Sources: Willis Barnstone, ed., The Other Bible: Ancient Alternative Scriptures (HarperCollins, 1984); Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3d ed. (Oxford, 2004); I. Howard Marshall et al., Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Letters and Revelation (IVP, 2002), chapter 21.
Becoming a Character These writings narrate current events according to their community's paradigmatic stories of Israel and Jesus.
Churches and believers thus become 'characters' in the gospel story.
The narrative seems fundamental rather than just a useful literary device.
Ultimate Struggles: 2 Peter Early Christians were often tempted to return to their old lives (2 Pet. 1:5-11).
Early Christians soon developed into rival schools of Christian faith (2 Pet. 2, 3:3, 3:16-17).
2 Peter reminds, encourages, and warns according to "the apostles'" tradition (2 Pet. 1:12-21, 3:1-2).
The struggles of Jesus' disciples are framed in a Jewish-Christian apocalyptic context:
Rivals are false prophets and teachers of "hairesis" (2:1) as in heaven's and Israel's past (2:4-16), animals (2:12), captives and captors (2:18-19), scoffers (3:3), ignorant, unstable, and lawless (3:16-17).
Disciples are granted life, godliness, promises of deliverance, sharers in divinity, entrance into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (1:3-4, 11)
Disciples are called to virtue, preparedness, and holiness (1:5-11, 3:11-15).
The end of both groups is the last judgment of the Lord Jesus (3:1-13).
The delay in that judgment is God's mercy on those who can repent (3:8-9).
How would the rivals have understood (or "constructed") themselves?
Do we frame such struggles the same way today? Should we?
What is at stake in the authorship or date of 2 Peter (or Jude)?
Christian Apostasy: Jude 2 Peter 2 probably uses (plagiarizes?) Jude.
"Source criticism" investigates such dependencies.
Jude draws on many other sources, not all biblical:
Israelite tradition about angels sinning with human women (1 Enoch 10, 12).
Michael's battle over the body of Moses (Assumption of Moses).
Sodom (Gen. 19), Balaam son of Peor (Numbers 31), and Korah (Numbers 16).
(A puzzling lacuna: Why not the story of Judas Iscariot, here or in 2 Peter?)
These comprise three illustrations of God's punishment on beneficiaries of grace for their later disobedience (5, cf. 1 Enoch 1 and 5 in Jude 14-15).
Readers should heed them by contending for the faith (3), waiting faithfully for eschatological judgment (17-21), and reaching out in witness (22-23).
Their strength to do this comes from God and Jesus (24-25).
Is Jude unacceptably polemical ("judgmental") for today's Christians? (The lectionary ignores it.)
For Christ, for the World: 1 Peter Is the author Peter, via Silvanus?
The writer assumes his formerly pagan audience's facility with the Tanakh, especially Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah (e.g., in 1 Pet. 2:4-10).
The story and teachings of Jesus are ethically central (e.g., 2:20-25 in 2:13-3:12).
1 Peter draws on traditions common to Matthew and Luke, Paul, James, Hebrews, and Ephesians — an apostolic mainstream.
What would this say of their origin and circulation in the first century?
Israel-in-exile is the paradigm for Christians' relationship with the empire (e.g., 1:1, 2:11-12). Yet this is transformed in 2:18-5:11 into Christ-suffering-in-righteousness. Jesus' atonement is extended to the world through the suffering Christian community:
The weak submit trustfully, following "in his steps" (2:21-25).
This wins over the strong by showing them Christ's way (3:1).
The strong honor the weak as joint heirs (3:7-8), particularly through church structure (5:1-11).
The innocent bear abuse from the wicked with a clear conscience (3:13-22).
are subject to God's harsh judgment (4:17-18).
"This is the true grace of God: stand fast in it" (5:12).
recent Petrine vision: Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens.
Summary Questions: Is Jude's and 2 Peter's harsh tone against rivals consistent with 1 Peter's deference to idolaters?
Do we idealize early Christianity?
Were Christians really suffering so gravely?
Did bearing up under pressure really have this effect on the abusers?
Is this our story? Do we allow the apostolic traditions to narrate us?