Tuesday 16 February 2021

Bible Book:
2 Peter

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came from human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (vs 20-21)

2 Peter 1:16-21 Tuesday 16 February 2021

Psalm 81


The writer of this paragraph addresses one of his main themes, namely that the teaching of the apostles is reliable because it is based on a historical revelation that a prophecy had foretold. 'Myths' were disparaged by Jewish and early Christian writers because they related to pagan deities; moreover they were invented stories rather than authentic historical accounts. It is possible that the writer has been accused by opponents of peddling ingenious myths. He instead draws on the real event of Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8)  that we read about on Sunday, which might sound like a mystical experience but of which he was actually an eyewitness.

 When Jesus was transfigured he was affirmed as the son of God and the love between himself and God was affirmed; the wording in v. 17 most closely resembles that in Matthew’s account of the event (Matthew 17:5). 'Honour and glory' is a stock phrase but 'honour' implies exalted status and 'glory' describes the radiance of God himself.

Verse 19 may take its cue from 1 Peter 1:10-12 which likewise links Old Testament prophets to Christian teachers. When this letter was written, 'prophecy' was regularly used as a description of the whole Old Testament and not just the prophetic books, and as in Acts 3:24 it is likely to be the whole Scripture rather than a specific passage that is in mind. For the description of Scripture as a lamp compare Psalm 119:105. The present world is often described as a dark place (for example in John 1:5 and Ephesians 6:12). The image of Christ when he comes again as 'the morning star' is evocative, and its transforming effect on the human heart a great encouragement.

The encouragement to study the Bible carefully ('Scripture' is a reference to the Old Testament because the New Testament had not yet been compiled and given the same status) has the warning attached that we should not assume our own interpretation is the right one. The writer will give an example of those who have made that mistake in 3:16. We can infer from this chapter as a whole that his view is that the ministers and apostolic leaders collectively provided guidance on good interpretation. But this is not stated; instead v. 21 gives the reason for not interpreting on one’s own authority as the fact that nothing in Scripture was written on the author’s own authority but rather was prompted by God’s Spirit.

To Ponder:

  • Is observed history invariably a more reliable guide to truth than stories? You might consider some of Jesus’s best-loved parables.
  • To what extent are you comfortable with the principle of v. 20 that correct Bible interpretation is not likely to be the result of one’s individual efforts?
  • Verse 21 may seem to suggest that the human writers of Scripture had little influence on it, but merely held the pen for God’s Spirit. Why do most Bible students, having studied Scripture as a whole, arrive at a view much closer to equal partnership of human author and the Holy Spirit in the task?
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