This is my third response to a Sam Stones essay, Faith and Repentance (http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/faith-and-repentance/). Mr Storms claims that the phrase “have received” is more accurately interpreted as “to obtain by lot”. Lacking any Greek knowledge and seeking clarity on this subject, I asked Pete Parker, a pastor and friend at Woodcrest Church in Eagan MN, to apply some of his Greek knowledge and understanding. With Pete’s permission, here’s an abridged email exchange:
I hope that you can help with a Greek question I have on 2 Pet 1:1 which reads: “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
My question pertains to whether the phrase “have received” is more accurately translated “to obtain by lot”. Does the difficulty of translating Greek to English leave the English reader lacking the true meaning of what the author intended? A Calvinist friend claims this verse actually helps to justify and strengthen Calvinist belief in election wherein salvation is because of Him who calls (Rom 9:11). However, you being a Calvinist, I’m guessing you already know that!
I did a little study this morning and I would have to agree that most references I’ve checked would render the phrase, “have received a faith” to be best translated, “to receive by lot or divine will.” (Luke 1:9; John 19:24; Acts 1:17). Lot casting was a way in which God could providentially control earthly circumstances to reveal His will. To receive by lot or divine will seems to infer:
- Something not attained by personal effort.
- Something not attained by personal skill.
- Something not attained by personal worthiness.
- Something that came purely from God.
As you can imagine, Calvinists really like this verse!
While the majority of the “language experts” agree that the Greek phrase is best rendered “to receive by lot or divine will”, I also tend to trust the various translators – who interestingly enough don’t use the phrase “receive by lot or divine will” in any translations. Perhaps that phrase doesn’t convey the main point of the verse – Peter wanting his readers to know that their faith was as precious as his was.
I also wonder if the use of this Greek verb primarily emphasizes that this precious faith is a “free gift” from God that we cannot earn more than secondarily emphasizing that God gives it out by divine will. Perhaps it’s best to interpret the whole “casting of lots” idea as a visual way to determine God’s will on a subject. I sense God allowed the practice of casting lots to show the people His will on a subject in that it wasn’t the luck of the draw but God who controlled how the draw turned out.
I appreciate your time and effort. Yes, no doubt Calvinists really like 2 Pet 1:1 and those I meet on the “battlefield” (actually, we write on each other’s blogs) occasionally bring up Greek or Hebrew words and interpretation. Of course, I’m at a distinct disadvantage here. Nevertheless, I maintain that one literally has to “have faith” in whatever translation they’re using (KJ, RSV, NASB, NIV, ESV, etc) and believe that those translators had a solid understanding of vocabulary, nuance of the language and customs of the day to adequately translate our modern Bible versions.
Your finding that “have received a faith” is best translated “to receive by lot or divine will” is, well, troubling to one with open theistic tendencies. Sam Storms uses the same references you noted. Still, I find it difficult to believe that those references support the notion that 1 Pet 1:1 is best interpreted “to receive by lot or divine will”. I guess I don’t see the connection between receiving by lot or divine will and:
- High Priests use Tarot cards (I just made that up) to determine who sits in the “big chair” (Luke 1:9).
- “Rolling dice” to determine whether Matthais or Barnabus would replace Judas as an apostle (Acts 1:17).
- Guards “flip a coin” to determine who gets Jesus’ clothes after He was crucified (John 19:24).
I don’t doubt that those things happened – they’re recorded events in the Bible after all. However, I don’t interpret those things as God actually applying His will in those events – well, except for Jesus’ clothing as that was the fulfillment of prophesy. Anyway, I’ve always thought God wanted none to perish and all to come to repentance – if only I could actually find a verse to support that concept! Well, must tarry forth. Thanks, again, Pete. I appreciate your time and efforts.