2 Kefa Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern
1. Dear friends, I am writing you now this second letter; and in both letters I am trying to arouse you to wholesome thinking by means of reminders;
This is the second letter, 1 Kefa, of course, being the first. Reminders. See 1:12-13.
2. so that you will keep in mind the predictions of the holy prophets and the command given by the Lord and Deliverer through your emissaries.
Predictions (literally, "words spoken previously") of the holy prophets, either those of the Tanakh or recent New Covenant prophets (Ac 11:27&N). The rest of the chapter suggests the latter, even though at 1:19 "the prophetic Word" refers to the Tanakh.
Kefa regards the command given by the Lord and Deliverer through your emissaries as having as much authority over believers' lives as the predictions of the holy prophets, as is also clear from v. 15&N.
3. First, understand this: during the Last Days, scoffers will come, following their own desires
4. and asking, “Where is this promised ‘coming’ of his? For our fathers have died, and everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation.”
5. But, wanting so much to be right about this, they overlook the fact that it was by God’s Word that long ago there were heavens, and there was land which arose out of water and existed between the waters,
6. and that by means of these things the world of that time was flooded with water and destroyed.
7. It is by that same Word that the present heavens and earth, having been preserved, are being kept for fire until the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.
8. Moreover, dear friends, do not ignore this: with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day (Psalm 90:4).
9. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, he is patient with you; for it is not his purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins.
Kefa answers scoffers who, scorning the believer's conviction that Yeshua will return, ask, "Where is this promised 'coming' of his. heralding the Day of Judgment when the false teachers of Chapter 2 will be judged? For... everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation." A modern group of scoffers are persons who adhere to scientism, the system of thought which places science on a pedestal and effectively converts it into a theology. According to scientism the laws of nature are given and fixed, and God will not, or cannot, interfere with them or intervene in human history.
Such a statement transgresses the limits of what science itself has a right to say: and responsible scientists do not abuse their profession to spread such ideas, even if they hold them. According to the Bible, the "laws of science" are not forever fixed but are merely a current description of how God currently runs the universe. Science can discover present patterns of uniformity but can say nothing about whether God might suddenly change them. For example, any scientific argument for the evolution of man from lower animals must presuppose God's nonintervention; but science, by its own standards, has no way to know whether God did or did not create the human species by fiat. Nor can science determine whether it is a fact that it was by God's Word that long ago there were heavens (see MJ 11:3 and its note, which compares the "Big Bang" theory of cosmological origins), and there was land which arose out of water and existed between the waters, and that by means of these things — God's Word and water — the world of that time was flooded with water and destroyed (contrast v. 7, where the means are God's Word and fire). In vv. 5-6 the Greek allows other renderings: People don't overlook the fact but "wilfully forget," not that it was by means of these things, but that it was "through these [evil] ones," the people who lived before the Rood (2:5), that the world of that time was... destroyed.
Feelings run strong on issues of this kind. People want so much to be right that they overlook the fact which might make them alter their opinions — the wish is father to the thought. But the reason people feel so strongly is not mainly out of intellectual conviction but because they are following their own desires. They have a vested interest, usually in some sort of sin. A truly intellectual conviction can be countered with intellectual arguments and influenced by objective evidence. When people let their desires and feelings control their thinking, only a confrontation with those desires and feelings offers any prospect of attitudinal change. It is these the Psalmist refers to when he writes, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'"(Psalms 14:1,53:1). It was by God's Word, Yeshua (Yn 1:1, 14), that long ago there were heavens and... land which arose out of water (Genesis 1:6-13, Yn 1:3, Co 1:16, MJ 1:2). By that same Word, Yeshua. the present heavens and earth, having been preserved, are being kept, since it is he who "holds everything together" (Co 1:17, MJ 1:3). On the Day of the Lord they will come to an end (vv. 10-12), to be replaced by a "new heavens and a new earth" (v. 13. Rv 21:1-8&N).
But in this passage God as Creator is a less important theme than God as Judge. The present heavens and earth... are being kept for fire until the Day of Judgment (v. 7), which is the same as the Day of the Lord (v. I0&N) and the Day of God (v. 12). The scoffers,... following their own desires, do not want Yeshua or this promised "coming" of his (vv. 3-4), because they know that when it happens he will judge them. Kefa holds out for these people their one and only hope, repentance: The Lord... is patient...; for it is not his purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins (v. 9).
Water... fire. God promised never again to destroy the world by water (Genesis 9:15); but he also said, "Behold, Adonai will come with fire" (Isaiah 66:15). Immersion in water and fire are also contrasted at Mt 3:11-12&N.
Yeshua's second coming is intimated in the Tanakh. Isaiah 53:7-9 speaks of the Messiah's death: "Like a lamb brought to be slaughtered.... He was cut off out of the land of the living.... For they made his grave among the wicked, his tomb among the rich." But afterwards, in vv. 10-12, even though he has died, "he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the purpose of Adonai shall prosper in his hand.... Surely 1 will give him a portion with the great." Also Psalms 8 and 110 are shown in the New Testament to be speaking of the Messiah's return to earth after sitting at God's right hand until his enemies are brought into subjection beneath his feet (Mt 22:41^16; 1С 15:23-27; MJ 2:5-17, 7:17-8:1).
In the New Testament, all four Gospels report Yeshua's own promise to return (Mt 24:3, 27-30; Mk 14:61-62; Lk 21:27; Yn 14:3), as does Rv 22:7, 12, 20. As he left the Mount of Olives to be in heaven, two angels promised his talmidim, 'This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (Ac 1:11). All the New Testament letter-writers teach his second coming — Sha'ul (1 Th 4:13-18; 2 Th 2:1, 8-9; compare below, vv. 15-16), the author of Messianic Jews (MJ 9:28), Ya'akov (Ya 5:7-8), Yochanan (1 Yn 2:28), Y'hudah (Yd 21) and Kefa (here).
Moreover, the expectation was not only that he would come back, but that he would do so "soon" (Rv 22:6), even "very soon" (Rv 22:7). This is why Sha'ul could write, "There is not much time left;... the present scheme of things in this world won't last much longer" (1С 7:29, 31). When Kefa penned this letter, believers had waited thirty-five years or so for Yeshua to return; today the delay has been nearly two thousand years. Did prophecy fail?
Kefa's negative answer, intended not only to refute the false prophets but also to comfort his dear friends, is that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. This idea, taken from Psalm 90:4, is not a mere deus ex machina for shoring up a mistaken prediction. Rather, it has deep roots in Judaism, specifically in connection with dating the Messianic Era. A famous example is found in the Talmud, in Tractate Sanhedrin:
"Rav Kattina said, 'The world will exist for six thousand years, then for one thousand it will be desolate, as it is said, "The Lord alone will be exalted in that day"' (Isaiah 2:11). Abaye said, 'It will be desolate two thousand, as it is said, "After two days he will revive us; on the third day, he will raise us up, and we will live in his sight"' (Hosea 6:2).
"It has been taught in accordance with Rav Kattina, 'Just as every seventh year is a year of sh'mittah [letting the land lie fallow], so it is with the world: one thousand years out of seven are to be fallow — as proved by the following three texts taken together [in which the key word is "day"]: "The Lord alone will be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:11); "A psalm and song for the day of Shabhat" (Psalm 92:1), meaning the day that is entirely Shabbat; and, "For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past"' (Psalm 90:4).
"The school of Eliyahu teaches: 'The world exists for six thousand years — two thousand of them tohu ["void"]; two thousand, Toralv, and two thousand, the era of the Messiah. But because of our numerous iniquities many of these years have been lost.' "(Sanhedrin 97a-97b) According to Jewish tradition, there were 2,000 years without Torah — spiritual tohu — between the creation of Adam and the time when Abraham, aged 52, began convincing people to worship the one true God.
The second 2,000 years supposedly lasted from then until 172 years after the destruction of the second Temple, that is, until 244 C.E. That was the year 4000 by the Jewish calendar, but no significant event in Jewish history took place then. However, biblical chronology has a number of uncertainties, so that not all agree that the Jewish calendar accurately dates the biblical beginning of creation. James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh. Ireland, writing in the 17th century, placed the creation according to Genesis at 4004 B.C.E., exactly 4,000 years before Yeshua's supposed birthdate (see Mt 2:1N).
Concerning the third 2,000 years, a footnote to this passage in the Soncino English edition of the Talmud says, "Messiah will come within that period. He should have come at the beginning of [it]; the delay is due to our sins." It should be obvious that the Messiah who "should have come at the beginning" of the last 2,000-year period is in fact Yeshua, who did come then. The delay is not of his coming but of our recognizing him, and this delay is indeed "due to our sins." For more on predicting when the Messiah is to come, see Mt 24:36N.
Yet. as Kefa points out, there is a delay in his second coming; and this is, in a different sense, "due to our sins": The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise...; on the contrary, he is patient with you; for it is... his purpose that everyone should turn from his sins, literally, "that everyone should come to repentance" (see Mt 3:2N). On the Lord's patience in this regard, compare Ro 2:4&N. For more on the End Times generally see vv. 10&N, 12&N; Mt 24:1-39&NN; 1 Th 4:15b-17N; Rv 1:1N. For more on the Millennium in the New Testament and in Judaism see Rv 4:1N, 20:2-7&N.
10. However, the Day of the Lord will come “like a thief.” On that Day the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up.
Even though the second coming seems delayed, nevertheless the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, says Kefa. Like Sha'ui teaching on the same subject (1 Th 5:1-8) and Yochanan reporting his vision (Rv 3:3,16:15), he alludes to Yeshua's own words about the suddenness of his reappearance (Mt 24:35-44, Lk 12:35-49).
The Day of the Lord is spoken of frequently in the Tanakh; examples include Isaiah 13:9, 61:2; Jeremiah 46:10; Joel 1:15; Zephaniah 1:14-16; Malachi 3:2, 3:23(4:5)). There it is called the Day of Adonai, a day of judgment and vengeance, but also a day of salvation and comfort. The role of Yeshua the Messiah on that Day is taught in the New Testament (Yn 5:22-27, Ac 17:31, Ro 2M4-16&N), so that the Day of the Lord can as well refer to Yeshua as to the Father (since kudos can mean either "Lord" or "Adonai"; see Mt l:20&N, 7:21&N).
The cataclysmic picture of that Day which Kefa gives here and in vv. 7, 12 is founded in the Tanakh. The heavens will disappear (Isaiah 13:10, 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 3:4(2:31), 4:15(3:15); compare Mt 24:29, Rv 6:12-13) with a roar (Isaiah 29:5b-6), the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up (Isaiah 30:30, 66:15-16; Micah 1:4; Nahum 1:5-6; Zephaniah 1:18, 3:8; Psalm 97:3, 5). Compare also similar pictures in such Jewish writings, dating from before Yeshua, as Sibylline Oracles 3:83-92, 4:171-182; 1 Enoch 1:6, 52:6-9; 4 Ezra 13:10-11.
Both Kefa and Sha'ui agree that the purpose of prophecy is nol to titillate the ears of believers (2 Ti 4:3), or to make them speculate about "times and dates" (1 Th 5:1), but to make them ask what kind of people they should... be, and to answer, with Kefa, that they should lead holy and godly lives. Many believers preoccupy themselves with future events, seemingly enjoying the proclamation of apocalyptic doom as an escape from the command to concern themselves with living holy lives in the 'olam hazeh ("this world"), rather than pie in the sky in the 'olam haba ("the world to come").
11. Since everything is going to be destroyed like this, what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and godly lives,
12. as you wait for the Day of God and work to hasten its coming. That Day will bring on the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt from the heat;
As you wait for the day of God (which is the same as the "Day of the Lord," v. 10&N) and work to hasten its coming. The idea of working to hasten the coming of the Messiah is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, but it often surprises both Jews and Christians to find the concept in the New Testament as well. Many Christians would be glad to sit back passively and wait for the Day of God; it is hard to motivate them to work to hasten its coining; and learning they are supposed to surprises them. On the other hand, Jews who think of the New Testament as fatalistic and otherworldly are equally amazed to discover Kefa's orientation toward action and ethical behavior ("You should lead godly and holy lives," v. 11). Moreover, there is reciprocity: not only are we to hasten the End, but, as we learn from MJ 10:25b ("And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching"), the End hastens us! On the present verse Yechiel Lichtenstein writes:
"Kefa says the believers can hasten the Day. In the Talmud compare Sanhedrin 98a, which applies Isaiah 60:22 ('I, Adonai, will hasten it in its time') to the Messiah's coming:
'Rabbi Y'hoshua ben-L'vi pointed out a contradiction — "hasten it" implies before, not "in its time." Rabbi Y'hoshua's solution: God means, "If they deserve him, I will hasten it: but if they do not deserve him, his coming will be in its time."'"
See Mt 21:2-7N and MJ 3:7N for related citations from Sanhedrin 98a. Lichtenstein continues,
"Kefa also says in vv. 4-10 that at the second coming of the Messiah, heaven and earth will pass away. Yet in Revelation 20-21 there are a thousand years between the Messiah's coming and the remaking of heaven and earth, during which time he has to reign as king in Jerusalem." (Commentary to the New Testament, ad loc.)
The reason for the discrepancy is that Kefa is less concerned than Revelation 19-21 to set out End-Time events in chronological sequence. See 1 Th 4:15b-17N.
What work can believers do to hasten the Messiah's coming? Here is the answer of Joseph Hoffman Cohn, son of the founder of the American Board of Missions to the Jews (now Chosen People Ministries), written in 1921:
"Many of His true children are earnestly looking for the early return of our Lord, and they are putting forth every effort to hasten His coming. To all such we would say that there is no surer way of hastening this blessed fulfillment of His promise than by evangelizing the Jews. The reasons for this are many, but... of special interest here... [is that] it was only to Jews that our Lord said in Matthew 23:39, 'For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.' Which, if we interpret Scripture aright, means to us that whenever the Jews as a nation accept Him as Lord and Savior, then He will come. And who does not long for His appearing? And who does not realize that unless He does soon appear, this world is doomed to a horrible cataclysm the like of which has not been duplicated in history?" (Reprinted in The Chosen People, June 1984, p. 12)
In non-Messianic Judaism, "hastening the end" has a somewhat different flavor. According to Chapter 7 of Raphael Patai' s The Messiah Texts, it means forcing God's hand. A number of legends recounted there tell how Hasidim and Kabbalists impatient for the Messiah tried to compel him to come by means of "the powers of saint-liness they had acquired by years of ruthless mortification of their flesh." In each case, of course, they were prevented — by death, by Satan, or by some sin which they committed.
In one of these legends — as retold by Zalman Shazar, third president of the State of Israel — the 14th-century rabbi Joseph Delia Reina ("of the Queen") attempts, with the help of the prophet Elijah, to destroy Satan (disguised as a black dog) by using God's secret names. But he doesn't follow Elijah's instructions to the letter, and thus fails in his task. Later he goes astray, having illicit sexual relations with none other than the Queen of France (hence his name), and ultimately commits suicide. (The Messiah Texts, pp. 68-73)
In a story by the famous Hasidic teacher, Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1772-1811), Satan, disguised as a merchant, prevents a rabbi's son from meeting with a great tzaddik (holy man). In the end the son dies. The rabbi again encounters the merchant, who tells him, "Now I have dispatched your son.... Had he and the tzciddik met and joined forces, the Messiah would have come." (See also Ya 5:16N.) Other stories tell of Hasidic rabbis who decide during their lifetime that they will refuse to enter heaven after death unless the Messiah agrees to come.
"Since, in the Hasidic world view, merits must without fail get their reward, such a refusal on the part of a great saint causes an intolerable disruption in the heavenly order of things, which must instantly be remedied by letting the Messiah commence his mission. But this pious blackmail, too. is doomed to failure. 'Those in heaven' manage to play a trick on the soul of the saint and entice it to enter heaven against its will." (The Messiah Texts, p. 66)
In still other stories, such as the one quoted in Lk 15:15N, hasidim seeking to hasten the end are given the opportunity of appearing personally before the Holy One, blessed be he, to present their petition; but instead of seizing the moment to request redemption they ask for lesser benefits.
Also in the category of "hastening the end" is the tradition that if the whole Jewish people would keep Shabbat properly just once, the Messiah would come. It is based on a passage in Jeremiah:
"...if you diligently hearken to me, says Adonai, to bring no burden in through the gates of this city on Shabbat, but instead hallow Shabbat by not doing work, then into the gates of this city shall enter kings and princes sitting on the throne of David...."(Jeremiah 17:24-25)
And finally, again the Talmud:
"Rav said, 'All the forecast dates [for redemption] have come and gone. Now the matter [of when the Messiah will come] depends only on repentance and good deeds.'"(Sanhedrin 97b).
13. but we, following along with his promise, wait for new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22) in which righteousness will be at home.
New heavens and a new earth. See Revelation 21-22 for a description of them.
14. Therefore, dear friends, as you look for these things, do everything you can to be found by him without spot or defect and at peace.
15. And think of our Lord’s patience as deliverance, just as our dear brother Sha’ul also wrote you, following the wisdom God gave him.
16. Indeed, he speaks about these things in all his letters. They contain some things that are hard to understand, things which the uninstructed and unstable distort, to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
This is the only place in the New Testament where one of its authors refers to another of its authors as such. In fact, with the phrase, "the other Scriptures," Kefa gives Sha'ul's letters the status of Holy Writ.
Kefa commends Sha'ul as our dear brother; there is no conflict between them, some nineteenth-century scholars to the contrary notwithstanding. It is possible, however, says Kefa, to distort what Sha'ul writes. The most common distortion is in the direction of antinomianism; this happens especially when Sha'ul's letters are read apart from their Tanakh and Gospels-Acts background. Much of this commentary is occupied with correcting some of these distortions.
17. But you, dear friends, since you know this in advance, guard yourselves; so that you will not be led away by the errors of the wicked and fall from your own secure position.
18. And keep growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah. To him be the glory, both now and forever! Amen.
The final advice is to keep growing in the grace and knowledge, not of Sha'ul (vv. 15-16) or Kefa (1:13-19), but of our Lord and Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah. Compare 1С 1:12&N.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3