2 Peter 2:18
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
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(18) Great swelling words of vanity.—Exaggeration, unreality, boastfulness, and emptiness are expressed by this phrase. It carries on the same idea as the waterless wells and the driven mists—great pretensions and no results. The rebuke here is not unlike the warning in 1Peter 5:5-6.

Allure.—Translated “beguile” in 2Peter 2:14, where see Note.

Through the lusts of the flesh.—Better, in the lusts of the flesh (as in 2Peter 2:3, and 2Peter 1:1-2; 2Peter 1:4; 2Peter 1:13). The preposition “in” points to the sphere in which the enticement takes place; “through” should be reserved for “wantonness” (see Note on 2Peter 2:2), which is the bait used to entice.

Were clean escaped.—Both verb and adverb require correction. The margin indicates the right reading for the adverb—“for a little,” or better, by a little; scarcely. The verb should be present, not past—those who are scarcely escaping, viz., the “unstable souls” of 2Peter 2:14. Wiclif has “scapen a litil;” Rheims “escape a litle.” The word translated “scarcely” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; that translated here “clean,” and elsewhere “indeed,” or “certainly,” is frequent (Mark 11:32; Luke 23:47; Luke 24:34, &c. &c). Hence the change, an unfamiliar word being, by a slight alteration, turned into a familiar one. The two Greek words are much alike.

2 Peter 2:18-19. When they speak great swelling words of vanity — Propose their vain and false doctrine in a lofty style, or affect sublime strains of language, which are often void of any real meaning; they allure through the lusts of the flesh — By allowing their hearers to live in lewd courses, or to gratify some unholy desires under pretence of Christian liberty, 2 Peter 2:10; 2 Peter 2:19; those — Who, as Christians; were clean escaped from the spirit, customs, and company of them that live in error — That is, in sin. In other words, they bring back again to their former sensuality, and other vices, those who, having been converted, had entirely forsaken their former evil ways and wicked companions. While they promise them liberty — From needless restraints and scruples, and from the bondage of the law; they themselves are the servants of corruption — Slaves to their own lusts, to sin, the vilest of all kinds of bondage; for of whom — Or what; a man is overcome, of the same thing he is brought into bondage — Becomes a perfect slave to it. The apostle seems here to allude to the ancient custom of making those slaves who were conquered or taken in battle. It was one of the Stoical paradoxes, that the wise man is the only free man, and that all wicked men are slaves. This maxim the apostle adopts, and supports it in a sound sense by the above unanswerable argument. Hence our Lord said to the Jews, who boasted of their freedom, (John 8:34,)

Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin. Of the slavery in which every carnal man lives, St. Paul has given us a lively picture, Romans 6:16-20.

2:17-22 The word of truth is the water of life, which refreshes the souls that receive it; but deceivers spread and promote error, and are set forth as empty, because there is no truth in them. As clouds hinder the light of the sun, so do these darken counsel by words wherein there is no truth. Seeing that these men increase darkness in this world, it is very just that the mist ofdarkness should be their portion in the next. In the midst of their talk of liberty, these men are the vilest slaves; their own lusts gain a complete victory over them, and they are actually in bondage. When men are entangled, they are easily overcome; therefore Christians should keep close to the word of God, and watch against all who seek to bewilder them. A state of apostacy is worse than a state of ignorance. To bring an evil report upon the good way of God, and a false charge against the way of truth, must expose to the heaviest condemnation. How dreadful is the state here described! Yet though such a case is deplorable, it is not utterly hopeless; the leper may be made clean, and even the dead may be raised. Is thy backsliding a grief to thee? Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.For when they speak great swelling words of vanity - When they make pretensions to wisdom and learning, or seem to attach great importance to what they say, and urge it in a pompous and positive manner. Truth is simple, and delights in simple statements. It expects to make its way by its own intrinsic force, and is willing to pass for what it is worth. Error is noisy and declamatory, and hopes to succeed by substituting sound for sense, and by such tones and arts as shall induce men to believe that what is said is true, when it is known by the speaker to be false.

They allure through the lusts of the flesh - The same word is used here which in 2 Peter 2:14 is rendered "beguiling," and in James 1:14 "enticed." It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means that they make use of deceitful arts to allure, ensnare, or beguile others. The "means" which it is here said they employed, were "the lusts of the flesh;" that is, they promised unlimited indulgence to the carnal appetites, or taught such doctrines that their followers would feel themselves free to give unrestrained liberty to such propensities. This has been quite a common method in the world, of inducing people to embrace false doctrines.

Through much wantonness - See the notes at 2 Timothy 3:6. The meaning here is, that they made use of every variety of lascivious arts to beguile others under religious pretences. This has been often done in the world; for religion has been abused to give seducers access to the confidence of the innocent, only that they might betray and ruin them. It is right that for all such the "mist of darkness should be reserved forever;" and if there were not a place of punishment prepared for such men, there would be defect in the moral administration of the universe.

Those that were clean escaped from them who live in error - Margin, "for a little while." The difference between the margin and the text here arises from a difference of reading in the Greek. Most of the later editions of the Greek Testament coincide with the reading in the margin, (ὀλίγως oligōs,) meaning "little, but a little, scarcely." This accords better with the scope of the passage; and, according to this, it means that they had "almost escaped" from the snares and influences of those who live in error and sin. They had begun to think of their ways; they had broken off many of their evil habits; and there was hope that they would be entirely reformed, and would become decided Christians, but they were allured again to the sins in which they had so long indulged. This seems to me to accord with the design of the passage, and it certainly accords with what frequently occurs, that those who are addicted to habits of vice become apparently interested in religion, and abandon many of their evil practices, but are again allured by the seductive influences of sin, and relapse into their former habits. In the case referred to here it was by professedly religious teachers - and is this never done now? Are there none for example, who have been addicted to habits of intemperance, who had been almost reformed, but who are led back again by the influence of religious teachers? Not directly and openly, indeed, would they lead them into habits of intemperance. But, when their reformation is begun, its success and its completion depend on total abstinence from all that intoxicates. In this condition, nothing more is necessary to secure their entire reformation and safety than mere abstinence; and nothing more may be necessary to lead them into their former practices than the example of others who indulge in moderate drinking, or than the doctrine inculcated by a religious teacher that such moderate drinking is not contrary to the spirit of the Bible.

18. allure—Greek, "lay baits for."

through—Greek, "in"; the lusts of the flesh being the element IN which they lay their baits.

much wantonness—Greek, "by licentiousness"; the bait which they lay.

clean escaped—Greek, "really escaped." But the oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "scarcely," or "for but a little time"; scarcely have they escaped from them who live in error (the ungodly world), when they are allured by these seducers into sin again (2Pe 2:20).

Great swelling words of vanity; i.e. big words, full of sound, and void of sense, at least of truth. He seems to tax the affected, vain speech of seducers, who were wont to clothe their erroneous doctrines (if not disguise the truths of God) with strange, uncouth phrases, which made a show of some rare discoveries, or deep mysteries, whereas indeed they were empty of any thing solid, or tending to edification.

They allure: as with a bait; a metaphor taken from the manner of taking fish.

Through the lusts of the flesh; to which they give liberty, as a bait to draw men after them.

Through much wantonness; this explains the former, and shows what lusts they indulge men in, viz. wantonness and uncleanness.

Those that were clean escaped; truly, or really, which seems the better reading than that in the margin: and this is said of them:

1. In respect of the profession they made of a real conversion.

2. In respect of the assent they gave to the word by which they were called.

3. In respect of the change that appeared in their outward conversation.

From them who live in error: whether the error of Judaism, or heathenism, wherein they had been formerly involved, and others still were. This might be the case of some in whom yet there was no saving change wrought; that they might be brought off from these more foul ways of sin and error in which they had walked and yet might afterward return to the same, or as bad, Matthew 12:43 13:21.

For when they speak great swelling words of vanity,.... Marvellous things against the God of gods, great things and blasphemies against God, his name, his tabernacle, and his saints; see Daniel 11:36; or against men, dominions, and dignities, 2 Peter 2:10; or it may design their self-applauses and vain glorying in themselves, and their empty boast of knowledge and learning; and also express the windiness of their doctrines, and the bombast style, and high flown strains of rhetoric in which they were delivered; as likewise the flattering titles they bestowed on men for the sake of their own worldly interest and advantage; see Jde 1:16 and hereby

they allure, through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error: that is, from those who lived in the error of Heathenism or Judaism, from whom, and which, they were clean escaped; or truly, really, and entirely delivered, being fully convinced of the falsity thereof, and of the truth of the Christian religion; though some copies, as the Alexandrian, and two of Beza's, and two of Stephens's, read, not "truly", but "a little"; and the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "a very little"; to which agrees the Complutensian edition; and the Syriac version renders it "in a few words", or "almost"; and according to the Ethiopic version, "a few persons" are designed; but be they more or less, and truly, or but a little, and for a little while, or almost, escaped from their former errors, in which they were brought up, and lived; yet by the carnal lusts and liberties, lasciviousness and wantonness, which these false teachers indulged, they were allured, ensnared, and drawn by them into their wicked principles and practices.

For when they speak great {q} swelling words of vanity, they {r} allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were {s} clean escaped from them who live in error.

(q) They deceive with vain and swelling words.

(r) They take them, as fish are taken with the hook.

(s) Unfeignedly and indeed, clean departed from idolatry.

2 Peter 2:18. Cf. Judges 1:16.

ὑπέρογκα γὰρ ματαιότητος φθεγγόμενοι] The γάρ does not serve to explain the figurative words, 2 Peter 2:17 (as formerly in this commentary), for, as Hofmann justly says, “the description of their conduct contained in this verse goes far beyond those figurative statements as to their nature.” It must be referred either, with Wiesinger, to the judgment expressed in 2 Peter 2:17,

οἷςτετηρ. being included,—or, as is done by Hofmann, to the relative clause only; the former is probably the more correct view.[79]

ὙΠΈΡΟΓΚΟς, “swelling;” in the classics used also of style. ΜΑΤΑΙΌΤΗς gives the nature of the swelling, high-sounding speeches (“the proud words,” Luther); Luther aptly: “since there is nothing behind them.” The word ΦΘΕΓΓΌΜΕΝΟΙ (besides in Acts 4:18, to be found only here and in 2 Peter 2:16) is here the more appropriate that it is used chiefly of loud speaking.

ΔΕΛΕΆΖΟΥΣΙΝ] Cf. 2 Peter 2:14.

ἘΝ ἘΠΙΘΥΜΊΑΙς ΣΑΡΚῸς ἈΣΕΛΓΕΊΑΙς] ἘΝ is commonly taken as equivalent to ΔΙΆ, and ἈΣΕΛΓ. as an apposition to ἘΠΙΘ.: “through the lusts of the flesh, through debauchery” (de Wette, Brückner, Wiesinger, probably Schott too); but thus there is a felt want of a ΚΑΊ, or of a second ἘΝ, and the ἘΠΙΘΥΜΊΑΙ of the seducers, too, are not to be considered as the means of allurement. Hofmann explains: “by means of fleshly lusts, which they awaken in them, through acts of wantonness, the enjoyment of which they hold out to them;” but here relations are introduced to which the text makes no allusion. It is therefore better to take ἘΝ ἘΠΙΘΥΜΊΑΙς Σ. as designating the condition of the seducers, and ἈΣΕΛΓΕΊΑΙς as the dat. instrum.: “in the lusts of the flesh (i.e. taken in them, governed by them) they allure by voluptuousness those who,” etc.; Steinfass correctly: “it is part of their ἐπιθ. σαρκ. that they seek to allure the members of the church;” he is wrong, however, when he explains the ἈΣΕΛΓΕΊΑΙς as that to which they allure them. Luther translates wrongly: “through lasciviousness to fleshly lust;” ἘΝ ἘΠΙΘΥΜΊΑΙς is not equal to ΕἸς ἘΠΙΘΥΜΊΑς.

] ὈΛΊΓΩς, ἍΠ. ΛΕΓ., is hardly to be found elsewhere. It expresses both time and measure, and corresponds to the English: “hardly, just” (thus also Schott). Wiesinger and Hofmann understand it only of measure, equivalent to “little;” Hofmann understands it of space: “they are a little way escaped from those who walk in error.” The pres. of the verb shows that they are, as it were, still in the act of flight from their former condition, and are not yet firmly established in the new; cf. 2 Peter 2:14 : ψυχὰς ἀστηρίκτους.

τοὺς ἐν πλάνῃ ἀναστρεφομένους] not an adjunct co-ordinate with what goes before; Luther: “and now walk in error;” but the accus. is dependent on ἈΠΟΦΕΎΓΟΝΤΑς, and ΟἹ ἘΝ ΠΛΆΝῌ ἈΝΑΣΤΡΕΦΌΜΕΝΟΙ are those from whom the persons who are being seduced have separated themselves, those who are not Christians, especially the heathen, who lead a life ἘΝ ΠΛΆΝῌ (Wiesinger, Schott, Brückner, Fronmüller, Hofmann); Steinfass incorrectly understands by the expression the ΨΕΥΔΟΔΙΔΆΣΚΑΛΟΙ.

[79] Bengel: Puteus et nubes aquam pollicentur; sic illi praegrandia jactant, quasi lumina ecclesiae; sed hi putei, hae nubes nil praebent; praegrandia illa sunt vanitatis.

2 Peter 2:18. ὑπέρογκα. Cf. Judges 1:16. No doubt the reference is to the use of Gnostic terms. ματαιότης, used specially of moral insincerity. Cf. ματαίας ἀναστροφῆς, “heartless conduct,” 1 Peter 1:18. There is no corresponding reality behind their words. σαρκὸς, to be taken with ἀσελγείαις, which is in apposition to ἐπιθυμίαις. τοὺς ὀλίγως ἀποφεύγοντας: “those who are just escaping”; who have been impressed with Christian truth, and have had strength to separate themselves from their old surroundings and customs; but are led to return through the compromises suggested by the false teachers. The phenomenon is not uncommon in all missionary work, of men who have escaped from “Gentile vices, but are not yet established in Christian virtues” (Bigg). τοὺς ἐν πλάνῃ ἀναστρεφομένους = governed by ἀποφεύγοντας: “(escaping from) those who live in error”; i.e. from their old heathen companionships. “There is great passion in the words. Grandiose sophistry is the hook, filthy lust is the bait, with which these men catch those whom the Lord had delivered, or was delivering” (Bigg).

18. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity] Literally, For speaking.… The adjective is used by classical writers both literally and figuratively of excessive magnitude. It indicates what we should call the “high-flown” character of the language of the false teachers. “Vanity” is used in its proper sense of “emptiness.” There was no substance below their show of a transcendental knowledge. Here again we trace a parallel with St Paul’s language, “Knowledge puffeth up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).

they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness] Better, they entice in the lusts of flesh (describing the state of the tempters) by acts of lasciviousness (as the dative of the instrument). The word for “allure” is the same as in 2 Peter 2:14. In “wantonness” we have the same word as in 2 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 2:7.

those that were clean escaped from them who live in error] Some of the better MSS. give those who were a little (or partially) escaping … In the one case, stress is laid on the fact that the work of a real and true conversion was marred by the impurity into which the victims were afterwards betrayed; in the other, on the fact that their conversion had been but incomplete, and that therefore they yielded readily to the temptation. A possible construction of the sentence would be to take the last clause in the Greek in apposition with the first, “those that had partially escaped, those that live in error,” but the English version gives a preferable meaning. In the verb for “live” we have a cognate form of St Peter’s favourite word for “conversation” or “conduct” (1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1-2; 1 Peter 3:16).

2 Peter 2:18. Σαρκὸς ἀσελγείας) Σὰρξ ἀσελγείας is most polluted flesh. Many have written ἀσελγείαις instead of ἀσελγείας,[11] by an easy slip of the pen into rhythm after the word ἐπιθυμίαις.—τοὺς ὀλίγως ἀποφεύγοντας τοὺς ἐν πλάνῃ ἀναστρεφομένους, those, who for a little time had escaped from them who live in error) τοὺς repeated, is not put in apposition, but the word ἀποφεύγοντας (comp. 2 Peter 2:20) governs the clause τοὺς ἐν πλάνῃ ἀναστρεφομένους, to make it known what it is that they have escaped; and these ἀναστρεφόμενοι are either the same false teachers, or others. There is here an accusative case governing an accusative; as in Luke 18:9, ἐξουθενοῦντας τοὺς λοιπούς, despising others. Instead of ὀλίγως, some read ὄντως[12]. The copyists with equal readiness hastily put either of these words for the other. The compound verb ἀποφεύγειν has of itself such force, that even without the adverb ὄντως, it denotes those who truly escape, 2 Peter 2:20; 2 Peter 1:4; but ὀλίγως, for a short time, added to the verb, adds remarkably to the sense of the passage. No sooner have some escaped from those who live in error, than these wretched men are afresh ensnared by them. Such haste is expressed in 2 Peter 2:21-22, on account of which indeed the fool remains a fool, Proverbs 26:11, the dog a dog, the sow a sow. In the Critical Apparatus it has accidentally happened that I have given less weight to the reading, ὀλίγως, than the margin of the text and the arguments inclined me.

[11] AB(?)C Theb. read ἀσελγείαις; and so Rec. Text and Lachm. But Vulg. and both Syr. Versions, and inferior, viz. cursive, MSS. read ἀσελγείας; and so Tisch.—E.

[12] AB Vulg. read ὀλίγως: C and Rec. Text ὄντως, with less authority.—E.

Verse 18. - For when they speak great swelling words of vanity; literally, for speaking. "Great swelling words" is expressed by one word in the Greek, ὑπέρογκα, St. Jude has the same word in verse 16; it is used in the classical writers of great bulk of any kind, literal or figurative. The genitive is descriptive - the words are swelling, high-sounding; but they are only words, vain and meaningless; they have nothing but emptiness behind them. They allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness; rather, as in the Revised Version, they entice (as in verse 14) in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness. The preposition "in" denotes the sphere in which these men live, their condition, habits of life. The dative ἀσελγείαις, literally "by lasciviousnesses," that is, by acts of lasciviousness, is the dative of the instrument; it states the means by which they entice men. Those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. The Authorized Version follows the T.R., τοὺς ὄντως ἀποφυγόντας; but most of the best manuscripts have τοὺς ὀλίγως ἀποφεύγοντας. This last reading gives a better sense, "Those who are just escaping." The adverb ὀλίγως may be understood of time, or, perhaps better, of measure - "escaping by a little, a little way." Those who were "clean escaped "would not be so easily enticed by the false teachers. These are only beginning to escape; they have heard the word with joy, but have no root in themselves; they put their hand to the plough, but they look back. They "that live in error" are the heathen; the unhappy men who are led astray by the false teachers are just escaping from the heathen and from their mode of life. It is possible to understand these last words as a coordinate clause, a further description of those who are just escaping. The false teachers entice "those who are just escaping, those who live in error." But the common rendering seems better. The verb translated "live" (ἀναστρεφομένους) is a favourite word with St. Peter (see 1 Peter 1:15, 18; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1, 2, 16). 2 Peter 2:18When they speak (φθεγγόμενοι)

Rev., better, uttering. See on 2 Peter 2:16.

Great swelling (ὑπέρογκα)

Only here and Jde 1:16. The word means of excessive bulk. It accords well with the peculiar word uttering, since it denotes a kind of speech full of high-sounding verbosity without substance. Φθεγγόμενοι, uttering, is significantly applied alike to Balaam's beast and to these empty declaimers.


See 2 Peter 2:14.

Were clean escaped

The A. V. follows the Tex. Rec., ὄντως ἀποφυγόντας; ὄντως meaning really, actually, as Luke 24:34; and the participle being the aorist, and so meaning were escaped. But the best texts all read ὀλίγως, in a little degree, or just, or scarcely; and ἀποφεύγοντας, the present participle, are escaping; and denoting those who are in the early stage of their escape from error, and are not safe from it and confirmed in the truth. Hence, Rev., correctly, who are just escaping. Ὀλίγως, only here.

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