Commentary on 2 Peter / By: LAZARUS CONLEY
2 Peter Chapter 1:
1:1 – Simeon – Greek: Symeon.
Whereas, 1 Peter introduces the author simply as “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ”, 2nd Peter adds Simon, the pre-Christian name of Peter, and a bondservant. God refers to Jesus Christ (as in Titus 2:13). What Peter teaches in this letter is apostolic consensus: like a precious faith with us. He reminds and exhorts his hearers to full Christian belief and virtue.
Servant – (doulos). Peter calls himself servant of Jesus Christ. It’s a title of humiliation, which the greatest of men took as a title of greatest honor. Moses the great leader and lawgiver was the doulos of God (Deut. 34:5; Ps 105:26; Mal 4:4). Joshua the great commander was the doulos of God (Joshua 24:29). David the greatest of the kings was the doulos of God (2 Sam 3:18; Ps 78:70). In the NT Paul is the doulos of Christ (Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1), a title which James (James 1:1) and Jude (Jude 1) both proudly claim. In the OT the prophets are the douloi of God (Amos 3:7; Isa 20:3). In the NT the Christian man frequently is Christ’s doulos (Acts 2:18; 1 Cor 7:22; Eph 6:6; Col 4:12; 2 Tim 2:24).
The Christian is the doulos of God and is possessed by Him. This is to show that the Christian belongs to God and cannot change his allegiance to his master. He as a servant cannot compartmentalize his life in any other way than being for the Master. Constantly in service of God.
“who have obtained a faith” – The great gift is, through God’s impartial benevolence, of no less value when possessed by 2nd-Generation Christians then when possessed by apostolic eyewitnesses.
“[A] faith of equal standing” – Peter assures his reader that they don’t have a 2nd class Christianity that’s inferior to Peter’s and the other apostles (cf. John 20:29).
“[Our] God and Savior Jesus Christ” – Since one definite article governs both nouns in the Greek (lit. the God of us and Savior”), this phrase ascribes deity to Jesus. The theologically significant application of the title “God” (theos) to Christ, although unusual in the NT, is not unparalleled (John 1:1; 20:28; Hebrews 1:8; probably also Titus 2:13; 2 Thess 1:12; Rom 9:5; 1 John 5:20). The title “Savior” (soter), rarely applied to Christ in the NT (this is perhaps because of its common use in
Hellenistic religions and emperor worship), occurs 5x in 2 Peter (1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:2, 18). In each case it’s the 2nd of a pair of titles, the 1st of which is “Lord” (except here in 1:1 obviously).
1:2 – Gnostics, who were infiltrating the Church, taught they had access to a special knowledge, unknown by ordinary people. Peter teaches the true knowledge of God and of Jesus, and it’s in the Church that this knowledge is found.
“Knowledge” is an important theme in 2 Peter (related words are used 11x); here it’s most likely a subtle attack on false teachers and their preoccupation with esoteric knowledge. Peter seems to reserve the particular Greek word used here (epignosis) for the fundamental saving knowledge of God gained in conversion (1:2, 3, 8; 2:20). Knowledge of God and of Jesus are connected because God is known savingly only in and through Jesus Christ (Matt 11:27).
Grace and peace are to come from knowledge, the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord.
He uses epignosis. Epignosis could be used in two ways. One can be in the sense of increasing knowledge. Gnosis or knowledge, is preceded by epi, which means towards, in the direction of. Epignosis then could be interpreted as knowledge which is always moving further in the direction of that which it seeks to know. Grace and peace are multiplied to the Christians as he comes to know Christ better and better. The more Christians realize the meaning of Christ, the more they realize the meaning of grace and the experience of peace.
A 2nd meaning can be full knowledge. That the knowledge of Christ brings the grace men need and the peace their hearts crave.
1:3-4 – God’s benefits are recalled as the basis and motive for the following exhortation. With extreme conciseness we’re told that the totality of religious life is the gift of God’s power to those he calls, their election, that this call is by means of his glorious revelation, and that the acceptance of this call is a form of knowledge of God. This knowledge – usually with Christ as its object – is stressed in 2 Peter: Cf. 1:2, 5-6,8; 2:20; 3:18. In this present section of scripture and elsewhere 2 Peter uses Hellenistic vocabulary and philosophy adapting it to express Orthodox Christian concepts. Peter has borrowed some of these words like “partakers of the divine nature” from Hellenistic philosophic and religious terminology, employing it as an apt expression of the fullness of Christian life. The same basic idea is expressed in different terminology in 1 John 1:3; 3:2, 9; John 15:4; 17:22-23; Rom 8:14-17.
1:3 – Peter assures us we have no need for anything other than what we’ve received. For God’s given us His energy (life) and His personal presence (godliness, or piety/devotion), both of which we may grow in. Virtue (Gr. Arête) may also be translated as “excellence” or “power”. It’s spiritual and moral excellence attained by vigorous and courageous faith.
1:4 – Being renewed by God’s power, we become partakers of the divine nature. This doesn’t mean we become divine by nature. If we participated in God’s essence, the distinction between God and man would be abolished. What this does mean though is that we participate in God’s energy, described by a number of terms in scripture, such as glory, life, love, virtue, and power. We’re to become like God by His grace, and truly His adopted children, but never become God by nature. According to some Church Fathers, this especially occurs during the Eucharist, for when Christ’s Body and Blood become one with ours, we become Christ-bearers and partakers of the divine nature.
The Christian has received the Holy Spirit and are sons of God (John 1:12; Rom 8:9-21). As such they’re being conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29) and the image of God in them is being renewed in true righteousness.
St Cyril of Alexandria: “We that are made worthy to participate in Him [the Holy Spirit] through faith in Christ are brought to perfection as participants of the divine nature, and are said to be born of God, and on that account are given the title gods, not flying up to the glory above us by grace alone, but as already having God indwelling and taking lodging in us, according to what is set forth in the Prophet, ‘I shall dwell among them and walk about in their midst’ (Lv 26:12; 2 Cor 6:16)”.
St. Maximos the Confessor: “God made us so that we might become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ and sharers in His eternity, and so that we might come to be like Him [1 John 3:2] through divinization by grace. It’s through divinization that all things are reconstituted and achieve their permanence; and it’s for its sake that what isn’t is brought into being and given existence” [1st Ce. On Various Texts, Paragraph 42, The Philokalia, the Complete Text, Vol II:173].
“Uncreated light, according to the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas and of the hesychasts in general, is the divinizing gift of the Holy Spirit, “this glory of the divine nature, whereby God has communion with saints”. [“Letter to Athanasios of Cyzicus”, 13, Works, 2, p. 424, in the Deification of Man, 99].
“This light isn’t only visible to man but is participable by him, and participating in it he’s divinized” [Conversation of an Orthodox with a Barlaamite 11, Works 2, p. 173, in Deification, op cit].
“Those who’ve pleased God and reach that for which they came into being, namely theosis (divinization, that is, participation in the uncreated energies, not the essence watch the word ‘deification’ connotes) – for they say it was for this cause that God made us, in order that we be made partakers of His own divinity – even such as these are in God, as they’re divinized by Him and He’s in them since He’s divinizing them. These also participate in the divine energy, though in another manner, but they don’t participate in the essence of God. Wherefore, also, the theologians state that divinity is a name for the divine energy”. [The 150 Chapters. Ch. 105. Pg. 201]
St. Gregory Palamas, paraphrased St. Maximos the Confessor: “Grace accomplishes this mysterious union…God in all fullness comes to dwell in the complete being of those who are worthy of it, and the saints fully dwell with their complete being in the whole God by drawing to themselves the whole God, and not receiving any other reward but God Himself for the ascent accomplished towards Him. He attached Himself to them as the soul’s attached to the body” [Triads I, 27; cf. St. Maximos, Ambigua, P.G. 91:1088BC, 1320B, in A Study of Gregory Palamas, 213.]
Blessed Jerome: “The truth must now be inculcated more in detail, that we aren’t one in the Father and the Son according to nature, but according to grace. For the essence of the human soul and the essence of God aren’t the same”. [Against Jovinianus. Bk. 2 Section 29, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., VI:410].
St. Gregory Palamas: “God lets Himself be seen face to face, and not through enigmas …. He unites Himself to them to the extent of coming to dwell in His entirety in their entireties, so that, on their side, they dwell completely in Him and, through the Son, the Spirit is poured out richly on them [Tit 3:6]… You don’t, however, consider that God lets Himself be seen in His super-essential essence, but according to the divinizing gift and according to His energy, according to the grace of adoption, uncreated divinization, and the direct hypostasized (hypostatized) glory.” [Triads. III, I, 29; cf. Triads. II, 3, 26, 37, in A Study, 213, 214].
“Neither the uncreated goodness, nor the eternal glory, nor the life and all such things are simply the super-essential essence of God; for God, as Cause, transcends them. Nevertheless we say that He’s Life, Goodness, and other such things… As God complete is present in each of the divine energies, each serves as His name”. [Triads II, 2, 7; cf. Triads III, 3, 6, in A Study, 214].
“That which is manifest, that which makes itself accessible to intellection or participation, isn’t a part of God, for God isn’t thus subject to partition for our benefit; complete He manifests Himself and doesn’t manifest Himself, complete He’s conceived and is inconceivable by the intelligence, complete He’s shared and is imparticiple” [On Participation to God, Coisl. 99, fol. 22; cf. “Letter to Damian”, Coisl. 98, fol. 202; A Study, 214]. Hence, “Each power or energy is God Himself” [“Letter to Gabras”, Coisl. 99, fol. 84; cf. Theophanes, P.G. 150:936; Cap.phys. 72, col. 1172A; in A Study, 214.]
“They don’t compose the being of God. It’s He Who gives them their existence, without taking His existence from them; indeed it isn’t the realities which surround God, which are the essence of God, but He’s their essence”. [Triads III, 2, 25, in A Study, 214].
St. Basil: “We say that we know the greatness of God, His power, His wisdom, His goodness, His providence over us, and the justness of His judgment, but not His very essence….The energies are diversified, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His energies, but don’t undertake to approach near to His essence. His energies come down to us, but ?His essence remains beyond our reach…So knowledge of the divine essence involves perception of His invomprehensiblity, and the object of our worship isn’t that of which we comprehend the essence, but of which we comprehend that the essence exists”. [“Letter 234, to Amphilochius,” Paragraph 1, 2, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., VIII:274.] The distinction made between the essence and the energies makes it possible to preserve the true meaning of the Apostle Peter’s words, “partakers of the divine nature”.
“By desire”, “caused by” or “consisting in”. The NKJV renders the phrase “by lust”, as the instrument of corruption; others, “in lust”, as the sphere of the corruption, or as that in which it’s grounded.
Blessed Theophylact: “In order to be delivered from the corruption in the world, which is being carried out by carnal desires, become partakers of the divine nature”. [P.G. 125:385B (col. 1257).]
Clement of Alexandria: “Ner; and to Charidemus, a military commander; and to Simon, an equestrian; and to Per dices, a trader; and to Crobytus, a cook; and to Archelaus, a dancer; and to Homer, a poet; and to Pyrrho, a wrangler; and to Demosthenes, an orator; and to Chrysippus, a dialectician; and to Aristotle, a naturalist; and to Plato, a philosopher: so he who listens to the Lord, and follows the prophecy given by Him, will be formed perfectly in the likeness of the teacher-made a god going about in flesh”.
George Leo Haydock: “Partakers of the divine nature. Divine grace infused into our souls, is said to be a partaking in the divine nature by an union with the spirit of God, whereby men are made his adoptive children, heirs of heaven (Witham)”.
Hippolytus of Rome: “But if thou art desirous of also becoming a god, obey Him that has created thee, and resist not now, in order that, being found faithful in that which is small, you may be enabled to have entrusted to you also that which is great.
wasted by disease. For thou hast become God”
1:5 – George Leo Haydock: “Join with your faith, virtue: think not that faith alone will save you without the practice of virtues and good works. By abstinence or temperance, is understood that virtue which helps to moderate the inordinate love of sensual pleasures, and to govern all disorderly passions and affections. (Witham)”
1:7 – brotherly affection – Greek Philadelphia, the family affection among believers as brothers and sisters in God’s family (Rom 12:10; Heb 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22).
1:5-7 – How do we who know Christ grow In our participation in the divine nature through grace? By the cultivation of a progression of spiritual realities. Love (v.7) is adjoined to brotherly kindness (affection among Christians), for love of God can’t be perfected except through love of one’s neighbor (1 John 4:20).
The rhetorical figure is employed here which in Greek was called a “climax” (cf. Rom 5:3-5; 8:19-30; 10:14-15). Beginning with faith, one virtue provides the basis of the next, til the summit is reached with Christian agape.
1:8 – This knowledge (Gr. Epignosis, as also found in v.1) isn’t primarily mental but spiritual and personal. It’s experienced as we have faith and bear good fruit in the Lord Jesus Christ.
1:9 – Gnostics claimed to know God without becoming godlike. Peter makes it plain this isn’t Christian, for we reach participation with God through the increase of spiritual virtues, not the absence of them. Here, as with all eschatological warnings in the NT, admittance to God’s Kingdom is conditioned by a faith that exhibits perseverance and holiness.
1:8-9 – The significance of these virtues for Christian life is indicated positively in v.8 and negatively in v.9.
1:10 –Make your calling and election sure – God’s choice of the elect is firm and certain in God (2 Tim 2:19). Assurance of God’s call comes through the evidence of the Spirit’s work in our lives (1 John 3:10, 14) as well as through the internal testimony of the Spirit In our hearts (Gal 4:6).
If you practice these qualities – God’s promise of salvation is to those with genuine, preserving faith (Mt 10:22; 24:12, 13; Heb 3:6). True faith perseveres to the end and will bear fruit (Gal 5:6, 22, 23).
This verse sums up the purpose of the epistle: to exhort the readers to firmness in their Christian vocation.
1:11 –The primary truth with which Peter is dealing (which he’s only indirectly touched upon to this point) is the 2nd Coming of Christ and His everlasting Kingdom.
Entrance into the eternal kingdom: Thus is described the eschatological goal of Christian life, the object of Christian hope.
Cf. the similar Gospel expression of “entering into eternal life” (Mt 25:46).
“of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”: This is one of the few NT passages to identify the eschatological kingdom as the kingdom of the Father or of God. This identification was given expression more so in the Creed of the Council of Constantinople (381AD) in the words “of whose kingdom there will be no end”.
Clement of Alexandria: Actions, but to be saved tightly and becomingly.
1:12-15 – Faced with the prospect of death, Peter wishes to leave the readers a perpetual reminder of his teaching. The catechetical theme of remembering or reminding (vv. 12, 13, 15) is important in early Christian instruction (cf. 3:1-2; 1 Cor 11:2, 24; 15:1; Lk 22:19; 24:6; John 2:22; 12:16; Jude 5, 17). This theme results naturally from the early Christian awareness of the importance of the factual reality of the Gospel events and of the need of preserving and handing on intact the “faith” in which these events were enshrined.
1:12 – “in the truth you have”: That is, the deposit of faith, as in v. 1 (cf. Jude 3).
1:13 – People live in a tent when on a journey or at war. As long as we’re in this body, we live in “tents”, which bear witness to the long journey of life and to the ongoing battle against enemy forces of darkness.
Some translate “tent” as “body” like the ESV. This phrase in this tent/body emphasizes the transitory nature of human life this side of Christ’s return (2 Cor 5:1, 4).
“in this body”: Lit. tent. Throughout the bible the Gk word skenoma is otherwise used only in the literal sense. However, non-biblical examples of the figurative application to the human body does occur in later Hellenistic usage (cf. skenos, 2 Cor 5:1, 4).
1:15 – Concern to preserve apostolic teaching for the Church’s future guidance in the written form of a letter seems to reflect the postapostolic age.
It’s likely that St. Peter had in mind the Gospel according to St. Mark, which would’ve put them in remembrance after his decease.
Peter says “after my departure”. Lit. “exodus”. He speaks of his soon to be death.
St. Irenaeus: “We’ve learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel’s come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith …. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, the apostles were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down upon them. They were filled with all His gifts and had perfect knowledge. They departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the good tidings of the good things sent from God to us…Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himselef publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia”. [Against Heresies. Bk. III, Ch. I (1), in Ante-Nicene Fathers, I:414.]
1:16-21 – The great aim of this letter is to recall men to certainty in regard to the 2nd Coming of Christ. Heretics were denying His 2nd Coming. Peter has the right and authority to explain this because he was there at the Transfiguration so he references it. It is clear that the Transfiguration and 2nd Coming are linked. The reason is that the Transfiguration is not just a foretaste of the Lord’s Resurrection but a foretaste of the Lord’s triumphant 2nd Coming.
In anticipation of the problem of the delay of the Lord’s coming (cf. 3:1), Peter presents two motives for accepting this basic Christian teaching.
1:16 – Peter was present at Christ’s transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8 and parallels). The eyewitness testimony of the apostles to the Transfiguration establishes the truth of Peter’s message in general, and in particular provides the historical basis for the apostolic expectation of the 2nd Coming in that the Transfiguration was a glimpse of that future event.
Cleverly devised myths: The apostolic doctrine has nothing in common with the false teachings mentioned in Ch. 2.
Power & coming: The Parousia of the Lord is mentioned here. Much like it is referred to in 1 Thes 2:19; 4:15; 2 Thes 2:1; etc.; Mt 24:3; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12; James 5:7; 1 John 2:28). The “power” may mean Jesus’ present power in the Church (as in v.3) or the power that shall be manifested at the Parousia.
1:17 – Majestic Glory – An indirect way, typical of Jewish speech, of referring to God Himself. The reason was to avoid misuse of the sacred name of God.
[Mt. 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35] “Borne along”, aorist passive participle. Lit., “having been borne along”. The passive sense here (cf. 2 Peter 1:18, 21) is a special case, and is used in particular when something is borne along by winds and waves [cf. Acts 2:2].
1:18 – Hippolytus of Rome: Now the Logos of God controls all these; the first begotten Child of the Father, the voice of the Dawn antecedent to the Morning Star.
1:16-18 – Peter’s been an eyewitness to the majesty of Christ in many ways – and here he reminds us especially that he was one of those present with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8). What Peter’s going to repeat about the 2nd Coming is the common apostolic tradition, which is buttressed by the eyewitness testimony of the apostles. It’s not an elaborate scheme of fables, such as the Gnostics propounded. In all the Gospel accounts, the Transfiguration is a proof and a foretaste of the coming of Christ in glory.
Eyewitnesses of his majesty: This recollection of the transfiguration is to undermine objections to the Parousia by showing, on the testimony of apostolic eyewitnesses, that Jesus already possesses the essential qualities to be manifested at His coming: majesty, honor, and glory from the Father, messianic and divine sonship. Acquaintance with the account of the transfiguration (Mk 9:2-10 par.) is presumed. Although it omits some details, the present account surpasses Mark in its heightened religious tone.
1:19-21 – The testimony of the apostles both confirms prophetic word (v.19) concerning the 2nd Coming and shows us how to interpret prophecy. Just as Scripture (v. 20) wasn’t written by the mere volition of men but by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (v.21), so Scripture is to be interpreted by holy men guided by the Holy Spirit. Heretics (Ch. 2) and unstable Christians (3:16) interpret incorrectly. The apostles (the ‘we’ of v. 19) are guided by the Holy Spirit, trusting in the promise of true interpretation (John 16:13). The Church, founded by the apostles, likewise receives the Holy Spirit. “For the apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her [the Church] most copiously everything which pertains to the truth. And everyone who wishes, draws from her the drink of life. For she’s the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers. This is why it’s surely necessary to avoid them, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth” (St. Irenaeus).
1:19 – we have something more sure, the prophetic word - The prophetic word of Scripture is a more solid proof than even the spectacular experience of witnessing the Transfiguration.
More sure: The sense is a bit ambiguous. Either the transfiguration has confirmed prophetic testimony; or prophetic testimony is more certain than the apostolic witness of the transfiguration; or the comparative is used with elative force: prophetic testimony is very certain and no comparison is being made. In any case, the prophetic word – i.e., the OT Scriptures generally – also testifies to the Parousia.
Until day dawns: Until the Parousia.
In your hearts: The eschatology of 2 Peter seems to have an individual-psychological aspect, as well as the more typically NT cosmic aspect.
The morning star – Might be alluding to Numbers 24:17, a passage that is interpreted messianically (Rev 2:28; 22:16). If so, the symbol could be referring to His 2nd Coming.
St. Bede: “The proclamations of the prophets lend weight to the evangelical and apostolic writing lest it should be doubted by any of its readers, and so thus the Apostle Peter has spoken. Moreover, all the evangelists and apostles were in the habit of mentioning the law and the prophets in what they wrote”. [On the Temple, Bk.2, 20.8, p. 98].
George Leo Haydock: “And we have the surer word of prophecy, or to make our testimonies and preaching of Christ more firm. The revelations of God made to the prophets, and contained in the holy Scriptures, give us of all others the greatest assurance. Though the mysteries in themselves remain obscure and incomprehensible, the motive of our belief is divine authority. (Witham). If our testimony be suspicious, we have what you will certainly allow, the testimony of the prophets: attend then to the prophets as to a lamp that illumines a dark place, till the bright day of a more lively faith begins to illumine you, and the day-star arises in your heart: till this faith, which is like the day-star, give you a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is by the divine oracles you will acquire this knowledge, provided you peruse them with proper dispositions”.
1:20 – The bearing of this obscure verse, in view of the general context and of v.21, seems to be a caution against unauthorized interpretation of the Scriptures, such as that alluded to in 3:16.
George Leo Haydock: “No prophecy of the scripture is made by private interpretation; or, as the Protestants translate it from the Greek, is of any private interpretation, i.e. is not to be expounded by any one's private judgment or private spirit. (Witham). The Scriptures cannot be properly expounded by private spirit or fancy, but by the same spirit wherewith they were written, which is resident in the Church”.
Richard Challoner: “This shews plainly that the scriptures are not to be expounded by any one's private judgment or private spirit, because every part of the holy scriptures were written by men inspired by the Holy Ghost, and declared as such by the Church; therefore they are not to be interpreted but by the Spirit of God, which he hath left, and promised to remain with his Church to guide her in all truth to the end of the world. Some may tell us, that many of our divines interpret the scriptures: they may do so, but they do it always with a submission to the judgment of the Church, and not otherwise”.
1:21 – St. Ambrose: “The Holy Spirit is one, Who energized in the prophets, was breathed upon the apostles….” [Of The Holy Spirit, Bk. 1, Ch. IV, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., X:100]
The Holy Spirit is the source of prophecy, enabling the prophets to speak and write as God’s representatives (2 Tim 3:16; 1 Peter 1:10-12).
Just as the guidance of the Holy Spirit was needed by the prophets, so it is needed in reading their writings. Although Peter doesn’t say where this guidance is to be found, his commendation of apostolic authority in 1:12-18 and the general NT context indicate that this is to be found in the apostolic tradition handed on in the Church.
Hippolytus of Rome: In union with them, and when moved by Him, the prophets announced what God willed. For they spoke not of their own power”.
George Leo Haydock: “For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time. This is to show that they are not to be expounded by any one's private judgment, because every part of the holy Scriptures is delivered to us by the divine spirit of God, wherewith the men were inspired who wrote them; therefore they are not to be interpreted but by the spirit of God, which he left, and promised to his Church to guide her in all truth to the end of the world. Our adversaries may perhaps tell us, that we also interpret prophecies and Scriptures; we do so; but we do it always with a submission to the judgment of the Church, they without it. (Witham)”
2 Peter Chapter 2:
2:1-22 – Chapter 2 resembles Jude 4-13 quite a bit. In each case, evildoers in the community are denounced, threatened with punishment according to OT examples, and their vices are described in extremely harsh, if somewhat vague, terms.
2:1-3 – Peter now reaches his main concern: false teachers who are unholy and communicate heresy. They’re arrogant, sensual, greedy (he deals with them in much the same way as does Jude) but they deny accountability in their lives. Isolating themselves from apostolic doctrine concerning Christ, they hold their own “private interpretations”, misconstruing doctrines about the 2nd Coming and the ultimate authority of Christ over us. But as deceivers, they teach as though they possess true apostolicity.
Although these verses as well as 3:3, apparently expresss the prophetic foresight of a future situation, the descriptions in vv.10-22 and in 3:5 indicate that the situation being described is already present. (already not yet seems to be going on here).
2:4-10 – God’s past judgements indicate what awaits the heretics: He’ll divide the holy from the unholy in the life to come. We already have that example of the angels who sinned (v. 4), imprisoned in the lowest part of hell (Gr. Tartarus) while awaiting the final judgement. Verse 10 repeats the main 2 sins of heretics: 1) immorality, 2) disdain for authority, especially that of Christ.
Noah is a preacher of righteousness (v.5), in part because by doing righteous deeds he showed to all who saw him how life ought to be lived (Heb 11:7).
2:12-17 - False teachers are condemned for both their words and their actions. Those who are natural can’t understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14) and will be destroyed, as false prophets have been in the past. For the story of Balaam (v 15), see Num 22:1 – 25:9; 31:8, 16; Dt 23:4, 5; Joshua 13:22; Jude 11.
2:1 – Talks a lot about false teachers here. In the Didache Chapter 2 (100 AD), an Early Church catechism of sorts, it calls false prophets out.
“Introduce privily”. This verb literally means “to bring in by the side,” as if secretly. The verbal adjective of this word is used by St. Paul also [cf. Gal 2:4]. “Heresies of destruction”, descriptive genitive.
Among the people: The Israelites. False prophets: see Jer. 28. Just as there will be: The experiences of the Israelites typify those of the Christians; cf. 1 Cor 10:1-11 and Jesus’ prediction of “false prophets” before the end (Mt 24:11).
Denying the Master: Christ. The denial seems to include both false doctrines and immoral practices.
Who bought them: A clear reference to the redemption.
George Leo Haydock: “Lying teachers among you, some of which were already come, and many more were to follow, who shall bring in sects, (heresies) leading to perdition, and deny the Lord who bought them, denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; such were the disciples of Simon, and many after them. (Witham)
Sects of perdition; that is, heresies destructive of salvation. (Challoner)”
Hippolytus of Rome: “And there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies."
Tertullian of Carthage: Neither ought their existence to surprise us, for it was foretold that they should come to pass;
2:2 – sensuality – Incorrigible and reckless sensual indulgences, especially sexual immorality (1 Peter 4:3).
Blasphemed – Immoral behavior by those who claim to be Christians.
Many will follow: As in Mt 24:11 (also vv. 5, 10, 24) – but not in Jude – the false teachers will succeed in leading others astray.
George Leo Haydock: “Many shall follow their luxuries, or lasciviousness, such as are related of the Nicolaites and Gnostics, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be blasphemed, or ill spoken of, by those who made no distinction betwixt true and false Christians. (Witham)”
2:3 – from of old: In the exemplary condemnations about to be cited from the OT.
George Leo Haydock: “They shall make merchandise of you, preaching such lying doctrine as might please the people, but through a motive of covetousness, and for their own gain. (Witham)”
2:4-9 – If compared to Jude, 2 Peter omits the examples of the rebellious Israelites (Jude 5), of Cain and of Korah (Jude 11); inserts Noah and Lot as examples of divine mercy (2:5, 7); agrees with Jude in citing the examples of the fallen anges (2 Peter 3:4; Jude 6), Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Peter 3:6; Jude 7), and Balaam (2 Peter 3:15-16; Jude 11); and has a generalized form of Jude’s Michael-Satan example (2 Peter 2:10-11; Jude 8-10).
The style of 2 Peter is more uniform in this section, and the sequence of OT events is more chronological than in Jude.
2:4 – angels when they sinned: See the details of the angels’ offenses in Jude 6. Jude 6 refers to the “sons of God” who took to wife the daughters of men (Gen 6:1-4). This seems very implied in Jude 7 because the Sodomites sinned “in a similar manner” to the angels. Furthermore, Enoch (quoted in Jude 14-15) gives great emphasis to this sin of the angels and to its punishment in terms very similar to those used here by Jude (cf. Enoch 6-16; esp. 10:4-6, 11, 13; 12:4; 15:3; 19:1). In 2 Peter 2:4-6, where the fall of the angels occurs along with that of the Sodomites, the imprisoned angels awaiting judgement in 2 Peter and Jude are identified by some to be with the “spirits in prison” of 1 Peter 3:19.
“But cast them into Tartarus and delivered them to judgement with cords of darkness” “of darkness which have been kept for them”. Tartarus was thought by the Greeks to be a subterranean place that was lower than Hades where divine punishment was meted out. It was so regarded by the Jews also [cf. Job 41:24 LXX; Enoch 20:2; Philo, Exs. 152; Josephus, C.Ap 2, 240].
St. Hippolytos: “Tartarus is situated in a doleful and dark locality and is not touched by a ray of light”. [On Proverbs, Fragments, in Ante-Nicene, V:174.]
St. Bede: “He shows that the punishment of the final judgment is still due the apostate angels. Concerning it the Lord says, ‘Go from Me, ye who have been cursed, into the fire, the everlasting one, which hath been prepared for the devil and his angels [Mt 25:41]’, although by way of punishment they’ve already received this lower world, that is, this lower dark atmosphere, as a prison. For insofar as the lower world can be said to be space (comparable) to the height of the sky of the present atmosphere, so also to this extent can be said of the lower world and its depth which lies beneath be understood as land (comparible) in deepness to the same atmosphere. Yet he calls this boasting of pride by which the angelic spirit became puffed up against its Creator the lines of the lower world; in truth, when the breeze blows, the ropes by which sailors raise their sails that they may leave the calmness of the harbor and entrust themselves to the ever uncertain waves of the sea are said to be lines. The attempts of the unclean spirits are fittingly compared to these lines. As soon as they were driven by the blast of pride and raised themselves up against their Creator, they were snatched by these very attempts at loftiness into the depths of the abyss.” [Commentary on 2 Peter, 136, 137.]
George Leo Haydock: “If God spared not the Angels St. Peter here brings these examples of God's justice. 1. Towards the rebellious angels that fell from heaven; 2. that of the general flood, or deluge; 3. when he destroyed Sodom and those other cities. First, angels that sinned, God by his justice delivered them, drawn down with infernal ropes into hell to be tormented, and to be reserved even for greater torments after the day of judgment. This seems to be the liberal sense of this fourth verse, which is obscure, and has divers reading in the Greek. In the examples of the deluge and of Sodom, St. Peter shows not only the severity of God's judgments upon the wicked, but also his merciful providence towards the small number of the just, as towards Noe, a preacher of justice, the eighth and chief of those who were preserved in the ark, when he spared not the world that was of old, (literally, the original world) or wicked of those ancient times. When he delivered that just man, Lot, at the time he reduced Sodom and those other cities to ashes: for Lot was just both in sight and hearing, without being corrupted by what he saw and heard; chaste as to his eyes and ears, or as to all that could be seen or heard of him, when the wicked among whom he lived vexed and grieved his just soul by their impious deeds. God, therefore, who knows and approves the ways of the godly, preserves them by his providence amidst temptations. (Witham)”
Hippolytus of Rome: “Fire of judgment, and the rayless scenery of gloomy Tartarus. Wherefore, in order to teach us this, he uses the examples of Sheol (Hades), and the love of women, and hell.
Lactantius: Of truth. But they fear the righteous,
2:5 – [Gen. 7]
Noah with 7 others: Cf. 1 Peter 3:20.
Herald of righteousness: Gen 8:9 calls Noah “righteous”; later Jewish tradition portrays Noah as preaching repentance to his contemporaries (cf. Josephus, Ant. 1.3, I Section 74; Jub 7:20-39).
St. Clement of Alexandria: “Before the law, Adam spoke prophetically in respect to the woman, and the naming of the creatures; Noah preached repentance”
St. Clement of Rome: “Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved…
…every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved.”
2:6 – [Gen. 19:24]
Sodom and Gomorrah: As in the case of the angels in Jude 7, it gives details of the sin of the “cities of the plain”. Sodom’s an outstanding example of sinfulness and its divine punishment in the Apocrypha. The triad of the sinful angels (v.4), the flood (v.5), and Sodom (v.6) occur also in T. Naphtali 3:4-5; 3 Maccabees 2:5 (the “giants”, the flood, and Sodom).
Clement of Rome: “On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sod ore when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture”.
Tertullian of Carthage: Of Abraham, proves that it was for the merits of righteousness, without observance of the law, that he was freed from the conflagration of the Sodomites.
2:7 – [Gen. 19:29]
2:7-8 – Lot’s righteousness is stressed by a 3-fold repetition, an emphasis lacking in the OT accounts (Gen 13 and 19). Later Jewish tradition generally regarded Lot in an unfavorable light, especially because of Genesis 19:30-38. However, there should be noted that there was a strand of rabbinic exegesis that does exalt Lot, which agrees with Wisdom 10:6; cf. 1 Clement 11:1.
2:9 – The conclusions to be drawn from the previous examples are now stated in general terms.
For punishment: In accord with the eschatological emphasis of 2 Peter, the ambiguous present participle, kolazomenous is better taken as a future tense: The unrighteousness are being kept for punishment on judgment day; rather than as a present tense: They’re being kept under punishment for judgement day.
Clement of Rome: “For if we renounce these indulgences and conquer the soul by not fulfilling its wicked desires, we shall be partakers of the mercy of Jesus”.
George Leo Haydock: “To reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment That is, God many times does not punish the wicked in this life, he suffers them to run on in the ways of iniquity, with prosperity as to the enjoyment of a short and vain happiness in this world, but his judgments are most of all to be dreaded, when the punishments are reserved till the next life, as it will appear at the day of general judgment: and from the time of their death they shall be tormented in hell. (Witham)”
2:10 – Cf. Jude 7, 8, 16, 18.
Indulge in the lust of defiling passion: The immorality of the false teachers is described in terms of sexual aberration in 2:2, 10, 13, 14, 18.
Reject the Lord: Lit., “the lordship” (kyriotes); cf. 2:1, “denying the Master”. Others translate it as “despising authority”. I don’t think it is authority but some commentators believe if it is that then it is the existing Roman Empire.
The glorious ones: Whereas in Jude 8 this expression seems to refer to good angels, the comparison with “angels” in 2:11 implies that in 2:10 they’re fallen angels (perhaps to be identified with those in 2:4). According to Reicke, they can be the “dignitaries” of the state.
George Leo Haydock: “Especially those who walk after the flesh Such were the Gnostics, and divers of the first heretics, as well as many of them in after ages, who despise authority, contemn the laws, both of church and state; self-willed, full of self-love, lovers of their own infamous pleasures; blaspheming against God, his ministers, and against those who serve God. (Witham)”
2:11 – Although the incident in Jude 9 has been generalized, the argument proceeds a fortiori there too. Background for this verse may be found in Enoch 9.
Cyprian of Carthage: “Of this same thing in the Epistle of Peter: "As strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; but having a good conversation among the Gentiles, that while they detract from you as if from evildoers, yet, beholding your good works, they may magnify God."
George Leo Haydock: “Whereas angels By comparing this place with what we read in St. Jude, (ver. 9) he speaks of the good angels whom God employed to banish the rebellious angels out of heaven, and on other occasions, who, though they had greater strength and power given them by the Almighty, yet did not bear execrable judgment against themselves; i.e. one against another, or against those who at first had been happy spirits with them in heaven; did not exult over them with injuries and reviling reflections, but executed their commands in the name of God, saying, let the Lord command you. See Jude, ver. 9. (Witham). Bring not an execrable judgment That is, they use no railing, nor cursing sentence; not even in their conflicts with the evil angels. (Challoner)”.
2:12 – “But these – as irrational animals, in accordance with nature.”
St. Bede: “As it’s natural for irrational animals for the sake of food to fall through ignorance into capture, so the heretics,… in order to indulge their corrupt appetite”. [Commentary on 2 Peter, 141.]
May be an expanded form of Jude 10, with a change of emphasis and loss of clarity.
George Leo Haydock: “But these men These infamous heretics of whom he speaks, like brutes, void of reason, naturally following the disorderly inclinations of their nature corrupted by sin, tend, or run headlong into the snares of the devil, to their own destruction and perdition, blaspheming against the mysteries of religion, and against what they do not understand. (Witham)”
2:13 –revel in the daytime: Their scandalous conduct isn’t limited to nighttime revelry.
In their dissipation: Jude 12 has agapais (love feasts) where 2 Peter has apatais (empty deceits, dissipation). This change may indicate that 2 Peter doesn’t wish to state that false teachers continued to participate in the community agape. Some manuscripts in 2 Peter read agapais instead of apatais, probably a later scribal connection based on Jude 12 but inconclusive.
George Leo Haydock: “Counting the delights of the day to be pleasure; such is their impiety and their folly, that they have no regard to all the punishments they make themselves liable to, if they can but pass their days in this short life, or even one day, in shameful pleasures and delights. They may be called the stains and blemishes, the shame and disgrace of mankind, on account of the abominations they practise in their rioting and banquetings. See what St. Epiphanius relates of Gnostics. (Witham). Delights; that is, the short delights of this world, in which they place all their happiness. (Challoner)”.
2:14 – “Having eyes full of an adulteress” “and of incessant sin”, “enticing unstable souls”.
St. Bede: “Prostitutes are accustomed to be called seducers….Therefore they seduce inconstant souls who, by teaching them wrongly, subject them to erroneous sects of various teachings as if to the debaucheries of ravishers”. [Commentary on 2 Peter, 143]
Entice unsteady souls: This idea is developed below in 2:18-19.
Accursed children (RSV): A Hebraism (lit. “children of curse” or “they’re accursed”)
George Leo Haydock: “And what is still an aggravation to the weight of their sins, they entice and allure others, unstable souls, not sufficiently grounded in faith and virtue, by promising them liberty and happiness, though they themselves be miserable slaves to their passions. At the same time they make dupes of them out of covetousness, to get a share of their money and riches. (Witham)”.
2:15 – George Leo Haydock: “In this they are like Balaam, of Bosor, (a town of the Madianites) who coveting the reward promised him, (Judges xi.) was willing, if God had permitted him, to have cursed the people of Israel: but God put a check to his madness, by making the ass which he rode upon speak with a human voice. (Witham)”.
2:16 – [Num. 22:28]
Cyprian of Carthage: “Nor is it difficult for God to open the mouth of a man devoted to Himself, and to inspire constancy and confidence in speech to His confessor; since in the book of Numbers He made even a she-ass to speak against the prophet Balaam”.
2:15-16 – The comparison with Balaam (Jude 11) is here considerably expanded, probably for the sake of emphasis. Although the OT data on Balaam (Numbers 22-24 and 31) doesn’t emphasize his covetousness, later Jewish tradition, reflected in 2 Peter and Jude, did so.
2:17 – An abbreviated and somewhat modified form of Jude 12-13. Since the final phrase about the nether darkness is more appropriate in Jude, this is one of the many indications of dependence of 2 Peter on Jude.
Waterless springs – Like the dry well that only disappoints the thirsty (Jer 14:3), the false teachers can only deceive and disappoint.
Mists driven by a storm – Like hazy clouds that provide no refreshing rain (Jude 12), the false teaching can’t provide spiritual sustenance.
George Leo Haydock: “These are fountains without water. The like lively description is given of the manners of these heretics by St. Jude, so that the text of one of these apostles helps to expound the other. (Witham)”
2:18 – New converts or those not yet well grounded in faith who fall prey to the false teachers.
The influence of the false teachers seems to have at some level succeeded in corrupting some recent converts (cf. 2:2, 14).
Those who live in error: Contemporary pagans, among whom these converts were formerly numbered.
2:19 – A common misunderstanding of liberty or freedom is to see it as standing apart from all moral restraints, to say there’s no such thing as sin. But this results in slavery of the worst kind, bondage to egotistical and sensual passions. True Christian freedom begins with freedom from sin, freedom from immoral activity. A Christian is called to live in purity in an impure world.
They promise them freedom… slaves of corruption – The quest from freedom from God leads only to bondage to sin and self. False teachers entice others to a libertinism that’s a parody of true Christian freedom (cf. 1 Peter 2:16).
They’re slaves: That sin constitutes slavery is stated also in Rom 6:16 and John 8:34.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons: “For as the serpent beguiled Eve, by promising her what he had not himself”
2:20-22 – Grammatically the subject of these verses could be the ones enticed and promised freedom (2:18-19); the context indicates rather that the false teachers are the subject.
2:20 – through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: see 1:1. This description of conversion as knowledge implies a personal experience of Christ as Lord (with its counterpart of self-awareness of subjection) and as Savior (with the corresponding awareness of a personal need of salvation).
The last state has become worse for them than the 1st: The identical wording of Mt 12:45. The parable of the unclean spirit returning to its former abode with 7 other spirits suits the present context. [Cf. Mt 12:45]
George Leo Haydock: “For if flying, and been happily freed from the pollutions, the abominations, and corruptions of a wicked world, be upon your guard, and take great care not to be entangled again in these dangerous snares and nets, lest your latter condition (as Christ said, Matthew xii. 45.) be worse than the former, lest you be like a dog that returns to his vomit, or like a sow that is washed and wallows again in the mire. (Witham)”.
2:21 – better…never to have known the way of righteousness – Deliberate rejection of the truth increases one’s responsibility before God (Lk 12:47, 48).
The way of righteousness…the holy commandment: Because of the false emphasis on libertinism, Christian faith is described in terms of moral conduct (cf. also 3:2).
Delivered to them: This expression is used in Jude 3 of the deposit of faith in the Church.
2:22 – The denunciation of the false teachers reaches a climax in this comparison with dogs and swine, a comparison that in biblical times constituted a superlative expression of odium and contempt. The proverb of the dog is found in Proverbs 26:11, applied to the fool who repeats his folly.
The dog … the sow – Jews in this time despised dogs (Ex 22:31; Proverbs 26:11; Rev 22:15). Swine were avoided as unclean (Lev 11:7; Is 65:4). Peter’s point is that mere religious profession or even outward change doesn’t change a person’s heart. The apostasy of the false teachers reveals their true nature.
[Cf. Prov. 26:11]
St. Symeon: “Fiery lust, the desire for marriage, sexual union, voluptuousness, gluttony, excessive sleep, idleness, pretentiousness in dress, and all the other things that, as most people think, the body seeks for – it’s not the body as such, since it doesn’t seek them when it’s dead, but the soul that through the body seeks pleasure by their means. Since it once mingled itself with clay and found pleasure in wallowing in mud like a pig, so to speak, it’s eager for the flesh with which it’s mingled. Let no one think that he’s being driven to these things and compelled by his own body…. Now God formed man of the dust of the earth,… and the man became a living soul [Gen 2:7]. So he arose from the ground and walked. Clearly it was the spirit that was in him that moved him, that is, his body, as its master with authority over it. But fiery lust and movement, or irrational madness and desire, as yet didn’t at all exist, but in him was life without internal discord and his existence knew no pain. He wasn’t moved to lust for sexual union or to gluttony….It was after they’d sinned and transgressed and had been expelled from Paradise, despoiled of God and fallen from His divine glory, that, ‘Adam knew his Eve his wide, and she conceived and brought forth [Gen 4:1]’. Accordingly, if you love God genuinely and you also persevere in His love, you’ll never be dominated by any passion, nor will you be reduced to subjection by any necessity of the body. For since the body can’t be moved to anything apart from the soul, so the soul that’s united to God by love can’t be led astray to the pleasures and cravings of the body, nor indeed to any other desires of anything visible or invisible, whether desire or passion” [The Discourses, Ch. XXV. Sections 3, 4, p. 269, 270].
Hippolytus of Rome: “For a short period, but after a little, wallow once again in the same mire”.
Lactantius: The Cyrenaics say that virtue itself is to be praised on this account, because it is productive of pleasure. True, says the filthy dog, or the swine wallowing in the mire. The forbidding of the flesh of swine also has the same intention; for when God commanded them to abstain from this, He willed that this should be especially understood, that they should abstain from sins and impurities. For this animal is filthy and unclean. Therefore He forbade them to use the flesh of the pig for food, that is, not to imitate the life of swine, which are nourished only for death; lest, by devoting themselves to their appetite and pleasures, they should be useless for working righteousness, and should be visited with death. Also that they should not immerse themselves in foul lusts, as the sow, which wallows in the mire.
2 Peter Chapter 3:
3:1-16 – The teaching on the Lord’s Parousia, referred to in 1:16-19, is now defended against the scoffing of the false teachers.
3:4-7 – Where is God? These people are asking. They also keep arguing the universe is stable so convulsive upheavels like the 2nd Coming won’t happen in such a universe. So Peter responds to this showing that we must see time as God sees it and that this is not a stable universe, that it was once destroyed by water in the time of the Flood and that a 2nd destruction awaits and is on the way, by fire. He is going to descend but is hastening the day, Peter argues, to allow repentance and to call us into living holy as we should be, as we prepare to meet our God. The universe is not argued by Peter to be eternally stable at all. He argues otherwise. So does Jude. If we read Enoch 83:3-5 we see “I saw a vision how the earth was swallowed up in great abyss”. At the heart of this, whether you accept Enoch or not, is that Peter and Jude both clearly see that God will be changing the universe and the sinner will have to face the wrath of God. The destruction to come, it must be noted, will not be annihilation but rather ushers in the New Creation, the New Heavens and New Earth.
3:1 – 2nd letter: A reference to 1 Peter. By way of reminder: See comments on 1:12-15.
3:2 – The wording is influenced by Jude 17, but to the apostolic testimony cited in Jude is added that of the OT prophets. Thus the role of apostles in the NT is comparable to that of prophets in the OT. Their role is further specified as that of communicating the “commandment” of Christ to the Church. The expression seems to envision a collegiate relationship of the apostles, as a body, to the Church rather than the relation of individual apostles to the respective churches founded by them.
Commandment of the Lord: Cf. 2:21. This way of referring to the Christian faith probably represents a stage in the increasing tendency to represent Christianity as law.
3:3 – Seemingly a slight modification of Jude 18.
the last days – the entire period between the 1st and 2nd comings of Jesus (Acts 2:17; Heb 1:2).
Clement of Rome: “Far from us be that which is written, ‘Wretched are they who are of a double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say, These things we have heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old, and none of them has happened unto us’.” “Far from us be that which is written, ‘Wretched are they who are of a double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say, These things we have heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old, and none of them has happened unto us; "
Hippolytus of Rome: First of all Peter, the rock of the faith, whom Christ our God called blessed, the teacher of the Church, the first disciple, he who has the keys of the kingdom, has instructed us to this effect: "Know this first, children, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts”.
3:4 – “It’s clear to all who love His coming that the mind must be controlled rather moderately in this conjecture. We must surmise nether that the aforesaid day of the Lord is near and will come quite quickly, nor again that it’s coming too slowly. But we should be diligent in seeing to this alone: that whether it comes sooner or later, it may find us ready when it does come” -St. Bede-
The promise of his coming – From the delay in Christ’s return, many concluded He’ll never return to judge them. This is not the case though. He will judge them. These scoffers of the end time ridicule the promise of the Parousia. Since, however, neither the OT nor the NT predictions contain this detail of “promise”, the impression is given of a somewhat infelicitous adaptation of Jude by 2 Peter.
Where is the promise of His Coming? : It is apparent that there was a widespread impression in the Early Church that the Parousia would occur within the lifetime of some of those who’d seen Christ. Such was seen from sayings of Christ like Matthew 10:23 and Mark 9:1, 13:30 for example which may by some have been taken this way.
Ever since the fathers fell asleep: Some take this to mean the end of the apostolic generation. This expression is an indication to some for a postapostolic date for the composition of 2 Peter. I personally disagree with that but you can find a similar expression that there is some disillusion at the delay of the Parousia that you can find in 1 Clement 23:3 (cf. 2 Clement 11:2 as well).
From the beginning of Creation: According to the scoffers, the past unchanging nature of the world would rule out such future cosmic changes as were associated with the Parousia.
3:5-7 – The scoffers’ assertion in v.4 is refuted by the cosmic destruction by water in the past, which parallels the future cosmic destruction by fire.
3:5 – Due to obscure syntax, it’s uncertain whether or not Peter is asserting that the heacens (as well as the earth) were formed out of water and amid water. The cosmogony is that of Genesis 1:1-2, 6-10.
By the word of God: In Gen 1 God creates by His word.
3:6 – through which: Since the pronoun is plural (di’ hon), this probably refers to the two sources of the flood waters, those above and those beneath (see Gen 7:11; 8:2).
3:5-6 – Against false teachers, Peter cites Creation and the Flood as prime examples of God’s intimate involvement and intervention in history.
3:7 – by the same word – The same divine word that created the world and brought judgement at the Flood. The argument proceeds a pari: Because the same word of God that caused creation and the flood has also foretold the coming cosmic events, the later are as certain as the former.
Stored up for fire - Sodom and Gomorrah serve as paradigms of final fiery judgement (2:6) for Peter. Although this picture of a universal inferno at the last judgment is unique to Peter, the idea of divine judgement by fire is common in the OT (Deut 32:2; Is 66:15, 16; Mal 4:1) and is found in the NT as well (Mt 3:12; 1 Cor 3:13; 2 Thess 1:7, 8).
See comments on 3:10.
Justin Martyr: “Then further concerning Him, that He alone is powerful, both to institute judgment on the deeds performed in life, and on the ignorance of the Deity”.
3:8 – Peter’s point is to assert God is sovereign over time and that His perspective on time differs radically from ours.
A thousand years as one day: By thus inverting the quotation from Ps 89:4 (cited in the 1st part of the verse), the argument from God’s mysterious transcendence has been made more applicable to the problem of the delay of the Parousia. [Ps. 89(90):4 LXX]
Beloved: The delay of the Parousia is a problem also for the faithful.
Justin Martyr: “For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, `The day of the Lord is as a thousand years”
Lactantius: “For the great day of God is limited by a circle of a thousand years, as the prophet shows..”
3:9 – forbearing toward you: The forbearance (makrothymia) of God, a characteristic attributed to him from Ex 34:6 and onward in the OT, and given a heightened expression in the NT, is seen as the answer to the contemporary problem of the Parousia. The delay is due to the universal salvific will of God (see 3:15; Rom 11:32; 1 Tim 2:4).
These words aren’t just for false teachers but for us all. We’re granted more time primarily to grant us fuller repentance. (See 3:15; 2 Cor 7:9, 10). The delay of Divine Judgement is a sign of God’s forbearance and mercy toward them, particularly toward the believers in their midst who’ve been confused and misled by the false teachers. Repentance is in view for the sake of which God delays judgement.
Clement of Rome: For it is indeed a great and admirable thing to establish, not the things which are standing, but these that are falling. Thus also did Christ desire
Ignatius of Antioch: But may those that dishonored them be forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ, "who wishes not the death of the sinner, but his repentance."
3:10 – day of the Lord – The time of divine intervention and judgment (Is 13:9-13; Joel 1:15; 3:14; 1 Thess 5:2;, synonymous with the 2nd Coming (v.12). Like a thief – Jesus used this metaphor to convey how unexpected the event would be (Lk 12: 39, 40).
The Jews saw time in terms of two ages. This present age which is bad and not going to be remedied and the age to come, the golden age of God.
Will come like a thief: This statement is almost identical with 1 Thess 5:2. This simile of the suddenness of the coming of judgment day, which is also found in Revelation 3:3 and 16:15, doubtless goes back to the saying of Jesus in Mt 24:43.
Heavens will pass away: The expression may depend on Mt 24:35.
With a mighty whish: The Greek roizedon is onomatopoetic.
The heavens … with a roar – This language is reminiscent of the OT and of Jesus Himself (Is 34:4; 64:1-4; Mt 24:29-31).
Greek: Stoicheia, a term used for (a) the elements making up the world (according to philosophers these were earth, air, fire, and water); (b) heavenly bodies like the sun, moon, and stars; (c) angelic beings with power over nature. Most interpreters favor b and c combined.
The elements: Since these are distinguished from the heavens and the earth, they may signify heavenly bodies, perhaps including the angelic powers connected with them.
The earth and the works that are upon it will be found: This obscure expression is textually the better reading than such variants as “will be burned up”, “will disappear”, “will not be found”. The meaning of “will be found” may be “will be laid bare”. Although the image of fire is often mentioned in the OT and the NT in connection with the Day of the Lord, 2 Peter 3:7-13 is the only scriptural passage that asserts a final conflagration by which the universe will be destroyed on that day. The idea of a final conflagration was, however, widespread at the time of the composition of 2 Peter.
Originating in Persia, the idea spread to the Greco-Roman world and into Jewish apocalyptic, whence it influenced Christian thought as well. As in the Genesis accounts of the creation and the flood, contemporary Oriental myths were exploited to give expression to the sovereignty of God and to the unfolding of salvation history; so here the fundamental Christian (and Jewish) teaching of the coming Day of the Lord is expressed in the popular imagery of the times.
Will be exposed – Or “found” The Greek text is disputed. Some manuscripts say “will be burned up”, which may signify a catastrophic judgement of the universe.
St. Symeon the New Theologian: “Just as the created world was 1st brought into existence as incorrupt, and then later, man, so again it is creation which must 1st be transformed from corruption into incorruption, changed, and then, together with it and at the same time, the corrupted bodies of men shall be renewed, such that, he himself shall become at once spiritual and immortal, and shall have an incorrupt, and spiritual, and everlasting country in which to make his home. Here the apostle says, ‘But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a rushing sound, and the elements, being burned with intense heat, shall be dissolved; and earth and the works in it shal be burned completely’. He doesn’t mean that the heavens and the elements will be destroyed, but rather, re-forged and transmuted into a greater and everlasting condition. Where do we know this from? ‘According to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth’ [2 Peter 3:13]. Whose promise is this? Certainly it’s the promise of Christ our God. He said, ‘The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but My words in no wise shall pass away’ [Mt 24:35]. By ‘passing away’ He means ‘change’…. The heaven and eath and all that’s within them - that is, all of creation – shall be made anew and liberated the bondage of decay. The elements themselves shall share with us in that incandescence from above, and in the same way that wer shall be tried by fire, so, according to the apostle, shall all creation be renewed through fire....How then are all things to be dissolved? In just the way that a copper vessel, when it’s grown old and become quite spoiled and useless on account of rust, is taken by the craftsman and put in the fire to be re-forged by hum and formed again as new, so also in the same way creation, after having grown old and been spoiled by our sins, shall be dissolved in fire by the Maker of all, and then forged anew and transmuted, becoming incomparably brighter and newer than the world which we see now” [On The Mystical Life, Vol. I: The Church and The Last Things, The Ethical Discourses, 1st Ethical Discourse, III, IV, pp. 35, 36].
Tertullian of Carthage: The belief that everything was made from nothing will be impressed upon us by that ultimate dispensation of God which will bring back all things to nothing. For "the very heaven shall be rolled together as a scroll; '"
George Leo Haydock: The heavens He puts the faithful in mind not to regard these profane scoffers, but to be convinced of the truths revealed, and that the world shall be destroyed a second time by fire. Reflect that the time of this life, and all the time that this world shall last, is nothing to eternity, which has no parts, no beginning, nor end; so that in the sight of God, who is eternal, a thousand years are no more to be regarded than one day, or one moment. The long time that hath hitherto passed, must not make you think that God is slack as to his promises, or that they shall not infallibly come to pass at the time and moment appointed by his divine providence. God's infinite mercy, and his love for mankind, bears patiently with the provocations of blind and unthinking sinners, not willing that any of them should perish, but that they should return to him by a sincere repentance and true penance, and be saved. But watch always, according to the repeated admonition of our blessed Redeemer. (Mark xiii. 37.) For both the day of your death, and the day of the Lord to judge the world, will come like a thief (Witham)
3:11-15 – As is usual in the NT (cf. Mt 24:42-51; 25; 1 Thess 5:1-11), the consideration of the Judgement is followed by an exhortation to the practice of virtue in a spirit of alert watchfulness for the Lord’s return.
3:11 - George Leo Haydock: “Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, that the world, and all things in the world, shall pass in a short time, set not your affections upon them: let your life and conversation be holy. According to the divine promises, look for new heavens, and a new earth, where justice is to dwell, whither sinners shall not enter, but the just only, in a new state of never-ending happiness. Make it then your endeavor to be found in the sight of God spotless and blameless; and look upon the long forbearance of God, who defers to punish sinners as they deserve, to be an effect of his mercy, and for your salvation. (Witham)”.
3:12 – hastening the coming - sometimes translated as “eagerly awaiting” the Greek usually means “hasten”. God chooses but our actions matter.
Hastening the coming of God’s day: That the holy and godly conduct recommended in v. 11 can actually hasten the Lord’s coming was implied in 3:9. Cf. Acts 3:19-20 and “thy kingdom come” (Mt 6:10) in the prayer. There are similar understandings in Judaism. Some, however, don’t translate it as “hastening”, but rather as “earnestly desiring”.
Hippolytus of Rome: “For the river of fire shall come forth in fury like an angry sea, and shall burn up mountains and hills, and shall make the sea vanish, and shall dissolve the atmosphere with its heat like wax”.
3:10-12 – Because this world will pass away, we ought to be holy (v. 11) and godly, living as citizens of the new heaven and earth. Christians can actually hasten the coming of that day. How? Through evangelism (Mt 24:14; Mk 13:10, prayer, holy living (1 Peter 2:12), and repentance and obedience (Acts 3:19-21).
3:13 – new heavens and a new earth: The expression is taken from Isa 65:17; 66:22, and is used also in Rev 21:1 of the situation following upon the Judgement.
Not other heavens and earth, but the same ones transfigured for the better. For a beautiful prophetic description of the new heaven and earth, see Revelation 21-22 and Isa 65:17-25.
We wait for: Christian expectation looks beyond the crisis of the last day for the final fulfillment of the divine promises in
Which righteousness dwells: As in the passages from Isaiah and Revelation, righteousness in the New Creation has the double aspect of the godliness of those within it, and the retribution for the wicked in the preceding Judgement. Beyond this, Peter doesn’t attempt to explain the nature of the post-Judgement universe or its physical relationship to the present universe (cf. Rom 8:19-22).
St. John Chrysostom: “For since thou hast taken a body mortal and liable to suffering, the earth too hath received a curse, and brought forth thorns and thistles. But that the heaven, when it’s waxen old along with the earth, is to change afterwards to a better lot, hear from the prophet in his words: ‘Thou, O Lord, in the beginning, founded the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou remainest; and they shall all become old as an outer garment. And as a covering Thou shall roll them up, and they shall all be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail [Ps. 101(102):25-27]’. Isaiah too declares the same when he says, ‘Lift up your eyes to the sky, and look on the earth beneath: for the sky was darkened like smoke, and the earth shall wax old as an outer garment, and the inhabitants shall die in like manner: but My righteousness shall not fail [Is 51:6]’. Now you see in what sense the creation ‘was subjected to vanity [Rom 8:20],’ and how it’s to be freed from the ruined state. For the one says, ‘All as an outer garment shall grow old, and as a covering shalt Thou roll them up, and they shall be changed’; and Isaiah says, ‘and the inhabitants shall die in like manner’, not of course meaning an utter perishing. For neither do they that dwell therein, mankind, that is, undergo such a one, but a temporary one, and through it they’re changed into an incorruptible [1 Cor 15:53] state, and so therefore will the creature be” [Hom. 14 on Romans, P.G. 60:582 (col. 530)].
St. Symeon: “All Creation, once made anew, will become spiritual, and together with paradise shall be transformed into an immaterial, unchanging, eternal, and intelligible dwelling place. The sky, on the other hand, will be incomparibly brighter, in a manner indeed quite new from our visible sky, while the earth, on the other hand, will take on a new and inexpressible beauty, an unfading verdure, ornamented by shining flowers, varied and spiritual. It’ll be an earth, as the sacred word has it, ‘wherein righteousness dwells’ [2 Peter 3:13]…..All things there are beyond speech, trancscend thought….” [“The Ultimate Splendor of Creation”, On The Mystical Life, Vol. I: The Church and the Last Things, The Ethical Discourses, 1st Ethical Discourse, V, 41].
St. Gregory the Theologian: “I await the voice of the archangel [1 Thess. 4:16], the last trumpet [1 Cor 15:52], the transformation of the heavens, the transfiguration of the earth, the liberation of the elements, the renovation of the universe [2 Peter 3:10]”. [Oration 7, Panegyric on His Brother St. Caesarius. Section 21, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., VII:237.]
3:14 –Without spot or blemish: This is the negative form of the pair of epithets applied to the false teachers in 2:13.
In peace: Rather than subjective tranquility, this signifies an objective state of friendship with God, characteristic of messianic times.
3:15 – Longsuffering can be salvation only if our salvation in Christ includes a lifelong process of maturing.
Lit., “And be deeming that the long-suffering of the Lord is salvation”. Predicate accusative after egeisthe in apposition with makrothymian.
St. Bede: “Don’t think that the Lord delays His promises, but understand that He waits with forbearance that more persons may be saved”. [Commentary on 2 Peter, 153].
Polycarp of Smyrna: These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because ye have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom
3:16 – The author knows of a collection of Paul’s letters and regards it as equal in authority to Scripture, that is, to the OT. This is the 1st indication of the collection of a NT canon.
Clement of Alexandria: Now all men, having the same judgment, some, following the Word speaking, frame for themselves proofs; while others, giving themselves up to pleasures, wrest Scripture, in accordance with their lusts.
Lactantius: “The sum of the matter is this: The unlearned and the foolish esteem false religions as true, because they neither know the true nor understand the false.
Tertullian of Carthage: Now, unquestionably, the Divine Scriptures are more fruitful in resources of all kinds for this sort of facility. Nor do I risk contradiction in saying. But all these (instances) I believe to be unknown to those who are in a state of agitation at our proceedings; or else known by the reading alone, not by careful study as well; in accordance with the greater bulk of "the unskilled"
3:17 – The burden of the letter is summed up in this final admonition.
3:18 – The opening wish of 1:2 is repeated in somewhat different wording. The epistle concludes with a doxology, apparently in imitation of Jude, the only other NT epistle to so conclude. In 2 Peter, however, the doxology is addressed to Christ rather than to the Father. Other NT examples can be found with doxologies to Christ: 2 Tim 4:18; Rev 1:6; 5:13; 7:10; probably Romans 9:5; perhaps 1 Peter 4:11; Hebrews 13:21.
to the day of eternity – Glory belongs to Christ both now and ever and throughout the endless day that will dawn when He comes again (1:19; Isa 60:19, 20).
3:17-18 – The danger of deception is high for everyone. The defense against deception is to stay connected to the true apostles (v.17) and to their doctrines, which encourage our growth in the knowledge of our Lord … Jesus Christ (v. 18).
Works I used:
William Barclay. The Letters of James & Peter.
RC Sproul Sr. The Reformation Study Bible
The Jerome Biblical Commentary by Editors Raymond E Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmayer, Roland E Murphy.
The New Testament by Dormitian Skete.
The Orthodox Study Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishing.