A Capital Crime – II Peter Studies

by Ken Emilio

The Book of II Peter is a signed confession to a capital crime.

“Grace and Peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (II Peter 1:2).

It has been held by some modern scholars that the above introduction to the Book of II Peter is just a common salutary greeting that was part and parcel of writing letters during this time. They say this phrase had no significance beyond the surface greeting. Like saying… “Have a nice day”. Indeed many New Testament letters (epistles) do have similar introductions.

However, it is improbable that the Apostles of the New Testament wrote these words of introduction in a cavalier manner. In first century Judea and Rome, being identified as a follower of “The Way” was not something to be taken lightly. Often it meant to be an outcast from ones’ family, friends, religion and society. To be an Apostle of Jesus all too often meant a formal trial, imprisonment and death.

As we read in the Book of Acts, hard evidence of capital crimes in Roman and Jewish courts was not always easy to come by, and the standards for admissible evidence were high. If Peter’s second letter was to fall into the wrong hands and used as evidence, it could spell his death. It is important to remember that it was none other than the Emperor Nero who likely ruled Rome at the time of Peter’s writing. To my way of thinking it is ludicrous to suggest that Peter could write such a letter without intense conviction, knowing full well the possible consequences.

Peter was a man who lived a good portion of his adult life under a death sentence. Jesus told Peter of his death in the Gospel of John 21: 18-19, and Peter confirms this in II Pt 1:14.

Peter must have known that confiscation of this written confession could mean imprisonment not only for him but also for those who were entrusted with his letters. In other words, Peter could be putting fellow believers whom he loved and shepherded at risk. I do not believe this letter was written by a nice warm fire place, with a hot cup of tea, a pipe and comfy slippers!

The thoughtful Bible student might well be reminded of the signers of the United States Declaration of Independence. Each of those brave and noble individuals willingly and openly identified themselves to the authorities of their time as being subversives, thus giving their enemies the hard evidence needed to destroy their fortunes, families and lives.

To discount the courage and emotional strain of writing Peter’s second letter is to be willfully ignorant or emotionally and intellectually bankrupt. Peter faced his personal demons but he also faced the reality of living as an outlaw under severe conditions.

Peter tells us that he was able to live this way by God’s grace and peace through his knowledge of God. Peter writes that he was strengthened by his reliance upon solid evidence, personal experience, fulfilled and verifiable prophecy and being diligent in listening to God’s Word. Peter tells us that we are to do likewise.

Can any of us possibly appreciate what it took to write these words,

“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ?”

I know my hands would be shaking!!


Some Photos Courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs – Canada