Second Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-19

The Power of Witness

Have you ever had doubts about your faith? What resolved your doubts?

Popular Translation

16 When we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his return in glory, we didn’t have you chase after some clever story someone made up. We saw his glory in person. 17 God the Great Father gave him honor when he told us, “This is my Son I love. I am very happy with what he is doing.” 18 We heard that voice when we were with Jesus on the holy mountain. 19 We are also sure with the words the prophets spoke about Jesus. You should hold onto those words as if they were a lamp that light up dark. You should hold on to them until the day dawns and the morning star shines in your hearts.

Literal Translation

16 For not having followed after myths having been made as wisdom did we make the power and the (returning) presence of our LORD JESUS CHRIST known to you, but having become eye witnesses to that splendor (of HIS). 17 For having received honor and glory from God (the) Father when a voice brought him such by the Glory Befitting a Great One, “This is my beloved SON in whom I am well please,” 18 we heard this voice from heaven, having been brought along with HIM, being on the holy mountain. 19 We have the word of the prophets as additional security, which you would do well to hold on to as a lamp shining in a dark place until that day might dawn and the (one) bearing light might rise in your hearts...

1:16 “the (returning) presence of our LORD JESUS CHRIST” The phrase “returning presence” is literally “parousia” in Greek, a theological term for the Second Coming.

1:16-17 We normally connect the Transfiguration to the Resurrection; the glory revealed on the mountain top was the glory Jesus has in his Risen state. It is interesting to note that the author of 2 Peter connected the Transfiguration to the Second Coming; he argued that apostolic witness to the Transfiguration was a reason to believe in Christ’s return.

1:17 “ the Glory Befitting a Great One” is the title for God the Father. At the Transfiguration, the voice that spoke from heaven was a sign of the Father’s activity.

1:17-18 This long sentence is confusing, since the participle in 1:17 referred to Christ, yet the subject of the sentence in 1:18 is the witness to the event (“we”). The best way to understand the sentence is to see 1:17 as the content to the voice’s message (the “voice” was the object of the sentence).

1:19 “until that day might dawn and the (one) bearing light might rise in your hearts...” In the context of this section, this phrase is unclear. It could refer to the Second Coming where Christ is the “One bearing light” (or “Morning Star,” as some translations state). It could also refer to a moment of enlightenment, when the power of faith washes away a doubt; in this case, the “light-bearer” would be “wisdom.” This would be the true wisdom of the Christian faith, the author argued, not the power of esoteric wisdom some turned the story of Christ into (i.e., the Gnostics).

What is our Christian faith ultimately based upon? The author of 2 Peter gave us two answers: Apostolic witness and the words of prophets. These two pillars of faith have three other blocks that support them. First, we believe in the God of Israel as the true God. Second, we hold to the Hebrew Scriptures as a reliable revelation to his people. Third, we believe the Apostles knew Jesus of Nazareth on a personal basis.

Popular culture has attacked some of these premises; lately, the third has come under question. Alternative scriptures (the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene) have come to light; alterative histories (one made popular in the novel “The Da Vinci Code”) have challenged the traditional view of apostolic witness. Without delving into a lengthily expose and defense of early Christian history, it is sufficient to point out that evangelization is based upon a serious belief in these five building blocks. When we speak to others about Christ, we assume YHWH is the only true God, he revealed himself in the Hebrew Scriptures, the words of Scripture point toward a Messiah, the New Testament and the Church were based upon the witness of a group of Jewish men who claimed to know Jesus of Nazareth personally, and the assertion of these witnesses that Jesus was the Messiah was true.

The early Church faced challenges to it credibility. Others took the Good News and warped to their own ends. We face some of the same challenges today, but we should not react in a purely defensive fashion. There is something missing in these challenges, something that we possess, something that gave the witness of the Apostles and gives our witness credibility: the power of Christ, the Spirit. While our faith might be defined by dogmas and practices of faith we summarize as Tradition, the inspiration of faith comes from that God- given spark that attracts others to the Church. The spark drove the prophets to write their experience and visions. That spark was present when Peter, James, and John had a mountain top experience. That spark is present when we honesty proclaim Christ to others.

How can your faith help others with their doubts? How can your witness and patient presence assist them to choose faith in Christ?