On the JST of 2 Peter

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF 2 PETER

Kevin Barney

1. 2 Peter 1:19

We have also therefore a more sure knowledge of the word of prophecy; whereunto to which word of prophecy ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that which shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

    The verse begins with the Greek conjunction kai (rendered “also” in the KJV), which can be taken as continuative (NET and several other translations have “moreover,” CEB has “in addition”). The JST uses the adverb “therefore” (meaning “in consequence of that”) in a similar way to explain that the source of this sure knowledge of prophecy was a result of what was described in the immediately preceding verse (v. 18): “And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” Peter himself was a witness to this.  ISV similarly uses the word “therefore” here. “More sure” is a translation of bebaioteron, comparative of the adjective bebaios, meaning “reliable, firm, well-founded, confirmed, verified.” The JST reasonably characterizes what has been so strongly confirmed as “knowledge.” “Whereunto” is simplified to “to which” and the antecedent (the “word of prophecy”) is restated to be explicit and avoid confusion. 

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

2. 2 Peter 1:20

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture scriptures is given of any private interpretation will of man.

    KJV “of the scripture” is an incorrect translation, as the Greek has no definite article there, so it is not “of the scripture” (referring to some specific scripture) but “of scripture” generically, a nuance that the JST reflects by pluralizing the word to “scriptures.” (Many translations capitalize “Scripture” to help make this clear.) The word “interpretation” is a translation of Greek epilusis, which is a hapax legomenon in the Bible (meaning it occurs in only this one place). “Interpretation” is probably the wrong nuance; better is the NET “No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination.” That is, a “human source,” a nuance which the JST “will of man” seems to reflect.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

3. 2 Peter 2:1

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable abominable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

    Only a small handful of very old translations in the KJV tradition continue to use “damnable” here. Modern translations mostly use something like “destructive” or “ruinous” (the word apoleia is actually a noun and not an adjective, so literally “heresies of destruction”; this is the same Greek word as that rendered “destruction” at the end of the verse). JST “abominable” means “morally detestable” from the preposition ab + the root omen. The JST gives the expression a slightly different nuance, but still appropriately negative.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

4. 2 Peter 2:3

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation destruction slumbereth not.

    The Greek word at issue here is the same Greek word used twice in the previous verse, apoleia, which indeed means “destruction” as the JST correctly reflects it here and as commonly used in modern translations.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

5. 2 Peter 3:1

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:

    This change is based on the italics. The word “both” is not literally in the text, and the italics give the impression that the KJV translators were presumptuous to think that Peter meant to refer the reader to both of his letters to them as opposed to this second letter specifically. But the relative “which” in Greek is plural, so while it is true there is no word in the text corresponding to English “both,” it is clear that Peter meant to refer to both this letter and his previous one. This misunderstanding is a good illustration as to why the KJV practice of using italics to reflect words necessary in English but not specifically in the text was a bad idea.

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

6. 2 Peter 3:3

Knowing this first, that in the last days there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

    The KJV translates the word order literally, but for stylistic reasons many modern translations move “in the last days” forward in the sentence (as does the JST), such as the NET: “Above all, understand this: In the last days, blatant scoffers will come, being propelled by their own evil urges.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

7. 2 Peter 3:4

Denying the Lord Jesus Christ, and And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things must continue as they were are, and have continued as they are from the beginning of the creation.

    In order to understand the following section of text, we must first grasp the Greek philosophical position against which Peter is arguing here. I will quote a note on this from Jerome H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 231 under the caption “All Has Remained the Same”:

    “Some ancient thinkers acclaimed the world ‘eternal in the past’ (agenetos) and ‘imperishable in the future’ (aphthartos). For example, Plutarch attributes to Epicurus this sense of the complete eternity of the world: ‘The universe is infinite, ungenerated [ageneton] and imperishable [aphtharton]’ (Adv. Colotem 1114 A). This may be found frequently in the writings of Aristotle (de Caelo 1.12 282 a 25) and Philo (Aet. 7, 10, 12, 20, 69, 93; Somn. 2.283). Although formal discussions of cosmology abound among ancient thinkers, the issue here is no mere debate over abstract philosophical ideas, but a challenge to the traditional doctrine of God as well. Thinkers such as Epicurus denied divine providence, saying that God is not moved in any way, either to create the world or to judge it. The opponents of 2 Peter mock certain doctrines about God: (a) the Lord’s coming, (b) the slowness of God’s judgment, and in fact, (c) the very idea of divine judgment (2:1, 3). Hence, God’s power is challenged once more by the mockery of divine power to act in the physical world as well as the world of human affairs.”

“Denying the Lord Jesus Christ” is simply descriptive of the following text. The italicized “were” leads Smith to put this text in the present tense, but Smith then immediately follows that with a perfect (“and have continued,” including the past through the present) that correctly reflects the position of the opponents. The NET similarly expresses this with a perfect (i.e., “have continued”) with “all things have continued as they were [literally “thus”].” Peter is speaking against ancient thinkers who proclaimed the world “eternal in the past” and “imperishable in the future.” The idea of the Greek philosophers was that the world was completely eternal and uncorruptible and certainly would never perish. Although the Greek text does not literally have a perfect, many modern translations join the JST and NET in using a perfect here as a way to explain accurately the position of the opponents.

    Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-2 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Suspicion of Italicized Text)

8. 2 Peter 3:5

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old the heavens, and the earth standing in the water and out of the water and in the water , were created by the word of God:

    The text means to say that the heavens and the earth did not exist from all eternity per the Greek philosophical view, but in fact were created by the word of God. The JST uses the word “created” to make explicit what is implicit here, and moves the statement of creation from near the beginning to the end to be more emphatic.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

9. 2 Peter 3:6

Whereby And by the word of God, the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

    Initial “whereby” means to refer the reader back to the immediately preceding verse; the JST to be more explicit restates the key point from that verse, that the heaven and the earth were created by the word of God.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

10. 2 Peter 3:7

But the heavens, and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store by the same word, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

    This earth not only had a beginning but, contra the philosophers, it will have an end. The JST makes a stylistic change, moving the agency clause from preceding “are kept in store” to following it. This change does not in any way affect the meaning of the passage.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

11. 2 Peter 3:8

But, concerning the coming of the Lord, beloved, be not I would not have you ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

    The JST makes clear the point of understanding a thousand years as being but a single day from the Lord’s perspective; yes, the Lord will come, but at his own time, which we experience differently from a mortal perspective. The JST also has a tendency to avoid the verb “be” as an imperative, so it paraphrases “be not ignorant” with “I would not have you ignorant.”  

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

12. 2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise and coming, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    The addition of “and coming” is simply explanatory of what promise the text is talking about. The JST also consistently modernizes the archaism “to us-ward” to “toward us.”

        Paradigm Classification A-1 and A-2 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Suspicion of Italicized Text)

13. 2 Peter 3:10

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall shake, and the earth also shall tremble, and the mountains shall melt, and pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt be filled with fervent heat, the earth also shall be filled, and the corruptible works that which are therein shall be burned up.

    The JST is fleshing this passage out by assimilating to Old Testament imagery, such as Amos 9:13 “hills shall melt,” Isaiah 13:13 “shake the heavens,” Jeremiah 10:10 “earth shall tremble” and Numbers 14:21 “earth shall be filled.”

    Paradigm Classification A-4 (Assimilation)

14. 2 Peter: 3:11

Seeing If then that all these things shall be dissolved destroyed, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation conduct and godliness,

    The first change from “seeing” to “if” is based on the italics. Most modern translations join the JST in rendering the verb luo with “destroyed” rather than the somewhat odd “dissolved.” English “conversation” is an archaism for “manner of life, conduct,” which the JST properly modernizes here.

    Paradigm Classifications A-1, A-2 and A-3 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text, Suspicion of Italicized Text, and Modernization)

15. 2 Peter 3:12

Looking for and hasting unto unto, and preparing for the day of the coming of the day of God Lord, wherein the corruptible things of the heavens being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements mountains shall melt with fervent heat?

    Jacobian “hasting” means “hastening,” but the Greek verb could also be taken in the sense of “striving for,” which is close to JST “preparing for.” The change from the “day of God” to the “day of the Lord” reflects the more common idiomatic expression. Rather than the heavens themselves being on fire, the JST makes it the “corruptible things of heaven” and not heaven as a whole. The change from “elements shall melt” to “mountains shall melt” again seems to be an assimilation to Amos 9:13 “the hills shall melt.”

    Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-4 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Assimilation)

16. 2 Peter 3:13

Nevertheless, if we, shall endure, we shall be kept according to his promise,. And we look for a new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

    The JST breaks this one sentence into two. The second sentence reflects the substance of the original verse. The first sentence makes it so that the promise is not specifically one of a new heaven and a new earth, but the promise is directed to human beings who endure in righteousness.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

17. 2 Peter 3:15

And account, that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you, the long-suffering and waiting of our Lord, for salvation;

    The expression “that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” is cryptic. The JST avoids the italicized “that” and “is” in the expression, and moves it to the end of the verse, thus making it an expression communicated from Paul’s recent letter to them. The JST also hyphenates “long-suffering” and adds a synonym “waiting” to be clear about what it means.

    Paradigm Classifications A-1, A-2 and A-3 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text, Suspicion of Italicized Text, and Modernization)

18. 2 Peter 3:16

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that who are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

    This is a characteristic updating in the JST, replacing “that” with “who” where the antecedent is a person.

    Paradigm Classification A-3 (Modernization)

19. 2 Peter 3:17

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before the things which are coming, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

    This revision was based on the italics; “know these things before” becomes “know before the things which are coming.”

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

20. 2 Peter 3:18

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

    This change was based on the italics. There is no need to repeat the preposition “in”; compare NET: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

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