Why should someone read or teach (or even write) a commentary on 2 Peter and Jude?
- They are there. Simple enough.
- The general epistles counterbalance Paul’s writings. They show that there “were other voices and other theologies…in the earliest phases of the Jesus movement” (1).
- Because they are so fascinating! (It’s always a good sign when commentators thinks the book[s] they study are fascinating). “In them we see communities of the Jesus movement coming to terms with Greco-Roman culture” (1). We see “communities using the Jewish traditions we know from the OT…. But they… cite the traditions as they were being retold in their first-century world…. We see communities coming to terms with teachers who were rejecting the ethical teachings of Jesus but who still claimed to be followers of Jesus” (2).
The author, Peter Davids is no stranger to the Catholic Epistles. He’s written commentaries on James (NIGTC), 1 Peter (NICNT), and A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude (my review here). You can read my review of this volume on Logos here.
After giving an introduction to both letters, Davids begins his exposition (which includes an introduction) not with 2 Peter, but with Jude. He shows (skilfully, as far as my opinion counts) that 2 Peter uses Jude. As he argues, Jude has his own arguments and perspectives. 2 Peter digests it and uses it for his own purposes. “Why would an apostle use the work of another church leader?” you say? Why would Matthew use Mark (or vice-versa)? 2 Peter adapts Jude into his own perspective and reasonings. He finds the gold mine and uses it well, each having their own perspectives.
As these letters are two of the more neglected books of the Bible, Davids goes into some of their exegetical issues. Besides authorship and date Davids looks at how 2 Peter differs from 1 Peter’s background, audience, and grammar/syntax. Here there is a stronger Greco-Roman influence, 2 Peter uses Scripture differently than 1 Peter, and uses a number of terms that are rare for the NT (and fairly uncommon in Hellenistic writing). However, this doesn’t necessarily mean Peter is not the author of both letters. Unlike Paul, we only have two of Peter’s letters. We don’t know how broad his education, style, and influence was.
Though Davids’ doesn’t give a definite stance on authorship of either book, he falls closer to authentic authorship rather than pseudonymous (though I think he should have been more definite given 2 Pet 1.17-19). So Jude was probably written by Jude (probably the brother of Jesus) and 2 Peter by the Apostle Peter. Jude was probably written before 70 AD and 2 Peter in the 50s, though a later date is possible. We can’t figure out the theology of Jude’s false teachers, but that’s not our concern. Rather Jude is more concerned about their practical theology and its negative affects on the church. For Peter, we at least know that the false teachers disregard the coming of the Lord, and they too have a faulty daily-life theology.
The Purpose of the letters are “to motivate. It is a….need to exhort…to ‘contend for the faith’” (44) and to be on their guard so as not to be carried away by the error of lawlessness (2 Pet 3.17). There is a serious struggle and it is the readers’ faith that is to be kept safe from the interlopers, whether they have ‘slipped in’ (Jude) or are ‘among the people’ (2 Peter 2).
Overall, I found this commentary to be very helpful, causing me to wish I were back in York so I could teach on these books. While I would have preferred Davids to give his own translation (he uses the NIV and has quite a few disagreements with it in 2 Peter – a similar problem is found in Seifrid’s 2 Corinthians volume), this doesn’t take away too much from the reading. Davids deals with both authors’ use of secondary (apocryphal and Second Temple) literature, saying that “[Jude] did consider it [1 Enoch] authoritative, a true word from God. We cannot tell whether he ranked it alongside other prophetic books such as Isaiah and Jeremiah” (76), and “for the most part canonical consciousness came later than the time of Jude” (76).
While not as theological as Seifrid’s volume, Davids brings in some excellent application. “Jude is accusing them of distorting the teaching of God (i.e., Christian ethics) to gain the financial support of members of the community who are listening to them. Thus what this final charge underlines is that in Jude’s eyes one of the reasons for some of their teaching is financial gain, an affliction that is not uncommon in the church today” (84). At one point Davids asks that if Peter looked at the church today, would he think the false teachers had won? Davids probably arcs [www.biblearc.com], as he is very able in showing the flow of the argument. Along with a host of quotes from the early church fathers, apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, Targums, and Philo and other Greco-Roman/Hellenistic writers, Davids presents to us the authors’ literary and cultural background, helping the reader to see how the authors arrived at their conclusions.
I was disappointed that there was no argumentation against the preterist position. Although I really only know of one commentator who holds to this position (Leithart, see The Promise of His Appearing) and a host of internet websites and forums which hold to the preterist position, I assumed (perhaps too much) that Davids may try to counteract some of the arguments. Despite this, Davids’ arguments hold plenty of weight, though they may not convince the ardent preterist.
Yes. If you are a fan of the PNTC series, this volume won’t let you down. Despite being more technical at points (mainly the amount of ancient literature – not a negative though!) than other volumes (2 Corinthians), I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this commentary. Usually I read though most of the commentary, or main sections to understand how the commentator is writing and what he/she is arguing for. However, in this commentary I actually took out my Bible and took notes through all four (combined) chapters.
- Series: The Pillar New Testament Commentary
- Author: Peter H. Davids
- Hardcover: 380 pages
- Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (September 19, 2006)
- Posts: Mercy on the Wavering in Jude 22-23
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