Skip to main content

A More Sure Word

As a young follower of Christ I struggled to understand the relation between reason and faith.  One particularly troublesome passage was the first chapter of 2 Peter.  In this passage, Peter writes about his experience with James and John where they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus.   Then in verse 19, he writes, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy…”

This passage seemed to teach that a Christian should trust the Bible even more than physical evidence. According to that view, Peter was essentially saying that on the one hand you have empirical proof, and on the other hand you have the Bible.  And of course, the Bible is “more sure” than even his eyewitness experience. That would mean Peter was supporting a fideistic type of faith.  However, that would violate both reason and other scriptural passages.

Recently I realized that I had completely misunderstood what Peter is saying. He is not saying that the word of prophecy was more sure than his eyewitness encounter.  He is actually saying that the word of prophecy is more sure as a result of his eyewitness encounter.  Peter is saying that we have the prophetic word made more certain as a result of his experience.  This understanding is supported by three arguments.

The first reason comes from Greek grammar.  The word order in the original language places the emphasis on bebaioteron, meaning more certain, sure, firm, or valid. However, this word is not written in the adjective position, but predicate. The only definite article in the Greek proceeds “prophetic word.”  Literally, we have more sure the prophetic word.  In the predicate position, the adjective (more sure) is often rendered after the noun. (See translation in the Spanish Reina Valera, etc.)  While that may not be necessary, the text should not be misunderstood as if bebaioteron were in the adjectival position because it is not.  The meaning of this sentence is not that the prophetic word is more sure than the experiences of seeing it fulfilled, but because of those experiences.



As such, Warren Wiersbe gives the correct sense of the text in his Bible Exposition Commentary.  He writes, “Peter was not suggesting that the Bible is more certain than the experience he had on the Mount of Transfiguration. His experience was real and true, and the record in the Bible is dependable. As we have seen, the Transfiguration was a demonstration of the promise given in the prophetic Word; and this promise now has added certainty because of what Peter experienced. The Transfiguration experience corroborated the prophetic promises” (p. 444).

Secondly, it would seem strange for Peter to contrast the Old Testament prophecies with the transfiguration.  His argument in the preceding passage shows that he considers the transfiguration adequate evidence to conclude that the message of Christ is not a cunningly devised myth (verse 16).  As Thomas Schreiner notes, Peter is not at all suggesting that his experience was deficient in comparison to the Old Testament prophecies (1, 2, Peter, Jude. p. 320).

Thirdly, it is dangerous to claim that a person should ignore empirical evidence if it contradicts a specific interpretation of scripture.  With that type of thinking, no cult member would have any hope of finding the truth.  It may be possible for someone to incorrectly argue that the Bible teaches a flat earth (“four corners of the earth” in Revelation 7:1) or a geocentric solar system (the sun “stood still” in Joshua 10:13). In fact, in earlier ages, some people have.  Yet it is obvious that scientific discoveries have relevance to how these passages are understood.

Few Christians would claim that their interpretation of scripture has never been mistaken. In fact, all people that I personally know who study the Bible regularly could give examples where they were wrong in what they thought a passage was saying.  I certainly can. If no empirical data can change how a person interprets a passage, it is doubtful that any exegetical data will either. Serious Bible students understand the difference between an infallible scripture and an infallible interpretation.

In conclusion, despite my earlier misunderstanding, Peter’s message in this passage is clear.  The incredible experience of the transfiguration served to make more certain the prophetic message of redemption. Based on the fact that these prophecies have already started to be fulfilled, we should pay close attention to what scripture says.  It truly comes from God.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

Christians are often surprised to learn that December 25th was associated with sun worship, the Mithras cult, and the emperor cults of the Roman Empire long before it was ever thought of as Jesus’ birthday. Christmas day comes from ancient pagan religions, and would have known to the early Christians as Sol Invictus (Latin for the Invincible Sun).
Even before Roman times, the Greeks honored Helios (the Greek sun god) on December 25th.The Coin of Rhodes bears this gods image, and several Seleucid and Ptolemaic rulers associated themselves with this god.In Rome, emperor cults became the chief religion of the land.Some emperors were not content to wait until the senate deified them after death, and associated themselves with gods while they were still alive.Nero, Constantine, and Julian the Apostate all chose the sun god and continued to give priority to the pagan feast held on the day we now call Christmas.

The Philocalian Calendar shows that some time before A.D. 336 Christians began t…

Things I Don’t Spend Money On

Many people know they should be saving for a rainy day or retirement, but can’t because they have no money left over at the end of the month.  If they only earned a few hundred dollars more each month, they would be able to put some aside.  The sad truth is, most people’s lifestyle is almost exactly equal to (or greater than) their income.  Living below one’s means seems too hard or old fashioned. 
Our family went down to one income years ago when we had our first child.  Since that time, we have made budgeting and stewardship a priority.  Even with a household income well below the median income in the United States, we are able to give, save, and enjoy plenty of great memories together as a family.  One element to this equation is what we don’t spend money on.  Here are a few examples of items that cost us $0 each month. Cable or Satellite TV.  Living without television may sound strange, but it certainly has some benefits.  For most of human history, families figured out how to get b…

The Best Books I've Read

I love getting a good book recommendation, and am often asked for reading suggestions.  After looking over my reading log from the past few years, I picked a few of my favorite titles to share with you. 

Feel free to comment and pass this list along.  I would love to know what books you have enjoyed or are hoping to read.
Apologetics Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. While Lewis was certainly more sacramental than I am, this book is an essential read because it forms the foundation for so many contemporary works. The New Testament Documents by F. F. Bruce.Although somewhat short and outdated, this easy book provides evidence for the basic reliability of the biblical texts. From God to Us Revised and Expandedby Geisler and Nix.My favorite overview of texts, translations, and manuscript reliability. On Guardby Craig. A great thinker presents the powerful “kalam argument” for God’s existence.  Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Qureshi.A moving autobiographical account of conversation.  Tactic…

My Million Dollar Smartphone

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, I knew the world had changed.  This product was immediately one of the most capable smartphones in the world and a status symbol that everybody wanted.  I had some savings in the bank, and decided to put it to good use.  But I didn’t buy an iPhone.  Instead, I bought a small amount of stock in the company.
To this day I have never owned an iPhone.  While many of my friends do, I have never been able to justify the expense. Earlier today I went to the Verizon webpage to see what it would cost me to buy one.  I selected the cheapest current iPhone and clicked “express checkout.”  Without any insurance plan or additional services, the monthly bill came to $92.08 a month.
For over a year now I have been with a company called Republic Wireless.  (No, they are not paying me to write this!)  I paid less than a hundred dollars for a Moto E smartphone, and am on their $10 a month plan with unlimited talk and text.  On two occasions have I paid a few…

Historical Evidence of Jesus

Is it possible that the most famous man in history never actually existed? That is precisely the claim made by some academics today, including Richard Carrier, Robert Price, and Raphael Lataster. There is a lot at stake in this debate.If Jesus never actually existed, then the main claims of Christianity cannot be true.These authors build their case by dismissing the historical accuracy of the Gospels and minimizing the significance of collaborating evidence.

However, many people who reject Christianity remain convinced that Jesus did exist.In fact, some former atheists like Dr. Michael Bird cite the evidence for the historical Jesus as a key reason for their conversion to Christianity. Here are three solid historical arguments for the existence of Jesus.
First, the Christian community viewed the literal life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as central to their belief from a very early date.For example, Paul seems to quote an early Christian creed in 1 Corinthians 15.This passage…