The Power and Glory – 2 Peter 1:16-18

In response to the claim the apostolic teaching concerning the return of Jesus is a cleverly devised myth, Peter claims to be an eyewitness of “his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16b-18). Peter is referring to the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matt 17:1-8, Mark 9:1-8, Luke 9:28-36).  In this well-known story, Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountain where the glory of God comes upon Jesus. God’s voice speaks, declaring Jesus to be his son and then Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah.

In the Gospels the transfiguration calls attention to who Jesus really is: he is the Son of God and the fulfillment of both the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). God’s voice sounding from a bright Transfiguration Raphaelcloud declaring Jesus to be his son evokes both the theophany at Mount Sinai and Psalm 2, an important messianic Psalms.

In 2 Peter, the writer claims to be an “eyewitness of his majesty.” The noun Peter chooses for “eyewitness”(ἐπόπτης) only appears here in the New Testament, but has the connotation of someone that makes very careful observations. For example, God sees everything (2 Macc 3:39; 7:35; 3 Macc 2:21; 1 Clem 59:3) or the Emperor (IPerg 381).

What Peter witnessed was “his majesty” (μεγαλειότης, v. 16). This noun is also rare in the New Testament, but it is used in Acts 19:27 when the pagan Demetrius the Silversmith described the “great goddess Atremis,” she might lose some of her “majesty” if Paul’s gospel is left to grow unchecked. The word therefore refers to something ultimately impressive or awe-inspiring even in the pagan world. A similar word appears in v. 17 (μεγαλοπρεπής), although this word appears in the LXX to describe God himself (Deut 33:26; Sirach 17:3, “the glory of his voice”).

It is perhaps unexpected that Peter would answer the objection concerning the second coming of Jesus with a reference back to the Transfiguration. But as Thomas Schreiner points out, the transfiguration follows a statement about seeing “the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt 16:28–17:13; Mark 9:1–13; Luke 9:27–36).

In Matthew 16:21-23 Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection for the first time, immediately after Peter has confessed his belief in Jesus as the Messiah. In response to the surprising prediction that God’s Messiah was going to be killed when he went to Jerusalem, Peter rebukes Jesus (v. 22), and Jesus’ rebukes Satan and calls Peter a hindrance!

Jesus then declares to his disciples they must be ready to “take up their cross and follow him” (Matt 16:24-28). To a first century Jew, “taking up one’s cross” meant to be crucified by the Romans! Jesus warns his disciples that he will he be executed in Jerusalem, but also they must be ready for the same treatment. The assumed context of 2 Peter is just before Peter literally “takes up his cross” and die on account of his faith in Jesus.

Peter is therefore presenting himself as a prophetic witness to a foretaste of the glory of the Son of Man and his kingdom. Having raised the issue of prophecy, he goes on to argue that the prophets are reliable because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

5 thoughts on “The Power and Glory – 2 Peter 1:16-18

  1. It is interesting how Demetrius talks about the ability of Paul’s/Christ’s teaching taking away from the “majesty” Artemis had. It is weird to see how they relate to their gods in a similar way to how we see G-d. If God’s glory can take away from a Greek god it could also be applied to Allah. After Jesus Christ has done something no other religion claims their god/gods have done. Are we able to show G-d’s glory to the same extent that Paul did? It would be interesting to do some research and see how the glory of G-d is being shown today. As well as where it is being shown, is it working to the same extent the Bible writes about it in Peter.

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  2. Jesus knew his fate there is no doubt, John 19:28 seems to imply that anyway. It seems though that Jesus isn’t really giving a prophecy about the death of his followers, rather just an educated guess. Jesus was starting a revolution so obviously, anyone following the revolutionary would be put to death as well. Peter was told he would die, but how much of a prophecy is that really?

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  3. Interestingly enough, Peter may or may not be right when he makes the statement of him seeing “the majesty”. No doubt, Jesus forseen his death, so at one point he had to have contact with his heavenly father. The glory of God had to have shown down, since the Peterine claims the eyewitness. I know just agreeing with the statements is the “Christian” respoonse, but there may be no way for us to even physically “show” the glory of God. This is in reponse to showing the same event that happened when Jesus took the three disciples up on the mountain, but this figure of speech can bve related to us showing the glory of God through actions. An example would be missionaries impacting the global world, and sharing the gospel with the risk of a possible penalty or death. Those examples of how today’s society is showing the glory of God. The Peterine also is symbolizing that he literally took up his cross, just as Jesus had encouraged his disciples to do. Therefore, he is showing the glory of God by following Jesus’ acts and claiming to be a prophet.

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  4. Trent,

    Good post. We may not have a physical way of “showing” God’s glory but we can show it by being a light in this world for Him. I know it is somewhat cliche to say that but it is one way it can be done. Also, Peter is totally right when He says the prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit because all the authors of Bible were. Acts 1:16 states, “”Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.” This shows that the Holy Spirit not only inspired Peter but David as well. Another way you could say how in today’s society that we show God’s glory are professional athletes giving all glory to Him for their accomplishments. There are more examples but that’s one I see more frequently than others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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