Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tough Texts - #3

II Peter 2:1 - But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

6 comments:

John Hopper said...

1 Corinthians 15:29

"Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?"

John Hopper said...

Oh, by the way...the 1 Corinthians 15 verse was just a "tough text" to me. It was not to be a clarification of 2 Peter 2:1. :)

Paul said...

A tough text indeed. How can someone who has been bought by the master then deny that master? I found the John Gill commentary to be very helpful in explaining how we should see this verse. Gill's material is online and free and can be found at several locations, crosswalk.com, I think, is one of them. Here is a quick explanation rooted in Gill's response. We know that those who a bought by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross have an eternal redeemption (Heb 9:12-14) and will not experience the swift destruction mentioned in 2 Peter 2:1. We must identify the word master and the word bought. The word master is a word used not for Jesus Christ in his atoning work, but for God the Father, who is indeed, master of all things. He owns all things. They are his. Yes, the pagan, the false prophet, everyone and everything belongs to him. As for the word bought, he has in a way, purchased all these things by the fact that he has spent his divine energies in their creation and they exist as his possessions to do with what he wills. He is the potter that owns the clay that he will shape and form into whatever he wills (shades of Romans 9, here)! And the false prophet will reject him, who is his master, his purchaser of existence and he will be swept away in swift destruction. That is the way I see this verse. We certainly can't think that the work of Jesus on the cross would fail!

Jordan said...

Paul,

Although we don't normally allow anonymous commenters on SC, we decided to let yours slide because of its insightful material. Give yourself up ye Gillian sage!

PQ said...

Jordan,

Thanks for letting the anonymous Paul post. These are indeed good insights.

Paul,

Thanks for your time and energy in giving us your/Gill's understanding of this verse. But I would like to ask a few questions of your interpretation, then follow with some of my thoughts of what may be going on in this text.

First, the questions:
1) You say that we must identify what Peter means by "master." You conclude that this is God the Father in His capacity as ruler/owner of all things. But given the milieu of Peter's day, namely the dominating existence of slavery, doesn't it seem far more likely that we should take "master" in a slavery sense, not an ownership sense?

2) And you say that we should also identify what Peter means by the word "bought." You conclude that we should understand that "bought" roughly equals "created." But, where do we see the word "bought" used with this meaning? I can neither think of a single Biblical or contemporary example. We don't read in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God bought the heavens and the earth." Nor do we say, "Newton bought calculus" or "Edison bought the lightbulb" or "Einstein bought relativity." Doesn't this meaning of "bought" seem much too stretched?

3) How does your interpretation fit the language of the false teachers' returning at the end of chapter 2 (verse 22)?

4) How does your interpretation fit the overall context of the entire letter, which seems focused on the perceived delay of Christ's (not the Father's) return?

Now, my preliminary thoughts on this text. This is by no means a final exegesis or exposition of this text, just some of my musings based on Peter's second letter.

1) I wonder if we should understand "Master" as in "Slave-Master." Not only is this, in my estimation, the overwhelming use of the word in the NT epistles, but already in this very letter, Peter refers to himself in 1:1 as the "servant ["slave/bondservant," see margin in ESV] and apostle of Jesus Christ." If we understand "Master" in this way, surely Master = Jesus Christ.

2) Understanding "Master" to be Jesus Christ seems to insist that "bought" refer to His death. Of course, since the NT emphatically names The Son as creator (Jn. 1, Col. 1, Heb. 1), defining "Master" in this way does not necessarily undo your view of "bought."

3) Peter likens the false teachers of his day (and our, too, I take it)to the false prophets of old who "arose AMONG the people." Since the people that Peter refers to must be God's covenant people of Israel, the false prophets were mostly apostate Israelites (Balaam, mentioned later in chapter 2, is an obvious exception). And Peter explicity says that these false teachers of his day would be "among you [the church, God's covenant people]." I take it, then, that these false teachers are not outsiders like Pharisees or pagans, but insiders, apostate "Christians."

4) Peter describes these false teachers in 2:12 as "born to be caught and destroyed." They don't sound to be elect.

5) Peter further decribes them in 2:17 as "waterless springs and mists driven by a storm." I take that to mean that they appear to be refreshingly full of gospel truth, but in reality are empty hypocrites.

6) He calls them in 2:19 "slaves [same Gk. word as in 1:1? Oh, if I could know Greek!] of corruption," not slaves of Jesus Christ.

7) And in 2:22, he compares them to dogs returning to vomit and sows returning to mud. I take this to mean that despite their appearances, their essential and substantial natures have never changed. Superfically they are new, but remain dogs and pigs, proving to be such by their apostate teachings.

8) The adversative "but" in 2:1 harks back to 1:16-21, meaning that the false teachers and Apostles are of one general group, while they occupy sharply antithetical sub-groups defined over truth (the Apostles) versus cleverly devised mythology (the false teachers). And since 1:16-21 form a logical basis for what precedes (1:3-15, I think) which calls Peter's readers (who were confessing Christians) to diligently "make [their] calling and election sure," I think that the false teachers serve a dual literary purpose for Peter. First, they create a precarious position (humanly speaking) for Christians who seek to "practice [the] qualities" of 1:5-8, since the false teachers are teaching that such qualities don't really matter. Secondly, they are themselves examples of professing Christians who didn't diligently make sure of their calling and election.

9) These false teachers follow Christ in at least a tiny degree, otherwise they would not give a hoot about Christ's failure (in their mind) to return (3:4). Nor would they bother with Paul's letters at all, much lest twist them to their own purposes (3:15-16). However, I'm not sure that the scoffers of 3:4 and the ignorant and unstable of 3:15-16 are strictly the same people as the false prophets.

10) I believe that the Bible is God-breathed and therefore inerrant and infallible in all points. But that doesn't mean that the inspired human authors could not or did not vary the meanings of words or phrases. I wonder if this explains the use of the phrase "the Master who bought them." This phrase automatically conjures thoughts of proptitiation and reconciliation and substitution and especially redemption, given, in my mind, the slavery language. But, given the context, isn't it at least possible that Peter is using this phrase as irony, not diagnostic truth? Sort of like if I catch one of my kids in a lie. For example, if one of my kids lies by saying that he did not hit his brother, I might point out the absurdity and insolence of his lie by saying, "Since you didn't hit your brother, he must have bruised his own eye in a fit of rage." No one would take my statement at face value, but would recognize the irony of my statement.

So, the upshot of these meanderings is this. I wonder if these false teachers verbally claim the Master Jesus Christ as the one who bought them, while boldly denying Him in their actions and doctrine. This happens all the time today. How often do we see a "decision to accept Jesus as Savior" but never, ever repentance toward Him as Lord? The precious blood of Christ has not lost its power or redeeming value; rather these folks have never really become slaves of this Master by virtue of His death.

OK. I'm done. Like I said, this is not final exegesis, since I've not studied this passage in detail. Everyone feel free to correct me where I may be wrong (Paul especially).

Jordan said...

PQ. Yet another published comment by an anonymous author. I like your interaction with the text and with Paul. With such thought provoking material, why hide your identity? Come forth initialed one. (Your blogger identity doesn't do the trick as it renders you only as "PQ" also?).