2 Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter: Towards a New Perspective

Published by Brill

In the 2016 Radboud Prestige Lectures, published in this volume, Jörg Frey develops a new perspective on 2 Peter by arguing that the letter is dependent on the Apocalypse of Peter. Frey argues that reading 2 Peter against the backdrop of the Apocalypse of Peter sheds new light on many longstanding interpretative questions and offers fresh insights into the history of second-century Christianity. Frey’s lectures are followed by responses from leading scholars in the field, who discuss Frey’s proposal in ways both critical and constructive. Contributors include: Richard Bauckham, Jan Bremmer, Terrance Callan, Paul Foster, Jeremy Hultin, Tobias Nicklas, David Nienhuis and Martin Ruf.

If ever there were a theory that hung by a strand of spider web, it is the one proffered by Frey in this volume and in his earlier Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude.  The notion that somehow or other, 2 Peter is reliant upon the Apocalypse of Peter beggers credulity.  That isn’t to suggest that Frey doesn’t try awfully mightily to make it so.  But he cannot.  It simply is not a sensible theory and that, I suspect, is why only a small handful of people hold to it.

The present volume is a wonderful resource for study into the entire question.  Frey sets the agenda with his defensive essay which opens the book and then his like-minded friends muster their arguments for agreeing with Frey.  Accordingly, the contributions of Bremmer, Nicklas, and Callan (who curiously also asserts that Josephus is also somehow a source of 2 Peter), Nienhuis, and Hultin are all in basic agreement with Frey with varying degrees of separation.  The deck, then, is stacked.

Ruf, then

… questions Frey’s (and Grünstäudl’s) account of the literary connection between 2 Peter and the Apocalypse. Ruf is skeptical about the possibility of determining any kind of direct literary connection. In Ruf’s estimation there is a relationship between the two documents, but it is difficult to be more specific than to say that they are engaging in, and contributing to, the same “discourse.”

Foster and Bauckham too are skeptical (to say the least) concerning Frey’s notion of dependence.

Frey gets the last word, of course, and asserts – in quite a friendly manner – the superiority of his point of view in spite of the doubts of three of his interlocutors.

The best argued essay, in my estimation, is that of Ruf.  Towards the end of his essay he observes, quite sagely

Wolfgang Grünstäudl and Jörg Frey highlight the ideas Second Peter shares with Eastern, and particularly Egyptian, literature, while they pay less attention to its western contacts than Bauckham did. Future research will have to ponder both ‘directions’ of literary contacts and find a balance. A thorough methodological, or, rather, criteriological reflection on the categories of literary contacts and their relevance for the determination of the place of origin would be highly desirable.

And that, I think, is the crux of the issue.  It is the old old wondering after which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Frey asserts that the chicken (Apocalypse of Peter) came first and the egg (2 Peter) only later.  But how can he prove this?  And the simplest answer is- he can’t.

He tries, as do his like-minded colleagues.  But he doesn’t succeed.  His web of assertions are attempting to bear too much weight.  They cannot.  And soon, when more weight (in terms of scholarly response to the theories presented here and in his Commentary) is applied to his idea, it will come crashing down.

The second half (leaving aside Frey’s rejoinder) is just the first salvo in the chicken and egg wars.  As such, it deserves your attention and your consideration.  And it also deserves a monograph in response.