An Exegetical Study of 2 Peter 2:18-22 -- By: Duane A. Dunham

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:557 (Jan 1983)
Article: An Exegetical Study of 2 Peter 2:18-22
Author: Duane A. Dunham


An Exegetical Study of 2 Peter 2:18-22

Duane A. Dunham

[Duane A. Dunham, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon]

Peter’s second epistle has not been a well-mined field of study in recent investigations. The number of commentaries is not large, even when included with 1 Peter and Jude. This second chapter of the epistle is no exception to the general neglect as Cavallin has observed: “For the last 20 years I have found only two papers…on problems in 2 Pt. ii ….”1

This neglect is not due to a lack of interesting problems. This second chapter discloses several difficulties of both exegetical and theological import. Perhaps the most complex is raised by the words of verses 18–22 :

For they by uttering pompous words of vanity, in lusts of flesh by excesses, entice those recently escaping those living in error (and) while promising liberty to them, they themselves are slaves of corruption. For by what anyone is overcome, he is enslaved to this. So then, if after escaping the stains of the world by the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, they are again entangled and overcome, the latter things have become worse for them than the former. For it would be almost better for them not to have come to know the way of righteousness, than after knowing to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. The true proverb has happened to them: a dog (is) returned to his own vomit, and a washed sow (returns) to the mud wallow (author’s translation).2

Two major questions are often asked about this passage: What is the spiritual condition and effect of the failure indicated for the people involved? Can a true Christian lose his salvation? Barnes addresses these issues.

This passage is often quoted to prove the “possibility of falling from grace, and from a very high degree of it too.” But it is one of the last passages in the Bible that should be adduced to prove that doctrine. The true point of this passage is to show that the persons referred to never were changed; that whatever external reformation might have occurred, their nature remained the same; and that when they apostatized from their outward profession, they merely acted out their nature, and showed in fact there had been no real change.3

He then concludes, “This passage…can never be made to prove that one true Christian will fall away and peri...

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