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.

9 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.

  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?

  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.

  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.

  5. I believe that Peter is giving a humanistic perspective of his and the other disciples experience with Christ. I also agree with the final statement of this post. Prophets are a reliable source because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. I think it can be more difficult today to show God’s glory because we do not have anyone would be considered an actual eyewitness. However, we have the ability to learn from those who were able to visually see this happen and develop our faith based the how the Holy Spirit has inspired us and those of the past. Today, people often to do not believe in anything they cannot physically see or touch. As a Christian I know that God is everywhere and in everything. I am able to see His work in nature and in the lives of others and myself. On the other hand, many people do not have this luxury. They do not understand the beauty and majesty behind all things God has provided for us. Furthermore, I agree with a previous response by Adam that there can be many ways in which people today show their glory to God. For instance, athletes giving their success to the Lord. But I do believe it is more than that. Overall, I see the purpose of this section of scripture is to encourage its readers to become prophets. Just as Peter would follow in the footsteps of Christ, the people to come should as well.

  6. I believe that writer of 2 Peter mentions the transfiguration in order to make him credible. There is a lot of speculation about if the disciple Simon Peter actually wrote the book of 2 Peter, this statement may be his way of making his work credible to his audience. It could be possible, on the other hand, that the writer was trying to present himself as Simon Peter, and therefore mentioned something that only Peter would know about firsthand. There is a proposal that a follower of Peter wrote this book, for Simon Peter, and he therefore would know about the transfiguration from Peter possibly speaking about it (Jobes, 2011).
    I do not think that the disciples truly believed Jesus when He asked them to “take up their cross and follow Him”. Yes, they knew Jesus was often threatened to be killed and often spoke of predicting His own death, that was soon approaching, but I think that the disciples would have had the ‘it won’t happen to me’ mentality. That is why they did not always take Jesus 100% seriously. Little did they know that most of the 11 disciples (excluded Judas Iscariot) would be martyred for their faith, even Peter being executed upside down on a cross. Little did the disciples know that the power that they saw in Jesus, was soon to be given to them through the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:17-18).

  7. I think it very interesting that Peter points out that he, and his fellow witnesses on the mountain, were not making up stories and myths about what happened during the transfiguration. It seems as if he was very aware of the doubt of the event even happening. If this book was not written by Peter, a witness to the transfiguration, then is the book to be accepted as canon? The statement made in these three verses are very clear about seeing the event take place. Is it acceptable for someone to be posing as Peter? Jobes seems to think that it is quite acceptable if it was a close personal assistant and was completed shortly before or after his death (366).
    The eventual suffering mentioned by both Jesus and Peter take it back to 1 Peter where we are told to endure suffering and follow in the example of Christ while suffering (2:21). To “take up one’s cross” means that we may endure suffering in this world because of our faith in Christ and we are commanded to endure because Christ endured for us. Peter was a great example to us of doing this because he too eventually had to literally take up his own cross. We don’t have that fear hear in America of having to die on a cross but there are plenty around the world that suffer violently because of their faith. I don’t think Peter really knew what that meant until he witnessed it happening not only to himself but also to his fellow believers.

  8. ESVB footnotes share a valid point of Peter testimony or eyewitness to the power and glory on Jesus Christ, who indeed fulfilled the Law and the prophets, even to this day, it is being fulfill every day. The content of Peter’s preaching is not by man but through revelation. Jobes stated for the major reason of Peter writing was to warn the dangers of false teachers and teachings, who claimed to be Christian but deny the power, the return of Christ and his judgment (375). I think this is important to keep in mind, how many could lead others astray from the power and truth of Jesus Christ. We are in the times that we need to hold on to faith and trust in the Lord and his power and glory. To set roots by meditation, reading the Word, and prayer. Perhaps, what is mentioned in Peter should keep us alert and aware of who is claims to be a Christian but their fruits bear the opposite of Christ.

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