The Catholic University of America

Rev. William F. Cleary Defense

Final Examination of Rev. William F. Cleary
For the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology
Friday, November 18, 2011 3:10p.m., Caldwell Room 125



Rev. John Paul Heil, S.S.D.


Knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Pet 1:3-11 and the Canonical Relationship between 1 and 2 Peter

The area most neglected in modern investigation of 2 Peter is perhaps what would appear the most obvious: the relationship of 2 Peter with 1 Peter.  Despite the fact that these two letters share a common attribution to the apostle Peter and that 2 Peter most probably refers explicitly to 1 Peter (2 Pet 3:1), several modern commentators do not regard these texts as substantially related.  The relationship between 1 and 2 Peter, suggested by the letters’ traditional titles and canonical transmission, represents a way forward in the study of 2 Peter and the Catholic Epistles in general.

In order to study the bond between the Petrine letters more closely, I undertake an audience-oriented exegesis of the prooemium of 2 Peter (1:3-11).  This reading concentrates on the reaction of the implied (“ideal”) audience to the opening section of 2 Peter.  I have read 2 Pet 1:3-11 closely with an ear to the echoes of 1 Peter in the words and concepts of the text, such as the implied audience with knowledge of 1 Peter would notice.  The structure and vocabulary of 2 Peter’s salutation resemble the structure and vocabulary of 1 Peter’s salutation (1:1-2).  Second Peter 1:3-4 echoes much of 1 Peter’s teaching on Christ and develops 1 Peter’s teaching on the appropriation of life through knowledge of Christ.  The sequence of virtues in the catalogue (2 Pet 1:5-7) echoes 1 Peter’s exhortation and portrait of Christ.  The use of the terms “firm,” “call,” and “election” in 2 Pet 1:10 echoes the language of construction and Christian identity in 1 Peter (2:4-9).

My exegesis highlights words and themes that demonstrate a substantial connection between 1 and 2 Peter, best explained by a deliberate use of 1 Peter by 2 Peter.  Second Peter summarizes 1 Peter’s teaching about Christ and the Christian identity in a brief fashion, in service of its overarching goal: defense of the faith against those who would vitiate the truth about Christ by their false teaching (2 Peter 2–3). Second Peter 1:3-11 draws on 1 Peter for material in the development of its defining theme: the knowledge of Jesus Christ.