2 Peter 3:12 reads:

while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? Because of this day, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze! (2 Peter 3:12 NET)

The NET Bible adopts the primary definition of σπεύδω: hasten, as does the NIV, NLT, NASB, etc.

A secondary definition given the word σπεύδω is "strive for" (Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament).

Some Bible translations follow this secondary definition when translating σπεύδω in this passage. For example, the ASV translates σπεύδω as earnestly desiring.

How should we understand σπεύδω in 2 Peter 3:12?

If it means "hasten", then does this mean the eschatological day of God is not a fixed date, but is influenced by human behavior?


2 Answers 2


It seems that σπεύδω has the meaning of "hasten" or "press on" when intransitive (i.e. is without object), but can mean "seek eagerly" or "strive after" something when transitive (i.e. with object). This is clarified in some lexicons (e.g. Liddell-Scott-Jones, Barclay), but not others (e.g. Swanson's Dictionary of Biblical Languages). The confusion lies in that when meaning "hasten" the Greek verb (as the English) can be either transitive or intransitive. One could oneself be hurrying, or one could be hurrying someone along.

Examples of σπεύδω in the intransitive:

Luke 2:16

Καὶ ἦλθον σπεύσαντες, καὶ ἀνεῦρον τήν τε Μαριὰμ καὶ τὸν Ἰωσήφ, καὶ τὸ βρέφος κείμενον ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ.

And they went with haste [lit. they went hurrying], and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Acts 22:18

Σπεῦσον καὶ ἔξελθε ἐν τάχει ἐξ Ἱερουσαλήμ· διότι οὐ παραδέξονταί σου τὴν μαρτυρίαν περὶ ἐμοῦ.

Make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem, because they will not accept your testimony about me.

2 Peter 3:12 seems to be the only place in the New Testament where σπεύδω is used in the transitive (there are 6 usages total), but it is used this way in places in the Septuagint, for example:

Sirach 36:7

σπεῦσον καιρὸν καὶ μνήσθητι ὁρκισμοῦ, καὶ ἐκδιηγησάσθωσαν τὰ μεγαλεῖά σου.

Await the day, and remember the appointed time, and let people recount thy mighty deeds.

Susanna 12 (prelude to Daniel in LXX)

καὶ ὡς ἐγίνετο ὄρθρος, ἐρχόμενοι ἔκλεπτον ἀλλήλους σπεύδοντες, τίς φανήσεται αὐτῇ πρότερος καὶ λαλήσει πρὸς αὐτήν.

And they watched eagerly, day after day, to see her.

There are also numerous examples given by Liddell-Scott-Jones in ancient Greek literature (e.g. Thucydides' Peloponnesian War 5.16, Euripides' Hecuba line 1175) where it is used in the transitive sense of "await eagerly".

The Orthodox New Testament (done by Greek Orthodox nuns) translates 2 Peter 3:12 as expecting and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of the Lord, but it seems, as you say, most modern translations seem to imply that one can somehow "hasten the day".


The literary context of chapter 3 and the historical context of apocalyptic expectations are critical in understanding the Greek term, spoudazō, as used here.

The literary context indicates that the Lord is delaying His coming till all of "you" (verse 9), meaning "the beloved" (verse 8), escape perishing and come to repentance as stated in verse 9.

The NET Bible's translators attempt to neuter this idea by claiming that Peter does not necessarily mean to restrict the reference to God's beloved in a literal way. They suggest that an assembly may be addressed as if everyone there is part of the true church even though the audience actually includes many that are not really believers; therefore - according to the NET translators - the term, beloved as used by Peter, can be stretched to include the lost. This, however, is not what is going on when a congregation is addressed in this way. Instead a speaker - really means - to address the beloved, the true church, and anyone else in the place is merely listening in on words that apply to only God's chosen.

Besides, Peter is giving a reason for why the Lord's delayed return is not a matter of being neglectful of His promise (verse 9). If he was stating that the Lord is delaying because He wants every single human being to avoid perishing and come to repentance, then He will never return because that condition will never be met.

So, the literary context of spoudazō, taken to mean "hastening," in verse 12 fits perfectly with the expectation that all the beloved will be safely in, so that the the Lord can return.

As to the historical context, many scholars state that the necessity of repentance on the part of God's people before the Messiah's coming was an idea that was common in Jewish apocalyptic theology.

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