Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Sunday School Lesson #43

Posted by Jim F. on October 29, 2007

Lesson 43: 1-2 Peter, Jude

Before you read the letters from Peter, take a few minutes to recall who he was: What was his position in the Church? What particular experiences did he have with the Savior? What might he have learned from those experiences? How does that background inform these letters?

As you read Jude, consider this question: If Jude is the brother of James, presumably the author of the book of James, and James is, as tradition says, the brother of the Lord, then Jude is also the brother of the Lord. Why doesn’t he say so when he introduces himself? Ought this to make us be skeptical of the tradition about James, or does it say something about Jude, or is there another explanation?

I will concentrate on 2 Peter 1:2-11

Verse 2: Peter asks a blessing on those to whom he is writing, namely that through their knowledge of the Savior they might have grace and peace multiplied. What does that mean? What is grace? What kind of peace might he mean? How are they multiplied?

Verse 3: Verse 2 asked that grace and peace be multiplied; this verse continues, saying “just as his divine power has granted us all things for life and godliness, through a knowledge of the one who has called us to glory and to excellence. The word translated “godliness” refers to the practical aspects of religion—doing good works—more than it does to specifically devotional acts or acts of worship. “Excellence” is another accurate translation of the word translated “virtue.” It includes not only chastity, but all other moral excellence as well. How does a knowledge of Christ provide us with all things for life and godliness? How does he provide us with that knowledge through his divine power? What does it mean to say that he has called us to glory? To excellence?

Verse 4: The word “whereby” refers back to something which came before. What? In other words, this verse says that priceless and magnificent promises have come to us by means of something mentioned in the previous verse. What is that? Through these promises we can become “partakers of the divine nature.” What does that mean? In other words, what is the divine nature, and what does it mean to partake of (to take part in) it? What does this verse say is the cause of corruption in this world? (As used here, “lust” does not refer only to corrupt sexual desires; it refers to misdirected desire in general.) Why does Peter speak of “escaping” the corruption of the world rather than just “leaving” it behind?

Verse 5: Instead of “and beside,” I think the beginning of this verse should be translated, “for this purpose.” What is going to be brought about by the things which follow? “Add to” is a reasonable translation, but it doesn’t catch the connotations of the Greek word it translates. That word carries with it the notion of providing for something lavishly. (In one Greek manuscript, for example, a man uses this verb to complain that his wife has left him even though he provided more than he could afford.) The idea is that abundance is required. What is the first thing one must have in order to become godly? The word translated “knowledge,” can also be translated “understanding,” “having insight,” “circumspection,” “discretion,” “discernment.” Why would we need to add understanding, insight or discernment in addition to virtue and faith? Here’s an alternate translation of the beginning of the verse:

For this purpose, exert all diligence so by your faith you may make virtue possible, and by your virtue, knowledge.

On this reading, we cannot be virtuous without faith. Is that right? By the same token, we cannot have knowledge without virtue. Is that right? If those are both right, how can they be? Read this way, each of the things mentioned in the list is something that makes possible what follows it in the list. Go through the list asking yourself how the first in each pair makes the second possible. How does this understanding of things fit with Alma’s teaching in Alma 32-33?

Verse 6: Notice the explanations of “temperance” and “godliness” in the LDS edition. (The word used for “godliness” here is the same as that used in verse 3.) Another translation of “patience” would be “perseverance.” How does understanding or discernment make self-control possible? How does self-control make perseverance or enduring to the end possible? How does perseverance make good works (godliness) possible?

Verse 7: How are these three, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, related to one another?

Verse 8: What does it mean for these things to abound in us? Notice that if we wish to have a knowledge of Christ, we must have these things: “If these things are present and abound among you, they will make you neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why does Peter use barrenness and unfruitfulness to portray not having a knowledge of Christ? What does it mean not to be barren and to be fruitful in knowing Christ? The word translated “knowledge” connotes an intimate knowledge. What does it mean to have an intimate knowledge of Christ?

Verse 9: If we have these things, we know Christ intimately, but if we lack these things, we are so nearsighted that we are blind. Why does Peter use nearsightedness to portray those who have forgotten their baptismal covenants and blessings?

Verse 10: What is a calling? Who has been called? How? Do the scriptures use the word “calling” in different senses? If so, what are they and which is being used here? How is the word “calling” related to its ordinary meaning, “to call out”? Does that help us understand better what it means to have a calling? What does “election” mean? Who are the elect? The verb translated “to make sure” can also be translated “to confirm”: “Instead, therefore, brethren, be diligent to confirm your calling and election.” The implication is that we have already been called and elected, but that we must confirm that calling and election, we must make it sure for it to be valid. When were we called and elected? How do we confirm that calling and election? How does the last part of the verse make more clear what it means to have one’s calling and election made sure?

Verse 11: The word order here is quite close to the Greek word order (as it often is in the King James Version), but that makes it more difficult to read. Put in a more natural English word order, this says, “For so [i.e., “in this way”] an entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be ministered unto you [i.e., “provided for you”] abundantly.” What point is Peter making with that sentence? To see some of the implications of these verses about making our callings and elections sure, compare verse 5 through 7 with verse 6 of D&C 4. What has Section 4 to do with having one’s calling and election made sure?

4 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #43”

  1. awunderli said

    At the conclusion of the NT course of study, I want to thank you for your insights into these lessons. I teach Gospel Doctrine in the Boston area and look forward each week to reading your entries. They’ve led to some lively discussion in our class.
    With appreciation,

  2. Jim F. said

    awunderli, I’m always happy to hear that someone has found the questions useful, not only for their Sunday School classes, but also for personal study. Thanks for letting me know.

  3. phdinhistory said

    Jim F.: Will you be referring people to your 2004 lesson notes over at Times and Seasons for this year’s Gospel Doctrine lessons? Or will you post new notes?

  4. Jim F. said

    I’ll be making a link to the notes on T&S.

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