Translation commentary on 2 Peter 1:19

From a discussion of the Transfiguration, Peter now moves into a consideration of the prophetic message as a whole. The Transfiguration becomes the basis for affirming the reliability of the Parousia, or second coming of Jesus, and it also confirms and proves the reliability and dependability of the prophetic message. So now it is necessary to say something about the nature of the prophetic message.

The expression prophetic word (Good News Translation “the message proclaimed by the prophets,” Jerusalem Bible “prophecies,” Phillips “word of prophecy”) can refer to many things, among which are: Old Testament messianic prophecy, Old and New Testament prophecies, one particular Old Testament prophecy, 2 Peter 1.20-21 as a prophecy, the Transfiguration itself as a prophecy of the Parousia, and the whole Old Testament understood as messianic prophecy. This last suggestion seems to be the most likely, since the expression itself is almost always used to refer to the Old Testament Scriptures and is in fact interchangeable with the word “Scripture.” The Jews themselves regarded all inspired Scripture as prophecy, and the Christians viewed all Scriptures as a prophecy of Jesus, his life, ministry, death, and resurrection, and his return. In view of this, the prophetic word can be translated as “the Scriptures written or spoken by the prophets,” “the Holy Writings proclaimed by God’s messengers,” or “what (or, the things that) people speaking for God say in the Scriptures.”

More sure: the full clause is literally “we have more sure the prophetic word” (New International Version “more certain,” Jerusalem Bible “we have confirmation,” Good News Translation “we are even more confident”). This may mean that, in the light of the Transfiguration proving the reliability of prophecy, the prophetic message can now be regarded with greater confidence. Another way of interpreting this is to take the comparative more sure as having a superlative meaning, hence “very, very firm.” It is not that there was little or no confidence in the prophetic message before it is proved reliable by relating it to the Transfiguration, but that such confidence has been strengthened beyond limits. And since there is no doubt at all regarding the certainty of the prophetic word, there is also much greater confidence that the prophetic word regarding the Parousia will be fulfilled. The phrase more sure refers to the writer’s confidence and belief in the credibility of this message. In certain languages this confidence will be expressed idiomatically; for example, “to have a firm heart.”

The expression You will do well is a polite command often equivalent to “please” (as in James 2.3; 3 John 6; and as statements, Phil 4.14 “it was kind of you”; Acts 10.33 “you have been kind enough”), and so Moffatt has “Pray attend to that word.” It is, however, possible to take this expression as having a stronger force in this context, where the readers are invited or urged to give greater attention to the prophetic word, and consequently are warned against misusing or neglecting it. You will do well may be rendered as “You will do a good thing if…” or “It is a good thing for you to….”

To pay attention can also mean to heed, to follow, to take seriously. This phrase in many languages is rendered idiomatically; for example, “take your heart and place it in.” To this of course points to the prophetic word, which is compared to a lamp shining in a dark place. In Psa 119.105 the Word of God is compared to a lamp, which is a similar comparison. The dark place here can be the world, which is marked by evil and sin (as in Gal 1.4), or the human mind, which is not illumined by the prophetic message. In the midst of this darkness, the prophetic message gives light and awakens hope (see Eph 6.12; 1 John 2.8). Other ways of translating this metaphor are “just as if it were a lamp shining in a dark place” or “as you would to a lamp shining in a dark place.”

The day here is a technical term for the Parousia (see Rom 13.12), or for the Day of salvation (Luke 1.78), the time when Christ returns to inaugurate the new age and establish a new heaven and a new earth. On that Day the darkness of the present age will be banished in much the same way as the night is banished by the dawning day. In certain languages it will be helpful to expand the phrase until the day dawns as follows: “until the light of that Day appears,” or more figuratively, “until the sun rises on that Day.”

The morning star is phōsphoros in Greek, a word that refers to the planet Venus and the Greek goddess Artemis. Some scholars have argued that, since phōsphoros means “daybreak,” it cannot refer to Venus but to the sun. But in ordinary usage phōsphoros does refer to Venus, which rises with the dawn and, in a manner of speaking, introduces light into the world. Once again we see Greek culture being used as a vehicle for the Christian message. Here the morning star stands for the Messiah, or Christ (see Num 24.17; Rev 22.16), who will bring light into the hearts of believers, in much the same way as the morning star brings light into a dark world. As the morning star banishes darkness from the world, so Christ in his return banishes darkness from the hearts of believers, removing all doubt and uncertainty, and transforming their inner selves into the very image of Christ himself.

Alternative translation models for this verse are as follows:
• So we are even more confident in the message of the Holy Scriptures proclaimed by God’s prophets. This message is like a lamp shining in a dark place. It shines until the Day dawns and the light of Christ shines into your hearts, just as the morning star brings light to the world. You will do a good thing if you pay attention to this message.

Or:
• So we are even more confident in what the people speaking for God said in the Holy Scriptures. You will do a good thing if you pay attention to this message, because it is like a lamp shining in a dark place until the Day dawns and the light of Christ shines in your hearts, just as the morning star brings light to the world.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Second Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Peter 3:8

For beloved see comments on Jude JUD.1.3.

But do not ignore this one fact recalls verse 5 and deliberately contrasts the attitude of the false teachers with the attitude that the readers of this letter should have. Ignore translates the same word in both verses: in verse 5 the false teachers are accused of deliberate ignorance or neglect; in verse 8 the readers are urged not to do this. Furthermore, in the Greek the plural pronoun “you” is used in verse 8 and placed in the emphatic position, “don’t you ignore,” thus contrasting it with “they” in verse 5; the sense is something like “you yourselves must not do what these false teachers deliberately do.”

Since ignore translates the same word found in verse 5, the interpretation of this word in verse 5 will affect the way it is interpreted in verse 8. It may therefore be advisable to use the same word in both verses in order to reflect this relationship. This is in fact done in many translations: Revised Standard Version ignore, Jerusalem Bible “forget,” New English Bible “lose sight of.”

With the Lord may be rendered as “the way that the Lord thinks” or “the way that the Lord reckons things.”

With the Lord one day is as a thousand years …: the delay of the Parousia can be explained by the fact that the Lord’s way of reckoning time is different from human reckoning and does not conform to human ways of thinking. The statement in this verse is based on Psa 90.4, “A thousand years to you are like one day” (Good News Bible). Most commentaries take the statement to mean that what may seem long to us as people may in fact be short to God, and what may seem short to us may in fact be long to him.

And a thousand years as one day: the repetition of the statement (but in reverse) needs to be noted. Some commentaries and translations take this repetition to be simply stylistic and regard the two parts as parallel to each other. This is the position reflected in Good News Translation “There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same.” Others take this as emphasizing that on the one hand God is able to act quickly to fulfill his promises (as in verse 10), while on the other hand he gives sufficient time for people to repent (as in verse 9), although for the unrepentant the time is too brief. If this second position is taken, then the two parts of the statement need to be retained in translation. It seems likely, however, that the stylistic interpretation is to be preferred.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Second Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Peter 2:9

The long sentence that began in verse 4 now reaches its conclusion in verses 9-10a. The three examples that are cited from the Old Testament are meant to lead to the conclusion that the Lord rescues the godly but punishes the ungodly. Revised Standard Version‘s pattern of dependent clauses, all prefaced by the English word “if” from verse 4 on, was noted in the introductory comments to verses 4-10a. Translators who have been following this pattern should introduce the main clause in verse 9 with a connecting word such as “therefore”; for example, “Therefore the Lord knows how….” However, it is also possible to show the connection between the dependent clauses and the main clause in verse 9 even more clearly by saying “Since the Lord has done all these things, he knows…” or “Because of these things, the Lord knows….”

The Lord here is not identified, but it seems more likely that God is meant, and not Jesus Christ as in verse 1.

The expression knows how includes the meaning of “understands how,” “can,” “is well able” (New English Bible), “does not find it difficult.”

For rescue see comments on 2 Peter 2.7, where the same word is used to describe Lot’s deliverance from the difficulties he experienced in Sodom. Trial here is taken by some to mean “temptation to sin.” But in fact it seems to be connected with the experiences of Noah and Lot, who were not primarily being tempted to commit sin but who were in fact fighting against sin. There are also some who take the trials here as eschatological, that is, referring to the final testing of Christians as the day of Judgment approaches. This is possible, considering the overall tone of the letter. However, it is more likely that trials here refer to the day-to-day experiences (sufferings, afflictions, persecutions, and so on) of the Christians in the midst of a non-Christian or even anti-Christian environment.

The word for godly is related to the word “godliness” that is used in 1.3. The godly person is the opposite of the “ungodly” in verse 6 and the unrighteous in the next part of this verse.

The clause the Lord knows how … trial may also be rendered as “the Lord understands the way to rescue good people from suffering.”

But if the Lord knows how to protect the godly, he also knows how to punish the unrighteous. There is some disagreement on the expression translated in Revised Standard Version to keep the unrighteous under punishment. The problem can be summarized as a question: “Does this mean that the unrighteous will only be judged and punished in the final day of Judgment, or that the unrighteous are now being punished and will continue to undergo punishment until the final Day of Judgment?” Some translations favor the first of these alternatives, as for example, Phillips “to reserve his punishment for the wicked until his day comes,” or Jerusalem Bible “hold the wicked for their punishment until the day of Judgment.” This is justified on the following grounds:

1. The Greek present participle for “being punished” can be interpreted as having the future sense; there are other examples of this usage in the New Testament (for example, Luke 1.35; John 17.20).

2. In verse 4 the angels are being held awaiting judgment at the last day, and this is perhaps the sense here with regard to the ungodly.

3. The words for “judge” or “punish” in this verse are used elsewhere with reference to the last judgment.

Most translations, however, take the interpretation of Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation, and this is the preferred view. The grammatical form is regarded as decisive here: the expression “to keep under punishment” translates a present participle and a present infinitive, with the sense of a punishment that goes on until the day of judgment. That means that the false teachers are already suffering punishment because of their sins, although the full measure of their punishment will be inflicted later at the final day. Therefore we may translate this phrase as “punish wicked people continually until….”

The day of judgment is of course the final day, referred to in the Old Testament as the day of the Lord, during which time God will judge all nations and bring punishment on the wicked. It is likely that to the readers of 2 Peter this is equivalent to the second coming of Jesus Christ, which in Christian circles was understood to bring joy to the godly and suffering to the ungodly. See the discussion on “the judgment” in 2 Peter 2.4.

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• Since the Lord has done all these things, this shows that he knows how to rescue good people from their sufferings, and to continually punish evil people until the Day of Judgment.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Second Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Peter 1:9

This verse describes the life of people who do not possess the qualities mentioned in verses 5-7. First of all, such people are blind and shortsighted. This combination may present some translation problems, since blind is stronger than shortsighted, and since obviously, if a person is blind, that person cannot be shortsighted at the same time. A better way of understanding this is to take shortsighted as having the effect of causing blindness: a shortsighted person is in effect blind, hence Good News Translation “is so shortsighted that he cannot see.” Furthermore this should not be taken literally but in a metaphorical sense, that is, being morally and spiritually blind; this metaphor is a popular one in the New Testament (see, for example, Matt 15.14; John 9.40-41; Rev 3.17). In many languages this metaphorical usage must be made clear by using a simile such as “is like a person who is so shortsighted that he cannot see.”

Secondly, these people have forgotten that they were cleansed from their old sins. Forgotten is literally “having received forgetfulness,” a typical Greek expression. The metaphor of cleansing from sin has its origin in the Old Testament, where it is connected with the Jewish sacrificial system. This metaphor was also widely used in the early church and is found in many parts of the New Testament (for instance, Titus 2.14; Heb 1.3; 9.14; 1 John 1.7, 9). Most commentaries are agreed that the reference here is to the purification that a person receives at baptism, during which a person is forgiven of his or her past sins before baptism. Baptism therefore signifies the end of the old and the beginning of the new: it marks a break between the old life of sin and disobedience and the new life of virtue and obedience to God. Many languages cannot literally translate the passive construction he was cleansed from his old sins but will need to name God as the one who does the cleansing, or else use a construction with a verb such as “receive.” In such cases this clause will be rendered “that God has cleansed him from his past (or, old) sins” or “that he has received from God cleansing from his past sins.” In still other languages it will be necessary to make a direct reference to baptism and say “that God has cleansed his past sins through baptism.”

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• But whoever does not have these qualities is like a person who is so shortsighted that he cannot see (or, is blind), and has forgotten that God has cleansed him from his old sins.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Second Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Peter 2:20

The subject of this verse (they) can be either the recent converts mentioned in verse 18 or the false teachers. An argument in favor of the former position (recent converts) is the fact that the verb “escape” is used in both verses, and since it is clear that in verse 18 this verb refers to the escape of recent converts, it is likely that it is used here in the same way. On the other hand the proverbs in verse 22 are rather harsh if applied to recent converts but are appropriate for the false teachers. This is probably the reason why some translations interpret they as referring to people in general; for example, Good News Translation “If people….” Considering the three verses together (verses 20-22) makes it appear more likely that these refer to the false teachers rather than to recent converts who have gone back to their former heathen ways. In many languages it will be helpful to make this clear and say, for example, “If these false teachers…” or “If these new converts….” It is also possible to render this in a general way, referring to everyone: “If people…” (Good News Translation) or “If anyone…” (similarly Phillips, Jerusalem Bible).

For connects this verse with the previous verses, probably going back to the whole idea of their being under corruption, or perhaps to the idea of “escape” in verse 18. If this connection is already clear in the translation, then For doesn’t have to be translated, as can be seen in many translations (for instance, Good News Translation, New International Version, New English Bible, Phillips). The word if is used here not to mark a condition that is contrary to fact, but rather to mark a conditional statement that is true. In other words Peter is not questioning or doubting the initial faith of the false teachers (or recent converts) but is asserting the fact that they had at one time left their heathen loyalties and become members of the Christian community. It will be helpful in certain languages to place the word if before the second sentence rather than the first and say “These false teachers (or, recent converts) have escaped … So, if they are caught….”

As in 1.4, conversion to Christianity is defined as escaping the defilements of the world. The word for defilements is a word similar in meaning to that used in 1.4, “corruption,” and it is used figuratively here to mean moral corruption through evil acts. The world can be understood generally here as all of creation, but perhaps as referring in particular to society which is viewed as evil because it is corrupted by pagan practices. The whole expression the defilements of the world is similar in meaning to “licentious passions of the flesh” in verse 18. The way of escaping the pollutions of the world, that is, of becoming a Christian, is through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For Lord see comments on 1.2; for Savior and Jesus Christ see comments on 1.1. Our is of course inclusive, referring to all Christians. Knowledge is a key term in this letter, having been used in 1.2, 3, and 8; see comments there for further discussion. This clause may also be rendered as “by coming to know our Lord…,” “through coming to know our Lord…,” or “through believing in our Lord….”

Leaving the Christian faith and returning to heathen practices is described as being again entangled and overpowered by these forces. In them goes back to the defilements of the world. Entangled is “to be mixed up with,” “to be implicated,” or “to be involved in.” This pictures people who have renounced their pagan religion, but who now again involve themselves in pagan practices. However, these people do not only get entangled in these practices; they are overpowered as well, that is, they are defeated and become slaves to these evil forces from which they have been delivered in the past. The clause they are again entangled in them and overpowered may also be expressed as “So if they are trapped again by the powers of these worldly lusts…” or “So if they are trapped again by the power of this evil worldly system….” And since this is the case, then the last state has become worse for them than the first. The last state refers to their state of having been mixed up with and defeated by immoral pagan practices. The first refers to their state before they became Christians, that is, before they came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Alternative translation models for this verse are:
• If people (or, these false teachers, or, recent converts), through their coming to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, have escaped from the forces of the world that cause peoples’ hearts to become dirty, and if they are again trapped by the power of this evil worldly system, they are in a worse condition at the end than before they came to know Jesus Christ (or, believed in Jesus Christ).

Or:
• People (or, These false teachers, or, Recent converts) have escaped from the evil and licentious forces of the world through their knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But if they are again caught and conquered by these forces, they are in a worse condition …

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Second Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Peter 1:20

Peter’s reference to the prophetic message now leads him to expound on the nature of prophecy and how it is interpreted. It is possible, as has been suggested in the discussion of the previous passage, that the false teachers have raised this issue and have objected to the way the prophetic word is being used to prove the truth of certain Christian teachings. It is in answer to these objections that Peter now explains the nature of prophecy. In this verse an individualistic approach to the interpretation of prophecy is rejected.

The expression First of all you must understand this marks out the statement that follows as very important and deserving of special attention. Similar phrases are used in other parts of the New Testament, such as Luke 12.39 (“But know this”), Gal 3.7 (“So you see”), and 2 Tim 3.1 (“But understand this”). In many languages the mention of “first” demands a “second,” but since there is no “second,” then the sense of importance needs to be substituted for “first”; for example, “The most important thing is that you understand….” It is not clear whether the information about to be shared is new or already known to the readers.

What is the meaning of the statement no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation? Scripture most certainly refers to the Old Testament, and prophecy to particular parts of the Old Testament, primarily those parts that foretell future events. However, it is possible to take prophecy here and in verse 21 with the meaning “message from God,” in which case prophecy of scripture can be translated “the message of God contained in the Scriptures,” or possibly “a message announced by one of God’s messengers, which is contained in the Scriptures.”

Interpretation is a Greek word that occurs only here in the New Testament. Both the noun and the related verb are used for the explanation of riddles, puzzles, dreams, parables, and difficult passages of scripture. The Greek word translated is a matter of in this context can also be translated “belongs to” or “comes under the scope of.” But who is referred to in the expression one’s own interpretation? As we will see, the answer to this question is decisive in determining the meaning of the whole statement, as the following possibilities show:

1. If one’s own is understood as referring to any person, then the statement can mean that no one can explain or interpret a prophecy of scripture with the use of his or her own powers alone. This meaning is echoed in some translations such as Good News Translation “no one can explain by himself a prophecy in the Scriptures,” Phillips “no prophecy of scripture can be interpreted by a single human mind,” and An American Translation “no prophecy of scripture can be understood through one’s own powers.” This connects the interpretation to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as stated in verse 21.

2. The statement can mean that what is being denied is private individual interpretation of prophecy; in this case what is being indirectly affirmed is the importance of the church or the Christian community. This is echoed in some translations as well; for example, Jerusalem Bible “the interpretation of scriptural prophecy is never a matter for the individual.”

3. If, however, one’s own is taken to refer to the prophet himself, then the statement would mean that the interpretation of scripture is not dependent on the prophet’s own ideas or efforts. Again, this is echoed in some translations; for example, New International Version “no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.”

Of these three alternatives, the first two seem preferable, with the second having a slight preference over the first. Taken as a whole, then, the statement is not suggesting that personal reading, reflection and interpretation of scripture is wrong. Rather the statement most probably asserts that the prophetic message should not be interpreted according to a person’s whims and fancies. This is of course directed at the false teachers referred to in the next two chapters, who are diluting Christian teaching and twisting it to suit their own fanciful ideas.

Alternative translation models for this verse are:
• The most important thing is that you understand that no one is able through his own ability (or, power) to explain a prophecy of God (or, a message announced by one of God’s spokesmen) which is contained in the Scriptures.

Or:
• … that you understand that one’s own interpretation of prophecy in the Scriptures is not the most important.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Second Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Peter 3:9

The Lord may refer either to God or to Christ, but in the context of this whole passage it may be best to take Lord in these three verses as referring to God.

Slow comes from a verb that can mean “to delay,” “to linger,” “to be slack,” “to be late,” especially in reference to a designated or determined time. What is being denied here is the allegation of some people that God is slow about his promise, that is, he is negligent in fulfilling his promise at the appointed time. Promise ties this statement to the question in verse 4. Apparently the delay of the Parousia had been interpreted to mean that God was either indifferent or powerless to fulfill what he had promised. The phrase not slow about his promise may also be rendered as “not negligent (or, slow) in making what he promised to do happen.” As some count slowness can be expanded in translation; for example, “as some people think…” or “as some people think slowness means.”

Peter accepts that there is some delay, but he says that the delay has a positive purpose. It shows first of all that God is forbearing. This word, sometimes rendered as “longsuffering” or “patient,” is that quality of God which allows him to be somewhat lenient with sinners, in the sense that he refrains from punishing them immediately, but instead gives then an opportunity to turn back from their sins and thus escape receiving the punishment they deserve. (See also how “God’s patience waited” in 1 Peter 3.20.) God’s patience is here made to relate directly to the readers of the letter: he is patient toward you. Forbearing is literally “long-souled” and may be translated idiomatically in some languages as “having a big heart” or “large-hearted.”

As the Revised Standard Version footnote shows, there is a textual problem here. Instead of the preposition toward (Greek eis), some manuscripts have “on account of” (Greek dia), which is reflected in some translations such as Moffatt “he is longsuffering for your sake.” The meaning is not all that different, since both single out the readers as the object of God’s patience, and both equally affirm that this is for their own benefit. Most modern translations follow the text reflected in Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation. You is strange in this context, since he has been speaking about others, especially scoffers; perhaps it is used here to indicate God’s great concern for the readers of the letter, but it is also possible that many of the readers have begun to succumb to the influence of the false teachers, and therefore would need sufficient time to renounce their heretical beliefs and ungodly practices. At any rate, the strangeness of you in this verse remains, and this has led to the change of you to “us” in some manuscripts, as the UBS Greek New Testament indicates (and see King James Version “is longsuffering to us-ward”). It is clear, however, from the conclusions of textual scholars, that the primary reading here is not “us” but you.

Related to God’s patience is his not wishing that any should perish. Wishing comes from a verb that means “to want,” “to desire,” “to will.” Perish is “be lost” (New English Bible) or “be destroyed” (Good News Translation) as a result of God’s judgment. The phrase not wishing that any should perish may be rendered in some languages as “not wanting anyone to receive destruction” or “not wanting anyone to suffer destruction.” Any emphasizes God’s encompassing desire to save people from punishment; he doesn’t want even one person to be destroyed. The last part of the verse expresses the same idea positively: as a patient God, he wants all to reach repentance, that is “to turn away from their sins” (Good News Translation). The term repentance includes the negative element of turning away from evil and the positive element of doing God’s will. Thus we may translate as “turn away from evil and follow God’s will,” or idiomatically as “change their hearts and return to God.”

An alternative translation model for this verse is:
• The Lord is not slow in making (or, causing) what he promised to do happen, as some people think slowness means (or, is). Instead, he is big-hearted toward you, because he doesn’t want anyone to suffer destruction, but wants all people to turn away from their sins and return to him.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Second Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Peter 2:10

In the previous verse Peter mentioned the unrighteous, a general term for sinners. In the present verse he moves on from the general statement and identifies two kinds of acts that will meet with the most severe punishment: sexual immorality and defiance of authority.

Especially translates an adverb in the superlative degree. Here it indicates that the Lord will mark the sinners mentioned here as deserving punishment more than any other sinners. Translators may have to use other ways of saying this, such as “and he will punish more than anyone else those who…,” or “most of all, punishment will fall upon those who…,” or changing to a superlative adjective phrase, “and the most evil will be those who….”

Indulge in the lust of defiling passion is literally “go (or, walk) after the flesh in desire (or, lust) of defilement (or, pollution).” Indulge, or “walk,” has the extended meaning of “order one’s life,” “conduct oneself,” “follow a certain course of action.” “Flesh” here is used in the ethical or moral sense, “totally depraved human nature,” and is related to corrupt and unlawful sexual acts. “To walk after the flesh” therefore means, in this context, habitually engaging in sinful sexual practices. “Desire” is here used in the bad or derogatory sense of lust. Defiling translates a word that can literally mean “spot” or “stain” and is often used to describe a state of being ritually unclean. In this context, however, it is used in a moral sense referring primarily to impurity as a result of evil actions. The whole expression lust of defiling passion then means lust that is corrupt, “filthy bodily lusts” (Good News Translation), “lust that makes people impure,” or “lust that pollutes people.” The first clause may also be expressed as “habitually engage in sinful (sexual) practices that make them morally impure.”

Despise authority is related to a similar expression in Jude 8. However, there are some differences in meaning and emphasis. Whereas in Jude it is possible to interpret authority as referring to angelic beings or even to human authority in general, here the meaning is more likely to be the authority of God or the authority of Christ. And since Lord in verse 9 most probably refers to God, then the authority spoken of here is probably God’s more than Christ’s. If, however, the present verse is related to 2.1, then it is Christ’s authority that is in focus. In any case, the former seems to be the most likely interpretation in this context. Other ways to say this are “refuse to obey God when he commands them” or “consider that God has no right to rule over them.”

The false teachers are first described as Bold and wilful and not afraid to revile the glorious ones. The word for Bold can also mean “daring” or “audacious,” but here it is used in a negative sense, “reckless,” “brazen,” “presumptuous” (for which see Jude 9 “did not presume,” Good News Translation “did not dare”). The word for wilful can mean “stubborn,” “arrogant,” “headstrong,” “self-willed,” “obstinate,” and is a fitting description of people who feel sufficient to themselves and who always want to have their own way regardless of the consequences. In certain languages wilful may be expressed idiomatically. Examples are “having a high heart or liver” or “having a rising heart or liver,” but used in a negative, uncomplimentary, contemptuous, or unflattering manner.

The false teachers show their recklessness and obstinacy in their attitude toward the glorious ones. This is the same term found in Jude 8, where it is interpreted to mean angels, particularly good ones. Here, however, since the glorious ones are compared to angels in verse 11, it is rather difficult to say that in this context they are the same as the “glorious ones” in Jude. Some of the suggestions as to the identity of the “glorious ones” are as follows:

1. They are human authorities, either ecclesiastical or civil. But this is unlikely, since the term “glorious ones” is usually used of celestial beings.

2. They are heavenly beings other than angels. In ancient times there was a prevalent belief in the existence of spiritual beings other than God or angels (for example, demons). These spiritual beings were not necessarily bad. In the New Testament, however, these beings were regarded as evil and as being under the leadership of Satan (the Devil).

3. They are bad angels, perhaps the fallen angels mentioned in verse 4. “Angels” in verse 11 then refers to good angels, and “them” in that verse refers to the bad angels. The sense of the verse would be that, while the false teachers dare to insult the Devil and his angels, the good angels themselves do not dare do this (that is, insult the Devil and his angels).

4. The glorious ones are the same angels mentioned in verse 11. In this case “them” in verse 11 refers to the false teachers, giving the sense that, while the false teachers dare to insult angels, these same angels do not even say bad things about the false teachers. This, however, goes against the most natural reading of the Greek text, which seems to make a distinction between “glorious ones” in verse 10 and “angels” in verse 11.

Many translations render glorious ones literally and therefore avoid the problem of identifying who they are. Good News Translation “the glorious beings above” follows the second of these possibilities. In some languages there are special expressions reserved for beings such as these; for example, “the Sacred Beings.”

Revile translates the verb “blaspheme,” which is the same word translated “reviled” in 2 Peter 2.2 and has the general meaning of “speak evil of,” “insult,” “show irreverence to.” Afraid is literally “tremble, quiver,” but it is used figuratively here to mean “be afraid” or “respect.” The relation between not afraid and revile is interpreted in two different ways by Revised Standard Version and TEV. In Revised Standard Version not afraid goes with revile, hence, “they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones.” In Good News Translation, however, “not afraid” and “insult” are two parallel terms both describing the false teachers’ attitude toward the glorious ones, so “they show no respect for the glorious beings above; instead, they insult them.” This Handbook recommends TEV’s interpretation as the more likely one for this context.

Quoted with permission from Arichea, Daniel C. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on The Second Letter from Peter. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .