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Neues Testament


Kraus, Thomas J.


Sprache, Stil und historischer Ort des zweiten Petrusbriefes.


Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2001. XVI, 486 S. gr.8 = Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 2. Reihe, 136. Kart. ¬ 69,00. ISBN 3-16-147550-X.


Tord Fornberg

It was with a certain self-centered satisfaction that I read the first line of this new dissertation on 2 Peter: "In seiner Monographie zum zweiten Petrusbrief attestiert Tord Fornberg der neutestamentlichen Exegese großes Desinteresse an den kürzeren unter den katholischen Briefen" followed by a number of additional references to my own thesis in spite of the fact that it is now twenty-five years old. It is certainly correct that 2 Peter has been something of a stepchild in New Testament exegesis, but the fact that only few scholars have devoted much time to elucidate this text does not mean that it lacks interest. In addition to some relatively recent commentaries (especially by Bauckham but also, e.g., by Vögtle and Neyrey), the last few years have seen two doctoral dissertations on 2 Peter from my own country, Sweden, by James Starr (2000) on 2 Peter 1:4 and the expression "partakers of divine nature" and by Anders Gerdmar (2001) on the problematic distinction often made between the concepts "Hellenistic" and "Jewish".

Of course we must be grateful to Thomas Kraus that he has devoted all the time needed to write another monograph on this epistle, and that he has chosen to do so from another angle than the above-mentioned authors. His study is mainly a linguistic one, covering a great number of lingusitic details in the text, certainly making up the most detailed study ever of the very text of the letter.

In chapter 1 (1-26) we find a discussion of the place of the letter in the early church and its way into the Christian canon. Chapter 2 (27-50) takes up various concepts relating to style in an attempt to delineate the scholarly principles behind the dissertation. Chapter 3 (51-279), by far the longest chapter in the book, gives a very detailed discussion of the syntax of 2 Peter, focusing on its use of articles, prepositions, various particles in addition to verb syntax. Chapter 4 (280-310) deals with the creation of words, how nouns have been derived from other words, the use of composite verbs and of words with a-privativum. Chapter 5 (311-364) takes up the vocabulary and focuses on hapax legomena and other infrequent words. Chapter 6 finally (365-414) aims at describing the historical situation of the epistle with conclusions from all the linguistic details given in chapters 1-5. The book ends with an exhaustive and most helpful bibliography followed by a number of indexes.

When I read the book on a tourist trip to Sinai, as may be expected I had no access to a scholarly library, so I have not checked that page numbers and other similar details are correct, but I have not found any reason to doubt the accuracy of the author. He may have misspelled my own name on page 478 and the name of my Doctorvater Lars Hartman on pages 265 and 268, but these mistakes are certainly to be seen as the exceptions that prove the rule that K. has worked carefully, and that the reader can have full confidence in the many details in what K. has written.

This thesis is mainly an impressive collection of material about the language of 2 Peter. The reader finds a tremendous lot of details about every article, particle, preposition etc. that is used in 2 Peter, and the serious student of the Greek language of the Hellenistic-Roman era will certainly find much of interest, not least references to all the standard (and also the not-so- standard) handbooks and articles dealing with Greek grammar. Stating this I have also alluded to the weakness of this dissertation: It contains lots of details, but I have been unable to see the relevance of many of those details. With few exceptions the data given do not lead to any real conclusions, and the final chapter 6 on "Ergebnisse und deren exemplarische Relevanz" would not suffer very much, if we did not have chapters 1-5, i. e. most of what we find in the concluding chapter could probably have been written even if the author had not spent years with all the details about the language used. Not least the chapter about the so-called hapax legomena contains lots of material that the author never really uses for his conclusions. This is not to deny that I find his discussion about how to define the concept of hapax legomenon interesting and well worth reading.

The foot-notes of the book are both numerous and detailed and probably make up almost half of the total text mass. But much of the information provided in these notes seems to be there for the sake of completeness rather than for the sake of real usefulness for the understanding of 2 Peter, its background and its message. The conclusions that we find interspersed in the discussion of various linguistic details often seem to be somewhat self-evident and hardly in need of discussion. It may be true that the use of relative pronouns gives "den Eindruck einer sicheren, bewußten Beherrschung der Grammatik" (230). But that is almost tantamount to stating that the author is good in Greek, certainly his mother's tongue, something that a modern critical scholar hardly is inclined to doubt. In a similar way it seems to be superfluous to state (240) that the use of pronouns helps "zur deutlichen Akzentuierung und Differenzierung der Argumentationsstrategie ..." as well as the statement (297) that "... zeigen die Bildungen epago und pareisago, dass in 2Petr unterschiedliche verba composita von ago gebraucht werden".

The last chapter of the dissertation, the one with the title "Ergebnisse und deren exemplarische Relevanz" is valuable, but not so much as a conclusion of chapters 1-5 (paragraph 6.1 "Kurze Zusammenfassung der Ergebnisse" on pp. 367-368 is very short and vague) but rather as an in-depth discussion of important problems surrounding the epistle, especially a discussion of the literary connections between 2 Peter and other early Christian texts, not least "andere petrinische Pseudepigrapha" and how these texts try to come to grips with the delay of the parousia, a main theme in the epistle. It is a clear desideratum that the author will be given the opportunity to elaborate his last chapter into some articles that will be read and discussed by those many who are interested in this seldom studied late ap-ostolic text but do not have the time needed to read more than 400 pages of densely packed text.