(Read Part 2)
Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so (Gen. 1:7).
For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water (2 Peter 3:5–6, NASB).
First, we note that Peter describes the original creation of the earth being covered with water (“the earth was formed out of [ek] water and by [dia] water”). Genesis 1:2 says that the earth that God created was covered with deep waters and darkness dominated their surface. Therefore, the planet
existed as a sphere covered with water—“formed . . . by water.” “Out of” that water God brought forth the land (Gen. 1:9). In these verses, Peter provides his readers with a quick summary of how God created the earth—including the facts that God performed that creative deed by His own Word and that He also had created the heavens. The apostle’s source consists of Genesis 1 itself. He merely expounds its text.
Secondly, Peter jumps ahead to Genesis 7–9 as he turns to the flood of Noah’s day: “through [dia] which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3:6, NASB). The relative pronoun “which” (hon) takes the previously mentioned “water” as its antecedent.
Commentators do disagree on the pronoun’s antecedent. Tom Schreiner, relying upon the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, argues that the relative pronoun (hōn) is plural and thus not likely to refer to “water,” which is singular. He identifies the antecedent as both “heavens” and “earth.” According to the 28th edition, however, the relative pronoun (hon) is an accusative singular masculine (or neuter, being the identical form). David Walls chooses to stick with the singular relative pronoun and he takes “which” as a reference to “word” (the final word in the Greek text of v. 5, NASB).
Contextually the best potential interpretation based upon the singular preserves Peter’s repetitive style: “out of water” . . . “by water” . . . “through which (water)” . . . “with water.” This fourfold reference also forms a chiastic arrangement with the two dia phrases in the center of the ABBA arrangement. This literary device places the focus upon those two central phrases—making the relationship of the water to the land the intended emphasis. In the beginning God brought the land up through the water, but at the flood those same waters come back up over the land.
Even if we settle on the Greek plural relative pronoun as Schreiner does, we can respond that the plural could refer to the waters above and below the expanse of the heavens (Gen. 1:7) or that the plural is merely Peter’s idiomatic use of the Hebrew language in which “water” is always a plural form.
That brings us to our concluding point in regard to the Noahic flood, which we will examine next time.
(Read Part 4)
Dr. William D. Barrick served as professor of Old Testament and director of Th.D. studies at The Master’s Seminary from 1997 to 2015. He remains active in ministry as a theologian and a linguistics expert whose service, writings and translations have spanned numerous nations and languages. He is also the Old Testament editor of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary from Logos Bible Software. We are most grateful to include him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
Copyright © 2016 by Dr. William D. Barrick. Used by permission of the author.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated,
are taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
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by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
 David Walls, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1999), p. 141.
 This is the approach taken by Daniel C. Arichea and Howard A. Hatton, A Handbook on the Second Letter from Peter, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), pp. 148–49. They also mention that most Bible translations choose to take “water” as the antecedent of “which,” whether singular or plural.
Photo within the article is by Paul J. Scharf