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By:  Erick Nelson
Last Updated:  Monday November 01, 2004


Luke's concern is not merely historical, though.  He signals that his narrative will relate the things "that have been fulfilled," that the events are "the word" (the Christian message or preaching), and that his account will provide Theophilus with "assurance." (New, 40)

Luke begins his Gospel with a carefully composed literary preface which has a deliberately secular style and invites comparison of his work with that of the historians of his day. ... Luke is aware that the gospel does have a historical face, and to this he draws attention in his preface.  Indeed, it is true that Luke is self-conscious about the role of historical evidence in commending Christianity to a degree not reflected by the other evangelists.  (Word 11)

The preface is clearly in the style of hellenistic literary prologues.  It has especially been compared with historiographical prologues ..., but also with the prefaces to Hellenistic treatises on various subjects ...  Particularly apt for comparison are sections from Josephus' prefaces to War (1.17) and Against Apion (1.1-18).  (Word 4-5)

Despite Luke's careful composition, the sense of almost every element of the prologue has been disputed.  Among the major disputed issues are Luke's attitude to his predecessors (the polloi, "many"), the degree to which he may be said to have abandoned a faith certainty in favor of an evidential certainty  in his commendation of the Christian faith, the nature of Luke's claim to "having followed" and the scope of the work anticipated by the preface (Gospel only or Luke-Acts) (Word 5-6)

things (that have been fulfilled)
"events", suits well the historian's craft.  (W 7)

he insists that what he is writing about has really happened.  (Jerome 119)

autoptai, "eyewitnesses", echoes once again the language of the historian.  It is found only here in the NT.  Being present as an eyewitness is the basis for becoming a witness (martus) (W 7)

ministers (of the word)
Luke is drawing not only upon strictly eyewitness records but also upon the instructions, prayers, and popular stories through which the eyewitness accounts were "ministered" in the Church.  (Jerome 119)

handed over 
The original eyewitnesses made it their business to pass on what they knew. (W 9)

"having followed" Cadbury has claimed that "having followed" cannot have the meaning "investigated" which is normally attributed to it here.  Almost all texts adduced in support are either ambiguous or on careful scrutiny are seen to have another sense.  However, Josephus, Life 357, is an exception, where the activity involved is clearly separated from that of knowing by being personally present and is set somewhat in parallel with "inquiring."  Nicomachus ...  If this is sufficient evidence to provide semantic viability, then it ismost likely that "investigated" is the sense to be attributed to Luke's use of the verb.  (W 9)

-> [Not a Quote]  other options (W 9)

  1. companion of all the apostles
  2. read carefully the works of the 'many'
  3. participant in many of the events
  4. kept in close touch with what has been going on

The Gk pf. tense of the verb indicates Luke's competence; he has made a thorough investigation.  (Jermone 119)

know the certainty  
In contrast to other prologues, Luke's does not criticize other accounts as inaccurate.  At most there is the implication that his work will supply "the truth."  This term can mean "security", "safety", "assurance", or "certainty."  One debated issue that arises from these verses concerns Luke's aim and purpose in writing a gospel.  Is he supplying (a) an orderly account to correct (historical) inaccuracies in other accounts, (b) (doctrinal) truth where false teaching was a threat, or (c) assurance where uncertainty had prevailed?  (New 40)

The Greek can also mean "that you may be more solidly and certainly grounded in the mysteries of salvation."  (Jerome 119)

Perhaps a day will come when enlightened criticism, on the sole evidence of the prologues which stand at the head of the third Gospel and of Acts, will decide that the author who there addresses himself to Theophilus, and those who arranged the canonical edition of his work, must both be ranked in the same category as the apologists of the second century, who pleaded the cause of Christianity before the Antonines, and that he and they doubtless lived in that age.  (Alfred Loisy, The Origins of the New Testament - original in French 1936; English translation 1962)  Chapter VI.  

No small difficulty confronts the critics who would have us believe that the person here speaking is Luke, and make out that he wrote his two books before the year 70.  Their difficulty will be to explain how, by that time, many writers had already produced an account of the origins of Christianity or even of the career of Jesus.  Yet the writer makes it clearly understood that the literary work on which he now embarks is of a kind largely cultivated before his time; and he must have known its products better than we do.  A writer who uses language such as this cannot have written before the second century .. The fact that our author is at pains to announce that this work will carry every guarantee shows clearly that he knew of others which, in his view, could make no such claim.  (Loisy, Chap VI)

Our author "for a long time past" as attentively "followed", not the course of a history of which he has not been a witness, but the documents of a tradition he sets out to interpret, the documents, that is, of a legend elaborated before his time even in regard to the so-called apostolic age ...    (Loisy, Chap VI)

What he claims to do is to present a well ordered and continuous exposition, conformable to a certain type of received doctrine; briefly, a safe compendium for the believer of what for us is the gospel catechesis, or legend, and the legend of the apostles.   (Loisy, Chap VI)


The apologetic tale of the guard at the tomb (vv. 62-6) refutes the criticism of 28:15, that is, rebuts Jewish slander against the disciples by showing that they could not have stolen Jesus' body (Oxford 884)

What can be concluded from the story is that the Jews charged the disciples with the theft of the body of Jesus.  What can also be concluded is that Jews and disciples both agreed that the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb on the third day.  (Jerome, 113)

spread widely
The story concocted by the Jewish authorities 'was spread widely' (used elsewhere in Matthew only in 9:31 where it refers to the news about Jesus' power to heal), as the explanation of the empty tomb and the disappearance of Jesus' body--'a type of antigospel' (R.E. Brown, Death of the Messiah, 1298).  (Word 877)


19.34-35.  The emphasis on the eyewitness and his truthfulness in v. 35 confirm that the reader is to understand the flow of blood and water from Jesus' side as something that actually happened.  (New 833)

By drawing attention to this flow of blood and water, the Fourth Evangelist seems first and foremost to be condirming the reality of Jesus' death.  (New 834)

... flow of blood and water suggests that he also attached symbolic significance to it.  (New 834)

First, the intrusion of the narrator's voice directly into the storytelling (vv. 30-31) is not unusual in the Fourth Gospel; indeed, it is one of the distinctive traits of the Fourth Evangelist's narrative style. ... the narrator comments on the source and veracity of the testimony in 19:34.  The narrator's words in 20:30-31 belong to this same category of interpretive comment; the Fourth Evangelist interrupts the flow of the narrative to ensure that the reader grasps the significance of what has just been recounted.  (New 851)

First, one must examine the relationship between the expressions 'who is testifying to these things' and 'has written them.'  ... As the verse is constructed, the reference to writing is given as corroboration of the beloved disciple's witness.  That is, the beloved disciple is pivotal to the community, not merely because he provides the oral testimony of an eyewitness, but because his testimony has found its way into the written form of this Gospel.  By corroborating the beloved disciple's witness, v. 24a stresses the connection between this Gospel and the beloved disciple's witness, while at the same time seeming to attribute the actual authorship of this Gospel to someone other than the beloved disciple himself.  John 21:24 thus has the same function as 19:35:  to point to the beloved disciple as the source of the traditions about Jesus that are interpreted in the Gospel.  (New 863)

The sentence plainly emphasizes the signal importance both of what the soldiers refrained from doing and of what they did.  An eyewitness guarantees the truth of what has just been stated:  it is simplest to view him as the person referred to as 'that one' (but often simply 'he').  ... Most exegetes have considered 21:24 to be an editorial addition to chap. 21, and viewed it as the earliest attestation of authorship, or at least the source of, this Gospel.  There is a growing consensus that v 35 comes from the same editorial hand, and that it was inserted as a recollection of the Beloved Disiple's witness to this event, thereby underlining its importance (and his).  (Word 354)

'These have been written that you may believe" ... But in what sense?  ... Strictly speaking, the former should indicate making an act of faith putting one's trust in Jesus as the Messiah, etc; the latter, a continuing to hold the faith already reposed in Jesus.  (Word 387, emphasis theirs)

Water and blood have been already well established as signs of salvation, and it is most likely that John expected his readers to think specifically of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist, a common patristic interpretation.  Such importance is attached to this incident that the Evangelist, or his editor(s), insist on the eyewitness testimony on which it depends; it is important chiefly in its character as 'sign', as the following verses also bring out.  (Jerome 462)

20.30-31.  The meaning of these signs.  It is on this note that John concludes his Gospel.  He says, in effect:  The first disciples believed, seeing Christ's visible presence; but you, who have not seen it, yet have as much reason to believe.  You have the eyewitness testimony of this Gospel, and you have in the living presence of the Church the 'signs' that have been pointed out here ...  (Jerome 464)

So that you may have faith.  The best reading of the mss. is the prese. tense rather than the aorist, therefore meaning 'that you may continue to believe', 'grow in faith'.  (Jerome 464)

The appendix appears to have been composed of testimony from the same witness who stands behind chs. 1-20, but the testimony is parallel to rather than a part of the preceding unities, and hence the chapter has not been completely integrated with the rest of the Gospel.    (Jerome 464)

21.25-25.  Final Testimony.  We now read the conclusion of the final editors of the Gospel.  It is this same disciples who is the witness for these things:  It is the beloved disciple who is the author of the foregoing Gospel.  It is he who wrote these things:  The question of actual literary composition of the Gospel is, of course, not solved by this attestation; just as 19:19 says, literally, that 'Pilate wrote a title', when the sense is that he was responsible for its being written, so here. (Jerome 466)

Acts - Resurrection

2.25-33.  He finally claims that David is Israel's 'patriarch', obligating the household of Israel to give proper respect to David's voice.  This last point is made with considerable irony, since every ancestor or patriarch, although important to Israel's history, remained dead, as their famous tombs memorialized.  The Messiah, on the other hand, gets resurrected and stays alive! (New, 66)

??.??.  This striking summary of Paul's testimony deserves careful attention.  Earlier in the speech he asserted that Israel's national hope rests on God's promise to resurrect the dead.  The more controversial calculus of Paul's apologia is that Israel's hope in the resurrection must surely be related to God's resurrection of Jesus:  the promise of Israel's restoration is already being realized from the empty tomb forward.  It is in this specific sense that Paul can now claim that his own testimony 'to both small and great' is thoroughly Jewish and follows the redemptive script of the Jewish Scriptures--'the prophets and Moses.'  (Oxford 340)

26.24-29.  [Festus]  Paul's retort is in kind and appeals to precisely what Festus values:  'What I am saying' is true and reasonable.'  ... Hardly insane, what he says is sophrosune, a word that denotes intellectual sobriety.  (Oxford 341)

17.22-34.  Paul's discourse at the Areopagus. ... It is actually a Lucan composition, another example of the inserted discourse.  It mirrors the reaction of a Christian missionary confronted with pagan culture ... (Jerome 199)

26.1-23.  Paul's discourse before King Agrippa.  In Luke's story, this--Paul's last defense--is the culmination of his career. ... The whole is dominated once again by a concern to present Paul's belief and ministry as the logical consequence of Pharisaism and the fulfillment of Scripture. ... Paul implies:  The true Pharisee must logically become a Christian.  (Jerome 210)

[Festus]  As a Jew, aware of the Pharisaic belief in the resurrection of the dead and probably also of the death of Jesus of Nazareth, he is one to whom Paul can legitimately appeal.  (Jerome 211)

Acts - Prophecy

2.1+.  Peter's argument from prophecy shows that the 'promise' of the Father has truly been fulfilled.  (Jerome 173)

Luke means that Saul constructed arguments from OT passages to bolster his preaching.  (Jerome 187)

17.22-34.  Paul's discourse at the Areopagus. ... It is actually a Lucan composition, another example of the inserted discourse.  It mirrors the reaction of a Christian missionary confronted with pagan culture ... (Jerome 199)

But once again Luke's reference to the OT is vague; the reader is supposed to believe that in the OT Christianity is in some way foretold.  But specific references to OT passages as support for the following summary of Christian belief are strikingly lacking; they reveal Luke's cavalier manner of handling the OT. ... Not only does he conflate the two figures (Messiah with Suffering Servant) - a conflation that is still unattested in pre-Christian times - he even asserts that the OT implies the resurrection of this conflated figure; yet no references are given to OT passages.  (Jerome 211)

17.1-4.  This feature [Bible teaching] of Paul's mission is nicely captured by this text, where he is said to perform a sequence of tasks apropos of a trained exegete of Scripture:  'from the scriptures', he 'argued', 'explained', and 'proved'.  The first task should not be viewed as argumentative but as that of the scholar who carefully sifts textual evidence is mounting a persuasive case.  (New, 238)

17.10-12.  The new word introduced here, 'examine', is a legal term used nowhere else in the NT for the study of Scripture.  Luke uses it here for Paul's appeal to Israel's Scriptures as a legal 'witness' to warrant his gospel's claims about Jesus.  That is, his claims about Jesus are not the by-product of an imaginative reading of Scripture.  Rather, they are judicious and give competent testimony by which a fair verdict may be rendered by his auditors; indeed, 'many of them therefore believe'.  (Oxford, 239)

John's Epistles

('we have heard ... we felt [with our hands]').  Perhaps for the benefit of those of his readers who were entertaining docetic (i.e. humanity-denying views of Christ's person, the writer stresses the reality of God's self-disclosure in time and space.  (Word Vol 51, p 7)

The use of the first person plural ('we') in the verbs which appear in the middle four clauses of this verse may indicate the presence of eyewitnesses.  Equally, here and in the preface generally, 'we' may be interpreted to mean the Church in solidarity with eyewitnesses.  Without excluding the possibility that eyewitnesses were associated with John's testimony, and were thus able to support it, the writer is more ikely to be taking the 'mantle of orthodoxy', and speaking for all those, including members of the Johannine community, who were champions of the apostolic gospel.  (Word 8)

Perhaps John is at this point conscious of the need to resist the gnostic inclinations of some members in his congregation who were denying the historical actuality of the Incarnation.  (Word 9)

But what is meant by saying that they were denying the nature of Jesus as 'the Christ'? ... Cerinthus, who probably lived c A.D. 100, was a gnostic Jewish-Christian who claimed that the divine emanation (or aeon) 'Christ' came upon the man Jesus at his baptism in the form of a dove, sent by God, and left him before his crucifixion.  Thus the human and divine natures of Jesus were never properly united, there was no genuine Incarnation as such, and only the human Jesus suffered and rose again.  (Word 111)

An alternative explanation of the christological error which the writer is attacking in this passage is to identify it with the heresy opposed by Ignatius.  (Word 113)

Thus in v 22, when John says that 'the liar' is the person who 'denies that Jesus is the Christ', he could be referring to the (ex-pagan) docetic heretic who refused to acknowledge the real humanity of jesus Christ, or the unity of his human and divine nature.  For that person the Christ was not Jesus.  Equally, he could be describing the ex-Jewish heretic who did not believe that Jesus was the Christ; and this is, after all, the obvious meaning of the Gr. as it stands.  It is doubtful if this signifies an assault on the Christian faith as such, by Jews who denied that jesus was the Messiah expected in the OT, since this was not the problem addressed by the writer of either these letters, or indeed of the Fourth Gospel.  Rather, the author may be describing the person whose estimate of Jesus was inadequate, in accepting his humanity but failing to acknowledge his divinity.  Support for such an argument may be derived from the second part of this v, where denial of Jesus as the Christ is equated with disowning the Father and the (divine) Son.
    In either case John is asserting the reality of the Incarnation, and claiming that in Jesus two natures, human and divine, were present.  However, in view of the fact that the heretics who led the breakaway from the Johannine community were probably docetic in outlook, and (as a group) in the ascendant, it is likely that John has chiefly (but not exclusively) in mind at this point those of a similar inclination:  schismatics who thought of Jesus Christ as divine, but not as porperly human.  To such people John asserts (by implication) that Jesus is the Christ, thereby seeking to preserve the truth against the inroads of heresy.  (Word 114)

'every spirit who acknowledges Jesus Christ, incarnate, derives from God.' ... (The proposal of Minear, that this text does not refer to the Incarnation at all, but to Jesus dwelling in the 'flesh' of the believer, can - despite 4:4 - be dismissed at once as artificial.)  (Word 221)

Whereas John highlights the pre-existent glory of the Word who indeed became flesh, 1 John stresses the empirically verifiable reality of the Son, 'which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched.'  (New 382)

the 'we' is a Johannine characteristic, referring to the apostolic testimony. ... The substance of the apostolic testimony remains what has been seen and heard; in turn, this rests on specific facts that were sensibly experienced  (Jerome 406)

It is clear that by the formula 'Jesus is the Christ' the author does not mean simply the fulfillment by Jesus of the OT and Jewish expectation of a messiah. ... The safeguard of the true Christian who would avoid the dire consequences of this false teaching is to hold firmly tot he teaching received through the apostolic preaching.  (Jerome 408)

'The exact nature of the false teaching which is denounced in these Epistles has been much disputed, and is still a matter of controversy.  The opponents have been held to be Jews, or Judaizing Christians, or Gnostics, Judaizing or heathen, or some particular set of Gnostics, Basilides, Saturninus, Valentinus or Cerinthus.  Some have supposed the chief error denounced to be Docetsim, others Anti-nomianism" (A.E. Brooks).  (Jerome 410)

The Christological ones involved a denial of Jesus as Christ, that is, a denial of the right relation between the Father and his Son, a denial that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, a 'dissolving' of christ by which the reality of the redemption was called in question.  Some form of Docetism seems to be involved, or a species of Gnosticism like that of Cerinthus (end of 1 cent.), who distinguished between Jesus and Christ, holding that Jesus became possessed by the Christ at the time of his baptism, only to regain his human personality at the time of the passion.  (Jerome 410)

What is certain is that the errors were heresies within the Church.  (Jerome 410)

Paul's Epistles - Resurrection

Just as Sin once dwelled in unregenerate man, so now the Spirit indwells.  will give life to your mortal bodies:  The fut. tense expresses the role of the vivifying Spirit in the eschatological resurrection of Christians.  (Jerome 315)

1 Cor
In any case, he knows that some Corinthians deny the resurrection of the body.  This denial, it seems was due to their concept of the body as a hindrance to the soul's activity, - a characteristic Greek and Platonic concept.  Paul answers by declaring that the bodily resurrection of Christ, which lies at the very heart of the apostolic preaching, is a fact duly attested by chosen witnesses.  (Jerome 272-3)

the Apostles deals with the difficulties attending a materialistic conception of the resurrected body that the Corinthians had probably acquired from Jewish speculation on the subject.  The resurrected body will be transformed into a perfect instrument for the new conditions of the life of glory.  (Jerome 273)

Paul appeals to the testimony of those who saw the Risen Christ.  He omits the apparitions to the holy women, mentioning only those to persons whom Jewish law would accept as responsible witnesses.  (Jerome 273)

2 Cor
'Now' - that is, this side of, after Christ's resurrection - Paul no longer contents himself with that apprehension of Christ.  Just as he no longer considers Christ as if he had not been raised from the dead, so also he now asserts that 'we can no longer consider anyone' simply from the flesh, with that phrase standing now for regarding people from all the misleading, inadequate ways that offer themselves and that Paul has been careful to reject in the previous paragraphs, from 4:7 forward.  (New, 93)

'Therefore from now we judge no one from an outward point of view.' (Word 135)

Paul did not share the view of some of these ['profane'] authors or other Gk philosophers that the body was a prison of the soul; for him we shall not exist forever as disembodied spirits, but rather at the parousia we shall be given bodies of a different nature from those we now posses; they will be immortal and unable to suffer.  (Jerome, 280)

['according to the flesh'] - Now we do not know, we do not make judgments, according to merely human standards.  (Jerome 281)

Paul's Epistles - Deity

Philippians 2 is the earliest passage in the Pauline literature to raise in our minds serious questions about the pre-existence of Christ. ... we have moved a step beyond statements that 'God sent his Son' to an emphatic declaration that Christ's incarnation was a deliberate act of self-emptying  (New 502)

Why, then, in Philippians 2 does Paul use the particular term morphe, whereas similar statements in Romans 8 and Galatians 4 refer to God's Son?  The basic meaning of the word seems to be 'visible form', and since children are often like their parents, it has been suggested that the phrase is comparable to the title 'Son of God.' ... Or perhaps it is the expression of the inner reality that is at one and the same time concealed by and revealed by the glory.  This presumably lies behind the NIV's 'in very nature God', a translation that is nevertheless misleading.  (New 506)

The idea that God has a 'form' that cannot be seen by humans is found in various Jewish writers.  (New 506)

The meaning of the word harpagmos, 'something to be exploited/grasped', has proved even more contentious than that of the word morphe. From the time of the church fathers, there have been many different interpretations of it.  The main dispute has been about whether the word referred to something Christ already already possessed, but did not cling to, or whether it referred to something he did not yet possess, but might have clutched at.  (New 507)

It now seems, however, that the most likely interpretation of harpagmos is that it refers to 'something to be exploited.'  In this view, equality with God was something that Christ already possessed, but which he chose not to use for his own advantage.  (New 507)

he emptied himself ... Christ did not cease to be 'in the form of God.'  (New 508)

The number of genuine exegetical problems and the sheer mass of books and articles it has called forth leaves one wondering where to begin, despairing about adding anything new, and well-nigh stricken with mental paralysis.  It quickly becomes apparent, however, that although much has been written on these verses there is little that can be agreed upon  (Word 76)

Together [points made earlier] they demonstrate beyond doubt the fact that these verses comprise an early hymn, or at least part of an early hymn that had as its subject Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; and the interesting remark of Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia-Pontus, written to the Emperor Trajan A.D. 112-13, that Christians were in the habit of singing hymns "to Christ as to a god", Epistles 10.96)  (Word 77)

Paul begins his hymn by remarking that Jesus, because he existed in the form of God, did not consider this high position as a prize to be held on to, but rather to be surrendered in order that he might serve  (Word 79)

[morphe] - a difficult phrase to interpret, if for no other reason than that the word morphe occurs only here and in v7 in the NT.  Apparently the author of the hymn did not wish to say outright that Christ was 'God.' ... Neither did the author mean to say by it that Christ was 'the form of God', ... but Christ was 'in the form of God', as if the form of God were a sphere in which Christ existed or a garment with which Christ was wrapped or clothed.  (Word 81)

Furthermore, when the hymn says that Christ took the 'form of a slave' after his kenosis, it is not likely that its author had in mind that Christ merely looked like or had the external appearance of a slave.  (Word 82)

Morphe has also been interpreted as 'condition' or 'status.'  (Word 83)

Morphe theou, then, may be correctly understood as the 'essential nature and character of God'.
    To say, therefore, that Christ existed en morphe theou is to say that outside his human nature Christ had no other manner of existing apart from existing 'in the form of God', that is, apart from being in possession of all the characteristics and qualities belonging to God.  This somewhat enigmatic expression, then, appears to be a cautious, hidden way for the author to say that Christ was God, possessed of the very nature of God, without employing these exact words.  It appears to be a statement made by one who perhaps, although reared as a strict monotheist and thus unable to bring himself to say, "Christ is God', was compelled nevertheless by the sheer force of personal encounter with the resurrected and living Christ to bear witness as best he could to the reality of Christ's divinity.  (Word 84)

C.F. D. Moule argues convincingly that harpagmos refers rather to the act of snatching, to acquisitiveness.  'Jesus did not reckon equality with God meant snatching; on the contrary, he emptied himself.' ... He did not consider that being equal with God was taking everthing to himself, but giving everything away for the sake of others.  This meaning for harpagmos best fits the context here.  (Word 85)

'Being born in the likeness of human beings' is the second participial phrase used to define more precisely the expression 'he emptied himself.'  ... There it was claimed that Christ always existed 'in the form of God.'  Here it is said that he came into existence 'in the likeness of man.'  (Word 87)


Pastor Epistles - Myth vs. Fact

1 Timothy

By calling them 'myths', Paul is pointing out their legendary and untrustworthy nature and is implicitly contrasting them with the gospel that is rooted in historical events.  Many compare the myths and genealogies to Jewish allegories of creation of interpretations of the OT patriarchs and their family trees such as are found in Jubilees or Pseudo-Phil Biblical Antiquities ... [To several citations,] add the possibility of speculative rabbinic exegesis.  Some see a mixed background of Judaism and Gnosticism ... who includes stories about Jesus.  The word [muthoi] occurs five times in the NT, four in the PE [Pastoral Epistles].  Elsewhere Paul calls the myths profane, silly, and Jewish  (Word 20)

In every occurrence the word is used in a negative sense.  (Word 21)

... specifically, contrasting godliness with myths  (Word 250)

['silly'] the idea is a common sarcastic expression in philosophical argumentation. ... It also explains why Paul does not spend more time arguing against the heresy itself; a person cannot argue against prattle.  (Word 251)

'Myths' are a regular target, the term already familiar in the sense of 'untrue story, fiction', as opposed to historical truth, and always used negatively in the NT.   (New 790)

The immediate contrast is between 'the faith' and 'deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.'  (New 812)

'fables and endless genealogies' seems to refer to legends and fictitious genealogies of OT personages in the manner attested to in Jub.  (Jerome 353)

2 Peter

('not ... but') form in which the author of 2 Peter refutes objections implies that this phrase contains the opponents' charge that the apostles followed myths.  This is a much more straightforward reading of the verse than the alternative view that the phrase contains the author's charge that his opponents followed myths:  that requires too involved a train of thought.  Thus there is no question here of gnostic myths or of comparing the usage of the Pastorals, where the opponents' 'myths' are rejected.  There is no need to ask what kind of myths the text refers to, for it refers to no myths except the apostolic preaching, which the fase teachers slandered by calling it 'myths.'  (Word 213)

What did they mean by this charge?  The connotations of the term muthos in the first century A.D. were almost as various as those of the modern English 'myth.'  The old Greek myths, the stories about the gods, could be seen as stories which were not literally true but expressed religious, moral or philosophical truth in pictorial form.  They could be subjected to allegorical interpretation, as by the Stoics.  The Hellenistic age was in many respects one which showed a 'growing preference for muthos [myth] over logos [rational argument] as a means of expressing truth.  This preference is characteristic of gnosticism:  the saving gnosis is often cast in the form of a myth' (C.K. Barrett).  (Word 213)

On the other hand, there was a strong tradition of criticism and repudiation of myths, as morally unedifying, or as childish, nonsensical or fabulous.  Here muthos can come, like 'myth' in much modern English usage, to mean a story which is not true, a fable or fairy story (again in the derogatory senses).  Strabo and Diodorus of Sicily oppose myth to history; Plutarch contrasts a myth and a true account.  (Word 213)

Surprisingly, it is characteristic of Philo to distinguish the biblical history from myth, as truth from fiction.  His concern is not only to reject the pagan myths, but to repudiate the suggestion, no doubt made by Hellenized Jews as well as by pagans, that the biblical stories were mythical.  (Word 213)

'cleverly concocted' corresponds to the common description of myths as 'invented', 'fabricated', but is more expressive in incorporating the idea of 'cleverness' in a bad sense.  (Word 214)

The eschatological teaching of the apostles is held to be, not prophecy inspired by God, but the fabrication of merely human cleverness, doubtless with some unworthy motive.  (Word 214)

The phrase 'following myths' is used by Josephus in contrasting Moses, who did not invent fictional stories, with other legislators, who followed fables (Ant 1.22, cf. 15-16)  (Word 214)

'Cleverly devised' implies that the doctrine of the parousia was concocted by deceit and ingenuity.  Using the term 'myth' to describe a narrative or prophecy connotes that it is untrue or lacks historical veracity.  (New 342)

Refutation of accusations against Christian doctrine often emphasized apostolic eyewitness testimony to historical events.  (New 342)

The false teachers' claim that the apostles preached a myth has been turned back upon them.  (New 344)

It means 'observer, spectator' ... The term was also used technically for the higher grade of initiates in the Eleusinian mysteries, evidently as those who had seen the vision of the divine mysteries.  Most commentators think that this technical usage is echoed in 2 Peter.  (Word 215)

But it should be noted that the term did have a quite ordinary use, and that the corresponding verb 'to observe' is used in this ordinary sense in 1 Pet 2:12, 3:2.  We cannot be sure that 2 Peter follows the mystical sense.  (Word 215-216)

It is sometimes said that an emphasis on eyewitness testimony is characteristic of the later NT documents.  What the evidence adduced really proves is that a stress on the apostolic eyewitnesses occurs when there is a need for apologetic defense of the Christian message in some way be reference to its historical basis.  (Word 216)