The Convergence of 2 Peter and Jude: How Do You Explain It?

Peter copied from Jude
18% (2 votes)
Jude copied from Peter
0% (0 votes)
Peter and Jude copied from another common source
9% (1 vote)
Peter and another co-authored the book, and the co-author may have copied
0% (0 votes)
2 Peter was probably not written by Peter himself but sill inspired
0% (0 votes)
Other
27% (3 votes)
Peter and Jude wrote 2 Peter together
0% (0 votes)
2 Peter was partial, and a later scribe fused it with another anonymous partial MSS he guessed Peter wrote
9% (1 vote)
There is no good theory that explains the convergence
18% (2 votes)
I hold to the dictation theory of inspiration, so the question is irrelevant
18% (2 votes)
Total votes: 11
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There are 7 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

I am preaching through 2 Peter for about the 4th time in my life, and have taught it on a number of occasions. Yet the authorship issue and history of 2 Peter in its relationship to the cannon demonstrates a heritage of uncertainty.

I believe firmly that it belongs in the canon. But how do you account for the almost word for word convergence of 2 Peter and Jude?
Comments on style are also welcomed.

"The Midrash Detective"

Charlie's picture

Though you can't rule out textual dependence, after reading both in Greek, I don't think that there was simple word-for-word copying. Except for one or two phrases, most of the commonality is at the level of content, not word choice and syntax. If one of the authors did appropriate content from the other, he recast the content into his own style. The differences are, in my impression, greater than those between the synoptic accounts of Jesus' speech.

I think, though, that we tend to underestimate the commonality of language within a religious subculture, especially on any given topic. 2 Peter 2 and Jude overlap considerably in topic, thus creating an opportunity for greater than usual overlap in content, approach, and even expression. But, we experience something similar all the time. I'm sure most of us on SI have sat through an invitation where the speaker used almost exactly these words: "Heads bowed, eyes closed, nobody looking around. Is there anyone in here who would say, [insert speaker's name ], I'm not 100% sure I'm on my way to heaven, but I'd like to know for sure. Would you please lift up your hand? [Pause ] Thank you, I see that hand. Yes, I see that hand."

Or, to consider perhaps a more analogous case, what if 5 systematic theology professors from 5 different conservative Reformed seminaries were asked to write an exegetical essay on Romans 9? I'm sure there would be differences, some substantial. I would be surprised, however, if we did not find a good deal of shared terminology, logical steps, historical quotations, and even a few equivalent illustrations. It would not surprise me if we even found a few sentences which were almost word-for-word the same. Speaking from a shared tradition, they inevitably sound similar without any intention to do so.

I believe that such a shared tradition existed in the first century Church. As you're well aware, Ed, the biblical authors and many of the early church leaders were raised in Judaism. I'm sure that the NT authors were not the first ones ever to employ Balaam as an example of a false prophet subverting the people. I'm sure that they did not invent the idea of using Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of God's judgment, or describing blasphemers as irrational animals.

So, though you can't disprove textual dependence, I do not think that the level of similarity necessitates it. Assuming the common evangelical position on authorship is correct, these two epistles do lead us to consider how much of a shared cultural background and even a common homiletical tradition existed in the early church.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thank you, Charlie, for those good thoughts. I always appreciate the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of your comments, whether I agree with you or not. I think this time I more or less agree. Smile

In my research about the Jewish perception of discipleship, a lot of what it meant to be a disciple meant to be a memorizer. Such memorization could easily account for the similarities in the synoptics. Disciples would memorize in groups (practicing) and then alone. You don't need a Q document for the Gospels at all, not if one takes the Jewish perspective of discipleship as mainly memorizing the teachings of ones rabbi (and their contexts as well). Before written Gospels, it would have been normal for the average Christian to memorize numerous tractates.

Perhaps both Jude and Peter are drawing off of a memorized sermon tractate, one that could have even been so familiar within the churches that it was not even credited as a quotation (sort of like Paul's "this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation....")

I do not think that the similarities are likely just coincidence, but there are probably many possible explanations, as you suggested, and some of which may not have even been postulated yet.

I was reading Witherington's comments, and he holds that some of it was written by Peter, another portion by Peter's disciple and the bishop of Rome, Linus (one and the same as mentioned by Paul). I have trouble with that. Of course, many commentators take the position that the book was written in the middle of the second century with no connection to Peter, and that's worse!

That others helped Peter even Calvin suggests (because of vocabulary/style issues), but the convergence with Jude issue is the one that fascinates me. Thanks, Charlie.

Any other thoughts out there in SI cyberspace?

"The Midrash Detective"

Joseph's picture

Is your view, Charlie, a mainstream scholarly option? I'm just curious, as I don't find it particularly plausible as you stated it, but I'm also not a Bib. studies guy.

In particular, the idea of a common culture that included apparently authoritative citations of pseudo-epigraphical texts is not something most conservatives would probably look kindly on, so it would be interesting to me if some have suggested that Jude's use of the Assumption of Moses, for example, was a common practice in some relatively widespread community, such that 2 Peter's author could be plausibly seen as drawing from the same community.

Charlie's picture

Joseph wrote:
Is your view, Charlie, a mainstream scholarly option? I'm just curious, as I don't find it particularly plausible as you stated it, but I'm also not a Bib. studies guy.

In particular, the idea of a common culture that included apparently authoritative citations of pseudo-epigraphical texts is not something most conservatives would probably look kindly on, so it would be interesting to me if some have suggested that Jude's use of the Assumption of Moses, for example, was a common practice in some relatively widespread community, such that 2 Peter's author could be plausibly seen as drawing from the same community.

Well, I don't have extensive enough resources to judge how widespread it is. RJ Bauckham, in Word Biblical Commentary, proposes that there is a common tradition. I think it is well established in NT studies that Jews of that period were very acquainted with the literature Jude cites. I believe that many non-Palestinian Jews even regarded them as canonical (or at least spiritual) for a while, until the Council of Jamnia clarified the issue. Of course, not all the material is apocryphal and I believe that common Jewish midrash could explain the similarity of the OT choices.

My previous comment was more of a suggestion than a firm belief. The opening post emphasized the similarities between 2 Peter and Jude, but in reading them myself, I was struck by the dissimilarities, which also need explanation. Even where they are referring to the same person or event, they vary considerably in word choice and syntax. At several places, the common material is employed for a different purpose within the larger discourse. So, in contradiction to the implication of some of the poll choices, I don't find it possible that the material was simply "inserted" or "fused" into another document. If there is direct textual dependence, the author has skillfully reworked the material to fit his own document. I found a JETS article focusing on Jude that mentions some of the issues. http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/31/31-3/31-3-pp287-292_JETS.pdf

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Joseph's picture

In Bauchkam's book on Jude, he clearly thinks that the author of 2 Peter (someone different than the author of 1 Peter) had read Jude - I don't know if this indicates a change in his mind, or if it's compatible with what you mean by a common tradition. I think Bauckham's positions here seems somewhat representative of evangelicals, based on this review: http://www.denverseminary.edu/article/jude-and-2-peter/ Although, again, Bauckham does not think Peter wrote 2 Peter.

Charlie's picture

I'm writing from (faint) memory, and yes, Bauckham does discern dependence, but I believe he also mentions a fairly widespread common tradition back of both documents. In other words, the examples used and the documents from which they are taken would have been common knowledge to most of the recipients. I should have clarified Bauckham's own position.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin