@bakeracademic Review: First and Second Peter (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament)

paideia 1 and 2 peter commentary

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The Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament Series is an invaluable contribution to any library and a stand out among the already crowded commentary field. This series is directed, as the name implies, to the educated reader — namely students from MA level to the upper divisions. It is claims to be instructional, and it is; however, it is immensely readable.

This addition to the commentary series is no different. Two well-known scholars, Duane F. Watson (who has written a monograph on Second Peter) and Terrance Callan (author of several books focusing on the Apostle Paul) take up the charge of writing commentaries on First and Second Peter, respectively. Fortunately for us, Baker Academic has not played orthodox police, as they have allowed the authors to fully display their positions. This comes in handy when Callan argues for a rather late date for Second Peter’s composition. Watson, while arguing for an early date for his charge, does, however, relate the full range of dating hypothesis, doing so without condemnation.

This is really a two-in-one book. First Peter covers the first half while Second Peter the latter. Watson begins his introduction with discussing the authorship of his epistle. He concludes, after examining the usual arguments against Petrine authorship, that it was indeed Peter the Apostle. I cannot contend with his conclusion, however, I believe me misses several opportunities to highlight the effective rhetoric strategies in the early Church. For instance, he states two usual factors in scholars declaring against Petrine authority — Peter’s use of literary rhetoric and the use of the Septuagint against the Hebrew. Given the author’s background and extensive bibliography in New Testament Rhetoric, his allowance for anything else than Peter was learned in Greco-Roman rhetoric is just a little mystifying. It is entirely possible that quoting the voice of the opposition in Acts is not really the best source for gauging Peter’s educational level (4). The second point, like unto the first, deals with Peter’s social context. It is doubtful, even for the “Galilean fisherman,” to have preferred the Hebrew to the exclusion the LXX. While there is a cultural milieu of languages, it is doubtful Peter would have, of all the New Testament writers, studied the Hebrew rather than set through countless hours of oral readings of the LXX. This does not take away from Watson’s point of Petrine composition; yet, I wish he would have better given a picture of the Historical Peter.

After the authorship is established, Watson moves to tackle dates, something relatively easy to do since we have a well-established terminus ante quem. From here, Watson is able to begin to build an audience. The place is given (Rome, although Thomas Oden’s “The African Memory of Mark” may give challenge), the recipients are called, and the purpose stated. Genre as well as the structure of the epistle is likewise discussed with a detail walking well between overly burdensome and not enough. Watson ends his introduction with an exploration over various theological thematics drawn from the epistle. Absent in this are the usual mixed of later developed Christian dogma and purely applied moral lessons found in so many commentaries.

Callan’s introduction to Second Peter begins by arguing for the style of the epistle. He finds the label of testament  adequate and suddenly, his purpose in beginning the introduction in such a way begins rather clear. If Callan is correct, and Second Peter is a testament, then it cannot be written by the Apostle, but most likely composed by someone making use of the Petrine symbol. What then of the date? Callan comes closest to my own position, between 100 and 140 (136). He does this by reading Second Peter against itself as well as against the known troubles during this time period. Even Marcion makes an entrance here. Callan’s introduction is one well suited for the upper division, bringing to bear a whole host of intertextual and literary issues.

The commentaries share the same pattern. A section of the epistle is explored, thoroughly, and topped off with a theological exploration of the findings, although the approaches taken by the different authors in these explorations are noticeably different. For instance, Callan’s theological statements are something more surgical, applying to various systems of theology. Given the depth of the introductions, one should expect to find anything less than a well-reasoned approached to reading these epistles. They are written in a clear, concise style with barely the rhetorical flourish. Also found throughout the book, in both sections, are sidebars giving added detail that does not really belong in the body, but nevertheless, belong in the work overall. Added to this is the rather larger bibliography whereby the reader can fill up more of her time in researching these two epistles. In other words, the commentary is written to be measured by hard facts, with theological concerns arriving only after the establishment of the data. The only fault, if it right to call it a fault, is the exclusion of Jude from this commentary, particular given it’s closeness to Second Peter (Baker has placed it along side James).

Over all, if you are looking for a solid commentary that is as both theological and critically engaging for the Petrine Epistles, then buy this one.

(This post may be re-edited at a later date)

Post By Joel Watts (10,045 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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