Adam Clarke Commentary
2 Peter 1
The apostolical address, and the persons to whom the epistle was sent described by the state into which God had called, and in which he had placed, them, 2 Peter 1:1-4. What graces they should possess in order to be fruitful in the knowledge of God, 2 Peter 1:5-8. The miserable state of those who either have not these graces, or have fallen from them, 2 Peter 1:9. Believers should give diligence to make their calling and election sure, 2 Peter 1:10, 2 Peter 1:11. The apostle‘s intimations of his speedy dissolution, and his wish to confirm and establish those Churches in the true faith, 2 Peter 1:12-15. The certainty of the Gospel, and the convincing evidence which the apostle had of its truth from being present at the transfiguration, by which the word of prophecy was made more sure, 2 Peter 1:16-19. How the prophecies came, and their nature, 2 Peter 1:20, 2 Peter 1:21.
Simon Peter - Symeon, Συμεων , is the reading of almost all the versions, and of all the most important MSS. And this is the more remarkable, as the surname of Peter occurs upwards of seventy times in the New Testament, and is invariably read Σιμων , Simon, except here, and in Acts 15:14, where James gives him the name of Symeon. Of all the versions, only the Armenian and Vulgate have Simon. But the edit. princ., and several of my own MSS. of the Vulgate, write Symon; and Wiclif has Symont.
A servant - Employed in his Master‘s work.
And an apostle - Commissioned immediately by Jesus Christ himself to preach to the Gentiles, and to write these epistles for the edification of the Church. As the writer was an apostle, the epistle is therefore necessarily canonical. All the MSS. agree in the title apostle; and of the versions, only the Syriac omits it.
Precious faith - Ισοτιμον πιστιν· Valuable faith; faith worth a great price, and faith which cost a great price. The word precious is used in the low religious phraseology for dear, comfortable, delightful, etc.; but how much is the dignity of the subject let down by expressions and meanings more proper for the nursery than for the noble science of salvation! It is necessary however to state, that the word precious literally signifies valuable, of great price, costly; and was not used in that low sense in which it is now employed when our translation was made. That faith must be of infinite value, the grace of which Christ purchased by his blood; and it must be of infinite value also when it is the very instrument by which the soul is saved unto eternal life.
With us - God having given to you - believing Gentiles, the same faith and salvation which he had given to us - believing Jews.
Through the righteousness of God - Through his method of bringing a lost world, both Jews and Gentiles, to salvation by Jesus Christ; through his gracious impartiality, providing for Gentiles as well as Jews. See the notes on Romans 3:21-26 (note).
Of God and our Savior Jesus Christ - This is not a proper translation of the original του Θεου ἡμων και σωτηρος Ιησου Χριστου , which is literally, Of our God and Savior Jesus Christ; and this reading, which is indicated in the margin, should have been received into the text; and it is an absolute proof that St. Peter calls Jesus Christ God, even in the properest sense of the word, with the article prefixed. It is no evidence against this doctrine that one MS. of little authority, and the Syriac and two Arabic versions have Κυριου , Lord, instead of Θεου , God, as all other MSS. and versions agree in the other reading, as well as the fathers. See in Griesbach.
Grace - God‘s favor; peace - the effects of that favor in the communication of spiritual and temporal blessings.
Through the knowledge of God - Εν επιγνωσει· By the acknowledging of God, and of Jesus our Lord. For those who acknowledge him in all their ways, he will direct their steps. Those who know Christ; and do not acknowledge him before men, can get no multiplication of grace and peace.
As his Divine power - His power, which no power can resist, because it is Divine - that which properly belongs to the infinite Godhead.
Hath given unto us - Δεδωρημενης· Hath endowed us with the gifts; or, hath gifted us, as Dr. Macknight translates it, who observes that it refers to the gifts which the Holy Spirit communicated to the apostles, to enable them to bring men to life and godliness; which were,
1.A complete knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel.
2.Power to preach and defend their doctrines in suitable language, which their adversaries were not able to gainsay or resist.
4.Miraculous powers, so that on all proper and necessary occasions they could work miracles for the confirmation of their doctrines and mission.
By life and godliness we may understand,
1. a godly life; or,
2. eternal life as the end, and godliness the way to it; or,
3. what was essentially necessary for the present life, food, raiment, etc., and what was requisite for the life to come.
As they were in a suffering state, and most probably many of them strangers in those places, one can scarcely say that they had all things that pertained to life; and yet so had God worked in their behalf, that none of them perished, either through lack of food or raiment. And as to what was necessary for godliness, they had that from the Gospel ministry, which it appears was still continued among them, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which were not withdrawn; and what was farther necessary in the way of personal caution, comfort, and instruction, was supplied by means of these two epistles.
That hath called us to glory and virtue - To virtue or courage as the means; and glory - the kingdom of heaven, as the end. This is the way in which these words are commonly understood, and this sense is plain enough, but the construction is harsh. Others have translated δια δοξης και αρετης , by his glorious benignity, a Hebraism for δια της ενδοξου αρετης· and read the whole verse thus: God by his own power hath bestowed on us every thing necessary for a happy life and godliness, having called us to the knowledge of himself, by his own infinite goodness. It is certain that the word αρετη , which we translate virtue or courage, is used, 1 Peter 2:9, to express the perfection of the Divine nature: That ye may show forth τας αρετας , the virtues or Perfections, of him who hath called you from darkness into his marvellous light.
Whereby are given unto us - By his own glorious power he hath freely given unto us exceeding great and invaluable promises. The Jews were distinguished in a very particular manner by the promises which they received from God; the promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets. God promised to be their God; to protect, support, and save them; to give them what was emphatically called the promised land; and to cause the Messiah to spring from their race. St. Peter intimates to these Gentiles that God had also given unto them exceeding great promises; indeed all that he had given to the Jews, the mere settlement in the promised land excepted; and this also he had given in all its spiritual meaning and force. And besides τα μεγιστα επαγγελματα , these superlatively great promises, which distinguished the Mosaic dispensation, he had given them τα τιμια επαγγελματα ; the valuable promises, those which came through the great price; enrolment with the Church of God, redemption in and through the blood of the cross, the continual indwelling influence of the Holy Ghost, the resurrection of the body, and eternal rest at the right hand of God. It was of considerable consequence to the comfort of the Gentiles that these promises were made to them, and that salvation was not exclusively of the Jews.
That by these ye might be partakers - The object of all God‘s promises and dispensations was to bring fallen man back to the image of God, which he had lost. This, indeed, is the sum and substance of the religion of Christ. We have partaken of an earthly, sensual, and devilish nature; the design of God by Christ is to remove this, and to make us partakers of the Divine nature; and save us from all the corruption in principle and fact which is in the world; the source of which is lust, επιθυμια , irregular, unreasonable, in ordinate, and impure desire; desire to have, to do, and to be, what God has prohibited, and what would be ruinous and destructive to us were the desire to be granted.
And beside this - Notwithstanding what God hath done for you, in order that ye may not receive the grace of God in vain;
Giving all diligence - Furnishing all earnestness and activity: the original is very emphatic.
Add to your faith - Επιχορηγησατε· Lead up hand in hand; alluding, as most think, to the chorus in the Grecian dance, who danced with joined hands. See the note on this word, 2 Corinthians 9:10 (note).
Virtue - Αρετην· Courage or fortitude, to enable you to profess the faith before men, in these times of persecution.
Knowledge - True wisdom, by which your faith will be increased, and your courage directed, and preserved from degenerating into rashness.
Temperance - A proper and limited use of all earthly enjoyments, keeping every sense under proper restraints, and never permitting the animal part to subjugate the rational.
Patience - Bearing all trials and difficulties with an even mind, enduring in all, and persevering through all.
Godliness - Piety towards God; a deep, reverential, religious fear; not only worshipping God with every becoming outward act, but adoring, loving, and magnifying him in the heart: a disposition indispensably necessary to salvation, but exceedingly rare among professors.
Brotherly kindness - Φιλαδελφιαν· Love of the brotherhood - the strongest attachment to Christ‘s flock; feeling each as a member of your own body.
Charity - Αγαπην· Love to the whole human race, even to your persecutors: love to God and the brethren they had; love to all mankind they must also have. True religion is neither selfish nor insulated; where the love of God is, bigotry cannot exist. Narrow, selfish people, and people of a party, who scarcely have any hope of the salvation of those who do not believe as they believe, and who do not follow with them, have scarcely any religion, though in their own apprehension none is so truly orthodox or religious as themselves.
For if these things be in you and abound - If ye possess all there graces, and they increase and abound in your souls, they will make - show, you to be neither αργους , idle, nor ακαρπους , unfruitful, in the acknowledgment of our Lord Jesus Christ. The common translation is here very unhappy: barren and unfruitful certainly convey the same ideas; but idle or inactive, which is the proper sense of αργους , takes away this tautology, and restores the sense. The graces already mentioned by the apostle are in themselves active principles; he who was possessed of them, and had them abounding in him, could not be inactive; and he who is not inactive in the way of life must be fruitful. I may add, that he who is thus active, and consequently fruitful, will ever be ready at all hazard to acknowledge his Lord and Savior, by whom he has been brought into this state of salvation.
But he that lacketh these things - He, whether Jew or Gentile, who professes to have Faith in God, and has not added to that Faith fortitude, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and universal love; is blind - his understanding is darkened, and cannot see afar off, μυωπαζων , shutting his eyes against the light, winking, not able to look truth in the face, nor to behold that God whom he once knew was reconciled to him: and thus it appears he is wilfully blind, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins - has at last, through his nonimprovement of the grace which he received from God, his faith ceasing to work by love, lost the evidence of things not seen; for, having grieved the Holy Spirit by not showing forth the virtues of him who called him into his marvellous light, he has lost the testimony of his sonship; and then, darkness and hardness having taken place of light and filial confidence, he first calls all his former experience into doubt, and questions whether he has not put enthusiasm in the place of religion. By these means his darkness and hardness increase, his memory becomes indistinct and confused, till at length he forgets the work of God on his soul, next denies it, and at last asserts that the knowledge of salvation, by the remission of sins, is impossible, and that no man can be saved from sin in this life. Indeed, some go so far as to deny the Lord that bought them; to renounce Jesus Christ as having made atonement for them; and finish their career of apostasy by utterly denying his Godhead. Many cases of this kind have I known; and they are all the consequence of believers not continuing to be workers together with God, after they had experienced his pardoning love.
Wherefore - Seeing the danger of apostasy, and the fearful end of them who obey not the Gospel, and thus receive the grace of God in vain; give all diligence, σπουδασατε , hasten, be deeply careful, labor with the most intense purpose of soul.
To make your calling - From deep Gentile darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel.
And election - Your being chosen, in consequence of obeying the heavenly calling, to be the people and Church of God. Instead of κλησιν , calling, the Codex Alexandrinus has παρακλησιν , consolation.
Sure - Βεβαιαν· Firm, solid. For your calling to believe the Gospel, and your election to be members of the Church of Christ, will be ultimately unprofitable to you, unless you hold fast what you have received by adding to your faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, etc.
For if ye do these things - If ye be careful and diligent to work out your own salvation, through the grace which ye have already received from God; ye shall never fall, ου μη πταισητε ποτε , ye shall at no time stumble or fall; as the Jews have done, and lost their election, Romans 11:11, where the same word is used, and as apostates do, and lose their peace and salvation. We find, therefore, that they who do not these things shall fall; and thus we see that there is nothing absolute and unconditional in their election. There is an addition here in some MSS. and versions which should not pass unnoticed: the Codex Alexandrinus, nine others, with the Syriac, Erpen‘s Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, later Syriac with an asterisk, the Vulgate, and Bede, have ινα δια των καλων ( ὑμων ) εργων , That By (your) Good Works ye may make your calling and election firm. This clause is found in the edition of Colinaeus, Paris, 1534, and has been probably omitted by more recent editors on the supposition that the edition does not make a very orthodox sense. But on this ground there need be no alarm, for it does not state that the good works thus required merit either the calling and election, or the eternal glory, of God. He who does not by good works confirm his calling and election, will soon have neither; and although no good works ever did purchase or ever can purchase the kingdom of God, yet no soul can ever scripturally expect to see God who has them not. I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat; thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: go, ye cursed. I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; etc., etc.; come, ye blessed.
For so an entrance shall be ministered - If ye give diligence; and do not fall, an abundant, free, honorable, and triumphant entrance shall be ministered to you into the everlasting kingdom. There seems to be here an allusion to the triumphs granted by the Romans to their generals who had distinguished themselves by putting an end to a war, or doing some signal military service to the state. (See the whole account of this military pageant in the note on 2 Corinthians 2:14.) “Ye shall have a triumph, in consequence of having conquered your foes, and led captivity captive.” Instead of everlasting kingdom, αιωνιον βασιλειαν , two MSS. have επουρανιον , heavenly kingdom; and several MSS. omit the word και Σωτηρος , and Savior.
Wherefore I will not be negligent - He had already written one epistle, this is the second; and probably he meditated more should he be spared. He plainly saw that there was no way of entering into eternal life but that which he described from the 5th to the 10th verse; and although they knew and were established in the present truth, yet he saw it necessary to bring these things frequently to their recollection.
As long as I am in this tabernacle - By tabernacle we are to understand his body; and hence several of the versions have σωματι , body, instead of σκηνωματι , tabernacle. Peter‘s mode of speaking is very remarkable: as long as I AM in this tabernacle, so then the body was not Peter, but Peter dwelt in that body. Is not this a proof that St. Peter believed his soul to be very distinct from his body? As a man‘s house is the place where he dwells, so the body is the house where the soul dwells.
Knowing that shortly I must put off - St. Peter plainly refers to the conversation between our Lord and himself, related John 21:18, John 21:19. And it is likely that he had now a particular intimation that he was shortly to seal the truth with his blood. But as our Lord told him that his death would take place when he should be old, being aged now he might on this ground fairly suppose that his departure was at hand.
Moreover, I will endeavor - And is not this endeavor seen in these two epistles? By leaving these among them, even after his decease, they had these things always in remembrance.
After my decease - Μετα την εμην εξοδον· After my going out, i.e. of his tabernacle. The real Peter was not open to the eye, nor palpable to the touch; he was concealed in that tabernacle vulgarly supposed to be Peter. There is a thought very similar to this in the last conversation of Socrates with his friends. As this great man was about to drink the poison to which he was condemned by the Athenian judges, his friend Crito said, “But how would you be buried? - Socrates: Just as you please, if you can but catch me, and I do not elude your pursuit. Then, gently smiling, he said: I cannot persuade Crito, ὡς εγω ειμι οὑτος ὁ Σωκρατης ὁ νυνι διαλεγομενος , that I AM that Socrates who now converses with you; but he thinks that I am he, ὁν οψεται ολιγον ὑστερον νεκρον, και ερωτα πως εδι με θαπτειν , whom he shall shortly see dead; and he asks how I would be buried? I have asserted that, after I have drunk the poison, I should no longer remain with you, but shall depart to certain felicities of the blessed.” Platonis Phaedo, Oper., vol. i, edit. Bipont., p 260.
Cunningly devised fables - Σεσοφισμενοις μυθοις . I think, with Macknight and others, from the apostle‘s using εποπται , eye witnesses, or rather beholders, in the end of the verse, it is probable that he means those cunningly devised fables among the heathens, concerning the appearance of their gods on earth in human form. And to gain the greater credit to these fables, the priests and statesmen instituted what they called the mysteries of the gods, in which the fabulous appearance of the gods was represented in mystic shows. But one particular show none but the fully initiated were permitted to behold; hence they were entitled εποπται , beholders. This show was probably some resplendent image of the god, imitating life, which, by its glory, dazzled the eyes of the beholders, while their ears were ravished by hymns sung in its praise; to this it was natural enough for St. Peter to allude, when speaking about the transfiguration of Christ. Here the indescribably resplendent majesty of the great God was manifested, as far as it could be, in conjunction with that human body in which the fullness of the Divinity dwelt. And we, says the apostle, were εποπται , beholders, της εκεινου μεγαλειοτητος , of his own majesty. Here was no trick, no feigned show; we saw him in his glory whom thousands saw before and afterwards; and we have made known to you the power and coming, παρουσιαν , the appearance and presence, of our Lord Jesus; and we call you to feel the exceeding greatness of this power in your conversion, and the glory of this appearance in his revelation by the power of his Spirit to your souls. These things we have witnessed, and these things ye have experienced: and therefore we can confidently say that neither you nor we have followed cunningly devised fables, but that blessed Gospel which is the power of God to the salvation of every one that believes.
For he received honor and glory - In his transfiguration our Lord received from the Father honor in the voice or declaration which said, This is my Son, the beloved One, in whom I have delighted. And he received glory, when, penetrated with, and involved in, that excellent glory, the fashion of his countenance was altered, for his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white and glistening, exceeding white like snow; which most glorious and preternatural appearance was a confirmation of the supernatural voice, as the voice was of this preternatural appearance: and thus his Messiahship was attested in the most complete and convincing manner.
And this voice - we heard - That is, himself, James, and John heard it, and saw this glory; for these only were the εποπται , beholders, on the holy mount. It is worthy of remark that our blessed Lord, who came to give a new law to mankind, appeared on this holy mount with splendor and great glory, as God did when he came on the holy mount, Sinai, to give the old law to Moses. And when the voice came from the excellent glory, This is my Son, the beloved One, in whom I have delighted; hear him: the authority of the old law was taken away. Neither Moses nor Elijah, the law nor the prophets, must tabernacle among men, as teaching the whole way of salvation, and affording the means of eternal life; these things they had pointed out, but these things they did not contain; yet the fulfillment of their types and predictions rendered their declarations more firm and incontestable. See below.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy - Εχομεν βεβαιοτερον τον προφητικον λογον· We have the prophetic doctrine more firm or more confirmed; for in this sense the word βεβαιοω is used in several places in the New Testament. See 1 Corinthians 1:6: Even as the testimony of Christ εβεβαιωθη , was Confirmed, among you. 2 Corinthians 1:21: Now he which stablisheth us, ὁ δε βεβαιων ἡμας , who Confirmeth Us. Colossians 2:7: Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, βεβαιουμενοι , Confirmed in the faith. Hebrews 2:3: How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ἡτις εβεβαιωτη , which was Confirmed to us. Hebrews 6:16: And an oath, εις βεβαιωσιν , for Confirmation. This is the literal sense of the passage in question; and this sense removes that ambiguity from the text which has given rise to so many different interpretations. Taken according to the common translation, it seems to say that prophecy is a surer evidence of Divine revelation than miracles; and so it has been understood. The meaning of the apostle appears to be this: The law and the prophets have spoken concerning Jesus Christ, and Isaiah has particularly pointed him out in these words: Behold my servant whom I uphold, my Chosen in Whom My Soul Delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and Them That Sit in Darkness out of the prison house, Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 42:7. Now both at his baptism, Matthew 3:17, and at his transfiguration, Jesus Christ was declared to be this chosen person, God‘s only Son, the beloved One in Whom He Delighted. The voice, therefore, from heaven, and the miraculous transfiguration of his person, have confirmed the prophetic doctrine concerning him. And to this doctrine, thus confirmed, ye do well to take heed; for it is that light that shines in the dark place - in the Gentile world, as well as among the Jews; giving light to them that sit in darkness, and bringing the prisoners out of the prison house: and this ye must continue to do till the day of his second, last, and most glorious appearing to judge the world comes; and the day star, φωσφορος , this light-bringer, arise in your hearts - manifest himself to your eternal consolation. Or perhaps the latter clause of the verse might be thus understood: The prophecies concerning Jesus, which have been so signally confirmed to us on the holy mount, have always been as a light shining in a dark place, from the time of their delivery to the time in which the bright day of Gospel light and salvation dawned forth, and the Son of righteousness has arisen in our souls, with healing in his rays. And to this all who waited for Christ‘s appearing have taken heed. The word φωσφορος , phosphorus, generally signified the planet Venus, when she is the morning star; and thus she is called in most European nations.
Knowing this first - Considering this as a first principle, that no prophecy of the Scripture, whether that referred to above, or any other, is of any private interpretation - proceeds from the prophet‘s own knowledge or invention, or was the offspring of calculation or conjecture. The word επιλυσις signifies also impetus, impulse; and probably this is the best sense here; not by the mere private impulse of his own mind.
For the prophecy came not in old time - That is, in any former time, by the will of man - by a man‘s own searching, conjecture, or calculation; but holy men of God - persons separated from the world, and devoted to God‘s service, spake, moved by the Holy Ghost. So far were they from inventing these prophetic declarations concerning Christ, or any future event, that they were φερομενοι , carried away, out of themselves and out of the whole region, as it were, of human knowledge and conjecture, by the Holy Ghost, who, without their knowing any thing of the matter, dictated to them what to speak, and what to write; and so far above their knowledge were the words of the prophecy, that they did not even know the intent of those words, but searched what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. See 1 Peter 1:11, 1 Peter 1:12, and the notes there.
1.As the writer of this epistle asserts that he was on the holy mount with Christ when he was transfigured, he must be either Peter, James, or John, for there was no other person present on that occasion except Moses and Elijah, in their glorious bodies. The epistle was never attributed to James nor John; but the uninterrupted current, where its Divine inspiration was granted, gave it to Peter alone. See the preface.
2.It is not unfrequent for the writers of the New Testament to draw a comparison between the Mosaic and Christian dispensations; and the comparison generally shows that, glorious as the former was, it had no glory in comparison of the glory that excelleth. St. Peter seems to touch here on the same point; the Mosaic dispensation, with all the light of prophecy by which it was illustrated, was only as a lamp shining in a dark place. There is a propriety and delicacy in this image that are not generally noticed: a lamp in the dark gives but a very small portion of light, and only to those who are very near to it; yet it always gives light enough to make itself visible, even at a great distance; though it enlightens not the space between it and the beholder, it is still literally the lamp shining in a dark place. Such was the Mosaic dispensation; it gave a little light to the Jews, but shone not to the Gentile world, any farther than to make itself visible. This is compared with the Gospel under the emblem of daybreak, and the rising of the sun. When the sun is even eighteen degrees below the horizon daybreak commences, as the rays of light begin then to diffuse themselves in our atmosphere, by which they are reflected upon the earth. By this means a whole hemisphere is enlightened, though but in a partial degree; yet this increasing every moment, as the sun approaches the horizon, prepares for the full manifestation of his resplendent orb: so the ministry of John Baptist, and the initiatory ministry of Christ himself, prepared the primitive believers for his full manifestation on the day of pentecost and afterwards. Here the sun rose in his strength, bringing light, heat, and life to all the inhabitants of the earth. So far, then, as a lantern carried in a dark night differs from and is inferior to the beneficial effects of daybreak, and the full light and heat of a meridian sun; so far was the Mosaic dispensation, in its beneficial effects, inferior to the Christian dispensation.
3.Perhaps there is scarcely any point of view in which we can consider prophecy which is so satisfactory and conclusive as that which is here stated; that is, far from inventing the subject of their own predictions, the ancient prophets did not even know the meaning of what themselves wrote. They were carried beyond themselves by the influence of the Divine Spirit, and after ages were alone to discover the object of the prophecy; and the fulfillment was to be the absolute proof that the prediction was of God, and that it was of no private invention - no discovery made by human sagacity and wisdom, but by the especial revelation of the all-wise God. This is sufficiently evident in all the prophecies which have been already fulfilled, and will be equally so in those yet to be fulfilled; the events will point out the prophecy, and the prophecy will be seen to be fulfilled in that event.
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