Adams (2005) - Where Is The Promise of His Coming. The Complaint of 2Pt 3,2-5

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‘Where is the Promise of his Coming?’ The Complaint of  the Scoffers in 2 Peter 3.4 EDWARD ADAMS New Testament Testament Studies / Volume 51 / Issue 01 / January 2005, pp 106 - 122 DOI: 10.1017/S0028688505000068, Published online: 07 February 2005

Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0028688505000068 How to cite this article: EDWARD ADAMS (2005). ‘Where is the Promise of his Coming?’ The Complaint of the Scoffers in 2 Peter 3.4. New Testament Testament Studies, 51, pp 106-122 doi:10.1017/S0028688505000068 Request Permissions : Click here

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‘Where is the Promise of his Coming?’ The Complaint of the Scoffers in 2 Peter 3.4 * E DW D WA R D A DA DA M S Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, England 

 A close analysis of the report of 2 Pet 3.4, paying attention to its precise wording, and a careful reading of the author’s response to it in the verses that follow foll ow show that the prevailing interpretation of the scoffers’ eschatological mockery is unsound. The target of the scoffers’ criticism was not so much the parousia of Jesus as the OT promise of a final, eschatological irruption underlying it. Their scepticism was founded neither on the failure of Jesus to come back within a generation, nor on a denial of  divine intervention. Rather, it was based on the long period of time that had elapsed since the promise was originally made and the assumption that the eschatological promise involved the prospect of cosmic destruction, which the scoffers rejected on philosophical grounds.

In 2 Pet 3.4, the author of this intriguing letter reports the words of those  whom he calls ‘scoffers’ (3.3).1 These are evidently the same people that are labelled ‘false teachers’ in 2.1, and who are the target of his polemic throughout that chapter.2 The first part of the citation consists of a taunt in the form of a * This article has has gone through through a number of forms and has been presented presented as a paper on several occasions. The piece has benefited a great deal from general feedback received at these times. Special thanks go to Professor Harold Attridge, Dr Douglas Campbell, Dr David Horrell, Dr George van Kooten, and the anonymous reader of this article appointed by the

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 journal for their helpful comments. I am especial especially ly indebted to my colleague Professor Judith Lieu for making a suggestion that now forms one of the main planks of my argument. 1 I take for granted granted the virtually unanimous scholarly scholarly opinion that 2 Peter is a pseudonymous  work of the late first firs t or perhaps perha ps even early e arly second seco nd century (though I will wi ll challenge chall enge one of the bases on which this judgement rests, namely the alleged reference to the decease of the apostles in 3.4). I also accept the consensus view that the ‘false teachers’ and ‘scoffers’ of   whom the th e author speaks are a clear and present pre sent threat th reat (to (t o the author) at the time of o f writing, writin g, and not a force to be reckoned with at some point in the future, as the ‘predictions’ of 2.1–3a and 3.3 appear to suggest. The use of the present tense in 2.3b–22 and 3.4–10 indicates that the opponents are the writer’s contemporaries, with whom he is currently in dispute. 2 They are apparently apparently members of the the churches addressed addressed who have have developed ‘heretical’ ‘heretical’ views (2.1). They are still involved in the Christian community, participating in its meals (2.13). They evidently carry some influence within the congregations (2.2).

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‘Where ‘Wh ere is the Pro Promis mise e of His Com Coming ing?’ ?’ 107

rhetorical question: ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ (pou' ej  ejstin stin hJ ej  ejpaggeliv paggeliva th'~ parousiva~ a~ aujtou' tou';) ;)3 The implied answer to the question is, ‘It is nowhere; it has failed to materialise’. The second part adds argumentative substance to the taunt: ‘For since the fathers fell asleep (i.e. died), all things remain just as they   were from the beginning beginning of creation’ (ajf∆ f∆ h|~ ga;r oiJ patev  patevre~ re~ ejkoimhv koimhvqhsan, qhsan, pavnta nta ou{tw~ tw~ diamevnei nei ajp j aj  ajrch' rch'~ ktivsew~ sew~). The citation plainly mocks the expectation of a future parousia. It contains two t wo objections to this hope; certainly this is how the author interprets his opponents’  words in the refutation that follows, responding to one objection in vv. 5–7 and another in vv. 8–9 (taking his opponents’ arguments in reverse order). The initial protest is evidently based on the non-fulfilment of the promise, the words ‘since the fathers died’ giving some chronological specificity to the problem of delay  already highlighted in the taunt/question. The second objection has to do with the uniform continuance of pavnta nta, i.e. the universe,4 since the world’s foundation. Scholars unvaryingly accept that ‘the promise of his coming’ is a straightfor ward reference reference to Jesus’ return. The great majority of commentators think that the opponents’ temporal objection relates to Jesus’ failure to come back within a generation, as he had apparently ‘promised’ to do in sayings such as Mark 13.30  par. The ‘fathers’ are thus taken to be the apostles and their contemporaries. With their decease, the cut-off point for the fulfilment of Jesus’ prediction has come and gone. In recent interpretation (the past two decades or so), the opponents’ second objection has been taken to reflect scepticism about the possibility of  divine engagement with the natural and human world. Influential in this regard has been the work of Jerome Neyrey in setting the polemic of 2 Peter against an Epicurean background. In an article published in 1980, Neyrey argues that while the opponents ‘stress the fact of unfulfilled prophecy’, ‘doubt was expressed about divine action in the world’, reflecting the Epicurean rejection of providence.5  Accepting much of Neyrey’s reconstruction, Richard Bauckham in his landmark commentary on 2 Peter states: ‘[t]he scoffers assumed that God does not intervene in the world’. They were influenced ‘by a rationalistic skepticism . . . to which the Epicurean denial of of providence seems seems the closest pagan parallel’.6 3 The form is Hebraistic; cf. Ps 42.3; 79.10; 79.10; Jer 17.15; Mal 2.17. 4 As in Joh John n 1.3; Rom 11.36; 1 Cor 8.6; Eph 3.9; Col 1.16–17, 1.16–17, 20; Heb 1.2. 1.2. 5 J. H. Neyrey, Neyrey, ‘The Form Form and Background Background of of the Polemic Polemic in 2 Peter’, Peter’, JBL  JBL 99 (198 (1980) 0) 407–31, 407–31, here 420–1. See also idem , 2 Peter, Jude : A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB Commentary  (AB 37C; New York: Doubleday, 1993) 231. 6 R. J. Bauckham,  Jude, 2 Peter  (W (WBC BC 50; Wac aco o: Wo Worrd, 19 1983 83)) 29 2944. Ot Oth her erss who thi hink nk that th the e cosm co smol olog ogic ical al ob obje ject ctio ion n is ba base sed d on an Ep Epic icur urea eann-st styl yle e re reje ject ctio ion n of di divi vine ne in inte terv rven enti tion on incl in clud ude: e: D. G. Ho Horr rrel ell, l, Th Thee Ep Epis istl tles es of Pe Pete terr an and d Ju Jude  de (Pete (Peterbor rborough ough:: Epwo Epworth, rth, 1998 1998)) 139–1 139–176; 76; J. Kn Knig igh ht, 2 Peter and Jude   (NT Gu Guiides; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1995) 67; S. J. Kraftchick,  Jude, 2 Peter  (A (Abi bing ngdo don n NT Co Comm mmen enta tari ries es;; Na Nash shvi vill lle, e, TN TN:: Ab Abin ingd gdon on,, 20 2002 02)) 152–3. P. Perkins (Fi Firrst and Sec econ ond d Pe Petter er,, Ja Jam mes es,, and Ju Jud de  [In [Inter terpre pretat tation ion;; Lou Louisv isvill ille, e, KY:

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In what follows, I offer an alternative to this standard line of interpretation of  2 Pet 3.4. While it is normally assumed that the object of the scoffers’ mockery is the parousia of Jesus, I try to make the case that the butt of their criticisms is more precisely the OT expectation of the eschatological advent of God which Christians took up and applied to Jesus. I contend that the opponents’ rejection of this expectation is based neither on Jesus’ failure to come back within the lifetime of  the apostles nor on the assumption that God does not interrupt the course of history, but on (a) the very long stretch of time that has passed since the promise was originally made, and (b) the conviction that the cosmos is unchanging and indestructible. The exegesis I wish to commend reiterates, to some extent, the views of  earlier commentators, most notably Charles Bigg in a commentary first published in 1901.7 Central to my approach is the interpretative judgement that the nature of  the opponents’ position is to be discerned not only from a close analysis of the report of v. 4, but also from a careful reading of the author’s response to it in the verses that follow. The analysis operates on the assumption that in 2 Pet 3.4–13 the author represents his opponents’ views reliably and engages with them intelligently. That he deliberately misrepresents their position in 3.4 is unlikely. To be sure, we ought to be sceptical about the historical accuracy of much of the polemical portrait of the opponents in chapter 2, with its accusations of immorality, underhand tactics and impure motives, but when the writer gives explicit information about the content of  their teaching in 3.4, I think we can treat his account with some confidence. J. M. G. Barclay’s rule of thumb for mirror-reading a NT polemical letter is applicable here: ‘statements about the character and motivation of . . . opponents should should be taken  with a very very large large pinch pinch of of salt’, salt’, but ‘the letter is likely likely to reflect reflect fairly accura accurately tely what [the author] saw to be the main points at issue’.8 The key issues in the debate reflected in this letter emerge in 1.16–21 and 3.4–13. Concern here is with the latter. Certain shifts in the author’s style at 3.4 and onward suggest that he is faithfully   Westminster  Westminst er John Knox, 1995] 189) finds similarit similarity y with Epicurean thinking, but does not sp not spec ecif ific ical ally ly co conn nnec ectt th the e sc scof offe fers rs’’ co cosm smol olog ogic ical al ob obje ject ctio ion n wi with th Ep Epic icur urea ean n ar argu gume ment ntss agai ag ain nst prov ovid iden ence ce.. F. B. Cr Crad add doc ock k (Fi Firrst and Sec eco ond Pe Petter and Ju Jud de  [W [West estmin minste sterr Bib Bible le Comp Co mpa ani nion on;; Lo Lou uis isv vil ille le,, KY KY:: Wes esttmi min nst ster er Jo John hn Kn Knox ox,, 199 995] 5] 119 19), ), M. Gr Gree een n (2 Peter, Jude  [TN [T NTC TC;; Le Leic ices este terr: IV IVP/ P/Gr Gra and Ra Rapi pids ds,, MI: Eer erd dma man ns, re rev v. ed edn n, 198 987] 7] 138 38–9 –9)) an and d A. Vö Vög gtl tle e (De [EKK KK 22 22;; Be Benz nzig iger er:: So Solo loth thur urn, n, Dü Düss ssel eldo dorf rf/N /Neu eu-Derr Ju Juda dasb sbri rief ef /D /Der er zw zwei eite te Pe Petr trus usbr brie ief  f  [E kirchener: Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1994] 221) assume that the objection stems from a view   that the world is closed to divine involvement, but do not explicitly relate this to Epicurean influence. So also S. Meier, ‘2 Peter 3:3–7 – An Early Jewish and Christian Response Respo nse to Esch Eschatolo atological gical Skept Skepticism icism’, ’, BZ  BZ 32 32 (19 (1988) 88) 255 255–7. –7. 7 C. Bi Big gg, g, A  A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Peter and St. S t. Jude  (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1901; repr. 1910) 292. 8 J. M. G. Barclay, Barclay, ‘Mirror-reading ‘Mirror-reading a Polemical Polemical Letter: Galatians Galatians as a Test Case’, JSNT Case’, JSNT 31 (1987) 73–93, here 76.

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reproducing his opponents’ views. It is generally agreed that the author makes use of the letter of Jude or something like it throughout chapter 2 and up to 3.3. 9 It is striking that the author drops his source at precisely this point and does not pick it up again.10  Also, having harang harangued ued his oppon opponents ents throu throughout ghout chapte chapterr 2, he now  permits them to have a voice. Moreover, in v. 5 onwards he responds to their assertions with rational argument and defence (as he does in 1.16–21), rather than with vitriolic denunciation. The sudden abandonment of his source material, the way in  which the write writerr presen presents ts the positi position on of his oppon opponents, ents, in the form of direct speec speech, h, and the manner of his reply, by carefully measured argumentation, strongly indicate that what we have in 3.4–13 is a genuine attempt to convey accurately his adversaries’ claims and to interact with them sensibly.11 It is, of course, possible that the author has seriously misunderstood his opponents. This is the basis for C. H. Talbert’s view that the opponents, unbeknownst to the author, were actually  Gnostics.12 But such a possibility, I think, is quite a remote one: as Fornberg points out, in all probability the letter would never have been preserved had the author  wrongly  wrong ly diagno diagnosed sed the proble problem m with which he was deali dealing, ng, or had he failed to satisfy his readers that he had properly engaged with the other side in the debate.13

1. The taunt: taunt: ‘Where ‘Where is the promi promise se of his coming coming?’ ?’

The wording of the taunt/question indicates that the target of the scoffers’ derision here is the promise (ejpaggeliv paggeliva) of the parousia. Most modern commentators think that the ‘promise’ is Jesus’ own promise of his coming (or the promise imputed to him) in Gospel sayings such as Mark 13.24–7, 30, but in the light of  paggeliva  would more naturally  the dominant pattern of NT usage, the word ejpaggeliv mean a promise made by God in the OT. 14 References to Jesus’ own promises are extremely rare in early Christian literature.15 Bauckham claims that Christ’s promises are specifically mentioned in 2 Pet 1.4 and suggests that the word ejpaggeliv paggeliva in 3.4 echoes this prior reference.16 However, in 1.4 the identity of the one who has given to believers ‘the precious and very great promises’ (ta;  tivmia mia kai;  mevgista gista

... ejpaggev paggevlmata lmata) is not made explicit, and the subject of this clause could be 9 See T. Forn Fornber berg, g, An  An Early Church in a Pluralistic Pluralist ic Society: A Study of 2 Peter Pete r (ConB NT 9; Lund: Gleerup, 1977) 33–59. 10 Ba Bauc uckh kham am ( Jude, 2 Peter , 283–5, 289) contends that the writer is now following a Jewish apocalypse which is no longer extant. But this is simply conjecture. 11 The actual wording of of the citation, though, is probably probably the author’s. 12 C. H. Talbert, Talbert, ‘II Peter and and the Delay of of the Parousia’ Parousia’,, VC (1966) 137–45. 13 Fo Forn rnbe berg rg,, An Early Church, 65. 14 E.g. Luke 24.49; Acts Acts 1.4; 2.33, 39; 7.17; 13.23; etc.; etc.; Rom 4.13, 14, 16, 20; etc.; etc.; Gal 3.14, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 29; etc.; Heb 4.1; 6.12; etc. 15 The cleare clearest st refere reference nce is is in 2 Clem . 5.5. Cf. Bauckham, Jude, Bauckham,  Jude, 2 Peter , 179. 16 In 1. 1.44 ejpaggevlma is used. The word is only found here and at 3.13 in the NT.

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either God or Christ.17 Even if Christ is the referent, the promises are not specifically said to be ‘his’. They are much more likely to be b e OT promises (cf. 3.13), which (in the writer’s view) have now been imparted to Christians. That the promise of  3.4 is understood to be a promise made by God through the OT prophets is strongly supported by the further use of ‘promise’ terminology in vv. 9 and 13. In v. 9, the author states that ‘the Lord is not slow about his promise’ (ouj braduv   braduvnei nei kuvrio~ rio~ th'~ ej paggeliv paggeliva~ a~). This is certainly a reference back to the promise of v. 4. The ‘Lord’ is God, not Jesus, as the continuation of the verse makes clear (‘but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance’). In v. 13 ‘his promise’ (to;  ejpav pavggelma ggelma aujtou' tou') of a new heaven and new earth is unambiguously an allusion to the prophecies of Isa 65.17 and 66.22. In 2 Pet 3.4, therefore, the object of ridicule is not the parousia of Jesus directly, but the OT promises relating to it. This fits well with 1.20–2. The apologetic section, 1.16–22, makes clear that the validity of belief in Jesus’ parousia is the main issue in the debate reflected in 2 Peter (esp. 1.16). These verses also reveal that the opponents attack not only the notion of Jesus’ return but also OT prophecy  associated with it. In vv. 20–2 the author replies to an accusation by his opponents that the prophecies used by the apostles in support of the expectation of Jesus’ 18

return were not divinely inspired, but were merely human products. In response, the writer affirms the divine origin of OT prophecy. It may be suggested, therefore, that 3.4 picks up the prophetic aspect of the debate reflected in 1.20–2, rather than the specifically christological aspect of it (which is to the fore in 1.16–18). The specific ‘promise’ which gave rise to the scorn of the opponents is very  likely to have been the OT prophetic expectation of God’s coming, 19 together perhaps with that of the ‘day of the Lord’20 (specifically mentioned in 3.10 and 12); the two motifs converged in late OT prophecy.21 OT prophecies concerning the

17 Bauc Bauckh kham am ( Jude, 2 Peter  (2 Peter, P eter , 177, 192) thinks the subject of these verses is Christ. Neyrey (2  Jude, 155–6), on the other hand, argues that the subject is God. The ambiguity is generated by  the twin references to God and Christ in vv. 1–2. 18 Cf. Cf. Horr Horrel ell, l, The Epistles of Peter and Jude, 159. 19 There are various various prophetic prophetic oracles oracles which predict a future future coming of God. In pre-exilic pre-exilic and early  post-exilic prophecy, God’s coming is connected (though not necessarily identified ) with an upcoming political disaster: Micah 1.2–4; Nahum 1.3–5; Hab 3.3–15. In late OT prophecy, God’s advent is more clearly an ‘eschatological’ event with history-stopping consequences: Isa 64.1–3; 66.15–16, 18; Zech 14.1–7. The eschatological coming of God is a feature of end-time expectation in various post-biblical Jewish sources, e.g. 2 Apoc. Bar 48.39; Bar 48.39; 1 Enoch 1.2–9; Enoch 1.2–9; 91.7; 102.1–3; 2 Enoch 31.2;  A 13.4; T.Mos. 10.3–7; T.Naph. 8.3–4: see also n. 24 below. In some Jewish  Jub 1.28; LAB 19.13; T.Abr. T.Abr. A eschatological texts, the role of God in the final intervention is taken by his representative: 1 Enoch  52; 4 Ezra  13.1–13. See further L. Hartman, Prophecy Interpreted: The Formation of Some Jewish   Apocalyptic  Apocal yptic Texts Texts and and of the the Eschatologi Eschatological cal Discours Discoursee Mark 13 par. (Lund: Gleerup, 1966) 34–41. 20 Isa 13.9–13; 34.8–17; 34.8–17; Joel 1.15; 2.1–2; 2.30–31; 2.30–31; 3.14; Amos 5.18–20; 5.18–20; Zeph 1.7–18; etc. etc. 21 Zec Zech h 14.1–5 14.1–5;; Mal 3.1–3 3.1–3..

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coming of God played an important role in the development (if not the origins) of  Christian belief in Jesus’ parousia. In various NT passages, prior texts which refer to God’s end-time appearance are reinterpreted in terms of the return of Jesus. 22 The interpretation I am proposing – that the ‘promise’ being derided is the expectation of God’s eschatological coming which Christians transferred to Jesus – is consistent with a rather curious feature of 3.4–13 that is rarely observed: the absence of any clear reference to Christ in the whole passage.23 The scoffers’ question does not actually specify whose promised coming is subject to doubt. In view  of 1.16, in which the parousia is explicitly identified with Jesus, 24 the aujtou` tou` in 3.4 must have Christ partially in view. But the lack of clarification would suit an expectation which originally referred to God but was subsequently applied to Christ.25 In the writer’s response to the scoffers’ denial in vv. 5–13, there is no direct reference to Christ. Significantly, in 3.12 the writer speaks of ‘the coming of the day  of God ’, ’, th;n parousivan an th'~ tou` qeou'   qeou' hJ  hJ mev mevra~ ra~. This unique phrase combines the term parousiva  with the notion of the ‘day of the Lord’ and unambiguously connects both with God. What the writer seems to be defending in 3.5–13 is the expectation of a final divine intervention, with world-ending consequences; the christological dimension of that hope is not the focus of attention. That the object of scorn in 3.4 is the OT hope of God’s coming standing behind Christian belief in the parousia of Jesus not only explains the omission of any  specific mention of Jesus in vv. 4–13, it also makes good sense of the reference to ‘the fathers’ in v. 4. 2. The first first obje objectio ction: n: ‘Sinc ‘Since e the fat fathers hers died . . .’

The first and main objection to the promise of the eschatological parousia concerns the problem of non-fulfilment. The issue of delay is implicit in the ques22 Mark 8.38 (Zech 14.5); 1 Thess Thess 3.13 (Zech 14.5); 2 Thess 1.7 (Zech 14.5), 14.5), 8 (Isa 66.15); Jude 14–15 (1 Enoch 1.9); Enoch 1.9); Rev 19.13, 15 (Isa 63.1–6); 22.12 (Isa 40.10). Cf. Bauckham, Jude, Bauckham,  Jude, 2 Peter , 96. 23 The lack of christological christological reference was was noted by E. Käsemann Käsemann in his famous famous essay, ‘An  Apologia for Primitiv Primitive e Christian Eschatology Eschatology’’ (E. Käsemann, Essays on New Testament  Themes [London: Themes  [London: SCM, 1964] 169–95). In Käsemann’s view, the writer of 2 Peter defends ‘a non-christologically non-christolo gically oriented eschatology’ (183). 24 Th The e wor word d parousiva in 1.16 could be referring to Jesus’ first coming, but it is much more likely  that it relates to his future coming; for the arguments see J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter  and of Jude (Black’s NT Commentaries; London: A. & C. Black, 1969) 317–18. 25 The use use of the term term parousiva, or its translational equivalent, for God’s eschatological coming is attested in Jewish sources: 2 Enoch 32.1;  A 13.4; 13. 4; T.Jud. 22.2 Enoch 32.1; Liv. Proph. Jer 13; Jer 13; T.Abr. T.Abr. A (very possibly Christian). In 2 Apoc. Bar 30.1 Bar 30.1 it is applied to the eschatological appearance of  the anointed one (possibly Christian). Josephus uses the term parousiva for God’s dramatic entries into the human scene (theophanies): Ant. (theophanies): Ant. 3.80, 203; 9.55. On several occasions in the NT, when ‘his’ eschatological parousiva is spoken of, the coming one could be God rather than Jesus (1 John 2.28; Jas 5.7, 8).

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tion ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ The question indicates that the promise is unfulfilled at the time of writing and is surely going to remain so. The mention of the fathers’ decease in the sentence that follows serves as a time note  which is meant to add weight to the problem of frustrated expectation. On the majority view, as noted above, the ‘fathers’ are the apostles and their generation, and their deaths are the deadline for the promise’s fulfilment, a deadline which has been exceeded, rendering the promise a failure. Thus, the objection of the scoffers, as Bauckham puts it, ‘was not just that a long time had elapsed since the promise was given, but that the promise itself had set a time-limit within  which it would be fulfilled and this time-limit had passed’.26 But there are difficulties with this interpretation. The words oiJ  patevre~ re~  would more readily refer to the OT fathers. As Bauckham concedes, ‘[i]n early Christian literature, continuing Jewish usage . . . oiJ patevre~ re~ means the OT “fathers”, i.e., the patriarchs or, more generally, the righteous men of OT times’.27 The two passages sometimes adduced as parallels to the recommended interpretation, 1 Clem. 23.3 and 2 Clem. 11.2, both citing an other wise unknown ‘scripture’, do not exemplify exemplify the desired usage, but rather speak of  ‘our  fathers’. In both texts, the fathers are the physical fathers of the speakers. If  the author of 2 Peter is using oiJ patev honorific term for the apostles or re~ as ana usage re~ the first Christian generation, he  patev is exhibiting for which there is no parallel in Christian writing of the first two centuries  . The issue here, it should be stressed, is not the novelty of the proposed meaning (this is not in itself a problem), but rather its isolated nature. That the death of the fathers is intended to denote a time limit for the promise f∆ h|~28 indicate that the emphasis is on is grammatically doubtful. The words ajf∆  what has happened, or more exactly, not happened, since  the fathers’ decease.29 The fathers’ deaths function as a chronological point from which the extent of the delay can be judged; they do not designate a point beyond which there can be no fulfilment. If the latter were the thought, the wording is more likely to have been: ‘the fathers have fallen asleep and yet/but all things remain as they were from the beginning of creation’ (oiJ  patevre~ re~ kekoivmhtai, mhtai, kai;  (or ajlla; lla;) pavnta nta ou{tw~ tw~ diamevnei nei ajp j aj  ajrch' rch'~ ktivsew~ sew~). The point of the temporal objection is not that the fathers’ decease itself has rendered belief in the parousia unsustainable, but that the time that has passed since their death makes it untenable. 26 Bauckh Bauckham, am, Jude,  Jude, 2 Peter , 291. 27 Ibid., 290. E.g. Matt Matt 23.30, 32; Luke 1.55, 1.55, 72; 6.23; 6.23; etc.; John 4.20; 6.31; etc.; Acts 3.13, 25; etc.; Rom 9.5; etc.; Heb 1.1; 3.9; etc. In Luke 1.17 and 1 John 2.14 ‘fathers’ means actual physical fathers. 28 The expression expression is an idiomatic idiomatic form of ajf∆ hJmev mevra~ ra~ h|Û, ‘from the day on which’. 29 Ba Bauc uckh kham am ( Jude, 2 Peter  P eter , 291) recognises this but persists with his contention that the objection is really about the missing of a deadline.

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It is ve very ry si sign gnif ific ican antt th that at in vv vv.. 8– 8–9, 9, wh wher ere e th the e au auth thor or re resp spon onds ds to th the e sc scof offe fers rs’’ tempor tem poral al obj object ection ion,, he doe doess not add addres resss the sup suppos posedl edly y key iss issue ue tha thatt a dea deadli dline ne hass pa ha pass sse ed. In hi hiss re repl ply y, he ma make kess no me ment ntio ion n of a ‘ge gene nera rati tion on’’ or an any y sp spe eci cifi fic c time ti me fr fram ame e fo forr fu fulf lfil ilme ment nt.. He re resp spon onds ds in tw two o wa ways ys.. Fi Firs rst, t, he ar argu gues es,, on th the e ba basi siss of Ps 90 90.4 .4,, th that at Go God’ d’ss ap appr preh ehen ensi sion on of ti time me is ve very ry di diff ffer eren entt fr from om th that at of hu huma man n bein be ings gs.. Wh What at se seem emss to hu huma mans ns a lo long ng sp span an of ti time me – a th thou ousa sand nd ye year arss – ap appe pear arss very short – a mere day – to God. Second, he insists that God is not slow concern ce rnin ing g hi hiss pr prom omis ise. e. He re reco cogn gnis ises es th that at th ther ere e ha hass in inde deed ed be been en a de dela lay y in th the e fu fullfilm fi lmen entt of th the e pr prom omis ise, e, bu butt ma main inta tain inss th that at th the e po post stpo pone neme ment nt of th the e pa paro rous usia ia is due du e to Go God’ d’ss fo forb rbea eara ranc nce, e, so th that at pe peop ople le ma may y ha have ve an ex exte tend nded ed op oppo port rtun unit ity y fo forr repe re pent ntan ance ce.. Ba Bauc uckh kham am ac ackn kno owle ledg dges es th that at th the e au auth thor or ‘d ‘doe oess no nott answer  the obje ob ject ctio ion n tha thatt a sp spec ecif ific ic ti time me-l -lim imit it ha hass pa pass ssed ed’; ’;30 he ma main inta tain inss th that at th the e wr writ iter er’s ’s stra st rate tegy gy is to ra rais ise e th the e iss ssue ue of esc sch hat ato olo logi gica call de dela lay y abo bov ve th the e le leve vell of a da data tabl ble e time tim e lim limit. it.31 Bu Butt if th the e wri rite terr do doe es no nott ove vert rtly  ly counter  th the e cr crit itic icis ism m th that at a de dead ad-line has be bee en missed, it is at least questionable whether such a criti tic cism was made ma de at al all. l.  Also difficult for the majority view is the scarcity of specifically ‘Christian’ elements in vv. 8–9.32  As Bauckham himself shows, the arguments of vv. 8–9 are 33

traditional Jewish responses to the problem of eschatological delay. If the author is dealing with ‘the specifically Christian problem of nonfulfilment within the lifetime of the apostles’,34 as Bauckham contends, then why does the writer fail to address this issue specifically ?35 The temporal argument of the scoffers is best interpreted as an argument based on the excessively long period of time that has passed since the promise of  the eschatological intervention was first announced. The mention of a thousand  years in v. 8 seems to presuppose a very lengthy time of waiting, over many generations. Implicit in the objection is the assumption that the original prophecies of God’s coming did not envisage such an extensive time frame for fulfilment. The prophets, of course, seemed to speak of God’s coming as a near rather than a distant event.36 Thus, the extreme delay in fulfilment, for the scoffers, shows that the promise is ineffectual. The fathers may be understood either as the people to 30 Ibid Ibid.. 31 Ib Ibid id., ., 29 292. 2. 32 The only feature of 3.5–13 that that seems to derive from ‘Christian’ ‘Christian’ tradition is is the comparison of  the day of the Lord to a thief in 3.10 (cf. Matt 24.43–4; Luke 12.39–40; 1 Thess 5.2; Rev 3.3; 16.15). 33 Ba Bauc uckh kham am,,  Jude, 2 Peter , 304–14. 34 Ibi Ibid., d., 291 291–2. –2. 35 Bauckham’s answer is that the the writer is simply following following his Jewish apocalyptic apocalyptic source. But such presumed slavish dependence on source material is at odds with his creative use of  Jude or his Jude-like source in 2.1–3.3. 36 Isa 40.10; Micah 1.2–4; Nahum Nahum 1.3–5; Hab 2.3 (LXX). The The latter is alluded to in 2 Pet 3.9. The ‘day of the Lord’ is portrayed as near in Joel 2.1; 3.14 and Zeph 1.7, 14.

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 whom the promise was given, through the prophets (as in Heb 1.1), or as the prophets and patriarchs who made the promise, beginning perhaps with Enoch. On the basis of 1 Enoch  1.3–9, Enoch could be regarded as the first OT figure to prophesy of God’s coming.37 The identification of ‘the fathers’ as the OT fathers has been criticised by  Bauckham. On such an interpretation, he contends, the scoffers’ objection would be a general one based on the non-fulfilment of OT prophecy over many centuries. He points out that ‘[e]arly Christianity constantly argued that many OT prophecies, after remaining unfulfilled for centuries, had quite recently been fulfilled in the history of Jesus’. 38 In such a climate, he argues, it does not seem very  relevant for the scoffers to object that OT prophecy remains unfulfilled since OT times. But 2 Pet 1.20–1 indicates that the opponents did not have a high regard for OT prophecy; thus, they may well have dissented from the supposedly shared Christian assumption that scriptural prophecy had begun to be fulfilled with the historical appearance of Jesus. In any case, the scoffers’ objection is not just that prophecy has lain dormant since OT times, but more precisely that the specific prediction of a soon-approaching (and world-stopping) event has remained unfulfilled. It is because oracles of God’s coming present the ultimate event as temporally near  that they are falsified by the increasing passage of time. The point the opponents seem to be making is that the expectation of Jesus’ parousia is the re-expression of a longstanding prophecy of God’s awesome coming. The ‘imminent’ irruption was promised long ages ago, but it has never come close to being realised. The scoffers no doubt exploited contemporary concerns about the delay of Jesus’ return, but, if my interpretation is correct, they 

connected these more recent frustrations with the many centuries of disappointment the underlying expectation had generated. 3. The seco second nd objec objection tion:: ‘All ‘All thing thingss remai remain n . . .’

The second objection relates to the continuance of ‘all things’. The words complete the temporal objection by  pav nta ou{tw~ nta tw~ nei ajpthe j  ajrch' rpromise ch'~ ktivsew~ shas ew~not providing thediamev proofnei that been fulfilled: we know that the prophecy is unrealised because the world remains as before. Yet, at the same time, the clause expresses an additional objection to the promise of the parousia: it is an argument from the nature and structure of the universe. The standard view in recent interpretation is that the statement constitutes a principled rejection of the possibility of divine intervention. The scoffers’ point is 37 The author author of Jude Jude clearly accepte accepted d 1 Enoch 1.9 Enoch  1.9 as a genuine word spoken by the patriarch, ‘the seventh in descent from Adam’ (Jude 14–15), and treated it as an authentic prediction of  the Lord’s (Jesus’ or God’s?) coming. 38 Bau Bauckh ckham, am, Jude,  Jude, 2 Peter , 290.

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that the world carries on as it always has done, without divine interference. Their objection, it is claimed, exhibits an Epicurean-like understanding of the world. But this explanation is unsatisfactory. There is little textual warrant for assuming that the issue is whether or not God can get involved in the world. First, the scoffers make reference to the continuous duration (diamevnei nei) of the cosmos as an unaltered ( ou{tw~ tw~) physical structure from the day of its creation, not to its closed nature, or its freedom from divine activity. Second, as it stands, the statement is perfectly compatible with belief in divine action in the ongoing history of the world; the words neither deny it nor affirm it.39 Third, if the scoffers’ objection is that God does not/cannot intervene in the human and natural world, especially for the purpose of judgement, it is very  strange that in his reply to it in vv. 5–7 the author does not recite other biblical examples of God’s dramatic interventions for judgement, beyond the flood. He could have mentioned the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues on Egypt, the destruction of the Egyptians in the sea of reeds, the fall of Jericho, and so on.40 He concentrates exclusively on the flood story, and his reason for doing so is clear: it is the one biblical example of God intervening to destroy  the world.41 This shows that the writer does not see the point at stake as whether or not God can intervene to judge. Rather, for him, the question is whether the cosmos is sub ject to destruction. That the cosmological assertion of the scoffers reflects Epicurean thought is highly unlikely. The scoffers affirm the created nature of the universe ( ktivsi~ si~ ); Epicureans totally repudiated the notion of the divine creation of the cosmos.  According to Epicurus, the world was formed as a result of the chance combination of atoms;42 the gods were not involved in the process in any way. Also, the scoffers maintain that the world has endured without disturbance or change. But Epicureans believed that the world has experienced many great disturbances and has undergone very considerable change during the course of its life. According to Lucretius, the advocate of Epicureanism in the Roman world, the world has been subject to many terrible disasters in the past. Civilisations have perished ‘by some Reru rum m Na Natu tura ra 5.340-5). Previous episodes of  great upheaval of the world’ (de Re 39 Cf. Meier, Meier, ‘2 Peter Peter 3:3–7’, 3:3–7’, 255. 40 In 2.3–10 the author does cite past examples examples of judgment (the judgment upon upon the sinful angels, the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah). He does so, however, not to defend the principle of divine intervention, but to affirm the certainty of future judgment (2.3, 9). In 3.4–7, 10–13 the point at issue is not the fact of coming judgment, but the particular form  lar that future judgment will take, namely total cosmic destruction.  form that 41 In the Genesis flood flood narrative, narrative, the disaster is not conceived conceived of as a total cosmic catastrophe, catastrophe, but it is taken in this direction in 1 Enoch 83.3–4. Enoch  83.3–4. In 2 Pet 3.6 the author states that oJ  tovte kovsmo~ was destroyed des troyed by b y the flood; f lood; kovsmo~ here most probably means the physical cosmos, since both the physical earth and the physical heavens are spoken of in vv. 5 and 7. 42 Dio Diog. g. Laert Laertius ius Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 10.73–4. Philosophers 10.73–4.

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 widespread destruction show that the world will eventually collapse completely  (5.345–50). Like any other living organism, Lucretius argued, the cosmos experiences growth and decay. Time affects the nature of the world: ‘nothing remains as it was: all things move, all are changed by b y nature and compelled to alter’ (5.830–1). The earth is presently worn out by age and, in the opinion of Lucretius, is at this moment approaching its end (2.1150–74). It is thus very hard to see how the affirmation pavnta nta ou{tw~ tw~ diamevnei nei ajp j aj  aj rch' rch'~ ktivsew~ sew~ could in any way be informed by an Epicurean view of physical reality.43  According to Bigg, the scoffers’ cosmological cosmological claim is an expression of of belief in the immutability and imperishability of the cosmos, reflecting the Platonic and  Aristotelian doctrine of cosmic indestructibility.44 On this understanding, the scoffers reject the expectation of the divine parousia on the grounds that it involves the prospect of a total cosmic catastrophe. This, it seems to me, is the most plausible interpretation of the scoffers’ cosmological objection. In OT prophetic oracles of God’s coming, the divine intrusion is often depicted as accompanied by terrifying geophysical upheaval.45 Prophecies of the ‘day of the Lord’ contain similar catastrophic imagery.46 In Jewish apocalyptic texts, the eschatological advent of God is often portrayed as resulting in global and cosmic 47

destruction. Imagery of cosmic upheaval drawn from OT ‘coming of God’ and ‘day of the Lord’ oracles is applied to the coming of the Son of man ( the parousia of Jesus) in Mark 13.24–7  par. The expectation of the final divine intervention  was thus associated with the threat of worldwide and cosmic catastrophe. That the cosmos is immune from the forces of dissolution was apparently taught by Hesiod, the father of Greek cosmology.48 It was formulated as a philosophical thesis by Plato and then by Aristotle. Plato taught that the cosmos was the product of a divine craftsman who took every effort to ensure that his work would last forever.49  Aristo  Aristotle tle argue argued d that the unive universe rse is etern eternal, al, having neither beginning nor end.50 The Platonic and Aristotelian dogma of the indestructibility of the cosmos 43 This is not to rule out out possible Epicurean Epicurean influence on other other aspects of the opponents’ opponents’ teaching, insofar as other elements of their teaching can be identified with confidence. 44 Bigg Bigg,, Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude , 292. Cf. E. M. Sidebottom, Sidebottom, James,  James, Jude and 2 Peter (NCB; Peter (NCB; London: Nelson, 1967) 119. 45 Micah 1.2–4; Nahum 1.3–5; 1.3–5; Hab 3.3–15; 3.3–15; Zech 14.4–5. 46 Isa 13.9–13; 13.9–13; Joel 2.30–1; 2.30–1; 3.14–15. 3.14–15. 47 1 Enoch 1.2–9; Enoch 1.2–9; 102.1–3; T.Mos . 1.3–7; LAB  LAB 19.13. 19.13. 48 He Hesi siod od Theogony 105–6; 116; 128. Cf. Philo De Aet. 17. 49 Pl Plat ato o Tim . 32–3. He describes his account of the world’s creation by the demiurge as ‘a likely  story’. The extent to which he meant it to be taken literally has been debated in ancient and modern times. 50 Ari Aristo stotle tle De Cael 1.10. Cael  1.10. Aristotle also defended his thesis of an eternal universe in his work De   which has not survived. survive d. Fragments Fragme nts of it, however, are preserved prese rved in Philo P hilo De Aet. Philosophia, which Philosophia, 20–44.. 20–44

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attacked by Stoics  was attacked Stoics and and Epicureans, Epicureans, both both of whom argued argued that that the world world would would eventually dissolve. The Stoics contended that this would happen periodically by  means of a great conflagration.51 In Roman Stoicism, it was maintained that the cosmos is subject to twin total destructions d estructions by water and fire.52 Aristo  Aristotle’s tle’s thesis was staunchly defended by his subsequent followers, and for centuries the issue was debated between the Peripatetic and the Stoic schools. 53 Bauc Ba uckh kham am do doub ubts ts th that at th the e se seco cond nd as asse sert rtio ion n of th the e op oppo pone nent ntss am amou ount ntss to an aff ffiirm rmat atiion of the Pla lato ton nic ic/A /Ari rist sto oteli lian an do doc ctr trin ine e of cosmi mic c in inde desstr tru ucti tib bil ilit ity y.  According to Bauckham, while the scoffers point out that everythi everything ng continues as it al alw way ayss ha hass be bee en, ‘[ ‘[t] t]h here is no as asssert rtiion tha hatt th the e nat atur ure e of th the e un univ ive erse is su such ch that eve everyth rything  ing must  go on as it has always done’.54 Bu Butt in us usin ing g th the e wo worl rld’ d’ss fr free ee-dom from major catastrophe during the period from creation to the present argu gume ment nt ag agai ains nstt th thee pa paro rous usia  ia , th mome mo ment nt as an ar the e op oppo pone nent ntss evi vide dent ntly ly as assu sume me that th at th the e worl rld’ d’ss unsw swe erv rviing cont ntiinu nuiity fr fro om pas astt to pre ressent ensu sure ress its fu futu turre cons nsta tan ncy: th the e st stab abiili lity ty th that at th the e cosm smo os ha hass evin inc ced up ti tilll no now w serv rve es as a gu guar ar-ant nte ee of it itss sta tab bil ilit ity y in ti time me ah ahe ead ad.. Th Tha at thi hiss is a st stab ablle, imm mmut uta abl ble e world is the heiir pre rem mis ise e. Th That at it will re rem mai ain n so – rul ulin ing g out th the e pa paro rou usi sia a – is th the eir co con ncl clu usi sio on.55 It shou sh ould ld be no note ted d th that at th the e pr pres esen entt te tens nse e of diamevnw nw ca can n ca carr rry y th the e id idea ea of pe perm rman anen entt and unend ndin ing g dur urat atiion. In Heb 1.1 .10 0–1 –122 (a cita tati tio on of Ps 102 02..25–7 –7)) th this is te ten nse of th the e verb ve rb is us used ed to ex expr pres esss th the e co conc ncep eptt of th the e So Son’ n’ss ev ever erla last stin ingn gnes ess. s. It is ve very ry li like kely ly th that at the th e co cont ntin inuo uous us as aspe pect ct al also so ex expr pre ess sses es th the e no noti tion on of ev ever erla last stin ing g du dura rati tion on he here re in 2 Pett 3: ‘a Pe ‘all ll th thin ings gs re rema main in an and d wi will ll al alwa ways ys re rema main  in as th they ey we were re fr from om th the e be begi ginn nnin ing  g  of creation’. Had the thought been of the continuity of the world only up to the mome mo ment nt of sp spea eaki king ng,, th the e pe perf rfec ectt te tens nse e wo woul uld d pr prob obab ably ly ha have ve be been en us used ed..56 In te term rmss of both its argumentative logic and its linguistic formulation, therefore, the th e co cosm smol olog ogic ical al st stat atem emen entt of 3. 3.44 is be best st ta take ken n as af affi firm rmat atio ion n of co cosm smic ic in inde dest stru rucctibility. The scoffers’ argument may be compared to an argument advanced by  Critolaus, the head of the Peripatetic school in the second century   . In a fragment preserved by Philo (De Aet. 61), he defends the eternity of the cosmos on empirical grounds:57 51 On the cosmic cycle cycle and the conflagration, conflagration, see texts texts and commentary commentary in A. A. Long Long and D. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers: Vol. 1 Translations of the Principal Sources with  Philosophical Commentary ( Cambridge: Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1987) 274–9. 52 Se Sene neca ca Nat Quest. 3.27, 29; Cons. Marc. 26.6. Cf. Origen Cont. Cels . 4.64. 53 Ph Phil ilo’ o’ss De Aeternitate Mundi serves as the best ancient record of this debate. 54 Ba Bauc uckh kham am,,  Jude, 2 Peter , 293. 55 Cf Cf.. Green Green,, Second General Epistle of Peter , 140. 56 Cf. Luke Luke 22.2 22.28. 8. 57 Theophrastus also used empirical arguments arguments in defence defence of Aristotle’s Aristotle’s thesis of an eternal eternal cosmos: Philo De Aet. 117–49.

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Has the earth too grown so old that it may be thought to have been sterilized by length of time? On the contrary it remains as it was ever young  (ajll∆ ejn oJmoivw/ mevnei neavzousa ajei e  v i v), ), because it is the fourth part of the All and is bound to remain undecayed in order to conserve the sum of things,  just as also als o its sister elements elements,, water, wate r, air and fire, continue to defy d efy old age. a ge.

He offers as proof of the world’s immutability the perpetual fruitfulness of the earth (De Aet. 62–5). Far from displaying signs of age and decay, it remains in its ever-youthful condition. Its long continuity in the same stable condition indicates that it will endure forever. A similar line of reasoning is apparent in 2 Pet 3.4. That the writer of 2 Peter himself interprets the cosmological objection of the opponents as a denial of cosmic destructibility emerges from his response to this objection in vv. 5–7. The response contains three interwoven lines of argumentation, though interpreters have often failed to distinguish them clearly. Each is a defence of the principle of cosmic destructibility.58 The first directly addresses the opponents’ argument about the world’s freedom from catastrophe. The writer disputes their premise that the world has continued in an unbroken line from creation to the present day. In making this claim, he points out, the scoffers deliberately ignore the fact of the flood. During the flood, the world as it was then was totally destroyed by water. If the world was undone once before, it can be ruined again. On the Day of Judgment, the world will be destroyed by fire. Underlying the author’s argument seems to be the notion that the Noahic flood is a typological precursor of the final judgment.59 The second line of argument may be discerned from the author’s reference to creation and his stress on the divine d ivine word. The cosmos was formed by the word of  God (tw'   /  tou`  qeou'  lovgw/ gw/, v. 5). By God’s word (di∆ w|n, v. 6) it was flooded and reduced to water.60 By the same word (tw'   / auj  auj tw' tw'   / lov  lov gw/ gw/) God has ordained that the  world will be destroyed by fire (v. 7). The author thus argues for cosmic destruction from belief in the divine creation of the world, a belief to which his opponents 58 The The writ iter er is, ther eref efor ore, e, abl ble e to re rec cog ogn nis ise e an and d ind ndul ulg ge in Gr Gra aec eco o-R -Ro oma man n co cosm smo olo logi gica call pole po lemi mics cs.. So al also so F. G. Do Down wnin ing, g, ‘C ‘Cos osmi mic c Es Esch chat atol olog ogy y in th the e Fi Firs rstt Ce Cent ntur ury: y: “P “Pag agan an”, ”, Je Jewi wish sh and Chris Christian tian’, ’, L’An L’Antiq tiquité uité Clas Classiqu sique  e 64 64 (19 1995 95)) 99– 9–1109 09,, he herre 108 08.. Thi hiss fit itss wit ith h the de degr gree ee of  acc ac cul ulttura rati tio on ex exhi hib bit ited ed by the au auttho horr of th this is le lettter er.. He wri rite tess in a typ ype e of Gr Gree eek k kn know own n as ‘Asi ‘A siat atic ic’, ’, a st styl yle e of wr writ itin ing g fa fash shio iona nabl ble e at th the e ti time: me: se see e B. Ri Riec ecke ke,, Th Thee Ep Epis istl tles es of Ja Jame mes, s, Pe Pete ter, r, and an d Ju Jude de:: In Intr trod oduc ucti tion on,, Tr Tran ansl slat atio ion n an and d No Note tes  s (A (AB; B; Ne New w Yo York rk:: Do Doub uble leda day, y, 19 1964 64)) 14 146– 6–7. 7. Hi Hiss abiili ab litty to me meet et a par arti ticu cula larr li litter erar ary y ta tast ste e and hi hiss wis ish h to do so in indi dic cat ate e an ed edu uca catted co commmand of Greek and a cer erttain openness to the values of Hellenistic culture. He betrays a know kn owle ledg dge e of Gr Gree eek k my myth thol olog ogy y (2 (2.4 .4): ): se see e Ba Bauc uckh kham am,,  Jude, 2 Peter , 249. He is aware of the Hellenistic religious and philosophical idea of becoming like God (1.3–4). He is also acquai acq uaint nted ed wit with h Sto Stoic ic mor moral al the theory ory and ter termin minolo ology gy (1. (1.5–7 5–7): ): see For Fornbe nberg, rg, An  An Early Church , 97–101. 59 E. E.g. g. 1 Enoch 10; LAB 3.9–10. 60 The plur plural al di∆ w|n here probably refers to water and the divine word together: so, e.g., Bauckham, Jude, Bauckham,  Jude, 2 Peter , 298.

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also subscribed (which suggests that the adversaries held to the original Platonic version of the doctrine of cosmic destructibility, rather than its Aristotelian form). It is Plato’s axiom that only the creator himself can unmake the world he has created.61 The writer accepts and builds on this principle. He contends that the divine  word by which the world was made is the very same word by which it was once and will again be destroyed. The Th e th thir ird d li line ne of arg rgu ume men nt de dev velops in th thrree st ste eps ps,, th the e fi firs rstt tw two o fo form rmin ing g th the e basi ba siss fo forr th the e th thir ird, d,62 an and d hi hing nges es on th the e re refe fere renc nces es to wat ater er an and d fi fire re.. Th This is is a ph phys ysiicall ar ca argu gume ment nt fo forr co cosm smic ic de dest stru ruct ctib ibil ilit ity y wh whic ich h dr draw awss sp spec ecif ific ical ally ly on St Stoi oic c ph phys ysic ics. s.  As noted above, the Stoics disputed the Platonic/ Platonic/Aristotel Aristotelian ian theorem of cosmic indes ind estru tructi ctibil bility ity;; the they y adv advanc anced ed the their ir ow own n the theor ory y of the ge gene nesis sis and de destr struct uction ion of  the co cosmo smos. s. The They y mai mainta ntaine ined d tha thatt the co cosmo smoss ori origin ginate ated d in fir fire; e; the pri primor mordia diall fir fire e subs su bseq eque uent ntly ly ch chan ange ged d in into to wa wate ter, r, an and d ou outt of th the e wa wate terr th the e co cosm smos os was fo form rme ed.63 The Th e wo worl rld d is pe peri riod odic ical ally ly re reso solv lved ed in into to wa wate terr an and d fi fire re,, an and d is ge gene nera rate ted d ou outt of th thes ese e element ntss aga gain in;; th the e pr pro ocess cont ntin inue uess end ndllessl sly y. Th The e au auth tho or ado dopt ptss th the e Sto toic ic phys ph ysic ical al pr prin inci cipl ple e ar arti ticu cula late ted d by Se Sene neca ca:: ‘W ‘Wat ater er an and d fi fire re do domi mina nate te ea eart rthl hly y th thin ings gs.. Fro rom m th the em is th the e orig igin in,, fro rom m th the em th the e de dea ath th..’64 He does not take on board the cycl cy clic ic di dime mens nsio ion n of th the e St Stoi oic c un unde ders rsta tand ndin ing g of th the e wo worl rld, d, bu butt pr pres esse sess th the e ph phys ysic ical al theory int theory into o a lin linear ear–te –tempo mporal ral sch scheme eme.. His thr three ee-st -step ep arg argume ument nt may be cla clarif rifie ied d as foll fo llow ows. s. Fi Firs rst, t, th the e wo worl rld d wa wass fo form rmed ed ou outt of fi fire re an and d wa wate terr (v (v.. 5) 5).. Th The e fo form rmul ulat atio ion n ejx u{dato~ kai; di∆ udato~ {dato~ in v. 5 (whic ich h comm mme enta tato torrs lab abo our to expl plai ain n solely  in terms of Gen 1) reflects a merging of Gen 1 with the distinctively Stoic view of  cosm co smic ic or orig igin ins, s, ac acco cord rdin ing g to wh whic ich h th the e wo worl rld d wa wass fo form rmed ed ou outt of wa wate ter, r, wh whic ich h wa wass in tu turn rn a ma mate teri rial al tr tran ansf sfor orma mati tion on (di∆ u{dato~ dato~) of th the e su subs bsta tanc nce e fi fire re,, th the e or orig igin inat atin ing  g  stuff stu ff of mat mater erial ial re reali ality. ty.65 Si Sinc nce e th the e or orde dere red d wo worl rld d em emer erge ged d fr from om th thes ese e el elem emen ents ts,, it is de dest stin ined ed to re retu turn rn to th them em..66 Se Seco cond nd,, th the e co cosm smos os wa wass de dest stro roye yed d by wa wate terr at th the e time of the flood, when it returned to its primeval watery state (v. 6). Third, the  world is fated to be resolve resolved d into fire (puriv), ) , it itss pr prim imal al el elem emen entt (v (v.. 7) 7)..67 61 Pl Plat ato o Tim. 32C. 62 63 64 65

Cf. Hor Horrel rell, l, Epistles of Peter and Jude , 176. Diog. Dio g. Laerti Laertius us Lives of Eminent Philosophers 7.136, 142. Sene Se neca ca Nat. Quest. 3.28 I argue for this interpretation interpretation more fully in my essay ‘Creation “out “out of” and “through” Water in 2 Peter 3.4’, The Creation of Heaven and Earth , (ed. G. H. Van Kooten. Thomes in Biblical Narrative 9. Leiden: Brill, Forthcoming). 66 On the standard ancient assumption assumption that the destruction destruction of the cosmos would involve its returning to a pre-cosmic condition. 67 The belief that the universe universe will be destroyed destroyed in an all-consuming all-consuming conflagration conflagration is a characteristically Stoic idea. The notion is not found in the OT, and in post-biblical Jewish writings up to the early second century  it is securely attested only in certain passages of the Sibylline Oracles (2.196–213; 3.80–92; 4.171–92; 5.155–61), where the influence of Stoicism is apparent. See P. W. van der Horst, ‘“The Elements will be Dissolved with Fire”: The Idea of 

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The author thus provides in vv. 5–7 a three-line defence of cosmic destructibility. The first line of argumentation contradicts the argument of the opponents that since all things have endured without change from creation, they will always  endure. The second and third lines offer additional support for belief in the future destruction of the cosmos, on theological and physical grounds. It is noteworthy that the writer’s theological and physical arguments contain neat replies to standard Platonic and Aristotelian objections to the idea of cosmic destructibility. Plato, as noted above, stressed that only the creator could decreate what he has made. But he insisted that the demiurge could have no possible motivation for destroying the world; therefore the cosmos will endure unceasingly.68 Aristotle refined this argument, considering then dismissing hypothetical motives.69 By emphasising that the divine word that brought about creation is the same  word  word that has decreed decreed its destruction, the writer writer of 2 Peter Peter meets Plato’s requirement. He also supplies a motivation for God’s destruction of the  world: the eradication of human wickedness. wickedness.70 God destroys the world in order to effect judgement on the ungodly who have polluted the world (v. 7; cf. v. 13). Plato and Aristotle also argued against cosmic destructibility on physical grounds. According to Plato, destruction is caused by external or internal means. Since all existing matter was used up in the construction of the cosmos, there is nothing outside the cosmos that can cause it harm. 71 Since the four elements are combined in perfect harmony, no one element can gain ascendancy over the rest. Hence, the world is not susceptible to destruction from within.72 Neither cause of  destruction being possible, the cosmos is completely unassailable, totally free from age, privation and decay. The argument was reiterated by Aristotle, who made the additional point that destruction from within, through one element (such as fire) usurping the others, would entail the logical impossibility of a part being able to bring down the whole (Philo De Aet. 22). The author of 2 Peter provides a response to this line of argument. By indicating that the world is subject to destruction by water and fire, he shows that the cosmos is susceptible to destruction from within; the universe ‘contains the material for its own ruin’. 73 His Cosmic Conflagration in Hellenism, Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity’, Hellenism,  Judaism, Christianity: Essays on Their Interaction  (ed. P. W. van der Horst; Kampen: Kok  Pharos, 1994) 227–51. There is no clear-cut reference to an eschatological cosmic conflagration elsewhere in the NT. 68 Pl Plat ato o Tim. 29A. 69 Ph Phil ilo o De Aet . 39–43. 70 Neither Plato nor Aristotle Aristotle considered the the punishment of the wicked wicked and obliteration of of evil as one of the possible reasons God might have for destroying the world. 71 Plato Tim. 33A. 72 Pl Plat ato o Tim. 32C. 73 J. Cal Calvi vin, n, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St  (trans. W. B. Johnston; Calvin’s Commentaries; Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1963) 362. Peter (trans. Peter 

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‘Where ‘Wh ere is the Pro Promis mise e of His Com Coming ing?’ ?’ 121

adoption of Stoic physical theory gives him an answer to Aristotle’s objection that the whole cannot be undone by one of its parts.74  An element may destroy the  whole if it was itself once  the whole and again becomes  the whole. When the cosmos was destroyed by water, it was resolved into a material condition that presently constitutes a part, but at one time formed the whole (3.5). At the conflagration, it will return to its original state of pure fire. The way the author of 2 Peter responds to the scoffers’ cosmological objection to the parousia promise, invoking Stoic theory and argumentation relating to the cosmic conflagration, confirms our interpretation of the nature and philosophical underpinning of that objection. The opponents not only reject the expectation of  the parousia on the basis that it is a failed prophecy, they dismiss it on the grounds that it entails an impossible prospect – the destruction of the cosmos. The author’s summary statement in 2 Pet 3.11, that ‘all these things will be dissolved’ (touvtwn t wn ... pavntwn ntwn luomevnwn nwn), serves as a summary rebuttal of the scoffers’ insistence that ‘all things endure’ ( pavnta n ta . . . diam diamev evnei nei).

Conclusions and implications

In summary, the object of the scoffers’ ridicule in 3.4, I suggest, is not belief  in Jesus’ return as such but the underlying OT ‘promise’ of an eschatological advent. They scoff at this expectation because of the immensely long period of  time that has passed since it was first articulated. The divine advent has been promised for many centuries, they mock, and nothing has happened. The adversaries also disparage the notion of a world-ending catastrophe which, in their view, the expectation of God’s coming involved. Such an idea is ridiculous because, from their philosophical perspective, the cosmos is by nature everlasting. If my conclusions are persuasive, several consequences would seem to follow. First, 2 Pet 3.4 may not be used as evidence for a crisis in the early church provoked by the deaths of the apostles and their contemporaries. There may well have been such a crisis in early Christianity near the close of the first century  (the passing away of the apostles is likely to have caused some level of disappointment), but this verse neither establishes nor presupposes it. Second, 2 Pet 3.4–13 serves as evidence that belief in a coming world-ending catastrophe was held in at least some early Christian circles. The scoffers apparently took for granted that it was entailed in the expectation of God’s/Jesus’ parousia and attempted to rebut it; the author defended it as a cardinal tenet of the faith. The

74 Cf. J. Mansfeld, ‘Providence and and the Destruction of the the Universe in Early Stoic Thought’, Thought’, Vermaseren; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1979) 129–88, here Studies in Hellenistic Religion (ed. M. J. Vermaseren; 144–5.

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debate reflected in 2 Pet 3.4–13 thus contradicts the claim of N. T. Wright that belief in the coming end of the world was not part of the eschatology of the early  church.75 Third, the passage shows that Graeco-Roman philosophical disputations were making an impact on conflicts within the church.76 The issue of the validity of belief in the parousia was linked by both the author and his adversaries to the philosophical debate on whether the cosmos endures or passes p asses away, with the opponents adopting the Platonic/Aristotelian position and the author invoking  the Stoic view. The influence of Graeco-Roman philosophical controversies on disputes in the early Christian movement was of course to become a prominent feature of second-century developments.

75 N. T. T. Wrig Wright, ht, Jesus  Jesus and the Victory Vict ory of God (London: SPCK, 1996) 321. 76 G. H. van van Kooten in his fascinating study, Cosmic Christology in Paul and the Pauline School:  Colossians and Ephesians in the Context of Graeco-Roman Cosmology, with a New Synopsis of  the Greek Texts  (WUNT 171; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), argues that debates within Graeco-Roman cosmology, especially on the coherence and future of the cosmos, had an effect on debates within the Pauline school, as reflected in the divergent cosmologies of  Colossians and Ephesians.

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