Thursday, September 13, 2007

Authorship of 2 Peter - Ethical Dilemma

If 2 Peter was not written by Peter, then do the autobiographical statements in this epistle constitute a false witness? As Kelly states:
The author certainly represents himself as the Apostle, starting off with a greeting from ‘Symeon Peter’, recalling his presence as an eye-witness at the Transfiguration (i. 16-18) and his receipt of a private communication from the Lord about his imminent death (i. 14), affirming in a clear allusion to 1 Peter that this is his second epistle (iii. 1), and speaking of Paul as his colleague (iii. 15).[1]
How can someone inhabiting the moral worldview of early Christianity, so clearly falsify the evidence so as to lead the readers to believe that Peter wrote this letter? Thus, does the author of 2 Peter misrepresent himself as the apostle Peter, and if so, does this constitute identity fraud? Conrad Gempf responds with this counter-example from modern experience:
A few years ago I met someone who claimed to be C.S. Lewis. He clearly knew a lot about the man whose identity he was appropriating and on occasion mixed what he said with genuine excerpts from Lewis's books. He was very entertaining to spend an evening with, but he was not the man he pretended to be. There were other people present - should I have denounced him to them? Should I have confronted this man: 'Impostor!'?
Perhaps your feelings will change when I tell you that this man was on a stage at the time, surrounded by props. I had gone to see a one-man show based on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis. Despite the fact that the great majority of the audience with whom I was seated were Christians who would claim to be against falsehood and deceit of any kind, no-one was unhappy with the actor or the playwright for the fraud they conspired to present to us. In this context, the pretence was not only acceptable, but laudable. We all paid good money to be lied to, and emitted loud noises of approval when it was complete.
If we can forget for just a moment our deeply-ingrained acceptance of theatre and fiction as valid genres, we may be able to glimpse just how peculiar the whole business is - how odd someone from outside our culture might find it. I submit that it is in this frame of mind that we are best able to approach the curious business of religious pseudonymity ('pseudo' = false; 'nym' = name): the practice of writing a literary work under the pretence that someone else, usually someone more famous, wrote it.[2]
Richard Bauckham has argued for a notion of an intentional pseudepigraphy with regards to 2 Peter which alleviates this ethical problem.[3] If Bauckham is right, my question is whether one is not safer to speak of the authorship of this epistle as rather allonymous rather than pseudonymous. This distinction is used by I. H. Marshall for understanding the authorship of the Pastoral Epistles.[4] Marshall states:

I use the term pseudonymous to refer to documents that were intended to deceive their recipients into thinking that somebody other than the real author wrote them, and the term allonymous to refer to documents composed by somebody other than the purported author but in a way that was transparent and not intended to deceive the readers.[5]

If 2 Peter was recognised as a ‘testament’ of the deceased Peter, then there is no wilful deception which resolves the ethical dilemma. If this is accurate, then 2 Peter is closer to that of an allonymous writing rather than a pseudonymous writing, for it does not seek to mislead people, but rather is evidently a later writing under the auspices of some authority.
Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude, pg. 235
[2] Conrad Gempf “Pseudonymity and the New Testament” in Themelios 17.2 (January/February 1992): 8-10, pg. 8.
[3] See Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, pg. 286. Bauckham suggests that 2 Peter is pseudonymous but that it would have been recognised as such, and thus it never sought to intentionally mislead its primary audience.
[4] I. H. Marshall, New Testament Theology (IVP, 2004) pg. 398
[5] Marshall, New Testament Theology, pg. 398 n.4

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Obedience to Scripture - Preach

Earlier this year, like a month ago, NewFrontiers hosted its annual Student camp. I was asked to do the final session on the camp, and the talks are available for download as follows. The theme of the camp was "Devoted." Here are all the messages...

This is not an academic message, it's a sermon. For those interested and willing, I'd like some feed back on this message. So if you're keen, drop me some comments.

Thanks much, s D.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Was Jesus Literate?

Craig Evans has published another study online discussing the issue of Jesus' literacy. See: Jewish Scripture and the Literacy of Jesus - C. A. Evans and W. H. Brackney (eds.), From Biblical Criticism to Biblical Faith (Mercer University Press, 2007) 41-54.
Skimming through it, it's a helpful response to the work of P. F. Craffert and P. J. J. Botha, “Why Jesus Could Walk on the Sea but He Could Not Read and Write,” Neot 39 (2005): 5-35. Botha argue for the illiteracy of Jesus in the fourth part of his paper, under the heading “Was Jesus Literate?” (pp. 21-32). Evans response, is to that section of the paper.
As usual, Evans doesn't waste time and his familiarity with the material and the context in which Jesus was raised, lived and what the determining factors are, remain almost unmatched. The article assumes a knowledge of Greek, so either brush up or learn it, or just skip over. Another excellent offering from the mind of one of the greatest NT scholars alive.

Who is the "Author" of 2 Peter?

I wrote the following over the weekend, and then found Mike Bird's comments on the same topic today, so at least I'm glad that I'm thinking along the same lines as a NT geek!

Did the apostle Peter author the work known as 2 Peter? There are two distinct elements, among others, that compound the problem faced in discussions of the authorship of 2 Peter. Firstly, there is the complicated notion of what constitutes an “author” of a particular work, and secondly, given the ethical world the early Christians sought to express, does narrating a story under the auspices of someone else constitute giving a false witness? These issues inspire various possibilities with little confidence in acquiring certainty in our understanding.
The authorship of 2 Peter is often discussed with the majority favouring some form of pseudonymous authorship.[1] As Kelly noted nearly four decades ago:
“Scarcely anyone nowadays doubts that 2 Peter is pseudonymous, although it must be admitted of the few who do that they defend their case with an impressive combination of learning and ingenuity.” [2]
This first issue plunges one deep into contemporary philosophical and literary debates. Without getting too complex, biblical scholars must realise that our current definitions and conceptions of “authorship” may be to simple.[3] It is possible that Peter did not strictly pen the work known as 1 Peter, Silvanus did (1 Pet 5:12).[4] Although, we could use a broader definition of authorship (namely the figurative definition), so that Peter is clearly the originator of the ideas and teachings present in 1 Peter, but not the actual person who penned them on to papyri. But if that is true, and allowable, then what prevents one from suggesting that a disciple, after Peter’s death, penned 2 Peter, believing that he was in fact merely restating and formulating the teachings of his teacher? Is Peter then still the author, and would the first century Christians have had a problem with this? Thus, Davids writes:
1 Peter (or 2 Peter, for that matter) is just as much “by Peter” whether he dictated every word or whether he told a co-worker, “Write a letter to x to combat y – you might use argument z, as well as any others you can think of.” In either case an ancient would think of the letter as being “by Peter,” even if in the latter case we would lack any certain knowledge of how Peter himself thought.[5]
So in what sense are we suggesting that Peter was the author of this work? And does Peter remain the author, if a disciple recounts and relays his teachings, despite the fact of his being dead? [6]
In out next post, we'll consider the claim that if Peter was not the author of 2 Peter, this constitutes wilfull deception.
[1] J. H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude, pg. 128 does not even seek to argue the matter of pseudonymity, but merely assumes this is the case.
[2] J. N. D Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude (A & C Black, 1969) pg. 235. However, M. J. Kruger “The Authenticity of 2 Peter”, JETS 42 (1999): 645-71, argues that the case against Petrine authorship is not conclusive.
[3] The Oxford English Dictionary offers a few options that are instructive. Author: A) a writer of a book, article, or report. B) someone who writes books as a profession. the writings of such a person. C) figurative: an originator or creator of something, especially a plan or idea.
[4] Contrary to this however, see the study of E. R. Richards “Silvanus Was Not Peter’s Secretary: Theological Bias in Interpreting dia Silvanou… egrapsa in 1 Peter 5:12,” JETS 43:3 (2000) 417-32. Although, this does not negate the possibility of Silvanus, or someone else, as an amanuensis. See P. H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter (Eerdmans, 1990) pg. 198-90. But Davids has subsequently changed his mind. See Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, (Eerdmans, 2006) pg. 128.
[5] Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, pg. 128
[6] A contemporary example is that of G. B. Caird and his student L. D. Hurst. Hurst took Caird’s notes, books, ideas and practically wrote most of the script of Caird’s New Testament Theology (Oxford, 1994). Did Caird author this work, or did Hurst? Or more poignantly the question must be asked, are they Caird’s ideas, or Hurst’s?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Calvinism Scares Me

Roger Olsen makes some bold statements about Calvinism...

Many conservative Christians wince at the idea that God is limited. But what if God limits himself so that much of what happens in the world is due to human finitude and fallenness? What if God is in charge but not in control? What if God wishes that things could be otherwise and someday will make all things perfect?

That seems more like the God of the Bible than the all-determining deity of Calvinism. In this world, because of our ignorance and sinfulness, really bad things sometimes happen and people do really evil and wicked things. Not because God secretly plans and prods them, but because God has said to fallen, sinful people, "OK, not my will then, but thine be done -- for now."

And God says, "Pray because sometimes I can intervene to stop innocent suffering when people pray; that's one of my self-limitations. I don't want to do it all myself; I want your involvement and partnership in making this a better world."

It's a different picture of God than most conservative Christians grew up with, but it's the only one (so far as I can tell) that relieves God of responsibility for sin and evil and disaster and calamity.

The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil. If you've come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God. God is great but also good. In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.

Dr. Roger Olson is a professor of theology in George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

HT: Mike Bird, who unfortunately offers a weaker retort which I'm not convinced answers the charge or represents the position well.