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The Apologists Bible Commentary
2 Peter 1
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|1||Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:|
Other Views Considered...
For Further Reading...
Most English versions of the Bible translate 2 Peter 1:1 as does the NASB,
which attributes "God" and "Savior" to one
person: Jesus Christ. In this way, they provide evidence that
Peter called Jesus "our God" (Greek: tou
theou hêmôn) - a strong indication of His Deity. Some
translations, however, render the verse in a fashion similar to the ASV:
"by the righteousness of our God and the Savior, Jesus
Christ." The insertion of "the" before Savior
indicates that there are two persons in view: Our God (the Father)
and Jesus Christ.
Most apologetic debate on this verse has centered on the so-called Granville Sharp Rule. For several papers dealing with this Rule, see For Further Reading... below.
But even if the Granville Sharp Rule is not a valid rule of Greek grammar, or if it is, but 2 Peter 1:1 is not an example of it, there is substantial contextual evidence that both "God" and "Savior" modify Jesus Christ. First, there are three examples of a similar phrase in 2 Peter in which it is clear that one person is in view: namely, "our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (1:11; 2:20; 3:18). The Greek of this phrase is identical to the Greek of "our God and Savior, Jesus Christ," with the exception of Lord/God (kuriou/theou). In 3:2, we find "the Lord and Savior," again signifying one person. It would seem inconceivable that Peter would intend two persons in one case and one person in all the others, when employing the same (or nearly the same, in the case of 3:2) Greek construction every time.
Further, Peter uses the phrase "our God and Father" in 1 Peter 1:3 (Greek: ho theos kai patêr). Again, one person, not two are in view. The differences between this phrase and those in 2 Peter are a matter of case (ho theos is nominative, whereas tou theou is genitive) and the pronoun "our" (Greek: hêmôn), neither of which is significant in determining the intended referent.
The final difficulty in supposing that "God" refers to the Father in 2 Peter 1:1 is what to do with "by the righteousness." Peter's point, here, is that the faith he and his fellow Christians have received is "by" (or "in") the "righteousness of our God and [the] Savior." The Greek makes it clear that the righteousness is that of both God and Jesus Christ (both "God" and "Savior, Jesus Christ" are in the genitive case). Both God and Christ (if there are two persons in view) are the source of our faith - and that source is the one righteousness they share. As Bigg rightly argues:
en dikaiosunh tou qeou hmwn kai swthroV Ihsou
EN DIKAIOSUNÊ TOU THEOU hÊMÔN KAI SÔTÊROS IÊSOU CHRISTOU
objection: A number of non-Trinitarian apologists have written about this verse. They typically argue that this verse is either not an example of the Granville Sharp Rule, or that the Rule itself is not a valid rule of Greek grammar.
Response: Please see the For Further Reading section, below, for several articles responding to non-Trinitarian arguments, defending the Granville Sharp Rule and its application to 2 Peter 1:1
objection: Apologist Greg Stafford objects to the grammatical parallels cited in the Commentary, above, saying that they are actually "proof to the contrary" - that is, that Peter is actually referring to two persons in 2 Peter 1:1:
Stafford says that "grammatical, theological, contextual, and other considerations" must play an equal role in translation. Among these other considerations are the "author's habitual use of language and the presuppositional pool he shares with his readers" (Stafford, p. 403). Citing Winer, who objects to Paul and Peter calling Jesus God in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 due to what he views as the "doctrinal systems" of the authors, Stafford concludes that "it is very likely that in 2 Peter 1:1 the apostle did not repeat the article before the second noun because the use of qeoV in the first verse made it clear enough that he was speaking of the Father, while the addition of "Jesus Christ" after swthroV would have stood on its own as a second subject" (Stafford, p. 404).
Response: It is certainly a truism of Bible translation and exegesis that one must take a number of factors into consideration, apart from grammatical possibility. A writer's "habitual use of language" and the "presuppositional pool" he 'swims' in are perfectly valid indicators to help the translator determine original intent. However, one cannot simply pick and choose which factors are most significant and ignore or sidestep factors that one does not like. One cannot assume the author's presuppositions on the basis of arguments from silence. The fact that Peter may not call Jesus "God" elsewhere is not an argument that he could not do so in this verse, as Mr. Stafford admits. The question is: Is there anything in Peter's theology that expressly precludes him from calling Jesus "God?" If there were, Mr. Stafford and the numerous other non-Trinitarian apologists who have written on this verse would surely have mentioned it.
The issue at hand is one of resolving referential ambiguity: Does "God" and "Savior" refer to one Person (Jesus Christ) or two (the Father and the Son)? In such cases, one of the most important factors - perhaps the most important - is examining the same grammatical construction in other settings where the meaning is clear. In another context, this methodology is defended by Mr. Stafford himself. In one of his Internet postings dealing with the Dana Mantey Greek Grammar and the translation of John 1:1, Mr. Stafford writes:
Thus, Mr. Stafford recognizes that parallel grammar is essential in resolving ambiguity (in John 1:1, a semantic ambiguity centering on the anarthrous theos), and that theology may override a scholar's "good grammatical judgment."
If parallel grammatical constructions are valid factors in resolving referential ambiguity, constructions written by the same author in the same book are even more compelling. Mr. Stafford's suggestion that 2 Peter 1:1 is "significantly different" than the "Lord and Savior" verses in 2 Peter, and therefore should not be understood in the same way, is special pleading. The substitution of theos for kurios in 2 Peter 1:1 does not change the grammatical structure of the phrase. Indeed, as Harris points out, when "Savior" is used in 2 Peter it always refers to Christ and is always preceded by an articular noun which also refers to Christ (Jesus as God, p. 235). It must be pointed out that if Peter wanted to clearly distinguish Christ from His Father in this verse, he had only to add the article before "Savior" (Greek: tou theos kai tou sôtêros), as he does in the very next verse (Greek: tou theou kai Iêsou tou kuriou hêmôn).2
Mr. Stafford suggests that 2 Thessalonians 1:12 is similar grammatically to 2 Peter 1:1 ("the grace of our God and [the] Lord Jesus Christ." Greek: tên charin tou theou hêmôn kai kuriou Iesou Christou), but here most scholars agree that God and Jesus are distinguished from one another. Mr. Stafford is correct - just as he is when he says that "Grammar is not the sole criterion by which a text should be translated" (Stafford, p. 403). The difference between this verse and 2 Peter 1:1 is that here we have "Lord Jesus Christ," which is a common New Testament formula (occurring 63 times). While Jesus is called "Savior" many times, He is only referred to with the phrase "Savior Jesus Christ" 4 times - all in 2 Peter. The fact that "Lord" appears so often before "Jesus Christ" makes it likely that it had come to be considered part of a compound proper name. But the same cannot be said of "Savior." When Peter writes "Savior Jesus Christ," he is using a title ("Savior") followed by a name which further defines who that Savior is.3 This is not the case with "Lord Jesus Christ." There may have been a time in the early church where a believer might say: "I serve my Lord, Jesus Christ," and by this, mean to further define "Lord" as the person named "Jesus Christ." But by the time the New Testament was written, the title "Lord" had become synonymous with "Jesus Christ," and when appearing before it, was thought to be virtually part of His name. This same phenomenon occurred with "Christ." No New Testament author would think of separating "Christ" from "Jesus," as in: "Jesus, Christ" (as if "Christ" further defined who Jesus was), and the same is true of "Lord."
The fact that "Lord Jesus Christ" may be taken as a unit makes it unlikely that "Jesus Christ" is appositional to "God and Lord" (as in, "the grace of our God and Lord, who is Jesus Christ"). It is grammatically possible, and some scholars have taken it that way (most notably, Bultmann), but most scholars, grammarians, and commentators agree that it is more natural to take "Lord Jesus Christ" as a unit, in which case "God" is a separate subject. But this is not true of "Savior Jesus Christ." In this case, it is unlikely that Peter would expect his readers to take "Savior" as part of Jesus' name. Instead, because Peter knew that simply saying "our God and Savior" would lead his readers to assume that the Father was in view4, he added "Jesus Christ" to make clear to whom he was referring.
It may be supposed that "God" functions as a proper name in 2 Peter 1:1, in which case it could be isolated from "Savior, Jesus Christ" as a second subject. However, while "God" may function as a proper name in some contexts, the possessive pronoun in this verse militates against "God" being a proper name. Further, there are no examples in the NT or LXX in which "God" appears in the same construction as 2 Peter 1:1 (articular theos joined by kai to an anarthrous singular, personal noun that is not a proper name) where two persons are in view.
In conclusion, Mr. Stafford recognizes - as did Winer before him5 - that the grammar of 2 Peter 1:1 leads in a theological direction with which he is uncomfortable. He therefore must either overcome the grammar or argue that Peter's theology would preclude him from writing what - grammatically - he seems clearly to have written. Mr. Stafford's grammatical ripostes actually do little to damage the solid evidence that Jesus is called "God" in this verse. Mr. Stafford - again following Winer6 - is left with his theological argument.7 For an apostle who heard Thomas call Jesus "my God," who was comfortable directing the highest praise to Christ in doxological formulas, and who ascribed to Christ the same righteousness as His Father, it is far from impossible that Peter called Jesus "God," particularly when the grammar points us solidly in that direction.
Soli Deo Gloria
1. Harris (p. 234 n. 13) objects on the basis that Pauline salutations often attribute "grace...and peace" to two persons - God and Christ - and cites Galatians 1:3 as an example. But, as Bigg says in another context, "the question is not what other authors say, but what 2 Peter says" (Bigg, p. 252). Further, if Peter is echoing Pauline greetings with which he is no doubt familiar (c.f., 2 Peter 3:15), it may be because he understands Paul to be unifying God and Christ by naming them the joint source of grace and peace. After all, the grace exhibited by God cannot be the same grace exhibited by Christ, unless Christ is truly God - for only God can extend "unmerited favor" in regard to Man's sin and His perfect judgment. Grace is "of God" given to Christians "by Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:4). But Paul says the same grace is from both God and Christ in his salutations (e.g., Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; etc.). While grace is from God through Christ, it is also from Christ directly, for grace is His to give as well (Romans 16:20). Thus, the Pauline salutations do not contradict Bigg's point, but rather support it.
2. Mr. Stafford turns this argument around when he says: "it would appear that Peter removes all doubt as he goes on to distinguish Christ and God in the very next verse." But he rightly notes that this distinction in verse two does not preclude Peter from calling Christ God in verse 1 (Stafford, pp. 404-405). The distinction in verse 2 is made by the use of the article. Stafford's suggestion - following Winer - that "Savior" is sufficiently definite to not require the article - is true, but beside the point. Most definite nouns in the New Testament are articular, as indeed "Lord" (kurios) is in verse 2. But the addition of the article in verse 2 does not make kurios definite. Like "Savior," "Lord" is definite in Peter's use, even when anarthrous (e.g., 2 Peter 2:9), and would be definite here without the article. Instead, the article in verse 2 marks "Lord" as a second subject, alongside "God" - the very thing Peter could have done in verse 1, had he wished to distinguish "Savior" from "God."
3. In technical terms, "Jesus Christ" stands in epexegetic apposition to "Savior." Appositional nouns further define the head-noun, as in: "This is my friend, Roger." We may use the gloss "who is" to help identify appositional nouns (e.g., "This is my friend, who is Roger").
4. When the articular theos is followed by kai and a title in the NT, the title always refers to God, never to a second person. E.g., ho theos kai patêr ("The God and Father").
5. "In Titus ii. 13...considerations derived from Paul's system of doctrine lead me to believe that swthroV is not a second predicate, co-ordinate with qeou....similar is 2 Peter 1:1" (Winer-Moulton, p. 162).
6. "In the above remarks, it was not my intention to deny that, in point of grammar, swthroV hmwn may be regarded as a second predicate, jointly, depending on the aritcle tou; but the dogmatic conviction derived from Paul's writings is that this apostle cannot have called Christ the great God induced me to show that there is no grammatical obstacle to our taking the clause kai swt....Cristou by itself, as referring to a second subject" (Ibid.). It will be noted that Winer declares that "Lord" and "Savior" in 2 Peter 1:11 are "merely predicates of the same person" (Ibid., p. 126). In Schmiedel's translation and revision of Winer's Grammar, he says emphatically of 2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13: "grammar demands that one person be meant" (Winer-Schmiedel, p. 158).
7. Witness author Rolf Furuli gives up entirely on the grammar: "The translator, therefore, is in a situation where neither the lexical contents of the words nor the context are decisive, and the syntax is not decisive. The only thing left is the translator's theology" (Furuli, p. 286). Mr. Furuli dismisses the grammatical parallels on the basis that 2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13 contain the proper name Jesus Christ, but as discussed, above, this name is in apposition to "Savior" - just as it is in the parallels! - and does not invalidate the construction. We may further note that even if the grammar were neutral, as Mr. Furuli asserts, there are ways to approach the translation that do not rely entirely on the translator's theology, such as adding the alternate translation in a footnote - something the New World Translation, which Mr. Furuli is ultimately defending, does not do.
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