2 Peter 2

The False Teachers’ Ungodly Lifestyle

2 But false prophets arose among the people,[a] just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers[b] will[c] infiltrate your midst[d] with destructive heresies,[e] even to the point of[f] denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring[g] swift destruction on themselves. 2 And many will follow their debauched lifestyles.[h] Because of these false teachers,[i] the way of truth will be slandered.[j] 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their[k] condemnation pronounced long ago[l] is not sitting idly by;[m] their[n] destruction is not asleep.

4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned,[o] but threw them into hell[p] and locked them up[q] in chains[r] in utter darkness,[s] to be kept until the judgment, 5 and if he did not spare the ancient world, but did protect Noah, a herald of righteousness, along with seven others,[t] when God[u] brought a flood on an ungodly world,[v] 6 and if he turned to ashes the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah when he condemned them to destruction,[w] having appointed[x] them to serve as an example[y] to future generations of the ungodly,[z] 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man in anguish over the debauched lifestyle of lawless[aa] men,[ab] 8 (for while he lived among them day after day, that righteous man was tormented in his righteous soul[ac] by the lawless deeds he saw and heard[ad]) 9 —if so,[ae] then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials,[af] and to reserve the unrighteous for punishment[ag] at the day of judgment, 10 especially those who indulge their fleshly desires[ah] and who despise authority.

Brazen and insolent,[ai] they are not afraid to insult[aj] the glorious ones,[ak] 11 yet even[al] angels, who are much more powerful,[am] do not bring a slanderous[an] judgment against them in the presence of the Lord.[ao] 12 But[ap] these men,[aq] like irrational animals—creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed[ar]—do not understand whom[as] they are insulting, and consequently[at] in their destruction they will be destroyed,[au] 13 suffering harm as the wages for their harmful ways.[av] By considering it a pleasure to carouse in broad daylight,[aw] they are stains and blemishes, indulging[ax] in their deceitful pleasures when they feast together with you. 14 Their eyes,[ay] full of adultery,[az] never stop sinning;[ba] they entice[bb] unstable people.[bc] They have trained their hearts for greed, these cursed children![bd] 15 By forsaking the right path they have gone astray, because they followed the way of Balaam son of Bosor,[be] who loved the wages of unrighteousness,[bf] 16 yet was rebuked[bg] for his own transgression (a dumb donkey,[bh] speaking with a human voice,[bi] restrained the prophet’s madness).[bj]

17 These men[bk] are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm, for whom the utter depths of darkness[bl] have been reserved. 18 For by speaking high-sounding but empty words[bm] they are able to entice,[bn] with fleshly desires and with debauchery,[bo] people[bp] who have just escaped[bq] from those who reside in error.[br] 19 Although these false teachers promise[bs] such people[bt] freedom, they themselves are enslaved to[bu] immorality.[bv] For whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved.[bw] 20 For if after they have escaped the filthy things[bx] of the world through the rich knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,[by] they[bz] again get entangled in them and succumb to them,[ca] their last state has become worse for them than their first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to turn back from the holy commandment that had been delivered to them. 22 They are illustrations of this true proverb:[cb]A dog returns to its own vomit,”[cc] and “A sow, after washing herself,[cd] wallows in the mire.”[ce]


  1. 2 Peter 2:1 sn But false prophets arose among the people. Peter uses the same verb, γίνομαι (ginomai), in 2 Pet 2:1 as he had used in 1:20 to describe the process of inspiration. He may well be contrasting, by way of a catchword, the two kinds of prophets.
  2. 2 Peter 2:1 tn Grk “who”; verse 1 is one sentence in Greek, the second half constituting a relative clause.
  3. 2 Peter 2:1 sn By the use of the future tense (will infiltrate), Peter is boldly prophesying the role that false teachers will have before these Gentile believers. It was necessary for him to establish both his own credentials and to anchor his audience’s faith in the written Word before he could get to this point, for these false teachers will question both.
  4. 2 Peter 2:1 tn Grk “will bring in,” often with the connotation of secretiveness; “your midst” is implied.
  5. 2 Peter 2:1 tn Or “destructive opinions,” “destructive viewpoints.” The genitive ἀπωλείας (apōleias) could be taken either attributively (“destructive”) or as a genitive of destination (“leading to destruction”). Although the preferable interpretation is a genitive of destination, especially because of the elaboration given at the end of the verse (“bringing swift destruction on themselves”), translating it attributively is less cumbersome in English. Either way, the net result is the same.
  6. 2 Peter 2:1 tn Grk “even.” The καί (kai) is ascensive, suggesting that the worst heresy is mentioned in the words that follow.
  7. 2 Peter 2:1 tn Grk “bringing.” The present participle ἐπάγοντες (epagontes) indicates the result of the preceding clause.
  8. 2 Peter 2:2 tn “Debauched lifestyles” is literally “licentiousnesses,” “sensualities,” “debaucheries.”
  9. 2 Peter 2:2 tn Grk “because of whom,” introducing a subordinate clause to the first part of the verse.
  10. 2 Peter 2:2 tn Or “blasphemed,” “reviled,” “treated with contempt.”
  11. 2 Peter 2:3 tn Grk “to whom,” introducing a subordinate relative clause.
  12. 2 Peter 2:3 tn Grk “the ancient judgment.”
  13. 2 Peter 2:3 tn Grk “is not idle.”
  14. 2 Peter 2:3 tn Greek has “and their.” As introducing a synonymous parallel, it is superfluous in English.
  15. 2 Peter 2:4 tn The participle ἁμαρτησάντων (hamartēsantōn) could either be attributive (“who sinned”) or adverbial (“when they sinned”). The relation to the judgment of the false teachers in v. 3 suggests that the objects of God’s judgment are not in question, but the time frame for the execution of justice is. If the participle is taken temporally, the point of comparison is not as acute. The objection that the illustrations following (the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah) are viewed temporally does not mitigate this translation, for in both instances only the time of executing judgment is in view. Further, in both instances the OT notes that God withheld punishment for a long time.
  16. 2 Peter 2:4 tn Grk “casting them into Tartarus” or “holding them captive in Tartarus.” This verb, ταρταρόω (tartaroō), occurs only here in the NT, but its meaning is clearly established in both Hellenistic and Jewish literature. “Tartarus [was] thought of by the Greeks as a subterranean place lower than Hades where divine punishment was meted out, and so regarded in Israelite apocalyptic as well” (BDAG 991 s.v.). Grammatically, it has been translated as an indicative because it is an attendant circumstance participle.
  17. 2 Peter 2:4 tn Grk “handed them over.”
  18. 2 Peter 2:4 tc The reading σειραῖς (seirais, “chains”) is found in P72 P Ψ 33 1739 M vg sy, while σιροῖς (sirois [or σειροῖς, seirois], “pits”) is found in א A B C 81. The evidence is thus fairly evenly divided. Internally, the reading adopted here (σειραῖς) is a rarer term, perhaps prompting some scribes to replace it with the more common word. However, this more common term is not a synonym and hence does not follow the normal pattern of scribes. As well, the use of the genitive ζόφου (zophou) in “chains of darkness” is a bit awkward (a rare genitive of place), perhaps prompting some scribes to change the imagery to “pits of darkness” (in which case ζόφου is an attributive genitive). A further point that complicates the issue is the relationship of 2 Peter to Jude. Jude’s parallel (v. 6) has δεσμοῖς (desmois, “chains”). Apart from the issue of whether 2 Peter used Jude or Jude used 2 Peter, this parallel suggests one of two possibilities: either (1) since these two books obviously have a literary relationship, σειραῖς is autographic, or (2) early scribes, recognizing that these two books shared their material, changed σειροῖς to σειραῖς to conform the wording, at least conceptually, to Jude 6. On balance, σειραῖς looks to be original because scribes were not prone to harmonize extensively between books other than the Gospels (although 2 Peter and Jude do display some of this harmonizing). Further, such harmonization is often, if not usually, verbally exact, but δεσμοῖς is not a variant here.
  19. 2 Peter 2:4 tn The genitive ζόφου (zophou) is taken as a genitive of place. See previous note for discussion.
  20. 2 Peter 2:5 tn “Along with seven others” is implied in the cryptic, “the eighth, Noah.” A more literal translation thus would be, “he did protect Noah [as] the eighth…”
  21. 2 Peter 2:5 tn Grk “he”; the referent (God) has been repeated here for clarity, although this is somewhat redundant with the beginning of v. 4.
  22. 2 Peter 2:5 tn Grk “a world of the ungodly.”
  23. 2 Peter 2:6 tc Several significant witnesses omit καταστροφῇ (katastrophē, “destruction”; such as P72* B C* 442 1175 1241 1243 1739 1881 bo), but this is probably best explained as an accidental omission due to homoioarcton (the word following is κατέκρινεν [katekrinen, “he condemned”]).tn Or “ruin,” or “extinction.” The first part of this verse more literally reads “And [if] he condemned to annihilation the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, by turning them to ashes.”sn The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is detailed in Gen 18:1619:29.
  24. 2 Peter 2:6 tn The perfect participle τεθεικώς (tetheikōs) suggests an antecedent act. More idiomatically, the idea seems to be, “because he had already appointed them to serve as an example.”
  25. 2 Peter 2:6 tn “To serve as” is not in Greek but is implied in the object-complement construction.
  26. 2 Peter 2:6 tn Grk “an example of the things coming to the ungodly,” or perhaps “an example to the ungodly of coming [ages].”
  27. 2 Peter 2:7 tn Or “unprincipled.”
  28. 2 Peter 2:7 tn This verse more literally reads “And [if] he rescued righteous Lot, who was deeply distressed by the lifestyle of the lawless in [their] debauchery.”
  29. 2 Peter 2:8 tn Grk “that righteous man tormented his righteous soul.”
  30. 2 Peter 2:8 tn Grk “by lawless deeds, in seeing and hearing [them].”
  31. 2 Peter 2:9 tn The Greek is one long conditional sentence, from v. 4 to v. 10a. 2 Pet 2:4-8 constitute the protasis; vv. 9 and 10a, the apodosis. In order to show this connection more clearly, a resumptive summary protasis—“if so,” or “if God did these things”—is needed in English translation.
  32. 2 Peter 2:9 tn Grk “from trial,” or possibly “from temptation” (though this second meaning for πειρασμός (peirasmos) does not fit the context in which Noah and Lot are seen as in the midst of trials, not temptation).
  33. 2 Peter 2:9 tn The adverbial participle κολαζομένους (kolazomenous) can refer either to contemporaneous time or subsequent time. At stake is the meaning of the following prepositional phrase (at the day of judgment or until the day of judgment). If the participle is contemporaneous, the idea is “to keep the ungodly in a state of punishment until the day of judgment.” If subsequent, the meaning is “to keep the ungodly to be punished at the day of judgment.” Many commentators/translations opt for the first view, assuming that the present participle cannot be used of subsequent time. However, the present participle is the normal one used for result, and is often used of purpose (cf., e.g., for present participles suggesting result, Mark 9:7; Luke 4:15; John 5:18; Eph 2:15; 2 Pet 2:1, mentioned above; for present participles indicating purpose, note Luke 10:25; John 12:33; Acts 3:26; 2 Pet 2:10 [as even most translations render it]). Further, the context supports this: 2:1-10 forms something of an inclusio, in which the final end of the false teachers is mentioned specifically in v. 1, then as a general principle in v. 9. The point of v. 3—that the punishment of the false teachers is certain, even though the sentence has not yet been carried out, is underscored by a participle of purpose in v. 9.
  34. 2 Peter 2:10 tn Grk “those who go after the flesh in [its] lust.”
  35. 2 Peter 2:10 tn There is no “and” in Greek; it is supplied for the sake of English convention.
  36. 2 Peter 2:10 tn The translation takes βλασφημοῦντες (blasphēmountes) as an adverbial participle of purpose, as most translations do. However, it is also possible to see this temporally (thus, “they do not tremble when they blaspheme”).
  37. 2 Peter 2:10 tn Δόξας (doxas) almost certainly refers to angelic beings rather than mere human authorities, though it is difficult to tell whether good or bad angels are in view. Verse 11 seems to suggest that wicked angels is what the author intends.
  38. 2 Peter 2:11 tn Grk “whereas.”
  39. 2 Peter 2:11 tn Grk “who are greater in strength and power.” What is being compared, however, could either be the false teachers or “the glorious ones,” in which case “angels” would refer to good angels and “the glorious ones” to evil angels.
  40. 2 Peter 2:11 tn Or “insulting.” The word comes from the same root as the term found in v. 10 (“insult”), v. 12 (“insulting”), and v. 2 (“will be slandered”). The author is fond of building his case by the repetition of a word in a slightly different context so that the readers make the necessary connection. English usage cannot always convey this connection because a given word in one language cannot always be translated the same way in another.
  41. 2 Peter 2:11 tc Several witnesses lack παρὰ κυρίῳ (para kuriō; so A Ψ 33 81 436 442 1505 1611 1735 1881 2344 2464 al vg co), while others have the genitive παρὰ κυρίου (para kuriou; so P72 5 1241 al syph,mss,h**). The majority of witnesses (including א B C P 1175 1243 1739 1852 2492 M) read the dative παρὰ κυρίῳ. The genitive expression suggests that angels would not pronounce a judgment on “the glorious ones” from the Lord, while the dative indicates that angels would not pronounce such a judgment in the presence of the Lord. The parallel in Jude 9 speaks of a reviling judgment against the devil in which the prepositional phrase is entirely absent. At the same time, in that parallel Michael does say, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Hence, he is offering something of a judgment from the Lord.) The best options externally are the dative or the omission of the phrase, but a decision is difficult. Internally, the omission may possibly be a motivated reading in that it finds a parallel in Jude 9 (where no prepositional phrase is used). All things considered, the dative is to be preferred, though with much reservation. NA28 has the omission preceded by a diamond in the apparatus, indicating a toss-up as to the initial text.
  42. 2 Peter 2:12 tn 2 Pet 2:12 through 16 constitute one cumbersome sentence in Greek. It is difficult to tell whether a hard break belongs in the middle of v. 13, as the translation has it, or whether the compounding of participles is meant in a loosely descriptive sort of way, without strong grammatical connection. Either way, the sentence rambles in a way that often betrays a great “vehemence of spirit” (A. T. Robertson, Grammar, 435). The author is obviously agitated at these false teachers who are to come.
  43. 2 Peter 2:12 tn The false teachers could conceivably be men or women, but in v. 14 they are said to have eyes “full of an adulteress.” This can only refer to men. Hence, both here and in v. 17 the false teachers are described as “men.”
  44. 2 Peter 2:12 tn Grk “born for capture and destruction.”
  45. 2 Peter 2:12 tn Grk “with [reference to] whom.”
  46. 2 Peter 2:12 tn There is no conjunction joining this last clause of v. 12 to the preceding (i.e., no “and consequently”). The argument builds asyndetically (a powerful rhetorical device in Greek), but cannot be naturally expressed in English as such.
  47. 2 Peter 2:12 tn This cryptic expression has been variously interpreted. (1) It could involve a simple cognate dative in which case the idea is “they will be utterly destroyed.” But the presence of αὐτῶν (autōn; their, of them) is problematic for this view. Other, more plausible views are: (2) the false teachers will be destroyed at the same time as the irrational beasts, or (3) in the same manner as these creatures (i.e., by being caught); or (4) the false teachers will be destroyed together with the evil angels whom they insult. Because of the difficulties of the text, it was thought best to leave it ambiguous, as the Greek has it.
  48. 2 Peter 2:13 tn There is a play on words in Greek, but this is difficult to express adequately in English. The verb ἀδικέω (adikeō) as a passive means “to suffer harm,” or “to suffer an injustice.” The noun ἀδικία (adikia) means “unrighteousness.” Since the Greek verb has a wider field of meaning than the English, to translate it as suffer an injustice is unwarranted, for it implicitly attributes evil to God. As R. Bauckham notes, “in English it is impossible to translate ἀδικούμενοι as a morally neutral term and ἀδικίας with a morally pejorative term, while retaining the play on words” (Jude, 2 Peter [WBC], 265).
  49. 2 Peter 2:13 tn Grk “considering carousing in the daytime a pleasure.”
  50. 2 Peter 2:13 tn Or “carousing,” “reveling.” The participle ἐντρυφῶντες (entruphōntes) is a cognate to the noun τρυφή (truphē, “carousing”) used earlier in the verse.
  51. 2 Peter 2:14 tn Grk “having eyes.” See note on “men” at the beginning of v. 12.
  52. 2 Peter 2:14 tn Grk “full of an adulteress.”
  53. 2 Peter 2:14 tn Grk “and unceasing from sin.” Some translate this “insatiable for sin,” but such a translation is based on a textual variant with inadequate support.
  54. 2 Peter 2:14 tn Grk “enticing.” See note on “men” at the beginning of v. 12.
  55. 2 Peter 2:14 tn “People” is literally “souls.” The term ψυχή (psuchē) can refer to one’s soul, one’s life, or oneself.
  56. 2 Peter 2:14 tn Grk “having hearts trained in greediness, children of cursing.” The participles continue the general description of the false teachers, without strong grammatical connection. The genitive κατάρας (kataras, “of cursing”) is taken attributively here.
  57. 2 Peter 2:15 tn Although many modern translations (e.g., NASB, TEV, NIV, CEV, NLT) read “Beor” here, this is due to harmonization with the OT rather than following a variant textual reading. The Greek text of NA28 as well as most witnesses reads “Bosor,” an otherwise unattested form of the name of Balaam’s father. Significantly, B and א* stand out against this reading (B has Βεωρ [“Beor”] while א* reads Βεωορσορ [“Beorsor”], a nonsensical conflation of the other two variants).
  58. 2 Peter 2:15 tn “Wages of unrighteousness” in Greek is the same expression found in v. 13, “wages for harmful ways.” The repetition makes the link between the false teachers and Balaam more concrete.
  59. 2 Peter 2:16 tn Grk “but he had a rebuke.”
  60. 2 Peter 2:16 tn The Greek word ἄφωνος (aphōnos) means “mute, silent” or “incapable of speech.” For reasons of English style the word “dumb” was used in the translation. Despite the potential for misunderstanding (since “dumb” can refer to a lack of intellectual capability) more dynamic glosses were judged to be inelegant.
  61. 2 Peter 2:16 tn Grk “a voice of a (man/person).”
  62. 2 Peter 2:16 sn Balaam’s activities are detailed in Num 22-24 (see also Num 31:8, 16).
  63. 2 Peter 2:17 tn Although some translations have simply “these” or “these people,” since in v. 14 they are described as having eyes “full of an adulteress,” men are in view.
  64. 2 Peter 2:17 tn Grk “utter darkness of darkness.” Verse 4 speaks of wicked angels presently in “chains of utter darkness,” while the final fate of the false teachers is a darker place still.
  65. 2 Peter 2:18 tn Grk “high-sounding words of futility.”
  66. 2 Peter 2:18 tn Grk “they entice.”
  67. 2 Peter 2:18 tn Grk “with the lusts of the flesh, with debauchery.”
  68. 2 Peter 2:18 tn Grk “those.”
  69. 2 Peter 2:18 tn Or “those who are barely escaping.”
  70. 2 Peter 2:18 tn Or “deceit.”
  71. 2 Peter 2:19 tn Verse 19 is a subordinate clause in Greek. The masculine nominative participle “promising” (ἐπαγγελλόμενοι, epangellomenoi) refers back to the subject of vv. 17-18. At the same time, it functions subordinately to the following participle, ὑπάρχοντες (huparchontes, “while being”).
  72. 2 Peter 2:19 tn Grk “them.”
  73. 2 Peter 2:19 tn Grk “slaves of.” See the note on the word “slave” in 1:1.
  74. 2 Peter 2:19 tn Or “corruption,” “depravity.” Verse 19 constitutes a subordinate clause to v. 18 in Greek. The main verbal components of these two verses are: “uttering…they entice…promising…being (enslaved).” The main verb is (they) entice. The three participles are adverbial and seem to indicate an instrumental relation (by uttering), a concessive relation (although promising), and a temporal relation (while being [enslaved]). For the sake of English usage, in the translation of the text this is broken down into two sentences.
  75. 2 Peter 2:19 tn Grk “for by what someone is overcome, to this he is enslaved.”
  76. 2 Peter 2:20 tn Grk “defilements”; “contaminations”; “pollutions.”
  77. 2 Peter 2:20 sn Through the rich knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The implication is not that these people necessarily knew the Lord (in the sense of being saved), but that they were in the circle of those who had embraced Christ as Lord and Savior.
  78. 2 Peter 2:20 tn Grk “(and/but) they.”
  79. 2 Peter 2:20 tn Grk “they again, after becoming entangled in them, are overcome by them.”
  80. 2 Peter 2:22 tn Grk “the [statement] of the true proverb has happened to them.” The idiom in Greek cannot be translated easily in English.
  81. 2 Peter 2:22 tn The quotation is a loose rendering of Prov 26:11. This proverb involves a participle that is translated like a finite verb (“returns”). In the LXX this line constitutes a subordinate and dependent clause. But since the line has been lifted from its original context, it has been translated as an independent statement.
  82. 2 Peter 2:22 tn Or “after being washed.” The middle verb may be direct (“wash oneself”) or permissive (“allow oneself to be washed”).
  83. 2 Peter 2:22 tn The source of this quotation is uncertain. Heraclitus has often been mentioned as a possible source, but this is doubtful. Other options on the translation of the second line include a sow, having (once) bathed herself (in mud), (returns) to wallowing in the mire, or a sow that washes herself by wallowing in the mire (BDAG 181 s.v. βόρβορος). The advantage of this last translation is that no verbs need to be supplied for it to make sense. The disadvantage is that in this context it does not make any contribution to the argument. Since the source of the quotation is not known, there is some guesswork involved in the reconstruction. Most commentators prefer a translation similar to the one in the text above.