2 Peter 1:3
3.According as his divine power. He refers to the infinite goodness of God which they had already experienced, that they might more fully understand it for the future. For he continues the course of his benevolence perpetually to the end, except when we ourselves break it off by our unbelief; for he possesses exhaustless power and an equal will to do good. Hence the Apostle justly animates the faithful to entertain good hope by the consideration of the former benefits of God. For the same purpose is the amplification which he makes; for he might have spoken more simply, “As he has freely given us all things.” But by mentioning “divine power,” he rises higher, that is, that God has copiously unfolded the immense resources of his power. But the latter clause may be referred to Christ as well as to the Father, but both are suitable. It may however be more fitly applied to Christ, as though he had said, that the grace which is conveyed to us by him, is an evidence of divinity, because it could not have done by humanity.
That pertain to life and godliness, or, as to life and godliness. Some think that the present life is meant here, as godliness follows as the more excellent gift; as though by those two words Peter intended to prove how beneficent and bountiful God is towards the faithful, that he brought them to light, that he supplies them with all things necessary for the preservation of an earthly life, and that he has also renewed them to a spiritual life by adorning them with godliness. But this distinction is foreign to the mind of Peter, for as soon as he mentioned life, he immediately added godliness, which is as it were its soul; for God then truly gives us life, when he renews us unto the obedience of righteousness. So Peter does not speak here of the natural gifts of God, but only mentions those things which he confers peculiarly on his own elect above the common order of nature.
That we are born men, that we are endued with reason and knowledge, that our life is supplied with necessary support, — all this is indeed from God. As however men, being perverted in their minds and ungrateful, do not regard these various things, which are called the gifts of nature, among God’s benefits, the common condition of human life is not here referred to, but the peculiar endowments of the new and Spiritual life, which derive their origin from the kingdom of Christ. But since everything necessary for godliness and salvation is to be deemed among the supernatural gifts of God, let men learn to arrogate nothing to themselves, but humbly ask of God whatever they see they are wanting in, and to ascribe to him whatever good they may have. For Peter here, by attributing the whole of godliness, and all helps to salvation, to the divine power of Christ, takes them away from the common nature of men, so that he leaves to us not even the least particle of any virtue or merit.
Through the knowledge of him. He now describes the manner in which God makes us partakers of so great blessings, even by making himself known to us by the gospel. For the knowledge of God is the beginning of life and the first entrance into godliness. In short, spiritual gifts cannot be given for salvation, until, being illuminated by the doctrine of the gospel, we are led to know God. But he makes God the author of this knowledge, because we never go to him except when called. Hence the effectual cause of faith is not the perspicacity of our mind, but the calling of God. And he speaks not of the outward calling only, which is in itself ineffectual; but of the inward calling, effected by the hidden power of the Spirit when God not only sounds in our ears by the voice of man, but draws inwardly our hearts to himself by his own Spirit.
To glory and virtue, or, by his own glory and power. Some copies have ἰδία δόξὟ, “by his own glory,” and it is so rendered by the old interpreter; and this reading I prefer, because the sentence seems thus to flow better For it was Peter’s object expressly to ascribe the whole praise of our salvation to God, so that we may know that we owe every thing to him. And this is more clearly expressed by these words, — that he has called us by his own glory and power. However, the other reading, though more obscure, tends to the same thing; for he teaches us, that we are covered with shame, and are wholly vicious, until God clothes us with glory and adorns us with virtue. He further intimates, that the effect of calling in the elect, is to restore to them the glorious image of God, and to renew them in holiness and righteousness.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1: 3. According as his divine power] Better, Seeing that.… The Greek word for “divine” is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in verse 4 and Act_17:29.
life and godliness] The words at first suggest the union of outward and spiritual blessings, the things needful for body and soul. The words that follow shew, however, that “life” must be taken in its higher sense, as extending to the eternal life which “standeth” in the knowledge of God. The word for “godliness” is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in this Epistle (1:6, 7, 3:11), and in Act_3:12, where it is used by St Peter, and in the Pastoral Epistles (1Ti_2:2, 1Ti_2:3:16, 1Ti_2:4:7, 1Ti_2:8, et al.), and like that for “knowledge” in ver. 2 is characteristic of the later period of the Apostolic age. In the LXX. of Pro_1:7 a kindred word appears as an equivalent for “the fear of the Lord.” Its strict meaning is that of “true reverence for God,” and so far answers more to “religion” than to “godliness,” the state of one who is “godly” or “like God.”
through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue] The word for “knowledge” is the same as in ver. 2, and fixes, as has been said, the meaning of “life” in the previous verse. In the last four words the English text mistranslates the preposition, and we have to read “by (or through) His own glory and virtue.” Some MSS. give the simple dative of the instrument (ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ), and others the preposition with the genitive (διὰ δόξης). For the word “virtue” see note on 1Pe_2:9. Its recurrence three times in this Epistle (here and in verse 5) and so rarely elsewhere in the New Testament (Php_4:8 only) is, so far as it goes, in favour of identity of authorship. Taking the true rendering, the thought expressed is that the attributes of God manifested by Him are the means by which He calls men to the knowledge of the truth.
According as his Divine power; better, seeing that, as in the Revised Version. The construction is the genitive absolute with ὡς. The words are to be closely connected with 2Pe_1:2 : “We need not fear, for God has given us all things that are necessary for our salvation; grace and peace will be multiplied unto us, if only we seek the knowledge of God.” This is better than, with Huther and others, to make a full stop after 2Pe_1:2, and to connect 2Pe_1:3 and 2Pe_1:4 closely with 2Pe_1:5. The word for “Divine” (θεῖος) is unusual in the Greek Testament; it occurs only in two other places—2Pe_1:4 and Act_17:29. Hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness; rather, as in the Revised Version, hath granted. St. Peter does not here use the ordinary verb for “to give,” but one (δωρέομαι) which in the New Testament occurs only in this Epistle and in Mar_15:45. “God hath given us all things for (πρός) life,” i.e., all things necessary for life. By “life” St. Peter means the spiritual life of the soul; that life which consists in union with Christ, which is the life of Christ living in us. “Godliness” (εὐσέβεια) is a word of the later apostolic age; besides this Epistle (in which it occurs four times) and a speech of St. Peter’s in Act_3:12, it is found only in St. Paul’s pastoral Epistles; it means reverence, true piety towards God.
Through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue; literally, through the full knowledge (ἐπιγνώσρως) of him that called us (comp. Joh_17:3, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God. and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”). The best-supported reading seems to be that followed by the Revised Version, “By his own glory and virtue (ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ καὶ ἀρετῇ).” Bengel says, “Ad gloriam referuntur attributa Dei naturalia, ad virtutem ea quae dicuntur moralia; intime unum sunt utraque.” All his glorious attributes make up his glory; ἀρετή, virtue, is the energy, the activity of those attributes. The other reading, also well supported (διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀρετῆς, “through glory and virtue”), would mean nearly the same (comp. Gal_1:15; καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ). God calls us through his attributes; his glorious perfections invite us, the revelation of those perfections calls us to his service. The word ἀρετή, with one exception (Php_4:8), occurs in the New Testament only in St. Peter’s Epistles (see 1Pe_2:9; 2Pe_1:3 and 2Pe_1:5). This is, so far, an argument in favour of identity of authorship.
2 Peter 1:3
TEXT: “the One who called us to [his] own glory and virtue.”
EVIDENCE: S A C P Psi 33 81 104 614 630 945 1241 1739 1881 2495 lat vg syr(ph,h,pal) cop
TRANSLATIONS: ASV RSV NASV NIV NEB TEV
NOTES: “the One who called us through glory and virtue.”
EVIDENCE: p72 B K L Byz Lect
TRANSLATIONS: KJV ASVn TEVn
COMMENTS: There is only one letter difference between the Greek words for “own” and “through”; in addition, the words for “glory” and “virtue” are in different cases in the readings which makes a difference in spelling of one extra letter each. The text reading seems to have a wider range of evidence from different types of ancient text.
2 Peter 1:3
According as his divine power hath given unto us – All the effects of the gospel on the human heart are, in the Scriptures, traced to the power of God. See the notes at Rom_1:16. There are no moral means which have ever been used that have such power as the gospel; none through which God has done so much in changing the character and affecting the destiny of man.
All things that pertain unto life and godliness – The reference here in the word “life” is undoubtedly to the life of religion; the life of the soul imparted by the gospel. The word “godliness” is synonymous with piety. The phrase “according as” (ὡς hōs) seems to be connected with the sentence in 2Pe_1:5, “Forasmuch as he has conferred on us these privileges and promises connected with life and godliness, we are bound, in order to obtain all that is implied in these things, to give all diligence to add to our faith, knowledge,” etc.
Through the knowledge of him – By a proper acquaintance with him, or by the right kind of knowledge of him. Notes, Joh_17:3.
That hath called us to glory and virtue – Margin: “by.” Greek, “through glory,” etc. Doddridge supposes that it means that he has done this “by the strengthening virtue and energy of his spirit.” Rosenmuller renders it, “by glorious benignity.” Dr. Robinson (Lexicon) renders it, “through a glorious display of his efficiency.” The objection which anyone feels to this rendering arises solely from the word “virtue,” from the fact that we are not accustomed to apply that word to God. But the original word (ἀρετή aretē) is not as limited in its signification as the English word is, but is rather a word which denotes a good quality or excellence of any kind. In the ancient classics it is used to denote manliness, vigor, courage, valor, fortitude; and the word would rather denote “energy” or “power” of some kind, than what we commonly understand by virtue, and would be, therefore, properly applied to the “energy” or “efficiency” which God has displayed in the work of our salvation. Indeed, when applied to moral excellence at all, as it is in 2Pe_1:5, of this chapter, and often elsewhere, it is perhaps with a reference to the “energy, boldness, vigor,” or “courage” which is evinced in overcoming our evil propensities, and resisting allurements and temptations. According to this interpretation, the passage teaches that it is “by a glorious Divine efficiency” that we are called into the kingdom of God.
2 Peter 1:4
4.Whereby are given to us. It is doubtful whether he refers only to glory and power, or to the preceding things also. The whole difficulty arises from this, — that what is here said is not suitable to the glory and virtue which God confers on us; but if we read, “by his own glory and power,” there will be no ambiguity nor perplexity. For what things have been promised to us by God, ought to be properly and justly deemed to be the effects of his power and glory.
At the same time the copies vary here also; for some have δι ᾿ ὃν, “on account of whom;” so the reference may be to Christ. Whichsoever of the two readings you choose, still the meaning will be, that first the promises of God ought to be most highly valued; and, secondly, that they are gratuitous, because they are offered to us as gifts. And he then shews the excellency of the promises, that they make us partakers of the divine nature, than which nothing can be conceived better.
For we must consider from whence it is that God raises us up to such a height of honor. We know how abject is the condition of our nature; that God, then, should make himself ours, so that all his things should in a manner become our things, the greatness of his grace cannot be sufficiently conceived by our minds.
Therefore this consideration alone ought to be abundantly sufficient to make us to renounce the world and to carry us aloft to heaven. Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.
But the word nature is not here essence but quality. The Manicheans formerly dreamt that we are a part of God, and that, after having run the race of life we shall at length revert to our original. There are also at this day fanatics who imagine that we thus pass over into the nature of God, so that his swallows up our nature. Thus they explain what Paul says, that God will be all in all (1Co_15:28,) and in the same sense they take this passage. But such a delirium as this never entered the minds of the holy Apostles; they only intended to say that when divested of all the vices of the flesh, we shall be partakers of divine and blessed immortality and glory, so as to be as it were one with God as far as our capacities will allow.
This doctrine was not altogether unknown to Plato, who everywhere defines the chief good of man to be an entire conformity to God; but as he was involved in the mists of errors, he afterwards glided off to his own inventions. But we, disregarding empty speculations, ought to be satisfied with this one thing, — that the image of God in holiness and righteousness is restored to us for this end, that we may at length be partakers of eternal life and glory as far as it will be necessary for our complete felicity.
Having escaped We have already explained that the design of the Apostle was, to set before us the dignity of the glory of heaven, to which God invites us, and thus to draw us away from the vanity of this world. Moreover, he sets the corruption of the world in opposition to the divine nature; but he shews that this corruption is not in the elements which surround us, but in our heart, because there vicious and depraved affections prevail, the fountain and root of which he points out by the word lust. Corruption, then, is thus placed in the world, that we may know that the world is in us.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:4. whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises] Better, the verb being the same as in the previous verse, through which (the glory and the virtue just mentioned) He hath given unto us. The nature of the promises is indicated by the words that follow. They included pardon, peace, eternal life, participation in the Divine Nature. In the word “precious” we note a reproduction of the phraseology of the First Epistle (1Pe_1:7, 1Pe_1:19), but it should be noted that the apparent parallelism with 1Pe_2:7 is in the English only, and not in the Greek.
that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature] The words seem bold, but they simply shew how deeply St Peter had entered into the meaning of more familiar phrases. If men were “partakers of Christ,” brought by His own ordinance into communion and fellowship with Him (1Co_1:9; 2Co_1:7) and with the Father (Joh_14:20-23, 17:Joh_14:21-23; 1Jn_1:3) and with the Holy Ghost (2Co_13:14), did not this involve their partaking in that Divine Nature which was common to the Three Persons of the Godhead? Christ was one with them and with the Father, dwelling in them by the power of the Spirit.
having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust] The verb, which occurs again in chap. 2:18, 20, is peculiar to this Epistle in the New Testament. The word for “corruption,” though not peculiar, is yet characteristic (chap. 2:12, 19). The “corruption” has its seat outwardly, as contrasted with the kingdom of God, in the world that lies in wickedness (1Jn_5:19); inwardly in the element of desire (“lust” in its widest sense), which makes men live to themselves and not to God. The moment of escape must be thought of as that of conversion, of which baptism was the outward sign.
2 Pet 2:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; rather, as in the Revised Version, whereby he hath granted unto us h is precious and exceeding great promises. Does the word “whereby” (δἰ ὧν, literally, “through which things”) refer to the immediately preceding words, “glory and virtue”? or is its antecedent to be found in the more distant “all things which pertain unto life and godliness”? Both views are possible. God first granted unto us all things necessary for life and godliness; through those first gifts, duly used, he has granted unto us others more precious still. But it seems better to connect the relative with the nearer antecedent. It is through God’s glory and virtue, through his glorious attributes and the energetic working of those attributes, that he has granted the promises. The verb (δεδώρηται) should be translated “hath granted,” as in the preceding verse. The word for “promise” (ἐπάγγελμα) occurs elsewhere only in 2Pe_3:13; it means the thing promised, not the act of promising. The order of the words, “exceeding great and precious,” is differently given in the manuscripts; on the whole, that adopted by the Revised Version seems the best supported. The article with the first word (τὰ τίμια καὶ μέγιστα) has a possessive force, and is well rendered, “his precious promises.” They are precious, because they will be certainly fulfilled in all their depth of blessed meaning, and because they are in part fulfilled at once (comp. Eph_1:13, Eph_1:14, “In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance”). The word “precious” reminds us of 1Pe_1:7, 1Pe_1:19; the resemblance with 1Pe_2:7 is apparent only, in the Authorized Version, not in the Greek.
That by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature; literally, that through these (promises, i.e., through their fulfillment) ye may become partakers. It is true that the verb is aorist (γένησθε), but it does not follow that, might be” is the right translation, or that the writer regarded the participation as having already taken place the children of light”). As Alford says, the aorist seems to imply “that the aim was not the procedure, but the completion, of that indicated; not the γίνεσθαι, the carrying on the process, but the γενέσθαι, its accomplishment.” The end of God’s gift is the complete accomplishment of his gracious purpose, but it is only by continual growth that the Christian attains at length to that accomplishment. St. Peter’s words seem very bold; but they do not go beyond many other statements of Holy Scripture. At the beginning God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” St. Paul tells us that believers are now “changed into the same image from glory to glory” (2Co_3:18; comp. also 1Co_11:7; Eph_4:24; Col_3:10; Rom_8:29; 1Co_15:49, etc.). Christians, born of God (Joh_1:13; 1Pe_1:23), are made “partakers of Christ” (Heb_3:14), “partakers of the Holy Ghost” (Heb_6:4). Christ prayed for us that we might be “made perfect in one” with himself who is one with God the Father, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost the Comforter (Joh_17:20-23; Joh_14:16, Joh_14:17, Joh_14:23). The second person is used to imply that the promises made to all Christians (unto us) belong to those whom St. Peter now addresses. Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust; literally, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world in lust. These words express the negative side of the Christian life, the former clause describing its active and positive side. God’s precious promises realized in the soul enable the Christian to become partakers of the Divine nature, and to escape from corruption; the two aspects of the Christian life must go on simultaneously; each implies and requires the other. Bengel says, “Haec fuga non tam ut officium nostrum, quam ut beneficium divinum, communionem cum Deo comitans, hoc loco ponitur.” The verb used here (ἀποφεύγειν) occurs in the New Testament only in this Epistle. It reminds us of St. Paul’s words in Rom_8:21, “The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption.” The corruption or destruction (for the Word φθορά has both those meanings) from which we must escape has its seat and power in lust; working secretly in the lusts of men’s wicked hearts, it manifests its evil presence in the world (comp. Gen_6:12; 1Jn_2:16).
2 Peter 1:4
Whereby – Δἰ ὧν Di’ hōn. “Through which” – in the plural number, referring either to the “glory” and “virtue” in the previous verse, and meaning that it was by that glorious divine efficiency that these promises were given; or, to all the things mentioned in the previous verse, meaning that it was through those arrangements, and in order to their completion, that these great and glorious promises were made. The promises given are in connection with the plan of securing “life and godliness,” and are a part of the gracious arrangements for that object.
Exceeding great and precious promises – A “promise” is an assurance on the part of another of some good for which we are dependent on him. It implies:
(1) That the thing is in his power;
(2) That he may bestow it or not, as he pleases;
(3) That we cannot infer from any process of reasoning that it is his purpose to bestow it on us;
(4) That it is a favor which we can obtain only from him, and not by any independent effort of our own.
The promises here referred to are those which pertain to salvation. Peter had in his eye probably all that then had been revealed which contemplated the salvation of the people of God. They are called “exceeding great and precious,” because of their value in supporting and comforting the soul, and of the honor and felicity which they unfold to us. The promises referred to are doubtless those which are made in connection with the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel, for there are no other promises made to man. They refer to the pardon of sin; strength, comfort, and support in trial; a glorious resurrection; and a happy immortality. If we look at the greatness and glory of the objects, we shall see that the promises are in fact exceedingly precious; or if we look at their influence in supporting and elevating the soul, we shall have as distinct a view of their value. The promise goes beyond our reasoning powers; enters a field which we could not otherwise
penetrate – the distant future; and relates to what we could not otherwise obtain.
All that we need in trial, is the simple promise of God that he will sustain us; all that we need in the hour of death, is the assurance of our God that we I shall be happy forever. What would this world be without a “promise?” How impossible to penetrate the future! How dark that which is to come would be! How bereft we should be of consolation! The past has gone, and its departed joys and hopes can never be recalled to cheer us again; the present may be an hour of pain, and sadness, and disappointment, and gloom, with perhaps not a ray of comfort; the future only opens fields of happiness to our vision, and everything there depends on the will of God, and all that we can know of it is from his promises. Cut off from these we have no way either of obtaining the blessings which we desire, or of ascertaining that they can be ours. For the promises of God, therefore, we should be in the highest degree grateful, and in the trials of life we should cling to them with unwavering confidence as the only things which can be an anchor to the soul.
That by these – Greek, “through these.” That is, these constitute the basis of your hopes of becoming partakers of the divine nature. Compare the notes at 2Co_7:1.
Partakers of the divine nature – This is a very important and a difficult phrase. An expression somewhat similar occurs in Heb_12:10; “That we might be partakers of his holiness.” See the notes at that verse. In regard to the language here used, it may be observed:
(1) That it is directly contrary to all the notions of “Pantheism” – or the belief that all things are now God, or a part of God – for it is said that the object of the promise is, that we “may become partakers of the divine nature,” not that we are now.
(2) It cannot be taken in so literal a sense as to mean that we can ever partake of the divine “essence,” or that we shall be “absorbed” into the divine nature so as to lose our individuality. This idea is held by the Budhists; and the perfection of being is supposed by them to consist in such absorption, or in losing their own individuality, and their ideas of happiness are graduated by the approximation which may be made to that state. But this cannot be the meaning here, because:
(a) It is in the nature of the case” impossible. There must be forever an essential difference between a created and an uncreated mind.
(b) This would argue that the Divine Mind is not perfect. If this absorption was necessary to the completeness of the character and happiness of the Divine Being, then he was imperfect before; if before perfect, he would not be after the absorption of an infinite number of finite and imperfect minds.
(c) In all the representations of heaven in the Bible, the idea of “individuality” is one that is prominent. “Individuals” are represented everywhere as worshippers there, and there is no intimation that the separate existence of the redeemed is to be absorbed and lost in the essence of the Deity. Whatever is to be the condition of man hereafter, he is to have a separate and individual existence, and the number of intelligent beings is never to be diminished either by annihilation, or by their being united to any other spirit so that they shall become one.
The reference then, in this place, must be to the “moral” nature of God; and the meaning is, that they who are renewed become participants of the same “moral” nature; that is, of the same views, feelings, thoughts, purposes, principles of action. Their nature as they are born, is sinful, and prone to evil Eph_2:3, their nature as they are born again, becomes like that of God. They are made like God; and this resemblance will increase more and more forever, until in a much higher sense than can be true in this world, they may be said to have become “partakers of the divine nature.” Let us remark, then,
(a) That “man” only, of all the dwellers on the earth, is capable of rising to this condition. The nature of all the other orders of creatures here below is incapable of any such transformation that it can be said that they become “partakers of the divine nature.”
(b) It is impossible now to estimate the degree of approximation to which man may yet rise toward God, or the exalted sense in which the term may yet be applicable to him; but the prospect before the believer in this respect is most glorious. Two or three circumstances may be referred to here as mere hints of what we may yet be:
(1) Let anyone reflect on the amazing advances made by himself since the period of infancy. But a few, very few years ago, he knew nothing. He was in his cradle, a poor, helpless infant. He knew not the use of eyes, or ears, or hands, or feet. He knew not the name or use of anything, not even the name of father or mother. He could neither walk, nor talk, nor creep. He did not know even that a candle would burn him if he put his finger there. He knew not how to grasp or hold a rattle, or what was its sound, or whence that sound or any other sound came. Let him think what he is at twenty, or forty, in comparison with this; and then, if his improvement in every similar number of years hereafter “should” be equal to this, who can tell the height to which he will rise?
(2) We are here limited in our own powers of learning about God or his works. We become acquainted with him through his works – by means of “the senses.” But by the appointment of this method of becoming acquainted with the external world, the design seems to have been to accomplish a double work quite contradictory – one to help us, and the other to hinder us. One is to give us the means of communicating with the external world – by the sight, the hearing, the smell, the touch, the taste; the other is to shut us out from the external world, except by these. The body is a casement, an enclosure, a prison in which the soul is incarcerated, from which we can look out on the universe only through these organs. But suppose, as may be the case in a future state, there shall be no such enclosure, and that the whole soul may look directly on the works of God – on spiritual existences, on God himself – who can then calculate the height to which man may attain in becoming a “partaker of the divine nature?”
(3) We shall have an “eternity” before us to grow in knowledge, and in holiness, and in conformity to God. Here, we attempt to climb the hill of knowledge, and having gone a few steps – while the top is still lost in the clouds – we lie down and die. We look at a few things; become acquainted with a few elementary principles; make a little progress in virtue, and then all our studies and efforts are suspended, and “we fly away.” In the future world we shall have an “eternity” before us to make progress in knowledge, and virtue, and holiness, uninterrupted; and who can tell in what exalted sense it may yet be true that we shall be “partakers of the divine nature,” or what attainments we may yet make?
Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust – The world is full of corruption. It is the design of the Christian plan of redemption to deliver us from that, and to make us holy; and the means by which we are to be made like God, is by rescuing us from its dominion.
2 Peter 1:10
10.Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence. He draws this conclusion, that it is one proof that we have been really elected, and not in vain called by the Lord, if a good conscience and integrity of life correspond with our profession of faith. And he infers, that there ought to be more labor and diligence, because he had said before, that faith ought not to be barren.
Some copies have, “by good works;” but these words make no change in the sense, for they are to be understood though not expressed.
He mentions calling first, though the last in order. The reason is, because election is of greater weight or importance; and it is a right arrangement of a sentence to subjoin what preponderates. The meaning then is, labor that you may have it really proved that you have not been called nor elected in vain. At the same time he speaks here of calling as the effect and evidence of election. If any one prefers to regard the two words as meaning the same thing, I do not object; for the Scripture sometimes merges the difference which exists between two terms. I have, however, stated what seems to me more probable.
Now a question arises, Whether the stability of our calling and election depends on good works, for if it be so, it follows that it depends on us. But the whole Scripture teaches us, first, that God’s election is founded on his eternal purpose; and secondly, that calling begins and is completed through his gratuitous goodness. The Sophists, in order to transfer what is peculiar to God’s grace to ourselves, usually pervert this evidence. But their evasions may be easily refuted. For if any one thinks that calling is rendered sure by men, there is nothing absurd in that; we may however, go still farther, that every one confirms his calling by leading a holy and pious life. But it is very foolish to infer from this what the Sophists contend for; for this is a proof not taken from the cause, but on the contrary from the sign or the effect. Moreover, this does not prevent election from being gratuitous, nor does it shew that it is in our own hand or power to confirm election. For the matter stands thus, — God effectually calls whom he has preordained to life in his secret counsel before the foundation of the world; and he also carries on the perpetual course of calling through grace alone. But as he has chosen us, and calls us for this end, that we may be pure and spotless in his presence; purity of life is not improperly called the evidence and proof of election, by which the faithful may not only testify to others that they are the children of God, but also confirm themselves in this confidence, in such a manner, however, that they fix their solid foundation on something else.
At the same time, this certainty, mentioned by Peter, ought, I think, to be referred to the conscience, as though the faithful acknowledged themselves before God to be chosen and called. But I take it simply of the fact itself, that calling appears as confirmed by this very holiness of life. It may, indeed, be rendered, Labor that your calling may become certain; for the verb ποιεῖσθαι is transitive or intransitive. Still, however you may render it, the meaning is nearly the same.
The import of what is said is, that the children of God are distinguished from the reprobate by this mark, that they live a godly and a holy life, because this is the design and end of election. Hence it is evident how wickedly some vile unprincipled men prattle, when they seek to make gratuitous election an excuse for all licentiousness; as though, forsooth! we may sin with impunity, because we have been predestinated to righteousness and holiness!
For if ye do these things. Peter seems again to ascribe to the merits of works, that God furthers our salvation, and also that we continually persevere in his grace. But the explanation is obvious; for his purpose was only to shew that hypocrites have in them nothing real or solid, and that, on the contrary, they who prove their calling sure by good works, are free from the danger of falling, because sure and sufficient is the grace of God by which they are supported. Thus the certainty of our salvation by no means depends on us, as doubtless the cause of it is beyond our limits. But with regard to those who feel in themselves the efficacious working of the Spirit, Peter bids them to take courage as to the future, because the Lord has laid in them the solid foundation of a true and sure calling.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:10. give diligence to make your calling and election sure] We hardly need to prove that the “calling and election” of which St Peter speaks were thought of by him as Divine acts according to the Divine foreknowledge (1Pe_1:2, 1Pe_2:21). He was not hindered, however, by any speculative difficulties from admitting that it was in man’s power to frustrate both (comp. 2Co_6:1; Gal_2:21), and that effort was required to give them permanent validity. They were, from his point of view, as the conditions of a covenant offered by God’s mercy, but it remained with man to ratify or rescind the compact.
ye shall never fall] More literally, and more significantly, ye shall never stumble, “stumbling” being, as in Rom_11:11, a step short of falling. The use of the word may be noted as presenting a coincidence with the language of St James (Jam_2:10, Jam_3:2).
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence. The two first words, διὸ μᾶλλον, “wherefore the rather,” are by some understood as referring only to the last clause; as if St. Peter were saying, “Rather than follow those who lack the graces enumerated above, and forget that they were cleansed from their former sins, give diligence.” Μᾶλλον is not unfrequently used in this antithetical sense, as in 1Co_5:2; Heb_11:25. But it seems better to refer διό to the whole passage (Heb_11:3-9), and to understand μᾶλλον in its more usual intensive sense, “all the more,” as in 1Th_4:10, etc. Because God has bestowed such gifts on men, because the use of those gifts leads on to the full knowledge of Christ, therefore all the more give diligence. The word σπουδάσατε, “give diligence,” recalls the σπουδὴν πᾶσαν, “all diligence,” of 1Th_4:5. The aorist seems, as it were, to sum up the continued diligence of daily life into one vivid description. This is the only place in which St. Peter uses the vocative “brethren;” he has “beloved” in the First Epistle (1Pe_2:11) and in 2Pe_3:1, 2Pe_3:8. Both words imply affectionate exhortation.
Two ancient manuscripts, the Alexandrine and the Sinaitic, insert here, “Through your good works (διὰ τῶν καλῶν ἔργων, or τῶν καλῶν ὑμῶν ἔργων).” To make your calling and election sure. Alford calls attention to the middle voice of the verb, “Not ποιεῖν, which lay beyond their power, but ποιεῖσθαι, on their side, for their part. But the verb must not be explained away into a pure subjectivity, ‘to make sure to yourselves;’ it carries the reflexive force, but only in so far as the act is and must be done for and quoad a man’s own self, the absolute and final determination resting with Another.” The calling and election are the act of God. All the baptized, all who bear the name of Christ, are called into the Church, but few comparatively are chosen, elect (ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί, Mat_20:16). We look, as it were, from far below up to the mysteries of God’s sovereign government; we cannot read the list of blessed names written in the Lamb’s book of life; we cannot lift ourselves to a point high enough to comprehend the secrets of God’s dealing with mankind, and to reconcile the Divine foreknowledge and omnipotence with the free agency of man. But we feel the energy of that free agency within us; we know that Holy Scripture bids us to work out our salvation, and tells us of some who receive the grace of God in vain (2Co_6:1), or frustrate the grace of God (Gal_2:21); and we feel that when the apostle tells us to make our calling and election sure, he means that we must try to realize that calling and election, to bring its solemn responsibilities and its blessed hopes to bear upon our daily life, to live as men who have been called into God’s Church, who are elect unto eternal life, and so to ratify God’s election by our poor acceptance. He calls us into covenant with himself; we answer, as the children of Israel said at Mount Sinai, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exo_24:7). Our obedience makes the covenant sure to us; holiness of life is the proof of God’s election, for it implies the indwelling presence of “that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. “If ye do these things;” i.e., “If ye make your calling and election sure.” “The plural shows that the apostle considered this making sure a very many-sided act” (Dietlein, in Huther). Others refer the ταῦτα, “these things,” to the graces just enumerated. Ye shall never fall; literally, ye shall never stumble (οὐ μὴ πταίσητε). Πταίειν is “to strike one’s foot against some obstacle,” and so to stumble. St. James says, “In many things we offend (πταίομεν) all” (Jas_3:2). St. Peter here means to stumble so as to fall (Rom_11:11); while Christians “do these things,” while they make their calling and election sure by holiness of life, they cannot stumble; it is in unguarded moments that they fall into temptation.
2 Peter 1:11
For so an entrance – In this manner you shall be admitted into the kingdom of God.
Shall be ministered unto you – The same Greek word is here used which occurs in 2Pe_1:5, and which is there rendered “add.” See the notes at that verse. There was not improbably in the mind of the apostle a recollection of that word; and the sense may be, that “if they would lead on the virtues and graces referred to in their beautiful order, those graces would attend them in a radiant train to the mansions of immortal glory and blessedness.” See Doddridge in loc.
Abundantly – Greek, “richly.” That is, the most ample entrance would be furnished; there would be no doubt about their admission there. The gates of glory would be thrown wide open, and they, adorned with all the bright train of graces, would be admitted there.
Into the everlasting kingdom … – Heaven. It is here called “everlasting,” not because the Lord Jesus shall preside over it as the Mediator (compare the notes at 1Co_15:24), but because, in the form which shall be established when “he shall have given it up to the Father,” it will endure forever, The empire of God which the Redeemer shall set up over the souls of his people shall endure to all eternity. The object of the plan of redemption was to secure their allegiance to God, and that will never terminate.
2 Peter 1:12
12.Wherefore I will not be negligent. As we seem to distrust either the memory or the attention of those whom we often remind of the same thing, the Apostle makes this modest excuse, that he ceased not to press on the attention of the faithful what was well known and fixed in their minds, because its importance and greatness required this.
“Ye do, indeed,” he says, “fully understand what the truth of the gospel is, nor have I to confirm as it were the wavering, but in a matter so great, admonitions are never superfluous; and, therefore, they ought never to be deemed vexatious.” Paul also employs a similar excuse in Rom_15:14, “I am persuaded of you, brethren,” he says, “that ye are full of knowledge, so as to be able to admonish one another: but I have more confidently written to you, as putting you in mind.”
He calls that the present truth, into the possession of which they had already entered by a sure faith. He, then, commends their faith, in order that they might remain fixed in it more firmly.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:12. Wherefore I will not be negligent] Many of the better MSS. have the reading “I will proceed to put you in remembrance,” but the Received Text is fairly supported. The words in either case indicate the anxiety with which the Apostle looked on the threatening dangers of the time. In the addition of “though ye know them” we trace a touch of humility and courtesy, like that of St Paul in Rom_1:12. In assuming previous knowledge, the Apostle finds, as the greatest of Greek orators had found before him (Demosth. p. 74. 7), the surest means of making that knowledge at once clearer and deeper.
in the present truth] The translation, though quite literal, is for the English reader somewhat misleading, as suggesting the thought that the Apostle is speaking of some special truth, not of the truth as a whole. Better, therefore, in the truth which is present with you. So taken the words furnish a suggestive parallel to 1Pe_5:12, as a recognition of the previous work of St Paul and his fellow-labourers in the Asiatic provinces.
Wherefore I will net be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things; rather, as in the Revised Version, wherefore I shall be ready. This reading (μελλήσω) is better supported than that of the T.R. (οὐκ ὀμελήσω). (For this use of μέλλειν with the infinitive almost as a periphrasis for the future, compare, in the Greek, Mat_24:6.) The apostle will take every opportunity of reminding his readers of the truths and duties which he has been describing, and that because faith in those truths and the practice of those duties is the only way to Christ’s eternal kingdom. Though ye know them, and be established in the present truth; better, as in the Revised Version, and are established in the truth which is with you. These words seem to imply that St. Peter knew something, through Silvanus (see 1Pe_5:12), of those to whom he was writing; they were not ignorant of the gospel; now they had read his First Epistle, and earlier they had heard the preaching of St. Paul or his companions (comp. Rom_1:13). (For the word rendered “established” (ἐστηριγμένους), comp. 1Pe_5:10; 2Pe_3:16, 2Pe_3:17.) St. Peter seems to have kept ever in his thoughts the solemn charge of the Saviour, “When thou art converted, strengthen (στήριξον) thy brethren” (Luk_22:32). For “the truth which is with you” (παρούση), comp. Col_1:6.
2 Peter 1:12
Wherefore I will not be negligent – That is, in view of the importance of these things.
To put you always in remembrance – To give you the means of having them always in remembrance; to wit, by his writings.
Though ye know them – It was of importance for Peter, as it is for ministers of the gospel now, to bring known truths to remembrance. Men are liable to forget them, and they do not exert the influence over them which they ought. It is the office of the ministry not only to impart to a people truths which they did not know before, but a large part of their work is to bring to recollection well-known truths. and to seek that they may exert a proper influence on the life. Amidst the cares, the business, the amusements, and the temptations of the world, even true Christians are prone to forget them; and the ministers of the gospel render them an essential service, even if they should do nothing more than remind them of truths which are well understood, and which they have known before. A pastor, in order to be useful, need not always aim at originality, or deem it necessary always to present truths which have never been heard of before. He renders an essential service to mankind who “reminds” them of what they know but are prone to forget, and who endeavors to impress plain and familiar truths on the heart and conscience, for these truths are most important for man.
And be established in the present truth – That is, the truth which is with you, or which you have received – Robinson’s Lexicon on the word πάρειμι pareimi. The apostle did not doubt that they were now confirmed in the truth as far as it had been made known to them, but he felt that amidst their trials, and especially as they were liable to be drawn away by false teachers, there was need of reminding them of the grounds on which the truths which they had embraced rested, and of adding his own testimony to confirm their Divine origin. Though we may be very firm in our belief of the truth, yet there is a propriety that the grounds of our faith should be stated to us frequently, that they may be always in our remembrance. The mere fact that at present we are firm in the belief of the truth, is no certain evidence that we shall always continue to be; nor because we are thus firm should we deem it improper for our religious teachers to state the grounds on which our faith rests, or to guard us against the arts of those who would attempt to subvert our faith.
2 Peter 1:13
13.Yea, I think it meet, or right. He expresses more clearly how useful and how necessary is admonition, because it is needful to arouse the faithful, for otherwise torpor will creep in from the flesh. Though, then, they might not have wanted teaching, yet he says that the goads of admonitions were useful, lest security and indulgence (as it is usually the case) should weaken what they had learned, and at length extinguish it.
He adds another cause why he was so intent on writing to them, because he knew that a short time remained for him. “I must diligently employ my time,” he says; “for the Lord has made known to me that my life in this world will not be long.” We hence learn, that admonitions ought to be so given, that the people whom we wish to benefit may not think that wrong is done to them, and also that offenses ought to be so avoided, that yet the truth may have a free course, and exhortations may not be discontinued. Now, this moderation is to be observed towards those to whom a sharp reproof would not be suitable, but who ought on the contrary to be kindly helped, since they are inclined of themselves to do their duty. We are also taught by the example of Peter, that the shorter term of life remains to us, the more diligent ought we to be in executing our office. It is not commonly given to us to foresee our end; but they who are advanced in years, or weakened by illness, being reminded by such indications of the shortness of their life, ought to be more sedulous and diligent, so that they may in due time perform what the Lord has given them to do; nay, those who are the strongest and in the flower of their age, as they do not render to God so constant a service as it behooves them to do, ought to quicken themselves to the same care and diligence by the recollection of approaching death; lest the occasion of doing good may pass away, while they attend negligently and slothfully to their work.
At the same time, I doubt not but that it was Peter’s object to gain more authority and weight to his teaching, when he said that he would endeavor to make them to remember these things after his death, which was then nigh at hand. For when any one, shortly before he quits this life, addresses us, his words have in a manner the force and power of a testament or will, and are usually received by us with greater reverence.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:13. Yea, I think it meet] More accurately, But I think it right. Though he knows them to be established in the truth, he yet looks on it as his duty to remind them of what they know.
as long as I am in this tabernacle] The term chosen is interesting (1) as a parallel to St Paul’s use of the same imagery in 2Co_5:1, and (2) as connected with the reference to the Transfiguration which follows. In that vision on the mount, it will be remembered, St Peter had uttered the prayer “Let us make three tabernacles …” (Mat_17:4). He had now learnt that the true tabernacle of Christ was His human body, and to think of his own body also as the tabernacle of His Spirit.
to stir you up by putting you in remembrance] The phrase, which occurs again in chap. 3:1, may be noticed as characteristic of St Peter. He assumes a knowledge not only of the broad outlines of Gospel truth, but of the facts of the Gospel history, including, it is obvious, the history of the Transfiguration, and corresponding therefore to the record found in the first three Gospels.
2 Peter 1:13
Yea, I think it meet – I think it becomes me as an apostle. It is my appropriate duty; a duty which is felt the more as the close of life draws near.
As long as I am in this tabernacle – As long as I live; as long as I am in the body. The body is called a tabernacle, or tent, as that in which the soul resides for a little time. See the notes at 2Co_5:1.
To stir you up, by putting you in remembrance – To excite or arouse you to a diligent performance of your duties; to keep up in your minds a lively sense of Divine things. Religion becomes more important to a man’s mind always as he draws near the close of life, and feels that he is soon to enter the eternal world.
2 Peter 1:14
14 I must put off this my tabernacle. Literally the words are, “Short is the putting; away of this tabernacle.” By this mode of speaking, and afterwards by the word “departing,” he designates death, which it behooves us to notice; for we are here taught how much death differs from perdition. Besides, too much dread of death terrifies us, because we do not sufficiently consider how fading and evanescent this life is, and do not reflect on the perpetuity of future life. But what does Peter say? He declares that death is departing from this world, that we may remove elsewhere, even to the Lord. It ought not, then, to be dreadful to us, as though we were to perish when we die. He declares that it is the putting away of a tabernacle, by which we are covered only for a short time. There is, then, no reason why we should regret to be removed from it.
But there is to be understood an implied contrast between a fading tabernacle and a perpetual habitation, which Paul explains in 2Co_5:1.
When he says that it had been revealed to him by Christ, he refers not to the kind of death, but to the time. But if he received the oracle at Babylon respecting his death being near, how was he crucified at Rome? It certainly appears that he died very far from Italy, except he flew in a moment over seas and lands. But the Papists, in order to claim for themselves the body of Peter, make themselves Babylonians, and say that Rome is called Babylon by Peter: this shall be refuted in its proper place. What he says of remembering these things after his death, was intended to shew, that posterity ought to learn from him when dead. For the apostles had not regard only for their own age, but purposed to do us good also. Though, then, they are dead, their doctrine lives and prevails: and it is our duty to profit by their writings, as though they were manifestly present with. us.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 2:14. knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle] Better, knowing that swift will be the putting off of my tabernacle. He speaks not so much of the nearness of his death, as of the suddenness with which it would come upon him, and he is therefore anxious to make all necessary preparations for it. In the word for “putting off” we have, as in 2Co_5:1-3, a blending of the two closely connected ideas of a tent and a garment. Comp. a like association of ideas in Psa_104:2.
even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me] Better, shewed me, the aorist pointing to some time definitely present to his mind. The only extant record of any such intimation in the Gospels is that in Joh_21:18, Joh_21:19, and, assuming the genuineness of this Epistle, it is obvious that it supplies an interesting testimony to the truth of that narrative. It will be remembered that we have already seen an interesting allusive reference to it in 1Pe_5:2. Even on the other hypothesis it is, at least, evidence of the early date of a tradition corresponding to that which St John has recorded.
2 Peter 1:14
Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle – That I must die. This he knew, probably, because he was growing old, and was reaching the outer period of human life. It does not appear that he had any express revelation on the point.
Even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me – See the notes at Joh_21:18-19. This does not mean that he had any new revelation on the subject, showing him that he was soon to die, as many of the ancients supposed; but the idea is, that the time drew near when he was to die “in the manner” in which the Saviour had told him that he would. He had said Joh_21:18 that this would occur when he should be “old,” and as he was now becoming old, he felt that the predicted event was drawing near. Many years had now elapsed since this remarkable prophecy was uttered. It would seem that Peter had never doubted the truth of it, and during all that time he had had before him the distinct assurance that he must die by violence; by having “his hands stretched forth;” and by being conveyed by force to some place of death to which he would not of himself go Joh_21:18, but, though the prospect of such a death must have been painful, he never turned away from it; never sought to abandon his Master’s cause; and never doubted that it would be so.
This is one of the few instances that have occurred in the world, where a man knew distinctly, long beforehand, what would be the manner of his own death, and where he could have it constantly in his eye. we cannot foresee this in regard to ourselves, but we may learn to feel that death is not far distant, and may accustom ourselves to think upon it in whatever manner it may come upon us, as Peter did, and endeavor to prepare for it. Peter would naturally seek to prepare himself for death in the particular form in which he knew it would occur to him; we should prepare for it in whatever way it may occur to us. The subject of crucifixion would be one of special interest to him; to us death itself should be the subject of unusual interest – the manner is to be left to God. Whatever may be the signs of its approach, whether sickness or grey hairs, we should meditate much upon an event so solemn to us; and as these indications thicken we should be more diligent, as Peter was, in doing the work that God has given us to do. Our days, like the fabled Sybil’s leaves, become more valuable as they are diminished in number; and as the inevitable hour draws nearer to us, we should labor more diligently in our Master’s cause, gird our loins more closely, and trim our lamps. Peter thought of the cross, for it was such a death that he was led to anticipate. Let us think of the bed of languishing on which we may die, or of the blow that may strike us suddenly down in the midst of our way, calling us without a moment’s warning into the presence of our Judge.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:15. Moreover I will endeavour that you may be able after my decease …] The word “endeavour” in the modern sense is perhaps slightly too weak, the Greek verb implying diligent and earnest effort. In the Greek word for “decease” (exodos), we meet with another suggestive coincidence with the history of the Transfiguration. When the Apostle had seen the forms of Moses and Elijah, they had spoken of the “decease” which Christ should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luk_9:31). It may be noted that this use of the word, as an euphemistic synonym for “death,” is entirely absent from Greek classical writers, and that probably the two passages referred to are the earliest instances of its use in that sense. It occurs, however, a little later in Josephus (Ant. iv. 8, § 2) and in Wisd. 3:2 (“Their departure was taken for misery”), probably the work of a contemporary. In the intention thus expressed we may fairly see a confirmation of the tradition which speaks of St Mark’s acting as the “interpreter” or amanuensis of St Peter, in writing his Gospel, recording, at the request of the Apostle’s disciples, what they had heard orally from him. (Euseb. Hist. ii. 15, iii. 39, Iren. iii. 10, § 6.)
Another interpretation of the words may be noticed as deserving a place among the curiosities of exegesis. Roman Catholic commentators, Cornelius a Lapide and others, have connected the words “after my decease” with the verb “I will endeavour,” and have thus construed the Apostle’s words into an argument for his continued watchfulness and superintendence over the development of the Church’s doctrine.
Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance; rather, but I will also give diligence that ye may be able at every time after my decease to call these things to remembrance. Of the two particles used here the δέ connects this verso with 2Pe_1:13; the καί implies a further resolve. St. Peter will not only stir up the minds of his readers during his life, but he will give diligence to enable them to call to remembrance, after his death, the truths which he had preached. These words may refer simply to the present Epistle; but it seems more natural to understand them of an intention to commit to writing the facts of the gospel history; if this be so, we have here a confirmation of the ancient tradition that the Second Gospel was written by St. Mark at the dictation of St. Peter. The verb σπουδάσω is that used in verse 10, and should be translated in the same way; they must give diligence to make their calling and election sure. St. Peter, for his part, will give diligence to furnish them with a lasting record of the truths of Christianity. The adverb ἑκάστοτε, at every time, whenever there may be need, occurs only here in the New Testament. It is remarkable that we have here, in two consecutive verses, two words which remind us of the history of the Transfiguration, “tabernacle,” and “decease” (ἔξοδος; see Luk_9:31). Then Peter proposed to make three tabernacles; then he heard Moses and Elijah speaking of the Lord’s decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. The simple unconscious occurrence of these coincidences is a strong proof of the genuineness of our Epistle; it is inconceivable that an imitator of the second century should have shown this delicate skill in adapting his production to the circumstances of the supposed writer. The last words of the verse may mean (and in classical Greek would mean) “to make mention of these things;” but the usual rendering seems more suitable here. St. Peter was anxious rather that his readers should have the truths of the gospel living in their memories, than that they should talk about them; that would follow as a matter of course: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Some Roman Catholic commentators think that this passage contains a promise that the apostle would still, after his death, continue to remember the needs of the Church on earth, and to help them by his intercessions; but this interpretation involves a complete dislocation of clauses, and cannot possibly be the true meaning of the words.
2 Peter 1:15
Moreover, I will endeavour – I will leave such a permanent record of my views on these subjects that you may not forget them. He meant not only to declare his sentiments orally, but to record them that they might be perused when he was dead. He had such a firm conviction of the truth and value of the sentiments which he held, that he would use all the means in his power that the church and the world should not forget them.
After my decease – My “exodus,” (ἔξοδον exodon;) my journey out; my departure; my exit from life. This is not the usual word to denote death, but is rather a word denoting that he was going on a journey out of this world. He did not expect to cease to be, but he expected to go on his travels to a distant abode. This idea runs through all this beautiful description of the feelings of Peter as he contemplated death. Hence he speaks of taking down the “tabernacle” or “tent,” the temporary abode of the soul, that his spirit might be removed to another place 2Pe_1:13; and, hence, he speaks of an “exodus” from the present life – a journey to another world. This is the true notion of death; and if so, two things follow from it:
(1) We should make preparation for it, as we do for a journey, and the more in proportion to the distance that we are to travel, and the time that we are to be absent; and,
(2) When the preparation is made, we should not be unwilling to enter on the journey, as we are not now when we are prepared to leave our homes to visit some remote part of our own country, or a distant land,
To have these things always in remembrance – By his writings. We may learn from this,
(1) That when a Christian grows old, and draws near to death, his sense of the value of Divine truth by no means diminishes. As he approaches the eternal world; as from its borders he surveys the past, and looks on to what is to come; as he remembers what benefit the truths of religion have conferred on him in life, and sees what a miserable being he would now be if he had no such hope as the gospel inspires; as he looks on the whole influence of those truths on his family and friends, on his country and the world, their value rises before him with a magnitude which he never saw before, and he desires most earnestly that they should be seen and embraced by all. A man on the borders of eternity is likely to have a very deep sense of the value of the Christian religion; and is he not then in favorable circumstances to estimate this matter aright? Let anyone place himself in imagination in the situation of one who is on the borders of the eternal world, as all in fact soon will be, and can he have any doubt about the value of religious truth?
(2) We may learn from what Peter says here, that it is the duty of those who are drawing near to the eternal world, and who are the friends of religion, to do all they can that the truths of Christianity “may be always had in remembrance.” Every man’s experience of the value of religion, and the results of his examination and observation, should be regarded as the property of the world, and should not be lost. As he is about to die, he should seek, by all the means in his power, that those truths should be perpetuated and propagated. This duty may be discharged by some in counsels offered to the young, as they are about to enter on life, giving them the results of their own experience, observation, and reflections on the subject of religion; by some, by an example so consistent that it cannot be soon forgotten – a legacy to friends and to the world of much more value than accumulated silver and gold; by some, by solemn warnings or exhortations on the bed of death; in other cases, by a recorded experience of the conviction and value of religion, and a written defense of its truth, and illustration of its nature – for every man who can write a good book owes it to the church and the world to do it: by others, in leaving the means of publishing and spreading good books in the world.
He does a good service to his own age, and to future ages, who records the results of his observations and his reflections in favor of the truth in a book that shall be readable; and though the book itself may be ultimately forgotten, it may have saved some persons from ruin, and may have accomplished its part in keeping up the knowledge of the truth in his own generation. Peter, as a minister of the gospel, felt himself bound to do this, and no men have so good an opportunity of doing this now as ministers of the gospel; no men have more ready access to the press; no men have so much certainty that they will have the public attention, if they will write anything worth reading; no men, commonly, in a community are better educated, or are more accustomed to write; no individuals, by their profession, seem to be so much called to address their fellow-men in any way in favor of the truth; and it is matter of great marvel that men who have such opportunities, and who seem especially called to the work, do not do more of this kind of service in the cause of religion. Themselves soon to die, how can they help desiring that they may leave something that shall bear an honorable, though humble, testimony to truths which they so much prize, and which they are appointed to defend? A tract may live long after the author is in the grave; and who can calculate the results which have followed the efforts of Baxter and Edwards to keep up in the world the remembrance of the truths which they deemed of so much value? This little epistle of Peter has shed light on the path of men now for 1,800 years (circa 1880’s), and will continue to do it until the second coming of the Saviour.
2 Peter 1:16
16.For we have not followed cunningly devised fables. It gives us much courage, when we know that we labor in a matter that is certain. Lest, then, the faithful should think that in these labors they were beating the air, he now comes to set forth the certainty of the gospel; and he denies that anything had been delivered by him but what was altogether true and indubitable: and they were encouraged to persevere, when they were sure of the prosperous issue of their calling.
In the first place, Peter indeed asserts that he had been an eyewitness; for he had himself seen with his own eyes the glory of Christ, of which he speaks. This knowledge he sets in opposition to crafty fables, such as cunning men are wont to fabricate to ensnare simple minds. The old interpreter renders the word “feigned,” (fictas; ) Erasmus, “formed by art.” It seems to me that what is subtle to deceive is meant: for the Greek word here used, σοφίζεσθαι, sometimes means this. And we know how much labor men bestow on frivolous refinements, and only that they may have some amusement. Therefore no less seriously ought our minds to be applied to know the truth which is not fallacious, and the doctrine which is not nugatory, and which discovers to us the glory of the Son of God and our own salvation.
The power and the coming. No doubt he meant in these words to include the substance of the gospel, as it certainly contains nothing except Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom. But he distinctly mentions two things, — that Christ had been manifested in the flesh, — and also that power was exhibited by him. Thus, then, we have the whole gospel; for we know that he, the long-promised Redeemer, came from heaven, put on our flesh, lived in the world, died and rose again; and, in the second place, we perceive the end and fruit of all these things, that is, that he might be God with us, that he might exhibit in himself a sure pledge of our adoption, that he might cleanse us from the defilement’s of the flesh by the grace of his Spirit, and consecrate us temples to God, that he might deliver us from hell, and raise us up to heaven, that he might by the sacrifice of his death make an atonement for the sins of the world, that he might reconcile us to the Father, that he might become to us the author of righteousness and of life. He who knows and understands these things, is fully acquainted with the gospel.
Were eyewitnesses, or beholders We hence conclude, that they by no means serve Christ, nor are like the apostles, who presumptuously mount the pulpit to prattle of speculations unknown to themselves; for he alone is the lawful minister of Christ, who knows the truth of the doctrine which he delivers: not that all obtain certainty in the same way; for what Peter says is that he himself was present, when Christ was declared by a voice from heaven to be the Son of God. Three only were then present, but they were sufficient as witnesses; for they had through many miracles seen the glory of Christ, and had a remarkable evidence of his divinity in his resurrection. But we now obtain certainty in another way; for though Christ has not risen before our eyes, yet we know by whom his resurrection has been handed down to us. And added to this is the inward testimony of conscience, the sealing of the Spirit, which far exceeds all the evidence of the senses. But let us remember that the gospel was not at the beginning made up of vague rumors, but that the apostles were the authentic preachers of what they had seen.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:16. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you …] More accurately, For it was not as following cunningly devised fables that we made known—the connexion being one not of time but of causation. The “fables” or “myths” referred to are probably those of which St Paul speaks in the Pastoral Epistles (1Ti_1:4, 1Ti_1:4:7; 2Ti_4:4; Tit_1:14), which were, as the description there given of them indicates, mainly of Jewish origin. With these there might be mingled the germs of the Gnosticism incipient in the Apostolic age, and developed more fully in the next century. Possibly there may be an allusive reference to the claims of the sorcerer of Samaria, with whom the Apostle had himself come into collision (Act_8:10). The boast of Simon that he was the “great power of God,” and that his mistress Helena was the incarnation of the Divine Thought or Wisdom by which the worlds were made, would answer, closely enough, to the “cunningly devised fables” of which St Peter speaks. The word for “cunningly devised,” framed, i.e., with fraudulent and sophistical purpose, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. The question what the Apostle refers to in “we made known to you:” it may refer either to unrecorded teaching addressed to the Asiatic Churches, or to the wider circle of readers defined in verse 1, or, more probably, to the teaching of the First Epistle as to the glory that was to be manifested “at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Pe_1:7, 1Pe_1:13, 1Pe_1:4:13). The tone in which the offensive epithet is used suggests the thought that he is defending himself against a charge of having followed “fables.” Is it possible that that charge had been brought against his teaching as to “the spirits in prison,” as something superadded to the received oral traditions of the Church, or to the written records, whether identical with our present Gospels or not, in which that teaching had been embodied?
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ] The “coming,” here, as in every other passage of the New Testament in which the word occurs, is the Second Advent, not the first. The mind of the Apostle goes back to what he had witnessed in the glory of the Transfiguration, as the pledge and earnest of that which was afterwards to be revealed. The word does not occur in the First Epistle, but the fact is implied in 1Pe_1:7, 1Pe_1:13, 1Pe_1:4:13, 1Pe_1:5:4.
but were eyewitnesses of his majesty] Both words are significant. That for “eye-witnesses” (not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but used of God as the all-seeing in 2Ma_7:35; 3Ma_2:21) was applied in Classical Greek to the highest order of those who were initiated as spectators of the Eleusinian mysteries. It would, perhaps, be too much to say that that association was definitely present to the Apostle’s mind, but the choice of an unusual and suggestive word at least implies that he looked on himself as having been chosen to a special privilege. It deserves notice also, as bearing on the authorship of the Epistle, that the verb derived from the noun had been used by the writer of 1Pe_2:12, 1Pe_3:2. (See notes there.) The word for “majesty” also has the interest of having been used in the Gospel narrative in close connexion with the healing of the demoniac boy which followed the Transfiguration (Luk_9:43), and, as found there, may fairly be taken as including, as far as the three disciples who had seen the vision of glory were concerned, what had preceded that work of healing, as well as the work itself. The only other passage in the New Testament in which it is found is in Act_19:27, where it is used of the “magnificence” of the Ephesian Artemis.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables; rather, did not follow. The participle (ἐξακολουθήσαντες) is aorist. This compound verb is used only by St. Peter in the New Testament; we find it again in 2Pe_2:2 and 2Pe_2:15. Bengel and others have thought that the preposition ἐξ, from or out of, implies wandering from the truth after false guides; but probably the word merely means “to follow closely,” though in this case the guides were going astray. Perhaps the use of the plural number is accounted for by the fact that St. Peter was not the only witness of the glory of the Transfiguration; he associates in thought his two brother-apostles with himself. The word μῦθοι, fables, with this exception, occurs in the New Testament only in St. Paul’s pastoral Epistles. There is a remarkable parallel in the procemium of the ‘Antiquities’ of Josephus, sect. 4, Οἱ μεν ἄλλοι νομοθέται τοῖς μύθοις ἐξακολουθήσαντες. St. Peter may be referring to the “Jewish fables” mentioned by St. Paul (Tit_1:14), or to the stories about the heathen gods such as those in Hesiod and Ovid, or possibly to some early inventions, such as those ascribed to Simon the Sorcerer, which were afterwards to be developed into the strange fictions of Gnosticism. The word rendered “cunningly devised” occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in 2Ti_3:15; but there a different part of the verb is used, and in a different sense. When we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Peter can scarcely be referring to St. Paul or other missionaries, as the following words identify the preachers with the witnesses of the Transfiguration; he must be alluding either to his First Epistle, or to personal teaching of his which has not been recorded, or, just possibly, to the Gospel of St. Mk. St. Peter had seen the power of the Lord Jesus manifested in his miracles; he had heard the announcement of the risen Saviour, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth;” he had, like the rest of the apostles, been “endued with power from on high.” By the coming (παρουσία) he must mean the second advent, the invariable meaning of the word in Holy Scripture.
But were eye-witnesses of his majesty. The word for “eye-witnesses” is not the common one (αὐτόπται, used by St. Luk_1:2), but a technical word (ἐπόπται), which in classical Greek designates the highest class of those who had been initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. The choice of such a word may possibly imply that St. Peter regarded himself and his brother-apostles as having received the highest initiation into the mysteries of religion. The noun is found only here in the New Testament; but the corresponding verb occurs in 1Pe_2:12 and 1Pe_3:2, and in no other of the New Testament writers. Here again we have an undesigned coincidence which points to identity of authorship. The word for “majesty” (μεγαλειότης) occurs in St. Luke’s description of the healing of the demoniac boy immediately after the Transfiguration (Luk_9:43), and elsewhere only in Act_19:27.
2 Peter 1:16
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables – That is, fictions or stories invented by artful men, and resting on no solid foundation. The doctrines which they held about the coming of the Saviour were not, like many of the opinions of the Greeks, defended by weak and sophistical reasoning, but were based on solid evidence – evidence furnished by the personal observation of competent witnesses. It is true of the gospel, in general, that it is not founded on cunningly devised fables; but the particular point referred to here is the promised coming of the Saviour. The evidence of that fact Peter proposes now to adduce.
When we made known unto you – Probably Peter here refers particularly to statements respecting the coming of the Saviour in his first epistle, 1Pe_1:5, 1Pe_1:13; 1Pe_4:13; but this was a common topic in the preaching, and in the epistles, of the apostles. It may, therefore, have referred to statements made to them at some time in his preaching, as well as to what he said in his former epistle. The apostles laid great stress on the second coming of the Saviour, and often dwelt upon it. Compare 1Th_4:16; Notes, Act_1:11.
The power and coming – These two words refer to the same thing; and the meaning is, his “powerful coming,” or his “coming in power.” The advent of the Saviour is commonly represented as connected with the exhibition of power. Mat_24:30, “coming in the clouds of heaven, with power.” See the notes at that verse. Compare Luk_22:69; Mar_3:9. The “power” evinced will be by raising the dead; summoning the world to judgment; determining the destiny of men, etc. When the coming of the Saviour, therefore, was referred to by the apostles in their preaching, it was probably always in connection with the declaration that it would be accompanied by exhibitions of great power and glory – as it undoubtedly will be. The fact that the Lord Jesus would thus return, it is clear, had been denied by some among those to whom this epistle was addressed, and it was important to state the evidence on which it was to be believed. The grounds on which they denied it 2Pe_3:4 were, that there were no appearances of his approach; that the premise had not been fulfilled; that all things continued as they had been; and that the affairs of the world moved on as they always had done. To meet and counteract this error – an error which so prevailed that many were in danger of “falling from their own steadfastness” 2Pe_3:17 – Peter states the proof on which he believed in the coming of the Saviour.
But were eye-witnesses of his majesty – On the mount of transfiguration, Mat_17:1-5. See the notes at that passage. That transfiguration was witnessed only by Peter, James, and John. But it may be asked, how the facts there witnessed demonstrate the point under consideration – that the Lord Jesus will come with power? To this it may be replied:
(1) That these apostles had there such a view of the Saviour in his glory as to convince them beyond doubt that he was the Messiah.
(2) That there was a direct attestation given to that fact by a voice from heaven, declaring that he was the beloved Son of God.
(3) That that transfiguration was understood to have an important reference to the coming of the Saviour in his kingdom and his glory, and was designed to be a representation of the manner in which he would then appear. This is referred to distinctly by each one of the three evangelists who have mentioned the transfiguration. Mat_16:28, “there be some standing here which shall not taste of death until they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom;” Mar_9:1-2; Luk_9:27-28. The transfiguration which occurred soon after these words were spoken was designed to show them what he would be in his glory, and to furnish to them a demonstration which they could never forget, that he would yet set up his kingdom in the world.
(4) They had in fact such a view of him as he would be in his kingdom, that they could entertain no doubt on the point; and the fact, as it impressed their own minds, they made known to others. The evidence as it lay in Peter’s mind was, that that transfiguration was designed to furnish proof to them that the Messiah would certainly appear in glory, and to give them a view of him as coming to reign which would never fade from their memory. As that had not yet been accomplished, he maintained that the evidence was clear that it must occur at some future time. As the transfiguration was with reference to his coming in his kingdom, it was proper for Peter to use it with that reference, or as bearing on that point.
2 Peter 1:17
17.For he received from God the Father. He chose one memorable example out of many, even that of Christ, when, adorned with celestial glory, he conspicuously displayed his divine majesty to his three disciples. And though Peter does not relate all the circumstances, yet he sufficiently designates them when he says, that a voice came from the magnificent glory. For the meaning is, that nothing earthly was seen there, but that a celestial majesty shone on every side. We may hence conclude what those displays of greatness were which the evangelists relate. And it was necessarily thus done, in order that the authority of that voice which came might be more awful and solemn, as we see that it was done all at once by the Lord. For when he spoke to the fathers, he did not only cause his words to sound in the air, but by adding some symbols or tokens of his presence, he proved the oracles to be his.
This is my beloved Son. Peter then mentions this voice, as though it was sufficient alone, as a full evidence for the gospel, and justly so. For when Christ is acknowledged by us to be him whom the Father has sent, this is our highest wisdom. There are two parts to this sentence. When he says, “This is,” the expression is very emphatical, intimating, that he was the Messiah who had been so often promised. Whatever, then, is found in the Law and the Prophets respecting the Messiah, is declared here, by the Father, to belong to him whom he so highly commended. In the other part of the sentence, he announces Christ as his own Son, in whom his whole love dwells and centres. It hence follows that we are not otherwise loved than in him, nor ought the love of God to be sought anywhere else. It is sufficient for me now only to touch on these things by the way.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:17. For he received from God the Father honour and glory] The Greek construction is participial, For having received …, the structure of the sentence being interrupted by the parenthetical clause which follows, and not resumed. The English version may be admitted, though it conceals this fact, as a fair solution of the difficulty. “Honour and glory.” The two words are naturally joined together as in Rom_2:7, Rom_2:10; 1Ti_1:17; Heb_2:7, Heb_2:9; Rev_4:9, Rev_4:11, Rev_4:5:12. If we are to press the distinctive force of each, the “honour” may be thought of as referring to the attesting voice at the Transfiguration, the “glory” to the light which enveloped the person of the Christ, like the Shechinah cloud of 1Ki_8:10, 1Ki_8:11; Isa_6:1, Isa_6:4; Mat_17:1-5; Mar_9:2-7; Luk_9:28-36.
when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory] Literally, when such a voice as this was borne to Him. The choice of the verb instead of the more usual word for “came,” connects itself with the use of the same verb in St Luke’s account of the Pentecostal gift (Act_2:2), and the Apostle’s own use of it in verse 21 in connexion with the gift of prophecy. The word for “excellent” (more literally, magnificent, or majestic, as describing the transcendent brightness of the Shechinahcloud), not found elsewhere in the New Testament, is, perhaps, an echo from the LXX. of Deu_33:26, where God is described as “the excellent (or majestic) One of the firmament.” The corresponding noun appears in the LXX. of Psa_21:5, where the English version has “majesty.” The Greek preposition has the force of “by” rather than “from” the glory, the person of the Father being identified with the Glory which was the token of His presence.
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased] The words are given, with one slight variation not perceptible in the English, as we find them in Mat_17:5. It is obvious, assuming the genuineness of the Epistle, that we have here a testimony of great value to the truth of the Gospel records. As there is no reference to any written record of the words, and, we may add, as St Peter omits the words “Hear ye Him,” which St Matthew adds, the testimony has distinctly the character of independence. Had the Epistle been the spurious work of a pseudonymous writer, it is at least probable that they would have been given in the precise form in which they are found in one or other of the Gospels. St Mark and St Luke, it may be noted, omit the words “in whom I am well pleased.” The tense used in the Greek of these words is past, and not present, implying that the “delight” with which the Father contemplated the Son had been from eternity.
The whole passage has a special interest, as pointing to the place which the Transfiguration occupied in the spiritual education of the three disciples who witnessed it. The Apostle looked back upon it, in his old age, as having stamped on his mind ineffaceably the conviction that the glory on which he had then looked was the pledge and earnest of that hereafter to be revealed. Comp. the probable reference to the same event in Joh_1:14.
For he received from God the Father honour and glory. The construction here is interrupted; the literal translation is, “Having received,” etc., and there is no verb to complete the sense. Winer supposes that the apostle had intended to continue with some such words as, “He had us for witnesses,” or, “He was declared to be the beloved Son of God,” and that the construction was interrupted by the direct quotation of the words spoken by the voice from heaven (‘Grammar,’ 3:45, b). (For a similar anacoluthon, see in the Greek 2Co_5:6.) “Honour” seems to refer to the testimony of the voice from heaven; “glory,” to the splendour of the Lord’s transfigured Person. When there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory; more literally, when such a voice was borne to him. The same verb is used in Act_2:2 of “the rushing mighty wind” which announced the coming of the Holy Ghost; and in 1Pe_1:13 of “the grace which is being brought.” It is repeated in the next verse. It seems intended to assert emphatically the real objective character of the voice. It was not a vision, a dream; the voice was borne from heaven; the apostles heard it with their ears. The preposition ὑπό must be rendered “by,” not “from.” The “excellent” (rather, “majestic,” or “magnificent”) glory was the Shechinah, the visible manifestation of the presence of God, which had appeared in ancient times on Mount Sinai, and in the tabernacle and temple above the mercy-seat. God was there; it was he who spoke. For the word rendered “excellent” (μεγαλοπρεπής) compare the Septuagint Version of Deu_33:26, ὁ μεγαλοπρεπὴς τοῦ στερεώματος, literally, “the Majestic One of the firmament;” where our Authorized Version gives a more exact translation of the Hebrew, “in his excellency on the sky” (see also the ‘Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,’ Deu_9:1-29, where the occurrence of the same remarkable words, μεγαλοπρεπὴς δόξα, suggests that Clement must have been acquainted with this Epistle).
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Our translation makes these words correspond exactly with the report given by St. Matthew in his account of the Transfiguration, except that “hear ye him” is added there. In the Greek there are some slight variations. According to one ancient manuscript (the Vatican), the order of the words is different, and there is a second pen, “This is my Son, my Beloved.” All uncial manuscripts have here, instead of the ἐν ᾦ of St. Matthew’s Gospel, εἰς ὃν ἐγὼ εὐδόκησα. The difference cannot be represented in our translation. The construction is pregnant, and the meaning is that from all eternity the εὐδοκία, the good pleasure, of God the Father was directed towards the Divine Son, and still abideth on him. The same truth seems to be implied in the aorist εὐδόκησα (comp. Joh_17:24, “Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”). An imitator of the second century would certainly have made this quotation to correspond exactly with the words as given in one of the synoptic Gospels.
2 Peter 1:18
18.In the holy mount. He calls it the holy mount, for the same reason that the ground was called holy where God appeared to Moses. For wherever the Lord comes, as he is the fountain of all holiness, he makes holy all things by the odor of his presence. And by this mode of speaking we are taught, not only to receive God reverently wherever he shews himself, but also to prepare ourselves for holiness, as soon as he comes nigh us, as it was commanded the people when the law was proclaimed on Mount Sinai. And it is a general truth, “Be ye holy, for I am holy, who dwell in the midst of you.” (Lev_11:44.)
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:18. And this voice which came from heaven we heard …] More accurately, as better expressing the force of the special word used here as in the previous verse, And this voice borne from heaven we heard.… The “we” is emphatic, as giving prominence to the fact of the personal testimony of the Apostle and his two brother-disciples.
when we were with him in the holy mount] It has been urged by some critics that the description of the Mount of the Transfiguration by the term which in Old Testament language was commonly applied to Zion (Psa_2:6) indicates the phraseology of a later age than that of the Apostles. It is obvious, however, in answer, that the scene of the manifestation of the Divineglory of which he speaks could not appear as other than “holy ground”—holy as Horeb had been of old (Exo_3:5; Act_7:33)—to the Apostle who had been there. Comp. Jos_5:15. Whether, as the Gospel narrative indicates, it was on the heights of Hermon (Mat_16:13), or, as later tradition reported, on Mount Tabor, it would remain for ever as a consecrated spot in the Apostle’s memory. It may, perhaps, be inferred from the tone in which he thus speaks of it, that he assumes that his readers had already some knowledge of the fact referred to.
And this voice which came from heaven we heard; rather, and this voice borne from heaven we heard. The pronoun is emphatic; we, the apostles who had that high privilege. They heard the voice when it was borne (ἐνεχθεῖσαν; he repeats for emphasis the remarkable word of 2Pe_1:17) from heaven, they heard it come from heaven. When we were with him in the holy mount. This description of the Mount of the Transfiguration supposes a knowledge of the history in St. Peter’s readers; but it gives no support to the theory of a post-apostolic date. Mount Horeb was “holy ground,” because God appeared there to Moses, because it was the scene of the giving of the Law. Mount Zion was a holy hill, because God had chosen it to be a habitation for himself; the Mount of the Transfiguration was holy, because there God the Son manifested forth his glory. God hallows every place which he pleases to make the scene of his revealed presence. This whole passage shows the deep and lasting impression which the Transfiguration made on those who were privileged to witness it (comp. Joh_1:14).
2 Peter 1:19
19.We have also. He now shews that the truth of the gospel is founded on the oracles of the prophets, lest they who embraced it should hesitate to devote themselves wholly to Christ: for they who waver cannot be otherwise than remiss in their minds. But when he says, “We have,” he refers to himself and other teachers, as well as to their disciples. The apostles had the prophets as the patrons of their doctrine; the faithful also sought from them a confirmation of the gospel. I am the more disposed to take this view, because he speaks of the whole Church, and makes himself one among others. At the same time, he refers more especially to the Jews, who were well acquainted with the doctrine of the prophets. And hence, as I think, he calls their word more sure or firmer. For they who take the comparative for a positive, that is, “more sure,” for “sure,” do not sufficiently consider the whole context. The sense also is a forced one, when it is said to be “more sure,” because God really completed what he had promised concerning his Son. For the truth of the gospel is here simply proved by a twofold testimony, — that Christ had been highly approved by the solemn declaration of God, and, then, that all the prophecies of the prophets confirmed the same thing. But it appears at first sight strange, that the word of the prophets should be said to be more sure or firmer than the voice which came from the holy mouth of God himself; for, first, the authority of God’s word is the same from the beginning; and, secondly, it was more confirmed than previously by the coming of Christ. But the solution of this knot is not difficult: for here the Apostle had a regard to his own nation, who were acquainted with the prophets, and their doctrine was received without any dispute. As, then, it was not doubted by the Jews but that all the things which the prophets had taught, came from the Lord, it is no wonder that Peter said that their word was more sure. Antiquity also gains some reverence. There are, besides, some other circumstances which ought to be noticed; particularly, that no suspicion could be entertained as to those prophecies in which the kingdom of Christ had so long before been predicted.
The question, then, is not here, whether the prophets deserve more credit than the gospel; but Peter regarded only this, to shew how much deference the Jews paid to those who counted the prophets as God’s faithful ministers, and had been brought up from childhood in their school.
Whereunto ye do well. This passage is, indeed, attended with some more difficulty; for it may be asked, what is the day which Peter mentions? To some it seems to be the clear knowledge of Christ, when men fully acquiesce in the gospel; and the darkness they explain as existing, when they, as yet, hesitate in suspense, and the doctrine of the gospel is not received as indubitable; as though Peter praised those Jews who were searching for Christ in the Law and the Prophets, and were advancing, as by this preceding light towards Christ, the Sun of righteousness, as they were praised by Luke, who, having heard Paul preaching, searched the Scripture to know whether what he said was true. (Act_17:11)
But in this view there is, first, an inconsistency, because it thus seems that the use of the prophecies is confined to a short time, as though they would be superfluous when the gospel-light is seen. Were one to object and say, that this does not necessarily follow, because until does not always denote the end. To this I say, that in commands it cannot be otherwise taken: “Walk until you finish your course;” “Fight until you conquer.” In such expressions we doubtless see that a certain time is specified. But were I to concede this point, that the reading of the prophets is not thus wholly cast aside; yet every one must see how frigid is this commendation, that the prophets are useful until Christ is revealed to us; for their teaching is necessary to us until the end of life. Secondly, we must bear in mind who they were whom Peter addressed; for he was not instructing the ignorant and novices, who were as yet in the first rudiments; but even those respecting whom he had before testified, that they had obtained the same precious faith, and were confirmed in the present truth. Surely the gross darkness of ignorance could not have been ascribed to such people. I know what some allege, that all had not made the same progress, and that here beginners who were as yet seeking Christ, are admonished.
But as it is evident from the context, that the words were addressed to the same persons, the passage must necessarily be applied to the faithful who had already known Christ, and had become partakers of the true light. I therefore extend this darkness, mentioned by Peter, to the whole course of life, and the day, I consider will then shine on us when we shall see face to face, what we now see through a glass darkly. Christ, the Sun of righteousness, indeed, shines forth in the gospel; but the darkness of death will always, in part, possess our minds, until we shall be brought out of the prison of the flesh, and be translated into heaven. This, then, will be the brightness of day, when no clouds or mists of ignorance shall intercept the bright shining of the Sun.
And doubtless we are so far from a perfect day, as our faith is from perfection. It is, therefore, no wonder that the state of the present life is called darkness, since we are far distant from that knowledge to which the gospel invites us.
In short, Peter reminds us that as long as we sojourn in this world, we have need of the doctrine of the prophets as a guiding light; which being extinguished, we can do nothing else but wander in darkness; for he does not disjoin the prophecies from the gospel, when he teaches us that they shine to shew us the way. His object only was to teach us that the whole course of our life ought to be guided by God’s word; for otherwise we must be involved on every side in the darkness of ignorance; and the Lord does not shine on us, except when we take his word as our light.
But he does not use the comparison, light, or lamp, to intimate that the light is small and sparing, but to make these two things to correspond,–that we are without light, and can no more keep on the right way than those who go astray in a dark night; and that the Lord brings a remedy for this evil, when he lights a torch to guide us in the midst of darkness.
What he immediately adds respectingthe day star does not however seem altogether suitable to this explanation; for the real knowledge, to which we are advancing through life, cannot be called the beginning of the day. To this I reply, that different parts of the day are compared together, but the whole day in all its parts is set in opposition to that darkness, which would wholly overspread all our faculties, were not the Lord to come to our help by the light of his word.
This is a remarkable passage: we learn from it how God guides us. The Papists have ever and anon in their mouth, that the Church cannot err. Though the word is neglected, they yet imagine that it is guided by the Spirit. But Peter, on the contrary, intimates that all are immersed in darkness who do not attend to the light of the word. Therefore, except thou art resolved wilfully to cast thyself into a labyrinth, especially beware of departing even in the least thing from the rule and direction of the word. Nay, the Church cannot follow God as its guide, except it observes what the word prescribes.
In this passage Peter also condemns all the wisdom of men, in order that we may learn humbly to seek, otherwise than by our own understanding, the true way of knowledge; for without the word nothing is left for men but darkness.
It further deserves to be noticed, that he pronounces on the clearness of Scripture; for what is said would be a false eulogy, were not the Scripture fit and suitable to shew to us with certainty the right way. Whosoever, then, will open his eyes through the obedience of faith, shall by experience know that the Scripture has not been in vain called a light. It is, indeed, obscure to the unbelieving; but they who are given up to destruction are wilfully blind. Execrable, therefore, is the blasphemy of the Papists, who pretend that the light of Scripture does nothing but dazzle the eyes, in order to keep the simple from reading it. But it is no wonder that proud men, inflated with the wind of false confidence, do not see that light with which the Lord favors only little children and the humble. With a similar eulogy David commends the law of God in Psa_19:1.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:19. We have also a more sure word of prophecy] Better, And we have yet more steadfast the prophetic word. The force of the comparative must have its full significance. The “prophetic word” was for the Apostle, taught as he had been in his Master’s school of prophetic interpretation, and himself possessing the prophetic gift, a witness of yet greater force than the voice from heaven and the glory of which he had been an eye-witness. He uses the term in its widest sense, embracing the written prophecies of the Old Testament and the spoken or written prophecies of the New. It is a suggestive fact that the Second Epistle ascribed (though probably wrongly) to Clement of Rome, contains what is given as a quotation from “the prophetic word” (chap. xi), and that that quotation presents a striking parallel to the language of St James on the one hand, and to that of this Epistle on the other. “If we are not servants to the Gospel of God because we believe not the promise, wretched are we. For the prophetic word saith, Wretched are the double-minded, those who doubt in their heart (Jam_1:8); who say, All these things we heard in the days of our fathers, but we, waiting day by day, have seen none of these things” (2Pe_3:4). Was the Apostle referring to a “prophetic word” such as this, which was then actually extant, and was to him and others as the sheet-anchor of their faith? The words quoted by the pseudo-Clement prove the existence of such a document, as held in high authority, and, though the book itself is lost, there is nothing improbable in the thought that the Apostle should refer to it, and the continuous guidance of the Spirit of which it was the token, as confirming all his previous belief, and assuring him that he had not followed cunningly-devised fables nor been the victim of an illusion. In any case we must think of him as referring to the continuous exercise of the prophetic gift, the power to speak words which came to the souls of men as a message from God, which had been given to himself and others. We can scarcely fail to note the identity of thought with that expressed in the Apostle’s speech in Act_2:16-21.
whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place] Better, as to a torch shining in a gloomy place. It may be noted (1) that the “torch shining” is precisely the term applied by our Lord (“the burning and the shining light,” Joh_5:35) to John the Baptist as the last in the long line of the prophets of the older covenant; and (2) that the Greek word for “dark” or “gloomy” (not found elsewhere in the New Testament) is applied strictly to the squalor and gloom of a dungeon. Interpreting the word, we find in the “gloomy place” the world in which the lot of the disciples was as yet cast. For them the “prophetic word,” written or spoken, was as a torch casting its beams athwart the murky air, preparing the way for a radiance yet brighter than its own.
until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts] The imagery reminds us of that of Rom_13:12 (“the night is far spent, the day is at hand”), but with a very marked and manifest difference. In St Paul’s thoughts the “day” is identical with the coming of the Lord, as an objective fact; the close of the world’s “night” of ignorance and darkness. Here the addition of the words “and the day star arise in your hearts” fixes its meaning as, in some sense, subjective. The words point accordingly to a direct manifestation of Christ to the soul of the believer as being higher than the “prophetic word,” as that, in its turn, had been higher than the attestation of the visible glory and the voice from heaven. So understood, the passage presents an interesting parallelism with the “marvellous light” of 1Pe_2:9, as also with the “day-spring from on high” of Luk_1:78. The word for “day star,” the morning star (literally, Lucifer, the light-bearer), the star that precedes and accompanies the rising of the sun, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX., but it is identical in meaning with the “bright and morning star” of Rev_2:28, Rev_22:16, and the use of the same image by the two Apostles indicates that it had come to be recognised as a symbolic name of the Lord Jesus as manifested to the souls of His people.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; rather, as in the Revised Version, and we have the word of prophecy made more sure; or, we hare the word of prophecy more sure (than the testimony of the heavenly voice). The rendering of the Authorized Version is ungrammatical; we must adopt one of the other modes of representing the original. The second seems to be preferred by most commentators. Thus Archdeacon Farrar, translating the passage, “And still stronger is the surety we have in the prophetic word,” adds in a note, “Why more sure? Because wider in its range, and more varied, and coming from many, and bringing a more intense personal conviction than the testimony to a single fact.”
But when St. Peter applied the epithet “surer” (βεβαιότερον) to the word of prophecy, does he mean in his own estimate of it, or in that of others? If he is speaking of himself, it is surely inconceivable that any possible testimony to the truth of the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ could be comparable with the commanding authority of the Divine voice which he himself had heard borne from heaven, and the transcendent glory which he himself had seen flashing from the Saviour’s human form and bathing it in an aureole of celestial light. That heavenly voice had made the deepest possible impression on the apostles. “They fell on their faces,” as Moses had done under the like circumstances, recognizing it as the voice of God. Peter had said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here;” and evidently all through his life he felt that it was good for him to dwell in solemn thought on the treasured memories of that august revelation. No written testimony could be “surer” to St. Peter than that voice from heaven. But is he rather thinking of the confirmation of the faith of his readers? He is still using the first person plural, as in 2Pe_1:16 and 2Pe_1:18; in this verse, indeed, he passes to the second; hut the retaining of the first person in the first clause of the verse shows that, if he is not still speaking of apostles only, he at least includes himself among those who have the word of prophecy; and to him certainly the testimony of that word, though sacred and precious, could not be “surer” than the testimony of the heavenly voice. To Jewish Christians the evidence of the prophets of the Old Testament was of supreme importance. Nathanael, the “Israelite indeed,” was drawn to the Lord by the assurance that, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write.” The Lord himself insisted again and again upon the testimony of the prophets; so did his apostles after him. Still, it seems difficult to understand that, even to Jewish Christians, the testimony of the prophets, however sacred and weighty, could be surer than that of those apostles who made known the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, having been eye-witnesses of his majesty; while to Gentile Christians the testimony of those apostles of the Lamb who declared “what they had heard, what they had seen with their eyes, what their hands had handled, of the Word of life,” must have had greater power to convince than the predictions of the Hebrew prophets, though these predictions, fulfilled as they were in the Lord Jesus, furnish subsidiary evidence of exceeding value. On the whole, the more probable meaning of St. Peter seems to be that the word of prophecy was made more sure to himself, and, through his teaching, to others by the overwhelming testimony of the voice from heaven and the glory of the Transfiguration. He had become a disciple long before. His brother Andrew had first told him that Jesus was the Messiah; he himself, a week before the Transfiguration, had confessed him solemnly to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God? But the Transfiguration deepened that faith into the most intense conviction; it made the word of prophecy which spoke of Christ surer and more certain. It is not without interest that the writer of the so-called ‘Second Epistle of Clement’ quotes (chapter 11) from “the prophetic word” (προφητικὸς λόγος), passages which resemble Jas_1:8 and 2Pe_3:4.
Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place. There is a parallel to the first clause of this in Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 11:6, 12; to the second in 2 Esdr. 12:42. The word rendered “light” is rather a lamp or torch; our Lord uses it of John the Baptist (Joh_5:35). The word translated “dark” (αὐχμηρός) is found only here in the New Testament; it means “dry, parched, and so squalid, desert;” there seems to be no sufficient authority for the rendering “dark.” God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path; the word of prophecy guides us to Christ. Until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts; literally, until day dawn through; i.e., “through the gloom.” There is no article. The word for “day-star” (φωσφόροv, lucifer, light-bringer) is found in no other place of the New Testament; but comp. Rev_2:28; Rev_22:16. St. Peter seems to mean that the prophetic word, rendered more sure to the apostles by the voice from heaven, and to Christians generally by apostolic witness, shines like a guiding lamp, till the fuller light of day dawns upon the soul, as the believer, led by the prophetic word, realizes the personal knowledge of the Lord, and he manifests himself according to his blessed promises to the heart that longs for his sacred presence. He is the Bright and Morning Star, the Day-star, the Light-bringer; for he is the Light of the world—he brings the light, the full light of day. The prophetic word is precious; it sheds light upon the surrounding darkness—the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of the heart that knows not Christ; but its light is as the light of a torch or a lamp, compared with the pervading daylight which the felt presence of Christ sheds into those hearts into which God hath shined to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Some understand “day” here of the great day of the Lord. Against this interpretation is the absence of the article, and the fact that the last words of the verse seem to give a subjective meaning to the passage.
2 Peter 1:19
We have also a more sure word of prophecy – That is, a prophecy pertaining to the coming of the Lord Jesus; for that is the point under discussion. There has been considerable diversity of opinion in regard to the meaning of this passage. Some have supposed that the apostle, when he says, “a more sure word,” did not intend to make any comparison between the miracle of the transfiguration and prophecy, but that he meant to say merely that the word of prophecy was very sure, and could certainly be relied on. Others have supposed that the meaning is, that the prophecies which foretold his coming into the world having been confirmed by the fact of his advent, are rendered more sure and undoubted than when they were uttered, and may now be confidently appealed to. So Rosenmuller, Benson, Macknight, Clarke, Wetstein, and Grotius. Luther renders it, “we have a firm prophetic word;” omitting the comparison.
A literal translation of the passage would be,” and we have the prophetic word more firm.” If a comparison is intended, it may be either that the prophecy was more sure than the fables referred to in 2Pe_1:16; or than the miracle of the transfiguration; or than the word which was heard in the holy mount; or than the prophecies even in the time when they were first spoken. If such a comparison was designed, the most obvious of these interpretations would be, that the prophecy was more certain proof than was furnished in the mount of transfiguration. But it seems probable that no comparison was intended, and that the thing on which Peter intended to fix the eye was not that the prophecy was a better evidence respecting the advent of the Messiah than other evidences, but that it was a strong proof which demanded their particular attention, as being of a firm and decided character. There can be no doubt that the apostle refers here to what is contained in the Old Testament; for, in 2Pe_1:21, he speaks of the prophecy as that which was spoken “in old time, by men that were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The point to which the prophecies related, and to which Peter referred, was the great doctrine respecting the coming of the Messiah, embracing perhaps all that pertained to his work, or all that he designed to do by his advent.
They had had one illustrious proof respecting his advent as a glorious Saviour by his transfiguration on the mount; and the apostle here says that the prophecies abounded with truths on these points, and that they ought to give earnest heed to the disclosures which they made, and to compare them diligently with facts as they occurred, that they might be confirmed more and more in the truth. If, however, as the more obvious sense of this passage seems to be, and as many suppose to be the correct interpretation (see Doddridge, in loc., and Professor Stuart, on the Canon of the Old Testament, p. 329), it means that the prophecy was more sure, more steadfast, more to be depended on than even what the three disciples had seen and heard in the mount of transfiguration, this may be regarded as true in the following respects:
(1) The prophecies are numerous, and by their number they furnish a stronger proof than could be afforded by a single manifestation. however clear and glorious.
(2) They were “recorded,” and might be the subject of careful comparison with the events as they occurred.
(3) They were written long beforehand, and it could not be urged that the testimony which the prophets bore was owing to any illusion on their minds, or to any agreement among the different writers to impose on the world. Though Peter regarded the testimony which he and James and John bore to the glory of the Saviour, from what they saw on the holy mount, as strong and clear confirmation that he was the Son of God, yet he could not but be aware that it might be suggested by a caviller that they might have agreed to impose on others, or that they might have been dazzled and deceived by some natural phenomenon occurring there. Compare Kuinoel on Mat_17:1, following.
(4) Even supposing that there was a miracle in the case, the evidence of the prophecies, embracing many points in the same general subject, and extending through a long series of years, would be more satisfactory than any single miracle whatever. See Doddridge, in loc. The general meaning is, that the fact that he had come as the Messiah was disclosed in the mount by such a manifestation of his glory, and of what he would be, that they who saw it could not doubt it; the same thing the apostle says was more fully shown also in the prophecies, and these prophecies demanded their close and prolonged attention.
Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed – They are worthy of your study, of your close and careful investigation. There is perhaps no study more worthy of the attention of Christians than that of the prophecies.
As unto a light that shineth in a dark place – That is, the prophecies resemble a candle, lamp, or torch, in a dark room, or in an obscure road at night. They make objects distinct which were before unseen; they enable us to behold many things which would be otherwise invisible. The object of the apostle in this representation seems to have been, to state that the prophecies do not give a perfect light, or that they do not remove all obscurity, but that they shed some light on objects which would otherwise be entirely dark, and that the light which they furnished was so valuable that we ought by all means to endeavor to avail ourselves of it. Until the day shall dawn, and we shall see objects by the clear light of the sun, they are to be our guide. A lamp is of great value in a dark night, though it may not disclose objects so clearly as the light of the sun. But it may be a safe and sure guide; and a man who has to travel in dark and dangerous places, does well to “take heed” to his lamp.
Until the day dawn – Until you have the clearer light which shall result from the dawning of the day. The reference here is to the morning light as compared with a lamp; and the meaning is, that we should attend to the light furnished by the prophecies until the truth shall be rendered more distinct by the events as they shall actually be disclosed – until the brighter light which shall be shed on all things by the glory of the second advent of the Saviour, and the clearing up of what is now obscure in the splendors of the heavenly world. The point of comparison is between the necessary obscurity of prophecy, and the clearness of events when they actually occur – a difference like that which is observable in the objects around us when seen by the shining of the lamp and by the light of the sun. The apostle directs the mind onward to a period when all shall be clear – to that glorious time when the Saviour shall return to receive his people to himself in that heaven where all shall be light. Compare Rev_21:23-25; Rev_22:5. Meantime we should avail ourselves of all the light which we have, and should apply ourselves diligently to the study of the prophecies of the Old Testament which are still unfulfilled, and of those in the New Testament which direct the mind onward to brighter and more glorious scenes than this world has yet witnessed. In our darkness they are a cheering lamp to guide our feet, till that illustrious day shall dawn. Compare the notes at 1Co_13:9-10.
And the day-star – The morning star – the bright star that at certain periods of the year leads on the day, and which is a pledge that the morning is about to dawn. Compare Rev_2:28; Rev_22:16.
Arise in your hearts – on your hearts; that is, sheds its beams on your hearts. Until you see the indications of that approaching day in which all is light. The period referred to here by the approaching day that is to diffuse this light, is when the Saviour shall return in the full revelation of his glory – the splendor of his kingdom. Then all will be clear. Until that time, we should search the prophetic records, and strengthen our faith, and comfort our hearts, by the predictions of the future glory of his reign. Whether this refers, as some suppose, to his reign on earth, either personally or by the principles of his religion universally prevailing, or, as others suppose, to the brighter revelations of heaven when he shall come to receive his people to himself, it is equally clear that a brighter time than any that has yet occurred is to dawn on our race, and equally true that we should regard the prophecies, as we do the morning star, as the cheering harbinger of day.
2 Peter 1:20
20.Knowing this first. Here Peter begins to shew how our minds are to be prepared, if we really wish to make progress in scriptural knowledge. There may at the same time be two interpretations given, if you read ἐπηλύσεως as some do, which means occurrence, impulse; or, as I have rendered it, interpretation, ἐπιλύσεως. But almost all give this meaning, that we ought not to rush on headlong and rashly when we read Scripture, confiding in our own understanding. They think that a confirmation of this follows, because the Spirit, who spoke by the prophets, is the only true interpreter of himself.
This explanation contains a true, godly, and useful doctrine, that then only are the prophecies read profitably, when we renounce the mind and feelings of the flesh, and submit to the teaching of the Spirit, but that it is an impious profanation of it; when we arrogantly rely on our own acumen, deeming that sufficient to enable us to understand it, though the mysteries contain things hidden to our flesh, and sublime treasures of life far surpassing our capacities. And this is what we have said, that the light which shines in it, comes to the humble alone.
But the Papists are doubly foolish, when they conclude from this passage, that no interpretation of a private man ought to be deemed authoritative. For they pervert what Peter says, that they may claim for their own councils the chief right of interpreting Scripture; but in this they act indeed childishly; for Peter calls interpretation private, not that of every individual, in order to prohibit each one to interpret; but he shews that whatever men bring of their own is profane. Were, then, the whole world unanimous, and were the minds of all men united together, still what would proceed from them, would be private or their own; for the word is here set in opposition to divine revelation; so that the faithful, inwardly illuminated by the Holy Spirit, acknowledge nothing but what God says in his word.
However, another sense seems to me more simple, that Peter says that Scripture came not from man, or through the suggestions of man. For thou wilt never come well prepared to read it, except thou bringest reverence, obedience, and docility; but a just reverence then only exists when we are convinced that God speaks to us, and not mortal men. Then Peter especially bids us to believe the prophecies as the indubitable oracles of God, because they have not emanated from men’s own private suggestions.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:20. knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation] The true meaning of the passage turns partly on the actual significance of the last word, partly on the sequence of thought as connected with the foregoing. The noun itself does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament nor in the LXX., but in Aquila’s version of Gen_40:8 it is given as the equivalent of “interpretation.” The corresponding verb meets us, however, in Mar_4:34 (“he explained all things to his disciples”) and in Act_19:39 (“it shall be determined”), and this leaves no doubt that “interpretation” or “solution” is the right rendering.
Nor again is there much room for doubt as to the meaning of “prophecy of scripture.” The words can only point to a “prophetic word” embodied in a writing and recognised as Scripture. We have seen, however (see note on 1Pe_1:10-12), that the gift of prophecy was thought of as belonging to the present as fully as to the past, and chap. 3:16, 1Ti_5:18, and possibly Rom_16:26 and 1Co_15:3, 1Co_15:4, shew that the word Scripture had come to have a wider range of meaning than that which limited its use to the Old Testament writings, and may therefore be taken here in its most comprehensive sense. Stress must also be laid on the Greek verb rendered “is,” which might better be translated cometh, or cometh into being. With these data the true explanation of the passage is not far to seek. The Apostle calls on men to give heed to the prophetic word on the ground that no prophecy, authenticated as such by being recognised as part of Scripture, whether that Scripture belongs to the Old, or the New Covenant, comes by the prophet’s own interpretation of the facts with which he has to deal, whether those facts concern the outer history of the world, or the unfolding of the eternal truths of God’s Kingdom. It is borne to him, as he proceeds to shew in the next verse, from a higher source, from that which is, in the truest sense of the word, an inspiration. The views held by some commentators, (1) that St Peter is protesting against the application of private judgment to the interpretation of prophecy, and (2) that he is contending that no single prophecy can be interpreted apart from the whole body of prophetic teaching contained in Scripture, are, it is believed, less satisfactory explanations of the Apostle’s meaning.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. By “knowing this first” (γινώσκοντες) is meant that we must recognize this truth as of primary importance, or, before we commence the study of prophecy; the phrase occurs again in 2Pe_3:3. The literal translation of the following clause is, “that all prophecy of Scripture [there is no article] is not; all … not” (πᾶσα … ου)) being a common Hebraism for none, οὑδεμία; but the verb is not ἔστι, “is,” but γίνεται, “becomes, arises, comes into being.” The word for “private” is ἰδίας, “special,” or commonly, “one’s own” (see 1Pe_3:1, 1Pe_3:5; 1Pe_2:16, 1Pe_2:22; 1Pe_3:3, 1Pe_3:16, 1Pe_3:17). The word rendered “interpretation” is ἐπιλύσεως, which is found nowhere else in the New Testament; the corresponding verb occurs in Mar_4:34, “He expounded all things;” and Act_19:39, “It shall be determined or settled.” These considerations, strengthened by the context, seem to guide us to the following explanation: No prophecy of Scripture arises from the prophet’s own interpretation of the vision presented to his mind; for it was from God that the prophecy was brought, and men spoke as they were borne on by the Holy Spirit. This view of the passage is also supported by the remarkable parallel in the First Epistle (1Pe_1:10-12). The prophets searched diligently into the meaning of the revelation vouchsafed to them; they did not always comprehend it in all its details; they could not interpret it to themselves; the written prophecy arose out of the interpretation of the revelation supplied by the same Spirit from whom the revelation itself proceeded. Therefore the prophetic books of Holy Scripture are sacred and precious, and we do well in giving heed to them; though the day-star of the Lord’s own presence, shining in the illuminated heart, is holier still. Other views of this difficult passage are: Prophecy is not its own interpreter; the guidance of the Spirit is necessary. Or, prophecy is not a matter for the private interpretation of the readers; only the Holy Spirit can explain it. But the explanation adopted seems most accordant with the Greek words and with the general sense of the context (compare St. Paul’s teaching in 1Co_12:10). The gifts of the Spirit are divided as he will; to one man are given “divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.” Not every one, it seems, who had the first gift, had also the latter. Tongues and the interpretation of tongues were two distinct gifts. It may be so with prophecy and the interpretation of prophecy.
2 Peter 1:20
Knowing this first – Bearing this steadily in mind as a primary and most important truth.
That no prophecy of the Scripture – No prophecy contained in the inspired records. The word “scripture” here shows that the apostle referred particularly to the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament. The remark which he makes about prophecy is general, though it is designed to bear on a particular class of the prophecies.
Is of any private interpretation – The expression here used (ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως idias epiluseōs) has given rise to as great a diversity of interpretation, and to as much discussion, as perhaps any phrase in the New Testament; and to the present time there is no general agreement among expositors as to its meaning. It would be foreign to the design of these notes, and would be of little utility, to enumerate the different interpretations which have been given of the passage, or to examine them in detail. It will be sufficient to remark, preparatory to endeavoring to ascertain the true sense of the passage, that some have held that it teaches that no prophecy can be interpreted of itself, but can be understood only by comparing it with the event; others, that it teaches that the prophets did not themselves understand what they wrote, but were mere passive organs under the dictation of the Holy Spirit to communicate to future times what they could not themselves explain; others, that it teaches that “no prophecy is of self-interpretation,” (Horsley;) others, that it teaches that the prophecies, besides having a literal signification, have also a hidden and mystical sense which cannot be learned from the prophecies themselves, but is to be perceived by a special power of insight imparted by the Holy Spirit, enabling men to understand their recondite mysteries.
It would be easy to show that some of these opinions are absurd, and that none of them are sustained by the fair interpretation of the language used, and by the drift of the passage. The more correct interpretation, as it seems to me, is that which supposes that the apostle teaches that the truths which the prophets communicated were not originated by themselves; were not of their own suggestion or invention; were not their own opinions, but were of higher origin, and were imparted by God; and according to this the passage may be explained, “knowing this as a point of first importance when you approach the prophecies, or always bearing this in mind, that it is a great principle in regard to the prophets, that what they communicated “was not of their own disclosure;” that is, was not revealed or originated by them.” That this is the correct interpretation will be apparent from the following considerations:
(1) It accords with the design of the apostle, which is to produce an impressive sense of the importance and value of the prophecies, and to lead those to whom he wrote to study them with diligence. This could be secured in no way so well as by assuring them that the writings which he wished them to study did not contain truths originated by the human mind, but that they were of higher origin.
(2) This interpretation accords with what is said in the following verse, and is the only one of all those proposed that is consistent with that, or in connection with which that verse will have any force. In that verse 2Pe_1:21, a reason is given for what is said here: “For (γὰρ gar) the prophecy came not in old time “by the will of man,”” etc. But this can be a good reason for what is said here only on the supposition that the apostle meant to say that what they communicated was not originated by themselves; that it was of a higher than human origin; that the prophets spake “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” This fact was a good reason why they should show profound respect for the prophecies, and study them with attention. But how could the fact that “they were moved by the Holy Ghost” be a reason for studying them, if the meaning here is that the prophets could not understand their own language, or that the prophecy could be understood only by the event, or that the prophecy had a double meaning, etc.? If the prophecies were of Divine origin, then “that” was a good reason why they should be approached with reverence, and should be profoundly studied.
(3) This interpretation accords as well, to say the least, with the fair meaning of the language employed, as either of the other opinions proposed. The word rendered “interpretation” (ἐπίλυσις epilusis) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means “solution” (Robinson’s Lexicon), “disclosure,” (Prof. Stuart on the Old Testament, p. 328,) “making free (Passow,)” with the notion that what is thus released or loosed was before bound, entangled obscure. The verb from which this word is derived (ἐπιλύω epiluō) means, “to let loose upon,” as dogs upon a hare, (Xen. Mem. 7, 8; ib 9, 10;) to loose or open letters; to loosen a band; to loose or disclose a riddle or a dark saying, and then to enlighten, illustrate, etc. – Passow. It is twice used in the New Testament. Mar_4:34, “he expounded all things to his disciples”; Act_19:39, “It shall be determined in a lawful assembly.”
The verb would be applicable to loosing anything which is bound or confined, and thence to the explanation of a mysterious doctrine or a parable, or to a disclosure of what was before unknown. The word, according to this, in the place before us, would mean the disclosure of what was before bound, or retained, or unknown; either what had never been communicated at all, or what had been communicated obscurely; and the idea is, “no prophecy recorded in the Scripture is of, or comes from, any exposition or disclosure of the will and purposes of God by the prophets themselves.” It is not a thing of their own, or a private matter originating with themselves, but it is to be traced to a higher source. If this be the true interpretation, then it follows that the prophecies are to be regarded as of higher than any human origin; and then, also, it follows that this passage should not be used to prove that the prophets did not understand the nature of their own communications, or that they were mere unconscious and passive instruments in the hand of God to make known his will. Whatever may be the truth on those points, this passage proves nothing in regard to them, any mare than the fact that a minister of religion now declares truth which he did not originate, but which is to be traced to God as its author, proves that he does not understand what he himself says. It follows, also, that this passage cannot be adduced by the Papists to prove that the people at large should not have free access to the word of God, and should not be allowed to interpret it for themselves. It makes no affirmation on that point, and does not even contain any “principle” of which such a use can be made; for:
(1) Whatever it means, it is confined to “prophecy;” it does not embrace the whole Bible.
(2) Whatever it means, it merely states a fact; it does not enjoin a duty. It states, as a fact, that there was something about the prophecies which was not of private solution, but it does not state that it is the duty of the church to prevent any private explanation or opinion even of the prophecies.
(3) It says nothing about “the church” as empowered to give a public or authorized interpretation of the prophecies. There is not a hint, or an intimation of any kind, that the church is intrusted with any such power whatever. There never was any greater perversion of a passage of Scripture than to suppose that this teaches that any class of people is not to have free access to the Bible. The effect of the passage, properly interpreted, should be to lead us to study the Bible with profound reverence, as having a higher than any human origin, not to turn away from it as if it were unintelligible, nor to lead us to suppose that it can be interpreted only by one class of men. The fact that it discloses truths which the human mind could not of itself have originated, is a good reason for studying it with diligence and with prayer – not for supposing that it is unlawful for us to attempt to understand it; a good reason for reverence and veneration for it – not for sanctified neglect.
2 Peter 1:21
But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. They did not of themselves, or according to their own will, foolishly deliver their own inventions. The meaning is, that the beginning of right knowledge is to give that credit to the holy prophets which is due to God. He calls them the holy men of God, because they faithfully executed the office committed to them, having sustained the person of God in their ministrations. He says that they were — not that they were bereaved of mind, (as the Gentiles imagined their prophets to have been,) but because they dared not to announce anything of their own, and obediently followed the Spirit as their guide, who ruled in their mouth as in his own sanctuary. Understand by prophecy of Scripture that which is contained in the holy Scriptures.
Cambridge Bible Plumptre
2 Pet 1:21. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man] More accurately, For prophecy was not sent (or borne) at any time by the will of man. The article before “prophecy” in the Greek simply gives to the noun the generic sense which is better expressed in English by the absence of the article. The word for “came” is the same as that used of the “voice” in verses 17, 18, and is, as there shewn, characteristic of St Peter. That for “old time” is wider in its range than the English words, and takes in the more recent as well as the more distant past, and is therefore applicable to the prophecies of the Christian no less than to those of the Jewish Church. In the phrase “by the will of men” we have a parallelism with Joh_1:13.
but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost] Better, but being borne on (the same word as the “came” of the previous verse, and therefore used with an emphasis which cannot well be reproduced in English) by the Holy Ghost, men spake from God. Some of the better MSS. have the preposition “from” instead of the adjective “holy.” The words assert in the fullest sense the inspiration of all true prophets. Their workdid not originate in their own will. They felt impelled by a Spirit mightier than their own. The mode and degree of inspiration and its relation to the prophet’s cooperating will and previous habits of thought are left undefined. The words lend no support to a theory of an inspiration dictating the very syllables uttered by the prophet, still less do they affirm anything as to the nature of the inspiration of the writers of the books of the Old Testament who were not prophets. If we retain the Received Text, we have in it an example of the use of the term “man of God” (i.e. called and sent by Him) as equivalent to “prophet,” parallel to what we find in Deu_33:1; 2Ki_4:9, 2Ki_4:16, 2Ki_4:5:8, and probably in 1Ti_6:11.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; literally, for not by the will of man was prophecy borne at any time. The verb is that already used in 2Pe_1:17, 2Pe_1:18, “was not borne or brought;” it refers not to the utterance of prophecy, but to its origin—it came from heaven. But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; literally, but being borne on by the Holy Ghost, the holy men of God spake; or, if we follow the Vatican Manuscript, “But being borne on by the Holy Ghost, men spake from God.” We have again the same verb, “being borne on” (φερόμενοι); comp. Act_27:15, Act_27:17, where it is used of a ship being borne on by the wind. So the prophets were borne on in their prophetic utterance by the Holy Spirit of God. They were truly and really inspired. The mode of that inspiration is not explained; perhaps it cannot be made plain to our human understanding; all the points of contact between the finite and the Infinite are involved in mystery. But the fact is clearly revealed—the prophets were borne on by the Holy Spirit of God. This is not, as some have fancied, the language of Montanism. Prophecy is but a lamp shining in a dark place; it is not the day-star. Prophecy came not by the will of man; the prophets were moved or borne on by the Holy Ghost. But St. Peter does not say that their human consciousness was suspended, or that they were passive as the lyre when swept by the plectrum. Had this passage been written after the rise of Montanism early in the second century, the writer, if a Montanist, would have said more; if not a Montanist, he would have carefully guarded his words from possible misunderstanding.
2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time – Margin, or, “at any.” The Greek word (ποτὲ pote) will bear either construction. It would be true in either sense, but the reference is particularly to the recorded prophecies in the Old Testament. What was true of them, however, is true of all prophecy, that it is not by the will of man. The word “prophecy” here is without the article, meaning prophecy in general – all that is prophetic in the Old Testament; or, in a more general sense still, all that the prophets taught, whether relating to future events or not.
By the will of man – It was not of human origin; not discovered by the human mind. The word “will,” here seems to be used in the sense of “prompting” or “suggestion;” men did not speak by their own suggestion, but as truth was brought to them by God.
But holy men of God – Pious men commissioned by God, or employed by him as his messengers to mankind.
Spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost – Compare 2Ti_3:16. The Greek phrase here (ὑπὸ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου φερόμενος hupo Pneumatos Hagiou pheromenos) means “borne along, moved, influenced” by the Holy Ghost. The idea is, that in what they spake they were “carried along” by an influence from above. They moved in the case only as they were moved; they spake only as the influence of the Holy Ghost was upon them. They were no more self-moved than a vessel at sea is that is impelled by the wind; and as the progress made by the vessel is to be measured by the impulse bearing upon it, so the statements made by the prophets are to be traced to the impulse which bore upon their minds. They were not, indeed, in all respects like such a vessel, but only in regard to the fact that all they said as prophets was to be traced to the foreign influence that bore upon their minds.
There could not be, therefore, a more decided declaration than this in proof that the prophets were inspired. If the authority of Peter is admitted, his positive and explicit assertion settles the question. if this be so, also, then the point with reference to which he makes this observation is abundantly confirmed, that the prophecies demand our earnest attention, and that we should give all the heed to them which we would to a light or lamp when traveling in a dangerous way, and in a dark night. In a still more general sense, the remark here made may also be applied to the whole of the Scriptures. We are in a dark world. We see few things clearly; and all around us, on a thousand questions, there is the obscurity of midnight. By nature there is nothing to cast light on those questions, and we are perplexed, bewildered, embarrassed. The Bible is given to us to shed light on our way.
It is the only light which we have respecting the future, and though it does not give all the information which we might desire in regard to what is to come, yet it gives us sufficient light to guide us to heaven. It teaches us what it is necessary to know about God, about our duty, and about the way of salvation, in order to conduct us safely; and no one who has committed himself to its direction, has been suffered to wander finally away from the paths of salvation. It is, therefore, a duty to attend to the instructions which the Bible imparts, and to commit ourselves to its holy guidance in our journey to a better world: for soon, if we are faithful to its teachings, the light of eternity will dawn upon us, and there, amidst its cloudless splendor, we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known; then we shall “need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God shall give us light, and we shall reign forever and ever.” Compare Rev_21:22-24; Rev_22:5.