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2 Peter 3:5 - Exposition

For this they willingly are ignorant of; literally, for this escapes them of their own will. All things have not always been as they are; there have been great changes; there was once a great catastrophe; but this they willfully forget, Huther translates differently, "For, whilst they assert this, it is hidden from them that," etc. But this rendering seems forced and unsatisfactory, and gives a meaning to θέλω which it has nowhere in the New Testament. That by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water. The Revised Version translates, That there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the Word of God. The mockers say that all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. That creation itself was a great, a stupendous change, a mighty effort of the power of God.

St. Peter refers to it in words evidently derived from the Book of Genesis, not from any other sources, whether Greek, Egyptian, or Indian. There were heavens from of old (the word ἔκπαλαι occurs elsewhere only in 2 Peter 2:3 ). There was an earth formed or standing out of the water. The Greek participle here used is συνεστῶσα , literally, "standing together or consisting" (comp. Colossians 1:17 ); it may be taken closely with both prepositional Clauses, "earth consisting of water and by means of water." Thales had taught that water was the beginning of things, the original element ( πάντα ἐξ ὕδατος συνεστάναι ) ; the narrative in Genesis represents water as originally overspreading all things: "The earth was without form [ ἀόρατος , Septuagint], and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." We may therefore understand St. Peter as meaning that the earth was formed or compacted out of water, or out of those substances which the water at first held in solution; and that it is kept together in coherence and solidity by means of water. If, on the other hand, we regard the participle as closely connected with the second preposition only, the meaning will be that the earth, held together and compacted by means of water, rose up out of the water, and appeared above it, when God said, "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear." It is possible, again, to understand the preposition διά locally, and to translate "amidst water." Comp. Psalms 136:6 , "He stretched out the earth above the waters;" and Psalms 24:2 , "He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods." Of course, neither St. Peter nor Moses is speaking in the language of science; their object was, not to teach scientific truth, but to present the great fact of creation in an aspect suitable to our poor capacities. For the clause, "by the Word of God ( τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγῳ )," comp. Hebrews 11:3 , "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God ( ῥήματι θεοῦ )." St. Peter may be referring to the formula, "And God said," so constantly repeated in the account of the creation, or (what is really the same truth) to the fact that "all things were made by him [by God the Word], and without him was not anything made that was made."

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