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.
in error is probably another description of freedom from slavery to corruption. Since the false teachers tempt them with futile speech and an appeal to desire, it seems likely that this is how they originally became slaves to corruption. Since futility is the opposite of knowledge (see Philo, De conf. ling. 141 and esp. 159), it is easy to see how futile speech would lead people into error and thus into slavery to corruption. The causal role of desire is confirmed by 1,4 which refers to the author and readers of 2 Peter as ones who have escaped the corruption in the world by desire. Thus the author of 2 Peter sees enslavement to corruption, not as intrinsic to the human condition, but as due to error, futility and the desires of the flesh30. We can probably see yet another reference to Jesus’ followers’ having escaped slavery in 1,9 which mentions the cleansing of past sins. This suggests that enslavement to corruption derives from sin.
We find a similar constellation of ideas in the letter of Paul to the Romans. In Rom 8,20 Paul says that all creation was subjected to futility by God; in the following verse this futility is equated with slavery to corruption. In saying this Paul refers back to 1,18-32, where he explains how this happened. Although God revealed himself to humans (v. 19), they did not glorify God or give thanks to him, but became futile in their thinking (v. 21) and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image resembling a corruptible human being (v. 23). Therefore God gave them up to the desires of their hearts (v. 24). The desires of their hearts led human beings into the futility of offering the worship proper to God to images of corruptible human beings. When God gave them over to these desires of their hearts, the desires of their hearts made them slaves to corruption. In 5,12 Paul speaks of the same thing as sin.
4. Subjective Appropriation of Salvation
I suggested above that the author of 2 Peter understands Jesus as having purchased his followers from enslavement to corruption by his death, even though the author does not say explicitly that Jesus’ death was the purchase price. However, the author does speak explicitly about the way followers of Jesus appropriate this salvation. In 1,3 the author says that Jesus’ divine power has given them everything pertaining to life and piety through recognition of the one who called them by his own glory and excellence (v. 3), i.e. Jesus31. Jesus has done this by first calling them and then having them answer the call by recognizing him as savior.
The first verse of 2 Peter says that the readers have received faith from Jesus. Faith is a synonym for recognition of Jesus. Specifically, they have received faith equal in honor to that of Peter and others, through the justice of Jesus.
The author presupposes that Jesus’ death has transferred human beings from enslavement to corruption to his own service. However, this transfer does not take effect until it is known to have occurred. Prior to such