What Did Peter Mean

Why did Peter quote from it? Just as men now quote from the classics, not sanctioning the truth of the quotation, but to illustrate and enforce a proposition. Nothing is more common than for writers to quote fables "As the toroise said to the hare," in Aesop; "As the sun said to the wind," etc. We have the same practice illustrated in the Bible. Joshua, after a poetical quotation adorning his narrative, says: "Is not this written in the Book of Jasher?" (Josh. 10:113) and Jeremiah (48:45) says: "A fire shall come forth out of Heshbon," quoting from an ancient poet, says Dr. Adam Clarke. Peter alludes to this ancient legend, to illustrate the certainty of retribution, without any intention of teaching the silly notions of angels falling from heaven, and certainly not meaning to sanction the then prevalent notions concerning the heathen Tartarus. This is the only alternative: either the pagan doctrine is true, and the heathen got ahead of inspiration by ascertaining the fact before the authors of the Bible learned it—for it was currently accepted centuries before Christ, and is certainly not taught in the Old Testament—or Peter quotes it as Jesus refers to Mammon, rhetorically, to illustrate the great fact of retribution he was inculcating. If true, how can any one account for the fact that it is never referred to in the Bible, before or after this once? Besides, these angels are not to be detained always in Tartarus, they are to be released. The language is, "delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." When their judgment comes, they emerge from duress. They only remain in Tartarus 'unto judgment." Their imprisonment is therefore a limited one, so that the language gives no proof of endless punishment, even if it were a literal description.

But no one can fail to see that the apostle employs the legend of the Book of Enoch to illustrate and enforce his doctrine of retribution. As though he had said: "If, as is believed by some, God spared not the angels that sinned, do not let us who sin, mortal men, expect to escape." If this view is denied there is no escape from the gross doctrine of Tartarus, as taught by the pagan, and that, too, on the testimony of a solitary sentence of Scripture!

But whatever may be the intent of the words, they do not teach endless torment, for the chains referred to last only unto the judgment.

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