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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
2 Peter 1

 

 

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Verse 1

2 Peter 1:1. Simon Peter. In the First Epistle the writer designates himself simply by the new name of grace, Peter, which he received from Christ. Here he gives the combined name which is found occasionally in the Gospels (Luke 5:8; John 13:6; John 20:2; John 21:15; of also Matthew 4:18; Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 10:5; Acts 11:13). The change in the personal designation of the author has been held by some to betray the spuriousness of the Epistle. By others it has been taken as a clear, though minor, witness to its genuineness. It can scarcely be said to have much weight either way; although it may go so far to establish the independence of the composition. It would certainly be less likely that a forger should adopt this style of address, than that he should make it identical with that used by the writer for whom he gives himself out. Some, again (e.g. Besser), think the change due to the fact that the full name, Simon Peter, has a ‘kind of testamentary form,’ and suits one who feels the end of his life near. Others (e.g. Plumptre) explain it as occurring perhaps simply through a change of amanuensis. The reason, however, may be that the writer has it in view to emphasize in the present connection his own Jewish origin, and enlist sympathetic attention to his admonitions, by exhibiting at the outset the common platform of grace on which Jewish Christians like himself and Gentile Christians like his readers stood. This becomes clearer if we read Symeon instead of Simon, The best ancient authorities vary so much between these two forms that it is difficult to say which is to be preferred. The form Simon is used both by Christ (Matthew 17:25) and by Peter’s fellow-believers (Luke 24:34). Occasionally it seems as if Jesus fell back upon that name as the old name of nature, which excited humbling thoughts of the past in the mind of the Apostle (of. Mark 14:37; Luke 22:31; John 21:15-17). Symeon is the distinctively Hebraic or Aramaic form, the one probably in familiar use among the Jews themselves. To Peter himself it is given only once elsewhere, viz. by James, the spokesman of the Jerusalem Convention (Acts 15:14). In the N. T. it is the form used in the case of the aged saint who received the infant Jesus into his arms in the temple (Luke 2:25; Luke 2:34), in that of the son of Juda (Luke 3:30), in that of Niger (Acts 13:1), and in that of the Israelite tribe (Revelation 7:7). In the Greek translation of the O. T. it is regularly employed as the name of the patriarch Simeon.

bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. The official designation. It differs from its parallel in the former Epistle in setting the general title, which covers all kinds of office or service, before the definite title which marks the particular dignity of office held by Peter. The combined designation, in this form, is peculiar to the present Epistle. It most resembles that adopted by Paul in Romans 1:1 and Titus 1:1. In his other Epistles Paul styles himself either simply ‘servant’ (Philippians 1:1), or simply ‘apostle’ (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1); and in the Epistles of James and Jude ‘servant’ is the one title employed. It is questioned whether the term has here the official sense or the non-official. On the ground of the general application of the word ‘servant’ or ‘bond-servant’ in such passages as Romans 6:22, Ephesians 6:6, etc., it is argued that here too it expresses nothing more than dependence on Christ, devotion to His cause, and readiness to serve Him as any Christian may serve Him. In the N. T., however, the word occurs not only as the title used in inscriptions, but also in connections where it seems interchangeable with the term ‘minister’ (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:7; Colossians 4:12). In the O. T., too, the title ‘servant of Jehovah’ is a familiar official description (e.g. Joshua 1:1; Joshua 24:29; Jeremiah 29:19; Isaiah 42:1, etc.); while Moses is designated distinctively the ‘servant of God’ (1 Chronicles 6:49). Hence it is most probably intended here to express the general idea of office, of which the apostleship was a special and distinguishing instance. ‘It has been also properly remarked that, as the expression, servant of Christ, implies implicit obedience and subjection, it supposes the Divine authority of the Redeemer. That is, we find the Apostle denying that he was the servant of men, rejecting all human authority as it regards matters of faith and duty, and yet professing the most al-solute subjection of conscience and reason to the authority of Jesus Christ’ (Hodge on Romans 1:1).

to them that obtained like precious faith with us. From chap. 2 Peter 3:1 we may perhaps infer that the Epistle was meant, in the first instance at least, for the persons addressed in the former Epistle. They are designated here, however, neither by their territorial distribution nor by their election, but by their community with others in faith. It is possible that by the ‘faith’ here we are to understand faith in the objective sense, the deposit of truth, the sum of the things believed. So it is taken by not a few excellent interpreters (Huther, Alford, Wiesinger, etc.), who suppose it borne out by the objective use of the term ‘truth’ in 2 Peter 1:12, and the similar use of the term ‘faith’ in Jude 1:3. The subjective sense, however, seems more in accordance with the statement on the subject of the faith of the Gentiles made by Peter himself before the convention at Jerusalem (Acts 15:9). It is also more in place here, where the writer proceeds at once to deal with the experience of the readers and their duty to grow in grace It is therefore of the grace of faith in Christ that Peter speaks. And of this he affirms first that it came to them as a gift of God. This verb ‘obtained’ is one which occurs again only thrice in the N. T. (Luke 1:9; John 19:24; Acts 1:17), in which last passage Peter himself is the speaker. It means property to have by let or assignment. It is put in the simple past (‘obtained,’ rather than ‘have obtained’), the gift of grace which brought with it this new belief being regarded as a thing definitely bestowed at a former crisis in their life. The faith in possession of which they were thus placed, neither by their own power nor of their own right, is affirmed secondly to be for that reason ‘equally precious,’ or ‘of like worth,’ with that of others like the writer himself. This compound adjective, ‘like-precious,’ occurs only here. It may be compared, however, with the repeated appearance of the idea of preciousness in the former Epistle (1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 2:6-7). The A. V. follows the felicitous rendering of Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan. Wycliffe gives ‘the even faith.’ The Rhemish not less unhappily translates it ‘equal faith.’ But what is asserted is not the possession of the same measure of faith, but the possession of a faith which, by whomsoever enjoyed, has the same value in the sight of Him from whom it comes as a gift of grace. The persons referred to in the phrase ‘with us’ are not the apostles as such, but the class of Christians, Jewish-Christians to wit, to whom the writer himself belonged. There is nothing in the New Testament to indicate the existence of ideas which made it necessary to assert that with God the faith of ordinary believers was not inferior in worth to that of apostles. But there is much to show (of. Acts 11:17; Acts 15:9-11, etc.) how alien it was to primitive Christian thought to regard Gentile Christians as occupying in grace the selfsame platform with Christians gathered out of the ancient Church of God.

in the righteousness. The ‘through’ of the A. V. is an inexact rendering. The preposition used points to that (the sphere, e.g., or the spirit) in which a thing is done. The term ‘righteousness’ is not to be diluted into ‘goodness,’ or transformed into ‘faithfulness.’ Neither has it here the theological sense of justifying righteousness, the gift of righteousness (Luther, etc.), or imputed lighteousness. That is a Pauline rather than a Petrine use. It is inconsistent, too, with the ascription of this righteousness both to God and to Christ. Nor, again, can the term be taken as equivalent to the state of justification (Schott, etc.). For this would represent the faith as coming by righteousness, instead of the righteousness as coming by faith. Other glosses upon the word, e.g. the righteous life of conformity to God’s will (Brückner), the kingdom of righteousness (Dietlein), are still less in place. The only sense that will suit the context (where the equality of Jew and Gentile in respect of faith is in view) is the broad sense of the rectitude, or righteous impartiality, of God and Christ. This, too, is an idea entirely characteristic of Peter. Compare his statement of the absence of all respect of persons with God in 1 Peter 1:17, and his assertion of the same truth in connection with the admission of the Gentiles (Acts 11:34). The phrase, therefore, is to be connected neither with the ‘faith,’ as if the faith affirmed was a faith in the righteousness of God; nor with the ‘like-precious,’ as if Peter meant that the faith of Gentile Christians had the same worth with that of Jewish Christians in the matter of a justified state or righteous life. It goes immediately with the ‘obtained,’ and expresses the fact that this faith became theirs by the gift of Him with whom there is no favouritism, no making of arbitrary distinctions between class and class.

of our God and the Saviour Jesus Christ. It is a question whether Jesus Christ is simply associated here with God, or is identified as both God and Saviour. The old English Versions prior to the A. V. adopted the latter idea, rendering not ‘God and our Saviour,’ but ‘our God and Saviour.’ The R. V. adheres to this in its text, but prudently inserts the rendering of the A. V. in its margin. The decision turns upon the application of a nice principle in the use of the Greek article, namely, that when two nouns of the same case, and under the rule of a single article prefixed to the former, are united by ‘and,’ they describe one and the same object. Instances of this are seen in the designations of Christ in 2 Peter 1:11 and chap. 2 Peter 3:18. Grammatically this principle might seem to apply very distinctly to the present case, and so it has been understood by many interpreters, including Schott, Hofmann, Dietlein, Wordsworth, etc. The last-named expositor argues further, that a declaration of Christ’s Divinity was very pertinent here, because the Epistle ‘was designed to repel the errors of those who separated Jesus from Christ, and denied the Lord that bought them, and rejected the doctrine of His Divinity.’ The rule is subject, however, to certain checks which make its application here, as also in Titus 2:13, somewhat doubtful. Peter does not elsewhere call Christ directly God, although he repeatedly names Him Lord. The term God is nowhere attached immediately to Christ, or Jesus Christ, as is the case with Lord in the phrase ‘the Lord Christ,’ ‘the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘our Lord Jesus Christ.’ In the very next sentence, too, Peter distinguishes the two subjects, God and Jesus our Lord. It is precarious, therefore, to insist upon the grammatical principle here, and so the larger number of interpreters (Calvin, Huther, Alford, Fronmüller, Wiesinger, Lumby, Mason, etc.) hold that two subjects are in view here, God the Father and Jesus Christ the Saviour, although Peter speaks of a righteousness of action which belongs to both.


Verse 1-2

There is a marked difference between the opening of this Second Epistle and that of the First. The one inscription, indeed, is not less remarkable than the other for wealth of thought and tenderness of feeling. The benediction, too, with which the readers of this Epistle are greeted, has the same peculiarity of expression as the former. But there is more of the personal now in the description of the writer, and more of the catholic in the description of the readers. The writer’s name is given with greater familiarity. His official title is given with greater fulness, and more in the Pauline form. The local designation of the readers is omitted, and they are described simply in respect of what they are by grace. This may be due to the fact that the former letter and the oral communications of its bearer, Silvanus, had brought the author into closer relations with the recipients. In contents and in phraseology the Introduction has also a character of its own. It points to Gentile Christians as the persons immediately addressed. It starts, too, with at least two ideas which bulk largely in the body of the Epistle, namely, that of spiritual knowledge as opposed to what is taught by seductive pretenders, and the lordship of Christ as opposed to the licence which despises government and speaks evil of dignities.


Verse 2

2 Peter 1:2. Grace to you and peace be multiplied. So far the opening benediction is exactly the same as in 1 Peter 1:2; see note there.

in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. This addition to the formula adopted in the previous Epistle is in admirable harmony with the scope of the letter. It defines the conditions on which this increase of grace and peace is suspended. These blessings will abound in the readers only as the readers themselves abide and advance in Divine knowledge. The strong, compound term for ‘knowledge’ is used here, which meets us so often in Paul’s Epistles, particularly in the Pastoral Epistles and those of the Captivity. How characteristic of Paul the use of this word is, appears from these occurrences—Romans 1:28; Romans 3:20; Romans 10:2; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 2:2, Colossians 3:10; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25; 2 Timothy 3:7; Titus 1:1; Philemon 1:6. It is almost equally characteristic, however, of the present Epistle (chap. 2 Peter 1:2-3; 2 Peter 1:8, 2 Peter 2:20). Elsewhere it occurs only in Hebrews (chap. Hebrews 10:26). It means more than simple acknowledgment. It denotes an intenser, more complete and intuitive knowledge than is expressed by the simple noun. At times it gives the idea of the intimate recognition which love takes of its object. ‘It is bringing me,’ says Culverwell, ‘better acquainted with a thing I knew before; a more exact viewing of an object that I saw before afar off’ (see Trench, sub voce). This intimate ‘knowledge’ is also defined as the knowledge not only of God, but of Jesus our Lord; because, as Calvin suggests, it is only by knowing the latter that we can rightly know the former; cf. John 17:3. The phrase ‘Jesus our Lord’ occurs only here and in Romans 4:24. This spiritual knowledge, therefore, which brings us into loving acquaintance with God Himself through Jesus our Lord is exhibited as the secret of grace and peace, and is at once opposed here, at the outset of the Epistle, to that unspiritual, pretentious teaching which seems to have given itself out as the perfect knowledge within the circles addressed by Peter. It is possible that the Apostle of the Circumcision had now to cope with the same boastful, vapid, and unpractical speculations which Paul contends with in his Epistles to the Colossians and Timothy.


Verse 3

2 Peter 1:3. Seeing that his divine power hat gifted us. This verse and the next are attached by the A. V. immediately to what precedes. They are thus made part of the opening benediction. This was once almost the accepted connection. It was retained by the great critic Lachmann, and it appears to be favoured by the punctuation which is adopted in the most recent critical edition of the original, namely, that by Westcott and Hort. Alford, too, holds that the connection with the former verse should not be broken, as it is characteristic of the writer of this Epistle ‘to dilate further when the sense seems to have come to a close.’ There is much, nevertheless, against this. The inscriptions of the Epistles are short, compact, and self-contained. That of the former Epistle of Peter is decidedly so. In a few of the Epistles (Hebrews, James, 1John, 3John) there is no introductory greeting, or at least no benediction. Where there is such, it closes the inscription. Even in the case of the Epistle to the Galatians, which might seem to be an exception to the general form, the longer inscription is concluded by a doxology. This being the general model of the inscriptions, it is better to connect 2 Peter 1:3-4 with what follows. They thus lay the deep foundation for the exhortation, which follows in 2 Peter 1:5. That foundation is the liberal grant of grace which believers have received from Him in whom they believe. The grant, too, is described at some length, as regards its source, its extent, the means of its attainment, the object with which it is bestowed. So Bengel conceives that in the present paragraph we have the truth which is enshrined in the Master’s parable of the Virgins (Matthew 25) expounded without the parabolic form, the 3d and 4th verses dealing with the flame, that is to say, with that which is simply conferred by God without action on our side, and the subsequent verses dealing with the oil, that is to say, all that which we ourselves have to contribute in order to maintain, extend, and utilize the flame. The A. V., therefore, somewhat misses the point by its ‘according as,’ which gives the idea of a standard to which our efforts are to conform. What is intended is neither this, nor a mere explanation such as is supposed by some (e.g. Bengel, Mason) on the analogy of 2 Corinthians 5:20, but the emphatic statement of a fact, which is thrown into the strongest relief at the outset. They had received a great endowment of grace, and this at once made them capable of acting out the lofty pattern of character immediately depicted, and laid them under obligation to do. Hence the opening phrase should be rendered ‘considering that,’ ‘forasmuch as,’ or (with the R. V.) ‘seeing that.’ The verb rendered ‘given’ in the A. V. is not the ordinary verb, but a richer form which may be translated ‘gift’ or ‘grant’ It occurs only once again in the N. T., namely of Pilate’s grant of the body of Jesus to Joseph (Mark 15:45). The bestowal of this endowment of grace is ascribed to ‘His Divine power.’ Whose? Gods, say some; Christ’s, say others; while a third party say it is the power of God and Jesus in the oneness of their nature and activity. On the whole, the second view (which is that of Calvin, Huther, etc.) seems most likely. It would be somewhat superfluous to describe the power as Divine, if the Subject in view were God the Father. It is not superfluous, if the Subject in view is that ‘Jesus our Lord’ who was ‘crucified in weakness’ but also ‘raised in power,’ and who puts forth the ‘power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10) in the imparting of all needful gifts to His servants. This epithet ‘Divine,’ indeed, occurs only twice again in the N. T., namely in 2 Peter 1:4 and in Acts 17:29. The power of Christ which works in behalf of Christians, secures for them this wealth of spiritual privilege only because it is a power of a Divine order.

with all things pertaining to life and godliness. The sense might perhaps be more adequately given thus—‘with all things, to wit all those pertaining to life and godliness.’ The grant is represented as a universal one, so far as these particular objects are concerned. By ‘life and godliness’ we are not to understand man’s temporal interest on the one band and his spiritual interest on the other. Both terms refer to the latter interest. As the subjoined statement shows, ‘life’ has here the wide sense of life truly so called, the eternal life which Christ (John 17:3) identifies with the knowledge of the only true God and Him whom He sent. The term for ‘godliness’ is one in which the original idea is that of reverence, or the fear of God. It is of somewhat peculiar usage in the N. T., being found nowhere but in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:7-8, etc.), and on the lips of Peter (Acts 3:12; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:6-7, 2 Peter 3:11). It has a distinctively Old Testament tone. The two words, therefore, express two distinct things, the former denoting the new, inward condition of the believer, the latter the attitude toward God which corresponds with that condition. It is to be noticed, however, that what Peter describes believers to be gifted with is not the life and godliness themselves, but all things pertaining to these. The new ‘life’ itself is also a Divine gift. But that ‘life’ admits of being regarded under the aspect of a thing appropriated and used by the recipient of it, as well as a thing communicated by grace. It is with the latter that Peter deals at present. Taking it for granted that the gift of life is there, he will have it understood that this is not to lie dormant, because the Divine power of Christ has furnished with the new life itself also all that is serviceable to our living it out for ourselves, and giving effect to it in a type of conduct ruled by the fear of God.

through the knowledge of him who called us through glory and virtue. The same intense term for ‘knowledge’ is used here as in 2 Peter 1:2. The calling is given as belonging entirely to the past (‘called,’ not ‘hath called’), the first definite introduction into Christ’s kingdom being in view. The Person who ‘called us’ is in all probability God; although some (e.g. Schott) take Christ to be intended in the present instance, holding that at least occasionally, as in Romans 1:6 the usual N. T. practice of ascribing the ‘call’ to God the Father is departed from. The A. V. is entirely in error in rendering the last clause ‘to glory and virtue.’ In this it has followed the ‘unto’ of the Genevan; Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Rhemish rightly give ‘by.’ Otherwise the reading varies between two forms which have much the same sense, viz. ‘through glory and virtue,’ and ‘by his own glory and virtue.’ By the ‘glory’ we may understand the sum of God’s revealed perfections. As to the term ‘virtue,’ see on 1 Peter 2:9, where it is used to express the excellencies of God. It occurs again in 2 Peter 1:5 of this chapter, and in the N. T. its use is confined to the writings of Peter, with the single Pauline exception of Philippians 4:8. In the Classics it denotes excellence, whether physical or mental. In the Greek Version of the O. T. it represents the Hebrew term for the majesty (Habakkuk 3:3; Zechariah 6:13, etc.) and the praise (Isaiah 42:8) of God. Here the combined terms appear to describe the Divine perfections both as revealed and as efficient. What is meant, therefore, is that this grant of ‘all things serviceable for life and godliness,’ which Christ’s Divine power has secured for us, becomes actually ours only as we know the God whom Christ has declared, and who called us out of darkness by revealing His own gracious perfections and making them efficient in our case. There is a measure of resemblance to 1 Peter 1:21, where it is said to be by Christ that we believe in God.


Verses 3-11

The writer starts at once, and in a somewhat abrupt and nervous fashion, with the great theme of advance in the spiritual life. He regards this as essential. He takes it for granted that it can be made good only from the standpoint of faith. He exhibits in detail the process of such an advance, and urges it by considerations drawn both from the advantage which it carries with it and the peril and loss involved in its neglect. We can the better understand why he should insist with such rugged force upon the necessity of a constant increase in gracious attainment, and that specially in relation to the knowledge of God, if we are right in supposing that he had in view a spurious kind of knowledge, or gnosis, which developed in the next century into the heresy of the so-called Gnostics or ‘knowing ones.’ For that party pretended to reach a religious height from which they looked down in proud pity upon the ordinary life of faith and the ordinary requirements of a growth in grace. Peter uses words as lofty as the loftiest language of that party. He speaks of the destiny of the Christian as nothing short of participation in the Divine nature. He describes in the strongest terms the grandeur and affluence of the gifts conferred by Christ. But he makes both the magnitude and the intention of these gracious endowments the ground of his exhortation to aim at spiritual advance, and the reason why believers should practise all diligence. Though the style seems involved and the grammar irregular, the paragraph is distinguished by the rich elevation of its style, its dignified march, and the orderly progress of its argument.


Verse 4

2 Peter 1:4. Whereby he has gifted us. The verb is to be put thus, as already in 2 Peter 1:3, rather than in the passive form, ‘are given,’ as the A. V. renders it. The ‘whereby’ may refer either to the ‘all things’ or to the ‘glory and virtue,’ more probably to the latter. The Person said here to ‘gift us’ is, according to some, the Christ whose Divine power has been already described as gifting; according to others (and this is on the whole more likely), it is the God who ‘called us.’

with the precious and exceedingly great promises. What are we to understand by these? Some say the promises recorded in the O. T. Others say the promises uttered by Christ Himself, or more generally those promises about His Second Advent and the end of the world which are given in the N. T., and to which also reference is supposed to be made in chap. 2 Peter 3:13. The term ‘promise,’ however, means at times not the verbal promise itself, but its fulfilment (comp. Luke 24:49; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 10:36; Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39). This sense is supported here, too, by the particular word used (occurring only once again in the whole N. T., viz. in chap. 2 Peter 3:13), which differs from the ordinary term in being of a more concrete form. The ‘promises’ in view, therefore, may be especially the two all inclusive fulfilments of God’s engagements, namely, the Advent of Messiah (comp. Luke 1:67-75), and the gift of the Spirit (which is described as ‘the promise of the Father,’ Acts 1:4). And there are defined as ‘exceeding great and precious,’ or rather, in accordance with what is on the whole the better supported reading, as ‘precious and exceeding (or very) great’ These two epithets combined exhibit the objects as at once indisputably real, and of the highest possible magnitude. The ‘precious’ (an epithet which meets us in more than one form also in the First Epistle, 2 Peter 1:7; 2 Peter 1:19, 2 Peter 2:7) seems here to point to the fact that these ‘promises’ are more than pleasing words, and have been found indeed to be things tangible and of the most substantial worth. The clause as a whole, therefore, bears that by means of those same revealed and efficient perfections by which He called us, God has put us in actual possession of those incalculable bestowals of grace which are identified with the Coming of Christ and the gift of the Spirit

in order that through these ye might become partakers of the divine nature. Some take the ‘through these’ to refer to the ‘all things pertaining to life and godliness;’ others connect it immediately with the ‘glory and virtue.’ It is most naturally referred, however, to the immediately preceding ‘promises.’ The sentence, therefore, states the object which God has had in view in gifting us with the endowments of grace which are bound up with the Coming of the promised Christ, and the outpouring of the promised Spirit. His object was that through these (for only through these was it possible) the servants of the flesh might have a new life and a new destiny. The verb is so put (‘might become,’ rather than either ‘might be,’ as in A. V., or ‘may become,’ as in R. V.) as to imply that the participation in view is not a thing merely of the future, but realized so far in the present. The expression given to the life and destiny themselves is as singular as it is profound—‘partakers of the (or perhaps a) Divine nature.’ This phrase ‘Divine nature’ is peculiar to the present passage. It is not to be regarded as a mere synonym for ‘justification,’ ‘regeneration,’ or the ‘mystical union.’ On the other hand, it is not quite the same as the phrase ‘the being of God.’ As the phrase the ‘nature of beasts (comp. James 3:7) denotes the sum of all the qualities characteristic of the brute creation, strength, fierceness, etc.; and the phrase ‘human nature’ denotes the sum of the qualities distinction of man, so the ‘Divine nature’ denotes the sum of the qualities, holiness, etc., which belong to God. What is meant, therefore, is a Divine order of moral nature, an inward life of a Godlike constitution, participation in qualities which are in God, and which may be in us so far as His Spirit is in us. Not that the believer is deified, as some of the Fathers ventured to say and Mystics have at times vainly dreamed, nor that there is any essential identity between the human nature and the Divine; but that God, who created us at first in His own image, designs through the Incarnation of His Son to make us like Himself, as children may be like a father, putting on us ‘the new roan, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness’ (Ephesians 4:24; comp. also John 1:12).

having escaped the corruption that is in the world in lust. Luther, with some others, translates this ‘if ye escape,’ as if it expressed a condition on which participation in the Divine nature depended. It rather states, however, simply the other side of the Divine intention, and might be rendered ‘escaping,’ or, ‘when ye escape.’ The verb translated ‘escaped’ occurs only here and in chap. 2 Peter 2:18; 2 Peter 2:20. It implies a complete rescue, and ‘this is mentioned,’ as Bengel justly observes, ‘not so much as a duty towards, but as a blessing from, God, which accompanies our communion with Him.’ The term ‘corruption,’ or ‘destruction,’ is one which occurs twice again in this Epistle (chap. 2 Peter 2:12; 2 Peter 2:19; for the idea comp. also 1 Peter 1:4; 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 Peter 3:4). Outside this Epistle it is used only by Paul (Romans 8:21; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 6:8; Colossians 2:22). It denotes the destroying, blighting principle of sin; which also is said to have the ‘world’ for its seat or sphere of operation, and ‘lust’ (on which see on 1 Peter 1:14) for the element in which it moves, or perhaps, as the R. V. prefers, the instrument by which it works. Bengel notices the contrast between the escape and the partaking, and between the corruption in the world in lust and the Divine nature.


Verse 5

2 Peter 1:5. And for this very cause then. The A. V. erroneously renders ‘and beside this.’ The formula does not introduce something which is to be added to the former statement, but makes the former statement the ground for what is next to be said. The R. V. renders it well by ‘yea, and for this very cause.’

applying on your side all diligence. The idea of ‘diligence’ is conveyed by the term which means also ‘zeal,’ and is rendered ‘earnest care’ in 2 Corinthians 8:16. The verb, which is inadequately represented by the ‘giving’ of the A. V., is a rare compound form, of which this is the only New Testament instance. It is taken by some to mean ‘edging in,’ or ‘bringing in modestly’ (Bengel); by others, ‘bringing in on the other hand’ (Wiesinger, etc.). The idea, however, seems to be that of ‘contributing on your side’ (Huther, etc.), ‘contributing what might seem to be superseded’ (Hotmann), or ‘applying besides’ (Scott). In the Classics it expresses the bringing in of something new or additional, as e.g. the introduction of a new bill to amend an old law. Here it introduces what the readers have to do on their side, in response to, and in virtue of, that which Christ has done on His side. The fact that Christ’s Divine power had so richly endowed them, and that God had privileged them to see the accomplished realities which had been the subjects of His promises, was not to be made an argument for anything else than strenuous effort on their part. It was to be the reason and motive for applying themselves with sedulous care to aims and exertions which the Divine gift might seem to have rendered unnecessary. ‘Rest not satisfied, then, with a mere negative exertion, or with any low, fragmentary measure of accomplishment, but, co-operating to the full extent of the Divine purpose, go on unto perfection’ (Lillie).

furnish in your faith virtue. The A. V. is entirely at fault with its rendering, ‘add to your faith virtue,’ in which also it unhappily followed Beza, and forsook the earlier English Versions. Wycliffe and the Rhemish give ‘minister ye in your faith, virtue;’ Tyndale and Cranmer, ‘if your faith minister virtue;’ the Genevan, however, has ‘join moreover virtue with your faith.’ The verb itself is a compound form of the one rendered ‘give’ by the A. V. in 1 Peter 4:11; which see. The sense is that of supplying or furnishing besides. It occurs again in 2 Peter 1:11, and in 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 3:5; Colossians 2:19. In the New Testament it has lost the technical sense of the simple verb, namely, that of bearing the expense of a chorus for the dramatic exhibitions, and is used in the sense of furnishing generally, not in the special sense of discharging office. In harmony with its original idea of performing an act of munificence, it is usually applied to what God furnishes. Here it is applied to what man has himself to furnish in order to make his life correspond, in the free development of the spiritual character, to the liberal endowment of Divine grace, followed here, too, by the preposition ‘in,’ it expresses something different from the mere addition of one thing to another. It represents this development of the spiritual character to which the gift of grace pledges the believer as an internal process, an increase by growth, not by external junction or attachment, each new grace springing cut of, attempting and perfecting, the other. The life itself is exhibited as a unity; all its elements and possibilities being already contained in faith. It is a unity, however, intended to grow up out of this root of faith, and unfold itself into all the sevenfold breadth of the varied excellencies of the Christian character. The ‘faith’ itself, therefore, is taken as already existent. They are not charged to supply it. But having it, they are charged to furnish along with it, and as its proper issue, seven personal graces. The several elements in the ideal spiritual character are given in pairs, as if each lay already implicit in its immediate predecessor, and belonged to its life and genius. The first thing thus enjoined is ‘virtue,’—a word very sparingly used in the New Testament. It is the same term as is applied to God in 2 Peter 1:3. It occurs also in 1 Peter 2:9 (which see), and outside the Epistles of Peter it is found only once, viz. Philippians 4:18. Here it can scarcely have the sense of our English word ‘virtue,’ or moral excellence, which would take from the precision of the statement, and reduce it to the vague advice to add to virtue so many other virtues. As in 2 Peter 1:3 it expressed not mere excellence of character in itself, but the efficiency of such excellence, so here it conveys the definite idea of might, energy, or moral courage—what Bengel aptly terms ‘a strenuous tone and vigour of mind.’ This is to be furnished in and with our faith, or in the exercise of our faith; so that our faith shall not be an uncertain, feeble, and timorous thing, but a manly and powerful thing with a touch of heroism in it.

and in the virtue knowledge. The simple term for ‘knowledge’ is used here, not the intense, compound form used in 2 Peter 1:2-3, and again at 2 Peter 1:8. It is the same word as is used in 1 Peter 3:7, and means here, as there, not the knowledge of doctrine, but the knowledge which consists in the recognition of what is dutiful and appropriate in conduct. This practical knowledge is to accompany the exercise of the ‘virtue,’ or moral heroism of faith, lest it run into unregulated zeal, inconsiderate obstinacy, or presumptuous daring. Peter’s recollections of his own bold protestations, and of the hardy vent tiresomeness which failed him so sadly at the pinch in the ‘high priest’s palace’ (Matthew 26:58, Matthew 26:69-75), would give a special pungency to this article in his counsels. This faculty of ‘understanding what the will of the Lord is’ (Ephesians 5:17), which is necessary to qualify and soften the ‘virtue,’ has also its own roots in the same. ‘An evangelical fortitude is favourable to the enlargement of evangelical knowledge; which, in its turn, is essential to the regulation and safe exercise of fortitude’ (Lillie). So it forms an essential step in the progress towards that full ‘knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’ which is represented in 2 Peter 1:8 as the goal of all.


Verse 6

2 Peter 1:6. And in the knowledge self-control. This is the grace which appears also as the ‘temperance’ of which Paul reasoned before Felix (Acts 24:25), and as the last thing noticed in Paul’s enumeration of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). The noun occurs only in these three cases. It denotes ‘temperance’ in the largest sense of self-government in all things. This virtue of self-control is so related to ‘knowledge,’ that the one should not be in exercise apart from the other. Extravagance is the child of ignorance. A right estimate of oneself and mastery over oneself should be fostered by the knowledge which consists in the practical recognition of duty; and this latter should be helped by the former.

and in the self-control patient endurance. The grace which is rendered ‘patience’ both in the A. V. and in the R. V. is of a stronger and more positive character than the familiar English term, and might be more fitly translated patient (or, persevering) endurance. It is a quality never ascribed to God Himself. Where He is spoken of as the ‘God of patience,’ it is in the sense of the Giver of patience to others (Romans 15:5). In the New Testament it seems always to carry with it the idea of manliness, expressing not the mere bearing of trials, but the courageous, persevering endurance of them—‘the brave patience with which the Christian contends against the various hindrances, persecutions, and temptations that befall him in his conflict with the inward and outward world’ (see Ellicott on 1 Thessalonians 1:3). So, while the A. V. generally renders it ‘patience,’ it grasps at times the larger sense, translating it, e. g. by ‘enduring’ in 2 Corinthians 1:6, by ‘patient waiting’ in 2 Thessalonians 3:5, and by ‘patient continuance’ in Romans 2:7. It occupies a great place in the New Testament. Christ Himself gives it as the grace in which the soul itself is to be won (Luke 21:19). James (chap. 2 Peter 1:3-4) speaks of it as the grace which, when it is allowed its perfect work, makes believers themselves perfect. It is specially frequent in the Pauline Epistles and the Apocalypse; in which latter it appears and reappears at marked turning-points (Revelation 1:9; Revelation 2:2-3; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12). In coupling it here with self-control, Peter gives the Christian version of the Stoic summary of morality. As the latter amounted to ‘bear and forbear,’ the former says ‘forbear and bear.’ Christian self-control is to be practised in and along with the spirit of patient endurance, which saves it from harshness and fitfulness, confirms it into constancy, and mellows it into tenderness and humility. Like the ‘meekness’ and ‘temperance’ which stand side by side among the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23), these two are sister graces, not to be separated, but enriching each other.

and in the patient endurance godliness. The same term is used for ‘godliness’ here as in 2 Peter 1:3; see note there. It is to be furnished in our practice of endurance, in order to secure the latter from hardening into a stoical, self-centred submission, and to make it the purer constancy which draws its inspiration from reverent regard for God and things Divine.


Verse 7

2 Peter 1:7. And in the godliness brotherly-love. See note on 1 Peter 1:22. In the former Epistle the grace of brotherly-love has a still more prominent place assigned to it (1 Peter 1:22-23; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:8). Here it is the complement to ‘godliness,’ keeping it in living connection with what is due to our brethren, and saving our regard for God and His claims from becoming an apology for neglecting His children and their interests.

and in the brotherly-love love. This is not a repetition of the exhortation to an intense degree and unfettered exercise of love to the brethren, which is given in 1 Peter 1:22. Our love, it is meant, strongly as it should beat within the Christian household, ought not to be confined to that, but should enlarge itself into a catholic interest in all men. So Paul charges the Thessalonians to ‘abound in love toward the brethren, and toward all men’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12).—This ‘rosary and conjugation of the Christian virtues,’ as it is called by Jeremy Taylor, differs both in its constituents and in its arrangement from Paul’s delineation of the spiritual character in Galatians 5:22-23. The one begins where the other ends. With Paul, love stands at the head, and naturally so. For Paul is drawing a picture of what the spiritual character is in contrast with the ‘works of the flesh’ and in our relations to our fellow-men. Hence he begins with love as the spring of all other graces in our intercourse with our fellows, and introduces faith in the centre of the list, and in the aspect of faithfulness in our dealings with others. Here Peter is engaged with the growth of the spiritual character, and there-fore begins with faith in Christ as the foundation of all Elsewhere Paul varies the order, giving love, e.g., the first place in Romans 12:9-21, Philippians 1:9; and the last place in 1 Corinthians 13:13, Colossians 3:12-14. It is hazardous, however, to make more than this of the particular arrangement adopted here. There is no doubt a logical order in the list, and it is possible that it is laid out, as is supposed, e.g., by Canon Cook, so that we get first those graces (virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience) which ‘form the Christian character viewed in itself,’ and then those which ‘mark the follower of Christ (1) as a servant of God, and (2) as a member of the brotherhood of the Church of Christ, and (3) as belonging to the larger brotherhood of all mankind.’ But it is enough to notice how these graces are made to blend into each other, each being in the other ‘like adjoining colours of the rainbow,—mingled with it, and exhibited along with it’ (Lillie). It is also worth observing that all the graces which are presented together in living union and interdependence here, are separately expounded with more or less fulness in the First Epistle; cf. 1 Peter 1:6; 1 Peter 1:13-16; 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Peter 3:4; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 Peter 3:15, 1 Peter 4:8.


Verse 8

2 Peter 1:8. For these things subsisting for you and multiplying. The A. V. throws this into the hypothetical form—‘if these things,’ etc. The writer rather speaks of the graces as already in the readers, and thus gives both greater courtesy and greater force to his recommendation. The suggestive courtesy of the statement appears also in the phrase which the A. V. renders ‘be in you,’ and the R. V. ‘are yours,’ but which means rather ‘subsisting for you.’ The word selected there is not the simple verb ‘to be,’ but another which implies not only existence but continuous existence, and looks at the possession of graces as a thing characterizing the readers, not merely now, but in their original spiritual condition. It is the phrase which is used, e.g., in Philippians 2:6 of Christ as ‘being in the form of God;’ in Acts 7:53, of Stephen ‘being full of the Holy Ghost;’ in 1 Corinthians 13:3, of ‘all my goods;’ in Matthew 19:21, ‘sell all that thou hast.’ In these and similar cases, it implies rightful, settled possession, and looks back from the present moment to the antecedent condition of the subjects. The A. V. also misses the point of the other participle, the idea of which is not that of abounding, but rather that of increasing or multiplying (cf. Romans 5:20; Romans 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). What is taken for granted, therefore, is not that these graces are in these believers in profusion, or in larger measure than in others, but that, being in them, they are steadily growing and expanding, and exhibiting all the evidence of vitality.

make you not idle nor yet unfruitful. The ‘make’ is here expressed by a term which means to establish or constitute. The two adjectives are dealt with by the A. V. as if they meant the same thing. There is a clear distinction, however, between them. The latter means ‘unfruitful.’ The former, however, means not ‘barren’ but (as Cranmer, Tyndale, and the Genevan render it) ‘idle.’ It is applied, e.g., to the ‘idle word’ (Matthew 12:36); to the useless idlers in the marketplace (Matthew 20:3; Matthew 20:6,—a parable which may have been in Peter’s mind when he penned the passage); to the younger widows who are described as ‘idle, wandering about from house to house’ (1 Timothy 5:13). The idea, therefore, is that where these graces are one’s permanent inward property, at his command, and growing from strength to strength like things that live, they put him in a position, or create in him a constitution, under which it cannot be that he shall prove himself either a useless trifler doing no honest work, or an unprofitable servant effecting what is of no worth even when he gives himself to action.

unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The A. V. is again astray in rendering ‘in the knowledge,’ etc. This ‘knowledge’ (again with the intense sense of full, mature knowledge, as in 2 Peter 1:2-3) is represented not as the thing in which they are to be ‘not idle nor yet unfruitful,’ but as that with a view to which all else is enjoined,—the goal toward which all else is meant to carry us. The sevenfold symmetry of the spiritual character, and the furnishing forth of all these varied graces, are recommended not as ends to themselves, but as means toward the higher end of an ever enlarging, and at last perfect, knowledge of Christ Himself. The fact that these graces minister to so blessed a result is one great reason why we should set ourselves to cultivate them with ‘all diligence.’ They require for their cultivation both the Divine endowment of ‘all things serviceable to life and godliness,’ and sedulous application on our side. But the object which is set before us is worth all the expenditure, both human and Divine. The dependence of knowledge upon holiness, or of vision upon purity, which is stated in the most absolute form in such passages as Matthew 5:8, Hebrews 12:14, and in relation to practical obedience to God’s will in John 7:17, is presented here in connection specially with the need of completeness in the Christian character and fruitful ness in the Christian life. So, in Colossians 1:10, Paul speaks of being ‘fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.’


Verse 9

2 Peter 1:9. For he who lacketh these things. This is one of two instances in which the A. V. strangely mistranslates the Greek causal particle ‘for’ as ‘but.’ The other is 1 Peter 4:15. In Romans 5:7 it erroneously renders the same causal particle by ‘yet.’ In the present case it has followed Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Cranmer, who all have ‘but,’ rather than the Genevan and Rhemish, which give ‘for.’ It thus entirely misconceives Peter’s meaning. He is not simply setting one thing over against another, but is adducing a second reason for the course which he recommends. The reasoning may be understood in more than one way. It may be taken broadly thus—these graces are to be cultivated; for, if we have them not, we become blind, and ‘sink back into a want of power to perceive even the elementary truths of the kingdom of God’ (Plumptre). Or it may be put thus, in immediate relation to the nearest idea,—these graces are to be cultivated; for, wanting them, we want the capacity for this perfect ‘knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ A different expression also is given now to the idea of possession. Instead of saying, as before, ‘he for whom these things do not subsist,’ another phrase is used which runs literally, ‘he to whom these things are not present.’ Thus the idea of a possession habitual, and settled enough to warrant its being spoken of as belonging to the person’s past as well as his present, gives place to that of a possession which, however it may have been with his past, at least cannot be affirmed of his present. Wherever this is the case with the man as he now is, there that state has entered which is next described.—is blind, being near-sighted. As the A. V. renders this clause ‘is blind, and cannot see afar off,’ the latter epithet may seem at first only to repeat, in a weaker and almost contradictory form, what is already expressed by the former. Hence it has been attempted in various ways to make a sharp distinction between the two terms. The latter (which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament) has been rendered, e.g., ‘groping’ (so substantially the Vulgate, Tyndale, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, etc.)—a sense, however, which cannot be made good. It has also been rendered ‘shutting his eyes’ (Stephens, Dietlein, etc.); and the idea has thus been supposed to be this—‘he is blind, and that by his own fault, wilfully shutting his eyes.’ The word, however, seems to describe not one who voluntarily shuts his eyes (although the R. V. gives ‘closing his eyes’ in the margin), but one who blinks, or contracts the eyelid in order to see, one who is short-sighted or dim-sighted. Thus the second epithet defines the first. He is ‘blind,’ not seeing when he thinks he sees, not seeing certain things as he ought to see them. And he is this not in the sense of being ‘blind’ to all things, but in the sense of being ‘nearsighted,’ seeing things in false magnitudes, having an eye for things present and at hand, but none for the distant realities of the eternal world. The rendering of the A. V., therefore (which follows the Genevan), expresses the correct idea; which the K. V. (in its text) gives more clearly as ‘seeing only what is near.’ With what is said here of blindness compare such passages as John 9:41; Romans 2:19; 1 Corinthians 8:2; Revelation 3:17; and especially 1 John 2:9-11.

having forgotten the purification of his sins of old. The sins referred to are the sins of the man’s own former heathen life, and the purification is that which covered the whole sin of his past once for all when he first received God’s grace in Christ. The idea of a purification occupies a prominent place in the Epistle to the Hebrews (cf. Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 9:22-23; Hebrews 10:2). There not only sins are said to be ‘purified,’ but also the conscience, the heart, the heavenly things, the copies of the heavenly things, the flesh. The purification is effected by the blood of Christ, and its result is not mere moral purity, but the removal of guilt, or of the sense and conscience of sin. So here the ‘sins of old’ are said to have been purified in the sense of having had the uncleanness belonging to them cleansed away, or their guilt removed. The phrase carries us back to the Old Testament custom of sprinkling blood on objects which had become defiled, and so relieving them of the disadvantages of their ceremonial uncleanness. The ‘having forgotten ‘is expressed in a way of which we have no other instance in the New Testament, but which resembles the phrase rendered ‘call to remembrance’ in 2 Timothy 1:5. It means literally ‘having taken (or, incurred) forgetfulness,’ It gives a graver character to the condition, representing it perhaps as one which is voluntarily incurred or willingly suffered, or, it may be, as one which is inevitable where there is neglect to cultivate grace. The sentence is introduced as a further explanation of the blindness. The man is ‘blind,’ in the sense of having eyes only for what is near and tangible, as the consequence or penalty of his forgetting the great change effected in the past, and living as if he had never been the subject of such grace.


Verse 10

2 Peter 1:10. Wherefore, brethren, be the more diligent to make your calling and election sure. The ‘wherefore the rather’ of the A. V. suggests that the course now to be recommended is one to be preferred to some other course dealt with in the context. This is a legitimate interpretation, the Greek word meaning either ‘rather’ or ‘more,’ and being used (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:2) in order to put a contrast of opposition. It is adopted, too, by not a few interpreters. Some construe the idea thus—instead of trying to reach ‘knowledge ‘apart from the practice of Christian grace, rather be diligent, etc. (Dietlein). Others put it so—instead of forgetting the purification of your old sins, rather be diligent, etc. (Hofmann). Most, however, take the term in the sense of ‘more,’ connect the sentence immediately with what has been stated in 2 Peter 1:8-9, and regard it as taking up anew the exhortation of 2 Peter 1:5, and urging it for these additional reasons with greater force. The meaning then is = the case being as it has been explained in 2 Peter 1:8-9, let these grave considerations of what is to be gained by the one course and what is to be lost by the other, make you all the more diligent, etc. This is the one instance of the use of the address ‘brethren’ in the Epistles of Peter. In 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Peter 4:12, and in 2 Peter 3:1; 2 Peter 3:8; 2 Peter 3:14; 2 Peter 3:17, we get ‘beloved.’ But what is meant by making the calling and election sure? Many interpreters give the theological sense to both the nouns. So the ‘calling’ as the act of grace, which takes effect in time, is distinguished from the ‘election’ as the eternal act or counsel of the Divine Mind. Or the former is defined as that by which we are called in time to the kingdom of grace, and the latter as that by which we are chosen in eternity for the kingdom of glory. Thus the sentence is understood to be an exhortation to make that sure on our side which God has made sure on His (Besser); or, to ‘confirm the inference as drawn especially by ourselves from the appearance to the reality . . . from a good life to a gracious condition’ (Lillie); or, to make it clear that we ‘have not been called in vain, on the contrary that we have been elected’ (Calvin). But the fact that the ‘election’ is named after the ‘calling,’ and the awkwardness of speaking of the immutable decree of God as capable of being made sure by us, indicate that what is in view here is not the eternal election, but the historical,—that is to say, the actual separation of the readers from their old life, and their introduction into the kingdom of Christ. So it is taken by many of the best expositors, including Grotius, Huther, Hofmann, Schott, Mason, Lumby. Those acts of God’s grace which called them through the preaching of His Son’s Gospel, and took them out of the world of heathenism, were to be made ‘sure’ (the adjective is the same as in 2 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14), or secure, by following them up by diligent attention to all the virtues into which they had ushered the readers.

for, doing these things, ye shall never stumble. The verb which the A. V. renders ‘fall’ is the same which it renders ‘offend’ in James 2:10; James 3:2, and ‘stumble’ in Romans 11:11. It is true, therefore, that it indicates a ‘step short of falling’ (Plumptre). It is so represented in Paul’s question, ‘Have they stumbled that they should fall (Romans 11:11); and lames (2 Peter 3:2) speaks of a stumbling or offending which is not hopeless. Here, however, it manifestly refers to the final issue of a forfeiture of salvation (Hofmann, Huther, etc.). By the ‘these things’ we may understand again, as in 2 Peter 1:8, the graces dealt with in the original exhortation. Not a few, however, take the phrase to refer simply to the duty last mentioned, viz. the making the calling and election sure. The plural form is then explained as due to the fact that the writer regards this ‘making sure’ as a ‘many-sided act’ (Dietlein),—as ‘not a single act, but multiform’ (Mason).


Verse 11

2 Peter 1:11. For so shall be richly furnished for you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Another reason, and one rising far superior to the former, for the careful cultivation of these graces. ‘A good life can never be a failure. It may be a life of many storms; but it is not possible that it should end in shipwreck’ (Lillie). That was the import of the former statement. ‘Nay more,’ it is now added, ‘such a life shall have a glorious ending.’ The future of which the believer is heir is here designated a ‘kingdom.’ In First Peter it is an ‘inheritance.’ Nowhere else in the N. T. is the ‘kingdom’ described by this adjective, which the A. V. translates ‘everlasting.’ As the word means much more than simply the never-ending (although it includes that), the R. V. more judiciously renders it ‘eternal.’ The A. V. further gives ‘an entrance,’ where Peter speaks of ‘the entrance,’—the well-understood entrance which formed the object of every Christian’s hope. Observe also the balance which is maintained (the verb being the same) between what we are to furnish in our faith (2 Peter 1:5), and what is to be furnished to us. It is not the mere fact that the entrance is in reserve for us that is asserted here, but the kind of entrance which is secured by a life of growing graciousness. Neither is it exactly the doctrine of degrees of future blessedness that is touched on here. It is supposed by many that the truth struck here is that which appears in such passages as Matthew 10:15, Luke 6:38; Luke 12:47, John 14:2, 2 Corinthians 9:6, Galatians 6:8, viz. that ‘according to our different degrees of improvement of God’s grace here, will be our different degrees of participation in His everlasting glory hereafter’ (Wordsworth; see also Bishop Bull’s Sermon, 7 vol. i. p. 168, as there referred to). But what is immediately dealt with here is not the eternal blessedness itself, but the entrance or admission into it. Of this it is said that it shall be given ‘richly,’—a term which is to be taken in its ordinary sense, and not to be paraphrased into ‘certainly’ (Schott), or ‘in more than one way,’ or ‘promptly,’ etc. The entrance is to be of a kind the reverse of the ‘saved, yet so as by fire’ (1 Corinthians 3:15). It will be liberally granted, joyously accomplished, richly attended—‘so that at any time,’ as Bengel well expounds it, ‘not as if escaping from shipwreck, or from fire, but in a sort of triumph, you may enter in with an unstumbling step, and take delight in things past, present, and to come.’ Milton’s 14th Sonnet has been compared with this. See specially the lines in which he speaks thus of the ‘works and alms and all thy good endeavour’ of the deceased friend:—

‘Love led them on; and Faith, who knew them best,

Thy handmaids, clad them o’er with purple beams

And azure wing that up they flew so drest.

And spake the truth of thee on glorious themes.

Before the Judge; who thenceforth bid thee rest.

And drink thy fill of pure immortal streams.’


Verse 12

2 Peter 1:12. Wherefore I shall always be ready to put you in remembrance regarding these things. The ‘wherefore’ represents the resolution now expressed as having its reason in what has been already said. That may be either the immediately preceding thought or the tenor of the previous section as a whole. The motive lies in the responsibilities connected with the endowment of grace received from Christ, or, more particularly, in the consideration that the entrance into the eternal kingdom of Him who bestows that endowment can be ‘richly furnished’ only to those who do the things which have been recommended. The phrase ‘these things’ is taken by some to refer to what follows, namely, the statement in 2 Peter 1:16 about the Lord’s Advent; by others its reference is limited to one particular subject, such as the graces enumerated in 2 Peter 1:5-7 (Hofmann), or the kingdom and its future (de Wette). It is best taken, however, as pointing back to the whole burden of the opening statement—the duty of Christian progress, the necessity of Christian diligence, the blessings secured by the right course, the loss entailed by the opposite. The writer professes his constant readiness (the ‘always’ qualifies the ‘ready’ rather than the ‘put in remembrance’) to preserve in them a loving recollection of these facts and responsibilities. Greater point, too, is given to the resolution by adopting, instead of the negative reading of the A. V. and the Received Text, ‘I will not be negligent,’ the positive, and far better supported, reading of the R. V. and most critical editors, ‘I shall be ready,’ or, as it also may be rendered, ‘I shall be sure,’ ‘I shall proceed.’ The formula occurs only once again in the N. T., viz. in Matthew 24:6, where the A. V. translates it simply ‘ye shall hear.’

though ye know them, and are established in the truth which is with you. Again, as in 2 Peter 1:8, with something like the courteous tact of Paul (comp. e.g. Romans 15:14, etc.) and John (1 John 2:21), the writer speaks as if his anxiety after all were superfluous. The term rendered ‘established’ is the one which we have already had in 1 Peter 5:10. It is the word which Christ used in forewarning Peter (Luke 22:32, although the A. V. varies the translation there—‘when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren’). The cognate noun appears in the word rendered ‘stedfastness’ in 2 Peter 3:17. The A. V., by adopting the literal translation of the last words, ‘the present truth,’ is apt to suggest an erroneous idea. What is meant is neither the truth which specially suits the present time, nor the truth which is at present under consideration, nor even (as Bengel puts it) the fulfilled truth of O. T. promise and prophecy, but the truth which is present with you, which has come into their possession through the preaching of the Gospel. The idea is much the same as that expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1. The phrase occurs again in Colossians 1:6, where ‘the word of the truth of the Gospel’ is spoken of as that ‘which is come unto you.’


Verses 12-21

The writer next expresses his resolution to use the brief portion of life now remaining to him in recalling the attention of his readers to the great truths to which he has been referring, and in making provision for the recollection of them after his own decease. He avows the deep solicitude which he feels in regard to this, and his anxiety that the gift of Divine grace, and the obligations connected with it, may not be forgotten or thought little of, when the living voice of apostolic teaching ceases to admonish and remind. He is at pains to explain why he has made such a resolution and entertains such anxiety. It is because of the certainty and gravity of that ‘power and coming’ of the Lord, which had been proclaimed by his brother Apostles and himself. He is desirous to have the minds of his readers filled with this above all things, and their lives coloured and directed by it, because every other Christian interest and all Christian duty are bound up with it. In words touched with the light which is shed by the solemn recollection of the past, the aged writer speaks of the witnesses to which he can appeal in behalf of the certainty of these things which had been preached with respect to the Lord’s Coming, and the manner of life which befitted its anticipation. These witnesses are found in the transfiguration scene and the voice of prophecy. The verses form a paragraph complete within itself, with a character and with contents entirely its own. It comes in, however, quite appropriately as an intermediate section. It makes a natural appendix to the first division of the Epistle, which is itself a kind of summary of subjects handled at greater length, but with much the same phraseology, and in much the same spirit, in the First Epistle. It also prepares the way, particularly by the prominence given to the ‘power and coming’ of the Lord, for the very different paragraph which follows in the next chapter.


Verse 13

2 Peter 1:13. But I consider it right, so long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up in the way of reminder. ‘But’ represents the sense better than the ‘And’ of the R. V. Although he gives them credit for knowing these truths already, and being firmly grounded in them, he deems it, nevertheless, a duty not to be silent or regard them as beyond danger. Their danger, on the contrary, is so grave that he must speak to them as long as life lasts (comp. Philippians 1:7); and this with the special object of stirring them up, or rousing them (the verb occurs again in chap. 2 Peter 3:1, and elsewhere in the N, T. only in the Gospels, and there always with the literal sense, Mark 4:38-39; Luke 8:24; John 6:18), and keeping them, by continuous reminders, awake to all that spiritually concerns them. The body is here figuratively described as a tent or ‘tabernacle’ by a word which occurs again in the figurative sense in the next verse, and once in the literal sense, viz. in Acts 7:46. It is a longer form of the term used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:4, and of another which occurs repeatedly elsewhere, e.g. in the record of Peter’s own words at the Transfiguration (Matthew 18:4; Mark 9:5, etc.). The figure was a somewhat common one in later Classical Greek, particularly in medical writers. It conveyed the idea that the body is the mere tenement of the man, and a fragile one, erected for a night’s sojourn and quickly taken down. In the Book of Wisdom (Wis_9:15) we have the same figure, with a somewhat different application—‘a corruptible body weighs down the soul; and the earthen tent burdens the much-thinking mind.’ The Christian Father Lactantius uses it thus: ‘This, which is presented to the eyes, is not man, but is the tabernacle of man; whose quality and figure is seen thoroughly, not from the form of the small vessel in which he is contained, but from his deeds and habits’ (2 Peter 3:3, Ramage’s rendering). Here, according to Bengel, ‘the immortality of the soul, the briefness of its abode in a mortal body, and the ease of departure in the faith, are implied.’


Verse 14

2 Peter 1:14. Knowing that quick is the putting off of my tabernacle. There is a mixture of metaphor here. The idea of a ‘putting off’ (the word occurs only here and in 1 Peter 3:21), or denuding, which is applicable to a garment, takes the place of the striking or taking down which holds good of the ‘tent’ or ‘tabernacle.’ We have a similar mixture of metaphors in Psalms 104:2, ‘who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens as a curtain(i.e the curtain of a tent). The same occurs also in 2 Corinthians 4:1-3, and it is suggested that it may have come naturally to Paul at least, through his familiarity with the tent of Cilician haircloth, ‘which might almost equally suggest the idea of a habitation and a vesture.’ (See Dean Stanley’s Comm. on the Epistles to the Corinthians, p. 413.) There is some doubt as to the precise point intended by the ‘quick.’ The epithet is a rare form (in Classical Greek purely poetical, and in the N. T. found only here and in chap. 2 Peter 2:1) of the ordinary adjective which means either swift or sudden. It may indicate either the speediness of the approach of death, or the speediness of the work of death. In the one case Peter’s motive for stirring them up is his knowledge of the brief interval that had separated him from death. In the other it is his knowledge of the fact that he is to have a swift and sudden death, a mode of death which admonishes him to leave nothing to be done then which can be done now. The latter idea is favoured by the reference which immediately follows to what had been made known to Peter by Christ Himself. It would be superfluous for one who was already far advanced in life to adduce a declaration of Christ’s as the ground of his knowledge of the nearness of his own end. It is quite in point for him, however, to cite such a declaration as the ground of his knowledge of the kind of death he was to die. And we see plainly from the narrative of the incident which in all probability was in Peter’s mind,—an incident which it was left to his brother in the apostleship and companion in the scene itself to record at length and to interpret (John 21:18-19), that what was communicated was his destiny to die a sharp, sudden, violent death. The latter view, therefore, is adopted by Wycliffe (alone among the old English Versions), the Vulgate, and many of the foremost interpreters (Bengel, Huther, Schott, Hofmann, Plumptre, Alford, Mason, etc.). The former, however, is preferred by Dr. Lumby and others, as well as by the A. V., Tyndale (who gives ‘the time is at hand that I must put off,’ etc.), Cranmer, the Genevan, and the Rhemish.

even as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Not ‘hath showed me,’ as the A. V. puts it, but ‘showed me’ (comp also 1 Peter 1:11, where the word is rendered ‘signify’), the reference being to the one memorable intimation made by the Sea of Galilee. It is entirely unnecessary to suppose, as is done by some, that Peter had received another special revelation, bearing on the time of his death.


Verse 15

2 Peter 1:15. But I shall also give diligence (or, diligently provide) that at all times ye may be able after my decease to call up the memory of these things. The A. V. is slightly at fault here both as to terms and as to arrangement. ‘Moreover’ less correctly conveys the idea than ‘but’ or (as in the R. V.) ‘yea’ For the writer is rather resuming and amplifying the statement made in 2 Peter 1:12, than explaining some additional provision which he meant to make. The ‘always,’ which the A. V. connects with the ‘have in remembrance,’ rather defines the ‘may be able after my decease.’ The word, too, properly speaking, means ‘on each occasion,’ or ‘at all times as they rise.’ The phrase rendered ‘have in remembrance’ is one found nowhere else in the N. T. In Classical Greek it means to ‘make mention of.’ It is possible that it has that meaning here, and that the writer expresses his desire to make it possible for his readers to report these things to others. It is generally taken, however, in the modified sense of recalling to memory; which has the analogy of similar modes of expression (e.g. in Romans 1:9; Ephesians 2:16), and is in harmony with the thought of the previous verses. Various views are entertained of what is exactly referred to in this promise or resolution. It is supposed, e.g., that Peter alludes to the two Epistles as a written provision he was to leave behind him. But the form of the resolution, ‘I shall give diligence,’ does not easily fit in with that. It is supposed, too, that he may have in view the training and appointment of teachers to succeed him, or the transcription of copies of his Epistles for wide distribution, or the preparation of a Gospel (namely, that of Mark) under his direction. Most probably, however, he is simply expressing his intention to continue to communicate with them, as he had already been doing, on the great truths of the Gospel as long as opportunity presented itself, and thus to arm them to the utmost against the peril of forget fulness. Not a few Roman Catholic interpreters, including some of the very best, have construed this into a statement of Peter’s permanent supervision of the Church, and even his heavenly intercession in behalf of it. Notice that the word rendered ‘decease’ here means literally ‘exodus,’ and is the very term used in Luke’s account of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:31). Elsewhere it occurs only once, and that in the literal sense, viz. in Hebrews 11:22, where it is translated ‘departing.’


Verse 16

2 Peter 1:16. For we did not follow cunningly devised myths, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The change from the ‘I’ which the writer has used through 2 Peter 1:12-15, to ‘we’ here is to be noticed. He is to speak now not of his own personal resolutions and expectations, but of what he had preached in conjunction with other apostles and specially of one significant scene which he had witnessed in company with John and James. The ‘follow’ is expressed by a strong compound verb which occurs in no other book of the New Testament, and indeed only twice again (chap. 2 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 2:15). It is supposed by some to convey the idea of following a false lead. But it expresses rather the closeness of the following. The phrase rendered ‘fables’ by the A. V. and R. V. is the term ‘myths’ which is so familiar in the Classics. In the New Testament it occurs only here and in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14). The ‘myths’ are defined (by the participle of a verb which is used here in the bad sense, but which has the good sense of making wise, in the only other New Testament passage where it occurs, viz. 2 Timothy 3:15) as ‘cunningly devised,’ or cleverly elaborated, Wycliffe and the Rhemish give ‘unwise,’ ‘unlearned,’ which is an inadequate rendering. Cranmer gives ‘deceitful;’ Tyndale and the Genevan ‘deceivable.’ There has been much dispute as to the particular myths which are in view. Some have advocated the extraordinary opinion that they were Christian myths,—legends like those which the apocryphal Gospels, and other curious products of early Christian literature, show to have become connected, within a comparatively brief period, with the history of Christ’s birth and opening life. Others take them to have been fancies of the kind which afterwards took shape in the Gnostic speculations about wisdom and the aeons and emanations from Deity. Others identify them with the ordinary heathen myths, specially those about the descent of the gods to earth. Many regard them to be Jewish myths,—such monstrous rabbinical embellishments of Old Testament history as appear in the apocryphal books. Probability lies, on the whole, on the side of this last view, particularly if the parallel statements in the Pastoral Epistles are found to suit best as warnings against the ‘common Judaizing tendency, and an unspiritual, Pharisaic study of the Old Testament, disputatious cleaving to the letter, and losing itself in useless hair-splittings and rabbinical fables’ (Neander, Planting of Christianity, i. p. 342, Bohn). In this case we may the better understand, perhaps, why so much of the teaching of this Epistle and that of Jude turns upon the oldest portions of the Old Testament history. It may be that these, along with others outside the Old Testament itself, but dealing with Old Testament personages and events, were the subjects of the rabbinical, legendary embeilishments; that they were made use of by the false teachers to whom Peter refers; and that, as Canon Mason suggests, Jude and he, therefore, were ‘fighting these seducers with their own weapons.’ Another question to which different answers are given is this—What communication is alluded to in the statement, ‘we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’? The term ‘coming,’ which means literally ‘presence,’ does not denote, as is supposed by some good interpreters, either Christ’s earthly lift or His Nativity, Here, as in chap. 2 Peter 3:4, Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:27, 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Thess. 3:19, etc., it expresses His Second Advent, His return in judgment. This teaching, therefore, on the ‘power’ (or ‘fulness of the might of the glorified Lord’) (Huther) and ‘advent’ of Christ, is identified by some with that which is given by Peter himself in his former Epistle; and it is suggested then that the novel and mysterious declaration about ‘the spirits in prison’ may have exposed Peter to misunderstandings which he wished to remove (so Plumptre). But as the writer uses the plural ‘we,’ and obviously associates himself with others in what he proceeds here to say, it seems best to understand him to refer generally to what he and his comrades in the apostleship had proclaimed on the subject, whether by oral communication or by written. This teaching, however it may have reached the parties immediately addressed here, would be known to them to carry the weight of apostolic authority with it.

but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. This term for ‘eye-witness’ is peculiar to the present passage. The cognate verb, too, is used in the New Testament only by Peter (1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 3:2; which see). They are the technical words in Classical Greek for the final stage of initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries. The noun may carry with it here the idea of privileged spectators, or eye-witnesses of something which was hidden from others. The other term, ‘majesty,’ applied here to the glorious appearance of Christ in the Transfiguration, is found only twice again in the New Testament, viz. in Luke’s account (Luke 9:43) of the amazement felt by the people at ‘the mighty power’ (as it is there rendered) of God seen in the miracle which followed the Transfiguration; and in the same writer’s description of the ‘magnificence’ (as the same term is here translated) of Diana (Acts 19:27). In the original the whole sentence has a turn which may be represented thus—‘For it was not as having followed cleverly-contrived myths that we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but as having become eye-witnesses of His majesty.’


Verse 17

2 Peter 1:17. For he received from God the Father honour and glory. In the original it is ‘For having received,’ etc., the sentence being broken by what is said about the voice, and the writer hurrying on to the conclusion unmindful of the fact. The title ‘Father’ is appropriately introduced here, as the testimony which Christ received from God was one to His own Sonship. The same conjunction of ‘honour’ and ‘glory,’ or ‘praise,’ occurs in Romans 2:7; Romans 2:10. In 1 Peter 1:7 we have the richer conjunction of ‘praise and honour and glory,’ or, as the better reading gives it, ‘praise and glory and honour.’ Certain distinctions are attempted between the two terms here. The ‘honour’ being supposed to refer, e.g., specially to the honourable witness borne by the voice, and the ‘glory’ to the light that shone about Christ, or broke forth from Him. Such distinctions, however, are precarious. The thing dwelt on is not the splendour of Christ’s own appearance on the occasion, but the tribute which came by the voice. The two terms, therefore, are generally descriptive either of the magnificence of the scene, or of the majesty of that particular tribute. Compare with this the words of another eye-witness of the same event; John 1:14.

when such a voice was borne to him by the sublime glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. The voice is called ‘such a voice,’ that is to say, ‘such as I am now to record,’ or perhaps ‘a voice so wonderful in kind.’ It is also described, both here and in the next verse, not as ‘coming,’ but as being ‘borne’ or ‘brought’ to him, the verb employed being that which is applied again to the prophets as ‘moved’ or ‘borne by the Holy Spirit (in 2 Peter 1:21), and also to the ‘rushing’ (as it is there rendered) mighty wind, noticed by Luke in his narrative of the Pentecostal descent (Acts 2:2). The next words are rendered ‘from the excellent glory’ by the A. V.; in which it follows Cranmer and the Genevan. Tyndale gives ‘from excellent glory;’ Wycliffe, ‘from the great glory;’ the Khemish, ‘from the magnificent glory.’ ‘Excellent’ is a somewhat weak representation of the adjective, which means rather ‘magnificent’ or ‘sublime.’ This is its only New Testament occurrence. The ‘from’ also is in reality ‘by,’ the preposition being the one regularly used with that sense after passive verbs. Hence many of the best recent interpreters regard the words as a designation of God, and translate them ‘by the sublime majesty.’ In support of this, Matthew 26:64 is referred to, where the term ‘power’ is taken to be a title of God. It is possible that the peculiar phrase is due to Peter mentally likening the cloud out of which the voice broke to the glory-cloud of the Shechinah, which was to Israel the visible sign of the Divine presence. The testimony uttered by the voice differs very slightly from the form in which it is reported in Matthew’s Gospel. A shorter form is given in Mark (Mark 9:7) and Luke (Luke 9:35). Here the reading which is preferred by the most recent editors gives it still greater intensity. It may be represented thus—‘My Son, My beloved One, this is,—in whom I am well pleased.’ The ‘well pleased’ is given in the past tense (= ‘on whom I set My good pleasure’), as expressive of the changelessness of the satisfaction once for all placed in Him.


Verse 18

2 Peter 1:18. And this voice we heard borne out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount. The character of the Divine testimony to Christ is thus yet more carefully described, in respect both of its own directness and of the credibility of the report which was given of it. It came immediately from heaven. It was reported, too, by those who were present with Christ Himself on the occasion, and were both eyewitnesses and ear-witnesses of what took place, not only seeing with their own eyes the scene, but hearing with their own ears the voice. By the ‘holy mount’ is to be understood not the temple-mount (as if the voice referred to were, as Grotius imagined, that recorded in John 12:28), but the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter does not identify it with either Hermon or Tabor. He gives it, however, the same honourable title that Zion enjoyed in the Old Testament. The sacred associations now connected with it, and the fact that it had been the scene of a manifestation of Divinity, had made it ‘holy’ ground. So, as Calvin notices, the spot where Jehovah appeared to Moses became ‘holy’ ground. - It is interesting to observe how in his old age Peter’s mind is filled with the wonders of the Transfiguration, and how he finds in the glory which he witnessed there a presage of the glory in which Christ was to return. It may be asked why he singles out this particular event, and only this one, when he feels called to assert the historical basis of his teaching, and to repudiate all suspicion of legendary mixture. The answer is obvious. The truths which at present he is pressing on the attention of his readers, are those relating to the Second Coming of Christ, that Coming in power and judgment which was doubted, denied, and scoffed at. It was natural, therefore, that he should instance the sudden glory which he had witnessed breaking forth from and encircling Christ’s person on the Mount. In that he recognised an earnest of the power in which Christ was to return. It is rightly observed, too, that this entire statement, given as it is independently, with variations of its own, and not professing to be quoted from any written narrative, is an important confirmation of the truth of the Gospel narrative of the Transfiguration (so Plumptre, etc.).


Verse 19

2 Peter 1:19. And we have more sure the prophetic word. Such is the literal rendering of a clause the exact point of which is not a little uncertain. The context, specially what is said in 2 Peter 1:20-21, chap. 2 Peter 2:1, shows that we are to understand by ‘the prophetic word’ here (cf. the phrase ‘the Scriptures of the prophets’ in Romans 16:26), neither the Gospel (Luther), nor the written or spoken prophecies of the New Testament, nor these along with the Old Testament prophecies (Plumptre), but Old Testament Scripture itself as a whole, or the sum of Old Testament prophecy regarding Christ. It is clear, too, that a comparison is instituted. For the adjective, which is elsewhere used to describe the ‘promise’ as sure (Romans 4:16), the ‘word spoken by angels’ as stedfast (Hebrews 2:2), the anchor of the soul as ‘sure and stedfast (Hebrews 6:19), etc., is not to be rendered ‘very sure’ as some have imagined, but means ‘more sure,’ or ‘more stedfast.’ The question, therefore, is whether the prophetic word is compared with itself or with something else. There is much to be said on both sides. Some, indeed, who favour the latter view, take the comparison to lie between the prophetic word and the ‘cunningly devised myths,’ which have been already repudiated. This, however, is unlikely. With much better reason others conceive the prophetic word as it once was to be compared with the same word as it now is, the point being that its entire testimony on the subject of Christ’s ‘power and Coming’ has been made surer than before by the historical accomplishment of so much of its witness to the Messiah, or (as others prefer to put it) by the confirmation lent it through the record borne to Christ in the voice and the glory of the Mount of Transfiguration. The clause might then be rendered, ‘and we have the prophetic word made more sure.’ So it is paraphrased by Mr. Humphry—‘having been witnesses of His majesty and hearers of His voice from heaven, we have the word of prophecy made more firm (as a foundation of our faith) by the fulfilment which it has received’ (Comm. on the Revised Version, p. 450). Among the English Versions, the Rhemish and the Revised adopt this view. The A. V. itself is wrong. The clause, however, admits another meaning, which may be freely given thus: ‘and we have a more sure word, namely the prophetic word;’ or, ‘we have something surer still, namely the prophetic word.’ In this case the testimony of the Old Testament is referred to as of greater certainty, or as carrying in it greater power of conviction, than even the voice heard at the Transfiguration. The comparison thus becomes one between the exceptional testimony of the heavenly voice and the familiar testimony of Israel’s ancient Scriptures. The advantage is given to the latter as a ground for confidently expecting the Lord’s Coming. Why this is the case the writer himself does not say. Various reasons have been suggested. Peter has been supposed to assert this greater sureness for O. T. prophecy, e.g., because it was more venerated on account of its age (Calvin, Whitby, etc.); or because it was a permanent witness and one open to all, while the witness borne through the Transfiguration was transient and seen only by a select three (Scott, etc.); or because it was a direct witness to Christ’s Coming, while the Transfiguration was merely a historical scene, amounting at the best to a type or presumption of that event (Sherlock, etc.); or because it was not a single testimony and one dealing with only a part of the truth, as was the case with the voice, but a cumulative and continuous testimony, and one covering all that bore upon Messiah’s sufferings and glory (Alford). Be the reasons what they may, it would be natural enough for a Jew like Peter to claim for the Jewish Scriptures a superiority over all other forms of testimony. And on this view, which is now followed by many excellent interpreters, we get a sense entirely germane to the context. The writer has expressed his wish to do all in his power to secure their perpetual regard for the truths in which his readers had been instructed. His own belief in the certainty of his Lord’s Coming is at the foundation of this anxiety. He desires to see his readers equally assured in the same expectation, and with that view particularizes two reasons for the belief. The one is what he himself saw on the Mount; the other is what others have as well as he, namely the prophette testimony of the Old Testament. Each of them he puts forward as a valid witness. But he gives the preference to the one which could not be regarded as limited or exceptional.

whereunto ye do well giving heed. With the formula compare the similar usages in Acts 10:33; Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 2:1; 3 John 1:6. It implies careful, earnest, believing attention.

as unto a lamp shining in a dark place. The term rendered ‘light’ by the A. V. means ‘lamp’ or ‘torch.’ It is the one used in Matthew 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; Luke 11:33; Luke 11:36; Luke 15:8; Revelation 18:23; Revelation 22:5 (in all which it is rendered ‘candle’ in the A. V.); and also in Matthew 6:22; Luke 11:34; Luke 12:35; Revelation 21:23; John 5:35 (in which last it describes the Baptist). With its application to the prophetic word compare Psalms 119:105. The epithet ‘dark’ (of which this is the only N. T. example) means literally dry, arid, and then dingy. It perhaps combines here the two ideas of squalid (as the R. V. gives it in the margin) and gloomy. This ‘dark place,’ the squalid gloom of which is being pierced by the prophetic word, is understood by some to refer to a low state of spiritual knowledge and experience, which is to yield to a higher state of illumination and assurance in the case of Christians. It is best taken, however, as a figure of the world itself. Compare the prophetic description of darkness covering the earth (Isaiah 60:2, etc.).

until (the) day shall dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts. Two of these words are peculiar to the present passage, namely dawn and day-star. The former (which is different from the term in Matthew 28:1; Luke 23:54) means to shine through, and is therefore peculiarly in point where the idea to be expressed is, as here, that of the morning-light as it first breaks through the darkness. The latter is to be taken in the strict sense,—not as equivalent to the sun, or generally to the light, but as referring to the day-star, the ‘light-bringer’ (as the term literally means) which appears with the dawn. How are these figures, therefore, to be interpreted here? Many of the best commentators are of opinion that, on account of the definition ‘in your hearts,’ and for other reasons, a subjective application must be given to the whole sentence, and that it is to be connected immediately with the previous ‘giving heed.’ In this way the idea is taken by some to be, that the prophetic word must be attended to until the present imperfect measure of grace and knowledge in the believer gives place to an immediate perception and clear assurance, which will supersede the necessity for such prophetic light. The analogy of similar figures elsewhere, however (see specially Romans 13:11, etc.), is in favour of the objective sense. The reference, therefore, seems to be to the day of Christ’s Second Coming, in comparison with which the present state of the world is the time of night and darkness. The prophetic word to which believers are to give earnest heed is a lamp which is to go on shining until the Christ of whom it testifies appears. The fact that this is the ministry it is meant to serve is the reason why they ought to give such heed to it. And when the day of the Lord’s Advent, which shall be like the rising of dawn upon the world, is about to enter, as enter it certainly shall, its signs shall make themselves known to Christ’s own flock—in their hearts shall rise a light and assurance like the day-star, which comes with the day and attests its full entrance. Those, therefore, are right who think that the particular point of time in view is that immediately heralding the Second Advent itself, ‘the time when the sign of the Son of man appears (Matthew 24:30), when believers are to lift up their heads because their redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:28), when accordingly the morning-star which ushers in the day shall arise in their hearts’ (Huther).


Verse 20

2 Peter 1:20. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture comes of private interpretation. This sentence states a fact which is to be recognised in the heed which should be given to the prophetic word, or a reason why such heed should be given earnestly. It is by no means easy, however, to determine what that fact or reason is. The verse has been largely taken advantage of by Roman Catholic divines in the interest of their theory of the relation in which Scripture stands to the Church. It has been regarded as a protest against the right of private judgment. Some Protestant commentators read it as a caution against interpreting particular prophecies separately by themselves, instead of interpreting them in the full light of prophecy as a whole. Others discover in it a re-statement of what Peter has already said in the former Epistle (chap. 2 Peter 1:11-12) about the inability of the prophets to understand all that was in the prophecies which they uttered. Others suppose it to mean that prophecy is not its own interpreter, but can be fully understood only in the light of the event. Not a few (including Luther, Erasmus, Besser, Schott, Hofmann, etc.) take it, in one way or other, to be an assertion of the fact that the renders of prophecy are not able of their own understanding to interpret it, but are dependent for its interpretation upon the Holy Spirit. It cannot be said, however, that any one of these views falls in naturally with the context. Another must be sought more in harmony with the train of thought. The terms themselves, at the same time, are for the most part sufficiently plain, and the following verse makes the ruling idea in the writer’s mind equally clear. The phrase’ prophecy of Scripture’ means a prophecy belonging to Scripture, or as Dean Plumptre puts it, a prophecy ‘authenticated as such by being recognised as part of Scripture.’ The ‘is’ of the A. V. and the R. V. does not quite fairly represent the original, which means rather arises, comes into existence, or originates. The interpretation turns upon the sense of the adjective ‘private,’ which may mean either ‘special’ (as in the margin of the R. V.), or ‘one’s own;’ and still more upon the sense of the noun rendered ‘interpretation.’ This noun is found only this once in the N. T. It is used, however, by one of the ancient Greek Versions of the O. T. in the sense of the ‘interpretation’ or reading of a dream (Genesis 40:8). The cognate verb, too, occurs in Mark 4:34 (where the A. V. renders it ‘expounded’), and in Acts 19:39 (where it is translated ‘determined’). The verse, therefore, seems to mean that prophecy does not originate in the prophets own private interpretation of things—that it is not the mere expression of his own reading of the future. This explanation (which Bengel suggested, and Huther, Alford, etc., have followed) connects the verse easily and clearly both with what precedes and with what follows. The fact that prophecy is something so different from man’s own view of events or forecastings of the future is to be known ‘first,’ that is, it is to be recognised as a fact of primary importance. It is a reason why we should give that earnest heed to it which was enjoined in the previous verse. And in what sense prophecy is something more than the expression of the prophet’s own ideas or prognostications, is stated in the next verse.


Verse 21

2 Peter 1:21. For not by man’s will was prophecy borne at any time. The statement is more absolute than it is made to appear in the A. V. The phrase ‘not of old time’ means ‘never,’ or ‘not at any time.’ The verb rendered ‘came’ is the one which was used already in 2 Peter 1:17-18, and means sent or communicated in the sense of being borne on. It points here, therefore, not to the utterance of prophecy, but to the prophetic afflatus, or to the prophecy as a gift imparted by God, and in relation to which man himself was simply a recipient.

but, being borne on by the Holy Ghost, men spake from God. Documentary evidence is in favour of this reading, which is both shorter and more expressive than that of the A. V. It drops the official title of the prophets as ‘holy men of God,’ and, in harmony with the emphatic denial of the agency of ‘man’s will’ in the prophetic message, speaks of the bearers of prophecy simply as ‘men.’ it describes them further as men who became prophets only by receiving an impulse from the Holy Spirit which bore them on, and as speaking, therefore, ‘from God,’ that is to say, as commissioners from Him, having the point of issue for their message not in their own will but in God’s will. On the term ‘borne on’ compare Acts 17:15; Acts 17:17, where it is used of the ship driving before the wind. The A. V. misses the point when it renders ‘as they were moved.’ The statement is, that they spake because they were so moved.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/2-peter-1.html. 1879-90.

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