According to the epistle itself, it was written by the apostle Peter, an eyewitness to Jesus' ministry. He criticizes "false teachers" who distort the authentic, apostolic tradition, and predicts judgement for them. He explains that God has delayed the Second Coming so that more people will have the chance to reject evil and find salvation. He calls on Christians to wait patiently for the parousia and to study scripture.
The dating of this epistle has proved very difficult. Commentaries and reference books have placed 2 Peter in almost every decade from 60 to 160AD..
Although 2 Peter internally purports to be a work of the apostle, most biblical scholars have concluded that Peter is not the author, and instead consider the epistle pseudepigraphical. Reasons for this include its linguistic differences from 1 Peter, its apparent use of Jude, possible allusions to second-century gnosticism, encouragement in the wake of a delayed parousia, and weak external support. In addition, specific passages offer further clues in support of pseudepigraphy, namely the author's assumption that his audience is familiar with multiple Pauline epistles his implication that the Apostlic generation has passed and his differentiation between himself and "the apostles of the Lord and Savior" ().
A minority of scholars have disagreed with this position and forwarded reasons in support of genuine Petrine authorship. They argue that the letter did not fit a specific pattern of what they consider pseudepigraphy. The author did not use first person narrative, which Donald Guthrie argues was typical in pseudepigraphy. Certain details in the Transfiguration account differ from the synoptic gospels and that passage lacks embellishment which E. M. B. Green argues was common in apocryphal books. An uncommon title, “our beloved brother,” is given to Paul, where later literature used other titles. The author states that Paul's letters are difficult to understand which Donald Gurthie argues runs counter to the tendency in pseudoepigraphy to enhance the heroic alleged author.
Scholars who accept Petrine authorship have a number of explanations concerning the relation between 2 Peter and Jude. It could be that, conversely, Jude used 2 Peter. Other scholars argue that even if 2 Peter used Jude, that does not exclude Petrine authorship. On remaining points, Ben Witherington III argued that the text we have today is a composite, including points taken from the Epistle of Jude, but that it containing a genuine “Petrine fragment”, which he identified as . Finally, some scholars have advanced the hypothesis that differences in style could be explained by Peter having employed different amanuenses (secretaries) for each epistle, or if Peter wrote the second letter himself, while using Silvanus (Silas) as an amanuensis for the first.
However, the great majority of scholarship agrees that Peter could not have written this letter. For example, textual critic Daniel Wallace writes that, for most experts, "the issue of authorship is already settled, at least negatively: the apostle Peter did not write this letter" and that "the vast bulk of NT scholars adopts this...perspective. Werner Kümmel exemplifies this position, stating, "It is certain, therefore, that II Pet does not originate with Peter, and this is today widely acknowledged., as does Stephen L Harris, who states that "[v]irtually no authorities defend the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter. Evangelical historians D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo wrote that "most modern scholars do not think that the apostle Peter wrote this letter. Indeed, for no other letter in the New Testament is there a greater consensus that the person who is named as the author could not, in fact, be the author.
The questions of authorship and date are closely related. Self-evidently if Peter the Apostle wrote this epistle then it must have been written prior to his death in c 65–67AD. The letter refers to the Pauline epistles and so must post-date them, regardless of authorship, thus a date before 60 is not probable.
Many scholars generally consider the epistle to be written between c 100–150AD and so contend that it is pseudepigraphical. For an argument for a late date see Harris. For a 'middle date' see Bauckham who opts for a date between 80–90AD as most probable. For an early date and (usually) for a defense of the Apostle Peter's authorship see Kruger , Zahn, Spitta, Bigg, and Green. Jeremy Duff argues that the various strands of evidence "point towards the period 60–130 CE, with some reason to favour 80–90 CE.
This epistle presciently declares that it is written shortly before the apostle's death (1:14). Arguments have been made both for and against this being part of the original text, but this debate largely is centred on the acceptance or rejection of supernatural intervention in the life of the writer.
The epistle contains eleven references to the Old Testament. In 3:15, 16 a reference is made to one of Paul's epistles, which some have identified as 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11.
The book also shares a number of shared passages with the Epistle of Jude, e.g. 1:5 with Jude 3; 1:12 with Jude 5; 3:2f with Jude 17f; 3:14 with Jude 24; and 3:18 with Jude 25.
Tartarus is mentioned in 2 Pet 2:4 as devoted to the holding of certain fallen angels. It is elaborated on in Jude 6. Jude 6 however, is a clear reference to the Book of Enoch. Bauckham suggests that 2 Peter 2:4 is partially dependent on Jude 6 but is independently drawing on paraenetic tradition that also lies behind Jude 5-7. The paraenetic traditions are in Sirach 16:7-10, Damascus Document 2:17-3:12, 3 Maccabees 2:4-7, Testament of Naphtali 3:4-5 and Mishna Sanhedrin 10:3.