on 2-peter 3 :16
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things - Paul, in all his epistles, says Dr. Macknight, has spoken of the things written by Peter in this letter. For example, he has spoken of Christ's coming to judgment; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Titus 2:13. And of the resurrection of the dead, 1 Corinthians 15:22; Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21. And of the burning of the earth; 2 Thessalonians 1:8. And of the heavenly country; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. And of the introduction of the righteous into that country; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Hebrews 4:9; Hebrews 12:14, Hebrews 12:18, Hebrews 12:24. And of the judgment of all mankind by Christ; Romans 14:10.
In which are some things hard to be understood - Δυσνοητα τινα· That is, if we retain the common reading εν οἱς, in or among which things, viz., what he says of the day of judgment, the resurrection of the body etc., etc., there are some things difficult to be comprehended, and from which a wrong or false meaning may be taken. But if we take the reading of AB, twelve others, with both the Syriac, all the Arabic, and Theophylact, εν αἱς, the meaning is more general, as εν αἱς must refer to επιστολαις, epistles, for this would intimate that there were difficulties in all the epistles of St. Paul; and indeed in what ancient writings are there not difficulties? But the papists say that the decision of all matters relative to the faith is not to be expected from the Scriptures on this very account, but must be received from the Church; i.e. the Popish or Romish Church.
But what evidence have we that that Church can infallibly solve any of those difficulties? We have none! And till we have an express, unequivocal revelation from heaven that an unerring spirit is given to that Church, I say, for example, to the present Church of Rome, with the pope called Pius VII. at its head, we are not to receive its pretensions. Any Church may pretend the same, or any number of equally learned men as there are of cardinals and pope in the conclave; and, after all, it would be but the opinion of so many men, to which no absolute certainty or infallibility could be attached.
This verse is also made a pretext to deprive the common people of reading the word of God; because the unlearned and unstable have sometimes wrested this word to their own destruction: but if it be human learning, and stability in any system of doctrine, that qualifies men to judge of these difficult things, then we can find many thousands, even in Europe, that have as much learning and stability as the whole college of cardinals, and perhaps ten thousand times more; for that conclave was never very reputable for the learning of its members: and to other learned bodies we may, with as much propriety, look up as infallible guides, as to this conclave.
Besides, as it is only the unlearned and the unestablished (that is, young Christian converts) that are in danger of wresting such portions; the learned, that is, the experienced and the established in the knowledge and life of God, are in no such danger; and to such we may safely go for information: and these abound everywhere, especially in Protestant countries; and by the labors of learned and pious men on the sacred writings there is not one difficulty relative to the things which concern our salvation left unexplained. If the members of the Romish Church have not these advantages, let them go to those who have them; and if their teachers are afraid to trust them to the instruction of the Protestants, then let them who pretend to have infallibly written their exposition of these difficult places, also put them, with a wholesome text in the vulgar language, into the hands of their people, and then the appeal will not lie to Rome, but to the Bible, and those interpretations will be considered according to their worth, being weighed with other scriptures, and the expositions of equally learned and equally infallible men.
We find, lastly, that those who wrest such portions, are those who wrest the other scriptures to their destruction; therefore they are no patterns, nor can such form any precedent for withholding the Scriptures from the common people, most of whom, instead of wresting them to their destruction, would become wise unto salvation by reading them. We may defy the Romish Church to adduce a single instance of any soul that was perverted, destroyed, or damned, by reading of the Bible; and the insinuation that they may is blasphemous. I may just add that the verb στρεβλοω, which the apostle uses here, signifies to distort, to put to the rack, to torture, to overstretch and dislocate the limbs; and hence the persons here intended are those who proceed according to no fair plan of interpretation, but force unnatural and sophistical meanings on the word of God: a practice which the common simple Christian is in no danger of following. I could illustrate this by a multitude of interpretations from popish writers.
on 2-peter 3 :16
As also in all his epistles - Not only in those which he addressed to the churches in Asia Minor, but in his epistles generally. It is to be presumed that they might have had an acquaintance with some of the other epistles of Paul, as well as those sent to the churches in their immediate vicinity.
Speaking in them of these things - The things which Peter had dwelt upon in his two epistles. The great doctrines of the cross; of the depravity of man; of the divine purposes; of the new birth; of the consummation of all things; of the return of the Saviour to judge the world, and to receive his people to himself; the duty of a serious, devout and prayerful life, and of being prepared for the heavenly world. These things are constantly dwelt upon by Paul, and to his authority in these respects Peter might appeal with the utmost confidence.
In which - The common reading in this passage is ἐν οἷς en hois, and according to this the reference is to the "subjects" treated of - "in which things" - referring to what he had just spoken of - "speaking of these things." This reading is found in the common editions of the New Testament, and is supported by far the greater number of mss., and by most commentators and critics. It is found in Griesbach, Tittman, and Hahn, and has every evidence of being the genuine reading. Another reading, however, (ἐν αἷς en hais,) is found in some valuable mss., and is supported by the Syriac and Arabic versions, and adopted by Mill (Prolegomena 1484), and by Beza. According to this, the reference is to the "epistles" themselves - as would seem to be implied in our common version. The true construction, so far as the evidence goes, is to refer it not directly to the "epistles," but to the "things" of which Peter says Paul wrote; that is, not to the style and language of Paul, but to the great truths and doctrines which he taught. Those doctrines were indeed contained in his epistles, but still, according to the fair construction of the passage before us, Peter should not be understood as accusing Paul of obscurity of style. He refers not to the difficulty of understanding what Paul meant, but to the difficulty of comprehending the great truths which he taught. This is, generally, the greatest difficulty in regard to the statements of Paul. The difficulty is not that the meaning of the writer is not plain, but it is either:
(a) that the mind is overpowered by the grandeur of the thought, and the incomprehensible nature of the theme, or
(b) that the truth is so unpalatable, and the mind is so prejudiced against it, that we are unwilling to receive it.
Many a man knows well enough what Paul means, and would receive his doctrines without hesitation if the heart was not opposed to it; and in this state of mind Paul is charged with obscurity, when the real difficulty lies only in the heart of him who makes the complaint. If this be the true interpretation of this passage, then it should not be adduced to prove that Paul is an obscure writer, whatever may be true on that point. There are, undoubtedly, obscure things in his writings, as there are in all other ancient compositions, but this passage should not be adduced to prove that he had not the faculty of making himself understood. An honest heart, a willingness to receive the truth, is one of the best qualifications for understanding the writings of Paul; and when this exists, no one will fail to find truth that may be comprehended, and that will be eminently adapted to sanctify and save the soul.
Are some things hard to be understood - Things pertaining to high and difficult subjects, and which are not easy to be comprehended. Peter does not call in question the truth of what Paul had written; he does not intimate that he himself would differ from him His language is rather that which a man would use who regarded the writings to which he referred as true, and what he says here is an honorable testimony to the authority of Paul. It may be added,
(1) that Peter does not say that all the doctrines of the Bible, or even all the doctrines of Paul, are hard to be understood, or that nothing is plain.
(2) he says nothing about withholding the Bible, or even the writings of Paul, from the mass of Christians, on the ground of the difficulty of understanding the Scriptures; nor does he intimate that that was the design of the Author of the Bible.
(3) it is perfectly manifest, from this very passage, that the writings of Paul were in fact in the hands of the people, else how could they wrest and pervert them?
(4) Peter says nothing about an infallible interpreter of any kind, nor does he intimate that either he or his "successors" were authorized to interpret them for the church.
(5) with what propriety can the pretended successor of Peter - the pope - undertake to expound those difficult doctrines in the writings of Paul, when even Peter himself did not undertake it, and when he did not profess to be able to comprehend them? Is the Pope more skilled in the knowledge of divine things than the apostle Peter? Is he better qualified to interpret the sacred writings than an inspired apostle was?
(6) those portions of the writings of Paul, for anything that appears to the contrary, are just as "hard to be understood" now, as they were before the "infallible" church undertook to explain them. The world is Little indebted to any claims of infallibility in explaining the meaning of the oracles of God. It remains yet to be seen that any portion of the Bible has been made clearer by "any" mere authoritative explanation. And,
(7) it should be added, that without any such exposition, the humble inquirer after truth may find enough in the Bible to guide his feet in the paths of salvation. No one ever approached the sacred Scriptures with a teachable heart, who did not find them "able to make him wise unto salvation." Compare the notes at 2 Timothy 3:15.
on 2-peter 3 :16