AJBT: 2 Peter 1:12-21. The Bible, God's Word to Mankind

From: "Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study" <editor@biblicaltheology.com>
Subject: AJBT: 2 Peter 1:12-21. The Bible, God's Word to Mankind
Date: November 9th 2016

2 Peter 1:12-21. 
The Bible, God's Word to Mankind

Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter.  All rights reserved.
www.biblicaltheology.com   Scripture quotes from KJV

2 Samuel 23:2.  The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.

What is the "Word of God"?  If one were to ask ten different people, most likely one would receive ten different answers.  Most Christians would point immediately to the Bible as "God's Word."  There are many attributes of the Bible that warrant such a distinction when we consider its formation and content.  Its sixty-six books were written over a period of about 1,200 years by approximately 45 authors, and contains not only the history of God's interaction with man, but also includes poetry, prophesies, and teachings in godly living that are attributable to God Himself as He spoke through faithful men who had an ear to listen to Him.  Its first chapters describe the fall of man into sinfulness as he always first chooses rebellion against God, and the remainder of the text describes God’s plan to restore man to a relationship with Himself.  Through it all runs a “scarlet thread” that unifies the message:  the coming of the Messiah who would shed His blood on the Cross of Calvary to provide forgiveness for all who would place their faith and trust in Him.

When we think of a "word," we think of it as the spoken word much as we experience when we communicate with one another.  Consider how the writer of the book of Hebrews opens the book:

Hebrews 1:1.  God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

When we observe how God has chosen to speak to mankind, He has done so in a variety of ways.  He spoke through the fire to Moses, through a still small voice to Elijah, through a vision in the Temple to Isaiah, in family circumstances to Hosea, through a basket of summer fruit to Amos.  God used visions and dreams, angels, Urim and Thummim, symbols, natural events, ecstasy, a pillar of fire, smoke, or other means.  God even used a donkey to speak to Baalim.   It was God's purpose from the beginning of the creation of man that He would reveal Himself so that man could have a relationship with Him.  God's interaction with mankind was dynamic and varied, as God not only revealed who He was, but revealed His purpose and His will.  

However, God's Word does more than communicate, and an understanding of the power of God's word is instructive.  How did God bring this universe into existence?  Whether we argue that the event was a big bang or not, God created it by the power of His Word.  When used in scripture, the word, "word," or logos in the Greek,  means more than simply the intrinsic spoken vocabulary.  Logos refers not only to the message of the word spoken, but both the authority of the one speaking it, and the power that the word has to affect change.  How can words have power?  

One might consider a simple example of two people walking down the street, one several feet in front of the other.  The one in the rear calls out the name of the one in the front.  What will the person in the front do?  Most likely, that person will respond in some way such as stopping and turning around.  By speaking the word, an action was projected on someone else.  An example of the authority of the word might be similarly illustrated if the person in the rear says, "Stop! This is the Police!"  Now the word not only has the power to produce change, but the authority to do so.  Though this may be an oversimplification, the logos concept is another thread that is woven through every part of the Word of God.  The Word of God not only contains a message, but it has power to affect tremendous change, and the authority to do so.  

Hebrews 1:2.  Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;  

It might be interesting to note that we see the Trinity in the logos, as the work done by the Word is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and we will see that the authority of the Word is held in the Person of Jesus Christ.  As we observe the history of the nation of Israel we find that the diversity of God's revelation of himself to mankind continued despite man's wickedness and disobedience until finally, when Israel and Judah were taken into captivity in Assyria and Israel, God's Word fell silent.  The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, preached God's Word to the people around 400 BC.  At this same time, Ezekiel prophesied of the coming silence when he described the glory of God leaving the Temple.  For the first time in about 1,200 years the Pillar of Fire and Cloud, the Shekinah Glory, was gone from its place over the Holy of Holies, the sacred center of the Jewish Temple.  For the next 400 years God's Shekinah Glory failed to come down and burn the offering in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, and the High Priest simply had to clean up the mess, leading to the cessation of the sacrifice.  

However, after this 400-year silence, the Glory of God came back.  What happened?  We find in Luke, Chapter 2 that there were shepherds abiding in their fields watching over their flocks by night and the angel of the Lord appeared unto them and the Glory of the Lord shown around them.  God's Word came back.  The writer of the gospel of John further develops the logos as he starts the book with, 

John 1:1-4.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 

We see again, as was described in Genesis, and in Hebrews, the communicative and creative power of God's Word.  John also clarifies one very important issue in verse 14.

John 1:14.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The Word is not only the communicative and creative power of God, it is embodied in Jesus Christ, Himself.  It is this one attribute of Jesus Christ that is a stumbling block to mankind.  How can Jesus be a man, but also be God?  This makes no logical sense to man's reasoning, but is entirely consistent with the nature of God.  Jesus is the Word, the communicative and authoritative person of God, through whom the universe was created, and through whom is found the source of grace and truth.  It is through this Person of the Holy Trinity that God speaks directly to mankind, and it is through His work that forgiveness for sin is found.  The Word is eternal.  The eternal Word was made flesh when Jesus was born, and in Him God's full glory is again revealed.

We see in God's revelation of Himself to mankind a harmony of authoritative sources, God Himself, the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. Though we find varied sources, their message is the same, so there is never any conflict or inconsistency between them. Consequently, God's Word is without any error or contradiction.  Likewise, the Bible, in its original form, is without any error or contradiction.

So, if this is true, how accurate is the Bible when compared with the original documents.  None of these documents exist.  However, we have over 30,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament alone, and many of these date back to within 100 years of the originals.  By examination of these documents, their consistency verifies their accuracy.  The Old Testament manuscripts demonstrate a similar and astonishing accuracy.  When the Dead Sea scrolls of Qumran were discovered, they predated the oldest known manuscripts by 1000 years.  Two important discoveries were made.  First, their age proved that the Old Testament prophesies were, indeed, written prior to the events they prophesied, and second, there was virtually no difference between these documents and those of 1000 years later.  The most complete scroll is that of Isaiah.  In this book there were only 16 variations in punctuation, and one word difference.  That word, translated "light", has no effect on the meaning of the text.  

God's written Word, the Bible, was preserved by a meticulous set of copy rules that were set in place by the scribes who duplicated them.

  • A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, 

  • prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew. 

  • these must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals. 

  • every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire document. 

  • the length of each column must not extend over less than 48 nor more than 60 lines; and the breadth must consist of thirty letters. 

  • the whole copy must be first-lined; and if three words should be written without a line, it is worthless. 

  • the ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other color, and be prepared according to a definite recipe. 

  • an authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate. 

  • no word or letter, not even a, yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the original before him.

  • between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; 

  • between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants; 

  • between every book, three lines. 

  • the fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so. 

  • besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, 

  • wash his whole body, 

  • always write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, 

  • and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him.

Extreme care was taken to maintain the integrity of the scriptures in both the New Testament and the Old, and the result is the accurate preservation of God's Word.  After the ascension of Jesus Christ there was a similar need for the preservation of the truth.  The work and words of Jesus Christ was known by the Apostles and disciples who used that knowledge to spread the gospel throughout the region.  However, as the church and its needs grew, the apostles started writing documents so that the truth could be similarly preserved.  These documents first took the form of personal and general letters, and then toward the ends of their ministries, the writers of the gospels recorded their four unique  testimonies of the ministry of Jesus.  It is evident that the accurate remembrance of the truths of the faith was extremely important to the apostles.  They fully understood that the faith was entrusted to the saints.  Peter expresses this concern in his second letter.

2 Peter 1:12-15.  Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. 13Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 14Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. 15Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

During the initial formation of the Christian church, there were no authoritative New Testament documents available.  Many of its first members retained their Jewish faith, and continued to attend the Temple ceremonies on the Sabbath Day.  These continued to use the Old Testament scriptures as the written Word of God, but now viewed them through the illumination that comes with the understanding and acceptance of the gospel.  As Peter states, the apostles were not negligent in communicating the truths of the faith, as it is these truths that provide such illumination.  However, the apostles were also recognizing that they will not live forever.  Some, such as James the Apostle and the deacon Stephen had already been martyred.  Many, like Peter and Paul, were in constant danger of persecution and imprisonment.  As Peter writes these words he is thinking of "putting off this, my tabernacle," as he considers the end of his life on earth when he goes to be with the Lord.  Consequently, we might think of this epistle as a form of a farewell address, which may serve to emphasize the importance of its content to the author.  “Peter knew because of Christ’s revelation, that his days on earth were limited, and this motivated him to ensure that his readers would remember his message after he died.”  Because of this, Peter writes.  The gospel was entrusted to the saints, so it is imperative that they record the truths of the faith.

2 Peter 1:16.  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 

Many over the years have argued that the Apostles' testimonies about Jesus were greatly exaggerated, mythological, or even a hoax.  Certainly, we see that even during their ministry, most who heard their message would not believe their testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The inviolable consistency we may observe across the various testimonies that come from different personalities, at different times, and from writings to different groups, shows internally the truth of their words.  Furthermore, every Apostle gave his life to the ministry following the resurrection when, prior to the resurrection they were marginally committed and spiritually immature.  This is even more subtle evidence of the truth of the record.  If the Apostles were trying to present such a message in their own power, much of what is in New Testament scripture would not have been included. 

The inclusion of these and other similar events points to the desire of the Apostles to present an accurate account, not a cleaned up story.  They were eye witnesses of the ministry period of Jesus' life, and carried with them His commission to spread the gospel.  Though the gospel was first spread by word of mouth, at the point in time of Peter's writing, the Apostles were already busily engaged in creating the written Word.  The sincerity of their purpose and their calling of God to record God's Word so was no different than those who wrote the documents of the Old Testament.  As Jesus spoke to the Apostles, He is able to speak through them the truths of the faith, as Peter notes that he was an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry.  The statement of “His Majesty” is a reference to his own witness of Jesus’ transfiguration, and is presented within the context of his own experience, and is not based upon the canonical gospel narratives.   Consequently, these documents that were created by the Apostles carry just as much spiritual authority as those of the Old Testament.  Consequently, the New Testament is not a replacement for the Old Testament, but is rather the fulfillment of it.

2 Peter 1:17-18.  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

The apostles were eye witnesses not only of Jesus' ministry, but of Jesus' glory and majesty as the Son of God.  They witnessed his transfiguration as well as his resurrection and ascension.  These three events alone are sufficient to affirm the deity of Christ.

2 Peter 1:19.  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

The word of the prophets of the Old Testament and the word of prophecy of the New Testament are one and the same, and the transfiguration is a foreview of their fulfillment.  Their complete and first-hand knowledge of the truth of the nature of Christ and the voracity of the gospel message made their prophesy fully and altogether reliable, a “more sure word.”  The prophecy of the New Testament writers is as a light that shines in a dark place.  What is the function of light in a dark place?  It chases away the darkness.  It is the light that has the power, not the darkness.  When the source of light enters the room, the darkness flees at the fastest speed possible, being totally impotent against the light's source of power without any regard for the amount of that power.  Likewise, the Word of God chases away the darkness of ignorance and untruth.  It illumines the heart of the ignorant to understand the truth and positively respond to it.  It is the Word of God that has the power, not the word of the world.  

Peter also understands that the Word of God will be sustained, and will sustain its purpose until the end of the age.  We have seen how God has preserved His written word through the ages already, protecting its accuracy during tens or hundreds of thousands of copies.  However, God's Word is also consistent with God's unchanging nature, and as the Holy Spirit illumines readers to understand His nature, even the context and message of God's written Word is preserved.  God's Word is dynamic in that it is a living source of truth and guidance.  At the same time it is eternally static, in that it will never change.  God's plans and promises do not change. This age will come to an end, and God's Word will continue.  “Such scriptural prophecies as were judged in apostolic times to refer in one sense or another to Christ's parousia bear convincing testimony to the truth of that coming event. These prophecies should be pondered and heeded by every Christian right down to the day of their fulfilment.”

2 Peter 1:20-21. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Verse 20, in the original language, refers to the source of the prophecy, not its distribution.  This is attested by the context of verse 21.  Some would use the word translated "interpretation" to develop doctrines of prophetic interpretation.  However, this is not the point of Peter's statement here.  Peter is continuing to defend the reliability of the Word of God by identifying its source.  Yes, the experiences recorded in the scriptures were eye-witness accounts of the authors.  However, as Peter states, the presentation of these and the doctrines, truths, and conclusions made concerning them are not of their own personal interpretation, but rather came from the same source without regard to whether the prophecy was before or after the life of Christ: the Holy Spirit.  When we read the words of the New Testament writers we can be fully assured that not only what they describe did, indeed, take place, but also that their presentation of the context and purpose behind all of those accounts is fully reliable.  Just as the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament, He spoke through the writers of the New Testament.  "It was not through a process of dictation or through a state of ecstasy that the writers of Scripture spoke but through the control of the Spirit of God ' as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.'"

The Bible, the written Word of God, was authored by men who were led of the Holy Spirit to create an accurate and reliable account of God's revelation of Himself and His purpose to mankind.  “Peter's statement recognizes both the divine and the human element in the production of inspired Scripture.  Any balanced doctrine of the origin of Scripture must recognize both.  Peter accepts the fact of the divine inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, but he does not define the relationship between the divine and the human elements.  The moving of the Holy Spirit on the speakers was the primary and indispensable element, but in using human beings as His spokesmen the Spirit worked in and through their varied personalities to produce the very result He desired.”

Unlike any other book on the planet, it is dynamic and alive with the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, to guide, direct, teach, rebuke, and otherwise interact with mankind.  It furthermore contains the full revelation of God's plan for mankind through the authority and saving grace of Jesus Christ, the one theme that courses through all of its pages.  The Bible was not written to be read by a subset of scholars or priests, but rather, it was written to be read by all people.  The Bible is not to be a dust collector on a shelf, but rather to be read by all, and through that reading, all can be edified, and many can be saved.

Revelation 1:3.  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

When we hold the Bible in our hands, we have the very Word of God that has the capability of communicating virtually everything we need to know to live an obedient life of faith that is filled with joy, peace, and blessing.  If we are dedicated to its study and its application in our lives, we will find our whole experience radically changed.  Let us covenant with God to renew our commitment to His Word, to take the time to read its pages, and seize opportunities to take part in Bible studies and Bible-based teaching.

Criswell, Wallie Amos (1909-2002)

Exodus, Chapter 3.

1 Kings 11-13.

Isaiah 6:1,66:6.

Hosea 1:2-10.

Amos 8:1-2.

Job 7:14; Daniel 1:17; Joel 2:28.

Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Deuteronomy 33:8; Ezra 2:63 ; Nehemiah 7:65.

Exodus 13:21-22, 14-24; Numbers 14:14; Nehemiah 9:12,19.

Morris.  p 12-13.

Numbers 22:21-39.

Ezekiel 10:18.

1 Corinthians 1:23.


Luke 1:1-4.

Jude 3.

Bergen, Martha S.  Simon Peter’s Farewell Address.  Biblical Illustrator, 41 no. 1, Fall 2016, p. 40.

Sheehan, Thomas.  “The first coming: how the Kingdom of God became Christianity.  New York, NY:  Random House, 1986.

Bultmann, Rudolf.  “Myth & Christianity: An Inquiry Into The Possibility Of Religion Without Myth,” translation 1958 by Noonday Press, Prometheus Books, 2005.

Atwill, Joseph.  “Caesar’s Messiah: the Roman conspiracy to invent Jesus.” Berkeley, CA:  Ulysses Press. 2005.

Luke 1:1-3.

McWilliams, Warren.  Peter’s Epistles.  Biblical Illustrator 43(1), Fall 2016, p 68.

Neyrey, Jerome H.  The apologetic use of the transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:16-21.  The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 42 no 4 Oct 1980, p 504-519.

Matthew 17:5.

Blum, Edwin A. (1981),  Hebrews through Revelation.  The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,  Vol. 12.   Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House. p 274.

Curran, John T.  The teaching of II Peter 1:20: on the interpretation of prophecy.  Theological Studies, 4 no 3 Sep 1943, p 347-368.

Blum, Edwin A. (1981),  Hebrews through Revelation.  The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,  Vol. 12.   Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House.  p. 274.

Hiebert, D. Edmond.  The prophetic foundation for the Christian life: an exposition of 2 Peter 1:19-21.  Bibliotheca sacra, 141 no 562 Apr - Jun 1984, p 166.

2 Timothy 3:16.


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Written each week by our publisher and editor, John W. (Jack) Carter, these are original, researched, commentaries that may be used for individual study or small-group discussion.
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