Terrance Callan, «The Soteriology of the Second Letter of Peter», Vol. 82 (2001) 549-559
2 Peter presents Jesus as savior in that he purchased his followers from
slavery to corruption and the defilements of the world. Human beings became
slaves of corruption through erroneous thinking and following the desires of the
flesh, i.e. sin. Jesus’ followers have been released from this servitude by their
recognition that Jesus has purchased them from their previous owner and is now
their master. The ethical teaching of 2 Peter is based on continuing in the freedom
from slavery to sin that has come through Jesus. The eschatological teaching of 2
Peter describes the completion of salvation, the culmination of both slavery to sin
and following Jesus.
The Pauline character of the soteriology of 2 Peter is very marked. In view of the author’s claim (in 2 Pet 3,16) that Paul agrees with what the author has said, this is not surprising.
world by recognizing Jesus are again overcome by them, their last state is worse than the first.
What does it mean to be a slave of corruption? The basic meaning of fqora/ is destruction, with a strong implication that the destruction is caused by the kind of disintegration that occurs in decay, or even when something is eaten (see Philo, De aet. mundi 5). Thus fqora/ is often seen as the negative counterpart of ge/nesij13, and it is often paired with sickness (no/soj)14 and pestilence (loimo/j)15. It is also used to mean the sexual corruption of an unmarried woman16. When the connotation of disintegration is less prominent, fqora/ is synonymous with a)pw/leia17.
In addition to its use to mean physical destruction/disintegration, fqora/ can also be used to mean metaphorical destruction/disintegration (like the English word ‘corruption’). Thus Philo uses fqora/ to mean the corruption of virtue (Leg. alleg. 1.105), even though virtues are intrinsically a)fqa/rtwn (De somniis 2.258). Likewise he uses it to mean corruption of the soul18 and other immaterial entities, especially passion19.
2 Pet 2,12 clearly shows that the author of 2 Peter uses fqora/ to mean physical corruption. Two things suggest that the author uses the term to mean metaphorical as well as physical corruption in 2,19. First, in 2,20 he implies that enslavement to fqora/ is equivalent to being overcome by the defilements of the world. The basic meaning of mi/asma is ‘stain’, e.g. a color imparted to a fabric. However, it is used almost exclusively in a figurative and pejorative sense to mean wrongful behavior of various kinds. It is used particularly to mean bodily wrongdoing20, especially various kinds of killing21, sexual misconduct22 and idolatry23. Other defilements include drunkenness, gluttony, etc.24. mi/asma can designate not only bodily wrongdoing, but also defects of mind (cf. Philo, De cher. 16)