As It Was In The Days Of Noah (29): 2 Peter 1:12–15

Editor’s Note: With this essay we resume Dr Clark’s series through 1 and 2 Peter.

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me (ESV). 12Διὸ μελλήσω ἀεὶ ὑμᾶς ὑπομιμνῄσκειν περὶ τούτων καίπερ εἰδότας καὶ ἐστηριγμένους ἐν τῇ παρούσῃ ἀληθείᾳ. 13δίκαιον δὲ ἡγοῦμαι, ἐφʼ ὅσον εἰμὶ ἐν τούτῳ τῷ σκηνώματι, διεγείρειν ὑμᾶς ἐν ὑπομνήσει 14εἰδὼς ὅτι ταχινή ἐστιν ἡ ἀπόθεσις τοῦ σκηνώματός μου, καθὼς καὶ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ἐδήλωσέν μοι. 15σπουδάσω δὲ καὶ ἑκάστοτε ἔχειν ὑμᾶς μετὰ τὴν ἐμὴν ἔξοδον τὴν τούτων μνήμην ποιεῖσθαι (Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012; 2 Pe 1:12–15).

Peter’s Last Words to the Church

Peter knew that his pilgrimage was coming to a close. He says so in verse 14 in our passage: “I know that the removal (ἀπόθεσις) of my tent (σκηνώματός) is soon.”1 When he writes, “as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me,” he was referring to the words of our Lord recorded by the apostle John: “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:18–23; ESV). The pseudonymous Clement (c. AD 100) wrote about Peter’s death, “There was Peter, who, because of unrighteous jealousy, endured not one or two but many trials, and thus having given his testimony went to his appointed place of glory.”2 Eusebius wrote, “Peter likewise was crucified” under Nero.3

Eusebius tells the story of a debate between Caius, about whom little is known, except that he was a Roman presbyter in the early third century under Zephyrinus, the senior pastor in Rome from AD 198–217. Eusebius said,

He, in a written discussion with Proclus, the leader of the opinion among the Phrygians, speaks as follows concerning the places where the sacred corpses of the aforesaid apostles are deposited: “But I can point out the trophies of the apostles, for if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who founded this Church.”4

The Phrygian heresy to which Eusebius referred was Montanism.5 The Vatican to which he referred was not the building of which we think, but the hill in Rome, near which Peter was thought to have been crucified.

The Reality of Christian Virtue and Truth

Verses 12–13. As he prepared to depart this life and to see his Savior face to face, Peter wanted to leave to the churches of Asia Minor (Turkey) a clear doctrine of the Christian life. As he had written to them of the moral necessity of sanctification, he was reminding them of the Christian virtues about which they had already been taught. Thus, he writes, “although you know them.” This is the nature of the Christian life. We need to be reminded about the consequences of the grace we have received in Christ, in the covenant of grace. Peter considers (ἡγοῦμαι) it just (δίκαιον) to speak this way to them as long as he is “in this tent” (σκηνώματι), an allusion to his coming martyrdom, to “stir” them up in the recollection of the things they have been taught. Peter Davids helpfully reminds us of the traditional connection between the Gospel of Mark and the apostle Peter, and that Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 3.1.1) and Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 2.15.1 [1.143]) speak to this connection.6 If this connection is real, and there is no good reason to think it is not, then the existence of the Gospel of Mark is a fulfillment of the wishes and intent of the apostle. Indeed, if the traditional dating of the Gospel of Mark is to be credited, then it had already been fulfilled.

He was, after all, writing to those who “have been established in the truth that you have” (ἐστηριγμένους ἐν τῇ παρούσῃ ἀληθείᾳ), and for Peter, as for our Lord and all the apostles, “the truth” is not a subjective matter. The Christian faith knows nothing of “your truth” or “my truth.” Subjects do come to apprehension of the truth and that happens differently for each person (some more quickly and some more slowly), but the truth is objectively true. The resurrection is an objective fact, not a metaphor for human experience. The apostolic explanation of the history of redemption and Christian doctrine is objectively true. Its validity does not depend upon subjective experience. In verse 12, we see that for the apostle, Christian truth and virtue are inseparably united.

Peter’s Coming Exodus

Verse 15. The Greek noun exodus (ἔξοδος) occurs first in Exodus 19:1. Moses uses it to mark time: “after the third moon of the exodus.”7 The noun is a reference to the Lord’s sovereign, gracious salvation of his people out of Egypt (Ex 14:19–31). It is worth quoting extensively:

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. (ESV)

The exodus is the great act of salvation in the history of Israel. The Israelites were stubbornly carping to Moses right up to the moment when the Angel of the Lord went before them and the glory cloud went behind them to seal them off from the Egyptian armies. It was the Lord who parted the Red Sea, who led them across “on dry ground” (Ex 14:22). In it the Lord not only saved (Ex 14:30) the Israelites (i.e., delivered them from death at the hands of the Egyptians), but he destroyed their opponent, the Egyptians armies.

Peter uses the word exodus to refer to his death in this verse. He is about to make his own exodus. He is about to be delivered from, to borrow from Paul, “this body of death” (Rom 7:24). Peter’s invocation of the exodus to describe his own death is telling. It tells us he knew that his own salvation was by God’s favor alone (sola gratia), through the gift of faith alone (sola fide). He knew that he had not, as it were, parted the waters or taken himself across the Red Sea on his own initiative. He well remembered that he had abandoned the Lord just as Jesus was being abused by the authorities.

Now, at the end of his life and ministry, the Christian faith was dearer than ever before. And it is in light of his leaving this life that he promises, until then, to endeavor always to have them “make remembrance” of the things they have been taught—the good news and the Christian life that flows from true faith and union with the risen Christ.

Notes

  1. Paul uses a similar expression in 2 Corinthians 5:1. “In other words, this letter is to serve as his testament, not in the sense that it would stand as a monument to Peter and his thought, but in the sense that it would enable the churches to whom the letter is addressed to remain true to the position that our author takes on the issues of concern. It would keep on working after Peter was gone.” Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 196.
  2. 1 Clement 3:5 in Michael William Holmes ed., The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 51.
  3. Eusebius of Caesaria, The Ecclesiastical History, Loeb Classical Library, trans. Kirsopp Lake, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), book 2, chapter 25 (vol. 1.182).
  4. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.25. I quote the more literal translation that Lake gave in footnote 1.183.
  5. On the Montanist movement see the Heidelcast series, “Feathers and All: The Scriptures Are Enough.”
  6. Davids, The Letters, 197.
  7. Τοῦ δὲ μηνὸς τοῦ τρίτου τῆς ἐξόδου τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραὴλ ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ταύτῃ ἤλθοσαν εἰς τὴν ἔρημον τοῦ Σεινά. Henry Barclay Swete, The Old Testament in Greek: According to the Septuagint (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909).

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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