Monday, May 20, 2013

Mataios and Agnoia: Using Ephesians 4:17-18 as an Hermeneutical Key for Establishing a Non-Jewish Audience in 1 Peter

[This is one of those extremely nerdy posts.  Unless the title excites you, go ahead and skip it]

Compare these passages:

Ephesians 4:17-18
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 

1 Peter 1:14, 18
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the futile way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 

Notice that Paul and Peter link two key aspects of paganism associated with Gentiles:  ignorance and futility.  The Greek terms are "agnoia" and "mataios".  I think that this linkage helps us to confirm (along with a set of cumulative evidence) that 1 Peter is addressed to Gentiles.


  1. I would say that I Peter 2:10 is a strong indication that this Epistle's audience was Gentile or predominantly Gentile. What seems to be of more importance to me, however, than finding explicit indications for the addressees, is to give attention to the general line of argumentation found in the Epistle.

    All its conclusions about the position of the believers addressed are based upon the foundation of Messiah's person and work. What these believers essentially are and how they should behave is solely derived from this foundation. Nowhere in it do we find that these people already have a relevant identity before G'd, apart from Messiah.

    From this it follows that it is largely irrelevant whether the addressees were Gentiles or Jews. For they are only addressed insofar as they have gained an identity in Messiah.

    Well, those things which exclusively and necessarily follow from having a position "in Messiah" must — on pain of contradiction — be true for believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews, since otherwise one of these two groups wouldn't be "in Messiah" at all.

    1. Well said, "in Messiah", would include both Jew and Gentile.

    2. Messianic 613,

      Your point is stronger when we consider that Paul made the same connection between "not a people" and Gentiles in Romans 9:23-25:

      "23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one"

      DISCLAIMER: Dan, this is not a Two House reference. This just shows that the Apostles understood that Hosea could be applied midrashically to Gentiles. I didn't want to alarm you! : )

    3. "I didn't want to alarm you!"

      You don't have to worry about Dan - he's a big boy. A few posts back you even offered to delete a post if it offended him. I completely understand that as the lone Jewish ambassador to the One Law people, he's highly honored and exalted, but he can take it:)

    4. Gene,

      I'm in contact with Messianic Jews all over the world. But don't worry! You are still very special to me! : )

    5. OH, and don't forget that I created this blog for you, remember? In case you don't remember, here's the conversation from your blog:

      Gene: You hold such strong opinions on your beliefs and comment in defense of them quite often (so it’s not like you don’t have the time!) – why don’t you start a blog… like today? What a perfect way to channel all that pent-up theological energy! I promise to visit.

      Peter: Here it is. First post ever:
      Happy now?

      Remember that, Gene? Ah, it seems just like yesterday... [singing] Is this the little blog I carried...

    6. Thanks, Peter - and I kept my promise to visit:)

  2. messianic613, "I Peter 2:10" is NOT a proof of a Gentile audience. In fact, it could very well be said to point to a Jewish one, since there's a precedent. G-d told Hosea (in Hosea 1:9) to name his son Loammi (not my people.) Why? G-d gives the reason:

    "Then the L-RD said, "Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your G-d."

    Who is G-d referring to here, in His anger? Gentiles in the first century? No, Israel, of course! Perhaps Peter had this in mind, that is the restoration of Israel through Messiah.

    1. Gene,

      Re: "Peter had this in mind, that is the restoration of Israel through Messiah."

      Isn't the Tent of David the same thing as the Kingdom of Israel? [Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16]

    2. "Isn't the Tent of David the same thing as the Kingdom of Israel? [Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16]"

      Certainly part of the same, although the Kingdom of Israel is not the same as Tent of David, since the Kingdom of Israel has not yet been restored:

      "So when they had come together, they asked him, “L-rd, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority." (Acts 1:6-7)

    3. Gene,

      Neither the Tent of David nor the Kingdom of Israel have been, as of today, fully restored. That doesn't mean they are two different things.