Worldview and Textual Criticism in 2 Peter 3:10 -- By: Al Wolters

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 49:2 (Fall 1987)
Article: Worldview and Textual Criticism in 2 Peter 3:10
Author: Al Wolters


Worldview and Textual Criticism in 2 Peter 3:10

Al Wolters

The Textus Receptus of 2 Pet 3:10 has the verb katakaēsetai, which is reflected in all Bible translations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The KJV for example, renders the clause in which it occurs as follows: “the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (my emphasis).

With the rise of modern textual criticism, this reading was soon rejected. This was due especially to the discovery and publication of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, the two great fourth century uncials, both of which read heurethēsetai, “will be found.” To my knowledge, all critical editions of the New Testament text since that of Tischendorf1 (1872), notably including the landmark edition of Westcott and Hort2 (1881), have adopted the latter reading, which is also supported by early patristic evidence (Origen) and is now attested by an early papyrus (P72).3 A number of other significant variant readings also have a respectable pedigree (being attested as far back as the fifth century, or even earlier), but these are all readily explained as attempts to make sense of an earlier heurethēsetai. On this point virtually all editors and commentators are agreed.4

The difficulty is that heuresthēsetai does not appear to make much sense. In Metzger’s words, it “seems to be devoid of meaning in the

context.”5 In a passage which clearly speaks of the coming day of judgement as a kind of cosmic conflagration, in which all things dissolve in fiery heat, what can it mean that the earth and its works “will be found”? The sentence sounds incomplete; moreover, it seems to indicate survival rather than destruction.

A number of solutions have been proposed for this difficulty. One is to treat heurethēsetai as itself a corruption of an earlier original. This was the view first put forward by Tischendorf,6 and later adopted by Westcott and Hort7 —the very men who had first reinstated this reading into the text. This opinion still finds favour in contemporary scholarship,

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