|Q349 : To Whom is the NT Book of 1 Peter Written?
I am currently in 1 Peter during my daily Bible study.
Reading it at first glance seems like it is written specifically to Jewish Christians, similar to the book of Hebrews. Mostly because of verses like:
Also the fact that Peter was an apostle to the nation of Israel makes it more plausible he was writing specifically to Jewish Christians.
- To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout (1 Peter 1:1)
- But you are a chosen race, a royal priest hood, a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9)
I guess I assumed this was the majority view, but it appears that isn't the case. Commentators that I trust like Ryrie and Constable believe it is written to the church as a whole, and the "holy nation" terms are a typology of sorts.
That Israel was once these things, and now the Church is these things....seems kind of thin to me.
There is one verse that makes me think it could be to the church as a whole,
The Gentiles weren't His people at one point.
- for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10)
But these verses are quoting OT verses like Hosea 2:23 talking specifically about the nation of Israel. So in my mind it appears this is definitely a letter written specifically to a Jewish Christian audience.
I was hoping you could let me know what you believe and why.
|A349 : by Tony Garland
You are to be commended for picking up on the context: many people seem to miss it!
I share your view — that 1 Peter is written primarily to Jewish believers. I would cite the same verses that you have mentioned.
The one verse that makes me thing it could be to the church as a whole, 2:10
This is a similar use of Hosea as is found in Romans 9:25-26 (and Isaiah in Romans 9:27). In neither case is the NT author (Peter and Paul, respectively) "reinterpreting" the OT passage to make it say something different than it originally meant. In both settings, the primary focus of what is being discussed pertains to the Jews (Romans 9-11).1
Of course, there is a typological similarity one can observe between God's setting aside of Israel (lo-ammi, not my people) and her eventual restoration and the idea that Gentiles were never the people of God (in a national electing sense) and now find salvation through Israel's stumble.
The problem with many Christian readers today, is that they are so biased by views that replace Israel with the Church that they automatically jump to the conclusion that a group that once were not a people, but now are the people of God must necessarily have in view the Gentiles. Not so: the original context clearly relates to three stages: 1) a people of God ; 2) who become "not a people" ; later to be restored as His people. In all three phases, Israel is in view.
Here are some additional comments from other interpreters that I've gathered on this passage:
By taking Peter's words in [1Pe. 1:1-2] literally, it is clear that the epistle was not written to the Church at large, nor to a body of Gentile believers, but to Jewish believers living outside the land within a majority Gentile population. The term Dispersion (διασπορα [diaspora]) is a technical Jewish term for Jews who live outside the land. It is used twice elsewhere: John 7:35 and Jas. 1:1, which all commentators agree refers to the Jews of the Diaspora. There is no reason to make 1 Peter the exception since it fits well into Peter's calling as the Apostle to the Circumcision (Gal. 2:7-8). Furthermore, Peter keeps making reference to the fact that his readers live among the Gentiles (1Pe. 2:12; 4:3). While many try to make the term Gentiles mean ‘unbelievers,’ that is neither its Jewish usage nor even New Testament usage as a simple look in a concordance will show. Peter is using the term Gentile in its normal usage as meaning ‘non-Jew.’2
Expressions such as vain manner of life handed down from your fathers (1Pe. 1:18) have clear Jewish overtones distinguishing these Jewish believers from their past lives in Rabbinic Judaism.3
The use of the term race (γενος [genos]) shows that Peter is also dealing with their national election. The Church, however, is not a race; it is composed of believers from all races.4
Wayne Grudem concludes his comment with this rhetorical question: “What more could be needed in order to say with assurance that the church has now become the true Israel of God?” . . . In considering the apostle's transposition of the titles of honor used by the prophet Hosea (Hos. 2:23; cf 1:6, 9-10) to the Church, it must be remembered that Christian Jews were among the addressees to whom the letter was written (1Pe. 1:1-2; cf. Galatians 2:8-9). For these Jewish Christians, the words of Hosea would have had much the same meaning as they had for the Israelites of Hosea's own time. The name Lo-Ammi (Hos. 1:9), meaning “not my people,” stood for a severing of the covenant relationship between God and Israel through Israel's acting like an unfaithful wife. However, God's faithfulness toward unfaithful Israel meant that there was a future for the nation.5
Commentators that I trust like Ryrie and Constable believe it is written to the church as a whole, and the "holy nation" terms are a typology of sorts.
While I don't believe the letter is written to the Church as a whole, I do believe aspects of what are said therein (and were said to Israel) apply, in this age, to some of the functions of the Church.
I don't believe the church is a nation. The best that can be said in that regard is that God refers, in advance, to believing Gentiles as a nation in a tongue-in-cheek manner — but makes clear they are not a [true] nation, even a foolish nation (Deu 32:21, Isa. 65:1-2). I discuss this aspect in more detail in the related videoa.
At the same time, the Church is a kingdom of priests, as Revelation 1:6 — written to the entire Church — makes certain. See my commentary on Revelation 1:6b.
|Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Israelology - The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries Press, 1989).
|Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003).
|Ronald E. Diprose, Israel and the Church: The Origin and Effects of Replacement Theology (Rome, Italy: Istituto Biblico Evangelico Italiano, 2000).