Sunday 6th June 2021

Reading: 2Peter 1:12-21


Peter opened his letter by speaking about the dangers that can possibly lie within the church itself. He writes to the church encouraging it to be knowledgeable about Christ and have true knowledge of the scriptures. You may remember towards the end of my sermon last week I Quoted verse twelve and this morning it is our opening one. ‘So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.’ This morning Peter moves us on a step. He knows his own life will soon be at end. He was an eye witness to the earthly Ministry of Jesus. Now he fears that he may be witnessing something more awful then he cares to imagine, a young church straying from the teachings of Jesus. I wonder if when writing this he considered the possibility this may well be the last offer of guidance they get and that could ultimately lead to their last chance of stopping the rot and working in a positive way to stem the deterioration and indeed turn it around that the church may not only stop itself from imploding but may move to a place of evangelism and growth. I wonder if this may be the first point in which we are brave enough to admit that the church of today may well be facing the same issues and Peter’s words still hold validity. I want to concentrate our thinking around the closing five verses of our reading today; verses 16 to 21, in which he reminds the church of the glory of Christ. Peter assures the people that their grounding for knowledge is not in some made up airy fairy stories, cleverly invented, as he puts it. He and others can give a first-hand account on the life of Jesus as they were eye witnesses.

He gives examples such as the baptism of Jesus when the voice of God was heard. He recounts that mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration and the glory of Jesus shining all around. He takes them back even further as he mentions the Old Testament prophets and how they spoke many prophecies concerning Christ and Christ had fulfilled them all during his lifetime, confirming everything written about him. Peter reminds them and us that they spoke the word that God have given to them and those who spoke their own prophecies were not from God at all. A reminder for us all that the Old and the New Testaments are both sources of the true knowledge of God. The Old Testament written over a period of one thousand years. From the first five books sometimes called the books of the law written around 1400BC until the final book by the prophet Malachi around 400BC. Copied by scribes down through the centuries and passed from generation to generation. As each new copy was transcribed the previous one would be destroyed sadly, meaning the most ancient ones no longer exist. The earliest copy of the entire Old Testament we have today was written in the 10th century AD.

Ingrid and I have visited the Qumran caves in the Judean Desert were many scrolls were found in the mid 1940’s including writings from the prophet Isaiah. Of course they are known as the dead sea scrolls and contain sections from almost every book in the Old testament. These scrolls were copied during the first and second centuries BC and with only minor spelling differences and style they are exactly the same as the 10th century AD version. Thus proving the accuracy of the scribes in keeping the word true as it passed from one copy to another. That gives us confidence that what we have in our Bibles today are accurate copies from the original text.

Mostly written in the Hebrew language by the times of Jesus the common language used was Aramaic.
Most educated people across the region used the Greek language. This led the Old Testament to be translated from Hebrew, which was not widely used or understood to the more available Greek around 200BC. And when New Testament writers refer to the Old Testament it is in this Greek translation rather than the Hebrew they refer and of course we know this Greek was the language used to write the New Testament, beginning about twenty years after the death of Jesus, having told their experiences of knowing Jesus teaching others by word of mouth. The Gospels tell us about the life of Jesus, the book of Acts about the early church and the letters about some of the trials that arise in that early church. Our Bibles are unlike any other book. They were written by men who were inspired by God and led by his Holy Spirit in their writings. We can see the characters of the writers shining through. God’s word recorded by man, not dictated but inspired and guided. Many historical and archaeological discoveries have confirmed the truth of the Bible writings. And of course it is not only our minds we need to engage when reading our Bibles, we read with our spirits too or we may miss that deeper understanding of the knowledge of God which Peter writes of as he pens the final verse in our reading today. ‘For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’

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