In 2 Peter 3:16, the apostle Peter says :

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Peter is talking about all of the scriptures, not just Paul's writing, for he says 'as they do also the other scriptures' by which he must mean all scriptures.

I am interested in the word 'wrest' στρεβλοῦσιν, streblousin, which is the present indicative active, 3rd person plural see Biblehub Strong 4761

My 1,700 page special American edition of Liddell & Scott gives, for the noun form :

instrument of turning, instrument of torture,

and for the verb form :

twist or strain with a windlass.

This sounds quite severe. It is certainly an energetic process. I suppose that dedication would be required.

Are there any instances in scripture itself where we see someone actually doing this with Paul's words or with other scriptures ?

The word is used only once in scripture, that I can find, and an instance of this process actually happening would be a helpful example to bear in mind.

1 Answer 1


To answer your question we have to understand the meaning of the verbal form Peter used here. As you point, στρεβλοω is an hapax legomena (a term utilized only once) in the NT.

According an amount of Greek lexicographers (Crusius&Smith, Ewing, Liddell&Scott [abridged], Robinson, Semerano, Thayer) - and also according the math probability (since you will see that both verbs have in common both the basic meaning and the incipit στρε-) this verb (στρεβλοω) is semantically connected with another verb, στρεφω. Both verbs have in common the basic action of to turn, to twist, and so on.

But, it seems to me that the verb στρεβλοω (used here by Peter) developed – with the passing of time - a more specialized meaning nuance, related to a peculiar manner to inflict torture (as you noted yet), namely, twisting some body limbs of an unlucky person (by some directly torturer’s manipulations, or by dedicated devices for the purpose), until they were dislocated.

Here are some statements of classic scholars that confirm this conclusion (bold is mine):

Meaning, originally, to hoist with a windlass or screw; to twist or dislocate the limbs on a rack. It is a singularly graphic word applied to the perversion of scripture.” (Vincent’s Word Studies)

It is derived from a word meaning a windlass, winch, instrument of torture στρεβλή streblē and means to roll or wind on a windlass; then to wrench, or turn away, as by the force of a windlass; and then to wrest or pervert. It implies a turning out of the way by the application of force. Here the meaning is, that they apply those portions of the Bible to a purpose for which they were never intended.” (Albert Barnes)

Applied to writings it signifies, by far-fetched criticisms and unsupported senses of words, to make a passage speak a meaning different from what the author intended. Hence in our language we have the expression, to torture words.” (Joseph Benson)

So, utilizing this verb (στρεβλοω), the apostle Peter did intend to help his readers to visualize a scene - regrettably - quite common in that epoch (as today…). John Gill (in his Exposition of the Bible) finely illustrated this conclusion: […] “wrest the word of God, distort it from its true sense and meaning, and make it speak that which it never designed; dealing with it as innocent persons are sometimes used, put upon a rack, and tortured, and so forced to speak what is contrary to their knowledge and consciences […].”

So, having ascertained the basic meaning, and the specialized nuance of the term utilized by Peter, we are to pass to your direct question, namely, ‘Are there any instances in scripture itself where we see someone actually doing this with Paul's words or with other scriptures?

There are many instances of this type in the Bible.

But it is enough to mention the twisted use of the Scriptures performed by the Adversary, in one of the so-called temptations against Christ. Satan cited Psa 91:11, 12 to try to convince Jesus to make a spectacular display of his blessed condition of God’s Chosen One (Luk 23:35; compare Isaiah 42:1, 2). A Bible encyclopedia commented: “Satan used this tactic against Jesus Christ when he ‘took him along into the holy city, and he stationed him upon the battlement of the temple and said to him: ‘If you are a son of God, hurl yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels a charge concerning you, and they will carry you on their hands, that you may at no time strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him: ‘Again it is written, ‘You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.’- Mt 4:5-7. […] When Jesus walked over water, it was because he was going somewhere with no transportation at hand at that late hour, something quite different from jumping off a temple battlement like a potential suicide.” (Insight on the Scriptures II:82, 665).

I hope these notes will be useful to you.

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