False Teachers.* 1There 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.a 2Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.b 3In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep.c
Lessons from the Past. 4* 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;d 5* 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;e 6and 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;f 7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people 8(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), 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,g 10and especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship.h
False Teachers Denounced.* Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to revile glorious beings,* 11* whereas angels,i despite their superior strength and power, do not bring a reviling judgment against them from the Lord. 12But 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,j 13suffering 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.k 14Their eyes are full of adultery and insatiable for sin. They seduce unstable people, and their hearts are trained in greed. Accursed children! 15Abandoning the straight road, they have gone astray, following the road of Balaam, the son of Bosor,* who loved payment for wrongdoing,l 16but he received a rebuke for his own crime: a mute beast spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.m
17These people are waterless springs and mists driven by a gale; for them the gloom of darkness has been reserved.n 18For, talking empty bombast, they seduce with licentious desires of the flesh those who have barely escaped* from people who live in error.o 19They promise them freedom, though they themselves are slaves of corruption, for a person is a slave of whatever overcomes him.p 20For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of [our] Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first.q 21For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down* to them.r 22* What is expressed in the true proverb has happened to them,s “The dog returns to its own vomit,” and “A bathed sow returns to wallowing in the mire.”
* [2:1–3] The pattern of false prophets among the Old Testament people of God will recur through false teachers in the church. Such destructive opinions of heretical sects bring loss of faith in Christ, contempt for the way of salvation (cf. 2 Pt 2:21), and immorality.
* [2:4–6] The false teachers will be punished just as surely and as severely as were the fallen angels (2 Pt 2:4; cf. Jude 6; Gn 6:1–4), the sinners of Noah’s day (2 Pt 2:5; Gn 7:21–23), and the inhabitants of the cities of the Plain (2 Pt 2:6; Jude 7; Gn 19:25). Whereas there are three examples in Jude 5–7 (Exodus and wilderness; rebellious angels; Sodom and Gomorrah), 2 Peter omitted the first of these, has inserted a new illustration about Noah (2 Pt 2:5) between Jude’s second and third examples, and listed the resulting three examples in their Old Testament order (Gn 6; 7; 19).
* [2:5–10a] Although God did not spare the sinful, he kept and saved the righteous, such as Noah (2 Pt 2:5) and Lot (2 Pt 2:7), and he knows how to rescue the devout (2 Pt 2:9), who are contrasted with the false teachers of the author’s day. On Noah, cf. Gn 5:32–9:29, especially 7:1. On Lot, cf. Gn 13 and 19.
* [2:10b–22] Some take 2 Pt 2:10b, 11 with the preceding paragraph. Others begin the new paragraph with 2 Pt 2:10a, supplying from 2 Pt 2:9 The Lord knows how…to keep…under punishment, with reference to God and probably specifically Christ (2 Pt 2:1). The conduct of the false teachers is described and condemned in language similar to that of Jude 8–16. This arrogance knows no bounds; animal-like, they are due to be caught and destroyed. They seduce even those who have knowledge of Christ (2 Pt 2:20).
* [2:10b] Glorious beings: literally, “glories”; cf. Jude 8. While some think that illustrious personages are meant or even political officials behind whom (fallen) angels stand, it is more likely that the reference is to glorious angelic beings (cf. Jude 9).
* [2:15] Balaam, the son of Bosor: in Nm 22:5, Balaam is said to be the son of Beor, and it is this name that turns up in a few ancient Greek manuscripts by way of “correction” of the text. Balaam is not portrayed in such a bad light in Nm 22. His evil reputation and his madness (2 Pt 2:16), and possibly his surname Bosor, may have come from a Jewish tradition about him in the first/second century, of which we no longer have any knowledge.
* [2:18] Barely escaped: some manuscripts read “really escaped.”