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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
2 Peter 3

 

 

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Verse 1

2 Peter 3:1. For ἤδη with numeral, cf. John 21:14. δευτέραν ἐπιστολήν. Does this refer to 1 Peter? See Introduction, p. 113. ἐν αἷς: “in both of which,” constructio ad sensum. διεγείρςὑπομνήσει: cf. 2 Peter 1:13.

εἰλικρινῆ: cf. 1 Corinthians 5:8, 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17, Philippians 1:10. εἰλικρινῆ διάνοιαν is a technical philosophic term used by Plato. Phaed. 66 A = “pure reason,” such as the geometer employs. In Phaed. 81 C, εἰλικρινὴς ψυχή is opposed to ψ. μεμιασμένη καὶ ἀκάθαρτος. 2 Peter here cannot be acquitted of a confusion in the use of philosophic terms, probably picked up loosely in conversation. At the same time, διάνοια is also used in the philosophic sense of ψυχή in Genesis 17:17, Deuteronomy 6:5, Numbers 15:39; also in N.T. Coloss. 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Peter 1:13. εἰλικρινής is of doubtful etymology, and signilies ethical purity, a mind uncontaminated and unwarped by sensual passion. The opposite state is described in Plato, Phaed. 81, “She thinks nothing true, but what is bodily, and can be touched and seen, and eaten and drunk, and used for men’s lusts”.


Verses 1-4

2 Peter 3:1-4. Prophets and apostles have warned us that delay will lead to denial of the Second Advent.

“I am now writing my second letter to you. In both I seek to rouse you to honest reflection on the words formerly spoken by the holy prophets, and on the commandment of our Lord delivered by your missionaries. Especially realise the truth of their warning, that there will come in the last days scoffers, with scoffing questions, walking after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His appearing? For,’ say they, ‘from the time the fathers fell asleep, everything remains as it has been from the beginning of creation’.”


Verse 2

2 Peter 3:2. Borrowed from Judges 1:17. μνησθῆναι: epexegetical infinitive. See grammatical note. καὶ τῆς τῶν ἀποστόλων, κ. τ. λ. Double possessive genitive “of the Lord’s command delivered by your apostles”. Chase (op. cit. p. 811 a) suggests that διά should be inserted after τῆς, and compares the title of the Didache, διδαχὴ κυρίου διὰ τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. ἐντολή = teaching of our Lord on the fulfilment of the moral law, cf. 2 Peter 2:21, John 12:50. ἀποστόλων: Are the Twelve meant? cf. Introd. pp. 103–4. Probably ἀπ. signifies just those from whom they received the first knowledge of the gospel, accredited missionaries of the Church. The word is used of Epaphroditus, Philippians 2:25, and of other than apostles, 2 Corinthians 8:23.


Verse 3

2 Peter 3:3. τοῦτο πρῶτον γινώσκοντες. Accusative is required, but all MSS. have nominative, cf. Judges 1:18. ἐπʼ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν. Mockers are one of the signs of the approach of the end, cf. 1 John 2:18. ἐν ἐμπαιγμονῇ ἐμπαῖκται: ἐμπαίκτης is an unclassical form. cf. Mark 15:20. This verse is not part of the prophetic or apostolic message of 2 Peter 3:2, but a particular caution of the writer, based on Jude.


Verse 4

2 Peter 3:4. ποῦ ἐστὶν, κ. τ. λ. The coming or our Lord in the near future was evidently an integral part of the apostolic teaching, cf. 2 Peter 1:16. “There is no sure evidence that Jesus sought to undermine the assumption of His followers, that the and glory would be manifested in their day; and even this we may fairly qualify with the remembrance that a main motive of the principal eschatological discourse, reported by the Synoptists, is to warn the disciples against premature expectations” (J.H. Muirhead, Eschatology of Jesus, pp. 126, 127). τῆς παρουσίας: See note on 2 Peter 1:16. ἀφʼ ἧς γὰρ, κ. τ. λ. “The fathers,” must mean those of the preceding generation, in whose life-time the παρουσία was expected. οὕτως = in statu quo. ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως, i.e., “contrary to all previous human experience”. The Teaching of our Lord Himself in one aspect would imply that the actual παρουσία, would be attended with no outward previous disturbance of life to act as a warning. Men would be engaged in their ordinary occupations and pleasures (Matthew 24:36-42). The development and ripening of the moral and spiritual issues of men’s lives are often not outwardly apparent (cf. Paget’s “Studies in the Christian Character,”—“The Hidden Issues,” pp. 89 ff).


Verse 5

2 Peter 3:5. λανθάνει γὰρ αὐτοὺς τοῦτο. “This escapes their notice.” τοῦτο is nominative. θέλοντας “wilfully” “of their own purpose”. ἔκπαλαι (cf. note, 2 Peter 2:3): “originally,” i.e. before the creation of the world. The Rabbinical school of Shammai held that Genesis 1:1, ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν meant that the heaven was in existence before the six days’ work, i.e. ἔκπαλαι. Perhaps this notion is present here. ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ διʼ ὕδατος. Two kinds of water are meant. The first may refer to the primeval watery chaos—” the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The second is perhaps connected with the formation of the dry land by “the gathering together of the waters into one place” (Genesis 1:9). But the meaning is obscure (cf. Mayor, ed. lxxxiii.; Chase, op. cit. 797). συνεστῶσα = “was formed”. Cf. Philo, i. p. 330. ἐκ γῆς καὶ ὕδατος καὶ ἀέρος καὶ πυρὸς συνέστη ὅδε κόσμος.

The above interpretation is in substantial agreement with Alford’s, who distinguishes “the waters above the firmament,” and “the fountains of the great deep”. The Hebrew had no notion of evaporation. The rivers run into the sea, and the water returns subterraneously to their sources again (Ecclesiastes 1:7).


Verses 5-7

2 Peter 3:5-7. The first part of the argument against the scoffers. “It is not true that the course of the world is unchanging. They have wilfully forgotten that the heavens existed originally, and the earth was formed out of water, and by means of water, by the Word of God. By this very water and Word the world, as it then was, was overwhelmed and perished. The present heavens and earth, by the same Word, are treasured up for fire, being reserved for the day when impious men shall meet their doom and destruction.”


Verse 6

2 Peter 3:6. διʼ ὧν. Mayor and Schmeidel, against the evidence of nearly all manuscripts, read διʼ ὅν. This is rendered unnecessary (1) if the above rendering of ἐξ ὕδατος κ. τ. λ. is taken, and the plural διʼ ὧν refers to the two waters. διʼ ὅν would refer to λόγῳ alone, or (2) if διʼ ὧν relers to ὑδάτων and λόγῳ taken together, which would in some ways suit the sense of the whole passage better. The false teachers had ignored the agency of the Divine word. κατακλυσθείς; ἁπ. λεγ. in N.T.; found several times in P.Tebt. e.g. 5417ff (B.C. 86) [ ὥστε] … συμβεβηκότων κατακλυσθῆναι. “So that in consequence of what happened, it was flooded”; 565f (late ii. B.C.) γείν[ ωσ] κε δὲ περὶ τοῦ κατακεκλῦσθαι τὸ πεδίον “but know about our plain having been inundated”.


Verse 7

2 Peter 3:7. πυρὶ τηρούμενοι. According to the Jewish conception of the rainbow promise, water would not again be the destructive agency. The heaven and the earth are reserved for destruction by fire. τεθησαυρισμένοι: “set apart for”. The writer means that both the rainbow promise and the delay are not to be regarded as implying that there will be no more great cosmical changes.

The idea of the association of a great cosmical change with the coming of Christ is an interesting one. It involves the question of our environment when the natural is exchanged for the spiritual body. This writer evidently expects not complete annihilation of the present environment, but a “new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). St. Paul speaks of “the deliverance of the creation itself from the bondage of corruption into the glory of the liberty of the children of God”. “We are not informed as to the nature of our future environment, yet it must be such as to satisfy all the longings, and give scope for all the activities of a perfected humanity” (Mayor, ed. p. 207. See also his most interesting and suggestive note: “Answer to the objection that no change is possible in the material universe”; and with whole passage, 2 Peter 3:5-7, cf. Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, p. 24.)


Verse 8

2 Peter 3:8. μία ἡμέρα, κ. τ. λ. Cf. Psalms 40:4. The literal application of this statement to the story of creation, employed by patristic writers, in which one day is interpreted as 1000 years, and therefore the creation in six days really means 6000 years, is of course absurd. On the other hand, it can scarcely be said that the writer of 2 Peter has attained to the conception that the category of time does not exist for the Divine Mind. Rather the meaning is that infinite compassion overrides in the Divine Mind all finite reckoning. Cf. Barnabas, 15, Justin, Dialogue, 81.


Verses 8-10

2 Peter 3:8-10. A further argument to explain the apparent delay. “One thing beloved, you must not forget. The sense of the duration of time in the Divine Mind is not the same as in the human. One day is the same to God as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. God must not be judged as slack by human standards, in the fulfilment of His promise. He is better than the promise. He is long-suffering to usward, not willing that some should perish, but that all should come to repentance. We know not when His long-suffering will be exhausted. The day of the Lord will come as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with hurtling noise, and the elements being burned, shall pass away, and the earth and the works of men contained in it, will be made manifest.”


Verse 9

2 Peter 3:9. οὐ βραδύνειἡγοῦνται. The idea that is combated is that God has made a promise and has not kept it, He is, however, better than His promise. The additional element of His μακροθυμία is brought into play. God is greater than men’s conception of Him, especially if theirs is a mechanical view of the universe.— ὥς τινες βραδύτητα ἡγοῦνται. As nowhere else in the Epistle, here the writer of 2 Peter enables us to view the summit of the Christian Faith, and to rise to a magnificent conception of God. μὴ βουλόμενός, κ. τ. λ. Delay does not spring from an unwillingness or impotence to perform. His will is not even that “some” should perish, though that is regarded by the writer as inevitable. Are we to see here opposition in the writer’s mind to the purely logical interpretation of the Pauline teaching on Predestination? Some will perish, but it is not His Will. His Will is that all should come to repentance. The goodness of God should lead to repentance.


Verse 10

2 Peter 3:10. ἡμέρα κυρίου. No distinction is made between the Day of the Lord, and the Coming of Christ. This is remarkable, as excluding any idea of millenarian teaching, which speedily made its appearance in the Early Church, is ὡς κλέπτης, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Matthew 24:43, Luke 12:39, Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15. That day will surprise those who are clinging to the idea that no change is possible. ῥοιζηδὸν, onomatopoetic, expressing the sound produced by rapid motion through the air, e.g., flight of a bird, or an arrow. It is also used of the sound of a shepherd’s pipe. No doubt the sound of a fierce flame is meant. “It is used of thunder in Luc. Jup. Trag. 1; of the music of the spheres in Iamblich, Vit. Pyth. c. 15; Oecumenius says the word is especially used of the noise caused by a devouring flame” (Mayor, ed. p. 157). στοιχεῖα. Spitta interprets στ. as being the spirits that preside over the various parts of nature. But the situation of στ. between γῆ and οὐρανοὶ makes it practically certain that the heavenly bodies are meant. The universe consists of οὐρανοὶ, στοιχεῖα and γῆ. οὐρανοὶ is the vault of heaven,“the skies”. στ. would therefore mean sun, moon and stars. Cf. Justin. Apol. 2 Peter 2:5, Trypho. 23. Cf. Isaiah 34:4, Joel 2:30-31, Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:12-14 in illustration of the Jewish belief that the stars will share in the final destruction of the Last Day. καυσούμενα. A medical term, used of the heat of fever ( καῦσος). This is the only known use of the word applied to inanimate objects. Whether the writer of 2 Peter has here indulged a fondness for unusual words, or whether καυσόομαι was ever used in other than a medical sense in the κοινὴ, it is impossible as yet to say. In any case it denotes a violent consuming heat. εὑρεθήσεται. The only alternative reading that is worthy of notice in connexion with this difficult passage is κατα καήσεται, but one would expect a word expressing dissolution, like παρελεύσονται, or λυθήσεται. εὑρεθήσεται is found in an absolute sense in Clement, Cor. 9:3 (of Enoch) οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῦ θάνατος, “his death was not brought to light”. In 2 Clem. xvi. (see textual note) φανήσεται is the paraphrase of εὑρεθήσεται (cf. Introd. pp. 90 f.).


Verse 11

2 Peter 3:11. λυομένων. Present used for a future. Mayor translates “are in process of dissolution,” as though the principle of φθορά were already at work; but this is a conception foreign to the mind of the writer, who uses it only in a moral significance. Nature is “reserved” ( θησαυρίζεσθαι) for destruction. Dissolution is the goal in sight. ποταπούς. “What sort of men.” A later form of ποδαπός. ὑπάρχειν implies not merely existence, but existential character. ἀναστροφαῖς καὶ εὐσεβείαις. The use of the plural in cases of abstract nouns is peculiar to the writer and to 1 Peter. He emphasises once more the close connexion between morality and religion.


Verses 11-16

2 Peter 3:11-16. The ethical value of the Parousia expectation. “Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, how great an effect it ought to exercise on our whole moral and religious life, as we look forward to and hasten the coming of the day of God. The skies shall be set on fire and dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fiercest heat, but we look for new skies and a new earth according to His promise, in which righteousness shall find a home. Wherefore, beloved, with such expectations, endeavour to be found in peace, spotless and blameless. Do not reckon the long-suffering of our Lord as an opportunity for licence, but as a means of salvation, as our beloved brother Paul wrote you in the wisdom granted to him. He indeed spoke in all his letters of these things, in which there are some things hard to be understood, which ignorant and unstable persons wrest, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”


Verse 12

2 Peter 3:12. σπεύδοντας. Either (1) “earnestly desiring,” cf. Isaiah 16:5, σπεύδων δικαιοσύνην, or (2) preferably, “hastening the coming”. “The Church may be said to bring the day nearer when it prays, ‘Thy kingdom come’ ” (Bigg). The writer is here referring to the Jewish idea that the sins of men prevented Messiah from appearing. “Si Judaei poenitentiam facerent una die, statim veniret Messias, films David.”

The words are capable of a still more spiritual meaning, which, however, is rather beyond the consciousness of this writer. The kingdom of God is “within” us, and Christians may be said to hasten this coming by holiness of life. Christian conduct is itself both a rebuke to vice and a realisation of the presence of Christ in the hearts of His disciples.

τήκεται. Again present for future. The phrases in this verse are repeated from 2 Peter 3:10 in order to introduce the more impressively the idea in 2 Peter 3:13.


Verse 13

2 Peter 3:13. καινοὺς δὲ οὐρανοὺςπροσδοκῶμεν. Cf. Isaiah 65:17. ἔσται γὰρ οὐρανὸς καινὸς καὶ γῆ καινή. Enoch xci. 16. See note on 2 Peter 3:7.

οὐρανός might appropriately be translated “sky”. ἐν οἷς δικαιοσύνη κατοικεῖ; “wherein righteousness dwells,” or “has its home”. In the word there is both the sense of permanence and of persuasive influence. Both in the hearts of men, and the new environment, there will be nothing that militates against righteousness. The Parousia is both judgment on the wicked and triumph for the kingdom. Cf. 2 Peter 3:7.


Verse 14

2 Peter 3:14. ἄσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοι αὐτῷ. αὐτῷ is dative = “in relation to Him,” or “in His sight”. Cf. Romans 7:10. εὑρέθη μοι ἐντολὴ εἰς ζωὴν αὕτη εἰς θάνατον; Ephesians 1:4, εἶναι ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ. For ἄσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοι, cf. note on 2 Peter 3:13. ἀμώμητος occurs in Epistle of Aristeas (ed. Wendland), with reference to sacrificial victims. ἐν εἰρήνῃ. Peace and righteousness are one. Cf. Psalms 85:10. The “welldoers” will be able to meet the Parousia with calm expectation.


Verse 15

2 Peter 3:15. καὶ τὴν τοῦ κυρίουἡγεῖσθε. Cf. 2 Peter 3:9. The Divine long-suffering is capable of interpretation as “slackness,” or as opportunity for license instead of as σωτηρίαν, an opportunity for repentance. καθὼς καὶ ἀγαπητὸςἔγραψεν ὑμῖν. The interpretation here largely depends on (1) whether the reference of καθὼς is confined to the idea in the first clause of the verse, or (2) is to be extended to include ἄσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοιεἰρήνῃ in 2 Peter 3:14, or (3) is still further extended to include the whole treatment of moral disorder arising from delayed Parousia. In the case of (1) Romans would be the most appropriate among the known canonical epistles. In that epistle the idea of God’s long-suffering is most prominent (cf. Romans 2:4, Romans 3:25-26, Romans 9:22-23, Romans 11:22-23). (2) Almost any of St. Paul’s epistles might be meant. (3) If the question of moral disorder arising from difficulties about the παρουσία is placed in the foreground, “none of the existing Pauline Epistles can be in question except 1 Corinthians (in this Church there were very similar extravagances, and the Resurrection was by some denied) and Thessalonians” (Bigg). A decision on this point involves the discussion on the destination of the epistle, for which see Introduction, pp. 205 f. (cf. Zahn., Introd. ii., pp. 211–2). ἀγαπητὸςπαῦλος need not imply that Paul was alive. κατὰ τὴν δοθεῖσαν αὐτῷ σοφίαν. Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10, Galatians 2:9, 1 Cor. 3:66, Colossians 1:28.


Verse 16

2 Peter 3:16. ὡς καὶ ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐπιστολαῖς. This statement implies neither the inclusion of all the epistles that have come down to us, nor the formation of a canon. It is much more natural to take it as referring to a collection of letters made not long after Paul’s death, and read in the churches. The term ἀγαπητὸς ἡμῶν ἀδελφὸς in 2 Peter 3:15 would seem to refer to one whose memory is still quite fresh in the hearts of the readers. λαλῶν ἐν αὐταῖς περὶ τούτων: “where he touches on these subjects” (Mayor), περὶ τούτων indicates a widening of the reference to include Paul’s treatment of the whole question of the Second Coming. The mention of Paul’s name here implies a desire on the part of the writer to show that on this point the Pauline and Petrine teaching are at one. The false teachers founded their Antinomian doctrine on Paul’s teaching about the Grace of God. ἐν αἷς, κ. τ. λ. This clearly involves that a collection of letters is meant. δυσνόητά τινα. “What are the δυσνόητά referred to? “Probably St. Paul’s doctrine of God’s free grace (Romans 3:5-8), with his apparent disparagement of the law in Romans 3:20-28; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; Romans 6:4; Romans 7:4-11; his teaching with regard to the πνευματικοὶ, 1 Corinthians 1:15; with regard to the strong, whom he seems to justify in their neglect of the rule made at the Apostolic Council, as to εἰδωλόθυτα (Acts 15:29; Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 10:25); as regards the Resurrection in baptism (Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 15:12); perhaps as regards predestination (Romans 9:11-21), and the Parousia (2 Thessalonians 2.)” (Mayor). οἱ ἀμαθεῖς καὶ ἀστήρικτοι. ἀμαθής is not used elsewhere in the N.T. It signifies not so much “unlearned” as “uneducated”; a mind untrained and undisciplined in habits of thought, lacking in the moral qualities of a balanced judgment. ἀστήρικτοι refers more to conduct, those whose habits are not fully trained and established. The reference of ἀμ. καὶ ἀστηρ. is of course not to the Libertines, but to a class among the readers. In 2 Peter 3:17 στηριγμός is used of the readers, in distinction to the False Teachers, who are called ἀθέσμων. στρεβλοῦσιν: of persons, “to torture,” of things, “to wrest” or “twist”.

ὡς καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς γραφάς. (1) There has been much discussion among commentators as to the meaning of γραφάς. Spitta takes γραφάς in sense of “writings,” and concludes that these were by companions of the Apostle Paul; but this is a very unusual sense of γραφή unless the name of an author is given. Mayor and others interpret as the O.T. Scriptures; while some who are prepared to assign a late date in the second century to the epistle, think that both Old and New Testament Scriptures are meant. On every ground the hypothesis of γραφάς = O.T. Scriptures is to be preferred. (2) The difficulty in connexion with the meaning of γραφάς is largely occasioned by the phrase τὰς λοιπὰς γρ. Does this mean that the Epistles of St. Paul are regarded as Scripture? Attempts have been made (e.g., by Dr. Bigg) to cite classical and other parallels that would justify the sense for τὰς λοιπὰς, “the Scriptures as well”. In these, certain idiomatic uses of ἄλλος and other words are referred to, but no real parallel to this sense of λοιπός can be found, and the connexion implied in λοιπός is closer than ἄλλος. The result of the whole discussion is practically to compel us to take τὰς λοιπὰς γραφάς in the obvious sense “the rest of the Scriptures,” and we cannot escape the conclusion that the Epistles of Paul are classed with these. The intention of the author of 2 Peter seems to be to regard the Pauline Epistles, or those of them that he knew, as γραφαὶ because they were read in the churches along with the lessons from the O.T.


Verse 17

2 Peter 3:17. This verse gathers up various thoughts that appear elsewhere in the epistle. προγινώσκοντες repeats ταῦτα πρῶτον γινώσκοντες of 2 Peter 1:20, 2 Peter 3:1; ἀθέσμων occurs 2 Peter 2:7; πλάνη 2 Peter 2:18. συναπαχθέντες (cf. Galatians 2:13), “carried away”. ἀθέσμων, see note 2 Peter 2:7. στηριγμοῦ, “steadfastness”; perhaps “foundation” is better, although in this sense we would expect στήριγμα. There is, however, a tendency in N.T. to confuse words in - μα - μος. Cf. κύλισμα (2 Peter 2:22). ἁρπαγμός (Philippians 2:6). The foundation is the χάρις and γνῶσις of 2 Peter 3:18. ἰδίου is in emphatic contrast to the untrustworthy basis of the Libertine teaching.


Verse 17-18

2 Peter 3:17-18. Final exhortation. “Having then, brethren, been forewarned, be on your guard lest you fall from your own foundation, carried away by the error of lawless men. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and in the day of eternity.”


Verse 18

2 Peter 3:18. ἐν χάριτι καὶ γνώσει τοῦ κυρίου, κ. τ. λ. The genitive is to be taken with both words. γνῶσις here means “spiritual instruction,” a knowledge that has its source in Christ Himself, as distinct from ἐπίγνωσις, which is personal communion with Christ (see note 2 Peter 1:5). γνῶσις is the privilege of the “friend” of Christ. Cf. John 7:17; John 15:15. αὐτῷ. Note that the doxology is addressed to Christ, and, therefore, κυρίου ἡμῶν. also refers to Him. εἰς ἡμέραν αἰῶνος: “in the day of eternity”. The meanings of εἰς and ἐν in later Greek are somewhat interchangable (cf. Moulton, Proleg. 234 f.). ἡμ. αἰῶνος is a very rare phrase not found elsewhere in N.T. It is found in Sirach 18:10, where the phrase is ἐν ἡμέρᾳ αἰῶνος. The more usual expression is εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. “ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας becomes so immediately the ruling phrase that this Petrine doxology cannot have been written alter liturgical expressions had become in any degree stereotyped” (Bigg).

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/2-peter-3.html. 1897-1910.

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