A striking feature of 2 Peter 2,10b-22 is the author’s multiple references to similarities and differences between humans and animals. This essay illuminates this aspect of 2 Peter 2,10b-22 by investigating comparison of humans to animals by writers older than, and (roughly) contemporary with, 2 Peter. Comparison of humans to animals is very common in the ancient world. Such comparison can be neutral, positive, or negative. 2 Peter’s comparison of humans with animals is of this last kind. Although 2 Peter’s negative comparison of humans to animals is generally similar to comparisons made by others, the specific ways 2 Peter compares them are unique.
After comparing Matt 12,11-12 with its synoptic parallels (Mark 3,4; Luke 13,15-16; 14,5) and with texts that discuss the treatment of animals on the Sabbath (e.g., CD 11.13-14), the passage is compared with Philonic texts (Spec. 2.89; 4.218; Virt. 81, 133, 139-140, 160; cf. Plutarch, Cato 5.5; Esu carn. 996A; Iamblichus, Vit. Pythag. 30.186; Porphyry, Abst. 3.26.6) in which the Alexandrian discerns a principle informing a law that refers to the treatment of animals, and then suggests that the principle applies by analogy to the treatment of people, illuminating the principle with reference to mercy and similar concepts.