Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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2 PETER - Chapter 2

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2 Peter 2

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  FALSE TEACHERS  2, 1 -- 3, 13

2, 1-3:  Punishment of Lying Teachers.    1.  False prophets among the people: as the pseudo-prophets were a curse in Israel; so false teachers now plague St. Peter's readers.  These charlatans of religion deny by their immoral life the doctrine and the truth of Christ, a crime that spells its own doom.    2.  The way of truth will be maligned: the lofty concept of Christian morality will be identified, in the mind of the Gentiles, with wanton conduct once Christ's moral law is replaced by a standard dependent upon popular and sensual appeal.    3.  Then as now poor dupes will sacrifice hard-earned savings to enrich the purse of these religious quacks.  But their sentence of condemnation is passed; their doom is sealed.

2, 4-10:  Warning from the Past.  The terrifying punishments for similar sins in the past should confirm the readers in their Christian manner of life.    4.  First instance: the fallen angels.  The sin of the angels brought swift destruction; from the heights of heaven they were cast into the depths of hell.  Tartarus: in Greek mythology Tartarus was a place of punishment for crimes committed against the gods.  St. Peter here accommodates his language to the mind of his readers; such usage would readily be understood by converts from paganism.  Kept in custody for judgment: the final and irrevocable judgment will be passed upon the fallen angels at Christ's Second Coming.    5.  The second instance: the Deluge.  The ancient world: the world previous to the Deluge.  Noe, a herald of justice: while the ark was being built, Noe preached penance without avail to a recalcitrant world.  With seven others: Noe's wife, his sons and their wives.    6.  The third instance: the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  This catastrophe stands as a warning, an object lesson for all times; the stench of unnatural lusts hastens the inevitable punishment of God.    7.  A God-fearing life stands forth as a reproach to wanton conduct; Lot's faithfulness to God made him the object of derision and contempt among his fellow citizens.    8.  To have consented to their wicked deeds would have freed his soul from that particular torment for a while; God, however, in His own good time delivered Lot (7); but these cities He destroyed from the face of the earth.    9.  These examples prove that God knows how and when to deliver the just; that the destruction of the wicked does not slumber (3).    10.  Follow the flesh, etc.: these vices are particularly subject to the avenging hand of God because they undermine the faith and morality of men.

2, 11-22:  The Vices of Heresy.  Majesty is predicated on personages of high estate, whether divine or human.  St. Peter understands this (1) of Christ; (2) of Church, State, and the angels.  The connotation is: self-willed and lustful men acknowledge no authority.  Just how these false teachers derided the majesty of the angels remains a difficult problem; possibly their doctrinal beliefs or ritualistic practices detracted from the angelic nature.    11.  Angles by nature are superior to men; their conduct worthy of imitation by men.  Still in the presence of God the angels of heaven refrain from abusing the fallen angels.    12.  Irrational animals, etc.: animals are created for man's use; hence born for capture and destruction.  Now, false teachers and their victims are comparable to irrational animals when the defame things of which they are ignorant.  For, (1) human nature is inferior to the angelic; (2) these teachers lack spiritual insight, theirs is a physical not a spiritual life; their principles and manner of life are sensual and mundane.  They deride what they do not understand, they will perish in their own corruption.    13.  Daylight revelry: sensual indulgence and drunken orgies.  Their licentious conduct while banqueting with you are spots and blemishes on Christian gatherings.    14.  A further description of the conduct of earthly-minded men.  Children of a curse: i.e., doomed to eternal destruction (2, 3; cp. Eph. 2, 3).    15.  These false teachers had known the right way but avarice turned them away from God; they capitalize on wrongdoing for the sake of gain as Balaam, tempted by the gold and silver of King Balac, had a mind to do.  Bosor: the father of Balaam.  Num. 22, 5 calls him Beor; Bosor may be a corrupt spelling of the name or possibly a play on words in the Hebrew language signifying, "son of flesh."    16.  This incident is related in Num. 22-24.    17.  These teachers of men are as springs without water which confuse the weary traveler, as a mirage which taunts parched lips.  Their doctrines resemble mists driven by storms full of false promise but with never a quickening drop of living water.  And because they have robbed men of the true light, the blackness of darkness (recesses in the depths of hell) is reserved for them.    18.  An explanation of the metaphors in 17.  High sounding, empty words: religious teaching devoid of all spirituality.  Sensual allurements, etc.: an artifice that flatters the senses while it restrains in moral darkness those who are just escaping from error.    19.  Christian freedom from the Mosaic Law, "the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free" (Gal. 4, 31), had occasioned disturbances among the Galatians (5, 13) and also at Corinth (1 Cor. 6, 12-14).  Here, too, the mask of freedom served but to enslave its devotees; for by whatever a man is overcome, of this also he is the slave.    20.  Through Baptism Christians have escaped the defilements of the world; such a travesty, however, of Christian freedom renders one's latter state worse . . . than the former.  Cf. Matt. 12, 45; Luke 11, 26 f.    21.  An individual's accountability before God is greater in proportion to the liberality with which grace is conferred (cf. Heb. 6, 4-6; 10, 26).    22.  St. Peter's characterization of false teachers and their followers who have turned their backs on God.

Confraternity Bible:

Punishment of Lying Teachers  1 But there were false prophets also among the people, just as among you there will be lying teachers who will bring in destructive sects.  They even disown the Lord who bought them, thus bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  2 And many will follow their wanton conduct, and because of them the way of truth will be maligned.  3 And out of greed they will with deceitful words use you for their gain.  Their condemnation, passed of old, is not made void, and their destruction does not slumber.

Warning from the Past  4 For God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but dragged them down by infernal ropes to Tartarus, and delivered them to be tortured and kept in custody for judgment.  5 Nor did he spare the ancient world, but preserved (with seven others) Noe a herald of justice, when he brought a flood upon the world of the impious.  6 And he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes, thus making them an example to those who in the future should live impiously; 7 whereas he delivered just Lot, who was distressed by the lawless behavior of the wicked.  8 For by what that just man saw and heard while dwelling among them, they tormented his just soul day after day with their wicked deeds.  9 The Lord knows how to deliver the God-fearing from temptation and to reserve the wicked for torment on the day of judgment, 10 but especially those who follow the flesh in unclean lust and despise authority.

The Vices of Heresy  Rash and self-willed, such men in their deriding do not regard majesty; 11 whereas angels, though greater in strength and power, do not bring against themselves an abusive charge.  12 But these men, like irrational animals created by nature for capture and destruction, deride what they do not understand, and will perish in their own corruption, 13 receiving thereby the recompense of their wrongdoing.  They regard as pleasure their daylight revelry; they are spots and blemishes, they abound in wantonness while banqueting with you.  14 They have eyes full of adultery and turned unceasingly towards sin.  They entice unstable souls; they have their hearts exercised in covetousness; they are children of a curse.  15 They have forsaken the right way and have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of wrongdoing.  16 But he was rebuked for his madness; a dumb beast of burden spoke with the voice of a man and checked the folly of the prophet.

17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by storms; the blackness of darkness is reserved for them.  18* For by high-sounding, empty words they entice with sensual allurements of carnal passion those who are just escaping from such as live in error.  19 They promise them freedom, whereas they themselves are the slaves of corruption; for by whatever a man is overcome, of this also he is the slave.  20 For if after escaping the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, their latter state has become worse for them than the former.  21 For it was better for them not to have known the way of justice, than having known it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.  22 For what the true proverb says has happened to them, "A dog returns to his vomit," and, "A sow even after washing wallows in the mire."


18: These lying teachers had interpreted Christian liberty as freedom from the moral law.  Escaping from such as live in error: Christian converts who were hardly free from former pagan habits.