aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles
« Prev 2 Peter 1:19-21 Next »

2 Peter 1:19-21

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:

19. Et habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem, cui bene facitis attendentes, tanquam lucernae apparenti in caliginoso loco, donee illuceat dies, et lucifer oriatur in cordibus vestris;

20. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

20. Hoc primùm cognito, quòd omnis prophetia scripturae privatae (vel, proprii motus) interpretationis non est:

21. For 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.

21. Neque enim voluntate hominis allata est quondam prophetia; sed à Spiritu Sancto impulsi, loquuti sunt sancti Dei homines.

 

19. We have also. He now shews that the truth of the gospel is founded on the oracles of the prophets, lest they who embraced it should hesitate to devote themselves wholly to Christ: for they who waver cannot be otherwise than remiss in their minds. But when he says, “We have,” he refers to himself and other teachers, as well as to their disciples. The apostles had the prophets as the patrons of their doctrine; the faithful also sought from them a confirmation of the gospel. I am the more disposed to take this view, because he speaks of the whole Church, and makes himself one among others. At the same time, he refers more especially to the Jews, who were well acquainted with the doctrine of the prophets. And hence, as I think, he calls their word more sure or firmer

For they who take the comparative for a positive, that is, “more sure,” for “sure,” do not sufficiently consider the whole context. The sense also is a forced one, when it is said to be “more sure,” because God really completed what he had promised concerning his Son. For the truth of the gospel is here simply proved by a twofold testimony, — that Christ had been highly approved by the solemn declaration of God, and, then, that all the prophecies of the prophets confirmed the same thing. But it appears at first sight strange, that the word of the prophets should be said to be more sure or firmer than the voice which came from the holy mouth of God himself; for, first, the authority of God's word is the same from the beginning; and, secondly, it was more confirmed than previously by the coming of Christ. But the solution of this knot is not difficult: for here the Apostle had a regard to his own nation, who were acquainted with the prophets, and their doctrine was received without any dispute. As, then, it was not doubted by the Jews but that all the things which the prophets had taught, came from the Lord, it is no wonder that Peter said that their word was more sure. Antiquity also gains some reverence. There are, besides, some other circumstances which ought to be noticed; particularly, that no suspicion could be entertained as to those prophecies in which the kingdom of Christ had so long before been predicted.

The question, then, is not here, whether the prophets deserve more credit than the gospel; but Peter regarded only this, to shew how much deference the Jews paid to those who counted the prophets as God's faithful ministers, and had been brought up from childhood in their school. 159159     Much has been written on this subject; and the difficulty has arisen from a wrong construction of the passage, which is literally as follows: — “And we have more firm the prophetic word,” Καὶ ἔχομεν βεβαιότερον τὸν προφητικὸν λόγον, that is, we have rendered more firm the prophetic word. This is confirmed by what follows; for the prophetic word is compared to “a light shining in a dark place,” and, therefore, not clear nor firm until it be fulfilled; but they were doing well to attend to this light until the full light of the gospel shone in their hearts. As Scott maintains, the reference here is clearly to the experience of Christians to their real knowledge of divine truths; for it was to be in their hearts, and not before their eyes
   A great deal of learning has been spent to no purpose on this passage. It has been by most taken as granted, that “the power and coming of our Lord,” mentioned in verse 16th, is his second coming, when the whole passage refers only and expressly to his first coming. And on this gratuitous and even false supposition is grounded the elaborate exposition of Sherlock, Horsley, and others. — Ed.

Whereunto ye do well. This passage is, indeed, attended with some more difficulty; for it may be asked, what is the day which Peter mentions? To some it seems to be the clear knowledge of Christ, when men fully acquiesce in the gospel; and the darkness they explain as existing, when they, as yet, hesitate in suspense, and the doctrine of the gospel is not received as indubitable; as though Peter praised those Jews who were searching for Christ in the Law and the Prophets, and were advancing, as by this preceding light towards Christ, the Sun of righteousness, as they were praised by Luke, who, having heard Paul preaching, searched the Scripture to know whether what he said was true. (Acts 17:11)

But in this view there is, first, an inconsistency, because it thus seems that the use of the prophecies is confined to a short time, as though they would be superfluous when the gospel-light is seen. Were one to object and say, that this does not necessarily follow, because until does not always denote the end. To this I say, that in commands it cannot be otherwise taken: “Walk until you finish your course;” “Fight until you conquer.” In such expressions we doubtless see that a certain time is specified. 160160     There is no command here: the Apostle only approves of what they were doing, “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed.” — Ed. But were I to concede this point, that the reading of the prophets is not thus wholly cast aside; yet every one must see how frigid is this commendation, that the prophets are useful until Christ is revealed to us; for their teaching is necessary to us until the end of life. Secondly, we must bear in mind who they were whom Peter addressed; for he was not instructing the ignorant and novices, who were as yet in the first rudiments; but even those respecting whom he had before testified, that they had obtained the same precious faith, and were confirmed in the present truth. Surely the gross darkness of ignorance could not have been ascribed to such people. I know what some allege, that all had not made the same progress, and that here beginners who were as yet seeking Christ, are admonished.

But as it is evident from the context, that the words were addressed to the same persons, the passage must necessarily be applied to the faithful who had already known Christ, and had become partakers of the true light. I therefore extend this darkness, mentioned by Peter, to the whole course of life, and the day, I consider will then shine on us when we shall see face to face, what we now see through a glass darkly. Christ, the Sun of righteousness, indeed, shines forth in the gospel; but the darkness of death will always, in part, possess our minds, until we shall be brought out of the prison of the flesh, and be translated into heaven. This, then, will be the brightness of day, when no clouds or mists of ignorance shall intercept the bright shining of the Sun.

And doubtless we are so far from a perfect day, as our faith is from perfection. It is, therefore, no wonder that the state of the present life is called darkness, since we are far distant from that knowledge to which the gospel invites us. 161161     The Apostle does not speak of the perfect day, but of the dawn of it, and the daystar is that which ushers in the perfect day. The gospel is the dawn and the daystar, compared with the glimmering light of prophecy, and compared too with the perfect day of the heavenly kingdom. Prophecy is useful still; for its fulfillment, found in the gospel, greatly strengthens faith. — Ed.

In short, Peter reminds us that as long as we sojourn in this world, we have need of the doctrine of the prophets as a guiding light; which being extinguished, we can do nothing else but wander in darkness; for he does not disjoin the prophecies from the gospel, when he teaches us that they shine to shew us the way. His object only was to teach us that the whole course of our life ought to be guided by God's word; for otherwise we must be involved on every side in the darkness of ignorance; and the Lord does not shine on us, except when we take his word as our light.

But he does not use the comparison, light, or lamp, to intimate that the light is small and sparing, but to make these two things to correspond,--that we are without light, and can no more keep on the right way than those who go astray in a dark night; and that the Lord brings a remedy for this evil, when he lights a torch to guide us in the midst of darkness.

What he immediately adds respecting the day star does not however seem altogether suitable to this explanation; for the real knowledge, to which we are advancing through life, cannot be called the beginning of the day. To this I reply, that different parts of the day are compared together, but the whole day in all its parts is set in opposition to that darkness, which would wholly overspread all our faculties, were not the Lord to come to our help by the light of his word.

This is a remarkable passage: we learn from it how God guides us. The Papists have ever and anon in their mouth, that the Church cannot err. Though the word is neglected, they yet imagine that it is guided by the Spirit. But Peter, on the contrary, intimates that all are immersed in darkness who do not attend to the light of the word. Therefore, except thou art resolved wilfully to cast thyself into a labyrinth, especially beware of departing even in the least thing from the rule and direction of the word. Nay, the Church cannot follow God as its guide, except it observes what the word prescribes.

In this passage Peter also condemns all the wisdom of men, in order that we may learn humbly to seek, otherwise than by our own understanding, the true way of knowledge; for without the word nothing is left for men but darkness.

It further deserves to be noticed, that he pronounces on the clearness of Scripture; for what is said would be a false eulogy, were not the Scripture fit and suitable to shew to us with certainty the right way. Whosoever, then, will open his eyes through the obedience of faith, shall by experience know that the Scripture has not been in vain called a light. It is, indeed, obscure to the unbelieving; but they who are given up to destruction are wilfully blind. Execrable, therefore, is the blasphemy of the Papists, who pretend that the light of Scripture does nothing but dazzle the eyes, in order to keep the simple from reading it. But it is no wonder that proud men, inflated with the wind of false confidence, do not see that light with which the Lord favors only little children and the humble. With a similar eulogy David commends the law of God in Psalms 19 and 119.

20. Knowing this first. Here Peter begins to shew how our minds are to be prepared, if we really wish to make progress in scriptural knowledge. There may at the same time be two interpretations given, if you read ἐπηλύσεως as some do, which means occurrence, impulse; or, as I have rendered it, interpretation, ἐπιλύσεως. But almost all give this meaning, that we ought not to rush on headlong and rashly when we read Scripture, confiding in our own understanding. They think that a confirmation of this follows, because the Spirit, who spoke by the prophets, is the only true interpreter of himself.

This explanation contains a true, godly, and useful doctrine, that then only are the prophecies read profitably, when we renounce the mind and feelings of the flesh, and submit to the teaching of the Spirit, but that it is an impious profanation of it; when we arrogantly rely on our own acumen, deeming that sufficient to enable us to understand it, though the mysteries contain things hidden to our flesh, and sublime treasures of life far surpassing our capacities. And this is what we have said, that the light which shines in it, comes to the humble alone.

But the Papists are doubly foolish, when they conclude from this passage, that no interpretation of a private man ought to be deemed authoritative. For they pervert what Peter says, that they may claim for their own councils the chief right of interpreting Scripture; but in this they act indeed childishly; for Peter calls interpretation private, not that of every individual, in order to prohibit each one to interpret; but he shews that whatever men bring of their own is profane. Were, then, the whole world unanimous, and were the minds of all men united together, still what would proceed from them, would be private or their own; for the word is here set in opposition to divine revelation; so that the faithful, inwardly illuminated by the Holy Spirit, acknowledge nothing but what God says in his word.

However, another sense seems to me more simple, that Peter says that Scripture came not from man, or through the suggestions of man. For thou wilt never come well prepared to read it, except thou bringest reverence, obedience, and docility; but a just reverence then only exists when we are convinced that God speaks to us, and not mortal men. Then Peter especially bids us to believe the prophecies as the indubitable oracles of God, because they have not emanated from men's own private suggestions. 162162     There are in the main three renderings of this passage: — l. “No Prophecy of Scripture is of a private impulse,” or invention; — 2. “No prophecy of Scripture is of self-interpretation,” that is, is its own interpreter; — 3. No prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation, that is, is not to be interpreted according to the fancies of men, but according to the word of God and the guidance of his Spirit. Now which of these corresponds with the context? Clearly the first, the two others have nothing in the passage to countenance them. The next verse is evidently explanatory of this sentence, which seems at once to determine its meaning; and, as it is often the case in Scripture, the explanation is given negatively and positively. Prophecy did not come from the will of man; it did come from the Spirit of God. Besides, the importance attached to the announcement, “knowing this especially,” is not so clearly borne out as by the first exposition, because the fact that prophecy did not come from man, is everything in the question, while the other expositions contain only things of subordinate importance. Thus what goes before and comes after tends to confirm the same view.
   Whether we take the conjectural reading (which only differs from the other in one small letter) or that which is found in all the MSS., it may admit of the meaning that has been given. There is either an ἐκ, “from,” understood, or the word prophecy is to be repeated: “No prophecy of Scripture is from one's own explanation;” or, “No prophecy of Scripture is a prophecy of one's own explanation,” or interpretation, that is, as to things to come.

   Calvin has been followed in his view of this passage, among others, by Grotius, Doddridge, and Macknight. — Ed.

To the same purpose is what immediately follows, —

But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. They did not of themselves, or according to their own will, foolishly deliver their own inventions. The meaning is, that the beginning of right knowledge is to give that credit to the holy prophets which is due to God. He calls them the holy men of God, because they faithfully executed the office committed to them, having sustained the person of God in their ministrations. He says that they were — not that they were bereaved of mind, (as the Gentiles imagined their prophets to have been,) but because they dared not to announce anything of their own, and obediently followed the Spirit as their guide, who ruled in their mouth as in his own sanctuary. Understand by prophecy of Scripture that which is contained in the holy Scriptures.


« Prev 2 Peter 1:19-21 Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |