Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

2 Peter 1

Verses 1-99

The Second Epistle General



1 . Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ ] The Greek MSS. for the most part give the less usual form Symeon, which, as applied to St Peter, only meets us elsewhere in Acts 15:14 . The variation may, it is obvious, be looked on from different points of view. On the one hand it may be urged, as against the genuineness of the Epistle, that the same writer would not have been likely to have used two different methods of describing himself, and to have spelt the name which he now uses, and which he had not used in the First Epistle, in a manner different from that which was current in the Gospels, or in the documents from which the Gospels were compiled. On the other hand, it may be urged that the writer of a spurious second letter, referring to the first, as in chap. 3:1, would not have been likely to put a stumbling-block in the way of the reception of his work by adopting a different form of opening. The most probable supposition is that the change was due to the employment of another amanuensis. It would be natural that Silvanus or Mark, both of whom were with St Peter when the First Epistle was written, should use the more common form, while, if some member of the Church of Jerusalem had been employed for the Second Epistle, it would be equally natural for him to use the form which appears, from Luke 2:25 , Acts 15:14 , to have been current in that city. The name is found, it may be noted, in this form, in the list of St James’s successors in the Bishopric of Jerusalem (Euseb. Hist . iv. 5). In the combination of “servant” and “apostle,” in place of “apostle” only, as in 1 Peter 1:1 , we have a variation to which the remarks just made apply with equal force. A possible explanation, on the one hand, is that the writer of the Epistle (assuming its spuriousness) combined the forms of 1 Peter 1:1 and Jude ver. 1. A more probable supposition is that the consciousness of addressing a wider circle of readers than those of the Diaspora , to whom the First Epistle had been addressed, led the Apostle, in his humility, to follow St Paul’s example and to describe himself as “the servant” or slave of Christ for the sake of those to whom he wrote (Romans 1:1 ; Philippians 1:1 ; Titus 1:1 ).

to them that have obtained like precious faith with us ] The Greek adjective rendered “like precious” (literally, equally precious ) is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. Its use may perhaps be connected with that of the word “precious” in 1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Peter 1:19 . In speaking of “us” the Apostle may either be asserting the full equality of blessedness between the Jews of the Diaspora and those of the mother Church of Jerusalem and the personal disciples of the Lord Jesus, or (addressing his Epistle to a wider circle than before, and therefore purposely altering the form of address) between the Gentile and the Jewish converts. They have, he says, “obtained” (the word carries with it the idea of obtaining by lot or by God’s appointment as distinct from a man’s own exertions, as in Luke 1:9 , Acts 1:17 ) “a faith of equal worth with ours.” We ask, In what sense is faith used? Is it objective, faith as the truth which is to be believed, as in Jude ver. 3? or subjective, the faith that justifies and saves? Either meaning is tenable, and probably the Apostle was not careful to distinguish between the two, but the latter commends itself as more in harmony with St Peter’s language in Acts 15:9 , where “faith,” as given to the Gentiles, is clearly used in its subjective sense.

through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ ] Literally, in the righteousness. Grammatically, as in Titus 1:1 , the word “God” as well as “Saviour” may be referred to Jesus Christ. It is, however, more consonant with the Apostolic usus loquendi (1 Corinthians 1:3 ; 2 Corinthians 1:3 ; Galatians 1:3 ; Philippians 1:2 et al.) to refer “God,” though the word “father” is not joined with it, to the First Person of the Godhead. The “righteousness of God …” may be either (1) that which God gives and which He gives through Christ, or (2) the righteousness which is an eternal attribute of the Godhead. On the former supposition there would, to say the least, be something at variance with the usual language of the New Testament writers in saying that men “obtain faith by righteousness,” the usual statement being that “righteousness comes by faith.” It seems better, therefore, to take the latter view, and to refer the words to the fact just stated. It was in and by the righteousness of God, the absence in Him of any “respect of persons,” that Jew and Gentile had been placed on an equality. So taken the words present a suggestive parallel with Acts 10:34 , Acts 10:15 :8, Acts 10:9 .

2 . Grace and peace be multiplied unto you ] Here the writer falls into the phraseology of the First Epistle (see note on 1 Peter 1:2 ), but adds to the simple benediction the words “through (better in ) the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.” The word for “knowledge” ( epignosis ) hovers between the meaning of “complete knowledge” and the recognition which implies love. It does not occur in the First Epistle. In St Paul’s Epistles it meets us first in Romans 1:28 , Romans 3:20 , and occurs more or less frequently in most of the subsequent Epistles. In 1 Corinthians 13:8 , 1 Corinthians 13:12 the verb from which it is formed is contrasted with the less perfect knowledge expressed by gnosis . Looking to the history of the words, it would seem probable that in proportion as rash and self-asserting teaching boasted of the higher gnosis , the “science, falsely so called,” of 1 Timothy 6:20 , which afterwards developed into the heresies of the Gnostic sect, the true teachers set up the other word as expressing something nobler and more excellent. “Not gnosis ,” they seem to say, “but epignosis , not an abstract speculative knowledge, but that which implies a fulness of contemplation, loving as well as knowing.” St Peter’s use of the word in this Epistle, obviously written after closer contact with false teachers of this kind than is traceable in the First, admits, probably, of this explanation.

Jesus our Lord ] The peculiar construction, as distinct from “Christ Jesus” and “the Lord Jesus,” occurs elsewhere only in Romans 4:24 .

3 . According as his divine power ] Better, Seeing that .… The Greek word for “divine” is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in verse 4 and Acts 17:29 .

life and godliness ] The words at first suggest the union of outward and spiritual blessings, the things needful for body and soul. The words that follow shew, however, that “life” must be taken in its higher sense, as extending to the eternal life which “standeth” in the knowledge of God. The word for “godliness” is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in this Epistle (1:6, 7, 3:11), and in Acts 3:12 , where it is used by St Peter, and in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 2:2 , 1 Timothy 2:3 :16, 1 Timothy 2:4 :7, 1 Timothy 2:8 , et al.), and like that for “knowledge” in ver. 2 is characteristic of the later period of the Apostolic age. In the LXX. of Proverbs 1:7 a kindred word appears as an equivalent for “the fear of the Lord.” Its strict meaning is that of “true reverence for God,” and so far answers more to “religion” than to “godliness,” the state of one who is “godly” or “like God.”

through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue ] The word for “knowledge” is the same as in ver. 2, and fixes, as has been said, the meaning of “life” in the previous verse. In the last four words the English text mistranslates the preposition, and we have to read “ by (or through ) His own glory and virtue.” Some MSS. give the simple dative of the instrument ( ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ ), and others the preposition with the genitive ( διὰ δόξης ). For the word “virtue” see note on 1 Peter 2:9 . Its recurrence three times in this Epistle (here and in verse 5) and so rarely elsewhere in the New Testament (Philippians 4:8 only) is, so far as it goes, in favour of identity of authorship. Taking the true rendering, the thought expressed is that the attributes of God manifested by Him are the means by which He calls men to the knowledge of the truth.

4 . whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises ] Better, the verb being the same as in the previous verse, through which (the glory and the virtue just mentioned) He hath given unto us . The nature of the promises is indicated by the words that follow. They included pardon, peace, eternal life, participation in the Divine Nature. In the word “precious” we note a reproduction of the phraseology of the First Epistle (1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Peter 1:19 ), but it should be noted that the apparent parallelism with 1 Peter 2:7 is in the English only, and not in the Greek.

that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature ] The words seem bold, but they simply shew how deeply St Peter had entered into the meaning of more familiar phrases. If men were “partakers of Christ,” brought by His own ordinance into communion and fellowship with Him (1 Corinthians 1:9 ; 2 Corinthians 1:7 ) and with the Father (John 14:20-23 , 17:John 14:21-23 ; 1 John 1:3 ) and with the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 13:14 ), did not this involve their partaking in that Divine Nature which was common to the Three Persons of the Godhead? Christ was one with them and with the Father, dwelling in them by the power of the Spirit.

having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust ] The verb, which occurs again in chap. 2:18, 20, is peculiar to this Epistle in the New Testament. The word for “corruption,” though not peculiar, is yet characteristic (chap. 2:12, 19). The “corruption” has its seat outwardly, as contrasted with the kingdom of God, in the world that lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19 ); inwardly in the element of desire (“lust” in its widest sense), which makes men live to themselves and not to God. The moment of escape must be thought of as that of conversion, of which baptism was the outward sign.

5 . and beside this, giving all diligence ] Better, on this very account . The Apostle does not contemplate the elements of Christian holiness which he proceeds to specify as additions to our participation in the Divine Nature, but rather dwells on that very fact, as a reason for pressing onward in the Christian life with all diligence (better, perhaps, earnestness ). The use of the word in Jude ver. 3 should be noticed as a parallelism. The Greek for “giving” (literally bringing in by the side of ) is an unusual word, not found elsewhere in the New Testament, and seems chosen to express the thought that men, though rejoicing in God’s gifts, were yet to bring in collaterally, as it were, their own activity (comp. Philippians 2:13 ).

add to your faith virtue ] The Greek word ( epichorêgein ) is a compound form of that which had been used in 1 Peter 4:11 (see note there as to its meaning and history) and furnishes an addition to the list of words common to the two Epistles. In the LXX. it occurs but once (Ecclus. 25:22), and it may be noted that this is the only passage (unless Galatians 3:5 be another instance) where it is used of man’s activity and not of God’s. Thus taken, the more accurate rendering would be with and by your faith supply virtue, with virtue knowledge , and so on. The Greek cannot possibly bear the meaning of “adding to,” though the fact is of course implied. What is meant is that each element of the Christian life is to be as an instrument by which that which follows it is wrought out.

knowledge ] The word is the simpler gnosis , placed here in its right relation to the fuller epignosis (see note on ver. 2), to which it leads. The context is decisive against our taking it in the sense of a speculative apprehension of doctrinal mysteries, and we must think of the Apostle as meaning the moral discernment of those who “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17 ), who “have their senses exercised to distinguish between good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14 ). This kind of knowledge is to be gained, as the Apostle teaches, by the practice of virtue.

6 . and to knowledge temperance ] Better, as before, and by knowledge temperance . The word for “temperance” has a wider range than the modern sense of the English term. “ Self-government ” or “ self-control ” would be better equivalents. In Ecclus. 18:30 we have, under the heading in the LXX. of “self-control of the soul” ( ἐγκράτεια ψυχῆς ), what may almost be called a definition in the form of a precept, “Go not after thy lusts, but refrain thyself from thine appetites.” The word is not common in the New Testament, but appears in Acts 24:25 ; Galatians 5:23 .

and to temperance patience ] Better, endurance , the Greek noun expressing a more active phase of character than the English, bearing up against evils, and continuing steadfast under them. The cognate verb is translated “endure” in Matthew 10:22 and elsewhere.

to patience godliness ] See note on ver. 3 for the latter word.

7 . and to godliness brotherly kindness ] Better, perhaps, love of the brethren . See note on 1 Peter 1:22 . The recurrence of the words may be noted as evidence in favour of identity of authorship.

and to brotherly kindness charity ] Better, love . See note on 1 Peter 4:8 . It is to be regretted, as has been said before, that the varying usage of our translators hinders us from recognising at once the unity of the writers of the New Testament as to the greatness and majesty of “love.”

8 . if these things be in you ] The Greek verb expresses the idea of permanent property or possession, as in Matthew 19:21 ; 1 Corinthians 13:3 . For “abound,” better multiply , as expressing the activity of life in each as reproducing itself in manifold acts.

they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful ] The words in italics are not necessary for the meaning and make the structure of the sentence awkward. Better, they make you neither idle nor yet unfruitful . The word for “barren” is found in the “idle” of Matthew 12:36 , Matthew 20:3 , and elsewhere. The English “barren” introduces a gratuitous tautology.

in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ ] Rather, unto or towards , the Greek preposition pointing to “the knowledge …” not as the region in which their activity is to work, but as the goal to which all that activity should be tending. The “knowledge” is the higher epignosis of ver. 3, and its position here, as the end and crown of the Christian hope, well illustrates its relation to the gnosis which belongs to an earlier and less perfect state.

9 . But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see far off ] More accurately, For he to whom these things are not present is blind, near-sighted . The causal conjunction is important in the sequence of thought. We are to press on from height to height of Christian excellence, for , if we do not so press, we sink back into a want of power to perceive even the elementary truths of the kingdom of God. The second of the two words describing this state is defined by Aristotle ( Probl . 31) as denoting the state of those who are naturally “short-sighted,” and is thus adequately rendered in the English version. The man in this state in his spiritual power of vision sees the near things, the circumstances, allurements, provocations of his daily life, but he has lost the power to look to the far-off things of the life eternal. This seems, on the whole, a truer interpretation than that which, taking the definition of the word given by some Greek lexicographers as meaning “one who closes his eyes,” sees in it a description of one whose blindness is self-caused, who wilfully closes the eyes of the spirit that he may not look upon the truth. The state of the blind man who saw “men, as trees, walking” (Mark 8:24 ) offers a suggestive parallel.

and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins ] Literally, and hath taken to himself forgetfulness (the noun is not found elsewhere in the New Testament) of the purification of his sins of long ago . The spiritual fact described is like that of which St James speaks, and indicates a like train of thought (James 1:23 , James 1:24 ). The “purification” is that of conversion symbolized and made effectual by baptism, and connects itself with the stress laid upon it in the words that belong to one great crisis of the Apostle’s life (Acts 10:15 , Acts 11:9 , Acts 15:9 ). The man who forgets this cleansing of his soul, and acts as if he were in his simply natural state, with no power to resist temptation, does in fact ignore what God has done for him, and treats “the sins of long ago” as though they were still the inevitable accompaniments of the present.

10 . give diligence to make your calling and election sure ] We hardly need to prove that the “calling and election” of which St Peter speaks were thought of by him as Divine acts according to the Divine foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:2 , 1 Peter 2:21 ). He was not hindered, however, by any speculative difficulties from admitting that it was in man’s power to frustrate both (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:1 ; Galatians 2:21 ), and that effort was required to give them permanent validity. They were, from his point of view, as the conditions of a covenant offered by God’s mercy, but it remained with man to ratify or rescind the compact.

ye shall never fall ] More literally, and more significantly, ye shall never stumble , “stumbling” being, as in Romans 11:11 , a step short of falling. The use of the word may be noted as presenting a coincidence with the language of St James (James 2:10 , James 3:2 ).

11 . for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly ] Better, the entrance shall be richly bestowed or supplied . The verb is the same as that which is translated “add” in ver. 5, where see note. The Greek has the article with the noun as defining the entrance to be that which was the well-known object of the faith and hope of all Christians. In St Peter’s use of the word we may, perhaps, trace an echo of 1 Thessalonians 1:9 , 1 Thessalonians 2:1 , though it is used there in a lower sense.

everlasting ] The rule of keeping, as far as possible, to uniformity of rendering would make eternal preferable. It is, perhaps, worth noting that this is the only passage in the New Testament in which the adjective is joined to “kingdom.”

12 . Wherefore I will not be negligent ] Many of the better MSS. have the reading “I will proceed to put you in remembrance,” but the Received Text is fairly supported. The words in either case indicate the anxiety with which the Apostle looked on the threatening dangers of the time. In the addition of “though ye know them” we trace a touch of humility and courtesy, like that of St Paul in Romans 1:12 . In assuming previous knowledge, the Apostle finds, as the greatest of Greek orators had found before him (Demosth. p. 74. 7), the surest means of making that knowledge at once clearer and deeper.

in the present truth ] The translation, though quite literal, is for the English reader somewhat misleading, as suggesting the thought that the Apostle is speaking of some special truth, not of the truth as a whole. Better, therefore, in the truth which is present with you . So taken the words furnish a suggestive parallel to 1 Peter 5:12 , as a recognition of the previous work of St Paul and his fellow-labourers in the Asiatic provinces.

13 . Yea, I think it meet ] More accurately, But I think it right . Though he knows them to be established in the truth, he yet looks on it as his duty to remind them of what they know.

as long as I am in this tabernacle ] The term chosen is interesting (1) as a parallel to St Paul’s use of the same imagery in 2 Corinthians 5:1 , and (2) as connected with the reference to the Transfiguration which follows. In that vision on the mount, it will be remembered, St Peter had uttered the prayer “Let us make three tabernacles …” (Matthew 17:4 ). He had now learnt that the true tabernacle of Christ was His human body, and to think of his own body also as the tabernacle of His Spirit.

to stir you up by putting you in remembrance ] The phrase, which occurs again in chap. 3:1, may be noticed as characteristic of St Peter. He assumes a knowledge not only of the broad outlines of Gospel truth, but of the facts of the Gospel history, including, it is obvious, the history of the Transfiguration, and corresponding therefore to the record found in the first three Gospels.

14 . knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle ] Better, knowing that swift will be the putting off of my tabernacle . He speaks not so much of the nearness of his death, as of the suddenness with which it would come upon him, and he is therefore anxious to make all necessary preparations for it. In the word for “putting off” we have, as in 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 , a blending of the two closely connected ideas of a tent and a garment. Comp. a like association of ideas in Psalms 104:2 .

even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me ] Better, shewed me , the aorist pointing to some time definitely present to his mind. The only extant record of any such intimation in the Gospels is that in John 21:18 , John 21:19 , and, assuming the genuineness of this Epistle, it is obvious that it supplies an interesting testimony to the truth of that narrative. It will be remembered that we have already seen an interesting allusive reference to it in 1 Peter 5:2 . Even on the other hypothesis it is, at least, evidence of the early date of a tradition corresponding to that which St John has recorded.

15 . Moreover I will endeavour that you may be able after my decease …] The word “endeavour” in the modern sense is perhaps slightly too weak, the Greek verb implying diligent and earnest effort. In the Greek word for “decease” ( exodos ), we meet with another suggestive coincidence with the history of the Transfiguration. When the Apostle had seen the forms of Moses and Elijah, they had spoken of the “decease” which Christ should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31 ). It may be noted that this use of the word, as an euphemistic synonym for “death,” is entirely absent from Greek classical writers, and that probably the two passages referred to are the earliest instances of its use in that sense. It occurs, however, a little later in Josephus ( Ant . iv. 8, § 2) and in Wisd. 3:2 (“Their departure was taken for misery”), probably the work of a contemporary. In the intention thus expressed we may fairly see a confirmation of the tradition which speaks of St Mark’s acting as the “interpreter” or amanuensis of St Peter, in writing his Gospel, recording, at the request of the Apostle’s disciples, what they had heard orally from him. (Euseb. Hist . ii. 15, iii. 39, Iren. iii. 10, § 6.)

Another interpretation of the words may be noticed as deserving a place among the curiosities of exegesis. Roman Catholic commentators, Cornelius a Lapide and others, have connected the words “after my decease” with the verb “I will endeavour,” and have thus construed the Apostle’s words into an argument for his continued watchfulness and superintendence over the development of the Church’s doctrine.

16 . For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you …] More accurately, For it was not as following cunningly devised fables that we made known the connexion being one not of time but of causation. The “fables” or “myths” referred to are probably those of which St Paul speaks in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 1:4 , 1 Timothy 1:4 :7; 2 Timothy 4:4 ; Titus 1:14 ), which were, as the description there given of them indicates, mainly of Jewish origin. With these there might be mingled the germs of the Gnosticism incipient in the Apostolic age, and developed more fully in the next century. Possibly there may be an allusive reference to the claims of the sorcerer of Samaria, with whom the Apostle had himself come into collision (Acts 8:10 ). The boast of Simon that he was the “great power of God,” and that his mistress Helena was the incarnation of the Divine Thought or Wisdom by which the worlds were made, would answer, closely enough, to the “cunningly devised fables” of which St Peter speaks. The word for “cunningly devised,” framed, i.e., with fraudulent and sophistical purpose, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. The question what the Apostle refers to in “we made known to you:” it may refer either to unrecorded teaching addressed to the Asiatic Churches, or to the wider circle of readers defined in verse 1, or, more probably, to the teaching of the First Epistle as to the glory that was to be manifested “at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Peter 1:13 , 1 Peter 1:4 :13). The tone in which the offensive epithet is used suggests the thought that he is defending himself against a charge of having followed “fables.” Is it possible that that charge had been brought against his teaching as to “the spirits in prison,” as something superadded to the received oral traditions of the Church, or to the written records, whether identical with our present Gospels or not, in which that teaching had been embodied?

the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ] The “coming,” here, as in every other passage of the New Testament in which the word occurs, is the Second Advent, not the first. The mind of the Apostle goes back to what he had witnessed in the glory of the Transfiguration, as the pledge and earnest of that which was afterwards to be revealed. The word does not occur in the First Epistle, but the fact is implied in 1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Peter 1:13 , 1 Peter 1:4 :13, 1 Peter 1:5 :4.

but were eyewitnesses of his majesty ] Both words are significant. That for “eye-witnesses” (not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but used of God as the all-seeing in 2 Macc. 7:35; 3 Macc. 2:21) was applied in Classical Greek to the highest order of those who were initiated as spectators of the Eleusinian mysteries. It would, perhaps, be too much to say that that association was definitely present to the Apostle’s mind, but the choice of an unusual and suggestive word at least implies that he looked on himself as having been chosen to a special privilege. It deserves notice also, as bearing on the authorship of the Epistle, that the verb derived from the noun had been used by the writer of 1 Peter 2:12 , 1 Peter 3:2 . (See notes there.) The word for “majesty” also has the interest of having been used in the Gospel narrative in close connexion with the healing of the demoniac boy which followed the Transfiguration (Luke 9:43 ), and, as found there, may fairly be taken as including, as far as the three disciples who had seen the vision of glory were concerned, what had preceded that work of healing, as well as the work itself. The only other passage in the New Testament in which it is found is in Acts 19:27 , where it is used of the “magnificence” of the Ephesian Artemis.

17 . For he received from God the Father honour and glory ] The Greek construction is participial, For having received …, the structure of the sentence being interrupted by the parenthetical clause which follows, and not resumed. The English version may be admitted, though it conceals this fact, as a fair solution of the difficulty. “Honour and glory.” The two words are naturally joined together as in Romans 2:7 , Romans 2:10 ; 1 Timothy 1:17 ; Hebrews 2:7 , Hebrews 2:9 ; Revelation 4:9 , Revelation 4:11 , Revelation 4:5 :12. If we are to press the distinctive force of each, the “honour” may be thought of as referring to the attesting voice at the Transfiguration, the “glory” to the light which enveloped the person of the Christ, like the Shechinah cloud of 1 Kings 8:10 , 1 Kings 8:11 ; Isaiah 6:1 , Isaiah 6:4 ; Matthew 17:1-5 ; Mark 9:2-7 ; Luke 9:28-36 .

when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory ] Literally, when such a voice as this was borne to Him . The choice of the verb instead of the more usual word for “came,” connects itself with the use of the same verb in St Luke’s account of the Pentecostal gift (Acts 2:2 ), and the Apostle’s own use of it in verse 21 in connexion with the gift of prophecy. The word for “excellent” (more literally, magnificent , or majestic , as describing the transcendent brightness of the Shechinahcloud), not found elsewhere in the New Testament, is, perhaps, an echo from the LXX. of Deuteronomy 33:26 , where God is described as “the excellent (or majestic ) One of the firmament.” The corresponding noun appears in the LXX. of Psalms 21:5 , where the English version has “majesty.” The Greek preposition has the force of “by” rather than “from” the glory, the person of the Father being identified with the Glory which was the token of His presence.

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ] The words are given, with one slight variation not perceptible in the English, as we find them in Matthew 17:5 . It is obvious, assuming the genuineness of the Epistle, that we have here a testimony of great value to the truth of the Gospel records. As there is no reference to any written record of the words, and, we may add, as St Peter omits the words “Hear ye Him,” which St Matthew adds, the testimony has distinctly the character of independence. Had the Epistle been the spurious work of a pseudonymous writer, it is at least probable that they would have been given in the precise form in which they are found in one or other of the Gospels. St Mark and St Luke, it may be noted, omit the words “in whom I am well pleased.” The tense used in the Greek of these words is past, and not present, implying that the “delight” with which the Father contemplated the Son had been from eternity. The whole passage has a special interest, as pointing to the place which the Transfiguration occupied in the spiritual education of the three disciples who witnessed it. The Apostle looked back upon it, in his old age, as having stamped on his mind ineffaceably the conviction that the glory on which he had then looked was the pledge and earnest of that hereafter to be revealed. Comp. the probable reference to the same event in John 1:14 .

18 . And this voice which came from heaven we heard …] More accurately, as better expressing the force of the special word used here as in the previous verse, And this voice borne from heaven we heard .… The “we” is emphatic, as giving prominence to the fact of the personal testimony of the Apostle and his two brother-disciples.

when we were with him in the holy mount ] It has been urged by some critics that the description of the Mount of the Transfiguration by the term which in Old Testament language was commonly applied to Zion (Psalms 2:6 ) indicates the phraseology of a later age than that of the Apostles. It is obvious, however, in answer, that the scene of the manifestation of the Divineglory of which he speaks could not appear as other than “holy ground” holy as Horeb had been of old (Exodus 3:5 ; Acts 7:33 ) to the Apostle who had been there. Comp. Joshua 5:15 . Whether, as the Gospel narrative indicates, it was on the heights of Hermon (Matthew 16:13 ), or, as later tradition reported, on Mount Tabor, it would remain for ever as a consecrated spot in the Apostle’s memory. It may, perhaps, be inferred from the tone in which he thus speaks of it, that he assumes that his readers had already some knowledge of the fact referred to.

19 . We have also a more sure word of prophecy ] Better, And we have yet more steadfast the prophetic word . The force of the comparative must have its full significance. The “prophetic word” was for the Apostle, taught as he had been in his Master’s school of prophetic interpretation, and himself possessing the prophetic gift, a witness of yet greater force than the voice from heaven and the glory of which he had been an eye-witness. He uses the term in its widest sense, embracing the written prophecies of the Old Testament and the spoken or written prophecies of the New. It is a suggestive fact that the Second Epistle ascribed (though probably wrongly) to Clement of Rome, contains what is given as a quotation from “the prophetic word” (chap. xi), and that that quotation presents a striking parallel to the language of St James on the one hand, and to that of this Epistle on the other. “If we are not servants to the Gospel of God because we believe not the promise, wretched are we. For the prophetic word saith, Wretched are the double-minded, those who doubt in their heart (James 1:8 ); who say, All these things we heard in the days of our fathers, but we, waiting day by day, have seen none of these things” (2 Peter 3:4 ). Was the Apostle referring to a “prophetic word” such as this, which was then actually extant, and was to him and others as the sheet-anchor of their faith? The words quoted by the pseudo-Clement prove the existence of such a document, as held in high authority, and, though the book itself is lost, there is nothing improbable in the thought that the Apostle should refer to it, and the continuous guidance of the Spirit of which it was the token, as confirming all his previous belief, and assuring him that he had not followed cunningly-devised fables nor been the victim of an illusion. In any case we must think of him as referring to the continuous exercise of the prophetic gift, the power to speak words which came to the souls of men as a message from God, which had been given to himself and others. We can scarcely fail to note the identity of thought with that expressed in the Apostle’s speech in Acts 2:16-21 .

whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place ] Better, as to a torch shining in a gloomy place . It may be noted (1) that the “ torch shining ” is precisely the term applied by our Lord (“the burning and the shining light ,” John 5:35 ) to John the Baptist as the last in the long line of the prophets of the older covenant; and (2) that the Greek word for “dark” or “gloomy” (not found elsewhere in the New Testament) is applied strictly to the squalor and gloom of a dungeon. Interpreting the word, we find in the “gloomy place” the world in which the lot of the disciples was as yet cast. For them the “prophetic word,” written or spoken, was as a torch casting its beams athwart the murky air, preparing the way for a radiance yet brighter than its own.

until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts ] The imagery reminds us of that of Romans 13:12 (“the night is far spent, the day is at hand”), but with a very marked and manifest difference. In St Paul’s thoughts the “day” is identical with the coming of the Lord, as an objective fact; the close of the world’s “night” of ignorance and darkness. Here the addition of the words “and the day star arise in your hearts ” fixes its meaning as, in some sense, subjective. The words point accordingly to a direct manifestation of Christ to the soul of the believer as being higher than the “prophetic word,” as that, in its turn, had been higher than the attestation of the visible glory and the voice from heaven. So understood, the passage presents an interesting parallelism with the “marvellous light” of 1 Peter 2:9 , as also with the “day-spring from on high” of Luke 1:78 . The word for “day star,” the morning star (literally, Lucifer , the light-bearer), the star that precedes and accompanies the rising of the sun, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX., but it is identical in meaning with the “bright and morning star” of Revelation 2:28 , Revelation 22:16 , and the use of the same image by the two Apostles indicates that it had come to be recognised as a symbolic name of the Lord Jesus as manifested to the souls of His people.

20 . knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation ] The true meaning of the passage turns partly on the actual significance of the last word, partly on the sequence of thought as connected with the foregoing. The noun itself does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament nor in the LXX., but in Aquila’s version of Genesis 40:8 it is given as the equivalent of “interpretation.” The corresponding verb meets us, however, in Mark 4:34 (“he explained all things to his disciples”) and in Acts 19:39 (“it shall be determined ”), and this leaves no doubt that “interpretation” or “solution” is the right rendering. Nor again is there much room for doubt as to the meaning of “prophecy of scripture.” The words can only point to a “prophetic word” embodied in a writing and recognised as Scripture. We have seen, however (see note on 1 Peter 1:10-12 ), that the gift of prophecy was thought of as belonging to the present as fully as to the past, and chap. 3:16, 1 Timothy 5:18 , and possibly Romans 16:26 and 1 Corinthians 15:3 , 1 Corinthians 15:4 , shew that the word Scripture had come to have a wider range of meaning than that which limited its use to the Old Testament writings, and may therefore be taken here in its most comprehensive sense. Stress must also be laid on the Greek verb rendered “is,” which might better be translated cometh , or cometh into being . With these data the true explanation of the passage is not far to seek. The Apostle calls on men to give heed to the prophetic word on the ground that no prophecy, authenticated as such by being recognised as part of Scripture, whether that Scripture belongs to the Old, or the New Covenant, comes by the prophet’s own interpretation of the facts with which he has to deal, whether those facts concern the outer history of the world, or the unfolding of the eternal truths of God’s Kingdom. It is borne to him, as he proceeds to shew in the next verse, from a higher source, from that which is, in the truest sense of the word, an inspiration. The views held by some commentators, (1) that St Peter is protesting against the application of private judgment to the interpretation of prophecy, and (2) that he is contending that no single prophecy can be interpreted apart from the whole body of prophetic teaching contained in Scripture, are, it is believed, less satisfactory explanations of the Apostle’s meaning.

21 . For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man ] More accurately, For prophecy was not sent (or borne) at any time by the will of man . The article before “prophecy” in the Greek simply gives to the noun the generic sense which is better expressed in English by the absence of the article. The word for “came” is the same as that used of the “voice” in verses 17, 18, and is, as there shewn, characteristic of St Peter. That for “old time” is wider in its range than the English words, and takes in the more recent as well as the more distant past, and is therefore applicable to the prophecies of the Christian no less than to those of the Jewish Church. In the phrase “by the will of men” we have a parallelism with John 1:13 .

but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ] Better, but being borne on (the same word as the “came” of the previous verse, and therefore used with an emphasis which cannot well be reproduced in English) by the Holy Ghost, men spake from God . Some of the better MSS. have the preposition “from” instead of the adjective “holy.” The words assert in the fullest sense the inspiration of all true prophets. Their workdid not originate in their own will. They felt impelled by a Spirit mightier than their own. The mode and degree of inspiration and its relation to the prophet’s cooperating will and previous habits of thought are left undefined. The words lend no support to a theory of an inspiration dictating the very syllables uttered by the prophet, still less do they affirm anything as to the nature of the inspiration of the writers of the books of the Old Testament who were not prophets. If we retain the Received Text, we have in it an example of the use of the term “man of God” (i.e. called and sent by Him) as equivalent to “prophet,” parallel to what we find in Deuteronomy 33:1 ; 2 Kings 4:9 , 2 Kings 4:16 , 2 Kings 4:5 :8, and probably in 1 Timothy 6:11 .

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Peter 1". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.