I have deliberately kept out of the discussion on authorship to date but I’ll add my thoughts here seeing as all our other contributors have commented.  I agree totally that too much in the past has been made of differences in style, ecclesiology, theology, etc. and I am pleased that recent scholarship has questioned the basis on which the old scholarly consensus was formed.  Perry also rightly raises the question of these letters initial reception.  Richard Bauckham addresses this question in “Pseudo-Apostolic Letters”, JBL 107 (1988), 469-94.  He writes: “For any pseudepigraphical letter which has the didactic aims of NT letters must find some such way of bridging the gap between the supposed addressee(s) and the real readers, which the pseudepigraphical letter as a genre seems necesarily to create” (p. 476).   Bauckham argues that material in the PE concerning false teaching fulfils this function (p. 493).  Furthermore, he argues, if the situation “Paul” foresees after his death is the situation of the real readers, then Timothy and Titus are part of this situation.  Consequently, if the PE are pseudepigraphical, then they have to be written, on Bauckham’s analysis, within the lifetime of Timothy and Titus (and with their full collusion).

I reach similar conclusions by an entirely different route.  I have argued that the PE function sociologically as a literary form of a status degradation ceremony.  For this to work sociologically this means that at least Timothy and Titus, if not Paul (as the prime actors), have to be real actors in the ceremony.  This means either they are authentic (all 3 actors are real) or they are written within the lifetime of Timothy and Titus (i.e. within one generation of Paul’s death).

Neither Bauckham’s analysis or mine, of course, proves the inauthenticity of the PE but Bauckham persuasively, both in the above article and in his Word commentary on 2 Peter, argues for the inauthenticity of the latter.  He roots the procedure of 2 Peter in the conventions of Jewish testamentary genre: “The pseudepigraphal device is therefore not a fraudulent means of claiming apostolic authority, but embodies a claim to be a faithful mediator of the apostolic message. Recognizing the canonicity of 2 Peter means recognizing the validity of that claim, and it is not clear that this is so alien to the early church’s criteria of canonicity as is sometimes alleged” Richard J. Bauckham, vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Peter, Jude (Dallas: Word, 2002), 161.  Do others here accept the pseudepigraphical nature of 2 Peter?

If there is at least one pseudepigraphical letter in the NT canon we cannot therefore argue on theological/ideological grounds alone for the authenticity of the PE.  I personally find, despite the reservations of my colleagues here, Howard Marshall’s allonymity arguments persuasive.


  1. Rick Brannan says:

    Hi Lloyd.

    Intriguing thoughts, here are a few off-the-cuff remarks. Note I’d be placed in the camp that thinks 1 & 2 Peter are not pseudepigraphal.

    First, we do need to realize that the Pastorals and the Petrine epistles are separate, and the argument for pseudepigraphy for one set of documents need not necessarily impinge upon the other. Each case must be examined separately.

    Second, I think we need to remember the original reasons that some think 2 Peter pseudepigraphal. I haven’t studied 2 Peter much, but the primary reasons, as I recall, seem to be that it doesn’t ‘sound’ like the voice behind 1 Peter. In other words, the letters seem to have a different authorial voice. So pseudepigraphy is explored (and this is valid to explore, I’ll add). The problems with both sides of the pseudepigraphy argument is that we tend to confirm our presuppositions.

    Anyway, if the evidence for stylistic studies is weak in regard to the Paulines, then it is non-existent for the Petrine epistles. Note that that George Barr has done some work with his approach of "scaleometry" where he concludes unified authorship is possible, given his approach and presuppositions. I still think that’s weak, but it’s something.

    Thirdly, would the amanuensis argument have any sway (one way or the other) with regard to the Petrines?

    Fourthly, if Timothy and Titus wanted to write some sort of exhortatory letter to correct folks, wouldn’t they have the status to do it under their own names? Particularly Timothy, if the recipients knew him or had access to the Pauline corpus? I mean, he’s a co-author on many epistles and greeted as a fellow worker. Why would they have to relegate themselves to writing letters to themselves in Paul’s name?

    Just some thoughts; not well thought through at all. I’ve read Bauckham’s article you specify, though it’s been awhile. I might have to check out his 2 Peter commentary.

  2. Rick Brannan says:

    Whoops, small edit to the above. In the paragraph "second", I meant to also state dependence on Jude (or, perhaps, Jude’s dependence on 2 Peter) as another cue to examine pseudepigraphy.

    But why couldn’t Peter have used Jude if he thought it helpful in his task? (Or, of course, vice-versa?)

  3. Lloyd Pietersen says:

    Hi Rick

    Thanks for your comments (by the way I am a long term user of Logos and love the features that Logos 3 now offers and enjoy your regular blogs there). To respond point by point.

    First, I agree totally that each case must be examined separately. My point, in bringing up the Petrine epistles, was merely to observe that if one accepts the pseudepigraphical nature of 2 Peter then the PE cannot be excluded as pseudepigraphical solely on theological/ideological grounds. Furthermore, in drawing attention specifically to Richard Bauckham I wanted to point out that two conservative scholars (Bauckham and Marshall) have provided arguments for the pseudepigraphical (or allonymous) nature of 2 Peter and the PE respectively along with arguments as to why this does not undermine their authoritative or canonical status.

    Second, Bauckham examines carefully the language of 2 Peter and its relationship to both Jude and 1 Peter (as well as other possible literary relationships). He concludes that 2 Peter is dependent on Jude and not vice-versa and that the same author did not compose 1 and 2 Peter. He argues the latter on the basis of both grammar and style and terminology and ideas. However, he is rightly far more convinced by differences in "thought, themes and theological terminology" than by issues of grammar and style.

    Third, the major problem with any amanuensis argument in my view is that it has to by definition give considerable freedom to the amanuensis. This view still allows for Pauline and Petrine approval of the works which go out in their name but it is difficult to see how this still amounts to Pauline or Petrine authorship.

    The fourth I think is the strongest argument against the position taken by Bauckham, Marshall and myself with regards to the PE. However, consider the following scenario. 2 Timothy is authentic (or substantially so) and so Timothy does have in his possession a letter from Paul addressing both him and the situation at Ephesus. Following the death of Paul the situation at Ephesus, which Paul knows of in 2 Timothy, worsens (and similar issues arise around the same time in Crete). In this situation the authority of Timothy and Titus as authentic bearers of the Pauline tradition is precisely what is at issue and so they simply cannot write in their own names. Furthermore, they are not inventing something from scratch because they have the authentic 2 Timothy. So, working with the material of 2 Timothy, they update it to address the similar, but worsening, situation following Paul’s death. Of course this hypothesis has to be backed up with detailed exegesis and this is not the place to do that. But I think, with appropriate modifications as the argument develops, the case can be made. Of course to modern sensibilities this still looks fraudulent but, in my view, it is precisely because of the close relationship that Timothy and Titus enjoyed with Paul that they can claim to speak in his name. This fits well with Howard Marshall’s view that the documents are allonymous.

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