Even though the authorship, date and destination of the Second Letter of Peter is uncertain and has been seriously questioned and debated, according to Robert Paul Roth, the commentator for the New American Standard Bible, “the Church has traditionally regarded the epistle as of genuine Petrine authorship….There is even the possibility that Peter wrote II Peter before the canonical I Peter. The circumstances of writing reflect a situation in which Gnostic heresies were infecting the Church. This false teaching led to licentious conduct. Only a proper understanding of the wisdom of God in the light of the return of the Lord at the last day would refute these errors.” So, “while I Peter is an epistle of joyful hope in the face of suffering,” II Peter “is an epistle of faithful truth in the face of falsehood.”
The precious promises of God which we see introduced in verse 4 are, we see, promises of inner strength and power and transformation which enable Christians to live an increasingly pure and holy and joyful life in the face of many struggles and temptations, before our Lord returns. Verses 5-8 could really be used as an examination of conscience as a Christian waits in line for his or her turn to partake of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession. One of those promises greets us in verse 10: “…as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” Wow! That is quite a promise!
One of the most beloved of the verses in II Peter 1 is verse 16: “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Or as J.B. Phillips paraphrases it, “We were not following a cleverly written-up story when we told you about the power and eventual coming of our Lord Jesus Christ–we actually saw His majesty with our own eyes.” And Peter goes on to refer his readers to their knowledge of the event of the Transfiguration of the Lord (which we can read about in Matthew 17:1-8).
Another very important verse from this chapter of II Peter is, “…no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…”, something we, today, must be constantly cautious about, with our contemporary philosophy of extreme individualism. We can see that, in our own time, individualistic interpretations of Scripture have led to a multitude of divisions within Christianity itself. The Lord left us with genuine safeguards, to keep His teachings pure. Catholics recognize these safeguards within the Tradition of the one Church which can be traced authoritatively all the way back to St. Peter and to Christ Himself.