[B-Greek] DIKAIOSUNH in Peter (was: the best Metalanguage tounderstand the Greek NT?(was "2 Peter 1:1"))

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Sat Apr 24 01:23:35 EDT 2010

I will only make a few comments to clarify where you have misunderstood me.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Yancy Smith" <yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net>
To: "'B-Greek'" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: 23. april 2010 23:17
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] DIKAIOSUNH in Peter (was: the best Metalanguage
tounderstand the Greek NT?(was "2 Peter 1:1"))

> Iver said:
> I am not saying that Peter and Paul have to use the word in the same sense,
> but if that same sense makes good sense in the context of the letter, one has
> to show that a difference sense may be intended, and I don't think you have
> done that.
> Yancy:
> What makes me cringe about reading in Paul's understanding of DIKAIOSUNH is
> that the none of the other uses of DIKAIOSUNH in 2 Peter have anything to do
> with the Pauline sense of Romans 1:16-17.
IL: That is not what I am doing. Rather, my position is that there is a common
meaning to DIKAIOSUNH in the NT that is found in all its occurrences, whether in
Mathew, Luke, John, Paul or Peter

Rather, the mention of God's righteousness and the righteousness of God's people
in 2 Peter suggests a covenant frame in which all the language about promises
being kept or not becomes an important slot/theme, and a developing point in the
entire epistle.
IL: It only suggests that if this is what you bring to the letter. It is true
that the book uses EPAGGELIA in 3:4 and 9, but that is not connected to
DIKAIOSUNH, and EPAGGELMA in 1:4 and 3:13. These refer to what has been
promised, not to God's faitfhfulness.
DIKAIOSUNH is the activity of a God who keeps his promises, i.e., he is
righteous, faithful to his covenant promises. God actually gives his people
freedom (1:4, 11), but the false prophets and teachers promise freedom and can't
deliver because they are still slaves of lust. The false teachers call into
question God's faithfulness (3:4), but Peter reframes what seems to be
"slackness/slowness" to fulfill God's promise as an expression of God's covenant
love, giving time for repentance
IL: There is no mention of DIAKIOSUNH in 3:4. It seems to me that they are
questioning the truthfulness of the promise.

> 2PE 1:4 δι᾽ ὧν τὰ τίμια καὶ μέγιστα ἡμῖν ἐπαγγέλματα δεδώρηται,
> 2PE 2:19 ἐλευθερίαν αὐτοῖς ἐπαγγελλόμενοι, αὐτοὶ δοῦλοι ὑπάρχοντες τῆς φθορᾶς·
> (contrast with 1:3,4)
> 2PE 3:4 καὶ λέγοντες, Ποῦ ἐστιν ἡ ἐπαγγελία τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ;
> 2PE 3:9 οὐ βραδύνει κύριος τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, ὥς τινες βραδύτητα ἡγοῦνται
> 2PE 3:13 καινοὺς δὲ οὐρανοὺς καὶ γῆν καινὴν κατὰ τὸ ἐπάγγελμα αὐτοῦ
> προσδοκῶμεν, ἐν οἷς δικαιοσύνη κατοικεῖ.
> I would suggest that the last reference blends both God's divine righteousness
> (faithfulness to his promises) and human reciprocal righteousness, obedience
> to the stipulations and expectations of God's commands.
The OT concept of faithfulness to a promise is expressed by "chesed" (usually
ELEOS in the LXX) which is different from "tzedaka" (DIKAOISUNH), even though in
some contexts there is a bit of semantic overlap, because faithfulness to a
promise is part of righteousness.
> In addition to the fact that the Pauline understanding you assume doesn't
> square with the emphasis on promises found in 2 Peter, is the problem that
> your understanding of DIKAIOSUNH (essentially that represented by the NLT)
> does not play well with the rest of 2 Peter chapter 1. How does it square with
> what is actually there?
IL: We don't agree, since I say exactly the same about your hypothesis: It does
not square with what is actually there.
> An important bit of information that is missing in this discussion is the
> function of letter openings and closings in helping to set the scenario and
> topics important to the letter. Letters tend to announce a theme at the
> beginning and the closings tend to restate the central theme toward the end of
> the letter. I am curious as to how you see the Pauline sense of justification
> by faith, or would it here be better called "faith by justification" (?) being
> a theme developed in the rest of the letter?
IL: You have misunderstood me here, assuming that I am importing Pauline
theology into 2 Peter. But then I am not sure I fully understand your definition
of "Pauline theology". Justification by faith instead of by law is only one
aspect, although a fundamentally important one, and this is not what Peter is
talking about. (I think Peter had a hard time grasping this point in Pauline
theology (cf. Gal 2:11-21 and 2 Pet 3:15)).

I am saying that Peter is concerned with right living (and right doctrine), and
that right living is only possible when someone has come to a personal faith in
God and Jesus, our Saviour. God and Jesus are the sources for that living. This
right living is based on what Jesus has done. I am not talking about an
"imputed" righteousness as some do, but an actual righteousness (that may cause
a believer to be ostraziced and persecuted by non-believers). This faith-life
must  be expressed in a righteous life like James has made clear. (I would say
that Peter has more in common with James than with Paul). And this is in my view
the main theme of 1:3-10 if we look at the whole passage, rather than extracting
a small piece from the first quater of v. 4. Verses 3-10 elaborate on the
growing knowledge of God from v. 2, and the righteous life-of-faith in 1b. The
goal of this faith-life is to partake of divine nature (righteousness, justice
and love), and to separate oneself from the evilness in the world (v. 4). This
involves a growth process starting with faith, going through goodness/virtue
(almost the same as righteousness), knowledge (of God and his will for me),
self-control, perseverance under persecution, godliness (a higher form of
virtue), FILADELFIA and finally AGAPH.
All of this characterises the (ideal) life of a Christian, not the character or
actions of God. Of course, this righteousness is based on what God and Jesus our
Saviour did, just as God had promised long ago, but it is not about God's
faithfulness to his promises.

The topic of the meaning of DIKAIOSUNH is a huge topic which we are unable to
deal with properly here. But I still recommend for anyone to actually study all
the occurrences of DIKAIOSUNH in the NT. Few commentators and preachers do that.
LXX is helpful as background, but don't pick a few special cases in the LXX and
import that context into the whole of the NT. It is more helpful to do a
comprehensive study of tzadik and tsedakah in the Hebrew text.

Best wishes,

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