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Our pastor preached his first of a series of sermons on 1 Peter today, and thankfully, he just launched into the material without going through a long explanation about who wrote it, what the scholars say, and what his response was. Such a conversation probably would have distracted from the text, but it brought up questions for me. What if it’s not Peter? I haven’t looked too extensively into this particular issue, but my impression is that the majority of Biblical critics think that 2 Peter, at least, is pseudepigraphic (if there is such an adjective), i.e., it’s author purports to be someone famous but is not. In my denomination, heated protests would immediately flare up at this point. At issue, ultimately, is the authority of this letter, which the label pseudepigraph ipso facto causes to crumble. But does it have to? I would love it if someone who knows would explain to me the following:

1.  If the author was not Peter, what were his intentions in using the apostle’s name? Was he an impostor, pretending to be someone he was not in order to deceitfully lend lend authority to his writing? Could he have been given authorityto speak on Peter’s behalf? Was he writing in the office of Peter?

2.  What did the author’s audience know? Did they think they were getting a letter from the apostle himself? Or did they know the identity of the author and had some sort of understanding about why he was writing under Peter’s name? 1 Peter seems to have a very specific audience–various congregations in Asia Minor. If the letter were written sometime after the death of Peter, then surely they were under no misapprehensions about who was writing to them. 2 Peter, on the other hand, is addressed more generally “to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (NIV). If this letter was meant to be circulated generally, were the recipients intended to think it was from the apostle himself?

Central to all the questions above is the issue of deception, which I think is what makes everyone in my denomination so uncomfortable. But if, however, the author is writing in some sort of accepted tradition, then perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big deal. So, is there any enlightenment out there?

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