Peter Places Paragraphs Perfectly
First Peter 3 and Second Peter 2
Here’s a little exercise.
First examine the image below. It shows some passages of Biblical text, and these passages are labelled A, B, C, D and E. Read them carefully, and determine the correct order of the five fragments of text.
If the image size doesn’t allow you to easily read the words, the five passages are reproduced here (all from the NABRE translation):
A: For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water.
B: This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
C: There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep.
D: For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but condemned them to the chains of Tartarus and handed them over to be kept for judgment; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, together with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the godless world; and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah [to destruction], reducing them to ashes, making them an example for the godless [people] of what is coming; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people (for day after day that righteous man living among them was tormented in his righteous soul at the lawless deeds that he saw and heard), then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship.
E: Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to revile glorious beings, whereas angels, despite their superior strength and power, do not bring a reviling judgment against them from the Lord. But these people, like irrational animals born by nature for capture and destruction, revile things that they do not understand, and in their destruction they will also be destroyed, suffering wrong as payment for wrongdoing. Thinking daytime revelry a delight, they are stains and defilements as they revel in their deceits while carousing with you. Their eyes are full of adultery and insatiable for sin. They seduce unstable people, and their hearts are trained in greed. Accursed children! Abandoning the straight road, they have gone astray, following the road of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved payment for wrongdoing, but he received a rebuke for his own crime: a mute beast spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
This text refers to spirits (angels?) in prison, sinful angels, and angels who refuse to revile. Intertwined are references to Noah, the flood (a form of baptism), baptism itself, and unrighteous, wicked false prophets.
Is this two lines of thought? Or one intertwined line of mixed thought? How should A, B, C, D and E be rearranged to fix this textual problem? Is further editing necessary to provide clarity?
Solution: The fact is that A through E are already in the correct order, but A and B fall in the middle of the book of First Peter, while C, D and E fall in the interior of Second Peter.
The image below tries to capture the paragraph layout (more or less) of the components of text under discussion here, along with paragraphs of text falling before and after. First Peter is in the left-hand column. Second Peter is in the right. Here’s where the A, B, C, D and E passages fall:
Examine C, D and E. Remove D. Does E not follow D nicely, with D removed?
Examine the removed D alongside A. Will D and its continuation of a discussion of (fallen?) angels, and also of Noah, fit nicely after A? Block A begins a line of thought referencing angels (spirits) and Noah, and D continues this thought.
There are a number of places in the Biblical text where it seems as if copyists or editors or secondary writers have misplaced portions of text. We at Bible Bits find this intriguing, yet we also take seriously the view that the text of the Bible we have received and hold in our hands (even after translation) should be tinkered with only with great caution, as it is what God intends it to be.
And whether the Bible contains misplaced components or not, it remains a good study technique to examine these. Examining these cases of seeming misplacement is itself an examination of God’s meaning within these passages. Discovering God’s message and meaning is of course a good thing.
Bible Bits encourages you to read the actual Bible yourself, and look for this sort of thing. We love studying the Bible!
God’s blessings to you!