Scott Hafemann, «'Divine Nature' in 2 Pet 1,4 within its Eschatological Context», Vol. 94 (2013) 80-99
This article offers a new reading of what it means in 2 Pet 1,4 to participate in the «divine nature». The divine fu/sij («nature») in 2 Pet 1,4 refers not to an abstract, divine «essence» or «being», but to God’s dynamic «character expressed in action» in accordance with his promises. Being a fellow participant (koinwno/j) of this «nature» thus refers to taking part in the eschatological realization of the «new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells» (cf. ta\ e)pagge/lmata in 2 Pet 1,4 with e)pagge/lma in 2 Pet 3,13).
â€œDivine Natureâ€ in 2 Pet 1,4 within its Eschatological Context
2 Peter 1,4b presents the main point of the epistleâ€™s opening argu-
ment by signaling the purpose of redemption: á¼µÎ½Î± Î´Î¹á½° Ï„Î¿á½»Ï„Ï‰Î½ [ta.
á¼Ï€Î±Î³Î³á½³Î»ÂµÎ±Ï„Î±, 1,4a] Î³á½³Î½Î·ÏƒÎ¸Îµ Î¸Îµá½·Î±Ï‚ ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¿á½¶ Ï†á½»ÏƒÎµÏ‰Ï‚. In so doing,
this á¼µÎ½Î± clause also introduces the purpose of the letter as a whole,
thereby providing a crux interpretum for its reading 1. Far beyond its
place within 2 Peter, however, the theological import of this text has
played a key role both in the reconstruction of early Christianity and
within the doctrinal development of the church. In the former case, it
has been taken to signal an apparently later, Hellenistic development
within the primitive Christian movement; in the latter, it eventually
becomes an authoritative proof text for the concept of theosis 2. The
two perspectives come together in E. KÃ¤semannâ€™s judgment, for
whom 2 Pet 1,4 represents a â€œrelapse of Christianity into Hellenistic
dualismâ€, in which â€œapotheosis is [manâ€™s] true destiny. This is what
the mystics and Gnosis promise him. But, according to our epistle,
this is exactly what the Christian kerygma promises him alsoâ€ 3.
I. The Ontological Reading of Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ in 2 Peter 1,4b
Central to understanding this programmatic text is the meaning of
Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ itself, which was presupposed in 2 Peter as common ground
between author and audience. Recovering this ground from our dis-
tance has been made more difficult, however, by the common impres-
For the role of 2 Pet 1,3-11 within 2 Peter, see S.J. HAFEMANN, â€œSalva-
tion in Jude 5 and the Argument of 2 Peter 1:3-11â€, The Catholic Epistles
and Apostolic Tradition (eds. K.-W. NIEBUHR â€’ R.W. WALL) (Waco, TX 2009)
For an overview of its reception-history, see A. VÃ–GTLE, Der Judasbrief
/ Der 2. Petrusbrief (EKKNT 22; Solothurn / Neukirchen-Vluyn 1994) 145-
148, Partakers of the Divine Nature. The History and Development of Deifi-
cation in the Christian Traditions (eds. M.J. CHRISTENSEN â€’ J.A. WITTUNG)
(Grand Rapids, MI 2008) and the paradigmatic â€œexchange formulaâ€ in Ire-
neaus, Against Heresies 5 and Athanasius, On the Incarnation 54.
E. KÃ„SEMANN, â€œAn Apologia for Primitive Christian Eschatologyâ€, Es-
says on New Testament Themes (SBT 41; Naperville, IL 1964) 179-180.
BIBLICA 94.1 (2013) 80-99
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