And yes, I know that is a long title. Maybe I read the Puritans too much.
Recently, I encountered a lengthy but well-written blog post describing the three major approaches to the preservation of God’s Word. The article on the Berean Patriot blog sets forth its purpose in the title: Majority Text vs. Critical Text vs. Textus Receptus – Textual Criticism 101.
The article is, according to the author, more than 18,000 words (I took his word for it). I had a long flight recently, so I loaded the article before the flight and read it (with a few breaks) over about 3 hours. The author does (in my opinion) tremendous work laying out the principles of textual criticism and the nuanced approaches of those who hold to the critical text compared to those who hold to the majority text. I especially appreciated Berean Patriot’s (BP) honest interaction with these two approaches.
But BP’s handling of the Confessional position (about 2/3 through the article) left much to be desired. If you take the time to read it, you will no doubt notice the shift from careful analysis and interaction to a casual dismissal of the confessional position. I find this bias frequently, so I thought I should take the opportunity to interact with BP’s description and analysis as an example of the shabby ways the confessional position gets treated.
But before I deal with what BP gets wrong, let me say he gets some things right. He rightly states that confessional bibliology assumes
God must have “kept (the scriptures) pure in all ages”. By this, they mean that God wouldn’t allow the true version of the Scriptures to be replaced with a corrupt version of the scriptures. Or at least, He would preserve a true version for His faithful followers.
He quotes Thomas Watson in support of this, which I appreciate. John Owen also wrote extensively about this, and recently Jeff Riddle has published John Owen’s work on this subject. It is helpful to note that the Puritans believed that God preserved the words of Scripture, not just the message and that this is the historic view of preservation.
I appreciated BP’s clarification of the source for the Textus Receptus:
The primary Greek source for the King James Version was the 1598 version of Theodore Beza’s Greek New Testament. The main source for Beza’s New Testament was Robert Estienne’s 1550 Greek New Testament. (Estienne was also known as Stephanus.) Estienne’s New Testament is remarkably similar to Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, but Estienne claimed he didn’t use Erasmus’ work as a source. The first document to be called “Textus Receptus was the 1633 printing of the Elzevir Greek New Testament, which was substantially identical to the 1565 version of Beza’s Greek New Testament.
Berean Patriot has done his homework on the various text families, and I appreciate that. He has provided helpful information while dispelling many myths about each of these text families. I always love to be armed with the facts.
The Beginnings of the Disagreement
Whether or not the name “Textus Receptus” is the product of a marketing ploy, as the author claims (a claim that is often repeated by those who favor the Critical Text), the churches settled on that family of texts so that it became the standard text used by faithful churches. It seems cynical to me to claim that this is merely propaganda and that the churches somehow fell for it for hundreds of years. To believe that the name is the product of a marketing ploy, as BP claims emphatically, we have to think that honored Puritans like Thomas Watson and John Owen fell for the gimmick. Frankly, this seems to be yet another manifestation of our modern conceit, which says ours is the first generation to get it right.
A Biblical Case for Confessional Bibliology
Perhaps now is a good time to mention my own view of the way God has promised to preserve His Word. Unlike my brethren, who are committed to textual criticism of one form or another, I believe that God has described His method – inasmuch as God’s method is describable. Conservative Christians believe that God inspired every word of Scripture. This is true of those who are committed to textual criticism. They believe in “verbal, plenary inspiration” – God gave every word of Scripture and that the words matter. But to believe this, we must believe that God did this supernaturally – miraculously. Paul spoke his own thoughts in his own voice, yet the Holy Spirit so affected him that he was speaking the very words of God (2 Peter 1:21).
So, we shouldn’t be bothered that preservation also required a great degree of the supernatural – yea, even the miraculous. But we should look to Scripture for the method. And the Bible makes it abundantly clear that He works through His church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth. Paul describes the process to Timothy:
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)
Based on the authority God gives the church and His plan for passing the words of God from generation to generation, I believe we can formulate a general outline of God’s method for keeping His Words. God’s Words are preserved from generation to generation when faithful preachers preach His words to His people, who receive and embrace the preached words. Fundamentally, I believe this is the means of preservation: careful exegesis in expository sermons.
Some might object that the loudest advocates of the King James don’t preach expository sermons. This is true. But, the brashest KJVOs don’t believe God kept His words until 1611 when He gave a “perfect” Bible. I don’t find the Ruckmanite faction to have a high regard for the words of the Bible, frankly. They believe in the Version, but they don’t think much of the words.
In my experience, TR guys tremble at the word, and you will generally find expository preaching in their churches.
This process of faithful preaching of the words of God and faithful receiving and embracing of it by the people of God gives us a fantastic Biblical model for preservation. Indeed, receiving the word is a mark of a true believer, and the term the Bible uses to describe the way Christians approach God’s words (Acts 2:41; 10:33; 11:1; 17:11; I Thessalonians 1:6; 2:13).
Interacting with the Preservation Passages
That said, let’s dig into BP’s analysis of the preservation passages, beginning with Psalm 12:6-7. BP denies that these two verses refer to the preservation of Scripture because of the gender discord problem with verse 7. According to the author, the phrase “thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever” should read “thou shalt preserve him from this generation for ever.”
(Please note: I was mistaken that Berean Patriot argued a gender discord problem with verse 7. As he pointed out in the comments section below, he discussed a plurality mismatch, not gender. For some reason, in my mind, I was conflating gender and number even as I read his comment, so it took me a minute to shake free of the cobwebs. That is my bad. Honestly, he is the first I have seen to argue on the basis of number – the usual argument is against the gender discord issue. And frankly, I don’t see how this changes anything. God promises to keep His words – “thou shalt keep them…” that is, His words. That is the debate. And – good news – He promises to preserve us as well. I still see that as the words, as I will demonstrate in the next few paragraphs).
Much has been made of this gender discord, but I don’t think it is quite the problem that it is made out to be. This same kind of gender discord pops up frequently in the Old Testament (Kent Brandenburg has written a great article on this here https://kentbrandenburg.com/2010/05/19/gender-discord-and-psalm-126-7/). But second, the gender discord is only in the 2nd phrase of the verse, not in the first. The Psalmist speaks of the words of the Lord as pure words in verse 6. In verse 7 he says, “thou shalt keep them, O Lord” – that is, thou shalt keep those pure words.
The Psalm offers us a tremendous promise that God will keep His people.
For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. (Psalm 12:5)
If you know Hebrew poetry, you know the tendency to use a form of chiasmus, which sets up the central point in the first half of a passage, then makes the point, and then in some way complements or contrasts the first half in the second. In the 12th Psalm, the attacks against God’s people are made in terms of vain and evil speaking. The central point is found in the 5th verse, where God promises to “set him in safety” and refers to the words of wicked men as “puffing.” The vain words of evil men are undone by the pure words of God. He makes the promise in the 5th verse and then stresses how reliable His words are in the 6th and 7th verses. At the very least, when the Psalm says, “thou shalt preserve them,” we can assume that God means to include both His people and His words, for God keeps His people by keeping His words.
But God commits to His words even more than His people.
I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. (Psalm 138:2)
So, BP leaves much to be desired when he declares, “So no, this verse doesn’t teach the Doctrine of Preservation.”
The next couple of verses on BP’s list are strange to me. I’m not exactly sure what to do with them, honestly. I don’t often hear Psalm 100:5, Psalm 117:1-2, and Psalm 119:160 used to defend the preservation of words. I didn’t scour the Internet. Maybe someone, somewhere, has referred to these verses. I just don’t normally encounter the particular defense of preservation he mentions.
I’ll let his answer stand on those verses. Maybe some use them to provide additional support, like throwing metal scraps into poured cement. But these verses are not necessary to the case for preservation.
Let me add that BP’s verse list of Scripture proofs seems to be lacking significantly from the Scriptural case I usually see for perfect preservation. He doesn’t interact with the Scripture proofs that the confessions themselves provide. I would argue that he ignores some of the more essential preservation passages discussed by those committed to preservation (such as Isaiah 59:21, Psalm 119:89, 140, Revelation 22:18-19). He doesn’t discuss the significance of the phrase “it is written” – the perfect passive indicative that means “it stands written forever.” (Note: despite BP’s claim that this is an “egregious error about Greek,” I do not believe it to be a significant difference from saying “it stands written.” Nor do I believe it to be very different from the usual explanation of the perfect tense, which would be an action completed in the past with ongoing results. Besides, Jesus used the perfect passive indicative when He cried from the cross, “It is finished” – it stands finished, we would argue, for all time).
Again, the poverty of interaction with the confessional position makes me say this is a shoddy treatment of one of the major approaches to preservation. The Berean Patriot shows a great deal of skill at interacting with arguments. The only explanation I can give for his slipshod handling of the confessional view is his own bias against it.
But I digress.
Berean Patriot takes a good bit of time to interact with Isaiah 40:8 and its New Testament counterpart in I Peter 1:24-25. I am tempted to cut and paste his explanation, but that would add nearly 1,000 words to an already lengthy post, so I won’t. You might consider reading what he says.
Isaiah 40:8 says,
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
And I Peter 1:24-25 says,
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
Essentially, BP argues that “the word of our God” is speaking of Jesus, not the Bible since John 1:1 gives Jesus the title of “the Word.”
Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with that argument. It illustrates the staggering lengths people will go to so they can deny that God made any promises about the very words He inspired. I shouldn’t have to answer this claim, but I will go ahead and answer it.
First, Jesus is not given the title of “the Word” in isolation. In other words, when the Bible calls Jesus “the Word,” we shouldn’t think this is something novel, as if God didn’t expect Bible believers to connect this title with His Word, the Bible. Creation has been called “general revelation.” The heavens declare the glory of God. The Bible has been called “special revelation.” As Jesus said, “these are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). So, when John the Apostle calls Jesus “the Word,” he does so in connection to, not independently of, the Bible. If the Bible is special revelation, Jesus as the Word reveals God in His fulness (John 1:14, 16; 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6; Colossians 1:15; 2:9). The attempt to unhitch Christ the Word from the Word of God is – what’s my word? Shabby. Where is Jesus Christ revealed to us, but in the written words of the Bible?
Second, I took the time to review all the commentaries I typically consult when I want to see if my understanding was consistent with the historic view of the preachers of the past. I looked at Jamieson, Faucet, and Brown in their Critical Commentary, at Matthew Henry, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, The New Bible Commentary, Wiersbe’s Be Comforted, James Smith’s The Major Prophets, John Gill, and at a sermon Spurgeon preached. All of these commentaries point to the words of Scripture as the immediate point, what will stand forever. Spurgeon and Gill point out that Jesus is ultimately in mind, but not to the exclusion of the words of Scripture. In sermon #3491, “Man Transient: God’s Word Eternal,”  Spurgeon says that the term applies to the Word of God in five different ways.
First, it is the word of his purpose. The word of our God. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he purposed, and shall it not come to pass? God hath from all eternity a wondrous plan by which he will manifest all his attributes in the salvation of his people.
Second, This “word” also refers to his word of promise. Every word which God hath spoken to his people by way of promise is as true to-day as when it was first uttered by the prophet who was originally sent with it, and if this world should exist through tens of thousands of years, every promise will still have the raven locks of its youth about it. No promise will grow stale; no word of God will cease to be of effect.
Third, So, brethren, especially is it with the Incarnate Word. We are in the habit of calling the Bible “the Word of God.” I suppose that is accurate enough, but the Word of God is not the Bible; it is Jesus Christ. His name shall be called “the Word of God.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Well now, of this incarnate Word, this everlasting Logos, we may say that he standeth for ever.
Fourth, The fourth signification of the term must be surely the word of the gospel—the word of gospel truth which we preach, for so says the apostle as he quotes this passage, “This is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” That word stands for ever.
Finally, this term, “The word of our God” refers to the inner spiritual life of the Christian, for, remember, you are quickened by the incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth for ever, and that incorruptible seed is said to be the Word of God. Now all other seed throughout the world, and that which comes from a mortal source, dieth, but the seed of the divine truth, dropped by the Holy Spirit in the heart, is incorruptible, and therefore it liveth and abideth for ever more. What a blessing it is to get the Word of God into the heart, because if God puts it in, none but God can take it out again.
So, while Spurgeon includes this meaning of “the Word of our God” as pointing to Jesus Himself, He doesn’t isolate Jesus to the exclusion of other meanings of the Word.
The truth is, within Scripture, an intentional connection is made between Scripture, Christ, and the gospel. What is said of the Bible is said of Jesus Christ. This doesn’t refute the doctrine of every-word preservation. It strengthens that doctrine.
Berean Patriot deals with two other arguments made in defense of the preservation of words. He answers Matthew 5:18, which says,
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
And he answers Matthew 24:35, which says,
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
On Matthew 5:18, he says,
In context, Jesus is simply saying that the law wouldn’t end until “all is fulfilled”. Notice, he specifically said “the law”. He didn’t say the scriptures, and not even “the word”; just the (Mosaic) law.
I wouldn’t dignify this by calling it anything like “careful analysis.” In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets,” which is a common way the entirety of the Old Testament is discussed.
That is, “the authority and principles of the Old Testament.” (On the phrase, see Mt 7:12; 22:40; Lu 16:16; Ac 13:15).
The rule which Christ came to establish exactly agreed with the scriptures of the Old Testament, here called the law and the prophets. The prophets were commentators upon the law, and both together made up that rule of faith and practice which Christ found upon the throne in the Jewish church, and here he keeps it on the throne.
“The Law and the Prophets” refer to the entire Old Testament (cf. 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Rom. 3:21).
Again, BP’s interaction with Matthew 24:35 is hardly Berean. He makes this ridiculous comment:
First, please notice that it’s “words” (plural) not “word” (singular). God didn’t write multiple Bibles did He?
Exactly. God didn’t write multiple Bibles. Don’t be silly, Berean Patriot. The “words” that will abide forever are the words of the Bible, the logoi God inspired. The Greek logos refers to the message expressed in the words. Jesus keeps His word by keeping His words – in the immediate context, the prophetic word He delivered in Matthew 24. But of course, that is not the limit of the words He keeps, for God keeps all His words. The message of Scripture is unintelligible without the words.
(Please note: Berean Patriot has asked me to correct this by pointing out that he “wasn’t at all connecting Matthew 5:18 to Matthew 24:32. I don’t think I said that he connected them, and I can’t see anywhere that I said he connected them. I answered his treatment of the two at once for the sake of convenience, and not to imply that he was connecting the two passages. He didn’t connect them).
Interacting with BP’s Fundamental Objection
Having dismissed the preservation passages quite casually, Berean Patriot next dismisses the entire confessional position as stuff and nonsense. In a section he calls “The Biggest Problem With The Confessional Position,” BP says (and the emphasis is his),
We’ve just seen that it doesn’t originate in the scriptures. That begs the question: “Where did it come from?” The answer is in the name: it comes from a (man-made) confession of faith. There’s no problem with confessions of faith in general. However, there’s a very big problem when someone makes a dogmatic doctrinal position without the support of scripture. While the Confessional position does claim that support, they don’t have it.
That means the only support for the Doctrine of (perfect) Preservation is the tradition of men.
There is no other support pillar.
Now, it’s clear God did preserve His scriptures extremely well over the years. That much is obvious. But nowhere did God claim He would preserve it perfectly and without error.
He just didn’t.
That’s (sic) makes the Confessional position interesting, but ultimately not rooted and grounded in scripture. If the basis of your faith is the Westminster Confession of Faith, I would humbly suggest you move to a firmer foundation.
I have taken a confessional position for about 15 years, and I have never based it on the Westminster or the London Baptist Confession. I don’t know anyone who takes this position (and a growing number of people do) and who makes these confessions the basis of their faith.
What is the point of these confessions? They demonstrate the historic position of the church, which is presuppositional. God’s people have historically had a heart commitment to the perfect preservation of Scripture – the idea that the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament are, by God’s singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages.
The suggestion that the Westminster and London Baptist divines had no other support pillar than “man-made tradition” displays a breathtaking arrogance and an all-too-common conceit: that we are the first generation to get it right.
A Final Challenge
As I have engaged with those who support one of the two major approaches to textual criticism (reasoned eclecticism and majority text), I have been surprised at the unwillingness to defend such an approach from Scripture. Berean Patriot makes no such defense. In fact, I would argue that BP accepts the tradition of men outright. He rejects one tradition (confessional) in favor of another (modern textual criticism).
I have asked for someone – anyone – to make a Biblical case for modern textual criticism. Obviously, on some level, these believers think that God has preserved His Word and want to know the authentic word of God. So, what Biblical principles inform their approach to settling on the authentic words of the text?
After more than a century and a half of this scholarly and scientific approach to identifying the authentic text, our friends on the side of the Critical/Majority Text have yet to offer a shred of Biblical support.
So, once again, I challenge you. If you have read this article all the way to here – thank you, if you have – please show me how a proper understanding of the Bible would lead me to adopt the principles of reasoned eclecticism or the majority text.
Meanwhile, I am not ashamed to be called “Confessional.”
(This post has been edited in three places – notes in parenthesis – in answer to a few challenges from Berean Patriot).
 Spurgeon, C. H. (1914). Man Transient: God’s Word Eternal. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 60, p. 629). London: Passmore & Alabaster.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 20). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 1631). Peabody: Hendrickson.
 Barbieri, L. A., Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 30). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
9 thoughts on “One Example of the Shoddy Way People Treat the Preservation Passages”
Thanks for taking the time to do all this work.
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Hi, Berean Patriot here. I did read the whole article, and thank you for the kind words at the beginning. 🙂 I can’t respond to everything, but I’ll hit what I saw as the highlights
Firstly, you seem to have misunderstood (and thus misrepresented) my arguments in two places.
To Psalm 12:6-7. I think you missed my argument completely. The gender of the words is entirely irrelevant to my point, which is why I didn’t mention gender even a single time; I talked about a plurality mismatch, not gender in my article. Please correct this in your article.
To Matthew 5:18, I wasn’t at all connecting Matthew 5:18 to Matthew 24:32 at all. My treatment of Matthew 24 was separated from Matthew 5 by a double space and there was a new heading. I treated those two sections separately and didn’t connect them as you said I did. (I might make a tiny edit to make this clearer) Again, please correct this in your article.
To Matthew 5:18, Jesus said “the law”. Remember that “the law and the prophets” weren’t the whole Old Testament. The Jews have the law (Torah), the prophets (Nevi’im) and the writings (Ketuvim). So no, “the law and the prophets” aren’t the whole OT, only about 2/3 of it, and Jesus was only speaking of the law.
I simply don’t see the “go to” verses you cited as evidence at all. They seems like an extreme stretch to my mind. (I might add a section to deal with them though.) I actually think Revelation 22:18-19 argues *against* preservation since the assumption is that men will add/remove words, which is why the penalty for doing so is stated.
To the perfect passive indicative, pardon me for saying so and I mean no offense, but I don’t think you understand the perfect tense. The perfect tense indicates a completed action in the past that has effects that last into the present. It says nothing whatsoever about the future. Nothing at all. A Greek textbook can confirm this, or a Google search. BTW, the most recent article I published (a couple months ago now) explains the entire structure of the Greek language — including the perfect tense — entirely in English. You might find it helpful in avoiding such egregious errors about Greek.
To Isaiah 40/1 Peter, I agree with Spurgeon that “the Word of God is not the Bible; it is Jesus Christ.” I stand by my exegesis that this passage refers to Jesus, and the phrase “living and abiding” makes this clear. You could argue that Scripture is “abiding” (maybe), but a book can’t be living because it isn’t alive. I think it’s a HUGE exegetical mistake to say that a passage about Jesus is about Scripture.
To your challenge, I’ll answer it two ways. First, remember Josiah the king, whose workers found the law after it had been lost for decades. (This is after Psalm 12 was written too.) Scripture was so completely lost that no one – even the priests and king – had a clue what it said. Since God doesn’t change and allowed it to be lost once, this establishes a strong precedent. (completely losing vs slightly imperfect wording)
For the second answer I will imitate Jesus Himself and respond with a question of my own: Which specific, 100% complete manuscript is 100% without error? Since no two manuscripts are identical with each other, which one is 100% perfect? (And why that specific one, because believing perfect preservation virtually requires that we have a perfectly preserved manuscript.)
Lastly, I don’t think we will end up agreeing. In places you admit that the primary referent isn’t scripture, but then want to add scripture to the promise. I can’t do that because I don’t see it in the context. I’m 100% content to agree to disagree, though again I would ask that you correct your article in those two places where you misunderstood mine. (I might make a few tiny edits to make things clearer in mine as well, and possibly add sections for your “go to” verses.)
Berean Patriot 🙂
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I added a note in my section on Psalm 12. That was a definite gaff on my part. I don’t think it changes anything.
As far as the 2 verses in Matthew, I also added a note, but I don’t see what you are saying. I didn’t say that you connected the two. I dealt with them at the same time for the sake of time and space.
I’m researching your objection to the perfect passive, trying to understand the difference between saying “it stands written” (which it still does today and will for every present tense to come) and saying “it stands written forever.”
As for Isaiah 40/I Peter 1, you mean that you agree with the one sentence of the 5 points Spurgeon made about the word of God. I will be including another comment from a young man who wanted to answer you on that. He sent me an email, so I will have to copy and paste it. But it really seems to be a kind of special pleading that borders on eisegesis to make that ONLY about Jesus. The rest of the passage says otherwise.
The Josiah answer says absolutely nothing about textual criticism at all. I don’t see those people examining words in the manuscript to verify their authenticity.
But at least you offered something.
Finally, let’s don’t conflate perfect copies with a perfectly preserved word. Has God kept His Word pure in all ages? Yes. Do we have perfect copies? No. But we can rely on the TR as a manuscript family and receive it as the Word. It doesn’t bother me that there are copiest errors.
I will add that it doesn’t bother me that there are factual discrepancies in the Bible. I believe we have an inerrant Word, despite the fact that I can’t explain why God didn’t use a more precise number for pi when describing Solomon’s laver, or explain differences between generations and genealogies in Matthew and Luke.
I wanted to specifically respond to your exegesis of 1 Peter. I believe that the reference to the “word of God” in this passage is referring to Scripture.
The structure of the chapter 1 can be shown in the following way: In verses 1:1-12 God has given Christians a new identity and thus a new hope. Then, in 13-21. This new life calls for new living. Christians cannot be content to live in the former lusts. No, they must be holy. And if they are to be holy, they must love one another unhypocritically. This is the immediate context of 1:22-25. If Christians are going to embrace the new identity and holiness that God expects, they must love one another.
Verse 22 opens with the commanded that believers should love one another. Obedience to the Gospel had purified the souls of the believers resulting in their brotherly love. Their lives had radically been transformed. Since they had received this transformation and reorientation of identity, the command to love one another is rooted in the command to be holy from verses 15-16. They were supposed to live holy lives because of the truth of the Gospel had transformed them through the working of the Spirit and brought them to a point where they could show “unfeigned love” of the brethren. The word “unfeigned” means “undisguised, sincere” or “not fake”. This brotherly love that the believers shared was spirit produced at the time of their salvation and was greater than any surface level difference that might divide them. Thus, they were to love one another in a way that unhypocritical.
Why did Peter have to emphasize this? Likely because there was a Jew Gentile divide in the church. Even back in the first century, churches had different groups that would tend to form their own cliques or factions based on external personality or other factors. Peter is writing to very clearly combat this idea here. So, when one comes to church, kindness and love are not just “put on” and then “taken off” at the door. This is the genuine Christian experience and practice of loving one another.
Then end of verse 22 describes this love as coming from a “pure heart”. That is, this love was not to be a front or a facade. Rather, it was a love that flowed from the fact that their hearts had been purified by the Word of God—they had holy hearts as was commanded in 1:16—and thus they were able to love their brothers and sisters in sincerity and truth.
In verses 23-25, Peter explained that believers are born of an incorruptible seed that is unlike the corruptible nature of man. In these verses, Peter quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8. In this passage, God was confirming to His people Israel that He would return them from exile in Babylon. They could be confident in this because God’s Word abides forever! The people Peter was writing to were in a similar position. Though they weren’t a nation in exile, they were strangers and pilgrims scattered abroad. They were facing persecution. Peter also wanted them to be confident in the promises of God. Specifically, He is talking about the surety of their salvation. It is the fact that they have been saved by the surety of the Word of God even though their circumstances were bad.
Their circumstances were bad because they were being persecuted by the Roman empire. It was a scary time, and the Christians were probably feeling like outcasts in society. So Peter reminds them by saying in a sense, “This earth is not your home”. They could have confidence in in their salvation because it was not bought by corruptible things (verse 18) like silver and gold. Rather, it was bought by the precious blood of Christ (verse 19). Thus, they had heard this gospel (the Word) and believed (obeyed) this Gospel and now you have been born of an uncorruptible seed. This salvation they had was something new and eternal.
This also was probably a great comfort to the believers who were looking at the machine that was Rome and wondering, “was following Jesus a mistake”? The answer here then for the believer is a resounding “no”. What God had done in them could not be compared to the achievements of man (the glory of man in verse 24). Even the glories of Rome, their persecutors, would fade. On the other hand, God’s Word is eternal! The thing that their salvation was based on would never fade! Salvation, therefore, is more than mere moral reform—it is spiritual birth. They needed something more than outward performance. They needed a new inward reality that is not based on themselves—it is based on the new birth. They could love others because their salvation was supernatural. The old way of life will pass away—there is a new life they had been given, and this new life requires love.
The application of this command to love based on their new birth comes in 2:1-3. Here, Peter implores these believers to lay aside all malice, guile, etc. Essentially, these sins he listed are those that would work against the love that believers should show one another. The controlling verb of 2:1-3 is “desire”. What were the believers to desire? It was the “word”. The same “word” by which the gospel was preached to these believers was the word that would enable them to grow in love one for another.
In my study of this passage I referenced numerous commentaries, but I can’t think of any that interpreted “word” as an explicit reference to Jesus.
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Great job on this, Tim. Thank you for putting the work into your answer.
I have taken some time to review the perfect passive a bit more. Honestly, I suspect that you are making much of this as a debate tactic rather than a desire for serious interaction with my arguments. At a minimum, you are grossly overstating the flaw in my description of the perfect passive. Quite possibly, you mean to make it seem so complex that it doesn’t say what is intended.
I won’t assign something sinister to you, but I wonder if you would apply your understanding of the perfect passive evenly both to “it is written” and to “it is finished.” Would you also insist that when Jesus said from the cross, “it is finished,” He meant only that the effects lasted into the present, but said nothing whatsoever about the future?
Here are some perfect passives and you can tell me if your position holds. (Mostly in Luke because that’s where I am right now.)
– In Luke 4:6, was the earth and its glory “forever hand over” to Satan?
– In Luke 4:18, did Jesus come to help the “forever broken hearted” and “forever oppressed”?
– In Luke 5:18, was the man “forever paralyzed?”
– In Romans 7:14, was Paul “forever sold under sin”? (There are other theological passages where understanding the perfect tense as “forever” causes problems like this.)
There are plenty more examples where the sense of “forever” doesn’t work for the perfect passive. Again, the perfect tense indicates a completed action in the past with results that last up to the present. I offered a whole Greek 101 article (entirely in English) to explain this in case anyone was confused.
It wasn’t a debate tactic.
I was hoping to inform you about a serious misunderstanding of Greek that would lead to incorrect theology in many places if it remained uncorrected.
I was trying to help. 🙂
To answer your question, of course I would apply it to “It is finished” because the perfect tense says absolutely nothing about the future even when there are future effects. (and of course there were with the cross, as the rest of the NT testifies.)
Thanks for the response. I appreciate your willingness to continue the discussion. I don’t mind saying that the perfect passive indicative is used to indicate a settled reality, an established fact or a completed action with ongoing results. A.T. Robertson in his New Shorter Grammar explains it as “has been and is still.” I’m fine with saying it that way, and I don’t think that changes the way “it is written” or “it is finished” should be taken. Certainly, it doesn’t leave room for “it is written” to somehow come to a day when it will not be true.
As I understand it, Greek tenses don’t correspond to English tenses very precisely at all. In fact, I looked in my copy of Robertson’s Shorter Grammar (unfortunately, I do not currently possess his full treatment of Greek grammar), and he confirms this understanding. As he explains, “tense” itself is a misnomer for Greek verbs, as the Greek verb does not indicate the time of action so much as the kind of action (my Greek teacher told me this regarding the aorist and not the others – I assume he was sparing me the history). According to Robertson, the three kinds of action presented by tense are punctiliar, linear, or durative, and the perfect tense points to durative action – a permanent state of completion, which he illustrates as .—–.
In the examples you give, I don’t see how this understanding would be problematic at all. Certainly, Satan believed that the power and glory had been given to him for all time, that he could consider this a settled reality, an established fact. And in v. 18, the brokenhearted Jesus came to preach experienced this as a permanent condition.
We could probably go on and on about this. Does “forever” overstate the case? Maybe in a technical sense, but I don’t see it as inconsistent with the way the perfect tense is used. Though it might be better to say that it is a settled/established fact that it is written and leave it at that.
Okay, here’s a concise explanation of the perfect tense. https://ezraproject.com/perfect-tense-a-closer-look/
You have some things about Greek correct, but they are mixed with error. It’s true that Greek is more concerned about the type of action, but it can also express tense in certain aspects, and also certain aspect/mood combinations. That’s why most call it “tense” and aren’t wrong.
> “Certainly, it doesn’t leave room for “it is written” to somehow come to a day when it will not be true.”
If you’re talking about Greek perfect passives exclusively, (not scripture) then please realize that Greek perfect passives do absolutely leave room for it to stop being true. If you look at the example of Luke 5:18, you’ll see that your understanding doesn’t work because he ceased being paralyzed when Jesus healed him. A similar thing is true of Romans 7:14. Can you reconcile those passages with your understanding? Certainly at least Luke 5:18 perfect passive state (paralyzed) is explicitly stated to end not long afterwards.
Again, please, educate yourself on Greek before you use it to support doctrine. The page I linked to is a good start, and they have similar explanations for other parts of Greek as well. I also have that top article on my homepage which is a complete overview of Koine Greek that’s 100% in English if you want a more “big picture” type of overview.
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