II Peter 3:10

From the Differentiator magazine:
Vol. 19 New Series October, 1957 No. 5


King James Version 1611: The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up.Revised Version 1881: Shall be burned up (margin: shall be discovered). Revised Standard Version 1953: Will be burned up.

This verse shews how the Day of the Lord will arrive as a thief, and in that Day the heavens, with a whizzing noise, will pass away, while elements, burning, will dissolve; and earth, and the works in it will be burned up (or, found?). Peter's argument in verse 11 is, seeing that all these things will dissolve, what manner of persons must you all along be, in holy behaviour and devoutness. In verse 12 he refers again to heavens being on fire and dissolving, while in verse 13, new heavens and a new earth are hoped for, according to God's promises.

Whether to read "will be burned up" (katakaEsetai) or "will be found" (heurethEsetai) is a real problem. There seems to be good MS evidence on both sides. On the side of "found" stand the Vatican and Sinaitic MSS of the 4th century, Codex P of the 6th century, Codex K of the 9th. century, the Armenian Version of the 5th century, some cursives from the 10th to the 15th century, and Origen of the 3rd century.

Certainly the reading "will be burned up" does make perfect sense, but the other reading, "will be found" seems to be an older reading, even though, as Dean Burgon wrote in "The Revision Revised" (1883), it "obviously makes utter nonsense." Alford has very little to say on the matter: "The various readings are very curious. It is difficult to imagine how that of B (Vatican MS) could have arisen." This remark is very true. If the earth is to dissolve, why ought the result to be that it is found, along with the works in it? Generally, when anything dissolves, it disappears.

There is, however, a third reading, found in the Sahidic (Egyptian) Version of the 3rd or 4th century, "will not be found." This agrees with the Codex C (Ephraimi, 5th century) which reads "will disappear" (aphanisthEsontai), and agrees with the ancient Syriac Version of the second or third century. Etheridge's translation (1849) from the Syriac reads at 2. Peter 3:10 "be found not," while that of James Murdock (1851, Boston, Mass.) reads "will not be found." It is noteworthy that Dr. Scrivener thought this reading was correct.

Burgon, who held most extreme views on ancient MSS, said the above reading was "apparently in imitation of Rev. 16:20, and mountains were not found." But we find the same expression elsewhere in Revelation and once in Hebrews. It seems to be a specially Hebraic method of expression. According to Heb. 11:5, Enoch "was not found." See also Rev. 9:6, which tells of a time to come when humanity will seek death but cannot find it. Rev. 12:7-8 tells of a battle in the sky or heaven between the forces of Michael and the Dragon, with the result that the Dragon's forces no longer find their place in the sky. Rev. 14:5 tells of the 144,000, in whose mouth falsehood was not found. Rev. 18:14 describes how the luxuries of the future City of Babylon will be found nevermore, after the City is destroyed. Verse 21 states that the City will be laid low with great violence, and may be found in it (the sea) nevermore: Finally we have Rev. 20:11 and 15, the earth and the heaven fleeing from the face of the Thronesitter, and no place was found for them; while before the Great White Throne anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire.

Some modern versions follow the reading in the Syriac and Sahidic Versions, at 2. Peter 3:10. Dr. Wand reads "will be found no more," and Moffatt reads "will disappear," while Rev. E. E. Cunnington in both his versions appends a very useful Note of the verse, explaining why he reads "will not be found." On the translation, "the earth and the works that are therein will be discovered (found)" he says, "This can hardly be accepted as yielding a right sense." He states that the Latin Vulgate omits the sentence, which is significant. He also points to Daniel 11:19 as another case in apocalyptic writings where we meet with the expression "will not be found." The readings "burnt up" and "vanish away" seem to him to be mere corrections made by copyists, after the Greek word for "not" (ouch, spelt in Greek OYX) had disappeared. "It is more probable that the 'not' was accidentally omitted than that it was inserted without authority in the copy from which the Egyptian version was translated," especially as there were probably very few copies of 2. Peter in early days, before it was received into the Canon.


This is the title of an article or pamphlet which I understand appeared in a publication known as "Harvest Magazine" and also in "The Kingdom Digest," and probably elsewhere The writer is Mr. E. T. Tennyson. A friend sent me a copy and asked for my opinion of it.

Much is said about the state of the earth before and after the Flood, with which I am not directly concerned. It may be true or it may not be true. A statement that prior to the Flood the population of the world was quite small, and that the whole race dwelt in the Land of Eden, cannot be in keeping with Genesis 1:28, where God ordered the race to multiply and fill the earth. It is unthinkable that God permitted His command to be disobeyed, even though it was given prior to the Fall.

The writer then quotes Rev. 21:1, thus: "And I saw a new heaven (atmosphere) and a new earth; for the first heaven (atmosphere) and the first earth passed away; and the sea was no more." This is followed by an extraordinary statement that really means that every translation hitherto made of this verse is utterly false: "For centuries men have believed the false doctrine that somehow the earth would be destroyed, and the translators of this text were evidently influenced by this false doctrine; for the original Greek text does not say 'the first heaven and earth had passed away when the sea existed no longer.' The words 'passed away' are translated from the two Greeks words 'erchomai,' which means 'approach' or 'coming,' and the Greek 'para' which means 'near,' 'in sight,' or 'in view.' The correct rendering of the double word 'para-erchomai,' then, is 'coming in sight' or 'coming into view.' Rather than say that the first heaven and earth would pass away, John actually said they would 'come into view when the sea existed no longer.' Note this fact in the original Greek text with the word 'paraerchomai' correctly translated: 'And I saw a new heaven and earth and the first heaven and earth coming into view because the sea existed no longer.'"

It is little wonder that this article "caught the imagination of great numbers," and was the cause of much uplift and cheer. What a triumph to expose the slovenly work of every translator who has gone before. Never mind any checking up; it must be true. The thought of our old earth being destroyed is too disagreeable, altogether.

The sense of the Greek word para is aside or beside. Thus a parabolE was a statement put or set beside one, a comparison, a type, a parable. A paragraph was originally a marginal note. As for the true and scriptural meaning of the verb parerchomai, I suggest that its sense will be best gathered from its occurrences in the New Testament.

Matt. 5:18: "Till the heaven and the earth may pass by, an iota—one, or one ceriph, may by no means pass by from the Law till all things may come to pass."

Matt. 24:34: "This generation may by no means pass by till all these things may be occurring." The next verse reads: "The heaven and the earth shall (collectively) be passing by, yet My words may by no means be passing by (individually)." Much light is thrown on this statement by observing that the former verb is in the Middle Voice and in the singular number, while the latter verb is in the Active Voice and in the plural number. This means, that the heaven or sky and the earth Will pass by, as it were, of their own accord, in the ordinary course of nature; as Heb. 1:11 puts it, "they all as a cloak shall age."

2. Cor. 5:17: "So that if anyone be in Christ—new creation: the primitive things pass by. Behold, new things have come into being." Who would declare that the primitive things only came into view when new and spiritual things filled our heart and mind? Just try in all the above examples "come into view" in place of "pass by," and it will come into clear view that God's Word is being foolishly contradicted.

I would not deny that Mr. Tennyson did spend a "great amount of time and much research to dig out these facts," as he calls them. But all this trouble has not saved him from ruining his own theory. Just here I may say I do feel very sorry for anyone who finds himself in such a position. It brings me no credit to shew up the errors of another, as all members of the Body of Christ are fellow-members, and if one suffers in any way, we ought all to suffer likewise.

When finally he comes to 2. Peter 3:10, strange to relate, he does not say "the heavens will come into view with a great noise," but that the heavens "shall pass away" (pareleusontai, a form of the same irregular verb parerchomai), while "the earth also and the works therein shall be 'burned up' ('discovered' says the Rotherham Version, N.W. Translation and many other versions). 2. Peter 3:10, King James Version." Then he adds, "Now note this same text correctly rendered as Peter actually wrote it—Howbeit the day of the Lord will come as a thief—in which the heaven, with its intensely hot elements (with no watery canopy protecting from the hot rays of the sun) will pass away with a rushing noise (of the water spouts drying up the seas)—then the (new) earth and the works therein will be discovered.' 2 Peter 3:10, Rotherham, Wilson, etc."
Heb. 1:10-11 makes it clear that the heavens and the earth shall perish, that is, disappear or become lost; (apolountai). This is perfectly in harmony with the ancient reading, "will not be found," and confirms the latter. I am sure no one would wish this old earth, when God makes all things new, to be resuscitated, merely by having its seas removed. No second-hand or polished up earth would suit those new creatures who will then inhabit it. There will be nothing to remind human beings of the tragedies of the preceding ages.

It ought to be said regarding the Greek word erchomai; which occurs very often in the New Testament, that it does mean "come," even though our old Bibles occasionally had to render it as "went," "resorted," or "go." Yet the idiom of the Greek requires that when the preposition para is prefixed, the word means "pass by" or "pass away," and that is still the meaning in Modern Greek. When a day, or a storm, or a train, or an aeroplane passes by, it first of all comes, then passes away.

Let us exult in the fact that when God says, "Behold, NEW am I making everything" (Rev. 21:5), He means positively new and positively everything.

Anyone who has access to the Syriac text of 2 Peter 3:10 and cares to consult it will find that it reads lo theshthkach, the passive form of the Ethpeel conjugation of the verb shakach, which occurs nineteen times in the Chaldee of Daniel and Ezra, always rendered as find, found.

Alexander Thomson

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Who is our God? Chapter 1
Who is our God? Chapter 2
Who is our God? Chapter 3
Who is our God? Chapter 4
Who is our God? Chapter 5
Who is our God? Chapter 6
Who is our God? Chapter 7
Who is our God? Chapter 8
Who is our God? Chapter 9
Who is our God? Chapter 10
Who is our God? Chapter 11
Who is our God? Chapter 12
Who is our God? Chapter 13
Who is our God? Chapter 14
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Who is our God? Chapter 16
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Are You an Israelite? Chapters 3 & 4
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