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.
Greek literature6. A particular form of this that might underlie 2 Peter is the sacral manumission practiced at Delphi; here Apollo purchased slaves for freedom7. However, two things make it more likely that 2 Pet 2,1 refers to transferring ownership of slaves from one master to another. One is the use of the term ‘Master’ for Jesus; it suggests that Jesus is the new owner of his followers. The other is the verb a)gora/zw, which connotes purchase in the market8. Jesus has purchased his followers from their previous owner, and they have become Jesus’ slaves. Thus the author of 2 Peter refers to himself as slave and apostle of Jesus Christ in 1,19. Like Paul, the author presumes that it is better to be Jesus’ slave than that of any other master10.
2 Peter says nothing about how Jesus made this purchase. The language of purchase is also used in Rev 14,4 without explanation of how the purchase was made, and in 1 Cor 6,20; 7,23, where it is only said that a price was paid. Rev 5,9 says that the purchase price was the blood of Jesus. This may be presumed wherever the language of purchase is used. If so, the author of 2 Peter regards Jesus’ death as the price he paid to transfer his followers from their previous owner to his ownership.
2. From What Jesus Saves
2 Pet 2,1 does not specify the previous owner from whom Jesus purchased his followers. However, 2,19-20 strongly suggests that before being purchased by Jesus, his followers were slaves of corruption and the defilements of the world11. In this passage the author describes the false teachers he opposes as promising freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption (fqora=j). He then explains that someone is enslaved by whatever overcomes that person (v. 19), clearly presuming that the false teachers have been overcome by corruption. The author says this more directly in 2,12. The false teachers are like irrational animals, born for capture and corruption. In the corruption of the animals, the false teachers will also undergo corruption (fqarh/sontai)12. In 2,20 the author says, referring to the false teachers and any who might follow them, that if those who have escaped the defilements (mia/smata) of the