Time in the mind of God

A study on 2 Peter 3 – Part II

Part I can be found here.

Possibly one of the most quoted and most widely interpreted verses in the Bible in relation to the chronology of the Bible from Creation to final Judgment is the 8th verse of chapter 3 of Peter’s second epistle (letter).

2 Peter 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  (my emphasis added in bold)

Some have used this to re-scale the length of the Genesis 1 creation days from 24-hour days to 1000-year days. This feeble effort to try to get the creation chronology of the Bible to fit in with the alleged billions of years of the secular chronology is referred to as the day-age theory. But it makes very little sense as the second part of the verse reverses the order and thus using the same type of logic you would have to say that a 1000 years in the Bible really means a 24-hour day.

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Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 BC; the alabaster mantle is a modern addition. Credit: Wikipedia (Public domain)

Another problem is an understanding of what time is. Since the Greek thinkers, like Aristotle, time has been given a linear deterministic feature where past, present and future are referred to in a real sequence. But that is not the way the Hebrew mind operated.

God’s consciousness is a world consciousness in which everything that takes place is treasured and held fast in the eternal and is therefore as indestructible as ‘matter’. Without a world consciousness, all the history of humanity and of the universe would end in nothing; for a people, however, for whom life and history is everything, the concept of a divine world consciousness is as necessary as the concept of eternal being was for the Greeks. For the Israelites, the world was transitory, but Jahveh [Jehovah] and his words (and deeds) were eternal (Isaiah 40.8).1

… the Semitic concept of time is closely coincident with that of its content without which time would be quite impossible. The quantity of duration completely recedes behind the characteristic feature that enters with time or advances in it.1 (Emphasis in the original)

… time is for us an abstraction since we distinguish time from the events that occur in time. The ancient Semites did not do this; for them time is determined by its content. Time is the notion of the occurrence; it is the stream of events.1

This verse, 2 Peter 3:8, was written in Greek but by the Apostle Peter, a Hebrew. Therefore we should expect he writes with a Hebrew way of thinking. Reading the verse in context with those that precede it, it simply means that God does not view time the way we do.  In the preceding verses, it is made clear that God is not in a hurry to bring about the promised judgment. Judgment may not happen immediately but it will come at the time appointed. So God was telling the believers back in Peter’s time (and us now by extension) not to be too anxious because the Christ will return at the appointed time.

Considering that God is outside of time He does not view time the way we do. More than that; it is a Greek way of thinking to see time as a linear sequence. This verse reflects a Hebrew way of thinking to see time as the contents of the events themselves. To the earth observers the events may take thousands of years to unfold, in a linear fashion, but to the mind of God, and a Hebrew way of thinking, the events have already happened. They form a whole set, because what God says will happen, in our realm, has already happened for Him. Continue reading