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.
Verse 1. - But there were false prophets also among the people; rather, as in the Revised Version, but there arose false prophets also among the people. The transition is simple and natural. Besides the true prophets mentioned in the last chapter, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, there arose false prophets, men who wore "a rough garment to deceive" (Zechariah 13:4), and assumed without warrant the prophetic character. Such pretenders would commonly prophesy false things; but the word ψευδοπροφῆται seems principally to imply the absence of a Divine mission. By "the people" (λαός) is meant the people of Israel, as in Romans 15:11; Jude 1:5, etc. It is plain from these words that St. Peter, at the end of the last chapter, was speaking of the prophets of the Old Testament. Even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies. By the false teachers, again (the word ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι is peculiar to St. Peter), may be meant men whose teaching was false, or men who falsely claimed the teacher's office. St. Peter describes them as such as (οἵτινες) shall bring in damnable heresies. The verb (παριεσάξουσιν) is found only here in the New Testament; the adjective derived from it is used by St. Paul in Galatians 2:4, "false brethren unawares brought in." It means "to bring in by the side of," as if these false teachers brought in their errors by the side of the true doctrine; it implies also the secondary notion of secrecy. Compare St. Jude's use of the verb παρεισέδυσαν, compounded with the same prepositions (verse 4); and notice the difference of tenses - St. Jude using the past where St. Peter looks forward to the future; but St. Peter passes to the present tense in verse 10, and maintains it for the rest of the chapter. We may, perhaps, infer that the false teaching referred to was already beginning to affect the Churches of Asia Minor; but the errors were not so much developed there, the' false teachers had not gained so much influence as it seems they had in the Churches which St. Jude had principally in his thoughts. The literal translation of the words rendered "damnable heresies" is "heresies of destruction," the last word being the same which occurs again at the end of the verse. These heresies destroy the soul; they bring ruin both to those who are led astray and to the false teachers themselves. The word for "heresy"(αἵρεσις), meaning originally "choice," became the name for a party, sect, or school, as in Acts 5:17, "the sect of the Sadducees;" Acts 15:5," the sect of the Pharisees;" Acts 24:5 (in the mouth of Tertullus). "the sect of the Nazarenes;" then, by a natural transition, it came to be used of the opinions held by a sect. The notion of self-will, deliberate separation, led to its being employed generally in a bad sense (see especially Titus 3:10, "A man that is a heretic, (αἱρετικὸς)"). Even denying the Lord that bought them; literally, as in the Revised Version, denying even the Master that bought them. The word for "Master" (δεσπότης) implies that the deniers stand to the Lord in the relation of slaves, bondservants. The Lord had bought them; they were not their own, but his, bought with a price, "not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18; see also the parallel passage Jude 1:4). These words plainly assert the universality of the Lord's redemption. He "tasted death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9), even for those false teachers who denied him. The denial referred to may have been doctrinal or practical; most of the ancient forms of heresy involved some grave error as to the Person of Christ; and the germs of these errors appeared very early in the Church (see 1 John 2:22, 23), denying sometimes the Godhead of our Lord, sometimes the truth of his humanity. But St. Peter may mean the practical denial of Christ evinced in an ungodly and licentious life. The latter form of denial appears most prominent in this chapter; probably the apostle intended to warn his readers against both. It is touching to remember that he had himself denied the Lord, though indeed the price with which our souls were bought had not then been paid; but his denial was at once followed by a deep and true repentance. The Lord's loving look recalled him to himself; his bitter tears proved the sincerity of his contrition. And bring upon themselves swift destruction; literally, bringing. The participial construction unites the two clauses closely; the latter expresses the consequence of the former: they bring heresies of destruction into the Church, and by so doing bring upon themselves swift destruction. The word for "swift" (ταχινός) is used by no other New Testament writer. There is an apparent allusion to this verso in Justin Martyr ('Cum Tryph.,' 82), and the first clause of it is quoted in a homily ascribed to Hippolytus of Portus. Notice St. Peter's habit of repetition, he repeats the word ἀπώλεια three times in verses 1-3; δίκαιος three times in verses 7, 8; the verb προσδοκάω three times in 2 Peter 3:12-14, etc.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
Verse 2. - And many shall follow their pernicious ways; rather, as in the Revised Version, their lascivious doings; the reading represented by the Authorized Version has very little support (comp. Jude 1:4, 8). (For "shall follow" (ἐξακολουθήσουσιν), see note on 2 Peter 1:16.) By reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. The heathen were accustomed to charge Christians with immorality; the conduct of these false teachers gave them occasion; they did not distinguish between these licentious heretics and true Christians. The expression, "way of truth," occurs in the 'Epistle of Barnabas,' chapter 5. Christianity is called "the way" several times in the Acts (Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9, 23, etc.). It is the way of truth, because Christ, who is the Center of his religion, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; because it is the way of life which is founded on the truth.
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.
Verse 3. - And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you; rather, in covetousness. Covetousness was their besetting sin, the sphere in which they lived. St. Paul warned Titus against false teachers who taught "things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake" (Titus 1:11; see also 1 Timothy 6:6 and Jude 1:16). Simon Magus, the first heresiarch, sought to trade in holy things; the like sin seems to have been characteristic of the false teachers of apostolic times. The word translated "feigned" (πλαστοῖς) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; the words of these men were not the expression of their real thoughts and feelings; they were invented, craftily contrived to deceive men, and that for the sake of money. The last words of the clause will admit another sense: "shall gain you," i.e., "shall gain you over to their party;" and this view derives some support from the use of the verb ἐμπορεύεσθαι in the Septuagint Version of Proverbs 3:14. But the verb is often used in classical writers in the sense of making a profit out of people or things, and this meaning seems most suitable here. The false teachers will work hard, as the Pharisees did, to make proselytes; but their real motive is, not the salvation of souls, but their own selfish gain. Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not; literally, for whom the sentence of a long time idleth not. The sentence of judgment is for them, for their condemnation; in the foreknowledge of God it has been pronounced long ago, and ever since it has been drawing near; it doth not tarry (comp. Jude 1:4 and 1 Peter 4:17). The word rendered "of a long time" (ἔκπαλαι) occurs only here and 2 Peter 3:5. And their damnation slumbereth not; destruction: it is the word which has been used already twice in verse 1. The verb means literally "to nod," then "to slumber;" it is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in the parable of the virgins (Matthew 25:5).
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
Verse 4. - For if God spared not the angels that sinned; rather, angels when they sinned ; there is no article. St. Peter is giving proofs of his assertion that the punishment of the ungodly lingereth not. The first is the punishment of angels that sinned. He does not specify the sin, whether rebellion, as in Revelation 12:7; or uncleanness, as apparently in Jude 1:6, 7, and Genesis 6:4. Formally, there is an anacoluthon here, but in thought we have the apodosis in verse 9. But cast them down to hell. The Greek word, which is found nowhere else in the Greek Scriptures, is ταρταρώσας, "having cast into Tartarus." This use of a word belonging to heathen mythology is very remarkable, and without parallel in the New Testament. (The word τάρταρος occurs in the Septuagint, Job 40:15. Compare also the Septuagint rendering of the name of Job's daughter Keren-Happuch, Ἀμαλθαίας κέρας, the horn of Amalthaea; and the word σειρῆνες in Isaiah 43:20.) Apparently, St. Peter regards Tartarus not as equivalent to Gehenna, for the sinful angels are "reserved unto judgment," but as a place of preliminary detention. Josephus, quoted by Professor Lumby in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' speaks of the oldest heathen gods as fettered in Tartarus, ἐν Ταρτάρῳ δεδεμένους ('Contra Apion,' 2:33). And delivered them into chains of darkness. The Revised Version "pits" represents the reading of the four oldest manuscripts; but the variations in two of them (the Sinaitic and Alexandrine have σειροῖς ζόφοις), and the fact that σειρός seems properly to mean a pit for the storage of corn, throw some doubt upon this reading. The other reading σειραῖς, cords, may possibly have arisen from the parallel passage in Jude 1:6, though the Greek word for "chains" is different there. The chains consist in darkness; the pits are in darkness, Παρέδωκε, delivered, is often used, as Huther remarks, with the implied idea of punishment. It is simpler to connect the chains or pits of darkness with this verb than (as Fronmuller and others) with ταρταρώσας, "having cast them in bonds of darkness into Tartarus" (comp. Wisd. 17:2, 16, 17). To be reserved unto judgment; literally, being reserved; but the readings here are very confused. St. Jude says (verse 6) that the sinful angels are reserved "unto the judgment of the great day." Bengel says, "Possunt autem in terra quoque versari mancipia Tartari (Luke 8:31; Ephesians 2:2; etc.) sic ut bello captus etiam extra locum captivitatis potest ambulare." But in the case of a mystery of which so little has been revealed, we are scarcely justified in assuming the identity of the angels cast into Tartarus with the evil spirits who tempt and harass us on earth.
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Verse 5. - And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person; rather, as in the Revised Version, the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others. "The eighth" is a common classical idiom (generally with the pronoun αὐτός) for a with seven others." Mark the close parallelism with 1 Peter 3:20, where, as here, the apostle impresses upon his readers the fewness of the saved. A preacher of righteousness. The Old Testament narrative does not directly assert this; but "a just man and perfect," who "walked with God" (Genesis 6:9), must have been a preacher (literally, "herald ") of righteousness to the ungodly among whom he lived. Josephus, in a well-known passage ('Ant.,' 1:03, 1), says that Noah tried to persuade his neighbours to change their mind and their actions for the better. Bringing in the Flood upon the world of the ungodly. The Revised Version renders, when he brought a Flood upon the world. In the Greek there is no article throughout this verse. In verse 1 the ungodly are represented as bringing upon themselves swift destruction; here God brings the punishment upon them. The same Greek verb is used in both places. In one place St. Peter gives the human, in the other the Divine, aspect of the same events (comp. Clement I, 7 and 9).
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
Verse 6. - And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow. The striking word τεφρώσας, turning into ashes, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; and the word for "overthrow" (καταστροφή) only in 2 Timothy 2:14. It is used in the Septuagint Version of Genesis 19:29 of this same judgment. Perhaps "to an overthrow" is a better translation (comp. Luke 17:26-29; Jude 1:7). Making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; rather, having made. The example is to be a lasting warning; literally, an example of those that should live ungodly; i.e., an example of their punishment, their end. In this verse the Vatican Manuscript omits "with an overthrow," and reads "an example of things to come unto the ungodly."
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
Verse 7. - And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; literally, and delivered righteous Lot, who was being worn out (καταπονούμενον; comp. Acts 7:24, the only other place of the New Testament where the word occurs) with the behaviour of the lawless in licentiousness. The word translated "lawless" (ἀθέσμων) is found only in one other place of the New Testament (2 Peter 3:17); but it is near akin to the ἀθεμίτοις ("abominable") of 1 Peter 4:3.
(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
Verse 8. - For that righteous man dwelling among them; literally, for the righteous man. It was through his own choice that he dwelt among the people of Sodom. The recollection of this grave mistake must have added bitterness to the daily distress caused by the sins of his neighbours (Genesis 13:11). In seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds. The words, "in seeing and hearing," are best connected with the verb that follows, not with "righteous" according to the Vulgate (though this would be the natural connection, if with the Vatican Manuscript we omit the article), nor with "dwelling among them." The literal translation is, "was tormenting his righteous soul." The sight of lawless deeds and the sound of wicked words were a daily grief to Lot. He distressed himself; he felt the guilt and danger of his neighbours, the dishonour done to God, and his own unhappy choice. St. Peter cannot mean (as OEcumenius and Theophylact suppose) that Lot's affliction was caused by the sustained effort to resist the temptation of falling into the like vices himself. The Greek words for "seeing" and "dwelling among" occur only here in the New Testament.
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
Verse 9. - The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. We have here the apodosis corresponding with the conditional sentence beginning at verse 4. The three examples cited by St. Peter show that the Lord knows (and with the Lord knowledge involves power) how to deliver the righteous and to punish the wicked. The Greek words for "godly" and "unjust" are both without the article. The word rendered "to be punished" (καλαζομένους) is a present participle, not future, and is better rendered, as in the Revised Version, "under punishment." The wicked are already under punishment while awaiting the judgment; the Lord had taught this in the parable of Dives and Lazarus (comp. also Jude 1:6, 7, and verse 4 of this chapter). Aristotle makes a distinction between κόλασις and τιμωρία, the first being "chastisement inflicted for the good of those chastised;" the second, "punishment inflicted on the incorrigible for the satisfaction of justice" (see 'Rhet.,' 1:10); but it is doubtful whether this distinction exists in the New Testament (comp. Matthew 25:46). Therefore it seems dangerous to lay much stress on the use of the word κολαζομένους here (comp. Clement, I, 11.).
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Verse 10. - But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness; literally, in the lust of pollution. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but the corresponding verb is found in several places (Titus 1:15; Hebrews 12:15; Jude 1:8). We observe that in this verse St. Peter passes from the future tense to the present. And despise government; rather, lordship (κυριότητος). St. Jude has the same word in verse 8. In Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16 it is used of angelic dignities. Here it seems to stand for all forms of authority. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities; literally, daring, self-willed, they tremble not when speaking evil of glories; or, they fear not glories, blaspheming. The word rendered "daring" (τολμηταί) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. These daring, self-willed men despise all lordship, all glories, whether the glory of Christ ("the excellent glory," 2 Peter 1:17), or the glory of the angels, or the glory of holiness, or the glory of earthly sovereignty. The next verse, however, makes it probable that the glory of the angels was the thought present to St. Peter's mind. It may be that, as some false teachers had inculcated the worship of angels (Colossians 2:18), others had gone to the opposite extreme (comp. Jude 1:8). The Vulgate strangely translates δόξας by sectas.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
Verse 11. - Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. The conjunction is ὅπου, literally, "where" - they speak evil of glories, "where," i.e., "in which case." The literal rendering of the following words, "angels being greater," makes it probable that the comparison is with the false teachers of the previous verse rather than with the "glories." The false teachers rail at glories, where angels, though greater than they, bring not a railing judgment against those glories. It seems certain that the words "against them" (κατ αὐτῶν) must refer to the "glories," and cannot mean, according to the Vulgate, adversum se. Men rail at these glories; but the elect angels, when they are commissioned to proclaim or inflict the just judgment (for κρίσις is "judgment," not" accusation") of God upon the angels that sinned, the fallen glories, do not rail; they remember what those lost spirits once were, and speak solemnly and sorrowfully, not in coarse, violent language. The apostle may be alluding to Zechariah 3:1, 2, but the resemblance to Jude 1:8, 9 is so dose that this last passage must have been in his thoughts, even if he is not directly referring to the dispute between Michael the archangel and the devil. Luther's interpretation (adopted by Fronmuller and others), that the wicked angels are not able to bear the judgment of God upon their blasphemy, cannot be extracted from the words. The Alexandrine Manuscript omits "before the Lord;" but these words are well supported. The angels of judgment remember that they are in the presence of God, and perform their solemn duty with godly fear.
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;
Verse 12. - But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed. The order of the words in the best manuscripts favours the translation of the Revised Version, But these, as creatures without reason, born mere animals to be taken and destroyed. The word rendered "mere animals" is literally "natural" (φυσικά); comp. Jude 1:10, "what they know naturally (φυσικῶς) as brute beasts." Speak evil of the things that they understand not; literally, as in the Revised Version, railing in matters whereof they are ignorant. (For the construction, see Wirier, 3:66. 5, at the end.) The context and the parallel passage in St. Jude show that the δόξαι, the glories, are the things which the false teachers understand not and at which they rail. Good angels do not pronounce a railing judgment against angels that sinned. These men, knowing nothing of the angelic sphere of existence, rail at the elect and the fallen angels alike, lien should speak with awe of the sin of the angels; jesting on such subjects is unbecoming and dangerous. And shall utterly perish in their own corruption. The best manuscripts read here καί φθαρήσονται "shall also be destroyed in their own corruption." It seems better to take φθορά in the sense of "corruption" here, as in 2 Peter 1:4, and to suppose that St. Peter is intentionally playing on the double sense of the noun and its cognate verb than, with Huther, to refer the pronoun αὐτῶν, "their own," to the ἄλογα ζῶα, and to understand St. Peter as meaning that the false teachers, who act like irrational animals, shall be destroyed with the destruction of irrational animals.
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;
Verse 13. - And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness. The two most ancient manuscripts read here, instead of κομιούμενοι ἀδικούμενοι. This reading is adopted by the Revised Version in the translation, "suffering wrong as the hire of wrongdoing." But the other reading is well supported, and gives a better sense, "receiving, as they shall, the reward of unrighteousness." Balaam loved the reward of unrighteousness in this world (verse 15); the false teachers shall receive its final reward in the world to come. Whichever reading is preferred, this clause is best taken with the preceding verse. As they that count it pleasure to riot in the daytime; literally, counting the revel in daytime a pleasure. St. Peter has hitherto spoken of the insubordination and irreverence of the false teachers; he now goes on to condemn their sensuality. The words ἐν ἠμέρα cannot, with some ancient interpreters, be taken as equivalent to μαθ ἡμέραν, daily (Luke 16:19). Many commentators, as Huther and Alford, translate "delicate living for a day" - enjoyment which is temporal and short-lived. But when we compare 1 Thessalonians 5:7, "They that are drunken are drunken in the night," and St. Peter's own words in Acts 2:15, it seems more probable that the apostle means to describe these false teachers as worse than ordinary men of pleasure. They reserve the night for their feasting; these men spend the day in luxury. The word τρυφή means "luxurious or delicate living" rather than "riot." Spots they are and blemishes. (For σπίλοι, spots, St. Jude has σπιλάδες, sunken rocks.) The word for "blemishes" (μῶμοι) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. But comp. 1 Peter 1:19, where the Lord Jesus is described as "a Lamb without blemish and without spot (ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου)." The Church should be like her Lord, "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27); but these men are spots and blemishes on her beauty. Sporting themselves with their own deceivings; literally, reveling in their deceivings. The word for "reveling" (ἐντρυφῶντες) corresponds with τρυφή, used just above. The manuscripts vary between ἀπάταις, deceivings, and ἀγάπαις, loves, love-feasts. The former reading seems the best-supported here, and the latter in the parallel passage of St. Jude (verse 12). It is possible that the paronomasia may be intentional (compare the σπίλοι of St. Peter and the σπιλάδες of St. Jude). St. Peter will not use the honourable name for the banquets which these men disgrace by their excesses. He calls them ἀπάτας, not ἀγάπας - deceits, not love-feasts. There is no love in the hearts of these men. Their love-feasts are hypocrisies, deceits; they try to deceive men, but they deceive not God. While they feast with you. The Greek word συνευωχούμενοι occurs elsewhere only in Jude 1:12. The false teachers joined in the love-feasts, but made them the occasion of self-indulgence. Compare the similar conduct of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
Verse 14. - Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; literally, of an adulteress. Compare our Lord's words in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:28), which may have been in St. Peter's thoughts. For the second clause, comp. 1 Peter 4:1, "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." Beguiling unstable souls; rather, enticing. The word δελεάζοντες, from δέλεαρ, a bait, belongs to the art of the fowler or fisherman, and would naturally occur to St. Peter's mind. He uses it again in verse 18 of this chapter (comp. also James 1:14). The word for "unstable" (ἀστηρίκτους) occurs only here and in 2 Peter 3:16. It is a word of peculiar significance in the mouth of St. Peter, conscious, as he must have been, of his own want of stability in times past. He would remember also the charge once given to him, "When thou art converted, strengthen (στήριξον) thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). An heart they have exercised with covetous practices; rather, trained in covetousness, according to the reading of the best manuscripts, πλεονεξίας. This is the third vice laid to the charge of the false teachers. They had practiced it so long that their very heart was trained in the habitual pursuit of gain by all unrighteous means. Cursed children; rather, children of curse. Like "the son of perdition," "children of wrath," "children of disobedience," "son of Belial," etc.
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;
Verse 15. - Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray; literally, forsaking (or having forsaken; there are two slightly differing readings, both well supported) the right way, they went astray. The false teachers in St. Peter's time were like Elymas the sorcerer, whom St. Paul accused of perverting "the right ways of the Lord" (Acts 13:10; comp. also verse 2 of this chapter). In the 'Shepherd of Hermas' occurs what may be an echo of this verse: "Who... have forsaken their true way" (Vis., 3:7. 1). Following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor. The word rendered "following" (ἐξακολουθήσαντες) is found also in chapter 2 Peter 1:16 and 2 Peter 2:2 of this Epistle, but nowhere else in the New Testament; it means "to follow out to the end." Comp. Numbers 22:32, where the angel of the Lord says of Balaam, "Thy way is perverse before me." The form "Bosor," instead of "Beor," arose probably from a peculiar (perhaps Galilaean) pronunciation of the guttural ע in בְּעור. Thus we, perhaps, have here an undesigned coincidence, a slight confirmation of St. Peter's authorship: he was a Galilaean, and his speech betrayed him (Matthew 26:73); one characteristic of the Galilaean dialect was a mispronunciation of the gutturals. But some commentators see in the resemblance of the form "Bosor" to the Hebrew בָּשָׂר, flesh, an allusion to those sins of the flesh into which Balaam allured the Israelites. Compare the Jewish use of such names as Ishbosheth in derision for Eshbaal ("the man of shame" for "the man of Baal"), and Jerubbesheth (2 Samuel 11:21) for Jerubbaal. The references to Balaam here, in St. Jude, the Book of the Revelation, and 1 Corinthians 10:8, show that his history had made a great impression on the mind of thoughtful Christians. St. John connects his name with the Nicolaitanes in Revelation 2:15, much as St. Peter here connects it with the false teachers of his time. Some, again, see in the etymology of the word "Nicolaitane" an allusion to that of "Balaam," as if the Nicolaitanes were followers of Balaam. There is another explanation in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' that the word "Bosor" is an Aramaic form, and that "the form possibly became familiar to St. Peter during his residence at Babylon, and suggests the probability that Aramaic traditions were still current respecting Balaam at the Christian era, and on the banks of the Euphrates" (additional note on Numbers 22:5). But the two oldest manuscripts read "Beer" here. Who loved the wages of unrighteousness (comp. verse 13, and also St. Peter's words in Acts 1:18). Balaam is not definitely accused of covetousness in the Old Testament narrative; but his conduct can be explained by no other motive.
But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
Verse 16. - But was rebuked for his iniquity; literally, but had a rebuke for his own transgression. The word for "rebuke" (ἔλεγξιν) Occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The guilt of offering the wages of unrighteousness rested with Balak; Balaam's own transgression lay in his readiness to accept them - in his willingness to break the law of God by cursing, for filthy lucre's sake, those whom God had not cursed. The dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet. The word for "ass" is literally "beast of burden" (ὑποζύγιον, as in Matthew 21:5). "Dumb" is literally "without voice;" naturally without voice, it spake with the voice of man. The word ἐκώλυσεν, rendered "forbade," is rather "checked," or "stayed." The word for "madness" (παραφρονίαν) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The ass checked the prophet's folly by her shrinking from the angel, and by the miracle that followed; the angel, while permitting Balaam to expose himself to the danger into which he had fallen by tempting the Lord, forbade any deviation from the word to be put into his mouth by God. Balaam obeyed in the letter; but afterwards the madness which had been checked for the moment led him into deadly sin (Numbers 31:16). We observe that St. Peter assumes the truthfulness of the narrative in the Book of Numbers (see Mr. Clark's note in the 'Speaker's Commentary' on Numbers 22:28).
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
Verse 17. - These are wells without water. St. Peter has spoken of the vices of the false teachers; he goes on to describe the unprofitableness of their teaching. They are like wells without water; they deceive men with a promise which they do not fulfill. In Jude 1:12 there is a slight difference - "clouds without water" (comp. Jeremiah 2:13). Clouds that are carried with a tempest; better, mists driven by a tempest. The best manuscripts have ὁμίχλαι, mists, instead of νεφέλαι, clouds; they are driven along by the tempest; they give no water to the thirsty land, but only bring darkness and obscurity. The Greek word for "tempest" (λαῖλαψ) is used by St. Mark and St. Luke in their account of the tempest on the Sea of Galilee. To whom the mist of darkness is reserved for over; rather, as in the Revised Version, the blackness of darkness. The words are the same as those of Jude 1:13 (comp. verse 4 of this chapter; also 2 Peter 3:7; and 1 Peter 1:4, where the same verb is used of the inheritance reserved in heaven for the saints). The words "for ever" are omitted in the Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts; it is possible that they may have been inserted from the parallel passage in St. Jude; but they are well supported here.
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.
Verse 18. - For when they speak great swelling words of vanity; literally, for speaking. "Great swelling words" is expressed by one word in the Greek, ὑπέρογκα, St. Jude has the same word in verse 16; it is used in the classical writers of great bulk of any kind, literal or figurative. The genitive is descriptive - the words are swelling, high-sounding; but they are only words, vain and meaningless; they have nothing but emptiness behind them. They allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness; rather, as in the Revised Version, they entice (as in verse 14) in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness. The preposition "in" denotes the sphere in which these men live, their condition, habits of life. The dative ἀσελγείαις, literally "by lasciviousnesses," that is, by acts of lasciviousness, is the dative of the instrument; it states the means by which they entice men. Those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. The Authorized Version follows the T.R., τοὺς ὄντως ἀποφυγόντας; but most of the best manuscripts have τοὺς ὀλίγως ἀποφεύγοντας. This last reading gives a better sense, "Those who are just escaping." The adverb ὀλίγως may be understood of time, or, perhaps better, of measure - "escaping by a little, a little way." Those who were "clean escaped "would not be so easily enticed by the false teachers. These are only beginning to escape; they have heard the word with joy, but have no root in themselves; they put their hand to the plough, but they look back. They "that live in error" are the heathen; the unhappy men who are led astray by the false teachers are just escaping from the heathen and from their mode of life. It is possible to understand these last words as a coordinate clause, a further description of those who are just escaping. The false teachers entice "those who are just escaping, those who live in error." But the common rendering seems better. The verb translated "live" (ἀναστρεφομένους) is a favourite word with St. Peter (see 1 Peter 1:15, 18; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1, 2, 16).
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.
Verse 19. - While they promise them liberty; literally, promising. The words cohere closely with the preceding clause. Liberty was the subject of their great swelling words of vanity; they talked loudly, made a great boast, about liberty. Perhaps they were wresting to their own destruction (comp. 2 Peter 3:15, 16) the teaching of St. Paul concerning Christian liberty. St. Paul had spoken of the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21); he had again and again asserted the liberty of Christians in things indifferent (see 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Corinthians 10:23, etc.). But he had insisted on the paramount duty of giving no offence (1 Corinthians 8:13, etc.), and had earnestly cautioned his converts to "use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh." There were false teachers who maintained that the true Gnostic was free from moral restraints, in fact, that liberty meant libertinism, liberty to sin (comp. 1 Peter 2:16). They themselves are the servants of corruption. The construction is still participial, "being" (ὑπάρχοντες) being from the beginning servants of corruption. Those who talked about liberty were themselves all the time the bondservants, the slaves, of corruption. The word rendered "corruption" (φθορά) includes the sense of" destruction," as in verse 12 and 2 Peter 1:4 (comp. Romans 8:21). For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. "Of whom," or "by whatever;" by Satan, the personal tempter, or by sin, the innate tendency; the Greek word will bear either meaning. Some good manuscripts add "also," which strengthens the assertion; "is he also brought in bondage." St. Peter's teaching corresponds exactly with that of St. Paul in Romans 6:16. There is a very close parallel to this clause in the 'Clementine Recognitions' (5:12; quoted by Dr. Salmon, in his 'Historical Introduction to the Books of the New Testament'): "unusquisque illius fit servus cui se ipse subjecerit."
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.
Verse 20. - For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world; literally, for if, having escaped (ἀποφυγόντες). Is St. Peter in this verse still speaking of the false teachers, or of those whom they had enticed (verse 18)? Bengel, Fronmuller, and others take the latter view, thinking that the ἀποφυγόντες ("those having escaped") of this verse must be the same with the ἀποφεύγοντας or ἀποφυγόντας ("those who are escaping," or "those having escaped") of verse 18. But it is far more natural to understand St, Peter as continuing his description of the false teachers. The conjunction "for" connects the clause closely with that immediately preceding, and suggests that St. Peter is explaining the term "bondservants or slaves" applied to the false teachers in verse 19; the repetition of the word "overcome" also seems to imply that the subjects of yore. 20 and 19 are the same. The word for" pollutions" (μιάσματα) occurs only here. In 'Hermas' (Vis., 4:3, 2) there occurs what may be a reminiscence of this verse: "Ye who have escaped this world." Through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Several of the most ancient manuscripts read, "our Lord and Saviour." The word rendered "knowledge" is ἐπίγνωσις, full knowledge (comp. 2 Peter 1:2, 3, 8; also Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 2:2; Colossians 3:10; 1 Timothy 2:4; Romans 1:28; Romans 3:20). The preposition is ἐν. The full, personal knowledge of the Saviour is the sphere in which the Christian lives; while he abides in that knowledge grace and peace are multiplied unto him, and he is enabled to escape the pollutions of the world. The apostle warns us here that some of those who once enjoyed the blessedness of that sacred knowledge have been entangled in sin and have fallen from grace. They are again entangled therein, and overcome. The first clause is participial; the connection seems to be, "If, having escaped... but being again entangled they are overcome." The word "entangled" (ἐμπλακέντες) suggests the figure of fishes entangled in the meshes of a net, and seems to point back to the δελεάζουσιν ("entice") of verses 18 and 14; they entice others, but they are entangled themselves (comp. 2 Timothy 2:4), and become captives and slaves to the pollutions of the world from which they had once escaped. The latter end is worse with them than the beginning; rather, as in the Revised Version, the last state is become worse with them than the first. This is a distinct quotation of our Lord's words in Matthew 12:45 and Luke 11:26. The evil spirit had been cast out from these men; for a time they had lived in the full knowledge of Christ; but now the evil spirit had returned, and had brought with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself. This spontaneous adoption of our Lord's words without marks of quotation is not like the work of a forger.
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.
Verse 21. - For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness; better, as in the Revised Version, for it were better. (For this use of the imperfect indicative, see Winer, 3:41, 2, a.) The verb ἐπεγνωκέκαι, "to have known," here, and the participle ἐπιγνοῦσιν, "after they have known," in the next clause, correspond with the noun ἐπίγνωσις of the preceding, and, like that, imply that these unhappy men once had the full knowledge of Christ. (For "the way, of righteousness," compare "the way of truth" in verse 2, and note there.) Than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. The manuscripts exhibit some slight variations here: the Sinaitic and Alexandrine give "to turn back." By "the holy commandment" St. Peter means the whole moral Law, which the Lord enforced and widened in his sermon on the mount; from this the false teachers turned away. For the word "delivered" (παραδοθείσης), comp. Jude 1:3. Like the corresponding word παράδοσις, tradition (2 Thessalonians 3:6), it implies the oral transmission of Christian teaching in the first ages (comp. also 1 Peter 1:18).
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.
Verse 22. - But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb. The conjunction "but" is omitted in the best manuscripts. The literal translation is, "There hath happened unto them that of the true proverb (τὸ τῆς παροιμίας);" comp. Matthew 21:21, τὸ τῆς συκῆς. The dog is turned to his own vomit again. The construction is participial; literally, a dog having turned. See Wirier (3:45, 6, b), who says that in such proverbial expressions there is no reason for changing the participle into a finite verb: "They are spoken δεικτικῶς as it were, with reference to a case actually observed." St. Peter may be quoting Proverbs 26:11; but his words are very different from the Septuagint Version of that passage; perhaps it is more probable that the expression had become proverbial, and that the apostle is referring to a form of it in common use with his readers; like that which follows, which is not in the Book of Proverbs. And the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire; literally, the sow that had washed to her wallowing; or, according to some ancient manuscripts, "her wallowing-place." St. Peter compares the lives of the false teachers to the habits of those animals which were regarded as unclean, and were most despised by the Jews (compare our Lord's words in Matthew 7:6). The words ἐξέραμα, vomit; κυλισμός, wallowing; and βόρβορος, mire, are not found elsewhere in the New Testament.