Doing the "Twist" with Paul
Have anyone ever quoted 2 Peter 3:15,16 to you?
3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our L-rd is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Once anyone says anything against Paul's teachings, it seems to be that these "magical verses" from the book of 2 Peter 3:15,16 have a way of showing up. Whoever quotes them first, between any two persons having an argument or discussion, seems to be on the way to victory. These verses are almost always quoted whenever there is disagreement about what the man Paul said. Basically, the person who quotes them, uses them as a warning to support that Paul's letter are the very word of Elohim. The seem to say, "Hey, be careful how you INTERPRET what Paul said." I wonder if the phrase, "Robbing Peter to pay Paul" originated from these "magical verses". Who knows.
At any rate, shall we take a closer look at 2 Peter?
I was told once, "To some 2 Peter is viewed as an addition by someone other than Peter himself, and to them this verse would mean nothing, but to those who do accept 2 Peter as being written by the apostle Peter himself, then pay attention."
My reply was this. One does not have to decide on who wrote 2 Peter, nor believe that Peter, the apostle, wrote 2 Peter himself, to accept the message within 2 Peter, especially if there is alignment with Torah.
I consider 2 Peter as a warning to the people, albeit, not from outside, but from inside dangers. Why are these verses (3:15,16), so often quoted, always treated by themselves? Doesn't it seem odd to you that the rest of the epistle is seldom spoken of? Why?
Please bear with me as I will attempt to take a look at the epistle as a whole. This is NOT about WHO wrote the epistle but about WHAT it says. I repeat, the approach I'll take is NOT about the author but about WHAT the letter says in itself. In other words, about the message and not the messenger, whoever may be. Since the verses in chapter 3:15,16 are toward the end of the letter, they will be addressed at their proper place. Fair enough?
A basic outline of the letter is as follow:
I. Greeting 1:1,2
II. True vs. False Teaching 1:3-2:3
III. Exposing and Fate of False Teachers 2:4-22
IV. Warning against End-time deceivers 3:1-18
The author, after the greeting and encouragement to the believers to be fruitful (1:3-15), states his own experience and how the "prophetic" (adj., "of the prophets") word was confirmed to them (the author, James and John) since reference is made to the "Transfiguration" incident of the gospels, and advises believers to heed them, the prophets, "as a light that shines in a dark place" (v.1:19). "But first knowing", the author states, that "no prophecy of scripture is of any private 'interpretation' " or in other words "that a discourse from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of Elohim in the writings had not been originated by anyone"(v.1:20) but by the Holy Spirit borne on "holy men of" Elohim as they "spoke". Notice it is not the words, spoken or written, that are called "holy" but the "men". The author makes it known that these men spoke and their utterances were recorded in writing. This can be seen as the writings of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible (Christian "Old Testament") since no "New Testament" was in existence at the time this letter is said to have been written (65-68 CE) and the only scriptures known to believers were the Hebrew Bible and the Greek translation of it, the Septuagint.
Now we turn to the "meat" of 2 Peter, chapter 2. The author warns the reader that there were "false teachers" presently among them and there will be "false teachers" in times to come. Notice this is "among" believers. Then he, the author, moves on to describe the fate of these false teachers and compares them with the "ungodly" of times past, Noah and Lot's time.
Starting in verse 2:12 and on, we find in very, I mean, very descriptive language, a cataloging of the things done by these "false teachers", their fate and we also see "name calling" done by the author that will be helpful in our assessment of the epistle later on. Pay very close attention at these verses please. It says:
2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
Was that strong language or what? Who would like to be describe as the above? No one, I hope.
We are almost there, hang on. In chapter 3:1-9 we see the author reiterating his purpose for writing the letter,
3:2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
This is the second time the author makes reference and points to the Hebrew Bible, in particular, to the Prophets (see 1:19).
Why is there an emphasis to "be mindful" of what the Prophets have said? Simply, that we be not carried away by the "false teachers" and their "destructive heresies" and "deceptive words".
2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
The author, by emphasizing and giving confidence to the believers on the "word of Elohim" (3:5), moves on to give them assurance based on the faithfulness of His word. (3:6-9)
In 3:10, we see a description of "the day of the L-rd" at the time of the end, not the end time, when total destruction is described. In 3:11,12 the reader is confronted by,
3:11 '...what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of G-d, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
The next verse, 3:13, once again the reader is pointed to the promise of YHWH found in the Prophets:
3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Isa 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
We are at the brink of the "magical verses" I talked about at the beginning of this post, 3:15,16. Have I asked you, the reader, for patience yet? I ask of you for even more now.
Verse 3:14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless.
We see that the author begins by pointing to the account of "ye look for such things". Reference is made to the "new heavens and new earth" of verse 3:13 (above). He, the author, calls the reader to make haste, to exert one's self, endeavor, give diligence to be found "without SPOT and BLAMELESS". What does the phrase "without spot and blameless" mean? Yes, we could go outside 2 Peter and define those two terms by other writings. Should we do that? 2 Peter tells us what these are, we need not go outside the epistle that defines them. Oh yes, where is it? I had already written it, but here it is again:
2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots THEY ARE and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
Are spots and blemishes" referring to sins or people? The words "they are" are added in the KJV, but are we able to come to an answer with what I am about to address. Is the author saying the false prophets have these spots and blemishes or is he calling someone "spots and blemishes"?
In the reading of the Greek, we can tell these are not adjectives describing the false teachers, but in fact the author is "name calling" them "Spot and Blemishes". Some may not believe these are nouns for the false teachers but that conclusion can only obtained if one goes to other writings where these words are used differently and in different context. Here in 2 Peter these are "names" for the false teachers among them, who by their conduct damage others morally and wreck them, as it were.
Is it any wonder that in verse 3:14 the author exhorts the believers to be "found without spot and blameless" (the same Greek word is used for "blameless" as for "without blemishes").
Would you, the reader, be kind and allow me to go outside 2 Peter, where support to this view of "name calling" occurs? Since we are not dealing about authorship here, I point to the book of Jude, which itself has been under scrutiny as far as authorship as well, we find this there:
Jude 1:11 Woe unto THEM! for THEY have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. 12 THESE are SPOTS in your feasts of charity, when THEY feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; (c.f. 2 Peter 2:13)
Now let's turn to verse 3:15, the verse that brings Paul into this picture:
3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our L-rd is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
Here the author makes reference to "the longsuffering of our L-rd is salvation". It is on this point that he makes reference to what Paul has written which affirms "the longsuffering of our L-rd is salvation" or "his slowness in avenging wrongs".
Ro 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Because the author calls Paul "beloved" should not misguide any to say, "You see!, he is fully endorsing Paul". Well, he is, but about "the longsuffering of our L-rd is salvation" and nothing else.
Besides, the term "beloved" is used in 2 Peter six (6) times. Once about "Jes-s" (1:17) in reference to the "Transfiguration" incident, once about Paul (3:15) and four times to the readers of the letter (3:1, 8, 14 and 17). Does that mean the author endorses the readers more than Paul since he called them "beloved' four times, three times more than Paul? Non-sense.
3:16 As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Speaking in his (Paul's) epistles about what? "These things", namely, the day of the L-rd, the new heavens and new earth and the longsuffering of the L-rd toward us. There's nothing new concerning THESE subjects in Paul's epistles or writings that the Hebrew Bible does not deal with, as the author had made reference to the Prophets before.
But a difference about the writings of Paul is made. Paul epistles speak of the things the author of 2 Peter wrote about ("the longsuffering of our L-rd is salvation"). But the author also tell us something else about Paul epistles. That there were "some things hard to be understood". Are those things hard to be understood the same as "these things" of verse 15? No. With the phrase, "in which are some things", a difference is made between the longsuffering of the lord and the things hard to be understood, "which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."
There is another point of interest in this verse (3:16). The use of a word already seen earlier in 2 Peter. This is the reference to the "unstable", those who "wrest" or "twist" the things hard to understand, in the epistles of Paul, to their own destruction. We saw earlier what the "false teachers" and/or the "spots and blemishes" do among the people:
2:14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling UNSTABLE souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
3:16 As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and UNSTABLE wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
These "false teachers" and/or the "spots and blemishes" allure, entice, deceive. Isn't this interesting? The very people the "false teachers" are reported to deceive, are the same people the author of 2 Peter says are twisting Paul's epistles. But, wait a minute. If the false teachers are beguiling unstable souls, and the unstable are twisting Paul's epistles to their own destruction, how can the epistles of Paul be of any good to them? He is a false teacher. He doesn't bring clarity to the people, rather, he brings confusion. His teachings are not safe, since they could lead any unlearned, at best to confusion, at worst to destruction. It is these souls that the author has concern for, and warns,
3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
Though the word translated "therefore", is used in the English translation several times in 2 Peter, in the Greek there are only two instances of usage in the whole epistle. In verse 3:11 where the KJV has "Seeing then" is the first occurrence. Here it is used as the introducing word to a conclusion. The only other instance the Greek text of 2 Peter has this word is in 3:17, where we see "therefore" meaning "consequently" or "these things being so".
So since we have been warned, throughout the WHOLE epistle of 2 Peter, about these "false teachers" and/or "spots and blemishes" that allure, entice, deceive the people with their "things hard to understand",
2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
This my beloved brothers and sisters I did for many years, being overcome by Paul's writings and his "things hard to be understood". I will not be beguiled by Paul's boastful words but may YHVH's words overcome us all and not those of man. IF Paul taught Torah, I have no need of Paul since Torah is available to me, Praise be Yahh!
To do what most do with the words from those verses, I dare not do any longer to my neighbor. Why? Because I will not just take a few verses and "twist" them to favor my "doctrines" against anyone, specially the teachings of Paul. By quoting verses like those to anyone, it would be calling the other person unlearned, dumb, unstable, without understanding, in not so many words. What an insult to a person it is to use this words against. At the same time, when one uses those verses, the one who quotes them, set themselves above the other person. As if all knowledge and interpretation has been given to that person and of course, to Paul as well.