The Audiences of 1 & 2 Peter

Why Does It Matter?

Like any portion of Scripture, correct interpretation of the text hinges on an accurate understanding of the identity of the original audience. If the recipient of the letter is misunderstood or unknown, then this could lead to misapplication.

Below is a quote from the ESV Study Bible regarding the book of 1 Peter:

“Most scholars are convinced that the recipients of 1 Peter were primarily Gentiles.”[1]

But are the scholars correct?

1 Peter

First, it is important to note that both 1 Peter and the book of James begin almost the exact same way. They were both writing to those who were dispersed. Acts 8:1 is where we find out that the dispersed individuals were Jewish Christians and, though it goes without saying, the Gentiles were also never dispersed.

Yet the vast majority of scholars tend to see two different recipients of these letters. The ESV Study Bible states, “The audience for James’s letter is almost certainly Jewish Christians….”[2] Do you see the inconsistencies?

So why do many scholars believe that these two books are not written to the same group of people? That is a great question and, to be honest, I have no idea.

Some people claim that the Apostle Peter is speaking of a spiritual dispersion [do not even get me started…], but this is inconsistent with the rest of the book. For example:

1 Peter 2:9 says they are a chosen race and a nation [the Church is neither].

1 Peter 2:11-12 implies that the audience is predominantly Jewish because they are sojourners and exiles [having fled from persecution] and they are instructed to maintain honorable conduct among the Gentiles.

Thus, the audience of 1 Peter was mostly comprised of Jewish believers.

2 Peter

2 Peter 1:1 states that this book was written “To those [Gentiles] who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours [Jews] by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The Gentiles have now been given access to the covenant promises of God (Eph. 2:11-22). This one is actually pretty straight forward.

2 Peter was written mainly to Gentile Christians.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we must always go back to the Word of God to find out if what someone is saying is accurate. Regardless of who they are, whether a pastor or commentator, or even if they have their PhD – just because someone states a “fact” about the Bible does not necessarily make it true. That is not to discredit someone for the amount of work they have put into studying the Scriptures, but we ought to be like the Bereans and compare what they say to God’s Word (Acts 17:11).


[1] This quote is taken from the ESV Study Bible published by Crossway Bibles in 2008. It is found on page 2402 in the Introduction to 1 Peter under the section Purpose, Occasion, and Background.

[2] Ibid. p. 2387.

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