From:  Over 50 Interpreters Explain Second Peter and Jude             Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2018



List of All Sources Quoted At End of File






CHAPTER 2:12-22




2:12                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But these men, like brute beasts, created (with their natural instincts)

WEB:              But these, as unreasoning creatures, born natural animals to be taken and destroyed, speaking evil in matters about which they are ignorant, will in their destroying surely be destroyed,

Young’s:         and these, as irrational natural beasts, made to be caught and destroyed -- in what things they are ignorant of, speaking evil -- in their destruction shall be destroyed

Conte (RC):    Yet truly, these others, like irrational

beasts, naturally fall into traps and into ruin by

blaspheming whatever they do not understand, and

so they shall perish in their corruption,


2:12                 But these, as natural brute beasts [unreasoning animals, NASB].  “They walk by sight, and not by faith,” and judge of things according to their senses; as these represent things proved esteemed [in their own eyes].  [5]

                        The word rendered “natural” (which, however, is lacking in several manuscripts), means “as they are by nature,” following the bent of their natural appetites and passions.  The idea is, that they exercised no more restraint over their passions than beasts do over their propensities.  They were entirely under the dominion of their natural appetites, and did not allow their reason or conscience to exert any constraint.  The word rendered “brute,” means without reason; irrational.  Man has reason, and should allow it to control his passions; the brutes have no rational nature, and it is to be expected that they will act out their propensities without restraint.  Man, as an animal, has many passions and appetites resembling those of the brute creation, but he is also endowed with a higher nature, which is designed to regulate and control his inferior propensities, and to keep them in subordination to the requirements of law.  [31]

                        As animals are trapped through their eagerness to satisfy their appetite, so self-indulgence betrayed these men to their ruin.  [45]

made to be taken and destroyed.  If a man sinks himself to the level of brutes, he must expect to be treated like brutes; and as wild and savage animals--lions, and panthers, and wolves, and bears--are regarded as dangerous, and as “made to be taken and destroyed,” so the same destiny must come upon men who make themselves like them.  We are not to suppose that this teaches that the only object which God had in view in making wild animals was that they might be destroyed; but that people so regard them.  [31]

Or:  Literally, born naturally for capture and destruction.  “Natural” comes in better here as a kind of adverb than as an additional epithet to beasts.  The force of it is that these animals cannot help themselves—it is their nature to rush after what will prove their ruin; but the false teachers voluntarily seek their own destruction against nature.  [46]

speak evil of the things that they understand not.  Do not rightly comprehend. [14]

Of objects whose worth and value they cannot appreciate.  This is no uncommon thing among people, especially in regard to the works and ways of God.  [31]

The senseless and malignant reviling indulged in by these men in matters which they are incapable of understanding, and in which ignorance should command silence, shows how like they are to the irrational beasts.  And as they resemble these in their mode of life, Peter goes on to say, they shall resemble them in their destiny.  [51]

and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.  We cannot improve on the English rendering, but it fails to give the emphasis which is found in the Greek from the repetition of the same root both in the noun and the verb.  Literally the clause runs, they shall be corrupted in and by their corruption, i.e. in Paul’s words, of which these are in fact the echo, “they that sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8).  [38]

Two interpretations:  Many good interpreters give the ethical meaning to the word “destruction” here.  In this case the sense will be, as the A.V. gives it, “shall utterly perish in their own corruption,” or (as it is more fully put, e.g., by Alford), shall go on practicing the corrupt life to which they have sold themselves with increasing appetite until they are themselves destroyed by it.  The idea, however, is rather this:  in the destruction which they bring upon others, they shall yet bring destruction upon themselves. So Humphry (Comm. on Revised Version, p. 451) makes it = while causing destruction to others, shall accomplish their own destruction; with which non-ethical sense of the verb and noun he compares (with Wordsworth) 1 Corinthians 3:17, “If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy.”  [51]



2:13                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     being doomed to receive a requital for their guilt. They reckon it pleasure to feast daintily in broad daylight. They are spots and blemishes, while feeding luxuriously at their love-feasts, and banqueting with you.

WEB:              receiving the wages of unrighteousness; people who count it pleasure to revel in the daytime, spots and blemishes, reveling in their deceit while they feast with you;

Young’s:         about to receive a reward of unrighteousness, pleasures counting the luxury in the day, spots and blemishes, luxuriating in their deceits, feasting with you,

Conte (RC):    receiving the reward of injustice,

the fruition of valuing the delights of the day:

defilements and stains, overflowing with self-

indulgences, taking pleasure in their feasts

with you,


2:13                 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness [suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong, NASB].  Interpreting based on the KJV rendering:  The appropriate recompense of their wickedness [is] in the future world.  Such people do not always receive the due recompense of their deeds in the present life; and as it is a great and immutable principle that all will be treated, under the government of God, as they deserve, it follows that there must be punishment in the future state.  [31]

                        Interpreting based upon a NASB style rendering:  “Suffering wrong as the hire of wrong-doing.”  The Revised Version imitates a play upon words in the Greek—adikoumenoi, “suffering wrong;” adikia, “wrong-doing.”  The natural meaning of the Revised Version as English is—Having done wrong to others, deceived, cheated, robbed, they incur the retribution of being similarly wronged themselves.  But this can scarcely be the meaning of the Greek; the whole context is concerned with the total ruin of these men by Divine punishment, and there is nothing to lead up to the special and limited idea of the suffering of sinners at the hands of fellow sinners.   (On the other hand, what better short term punishment from an angry God than that that those who act to hurt others are themselves harmed by just as twisted individuals?  Today the adage would be “what goes around comes around.”  The point would be that people receive punishment not only at the final assize but in this world as well.  [rw])

                        Again, in verse 15, “the hire of wrong-doing” means the gratification and advantage which men hope to attain from sin.  Hence we should rather translate “being defrauded of the hire,” &c., i.e. sin promises pleasures, which its votaries fail to obtain.

                        Another reading is, “being about to receive the hire,” &c., “hire” being used sarcastically; they sinned for hire, with a view to pleasure, and will receive hire, but it will be destruction.  Cf. Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.”  The manuscripts, &c., are divided between the two readings, and neither gives a very good sense.  [45]        

as they that count it pleasure to riot [carouse, NKJV] in the day time.  Nighttime is the most “natural” setting for that which conscience or society condemns as evil.  When one does so “in the day time,” then one has unquestionably thrown overboard any possible impediments to self-indulgence.  [rw]

In the East it was a shameful disgrace to be drunken in the daytime.  So 1 Thessalonians 5:7 describes the custom: “They that be drunken are drunken in the night;” but rioting by day would be a pleasure to these heretical profligates.  [39]

Or:  Probably “in a day” is the equivalent of “to a day,” and the sense is “count the revel of a day a pleasure,” with reference to the transient nature of the pleasure.  [16]

As Vulgate and Calvin, “the luxury which is but for a day”: so Hebrews 11:25, “the pleasures of sin for a season”; that is, to be their chief good and highest enjoyment.  [20]

spots they are and blemishes.  That is, they are like a dark spot on a pure garment, or like a deformity on an otherwise beautiful person.  They are a scandal and disgrace to the Christian profession.  [31]   

We have the negatives of these two terms in the description of the lamb “without blemish and without spot” in 1 Peter 1:19.  [51]

spots.  [Greek word] only here and Ephesians 5:27.  Compare the kindred  participle spotted (Jude 23), and defileth (James 3:6).  [2]

blemishes.  The term, which means properly blame, and then blemish, occurs only here.  Its verb [form] is found in 2 Corinthians 6:3; 2 Corinthians 8:20.  [51]

sporting themselves with [carousing in, NKJV] their own deceivings deceptions, NKJV].  They blatantly and brazenly act this way no matter how extreme and destructive their agenda may be.  They have rationalized away their guilt and, perhaps, even transformed what should be ashamed of in their agenda into things they are quite proud of.  They are not only the most brazen of sinners, but they act as if it is something to be proud of.  [rw]

while they feast with you.  In Jude these persons are designated as “hidden rocks” in the love feasts (verse 12).  [16]

They don’t even try to hide these attitudes and behavior from you.  They do it right in front of you!  Don’t you have eyes to see and grasp what is going on?  [rw]



2:14                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Their very eyes are full of adultery--being eyes which never cease from sin. These men set traps to catch unstedfast souls, their own hearts being well trained in greed. They are fore-doomed to God's curse!

WEB:              having eyes full of adultery, and who can't cease from sin; enticing unsettled souls; having a heart trained in greed; children of cursing;

Young’s:         having eyes full of adultery, and unable to cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having an heart exercised in covetousnesses, children of a curse,

Conte (RC):    having eyes full of adultery and of

incessant offenses, luring unstable souls, having a

heart well-trained in avarice, sons of curses!


2:14                 Having eyes.  Another illustration of Peter’s emphasis on sight.  It is the instrument of evil no less than of good.  [2]

full of adultery.  It properly signifies, their having an adulteress continually before their eyes.  [17]

The word “full” is designed to denote that the corrupt passion referred to had wholly seized and occupied their minds.  The eye was, as it were, full of this passion; it saw nothing else but some occasion for its indulgence; it expressed nothing else but the desire.  [31]

The phrase is probably connected with a recollection of our Lord’s words as to the sin of looking on a woman, to lust after her, being equivalent to adultery (Matthew 5:28).  [38]

and that cannot cease from sin.  They have destroyed their own free will.  God did not “make them that way.”  Their constant indulgence while refusing to attempt the uncomfortable path of moral change doomed them to it—not as the proverbial “wild oats” of rebellious youth, but as a permanent lifestyle.  [rw]

Or:  [Cannot cease] not for want of natural power, but of disposition. [14]

The expression here does not mean that they have no natural ability to cease from sin, or that they are impelled to it by any physical necessity, but only that they are so corrupt and unprincipled that they certainly will sin always.  [31]

beguiling [enticing, NKJV].  The word rendered beguiling means to bait, to entrap, and would be applicable to the methods practiced in hunting.  Here it means that it was one of their arts to place specious allurements before those who were known not to have settled principles or firmness, in order to allure them to sin.  Compare 2 Timothy 3:6.  [31]

unstable souls.   Those who are not strong in Christian principle, or who are naturally fluctuating and irresolute.  [31]

unstable.  Not firmly established in faith and piety.  [20]

an heart they have exercised [trained, ESV] with covetous practices [in greed, ESV].  For their hearts had continual practiced in this vice.  In verses 13 and 14 three kinds of wrong-doing are spoken of:  (1)  luxurious living; (2) licentiousness; (3) covetousness—and all these feed one another.  [50]

cursed children.  By calling them cursed or execrable children, he may be understood to mean, that they were so either actively or passively, that is, that they brought a curse with them wherever they went, or that they deserved a curse.  [35]

The Apostle falls back on the old Hebrew idiom of expressing character by the idea of sonship.  So we have “children of obedience in 1 Peter 1:14.  “Children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2).  The “son of perdition” (John 17:12).  [38]



2:15                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Forsaking the straight road, they have gone astray, having eagerly followed in the steps of Balaam, the son of Beor, who was bent on securing the wages of unrighteousness.

WEB:              forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of wrongdoing;

Young’s:         having forsaken a right way, they did go astray, having followed in the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who a reward of unrighteousness did love,

Conte (RC):    Abandoning the straight path, they

wandered astray, having followed the way of Balaam,

 the son of Beor, who loved the wages of iniquity.


2:15                 Which have forsaken the right way.  The straight path of honesty and integrity.  Religion is often represented as a straight path, and to do wrong is to go out of that path in a crooked way.  [31]

                        There may possibly be a reference to “the way of truth” in 2 Peter 2:2 and to the general use of “the way” for the sum and substance of the doctrine of Christ.  It may be noted that the charge thus brought against the false teachers by Peter is identical with that which Paul brings against Elymas of “perverting the right ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10).  We may see in the sorcerer of Cyprus, as well as in that of Samaria, a representative instance of the character which both Apostles condemn.  [38]

                        In the Shepherd of Hermas (I. Vis. III. vii. 1) we have “Who have believed indeed, but through their doubting have forsaken their true way.”  [46]

and are gone astray.  If one has “forsaken” the right path, by definition one has automatically gotten lost and “gone astray.”  [rw]  

following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor.  His conduct and manner of life.  His history is given in Numbers 22:1-24:25; 31:8-16; Joshua 13:22.  [50]

[They had done so:]  1.  In respect of their false doctrine: for, as Balaam was disobedient to God, and, against his command, went to Balak; so these men forsook the way of truth prescribed by God in his word.  2.  In respect of their wicked lives: Balaam taught Balak to entice the children of Israel to commit fornication, and eat things sacrificed unto idols, Revelation 2:14; and these taught men to commit lewdness, and indulge themselves in their sensualities.  3.  Chiefly in respect of their covetousness, as follows [a few words later in this verse].  [28]

who loved.  Earnestly desired, though he did not dare to take, the reward of unrighteousness--the money which Balak would have given him for cursing Israel.  [15]

the wages of unrighteousness.  After God had told him that he should not go with the elders of Moab and Midian, and after God had told him that the people were blessed by Him, he yet desired the messengers to tarry one night more that he might know what the Lord would say unto him further, evidently desiring that God would reverse His blessing in order that he might receive Balak’s rewards of divination.  [41]


                        In depth:  Balaam’s attitude was one of not cursing Israel—unless he could find a way around God’s prohibition.  The gaining of a large financial reward was preeminent in his mind [31].  That Balaam, though he professed to be influenced by a supreme regard to the will of God (Numbers 22:18, 38), was really influenced by the desire of reward, and was willing to prostitute his great office to secure such a reward, there can be no doubt.

                        (1)  The elders of Moab and of Midian came to Balaam with “the rewards of divination in their hand,” Numbers 22:7, and with promises from Balak of promoting him to great honor, if he would curse the children of Israel, Numbers 22:17.

                        (2)  Balaam was disposed to go with them, and was restrained from going at once only by a direct and solemn prohibition from the Lord, Numbers 22:12-13.

                        (3)  Not withstanding this solemn prohibition, and not withstanding he said to the ambassadors from Balak that he would do only as God directed, though Balak should give him his house full of silver and gold, Numbers 22:18, yet he did not regard the matter as settled, but proposed to them that they should wait another night, with the hope that the Lord would give a more favorable direction in reference to their request, thus showing that his heart was in the service which they required, and that his inclination was to avail himself of their offer, Numbers 22:19.

                        (4)  When he did obtain permission to go, it was only to say that which the Lord should direct him to say, Numbers 22:20; but he went with a perverse heart, with a secret wish to comply with the desire of Balak, and with a knowledge that he was doing wrong, Numbers 22:34, and was restrained from uttering the curse which Balak desired only by an influence from above which he could not control.  Balaam was undoubtedly a wicked man, and was constrained by a power from on high to utter sentiments which God meant should be uttered, but which Balaam would never have expressed of his own accord.


                        This attitude of seeking financial gain by someway subverting Israel—yet without technically violating any explicit command of God—continued even after his unwilling blessing of Israel [47]:  “And though he so far obeyed God that he blessed the Israelites, it was no dictate of his heart, but a suggestion of the Spirit of God, which he could not resist.  For that his love of the hire, and his inclination to curse the Israelites continued, he showed by his behavior afterward, when, to bring the curse of God upon the Israelites, he counseled Balak to entice them to fornication and idolatry by means of the Midianitish women, Number 31:16; Revelation 2:14:  in giving which advice he acted most unrighteously, knowing it to be evil, and that God’s purpose concerning the Israelites was irrevocable, Numbers 23:19, &c.  “He therefore gave the advice, not in the persuasion that it would be effectual, but merely to gain the promised hire, which therefore is called the hire of unrighteousness.  In these things the false teachers, who, to draw money from their disciples, encouraged them by their doctrine to commit all manner of lewdness, might well be said to follow in the way of Baalam; and their doctrine might justly be called, the doctrine of Balaam.” Macknight.


                        In depth:  Speculation on why Balaam’s father is described as the son of Bosor instead of the son of Beor [38].  The form Bosor, instead of Beor, may represent the mode of pronouncing the guttural letter that enters into the Hebrew name (ע) which prevailed in Galilee, analogous to that which in other languages has turned ἐπτὰ into septem, ὕλη into sylva, and the like.  On this supposition, Peter’s use of the form presents a coincidence with his betraying himself by his Galilean dialect in Matthew 26:73. The characteristic feature of that dialect was its tendency to soften gutturals.

                        Another explanation, not, however, incompatible with this, has been found in the conjecture that as the Hebrew word Bashar signifies “flesh,” the Apostle may have used the form of the name which conveyed the thought that Balaam was “a son of the flesh,” carnal and base of purpose.  Like explanations have been given of the change of Sychem (= a portion) into Sychar (= a lie) (John 4:5), of Beelzebub (= lord of flies) into Beelzebul (= lord of dung) (Matthew 10:25, 12:24).  If we accept the explanation given by many commentators of the name Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6) as being a Greek equivalent for Balaamites, there would be reason for thinking that the prominence given to his history at this period of the Apostolic age led men, after the manner of the time, to find even in the syllables of his name a paronomasia which made it ominous and significant of evil.



2:16                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But he was rebuked for his transgression: a dumb ass spoke with a human voice and checked the madness of the Prophet.

WEB:              but he was rebuked for his own disobedience. A mute donkey spoke with a man's voice and stopped the madness of the prophet.

Young’s:         and had a rebuke of his own iniquity -- a dumb ass, in man's voice having spoken, did forbid the madness of the prophet.

Conte (RC):    Yet truly, he had a correction of his

madness: the mute animal under the yoke, which,

by speaking with a human voice, forbid the folly

of the prophet.


2:16                 But was rebuked.  Criticized; condemned.  He should already have “been on his own case.”  Could he have been this oblivious to right and wrong?  Or had he crushed any reservations out of the anticipation for possible financial gain?  Whichever the case, God acted to make sure that he had no further hiding place.  [rw]

                        Literally, But had a conviction of his own transgression—i.e., was convicted of it, or rebuked for it.  His transgression was that, although as a prophet he knew the blessedness of Israel, and although God gave him leave to go only on condition of his blessing Israel, he went still cherishing a hope of being able to curse, and so winning Balak’s promised reward.  [46]

for his iniquity.  Those wanting to use him to hurt God’s people had their own condemnation.  This was uniquely “his.”  He was willing to let himself be used.  [rw]

the dumb ass speaking with man's voice.  A strong antithesis is intended here.  A senseless ass had to rebuke the senselessness of a prophet.  [34]

Literally, a dumb beast of burden.  The same word is rendered “ass” in Matthew 21:5, in the phrase “foal of an ass.”  In Palestine the ass was the most common beast of burden, horses being rare, so that in most cases “beast of burden” would necessarily mean “ass.”  [46]

Effort to prove that the donkey spoke through actions rather than explicit words:  “The apostle does not mean that the ass forbade Balaam, in so many words, to go with the princes of Moab; but that her unwillingness to proceed in the journey, her falling down under him rather than go on, her complaint in man’s language of his smiting her three times for not going on, and her saying, Was I ever wont to do so to thee, were things, so extraordinary, especially her speaking, that Balaam, from that miracle at least, ought to have understood that the whole was a rebuke from God of his foolish project.”  [47]  Interesting scenario, but it seems very hard to reconcile this with Peter’s assertion that the animal was “speaking with a man’s voice” since, in this reconstruction, there was no voice actually speaking.  One conceivably could argue that in order to summarize “speaking through actions” in only a few words, that one might come up with “speaking with [a] man’s voice,” but it still seems a stretch.  [rw]

forbad.  The “forbade” of the A.V. does not fairly represent the sense of the original.  The meaning is prevented, checked, or, as the R.V. very happily gives it, “stayed.”  The offence was interdicted, but not left uncommitted.  [51]

the madness.  Namely, his endeavor to contradict the will of God, which might well be called madness, because it could have no effect but to bring the curse of God upon himself.  [47] 

The word here rendered “madness” means, properly, being aside from a right mind.  It is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. It is used here to denote that Balaam was engaged in an enterprise which indicated a headstrong disposition; an acting contrary to reason and sober sense.  [31]

of the prophet.  That Balaam was indeed a prophet of God, and well acquainted with his revelations, the history in the book of Numbers will not suffer us to doubt:  for those words, “I cannot go beyond the commandment of my God, to do good or evil” (Numbers 22:18), show he was not unacquainted with the true God (see also 24:4); though after, through a covetous desire of gain, he used enchantments.  [4]  

The scenario that the cursing/blessing of Israel was the only time that Balaam actually had a genuine communication from Jehovah:  Though Balaam is termed a soothsayer (Joshua 13:22), and is said to have used enchantments (Numbers 24:1), Peter justly calls him a prophet, on account of God’s speaking to him, and giving him a very remarkable prophecy, recorded [in] Numbers 24:15.  However, being a very bad man, he may often have feigned communications with the Deity to draw money from the multitude.  Perhaps the only communications he ever had with God were on this occasion; and they may have been granted to him, that by uttering them in the hearing of Balak, and of the princes of Moab and Midian, the coming of one out of Jacob, who was to have dominion, might be known to the nations of the East.  [47]


                        In depth:  The logic of what the donkey said [41].  The reader is, of course, aware of the objections which have been made to this account, and the ridicule which has been cast upon it.  Now if the ass had been made to utter some revelation, or to prophesy, or to disclose something which was utterly above the range of a brute creature, there might be something in the objections urged, but the ass simply does what an ass might well do if God were to open his mouth:  he remonstrates at being ill-treated, and he pleads his good behavior ever since he had belonged to Balaam.  The miracle was wrought simply to arrest Balaam and to convince him that he must not say a word beyond what the Lord put in his mouth.  The difficulty is not in any of the circumstances of the narrative, but in God choosing by such a man as Balaam to make known His designs respecting Israel.


                        In depth:  What should Balaam be classified as:  a true prophet losing control of his scruples or as a false prophet from the beginning [50]?  Balaam is a strange character.  Some like Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and others, have regarded him as a thoroughly godless and false prophet—a prophet of the devil; while Tertullian, Jerome, and others have maintained that he was a true prophet, who fell through covetousness and ambition.  The true view lies between the two extreme views.  He was a heathen soothsayer, and yet God used him and made him the bearer of His revelations.

                        We have here Apostolic testimony to the truth of the history of Balaam and his ass.  We are not to regard this as a legend, nor as a vision on the part of Balaam in an ecstatic state, nor as a mere imagination of his own mind, but as an external, objective occurrence.

                        Wordsworth:  “The ass saw the angel which the prophet could not see; and showed more of reason and knowledge than her master who rode upon her, and who, though endued with many spiritual gifts, was then blinded by disobedience.  In like manner, the most unlearned person, who receives the history of Balaam as true—a history guaranteed by the testimony of the inspired Apostle Peter, and by that of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who received all the Old Testament as true—is really a far more intelligent and clear-sighted person than the Infidel Philosopher and Biblical Expositor who reject that history as false.  The believer sees the angel; the unbelieving Philosopher and Expositor are blind.”  



2:17                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     These people are wells without water, mists driven along by a storm, men for whom the dense darkness has been reserved.

WEB:              These are wells without water, clouds driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever.

Young’s:         These are wells without water, and clouds by a tempest driven, to whom the thick gloom of the darkness to the age hath been kept;

Conte (RC):    These ones are like fountains without

water, and like clouds stirred up by whirlwinds. For

them, the mist of darkness is reserved.


2:17                 These are wells without water.  Persons who disappoint all just expectations.  [14]

What a disappointment to those who are thirsting!  [7]

One who sets up to be a teacher ought to be a fountain of wisdom.  These men yield none.  [37]

The language employed both by Peter and Jude is singularly terse, pointed, and emphatic.  Nothing to an oriental mind would be more expressive than to say of professed religious teachers, that they were “wells without water.”  It was always a sad disappointment to a traveler in the hot sands of the desert to come to a well where it was expected that water might be found, and to find it dry.  It only aggravated the trials of the thirsty and weary traveler.  Such were these religious teachers. In a world, not unaptly compared, in regard to its real comforts, to the wastes and sands of the desert, they would only grievously disappoint the expectations of all those who were seeking for the refreshing influences of the truths of the gospel.  [31]

Their apparent piety leads to the illusion that they have something of real substance to offer:  It is possible that the figure points to the apostasy of the men “who bear the semblance of teachers, just as, for a little time, a place in Eastern lands where water has flowed will continue green, but disappoint the thirsty traveller who may be led by a little verdure to hope for water” (Lumby).  But it is rather in respect simply of the pretence which they make, and the deception which they practice, that they are likened to waterless springs.  The force of the imagery, which has a special appropriateness in Eastern lands, will be seen by comparing those passages in which God Himself is designated a “fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13), or those in which men who turn from sin are likened to a “spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:11); but best of all by comparing such passages as those in which the “mouth of the righteous” is said to be as a “well of life,” and the “law of the wise” is described as “a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:11; 13:14).  See also the imagery used by Christ Himself in John 4:10, 14; 7:37.  [51]

clouds [mists, ESV, NASB] that are carried.  Literally, “clouds being driven by (literally, under) a tempest.  [3] 

“Clouds without water” is the figure in Jude 12.  [16]

This probably is a reminiscence of Proverbs 25:14, “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift (as of prophecy) is like clouds and wind without rain.”  Mists or clouds seemingly full of rain, but driven across the sky so that no rain falls from them to water the earth below.  [41]

More accurately, mists driven about by a whirlwind, the better MSS giving “mists” instead of “clouds.”  The word was probably chosen as indicating what we should call the “haziness” of the speculations of the false teachers.  [38]

with a tempest.  Revision, by a storm.  The [Greek] word occurs only twice elsewhere--Mark 4:37; Luke 7:23--in the parallel accounts of the storm on the lake, which Jesus calmed by his word.  There on the lake Peter was at home, as well as with the Lord on that occasion; and the peculiar word describing a whirlwind--one of those sudden storms so frequent on that lake (Mark 4:37)--would be the first to occur to him.  Compare Paul’s similar figure, Ephesians 4:14. [2]

to whom the mist [blackness, NKJV].  Mists might supply some moisture, or protect from the burning sun, but when driven by the wind, as these teachers by their passions, they can only blind and distress.  [7]

Did Peter’s mind go back to that scene, so that he saw, in the wild whirling mists that brought the risk of destruction, a parable of the storm of heresies by which the Church was now threatened?  [38]

of darkness is reserved.  [This] refers to the punishment of these persons (Jude 13).  [16]

Compare Jeremiah’s description of the false prophets, whose “way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness” (Jeremiah 23:12).  For the conception of the Divine judgment, whether of the righteous or of the unrighteous, as reserved or prepared, see also Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:41; 1 Peter 1:4, etc. [51]

for ever.  Permanently.  [rw]

It asserts the Divine certainty, the hopelessness, the perpetuity of the doom of these apostates.  [51]


                        In depth:  “Wells” and “cloud”—indications of a Hebrew language original for both 2 Peter and Jude [46]?  A Hebrew word which occurs only twice in the Old Testament is translated by the LXX in the one place (Genesis 2:6) by the word here used for “well,” and in the other (Job 36:27) by the word used in Jude verse 12, for “cloud.”  Thus the same Hebrew might have produced “wells without water” here and “clouds without water” in Jude.  This is one of the arguments used in favor of a Hebrew original of both these Epistles.

Coincidences of this kind, which may easily be mere accidents of language, must be shown to be numerous before a solid argument can be based upon them.  Moreover, we must remember that the writers in both cases were Jews, writing in Greek, while thinking probably in Hebrew, so that the same Hebrew thought might suggest a different Greek expression in the two cases.  When we have deducted all that might easily be accounted for in this way, and also all that is perhaps purely accidental, from the not very numerous instances of a similar kind that have been collected, we shall not find much on which to build the hypothesis of these Epistles being translations from Hebrew originals.


2:18                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     For, while they pour out their frivolous and arrogant talk, they use earthly cravings--every kind of immorality--as a bait to entrap men who are just escaping from the influence of those who live in error.

WEB:              For, uttering great swelling words of emptiness, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by licentiousness, those who are indeed escaping from those who live in error;

Young’s:         for overswellings of vanity speaking, they do entice in desires of the flesh -- lasciviousnesses, those who had truly escaped from those conducting themselves in error,

Conte (RC):    For, speaking with the arrogance of

vanity, they lure, by the desires of fleshly pleasures,

those who are fleeing to some extent, who are

being turned from error,


2:18                 For when they speak great swelling words.  Lofty expressions, which have a great sound, but little sense.  [5]

                        Hollow, vain phrases, “proud words with nothing to back them” (Luther).  [50]

                        For when they speak.  Literally, “For speaking . . . .”  The adjective is used by classical writers both literally and figuratively of excessive magnitude.  It indicates what we should call the “high-flown” character of the language of the false teachers.  “Vanity” is used in its proper sense of “emptiness.”  There was no substance below their show of a transcendental knowledge.  Here again we trace a parallel with Paul’s language, “Knowledge puffeth up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).  [38]

                        The writer proceeds now to justify what he has just said, either as to the doom of the false teachers, or as to their character as pretenders and deceivers.  The verb used for “speaking” is one which occurs in the New Testament only in Acts 4:18, and in these two verses (2 Peter 2:16, 18) of the present chapter.  It usually expresses loud utterance, e.g. the scream of the eagle, the neighing of the horse, the speech of orators, the battle-cry of warriors, the recitative of a chorus.  Hence its fitness here in reference to men who indulge in high-sounding, empty, grandiloquent statements.  [51]

                        great swelling words.  The phrase rendered “great swelling things” is found only here and in the parallel passage in Jude.  It describes what is over-large or immoderate, and is applied in the late Classics to a ponderous, verbose style.  [51]

of vanity [emptiness, NKJV].  The “great swelling words of vanity” were those in which they promised them liberty—but what sort of liberty?  Not liberty to serve God in perfect freedom, not the liberty in which the truth makes free but that liberty which consists in unhallowed license.  [41]

Here bluster is one of the means by which they delude their dupes. [45]

they allure.  The action ascribed to them is that of enticing as with a bait; such is the force of the verb, the use of which in the New Testament is limited to those two verses in the present chapter (14, 18) and James 1:14.  [51]

through the lusts of the flesh.  The “means” which it is here said they employed, were “the lusts of the flesh;” that is, they promised unlimited indulgence to the carnal appetites, or taught such doctrines that their followers would feel themselves free to give unrestrained liberty to such propensities.  This has been quite a common method in the world, of inducing people to embrace false doctrines.  [31]

through much wantonness [lewdness, NKJV].  Evil and immoral in behavior, often easily carrying the overtones of extremely so--a point made emphatic by adding the “much” to the description—and yet still not caring.  They were getting so much “pleasure” out of their evil, that had become their only god.  And, if at all possible, not suffering any temporal consequences for it from those individuals they have abused--and their avenging families.  [rw]

those that were clean escaped [actually escaped, NKJV].  ὀλίγως is rendered in the Vulgate by paululum, for a little time:  it is an uncommon word, but is found meaning “in a slight degree” and (inapplicable here) “quickly.” The escape is recent or incomplete.  [37]

[That is:]  The persons whom these false teachers are seducing are those who have but lately been converted—just escaping from the heathen who still live in error—and who are not yet fully established in the faith.  [50]

The guilt of those apostate teachers, therefore, is exhibited as aggravated by the fact that the persons whom they plied with the vile bait of sensual indulgence were those least fit to resist it, not men who were established in the new faith, but men who had but recently broken off from the ranks of heathenism, or who had as yet got but a few paces, as it were, in the process of separating themselves from their old pagan life.  [51]

Or:  The Greek participle is of the present tense, indicating an escape in progress, not accomplished.  [44]

Some of the better MSS give “those who were a little (or partially) escaping. . . .”  In the one case, stress is laid on the fact that the work of a real and true conversion was marred by the impurity into which the victims were afterwards betrayed; in the other, on the fact that their conversion had been but incomplete, and that therefore they yielded readily to the temptation.  A possible construction of the sentence would be to take the last clause in the Greek in apposition with the first, “those that had partially escaped, those that live in error,” but the English version gives a preferable meaning.  [38]

from them who live in error.  The “error” of the false teachers is spoken of in 2:15, 3:17; but the phrase here cannot denote them, but rather the heathen to whom those “just escaping” had recently belonged.  [45]

The verb used here for “live” is the one which denotes the manner of life, the conduct, and is connected with the noun for “life” or “conversation,” which meets us most frequently in Peter (1 Peter 1:15, 18; 2:12; 3:1-2, 16; 2 Peter 2:7; 3:11); occasionally in Paul (Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 4:12); and elsewhere only in Hebrews 13:7; James 3:13.  [51]



2:19                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     And they promise them freedom, although they are themselves the slaves of what is corrupt. For a man is the slave of any one by whom he has been worsted in fight.

WEB:              promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for a man is brought into bondage by whoever overcomes him.

Young’s:         liberty to them promising, themselves being servants of the corruption, for by whom any one hath been overcome, to this one also he hath been brought to servitude,

Conte (RC):    promising them freedoms, while they

 themselves are the servants of corruption. For by

whatever a man is overcome, of this also is he the



2:19                 While they promise them liberty.  “They held out of them both religious liberty, or a license to do what they pleased without fear of Him who is invisible and political liberty, pretending that the civil magistrates had nothing to do with them.”  [Whitby and Benson.]  [11]   

                        True religion always promises and produces liberty (see John 8:36), but the particular liberty which these persons seem to have promised, was freedom from what they regarded as needless restraint, or from strict views of religion.  [31]

                        Men have been found in all ages to say either openly or in effect:  “Rules made for weaker brethren do not apply to me:  I have penetrated into the mysteries of divine things, and know that what my body does cannot affect my soul.”  But this, as our writer points out, is just where they are mistaken; they become slaves of the most abject kind to their habits and passions.  Yet, slaves as they are, they dare to promise freedom to others!  [37]

                        We have here the characteristic feature of the teaching which Peter condemns.  It offered its followers freedom from the restraints which the Council of Jerusalem had imposed alike on participation in idolatrous feasts and on sins of impurity (Acts 15:29).  That this was the key-note of their claims we have a distinct indication in Paul’s teaching on the same subject.  His question “Am I not free?” (1 Corinthians 9:1), his condemnation of those who boasted of their “right” (“liberty” in the English version) to eat things sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:9), who proclaimed that all things were “lawful” for them (1 Corinthians 10:23), show that this was the watchword of the party of license at Corinth, and the language of Peter, though more colored with the feeling of a burning indignation at the later development of the system, is, in substance, but the echo of that of his brother Apostle.  [38]

they themselves are the servants [slaves, NKJV].  Not really the “free men and women” they picture themselves as, making avant garde moral decisions before most folk even realize the “alternative” is either available or ethical.  In their self-delusion they have actually become slaves rather than “independent thinkers”—slaves of their own worst instincts and desires.  Everyone who refuses to embrace their delusion must be degraded as bigoted and prejudiced in order to protect one’s own self-centered delusionary world.  It would be funny if the results were not so serious.  [rw]

From those who were themselves slaves of corruption what kind of liberty could come, but a liberty defiant of law, a liberty used “for an occasion to the flesh” (Galatians 5:13)?  [51]

of corruption.  Making “provision for the flesh,” to satisfy its cravings, comply with its directions, and obey its commands. Their minds and hearts are so far corrupted and depraved that they have neither power nor will to refuse the task that is imposed on them.  [5]

for of whom [by whom, NKJV; by what, NASB] a man is overcome.  The Greek leaves it uncertain whether the pronouns refer to a person, or to a more abstract power—“wherein a man is overcome, to that he is enslaved.”  On the whole the latter seems preferable. Here again we have an echo of Paul’s language in Romans 6:16.  [38]

The Revised Version margin “of what” is preferable, the reference being to the evil desires which mastered the false teachers.  [45]

of the same is he brought in bondage.  In his contrast between the boast of liberty and the actual bondage to corruption we may trace a reproduction of our Lord’s teaching in John 8:34, of Paul’s in Romans 6:16.  [38]

There is nothing improbable in Peter being well acquainted with the Epistle to the Romans during the last years of his life; the improbability would rather be in supposing that he did not know it.  [46]



2:20                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     For if, after escaping from the pollutions of the world through a full knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, people are once more entangled in these pollutions and are overcome, their last state has become worse than their first.

WEB:              For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

Young’s:         for, if having escaped from the pollutions of the world, in the acknowledging of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and by these again being entangled, they have been overcome, become to them hath the last things worse than the first,

Conte (RC):    For if, after taking refuge from the

defilements of the world in the understanding of

our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they again become

entangled and overcome by these things, then the

latter state becomes worse than the former.


2:20                 For if after they have escaped.  One of the sadder intellectual inconsistencies of the Protestant world is the claim that the true believer can never apostasize and fall away from his or her faith.  And if they do—well, they were never true believers in the first place!  Peter grants to even those he is so strenuously opposed to that at least some of them (note the “if” in the verse)—perhaps even all of them, is his intent—had at one time been genuine converts.  [rw]

                        Or:  This does not necessarily mean that they had been true Christians, and had fallen from grace.  People may outwardly reform, and escape from the open corruptions which prevail around them, or which they had themselves practiced, and still have no true grace at heart.  [31]  To the extent to which this is true at all, it applies to those who have “converted” to keep family or kin happy or who need a pious veneer to be religiously and socially acceptable in their community.  They “convert” not out of respect for Jesus but for convenience sake--something profoundly different.  [rw]

                        The word “escaped” had been used above (2 Peter 2:18) of the followers.  Here, as the context shows, in the repetition of the word “overcome” from the preceding verse, it is used of the teachers themselves.  They also had once fled from the pollutions of heathen life and heathen worship into which they had now fallen back.  [38] Also see “in depth” discussion below.  [rw]

the pollutions [defilements, ESV, NASB] of the world.  Following God in the ways He intends can never do you harm; it can only morally improve you.  Choosing the behaviors the world tolerates and encourages that violate the Divine norm can only do you and others harm.  Rather than elevate you, they “defile” you and those you encourage to act in a similar manner.  [rw]

through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  They had the “knowledge” of Christ—not they pretended to have knowledge.  Again affirming that they were once genuine and devoted followers of Christ.  Even the fallen should be given credit and acknowledgement for what they once were—and, in some cases at least, could be again, if they somehow summon the will to set their lives aright.  [rw]

Or:  Neither does this imply that they were true Christians, or that they had ever had any saving knowledge of the Redeemer.  There is a knowledge of the doctrines and duties of religion which may lead sinners to abandon their outward vices, which has no connection with saving grace.  They may profess religion, and may know enough of religion to understand that it requires them to abandon their vicious habits, and still never be true Christians.  [31] 

knowledge.  Greek, “full and accurate knowledge.”  [20]

they are again entangled therein.  The word rendered “entangled,” (ἐμπλέκω  emplekō) from which is derived our word “implicate,” means to braid in, to interweave; then to involve in, to entangle.  It means here that they become implicated in those vices like an animal that is entangled in a net.  [31]

They had not at first contemplated the ultimate results of their teaching.  It was their boast of freedom which led them within the tangled snares of the corruption in which they were now inextricably involved.  [38]

and overcome.  To stumble and do something morally foolhardy is one thing; to become an “addict” of that sin so that it becomes part of the normal course of one’s life is to surrender oneself to one’s worst instincts.  [rw]

the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  More inexcusable.  [15]  Presumably since, in the interim, they had had personal experience of what the gospel could offer them.  [rw]

Or—become even more extreme in their behavior:  This is usually the case.  Apostates become worse than they were before their professed conversion.  Thus, it is with those who have been addicted to any habits of vice, and who profess to become religious, and then fall away.  The “reasons” for this may be:  (1) that they are willing now to show to others that they are no longer under the restraints by which they had professedly bound themselves; (2) that God gives them up to indulgence with fewer restraints than formerly; and, (3) their old companions in sin may be at special pains to court their society, and to lead them into temptation, in order to obtain a triumph over virtue and religion.  [31]

Hence the possibility of their ever repenting again is crippled.  The condition into which they have fallen since they have backslidden is worse than that in which they were before their conversion, for there is less hope of their repentance and conversion, they having fallen under a greater bondage and slavery to sin and lust than ever before.  [50]  

An echo of Christ’s personal teaching?  The last words are so distinctly a citation from our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 12:45, that we are compelled to think of Peter as finding in the history of the false teachers that which answered to the parable of the unclean spirit who was cast out of his house and returned to it with seven other spirits more wicked than himself.  [38]


In depth:  The ongoing warning to Christians not to apostasize from their faith and the moral character expected of believers [4].  From verses 18, 20, 21, it  seemeth to be strongly argued, that they who were once truly faithful may totally and finally fall away.  For, first, that the persons here mentioned were once truly faithful, seems evident from this, first, that they had once “truly,” and entirely “escaped from them that live in error” (verse 18), being not then “entangled with,” nor “overcome by the pollution’s which are in the world, through lust,” but having escaped them “through the knowledge of Christ Jesus:”  that they “turned from the holy commandment” in which they formerly had walked:  that they were once washed from that “mire” to which they returned (verse 22).  All which cannot be truly said of hypocritical professors, who are “still in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity.”

That these men afterwards fell away totally and finally, we learn from these expressions, that they “were again allured to wantonness,” that they were “again entangled and overcome by the pollution’s which were in the world, through lust,” and therefore “brought in bondage;” that they “turned from the holy commandment delivered to them;” yea, “with the dog to the vomit, and the washed sow to the wallowing in the mire:” and this so far, as that “it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness.” 

The claim that this is pushing too much into the intent of the passage [51]:  The “knowledge” of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which is attributed here to these apostates is the same kind of knowledge as has been already spoken of in 2 Peter 1:2-3, 8.  Hence it is urged that the statement is entirely antagonistic to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and indeed that there is, “perhaps, no single passage in the whole extent of New Testament teaching more crucial than this in its bearing on the Calvinistic dogma of the indefectibility of grace” (Plumptre).

The bearing of the passage, however, upon that doctrine is by no means so definite and absolute.  It institutes a solemn comparison between two different conditions of the same individuals.  It contrasts two different stages of impure living, and pronounces the one worse than the other.  But beyond that it does not go, neither can it be regarded as of decisive importance in regard to the different views of grace advocated by different schools of theology.  The whole statement is introduced simply in confirmation of what was said in the previous verse of the bondage in which those live who are overcome of sin.  [51]  This objection only makes sense if one assumes that their “conversion” was faked and a pretense.  If it was genuine and real, what other conclusion could reasonably be drawn than that one can voluntarily forfeit one’s salvation through intentional neglect and abandonment?  [rw] 


In depth:  Do verses 20-22 have in mind the false teachers who have deceived new or recent converts or does the text have their victims in mind [45]?  It is a matter of controversy whether these verses refer to the false teachers or to the recent converts whom they had led astray.

In favor of referring them to the false teachers, we have the following points:

(a)     They would form a natural climax of the description of the guilt and doom of those teachers.

(b)     As it is the teachers who are “overcome” in verse 19, “overcome” in 20, will probably refer to the same persons.

(c)     If they verses are referred to converts who had been deceived and betrayed through weakness and inexperience they seem unduly harsh.

In favor of referring the verses to the recent converts, we have:

(a)     Those who, in verse 20, are entangled in defilements after they have escaped are naturally identified with those who, in verse 19, are enticed by lust when they are just escaping.  In answer to this, it is said that the same persons would not be spoken of in two consecutive verses as “just escaping” and “having escaped.”  Yet these varying expressions might denote the same state looked at from different points of view.  Because their conversion was recent, they were “just escaping;” but they might also be thought of as “having escaped,” because conversion in the New Testament is commonly described as a single complete act.

(b)    If these verses are referred to the teachers they involve a recognition of their having once attained to full Christian status.  Such recognition is not found elsewhere in the Epistle, unless it be in 2:1, and would have been definitely stated and not merely implied if it had been in the writer’s mind.

(c)     The utter and hopeless ruin which these teachers brought upon their misguided disciples would be a very effective climax; it would bring out most clearly the pernicious character of the teaching, and would be an impressive appeal to any of the readers who were likely to be led astray.   

The weight of authority supports the reference to the teachers.


                        To my mind this falls just short of “much to do about nothing.”  When the new/recent converts have returned to their old pre-Christian lifestyle, are they exempted from the punishment coming upon those teachers who encouraged them to embrace that path?  Hence even if we argue that it is the teachers specifically in mind, how can we avoid the conclusion that the language conveys the implicit warning to their disciples of their own ultimate fate as well?  [rw]



2:21                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     For it would have been better for them not to have fully known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandments in which they were instructed.

WEB:              For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Young’s:         for it were better to them not to have acknowledged the way of the righteousness, than having acknowledged it, to turn back from the holy command delivered to them,

Conte (RC):    For it would have been better for

them not to have known the way of justice than,

after acknowledging it, to turn away from that holy

commandment which was handed on to them.


2:21                 For it had been better for them not to have known.  The “better” here, as in 1 Peter 3:17, means more to their advantage.  [51]

The verb for “known” is, like the noun in the preceding verse, that which implies the fullest form of knowledge, as in 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 4:3.  [38]

                        Had they never known the gospel, there would have been some hope that its influence might have reached and saved them; but now it has been tried and failed, and there is no more effective means of salvation.  So Hebrews 6:4-6, “As touching those who were once enlightened . . . it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance;” and Hebrews 10:26, “If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins.”  [45]

the way of righteousness.  The “way of righteousness” is like the “way of truth” in 2 Peter 2:2, a comprehensive description of the religion of Christ as a whole, regarded here in its bearing on life, as there in its relation to belief.  [38]

That which from a doctrinal point of view is “the way of truth” (2 Peter 2:2), from a moral point of view is “the way of righteousness.”  So also “the faith delivered to the saints” of Jude verse 3, is the doctrinal equivalent of “the holy commandment delivered unto them” of this verse.  [46]

than, after they have known it.  Ignorance can’t be claimed.  They know what is right.  And do the wrong anyway.  [rw]

to turn from the holy commandment.  Each and every commandment given by Christ and through His apostles was “holy.”  So whatever specific commandment they violated was the violation of a “holy commandment.”  The adjective “holy” was especially relevant since Peter is targeting their violation of moral commandments in particular.  Whichever they chose to ignore was treating the “holy” with unholy contempt.   [rw]

“Commandment” (entole):  a single ordinance, as distinguished from nomos, “law,” a legislative system.  It is noteworthy that here, as in 3:2 and 1 Timothy 6:14, the whole ethical aspect of Christianity is spoken of as a “commandment.”  Such a usage is consistent with the fact that, whereas the Mosaic law consisted of a multitude of “commandments” as to details of conduct, Christianity lays down a few comprehensive principles.  [45]

Or:  It may be asked, what is this holy commandment delivered to them?  In the former verse it is said that they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ; is the holy commandment the same?  Not I think, necessarily.  It is not, we humbly hope, turning from Christ Himself as from the strictness of the law of Christ.  [41]

delivered unto them.  Cf. Jude 3, “The faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.”  [45]

No one can presume upon a past religious experience, whether it was real or imaginary.  Each one must, and will, increase his knowledge of Christ by a diligent cultivation of Christian graces in case he is to find an “entrance into the eternal kingdom.”  [7]



2:22                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Their case is that described in the true proverb, "A dog returns to what he has vomited," and also in the other proverb, "The sow has washed itself and now goes back to roll in its filth."

WEB:              But it has happened to them according to the true proverb, "The dog turns to his own vomit again," and "the sow that has washed to wallowing in the mire."

Young’s:         and happened to them hath that of the true similitude; 'A dog did turn back upon his own vomit,' and, 'A sow having bathed herself -- to rolling in mire.'

Conte (RC):    For the truth of the proverb has

happened to them: The dog has returned to his own

vomit, and the washed sow has returned to her

wallowing in the mud.


2:22                 But it is happened unto them.  The meaning of the proverbs here quoted is, that they have returned to their former vile manner of life.  Under all the appearances of reformation, still their evil nature remained, as really as that of the dog or the swine, and that nature finally prevailed.  There was no thorough internal change, any more than there is in the swine when it is washed, or in the dog.  [31]

Or:  They had either fallen back into the same sins that had characterized them before conversion due to never maturing spiritually or human weakness found them in a situation where old habits seemed far easier than the new demands of faith.  Albert Barnes insists, “The dog and the swine had never been anything else than the dog and the swine, and these persons had never been anything else than sinners” even after their purported conversion.  The New Testament emphasis on becoming a “new” man in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) argues that converts undergo a fundamental change in nature—if they permit the gospel to do its full work of making them “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  They are, to use the canine language of Peter, no longer the “dog” they once were, but when those past ways are permitted to regain control they lose all the constructive changes they have made.  They return to what they once had been.  [rw]

according to the true proverb.  More literally, There has happened to them what the true proverb says; “but” is of very doubtful authority.  The word for “proverb” is the one used elsewhere only by St. John in his Gospel, and there translated once “parable” and thrice “proverb.”  “Parable,” or “allegory,” would have been best in all four cases (John 10:6; 16:25, 29).  [46]

The two proverbs which are here quoted are taken from the two animals which are held in greatest contempt in the East.  Peter uses the singular, because the proverbs have one and the same meaning, and he calls it “true,” because in the case of these false teachers it has also proved true.  [50]

The dog is turned to his own vomit again.  In the[se] words that follow we have another of Peter’s references, without a formal citation, to the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 26:11).  The form in which he gives the proverbs is participial.  “The dog returned to his own vomit; the washed sow to her wallowing in the mire.”  We have, however, the colloquial, allusive form which the proverb had assumed in common speech rather than an actual quotation, and the second part of the proverb is not found in the passage referred to.  [38]

and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.  There is no scriptural parallel to this saying. [45]

In both cases stress is laid on the fact that there had been a real change.  The dog had rejected what was foul; the sow had washed herself, but the old nature returned in both cases.  Those who after their baptism returned to the impurities they had renounced, were, in the Apostle’s eyes, no better than the unclean beasts.  In the union of the two types of baseness we may, perhaps, trace a reminiscence of our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 7:6.  [38]

                        Possible allusions to this in other texts:  This second proverb has no definite parallel in the Old Testament, and is taken, therefore, from the mouth of the people.  Compare, however, the comparison of a “fair woman without discretion” to a “jewel of gold in a swine’s snout” (Proverbs 11:22), and our Lord’s word, “neither cast ye your pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).  Compare also Horace’s “he would have lived a filthy dog, or a hog delighting in mire” (Epistles, Book 2, line 26).  The repute of the dog and the sow, not only in Judea but generally throughout the East, is well known.  The former, as an unclean animal and the scavenger of Oriental towns, became a term of reproach, a name for one’s enemies (Psalms 22:16, 20), a figure of the profane or impure (Revelation 22:15; cf. also Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27).  The latter was forbidden to be eaten not only among the Jews, but also among the Arabs, the Phoenicians, and other Eastern nations. To the priests of Egypt, too, swine’s flesh was the most hateful of all meats.  [51]

                        It is quite possible that both proverbs come from popular tradition, and not from Scripture at all.  If, however, the Book of Proverbs be the source of the quotation, it is worth while noting that no less than four times in as many chapters does Peter recall passages from the Proverbs in the First Epistle (1 Peter 1:7; 2:17; 4:8, 18).  [46]

                        Heretical insistence that such actually did no harm:  The word for “mire,” not a very common one, is used by Irenæus of the Gnostic false teachers of his day, who taught that their fine spiritual natures could no more be hurt by sensuality than gold by mire.  “For in the same way as gold when plunged in mire does not lay aside its beauty, but preserves its own nature, the mire having no power to injure the gold, so they say that they, no matter what kind of material actions they may be involved in, cannot suffer any harm, nor lose their spiritual essence.” (chapter vi. 2).  But it is not probable that Irenæus knew our Epistle.” [46]









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