What happens when the world doesn’t end? (2 Peter)
Every now and then, one of the books in the New Testament annoys me so much I can’t even talk about it, and must move on. That was 1 Peter. Hopefully the sequel won’t suck as much.
The Second Epistle of Peter
The chapter opens with a florid, ostentatious greeting and introduction. This chapter exists to establish credibility for Peter and the church elders. He recounts that he and other disciples were there to hear the heavenly voice say “This is my son…” when Jesus was baptized. Was Simon Peter a disciple of Christ’s at that point in Jesus’s life? Because I don’t remember it that way. I thought that Jesus gathered Peter after being baptised and starting his ministry in full. Perhaps I am mistaken in that.
My god this chapter is brutal. It is a combination of fearmongering and smearing. It may be one of the meanest chapters in the whole New Testament! The fun starts immediately, the first sentence stating “there are false prophets and false teachers among you trying to use destructive heresies upon members of the church. These people are doomed for destruction. After all, God did not spare angels who sinned, but cast them into hell. He destroyed all humans living on the earth with the exception of Noah and family. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, burning them down to the ground.
Now that fear of what the Lord will do to the false prophets is out of the way, it’s time to smear and slander the false prophets. They indulge in fleshly pleasures, slander glorious things, have parties in the light of day (huh?), commit adultery, seduce others away from the true teachings of the church. One imagines that the “true” teachings are those of Peter and not of others. The false prophets are dogs that return to eat their vomit, or pigs that are back to wallow in the mud.
Dear lord, what caused that all-out attack?
So what crime was it that inspired the rant that was Chapter 2? What made Peter fly off the handle so completely? Interestingly enough, it is something that I brought up in my review of 1 Peter: the earth didn’t come to an end when the apostles said it would. The apostles had been saying “repent, for the end of the earth is nigh,” but the world kept stubbornly refusing to destroy itself, and Jesus kept stubbornly not returning. More and more people noticed this, and they started complaining about it. They started mocking the apostles, asking why nothing had changed. Peter tries to retcon an answer, saying that earth will be destroyed by fire, but God is waiting to do so to allow others time to repent of their sins.
Peter insists that the day of the lord will still come like a thief in the night. And that it will be soon. But soon to God is not necessarily soon to man. A single day and a thousands years are equivalent to God. He cannot be rushed. And Peter now has an easy answer to use when someone asks why Jesus hasn’t returned in the future.
That was… weird. This entire book is a response to the growing questions about the earth’s continued existence. It is like Peter believes he can re-write the previous gospels and letters with a single letter of his own. The contents of which is basically: “we were just joking when we said Jesus’s return was coming soon.” I assume that the critic’s arguments were starting to win people away from the church – or at least away from the church the apostles were establishing – at a steady enough rate that they couldn’t be ignored. Instead they were slandered and threatened with being burnt to a crisp and thrown into hell by God’s wrath.
Whatever way you slice it, Peter sounds defensive, and his arguments are almost desperate. It’s kind of sad, actually.
Up next: John’s up to bat
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.
- One resurrection, two deaths and a thousand years – Revelations 20-22 (biffster.org)
- Peter Was Never The Rock Upon Which The Church Of The Bible Was Built (esoriano.wordpress.com)