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.
(2,21). The new heavens and earth that the followers of Jesus await will be a world in which justice dwells (3,13). In 1,13 the author describes his behavior as just, and in 2,7-8 he refers to Lot as just. The author seems to see Lot as a type of his readers. Just as Lot was saved from Sodom and Gomorrah when they were destroyed by fire, the readers will be saved when the present heavens and earth are destroyed by fire. Like them, Lot was a just man living among those engaged in licentiousness and lawless deeds.
The most specific information about the virtue to which 2 Peter calls the reader is found in 1,5-7. Here the author first of all urges the readers to be eager to grow in virtue (v. 5). The admonition to eagerness is repeated in 1,10 and 3,14. The author himself manifests this eagerness in 1,15. The author then continues to specify the virtues in which the readers should be eager to grow.
The readers begin with faith (cf. 1,1). By their faith they should add excellence (v. 5). This is a virtue attributed to Jesus in 1,3, and seems to be a general term for the virtue to which the author calls the readers here37. By their excellence the readers should add knowledge (v. 5). This is another indication that the recognition or knowledge of God and Jesus that the readers have in faith must grow. Many see a difference between gnw=sij and e)pi/gnwsij38. However, the parallel between 2,20 and 3,18 suggests that there is little difference in meaning between the two words.
We have already seen that recognition of Jesus is the way that his followers appropriate the salvation Jesus accomplished. The importance of knowledge for the author of 2 Peter is also indicated by his frequent references to it39. In addition, the author speaks of forgetfulness as the opposite of virtue (1,9), and speaks of his purpose as reminding the readers40. He says that the readers are established in the truth (1,12) and calls Christianity the way of truth (2,2).
In 1,6 the author says that by their knowledge the readers should add self-control. Self-control is the opposite of both desire and pursuit of pleasure on the one hand, and greed on the other41. The readers have escaped the corruption in the world by desire (1,4). The Lord will punish those going after the flesh in desire of defilement (2,10), who will appear in the last days (3,2). They use desires of the flesh to entice those who have escaped them (2,18). The false teachers also pursue pleasure (2,13). They are characterized by greed (2,3.14).
Licentiousness is equated with desire in 2,18. The false teachers are also said to be licentious in 2,2. In 2,7 licentiousness characterizes Sodom and Gomorrah. In 2,14 the false teachers are described as having eyes full