There is a minor textual variation in 2 Peter 2:2 that caught my eye in preparation for preaching the text last Sunday. The variation is largely without comment in modern critical Greek text apparati, and it is unmentioned in the marginal textual notes of the NKJV.
The Textus Receptus reads: “And many will follow their destructive ways [tais apoleiais].”
While the modern critical text reads: “Many will follow their shameful ways [tais aselgeiais].”
The issue is whether the noun should be “destruction [apoleia]” or “sensuality [aselgeia].”
External evidence: This is one of those more rare instances where the TR reading departs from the Majority Text which also reads aselgeia. The Hodges/Farstad The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text is one of the few current Greek texts to even mention the variation in its apparatus. The AV rendering of the phrase raises a question as to which text was before the 1611 translators. They rendered it: “And many shall follow their pernicious ways.” By “pernicious” did they mean “destructive” or “sensual”? A marginal note in some editions of the AV assumes it follows the TR, adding, “Or, lascivious ways, as some copies read.” It is more clear that the Geneva Bible followed the TR here, as it reads, “And many shall follow their destructions.”
Internal evidence: The strongest argument for the TR reading might be the repeated use of the word “destruction” throughout the text (cf. in v. 1: references to “destructive heresies” and “swift destruction,” and in v. 3 “their destruction does not slumber”). On the other hand, some would claim the possibility of assimilation. It might also be argued that here in the beginning Peter places the focus on the doctrinal errors of the false teachers and only later on their ethical errors (cf. 2:12-17). Thus, aselgeia would be out of place in v. 2. It might, of course, be countered that it would be proper to appear here given what will follow in vv. 12-17.
Conclusion: The evidence is inconclusive and worth further study.
I think it's easier to explain the redundant apoleiais (given its repetition in vv1-3) than an added aselgeiais. The words do have similarities, after all.
Affirming apoleiais for the reason that the teachers' bad conduct is only mentioned later in the chapter is unconvincing. First, apoleiais is an adjective by itself. That could make it refer to either teaching or to practice. Moreover, how would apoleiais as destructive teachings necessarily cause "the way of truth to be blasphemed" by the world? The world doesn't have a clue about false doctrine (they usually accept it), but everybody knows what an ethical life looks like. The way of truth can only be blasphemed by outsiders if they see the evil life that is evidently incoherent with the claims of the gospel. So it seems better to understand it as referring to practice either way. That said, given the lack of evidence out there, I wonder if this isn't a mistake by the printers of the TR.
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