A couple of weeks ago I was reading 2 Peter 1:16-21 from the NET translation. I appreciate the footnotes that accompany the translation because of the translator’s reasoning towards a translation. I hope that more translations in the future will follow suit and show its readers the issues in translation. I was particularly curious about the NET’s translation of 2 Peter 1:19a:
1:19 Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing.
This sparked my interest because of how some major translations have rendered this verse:
English Standard Version: And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed
New American Standard 1995: So we have the prophetic word made more sure
New International Version: And we have the word of the prophets made more certain
The NET footnote for 1:19a reads:
The comparative adjective βεβαιότερον is the complement to the object τὸν προφητικὸν λόγον. As such, the construction almost surely has the force “The prophetic word is (more certain/altogether certain) – and this is something that we all have.” Many scholars prefer to read the construction as saying “we have the prophetic word made more sure,” but such a nuance is unparalleled in object-complement constructions (when the construction has this force, ποιέω is present [as in 2 Pet 1:10]). The meaning, as construed in the translation, is that the Bible (in this case, the OT) that these believers had in their hands was a thoroughly reliable guide. Whether it was more certain than was even Peter’s experience on the Mount of Transfiguration depends on whether the adjective should be taken as a true comparative (“more certain”) or as an elative (“very certain, altogether certain”). Some would categorically object to any experience functioning as a confirmation of the scriptures and hence would tend to give the adjective a comparative force. Yet the author labors to show that his gospel is trustworthy precisely because he was an eyewitness of this great event. Further, to say that the OT scriptures (the most likely meaning of “the prophetic word”) were more trustworthy an authority than an apostle’s own experience of Christ is both to misconstrue how prophecy took place in the OT (did not the prophets have visions or other experiences?) and to deny the final revelation of God in Christ (cf. Heb 1:2). In sum, since syntactically the meaning that “we have confirmed the prophetic word by our experience” is improbable, and since contextually the meaning that “we have something that is a more reliable authority than experience, namely, the Bible” is unlikely, we are left with the meaning “we have a very reliable authority, the Old Testament, as a witness to Christ’s return.” No comparison is thus explicitly made. This fits both the context and normal syntax quite well. The introductory καί suggests that the author is adding to his argument. He makes the statement that Christ will return, and backs it up with two points: (1) Peter himself (as well as the other apostles) was an eyewitness to the Transfiguration, which is a precursor to the Parousia; and (2) the Gentile believers, who were not on the Mount of Transfiguration, nevertheless have the Old Testament, a wholly reliable authority that also promises the return of Christ.
I see a couple of things in play here worth noting: 1) is the actual syntax of the verse. What is actually possible in the construction. 2) contextual–what makes the most sense of the overall context of the letter. 3) theological–understanding the relationship between revelation as events and revelation of a text. I could be wrong here.
There are many things I pretend to be, but a Greek scholar is not one of them. I’m interested to see what others have to say. How would you translate καὶ ἔχομεν βεβαιότερον τὸν προφητικὸν λόγον? Why?