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End Notes

“. . . and in your perseverance, godliness; . . .”  2 Pet 1:6c.


In this section we will review what the various commentators have to say about Godliness, the sixth character quality of the Second Peter sequence.


The comments below tend to present godliness/eusebeia/εὐσέβεια as:  piety, reverence, and fear of God.  It encompasses the internal states of awe and respect for God's majesty, as well as adoration for the quality of His character.  This love and fear result in behavior that is sensitive to His direction and supportive of His will.  A major descriptor that reappears is an ongoing awareness of God's presence and His involvement in the events of one's life.  A major goal is allowing ourselves to be conformed into the image of Christ.


The best summaries I've found describing godliness are:  "inwardly by habitual communion with Him in spirit;  outwardly by habitual service of Him in act"  (Exell, J. S., 1905, Maclaren),  "having the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus, viewing everything from the Divine point"  (Exell, J. S., 1905, Macmillan),  and my favorite:  "When Christians bear afflictions patiently, they get an experimental knowledge of the loving-kindness of their heavenly Father . . . and hereby they are brought to the childlike fear and reverential love wherein true godliness consists"  (Henry, M., 1853).



Note that my reactions or clarifications to what these commentators have to say are [bracketed] and most are found below each comment, so as to identify them as my reactions and not those of the listed Commentators.



Commentators on Godliness


Abernethy, J.  (1762-VIII, PDF p. 198-220, l. 5) [PDF pages shown in brackets].

[198] "But, in other passages, and particularly in my text, when the particular parts of our duty, or of practical religion, are enumerated, and godliness distinguished from the rest, it is to be taken in a more limited sense, signifying that respect or practical regard which we owe to the Supreme Being himself, and whereof he is the proper immediate object. . . . [199] First, wherein godliness consists.  And it takes in all those dispositions of mind, with the proper expressions of them, which are due to the high perfections of the Deity, and which result from the relations we bear to him.  Those notions which natural and revealed religion teach us to form of the Supreme Being, direct us in paying our respect and homage to him.  As he is eternal, independent, infinitely excellent, powerful, wise, holy and good, the light of nature itself teaches us to glorify him by our praises, to esteem, love and fear him, and to obey his will in all things, as far as it is known to us.  As he is the almighty Creator of all things visible and invisible, the preserver and governor of the world, in whom we live and move, and have our being, and who daily loads us with his benefits, from hence arises the obligation to gratitude, confidence in his mercy, submission and resignation to his providence.  All these particulars which reason dictates to men are more fully explained in the holy scriptures, the principal design of [200] which is to instruct mankind clearly, to deliver them from the errors and superstition which generally prevailed, and teach them to serve God so as to please him.  From these considerations of the Deity I have mentioned, and which are largely explained in the rule of our religion, the inward affections which naturally arise comprehended in godliness are, first, fear, a reverence for His majesty, a serious affecting sense of all his glorious attributes, not a confounding terror and amazement which can proceed only from an apprehension of wrath and power, and is accompanied with aversion;  but together with the acknowledgment of his supremacy the very highest esteem of his amiable moral excellencies, and an unwillingness to offend him.  The holy angels are represented in scripture as approaching the throne of God in a very awful and humble manner, covering their faces, which seems to signify an acknowledgment of their distance, and of his infinitely superior perfection.  His worshipers of mankind, who we have reason to believe are the most acceptable, serve him with the most awful respect.  With what reverence did Abraham, honoured with the title of his friend, address [201] the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, confirming that he was but dust and ashes.  The highest and most powerful of all creatures are considered as nothing in comparison, and the fear of God in a godly mind prevails against the fear of the whole world, so that his displeasure is to be avoided at any rate, even tho' it subject us to the rage and resentment of those who are the most formidable upon earth.  Thus our Saviour instructed us whom we should fear, not them who can only kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do, but him who hath power to destroy soul and body in hell-fire [Mat. X. 28].  Secondly, the fear of God, as the Scripture explains it, which is an essential part of godliness, and of the respect he claims from us, doth not exclude love.  It includes it rather, for a proper object of our fear, as the prophet says [Hos iii 5], is his goodness, which directly and naturally excites love. . . . [202] Gratitude is a kind of love which considers the object not only as excellent in himself, but as benefactor to us.  It is an affection which naturally arises in the mind to any who discovers kind intentions towards us.  And as God is continually preventing us with his loving-kindness, and heaping favours upon us, without any antecedent obligation laid upon him by us, this is one part of the homage he very reasonably requires.  However dark the intimations be which we have of his nature and essence, if we can discover him to be the independent, necessarily existing, infinitely powerful, wise, and good, creator, preserver, and governor of all things, these contain the strongest motives of affection, and claim for him our highest esteem and reverence, the most intense unequaled desire and delight, a deliberate preference of him to every other good, [203] with a prevailing inclination and purpose to please him in all things. . . .  The exercise of love and respect, the sum of godliness, accommodated to our state in this life seems especially to consist in resignation;  in entire acquiescence to the order he has appointed, with confidence in his wisdom and goodness and submission to his will.  Such a temper as this is the natural, and indeed necessary expression of the highest esteem and reverence in the relations we bear to him, as his creatures, dependents, and subjects;  the most proper result of our acknowledging his high [204] perfections and his government.  So our minds are framed that we cannot but approve the conduct of that agent who doth what is perfectly wise and absolutely good.  If therefore it be a principle sufficiently evident that the governor of the world, to whose dominion all things are subject, and who does whatsoever pleaseth him, is perfectly wise and good, it follows, that what he does is best, absolutely, and in the whole; and consequently that entire resignation and dependence is due to him, that we should commit ourselves to him, our ways and works to his direction, who is the faithful Creator, the just and wise, and gracious disposer of all things. . . . [205] But it has pleased God to give us an express promise of eternal life, upon the condition of repentance and sincere obedience; and not only so, but that all their afflictions and trials shall work together for the good of them that love him.  And this is a great support to godliness;  a great encouragement to trust in God at all times, to hope in his mercy and faithfulness, to cast our cares and burdens [206] upon him believing that he careth for us and that he is a rewarder of all them who diligently seek him.  When I speak of resignation to God, I do not only mean that we should be satisfied with the occurrences of life, . . . but that we should approve and actively obey his precepts, submitting to his moral as well as providential government.  Obedience to his commands is a just and natural expression of all dutiful and good affections to him, of fear, of love, of gratitude, and resignation, at least, all professions and appearances of respect without it are but vain, and will be punished by him as a real indignity.  Why, says our Saviour, call ye me Lord, and do not the things which I say?. . . [207] if we say that godliness comprehends the imitation of those perfections, and that they only are godly persons whose tempers and conversations are formed to a resemblance of the rectitude and goodness of the divine nature;  they who are followers of God as dear children who are holy in all manner of conversation, as he is holy, pure and perfect as their heavenly Father is, kind, compassionate and merciful, after his example.  This doctrine has always been taught in the true Church, and care taken to prevent men's falling into that fatal error of placing the all of religion in acts of devotion, while they neglected that much more substantial proof of respect to the Deity, the imitating of his righteousness and mercy. . . . [209] Yet the external acts of adoration and homage to the Deity are not to be left undone, and the performing of them according to his institution is a part of godliness.  In our present state the affections of the mind naturally vent themselves by some outward actions.  Benevolence, esteem, gratitude, and other dispositions towards our fellow-creatures, are not silent and unactive in the heart. . . . [210] By a parity of reason, if we have internal good affections to the Deity, the sincerity and the force of them are discovered by proper outward acts.  If human superiors reasonably require that their subjects should recognize their rights, and pay them the public respect they claim, is it not just that the Possessor of heaven and earth, the Lord of the spirits of all flesh, should be honoured with our external acknowledgments?  Not that there is any value in the outward performance, as separated from the affection, but supposing first the sincerity of good principles and dispositions in the soul, they ought to be exerted in external acts of worship for two reasons.  First, because that has a tendency to increase them.  The body and the mind in our present constitution have a mutual influence on each other.  As the vigorous attention of the mind and the earnest exertion of its powers, sometimes, even overbears the external senses, and suspends or abates their exercise, so the use of the bodily organs, as in speaking, or other appointed significant actions, tends to fix the attention of the mind, [211] and invigorate its affections.  Experience justifies the institution;  for it teaches men that while they speak to God in prayers and praises, and perform other appointed services in the due manner, pious dispositions, in which godliness principally consists, are strengthened.    Secondly, another reason for outward acts of adoration and homage to God is that thereby we may glorify him.  As his servants esteem him in their hearts, they love and fear, they trust in and are devoted to him, all these ought to be testified by some proper external acts, that others seeing their good works may be also induced to honour him.  This is what is principally meant by that celebrated expression in scripture, calling on the name of the Lord: not particular acts of worship, but a public and open profession of the true religion, which every godly man will make, and in some cases it is the best evidence that can be given of sincere piety. . . .[212] And to this purpose St. Paul [Rom x. 13] applies that declaration of the prophet Joel, whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved, that is, whosoever shall in the sincerity of his heart, make open profession of the true religion, believing in and worshipping the true God, for the apostle has shewn in that context, that as with the heart man believeth unto righteousness so there must be also an agreeableness of our outward behaviour to this, for with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  And our Saviour often tells his disciples, that whoever shall confess him before men, him will he confess before his Father and before the angels, but whoever shall be ashamed of him and deny him before men, of him will he be ashamed and deny him before his Father who is in heaven.  A religious or godly profession is made, not only by words, but public acts of worship, in which societies join as a testimony of their believing in the same God, and acknowledging the same rule of worship and obedience.  And tho' this is far from being the all, or indeed the main of a pious character, yet I don't see that the omitting it altogether [213] can in ordinary circumstances consist with true piety.  As it is exceeding plain that christianity requires our assembling for worship, I can't but observe that some christians neglecting it so much as they do, shews too great an indifference to the injunctions of our Lord, and to the design of such assemblies.  Perhaps they may imagine, and I will suppose it to be true, that they cannot expect any great improvement in knowledge, by attending the public instructions;  yet their withdrawing altogether is an offensive example, and has an ill influence on their weaker fellow christians, whose weaker capacity and understanding both needs and may receive information in matters of the greatest moment to them.  Besides, a well disposed mind may bear, and think it no disagreeable entertainment to be stirred up by way of remembrance, (which St. Peter thought was a just reason for writing his epistles) I say, to be stirred up by a repetition of religious truths, which it has known before.  And, considering the many avocations we have from pious exercises, it may not be unprofitable for the best and wisest men, jointly with their fellow-worshipers, at set times to engage their solemn [214] attention to the things of religion, and endeavour to excite and confirm good affections in themselves, which may contribute to their defense against the returning temptations of the world. . . . [218] Godliness is an affectionate respect for the Deity with proper expressions of it. . . . If the fear of God, or some [219] expression parallel to it which may be  strictly interpreted to signify piety, is frequently used to describe a good character, and all that is required to our acceptance with God, it is not to be understood abstractedly, and as separated from other branches of our duty, or of virtue;  but that manner of speaking always supposes that the fear of God is naturally productive of, and constantly accompanied with, other good dispositions, and a course of action suitable to them;  and we find that very often in scripture, departing from evil, doing good, and such like general directions, importing, whatever is morally right and virtuous, are joined with the fear of the Lord;  and justice, as well as devotion, is declared to be a necessary ingredient in a religious character. . . . [220] Again, a desire to imitate the Deity is imported in true godliness, or a sincere respect to him.  In vain should we pretend to esteem any excellent being, which can only be on the account of his moral character;  for infinite power and wisdom, with other natural attributes of God, separated from that, might be the object of admiration and terror, but not of affection;  how vain, I say, would it be to pretend an esteem for him, and not desire and endeavour to resemble him?"


[Ah!  Now here is a description of godliness that works.  Yes, there definitely is a fear/respect arising from His majesty.  Likewise, 'His goodness naturally excites love.'  Thus, Love and Respect culminate in an 'acquiescence' to His will.  Yes, we obey His commands, but the real gem is the motive of respect mixed with love that motivates our obedience.]


[I must note that Excell's use of this sermon produced a jumble, a hodge-podge.  Sections seemed to be omitted randomly, words were replaced by others not in the text.  It only 'vaguely' quoted Abernethy.  Reading Abernethy in the original is much to be preferred.]


[Abernethy's use of an Old English style necessitated removing a boat load of f's that should have been s's, and touching up a lot of spelling problems.  The intent of his presentation was left intact.]



Alford, H.  (1878, p. 392;  PDF p. 682).

"and in your patient endurance, godliness (i. e.  it is not to be mere brute Stoical endurance, but united with God-fearing and God-trusting.  Or it may perhaps be used without direct reference to God . . . but the other is much more likely in the N. T.; especially as the social virtues follow)"


[God fearing/trusting.  Good, but skimpy.  It doesn't tell us much about what Godliness is.]



Bagster, S.  (1870, p. 176)

"reverential feeling; piety, devotion, godliness,... religion, the Christian religion."





Barbieri, L. A.  (1977, p. 98, l. 3).

"Godliness results when an individual carefully observes the requirements of God upon his life.  This quality relates to and implies that there is perfect peace between the believer and God."


['perfect peace'?  I suspect there is a broader range of expression than that.  Sanctification does imply growth and change, after all.]



Barclay, W.  (2003, p. 350).

"To this steadfastness must be added piety.  The word is eusebeia and is quite untranslatable into an English equivalent.  Even piety is inadequate, carrying as it does a suggestion sometimes of something not altogether attractive.  The great characteristic of eusebeia is that it looks in two directions.  Those who have eusebeia always worship God correctly and give him his (sic) due, but also they always serve others correctly and give them their due.  The person who is eusebēs (the corresponding adjective) is in a right relationship with both God and with other people.  Eusebeia is piety but in its most practical aspect."


[Serving God by doing duty – OK, but again it feels lacking.  This would be expectable coming from one of the Pharisees, not Barclay.]



Barclay, W.  (1958, p. 67-68).

"the root meaning of them all is awe in the presence of that which is more than human, reverence in the presence of that which is majestic and divine;  not only do they express that feeling of awe and reverence, but they also imply a worship which befits that awe, and a life of active obedience which befits that reverence . . . eusebia is the right attitude to God and to things divine, the attitude which does not eliminate God altogether, and which does not degenerate into futile superstition, the attitude which gives God that place He ought to occupy in life and in thought and in devotion."


Barclay, W.  (1958, p. 70).

"In the Septuagint eusebia is not common;  but there are two occurrences of it which are very illuminating.  In Isa. 11:2 eusebia is used for the fear of the Lord, which is one of the gifts of the spirit;  and in Prov. 1:7 it is used for that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom.  Here again we see that basically eusebia is the right attitude to God, the attitude of awe, of reverence, of worship and of obedience."


Barclay, W.  (1958, p. 73-75).

"eusebia, true religion, comes through the divine power of Jesus Christ (II Peter 1:3).  Without the vision of Jesus, without the help of Jesus, without the presence of Jesus true religion is impossible. . . . But although eusebia, true religion, is the gift of the power of Jesus Christ, it is none the less something which a man must struggle and battle to attain.  We must train ourselves to religion (I Tim. 4:7).  We must follow after religion (I Tim. 6:11). . . . eusebia brings trouble.  The man who will live for Christ must expect to receive persecution (II Tim. 3:12).  To be different from the world, to have a different set of standards and a different set of aims, is always a perilous thing. . . .  eusebia is the origin of all true theology and of all true thinking (I Tim. 6:3, Titus 1:1).  One of the great neglected truths of the Christian life is that inspiration and revelation are morally conditioned.  God can only tell a man what that man is capable of receiving and understanding.  The closer a man lives to God, the more God can say to him."


[Now this is much closer.  Taken as a whole these comments DO come to reflect eusebia.  It can be a bit complicated.  Yes, Godliness CAN 'bring trouble', but maybe it would be more accurate to say that it 'grows out of trouble.']



Bauer, W.  (1979, p. 326).

"(Pre-Socr., Aeschyl.+; inscr., pap. as 'piety, reverence, loyalty, fear of God')  in our lit and in the LXX only of the duty which man owes to God piety, godliness, religion . . . Godliness as a result of steadfastness and cause of brotherly love 2 Pt. 1: 6f . . . Godly faith, religion . . . godly acts"


[Again, synonyms but no real description, explanation.]



Beecher, H. W.  (1905, p. 33;  PDF p. 509;  l. 26).

“And to patience, godliness.”  That is, let your patience be not stoical.  Let it not be stubborn, sulky.  Let it be the waiting and endurance of a man who believes that God reigns, and that all the affairs of the universe are in His hands,  and shall work toward good."


[I guess this is supposed to help define godliness.  It seems a round-about way to get to it.]



Bengel, J. A.  (1873, p. 88;  PDF, p. 628).

"Next in order is εὐσέβεια, godliness: it sanctifies the natural affections towards parents and others, yea, even towards the Creator.  Patience (ὑπομονή) removes all the hindrances to godliness.


[I guess it 'removes hindrances', but he says nothing about it facilitating Godliness.



Bigg, C.  (1902, p. 258;  PDF p. 272).

"Godliness, a large word (see ver. 3) summing up the whole of the practical side of the Christian life."


[Again with the 'practical']



Black, M.  (1998, p. 165 -166).

"Peter has already used the term 'godliness' (eusebeia) once (verse 3) where it functioned as a general term roughly equivalent to 'holy living'.   It may be added that the term refers not only to behavior but also to a person's attitude toward God.  It was common among pagans to speak of the need for 'piety', that is, doing the right things out of a proper respect for the gods. Christian godliness refers to holy living out of respect for a holy God."


[OK, holy living and the person's attitude toward God.  Better, but we still haven't been told much about that attitude.]



Brown, C.  (1986, Vol. 2, p. 90).

"When faced with that which is awe-inspiring, sublime, or holy, man always keeps a respectful distance and sometimes is seized with fear.  The idea of distance is basic to the sebomai group of words.  They denote the appropriate attitude to that which merits reverence, ranging from respect for one’s fellow-men and the rules of society to reverence in public worship."


[This is clearly consistent with the 'fear of God' later discussed in the Godliness Theory pages.]



Burkitt, W.  (1844B, p. 696;  PDF p. 701).

"To patience, godliness, a conscientious regard to all the duties of the first table;  let the fear of God restrain you from sin, the love of God constrain you to duty."


['The first table' would be a designation for the servants, identifying who the 'important' people were so they can serve them especially well.]



Cedar, P. A.  (1984, p. 210).

"Add godliness to perseverence (v. 6).  The Greek word for godliness, eusebeίa, means 'godly, pious, or devout.'  Godliness cannot be fabricated.  We cannot merely pretend to be godly.  The quality of godliness comes from God Himself.  He must give that quality of life to us.  We receive it as we are dead to self and alive to God and as we allow the Spirit to live within us.  The fruits of the Spirit are attributes of the character of God.  The more we are possessed by God, the more we will act like Him and the more His character will be revealed in our lives."


[I like the line:  'We receive it as we are dead to self and alive to God and as we allow the Spirit to live within us.'  That seems to cover all the bases.]



Clarke, A.  (1850, p. 880; PDF p. 888).

"Godliness — Piety towards God; a deep, reverential religious fear; not only worshiping God with every becoming outward act, but adoring, loving, and magnifying him in the heart: a disposition indispensably necessary to salvation, but exceedingly rare among professors."


[Ah, much better.  'Reverential fear' and 'adoring Him'.  Still not much about these 'dispositions' and how they work.]



Cochrane, E. E.  (1965, p. 82, l. 14).

"The word translated 'godliness' is in the Greek eusebia and literally means 'piety' or 'reverence' and, since in classical Greek it had the idea of reverence for the gods, became in common usage 'godliness,' meaning the quality of being like the gods.  Because of this connotation a better translation would be 'reverence' or 'piety.'  Webster's dictionary defines piety as a careful observance of, or conformity to, the laws of God;  the state or quality of being righteous.  It appears then that godliness or piety is a state, a condition of the soul, whereby the individual is made obedient to and carefully conforms to God's moral law.  Godliness is the inward quality of being righteous.  A condition indispensably necessary to salvation, but exceedingly rare among professors of religion.  It is the prizing of righteousness, honesty, moral integrity, truth, holiness in the heart."


[This speaks clearly about behavior and says little about the inner conditions that bring it about.]



Constable, T. L.  (2021, PDF p. 22).

"'Godliness' (Gr. eusebeia) refers to behavior that reflects the character of God (cf. v. 3; 3:11; et al.).  It presupposes a desire to please God in all the relationships of life."


['Behavior that reflects the character of God'.  I wonder if he means that.  There are a multitude of implications in that comment.]



Cramer, G. H.  (1967, p. 91)

"GODLINESS refers to a reverence or respect for spiritual things, thus making the Christian more godlike."


[I guess I'm uncomfortable with'godlike', how about 'like God'?]



Darby, J.  (1820,  PDF p. 409, l. 28).

"The heart, the spiritual life, is then free to enjoy its true objects - a principle of deep importance in the christian life.  When the flesh is at work in one way or another (even if its action is purely inward), if there is anything whatever that the conscience ought to be exercised about, the soul cannot be in the enjoyment of communion with God in the light, because the effect of the light is then to bring the conscience into exercise.  But when the conscience has nothing that is not already judged in the light, the new man is in action with regard to God, whether in realising the joy of His presence or in glorifying Him in a life characterised by godliness.  We enjoy communion with God;  we walk with God;  we add to patience godliness."


[Can there be a time when there is nothing that the conscience would be 'exercised' about?  I don't know about Darby, but I guess I must have a bunch of repenting to do.]



Davids, P. H.  (2011, p. 48).

"A common classical and Davids, P. H.  (2011, p. 48).

"A common classical and Hellenistic Greek virtue, in the LXX and Christian literature it means 'awesome respect accorded to God, devoutness, piety, godliness' . . .".


['awesome respect accorded to God'.  Yes, yes, how?  Why?]



Cranfield, C. E. B.  (1960, p. 178, l. 26).

"The noun denotes in the New Testament the attitude and behaviour of the man who is truly God-fearing."


[Short.  Nice.  Doesn’t tell us much about it.]



Demarest, J. T.  (1865, p. 94).

"And with steadfast endurance, godliness (or piety:) τήν εὐσέβεια.  The word means reverence towards God mingled with love, or the worship that is properly due to him.  Be constantly engaged in adoring God and entreating his help, for so your daily struggles for self-government and resignation will be crowned with success.  To assume that Peter here speaks of piety in the sense of reverence and affection due to kindred and friends, as some do, is altogether forced, since it is opposed to usage, marked and uniform.  See Acts 3:12, where Peter is the speaker, and the same word is used, though the common version has "holiness."  "As though by our own power or godliness," etc. 1 Tim. 2:2 ; 3:16 ; 2 Tim. 3:5; Tit. 1:1, etc. (The cognate verb is only once used to express the idea of filial piety. 1 Tim. 5:4.)"


['Be constantly engaged in adoring God and entreating his help.'  Better.  Adoring God is altogether appropriate for one's attitude.  To be 'constantly' engaged in doing so implies that one is continually living in His presence and responding to His wishes.  As a human living in His presence on a continuing basis, 'entreating' His help would seem completely reasonable and a very expectable response.]



Gaebelein, A. C.  (1913-1924, p. 103).

"It is a walk with God, communion with Him, child-like trust and obedience and reverence."


[This tells us something about the behavior of the person, but it doesn't say much about what the inner life is like, or how it got that way.]



Gifford, O. P.  (1905, p. 32;  PDF p. 508;  l. 6).

“And to patience godliness”--reverence, respect, piety toward God; the confession of human dependence upon God manifested in conduct and conversation.  Having faith, energy, self-control, and patience, there is danger lest we lose the fine sense of reverence; danger that we become irreverent.  At the beginning of the Christian life there is an awful sense of God;  in too many cases this wears off, we become familiar with and degrade holy things and places, forget to bow in prayer, to close the eyes in worship."


[His definition of godliness:  'the confession of human dependence upon God manifested in conduct and conversation' seems fine, as long as the focus is on the dependence and not the conduct.  I refer you to Abernethy, above, for clarification.  I suspect what he is referring to by an 'awful sense of God' is to be found in what I've described as   virtue/arete.]



Gill, J.  (1746-48A, PDF p. 6409).

"and to patience, godliness;  either internal, which is distinguished from bodily exercise, or outward worship, and lies in the inward and powerful exercise of grace, as faith, hope, love, fear, etc. and the Syriac version here renders it, “the fear of God”:  or rather external, and intends the whole worship of God, as prayer, praise, hearing of the word, and attendance on all ordinances."


[His distinction between internal and external Godliness is well taken.  Clearly both are needed.  Personally, I lean more to emphasizing the internal.  Yes, the 'fear of God' is an important part of Godliness.]



Green, M.  (1976, p. 69-70).

"To this steadfastness of character godliness, or rather 'reverence', must be added.  The word eusebeia is rare in the New Testament, probably because it was the primary word for 'religion' in popular pagan usage.  The 'religious man' of antiquity, both in Greek and Latin usage (where the equivalent word was pietas), was careful and correct in performing his duties both to gods and men.  Perhaps Peter used it here in deliberate contrast to the false teachers, who were far from proper in their behaviour both to God and their fellow men.  Peter is at pains to emphasize that true knowledge of God (which they mistakenly boasted they possessed) manifests itself in reverence toward Him and respect towards men.  There is no hint of religiosity here.  EUSEBEIA is a very practical awareness of God in every aspect of life."


['awareness'.  Once again we have Brother Lawrence.]



Günther, W.  (1986, p. 94, l. 41 & p. 95, l. 16).

"Only on that account can the OT phrase phobos theou (fear of God) be rendered so consistently by the Hel. eusebeia, though to be sure the attitude of the believer - zēn eusebōs en Christō Iēsou, "live godly in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:12;  cf. 1 Clem. 1:2) - is based on faith in Christ (1 Tim. 3:16;  cf. 6:3), and its secret is the revelation of God in the flesh." . . . "In Jude and 2 Pet. Christians are described as the righteous who live, like Noah and Lot, in the midst of asebeis, ungodly men (Jude 4, 15, 18:  2 Pet 2:5 f.;  3:7).  Here eusebeia is seen as the Christian manner of life, which keeps Christ's return constantly in view (2 Pet. 3:11 f.).  The Christian who lives in this expectation attains to knowledge and is preserved from temptation (2 Pet. 1:3-8;  2:9)."


[Note:  eusebeia can be a direct translation from the Hebrew of the phrase 'fear of God'.  This will become important in the Theory section.  It is also understood as 'the Christian manner of life'.]



Henry, M.  (1853, p. 817, l. 8)

"To patience we must add godliness, and this is the very thing which is produced by patience, for that works experience, Rom. 5. 4.  When Christians bear afflictions patiently, they get an experimental knowledge of the loving-kindness of their heavenly Father, which he will not take from his children, even when he visits their iniquity with the rod, and their transgressions with stripes; (Ps. 89. 52. 33.)  and hereby they are brought to the childlike fear and reverential love wherein true godliness consists:"


[Two points here.  'bear afflictions patiently' produces 'loving-kindness'. Godliness is a combination of fear and love.  Both seem correct.]


Ironside, H. A.  (1947, p. 70)

"... 'God-likeness,' or true piety ...."


[Short.  Doesn't tell us much.]



Irwin, C. H.  (1928, p. 555).

"godliness.  See 1 Tim. iii. 16."


[1 Tim 3:16  -  Great is the mystery of Godliness . . .]



James, M. R.  (1912, p. 12).

"εὐσέβεια, like ἀρετή, is so general a word that it is puzzling.  We have it in 1 Timothy 6:11, along with other words of this list: δίωκε δὲ δικαιοσύνην, εὐσέβειαν, πίστιν, ἀγάπην, ὑπομονήν, πραϋπαθίαν.  Our author has used it in 2 Peter 1:3, and we shall not be far wrong if we render it in both places as “godly conduct.”


[Behavior only?  I don't think so.]



Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D.  (1880, p. 445;  PDF p. 495).

"'And in your patient endurance godliness:'  it is not to be mere stoical endurance, but united to [and flowing from] God-trusting. [Alford]"


[Trusting God in the midst of suffering?  Seems a good idea.  Could add this to Henry's list of fear and love.]



Kelly, W.  (1906, p. 52-53;  PDF p. 63-64).

"Yet another want of at least equal or greater weight is next urged: 'in endurance godliness' or piety.  What more momentous for the soul than to preserve the links of reverence and affection, of dependence and obedience, in fresh and constant exercise with God and our Lord Jesus!  Yet such is the pressure of work, to say nothing of the course of the age, the deceitfulness of riches, the disappointment at loss, or lusts of other things, that the peril from any earthly preoccupation is great.  But here we are reminded to supply godliness in its constant place.  To confide in Him, to bow implicitly to His will assured that it is the best, is all the more blessed in the pressure of the persecutions that try our endurance."





Leaney, A. R. C.  (1967, p. 108, l. 26).

"Piety here translates the Greek word rendered in verse 3 above by 'true religion', which gives its sense well:  it means the attitude of reverence for God and respect for fellow-men which is sincere and so leads to brotherly kindness, ..."


[Short.  Includes both sides of the term.  Too brief to be much good.]



Lumby, J. R.  (1893, p. 248, l. 13).

"And in your patience godliness.  The mystery of godliness - that is, Godlikeness - was made known by the Incarnation.  The Son of God became man, that men might through Him be made sons of God.  And godliness in the present world is Christ made manifest in the lives of His servants.  Toward this imitation of Christ the believer will aspire through his patience.  He takes up the cross and bears it after his Master, and thus begins his discipleship, of which the communion with Christ waxes more intimate day by day.  Such was the godliness of St. Paul.  It was because he had followed the Lord in all that He would have him to do that the Apostle was bold to exhort the Corinthians, "Be ye imitators of me"; but he adds at once, "as I am of Christ" (I Cor. xi. I).  And when he sends Timothy to recall his teaching to their minds he says, "He shall put you in remembrance of my ways which are in Christ."


[Very Good!  'Godlikeness ', I guess Thompson won't like Lumby, either.  Lumby's comment is, essentially, a defense of the 'Godlikeness' position.  Very effective, it seems to me.]



Luther, M.  (1859, p. 250, l. 1)

"That is, that we in all our outward life, whatever we do or suffer, should so conduct ourselves, that we may serve God therein, not seeking our own honor and gain, but that God alone may be glorified thereby;  and that we should so demean ourselves that men may take knowledge that we do all for God's sake."


[I don’t know about the ‘demean’ part.  It seems a bit extreme.  Like the Pharisees praying loudly to he heard by others.]



Mayor, J. B.  (1907, p. 92;  PDF p. 308).

"The martyr in 4 Mace. 5:23, 33 combines ὑπομονή, εὐσέβεια, and φίλη γκράτεια.  No doubt εὐσέβεια here, as in v. 3, is in tacit opposition to the σεβεις against whom a large part of the epistle is directed.  Its action may be illustrated by the case of Moses just referred to.  It was no callous insensibility, no feeling of pride which supported him, but the sight of the Invisible."


[σεβεις means impious.]



Maclaren, A.  (1905, p. 58;  PDF p. 534;  l. 35).

"What do we mean by godliness?  The fundamental idea is reverence toward God.  That reverence expresses itself both inwardly and outwardly--inwardly by habitual communion with Him in spirit;  outwardly by habitual service of Him in act.  The word covers substantially the same ground as the Old Testament expression, 'the fear of the Lord.'"


[Oh, Yes.  Very Good.  Notice the inward, spiritual aspect which I hope would motivate the outward, service.  Further, note that this is to be 'habitual'.  This is to be an ongoing, continual interaction.  At least, such is the ideal.]



Macmillan, H.  (1910, PDF p. 88, l. 19).

"But to this patience must be united godliness.  Godliness is Godlikeness, having the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus, viewing everything from the Divine point, and living in our inner life as fully in the light of His presence as we live in our outer life in the light of the sun.  And exercising ourselves unto this godliness, our patience will have a Divine quality of strength, endurance, beauty imparted to it such as no mere natural patience possesses."


[YES!  This is the best yet.  If we are to be imitators of Christ, if the mind of Christ is to live within us, then, maybe, Godlikeness might not be too strong a term.  I know that other commentators forcefully resist such language.  And, yes, it is silly for human beings to contemplate being 'like' God.  Still, IF the Spirit lives within us and IF we allow His Spirit to direct our steps, why is such a description completely untenable?  Yes, human sinfulness is a terrible thing.  Yet, God's forgiveness and the Spirit's indwelling may make it possible.]



Moffatt, J.  (1928A, p. 182;  PDF p. 194, l. 1).

"inspired by a sense of the divine purpose which is running through the trials of life.  Stedfastness is to be reverent, not defiant.  It acquiesces in God's will,"


[Our Endurance is to bow to our Lord's Will by letting Him decide what is to be Endured.]



Mounce, R. H.  (1982, p. 109)

"GODLINESS is not only 'devotion to God' (Phillips)  but a sense of duty toward man as well.  It is religion in the best sense - the kind of religion that James says looks after orphans and widows in distress, and stays clear of the polluting influence of the world  (Jas. 1:27)."


[Yes, but it tells us about 'duty' and little about the love that would motivate that duty.]



Oberst, B.  (1962, p. 142).

"GODLINESS – eusebeia, from eu, well, good, and sebomai, to be devout.  It denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him.  This person is conscious and mindful of God and His will!"


[So godliness thinks of God and does His will.]



Oberst, B.  (1988, PDF p. 269).

"The Greek word eusebeia, is from eu, well, good, and sebomai, to be devout.  It denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him.  This person is conscious and mindful of God and His will!  Oh that their number might increase!  With such an attitude, the next virtue should not be difficult."


[Keys here:  'Godward attitude' and 'conscious and mindful of God and His will.'  Basically a clone of the 1962 comments.]



Plummer, A.  (1877-1879A;  PDF p. p. 444)

"'Godliness' is the realization of God's abiding presence, the fruits of which are reverence and trust:  'Thou God seest me;' 'I have set God always before me, therefore I cannot fall.'"


[Sounds like Brother Lawrence.   I wonder if that is where he got the idea?   Or maybe Calvin?]



Plummer, A.  (1877-1879B, p, 445;  PDF p. 438, l. 37 Rt.).

"your godliness must not be selfish and solitary, but social and Christian;"


['selfish and solitary' would seem to be aimed at monks and the monastic tradition.  Many of these commentators, likely protestant, seem to share this opinion.]



Powers, D. G.  (2010)

"Godliness (eusebeian) describes a respectful attitude toward God, acknowledging his authority, and obeying his will.  It carried the general meaning of 'religion' in popular pagan usage.  'Perhaps Peter uses it here in deliberate contrast to the false teachers, who were far from proper in their behavior to God and their fellow men.' (Green 1987, 79)."





Sherlock, J.  (1905, p. 29-30;  PDF p. 505-506;  l. 63).

“And, then,” says the apostle, “associate also with these things godliness.”  The word means certain acts of worship presented to God;  but it means more than this, it means a reverential spirit, by which our acts of worship are regulated.  Is it not remarkable how much our religious worship is dependent upon certain influences, certain associations, certain circumstances?  You perceive a man who has associated early in life with persons who frequent the house of God, and he contracts a kind of habit, and it is a long while before he can shake off this habit.  Now, just change a man’s position in society; see what the increase of this world’s goods will do for a man;  you see him slackening his attendance at the house of God, and leaving certain acts of worship that he once regularly engaged in.  I have seen men who rigidly observed certain outward acts of worship when they were at home.  I have seen them give the lamentable proof that it was all a matter of external influence.  And therefore the apostle says, “Associate with everything that is right, everything that is virtuous in conduct, godliness”: that is, a devout and a reverential spirit, manifested in connection with your devotedness to Christ and Him crucified."


[His focus on the 'reverential spirit' is good.  The latter discussion of the effects of external influence is a realistic warning.]



Simeon, C.  (1844, p. 296;  PDF p. 304).

"We must not however rest here. “To patience we must add godliness:” for without a pious regard to God, all our efforts will be in vain.  We may conceive of all the foregoing graces as exercised by a heathen: but we must have that sublime piety which no heathen can possess.  We must see the hand of God in every thing; and receive every thing as from him;  and do every thing as for him; making his will the rule, and his glory the end, of all our actions.  At the same time, we must walk with him, and delight ourselves in him, and maintain sweet fellowship with him as our Father and our Friend, and must look for his approbation as our great reward."


[In the last sentence: walk, delight & fellowship would seem to characterize godliness.  I suspect the prior sentence with:  hand, receive, do  would characterize the mental orientation of how godliness is produced.  Maybe this works, feels sorta forced.]



Sumner, J. B.  (1840, p. 235).

"And to temperance add godliness; a reverential fear, a holy love of God, and an habitual reference to his will.  This will be manifested, and, in return, this state of mind will be maintained, by the study of his word: by public worship;  by private and family devotion;  by an intimate concern in whatever promotes his glory."


[He gives us a three-fold definition:  fear, love, and reference.  He then provides four recommendations for producing godliness:  study, worship, devotion, glory.  His definition is OK, but his recommendations feel a mite thin.  Not much meat there.]



Thayer, J. H.  (1886, p. 262)

"reverence, respect;  in the Bible everywhere piety towards God, godliness:..."





Thompson, J. P.  (1859,  PDF p. 87, l. 6).

 "I wish to insist, for a moment, upon the idea that selfishness is not merely to be restrained, moderated, held in check by compromises, but to be conquered, if ever the soul would gain the mastery of itself for God."


Thompson, J. P.  (1859,  PDF p. 139-146, l. 11).

"A religious man is he who practically makes his accountability to God the law of his life; - who is bound to God with the sense of personal obligation for all that he receives, in all that he does." . . . "Some understand the term in the old English sense of god-like-ness, a moral resemblance to God - an assimilation to him in character.  But this does not express the objective sense conveyed in the original word.  God ward-ness, if we might make such a term, would be nearer this than God-like-ness; - a state of mind which is toward God as the sole object of its adoration and religious reverence, the central, supreme object of its trust and love, the final source of moral obligation and authority." . . . "This sentiment is equally compounded of love and fear.  That veneration or reverence toward God which is true piety is grounded in a love of His holiness.  There is a veneration whose chief element is awe;  a reverence for dignity, station, greatness, power, which is cold and formal and distant". . . "Such is the veneration which barbarian tribes manifest for the mysterious powers of Nature". . . . . "But the veneration of the Christian mind for God is not a dim awe of invisible power, a dread of that Almighty force which heaped up the mountains," . . . "is a reverence for that which is greater than physical force, however sublime and terrible, even the greatness of a good and just and holy character". . . . "But with this love and adoration of the character of God should mingle always a salutary awe of His majesty.   . . . .'By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.'"


[He generally did a very good job.  I like Thompson.  However, I would have liked a better, more comprehensive presentation of God's love of us as motive for our love of Him.]



Thompson, J. P.  (1859,  PDF Footnote p. 142, l. 9).

"The term εὐσέβεια (eusebia), here translated godliness, is used in the New Testament to denote that reverence toward God, which is a spontaneous feeling of the heart in view of His character. (see in Robinson.)  Cornelius was 'a devout man, (εὐσεβής) and feared God.'  The prevailing use of εὐσέβεια by classic writers gives to it this same objective sense.  Plato, Thucydides, Demosthenes, use it to express veneration toward the Deity  (πρὸς  θεοὺς).  See in Stephanus, Suidas, and Passow ed. Rost und Palm.  In the 'Definitions' sometimes ascribed to Plato, εὐσέβεια is defined to be Δικαιοσύνη περὶ θεοὺς, that which is just, fitting, meet, as toward the gods.  The Stoics defined it to be ἐπιστήμη θεο͂ν θεραπείας--the appreciative or becoming service of the gods.  Stephanus defines it by religiositas;  thus expressing the same idea of reverence toward God.  De Wette, in his note upon 2 Peter 1:6, says “Ehrfurcht und Liebe gegen Gott;”--veneration and love toward God.  This use of the word precludes the idea of God-like-ness, and favours the less euphonious, but more expressive term, God-ward-ness.  It denotes also something deeper than a formal outward reverence for the commands of God, and refers directly to the reverence of the soul toward Him."


[Again, Thompson disagrees with 'godlikeness' via Macmillan, and advocates his self-coined term 'god-ward-ness'.]



Tuck, R.  (1896, p. 176).

"Better seen as God-likeness.  Then it can at once be apprehended that, if it is to be something really practical, it must be likeness to "God manifest in the flesh." It must be the persistent endeavour to fashion our lives after the Christ-pattern, not by way of any mere servile imitation of incidents or actions, but in a noble way of giving sway and influence to the same principles, and motives.  And to ensure "God-likeness" involves the deepest interest in the human life of the Lord Jesus, and such near fellowship with Him that we readily change into His image."


[We're back to 'god-likeness'.  Thompson must be spinning in his grave.  I like Tuck's position.  Not as polished as Lumby and Macmillan, but still quite good.]



Vine, W. E.  (1981, p. 162, l. 15)

"EUSEBEIA (εὐσεβείᾳ), from eu, well, and sebomai, to be devout, denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him."


['Godward attitude', what's that mean? So, eusebeia means obedience?]



Wheaton, D. H.  (1994, p. 1390).

"Godliness is the Christ-like character such life should produce."


[Similar to Tuck, but much simpler.  Brief.]



Williams, W. R.  (1905, p. 61-62;  PDF p.537-538 ;  l. 64&21).

"Looking to the sense of the term here employed in the Greek original, it is piety or the fear of God--that veneration of the Most High which leads to homage and obedience. . . . True godliness begins in humility and penitence, and is sustained by prayer and adoration."


[His last sentence carries the meat.  Yes, as one 'meets' the divine, responding in humility and penitence seems wholly appropriate.  Sustaining godliness by 'prayer and adoration' also seems reasonable.]



Wuest, K. S.  (1973a, p. 19-20, l. 23).

"'Godliness' is EUSEBEIA.  Vincent's note on this word is most helpful: 'It is from eu, 'well,' and sebomai, 'to worship,' so that the radical idea is 'worship rightly directed.'  Worship, however, is to be understood in its etymological sense, 'worth-ship,' or reverence paid to worth, whether to God or man.  Wycliffe's rendering of Matthew 6:2, 'that they be worshipped of men'; and 'worship thy father and thy mother' (Matt. 19:19).  In classical Greek, the word is not confined to religion, but means also piety in the fulfillment of human relations, like the Latin pietas.  Even in classical Greek, however, it is a standing word for piety in the religious sense, showing itself in right reverence;  and is opposed to dussebeia, 'ungodliness,' and anosiotes, 'profaneness.'  'The recognition of dependence upon the gods, the confession of human dependence, the tribute of homage which man renders in the certainty that he needs their favor - all this is eusebeia, manifest in conduct and conversation, in sacrifice and prayer.'  (Nägelsbach, cited by Cremer).  This definition may be almost literally transferred to the Christian word.  It embraces the confession of the one living and true God, and life corresponding to this knowledge.'"


[Interesting.  I think I hear a hint of the Hebrew concept here.]



Zerr, E.M.  (1952, PDF p. 269;  Online p. 5).

"Godliness is from EUSEBEIA which Thayer defines as follows: "Reverence/respect; piety towards God, godliness."  The word not only requires that a man will live as he should, but that his motive for such a life will be his respect for God."





Author's Summary


After reading and rereading these commentators I keep coming back to Lumby and Macmillan.  Their take on 'godlikeness' being, essentially, the Pilgrim being conformed to the image of the Son.  They've presented strong supports for this view and they resonate.  My views tend to be very similar.  I also like Henry's view of the process of producing Godliness from the trials present at Endurance.  Very Nice!  And it all fits with the 2 Peter theory!


This page revised and Copyrighted: Theon Doxazo

14 December, 2023