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