2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
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(21) For the prophecy came not in old time.—Rather, For prophecy was never sent, or brought. Wiclif and Rheims alone have “brought”; all the rest “came.” The verb is the same as that used of the voice from heaven (2Peter 1:17-18), and also in this verse for “moved,” so that there is a telling antithesis, difficult to preserve in English. Prophecy was not brought in by men; but men were brought to utter it by the Spirit. (Comp. 2John 1:10.) The rendering in the margin is right—“not at any time” rather than “not in old time.” “Not at any time”—“never,” which both Tyndale and Cranmer have; Wiclif has “not ony time.” The erroneous “in old time” comes from Geneva.

But holy men of God . . .—The Greek is uncertain. A reading of very high authority would give us, But men spoke from God moved by the Holy Ghost. This is probably to be preferred. Men spoke not out of their own hearts, but as commissioned by God; not “by the will of man,” but under the influence of the Holy Spirit. (Comp. St. Peter’s speech at the election of Matthias, and again in Solomon’s Porch, Acts 1:16; Acts 3:18.) The word for “moved” is a strong one, meaning “borne along,” as a ship before the wind (Acts 27:16-17). Theophilus of Antioch (Autolycus, II. ix.) writes “men of God, moved (or, filled) by the Holy Ghost, and becoming prophets, inspired and made wise by God Himself, became taught of God.” Here, again, the parallel is too slight to be relied on as evidence that Theophilus was acquainted with this Epistle. (See above, third Note on 2Peter 1:19.) The same may be said of a passage in Hippolytus (Antichrist, 2), “These fathers were furnished with the Spirit and largely honoured by the Word Himself. . . . and when moved by Him the Prophets announced what God willed. For they spake not of their own power, neither did they declare what pleased themselves, &c. &c.”

Some have fancied that these last three verses (2Peter 1:19-21) savour of Montanism, and are evidence of the late origin of the Epistle. But what is said here of the gift of prophecy is not more than we find elsewhere in the New Testament (Matthew 1:22; Matthew 2:15; Acts 1:16; Acts 3:18); and in the Old Testament (Numbers 11:17; Numbers 11:25; Numbers 11:29; 1Samuel 10:6; 1Samuel 10:10; 1Samuel 19:20; 1Samuel 19:23; Jeremiah 1:5-7). Montanists used much stronger language, as readers of Tertullian know. With them prophecy was ecstasy and frenzy; prophets ceased to be men—their reason left them, and they became mere instruments on which the Spirit played. The wording of these verses points to an age previous to Montanism. A Montanist would have said more; an opponent of Montanism would have guarded himself against Montanist misconstruction.

1:16-21 The gospel is no weak thing, but comes in power, Ro 1:16. The law sets before us our wretched state by sin, but there it leaves us. It discovers our disease, but does not make known the cure. It is the sight of Jesus crucified, in the gospel, that heals the soul. Try to dissuade the covetous worlding from his greediness, one ounce of gold weighs down all reasons. Offer to stay a furious man from anger by arguments, he has not patience to hear them. Try to detain the licentious, one smile is stronger with him than all reason. But come with the gospel, and urge them with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, shed to save their souls from hell, and to satisfy for their sins, and this is that powerful pleading which makes good men confess that their hearts burn within them, and bad men, even an Agrippa, to say they are almost persuaded to be Christians, Ac 26:28. God is well pleased with Christ, and with us in him. This is the Messiah who was promised, through whom all who believe in him shall be accepted and saved. The truth and reality of the gospel also are foretold by the prophets and penmenof the Old Testament, who spake and wrote under influence, and according to the direction of the Spirit of God. How firm and sure should our faith be, who have such a firm and sure word to rest upon! When the light of the Scripture is darted into the blind mind and dark understanding, by the Holy Spirit of God, it is like the day-break that advances, and diffuses itself through the whole soul, till it makes perfect day. As the Scripture is the revelation of the mind and will of God, every man ought to search it, to understand the sense and meaning. The Christian knows that book to be the word of God, in which he tastes a sweetness, and feels a power, and sees a glory, truly divine. And the prophecies already fulfilled in the person and salvation of Christ, and in the great concerns of the church and the world, form an unanswerable proof of the truth of Christianity. The Holy Ghost inspired holy men to speak and write. He so assisted and directed them in delivering what they had received from him, that they clearly expressed what they made known. So that the Scriptures are to be accounted the words of the Holy Ghost, and all the plainness and simplicity, all the power and all the propriety of the words and expressions, come from God. Mix faith with what you find in the Scriptures, and esteem and reverence the Bible as a book written by holy men, taught by the Holy Ghost.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 2 Timothy 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 Revelation 21:22-24; Revelation 22:5.

21. came not in old time—rather, "was never at any time borne" (to us).

by the will of man—alone. Jer 23:26, "prophets of the deceit of their own heart." Compare 2Pe 3:5, "willingly."

holy—One oldest manuscript has, "men FROM God": the emissaries from God. "Holy," if read, will mean because they had the Holy Spirit.

moved—Greek, "borne" (along) as by a mighty wind: Ac 2:2, "rushing (the same Greek) wind": rapt out of themselves: still not in fanatical excitement (1Co 14:32). The Hebrew "nabi," "prophet," meant an announcer or interpreter of God: he, as God's spokesman, interpreted not his own "private" will or thought, but God's "Man of the Spirit" (Ho 9:7, Margin). "Thou testifiedst by Thy Spirit in Thy prophets." "Seer," on the other hand, refers to the mode of receiving the communications from God, rather than to the utterance of them to others. "Spake" implies that, both in its original oral announcement, and now even when in writing, it has been always, and is, the living voice of God speaking to us through His inspired servants. Greek, "borne (along)" forms a beautiful antithesis to "was borne." They were passive, rather than active instruments. The Old Testament prophets primarily, but including also all the inspired penmen, whether of the New or Old Testament (2Pe 3:2).

The prophecy; the prophetical writings, or word of prophecy, 2 Peter 1:19.

Came not in old time by the will of man; the prophets spake not of themselves what and when they pleased.

But holy men of God; prophets, called men of God, 1 Samuel 2:27 9:6 1 Kings 17:18, and elsewhere. They are here called holy, not only because of their lives, wherein they were examples to others, but because they were the special instruments of the Holy Ghost, who sanctified them to the work of preaching, and penning what he dictated to them.

Spake as they were moved; or, carried out, or acted, i.e. elevated above their own natural abilities. This may imply the illumination of their minds with the knowledge of Divine mysteries, the gift of infallibility, that they might not err, of prophecy, to foretell things to come, and a peculiar instinct of

the Holy Ghost, whereby they were moved to preach or write.

For the prophecy,.... The whole Scripture, all the prophetic writings; so the Jews call the Scriptures "the prophecy" (g), by way of eminence, and from the subject matter of the sacred word:

came not in old time by the will of man; was not brought into the world at first, or in any period of time, as and when man would, according to his pleasure, and as he thought fit: neither Moses, nor David, nor Isaiah, nor Jeremiah, nor Ezekiel, nor Daniel, nor any other of the prophets, prophesied when they pleased, but when it was the will of God they should; they were stirred up to prophesy, not by any human impulse, but by a divine influence: with this agrees what R. Sangari says,

"that the speech of the prophets, when the Holy Spirit clothed them, in all their words was directed by a divine influence, and the prophet could not speak in the choice of his own words,''

or according to his will:

but holy men of God; such as he sanctified by his Spirit, and separated from the rest of men to such peculiar service; and whom he employed as public ministers of his word: for so this phrase "men", or "man of God", often signifies, 1 Samuel 2:27.

spake, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; who illuminated their minds, gave them a knowledge of divine things, and a foresight of future ones; dictated to them what they should say or write; and moved upon them strongly, and by a secret and powerful impulse stirred them up to deliver what they did, in the name and fear of God: which shows the authority of the Scriptures, that they are the word of God, and not of men; and as such should be attended to, and received with all affection and reverence; and that the Spirit is the best interpreter of them, who first dictated them; and that they are to be the rule of our faith and practice; nor are we to expect any other, until the second coming of Christ.

(g) R. Eliahu in Adderet apud Trigland. de Sect Karaeorum, c. 10. p. 153.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but {p} holy men of God spake as they were {q} moved by the Holy Ghost.

(p) The godly interpreters and messengers.

(q) Inspired by God: their actions were in very good order, and not as the actions of the profane soothsayers, and foretellers of things to come.

2 Peter 1:21. οὐ γὰρ θελήματι ἀνθρώπου] These words correspond with the preceding ἰδίας ἐπιλ. οὐ γίνεται; “not from or by the will of a man;” cf. Jeremiah 23:26, LXX.: ἕως ποτὲ ἔσταιἐν τῷ προφητεύειν αὐτοὺς τὰ θελήματα τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν.

ἠνέχθη ποτὲ προφητεία] Vulg.: allata est; the verb as in 2 Peter 1:17-18 (cf. also 2 John 1:10). De Wette’s translation: “is delivered or uttered,” is inexact, inasmuch as the idea of a set discourse is not directly contained in the verb. Steinfass’s interpretation of προφ. is wrong from a linguistic point of view: “gift of prophecy.”

ποτέ belongs closely to the negative οὐ, equal to “never.” The sense of the clause is: “the cause in which προφητεία has its origin is not the free will of man, determining itself thereto.”

ἀλλʼ ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι κ.τ.λ.] The form of this, which does not exactly correspond with that of the preceding clause, serves to bring into greater prominence the passivity of the prophets.

φερόμενοι: “borne along” (as by the wind, e.g. the ship was driven, Acts 27:15; Acts 27:17). The impelling power is the πνεῦμα ἅγιον. Joseph. Ant. iv. 6, 5, says of Balaam: τῷ θείῳ πνεύματικεκινημένος; cf. the expressions in the classics: θεοφορεῖσθαι, θεοφόρητος. Macrob. i. 23: feruntur divino spiritu, non suo arbitratu, sed quo Deus propellit. Calvin correctly remarks: impulsos fuisse dicit, non quod menti alienati fuerint (qualem in suis prophetis ἐνθουσιασμόν fingunt gentiles), sed quia nihil a se ipsis ausi fuerint, tantum obedienter sequuti sunt Spiritum ducem.

ἐλάλησαν] Hornejus: intellige tam voce, quam scripto. “Men it was who spoke; but their speaking had the active reason of its origin, and its starting-point in God” (Schott).

ἀπὸ Θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι] In this expression, considered to be genuine, ἀπὸ Θεοῦ denotes the starting-point of the speaking: “men spoke from God.” The prophets are thus significantly called simply ἄνθρωποι, in reference to the ἀνθρώπου going before. They were but men; prophets they became only by the πνεῦμα Θεοῦ.[60] The Rec. ἅγιοι Θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι is only a circumlocution for prophets, who are called ἅγιοι ἄνθρ. because they were in the service of God, inasmuch as they were the instruments of His πνεῦμα ἅγιον, cf. 1 Timothy 6:11.

[60] Into this verse also Dietlein inserts much that is foreign, by saying in explanation of it: “not only are man and God placed in antithesis to each other, but over against the designs of man and the unreal world of human thoughts and conceptions(!) stands the Spirit of God, which so powerfully takes hold of the prophets only because that which He teaches possesses historical reality, or else will do so in time.”

2 Peter 1:21. οὐ γὰρ θελήματι ἀνθρώπου ἠνέχθη προφητεία ποτέ. With ἠνέχθη cf. 2 Peter 1:17-18. ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ πνεύμφερόμενοι, cf. Acts 2:2. ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας. Here we have the only reference to the Holy Spirit in the Epistle, and only in this connexion, viz. as the source of prophetic inspiration. The spirit is an agency rather than an agent. The men speak. The spirit impels. It is of much significance for the interpretation of the whole passage that ἄνθρωποι occupies a position of emphasis at the end of the sentence, thus bringing into prominence the human agent. The prophets were not ignorant of the meaning of their prophecies, but they saw clearly only the contemporary political or moral situation, and the principles involved and illustrated therein.

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 2 Peter 1:17-18, and is, as there shewn, characteristic of St Peter. That for “old time” is wider in its range than the English words, and takes in the more recent as well as the more distant past, and is therefore applicable to the prophecies of the Christian no less than to those of the Jewish Church. In the phrase “by the will of men” we have a parallelism with John 1:13.

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

2 Peter 1:21. Θελήματι, by the will) the desire: Jeremiah 23:26, Septuagint. Man often feigns by fables, or conceals by error, that which he wishes. Comp. willingly, ch. 2 Peter 3:5.—ἀνθρώπου) of man, alone. There is an antithesis between this and holy men of God, the definition of the prophets.—ἠνέχθη, was borne) Thus 2 Peter 1:17-18. Heb. משׂא from נשׂא, to bear.—ποτὲ) ever, at a remote or nearer time: hence prophecy, without the article, is used indefinitely.—ἀλλʼ ὑπὸ, but by) Comp. John 11:51.—φερόμενοι, carried) This has reference to ἠνέχθη, was borne. A most beautiful antithesis: they did not bear, but were borne: they were passive, not active instruments. That which is borne, is borne by no force of its own; it does not move and advance anything forward by its own labour. Comp. respecting the prophets, Psalm 45:2; Jeremiah 36:18. Shortly afterwards, the word spake denotes also the readiness with which they uttered prophecies.—ἐλάλησαν, spake) This has also reference to the pen of the written word. They spake: the past tense shows that Peter is speaking particularly of the prophets of the Old Testament. Comp. ch. 2 Peter 2:1, note, and ch. 2 Peter 3:2.—ἅγιοι, holy) Because they had the Holy Spirit.

Verse 21. - 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 verses 17, 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. Acts 27:15, 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 1:21Came (ἠνέχθη)

Lit., was borne or brought. See on 2 Peter 1:17, 2 Peter 1:18.

Holy men of God (ἅγιοι θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι)

The best texts omit holy, and read ἀπὸ θεοῦ, from God. Render, as Rev., men spake from God.

Moved (φερόμενοι)

The same verb as came. Lit., being borne along. It seems to be a favorite word with Peter, occurring six times in the two epistles.

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