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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

2 Peter 3

Verse 1

2 Peter 3:1. This is now, beloved, a second epistle that I write unto you. The sentence might be rendered literally thus: ‘This already second epistle, beloved, I write unto you.’ The expression seems to imply that a comparatively short time had elapsed since he wrote them before. This is referred to as an ‘evidence of his affectionate solicitude, as well as of the importance and urgency of the subject-matter’ (Lillie). The First Epistle is thus incidentally claimed to be by the same hand. The author prefaces what he has now to say about the scoffers of the last days by a personal statement, as was the case also with the solemn affirmation made in chap. 2 Peter 1:12-15. The Epistle also deepens notably in the loving urgency of its tone, as it now approaches its conclusion. Hence the repeated appeals to the readers as ‘beloved’ which distinguish this chapter ( 2Pe 3:1 ; 2 Peter 3:8; 2 Peter 3:14; 2 Peter 3:17).

in which; that is to say, ‘in which Epistles,’ or ‘in both which.’ The plural relative is used, as if the First Epistle as well as the Second had been specified.

I stir up your sincere mind in reminding (or, in the way of) reminder). On the formula see Note on chap. 2 Peter 1:13. The adjective rendered ‘pure’ by the A. V. occurs only once again in the N. T., viz. in Philippians 1:10, where the A. V. translates it ‘sincere,’ as the R. V. does here. It is derived by some from a root expressive of the clear splendour of sunlight; by others from a root denoting that which is parcelled off by itself; by others still from one signifying that which is purified by rolling or shaking. It seems to mean primarily unmixed, distinct. The cognate noun is found three times in the N. T. ( 1Co 5:8 ; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:17). The term has a definite ethical sense in the N. T., which goes beyond anything it has in Classical Greek. With a near approach to a complete account Archbishop Trench defines it as a grace which ‘will exclude all double-mindedness, the divided heart (James 1:8; James 4:8), the eye not single (Matthew 6:22), all hypocrisies (1 Peter 2:1).’ While the A. V. gives the plural ‘minds,’ the original has the singular ‘mind.’ On the word itself see Note on 1 Peter 1:13.

Verses 1-10

It has been supposed by some that the opening words of this third chapter indicate the beginning of a new Epistle. What we have, however, is only the beginning of a new division of the same Epistle. The great subject now is that ‘power and Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ of which the writer has spoken in chap. 2 Peter 1:16. He has already expressed his concern to see his readers firmly established in this great expectation. He has given them to understand that the last labours of his life were to be directed to this end. He now makes plain the reason which he had for his great anxiety on the subject. He knew that this truth of the Lord’s Second Advent was to be assailed by the keen shafts of mockery and scorn. Wishful to see his readers armed against the scoffer, in this first half of the chapter he predicts the rise of this subtle temptation, describes the form which it will assume, and refutes the reasoning which it employs.

Verse 2

2 Peter 3:2. in order that ye may remember the words spoken before by the holy prophets. The importance of the testimony of prophecy (obviously here O. T. prophecy, and specially those sections of it which spoke of the Advent of Messiah) is again pressed, as was already the case in chap. 2 Peter 1:19, etc. In the parallel passage of Jude (Jude 1:17, etc.) this reference to prophecy, which is so characteristic of Peter, does not appear.

and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour by your apostles. Instead of the pronoun of the first person which leads to the rendering of the A. V., ‘the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour,’ the best authorities give the pronoun of the second person. We thus get a sentence which is variously translated. Some, e.g., render it ‘your commandment of the Lord of the apostles,’ meaning by that ‘the commandment given you by Him who is the Lord of the apostles.’ Others put it thus: ‘your commandment of the apostles, of the Lord,’ that is to say, ‘your commandment, which the apostles, nay, the Lord Himself, gave.’ Literally, however, it may be rendered, ‘and your apostles’ commandment of the Lord and Saviour,’ i.e the commandment given by the Lord and Saviour, and made known to you by your apostles. ‘This is sufficiently in harmony with the parallel in Jude 1:17, and yields on the whole the most pertinent sense. The expression ‘your apostles may point to Paul and those who were united with him in the original evangelization of these parts. The ‘commandment’ means here neither the Gospel generally (which is a sense too broad for it); nor the particular injunction directed by Christ against false teachers in such passages as Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:11 (which is too narrow a sense); far less the preaching of the prophecies as a charge committed to the apostles (Dietlein). It has substantially the sense which it had in Revelation 2:21, the new evangelical law of life, or the Gospel on its ethical side. The only difference is that, as the great subject now in band is the frivolous denial of the likelihood of Christ’s Return to earth, this new evangelical law of life is presented specially in its opposition to the kind of life to which such a denial served as a temptation.

Verse 3

2 Peter 3:3. knowing this first; the same formula, with the same force, as in chap. 2 Peter 1:20.

that in the last of the days; so it should be rendered, in accordance with a reading which is preferred by the best critical editors. That followed by the A. V., though it is translated ‘in the last days,’ would mean literally ‘at the end of the days,’ and is not altogether identical with the other. On these phrases see Note on 1 Peter 1:5. Here the ‘last of the days’ mean the times immediately preceding the Second Coming of Christ, and immediately introducing the Messianic Age, otherwise described as the ‘age to come.’ That new Messianic Age of the Church had begun, indeed, to enter with Christ’s First Coming, but was to enter finally with that Second Coming which the quick faith of the first believers realized as nigh at hand.

mockers shall come in mockery. This longer reading has documentary support which is not to be resisted. The A.V., by omitting the phrase ‘in mockery,’ which is quite in consonance with the Hebraic cast of much else in the Petrine Epistles, strips the statement of its most graphic stroke. When these mockers come, they will come in character. Both nouns are unusual in the N. T., the former occurring again only in Jude 1:18, the latter (although another form of the same is found in Hebrews 11:36) only here.

walking after their own lusts. The expression is a very strong one. The Musts’ are described as their very own, and as the one rule or aim recognised in their life. The lustful life and the scoffing voice are not associated here without a purpose. Sensuality and faith, coarse self-indulgence and clear spiritual apprehension, cannot coexist. The mocking spirit is the sister or child of the unclean spirit. It is to be noticed that this passage is made use of in a treatise attributed to Hippolytus, ‘unquestionably the most learned member of the Roman Church’ in the early part of the third century.

Verse 4

2 Peter 3:4. and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? The ‘coming’ is again expressed here by the word parousia, ‘presence;’ as to which see on chap. 2 Peter 1:16. The question, put with triumphant scorn by these mockers, repeats the cherished terms used by believers the ‘promise ‘in which they trusted, the ‘coming’ which they looked for with vivid expectancy, the very form (‘His Coming,’ not ‘ Christ’s Coming,’ or the ‘Lord’s Coming’) in which they were accustomed to refer to Him who was so much the one object of their thoughts as to need no identification by name among them. ‘Those who believe,’ says Bengel, ‘having the heart filled with the memory of the Lord, easily supply the name.’ John repeatedly exhibits this style of reference to the common Lord of Christians, without naming the name, e.g. 1 John 2:6; 1Jn 3:3 ; 1 John 3:5; 1Jn 3:7 ; 1 John 3:16; 1Jn 4:17 ; 3 John 1:7. With the scornful incredulity expressed in the question compare such O. T. passages as Isaiah 5:19, Malachi 2:17, which record similar gibes flung out against the words of the prophets in the ancient Israel. For the interrogative form, which imparts the tone of mocking triumph to the denial, compare also Psalms 42:3; Psalms 79:10; Jeremiah 17:15.

for from the day when the fathers fell asleep all things continue thus from the beginning of the creation. These words indicate how the scoffers will reason out their rejection of the promise. Their argument will be taken from the delay in the fulfilment of ‘that blessed hope’ (Titus 2:13) of the Christian brotherhood, and from the unbroken uniformity of things. The idea seems to be that, taking it for granted that some great disturbance in the system of the world will be necessarily involved in such an event as the Advent of Christ, and failing to see any signs of an interruption in the old order, they will deride the event itself. The precise force of the terms, however, and the exact relation in which the several parts of the sentence stand to each other, are very differently interpreted. The ‘fathers’ are variously understood as the patriarchs of the human race, the patriarchs of the Jewish nation, all those to whom the promise was given, the men of the first Christian generation, or generally those who preceded each particular generation. Undoubtedly it would be most natural, did other things permit, to suppose that the patriarchs of Israel were meant; in which sense the phrase ‘the fathers’ occurs, e.g., in Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:1. But as the writer speaks here of a state of things which belongs still to the future, and as the fact that the O. T. patriarchs died before the fulfilment of the promise of the Lord’s Return would be a strange argument for these mockers to urge against the Christian hope, it seems necessary to understand by ‘the fathers’ here those who stood in a relation to the Christian Church resembling that occupied by the Jewish patriarchs to the Church of Israel. The first generation of Christian believers received this promise (Acts 1:11, etc.), and lived in the hope of its sure and speedy fulfilment. They died without witnessing that, and this would be used with their children as an argument for discrediting the promise itself. The second specification of time seems to be added in order to give emphasis to the first, and to exhibit in the strongest possible form the constancy of the natural order of things. The meaning is the same as if the sentence had taken this more regular form: ‘In spite of this promise, your fathers to whom it was given have passed away, and all things still continue the same since then, as indeed they have continued from their first creation.’ Greater vivacity is added to the assertion of unbroken uniformity by the use of the present tense ‘continue’ (the verb itself also is a compound form expressing continuance persisting through an indefinite length of time), and by the simple ‘thus’ by which the idea of ‘as they are,’ or ‘as we see them,’ is conveyed. The A. V. tames down the abrupt confidence of the utterance by inserting the words as they were after the ‘continue.’ The phrase ‘fell asleep’ (with which compare John 11:11; Acts 7:60, Act 13:3 ; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1Co 15:20 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, etc.) is now to be noticed. The expression, frequent as it is in the Pauline writings, is found only this once in Peter. On the lips of scoffers here it may be, as is supposed by some (e.g. Lillie), another instance of ‘ironical accommodation to the dialect of faith and of the hope of the resurrection.’ The comparison of death to sleep is one which lies near at hand, and is by no means peculiar to Scripture. In Homer ( Il. xiv. 231, xvi. 672, 682) Sleep and Death are twins ‘of winged race, of matchless speed but silent pace,’ and the goddess AphroditĂ© is represented as hasting over the sea to the island of Lemnos in quest of the cave of Death’s half-brother, Sleep. In the literature of many nations sleep is recognised as ‘death’s image.’ What is peculiar to the New Testament use of the natural figure (and in part also to its Old Testament use) is the new conceptions with which Revelation has filled it the hopeful conceptions of rest, continued life, and, above all, reawakening in newness of energy. So to the Christian the grave has become the cemetery, i.e the dormitory or sleeping-place. ‘All the bodily pains, all the wants of human sympathy and carefulness, all the suddenness of the wrench from life, in the midst of health and strength, all this shall not prevent the Christian’s death from deserving no harsher name than that of sleep ’ (T. Arnold).

Verse 5

2 Peter 3:5. For this escapes them of their own will. So may the sentence be translated literally. The rendering of the A. V., ‘for this they willingly are ignorant of,’ is somewhat weak. Better is that of the R. V., ‘for this they wilfully forget.’ The ‘this’ then refers to the fact which is to be stated immediately. Some good interpreters (including Schott, Huther, etc.) suppose, however, that the ‘this’ refers to the preceding question of the scoffers, and give the sense thus: ‘for, while they assert this, it escapes them that,’ etc. But the sense of asserting which is thus put upon the word rendered ‘of their own will’ (literally ‘willing it’), though found in extra-Biblical Greek, seems to be strange to the N. T. . . . The ‘for’ by which the statement is introduced shows that it is given in explanation of the mockers venturing to speak as they do. The point then is this: ‘they speak so, because they wilfully forget such a break in the constancy of nature as that caused by the Deluge.’ Or it may be in refutation of their reasoning, the point then being: ‘this argument from the unbroken uniformity of things is but the argument of scoffers, for, though they may choose to forget it, that uniformity has been already disturbed by one great catastrophe, and therefore may be by another.’

that there were heavens from of old; that is, from the very beginning of things. The A. V. makes it ‘the heavens.’ But the article is wanting in the original. and an earth; not ‘ the earth ‘as the A. V. again puts it. compacted out of water and through water. The idea here is by no means clear, and the renderings consequently vary considerably. The A. V. is in error in supposing the words to refer to the position of the earth, and in making it, therefore, ‘standing out of the water and in the water.’ In this it has so far followed Tyndale and the Genevan, who give ‘the earth that was in the water appeared up out of the water.’ Wycliffe has ‘the earth of water was standing by water.’ The Rhemish Version comes much nearer the sense when it translates the clause, ‘the earth out of water and through water consisting.’ The verb means brought together, made solid, compacted (as the R. V. puts it), or consisting (as it is rendered by the A. V. in Colossians 1:17, and in its marginal note in the present passage). What is in view, therefore, in the phrase ‘out of water,’ is not the situation occupied by the earth, nor merely the fact that the earth was made’ to rise out of the waters in which it lay buried during chaos (so Hofmann, Schott, Bengel, etc.), but the material out of which an earth was constructed at first. The second phrase is taken even by the R. V. to refer to the position of the earth, and is accordingly rendered ‘amidst water.’ And this may seem to be supported by such passages as Psalms 24:2; Psalms 136:6. Most naturally and literally, however, the phrase means ‘through’ or ‘by means of water. And this sense is in sufficient accordance with what was in all probability in the writer’s mind, namely, the account of creation in the Book of Genesis. That record represents water as in a certain sense both the material and the instrumentality employed in the original formation of an earth out of chaos, or at least as both the element out of which and the element by the agency of which the dry land was brought to light. It is far-fetched to suppose that the writer is speaking in terms not of the Mosaic record, but of some of the popular or philosophical cosmogonies of the time. ‘Quite in Harmony with the account in Genesis he regards the heavens and the earth in their original form as proceeding by the creative Word of God from the waters of chaos (Genesis 1:2), and this in such a way that the origin of the heavens was brought about by the separation of the waters (2 Peter 3:7-8), and the origin of the land by the gathering together of the waters (2 Peter 3:9-10) (Weiss, Bib. Theol. ii. p. 224, Clark’s Trans.). by the word of God. In reference to the ‘God said’ of the Mosaic record, and resembling the statement in Hebrews 11:3, but not equivalent to the ultimate identification of the creative word with the personal Word or Son which we have in John (John 1:3; as also in Hebrews 1:2). The final explanation of the origin of the earth, therefore, was to be sought not in the water, much as that had to do with it, but in the expressed Will of a Creator. From this Will the ‘all things’ at first received their form, and upon it they depended for the constancy and permanence to which the scoffers would appeal. The relation in which this statement on the formation of a heaven and an earth in the beginning stands to what follows, is somewhat uncertain. The connection of thought may be that, as they owed their first construction to the Word of God, they owe their continuance entirely to the same Word of God, and their present constancy, therefore, is no argument against then-being yet broken in upon by the Lord’s Advent. Or it may be that the origination of the existing heaven and earth out of the prior chaos is itself adduced, before even the Deluge is referred to, as an instance, which ought to be well known to these scoffers, of that change in the established order of things which they will wish to deny. Or, as is supposed by many, the point may be that there was at least one vast inroad upon the apparently changeless system of the world of which these parties could not be ignorant, but by wilful purpose, namely the Deluge; and that the very element which the Word of God used in first preparing that solid earth and ‘all things’ was employed by the same word in destroying them.

Verse 6

2 Peter 3:6. whereby the then world being flooded with water perished. The term used for ‘world’ here is the one ( cosmos) which describes it as a system of order and beauty, and presents it (in distinction from another term aeon, which deals with it under the aspect of time) under the aspect of space. It has a wide variety of application in the N. T., being equivalent, e.g., sometimes to the whole material universe (Matthew 13:35; John 17:5; John 21:25; Acts 17:4; Romans 1:20), sometimes to man’s world or the system of things of which he is the centre (John 16:21; 1 Corinthians 14:10; 1 John 3:17), sometimes to the totality of men occupying that system (John 1:29; John 4:42; 2 Corinthians 5:19), and sometimes to the ‘world’ in the ethical sense of the totality of men living without God and outside His kingdom (John 1:10; 1 Corinthians 1:20-21; James 4:4; 1 John 3:13). Here the phrase need not be restricted to the idea of the world of men, or of living creatures, but may cover the whole order of things, with the men occupying it, which existed prior to the Deluge. As the participle, which is rendered ‘overflowed’ by both the A. V. and the R. V., is a form cognate to the noun fur ‘flood’ ( e.g. in chap. 2 Peter 2:5), it should be translated ‘flooded’ here. When it is said that the ‘then world, perished, it is obvious that the meaning is not that it was annihilated, but that it was broken up, had its ‘order’ destroyed, and was reduced to another form. The verb is the one for which the advocates of annihilation or conditional immortality, as the Scripture doctrine of the end of the unrighteous, claim the sense of absolute destruction, or final extinction a sense not accordant with such occurrences as the present. The main difficulty here, however, is in the statement of the means by which this perishing came upon the old world. The ‘whereby’ of the A. V. represents a plural relative, ‘by means of which things,’ the antecedent to which is not apparent. Some take it to refer to the ‘heavens’ and the ‘earth,’ the idea then being either that the antediluvian world of living creatures was destroyed by the heavens and the earth uniting to overflow them with their waters (Hofmann, Beza, FronmĂĽller, etc.), or that the material system perished by means of the very things of which it consisted, in so far as the heavens and the earth, which made its constituents, broke up (Bede). Others (Calvin, Lumby, etc.) suppose it to refer to the before-mentioned ‘water,’ the writer using the plural relative instead of the singular, because he had in his mind the two several relations of water, as substance and as instrument, to the formation of the old world, or the two several waters, namely, those from above the firmament and those from beneath. In support of this interpretation (which on the whole is the most widely accepted) appeal is made to the Mosaic record, which represents the windows of heaven as opening as well as the fountains of the great deep as being broken up. On the analogy of the indefinite ‘whereunto’ in 1 Peter 2:8, some give the ‘whereby’ here the general sense of ‘by means of which circumstances,’ or ‘in consequence of which arrangement of things.’ Probably the best explanation, however, is to regard the relative as referring to the two things last mentioned, viz. the water and the W ord of God; the point then being this, that the old and seemingly constant order of things perished by being overwhelmed with water, the agents of the destruction being the agents that first formed our earth and heavens, namely, the creative word of God and the element of water on which it acted. And this unquestionable fact was sufficient refutation of the argument from all things having continued without change since the beginning of the creation.

Verse 7

2 Peter 3:7. but the heavens which now are and the earth by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved unto the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly men. The ‘which now are’ is in direct antithesis to ‘the then world.’ The form of the phrase also indicates that the world of which the writer has been speaking consists in his view of both heavens and earth. Instead of ‘by the same word’ there is another reading, ‘by His word,’ which is also weightily attested. But the sense is practically the same, namely, that the same creative Word of God which first made the old heavens and earth, and afterwards overwhelmed the order of things which it had constructed, is still the sovereign agency that maintains the present heavens and earth and prepares for them their future destiny. The ‘stored up’ gives the same idea as in the ‘ treasurest up unto thyself wrath,’ etc., in Romans 2:5. The ‘for fire’ admits of being connected either with the ‘stored up’ or with the ‘reserved,’ but on the whole more naturally with the former as in the R. V., than with the latter as in the A. V. As to the ‘reserved’ see on 1 Peter 1:4, and 2 Peter 2:4. The idea of ‘perdition,’ as the A. V. puts it, or ‘destruction,’ as the R. V. gives it, is expressed by the noun connected with the verb ‘perished’ in the previous verse, and has the same sense. The subjects of this ‘judgment and perdition’ are described definitely as ‘ the ungodly men’ the article pointing either to the mockers who are in the writer’s mind all through, or serving simply to mark off from men generally one particular class, namely, that of the ungodly or impious. As to the epithet see on 1 Peter 4:18; 2 Peter 2:5. This statement on the destiny of the present system of things is the fullest and most precise of its kind in the N. T. It has parallels so far in the N. T. doctrine, in such passages as Matthew 5:18; Matthew 5:24; Matthew 5:29; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 12:27; Revelation 21:1. In speaking of fire as the agent in the second judicial destruction of the world, as water was in the first, it founds on the history of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as typical of the final judgment of the impious, and on the O. T. conception of God as accompanied by fire when He comes forth to judge (Psalms 1:3; Psalms 97:3; Isaiah 66:15-16; Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 7:9-10). Other O. T. passages ( e.g. Psalms 102:26-27; Job 14:12; Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 66:22) speak more generally of the passing away of the present system. And as the O. T. for the most part connects that event with the judgments of Jehovah and the day of His ‘recompense,’ Peter connects it with the day of Christ’s Coming. ‘The present form of the world is protected by God’s word of promise (Genesis 9:11) against any recurring flood. Yet if it, too, is to perish, there remains now only fire as the element to bring about this destruction; and as, on the ground of Old Testament representations, the wrathful judgment of God is regarded as a consuming fire, it is easy to think that the destruction of the world resulting from the day of judgment will be brought about by fire in a special sense, for which this present form of the world is, so to speak, reserved’ (Weiss, Bib. Theol. ii. pp. 246, 247, Clark’s Trans.).

Verse 8

2 Peter 3:8. But let not this one thing escape you, beloved; the mode of expression which has been already used in reference to the mockers in 2 Peter 3:5. The writer passes now from the idea of the supposed constancy of the order of things to that of the apparent delay in the realization of the promise. He calls the attention of his readers first to a single fact, the difference between the Divine measure of duration and the human, which would be sufficient refutation of the scornful incredulity of such scoffers.

that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. As the writer seems to make use of the words of the 90th Psalm here, the designation ‘the Lord,’ both in this verse and in the next, should be taken in its Old Testament sense, and, therefore, not as = Christ, but as = God or Jehovah, without reference to the personal distinctions which belong to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. While the Psalmist (Psalms 90:4), however, speaks simply of a thousand years as being in Jehovah’s sight ‘as yesterday when it is past, Peter throws the statement into a form which presents also the converse truth that one day is as a thousand years, if a thousand years are as one day. His object is not to exhibit the brevity of human life over against the eternity of God, as is the case with the Psalmist, but to express how inapplicable to God are all those ideas of time, those estimates of long and short, of hasting and delay, by which man measures things. The O. T. view of the eternity of God, however, is not merely this comparatively abstract idea of everlasting duration, which seems to be on the surface of the Psalmist’s words, but the deeper idea of changelessness of being which makes God the object of His people’s fearless trust. ‘Whilst God as Jehovah is the eternal, God’s eternity is defined as the unchangeableness of His being, persisting throughout every change of time, and thus it becomes the basis of human confidence. Therefore Moses, in the midst of the dying away of his people, addresses God as the Eternal One, Psalms 90:1; therefore, Deuteronomy 32:40, the idea that God is eternal forms the transition to the announcement that He will again save his rejected people; therefore Israel, when sighing in misery, is comforted, Isaiah 40:28: “knowest thou not, and hast thou not heard, that Jehovah is an eternal God?” (Oehler). Hence, while Peter meets the scorner by asserting God to be superior in all His modes of action to human reckonings of time, he also exhibits the ground of His people’s continued faith in Himself and His promise through postponements of their hope.

Verse 9

2 Peter 3:9. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness. The apparent delay in the performance of the Divine engagement is capable of a still more assuring explanation. It has a gracious purpose. Some construe the sentence thus ‘the Lord of the promise is not slack,’ etc. But this is less satisfactory. The ‘slack’ here (the verb occurs only once again, in 1 Timothy 3:15, where it is rendered ‘tarry’) means tardy, dilatory, late. With the idea compare Hebrews 2:3.

as some count slackness. The persons referred to are supposed by some to be still the false teachers. In view of the very general nature of the statement, others, with more reason, deem them to be believers of weak spiritual perception, or doubtful faith. Simple as the words seem, the precise point of the clause is not quite clear. It may be understood in the more definite sense ‘as some consider it (that is, the Lord’s mode of action in relation to the promise) to be slackness.’ Or it may be taken more generally thus ‘as some explain slackness,’ or, ‘according to the ideas which some form of slackness.

but is long-suffering to you-ward. The reading adopted by the R. V., ‘to you-ward, ’ or in relation to you, is much better attested than the ‘to us-ward’ of the A. V. It is also more in Peter’s style, and gives greater force to his explanation, bringing it home immediately to his readers themselves. This conception of the Divine ‘long-suffering,’ which is so frequent in the Old Testament, is prominent in the Pauline writings (cf. such passages as Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22, 1 Timothy 1:16). It appears a second time in this same chapter (2 Peter 3:15), and also in 1 Peter 3:20. When a human promise fails to be fulfilled according to expectation, those to whom it has been made are in the habit of attributing the delay to a slackness which betrays unwillingness or some personal end. But if the Lord seems to be slow in fulfilling His promise, that is not to be explained, Peter means, as men are tempted to explain such slowness on the part of their fellow-men, as due to forgetfulness, lack of interest, procrastination, or anything personal to Himself only. Its explanation lies in something which touches our interest, and illustrates His grace.

not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This is added to show what is meant by this long-suffering. This sentence has been dragged too generally into the controversy about the Augustinian view of predestination, and the Calvinistic doctrine of the limited extent, or rather the definite design, of the Atonement. On the one hand, theologians like Beza have interpreted it of the elect only. On the other hand, exegetes like Huther regard it as adverse to the Calvinistic theory. The passage, however, has little bearing on the question, the subject dealt with being not the elective purpose but the long-suffering of God, and the ‘willing’ referred to being not ‘will’ in the sense of the Divine decree or determining volition, but ‘will’ in the wider sense of disposition, desire, or, as the R. V. puts it, ‘wishing.’ For the thought itself compare Paul’s parallel declaration in 1 Timothy 2:4, and, above all, the Old Testament statements which Peter may perhaps have had in view (Ezekiel 18:23; Ezekiel 33:11). For the phrase ‘come to,’ compare Matthew 15:17, where it has the literal sense and is rendered ‘enter into.’ In the Greek Tragedians it occurs often in the sense of moving on to, advancing to.

Verse 10

2 Peter 3:10. But the day of the Lord; the day which in 2 Peter 3:12 is called ‘the day of God,’ and elsewhere ‘the day of Christ’ (2 Thessalonians 2:2), ‘the day of the Lord Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 1:14). The expression carries us back to the Old Testament prophecies of Jehovah’s day, or the day of the Lord (Joel 1:15; Isaiah 2:12; Ezekiel 13:5), and the day of His Coming (Malachi 3:2). There it designates Messiah’s Coming, or Jehovah’s own Coming in connection with the realization of Messianic hope, and that as an event of judicial as well as gracious consequence. In such passages as the present it is transferred to the day of the Second Advent, and to that specially as a day of judicial sifting and decision. This clause affirms the certainty of the approach of that time, notwithstanding the facts just noticed, and the order of the words gives great emphasis to the statement. Though some deem it so late of appearing (the writer means), that it may never appear, and though it is true that God in His long-suffering delays the event, ‘yet come will (or, ‘on you shall be ‘) the day of the Lord.’ The suddenness with which it will enter is next asserted. as a thief: the best authorities omit the words ‘in the night’ which are added in the A. V. Peter had been taught the figure by Christ Himself (Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39). It appears also in Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2) and in the Apocalypse (chaps, Revelation 3:3, Revelation 16:15). It does not properly convey the idea of dread, but simply that of the swift and unexpected.

in which the heavens with a rushing noise shall pass away. The phrase ‘with a great noise,’ which is given by both the A. V. and the R. V., is a prosaic rendering, which entirely fails to do justice to the singular vividness and force of the original. Peter uses an adverb which is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, and which, indeed, is of rare occurrence even in the Classics. It means ‘with a rushing sound’ (or, ‘motion’). The idea expressed by its cognates is that of the whizzing or hurtling of arrows, the whistling of the descending scourge, the whirring wing and rushing movement of the bird in flight. It is a term to stimulate the imagination, conveying by a single stroke a conception which it takes many words to reproduce in English, of the dread facility with which the change shall be effected, its unerring suddenness and rapidity, the crash of its instantaneous completion. The renderings of some of the older English Versions deserve notice. Wycliffe, e.g., gives ‘with great birr;’ Tyndale, ‘with terrible noise;’ Cranmer, ‘in manner of a tempest;’ the Rhemish, ‘with great violence.’ As to the ‘pass away’ (the same verb had been used by Christ in His prophecy of the end, Matthew 24:35), compare such passages as Revelation 21:11; Isaiah 34:4; Psalms 102:27.

the elements, moreover, shall be dissolved, consumed by intense heat. The connecting word here is not the usual ‘and,’ but a conjunction which implies contrast or distinction as well as connection. It should therefore be rendered ‘but,’ or ‘moreover.’ The ‘melt’ of the A. V. should rather be, as in 2 Peter 3:11 (where the same verb is employed), ‘be dissolved’ (or ‘loosed’). The phrase ‘with fervent heat,’ which is given by the A. V. and retained by the R. V., represents a participle which means ‘burning fiercely,’ or ‘consumed with fierce heat.’ The question of difficulty here, however, is what we are to under stand by these ‘elements.’ Some ( e.g. Bengel, Alford, Plumptre, etc.) suppose that the heavenly bodies are meant, these being, as it were, the elements making up the heavens. This view is held to be supported by such considerations as these: the fact that the sun, moon, and stars are introduced into other biblical descriptions of the day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:9-10; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 34:4, etc.), and especially in Christ’s own announcement of it (Matthew 24:29); the relation in which this clause stands to the preceding statement about the heavens themselves; the employment of the term by early Christian writers ( e.g. Justin Martyr, Apol. ii. 5, Trypho, xxiii.) in this sense; and the apparent distinction drawn here between these elements and both the heavens and the earth. Others (Bede, etc.) take the four elements of the physical universe, earth, air, water, fire, to be in view. In this case there is the awkward ness of representing the writer as speaking of the dissolution of fire by fire; hence it is proposed to limit the expression to three of these elements, or even to air and water alone (Estius). All these views, however, as well as other modifications of them (such e.g. as the idea that the stars in particular are meant), attribute to Peter a more sharply-defined meaning than was probably intended. The great objection to the first view is that the term does not appear to denote the heavenly bodies in any other passage’ of Scripture. In Classical Greek it seems to mean primarily the several parts of a series, the components which make up something; whence it came to be used of the simple series of sounds which form the elements of language, the first principles or elementary data of science, such as the points, lines, etc. of geometry, and, in Physics, the component parts of matter, which were reduced to four in the philosophical schools. In the New Testament it occurs only seven times, viz. in the present verse and again in 2 Peter 3:12, in Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9, in Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:20, and Hebrews 5:12. In the Petrine passages it clearly has a physical sense; in the others an ethical. Here it is applied, with no reference to scientific or philosophical ideas, but in a broad and popular sense, to the parts of which the heavens in particular, or the system of things generally, are made up. It may denote, therefore, much the same as is covered by the phrase ‘the powers of the heavens’ in Matthew 24:29 (so Huther), the idea being that these heavens shall pass away by having their constituent parts dissolved. Or it may refer in the wider sense to the whole framework of the world, as that world was conceived to consist of heavens and earth (so Wordsworth, etc.).

and the earth; so it should be rendered, and not ‘the earth also.’

and the works that are therein shall be burnt up. The ‘works’ are not to be limited either to the results of man’s moral activity (as in 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 3:15), or to his achievements in general. The phrase is better understood, as is done by most interpreters, in the wider sense given it by Bengel ‘works of nature and of art.’ As Peter’s language, however, seems at so many points here to be steeped in the terms of the ancient prophecies, it is still more likely that this is simply his equivalent for the Old Testament phrase ‘the earth and the fulness thereof.’ In that case it would point to God’s works rather than to man’s ‘to the creations of God which belong to the earth, as they are related in the history of creation, cf. Revelation 10:6 ’ (Huther). Instead of ‘burnt up,’ some of the very best documentary authorities, including the two most ancient manuscripts, give another reading, which means ‘shall be found.’ It is supposed, however, that this reading is one of those in which the earliest documents themselves have gone astray, and that, as the reading followed by the Received Text is supported by far inferior authorities, this is one of a few passages in which the original text has not been preserved in any of our existing authorities. The reading of the oldest manuscripts is supposed by the latest critical editors to have arisen from a corruption of another, which would mean ‘shall flow (or, melt) away’ (see Westcott and Hort, vol. 2 p. 103). Those who retain the reading which the ordinary laws of evidence would lead us to adopt, get a satisfactory sense out of it by interpreting it ‘shall be discovered,’ that is, found out judicially, or made to appear as they are. This would fit in very well with the idea of the next verse, which is that of the manner of life which the thought of the judicial end should recommend. Some propose to hold by the ordinary sense of the verb, and to turn the sentence into an interrogation ‘Shall the earth and the works that are therein be found ( i.e shall they continue) then?’ There is no uncertainty as to the sense which is meant to be conveyed. The uncertainty attaches only to the particular expression which was given to that sense. But this forms, in view of the singular results which are shown by the documents, one of the most perplexing problems in the criticism and history of the text. One of the primary manuscripts has another reading, which means ‘shall disappear.’ A later Syriac Version inserts the negative, and gives ‘shall not be found.’ The wide variety of reading is a witness to the early uncertainty of the text here, and to the difficulty felt with the term which was transmitted by the oldest documents. It is well to know, on the testimony of those who have devoted their lives to such questions as these, that the passages affected by anything amounting to substantial variation ‘can hardly form more than one-thousandth part of the entire text,’ and that ‘the books of the New Testament as preserved in extant documents assuredly speak to us in every important respect in language identical with that in which they spoke to those for whom they were originally written’ (Westcott and Hort’s New Testament in Greek, ii. pp. 2, 284).

Verse 11

2 Peter 3:11. Seeing that these things are thus all dissolving. The rendering which is sustained by the best authorities differs from the Received Text in omitting the ‘these’ of the A. V. and inserting ‘thus.’ The verb is given in the present tense, not ‘shall be dissolved’ as the A. V. puts it, or even ‘are to be dissolved’ as the R. V. renders it, but ‘are dissolving’ or, ‘are being dissolved.’ The certainty of the end is made doubly vivid by the process of dissolution being represented as having already set in and as now working towards its final revelation.

what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conduct and godliness. The ‘be’ is expressed, as in chap. 2 Peter 1:8 and chap. 2 Peter 2:19, by the verb which conveys the idea of subsistence rather than mere existence. Here it points to established character, or permanent possession of qualities. The qualities themselves are denoted by plural nouns meaning literally ‘holy modes of living’ and ‘godlinesses,’ in reference to all the various forms in which the holy walk and godliness exhibit themselves. They are therefore very well rendered by the A. V. ‘all holy conversation and godliness.’ Some take this verse to put a question, and the next verse to give the reply. It is more consistent, however, with N. T. usage (which deals with the word rendered ‘what manner of persons’ as an exclamation; cf. especially Mark 13:1; Luke 1:29; 1 John 3:1), to take the two verses as forming together a single solemn exclamation. To give still sharper point to the expression, some of the best interpreters connect the clause ‘in all holy living,’ etc., not with what precedes, but with what follows it, making the whole run thus: ‘What manner of persons ought ye to be, looking, in all holy living and godliness, for . . . the day of God !’

Verses 11-18

The closing verses are devoted to the pressing of certain practical injunctions, which are closely connected with the Christian view of the end. These are given in a strain as tender as it is solemn and pointed. They are based in part upon the consideration of the catastrophe which comes in the train of the Lord’s Advent. As they are appeals directed to believers, however, they are based to a larger extent upon the brighter aspect which that Coming of the Lord presents to the Christian, and particularly upon the new and holier system of things which shall then take the place of the present. The counsels deal with the posture of earnest and expectant waiting as that which best befits the Christian, with the propriety of labouring so as to prepare the way for the Lord’s Coming, with the duties of watchfulness against seductive error, constancy in the Christian faith, and progress in the Christian graces. The explanation which has been already offered of the Lord’s apparent delay is repeated, and what Peter says on the subject of the Divine long-suffering is sustained by affectionate reference to the teaching of Paul.

Verse 12

2 Peter 3:12. looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. This is the only instance of the ‘day’ being designated ‘the day of God.’ The ‘looking for’ is expressed by the term which is rendered ‘wait for’ in Luke 1:21; Luke 8:40, Acts 10:24, ‘expect’ in Acts 3:5, ‘be in expectation’ in Luke 3:15, etc. Following the Vulgate and the older English Versions, the A. V. gives ‘hasting unto.’ This is certainly wrong. The question is, which of two interpretations is to be substituted, whether the simple ‘hastening’ (or ‘hasting,’ as the A. V. puts it in the margin), or ‘earnestly desiring’ (as the R. V. gives it in the text). The Classics may be said to present instances of both meanings. But it is rather the idea of ‘ busying oneself earnestly about a thing’ than that of merely ‘expecting’ it that the Classical usage illustrates, and that sense suits objects which are present rather than things which are yet prospective. The other meaning, ‘hastening, or ‘urging on,’ is well sustained, and has the special advantage of agreeing in a remarkable way with the appeal made by Peter (which otherwise is of an entirely exceptional kind) in his discourse in Solomon’s Porch ‘Repent ye, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus; whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things,’ etc. (Acts 3:19-21). The idea, therefore, is that of accelerating the advent of that decisive day through our holy lives and our labours for the advancement of the Gospel, causing that day to ‘come the more quickly, as Archbishop Trench explains it ( On the A. V., p. 131), ‘by helping to fulfil those conditions without which it cannot come that day being no day inexorably fixed, but one the arrival of which it is free to the Church to help and hasten on by faith and by prayer, and through a more rapid accomplishing of the number of the elect.’ That this idea, though seldom expressed in the N. T., was not unfamiliar to Jews, is proved by the occurrence of such rabbinical sayings as this: ‘If thou keepest this precept, thou hastenest the day of Messiah.’ But it is enshrined, indeed, in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer Thy kingdom come.

by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements burning with intense heat are melted. The ‘wherein’ of the A. V. is entirely wrong. The ‘which’ may refer either to the ‘Coming’ or to the ‘day;’ and the meaning is that this event of the ‘Coming,’ or this ‘day of God,’ will occasion the change or catastrophe which is reaffirmed here. The one thing will inevitably cause the other. The idea is something like that in Revelation 20:11. The tense changes from the future, ‘shall be dissolved,’ into the present, ‘are melted;’ the effect of which is to give yet greater force to the assertion of the certainty of this destiny. This last verb is one which denotes melting in the most literal sense the melting, e.g., of snow, of metals, of salt in water, etc. Some stumble at the application of this to the elements. Others point to the fact that the record of the rocks bears witness to a process of liquefaction by fire to which the material of the existing earth has been subjected, and ask why the present system may not undergo a like process of fiery renovation at the great day. The use to be made of the passage, however, must be a very guarded one, so far as theorizings about the nature of the end are concerned. Peter is speaking in terms of the lofty prophetic imagery of the O. T. Compare such passages as Micah 1:4, Malachi 4:1, and above all, Isaiah 34:4. Classical literature has anticipations of a similar kind. Cicero, e.g., says that ‘it will happen, nevertheless, one day that all this world shall be burnt up with fire’ ( Acad. Quest. iii. 37).

Verse 13

2 Peter 3:13. But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth. The rendering of the R. V. is decidedly superior here to that of the A. V. The latter throws an emphasis upon the ‘we,’ where the original throws it upon the ‘new.’ The ‘look for’ is expressed by the same term as in 2 Peter 3:12. The ‘promise’ referred to (the word is the same as in chap. 2 Peter 1:4) is the promise of God in the O. T. The passages particularly in the writer’s mind may be those in Isaiah (Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22). The same hope, couched in the form of vision, meets us in John (Revelation 21:1). The newness of the future heavens and earth is expressed by a term which denotes what is fresh as contrasted with what is exhausted, and deals with the condition rather than with the age of an object.

wherein dwelleth righteousness. The ‘righteousness’ is to be understood in the broad, ethical sense of conformity with the Divine will; and this is to ‘dwell’ (cf. Ephesians 3:17), to have its home there, and not to be as on earth ‘a wanderer and changeful guest’ (Mason). Compare again the prophetic visions in Isaiah 65:17-25, Revelation 21:3-27, and also the Pauline doctrine of the participation of nature in the restoration of man as well as in his fall (Romans 8:20-22).

Verse 14

2 Peter 3:14. Wherefore, beloved, looking for these things, give diligence to be found in peace, spotless and unblameable in his sight. The ‘looking for’ (again the same term as in 2 Peter 3:12-13) may give the reason for the duty which is enjoined, as it is understood by both the A. V. and the R. V. ‘seeing that ye look,’ etc.,; or (less probably), it may form a part of the duty, ‘look for these things and give diligence’ (Huther, etc.). As to the ‘give diligence’ see on chap. 2 Peter 1:10. The ‘spotless is expressed by the adjective which is applied to Christ as the Lamb in 1 Peter 1:19, and the ‘unblameable’ by another form (which occurs also in Philippians 2:15, where it is rendered ‘without rebuke’) of the adjective translated ‘without blemish’ in the same passage. Here the epithets represent the qualities which should distinguish the faithful as directly opposed to those which mark the false teachers, who have been described as ‘spots and blemishes’ (chap. 2 Peter 2:13). It is supposed by some ( e.g. Alford) that the parable of the wedding garment was floating before the Apostle’s mind,’ especially as the statement in chap. 2 Peter 2:13 refers to the feasts of the early Christians. Some good expositors ( e.g. Huther) suppose that the writer deals here with what the readers were to be during their lifetime of expectation. But the use of the phrase ‘found’ (cf. 1 Peter 1:7) points clearly to the time of Christ’s judicial return. They were to labour so to live that, when He appeared, they might be discovered or adjudged (such is the sense of the ‘found’) spotless and unblameable ‘in His sight,’ or ‘according to His judgment’ (so we should render what is incorrectly given as ‘found of Him’ in the A. V.); and this discovery or adjudgment should be ‘in peace.’ Where spotlessness and unblameableness form the verdict, the Lord’s controversy with His people will cease and the voice of judgment will be the voice of peace.

Verse 15

2 Peter 3:15. And account the long-suffering of our Lord salvation. If Christ is referred to here, the passage becomes one of great importance in relation to the doctrine of His Person, as it speaks of Him in the same terms as have been already applied to God, and indirectly claims for Him Divine prerogatives. And this is made on the whole the more probable reference both by general N. T. use, and by the phrase, ‘our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,’ which comes in subsequently in the same paragraph (2 Peter 3:18). On the other hand, it is argued that the application of the title ‘Lord,’ in 2 Peter 3:8-10; 2Pe 3:12 ; 2 Peter 3:14, rules its application here, and points to God in the large O. T. sense as the subject. The Divine delay is to be interpreted not as ‘slackness’ (2 Peter 3:9) or procrastination, but as long-suffering, and the long-suffering is to be interpreted and valued as ‘salvation,’ as the suspension of judgment with a view to a prolonged offer of grace. See also Romans 2:4. even as also our beloved brother Paul. In confirmation of what he himself writes, Peter refers to what had already been addressed to these Gentile Christians by the great Apostle of the Uncircumcision. On the difficulties raised by the disappointment of the expectation that Christ would speedily return, on the dangers likely to arise in the Church, on the attitude to be maintained in the prospect of the end, Peter was giving only the same explanations and counsels as had been given by Paul. The phrase ‘beloved brother’ is understood by many (Huther, etc.) as an official term rather than a personal, indicating the ministerial intimacy that subsisted between the two. It is doubtful, however, whether it is meant to describe Paul specially as a valued associate of Peter’s in the Apostleship, or even as a fellow-worker. The ‘our’ links Peter with his readers, and gives the title ‘beloved brother’ rather the force of a term of personal affection. Jewish Christians like Peter and Gentile Christians like his readers had this, among other things, in common now that they regarded Paul as a dear and trusted friend. Paul himself gives the title ‘beloved brother’ twice to Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7). The man who now speaks thus fondly of Paul is he who at an earlier period was ‘withstood to the face’ by Paul ‘because he was to be blamed’ (Galatians 2:11).

according to the wisdom given unto him. Paul’s counsel was more than his own personal opinion. As the expression of a ‘wisdom’ which he received (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 2:7-8; Colossians 1:25, etc.),it is the weightier confirmation of Peter’s teaching.

wrote unto you. To what Pauline writing or writings may Peter be supposed to refer? The question has been keenly debated and very variously answered. It turns upon two prior questions, those, namely, touching the subjects immediately in view and the persons immediately addressed. ‘those who think that the verse deals only with the subject last mentioned, namely the ‘long-suffering of our Lord,’ naturally look for statements made by Paul on that particular theme, and identify the writing with the Epistle to the Romans which, in such passages as Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22, takes that strain. Those who regard this Second Epistle as directed not so much to Asiatic Christians as to Christians generally, conclude that the writing intended may be such an Epistle as that to the Hebrews, especially in view of the declarations in chaps. Hebrews 9:26, etc., Hebrews 10:25; Hebrews 10:37. Others fix on First Corinthians, in which so much is said on the subject of wisdom (chap. 1 Corinthians 1:7-9, etc.). Others, who take the mysterious subject of the Second Advent as the special difficulty on which Peter appeals to Paul, are of opinion that the Epistles to the Thessalonians are meant, both because their early date affords time for their general circulation even among remote Christians, and because they are so much engaged ( e.g. in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, and the Second Epistle throughout) with the Lord’s Coming. There is little reason, however, to suppose that Peter alludes only to the one subject of the Divine long-suffering, as that is specified in the same verse. That is itself but a part of the general exhortation in 2 Peter 3:14-15. It is most reasonable, therefore, to regard him as referring, in this remarkable tribute to Paul, to the general subject which he has been engaged with the end of the present system of things, the Lord’s Coming, the duties to be inferred from the prospect, and the seductive errors of the false teachers. The ‘wrote unto you ’ seems also clearly to identify the writing or writings with communications made to the same circle of readers as Peter himself addresses, and these readers, as the Epistle itself indicates (chap. 2 Peter 3:1), are substantially those to whom the former Epistle was directed. Among the Pauline Epistles we have several addressed to this Asiatic circle, Ephesians, Colossians, Galatians, not to speak of the Epistle to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16). And of these, if we are entitled to identify the writing with any of the extant Epistles, those to the Colossians and Ephesians best fulfil the conditions. In the former (e.g. chap. Colossians 1:22, Colossians 2:8) we find exhortations on the subject of the Christian life like those given here by Peter, and warnings like his against false teachers and a pretentious type of knowledge. In favour of the latter we have also the considerations, that it was probably a kind of circular letter, and that there are many points of affinity between it and the Petrine Epistles (specially the First).

Verse 16

2 Peter 3:16. as also in all (his) epistles, speaking in them of these things; a statement from which we are not entitled to infer that the Pauline Epistles already formed a collection which could be spoken of as one whole.

in which are some things hard to be understood. The ‘in which’ refers, according to the best reading, not to the ‘things’ of which Paul spake, but to the Epistles themselves. The adjective ‘hard to be understood’ occurs only here. Some suppose the reference to be particularly to Paul’s doctrine of the Second Coming, as given in such passages of his Epistles as 1Co 15:12-58 , 1 Thessalonians 4:13, etc.; others to his doctrines of justification and Christian freedom, which engaged so much of his teaching, and were peculiarly open to perversion. It is also suggested that the more mystical sections of his doctrine, those found, e.g., in Ephesians 2:5, etc., Colossians 2:12, may be specially in view, as these were capable of being turned to the advantage both of the party of immoral licence, and of errorists like Hymenaeus and Philetus, who taught that the resurrection was past already (Hofmann).

which the ignorant and unstable wrest. These three words ‘ignorant,’ ‘unstable,’ ‘wrest,’ are peculiar to this passage. The first, which is rendered ‘unlearned’ by the A. V. and ‘ignorant’ by the R. V., has not quite the same sense as the ‘unlearned’ applied to Peter and John in Acts 4:13. Here it means unskilled, or uninformed in Christian truth. With the second compare chap. 2 Peter 2:14. The third means primarily to twist, e.g. with a windlass, or with a screw, or upon an instrument of torture like the rack, or to wrench, as e.g. in the case of a dislocated limb. Thence it comes to mean to twist or distort the sense of words.

as they do the other scriptures. Those who wrest particular statements in one section of the Scriptures are next represented as apt to make the same perverted use of Scripture generally. In the N. T. the phrase ‘the Scriptures’ is regularly applied to the O. T. writings. The singular may be used of a particular passage or portion of Scripture, as in John 19:37; and is once employed where the words in question cannot be identified with any in the Bible as we have it (James 4:5). But in some fifty occurrences the plural seems never to be used but of the O. T. This is a strong reason for supposing that the O. T. Scriptures are also meant here, and that Paul’s Epistles, therefore, are already ranked along with them. On the other hand, it is urged that Peter would scarcely have placed the O. T. in this unqualified manner in the same category with the Epistles of a contemporary of his own, and that it is probably other writings of the New Testament period that are referred to. Even thus it appears that there were already so many writings which were recognised as Christian Scriptures, and spoken of in terms similar to those applied to the ancient and venerated collection of the O. T. Scriptures, and that the Epistles of Paul were reckoned among these. The implicit testimony contained in this statement to the authority of certain writings as Scripture also deserves to be noticed. It is observed that, as Peter closes his Epistles with this testimony, so Malachi brings the O. T. to its end with a charge to ‘remember the law of Moses with the statutes and judgments;’ John concludes the four Gospels with a similar testimony (John 20:31); Paul closes his Epistles with a solemn statement on the profitableness of inspired Scripture (2 Timothy 3:14-17); Jude closes the Catholic Epistles with an injunction to remember the words spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 1:17); while the Apocalypse ends with the promise of blessing to those who keep, and of the opposite to those who take from or add to, the sayings of the book (Wordsworth).

to their own destruction. The words carry us back to the ‘heresies of destruction’ mentioned in chap. 2 Peter 2:1, the emphatic ‘own,’ however, intimating that in this case the destruction comes upon the men not by the seductions of others, but by their own misuse of Scripture. The passage has been seized on in support of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the obscurity of Scripture, its possible injuriousness to the private student, and the danger of leaving it in the hands of the people without an authoritative interpretation. What Peter is warning against, however, is the perils of a misuse of Scripture. What he states is not that Scripture is unsafe in the hands of the people, but that there are certain things in it which are capable of being perverted by a particular class. And while he gives this caution to the ‘ignorant and unstable,’ he speaks of Paul as writing ‘according to the wisdom given unto him,’ and earnestly enjoins upon all these Gentile Christians scattered throughout the Asiatic Churches ‘to be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour’ (chap. 2 Peter 3:2).

Verse 17

2 Peter 3:17. Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things before, beware lest, carried away with the error of the lawless, ye fall from your own stedfastness. The epithet ‘lawless’ (not merely ‘wicked,’ as both the A. V. and R. V. put it) is that which was formerly applied to the men of Sodom in chap. 2 Peter 2:7. It points, therefore, to the licentious character of the errorists. The phrase ‘carried away with’ is an extremely forcible one. It is the phrase which Paul applies to the action of Barnabas when he dissembled with Peter himself at Antioch (Galatians 2:13). It may suggest the picture of the ‘error’ as a powerful current sweeping what it can into its bosom, and snatching the unwary off with it from the rock of their stedfastness. In Romans 12:16, which is its only other occurrence, it has a different sense. This particular term ‘stedfastness’ occurs only here, out belongs to the same class with the previous ‘unstable’ (2 Peter 3:16), and the adjective used in 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:12. With ‘fall from’ compare Galatians 5:4.

Verse 18

2 Peter 3:18. But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The R. V. prefers the rendering ‘grow in the grace and knowledge,’ etc. a rendering which may mean either ‘in the grace and in the knowledge which Christ gives,’ or ‘in the grace which Christ gives and in the gift of knowing Him.’ The A. V. keeps clear of this ambiguity, as well as of the special awkwardness of the second construction, by taking the grace as a thing distinct from what follows it. The great duty finally urged is thus the duty of progress, and that in two particular articles, namely, the gracious life or the Christian graces generally, and that special grace of a personal knowledge of Christ which holds so fundamental a place in the Epistle. In this way, too, the writer returns at the close of his letter to the thought with which he started. His opening salutation had been a prayer that ‘grace and peace ‘might be’ multiplied to them ‘in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord’ (chap. 2 Peter 1:2). And now, ‘as the conclusion of the whole matter, and as the only effectual preservation from the assaults and seductions of all forms of a science falsely so called, this same blessing of spiritual enlargement, and that through the same means, is laid on their own consciences and hearts as a most solemn obligation’ (Lillie).

to him he (or, is) the glory both now and for ever. The final Amen, which is retained by the R. V., is of very doubtful authority. The idea of eternity is expressed here by an altogether singular phrase, which means literally ‘unto the day of the eon,’ and which may be chosen to denote the beginning of the new, the eternal age, ‘the day on which eternity, as contrasted with time, begins’ (Huther). The doxology is addressed to Christ, and is significant of Peter’s conception of His Person. It is, as Alford suggests, like one of those hymns which Pliny says were sang by the Christians of his time to Christ as God. It closes the Epistle, too, in its own simple majesty, unaccompanied and undiminished by any statement personal to the writer, or even by any of the usual valedictory salutations to the readers.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Peter 3". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.