life depended upon God alone.

The greeting in 2 Peter does not merely conform to what is written in 1 Peter, which we would expect if the letter were pseudonymous. Peter added a distinctive wrinkle, praying that God's grace and peace would abound "through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." English readers may wonder if Peter identified Jesus as God as he did in v. 1. The answer is no. The construction is quite different, for "Jesus" is a proper name, and therefore Sharp's rule does not apply in this instance. God the Father and Jesus Christ as distinct persons are in view, which is typical in greetings (e.g., Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; 2 John 3). Grace and peace are multiplied through knowing God and Jesus Christ our Lord. Such knowledge of God is personal and relational, but it also involves intellectual content. Biblical writers never divorce the head and the heart in terms of spiritual growth. Grace and peace abound when believers know more about God and come to know God in a deeper way in the crucible of experience. "Knowledge" was a key word for Peter. It is probable that the term epignosis focuses on conversion (1:3,8; 2:20). It is doubtful, though, that we should separate epignosis from gnosis (1:5,6; 3:18). The two terms are closely related in Hos 4:6. Knowledge of God and Christ begins, of course, at conversion, but it is difficult to sustain the view that Peter confined epignosis to conversion and gnosis to postconversion growth. It is common for Greek terms to overlap in meaning, and the prepositional prefix epi often adds nothing distinctive to a word. In this verse knowledge refers both to the knowledge of God they had at conversion and for its increase in their lives. It follows, therefore, that we have an inclusio since the book ends with an exhortation to grow in grace and knowledge (gnosis) of Jesus Christ. Nor should we read into this a polemic against Gnosticism since the opponents do not clearly fit into such a mold.

—New American Commentary