2 Peter 1:16-21 Second Coming as a Myth

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[b] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Second Coming as a Myth

The perousia, or Second Coming of Jesus, is something that scholars in the ancient world were teaching as a myth.  That is, they might have attributed some sort of value to it as a story to encourage good behaviour, but they would not have seen it as rooted in history. It was common for myths to be taught in ancient religions so that truths could be gleaned from them.  This is not the way we often use myth to describe an untruth.  Myths were stories told to communicate truths, but they were not based on real-life events.  Probably in joining the Roman and Greek religions with the Judeo-Christian faith, some intellectuals read the Greek and Roman style of myths into the gospel.

Peter’s response is that Jesus’ Second Coming is no myth told to keep people hopeful in darkened times.  The historical future is as certain as the historical past.  Peter refers to the historicity of the Transfiguration which he had seen for himself.  Of course, the event was hard to believe because it had miraculous elements.  However, it was not a myth invented to communicate something deep.  It was a real event which communicated deep truths about the identity of Jesus.  In the same way, Jesus’ return is something that is accurately prophesied.  That is why the prophets are mentioned here as not mere story tellers, but they are people who were inspired by God to speak of future events beyond their experience or knowledge.

In today’s world, people often try and recast the ancient writings of the Jewish faith as though they were stories made up to communicate complex ideas.  They are as helpful to us as The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or other epic tales of heroism and adventure.  However, just as we should discount dragons and Jedi as inventions of creative minds, so we should dismiss angels and miracles as inventions created to enhance the story.  If we demythologize the text, in other words remove all the mythological elements, we can more clearly get to the mind of the author.  The miracles and supernatural creatures are mere details that obscure the point.  This is how some approach the Bible and that is exactly the kind of scholar Peter is arguing against.  Tolkien saw no dragons, and George Lucas has never met a Jedi.  Peter is saying, “I saw Jesus in an historical context behaving in a glorious and inexplicable way.  In the future he will return with just as amazing a presence.”  Skeptics will always find a way to discredit what they don’t want to believe.  Do you want to relegate the Holy Bible to Science-Fiction or Fantasy?  If you want to keep trusting it has historical fact, Peter says we can take his word for it.

Prayer

Doubts can gain a foothold in many ways.  I pray that I would accept the explanations and the encouragement of scripture about its validity.  I accept that scripture can appeal to no higher authority, but sometimes my struggling mind doubts all the same.  Give me the faith to push through until the sense of my assurance returns.  help me to know the books to read around the subject.  I value my relationship with you enough to not let it go because it is questioned.  I will research at the level of my questions.

Questions

  1. How is eschatology probably being questioned?
  2. How does Peter develop his argument against those who would doubt Jesus’ Second Coming?
  3. Why might people want to push further and doubt Petrine (Peter’s) authorship of 2 Peter?
  4. How do people talk about Jesus’ Second Coming today?
  5. How do you work through doubts about historical events mentioned in scripture that seem too fantastic to be true?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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6 Responses to 2 Peter 1:16-21 Second Coming as a Myth

  1. Eric Wildermuth says:

    People were thinking that these end times prophecies of Christ’s return were myths devised to instruct in deeper truths or to illustrate some timeless principles.
    Responding to this, Peter tells his readers how the apostles and prophets received these foretell prophecies and how they received inspiration to write Scripture.
    Many people talk of Jesus’s coming as the Rapture and not his actual Second Coming where he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
    The truth is that it will be a glorious event for some and horrific for others. It will come at the end of all things before He remakes the Heavens and Earth
    I first take these fantastic events on faith trusting that God is truthful and faithful and then seek understanding as I work through the implication of such things

  2. Christina Zezulak says:

    During these times, eschatology was probably seen as mere stories that someone cleverly put together as a means of giving hope and reflecting “greater truths.” Peter refutes these claims with explaining how he and the others were eyewitnesses to his majesty. I feel like Christians believe that the Second coming will happen one day, but don’t believe it could happen anytime soon. They see it as something every generation has expected, so there is no reason for them to believe it will happen in theirs. I used to live like that, and sometimes I do fall into that trap. But I praise God that He has grown me to eagerly await His return, as it could happen at any moment.

  3. 33324bg says:

    Verse 19 tells us that we should “pay attention (to God’s word) as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” That is marvelously put. I take it that Peter means we should keep reminding ourselves of God’s word, relying on it as we would a light in darkness, until Christ returns, when we will enter a new phase in our Christian living, no longer needing to remind ourselves of truth like in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 because we will see the very Word before us and we’ll never forget Him…We’ll never have to face anything within or without that will cause us to forget the truth, or obstruct the truth. We’ll constantly see clearly- renewed minds all the time. And yet growing in knowledge…What learning will take place on the new earth!

  4. kevin w. says:

    1.How is eschatology probably being questioned?
    2.How does Peter develop his argument against those who would doubt Jesus’ Second Coming?
    3.Why might people want to push further and doubt Petrine (Peter’s) authorship of 2 Peter?
    4.How do people talk about Jesus’ Second Coming today?
    5.How do you work through doubts about historical events mentioned in scripture that seem too fantastic to be true?
    From how Peter responds it seems evident that people were doubting the authenticity of the stories. In the Hellenistic world there were dozens of mythologies about various gods and goddesses and at this point in history many of the traditional ones were starting to be viewed as false. It seems reasonable that some may have seen Christianity as yet another mystery cult like Mithras or others. Peter argues against this by putting his integrity on the line. He was an eye witness of who Jesus is and heard it from the source. If his antagonists are correct, than Peter is a liar. It is so true–people who do not want to believe in something will bring the presupposition that the “something” is false before even looking at the facts. They then interpret and construe the facts to support what they have concluded at the onset. The is the basic approach of people like Ehrman, Crossan, Borg, etc. Is it any wonder that the Jesus Seminar concludes that most of what is in the Gospels is not actually what historically happened?
    I have seen God’s power in transforming my life and others. I have seen Him heal people and have heard from others who I trust that God has done other miraculous things of late. I really have no trouble believing that the miraculous things in the Bible actually happened.
    Some people (like an uncle of mine) say that Jesus already returned soon after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Others do not talk about it at all. I used to wish it would happen in my lifetime (so that I would not have to die, I thought), but not until I was old so that I could live a normal life first. Now I just want it to happen right now. This world is so corrupt. The prospect of raising my children here with these negative influences, increasingly hostile and intoxicating culture–this scares me. I want to see Jesus.

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