Archive for September, 2014

Apostle Peter wrote his letter to Jews

September 23, 2014

To whom did the apostle Peter write his letter? To the scattered people outside Israel, whom he also called strangers. 1Peter 1:1. The question is whether it are Jews or both Jews and Gentiles.

I think Peter wrote to the Jews. This would be normal since he is “the apostle of the circumcision.” That means that he dealt with the gospel for the Jews. As Jacob and John. Paul says this in Gal.2:7-9. (Jacob literally wrote to the 12 tribes, John is not clear and his 2th and 3rd letter is personal. Jude seems to write to the Jewish community.)

I base my conviction that he wrote to the Jews on the premise of his letter. And it is backed up by the way he use his words. Scattered (verse 1) points to the Jews who are scattered in exile. Non-jews are not scattered. They could be repented, but it is not likely that this claim was meant for them. Peter probably would use another word or statement. Strangers could be used for gentiles though. This rabbinical statement (Ger in Hebrew) is even particular used for gentiles. But in this context it can be that it is used for Jews outside the land of Israel. Combined with strangers it will fit to be meant for the Jews.

This Rabbinical statement comes another time to us in Peter’s letter. 1 Peter 2:11 states: strangers and pilgrims. In Hebrew: Ger weToshav. (Lev.25:35) Normally this will be used for gentiles. But it would not say that it won’t be apply to Jews anyway. David called himself with this very words: Ger weToshav (Ps.39:13). And according to this, hence Rabbies would call themselves so too, looking at their humbility in being righteous before God. In principle we all are strangers and passing byers on this earth, heading to a heavenly home.

Peter also wrote about what they know as their halacha, their way of life. Arguing about the holiness gained by Christ, he pointed to the earthly things of the way of life as commanded by the law. On this plane the law or halacha is futile. Although, of course, the law stands forever. But the holiness now has come from inside through the new covenant. Now he is going to say something that he can say only to Jews: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” (1Pe1:18 NAS) Way of life here means the Jewish Halacha. But in fact he means here the Torah.

Another reason that he is arguing to the Jewish people is this. Peter brings up a prophecy of Hosea what explicitly is about the Jewish people: “who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God (Hebrew: Ami): who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (Hebrew: Ruchamah)” (1Pe.1:10) This prophecy is about God leaving his people, but later on he will have grace and get them back. (Hos.1-2)

If Peter writes to the Jews, then it is very obvious that he writes to born-again Jews. “Hath begotten us again” (1Pe.1:3 KJV)

Furthermore he supposes a knowledge of Rabbinical tradition when he speaks about the principle of thousand years as one day. “But forget not this one thing” (2Pe.3:8 ASV)

I think it is very important to know that Peter is writing to Jewish audience. When not seeing this so, the demarcation line of Jew and Gentile fades away. And more than that, this letter then could be probably the best letter for a bold replacement theology.

I’m aware that I have another opinion as the writers of The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and many others, but after time I changed and now I think he wrote to believing Jews only. Of course it is meant for gentles too, but we have to read it in the right manner.

I published this article a few weeks ago on my new Dutch blog. But since I read about this matter on the blog of James here, I have re-written it in English now.

[update 18apr.2017] James Dunn backs up my opinion as I read in a book review: “Dunn accepts the minority opinion that 1 Peter was addressed to Jewish Christians, but recognizes the Pauline influence on the letter.” (James Dunn, Neither Jew nor Greek: A Contested Identity, 2016. page 728)