Friday, August 1
Mark 11:1-11: We should begin our consideration of this story by recalling that the coming Messiah was expected to purge the Temple. Earlier suggestions of this idea include Isaiah 56:7, which is quoted by the Gospels as a prophecy fulfilled on this occasion: “Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, /And make them joyful in My house of prayer. /Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices /Will be accepted on My altar; /For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” In this text the Temple is “purged” in the sense of being rebuilt after its destruction by the defiling Babylonians. Our Lord also indicates His fulfillment of prophecy on this occasion by justifying His action with a reference to Jeremiah 7:11: “‘Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,’ says the Lord.”
Perhaps even more to the purpose, however, were the words of Malachi, referring to the Messiah’s coming to the Temple in order to purge it: “‘Behold, I send My messenger, /And he will prepare the way before Me. /And the Lord, whom you seek, /Will suddenly come to His temple, /Even the Messenger of the covenant, /In whom you delight. /Behold, He is coming,’ /Says the Lord of hosts. /‘But who can endure the day of His coming? /And who can stand when He appears? /For He is like a refiner’s fire /And like launderers’ soap. /He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; /He will purify the sons of Levi, /And purge them as gold and silver, /That they may offer to the Lord /An offering in righteousness. /Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem /Will be pleasant to the Lord, /As in the days of old, /As in former years” (Malachi 3:1-4). The context of this purging foreseen by Malachi was the sad state of Israel’s worship, to which he was witness (1:6-10,12-14).
The Temple’s expected “purging” by the Messiah had mainly to do with ritual and moral defilements, much as Judas Maccabaeus had cleansed from the Lord’s house after its defilement by Antiochus Epiphanes IV. This purging was completed with the Temple’s rededication on December 14, 164 B. C. (1 Maccabees 4:52).
As described in the New Testament, however, the “defilement” does not appear to have been so severe. It apparently consisted of the noise and distractions occasioned by the buying and selling of sacrificial animals necessary for the Temple’s ritual sacrifice. John describes the scene in greater detail: “And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables” (John 2:14-15).
To grasp this context we should bear in mind that the greater part of the people in the Temple during the major feasts (and all the Evangelists place this incident near Passover) came from great distances. Naturally they brought no sacrificial animals with them, reasonable expecting that local vendors on the scene would meet their needs. These vendors brought the necessary herds and kept them in the immediate vicinity of the Temple. Indeed, without their mercantile provision, the ritual sacrifices of the Temple would have been rendered impossible, and the activity associated with this arrangement was considered part of the normal business of the Temple, rather much as the sale of Bibles, prayer books, icons, and rosaries in the shops near St. Peter’s in Rome. The action of Jesus, then, was not directed against ritual and moral pollutions but against the normal business of the Temple.
Hence, what the Lord did in this respect was more symbolic than practical. There is no evidence that this action of Jesus amounted to more than a slight disturbance to the daily activity of the Temple, nor does Jesus seem to have persisted in it. He intended, rather, to enact a prophecy, much in line with sundry similar actions by the Old Testament prophets. Those who were witnesses to the event discerned this significance, recognizing it as a “Messianic sign.” This recognition explains the menacing reaction of the Lord’s enemies (Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47).
Saturday, August 2
Psalm 27: Although we have no reason to believe that it ever existed as such, it is not difficult to picture Psalm 27 (Greek and Latin) as two discrete psalms, so easily can each of the two parts stand on its own. In the first part God is spoken about (“The Lord is my illumination and my savior”); in the second He is spoken to (“Hear my voice, O Lord, when I call”). The first has to do with blessings already received, the second with blessings yet sought.
The voice in this psalm is the voice of the Church, who cries out with respect to Jesus Christ: “The Lord is my illumination and my savior; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the safeguard of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
(There is in the original Hebrew text a delicate pun involving ’ori [“my illumination”] and ’ira’ [“shall I fear”]. No attempt was made to duplicate this paronomasia in the canonical Greek.)
“The Lord is my illumination (photismos),” we pray, using a word that has long borne special reference to our baptism in Christ (cf. Heb. 6:4; 10:32). This is the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). It is in this context of illumination that the Lord is also called “savior” (soter), inasmuch as “there is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism” (1 Peter 3:21).
This assurance—“whom shall I fear? . . . of whom shall I be afraid?”—is that which asks: “If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:31,33,35). Like Romans 8, our psalm then takes several verses to revel in the powerlessness of our spiritual enemies.
Psalm 15 had asked: “Lord, who will abide in Your tabernacle, or who shall rest on Your holy mountain?” and Psalm 24 had inquired: “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?” It is the same here in Psalm 27: “A single thing have I sought of the Lord, and this will I pursue—that I may abide in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may gaze upon the gladness of the Lord, and tarry in His holy temple.” In this verse our psalm touches on the deeper longing of all prayer, the desire to live in intimacy with God, to find joy in His worship, to abide in the consolation and light of His sanctuary: “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles” (Matt. 17:4). These are metaphors for that intimate concord with God that is the quest of all our prayer.
We pray for this union with God, but we also actively follow after it, says our psalm. Closeness to the Lord is inseparable from the doing of His will, love itself involving chiefly a union of wills. Thus, union with God comes of both pure grace (“A single thing have I sought of the Lord”) and strenuous effort (“and this will I pursue”—ekzeteso). Such things as fasting, self-denial, patience, kindness, obedience to the Lord’s commandments, and the disciplined exercise of the virtues are all components of this pursuit.
In this psalm the Lord’s sanctuary is chiefly pictured as a place of refuge: “For He screened me in His tabernacle in my day of adversities; in the hidden recess of His tent did He shelter me and lift me high upon a rock.”
Then, evidently in a sequence not decided by logic, we ask in the psalm’s second part those blessings that we celebrated in the first. We ask, that is, for the grace of illumination: “To You my heart has spoken; my face has sought You out. Your face, O Lord, will I seek. Turn not away Your face from me; be not averted in anger from Your servant.”
This is the final grace of prayer, of course, to gaze upon the face of God. On the mountain Moses asked to see the face of God (cf. Ex. 33:17–23), but it was more than a thousand years later when, on yet another mountain, his petition was finally granted (cf. Matt. 17:3). For our Lord Jesus Christ is the face of God, “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). To seek the face of God, then, it is imperative to seek it where it is definitively and forever revealed.
To Him we pray, therefore, “Be my helper, and reject me not. Do not forsake me, O God my savior.” Once again, as at the psalm’s beginning, this same expression “my savior,” the knowledge of whom is everlasting life. For Him we wait in longing hope: “I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.” (From P. H. Reardon, Christ in the Psalms)
Sunday, August 3
Mark 9:2-13: Besides its special emphasis on the prophet Elijah, Mark’s account of the Transfiguration shows several other features particular to that Gospel.
By way of introducing Mark’s narrative, I suggest that we first look at Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai, as recorded in the Book of Exodus: "Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud" (24:16). This reference to the six days of waiting (corresponding to the days of creation) provides the best reason why, in Mark’s account (copied later by Matthew), the Transfiguration takes place six days after the Lord’s prophetic words, "Amen, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power" (Mark 9:1-2). That is to say, Mark’s reference to the six days’ interval begins to establish parallel lines between Mount Sinai and the mountain of Transfiguration.
Mark traces a second such line with respect to Moses’ three companions who are specifically named as climbing the mountain with him: ""Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel" (Exodus 24:1). We observe that two of these companions are brothers, which is exactly the case in the witnesses of the Lord’s Transfiguration: "Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them" (Mark 9:2). In this text James and John correspond to Nadab and Abihu.
The other details of the Transfiguration, such as the mountain (9:2), the glorious light (9:3), and the divine voice coming from the cloud (9:7), correspond to identical particulars in the scene on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:1-2,15-16). In short, Mark understands the Transfiguration to be strictly theophanic, an appearance of God.
In this respect the true correspondence to Mount Sinai is Jesus Himself, who has now become the place of God’s presence and revelation.
As so often in the New Testament, Peter becomes the spokesman for the Twelve: "Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—because he did not know what he answered, for they were greatly afraid" (Mark 9:5-6). This "did not know" may mean that Peter was saying more than he knew.
Two things, I suggest, pertain to this more than Peter knew.
First, the Transfiguration was for the sake of the three witnesses, not for Jesus. He was transfigured "before them" (9:5); they are overshadowed (9:7); it was good for them to be there (9:7); they are told to hear (9:7); Jesus was with them (verse 8). What Mark describes here is the religious experience of the disciples.
This "subjective" aspect of the vision on the mountain puts readers in mind of the Agony in the Garden (14:33), suggesting that these same three witnesses of the Transfiguration were thereby strengthened to endure the later trial. This correspondence is noted, to the same purpose, in the Church’s Kontakion for the feast of the Transfiguration: “On the mount Thou was transfigured, and Thy disciples, as much as they could bear, beheld Thy glory, O Christ our God; so that, when they would see Thee crucified, they would know Thy passion to be willing and would preach to the world that Thou, in truth, are the Effulgence of the Father.”
Second, Peter’s reference to the "three tents" puts readers in mind of the feast of Tabernacles, which was also celebrated as a feast of lights. Indeed, it was on Mount Sinai that Moses received instructions to construct the Tabernacle of the Lord’s presence (Exodus 26), that same Tabernacle that would be filled with the cloud of the divine glory (Exodus 40:34-38).
Mark ends the story with the uniqueness of Jesus: "Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves" (Mark 9:8). The Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah), having their full and intended meaning in the vision of the glorified Christ, disappear from the scene on the mountain. There remains only Jesus, concerning whom the divine voice, coming out of the cloud, announces, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" (9:7). After all the attention given to their vision, the disciples are finally directed to return to their "hearing." Their attentive hearing is directed to the beloved Son, already introduced at the Lord’s baptism (1:11; cf. 12:6). With Him they now come down from the mountain (9:9).
Monday, August 4
2 Corinthians 3:7—4:6: Although the Apostle Paul did not write of the Lord’s Transfiguration on the mountain, one is forcefully reminded of that event by a passage in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. He wrote, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts unto the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (4:6).
Paul’s reference to the glory of God shining on the face of Christ, which perfectly expresses what the evangelists describe in the Transfiguration, is even more striking by reason of its immediate context. Just a few verses earlier Paul had written, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transfigured (metamorphoumetha) into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (3:18, my translation). That is to say, Paul’s reference to the glory of God on the face of Christ is set in the context of our own transfiguration in Christ. The verb he uses here, metamorphomai, appears in only three other places in the New Testament, two of them descriptive of the Lord’s Transfiguration on the mount (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2).
As in Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, Paul’s development lays special stress on the Christian understanding of the Old Testament. Indeed, he introduced this subject of transfiguration by treating of biblical interpretation. The Jew, Paul wrote, understands only the “letter” (gramma) of the Old Testament, whereas the Christian understanding penetrates more deeply to “the Spirit” (to Pnevma). The first kind of biblical understanding leads to death, he affirmed, the second to life (2 Corinthians 3:6-7). That is to say, Paul’s preoccupation here is the orthodox understanding of the Bible.
His initial reflections on this subject next prompt the Apostle to remember the special glory that had shone from the face of Moses on the mountain. Step by step Paul then goes from the glory on the face of Moses to the glory on the face of Christ.
He begins by observing that “the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which was passing away” (3:7). Even this fleeting glory on the face of Moses had to be covered by a veil. Moses, the Apostle explains, “put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away” (3:12).
That veil over Moses’ face becomes, for Paul, a symbol of the Jews’ failure to grasp the significance of their own Scriptures. This terrible (but tear-able) veil is the exegetical impediment that divides Jew from Christian: “But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because it is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart” (3:14-15).
What is the advantage, then, of the Christian in this respect? It is Christ’s removal of the hermeneutic veil, to reveal the Spirit’s understanding of the Old Testament. This veil is lifted when a person is converted to Christ through the Gospel. He now understands the Scriptures correctly: “Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (3:17).
This Spirit-given understanding of the Holy Scriptures in Christ is the context in which Paul proceeds to write of Christian transfiguration: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transfigured (metamorphoumetha) into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
From the face of Christ, this ever increasing glory shines into the heart and transfigures the Christian’s mind. It delivers believers from those darkening forces that blind those “who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (4:4).
Similar to the accounts of the Transfiguration in Peter and Luke Paul considers the glory on the face of Christ as throwing light on the Bible, penetrating beneath the gramma. Transfiguration has to do with the understanding of the biblical text. This is orthodoxology, the study of the correct glory, removing the veil of exegetical blindness. This Spirit-given glory in the heart sheds its light on the writings of Moses and the other biblical writers. It is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Tuesday, August 5
2 Peter 1:1-11: In the present reading Peter speaks of Jesus as “Savior,” a term more often used in the New Testament to refer to God the Father. Nonetheless, in these three chapters Peter uses the expression five times in reference to Jesus (1:1,11; 2:20; 3:2,18). In each case, except in 1:1, the use of “Savior” is joined with “Lord.” This is very rare in early Christian literature. Christians today are so accustomed to speaking of Jesus as “Lord and Savior” that they do not realize that, were it not for 2 Peter, this expression would probably never have become so standard a part of Christian vocabulary.
Verse 4 is the only place in the New Testament that describes Christians as “partakers of the divine nature” (theias koinonoi physeos), a very bold description of divine grace. However, an identical theology of grace is expressed elsewhere in the New Testament with a different vocabulary (e.g., 1 John 1:3; 3:2,9; John 15:4; 17:22-23; Romans 8:14-17, and so on).
One also observes that this sharing in the divine nature is manifest as a particular “knowledge” (epignosis and gnosis) of God in Christ (verses 3,5,6,8). This knowledge of God, which is the substance of our call (klesis), must be made “secure” (bebaia – verse 9) by the cultivation of virtue (verses 5-8) and the avoidance of sin (verse 9).
Verse 11 identifies eternal life as “the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” an idea rare in early Christian literature (cf. Ephesians 5:5), which more often refers to the “kingdom of God.” The expression here in 2 Peter forms the biblical basis for that line of the Nicene Creed that says of Jesus, “of whose kingdom there shall be no end.”
Luke 9:27-36: St. Luke, in his portrayal of the Lord’s Transfiguration (9:28-36), displays certain features proper to his own story of Jesus.
These begin right away, when he tells us, "Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray." We recall that Matthew (17:1) and Mark (9:2) both placed the Transfiguration six days later, not eight. Luke doesn’t say "eight" either; he says "about eight," but why the change?
It appears that the event of the Lord’s Transfiguration was early associated with the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), an association prompted by Peter’s suggestion, "let us make three tabernacles." Indeed, the luminous cloud of which the gospels speak in the Transfiguration is to be identified with the glorious cloud that filled the Tabernacle of the Lord’s presence in Numbers 9—10.
The association of the Transfigured Lord with the Feast of Tabernacles perhaps suggests why Luke changed the "six days" to "about eight days." The feast of Tabernacles does, in fact, last a week and another day (Leviticus 23:34-36).
A second distinctive feature of Luke’s account is also found in that same first verse of the story; namely, the detail that Jesus "went up on the mountain to pray." Only Luke mentions the prayer of Jesus in this event, and he goes on to describe the Transfiguration with reference to the prayer of Jesus: "As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered." Whereas Matthew and Mark portray the Transfiguration as a religious experience of its three apostolic witnesses, Luke begins with the experience of Jesus at worship.
Thirdly, only Luke among the evangelists refers to the Lord’s suffering and death within the Transfiguration account itself. He writes, "And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His exodus that He was going to fulfill (pleroun) at Jerusalem."
Several features of this reference to the Passion are important to Luke’s theological message. First, he uses the technical theological expression exodus to speak of Jesus’ death. In his choice of this special noun Luke conveys the soteriological significance of the Lord’s death.
Second, in his reference to the Lord’s exodus, Luke explicitly places it "at Jerusalem." This too corresponds to a theme in Luke’s Gospel, where the holy city is the culminating place of the narrative. Jerusalem is the city to which Jesus has steadfastly set His face to go (9:51,53; 13:22,33). This motif was introduced early in Luke, when the Anna the prophetess "spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (2:38).
Third, by referring to the Lord’s Passion within the Transfiguration story, Luke sets up a scene to parallel the later account of the Lord’s Agony. Indeed, in the latter scene Luke does not even mention Gethsemani or a garden. He says, rather, that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray (22:39-41). Both are scenes prayer on a mountain, strengthening the link between the Transfiguration and the Passion.
Fourth, in his picture of Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets—discussing Jesus’ exodus at Jerusalem, Luke touches a major theme of his theology—the fulfillment (pleroun) of Holy Scripture in Jesus’ sufferings and death in Jerusalem. We recall a later scene with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, in which scene Luke writes, "Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (24:25-27). Here in the Transfiguration, therefore, Luke portrays Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus about the deep meaning of Holy Scripture. Jesus discusses with these major Old Testament characters His coming fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the very subject on which He will discourse to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Luke returns to this theme in the Lord’s final apparition in the upper room, where He affirms, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled (plerothenai) which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me" (24:44). The great commission begins with this affirmation: "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (24:46). In the very context of the great commission, says Luke, “He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (24:45).
Thus, in Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, the representatives of the Law and the Prophets are described as discussing with Jesus His fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, linking this scene to the great commission given to the Church.
Thursday, August 7
John 1:1-18: It has sometimes caused surprise that St. John, though a witness to the Lord’s Transfiguration, does not narrate that scene, as did Matthew, Mark, and Luke. More than one student of his gospel, however, has explained the absence of the Transfiguration in John by remarking that Jesus is always transfigured in what John wrote.
There is much merit in this remark. If the Transfiguration is the manifestation of the glory of God in Christ, who spoke more often on this theme than John? This apostle, who saw the transfigured Lord and heard the Father’s voice claiming Him as His Son, is the very one that wrote, “we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (1:14).
The Jesus presented in John’s Gospel appears as the eternal Word, in whom “was life, and the life was the light of men” (1:4). Becoming flesh and dwelling among us (1:14), He is the living revelation of God’s glory on this earth. Even though “no one has seen God at any time,” John says, “the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (1:18).
The divine glory manifest in Christ is not only a theme in John’s gospel; it also serves as a structural component in the narrative. John records exactly seven miracles of Jesus, which he calls “signs.” Seven—the mystic number of these signs—symbolizes the fullness of the revelation of the divine glory.
Leading in each case to the commitment of faith, these signs do not reveal the divine glory as static, so to speak, but as active. Who Jesus is, is revealed in what Jesus does. Each of these signs is enacted; it has motion.
The signs commence with the transformation of the water into wine at the wedding feast, concerning which John tells us, “This beginning (arche), of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (2:11, emphasis added).
John’s second sign enacted by Jesus is the curing of the nobleman’s son (4:46–54); as in the case of the miracle of Cana, the man himself “believed, and his whole household” (4:53). Next comes the restoration of the paralytic at the pool (5:1–15), followed by the miracle of the bread (6:1–14), the walking on the water (6:15–21), and the healing of the man born blind (9:1–41). The final sign in John is the raising of Lazarus from the dead (11:1–44). It was of this culminating sign that Jesus told Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" (11:40, emphasis added).
These Johannine signs are also accompanied by theological comments on their significance, either in the detailed conversations of the narrative itself (as in the raising of Lazarus and the healing of the blind man) or by the Lord’s own subsequent elaboration (as in the Bread of Life discourse).
Thus, each of these events is a transfiguration, a revelation of God’s glory in the activity of Jesus. In His life and ministry each sign becomes a window through which believers contemplate the divine glory, and Jesus is transfigured with light through John’s whole narrative.
In the midst of these seven signs, moreover, John inserts two lengthy conversations, one with Nicodemus (3:1–21) and the other with the Samaritan woman (4:5–42). These pursue the same theme of revelation that John elaborates in the stories of the signs.
At the end of the seven signs, John summarizes the tragedy of the unbelief with which the enemies of Jesus responded to His revelation (12:37–41). This summary appeals to the prophet Isaiah, who had foretold the hardness of heart of those who refused to believe. According to John, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him” (12:41, emphasis added). This transfigured Christ, that is to say, was already contained in the Old Testament Scriptures. Christ, as gloriously revealed in these signs, was the object of prophetic vision. Even Moses had spoken of Him (1:45; 5:46). For John, then, as for Luke, Peter, and Paul, the revelation of the divine glory in Christ is the key to the understanding of biblical prophecy.
The final unbelief leads directly to the Lord’s Passion. This is introduced by the great Last Supper discourse, which speaks also of the divine glory of Christ (13:31,32; 14:13; 17:5,22,24). In every scene of this gospel, then, from the Lord’s appearance at John’s baptismal site all the way through the Lord’s death and Resurrection (7:39; 12:16,23,28), the divine light appears among men. John records all these things that we readers too may "believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (20:31).
Friday, August 8
2 Peter 2:12-22: Of the two Old Testament accounts given of Balaam (Numbers 22-24 [cf. Joshua 24:9-10; Micah 6:5; Deuteronomy 23:3-6] and Numbers 31), only the second portrays him in a bad light, as responsible for tempting the Israelites into lust and apostasy in their encounter with the Midianites. For this sin he is killed in Israel’s war with Midian (cf. Numbers 31:8; Joshua 13:22).
Peter’s negative comments on Balaam in the present text are similar to those found in rabbinical sources and in the Jewish philosopher Philo. His foul counsel to the Midianites, whereby young Israelite men were brought to their spiritual peril, was taken by early Christian writers as symbolic of the deceptions of false teachers. One finds this perspective, not only here in Peter, but also in Jude 11 and Revelation 2:14. Balaam is the very image of the deceitful teacher, and hardly any other group is criticized more often or more severely in Holy Scripture than the false teacher. One finds this condemnation in Peter, Jude, James, Paul, and John.
In the present chapter the false teachers are singled out for deceiving the newly converted (verses 2,14,20-22), an especially vulnerable group of believers, who are not yet mature in solid doctrine. These latter, in the very fervor of their conversion, are often seduced by unreliable teachers who prey on their inexperience. In the mouths of false teachers, little distinction is made between liberty and libertinism (verse 19; 1 Peter 2:16; Romans 6:16; John 8:34), and they use the enthusiasm of the newcomer to change conversion to subversion.