As Peter faced death, he wrote to affirm the trustworthiness of the Scriptures. His martyrdom occurred sometime between 64 and 67 A.D. at the hands of Caesar Nero.
Recognizing the time in which they lived and remembering Jesus’ instruction, the disciples of Jesus had their own disciples, ones they had led to Christ and had instructed about the Gospel.
These disciples of the apostles were the ones who carried forward the message of the Gospel and all that Jesus had said to His first disciples, instructing as they had been taught. This is how the message of the Gospel is passed from generation to generation, still to this day.
At this point in time, the written letters from Jesus’ disciples, now apostles, were passed on to their followers and to leaders of the various churches throughout Asia Minor, as well as eastern and southern Europe. This was where they had served and had taught new believers the foundational truths that would become the New Testament.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God[messenger of God] may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).
When these letters by apostles arrived, their disciples memorized each letter in its entirety. This was how one “owned” any letter or work of literature in the centuries before and after Christ came. This was how all literature was passed down to the next generation. Content was expressed orally, memorized, and then retold, generation after generation.
With Scripture, when a letter from an apostle arrived in a church, each household that was financially able brought their own scribe to record the entire letter on papyrus. These records were then passed around and memorized in their entirety. The memorization of these entire letters brought the authentic letters of the apostles forward to the days when the Scriptures were compiled to make the New Testament. This process was begun as early as 68 A.D. before Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans.
Simultaneously, the canon of Hebrew writings, including the prophetic message [the predictions of Messiah] were defined: “We do not have vast numbers of discordant and conflicting books, but only twenty-two, containing the record of all of time and justly deemed divine. Of these, five are books of Moses that contain the Law and the tradition of human history up to his death. This period covers nearly three thousand years. From Moses’ death to that of Artaxerxes, who succeeded Xerxes as King of Persia, the prophets after Moses recorded the events of their times in thirteen books. The remaining four contain hymns to God and precepts for human conduct“1.
This explanation of the Old Testament was written by the son of Matthias, who was named Josephus, a priest of Jerusalem, late 60s – early 70s A.D. Josephus later wrote the whole history of the Jews [Jewish Antiquities] in twenty books and the account of the war with the Romans of his own time [The Jewish War] in seven books.2.
Together, early copies written by the apostles of Jesus, coupled with the canon of Hebrew Scriptures defined by Matthias, priest of Jerusalem, came to comprise the content of our Bibles today.Early copies written by the apostles of Jesus, coupled with the canon of Hebrew Scriptures defined by Matthias, priest of Jerusalem, came to comprise the content of our Bibles today. #Scripture #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
I was able to witness some of the earliest New Testament papyri copies at the Law Library exhibit on the campus of the University of Michigan. There were fragments of papyri from as early as the 100s A.D., the oldest known copies of the writings of Paul. On the papyrus we witnessed were Koine Greek words from The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, before our very eyes, ancient words of truth. At that time, we were studying Ephesians, and so were able to decipher the Greek. It was thrilling!
And thus, Peter writes, affirming the truth of the Scriptures:
“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. 3. 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.‘[a] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.4.
“19 We also have the prophetic message [the Old Testament predictions of Messiah] 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” (2 Peter 1:16-21 NIV).
Peter, James, and John had seen Christ with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop, witnessing the transcendence of his glorious presence. At the transfiguration, God displayed the honor and glory of his beloved son. When coupled with the fact that they had also witnessed Jesus’ miracles and had witnessed the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah being fulfilled in Christ, they had solid, unflinching faith, even Peter, reconstructed and forgiven after his denial of Christ. These were not myths, for they themselves were reliable eyewitnesses."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" 2Peter1:19.… Click To Tweet
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [messenger] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)."All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the messenger of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2Tim3:16-17 ESV).#bgbg2… Click To Tweet
“No Biblical prophecy was produced merely because a man wanted to prophesy (by the will of man). The prophecy in Scripture was given only by God through men, who ‘spoke’ as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was the active, revelatory agent working within the Old Testament prophets and through their lives and circumstances as they prophesied. This key verse for the doctrine of Scripture indicates that Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but simultaneously men spoke God’s words, using their own personalities, knowledge, background, vocabulary, and style. . . invisibly directed by the Holy Spirit, though without overriding the personalities of the human authors” (ESV Study Bible note on 2 Peter 1:21).
Here the Apostle Peter writes with the authority of one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, one chosen to found the church after Jesus’ ascension. He affirms to the letter’s recipients that the words of Scripture are not “cleverly devised stories.” No, these are firsthand eyewitness accounts, which are “completely reliable.” The eyewitness accounts of Jesus on the sacred mountain are recounted as a legitimate, actual, truthful event that was one of many proofs of Jesus’ divine nature.
On the mountain, “Moses and Elijah appear and stand beside Jesus, symbolizing that Jesus is their successor and has fulfilled both. He is now bringing a new covenant from God for all people.” (link)
In 2 Peter 1:19, Peter affirms the prophetic message of the Old Testament as being completely reliable. The words recorded by the prophets that foretold of Jesus’ coming arrival and of all that He would do and accomplish as Messiah were prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and they were fulfilled. These words have proven to be completely reliable, all prophecies of Christ’s first coming have been fulfilled.
The words chosen by Peter, “completely reliable” in the original language mean “words that don’t fail, waver, or move. These words are fixed, sure, certain, that upon which one may built, rely, or trust” (Strong’s #949).The prophetic message in the Old Testament was proven to be completely reliable, for all of the prophecies of Christ's first coming have been fulfilled. #faith #KnowingJesus #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
Peter had deconstructed his faith, throwing it away out of fear when he betrayed Jesus during His suffering at the hands of the Roman soldiers before His crucifixion. Peter showed more evidence of his deconstruction when he refused to believe Mary Magdalene, commissioned by Jesus Himself, and the other women with her also saying that Jesus had risen from the dead.
But then Peter raced with John to the place of the grave and discovered with his own eyes that Jesus was indeed gone from the grave, His grave wrappings removed from His body. Soon afterward, Peter saw Jesus with his own eyes in the presence of the other apostles. Jesus showed them the holes in His hands and the wound in His side.
Yes, the words of the Old Testament, which foretold of the coming Messiah and His resurrection from the dead, proved to be completely reliable. And so, too, are these accounts now shared by Peter as he wrote to his disciples and the churches he had founded.
The letters of the apostles and first leaders of the ancient church, including Jesus’ brothers James and Jude, came to comprise the New Testament. Relying upon the power and certainty of the Scriptures and trusting ourselves to Christ alone brings growth that transforms our lives.
“Knowledge of God releases His power in us to change and transform. Power is given to those who rely on Christ’s righteousness and who KNOW Him.” (2 Peter, ESV Study Bible Note)."Knowledge of God releases His power in us to change and transform. Power is given to those who rely on Christ's righteousness and who KNOW Him." (2 Peter, ESV Study Bible Note) #bgbg2 #faith Click To Tweet
“Faith is obtained as a gift, its foundation is not our righteousness but Christ’s, Who is our God and Savior” (John Piper).
This type of faith was now embraced by Peter, who after deconstructing recognized that he had no faith on his own, no strength for obedience. However, when he saw Christ resurrected, even reaching out to him, allowing Peter to reaffirm his love for Him after Peter had publicly denied Him, everything changed.
That love. That eyewitness viewing of the empty grave. Those times of seeing and talking with the resurrected Savior. All of this reconstructed Peter’s faith. He knew he could trust all of God’s promises. These promises are written down in our Bibles for instruction and for building our faith. They reconstruct our faith after we have questioned our salvation.
All of these brought Peter to become a now reconstructed leader and apostle of the first-century church. Peter, the first church heretic and doubter became instead, one of the main leaders of the church in Jerusalem, alongside James and John. He then crossed Asia Minor and headed toward Rome.
Because of Peter’s experience, those believers who denied Christ out of fear of the Roman persecution, and who then later recanted their denial, ashamed of what they had done; well, these were forgiven and welcomed back into the church, just as Peter had been. It was made clear to them that they had NOT lost their salvation, just as Peter had not lost his. And then, these were discipled and taught further to strengthen their faith, just as Peter had been.
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References for this post:
a. 2 Peter 1:17 Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35. Also stated by the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
1. Eusebius, The Church History, pg. 104, Paul L. Maier, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1999.
2. This is firsthand eyewitness knowledge of Peter, James, and John, whom Jesus had brought with Him.
3. Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty. Their accounts were written here: Matthew 17:1-2, 6; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 28:37; Mark 5:37.
4. Peter certifies his eyewitness account.