Terrance Callan, «The Soteriology of the Second Letter of Peter», Vol. 82 (2001) 549-559
2 Peter presents Jesus as savior in that he purchased his followers from
slavery to corruption and the defilements of the world. Human beings became
slaves of corruption through erroneous thinking and following the desires of the
flesh, i.e. sin. Jesus’ followers have been released from this servitude by their
recognition that Jesus has purchased them from their previous owner and is now
their master. The ethical teaching of 2 Peter is based on continuing in the freedom
from slavery to sin that has come through Jesus. The eschatological teaching of 2
Peter describes the completion of salvation, the culmination of both slavery to sin
and following Jesus.
The Pauline character of the soteriology of 2 Peter is very marked. In view of the author’s claim (in 2 Pet 3,16) that Paul agrees with what the author has said, this is not surprising.
Discussion of the theology of the Second Letter of Peter has focused mainly on its ethics and eschatology1. The following essay proposes that the ethics and eschatology of 2 Peter are best understood in the context of its presentation of Jesus Christ as savior.
The author of 2 Peter explicitly calls Jesus savior four times2 and probably refers to Jesus when he speaks of the savior a fifth time in 3,2. This is the principal role played by Jesus in the letter. It is implicit in the designation of Jesus as Christ, i.e. Messiah3, though there is no indication that the author of 2 Peter is aware of this; he seems to use Christ simply as a name for Jesus.
1. How Jesus Saves
The designation of Jesus as Lord is also related to the presentation of Jesus as savior. This is suggested by the linking of the titles ‘Lord’ and ‘savior’ in several passages4. It is most explicit in 2,1 where the false teachers opposed by 2 Peter are described as to_n a)gora/santa au)tou_j despo/thn a)rnou/menoi. The author of 2 Peter is adapting Jude 4 at this point, specifically the phrase to_n mo/non despo/thn kai_ ku/rion h(mw=n 'Ihsou=n Xristo_n a)rnou/menoi. In Jude it is clear that ‘Master’ is synonymous with ‘Lord’, and both probably refer to Jesus5. The same is probably true for 2 Peter, but the author of 2 Peter has replaced ‘Lord’ and the explicit reference to Jesus with the description of the Master as the one who purchased them. This implies an understanding of how Jesus saves, i.e. by purchasing his followers from those to whom they are enslaved.
This might refer to setting free enslaved persons by purchase, something known both from the Old Testament (cf. Lev 25,47-55) and