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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Peter 2



Other Authors
Verse 2

2 Peter: These men, like irrational beasts, whose natural end is to be snared and killed, speaking evil of what they do not know (a vague phrase), will certainly perish.

It affords a good example of the elaboration of Jude by our writer and of the consequent loss of clearness. Jude has a clear antithesis, which is set aside in 2 Peter: yet the language of the altered half of the antithesis (ἀλόγα ζῷα, φυσικά) is retained and used to a different end.

Such is the impression I gather: Dr Bigg, on the other hand, says: “Jude has rewritten this rugged sentence and made it much more correct and much less forcible.”

γεγεννημέναεἰςφθοράν. Wetstein gives a good illustration from a rabbinic source: “a calf led to the slaughter ran to Rabbi Judah, put its head into his bosom and wept: but the Rabbi said, ‘Go: thou wert created for this end.’ ”

ἐν τῇ φθορᾷ κ.τ.λ. Cf. ἐν ἐμπαιγμονῇ ἐμπαῖκται, 2 Peter 3:3. Best taken as an emphatic prediction of destruction.

Verse 3

3. καὶ ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ κ.τ.λ. A distinguishing mark of the false teachers was that they sought to make money: not merely to be supported by their hearers, which, as we see from St Paul’s letters, was not considered wrong. ἐμπορεύεσθαι is usually to traffic in something: not quite so here: “you” are the source of profit to them.

πλαστοῖς usually “fictitious,” as of a false accusation: here probably the thought is not so much of the falsity of the teaching, as of insinuating address: what St Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:5 calls λόγος κολακείας. He mentions πρόφασις πλεονεξίας in the same place.

ἔκπαλαι again in 2 Peter 3:5.

Verse 4

4 sqq. εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεός κ.τ.λ. to the end of 2 Peter 2:10. The sentence has a different climax to that which we expect. The protasis is, roughly, this: “Speedy punishment awaits these men. For if God did not spare the angels … nor the old world at the Flood … nor Sodom and Gomorrah,”—the natural apodosis would be, “He will not spare these false teachers.” But as a matter of fact the writer’s thought is diverted, when he comes to his second example (of the Flood), to the preservation of Noah; and, at his third example, to the saving of Lot. And so in his apodosis he puts the saving of the righteous from among sinners in the first place, though he does not omit the punishing of the wicked.

Note that his examples vary from those in Jude, who has [1] the people saved out of Egypt, [2] the angels, [3] Sodom and Gomorrah. The first example in Jude is obscurely expressed, and perhaps this is why our writer substitutes another for it.

Note also the recurrent participial construction:

ταρταρώσας παρέδωκενἐφύλαξενἐπάξαςτεφρώσας κατέκρινεν.

ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων κ.τ.λ. The example is taken from the Book of Enoch. See Introd. p. xlvii.

σειροῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν (Jude, δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον τετήρηκεν). There is a curious question of reading here:

ABC have σειροῖς and א σιροῖς: KLP, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac, and one Egyptian version σειραῖς. σιροῖς or σειροῖς means pits, specially underground receptacles for the storage of grain. We do not find the word in that portion of Enoch which exists in Greek, but we read of angels and stars being confined underground in wildernesses—in the glens (νάπαι) of the earth and in various abysses.

σειραῖς “chains,” answers to the δεσμοῖς of Jude, and chains are specially mentioned in Enoch; but here again the word σεῖραί does not occur. Both words are uncommon, but σειροῖς is the more unusual: σειραῖς would be an “elegant” word for chains, and it is rather characteristic of our writer to refine the vocabulary of Jude; but in strength of attestation σειροῖς has the better claim to be adopted.

τηρουμένους. Another reading κολαζομένους τηρεῖν (the words occur again in 2 Peter 2:9) has rather strong attestation (אA, the Latin and Egyptian version; against BCKLP). Our author’s style does not forbid us to think that he may have repeated the words just as he has repeated οὐκ ἐφείσατο in 2 Peter 2:4-5 and κόσμος in 2 Peter 2:5.

Verse 5

5. ἀρχαίου κόσμου. ὁ τότε κόσμος, 2 Peter 3:6. The absence of the article here is noticeable: in the next verse again it is absent (πόλεις Σοδόμων κ.τ.λ.). Sirach 16:7 οὐκ ἐξιλάσατο περὶ τῶν ἀρχαίων γιγάντων.

ὄγδοον with seven others: αὐτόν is commonly added in these phrases.

Νῶε δικαιοσύνης κήρυκα. The ancient writing which lays most stress on Noah’s preaching is the Sibylline Oracles, Book 1. (a Jewish book altered by a Christian), which devotes some fifty lines to two addresses of Noah. There is also an allusion to it in 1 Peter 3:20 in the word ἀπειθήσασιν.

Verse 5-6

5, 6. As in the next chapter, the destructive agencies of water and fire are here placed side by side.

Verse 6

6. πόλεις Σοδόμων. The genitive, as in urbs Romae, is of apposition.

τεφρώσας. Examples are quoted from Dion Cassius describing an eruption of Vesuvius, and from Lycophron (who in his so-called play the Alexandra or Cassandra heaps together all the obscure words he can find): l. 227 τεφρώσας γυῖα Λημναίῳ πυρί. This means “reduce to ashes.” The passage in Dion Cass. means “covered with ashes.”

καταστροφῇ κατέκρινεν is the reading of the large mass of authorities, BC alone omitting καταστροφῇ, and P reading κατέστρεψεν. The meaning would be either “condemned by overthrowing” or “condemned to overthrow” (the latter unclassical, but paralleled by Matthew 20:18 κατακρίνουσιν αὐτὸν θανάτῳ). I think the word should be restored to the text.

ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβέσιν τεθεικώς = Jude πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου. For ἀσεβέσιν (BP) the bulk of authorities read ἀσεβεῖν, induced probably by the presence of μελλόντων, with which an infinitive is expected. A good parallel to these verses is in 3 Maccabees 2:4-5 (in a prayer of the high-priest Simon):

Σὺ τοὺς ἔμπροσθεν ἀδικίαν ποιήσαντας ἐν οἷς καὶ γίγαντες ἦσαν ῥώμῃ καὶ θράσει πεποιθότες διέφθειρας, ἐπαγαγὼν (cf. ἐπάξας) αὐτοῖς ἀμέτρητον ύδωρ. Σὺ τοὺς ὑπερηφανίαν ἐργαζομένους Σοδομίταςπυρὶ καὶ θείῳ κατέφλεξας, παράδειγμα τοῖς ἐπιγενομένοις καταστήσας.

The date of 3 Macc. is uncertain, but it is a Jewish book, probably written about the Christian era.

Verse 7

7. ὑπὸ τῆς τῶν ἀθέσμων ἐν ἀσελγείᾳ ἀναστροφῆς. The structure reminds us of the clause 2 Peter 1:4 τῆς ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ φθορᾶς.

ἀθέσμων again in 2 Peter 3:17, and nowhere else in N.T. ἔκθεσμος is used by Philo of the inhabitants of the cities of the plain.

Verse 8

8. A parenthesis, telling why Lot needed deliverance.

δίκαιος is preceded by the article in all MSS. except B. Westcott and Hort follow B. Some difference in rendering is entailed; omitting we translate “righteous in respect of looking and listening,” like the man in Isaiah 33:15 “that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.” The Latin Vulgate takes this view, “aspectu enim et auditu iustus erat.” Inserting , we must connect the datives βλέμματι καὶ ἀκοῇ with ἐβασάνιζεν as A.V., “in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul,” etc.

ᾑμέραν ἐξ ἡμέρας = καθʼ ἡμέραν. It occurs in Psalms 96:2 (LXX) “Be telling of His salvation from day to day.”

ψυχὴνἐβασάνιζεν. Compare Apocalypse of Peter, § 1, And then shall God come to my faithful ones that hunger and thirst and are afflicted, καὶ ἐν τούτῳ τῷ βίῳ τὰς ψυχὰς ἑαυτῶν δοκιμάζοντας. But though the idea of testing may underlie ἐβασάνιζεν here, it is not safe to discard the ordinary N.T. meaning of “tormented.”

The Latin Vulgate must have had a different text, which is not found in any Greek MS. It reads, “habitans apud eos qui de die in diem animam iustam iniquis operibus cruciabant,” i.e. ἐν αὐτοῖς οἳἐβασάνιζον.

Verse 9

9. The apodosis: see on 2 Peter 2:4.

κολαζόμενοι: present participle. In Enoch x. the sinful angels are bound in torment from the moment of their capture till the great day of judgment.

Verse 10

10. With this verse the writer returns to the denunciation of the false teachers. Like the angels, the men before the Flood, the men of Sodom, they had sinned through lust.

ὀπίσω σαρκός in Judges 1:7.

ἐπιθυμίᾳ μιασμοῦ. Adjectival as αἱρέσεις ἀπωλείας, 2 Peter 2:1.

κυριότητος καταφρονοῦντας. This is the main theme of the next verse and of Judges 1:8-9, δόξας οὐ τρέμουσιν βλασφημοῦντες κ.τ.λ. The primary application of both κυριότης and δόξα may well be to orders of angels. The men of Sodom, in particular, had not recognised the angels. But the words seem to have another meaning when applied to the false teachers, and to indicate the authorities of the Church against whom they were in revolt. They are spoken of repeatedly as anarchists, and compared to Korah, who withstood Moses. We are reminded of the angels of the seven churches in Revelation 1-3, by whom, the bishops of the churches are often thought to be meant.

κυριότης is used by St Paul of a definite order of angels, Ephesians 1:21 (singular), Colossians 1:16 (plural); “dominions” (A.V.): in the medieval hierarchy of angels, Dominationes.

Verse 11

11. A veiled description of the incident of Michael and Satan which is openly told in Judges 1:9. See Introd. p. xiv.

Verse 12

12. Contrast this with Judges 1:10. Jude says: These men speak evil of what they do not know: what they do know by natural instinct, like irrational beasts, they turn to a bad use.

Verse 13

13. ἀδικούμενοι μισθὸν ἀδικίας. This is the reading of א (first hand) BP, one Syriac version and the Armenian; whereas a corrector of א, ACKL, the Latin, Egyptian, and another Syriac version give the undoubtedly easier κομιούμενοι “destined to receive.” It has rather a close parallel in Colossians 3:25, ὁ γὰρ ἀδικῶν κομίσεται ὃ ἠδίκησεν. But the future (κομιούμενοι) is against the reading: all the other participles near by (and there are many) are in the present.

ἀδικούμενοι is quite hard to translate. I prefer the rendering of Tischendorf, “being defrauded in respect of the wages of iniquity.” μισθὸς ἀδικίας is used just below of Balaam: and like Balaam the false teachers will not receive the gain they hoped for, but destruction.

If it were permissible to take ἀδικεῖν in the sense which it often has in Rev. (e.g. Revelation 7:2-3, etc.) of “hurting,” we might render “being hurt as the reward for harming.” But this is not in the manner of our author, and besides would seem to require ἀδικήσεως, not ἀδικίας.

ἡδονὴν ἡγούμενοι τὴν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τρυφήν. This hard clause finds an explanation in the Psalms of Solomon (1st century B.C.) 14:4. “Not so are the sinners and transgressors οἳ ἠγάπησαν ἡμέραν ἐν μετοχῇ ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν, ἐν μικρότητι σαπρίας ἡ ἐπιθυμία (or ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ) αὐτῶν. They were contented with a day while they were partners together in sin: their desire was in (was satisfied with) a short space of corruption.” So these false teachers reckoned the shortlived enjoyment of a day to be true pleasure.

Another good interpretation depends on a passage in the Assumption of Moses (iv. 4). Those who are denounced are described as “omni hora diei amantes conuiuia.” This is in favour of the R.V. rendering, “men that count it pleasure to revel in the day-time.” Compare Romans 13:13 “let us walk honestly as in the day: not in revellings and drunkenness” etc.

σπίλοι καὶ μῶμοι, ἐντρυφῶντες ἐν ταῖς ἀπάταις αὐτῶν συνευωχούμενοι ὑμῖν. Judges 1:12 οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐν ταῖς ἀγάπαις ὑμῶν σπιλάδες συνευωχούμενοι.

ἀπάταις is read by א, the first hand of A and C, KLP and others; for it B, the second hand of A and C, and the Latin have ἀγάπαις (agreeing with Jude). The addition of αὐτῶν here is “in favour of ἀπάταις.” So Mayor, who also points out that ἀπάταις and σπίλοι are characteristic modifications of the similar ἀγάπαις and σπιλάδες in Jude.

σπίλος occurs in Ephesians 5:27 μὴ ἔχουσαν σπίλον: and ἄσπιλος in our Epistle (2 Peter 3:14): the verb σπιλόω in Judges 1:23 and also in James 3:6.

μῶμος, which in classical Greek means reproach or disgrace, is used to mean blemish (as it does here) in the LXX. of Leviticus. ἄμωμος is in Judges 1:24. See also 1 Peter 1:19.

If we adopt the strongly supported reading ἀπάταις it is not easy to get a clear notion of the meaning of the clause. Two ways of taking it are suggested: (a) revelling when they join in your feasts, to which by their deceitful conduct they have gained admission; (b) revelling in their deceitfulness, when they feast with you. In any case the writer has in his mind the love-feast of the Christians which these men perverted and profaned.

Verse 14

14. ὀφθαλμοὺς ἔχοντες μεστοὺς μοιχαλίδος. Dr Bigg unhesitatingly rejects μοιχαλίδος as a blunder for μοιχείας: the only various reading in the MSS. is μοιχαλίας (אA and three cursives) which is not a possible word. μοιχαλίδος does not seem to yield a tolerable sense, though it is accepted by commentators as meaning “eyes which see an adulteress in every woman.” The general sense “eyes full of lust” is undoubted.

ἀκαταπάστους ἁμαρτίας. So AB. The other authorities give ἀκαταπαύστους (compare for the idea 1 Peter 4 :1 πέπαυται ἁμαρτίας). Hort, preferring ἀκαταπάστους, says that it might be explained as a derivative of παύω on the strength of such forms as ἀναπαήσεται: but prefers to take it as meaning insatiable, and derives it from πάσασθαι (πατέομαι) which according to Athenaeus was used in his time to = πληρωθῆναι: so that ἀκατάπαστος = ἄπαστος etc. But Mayor points out that ἄπαστος etc. wherever found means “fasting.”

γεγυμνασμένην, exercised in, familiar with: used with θαλάττης, πολέμων, σοφίας by Philostratus.

κατάρας τέκνα means no more than “accursed.” We hear of “children of obedience” (1 Pet.), “son of perdition” (Joh.), “sons of disobedience” (Eph.).

Verse 15

15. ἐξακολουθήσαντες, for the third time in this Epistle (2 Peter 1:16, 2 Peter 2:2). The sentence about Balaam is loosely constructed. There are some various readings. For Βεὼρ (B and two versions) Βόσορ is read by the other uncials except א which has Βεωορσορ, showing a consciousness of both forms. Βόσορ cannot be satisfactorily explained.

Next, for ὃς μισθ. ἀδικ. ἠγάπησεν, B and one version read μισθ. ἀδικ. ἠγάπησαν. But this cannot be right, for ἔσχεν in the next clause must refer to Balaam, and the change of subject is intolerably awkward.

Verse 16

16. ἰδίας seems unnecessarily emphatic: it may not have been so intended by the writer. In later (and in modern) Greek the word tends to lose its force and become little more than a possessive.

προφήτου is put in to mark the contrast with the ὑποζύγιον ἄφωνον. παραφρονία is not found elsewhere: but forms in -οσύνη (we should expect παραφροσύνη) and in -ονία do exist side by side, as ἀπημονία ἀπημοσύνη.

These two 2 Peter 2:15-16 are based on a single verse in Jude (Judges 1:11) οὐαὶ αὐτοῖς (hence κατάρας τέκνα) ὅτι τῇ ὁδῷ τοῦ Καὶν ἐπορεύθησαν (καταλείποντες εὐθεῖαν ὁδὸν ἐπλανήθησαν 2 P.) καὶ τῇ πλάνῃ τοῦ Βαλαὰμ μισθοῦ ἐξεχύθησαν. Jude adds καὶ τῇ ἀντιλογίᾳ τοῦ Κορὲ ἀπώλοντο: but our writer as before (4–10) deserts his original in order to amplify one of the examples used.

Verse 17

17. “Waterless springs and mists driven by a gale: for whom darkness is reserved.” In Jude the list of comparisons is longer; Waterless clouds, barren trees, wild waves, wandering stars, for whom darkness is reserved. It is conceivable that some words have dropped out of the text of our Epistle.

πηγαί. One who sets up to be a teacher ought to be a fountain of wisdom. These men yield none.

ὁμίχλαι κ.τ.λ. “Mists” which veil the light, not clouds which promise fertilising rain. And the mists are to be swept away by a tempest into darkness. Compare Wisdom of Solomon 5:14 “the life of the ungodly is ὡς φερόμενος χνοῦς ἀπὸ ἀνέμου καὶ ὡς πάχνη ὑπὸ λαίλαπος διωχθεῖσα λεπτή.”

οἷς ὁ ζόφος κ.τ.λ. This cannot be pressed into connexion with the metaphor of springs: to the mists it is not inapplicable. In its original place in Jude it applies, with complete suitability, to stars. The masculine οἷς here must, as the text stands, be referred to the men who are described under these various images: but a lacuna seems not improbable.

Verse 18

18. ὑπέρογκα κ.τ.λ. ἐν ἐπιθυμίαις σαρκός. This is the last case of borrowing from Jude for some time. It answers to Judges 1:16 κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας αὐτῶν πορευόμενοι καὶ τὸ στόμα αὐτῶν λαλεῖ ὑπέρογκα.

ἐν ἐπιθυμίαις σαρκὸς ἀσελγείαις. σαρκός is best taken with ἐπιθυμίαις. The whole phrase is rather pleonastic to our ideas. ἀσελγείαις serves perhaps to define ἐπιθ. σαρκ. The general meaning is that the false teachers proclaimed to their followers the lawfulness of indulgence in passions, under the name of Christian liberty, and so converts who had been nearly drawn away, and with great difficulty, from the licence which prevailed in heathen society were now slipping back. Their first teachers had preached to them the importance of purity: these new ones told them that it was of no consequence. The havoc which such teaching must have wrought upon the morals and upon the very being of young Christian communities amply justifies the tremendous denunciation which we find here.

τοὺς ὀλίγως ἀποφεύγοντας κ.τ.λ. For ὀλίγως (AB, a corrector of א, and Syriac, Latin and Egyptian) a group including אCKLP reads ὄντως. For ἀποφεύγοντας (אABC) the aorist participle ἀποφυγόντας is read by KLP.

ὀλίγως is rendered in the Vulgate by paululum, for a little time: it is an uncommon word, but is found meaning “in a slight degree” and (inapplicable here) “quickly.” The escape is recent or incomplete.

τοὺς ἐν πλάνῃ ἀναστρεφομένους: almost certainly the heathen.

Verse 19

19. ἐλευθερίαν κ.τ.λ. This degeneracy of liberty into licence was a constant danger. πάντα ἔξεστιν· ἀλλʼ οὐ πάντα συμφέρει (1 Corinthians 10:23). Galatians 5:13 μόνον μὴ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν εἱς ἀφορμὴν τῇ σαρκί. 1 Peter 2:16 μὴ ὡς ἐπικάλυμμα ἔχοντες τῆς κακίας τὴν ἐλευθερίαν. Men have been found in all ages to say either openly or in effect: “Rules made for weaker brethren do not apply to me: I have penetrated into the mysteries of divine things, and know that what my body does cannot affect my soul.” But this, as our writer points out, is just where they are mistaken; they become slaves of the most abject kind to their habits and passions. Yet, slaves as they are, they dare to promise freedom to others!

ᾧ γάρ τις ἥττηται, τούτῳ δεδούλωται: so Sophocles in old age spoke of passion as a λυττῶν καὶ ἄγριος δεσπότης from whom he had escaped. Whoever committeth sin is the slave of sin, John 8:34 : cf. Romans 6:16.

Another kindred thought is that in Wisdom of Solomon 11:16 διʼ ὧν τις ἁμαρτάνει, διὰ τούτων κολἀζεται: a ruling idea in the Apocalypse of Peter.

Verse 20

20. ἀποφυγόντες τὰ μιάσματα τοῦ κόσμου. We revert to the language of chapter 1. (2 Peter 1:4 ἀποφυγόντες τῆς ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ φθορᾶς). ἐν ἐπιγνώσει κ.τ.λ. 2 Peter 1:2.

In the words δελεάζειν, ἀποφεύγειν, ἡττᾶσθαι we have fresh instances of our author’s tendency to use words over again at short intervals.

τὰ ἔσχατα χείρονα τῶν πρώτων, one of the few citations of our Lord’s words in the Epistle (see Introd. p. xxiv). These occur in Matthew 12:45.

Verse 21

21. τὴν ὁδὸν τῆς δικαιοσύνης occurs in the Apocalypse of Peter, §§ 7, 13. It is not a common phrase.

Verse 22

22. τὸ τῆς ἀληθοῦς παροιμίας: a usual phrase for introducing a proverb, as Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead, viii. 1, τοῦτʼ ἐκεῖνο τὸ τῆς παροιμίας.

Κύων etc. The equivalent is in Proverbs 26:11, the LXX. has ἔμετον for ἐξέραμα which is a very unusual word.

Ὗς λουσαμένη “after a wash.” In the ancient History of Ahikar (ed. Rendel Harris 1898) which the writer may well have known, there is a proverb of the pig that went to the bath, and on coming out saw some mud and rolled in it.

There may be a second thought in the writer’s mind of the latter end of these men in the βόρβορος of Hell: which figures in the Apocalypse of Peter, as it did also in the Orphic mysteries.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 2 Peter 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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