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This page revised and Copyrighted: Theon Doxazo

14 December, 2023

 

The Commentator's Impossible Job

02.1.6

This major section of the site (Exegesis) is designed to survey the wide diversity of commentators available as they consider the text of Second Peter.  While I will strive to present their positions clearly and fairly, often in their own words, I will inevitably have my own opinions and comments.

 

Before this task is begun, however, it seems reasonable to have a clear grasp of the impossibility of the job these commentators have been asked to undertake.

 

Consider the key text of 2 Peter  (1:5-7).  This text enumerates a list of 8 terms beginning with Faith and ending with Christian Love.  Each of these commentators has striven to interpret what these words mean in this context, as well as the broader context of the book and the Scriptures generally.  As a consequence., these commentators will have a few paragraphs, or maybe pages, to define and explain Faith, etc.  Folks, entire books have been written about Christian Faith.  Many books!  This is a concept that simply CANNOT be boiled down into a couple of paragraphs.  Yet, that is the task these commentators are called to.  Is this a case of 'fools rush in where angels fear to tread?'  Not really.  They are simply trying to supply a need.  We Christians of all stripes and backgrounds want to learn more of the text.  Writers have been striving to help meet the needs of these pastors, teachers, and laymen for thousands of years.  Did you get that?  THOUSANDS of years!  The job is impossible, so no one has ever surveyed the text comprehensively and satisfactorily.   That's why there have been so many commentators and why they continue to write.

 

One would suppose that, if one were to discuss the second quality in the sequence, Virtue (αρετε), it would be easy.  The term only appears in four places in the New Testament, and two of them are in this chapter!  However, as you begin looking at Virtue (αρετε) you'll discover that this term was a major player in Greek philosophy and actively discussed in Biblical times.  Thus, as contemporary commentators have made clear, in order to really understand what this term meant at the time the Scriptures were written one must also consider it's use in Greek philosophy.  All of a sudden things are not so simple any more!

 

What we will be doing on this site is to survey the commentators for what they have written on 2 Pet 1.  We will NOT be considering the full range of commentary across the whole text of Scripture composed by these many different authors.  Each of them have, likely, written extensively on many different Biblical topics and texts that will not be covered here.  Thus, it is quite possible that all of these writers have answered questions and modified positions on any number of concerns that we will be considering, but these modifications will not be included here.  Only the commentary for 2 Peter 1 is being systematically considered.  Other passages may be considered tangentially, while we focus our efforts on 2 Pet 1.  Thus, if there are weaknesses in the passages considered, it may be that there are other passages by the same authors that are not considered here which would obviate those concerns.

 

Further, consider that, for many Bible scholars, 2 Peter is not a very interesting book.  Those that have taken the trouble to look at it have, frequently, become enamored of it's parallels with Jude.  As the latter two chapters of 2 Peter focus on the Apostle's struggle against heresy, as does the whole of Jude, the first chapter of 2 Peter has tended to be downplayed or relatively ignored.  In all the commentary that I've managed to survey, I have found only a few commentators (Abernethy, Brown, Hamilton, Maclaren, and Thompson) that seem to have given the prominence to 2 Pet 1 that I believe it deserves.  Thus, we find ourselves working on an unpopular passage from an unpopular book.  It shouldn't be surprising if the vast bulk of commentators takes less time and trouble on this passage than elsewhere.  Therefore, what we find among these commentators may not be their best work.

 

Thus, while I will be quoting extensively from the commentators presenting on 2 Peter, I'd like to recommend that we all 'cut them some slack'.  We've asked them to take on an impossible job and they've done the best they could.  While we may disagree with some of what they say, we should remember to disagree politely and not to attack.  These are our Christian Brethren, after all.