Introduction to 2Peter
Section 1. Genuineness and Authenticity of the Epistle
It is well known that at an early period of the Christian history there were doubts respecting the canonical authority of the Second Epistle of Peter. The sole ground of the doubt was, whether Peter was the author of it. Eusebius, in the chapter of his ecclesiastical history where he speaks of the New Testament in general, reckons it among the αντιλεγομενα antilegomena, i. e. those books which were not universally admitted to be genuine; literally, "those which were spoken against," b. iii. chapter 25. This does not imply that even he, however, disbelieved its genuineness, but merely that it was numbered among those about which there had not always been complete certainty. Jerome says, "Peter wrote two epistles, called 'catholic'; the second of which is denied by many to be his, because of the difference of style from the former." Origen, before him, had also said, "Peter, on whom the church is built, has left one Epistle (universally) acknowledged. Let it be granted that he also wrote a second. For it is doubted of." See Lardner, vol. vi., p. 255, Ed. Lond. 1829. Both the Epistles of Peter, however, were received as genuine in the fourth and following centuries by all Christians, except the Syrians. The First Epistle was never doubted to have been the production of Peter. In regard to the second, as remarked above, it was doubted by some. The principal ground of the doubt, if not the entire ground, was the difference of style between the two, especially in the second chapter, and the fact that the old Syriac translator, though he admitted the Epistle of James, which was also reckoned among the "doubtful" epistles, did not-translate the Second Epistle of Peter. That version was made, probably, at the close of the first century, or in the second; and it is said that it is to be presumed that if this Epistle had been then in existence, and had been regarded as genuine, it would also have been translated by him.
It is of importance, therefore, to state briefly the evidence of the genuineness and authenticity of this Epistle. In doing this, it is proper to regard the "First" Epistle as undoubtedly genuine and canonical, for that was never called in question. That being admitted, the genuineness of this Epistle may be argued on the following grounds:
(1) It does not appear to have been "rejected" by any one. It was merely "doubted" whether it was genuine. How far even this "doubt" extended is not mentioned. It is referred to only by Jerome, Origen, and Eusebius, though there is not the least evidence that even they had any doubts of its genuineness. They merely state that there were some persons who had doubts on the subject, from the difference of style between this and the former Epistle. This fact, indeed, as Wall has remarked, (Critical Notes on the New Testament, pp. 358, 359,) will serve at least to show the care which was evinced in admitting books to be canonical, proving that they were not received without the utmost caution, and that if the slightest doubt existed in the case of any one, it was honestly expressed.
(2) even all doubt on the subject disappeared as early as the third and fourth centuries, and the Epistle was received as being unquestionably the production of Peter. The effect of the examination in the case was to remove all suspicion, and it has never since been doubted that the Epistle was written by Peter; at least, no doubt has arisen, except from the fact stated by Jerome and Origen, that it was not universally admitted to be genuine.
(3) this Epistle purports to have been written by the author of the former, and has all the internal marks of genuineness which could exist.
(a) It bears the inscription of the name of the same apostle: "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ," 2 Peter 1:1.
(b) There is an allusion in 2 Peter 1:14, which Peter only could appropriately make, and which an impostor, or forger of an epistle, would hardly have thought of introducing: "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me." Here, there is an evident reference to the Saviour's prediction of the death of Peter, recorded in John 21:18-19. It is conceivable, indeed, that an adroit forger of an epistle might have introduced such a circumstance; but the supposition that it is genuine is much more natural. It is such an allusion as Peter would naturally make; it would have required much skill and tact in another to have introduced it so as not to be easily detected, even if it had occurred to him to personate Peter at all. Would not a forger of an epistle have been likely to mention particularly what kind of death was predicted by the Saviour, and not to have made a mere allusion?
(c) In 2 Peter 1:16-18, there is another allusion of a similar kind. The writer claims to have been one of the "eye-witnesses of the majesty" of the Lord Jesus when he was transfigured in the holy mount. It was natural for Peter to refer to this, for he was with him; and he has mentioned it just as one would be likely to do who had actually been with him, and who was writing from personal recollection. A forger of the epistle would have been likely to be more particular, and would have described the scene more minutely, and the place where it occurred, and would have dwelt more on the nature of the evidence furnished there of the Divine mission of the Saviour.
(d) In 2 Peter 3:1, it is stated that this is a Second Epistle written to the same persons, as a former one had been; and that the writer aimed at substantially the same object in both. Here the plain reference is to the First Epistle of Peter, which has always been acknowledged to be genuine. It may be said that one who forged the Epistle might have made this allusion. This is true, but it may be doubtful whether he would do it. It would have increased the liability to detection, for it would not be easy to imitate the manner, and to carry out the views of the apostle.
(4) to these considerations it may be added, that there is clear internal evidence of another kind to show that it was written by Peter. This evidence, too long to be introduced here, may be seen in Michaelis' Introduction, iv. 349-356. The sum of this internal evidence is, that it would not have been practicable for a writer of the first or second century to have imitated Peter so as to have escaped detection; and that, in general, it is not difficult to detect the books that were forged in imitation of, and in the name of, the apostles.
As to the alleged objection in regard to the difference of the style in the second chapter, see Michaelis, iv. 352-356. Why it was not inserted in the Old Syriac Version is not known. It is probable that the author of that version was exceedingly cautious, and did not admit any books about which he had any doubt. The fact that this was doubted by some, and that these doubts were not removed from his mind, as in the case of the Epistle of James, was a good reason for his not inserting it, though it by no means proves that it is not genuine. It came, however, to be acknowledged afterward by the Syrians as genuine and canonical Ephrem the Syrian, a writer of the 4th century, not only quotes several passages of it, but expressly ascribes it to Peter. Thus, in the second volume of his Greek works, p. 387, he says, "The blessed Peter, also, the Coryphaeus of the apostles, cries, concerning that day, saying, The day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night, in which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." This is literally quoted (in the Greek) from 2 Peter 3:12. See Michaelis, as above, p. 348. And Asseman, in his catalog of the Vatican Manuscripts, gives an account of a Syriac book of Lessons, to be read, in which is one taken from this Epistle. See Michaelis.
These considerations remove all reasonable doubt as to the propriety of admitting this Epistle into the canon, as the production of Peter.
Section 2. The Time when the Epistle was Written
In regard to the time when this Epistle was written, nothing can be determined with absolute certainty. All that appears on that subject from the Epistle itself, is, that at the time of writing it the author was expecting soon to die. 2 Peter 1:14, "knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me." What evidence he had that he was soon to die he has not informed us; nor is it known even what he meant precisely by the word "shortly." The Greek word (ταχινή tachinē) is indeed one that would imply that the event was expected not to be far off; but a man would not unnaturally use it who felt that he was growing old, even though he should in fact live several years afterwards. The Saviour John 21:18 did not state to Peter when his death would occur, except that it would be when he should be old; and the probability is, that the fact that he was growing old was the only intimation that he had that he was soon to die. Ecclesiastical history informs us that he died at Rome, 66 a.d., in the 12th year of the reign of Nero. See Calmet, the article "Peter." Compare Notes, John 21:18-19. Lardner supposes, from 2 Peter 1:13-15, that this was written not long after the First, as he then says that he "would not be "negligent" to put them in remembrance of these things." The two Epistles he supposes were written in the year 63 or 64 a.d., or at the latest 65 a.d. Michaelis supposes it was in the year 64 a.d.; Calmet that it was in the year of Christ 68, or according to the Common Era, 65 a.d. Probably the year 64 or 65 a.d. would not be far from the real date of this Epistle. If so, it was, according to Calmet, one year only before the martyrdom of Peter (66 a.d.), and six years before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, 71 ad.
Section 3. The Persons to whom this Epistle was Written, and the Location
On this subject there is no room for doubt. In 2 Peter 3:1, the writer says, "this Second Epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance" This Epistle was written, therefore, to the same persons as the former. On the question to whom that was addressed, see the introduction to that Epistle, Section 1. The Epistles were addressed to persons who resided in Asia Minor, and in both they are regarded as in the midst of trials. No certain intimation of the place where this Epistle was written is given in the Epistle itself. It is probable that it was at the same place as the former, as, if it had not been, we may presume that there would have been some reference to the fact that he had changed his residence, or some local allusion which would have enabled us to determine the fact. If he wrote this Epistle from Babylon, as he did the former one, (see Introduction to that Epistle, Section 2,) it is not known why he was so soon removed to Rome, and became a martyr there. Indeed, everything respecting the last days of this apostle is involved in great uncertainty. See the article "Peter" in Calmet's Dictionary. See these questions examined also in Bacon's Lives of the Apostles, pp. 258-279.
Section 4. The Occasion on Which the Epistle Was Written
The First Epistle was written in view of the trials which those to whom it was addressed were then enduring, and the persecutions which they had reason to anticipate, 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:12-19; 1 Peter 5:8-11. The main object of that Epistle was to comfort them in their trials, and to encourage them to bear them with a Christian spirit, imitating the example of the Lord Jesus. This Epistle appears to have been written, not so much in view of persecutions and bodily sufferings, real or prospective, as in view of the fact that there were teachers of error among them, the tendency of whose doctrine was to turn them away from the gospel. To those teachers of error, and to the dangers to which they were exposed on that account, there is no allusion in the First Epistle, and it would seem not to be improbable that Peter had been informed that there were such teachers among them after he had written and despatched that. Or, if he was not thus informed of it, it seems to have occurred to him that this was a point of great importance which had not been noticed in the former Epistle, and that an effort should be made by apostolic influence and authority to arrest the progress of error, to counteract the influence of the false teachers, and to confirm the Christians of Asia Minor in the belief of the truth. A large part of the Epistle, therefore, is occupied in characterizing the teachers of error, in showing that they would certainly be destroyed, and in stating the true doctrine in opposition to what they held. It is evident that Peter supposed that the danger to which Christians in Asia Minor were exposed from these errors, was not less than that to which they were exposed from persecution, and that it was of as much importance to guard them from those errors as it was to sustain them in their trials.
The characteristics of the teachers referred to in this Epistle, and the doctrines which they taught, were the following:
(1) One of the prominent errors was a denial of the Lord that bought them, 2 Peter 2:1. On the nature of this error, see Notes on that verse.
(2) they gave indulgence to carnal appetites, and were sensual, corrupt, beastly, lewd, 2 Peter 2:10, 2 Peter 2:12-14, 2 Peter 2:19. Compare Jde 1:4, Jde 1:8,Jde 1:16. It is remarkable that so many professed "reformers" have been men who have been sensual and lewd - men who have taken advantage of their character as professed religious teachers, and as "reformers," to corrupt and betray others. Such reformers often begin with pure intentions, but a constant familiarity with a certain class of vices tends to corrupt the mind, and to awaken in the soul passions which would otherwise have slept; and they fall into the same vices which they attempt to reform. It should be said, however, that many professed reformers are corrupt at heart, and only make use of their pretended zeal in the cause of reformation to give them the opportunity to indulge their base propensities.
(3) they were disorderly in their views, and radical in their movements. The tendency of their doctrines was to unsettle the foundations of order and government; to take away all restraint from the indulgence of carnal propensities, and to break up the very foundations of good order in society, 2 Peter 2:10-12. They "walked after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness;" they "despised government" or authority; they were "presumptuous and self-willed;" they "were not afraid to speak evil of dignities;" they were like "natural brute beasts;" they "spoke evil of the subjects which they did not understand." It is by no means an uncommon thing for professed reformers to become anti-government men, or to suppose that all the restraints of law stand in their way, and that they must be removed in order to success. They fix the mind on one thing to be accomplished. That thing magnifies itself until it fills all the field of vision. Everything which seems to oppose their efforts, or to uphold the evil which they seek to remove, they regard as an evil itself; and as the laws and the government of a country often seem to sustain the evil, they become opposed to the government itself, and denounce it as an evil. Instead of endeavoring to enlighten the public mind, and to modify the laws by a course of patient effort, they array themselves against them, and seek to overturn them. For the same reason, also, they suppose that "the church" upholds the evil, and become the deadly foe of all church organizations.
(4) they were seductive and artful, and adopted a course of teaching that was fitted to beguile the weak, and especially to produce licentiousness of living, 2 Peter 2:14. They were characterized by adulterous desires; and they practiced their arts particularly on the "unstable," those who were easily led away by any new and plausible doctrine that went to unsettle the foundations of rigid morality.
(5) they adopted a pompous mode of teaching, distinguished for sound rather than for sense, and proclaimed themselves to be the special friends of liberal views, and of a liberal Christianity, 2 Peter 2:17-19. They were like "wells without water;" "clouds that were carried about with a tempest;" they spake "great swelling words of vanity," and they promised "liberty" to those who would embrace their views, or freedom from the restraints of bigotry and of a narrow and gloomy religion. This appeal is usually made by the advocates of error.
(6) they had been professed Christians, and had formerly embraced the more strict views on morals and religion which were held by Christians in general, 2 Peter 2:20-22. From this, however, they had departed, and had fallen into practices quite as abominable as those of which they had been guilty before their pretended conversion.
(7) they denied the doctrines which the apostles had stated respecting the end of the world. The "argument" on which they based this denial was the fact that all things continued unchanged as they had been from the beginning, and that it might be inferred from that that the world would be stable, 2 Peter 3:3-4. They saw no change in the laws of nature; they saw no indications that the world was drawing to a close, and they "inferred" that laws so stable and settled as those were which existed in nature would continue to operate, and that the changes predicted by the apostles were impossible.
A large part of the Epistle is occupied in meeting these errors, and in so portraying the characters of their advocates as to show what degree of reliance was to be placed on their preaching. For a particular view of the manner in which these errors are met, see the analyses to 2 Peter 2; 3.
This Epistle is characterized by the same earnest and tender manner as the First, and by a peculiarly "solemn grandeur of imagery and diction." The apostle in the last two chapters had to meet great and dangerous errors, and the style of rebuke was appropriate to the occasion. He felt that he himself was soon to die, and, in the prospect of death, his own mind was uniquely impressed with the solemnity and importance of coming events. He believed that the errors which were broached tended to sap the very foundations of the Christian faith and of good morals, and his whole soul is roused to meet and counteract them. The occasion required that he should state in a solemn manner what was the truth in regard to the second advent of the Lord Jesus; what great changes were to occur; what the Christian might look for hereafter; and his soul kindles with the sublime theme, and he describes in glowing imagery, and in impassioned language, the end of all things, and exhorts them to live as became those who were looking forward to so important events. The practical effect of the whole Epistle is to make the mind intensely solemn, and to put it into a position of waiting for the coming of the Lord. On the similarity between this Epistlem, 2 Peter 2, and the Epistle of Jude, see the introduction to Jude.
This chapter comprises the following subjects:
I. The usual salutations, 2 Peter 1:1-2.
II. A statement that all the mercies which they enjoyed pertaining to life and godliness, had been conferred by the power of God, and that he had given them exceeding great and precious promises, 2 Peter 1:3-4. It was mainly with reference to these "promises" that the epistle was written, for they had been assailed by the advocates of error, 2 Peter 2; 3 and it was important that Christians should see that they had the promise of a future life. Compare 2 Peter 3:5-14.
III. An exhortation to abound in Christian virtues; to go on making constant attainments in knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and godliness, I and brotherly kindness, and charity, 2 Peter 1:5-9.
IV. An exhortation to endeavor to make their calling and election sure, that so an entrance might be ministered unto them abundantly into the kingdom of the Redeemer, 2 Peter 1:10-11.
V. The apostle says that he will endeavor to keep these things before their minds, 2 Peter 1:12-15. He knew well that they were then established in the truth, 2 Peter 1:12 but he evidently felt that they were in danger of being shaken in the faith by the seductive influence of error, and he says therefore, 2 Peter 1:13 that it was proper, as long as he remained on earth, to endeavor to excite in their minds a lively remembrance of the truths which they had believed; that the opportunity for his doing this must soon cease, as the period was approaching when he must be removed to eternity, in accordance with the prediction of the Saviour 2 Peter 1:14, but that he would endeavor to make so permanent a record of his views on these important subjects that they might always have them in remembrance, 2 Peter 1:15.
VI. A solemn statement that the doctrines which had been taught them, and which they had embraced, were not cunningly-devised fables, but were true, 2 Peter 1:16-21. In support of this the apostle appeals to the following things:
(a) The testimony to the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, which Peter had himself heard given on the mount of transfiguration, 2 Peter 1:17-18.
(b) Prophecy. These truths, on which he expected them to rely, had been the subject of distinct prediction, and they should be held, whatever were the plausible arguments of the false teachers, 2 Peter 1:19-20.
The general object, therefore, of this chapter is to affirm the truth of the great facts of religion, on which their hopes were based, and thus to prepare the way to combat the errors by which these truths were assailed. He first assures them that the doctrines which they held were true, and then, in 2 Peter 2-3, meets the errors by which they were assailed.
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:Simon Peter - Margin, "Symeon." The name is written either "Simon" or "Simeon" - Σίμων Simōn or Συμεών Sumeōn. Either word properly means "hearing;" and perhaps, like other names, was at first significant. The first epistle 1 Peter 1:1 begins simply, "Peter, an apostle," etc. The name Simon, however, was, his proper name - "Peter," or "Cephas," having been added to it by the Saviour, John 1:42. Compare Matthew 16:18.
A servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ - In the first epistle the word "apostle" only is used. Paul, however, uses the word "servant" as applicable to himself in Romans 1:1, and to himself and Timothy in the commencement of the epistle to the Philippians, Philippians 1:1. See the notes at Romans 1:1.
To them that have obtained like precious faith with us - With us who are of Jewish origin. This epistle was evidently written to the same persons as the former (Introduction, Section 3), and that was intended to embrace many who were of Gentile origin. Notes, 1 Peter 1:1. The apostle addresses them all now, whatever was their origin, as heirs of the common faith, and as in all respects brethren.
Through the righteousness of God - Through the method of justification which God has adopted. See this fully explained in the notes at Romans 1:17.
(The original is ἐν δικαιοσυνη en dikaiosunē, in the righteousness, etc., which makes the righteousness the object of faith. We cannot but regard the author's rendering of the famous phrase here used by Peter, and by Paul, Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21, as singularly unhappy. That Newcome used it and the Socinian version adopted it, would not make us reject it; but when the apostles state specially the ground of justification, why should they be made to speak indefinitely of its general "plan," or method. The rendering of Stuart, namely, "justification of God," is not more successful; it confounds the "thing itself" with the "ground" of it. Why not prefer the apostle's own words to any change or periphrasis? See the supplementary note at Romans 1:17).
God and our Saviour Jesus Christ - Margin, "our God and Saviour." The Greek will undoubtedly bear the construction given in the margin; and if this be the true rendering, it furnishes an argument for the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Middleton, Slade, Valpy, Bloomfield, and others, contend that this is the true and proper rendering. It is doubted, however, by Wetstein, Grotius, and others. Erasmus supposes that it may be taken in either sense. The construction, though certainly not a violation of the laws of the Greek language, is not so free from all doubt as to make it proper to use the passage as a proof-text in an argument for the divinity of the Saviour. It is easier to prove the doctrine from other texts that are plain, than to show that this must be the meaning here.
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord - That is, grace and peace abound to us, or may be expected to be conferred on us abundantly, if we have a true knowledge of God and of the Saviour. Such a knowledge constitutes true religion: for in that we find "grace" - the grace that pardons and sanctifies; and "peace" - peace of conscience, reconciliation with God, and calmness in the trials of life. See the notes at John 17:3.
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: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 Romans 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 2 Peter 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, John 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 2 Peter 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.
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.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 2 Corinthians 7:1.
Partakers of the divine nature - This is a very important and a difficult phrase. An expression somewhat similar occurs in Hebrews 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 Ephesians 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.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;And beside this - Καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο Kai auto touto. Something here is necessary to be understood in order to complete the sense. The reference is to 2 Peter 1:3; and the connection is, since 2 Peter 1:3 God has given us these exalted privileges and hopes, "in respect to this," (κατὰ kata or διὰ dia being understood,) or as a "consequence" fairly flowing from this, we ought to give all diligence that we may make good use of these advantages, and secure as high attainments as we possibly can. We should add one virtue to another, that we may reach the highest possible elevation in holiness.
Giving all diligence - Greek, "Bringing in all zeal or effort." The meaning is, that we ought to make this a distinct and definite object, and to apply ourselves to it as a thing to be accomplished.
Add to your faith virtue - It is not meant in this verse and the following that we are to endeavor particularly to add these things one to another "in the order" in which they are specified, or that we are to seek first to have faith, and then to add to that virtue, and then to add knowledge to virtue rather than to faith, etc. The order in which this is to be done, the relation which one of these things may have to another, is not the point aimed at; nor are we to suppose that any other order of the words would not have answered the purpose of the apostle as well, or that anyone of the virtues specified would not sustain as direct a relation to any other, as the one which he has specified. The design of the apostle is to say, in an emphatic manner, that we are to strive to possess and exhibit all these virtues; in other words, we are not to content ourselves with a single grace, but are to cultivate all the virtues, and to endeavor to make our piety complete in all the relations which we sustain. The essential idea in the passage before us seems to be, that in our religion we are not to be satisfied with one virtue, or one class of virtues, but that there is to be.
(1) a diligent cultivation of our virtues, since the graces of religion are as susceptible of cultivation as any other virtues;
(2) that there is to be progress made from one virtue to another, seeking to reach the highest possible point in our religion; and,
(3) that there is to be an accumulation of virtues and graces - or we are not to be satisfied with one class, or with the attainments which we can make in one class.
We are to endeavor to add on one after another until we have become possessed of all. Faith, perhaps, is mentioned first, because that is the foundation of all Christian virtues; and the other virtues are required to be added to that, because, from the place which faith occupies in the plan of justification, many might be in danger of supposing that if they had that they had all that was necessary. Compare James 2:14, following In the Greek word rendered "add," ἐπιχορηγήσατε epichorēgēsate there is an allusion to a "chorus-leader" among the Greeks, and the sense is well expressed by Doddridge: "Be careful to accompany that belief with all the lovely train of attendant graces." Or, in other words, "let faith lead on as at the head of the choir or the graces, and let all the others follow in their order." The word here rendered "virtue" is the same which is used in 2 Peter 1:3; and there ks included in it, probably, the same general idea which was noticed there. All the things which the apostle specifies, unless "knowledge" be an exception, are "virtues" in the sense in which that word is commonly used; and it can hardly be supposed that the apostle here meant to use a general term which would include all of the others. The probability is, therefore, that by the word here he has reference to the common meaning of the Greek word, as referring to manliness, courage, vigor, energy; and the sense is, that he wished them to evince whatever firmness or courage might be necessary in maintaining the principles of their religion, and in enduring the trials to which their faith might be subjected. True "virtue" is not a tame and passive thing. It requires great energy and boldness, for its very essence is firmness, manliness, and independence.
And to virtue knowledge - The knowledge of God and of the way of salvation through the Redeemer, 2 Peter 1:3. Compare 2 Peter 3:8. It is the duty of every Christian to make the highest possible attainments in "knowledge."
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;And to knowledge temperance - On the meaning of the word "temperance," see the Acts 24:25 note, and 1 Corinthians 9:25 note. The word here refers to the mastery over all our evil inclinations and appetites. We are to allow none of them to obtain control over us. See the notes at 1 Corinthians 6:12. This would include, of course, abstinence from intoxicating drinks; but it would also embrace all evil passions and propensities. Everything is to be confined within proper limits, and to no propensity of our nature are we to give indulgence beyond the limits which the law of God allows.
And to temperance patience - Notes, James 1:4.
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.And to godliness brotherly kindness - Love to Christians as such. See the John 13:34 note; Hebrews 13:1 note.
And to brotherly kindness charity - Love to all mankind. There is to be a special affection for Christians as of the same family; there is to be a true and warm love, however, for all the race. See the notes at 1 Corinthians 13.
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.For if these things be in you, and abound - If they are in you in rich abundance; if you are eminent for these things.
They make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful - They will show that you are not barren or unfruitful. The word rendered "barren," is, in the margin, "idle." The word "idle" more accurately expresses the sense of the original. The meaning is, that if they evinced these things, it would show.
(1) that they were diligent in cultivating the Christian graces, and,
(2) that it was not a vain thing to attempt to grow in knowledge and virtue.
Their efforts would be followed by such happy results as to be an encouragement to exertion. In nothing is there, in fact, more encouragement than in the attempt to become eminent in piety. On no other efforts does God smile more propitiously than on the attempt to secure the salvation of the soul and to do good. A small part of the exertions which men put forth to become rich, or learned, or celebrated for oratory or heroism, would secure the salvation of the soul. In the former, also, men often fail; in the latter, never.
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.But he that lacketh these things is blind - He has no clear views of the nature and the requirements of religion.
And cannot see afar off - The word used here, which does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, (μυωπάζων muōpazōn,) means to shut the eyes; i. e., to contract the eyelids, to blink, to twinkle, as one who cannot see clearly, and hence to be "near-sighted." The meaning here is, that he is like one who has an indistinct vision; one who can see only the objects that are near him, but who has no correct apprehension of objects that are more remote. He sees but a little way into the true nature and design of the gospel. He does not take those large and clear views which would enable him to comprehend the whole system at a glance.
And hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins - He does not remember the obligation which grows out of the fact that a system has been devised to purify the heart, and that he has been so far brought under the power of that system as to have his sins forgiven. If he had any just view of that, he would see that he was under obligation to make as high attainments as possible, and to cultivate to the utmost extent the Christian graces.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence - 2 Peter 1:5. "In view of these things, give the greater diligence to secure your salvation." The considerations on which Peter based this appeal seem to have been the fact that such promises are made to us, and such hopes held out before us; the degree of uncertainty thrown over the whole matter of our personal salvation by low attainments in the divine life, and the dreadful condemnation which will ensue if in the end it shall be found that we are destitute of all real piety. The general thought is, that religion is of sufficient importance to claim our highest diligence, and to arouse us to the most earnest efforts to obtain the assurance of salvation.
To make your calling and election sure - On the meaning of the word "calling," see the notes at Ephesians 4:1. On the meaning of the word "election," see the Romans 9:11 note; 1 Thessalonians 1:4 note. Compare Ephesians 1:5. The word rendered "election" here, (ἐκλογήν eklogēn,) occurs only in this place and in Acts 9:15; Romans 9:11; Romans 11:5, Romans 11:7,Romans 11:28; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; though corresponding words from the same root denoting "the elect, to elect, to choose," frequently occur. The word here used means "election," referring to the act of God, by which those who are saved are "chosen" to eternal life. As the word "calling" must refer to the act of God, so the word "election" must; for it is God who both "calls" and "chooses" those who shall be saved. The word in the Scriptures usually refers to the actual choosing of those who shall be saved; that is, referring to the time when they, in fact, become the children of God, rather than to the purpose of God that it shall be done; but still there must have been an eternal purpose, for God makes no choice which he did not always intend to make.
The word "sure," means firm, steadfast, secure, (βεβαίαν bebaian.) Here the reference must be to "themselves;" that is, they were so to act as to make it certain to themselves that they had been chosen, and were truly called into the kingdom of God. It cannot refer to God, for no act of theirs could make it more certain on his part, if they had been actually chosen to eternal life. Still, God everywhere treats men as moral agents; and what may be absolutely certain in his mind from the mere purpose that it "shall" be so, is to be made certain to us only by evidence, and in the free exercise of our own powers. The meaning here is, that they were to obtain such evidences of personal piety as to put the question whether they were "called" and "chosen," so far as their own minds were concerned, to rest; or so as to have undoubted evidence on this point. The Syriac, the Vulgate, and some Greek manuscripts, insert here the expression "by your good works;" that is, they were to make their calling sure "by" their good works, or by holy living.
This clause, as Calvin remarks, is not authorized by the best authority, but it does not materially affect the sense. It was undoubtedly by their "good works" in the sense of holy living, or of lives consecrated to the service of God, that they were to obtain the evidence that they were true Christians; that is, that they had been really called into the kingdom of God, for there is nothing else on which we can depend for such evidence. God has given no assurance to us by name that he intends to save us. We can rely on no voice, or vision, or new revelation, to prove that it is so. No internal feeling of itself, no raptures, no animal excitement, no confident persuasion in our own minds that we are elected, can be proof in the case; and the only certain evidence on which we can rely is that which is found in a life of sincere piety. In view of the important statement of Peter in this verse, then, we may remark:
(1) that he believed in the doctrine of election, for he uses language which obviously implies this, or such as they are accustomed to use who believe the doctrine.
(2) the fact that God has chosen those who shall be saved, does not make our own efforts unnecessary to make that salvation sure to us. It can be made sure to our own minds only by our own exertions; by obtaining evidence that we are in fact the children of God. There can be no evidence that salvation will be ours, unless there is a holy life; that is, unless there is true religion. Whatever may be the secret purpose of God in regard to us, the only evidence that we have that we shall be saved is to be found in the fact that we are sincere Christians, and are honestly endeavoring to do his will.
(3) it is possible to make our calling and election sure; that is, to have such evidence on the subject that the mind shall be calm, and that there will be no danger of deception. If we can determine the point that we are in fact true Christians, that settles the matter - for then the unfailing promise of God meets us that we shall be saved. In making our salvation sure to our own minds, if we are in fact true Christians, we have not to go into an argument to prove that we have sufficient strength to resist temptation, of that we shall be able in any way to keep ourselves. All that matter is settled by the promise of God, that if we are Christians we shall be kept by Him to salvation. The only question that is to be settled is, whether we are in fact true Christians, and all beyond that may be regarded as determined immutably. But assuredly it is possible for a man to determine the question whether he is or is not a true Christian.
(4) if it can be done, it should be. Nothing is more important for us to do than this; and to this great inquiry we should apply our minds with unfaltering diligence, until by the grace of God we can say that there are no lingering doubts n regard to our final salvation.
For if ye do these things - The things referred to in the previous verses. If you use all diligence to make as high attainments as possible in piety, and it you practice the virtues demanded by religion, 2 Peter 1:5-7.
Ye shall never fall - You shall never fall into perdition. That is, you shall certainly he saved.
For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.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 2 Peter 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 1 Corinthians 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.
Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.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.
Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;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 2 Corinthians 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.
Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.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 John 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 John 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 John 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.
Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.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 2 Peter 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.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.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, 1 Peter 1:5, 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 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 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Notes, Acts 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. Matthew 24:30, "coming in the clouds of heaven, with power." See the notes at that verse. Compare Luke 22:69; Mark 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 2 Peter 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" 2 Peter 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, Matthew 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. Matthew 16:28, "there be some standing here which shall not taste of death until they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom;" Mark 9:1-2; Luke 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.
For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.For he received from God the Father honour and glory - He was honored by God in being thus addressed.
When there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory - The magnificent splendor; the bright cloud which overshadowed them, Matthew 17:5.
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased - See the notes at Matthew 17:5; Matthew 3:17. This demonstrated that he was the Messiah. Those who heard that voice could not doubt this; they never did afterwards doubt.
And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.And this voice which came from heaven we heard - To wit, Peter, and James, and John.
When we were with him in the holy mount - Called "holy" on account of the extraordinary manifestation of the Redeemer's glory there. It is not certainly known what mountain this was, but it has commonly been supposed to be Mount Tabor. See the notes at Matthew 17:1.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: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 2 Peter 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 2 Peter 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 Matthew 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 Revelation 21:23-25; Revelation 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 1 Corinthians 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 Revelation 2:28; Revelation 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.
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.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 2 Peter 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. Mark 4:34, "he expounded all things to his disciples"; Acts 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.
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.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.