Not Personalities, but God's Glorious Gifts
Of δόξας (doxas) v.10
The Greek of 2 Pet 2:10
μάλιστα δὲ τοὺς ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ μιασμοῦ πορευομένους, καὶ
κυριότητος καταφρονοῦντας. Τολμηταί, αὐθάδεις, δόξας οὐ τρέμουσιν
The part in question is the second clause where the accusative noun δόξας is the direct object of what is being "blasphemed" by the ones so doing (βλασφημοῦντες).
The translations are all over the place on the word δόξας. The KJV/NKJV remain rather neutral with "dignities" and "dignitaries" respectively, NASB/NIV translate it as a reference to "angelic majesties" and "celestial beings" respectively that shows their bent toward it referring to angelic beings, while the ESV gives "glorious ones," which is again rather neutral.
An issue I have with nearly all the translations' interpretations is that they personalize the concept, meaning they treat the word as a appellation, a name to reference some class of "beings." The exception here is the KJV (which seems to handle it best, but still not perfect), as it keeps the word more unpersonalized ("dignities"). By personalizing, the other translations take a word that is normally used to express a concept—glory—and attempt to make it a personal reference (an appellation, a name; which is different than a personal description).1
Now such a "personalizing" appellative use of an abstract concept is well within the realm of language. However, if a personal reference were intended, what would typically have been used was a substantival participle of the verb δοξάζω (doxazo), which is the most common way in Greek to make an appellation to personalize abstract concepts. Had that been in the masculine gender, passive form (in Greek) it would quite possibly mean "the ones who are gloried" or "the ones who have glory."
Instead, here the text has the noun form used to refer to the concept of glory, but in the plural, so "glories." But of what "glories" does Peter speak, to which the false prophets are slanderously condemning?
I believe that is best answered by looking at the rest of Peter's two epistles.
The concept of glory in Peter's epistles is quite inclusive of various ideas, but all those ideas are related. First, the believer's genuine faith is a cause of "glory" in 1 Pet 1:7 (this itself is interesting in light of that genuine faith being what is attacked by the false teachers).
More significant is the same exact word being found in 1 Pet 1:11, where the plural "glories" refers to those things that would follow from the "sufferings of Christ." The plural word in this context is clearly inclusive of everything that hinged upon Christ's sacrifice. But many of those points are expanded upon elsewhere in his work. The "glories" include, in part, Christ's own glory (1 Pet 1:21), the Father's own glory (1 Pet 4:11), which is a glory in which believers partake through the Spirit (1 Pet 4:14 [note this verse also pairs blasphemy against this glory] and 5:1), to which glory believers are called (1 Pet 5:10), for which believers ought to give God glory (1 Pet 5:11).
This same call "to glory" of 1 Peter is picked up at the start of 2 Peter in 1:3, and the glory of Christ is mentioned again in 2 Peter 1:17.
So the "glories" otherwise mentioned in Peter's writings are those things to which "the way of truth" (2 Pet 2:2) itself points (that way of truth, as the verse notes, is being blasphemed by the false prophets). So by being false prophets, they are slandering the truth of God, which truth includes the glories to come by that truth, the glories believers are called to. In bringing "destructive heresies" and "denying the Master who bought them" (2 Pet 2:1), the false teachers lead others to follow them in blaspheming "the way of truth" itself (v.2). These false teachers evidence that they are greedy and covetous (v.3) for things of this world (v.11, 15), not for the glories mentioned in God's way of truth based on Christ's sacrifice.
The "them" not being evil spoken of by angels of v.11
The "them" (αὐτῶν, auton) of 2 Pet 2:11, since it is plural, can be a masculine or feminine pronoun. So while it may refer back to the "glories" of v.10 (which is a feminine noun), the reference may also be back to the last masculine reference, the "unjust" of v.9, who are continued to be referenced at the start of v.10 ("those who walk..." NKJV; πορευομένους, poreuomenous).
Viewing "them" of v.11 as referring to these unjust ones gives this comparision:
- the good angels do not even speak evil of "them," the unjust (who are clearly worthy of judgment), which unjust ones are themselves speaking evil of God's "glories."
- Yet the false teachers are so bold as to "make merchandise of you [i.e. believers]" (v.3, NKJV) by their speaking "evil of the things that they understand not" (v.12), which "things" refers back to the "glories" expounded in the way of truth.
The Jude 8 Parallel
As is common, Jude 8-9 is seen to have a parallel idea to 2 Pet 2:10. This is because the same word δόξας is found there in the context of a good angel not speaking evil of an unjust being (Michael of the devil).
While Jude is not as explicit as Peter in seeing how he might classify the "glories" he is referring to, the same concepts as what Peter referred to as glories are still present within the context of Jude, as he carries many of the same themes as Peter in what Christ's work has done and how believers relate to it. Believers are "called, sanctified ... and preserved" (NKJV, v.1; cf. 1 Pet 5:10, 2 Pet 1:3), having a "common salvation" (v.3; note how this is essentially a summary of the glories that come from the "sufferings of Christ" as 1 Pet 1:11 noted), emphasizing "faith" (v.3, 20; cf. 1 Pet 1:7) and "grace" (v.4; cf. 1 Pet 1:10), to ultimately experience God's glory (v.24-25).
The speech of those in Jude is specifically against "the grace of our God" and a denial of "our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.4). They speak "harsh things ... against Him [the coming Lord, v.14]" (v.15). They are "mockers" (v.18) of God's ways and seek "sensual" things (v.19). So the explicit notations in Jude of what/who the "ungodly" are directing their speech against parallels the same thing that Peter noted—God and God's way, "the way of truth" as Peter put it, which is the way that expounds the "glories" to come for both God and those who believe.
Thus in Jude 8, the parallel is the same as in Peter. In v.9 a good angel ("Michael") refuses to rebuke one who deserves rebuke ("the devil"), which is the parallel thought of good angels not rebuking the ungodly false teachers in 2 Pet 2:11, yet these ungodly in Jude blaspheme God and His "glories" He has planned for Himself and His believers.
The Parallel Contrast
So the parallel contrast in both 2 Peter and Jude is this:
Good angels (who are greater than men as noted here in 2 Pet 2:11) do not bring accusation against the actions of those men who deserve it—the ungodly (whether false teachers or Satan)
Ungodly/False Teachers (of men, who are lesser than angels; cf. Heb 2:6-7) do bring accusation against the actions/plans/faith of those who do not deserve it—the godly (whether believers or God)
So in both Peter's work and the parallel passage in Jude, the context points to the "glories" as best referring those things that are explicitly mentioned as such by Peter, and those things explicitly stated as being spoken against both in Peter and Jude. Those things are the "glories" God has planned for Himself, His Son, and those believing Him, all based on Christ's work on the cross.
1 The common reason for viewing "glories" as angelic beings relates to the word's use outside Scripture, specifically in a number of passages noted by BDAG, s.v. δόξα, definition 4 (bolding, other than the first line which is original, is added to show the references in question):
a transcendent being deserving of honor, majestic being, by metonymy
(cp. Diod S 15, 58, 1 of citizens who stood out from among all others
in ἐξουσίαι καὶ δόξαι=offices and honors) of angelic beings (s. Philo,
Spec. Leg. 1, 45; PGM 1, 199) δόξαι majestic (heavenly) beings Jd 8; 2
Pt 2:10 (s. also Ex 15:11 LXX; TestJud 25:2 αἱ δυνάμεις τ. δόξης. Also
the magical text in Rtzst., Poim. p. 28 [VI 17] χαιρέτωσάν σου αἱ
δόξαι (practically = δυνάμει) εἰς αἰῶνα, κύριε). Cp. JSickenberger,
Engelsoder Teufelslästerer? Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier d.
Univers. Breslau 1911, 621ff. The mng. majesties and by metonymy
illustrious persons is also prob.—On the whole word Rtzst.,
Mysterienrel.3 289; 314f; 344; 355ff; AvGall, D. Herrlichkeit Gottes
1900; IAbrahams, The Glory of God 1925.—AForster, The Mng. of Δόξα in
the Greek Bible: ATR 12, 1929/1930, 311ff; EOwen, Δόξα and Cognate
Words: JTS 33, ’32, 139–50; 265–79; CMohrmann, Note sur doxa:
ADebrunner Festschr. ’54, 321–28; LBrockington, LXX Background to the
NT Use of δ., Studies in the Gospels in memory of RLightfoot ’55,
1–8.—HBöhlig, D. Geisteskultur v. Tarsos 1913, 97ff; GWetter, D.
Verherrlichung im Joh.-ev.: Beitr. z. Rel.-wiss. II 1915, 32–113, Phos
1915; RLloyd, The Word ‘Glory’ in the Fourth Gospel: ET 43, ’32,
546–48; BBotte, La gloire du Christ dans l’Evangile de S. Jean: Quest.
liturgiques 12, 1927, 65ff; HPass, The Glory of the Father; a Study in
St John 13–17, ’35; WThüsing, Die Erhöhung u. Verherrlichung Jesu im
J, ’60.—GKittel, D. Rel. gesch. u. d. Urchristentum ’32, 82ff;
JSchneider, Doxa ’32; HKittel, D. Herrlichkeit Gottes ’34; MGreindl,
Κλεος, Κυδος, Ευχος, Τιμη, Φατις, Δοξα, diss. Munich ’38; AVermeulen,
Semantic Development of Gloria in Early-Christian Latin ’56.—RAC IV
210–16; XI 196–225.—B. 1144f. DELG s.v. δοκάω etc. II p. 291. Schmidt,
Syn. I 321–28, s. δοκέω. M-M. EDNT. TW. Spicq. Sv.
Examination of those passages:
Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library 15.58.1
ἡ δ᾽ οὖν στάσις ἐγένετο διὰ τοιαύτας αἰτίας. τῆς πόλεως τῶν Ἀργείων
δημοκρατουμένης καί τινων δημαγωγῶν παροξυνόντων τὸ πλῆθος κατὰ τῶν
ταῖς ἐξουσίαις καὶ δόξαις ὑπερεχόντων, οἱ διαβαλλόμενοι συστάντες
ἔγνωσαν καταλῦσαι τὸν δῆμον (Greek text free online).
Now the strife arose from the following causes: the city of Argos had a democratic form of government, and certain demagogues instigated the populace against the outstanding citizens of property and reputation. The victims of the hostile charges then got together and decided to overthrow the democracy (Diodorus Siculus, Diodorus of Sicily in Twelve Volumes with an English Translation by C. H. Oldfather, Vol. 4-8 [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1989.])
- The plural is used here, in the dative (δόξαις), but...
- The use is again describing, not naming, these "outstanding citizens" (ὑπερεχόντων).
- The passage is not related to spiritual beings.
Philo, The Special Laws 1:45 (emphasis added)
ταῦτα ἀκούσας ἐπὶ δευτέραν ἱκεσίαν ἦλθε καί φησι· "πέπεισμαι μὲν ταῖς σαῖς ὑφηγήσεσιν, ὅτι οὐκ ἂν ἴσχυσα δέξασθαι τὸ τῆς σῆς φαντασίας ἐναργὲς εἶδος. ἱκετεύω δὲ τὴν γοῦν περὶ σὲ δόξαν θεάσασθαι ([Exod. 33:18])· δόξαν δὲ σὴν εἶναι νομίζω τὰς περὶ σὲ δορυφορούσας δυνάμεις, ὧν διαφεύγουσα ἡ κατάληψις ἄχρι τοῦ παρόντος οὐ μικρὸν ἐνεργάζεταί μοι πόθον τῆς διαγνώσεως" (Greek text free online).
When Moses heard this he betook himself to a second supplication, and said, “I am persuaded by thy explanations that I should not have been able to receive the visible appearance of thy form. But I beseech thee that I may, at all events, behold the glory that is around thee. And I look upon thy glory to be the powers which attend thee as thy guards, the comprehension of which having escaped me up to the present time, worketh in me no slight desire of a thorough understanding of it.” (English translation from Charles Duke Yonge, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995], also found online)
- The singular accusative (δόξαν) is actually what is found in this text, not the plural.
- The use is specifically a reference to the "glory" related to God, which glory is associated to the "powers" (δυνάμεις) noted. So the glory is describing, not naming, these powers. The "powers" may be referencing angelic things here, but again, not specifically as "glories."
Papyri Graecae Magicae 1.199
Ἔστιν οὖν τοῦ [π]ρωτοφυοῦς θεοῦ καὶ πρωτογε[ν]οῦς ῥυστική· ἐπικαλο[ῦ]μαί σε, κύριε, κλῦθί μου, ὁ ἅγιος θεός, [ὁ] ἐν ἁγίοις ἀναπαυόμενος, ᾧ αἱ Δόξαι παρεστήκασι διηνεκῶ<ς>· (Greek text online; NOTE: I updated sigma's to σ/ς forms here.)
This, then, is the prayer of deliverance for the first-begotten and first-born god: "I call upon you, lord. Hear me, holy god who rest among the holy ones, at whose side the Glorious Ones stand continually" (from page 8 of Hans Dieter Betz, ed., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells [Chicago: The University of Chicago Press], 1986, found online at academia.edu)
- Here is a plural nominative (δόξαι) use of the term.
- The article (αἱ) preceding it makes it a definite term.
- The translation "glorious ones" in the English translation given above is footnoted (see the link) and in part relies on the BDAG definition for that translation as a possible "name for angels," so there is circularity occurring in this translation. Still, the two options for translating are:
- Personal beings: "the glorious ones"
- Impersonal properties: "the glories"
- These δόξαι are noted as "standing beside [παρεστήκασι] continually [διηνεκῶς]." This verb lends reasonable support that the δόξαι in this passage are personal beings; but the use of the term is still not definitive, for παρίστημι (here in the perfect active dative plural form παρεστήκασι) can mean "be present" as well (BDAG, s.v. παρίστημι, def. 2), which would fit fine the impersonal "glories" that might be ever present with God. Nevertheless, the likelihood in this incantation from ancient Greek magic is that personal beings, parallel in some way to the "holy ones" (ὁ ἅγιος), are intended.
Exodus 15:11 (LXX)
τίς ὅμοιός σοι ἐν θεοῖς, κύριε; τίς ὅμοιός σοι, δεδοξασμένος ἐν ἁγίοις, θαυμαστὸς ἐν δόξαις, ποιῶν τέρατα;
Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? (NKJV, also KJV, NASB for translation of that term; ESV "glorious deeds"; NIV "glory")
- The term is dative plural (δόξαις) in form.
- The LXX term translates the plural Hebrew word תְּהִלָּה ("glory, praise").
- No translations take the term here to refer to angelic beings, but clearly consider these "glories" to be characteristic of God.
Testament of Judah 25:2
I could not find a full Greek version of this text, but the BDAG entry gives the relevant phrase "αἱ δυνάμεις τ. δόξης" that is evident in the English translation:
And the Lord blessed Levi, and the Angel of the Presence, me; the powers of glory, Simeon; the heaven, Reuben; the earth, Issachar; the sea, Zebulun; the mountains, Joseph; the tabernacle, Benjamin; the luminaries, Dan; Eden, Naphtali; the sun, Gad; the moon, Asher (Robert Henry Charles, ed. Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913], also found online at archive.org).
- The genitive singular (δόξης) is found.
- The term is descriptive of the "powers" (δυνάμεις), which blessed Simeon.
R. Reitzenstein, Poimandres : Studien zur griechisch-ägyptischen und frühchristlichen Literatur (Leipzig: Druck und Verlag von B. G. Teubner, 1904), 28, includes the source text for the quoted (yet translated) note from BDAG:
χαιρέτωσάν σου αἱ δόξαι (practically = δυνάμει) εἰς αἰῶνα, κύριε [online original text at archive.org, where the German in parenthesis reads "(fast gleich δυνάμεις)"]
Let the Glorious Ones of you rejoice into eternity, lord (my translation)
- The nominative plural (δόξαι) is found.
- The article (αἱ) is present.
- The δόξαι are the subject of the command (present active imperative 3rd plural χαιρέτωσάν) to "rejoice"; this strongly implies a personal reference.
Conclusions from Observations:
The only two texts that use a plural form of δόξα in any potential personal appellation are the magical incantation texts found in Papyri Graecae Magicae and Poimandres. In both cases, the article (αἱ) is used with the term.
The other texts given in support all use the term in a singular sense as a descriptive term, not an appellation. Two of those, Philo's work and the Testament of Judah might possibly be using the term to describe angelic beings, whereas Diodorus and Exodus 15:11 are clearly not so used, even though BDAG has those references in relation to a reference to a "majestic being."
So to conjecture Peter is using the term, without the article, as a personal appellation for angelic beings in 2 Peter 2:10b requires:
- seeing that use only paralleled in two Greek magical incantation texts.
- seeing that use not include the article to specify a definite "group" being referred to.
- ignoring Peter's other use of the term in 1 Peter 1:11 where he clearly does not use the term to refer to angelic beings, and does in fact use the article since he is referring to a specific set of "glories that would follow" from Christ's death.