2 Peter 1:1

Brent Kercheville blogs about two different ways that our faith is described in translations of 2 Peter 1:1. In summary, they are:

  1. faith as precious as ours
  2. faith as valuable as ours

The key to differences among translations is how the Greek word isotimos is rendered. It seems to me that a case can be made that faith that is as “previous” “precious” as ours is quite close to faith that is as “equally precious” (or “valuable” or of “equal standing”) as ours.

Do you sense any greater accuracy in any of the ways used to translate isotimos?

7 thoughts on “2 Peter 1:1

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    Wayne, I’m confused, because to me “precious” and “valuable” are almost synonyms – except that “valuable” tends to refer more to monetary value which is of course not the point here. Brent seems to be contrasting the “precious” interpretation with HCSB’s “of equal privilege”, which strikes me as bad English but very likely closer to the intended meaning, based on the scholarly exegesis Brent quotes “having a faith of equal honor and equal privilege”. I’m not sure how to render that in good English – but CEV does quite well with “shares with us in the privilege of believing that…”.

  2. Rich Rhodes says:

    To know what isotimos means we need to know what its competitors are. What else could he have said. (My Greek is not good enough to do this off the top of my head.)

    I have been thinking for some time now that someone needs to fill out the commercial transaction frame for Koine. I twitch at the thought. I’d love to do it, but I just don’t have the time.

    Valuable and precious are different in several ways. Precious, at least in some contexts, has an personal factor, i.e., precious to someone, but valuable is an objective evaluation. Something can be precious to someone without being particularly valuable.

    One way to highlight the personal vs. objective difference, is to observe that one can easily predicate precious of a child (granted that was the way my grandmother spoke), but if you say they are valuable it has a totally different feel, emotionally remote, maybe even a little creepy. But if you are a coach, and unrelated to the child, it’s the other way around.

    You are so precious!
    Weird: You are so valuable!

    Weird: You are so precious!
    You are so valuable!

    In other uses precious can mean very valuable, as in precious metal.

  3. David Dewey says:

    Before we argue over semantics in English, we surely have to decide what the Greek means, and I don’t think that can be done here adequately without a degree of exegesis. Peter, a Jew is writing to predominantly Gentile readers. His point is that their (relatively new) faith is no less valuable/precious/significant than his (with all its historical freight). Their faith puts them on an equal standing before God.
    Assuming the same authorship for 1 and 2 Peter, I think the way Peter uses timos gives us a clue to the compound isotimos in 2 Peter 1:1. This idea of ‘worth’is attached by Peter variously to the blood of Christ, to the promises of God, to Christ as the foundation stone of the church and to the faith of believers (compared to gold). I agree a word which suggests an objective ‘worth’ would be better than one that is subjective. The worth in view here is the worth God ascribes, not the worth human beings ascribe. So, ‘valuable’ over ‘precious’ is, IMO, the better. But I wonder whether ‘faith of equal worth to ours’ might not be better than either.

  4. Rich Rhodes says:

    My point in suggesting that someone needs to fill out the commercial transaction frame was exactly about figuring out what the Greek means. I hesitate to use the term exegesis to label what it is we do nowadays to figure out the lexical semantics and usage properties of Koine words.

    On the other hand, we need to know what the English words mean as well. We often assume that because we are native speakers that we just know the English side automatically. But that’s only partly true.

    The trick here is that the τιμ- root covers semantic areas that are clearly distinguished in English: material worth value and price and social worth honor and rank. English is much more specific than Greek in these areas.

    So ἰσότιμος could refer to someone of the same social status, someone equally worthy or to a thing of equal value. There is no clear presumption that the value is high. So, in fact, this passage could read:

    “a faith that is just as good as ours”

    I’m not necessarily advocating that, but precious adds a couple of factors that can’t be argued to be present in the Greek.

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