Well, after my first experiment, I have to say that so far live blogging is fun indeed. I hope its somewhat helpful to all of you. Tomorrow morning we’ll be back with more. Doug will be talking first about the first 3 chapters of 1 Peter, particularly the notion of the church as elect, exiles, and diasporic. Later on in the afternoon he will be lecturing on the always-difficult texts in 1 Peter on “submission.” Stay tuned.
Daily Archives: February 19, 2010
Harink makes an all important point in wrapping up. This apocalyptic-transformational Christology and eschatology that animates 2 Peter lends itself, not to any sort of resignation or passivity, but rather to action: “Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?” (3:11-12).
The transfiguring apocalypse of Jesus is not merely a linearly future event, but a past object of faith (“We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain”) and a present object of experience (“participants of the divine nature”). Thus we do not simply wait for the coming of the apocalypse, we hasten it by giving ourselves over, in the Spirit, to Christ’s own mode of action and living (and here we see a connection with 2 Peter’s list of virtues: 2 Pet 1:5-7).
Because of Christ’s transfiguration, we are called, not to passivity, but to radical apocalyptic action, which, in summary means to subject all our actions to the lens of Christ’s own agape, the radical love that gives itself away for others, even to death.
When 2 Peter’s apocalyptic schema is understood rightly, as the destruction of all that separates creation from God, that purifies and radically transfigures the broken creation, his fixation on the transfiguration of Jesus becomes more clear. The transfiguration is a sort of pre-appearance (my term, not Harink’s) of the final divine apocalypse that transfigures creation and dissolves all that is opposed to communion with God.
This is seen further in the contrast between the disciples’ response to the transfiguration and that of Moses and Elijah. The disciples are shocked senseless and barely know how to talk coherently (“he did not know what he was saying”). Moses and Elijah, however stand calmly and talk to Jesus about his mission in Jerusalem. They stand as those already taken up into God’s apocalypse, abiding, conversing, and indeed, relaxing within the glory of the Lord. The disciples however are not ready for this. They have to go through the fire of the transfiguration — which leads to and through the cross — to be prepared to rest in this radical, transforming glory.
2 Peter 3:10 reads as follows in the NRSV:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Most older translations, however, read “dissolved” or “burned up” rather than “disclosed.” Harink argues that the NRSV’s reading is superior, and clearly there is a bit at stake in this matter. In this rendering, which I take to be correct as well, is about the revelation of the truth and falsehood of creation under sin, not the obliteration of all creation as such.
An important distinction indeed.
2 Peter is attempting to convince its readers that the Day of the Lord is indeed coming. That the reality of Christ’s coming in glory, and the attending transfiguration of the world is indeed real. How does Peter argue for this? With the transfiguration of Christ (1: 16-18).
The hope and reality of the final judgment and vindication is tied up in the transfigured flesh of Jesus. Its reality, which was seen, firsthand by the disciples is the evidence, the assurance that the day of the Lord is indeed sure and certain.
This sheds new light on Matt 16:28 in which Jesus claims that some “will not taste death” before seeing the coming of the Son of Man in his glory. The final apocalyptic transfiguration of the world and the historical event of Christ’s transfiguration are so intimately connected that the transfiguration assures, promises, and anticipates the final consummation. It is so central for 2 Peter that it is the only historical event in Christ’s life that figures in his argument.
In light of the connection between Eastern Orthodox theology and the themes of 2 Peter, Douglas Harink argues that one must understand 2 Peter in light of the Orthodox tradition, not the other way round. The reason for this is that there is not nearly enough information in 2 Peter to get a handle on its key emphases. However, when situated within the context of the rich tradition of Orthodox worship — rooted much more widely in Scripture as a whole — then, and only the 2 Peter becomes intelligible.
A provocative claim, no doubt. Again, especially for Protestants.
Should 2 Peter be seen as an example of “early catholicism”? According to Harink, maybe not. The themes of participation in the divine nature, the transfiguration of Christ, and a radical apocalyptic transformation of the world are all strikingly characteristic of Eastern Orthodox theology. Thus, perhaps we should see 2 Peter as a form of “early Orthodoxy”, the forerunner of this specific emphasis within the Christian tradition.
This also posits the possibility that the “exotic” — in Western eyes — themes of Eastern Orthodoxy have a far deeper connection to the New Testament witness than most Western Christians, particularly Protestants acknowledge.
In contrast to Ernst Kasemann’s dismissal of 2 Peter as manifesting a malignant “early catholicism” and an excessive “hellenization”, Harink notes that Richard Bauckham offers a far more erudite and contextual analysis of the letter. According to Bauckham, any such simplistic account of 2 Peter is reductionistic. Rather 2 Peter manifests “a surprising combination of Hellensim and Jewish cosmic apocalyptic.”
Harink points out some key — and odd — movements in 2 Peter. It begins with a reference to “sharing in the divine nature” the strongest text on theosis you can find in the New Testament. But by the time you get to chapter 3 you’re in the middle of a massive account of a fiery apocalypse in which pretty much everything gets destroyed. Likewise there’s not a single mention of the death or resurrection of Christ in the whole letter. Of course, the transfiguration takes center stage throughout.
Tonight my church is hosting our biannual Ekklesia Project regional gathering. Doug will be speaking on the nature and mission of the church as reflected in 1 & 2 Peter, which is also the subject of his recent commentary on those books in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible Series.
I’m going to take a stab at live blogging these, since the church we’re at actually has wireless. Tonight’s lecture is entitled “The Transfiguration of Christ: The End of 2 Peter.” Lets see if I can handle this live blogging thing.