Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Response to James White on 2 Peter 2:1

"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves." (2 Peter 2:1)

This verse, as claimed by Michael Brown, is saying that these false teachers, according to Peter, deny Jesus Christ who bought them through the cross. This seems to be the obvious meaning of the text. Dr. White initially had two responses to this interpretation of the text.

1. The word despotes is not used in reference to Jesus Christ. It is a term referring to the Father. While I admit that this is a common term in reference to the Father in the Septuagint, it is false to assert that this is never a reference to Jesus. There is another reference in the book of Jude, "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 4) The word translated as "Sovereign" is despoten.
It is worth pointing out that Peter and Jude have almost identical language in many places. They are likely writing against the same group of false teachers. All New Testament scholars agree that either Jude relied heavily on the text of 2 Peter, or 2 Peter relied on Jude.
Not only is this word used in an epistle addressing the same or a similar matter; it is in fact in a parallel statement. They are both writing an introduction to these false teachers who have secretly introduced heresy into the fellowship. Peter refers to those who "deny the Lord who bought them", while Jude refers to those who, "deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord." If Jude wrote after Peter, which is most likely, he had Peter's epistle in front of him as he used the same term. If Peter was referring to the Father, Jude most likely misread Peter.

2. It is claimed that the term "bought" is a referencing to the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Deuteronomy 32:6 refers to God as the one who "bought" them. However, the term used in the Septuagint in this verse is not agorazo, the term used by Peter. There is no direct parallel here. Observe the other instances of this word through out the New Testament:

1 Cor. 6:20 - you have been bought with a price
1 Cor. 7:23 - you were bought with a price
Rev. 5:9 - Thou . . . didst purchase. . . men from every tribe, tongue and people
Rev. 14:3 - who had been purchased from the earth
Rev. 14:4 - These have been purchased from among men

These verses refer to the atonement, not to deliverance from the Exodus. The argument that James makes regarding this, is that all the other times the word is used in reference to the atonement, there is a price included. This argument does not hold water. It would not be necessary for Peter to include "for a price" for his readers to understand his meaning. They would have automatically thought of the redemption bought by Christ. Here are three reasons why:
1. Peter's audience was not exclusively Jewish. Thus, the Jews redemption from Egypt would not have been on their mind.
2. Exodus language was now used in early Christian tradition to refer to the death of Christ and the age of the church. Peter for examples refers to Christians as exiles, priests, etc. Paul uses the crossing of the Red Sea as a symbol of redemption bought by Christ.
3. The heresy that these men brought does not seem to be "denying the Father" but denying Jesus. This is why Peter has to remind his readers that what he told them about Christ was not a "cleverly devised myth." (1:16) They apparently denied the majesty of Christ. (1:17) He also needs to defend the fact that Christ is actually coming back in chapter 3, thus they also denied his return.

There is simply no reason to assume that Peter was making a reference to the Exodus here. It can only be read into the text because of a preexisting theological system. We all come to the text with presuppositions Dr. White, even you.


Steve Bricker said...

You are the first I have seen mention an Exodus idea. As you say, it seems flimsy. The objections I have heard concerning a true purchase are either:

1. The apostates are not truly purchased. They simply act like it for awhile.

2. The purchase does not mention blood, therefore it cannot be atoning.

Both are found wanting.

Tom said...

I have linked you on my blog. I intend on interacting with your statements in the future.

Tom Skerritt

Charlie said...

I am a monergist who is studying this passage. Although I am still come to a monergistic conclusion (I am studying James White's work on this as well), I still have to leave a comment to give you props for pointing out the parallel to Master being Jesus in Jude 4. That was very helpful to me - and I actually disagree with J.White on that particular point. Good job on that point.

Jordan Cooper said...

Thanks Charlie. I was surprised to find that no one else had pointed this out (at least that I have seen).

Jordan Cooper said...

Oh, and just to clarify- Lutherans are monergists too! I am in no way suggesting synergism when I argue for universal atonement.

Charlie said...

Sorry for the synergism label - I guess the reference to Michael Brown (a synergist, but one I greatly admire [and so does James White]) threw me off.

I was working on 2 Peter 2:1, because I am doing some work on synergistic proof texts (although obviously a universal atonement monergist would disagree in a different sense).

I've just finished my first draft of it, and its only about 3 pages long. It's written rather simply because it is eventually intended for lay people to read. If you want, I can email it to you. I don't expect to change your mind - because its probably a summary of what you've already heard, but I'd be glad to get your feedback.