Saturday, August 28, 2010

357: 2 Peter

2 Peter 1-3
"They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness." - 2 Peter 2:15-16

This is yet another rather short letter from Peter. The letter starts with the standard praise for God/Jesus. He also tells the people he's writing to, to remember to be godly.

The rest of chapter 1 is Peter's first hand account of Jesus. Interestingly, he doesn't bother to mention any of the miracles Jesus was supposed to have performed. He doesn't mention Jesus raising people from the dead, feeding 5000, or healing people of their paralysis. The only verification he does mention is when he heard God say "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased".

The entirety of chapter 2 is about false teachers. He says that these false teachers, like sinning angels, will be sent to hell. Peter goes on to give examples from the Old Testament where God punished the people, and saved people from destruction (e.g. Noah). He tells us that this means God knows how to punish ungodly people and save godly people.

Peter goes on to say that these false teachers are so bold and arrogant that they even slander angels. Was slandering angels ever forbidden? I don't think God has ever spoken directly about angels. He just sends them down to slaughter people.

Finally, Peter retells the story of Balaam and his talking donkey. He says that this talking donkey "restrained the prophets madness". He was prevented from going mad by a magical talking donkey? That sounds like a sign of his madness.

In the last chapter, Peter talks about the end of days. For once, he doesn't seem to think that the end of days is particularly imminent. Saying that one day seems like 1000 years to God. However, he backtracks a little, saying that the people he's writing to should strive to stay blameless so that when Jesus returns they will be saved. Shouldn't Peter know (through the Holy Spirit) that Jesus won't be coming for at least another 2000 years?

Should the bible be taken seriously? The bible says yes!
Is the Bible nothing more than an old superstitious book, with some fancy fairytales? Maybe you think it can't be taken seriously and has been basically disproved. It may contain some helpful truths…but you'll have to decide for yourself what's true and what's not. Here's what God says: All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17). Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength (1 Corinthians 1:20-25).
You can't show that the bible is legit by saying that God says so in the bible. You've circled right back around to the very thing you were trying to disprove. Namely: "you'll have to decide for yourself what's true and what's not".

After giving us this airtight proof of the bible's validity, the writer goes on to answer several questions about the nature of God. With this elegant prose of illogic we can also prove that Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, or any other religion with holy text is completely legit. At least make an attempt to prove the bible is legitimate from non-biblical sources.
He wrote a message for us. He's trying to get your attention today. He's speaking to you through his word…the Bible. He's teaching some powerful truths. He's telling you that he loves you, despite your best efforts to fight him out of your life, despite your sins and failings. By all rights he could have and should have given up on you for good…but He loved you enough to give up his life for you...literally. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. His sacrifice has taken away your sin and makes you right with God. Trust that truth. Keep learning and growing in that Word of God.
Despite my best efforts to fight him off? Fighting someone off would require that they be present, and be - in some way - effecting my life. I'm not "fighting off" Zeus, or Thor, or Odin in my every day life, in the same way I'm not fighting off Jesus. Now, if Zeus were following me around every day, in bodily form, then you could accuse me of fighting him off if I didn't believe.


  1. Here we have another pseudonymous epistle, but this one was written by a different forger than the one who wrote 1 Peter (or 3 Peter, 4 Peter, the Acts of Peter, the various Apocalypses of Peter, etc.). In fact, this is generally regarded as the last written book in the Bible, thought to be dating from well into the 2nd-c. even by conservative scholars. This book had such a shady reputation in antiquity, that even Eusebius thought it was inauthentic, having been unknown before the 3rd century and not appearing on any canon lists from before the 4th. But the style of the Greek is very different from that of 1 Peter, so it was written by someone else, even though it pretends to be by the same hand. It also relies heavily on the forged epistle of Jude, which itself dates from the late 1st century at the earliest.

    Of all the epistles in the NT, this is the one most likely to have been written after some of the Gospels (such as Mark and maybe John) had been written and circulated a bit, so that would explain the couple of apparent references to Gospel material, virtually alone among the epistles (where other seeming references are often in the other direction, or reflect common traditions).

  2. 2 Pet 1:16-18. What was the position of the author's (Xian) opponents here? Were they arguing that the Gospel story was a myth? Probably not, since this response seems too narrow and limited. Did some doubt the veracity of Jesus' quote in Mark 9:1: "some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power"? Maybe they argued that all of his disciples had died and he still hadn't come. (Of course, this would also imply that this was written well after Peter had died.) So the author portrays the transfiguration, which follows immediately after Mark 9:1, as the fulfillment of this prophecy (even though the prophecy clearly originally referred to the Parousia). But then, Mark himself may likely have juxtaposed the transfiguration immediately after this prophecy for the same reason.

    Moreover, the quote of God is not the same as in Mark 9:7, but rather is the same as that in Matt 17:5 (which Matthew copied from Matt 3:17, which itself was modified from Mark 1:11, which also was the source for Mark 9:7). So either pseudo-Peter II was using Matthew as his source, or he made the same modification to Mark's quote that Matthew did (perhaps he is even the source of this modification). Or perhaps Mark's original quote in 9:7 was the same as Matt 17:5. Definitely it looks like the prophecy his is arguing was fulfilled was Mark 9:1 rather than Matt 16:18.

    However, there are other indications that pseudo-Peter II is using a different version of this story than in the Gospels - he calls it a "sacred" mountain, rather than a "high" one. None of the other Gospel elements of the story are there, such as Jesus turning bright white. And more oddly, this is offered as proof of Christ's "coming." Which coming? If the second one, how would this be proof that he will come in the future? OTOH, this does make sense as a proof that Jesus came in the past, if by that one means a revelatory experience of his presence and power, as in the appearances in 1 Cor 15.

    All in all, this is clearly a reference to the transfiguration (almost the only one in the epistles to a Gospel narrative), but whether it is dependent on Mark or Matthew is unclear.

    Finally, note that pseudo-Paul II's concern here seems likely to be ultimately to explain a delay in the Parousia, a topic which takes up all of chapter 3.



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