on 2-peter 3 :5
For this they willingly are ignorant of - They shut their eyes against the light, and refuse all evidence; what does not answer their purpose they will not know. And the apostle refers to a fact that militates against their hypothesis, with which they refused to acquaint themselves; and their ignorance he attributes to their unwillingness to learn the true state of the case.
By the word of God the heavens were of old - I shall set down the Greek text of this extremely difficult clause: Ουρανοι ησαν εκπαλαι, και γη εξ ὑδατος και δι' ὑδατος συνεστωσα, τῳ του Θεου λογῳ· translated thus by Mr. Wakefield: "A heaven and an earth formed out of water, and by means of water, by the appointment of God, had continued from old time." By Dr. Macknight thus; "The heavens were anciently, and the earth of water: and through water the earth consists by the word of God." By Kypke thus: "The heavens were of old, and the earth, which is framed, by the word of God, from the waters, and between the waters." However we take the words, they seem to refer to the origin of the earth. It was the opinion of the remotest antiquity that the earth was formed out of water, or a primitive moisture which they termed ὑλη, hule, a first matter or nutriment for all things; but Thales pointedly taught αρχην δε των παντως ὑδωρ ειναι, that all things derive their existence from water, and this very nearly expresses the sentiment of Peter, and nearly in his own terms too. But is this doctrine true? It must be owned that it appears to be the doctrine of Moses: In the beginning, says he, God made the heavens and the earth; and the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Now, these heavens and earth which God made in the beginning, and which he says were at first formless and empty, and which he calls the deep, are in the very next verse called waters; from which it is evident that Moses teaches that the earth was made out of some fluid substance, to which the name of water is properly given. And that the earth was at first in a fluid mass is most evident from its form; it is not round, as has been demonstrated by measuring some degrees near the north pole, and under the equator; the result of which proved that the figure of the earth was that of an oblate spheroid, a figure nearly resembling that of an orange. And this is the form that any soft or elastic body would assume if whirled rapidly round a center, as the earth is around its axis. The measurement to which I have referred shows the earth to be flatted at the poles, and raised at the equator. And by this measurement it was demonstrated that the diameter of the earth at the equator was greater by about twenty-five miles than at the poles.
Now, considering the earth to be thus formed εξ ὑδατος, of water, we have next to consider what the apostle means by δι' ὑδατος, variously translated by out of, by means of, and between, the water.
Standing out of the water gives no sense, and should be abandoned. If we translate between the waters, it will bear some resemblance to Genesis 1:6, Genesis 1:7 : And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of, בתוך bethoch, between, the waters; and let it divide the waters from the waters: and God divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; then it may refer to the whole of the atmosphere, with which the earth is everywhere surrounded, and which contains all the vapours which belong to our globe, and without which we could neither have animal nor vegetative life. Thus then the earth, or terraqueous globe, which was originally formed out of water, subsists by water; and by means of that very water, the water compacted with the earth - the fountains of the great deep, and the waters in the atmosphere - the windows of heaven, Genesis 7:11, the antediluvian earth was destroyed, as St. Peter states in the next verse: the terraqueous globe, which was formed originally of water or a fluid substance, the chaos or first matter, and which was suspended in the heavens - the atmosphere, enveloped with water, by means of which water it was preserved; yet, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants, was destroyed by those very same waters out of which it was originally made, and by which it subsisted.
on 2-peter 3 :5
For this they willingly are ignorant of - Λαιθάνει γὰρ αὐτοὺς τοῦτο θέλοντας Laithanei gar autous touto thelontas. There is some considerable variety in the translation of this passage. In our common version the Greek word (θέλοντας thelontas) is rendered as if it were an adverb, or as if it referred to their "ignorance" in regard to the event; meaning, that while they might have known this fact, they took no pains to do it, or that they preferred to have its recollection far from their minds. So Beza and Luther render it. Others, however, take it as referring to what follows, meaning, "being so minded; being of that opinion; or affirming." So Bloomfield, Robinson (Lexicon), Mede, Rosenmuller, etc. According to this interpretation the sense is, "They who thus will or think; that is, they who hold the opinion that all things will continue to remain as they were, are ignorant of this fact that things have not always thus remained; that there has been a destruction of the world once by water."
The Greek seems rather to demand this interpretation; and then the sense of the passage will be, "It is concealed or hidden from those who hold this opinion, that the earth has been once destroyed." It is implied, whichever interpretation is adopted, that the will was concerned in it; that they were influenced by that rather than by sober judgment and by reason; and whether the word refers to their "ignorance," or to their "holding that opinion," there was obstinacy and perverseness about it. The "will" has usually more to do in the denial and rejection of the doctrines of the Bible than the "understanding" has. The argument which the apostle appeals to in reply to this objection is a simple one. The adversaries of the doctrine affirmed that the laws of nature had always remained the same, and they affirmed that they always would. The apostle denies the fact which they assumed, in the sense in which they affirmed it, and maintains that those laws have not been so stable and uniform that the world has never been destroyed by an overwhelming visitation from God. It has been destroyed by a flood; it may be again by fire. There was the same improbability that the event would occur, so far as the argument from the stability of the laws of nature is concerned, in the one case that there is in the other, and consequently the objection is of no force.
That by the word of God - By the command of God. "He spoke, and it was done." Compare Genesis 1:6, Genesis 1:9; Psalm 33:9. The idea here is, that everything depends on his word or will. As the heavens and the earth were originally made by his command, so by the same command they can be destroyed.
The heavens were of old - The heavens were formerly made, Genesis 1:1. The word "heaven" in the Scriptures sometimes refers to the atmosphere, sometimes to the starry worlds as they appear above us, and sometimes to the exalted place where God dwells. Here it is used, doubtless, in the popular signification, as denoting the heavens as they "appear," embracing the sun, moon, and stars.
And the earth standing out of the water and in the water - Margin, "consisting." Greek, συνεστῶσα sunestōsa. The Greek word, when used in an intransitive sense, means "to stand with," or "together;" then tropically, "to place together," to constitute, place, bring into existence - Robinson. The idea which our translators seem to have had is, that, in the formation of the earth, a part was out of the water, and a part under the water; and that the former, or the inhabited portion, became entirely submerged, and that thus the inhabitants perished. This was not, however, probably the idea of Peter. He doubtless has reference to the account given in Genesis 1:of the creation of the earth, in which water performed so important a part. The thought in his mind seems to have been, that "water" entered materially into the formation of the earth, and that in its very origin there existed the means by which it was destroyed afterward.
The word which is rendered "standing" should rather be rendered "consisting of," or "constituted of;" and the meaning is, that the creation of the earth was the result of the divine agency acting on the mass of elements which in Genesis is called "waters," Genesis 1:2, Genesis 1:6-7, Genesis 1:9. There was at first a vast fluid, an immense unformed collection of materials, called "waters," and from that the earth arose. The point of time, therefore, in which Peter looks at the earth here, is not when the mountains, and continents, and islands, seem to be standing partly out of the water and partly in the water, but when there was a vast mass of materials called "waters" from which the earth was formed. The phrase "out of the water" (ἐξ ὕδατος ex hudatos) refers to the origin of the earth. It was formed "from," or out of, that mass. The phrase "in the water" (δἰ ὕδατος di' hudatos) more properly means "through" or "by." It does not mean that the earth stood in the water in the sense that it was partly submerged; but it means not only that the earth arose "from" that mass that is called "water" in Genesis 1, but that that mass called "water" was in fact the grand material out of which the earth was formed. It was "through" or "by means of" that vast mass of mingled elements that the earth was made as it was. Everything arose out of that chaotic mass; through that, or by means of that, all things were formed, and from the fact that the earth was thus formed out of the water, or that water entered so essentially into its formation, there existed causes which ultimately resulted in the deluge.
on 2-peter 3 :5
3:5 For this they are willingly ignorant of - They do not care to know or consider. That by the almighty word of God - Which bounds the duration of all things, so that it cannot be either longer or shorter. Of old - Before the flood. The aerial heavens were, and the earth - Not as it is now, but standing out of the water and in the water - Perhaps the interior globe of earth was fixed in the midst of the great deep, the abyss of water; the shell or exterior globe standing out of the water, covering the great deep. This, or some other great and manifest difference between the original and present constitution of the terraqueous globe, seems then to have been so generally known, that St. Peter charges their ignorance of it totally upon their wilfulness.