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).
82 SCOTT HAFEMANN
as a reference to experiencing Godâ€™s presence and/or taking on
Godâ€™s/Christâ€™s moral character now as a result of already escaping
the moral corruption of this world in this life (an experiential and/or
ethical reading focused fundamentally on the present) 8.
The only serious challenge to these traditional approaches has come
from Al Woltersâ€™ covenantal reading of the text 9. Wolters argues that
Î¸Îµá½·Î±Ï‚ ÎºÎ¿Î¹Î½Ï‰Î½Î¿á½¶ Ï†á½»ÏƒÎµÏ‰Ï‚ refers to being â€œpartners of the Deityâ€ in Godâ€™s
covenant as a result of having been acquitted of the corruption of the
fallen world brought about through sinful desire. As the crux of his ar-
gument, Wolters maintains that Î¸Îµá½·Î± Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚, like the designations Î¸Îµá½·Î±
Î´á½»Î½Î±ÂµÎ¹Ï‚ (2 Pet 1,3) and ÂµÎµÎ³Î±Î»Î¿Ï€ÏÎµÏ€á½´Ï‚ Î´á½¹Î¾Î± (2 Pet 1,17), is a substitute
description of God as a person, meaning â€œdivine beingâ€ or â€œdeityâ€, and
not a reference to the â€œdivine natureâ€ as an abstract entity. He points
out that Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ can be used concretely to refer to a creature or entity (cf.
Plato, Tim. 42c; 3 Macc 3,29; James 3,7, etc., as part of 100 such extant,
concrete uses) and that it can also refer to the supreme deity directly
(cf. Philo, Fug. 172; Mos. 2.65; Migr. 139, Spec. 1.318 [substituting for
â€œthe Lord your Godâ€ in Deut 14,1!]). In Philo, Spec. 3.178 and Abr. 144
(cf. Josephus, A.J. 8.107) the exact phrase Î¸Îµá½·Î± Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ is used for the
biblical God, thereby providing further parallels to the meaning â€œdivine
beingâ€ or â€œdeityâ€ proposed for 1,4 10.
Wolters has demonstrated that recognizing the covenant context of 2
Pet 1,4 makes important linguistic and theological contributions to un-
derstanding the passage. In particular, Woltersâ€™ construal cautions us not
to separate the Î¸Îµá½·Î± Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ in view from the personal Î¸Îµá½¹Ï‚ it signifies,
which has led to the phrase wrongly being interpreted as a static abstrac-
tion in reference to a divine â€œbeingâ€, â€œessenceâ€, or â€œqualityâ€. Moreover,
in Divine Nature. 2 Peter 1,4 in Its Hellenistic Context (ConB 33; Stockholm
2000) 49, 65, 185, 189, 215, 220, 232-233.
Strongly represented in the 19th and early 20th century commentaries, fo-
cusing on participation in the Spirit or union with Christ, e.g., J.T. BECK, Petrus-
briefe. Ein Kommentar (GieÃŸen, 1895) 242-244, and J.B. MAYOR, The Epistle
of St. Jude and the Second Epistle of St. Peter (London, 1907) 190; more re-
cently, see F.W. DANKER, â€œ2 Peter 1: A Solemn Decreeâ€, CBQ 40 (1978) 71.
â€œâ€˜Partners of the Deityâ€™: A Covenantal Reading of 2 Peter 1:4â€, CTJ 25
(1990) 28-46, and â€œPostscript to â€˜Partners of the Deityâ€™â€, CTJ 26 (1990) 418-
420; he is now followed by R.A. REESE, 2 Peter & Jude (The Two Horizons
New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI 2007) 133, 135.
WOLTERS, â€œPartnersâ€, 34-37.
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