2. Remedies for doubt, 1:16-3:13
iv] The divine word of judgmentArgument
Against those who argue that the delay in the expected coming of "the day of the Lord" proves that Jesus is not going to return, Peter argues that the Sovereign Lord God will one day dismantle that which he created, holding to account all humanity for that day when he exercises his righteous judgment.
i] Context: See 1:16-21. Chapter 3 of this second letter of Peter, deals with the issue of the day of the Lord - "This coming", v4, the "day of God", v12, "that day", v13. In verse 7, Peter describes this coming day as a day when, the heavens and the earth will be consumed in fire, judgment enacted, and the ungodly condemned. In v8-13 Peter deals with the issue of the seeming delay in the day of judgment, and asks what sort of people we should be as we await the day of Christ's coming?
ii] Background: See 1:1-2
The illustration helps us understand how the ancients viewed the creation, and in particular, what Peter means by the creation shaped "through water" = "with water as its frame", v5. The illustration is kindly shared by the University of Idaho.
iii] Structure: The divine word of judgment:
A word of encouragement, v1-2.
A prophetic word, v3-4:
the emergence of false teachers in the last day.
Argument #4 (cf., Neyrey), v5-7:
a response to the claim of the false teachers
that "all things continue as they were from the beginning" (v4).
When it comes to the false teachers, our author / Peter has listed a number of their failings, their "denying the Master who bought them", 2:1, etc. Now he tells us that they scoff at the tradition that Jesus will return as judge and hold all accountable before him. As already noted, we are not exactly sure what particular elements of the church's eschatological teaching that they dispute. In v4 the false teachers are quoted saying "where is the promise of his coming?" It does seem that they question the apostolic teaching about the the parousia of Christ, although it is the day of judgment, in particular, that they seem to dispute. As already noted, it is likely that they have allowed their Platonic worldview to influence their understanding of the Christian faith; cf., "Background", 2:10b-22. The belief in the separation of spirit and flesh upon death, followed by the union of the spirit / soul with Christ, may well dictate their resistance to a day of judgment at the return of Christ when the dead rise for their accounting. Anyway, like listening to a one sided phone conversation, it very hard to get a full understanding of what the false teachers do actually believe.
In response to this questioning of the parousia of Christ, Peter presents two arguments, the first covering v5-7, and the second v8-13. Against the proposition that "the stability of the created order precludes the notion of a catastrophic end", Sidebottom, Peter sets out to establish God's sovereign reign over his creation. His argument establishes the fact that God exercises his Lordship over humanity as both creator and judge. "The word of God which once created the world has also once destroyed it", Bauckham. Given these facts, apostolic eschatological teaching is anything but illogical, which teaching Peter restates in v7 - God, as sovereign Lord, will one day destroy that which he created, holding to account all humanity for a day of judgment.
The logic of Peter's argument is not so logical for us. He is employing ideas which were prevalent in the first century, but are not part of our scientific world view. The idea that the creation was formed "through" water and will be consumed through fire (both operative through God's Word), was commonly held in the first century and is evident in apocalyptic literature of the time (note the juxtaposition of these two elements in Revelation), cf., The Life of Adam and Eve, 49.3. Following the tribulation and judgment, with the wicked facing eternal annihilation / punishment (??), the creation will face the inferno. The apocalyptic language employed by Jesus, and particularly John in Revelation, prompts numerous interpretations, but the transformation of the world (new heavens and new earth) seems to outweigh its outright destruction; "the function of ... fire is to consume the wicked, not destroy the world", Bauckham.
Source: Again there is evidence that the author of this letter has drawn on / adapted / improved Jude. Compare 3:1-3 with Jude 17-18. The matter is long debated and contentious.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 3:1
A reaffirmation of the coming day of the Lord: i] Peter declares the intent of his letter and encourages his readers to rely on apostolic tradition (rather than the musings of false teachers), v1-2. Peter again addresses his readers with the affectionate term "beloved", or as the NIV has it, "dear friends." He notes that this is the second letter he has written, obviously alluding to the first general epistle of Peter. In this verse the purpose of the letter is declared, namely "to stimulate you to do some straight thinking by reminding you of what you already know", Barclay.
The opening Gk. sentence covers v1-3.
uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - [beloved this is now the second letter i write] to you. Dative of indirect object. The writer / Peter is alluding to the first epistle of Peter, and claiming this work as the second epistle. At this point commentators divide, although the weight of evidence points to the letter being a fictitious work where the author speaks in the name of, and with the authority of, a great one of the past. There was a wide acceptance of this literary form such that the work had credibility, even though viewed as fictitious. The problem for us comes when it finds its way into what we regard as the cannon of scripture. Eusebius, an early Christian historian, quotes Origen (AD185-254) as saying that "there is doubt about" the authorship of second Peter. So, it only just scraped in to our Bible. See Michael Green, 2 Peter Reconsidered, for an argument in favour of apostolic authorship.
en + dat. "-" - in [which] in [a reminder i arouse, stir up]. The first use of the preposition is local, sphere, and the second is instrumental, expressing means, "by way of reminder", ESV.
eilikrinh adj. "wholesome [thinking]" - the sincere, wholesome, pure [thought, intention / mind of you]. The adjective is attributive, limiting "thought", the accusative direct object of the verb "to stir up." What Plato called "pure reason." It is argued that second Peter has little in accord with first Peter's "wholesome thinking", but as Kelly notes, there is alignment with "1 Peter's pervasive concern with the avoidance of immorality and with living blameless, holy lives, and with the blessed inheritance for the righteous and the condemnation of the wicked which Christ's revelation in glory will bring."
The purpose of the letter is further expanded. In countering the false teachings circulating in the Christian church at this time, Peter wants his readers to refocus their attention, not on the new ideologies doing the rounds, but on the sound doctrine revealed in the Old Testament prophets and in the teachings of Christ, mediated to the church through his apostles.
mnhsqhnai (mimnhskomai) aor. pas. inf. "I want you to recall" - to remember. The infinitive serves to introduce a final clause expressing purpose; "I have written ...... in order to remind you by the predictions of the holy prophets .... that there will come ...... mockers ...."
twn proeirhmenwn (prolegw) gen. perf. mid./pas. part. "[the words] spoken in the past" - [the words] having been spoken. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the noun "words", "the words which were spoken by the holy prophets", genitive of direct object after the verb "to remember, think of."
uJpo + gen. "by" - by [the holy prophets and]. Expressing agency. Presumably NT prophets are in mind, but possibly OT prophets, so NIV "spoken in the past"; Davids*
tou kuriou (oV) gen. "lord" - [and by the commandment] of the lord [and saviour]. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, subjective, as NIV, but possibly ablative, source / origin, "the command from the Lord", or adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a characteristic quality. The genitive does seem to function adjectivally, limiting "command"; "the command which comes from / belongs to the Lord." The piling up of the genitives here is awkward, but as Moo notes, Peter "wants to make clear that the command originated with Jesus and that the apostles were given it in a secondary sense as representatives of Jesus." The "command" is singular, so it could be a collective like "teaching", or "direction to the whole Christian life", Sidebottom, or "the new law", Kelly, or even more specifically, "the gospel."
twn apostolwn (oV) gen. "through [your] apostles" - of = by the apostles. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, subjective; "the command given by your apostles", Moffatt. Yet again, the genitive may be adjectival / idiomatic, limiting command; "the command of the Lord and Saviour which you received from your apostles", Barclay - see MHT III, p218.
uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - of you. The genitive is adjectival, relational.
ii] The last-days mockers, v3-4. Believers, living in the last days, must face those who mock "the Lord's state visit", Neyrey. The reader is now reminded of a particular prophetic word from Christ. Jesus told his apostles that in the last days, disciples would be led astray by false prophets. As far as Peter is concerned, those days are now at hand; "there will come men who will pour cynical scorn on the faith, and who know no law but their own desires", Barclay. The term "the last days" refers to the period of time between Christ's ascension and his return, so we too are in the last days and find ourselves surrounded by many who scoff at the Christian faith.
prwton adv. "above all" - first, prominent, especially. Adverb of degree. Continuing the Gk. sentence commenced in v1; "By way of a reminder, I am arousing your sincere minds ..... (v2) in order that you should remember ........ (v3) in order that especially you should know this, namely that ....."
ginwskonteV (ginwskw) pres. part. "you must understand" - knowing. Usually treated as an imperatival participle, although such a classification is dubious. Most imperatival participles are attendant on an imperative verb, which is why MHT III p343 suggests the presence of an implied imperative verb to-be here. None-the-less, it is more likely that the participle is adverbial, probably final, expressing purpose, as above; "in order that especially you should know ...."
touto pro. "-" - this [first]. Accusative direct object of the participle "knowing"; forward referencing.
oJti "that" - that. Introducing an epexegetic clause specifying "this"; "you should know this, namely that ...."
epi + gen. "in" - in. Temporal use of the preposition; "during the last days."
twn hJmerwn (a) gen. "the [last] days" - [the last] of the days. The genitive is adjectival, partitive; Semitic idiom, Davies / BDF #234.8. Although the scriptures speak of "the last days" (the days prior to the parousia of Christ) with an immanent sense, one which reflects the now / not yet eschatology of the NT, these days encompass the expanse of days from Christ's first coming to his second coming. The day of Christ's return is always upon us, always near at hand, and these days will be marked by the presence of those who "pour cynical scorn on the faith", Barclay. In the context of this letter, the "scoffers" are false teachers, heretical believers, who are particularly scathing about the idea that there will be a reckoning in a coming day of judgment.
en "scoffers [will come]" - [mockers] in / by [mocking will come]. Variant; whether present or not, the dative construction is instrumental, expressing means; "scoffers will come on the scene with their scoffing", Berkeley.
poreuomenoi (poreuomai) pres. mid. part. "following" - going about, living, behaving. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "will come .... going about (in a manner) according to ..." / "will come ...., living in accordance with ...", Davids.
kata + acc. "-" - according to [the = their own lusts]. Expressing a standard, although possibly adverbial, means, "mockers .... who go by their own passions", Moffatt, "wholly ruled by their appetites", Cassirer, or modal, "after the manner of their own passions." At this point, Peter is addressing the motivation of the mockers. As Davids* notes, the motivation is not "evil desire" as such; it is very unlikely that leaders / teachers in the Christian church are going to live in overt sin. Their problem is that they are "directed by their desires in general rather than by God."
Peter now articulates the eschatological skepticism of the false teachers, and does so reflecting OT form, cf., Ps.41:4, 11. This skepticism is likely to reflect secular thinking, of cyclical time in an indestructible universe, but also possibly theological, of divine non-intervention in human affairs. Clearly, one of the central arguments in favour of their worldview was Christ's failure to return within the lifetime of his apostles. It does seem likely that the early believers expected Christ's parousia within the apostolic generation, cf., Jn.21:23. This generation has now died, and nothing has happened and so we have the objection of the scoffers: "The parousia was promised before the death of the fathers. Well, the fathers have died and still nothing happens", Bauckham.
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "they will say" - [and] saying. The participle, coordinate with "going about", v3, is adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "there will come .... mockers ...... going about and saying" Here introducing direct speech.
pou adv. "where" - Interrogative particle.
thV porousiaV (a) gen. "coming" - [is the promise] of the coming [of him]. The genitive is best treated as adjectival, attributed; "where is his promised coming?" The word, by this time, is probably recognised to a technical term for the second coming of Christ. The genitive pronoun autou, "of him", is usually treated as verbal, subjective, although it can be taken as adjectival, possessive / characteristic. "So, what's happened to his promised coming?"
gar "-" - for. More reason than cause; explaining the reason behind the question.
af h|V "ever since" - from the day which[the fathers fell asleep]. The preposition apo, "from", is temporal with the feminine pronoun agreeing with an assumed hJmeraV, "day"; "from the day when our forefathers were laid to rest / passed away"; "The parousia was promised before the death of the fathers. Well, the fathers have died and still nothing happens", Bauckham. But note Wallace p343 who views the construction as a particular adverbial/conjunctive use giving the sense "ever since." The "fathers" are probably the first generation of believers now deceased, although when coming from someone with a Jewish background, the term may refer to the OT patriarchs, "the righteous men of OT times", Bauckham. Of course, if the first generation of believers is in mind, then obviously our author is not the apostle Peter. Mentioning the death of this first generation is not a mistake by someone claiming to be Peter, but someone who sees himself as speaking for Peter, ie., when viewing the letter is pseudepigraphal, rather than fraudulent. The euphemism "fell asleep" for "died" is found a number times in the NT, possibly derived from Jesus' "the child is not dead but asleep", although it is also found in secular writings of the time (a similar euphemism to "At Rest"). The idea of deceased believers asleep in the arms of Jesus is very comforting, although theologically fraught (although I can live with it!).
ouJtwV "as it has" - [everything continues] thus, so, in this way. Adverb of manner; "the world hasn't changed a bit", CEV.
ap (apo) + gen. "since" - from. Temporal use of the preposition; "everything is going on just as it has from the first day of creation", Peterson. Such a view evidences a cyclical view of time, ever repeating, rather than lineal, and is evidenced in writers of the era, eg., Philo. This point of view, articulated by the false teachers, indicates their adoption of secular thinking, as against a Biblical world-view of time reaching a catastrophic end in the day when God exercises his righteous judgment upon the whole of creation.
ktisewV (iV ewV) gen. "of creation" - [the beginning] of creation. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
iii] An argument to counter the view that the stability of the created order precludes the notion of a catastrophic end, v5-7. Peter claims that the false teachers have ignored certain facts, which facts are presented in an epexegetic clause covering v5-6. The logic of Peter's argument rests on two historical events. In challenging "their appeal to the stability of the natural order", Peter points "out that in maintaining this they fail to notice that the universe was created by the word of God and that so far from allowing it to continue unaltered from the beginning, he has already destroyed it once at the Flood" and that therefore ....., Kelly. These two events are linked by a single proposition; "They ignore the fact that the continuance of the world, as a stable habitation for mankind, has always depended and continues to depend on the will of God. ...... The word of God which once created the world has also once destroyed it", so therefore ....., Bauckham.
With v5 we are best to follow a translation like Cassirer's, rather than the NIV. Note that the epexegetic clause introduced by oJti presents in two parts: "However, there is one thing whih has escaped the notice of those who are self-assertive in this manner, (oJti) namely, that there were heavens a long long time ago, (kai) and that there was also an earth, brought into being by (instrumental dative) God's word of command, (ex, source) with water for its origin, and (di, spacial) water as its frame."
gar "-" - for. More reason than cause; here introducing a counter argument to the objection put by the false teachers.
touto pro. "-" - this [escapes the notice of them]. Forward referencing; "namely, that long ago ...."
qelontaV (qelw) pres. part. "deliberately [forget]" - being willing = willingly. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their lanqanei, "failing to take notice of"; "they deliberately overlook this fact", ESV. Note how translations emerging out of England take a slightly different line; "Such men have chosen to shut their eyes to the fact ...", Barclay.
oJti "that" - namely that. Epexegetic of touto, "this"; "that ......"
ekpalai adv. "long ago" - [heavens were = existed] for a long time. Temporal adverb; "a point of time long before the currant moment", BDAG.
kai "and" - Connective, as noted above; "and that"
sunestwsa (sunisthmi) perf. part. "[the earth] was formed" - [earth] having been formed, brought together, established. It is possible that the participle forms a periphrastic pluperfect construction with an assumed imperfect verb to-be, h\san, being carried over from the previous clause, but, although anarthrous, it seems best to take it as adjectival, attributive, limiting "earth"; "an earth which was formed by God's word." See Davids. for his take.
tw/ .... logw/ (oV) "by [God's] word" - by word [of god]. The dative is instrumental, expressing means. The genitive "God" could be adjectival, possessive, as NIV, or ablative, source / origin, "from God."
ex (ek) + gen. "out of" - out of [water]. Expressing source. In writings of the time, water was viewed as the primal element out of which the whole world was created, cf., 2 Enoch 47:4.
di (dia) + gen. "by" - through [water]. Often taken as instrumental, expressing means, so Davids, although a spatial sense seems more likely, "through water", or as Cassirer above, "with water as its frame", so Mayor. See illustration above.
di (dia) + gen. "by" - through. Instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", or spatial, "through."
w|n gen. pro. "these waters also" - which waters. The plural "which" obviously refers to "the waters", as NIV, the water above and below the earth, as in the illustration above, but possibly "the water" and "the Word."
tote adv. "[the world] at that time" - [the] then [world]. The temporal adverb serves here as an attributive adjective, limiting "world", as NIV; "the world which then existed."
kataklusqeiV (katakluzw) aor. pas. part. "was deluged" - [perished,] having been destroyed [by/with water]. Given that an instrumental participle will usually follow the main verb, it seems likely that here it is temporal, modifying the verb "perished"; "water likewise being the means by which the world, as it was then, met with destruction, when it was enveloped by floods, at the time of the deluge", Cassirer. The main verb apwleto, "destroyed", is in the middle voice so "perished" - the living creation perished under deluge. The dative uJdati, "by/with water", is instrumental, expressing means; "deluged, as it was, by water", Berkeley.
As a conclusion to his argument, Peter restates apostolic eschatological teaching. The world of human habitation is on borrowed time. There will be a day when God settles accounts, a day of judgment and destruction for the ungodly, a day of blessing for the children of faith. "God is poised, ready to speak his word again, ready to give the signal for the judgment and destruction of the desecrating skeptics", Peterson.
de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a summary statement.
teqhsaurismenoi (qhsaurizw) perf. mid./pas. part. "are reserved" - [the now heaven and the earth by the same word, is] having been stored up. The participle with the present tense of the verb to-be eisin, forms a periphrastic perfect construction; "the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up", ESV. The sense is "preserved until the day of judgment", Bauckham - the storing up of blessings for the righteous, and cursings for the unrighteous.
puri (r roV) dat. "for fire" - [being kept] in fire [to a day of judgment and destruction]. Variant en puri, "in fire", local, but it seems likely that we have here a dative noun of interest, disadvantage, "for fire", with eiV expressing purpose / end-view "to, into = for the purpose of a day of judgment and destruction."
twn .. anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "of [ungodly] men / of the ungodly" - of [ungodly] men. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, but possibly adjectival, idiomatic / temporal, limiting "judgment", "the day of judgment when godless men will be destroyed", Barclay, or "the day when the impious are doomed and destroyed", Moffatt. Note how Peter now clarifies the "destruction" in mind; it is the destruction of the unrighteous, as was the destruction of the unrighteous in Noah's day, although in that age it was with water rather than fire.