The Creation of Heaven and Earth: Re-Interpretation of Genesis I in the Context of Judaism, Ancient Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics

By George H. Van Kooten | Go to book overview

CREATION 'OUT OF' AND
'THROUGH' WATER IN 2PETER 3:5

EDWARD ADAMS


I. The creation of the world in Second Peter

In 2 Pet 3:5, the author of this deeply fascinating letter makes reference to the creation of the world.1 He2 does so in a highly striking and unusual way, speaking of God's formation

of the heavens and the earth by his word, 'out of water and through water', .

The statement occurs in the context of a debate in 2 Peter 3 between the author and his opponents whom he calls 'scoffers' (cf. 3:3).4 The author cites their claims in 3:4 and responds to them in 3:5–13.5 The controversy is not at all about creation, but the parousia and the future of the cosmos. The author's adversaries mock the promise of the Lord's coming on account of its non-fulfilment: the long period of time that has passed since the promise was initially made shows that

1 This is a revised version of the paper given at the 'Themes in Biblical Narrative
Conference' in Groningen, June 13th-14th, 2003. I would like to thank Dr George van
Kooten for inviting me to participate in this conference and to contribute to this
volume. I should also thank conference participants for their responses to my paper
which have helped me to shape the presentation of it as it now appears.

2 Second Peter is generally regarded by scholars as a pseudonymous work of the
late first or early second century. The letter was written to counteract the influence
of those whom the author views as false teachers (2:1). The polemic which forms the
central part of the epistle in chapter 2 is one of the fiercest pieces of invective in the
New Testament.

3 The participle

belongs grammatically with , but since the writer
obviously believes that the heavens, as well as the earth, were created by God, the
participle ought to be taken with both and . E.g., R.J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter
(Word Biblical Commentary 50), Waco 1983, 296.

4 The scoffers (the false teachers of 2:1) are presented in 3:3 as a phenomenon of
'the last days', but it is clear from what follows (and from the polemic of chapter 2) that
that they are the writer's contemporaries and that the debate depicted is a current one.

5 Whether or not the writer is reporting the actual words, the ipsissima verba, of his
opponents, it is highly probable that the citation is an accurate representation of the
claims they were making, giving us the ipsissima vox (the very voice) of the opponents.

-195-

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