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 85
of activity or that which expresses itself in activity, the character pro-
duced or the character that produces 17. This is why â€œnatureâ€ was often
identified with what could be perceived. Even for the Platonists, the
four elements of the cosmos therefore emerge out of a prior â€œcosmic
soulâ€ or Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ by virtue of â€œnecessityâ€ (á¼€Î½á½±Î³ÎºÎ·), so that â€œnatureâ€ is
seen as inexorably expressing itself in its corresponding actions 18. The
Neo-Platonists (and already the Middle-Platonists of the first century
A.D.) reemphasized this identity between nature (Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚) and necessity
(á¼€Î½á½±Î³ÎºÎ·) or destiny (ei`marme,nh), the latter being the active result of
the Zeus-made or crafted cosmic soul as the cause of all things. Far
from static, this cosmic â€œnatureâ€ was the intermediate instrument by
which all things came about 19.
The Stoics rejected the Platonic metaphysics of a transcendent
deity. Nevertheless, they too conceived of Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ actively, now iden-
tified with the â€œright reasonâ€ (Î»á½¹Î³Î¿Ï‚ á½€ÏÎ¸á½¹Ï‚) that infused all things,
so that â€œnatureâ€ could be identified with â€œgodâ€ itself, since Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ was
the dynamic, physical principle of all reality that held the universe
together and caused all living creatures to grow (cf. Diogenes Laer-
tius, Vit. 7.148; 7.156; Epictetus, Diatr. 2.8.3) 20. Everything that takes
place is the expression of the perfect will of that perfect reason and
so is the most provident thing that could happen. In fact, the Stoic
view of nature as universal causality was so active and determinative
that they too sought to clarify its meaning with the concepts of ne-
cessity (á¼€Î½á½±Î³ÎºÎ·) and destiny (ei`marme,nh).
We must be careful here. As Engberg-Pedersen stresses, although
Stoics did not view â€œgodâ€ as personal, their depictions of nature with
See too evkÏ†á½»Ï‰ in Mark 13,29 // Matt 24,32. For the continuation of
these two uses of Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ through the NT era, see Barn. 10,7 for â€œnatureâ€ as
that which is produced and Diogn. 9,6 for â€œnatureâ€ as that which produces
(see too, Ign. Trall. 1,1).
Cf. Aristotle, Phys. 2.I.192b 20-22; 3.I.200b 12; Cael. 301b 17-18; and
Metaph. 12.1073a 25-30 for the â€œunmoved moverâ€ (ti o] ouv kinou,menon
kinei), who, for Aristotle, is God (Î¸Îµá½¹Ï‚), the â€œmetaphysicalâ€ reality. Cf. BRIS-
SON, â€œNaturâ€, 730-731, for this point and supporting texts.
For the Middle Platonist view of â€œWeltbildungâ€ rather than â€œWeltschÃ¶p-
fungâ€, see D.T. RUNIA, Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato
(Philosophia Antiqua 44; Leiden 1986) 53-54, 96, 435, 493-494. For a treat-
ment of our themes in Plutarch (AD 45-125), who offers the only complete,
albeit eclectic work of Middle Platonism, see STARR, Divine Nature, 120-143.
So BRISSON, â€œNaturâ€, 732-733, who consequently refers to Ï†á½»ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ as a
â€œWachstumâ€ (732); see also STARR, Divine Nature, 145-146, 150.
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