“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
For we did not follow
The faith of Christians does not depend on clever stories, as the false teachers did in Second Peter (whom Peter attacked in chapter two). Instead, the Christian faith rests on the historicity of God’s revelation.
The Greek word “follow” comes from two words: to follow and out. This intense term conveys the idea of conforming as a follower in a dependent manner. It maintains the idea of following someone personally to the end (2 Pe 2:2,15). The behavior of this person closely imitates their leader. The implication is to comply with some authority. Peter does not follow “fables.” “Fables” are not the authority of the New Testament church. The Christian follows his Lord by the Word of God. The Word will protect us and give us inner strength if we learn its principles and apply them to experience.
cunningly devised fables
“Cunningly devised fables” are clever or skillful special knowledge created shrewdly and expertly. Our English word “sophistication” comes from the verb “cunningly devised.” These people have unique abilities involving the capacity to produce cleverly contrived myths. Peter did not contrive his message. Christianity does not come from human invention but from divine revelation.
The Greek tense of “devised” means that these tales were formed in the past, with the result continuing to the present (perfect tense). These are long-standing myths.
We also obtain our English word “myth” from the Greek word for “fable” here. A fable is a legendary story about supernatural beings, events, or cultural heroes. A fable is a fabrication, a concocted tale to mislead subtly.
The Bible is based on historical facts, not myths.
Christianity is no myth. It is not a fairy story for children or folklore for adults. Christianity operates on fact, not fiction. It is no religious fairy tale. Neither is Christianity the work of someone’s imagination that has no basis in fact. The truth of the Christian faith closely fastens to the historicity of the New Testament.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a belief system arose to attack Christianity under the influence of the Age of Reason (which assumes rationalism as the essential source of truth). Some of its methods claimed that the Bible was a myth. These claims were based more on subjective theological presuppositions rather than on historical facts. The question of the historical fact of Scripture is of little importance to those who deny the truth of Christianity. It is of immense significance to those who believe in its credibility, for the truth of Jesus Christ can only be known from New Testament records. The influence of the New Testament records is tantamount to the influence of His character.
The New Testament is the most trustworthy writing that was ever persevered from antiquity. There are greater resources for reconstructing its text than for any document of the classic age. Some papyri go back almost to the time of the writings of the apostles themselves. By contrast, the dialogues of Plato, the works of the Greek dramatists, and Virgil’s poems have come down to us from copies few in number. Some classical manuscripts are separated by as much as 1400 years. The oldest manuscript for the Gallic Wars is 900 years after Caesar’s time. Tacitus’ two manuscripts are 800 years and ten centuries later.
The heyday of that kind of liberal criticism has passed. With this, many of its present advocates face a dilemma in squaring with the demands of objective evidence. Many of them ignore modern archaeological and other evidence. They hang on to their speculative assumptions in the face of facts. However, in the twenty-first century, a new form of liberalism seeks to undermine Scripture. It goes by the name of Progressive Christianity, among others.
For example, many follow Bart Ehrman, an agnostic, who states there are 200,000 copy errors in New Testament manuscripts and that the documents of the Bible are unreliable. If the perspective of this assertion were true, we would not trust the Bible. However, this figure is a distortion of perspective. For example, the name “John” was spelled “Johnn” in Greek in some manuscripts. The perspective distortion occurs when a scribe copies “John” as “Johnn,” but a sequence of subsequent scribes copied it into 5,000 duplicated manuscripts later. Would that be one error or 5,000? The answer is one error copied 5,000 times. Most manuscript copying errors are spelling mistakes. See my “Note” below for further developments in textual criticism.
How do we know that the authors of Scripture were genuine authors? We know because we have an embarrassment of riches of New Testament manuscripts. The comparison of manuscripts gives credibility to authorship. The Iliad has only 643 manuscripts. Caesar’s Gallic Wars has but ten good manuscripts. However, there are over 5,300 Greek manuscripts, plus 45,000 papyri, Lexicons, Dictionaries, and church fathers.
There are fewer than fifty variant readings of any critical theological importance in the New Testament. Some are important, but not critically so. There is no case where an article of faith is left in question. The Bible is the most reliable historical document in the history of the world. It obviously is not a myth!!
God speaks through the Bible (Lu 1:70; Ac 3:31; Ro 1:1,2; He 1:1,2; 2:3,4); therefore, it is of the highest importance that we recognize that the Bible we possess is trustworthy and reliable.
NOTE: Since my writing of this study, much more refined work on this category has been done: See the book Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism by Elijah Hixson, Peter Gurry, and Daniel Wallace for more up-to-date information.