2 Peter 1:1-4, Theosis

This Tuesday we will begin our study of 2 Peter. I hope to spend the four weeks in July on this letter, but our schedule will be based on when baby Charlotte decides to come. For this week, please read 2 Peter 1:1-11.


Do not skip over the brief salutation. The letter opens (v.1a) by designating “Simeon Peter” as the writer (or at least the inspiration) for the letter. The double name evokes the unity of the church because it uses both the Hebrew Simeon (a more Hebraic form than the usually used Simon) and the Greek Peter. The writer does not appear to address any particular church, but truly the church catholic.

The audience for the letter is all who have obtained “our” faith. The writer tells us that his message is not a top-down message from a superior to an inferior, but from one Christian to another since all who have our faith are of equal standing. As Peter wrote, we in the church are all a “royal priesthood.” 1 Peter 2:9. For we all bear both the honor, authority, and responsibilities of that office, not just some. This letter begins with that supposition.

The Good News:

The most important teaching that we have in 2 Peter is found in verse 4, which may be the most succinct summary of the good news given to us by Scripture. For most of Christian history, the gospel message was not about how someone could get a ticket to go upstairs to heaven when they died. Rather, the good news was the factual proclamation that the Divine became Human so that humans could become divine. In other words, the Gospel is not about a change in geographic location but about a change in our very being – how do we become God, i.e. “partakers of the divine nature.” The technical term for this is divinization or theosis. A good bullet point summary of the early church’s teaching on this issue is HERE. (We have already looked at this issue in our reading of Rich Rohr’s book Immortal Diamond.)

If we go back to Genesis, we are taught that all of humanity is made in the very image and likeness of God, but somewhere along the way that image became corrupted. Gen. 1:26, Gen. 3, Rom. 5:12. This corruption is called sin and leads us to do those things which our divine indwelling image does not want us to do and which leads to our death. Rom. 7:13-25. “Death” does not mean “going to hell” but it does mean a return to our pre-created state of nothingness. In him we live and move and have our being, and in him all things are created and all things are held together. Acts 17:28, Col. 1:17. Therefore, when we stray from God because of our sinful nature, we stray from being itself and into nothingness. (For a more in-depth discussion of this point, see paragraph 4 of St. Athanasius’On the Incarnation.)

The good news, therefore, is that by the divine taking on our human nature, Jesus has cured the corruption or defects that have overtaken our human nature. Rom. 5:18. Our human nature becomes fully restored in the image of God through the Incarnation. And what we see in the Incarnation is the inherent compatibility between the human and the divine natures. Jesus was fully God and fully Human, of one substance with God regarding his divinity and of one substance with us regarding his humanity, but these two natures existed within Jesus without separation or confusion, with each nature being fully present and active in the person of Jesus. Chacedonian Creed, 1979 BCP 864. Therefore, as we escape from the corruption of this world (v.4) we become as he is.

When the letter speaks of us “partaking of the divine nature,” it is not saying that the divine nature is being imposed upon us from outside of ourselves. Jesus is clear that the “kingdom of God is within us,” and that “we are Gods (Elohim).” Luke 17:21, John 10:34 (quoting Ps. 82:6). Rather, the letter, like the prophet Malachi, is telling us that when we are cleansed of our corruption, then the divine nature which we have possessed since creation, can now shine through. If you want to dig into this issue a little more, read Here and Here.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is BBQ. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here!

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:4) “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” (St. Irenaus) “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” (St. Athanasius) “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 460.

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