Sunday, November 05, 2017

2 Peter 2:4--Tartarus

2 Peter 2:4 (WH): εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο, ἀλλὰ σειροῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους

I believe that we have to be careful about inferring that the Bible writers directly took language or concepts from non-Jewish literature. For example, does ταρταρόω in 2 Pet 2:4 derive from a non-Jewish source? Should we immediately draw parallel lines between Greek mythology and 2 Peter? That would be a fundamental mistake in my opinion. For example, would it be correct to infer that πλήρωμα in Col 1:19 was directly borrowed from the Gnostics? That would be highly unlikely. I reckon that a similar case could be made for 2 Pet 2:4. Petrine scholars have noted that Tartarus language occurs in Jewish literature (1 Enoch and other works of the Second Temple period): so it's possible that 2 Peter uses language well understood by Jews and Greeks in the 1st century CE. See http://www.augsburgfortress.org/media/downloads/9780800699789Chapter5.pdf

Compare the remarks of Richard Bauckham here: http://www.dougvandorn.com/Bauckham%20Commentary%20and%20Two%20Doug%20Appendices.pdf

Even if 2 Peter 2:4 uses the verb ταρταρώσας, in no way does the usage imply that all the mythic associations of Tartarus should be read into the passage. Tartarus apparently occurs in the LXX too.

15 comments:

Duncan said...

One problem we have is that we cannot know all the usages that even the Greeks had for a term. Much the same as when we look at the etymology of English words. In ancient orphic sources and in the mystery schools Tartaros is also the unbounded first-existing "thing" from which the Light and the cosmos is born. But there could be other understandings that we have no access too. One thing that does seem apparent is that many Greek legends seem to stem from Hebrew.

2 Peter 2:6 withing the context is very interesting when the term αγγελων is used.

Edgar Foster said...

Granted, we don't have exhaustive knowledge of ancient Greek usage, but I would say that we have enough data to make an approximation of what Tartarus likely meant to the 1st century Christians. For instance, we possess data from 4 major periods of Greek history going back to Homer/Hesiod. That knowledge has been compiled in LSJ, BDAG, Brill, and in the upcoming Cambridge Gree-English Lexicon, not to count Septuagintal studies. IMO, we can narrow the likely source from which the Christians derived terms like Tartarus and by considering those possible sources, we can arrive at a proximate understanding of what 2 Pet 2:4 means by Tartarus. Compare how 1 Enoch discusses the fate of disobedient angels and think about Jude 6. We don't have to know all possible usages to understand the text although we possess a good range of data already. Knowledge will be provisional in this world--we will continue to learn more as time passes onward. But we can develop a coherent outline for now.

What connection do you see between 2 Pet 2:6 and the discussion about angels in 2:4?

Duncan said...

Is 2 Peter 2:4 disconnected from the surrounding text? One could try and make a connection with pre flood, but one also has to take into account Soddom. What angels were bound their?

Edgar Foster said...

I don't think 2 Pet 2:4 is disconnected from the text: each example mentioned by the author in that chapter contributes to the overall point exclaimed in 2 Pet 2:9. Scholars have pointed out the similarities between 2 Pet 2:4 and Jude 6. In Peter, we have the examples given, angels who sinned, the ungodly world of Noah's day but Noah's contrasting example, and the account of "righteous Lot." Jude recounts the faithless children of Israel, the angels who forsook their original habitation, then refers to Sodom and Gomorrah. But Jude 6 elucidates 2 Pet 2:4 and 1 Pet 3:19 likely does too.

The point that Peter makes is contained in vs. 9: Jehovah adversely judges the unrighteous/ungodly, but he knows how to deliver the godly from tribulation (2 Thess 1:6-9). Why would angels have to be bound there for us to accept that the angels in 2 Pet 2:4 sinned prior to the flood? We have the accounts in Enoch that clearly identify the sons of God as angels plus if we compare Jude, angels are the referent of vs. 6. One lesson taught in Jude is that the sinful angels did an act akin to the unnatural deeds of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet nothing requires that we understand the sinful angels to have been chained in Sodom. That does not seem to be either writer's point.

Edgar Foster said...

From Robertson's WP:

"Cast them down to hell (tartarwsav). First aorist active participle of tartarow, late word (from tartarov, old word in Homer, Pindar, LXX Job 40:15; Job 41:23, Philo, inscriptions, the dark and doleful abode of the wicked dead like the Gehenna of the Jews), found here alone save in a scholion on Homer. Tartarov occurs in Enoch 20:2 as the place of punishment of the fallen angels, while Gehenna is for apostate Jews."

Duncan said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophion

Duncan said...

2 Peter 2:1 sets the context & here like Hebrews CH.1 the initial subject is ψευδοπροφηται. "εγενοντο δε και ψευδοπροφηται" - this is looking back.

2Pe 2:3 και εν πλεονεξια πλαστοις λογοις υμας εμπορευσονται οις το κριμα εκπαλαι ουκ αργει και η απωλεια αυτων ου νυσταζει

Is this a coincidence? Did angels speak falsehood before the flood?

There is a textual variant at 2:4 - “chains” vs. “pit/cave”.

Edgar Foster said...

Okay, Peter begins with a mention of false prophets who arose in ancient Israel. See Deuteronomy 13. He then foretells that false teachers will come to exist within the ecclesia. Then, as in Jude 6, he transitions into warning examples that include fallen angels in Noah's day. I don't see why we'd under that the parallel between false prophets and fallen angels has to be 100% exact. Besides, if we read all of 2 Peter 2, it becomes apparent why he would discuss spirit beings who sinned. Notice 2 Peter 2:13 and 14.

Philip Fletcher said...

I suppose what he says in 2 Peter 3:18-20 shows that he thought Tartarus a "place of prison" for disobedient angels, where Jesus went after his resurrection to preach to them.

Keefa Ben Yahchanan said...

(2 Peter 2:4) 4 Certainly, God did not refrain from punishing the angels who sinned, but threw them into Tarʹta·rus, putting them in chains of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment. . .

2 Peter 2:4 Εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀλλὰ σειραῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους (2 Pet. 2:4 BGT)

How do we define this deep abasement?
A. a disapproved mental state
B. a place where they are chained in darkness
C. a degenerated physical condition

Edgar Foster said...

Dear Philip and Keefa,

I do believe 2 Pet 2:4 and 1 Pete 3:19 are both talking about the same beings and the same "place." Jude 6 also mentions bonds/chains and dense darkness. However, the prison, chains and place are all metaphorical just like Gehenna is not a spatial area/location, but rather a condition, especially since we're discussing spirit beings--deviant angels.

While researching this subject, I found this paper to be informative: http://www.academia.edu/8612553/Going_Through_Hell_%CE%A4%CE%91%CE%A1%CE%A4%CE%91%CE%A1%CE%9F%CE%A3_in_Greco-Roman_Culture_Second_Temple_Judaism_and_Philo_of_Alexandria

Edgar Foster said...

Additionally, for all those scholars who want to insist that 2 Peter was shaped by ancient mythology or ideas from myth, they need to read and reflect on 2 Peter 1:16. The early Christians tended to use mythos pejoratively.

JimSpace said...

Hi Edgar,
I certainly agree with your approach here, and I appreciate your point about 2 Peter 1:16 and eschewing “artfully contrived false stories.” I think that while 1 Enoch contains stories of that caliber regarding Enoch, it also contains a number of eschatological depictions that were respected within the highest circles of first century Christianity. As I once wrote to a friend:

We consider the reference to Tartarus at 2 Peter 2:4 to derive from Greek mythology, the prison of the Titans. Thus Peter borrowed a term from the pagan Greeks and refashioned it into a scriptural term as the prison-like condition of the demons. However, the same word appears in the Greek 1 Enoch at 20:2, and it is identified at 21:10 as “the prison of the [rebel] angels.” The description in 21 depicts demons bound in deep chasms, similar to 2 Peter 2:4’s description of Tartarus. However, 1 Enoch 21 also depicts Tartarus as being full of fire with a lower dungeon of eternal imprisonment. Perhaps this is an elaborate illustration of the two-stages of the demons’ punishment: first they are condemned as outcasts causing great burning consternation among them, then they are punished with eternal destruction symbolized by fire (like in Revelation 20:10). Therefore, I believe it is more likely that Peter referred to 1 Enoch for Tartarus and not to Greek mythology. While Tartarus ultimately derives from Greek mythology, it was used in the Greek 1 Enoch, which I suspect was Peter’s primary source for the word Tartarus. Since its meaning is compatible with divine revelation (more so in 1 Enoch than in Greek mythology), it was permissible by holy spirit to use in his inspired book.

While this does not imply that 1 Enoch is canonical, it does highlight that parts of it are compatible with divine revelation, the Bible. 1 Enoch, however important or instructive for reconstructing the first century Christian mindset, remains outside of the Canon.

Edgar Foster said...

Jim, good points. I agree that Peter more likely relied on Jewish ideas like those reflected in 1 Enoch rather than Greek mythology. It is also interesting that Peter apparently limits Tartarus to a place of punishment for angels, not for humans also as the Greeks thought. Philo likewise makes use of Tartarus in his writings.

JimSpace said...

Thank you Edgar. Pursuing your comment "Philo likewise makes use of Tartarus in his writings," I found it in On Rewards and Punishments and On the Embassy to Gaius.