Much of the time, textual critics will sit and debate who the authors were of various parts of the Bible. What I want to offer some thoughts on in this case is the question of who Peter was writing to in his first letter. It may not be obvious at first glance, depending on which translation you are using. Here is what I mean.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (I Peter 1:1 NKJV)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1 NIV)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1 ASV)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Do you see why there might be some confusion on the matter of who this letter is addressed to? But we need not just give it our best guess. There is evidence in the rest of the Bible to aid in our understanding.

The differences in translation are attributed to translators’ assumptions about the text. There is the school of thought that says Peter must be addressing Jewish Christians who were the remnant that had been saved through accepting their promised messiah, Jesus. Plus, Peter had agreed with Paul that he would go to the Jews, while Paul would go to the Gentiles. But this was never a hard and fast rule, as Paul still would go and start teaching in the synagogues when he entered a new city. In addition, as far as we can tell, the places this letter was to go are all churches stared by Paul on his missionary journeys. In fact, Paul wrote a letter to one of these places, Galatia, and gave clues that would indicate that the Galatians weren’t Jews at all!

Galatians 2:8
8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles),

Galatians 4:8–9
Fears for the Church
8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?

Galatians 6:13
13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

But, many will say, doesn’t Peter refer to this group as the “diaspora” here? That could only apply to the Jewish people. But we must remember that when the Christians were grafted into the olive tree of the Jewish nation, not only did Jewish believers gain the benefits of being Christians, but gentile believers gained the benefits of the Jewish tree into which we were joined. The Apostle Paul, in the letter to the church at Ephesus puts it this way. This is a little long, but wonderfully makes the point.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22 ESV)

He puts it even more succinctly in Galatians 3:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:28, 29 ESV)

But what of the term “diaspora”? It originally was a word used to describe the Israelites who had been scattered abroad and were no longer in Israel. But here in 1 Peter it has a double meaning. In Acts 8:1-4, Luke wrote that persecution had caused the church to be scattered abroad instead of being concentrated in Jerusalem. They had been dispersed as a new diaspora and were obeying Christ’s command to go unto all nations. So while the terms “chosen” and “royal priesthood” and “a holy nation” were originally applied to Israel, they now applied to Israel along with those of us along for the life who God had grafted in.

So is there a place in the plan of God for national/physical Israel? You bet there is. But they will be equal members of the Kingdom of God, for He has not utterly cast them off. So when you read letters like First Peter, know that it was addressed to Christians like all of us, both Jew and Gentile alike. We have been grafted in together to form one nation under God.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9, 10 ESV)

Jews had been a chosen people, had a royal priesthood, were Holy and set apart for God as His possession. This verse must be talking about us as Gentiles now precisely because it says those he is addressing had not been God’s chosen people in the past, but now had become such. That cannot be referring to the House of Israel because the were already called those things! Fellow Gentile believer, First Peter was written for all of us!

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